The Ultimate Philippines Vegetarian/Vegan Guide: Best Restaurants, What To Order etc

29 January 2019

Eating as a vegetarian in the Philippines was quite the adventure. Upon asking whether they offered vegetarian options before entering a restaurant I'd often be told "yes, of course!" only to find none in the menu, which then elicited responses such as "you eat chicken - no pork or beef!" or "it's fish, it's vegetarian" or, my personal favourite, a fit of laughter!

Filipino cuisine focuses very heavily on meat and fish, and having spent six weeks there and sometimes ending up with no choice but to eat plain rice for dinner, I'm here to help you navigate the vegetarian/vegan waters and eat the tastiest food possible. Let's dive in!

using these phrases

Vegetarian = walang karne
Vegan = vegan
Thank you = salamat

from these Filipino vegetarian/vegan dishes

Kangkong: water spinach, which is like tenderstem broccoli and spinach in one (aka flipping delicious). It's in most Filipino menus under 'vegetables' or 'sides', and is often cooked in a thin oyster sauce with lots of garlic and red onion

Adobong kangkong: you'll see 'adobo' in menus non-stop in the Philippines as it's their unofficial national dish. Instead of chicken, pork, beef or fish marinated in the famous soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and peppercorn sauce, you can ask for 'abobong kangkong' which is the vegan water spinach version

Adobong talong: again, this is the traditional adobo dish but made with eggplant/aubergine

Tortang talong: one of my absolute favourites, this is the only traditional Filipino vegetarian classic I came across - at a roadside barbecue, no less! They take a grilled eggplant or aubergine then peel and mash it, soak in beaten egg, season with salt and pepper then fry until golden brown. It is divine, and something you absolutely cannot miss if you eat eggs!

Pinkabet: traditionally pinakbet is a vegetable dish made with pork and shrimp paste, however I was offered vegetarian/vegan versions throughout our trip. It's not the most exciting dish in the world (sort of like pan-cooked vegetables with a bit of a garlicky sauce) but there are always condiments on tables in Filipino restaurants so you can jazz it up with chilli and soy sauce etc

Lumpia: spring rolls, wahey! Served deep fried or fresh, these are the exactly how you're probably picturing them to be - just double check that they're actually veggie!

Pancit: noodles, wahey again! You'll hear 'pancit bihon' and 'pancit canton' - they're both the same fried noodle dish but bihon has thin glass noodles, and canton has thicker egg noodles

Bam-i: fun to say, fun to eat and fun for your wallet as it's usually extremely cheap, bam-i is like a mixture of pancit bihon and pancit canton. It's made with the two different types of noodles mixed together along with soy sauce and vegetables, and you might also hear or see it referred to as 'pancit bisaya'

Banana blossom burger: basically the Filipino version of the veggie burger, banana blossom patties are popular and taste like a regular one except sweeter - think sweet potato mixed with black bean! You might also hear banana blossom referred to as 'banana heart' or 'puso ng saging'. They usually come in your usual setup with fries on the side, lettuce, tomato etc

Okra: you probably already know this one, but if you don't, okra is a green vegetable in the mallow family (the taste is similar to green beans, the texture is more like soft cucumber and it has these funny white spherical seeds) and I just wanted to mention it here as it was in pretty much every vegetarian or vegan meal I had in the Philippines! 

Kalabasa: squash, basically - one of the pretty green/orange ones

Calamansi: a citrus fruit native to the Philippines that looks and pretty much tastes like a very tiny lime... they're extremely cute and you'll get at least one on anything you order, whether that's chopsuey or a rum and coke!

Ampalaya: also known as 'bitter gourd' or 'bitter melon', this stuff's pretty gross and basically tastes like dodgy sea cucumber. As the alternative names would suggest it's extremely bitter, to the point where you pull a face whilst eating it, and if I was going to advise you to avoid one thing in the Philippines it'd be ampalaya! Unfortunately it's in a lot of vegetarian/vegan dishes so I'd suggest asking beforehand or picking it out. Hint: it looks like dark celery, and was created by the devil

out for these things

If you're staying in a more remote area there may be a couple of occasions where there isn't anything you can eat on the menu, especially if you're vegan. Whenever it happened (usually in tiny villages with barely any tourists), I simply ordered garlic rice: everywhere does this and it's way more exciting than plain boiled!

Chop suey is often on Filipino menus, it's slightly different to American/European versions in that it normally comes as a stir-fried noodle and vegetables dish, just make sure you use a vegan translation app like Veganagogo to ensure that's definitely no meat in there.

Shrimp paste is used in many recipes, as is fish sauce, and many people I met along the way thought that vegetarians could still eat fish and chicken, and some soups and curries may be cooked using carcasses or meat juices. On many occasions I asked for a vegetarian option and would be pointed towards something like 'pork in soy sauce with vegetables', so it's handy to know how to say "I don't eat meat or fish" (Hindi ako kumakain ng karne o isda - use Veganagogo or keep this on your Notes on your phone).

my following top picks

Happiness Beach Bar: A lively, colourful veggie joint with swings at the bar, head to Happiness for great Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine: think hearty wooden bowls filled with hummus and dips, falafel pittas and shakshuka. They do a generous tabbouleh salad, and these amazing 'fries' that are like a Ready Salted crisp had a baby with a chip!

Big Bad Thai Bistro: Ask for a seat upstairs - you eat overlooking the beach that way! - and order the som tum (spicy green papaya salad), the vegetable and tofu green curry or the classic Pad Thai. The sweetcorn salad is one to give a miss, as the corn was quite dry and bitter rather than succulent and sweet. Their cocktail menu is something special, so spoil yourself with their silver tequila, mango purée and chilli concoction dubbed 'The Thairita'.

Taste El Nido: With a small vegan menu, Taste (or The Vegan Café) is well worth a visit. Choose from eggplant lasagna (made with cashew cream béchamel, so delicious!), Mexican chipotle bowl or mac 'n' cheese for your main, enjoy a variety of smoothie bowls and vegan coffees for breakfast, and try their sweet vegan snacks - we'd recommend the chocolate chip cookies.

V and V Bagel: Lunch doesn't get much quicker or easier than a filled bagel, and this spot does a vegetarian one (eggplant, bell peppers, pesto, lettuce and Parmesan - forgo the cheese to make it vegan) for £3.50. Their wifi is top notch and whilst their regular coffee is good, upgrade to the Illy blend for a real treat. They also do a veggie burger as well as pizza, pasta and desserts.

Coco GroveVegetarians often get ignored at barbecues but not at Coco Grove, where they have a barbecue and entertainment evening every Tuesday at their beachfront Sunset restaurant. They do these vegetable kebabs that are smothered in an amazing spicy satay sauce before they're grilled and served up with rice, salad and salsa.

Baha Ba'r: Aside from ordering a strong af and patriotic cocktail (quite literally, every time you buy a Baha Ba'r special you get to add a tally to your country on their chart) you should also order the Pandasal Express which is a banana blossom burger with sweet potato fries. Double check your order as some items on the menu are marked as vegetarian, but include shrimp or fish.

The Bee Farm: The organic garden salad here is adorned with pretty edible flowers and comes with the most divine mustard dressing that really takes lettuce from drab to fab! Ask for a different one if you're vegan rather than vegetarian as it's heavy on the honey, and try the vegetable stir-fry with garlic rice for main.

Bamboo Garden Bar: I have a full review of our stay at Bamboo here, and would highly recommend checking out the food there even if you're not a resident. The vegetarian pizza, panini and sandwich are all great (ask for no cheese to make them vegan) and I was a huge fan of their hearty and filling vegetable curry.

Miguel's Taqueria Y Cerveceria: This place is #3 in General Luna on Trip Advisor and never anything else than heaving. With a tiny menu of either a classic foil-wrapped burrito or two soft filled tacos, you'll order within seconds and get your food within minutes. Both have a 'vegetable' option which will only set you back about £2 and can be made vegan if you ask for no cheese or creamy sauce, and there are two vegan sauce options on every table: salsa verde and pico de gallo.

Kermit: The restaurant within this surf resort does a delicious vegetarian panini that's vegan without the cheese for 160 pisos (about £2.50, and comes with chips or wedges too!) as well as a wide range of Italian options. They have a huge wood-fired oven making fresh pizzas, calzones and focaccia, and if you're a pasta lover you'll be spoilt for choice: the spaghetti options are vegan (pomodoro, aglio e olio, pesto) and there's a creamy gorgonzola gnocchi and a porcini mushroom risotto if you eat dairy.

Altrove: Sticking with the Italian theme, head here and choose from three different pastas (spaghetti, penne or fettuccini) then order the Pomodori Secchi - crushed tomatoes with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. I added chilli to my order, and asked for no Parmesan cheese to make it vegan. 

Bravo: Our favourite 'date night' spot thanks to the beachfront location, beautiful lighting and live music. Their menu has a brilliant tapas section, most of which is vegetarian, and the staff are incredibly friendly and informed about making dishes vegan - so get your patatas bravas and baba ganoush on! Their mongo bean, eggplant and mushroom veggie burger is divine (if you like onion bhajis then you'll love this) and every Sunday they have a paella night, one of which is 100% vegan!

Deep Moon: A* veggie dining! In the relaxed, open-air restaurant you'll find no end of options from vegan pancakes, sandwiches, paninis, pizzas, local dishes and more. Even if a dish is marked as 'vegetarian' it's likely to be vegan, as the kitchen uses fresh soy milk instead of cow's milk or egg. One of those places where you open the menu and feel spoilt for choice!

Mabuti: Not only does this cute little spot have the speediest wifi (quite rare in Port Barton!), they only sell vegetarian and vegan food as seen in their full menu here. At only £2.40 for a breakfast dish AND a coffee, you can't go wrong. The soups, salads and pastas all received rave reviews and, like everything else, the veggie burger is made from locally sourced ingredients. Mabuti make their own bamboo straws and donate the profits to rehabilitating reefs, and on the whole have a large focus on protecting the environment.

Gorgonzola: A trendy spot that wouldn't look out of place in Seven Dials in Covent Garden, you're gonna struggle to choose just one dish from this menu. It's pricier than spots serving local food rather than Western, but their pizzas (550 pisos for a margherita base, then you can add toppings like vegetarian bolognese or vegan cheese) are a whopping 60cm and can feed 2-4 people. The salads are proper (aka generous and actually tasty), and here's a handy tip: order their hummus without the focaccia then dip your crusts in it instead. You are welcome!

Ausan: This beachfront resort has a restaurant where you get a truly good bang for your buck, as they offer a three-course set menu for around £3.50 each! The veggie options for main include a chop suey style stir-fry, mushroom pasta and a banana blossom burger with fries to name a few, and I had a fruit platter for dessert. The first time we went the starter was a delicious sweetcorn soup and the second time it was chicken and corn so I couldn't have it, but they deducted this from the bill. Try and get the romantic candlelit 'treehouse' table if you can, and order the onion rings - they're immense!

I hope this helps you navigate your way as a vegetarian or vegan around the Philippines - there's so much delicious food on offer when you know what to look and ask for! 

In Defence Of Wearing Makeup

25 January 2019

Ever since I was a little girl - we're talking five years old and examining my mum's eyelash curler wondering what in the world it could be for - I've adored makeup and beauty products in general. Before I even hit my teens I'd pore over the beauty section of magazines, and my favourite thing to read (aside from books, obviously!) was the description on everything from shampoo to hair removal cream. Seriously, I wasn't even applying or using these things - I was simply just fascinated by the colours, textures, packaging, scents.

That fascination for beauty products has stayed with me through to my adult years - hence the large proportion of this blog that's dedicated to talking about them - and when my boyfriend and I decided to backpack the world for the best part of a year, I couldn't have been more excited to decide which items were going to voyage along with me.

Discovering the beauty blogging world when I was 13 let me know that there are other people out there like me, people who collectively love the world of beauty, as there are people who are passionate about food or surfing or art and could talk about it all day. It was never a vanity thing or centred around outward appearances for me, and I think the fact that I would sit and read the back of a body scrub aged seven (despite not actually being allowed to use it) is testament to that.

My point, explained in my usual wordily fashion, is that my passion for beauty products would exist whether the effect was visible or not. My eyeshadow blending is average at best but that'll never stop me from coveting and purchasing 102 palettes (all of which will probably be very similar mixes of nude champagnes and bronzes), as it's not about the way they look, but the way they make me feel. Looking at an outfit and conjuring an immediate mental 'this would be so sexy with a bronze smudgy eye and 90s nude liner' picture is the coolest, and I never feel more powerful than when I'm rocking a red lip.

So far, I've had a couple of comments about the fact that I'm wearing makeup whilst travelling and it got me thinking. Is it not 'the done thing', and why does it matter?

The first was a classic catty-girl tactic. She was rude (but only to me) from the get-go but I didn't take it personally as it was quite apparent that she fancied my boyfriend, and I'd gotten used to the constant sly digs designed to undermine and embarrass. One of which - said in front of everyone, of course - was "wow, it must take you such a long time to apply all that makeup". My makeup at the time: a teeny bit of Revolution Conceal & Define Concealer, hint of Benefit Hoola, brows brushed up with Glossier Boy Brow and a swipe of lip balm. I'd guess that this three-product application took me literally less than two minutes from start to finish, but my face not being completely bare was portrayed as a negative, my beloved Real Techniques Expert Face Brush used as a tool with which to bash me with.

The second was a genuine question from a guy we met (and ended up living with, and will be friends with for life I'm sure) who asked "you know you're travelling, right?" as I sat on our communal sofa applying my Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Luxury Palette. As someone who doesn't even wear shoes, I could completely see how unnecessary and decidedly 'extra' it looked to him. "It makes me happy!" I replied, to which he gave me an understanding nod and said, "you do you". It wasn't him, or my boyfriend, or anyone else that I bought the £45 palette for: it was for me, because I like pretty colours and making my eyelids all sparkly.

Both questions - one a strategic move from an insecure individual and one offhand remark from a perplexed shoeless Danish dude - implied that I shouldn't be wearing makeup. And I'm just here to say, why ever the hell not?

I get it, backpacking inherently implies minimalism as you can literally only own what you can physically carry on your back, and when it's hot you're thinking about reaching for a bottle of water and not a lipliner. But genuinely, what difference does it make whether your lips are lined or not? It impacts neither the experience nor the journey, and spending three minutes - which is nothing, in the grand scheme of a 24-hour day - applying a slick of mascara and a swipe of lipstick if that's what you want to do is your prerogative.

'If that's what you want to do' should be the takeaway from that last paragraph, as makeup is all about freedom and expression without rules or limitations. I'm currently in a travelling environment where makeup is extremely rare - I haven't seen a Velvet Teddy or a winged liner for weeks - and whilst I often forgo it during the day as I just can't be bothered, I really take pleasure in little things like smoothing on some Glossier Lidstar and blending it out. I find it relaxing, enjoyable and kind of like a form of self-care.

I guess the reason why I was compelled to write this blog post is the feeling of being judged: that by wearing makeup - especially whilst travelling, in a sea of hippie pants and dreadlocks - it means that you're hiding, unconfident or materialistic. The way I see it, not wearing any makeup is as much as a choice as wearing a full face of contour and as it's all down to personal preference, there's no right or wrong.

We see makeup-shaming all the time, from snide remarks about people who - shock, horror - wear it at the gym or the pool, to petty "she's wearing way too much makeup" comments on Instagram posts. FYI, the people who write those sorts of things are the same people who internally squeal with glee when a celebrity is 'caught' without a full face in the Daily Mail whilst dropping their kids off at school. It's bred from insecurity, enables them to feel superior and breeds nothing but negative judgement.

Your time is your time and your choices are your choices. If recreating one of the insanely talented Nikkie Tutorials videos means you feel happy and confident and creative, then that's what you should do - and what you shouldn't do is let outside irrelevant opinions stop you from expressing yourself in whatever way makes your soul shine.

I think everyone should strive to adopt a 'different strokes for different folks' attitude like our Danish friend, who didn't understand why I was buffing in foundation and applying blinding highlighter in a tiny village in the middle of the Philippines and thought the whole thing pointless, but accepted it and said "you do you" with a smile anyway.

The Skincare I Packed For A 9-Month Trip

22 January 2019

The enthusiasm I feel about skincare knows no bounds. My bedside table (back at home in the UK, sob) is full of lotions and potions, my lip balm collection is out of control and my boyfriend frequently gets roped into Netflix and sheet mask evenings. Once, a lady in a coffee shop stopped and asked me what skincare I use - seriously, it made my whole month - and it took about 0.2 seconds for me to whip out a napkin and start scribbling down a ton of recommendations.

When packing for the nine-month trip that I'm currently on with said reluctant sheet-mask wearing boyfriend, deciding which skincare products to pack was a task that I borderline agonised over - so whether you're heading off on holiday soon too and need recs like coffee-shop-lady (or just fancy a nosey in my toiletries bag!) then you're in the right place.

One product that needed no deliberation was Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. I've actually written an ode to it here - and find it the best all-round face wash for baby-soft, perfectly clean skin that feels happy and bouncy without any dryness. They make a handy diddy cabin-sized version (or you could decant into your own container) if you're going on a shorter trip. I'm actually nearly out, but I'm sure I'll manage without it. 90% sure. Maybe 60%.

Forgoing toner, oil and serum (who am I?) I skipped straight to the moisture section of my routine with the hope that sea and sun would be my new acid toner. My all-time favourite Elemis Pro-Collagen Eye Renewal had to come on the journey as it has the most instantly replenishing gel formula and noticeably firms the area. I also packed the matching Elemis Pro-Collagen Hydra-Gel Eye Masks in my carry-on and couldn't recommend them for flights (or life in general) more - think immediate, soothing relief. Bliss!

My face moisturisers of choice are the Caudalie Vinosource Moisturising Sorbet - full review here - for when I'm more on the dry side and need something more intensive, as this stuff banishes all feeling and signs of dehydration in a flash. The Glossier Priming Moisturiser is a fantastic everyday go-to staple - a little goes a long way and you can build it up, which I like to do in the evenings as I can kind of trick myself into thinking that I'm using a night cream. Can anyone tell that I'm missing my full skincare stash?

Not as travel-friendly as the other products (big factor during the packing process!) but something I really wanted are the Tanologist Face & Body Self Tan Drops in 'Medium'. This serum gives you a made-to-measure tan depending on how many drops you add to your moisturiser, and as someone who doesn't enjoy sunbathing and whose face never seems to tan anyway, that's very appealing! This way, my face matches my body and all is well.

Sun protection is a biggie so I brought the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL 50+ Ultra-Light Fluid for its gorgeously silky texture, and the Bioderma Photoderm Max 50+ Tinted Aquafluid for a water-resistant anti-shine finish with a hint of coverage. Body-wise I'm a huge fan of the Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Water - it feels so hydrating and leaves zero greasiness or white marks on your cute leopard-print bikini! I also love the Coola Eco-Lux Sunscreen Spray for the way the nozzle produces a truly fine mist (hard to find and much appreciated!) and the fact that it smells like the most delicious piña colada ever.

Last but not least we have balms. I absolutely live to apply a good balm, hence why I have four and why 'minimalist packer' will never be on my CV! Three of my little balmy quartet are made up by Glossier Balm Dot Coms: Rose (reminds me of home, good for when the soul needs soothing), Coconut (literally smells like holidays, needs no explanation) and Mint (by far the most moisturising of the bunch, with a nice little added tingle). I mainly use these on my lips, but also massage them into my cuticles and elbows if they need some TLC.

The final fourth slice of the balm pie - I'm going too far with this - is the Tropic Tamanu Healing Balm, an "all-in-one skin saviour" and my personal skincare hero. It contains tamanu oil which is a Polynesian remedy that "promotes the formation of new tissue and accelerates skin healing", and has genuinely helped me so much during our trip already. Whether I've got scraped knees from tripping over on uneven roads or can play dot-to-dot with all the mosquito bites on my legs, I've been reaching for this balm and find that it always relives and improves the look of every scar or scrape in record time.

Aside from the actual basics (deodorant, soap etc!) that's everything I'll be applying to my skin for the next few months. Eight weeks in and we've already had to make a pharmacy dash a couple of times for more SPF and as mentioned my Milky Jelly Cleanser is on its last legs, so please let me know if you have any recommendations for the best places to buy skincare in Asia. I hope this helps with all of your skincare-packing needs!

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