The 10 Instagram Accounts I'm Currently Loving

18 January 2019

Social media platforms, hey? One taught me love (hi YouTube, with your endless hours of entertainment courtesy of Harry Styles compilations and Shane Dawson documentaries), one taught me patience (hey Twitter, and the accompanying daily mansplaining) and one taught me pain (what's up Facebook, sorry I dipped when I was 18 but it was all extremely boring)... now Instagram is so amazin', and so are the people who run these ten accounts that I'm currently obsessed with following.

1. Taste Cadets
A new discovery for me and one I've been telling my boyfriend, my mates and my grandma about, Taste Cadets is equal parts food, travel and comedy run by a trio of "swagged out freaks eating everything the world has to offer" - one of which is Seapa, co-creator of People Just Do Nothing and otherwise known as MC Grindah. From London's Chinatown to the streets of Barcelona, the Taste Cadets are never far from a gone-in-one-bite local delicacy or a six-course meal, all of which they review with a unique hilarity on their Instagram stories. It's basically three really sweet, really funny guys bopping around the globe in search of flavour-parties, and them letting us be a fly on the wall of their enjoyment. Also, I haven't actually recommended it to my grandma as I'm not sure whether Jean would get food being described as "highly f*ckable", but I know she'd respect it all the same. 

2. Callie Thorpe
I met Callie at a press dinner in 2016 a couple of weeks after one of her Instagram posts, in which it's her wedding day and she looks an absolute vision in her dress, had gone viral. Her caption was about how "you are deserving of happiness no matter what your size, and you will still be the most beautiful person in the room next to your love", and as she told me about this I realised that I'd crossed paths with a lady glowing with light and life who left a lasting impression on me. Over the last two years I've looked forward to Callie's hugely relatable Instagram stories like they're the latest Orange Is The New Black episode, and I get all my best healthy recipe ideas, cat content and general laughs from them!

3. Jules Von Hep
Tanner to the stars (seriously, think of any babein' celebrity that you've had a girl-crush on since forever and Jules will have tanned them), perpetual smiler and all-round delight, Jules might just be one of my favourite humans that I've never actually met before. Also on that list: Steve Carrell, Amy Poehler, Tom Hanks, Jessie Ware. I was prompted to follow Jules on Instagram after listening to an episode of Estée Lalonde's comforting and informative podcast On The Line and have felt everything from inspired to emotional to proud ever since, and his stories make me cry with laughter! Jules is the creator of Isle Of Paradise (there's a PR package sat at home in Norfolk waiting for me and I am positively dying to try it!) which has rave reviews all-round, so get bronzed whilst you're feeling buoyant after looking at his feed.

4. Giovanna Fletcher
Giovanna is the supportive, hilarious best friend or sister that we all wish we had - and with the invention of Instagram, we kind of can! A Sunday Times bestselling author, host of the brilliant podcast Happy Mum, Happy Baby and all-round blogging/vlogging/presenting whizz, she's a multi-talented modern mum who'll make you think "how does she do it?" but without a smidgen of smugness. You're bound to find inspiration in Gi's posts whether you're a parent or not, as they have a refreshingly real 'this is actually me, this is my actual life' vibe that encourages us to be a whole lot kinder to others and a whole lot easier on ourselves. Expect charity awareness, no-makeup selfies and lots of very adorable family content. She once said I was "always a little ray of sunshine", and I'll never forget it!

5. Emily Coxhead
Emily's feed is nothing but loveliness, rainbows, happiness - and come to think of it, so is Emily herself! If you've ever seen that meme of the baby hedgehog waving it's teeny arm in the air with the quote "this little hedgehog is cheering for you because you're doing great", that's basically how following Emily feels. Every post is like a warm hug, and it's pretty amazing. Her dedication to making others feel better in themselves with her cute illustrations, uplifting poems and reassuring letters is never-ending, as is the way she shows how much good there is (and how many everyday heroes there are) in the world through her wonderful publication, The Happy Newspaper. A sweetheart and constant stream of smiles.

6. Beth Sandland
A cutie with a booty and a great sense of humour, I found Beth's account through Lydia Elise Millen and needed to share her brilliance with you. It's not just the gorgeous imagery, although that deserves a big shoutout - Beth's photos are always amongst the prettiest on my feed with clear thoughtfulness behind them - but her captions. Honest, thought-provoking, genuine, funny: Beth strikes a beautiful balance between being aspirational and relatable, evoking an empowering "I want to be her but at the same time, she's so unapologetically herself that I know I can draw from that and be confident in myself, too" feeling that I think's quite rare in the influencer world. She's also just announced a big move from the UK to backpacking life through Australia, New Zealand and Asia to name a few - so you're gonna want to start following that adventure as soon as possible!

7. Britton Loves
One of those chicas that I just feel so happy and lucky to know, Lauren is the brains and beauty behind blog Britton Loves. Her accompanying Instagram page of the same name is everything cosy and comforting: this week it was all about the childhood throwbacks, fairy lights, cups of chai tea in Christmas mugs and much more, which gave me all of the festive feels that I'm currently missing out on being outside of the UK in December for the first time ever. As a professional photographer, Lauren's images are always stunning (her flat-lays are the best in the biz) and one of my favourite things about her feed is the mix of life, beauty, fashion and food - there's something for everyone and when I'm not getting cruelty-free skincare recommendations, I'm drooling over her latest bake. Gimme.

8. The Comparison Coach
Ever heard the quote "comparison is the thief of joy" and related on such a deep level that your vehement head-nodding makes your hair fall out of its messy bun? Then you're gonna need to start following Lucy Sheridan on the old 'gram, who posts "daily expert advice to help you find your own peace and go after your own success". If you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling and finding nothing of inspiration in your feed, Lucy'll swoop in with some insightful, wise and positive words that are guaranteed to brighten your day and bring a calmer mindset your way! I've learnt a lot from her about how fruitless comparison is and the power that comes with truly accepting yourself.

9. Jake Gallagher Hair
Hair extraordinaire and extremely lovely human being, Jake is the man who sat me down in his chair in 2015 and transformed my previously self-dyed locks from what I thought was platinum to what's actually platinum, giving me such new-found confidence through my 'do. Absolutely the coolest and most fashionable person I know, Jake's feed is a constant stream of inspiration and art and creativity. He's currently on tour with Lily Allen: together they've been serving looks left, right and centre, all of which I've been double-tapping and "yaaas"-ing at, whilst my own hair is in the same mediocre topknot that it always is, of course. Follow for insane outfits and fire hairstyles!

10. Body Posi Panda
Without a doubt the most empowering person I've come across online (and in real-life on the night we both picked up our InStyle Project 13 Awards, yay!) is Megan Jayne Crabbe. Her bravery in sharing her own story to help others is something of beauty and her message is always one of inclusion and love regardless of gender, race, weight, sexuality, mental illness, or anything about a person that society has deemed 'not enough'. We need more people like Megan in the world and following her on Instagram is a start, because the positive ripple effect that grows from seeing posts that tackle fatphobia, prove that anxiety doesn't equal worthlessness, encourage self-love, dismantle everyday sexism and celebrate all bodies is really important and necessary. She's also simply delightful and rocks a pink sequin dress!

I'm always on the lookout for new people whose social media presence I can fall in love with and follow religiously, so please let me know who I need to check out next! I hope you follow all ten of these wonderful accounts and end up loving them just as much as I do.

Jumper | Earrings
Photos by Megan Duffield Photography

How To: Plan A World Backpacking Trip In 8 Steps

15 January 2019

As soon as I announced that my boyfriend Will and I would be leaving life as we knew it behind and embarking on a nine-month trip in a life update video, the main question I got was "I'd love to do that - how did you plan it?" closely followed by "what are you going to do about money?", and as those questions are still popping up in my Instagram DMs I thought I'd answer 'em. Here's a comprehensive guide to planning a world trip!

Allocate your time

1. The first initial step is to decide how long you're going to leave life as you know it behind and embark on your trip for. This is the step that's near impossible for me to give any advice on as the length of time you travel for is impacted by your job, your home and endless other variables. Freelance illustrator and renter Susie might be able to drop everything at a moment's notice and leave for sixteen months, whereas mortgage advisor and homeowner Sam might only get four weeks holiday per year (and doesn't want to leave his dog Eric in the kennels any longer than that anyway). You know your life best, and only you can realistically think about and decide upon your trip's length. 

Wanderlust to your heart's content

2. All those hours you've spent following travel inspo accounts on Instagram and wishing you could visit those destinations? Now it's your turn, baby! Choosing where you're going to go is possibly the most fun part of planning and my best tip would be to get a world map that you can draw all over - this gives you a great idea about where you're starting and ending as well as the order of countries that makes the most sense geographically. Trip Happy make handy interactive maps that you can plan your route on!

Bear the length of your trip in mind when choosing your destinations - it's tempting to squeeze in as many countries as possible, but the juice may not be worth that squeeze if you're spending most of your time in transit and rushing the actual exploring side of travelling. Another thing to note is your budget - three weeks in Iceland would be completely stunning, but the same amount of money would last you three months in Asia.

Decide on a travel agent

3. Using a travel agent rather than sorting your flights yourself means you're paying for the privilege, yes, but having them handle all of the booking is a weight off your shoulders and it's so handy to have everything 'under one roof'. Think about the recent drone drama at Gatwick Airport - would you want to be taking precious time out of your trip searching for wifi as you desperately try and rebook your flight, or would you rather sip on your piña colada safe in the knowledge that your travel agent has it covered? We booked our entire trip with STA (specifically Caitlin at the Kingston branch, who's just the loveliest) and don't have any complains - everything has been smooth sailing so far!

Sort your visas

4. Something that's going to cause you a lot of unnecessary stress as your trip approaches is not having your visas sorted, so just bite the bullet and get 'em done. Many embassies are only open on weekdays, so you may need to take the day off work to go. The most important thing is to make sure you have everything you need: take this from someone who ran around Trafalgar Square trying to get a photocopy of my passport, only to finally get to the front of the queue after three hours and be asked for a printed bank statement. Do your research and get that passport stamped ASAP - your future self will thank you!

Vaccinate yourself

5. Depending on where in the world you're headed, you might need some vaccinations. You can find out whether you do here and your healthcare provider should let you know when you need to come in and get them done. Vaccinations such as rabies and Japanese encephalitis require up to one month's time, so factor this into your diary.

Save enough money

6. This is a bit of an ambiguous one as, after all, what is 'enough' money - but as someone who's currently a few months into their world trip I'm gonna go ahead and say that too much is never enough. You don't have to spend it all, and not once will you sit back and think 'wow, I wish I had less money to travel with'. There are various ways you could save (earn more, spend less, fundraise, sell unneeded items etc) and personally, the most effective way I found to save was by putting aside an allocated amount of money per month into a separate account where it could accumulate. I'm also earning along the way as I'm a full-time online content creator (aka blogger/vlogger), so it's worth looking into whether you can turn one of your hobbies or skills into something that makes you money.

Pack your bags

7. I have a lot of 'what to/not to pack' content coming soon as it's something I deliberated over long and hard (and have since learnt many lessons about!) but to keep this short and sweet, get yourself a main bag and a carry-on bag. I have an Osprey Sojourn 80 Flash Back (this is like a hiking bag, but has super sturdy wheels with a pull-along handle and I literally haven't carried it once) and a backpack as my carry-on.

If I could go back in time, the one thing I'd do is pack for countries/climates rather than attempting to pack for the entire trip in one go. I filled my bag with everything I'd need from the Philippines to San Francisco, whereas in reality I should've accommodated for Asia and Asia only. You can pick up new clothing to fit the weather along the way, and I've had to leave a heck of a lot of stuff behind simply because it was taking up too much space (and San Francisco is five months away). The Anna Edit is a wonderful person to seek out when you need general packing advice - search 'The Anna Edit packing list' on Google and prepare for your life to get much, much simpler. Backpacking advice coming from me very soon!

Say your goodbyes

8. You've planned, you've prepped, your bags are packed and sitting by the door and now it's time for you to say goodbye. Like the first step, this is an extremely personal one - you might not see any point in it and just want to get gone which is fair enough, but as I was leaving for a substantial amount of time and am extremely close with my family and friends, I loved having the opportunity for I'll-miss-you's and tight hugs all round.

With all that said and done, I hope your planning goes smoothly, that your travels go swimmingly and that your world trip is a once in a lifetime experience! 

10 Things No-One Tells You About Backpacking In Asia

11 January 2019

As a first-time traveller, I had next to zero clue about what to expect from backpacking. You imagine what it'll be like all the time leading up to the day you leave home, but it really is one of those experiences in life that you don't understand until you've done it and over the last few months I've learnt a heck of a lot about travelling in Asia.

In case you're a complete beginner like I was, here are a few little nuggets of wisdom that I wish someone had given me a heads up about!

1. Having an upset stomach becomes the norm. Food poisoning will crop up every so often - we've gotten it from food stalls, restaurants and a pricey vegetarian pizza in a really posh place - but aside from that, you're likely to have 'the poos' on a pretty regular basis. My boyfriend and I have been together for six years, and our relationship has reached a whole new "have you been since you had that Imodium?" level. I'm just preparing you, kids!

2. Asian mosquitoes are a different beast. Back home in the UK the mosquitoes are only about at certain times of year and are super lazy, practically floating through the air and giving you more than enough time to grab a rolled-up newspaper to whack them with. In the Philippines they're smaller and positively athletic, zipping around like bluebottles and biting you to shreds! In Southeast Asia they have tiger mosquitoes which are big black and white striped bastards, and you need to be especially careful of viruses like dengue fever.

3. Staying in dorms is an experience. It's the cheapest option and also the one that takes the most getting used to, as it's basically like a grown-up slumber party with bunk beds except... everyone is strangers. That doesn't last for long, of course, but for the first few times you do it you'll definitely have this weird 'I'm sharing a bedroom with five random people' feeling - especially when the person to your left is snoring their head off and the person to your right is talking in their sleep.

4. Your clothes will never be clean. And that's totally fine, because everyone else's clothes are dirty too! Before you start backpacking you'll be all 'I'm a really clean person, I'll be able to keep my stuff relatively nice', and then a month in you'll be like 'it's fine, the stain isn't that noticeable'. The day you get your clothes back from the laundry will be the best and then it all goes downhill from there - marks appear seemingly from nowhere, you'll wear tops until the hems unravel and you'll begin to rely on The Sniff Test, which is that if you have to sniff it twice... it stinks.

5. You'll acclimatise to Asian prices really quickly. Your first couple of days will mainly consist of squealing "it's 90p for a rum and coke!", then you'll be like "I'm not getting a cocktail, they're £2" - as if that's somehow extortionate, when last week you were paying £15 for a weak Mojito in a London bar. I've turned down a pair of trousers I loved as they sounded mega expensive, then after walking away realised they were about £5 and had to sheepishly go back. Asia is the point in your trip that you can save a lot of money during, so make the most of things being cheap as chips and keep mentally converting the prices - it reminds you of how little you're spending compared to home!

6. Not everyone is rainbows and sunshine. Don't get me wrong, most people are - but you'll also meet people along the way who are simply a bit annoying and people who are downright disrespectful. From intervening when a drunk group of Mancunian lads were throwing beer bottles into the pristine ocean on a tiny Filipino island to eye-rolling hard at a Trump supporter in an All Lives Matter t-shirt determined to get her bigoted point across, there have been a few moments where we've just wanted to be like "oh, bugger off". The travelling scene, like anywhere in the world, has a few dicks in it.

7. Khao San Road in Bangkok is wild. During the day it's tame, with knockoffs as far as the eye can see and plenty of places to go for lunch, but in the evening people seem to just lose their minds. The street is crammed and you can't walk down it without being offered drinks, nos balloons, scorpions on a stick, bespoke handmade suits... the list is endless, and the whole experience is pretty bizarre. I'd definitely recommend going - even if you're not up for a big night, you can find quieter spots that offer the best people-watching ever.

8. Places aren't as dangerous as the media makes out. Before we left the UK, we heard so many horror stories from people who'd gone travelling and had something terrible happen, and it feels like everyone has a friend of a friend who was mugged or had a near-death experience. Take the Philippines for example - we were often warned about what a "dangerous country" it is so I went with my guard fully up, but not once did I feel unsafe and the people there are genuinely the friendliest I've ever met. Of course you have to be careful and keep your wits about you, however Asia has been a pleasant surprise so far.

9. Usual driving rules do not apply! You definitely need to take extra caution whether you're travelling by motorbike or car etc, and the best advice is that if you think someone's going to do something, they probably are. If it looks like they're about to do a random u-turn, pull out into a fast stream of traffic or suddenly stop - they will! We've seen so many Europeans with bandaged ankles and scooter accidents are rife, so take it slow and wear a helmet.

10. Your bag will never be organised. Not for more than a day, anyway! You'll leave home with cute little ziplock bags and all of your clothes sorted into packing cubes, then after a couple of weeks it'll be a mad jumble where the only real organisation is 'clean' or 'dirty'. Every so often I'll get frustrated that it's such a mess and have a proper sort, but as we only stay in places for a couple of nights everything inevitably gets chucked in there with no rhyme or reason again. After a while you simply stop caring!

If you'd like me to make this into a little series and cover other places we'll be travelling around like Bali or Australia, let me know. I hope your trip to Asia is an amazing one!

My 10 Best Beauty Discoveries Of 2018

8 January 2019

Genuinely, one of the best things about this whole beauty blogger, vlogger, everything-ogger life is being able to look back and see which products you've used and completely loved. 

If you've ever come across an old selfie that you look banging in and thought, "I wish I remembered what makeup I was wearing' then I'd definitely recommend compiling a blogger-esque journal, as I absolutely relish the fact that I can flick through the description boxes of my monthly favourites videos and be reminded of products that stood out from the crowd.

With that said, here are the products that stood out from the crowd for me in 2018: the best of the bunch, the leaders of the pack and the ones I'll be glad I wrote a blog post about for my forgetful but still beauty-obsessed future self. And for you of course, dear reader!

1. Sanctuary Wet Skin Moisture Miracle
This product will revolutionise the way you moisturise (fantastic word play there, if I do say so myself) and has become a staple in my routine that I'll repurchase again and again. You apply this on wet skin after showering which takes all of sixty seconds, and the result is beautifully soft and nourished skin without any of the faff. If you're one of those people who can't stand moisturising their whole body, you absolutely need this in your life.

2. Institut Esthederm Intensive Hyaluronic Serum
The best thing to reach for when you skin reaches crisis point with dryness, and I'm not being hyperbolic - this is marketed as a 'crisis' product for acute dehydration that you apply as a targeted treatment rather than every day. I find it one of the most reliable go-to's in my bathroom cabinet as it simply does the job, working to immediately relieve my skin and leave it incredibly smooth with a lovely bounce that only comes from deep hydration!

3. Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
Glossier in general has been a firm new favourite of mine in 2018 and if there's one thing I recommend to all of my friends, it's their conditioning face wash. In my eyes it's the perfect morning or night cleanser and is completely no-frills and no-fuss, but still manages to feel luxurious with its soft creamy gel formula and rosewater scent. The cleaning agent is the same used in contact lens solution, so you can imagine how non-irritating and gentle it is!

4. Benefit BADgal Bang! Mascara
Whilst I also fell in love with the uber-natural look of Glossier Lash Slick this year, nothing could beat Benefit's gravity-defying drop as the effect it has on my lashes is pretty out of this world. It lengthens them like crazy, builds huge volume and is the blackest mascara I've ever used, all whilst never clumping and giving a fanned-out effect that's quick to achieve.

5. Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
I well and truly slept on this, for no reason other than I wasn't sure what it actually does, and having made the purchase in 2018, I can safely say that it does the most. A complexion booster that illuminates skin (as though from within) and blurs imperfections, it gives the most incredible glow that you can tailor, e.g. tap along cheekbones for a subtle sheen or apply all over for a megawatt glisten. Never in my life have I had more "what foundation do you use?" or "what's on your skin?" comments!

6. Glossier Boy Brow
In a world of Instagram makeup where phrases like "next, clean up your brow with concealer" are thrown about leaving me utterly baffled, Boy Brow made me fall in love with super natural, brushed up brows. I use the shade 'Blond' and love the Hadid-esque finish it gives, adding a hint of colour and definition and allowing you to get that effortless fluffy look with a hold that's strong but soft.

7. bareMinerals GEN NUDE Patent Lip Lacquer
Gloss made a comeback in a big way in 2018, and the clear winner for me was this ultra-shiny little gem from bareMinerals that's actually a liquid lipstick! You're guaranteed to find your perfect nude - mine is 'Dahling' or 'Everything' - and the formulation is just so gorgeous: creamy, moisturising, insanely pigmented and a delicious vanilla scent.

8. Charlotte Tilbury Eyes To Mesmerise
A couple of years ago I bought the shade 'Jean' from this cream eyeshadow range but found it really dry, as though the pot had been opened and left to sit for ages. I decided to give them another go with 'Marie Antoinette' and was so pleasantly surprised - 'Jean' must've been a dud! - as it had such a hydrating formula, glided onto my lids with ease and blended out like a dream. It's my new foolproof golden bronze eye in one step, and stays put all day.

9.  Essie Nail Colour
Whilst I do love Essie polishes, 2018 was all about the shade 'Ballet Slippers'. A lifelong favourite of The Queen, no less, and loved by manicurists, bloggers and stylists alike - it's the most classic pale pink shade that flatters, enhances and goes with every single outfit you could possibly think of. It'll probably be my polish of choice on my wedding day - although I'd be tempted by the Alessandra Steinherr x DryBy collection, have I been thinking about this too much? - and I adore the way it makes my hands look clean and pretty.

10. Glossier Cloud Paint
Being a chronically ill person whose complexion often looks as tired and grey as I feel on the inside, I flipping love blush. Cloud Paint has a soft gel-cream formula that, like many of Glossier's products, is customisable depending on how much you apply and where you apply it. They blend seamlessly into the skin and give a beautiful youthful pop, making you look all perky and pretty. You can get creative by mixing shades, and my favourite duo is Beam with Dusk for a flattering peachy nude.

Do we share any of the same beauty discoveries of 2018, or do you have any recommendations for me as we head into 2019? I'd love to know!

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography