Solo travel and me

Taking the plunge and holidaying alone seems scary but can be very rewarding…

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Hong Kong. Image credit: Anna Fearon

For the first time in my life I am going on a solo holiday. A couple of months ago I would never have dreamt of going on holiday on my own. It sounds way too scary and also has the potential to be very lonely. But, just recently I have pushed myself outside my comfort zone and taken a few risks and this is one of them.

It’s probably one of the most fearless decisions I’ve ever made. But it’s not a decision I arrived at easily; I certainly never intended to go on holiday on my own.

I desperately wanted to go on a summer holiday and after asking around a few friends I found that they already had holidays booked and other commitments. The thought of not getting some sun, sand and sea was quite depressing as I’m definitely due a summer holiday.

So I toyed with the idea of solo travel. I was THAT desperate to go on holiday that I would go on my own. But it seemed way too scary and would take a lot of planning, so I was naturally hesitant. I also felt quite sad about the fact that a solo holiday was something I had to resort to and not a choice. In an ideal world, I would be holidaying with friends.

You don’t really hear of many people going on holiday on their own, especially women. When I think of holidays images of big groups of friends spring to mind, so naturally the idea of a solo holiday seemed bleak.

I stalled the decision for weeks. I then chatted to a girl at work that had been on a holiday with a tour operator which organises group holidays for solo travellers. That chat set the wheels in motion; if someone my age had holidayed alone then so could I. Yet there was still doubt in my mind. I then read a travel feature in Stylist written by journalist Anna Hart about her solo travelling experience. The whole article was so positive about it, that it made me seriously think about it as a possibility. I began to see solo travel as a good choice and not just something you resort to.

Around the same time I read another feature in Grazia about how one female writer actually chose to go on holiday alone and really enjoyed it. Seeing that other women had taken the leap and loved it was enough persuasion for me. If the only way that I was going to get to go on holiday was on my own, then so be it. I started to see it as an empowering and brave decision to make in a world where most people holiday with someone else.

I’m not afraid to be on my own and experience things on my own. I’ve explored Miami and Macau on my own, so I know I can do it.

And so after doing my research I booked a holiday with a tour operator that runs an organised group trip to Croatia. I don’t know anyone booked on this holiday at all, so in that sense I’m going as a solo traveller.

My solo holiday with a bunch of strangers is a scary prospect, but it could be the best experience of my life. Who knows? It’s a real chance to make friends and one I probably wouldn’t have if I’d holidayed with a friend.

If there’s one thing that I would like you to take away from this post is that there’s no shame in holidaying alone. It’s a bold and scary thing to do, but it’s also very exciting and full of possibilities.

Would you consider solo travel? Have you been away on your own? Let me know in the comments box below.

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Why we need to stop bingeing on social media

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Image credit: magicatwork on Flikr

Hands up who says they’re going to bed, but then spends a whole hour or more browsing social media? Yep, the majority of us have probably done this at some point (or on a regular basis if you’re anything like me)! Just when you’ve finished looking at one person’s profile, you then discover one of their friends and move onto digitally stalking them.

With the popularity of the likes of Instagram and Snapchat we now have a greater window into other people’s lives. You don’t even have to know someone personally to know what coffee they have or what handbag they own. People are sharing more of their lives with the internet, which means that there’s a constant stream of updates for us to keep up with.

I find Instagram and Twitter especially addictive and waste so much time visiting people’s profiles who I don’t even know. I regularly visit celebrities’ social media profiles and lap up pictures of their gorgeous holidays, designer clothes and yummy looking meals. I’m addicted to getting my daily social media fix.

I check in to see what normal people are up to as well (this has to be the equivalent of curtain twitching but in a digital arena). I’m curious as to what people my age and in my profession are doing. After a scroll of a profile I’ll then start to compare myself to them.

But why do I binge on social media? More importantly why do we do this? It wastes so much time and does nothing for our own personal development. In the time I spend browsing social media I could have written a blog post, read a book chapter or swam 20 lengths in a pool. Just because some people put every moment of their lives on the internet, doesn’t mean we need to look at it.

So next time you go for a browse on social media and get carried away looking at anybody and everybody’s profiles, ask yourself these questions: “Is this productive? Am I achieving anything by doing this? How does this help me?”. Remind yourself that every time you go on a social media binge and spend 30 minutes looking at someone’s holiday pictures, that’s 30 minutes you could have spent planning your own holiday!

It’s time for us to focus on ourselves, never mind others.

Are you guilty of spending a lot of time looking at people’s social media profiles? How do you stop yourself from doing it? Let me know in the comments box below.

Why I’m anti #SquadGoals

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Not a fan of #SquadGoals, sorry Taylor! Image credit: www.youtube.com

If there was a word of 2015 it was probably “squad”. The word used to be more commonly associated with the army, but has somehow taken on a new meaning, and is now widely known as a social group that regularly hang out with each other and post group pictures on social media accompanied with the hashtag #SquadGoals. The idea is that every squad thinks that you should aspire to be like them. The poster girl for this term is undeniably Taylor Swift who has accumulated a massive girl squad made up of the likes of supermodels Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne.

The concept of a squad is all well and good if you’re in one. But what if you’re not?

I am not part of a “squad”, at least I don’t see myself as being part of one. I don’t have a big group of friends who I regularly see, instead I mostly have a few close individual friends who I meet up with separately. I’ve never been part of a group of friends who religiously spend every Friday night together and I don’t think I ever will be.

We’re bombarded with images of massive groups of friends on social media sites accompanied with the hashtag #SquadGoals and it’s even prevalent offline too. Only yesterday I saw two girls wearing T-shirts which said something along the lines of: “If lost please return to my squad”… *sighs*. The term is frustrating for those of us that don’t have a tight knit group of friends; it makes us question why we’re not part of a squad.

There is something more threatening about a squad than a group of friends. You feel that you wouldn’t even be able to talk to a member of this cliche without getting the third degree from their squad.

I’ve decided that I’m #AntiSquadGoals because it makes those of us that aren’t in one feel left out. It’s very easy to feel like you’re inadequate for not having a squad when it’s become a word ingrained in popular culture and shared widely on social media. BUT it’s OK to just have a few close friends and not be part of a tight group. It doesn’t make you any less of a functioning human being. As you get older you realise that it’s not about the amount of friends you have, but the quality of the friendships you do have.

The more I think about #SquadGoals the more I think that it’s a myth. What a picture of a beaming group of friends conceals is the in-fighting and bitching that may take place. #SquadGoals is a term designed to make people feel insecure about their social circle; don’t fall into that trap!

Just in case you need a reminder that being part of a squad isn’t all its cracked up to be…

Why its great NOT being part of a squad:

  • Friday and Saturday nights are FREE. You can have a Netflix binge and watch any trashy TV that no one will watch with you!
  • You don’t have to deal with the petty arguments and backstabbing that often arises in large groups.
  • You have more time to spend enjoying your own company and doing your own hobbies.
  • You’re separated from the peer pressure which can often arise in groups.
  • You don’t have to impress anyone but yourself.

Do you think of yourself as being part of a squad? What do you think of the term #SquadGoals? Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.

Come say hello on Twitter… @Anna_Fearon

Motivational social media accounts

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Image credit: www.commons.wikipedia.org

There are ongoing debates about social media and its impact on society – it is said to induce anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. However, social media can be really great sometimes – if you follow the right accounts.

There are some fabulous people/brands on social media which are filled with positive, motivational energy and encourage people to focus on their goals and lead a more fulfilling life. If you’re going through a hard time or you want to feel empowered or you just simply need some reassurance then read on!

I’ve picked my favourite accounts across different social media platforms which will help you to feel stronger and remind you to develop a more go-getting attitude:

The Self-Esteem Team, Twitter: @_SelfEsteemTeam

This does exactly what it says on the tin – encourages people to develop a better self-esteem! The Self-Esteem Team focuses on reducing stigma around mental health and visit schools across the UK to deliver lectures and workshops. I absolutely love their Twitter account because the tone is so gutsy and they encourage us to love ourselves more and develop a healthier mindset. Here’s a few tweets which just rock:

‘If you’re hating on Monday, try a ‘what can I do to make this better’ mindset, rather than an ‘everything is shite’ outlook’. –  posted 02/11/2015

‘Sometimes, you just got to give yourself the pep talks. Like, ‘Hey You’re a badass, don’t be sad, you’re doing great. Love you.’ – posted 19/10/2015

(www.selfesteemteam.org)

HuffPost Women, Instagram: huffpostwomen

Another fantastic account but on Instagram! This is the The Huffington Post’s Instagram account for their women’s section, so expect lots of posts on feminism and what it’s like to be a woman. I love it because they post some real kick-ass bold statements like:

“u r so full of yourself” – no i had a lot of insecurities & low self esteem which i worked extremely hard to overcome & now i’m fabulous bye.’ – posted 1 week ago

‘You will never influence the world by being just like it.’  – posted 3 weeks ago

The Single Woman, Instagram: thesinglewoman

This is a blog created by author and speaker, Mandy Hale which ‘aims to inspire single women to live their best lives and to never, ever settle’. You don’t have to be single to appreciate the punchy, life reaffirming quotes which Mandy posts on Instagram. I enjoy reading the posts because they impart wise words and encourage women to believe that they ARE good enough and deserve the very best. Here are some great quotes posted by The Single Woman:

‘If you take a chance good things might happen or bad things might happen. But if you don’t take a chance nothing happens.’ – posted 5 days ago

‘Never do the envy, jealously and insecure stuff. Be the hustler, the well-wisher, the go-getter.’ – posted 8 weeks ago

(www.thesinglewoman.net)

Madeleine Shaw, Instagram: madeleine_shaw_

If you haven’t heard of Madeleine Shaw she is a health coach and author whose philosophy is to eliven ‘the hottest, happiest and healthiest you’. I really like the positivity which surrounds Madeleine’s posts (which is apt because she wrote a book called Get The Glow). She mostly posts photos on Instagram of yoga poses and nutritious and healthy recipes which give off a bright and healthy vibe. I particularly like the captions in which she sometimes shares her advice and thoughts. Here are some of her wise words:

‘One of our biggest downfalls is the ability to put ourselves down. If you’re not in a position in life that you want to be in, make realistic stepping stones in order to achieve your dreams. It might seem impossible at first, but sometimes the only person telling you that you can’t do something is yourself. If you can dream it, you can do it!’ – posted 3 weeks ago

(www.madeleineshaw.com)

Amy Poehler Smart Girls, Facebook: Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

This is a website founded by the actress and comedian Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker which motivates young girls to simply be themselves and not what society wants you to be. It’s all about celebrating smart girls! They post links to really great articles on Facebook (mostly about girls going for it and achieving great things) and are really encouraging with their followers. It’s worth checking out their social media channels and website if you want to read some uplifting content!

(www.amysmartgirls.com)

I really enjoy looking at inspiring and feel-good social media platforms. If you know of any I haven’t mentioned then let me know in the comments box below or tweet me at @Anna_Fearon

My relationship with blogging

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Image credit: www.pexels.com

I haven’t always had a blog, in fact I believe this is my fifth one. I’ve written this post so that you can learn about my background in blogging. Just because as readers, it’s nice to find out about the person behind the blog and why they write it.

My blogging journey began when I was a teenager and created a website domain called ‘Pink Lady’ with a publishing platform similar to WordPress, which allowed you to create a blog for free. I called it Pink Lady because I was obsessed with the colour pink. It feels like so long ago that I set up this website that I can’t even remember what I put on the webpage – probably images of Orlando Bloom who was my teenage crush. This blog was a small way of expressing myself on the internet and getting across a bit of my personality and interests. There was no strategy to take the internet by storm or create an online brand for myself!

After Pink Lady, which I have just realised is a type of apple, I had a blogging break which lasted for several years. It wasn’t until my third year of university, when I decided that I wanted a career in writing and editing that I started blogging again. I set up a blog called something like ‘The life of a History and History of Art student’ because yes, as you’ve probably guessed I was studying History and History of Art! Although the blog title implied I was blogging about what I got up to as a student I actually wrote about really random topics such as a celebrities outfit.

It was just a space online where I could write when I wanted some time out from my studies. I also set up a blog about the life of a single girl with the intention of honestly writing about my dating experiences. But after writing approximately one post which made me cringe after reading it back to myself I decided that I didn’t like sharing this part of my life on the internet.

After completing my first degree I was unhappy with my result, (I narrowly missed out on a 2.1) which lead me to worry about my future career. I appealed my result which meant that I had to delay my graduation ceremony from the summer to winter. In the meantime I created a new blog as a way to exercise my writing skills and boost my CV. I called it Creative Energy Makes The World Go Around (or Creative Energy as I abbreviated it to). I gave it this title to reflect my creativity and belief that creative energy makes the world a more exciting place. I initially wrote about fashion, beauty and lifestyle and later went on to include celebrity gossip. I didn’t want the blog to be about one subject in particular as I have wide ranging interests.

I kept blogging on Creative Energy during my Masters in Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University until I had to set up my own website as part of a digital module. This took up a lot of my time so I put all my efforts into making the new blog a success seeing as I was being marked on it! I established a street style blog called Chic to Street which mainly covered South Wales street style with some additional fashion posts as well. The meaning behind the name was simple – chic people bringing their style to the street!

Running this blog was a great experience for me as I got to engage with a massive fashion blogging community. It was fun dressing up for posts which featured my own style and I really enjoyed seeing what other people wore. It was also a weird experience because for the first time I was managing a website and producing content for it without my name being overtly attached to it. For example, all the social media accounts that I set up for the blog were named ‘Chic to Street’. However it was good practice as if I manage a companies social media in the future, I will be producing content as the brand rather than myself.

This finally leads me to this blog which you may be wondering how it fits in. Well quite simply, one of my long-term goals was to set up a website in my name so that as a digital writer people can find out about me and read my work. A lot of professionals use social media networks such as LinkedIn to promote their work and connect with others. So it’s a good idea to create and manage your own online identity/profile. I also set up this blog so that I could showcase my writing style and the topics I am interested in.

This leads me to….

What I’ve learnt about blogging:

  • It’s important to write about subjects that you’re passionate about.
  • It takes dedication and time.
  • You don’t have to be an expert in anything to start your own blog.
  • It’s a fantastic hobby and looks great on your CV! 

Why do you blog? Has it made a difference to your life? I would love to hear your stories.

4 ways to find an awesome restaurant

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I am a total food lover. I love good food – I suppose you could call me a foodie! Although I don’t cook from scratch that often I enjoy eating out and trying different cuisines. Wherever I go in the UK or abroad I am always eager to go to restaurants that I haven’t been to before. It’s often the independent ones that have a particular atmosphere which enhances the dining experience.

However, it’s so easy to habit the same, familiar restaurants just because you’ve never bothered to find out what else there is where you live. If you fancy trying somewhere new then read on to discover how to find places without the hassle of too much internet research.

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1. TripAdvisor

An obvious suggestion, BUT I can’t stress how great TripAdvisor is! Restaurants are ranked in order of their popularity based on people’s reviews of them. I have previously eaten at specific restaurants because I read a gushing review on TripAdvisor. Equally, I have also been put off going to places by awful comments! Never underestimate how good this website is!

2. Facebook

Without sounding like a total Facebook stalker, a good way to find somewhere new to dine at is the social networking site. Some people go out and tag themselves at the place they’re eating at and/or upload a picture of the food. Pay attention because this is your way of easily coming across somewhere new without googling anything!

3. Instagram

Celebrities use Insta frequently to post pictures of their meals and they might just mention in the caption where they’re eating at. I’ve already made a mental list of restaurants in London that I would like to try based on scrolling through on here! Pictures give you a great indication of what the food is like as well. Bingo!

4. Word of mouth

An oldie but a goodie! With the instancy that is Google Search we neglect actually speaking to people and asking them for recommendations! If you’re ever stumped for somewhere to eat then text a friend or ask a work colleague – they may just know somewhere really great.

Do you stick to the same restaurants or do you try and eat at different places?

P.S. If you want a restaurant recommendation tweet me at @Anna_Fearon. Always happy to help hangry* people!

*hangry = when you get angry because you’re hungry.

Hello gym membership!

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My post workout green smoothie. Recipe from ‘Be Body Beautiful’ by Lucy Mecklenburgh. Image credit: Anna Fearon

Back in April I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Gymphobia‘ about how I found it hard to go to the gym because I had a bit of a fear of it. However, I am pleased to report that I have conquered this irrational fear. It may have taken me five months, but I have finally done the inevitable and got a gym membership!

Between April and now I have taken baby steps towards joining a gym. I was running on a regular basis in order to increase my fitness levels so that I could complete the Race for Life in June. Alongside this, I was trying to become more healthy and made green smoothies, packed with fruit and veg such as kale, bananas and pineapples (**see the photo caption up above for the recipe details).

However, my long-term goal was always to tone up my body and I didn’t think that I could achieve this just through running. I also felt that going to the gym would increase my confidence as I see the results.

And did I mention that I have a real love of food (especially pizzas and burgers)? Shhhh, don’t tell anyone! Well, it’s near enough impossible for me to eat grub like this and not gain weight. Gone are the days when I had a super fast metabolism and could eat what I wanted, when I wanted! So, as you can see, I kind of had to bite the bullet and get down a gym at some point!

My gymphobia is officially wearing off. It’s really not as scary as I thought! In fact, I did a workout in a ladies only gym today. I soon realised that the majority of women in there were exercising quietly without paying too much attention to anyone else. So, I didn’t feel uncomfortable or like anyone was particularly judging me for my lack of gym-intelligence (and by that I mean the knowledge of how to use equipment, and where to fill my water bottle up etc. etc.). 

I imagined myself falling off the equipment (Miranda style) but after being shown how to operate everything by an instructor I felt a lot more assured. I spent roughly 40 minutes working out on my own. This involved spending around 7-8 minutes on each machine and then finishing my workout by doing some squats with weights. Because who doesn’t want that killer Victoria’s Secret bottom sported by Candice Swanepoel and co.?

It may have taken me a few months to get a membership, but I have got there. So, there is hope for all you ladies out there battling with gymphobia!

There is one simple solution: Let go of your fears and get down to a gym.