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

Where I Was, And Where I'm At

28 December 2018

Where I'm at right now.

Literally: on the sofa at my boyfriend Will's house with a hot water bottle on my lower back (hi, period) and a cup of tea that his lovely twin sister just made for me.

Figuratively: it's all a little bit up in the air, to be honest.

If you saw my recent video entitled Why I Stopped Uploading, you'll know that this year (and last year also) haven't been the easiest. Mental health struggles crept their way into an otherwise happy mind and life, and my seemingly never-ending stream of positivity surrounding my chronic illness ran out. Throw in a few traumatic life experiences, and I've been left feeling battered and bruised both physically and emotionally. 

Keeping up with work, relationships and being an adult in general felt impossible a lot of the time - Kacey Musgraves's lyrics "it's hard to breathe when all you know is the struggle of staying above the rising waterline" sum it up well - and as I'm finally (thank god, finally) coming out the other side I wanted to update you on where I'm at right now.

On the date that I'm writing this, it's exactly one month until Will and I leave our lives in the UK and embark on a nine-month trip around the world. The flights are paid off, the travel vaccines are booked and we've only a few weeks left to pack and sort any remaining life admin before we say goodbye to our loved ones. The decision to go was a very spontaneous and liberating one, and one that I'm equal parts nervous and excited about. Life has become monotonous for me and the thought of hopping on a plane and experiencing new places, cultures and people alongside my best friend has been a constant source of hope through the recent darker days, but it always felt so far away and now that it's so close, the reality is starting to set in!

I'm a homebody who won't be at home so there'll be that to contend with, and understandably it's weighing on my mind that I am chronically ill and it's an ambitious trip to undertake. I've been living a 'half-life' of sorts ever since I became poorly however, and it feels right (and necessary mentally) to shake up an existence that has been relatively unshaken for far too many years.

In classic Meg fashion I don't have everything ready (my inclination to leave everything until the last minute is something that annoys myself as well as everyone around me) however the basics are down, and we've both been saving our pennies since we put down the deposit on our flights in December of last year.

In terms of work, the industry I'm in is ever-changing and I don't think I could leave for that long and expect to come back and still have an audience - nor would I want to! As a textbook over-thinker I've let my second vlog channel fall by the wayside for worry that it's not interesting or fast-paced enough to warrant any interest, so the idea of being in a new place virtually every day and getting to share that is really exciting. Will shall, of course, be my partner in crime and suggested we do weekly vlogs together (cue great surprise from me, as he isn't a 'social media person' at all!) as well as updating our accounts along the way. I guess my channels will become travel-focused, but I'd still love to keep doing my usual chilled videos on YouTube about random lifestyle topics and chatty beauty content.

Here's to the adventure, I guess! See you on the other side.

Well, hello from the other side! If you managed to read that without your brain immediately belting out an extremely similar Adele lyric, I salute you. When I started writing this post ten weeks ago at Will's house I intended to take an accompanying blog photo and post it up before we left, but life got rather crazily busy and it got lost in the mayhem. Rather than letting all these thoughts be lost with the quick click of the 'delete post' button, I thought I'd let you know where I'm at right now - again!

Literally: sitting propped up on the pillows in bed, having just got back from the emergency room, in our little bungalow in a backpackers resort in Pai, Thailand.

Figuratively: it's still all a little bit up in the air, but I'm on the right track. And it feels so good to be able to say that!

I'm really not very well (hence the hospital visit) and it's four sleeps until Christmas Day so the timing isn't perfect to say the least, but our trip so far has been wonderful beyond words and throwing myself into the deep end in such a way has forced me to confront a few fears and let go way more. It sounds ridiculously cliché, but owning only what you can carry on your back and meeting new people from all walks of life every day puts certain things into perspective and makes other things crystal clear. Will and I are absolutely loving spending so much time together and know each other on a whole new 'argh, I've just realised there's no toilet paper in here, can you pass me some please' level - plus we just announced some exciting news over on my Instagram...

It'll be the big day on Tuesday, and I'm not sure whether it's the lack of family or the hot weather, but it doesn't feel like Christmas at all here. For the first time in my life I don't feel merry or jolly (in a Christmassy way - if you know me you'll know that I'm practically half-human, half-elf) so that's a little strange, but we're planning on making it a cute one anyway by finding somewhere that does a roast dinner, playing games and watching our favourite festive films. We'll miss home, of course, but it's only one Christmas out of a lifetime of family ones so yolo, and all that! I haven't actually bought anything for Will yet which, I won't lie, is stressing me out - I know he'd understand as I've been bedbound, but I'm gonna make it my mission to find him something lovely to unwrap.

Will told me earlier that there's a friendly joke in the resort that he's made me up, as we've been here for a fortnight and nobody has met me yet. At first it made my eyes prick with tears, as obviously I'd love nothing more than to be by his side making friends and enjoying our time rather than being stuck in bed unable to join in, but it quickly passed as we chuckled about my 'grand reveal' when I'm finally better and everyone can see that I'm actually real and not a figment of Will's imagination!

Life is, as of right now, quite a boring cycle of trying not to be sick, being sick, sipping tepid water with rehydration salts, painkillers, sleeping, turning the fan on because I'm in a hot sweat, turning the fan off because I'm in a cold sweat... you get the gist. However, in the spirit of not ending this post on a negative note (and let's hope I'm not ending 2018 on a poorly note!) I'll focus on five positives.

1. We're staying in this lovely airy bungalow that's got high ceilings, with a big cosy white bed and an en-suite. Imagine if we'd decided to book into dorms instead - a tiny bunk bed, people constantly coming in and turning lights on, a big communal shared bathroom... yep, thanking my lucky stars for a private room right now!

2. It's quite clear that I've been doing some serious self-sabotaging and feeling quite lost when it comes to my YouTube channel and blog, so today I made a 'content calendar'. I started pencilling in ideas that truly excite me, came up with a realistic schedule and can't wait to get cracking.

3. Even though I feel utterly awful (and you're allowed to feel sorry for yourself when you're this unwell and Christmas is just around the corner - ain't nobody having fun with that), I've got so many things around me that are helping and shouldn't go unappreciated! Netflix now have every season of Modern Family, I've got my favourite VS pyjamas on, I have water and medicine and snacks... it could be worse.

4. Will. Oh, that lovely, lovely man. He's always taken the best care of me but when I'm poorly the Florence Nightingale in him really jumps out and I couldn't be more grateful for him. People say they don't know what they'd do without their partners but honestly, what would I do without him? I haven't been able to step outside in two weeks, and there's him: fluffing my pillows, sending my photos of menus on WhatsApp to see if there's anything I fancy then waiting for it to be cooked and bringing it home, watching cheesy films like The Princess Switch without complaint, still calling me 'beautiful' when I know I look like a tired old hag... he's a saint and I don't know what I did to deserve him.

5. Being able to go through life's experiences and share them with you - whether they be good, bad, happy, sad, mundane, exciting... writing has always been my favourite thing and I often realise that I love it so much that I'd genuinely still do it whether anyone read or not, but the fact that you do means the absolute world. I hope this little 'sharing' thing we've got going on brings you something, whether that be laughter or entertainment or joy or comfort (or a tiny bit less boredom on your commute).

So, that's where I'm at!