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Friday, 26 May 2017

As some of you may already know, I have recently gotten into a new relationship. Before this, I was officially single (but dated) for around five years, so it's definitely taken a lot of getting used to. For the most part, I'm not used to being looked after so well!

Although we've only been together a short time, my boyfriend and I are already comfortable talking about our future and future plans. Some of these plans include a holiday together in the summer, where we will travel to Romania (his home country) for a week, before roadtrippin' it down to Greece (if possible) for a week too.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Before meeting Vincent, I have to admit, Romania was never on my list of 'must travel' places - although I'd always been intrigued by the famous Dracula's castle! But since we've been together and been planning this holiday, I have changed my mind entirely. From what I've seen online (and heard from him), Romania is such a beautiful country. 

Therefore, I've spent a good few weeks scrolling through Pinterest in awe, pinning tons of places I'd like to visit. Here's what's tickled my fancy so far.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania


Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Travel Inspiration | Romania

Doesn't it all look so pretty?!

I can't wait to drive through it's vast countryside, and there's also this really famous road -  Transfăgărăşan - which is dubbed the most dramatic (and second highest paved) road in the country, which I can't wait to experience.

If I'm really honest though, I'm trying to do as little research as possible. I'm going so that my boyfriend can show me what Romania is to him - I trust him to show me the best places or the places that mean the most to him and to take me off the beaten track.

As for Greece, we have no immediate plans yet - but there are many beautiful photos I've seen drawing me to various places. In particular, we have our mind on Athens, but we really like the idea of just jumping in the car and seeing where it'll lead us. I'll be doing another post on Greece travel inspiration soon too...

And by the way, you can follow me on Pinterest here!

Please note, all images above are taken from Pinterest and you can click on each individual image to see the source - I do not own these images. The first image is taken from Pixabay.

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Monday, 22 May 2017

Days three and four of my Mexican BLT tour were spent in Palenque, which is one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting.

However, to get from Campeche to Palenque, we had to go on a long drive - seven hours, to be exact! So we stocked up on snacks, dedicated Matt to the role of DJ and we're on our way. The drive was long, to say the least, but in between napping and reading, it was nice to just gaze out the window and watch the ever-changing landscape around us.

When we finally arrived, I was blown away by our hotel. I'm not sure what happened exactly - I think we were originally going to stay in cabins in the jungle but it then got fully booked up - but instead we ended up staying in a super luxury resort in the jungle. 

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

For a long time, it seemed like we were the only ones there! With two pools, hammocks outside our rooms and a spa to enjoy, we spent day three relaxing after the long drive. The pool was absolutely amazing - the water wasn't cold, nor was it warm - it was just right. 

That evening, Delai took us to a stunning place for food called Don Muchos, which was a restaurant in the middle of the jungle. There was also other places and restaurants nearby, all connected by wooden walkways through the jungle, over bridges and such - of course I absolutely loved this! We were seated upstairs with a view overlooking the stage, where a band played Latin music and people danced traditionally. 

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

This was a really lovely and laid back evening spent drinking tequila, eating good food and playing a few hilarious drinking games. After dinner, we watched a fire show, then headed downstairs to dance to the music. The band played traditional Mexican music, as well as covers of a few English songs...and we even ended up in a Mexican dance off! I really felt like a local this evening and loved this hidden gem so much. I hope one day I can return.

The following day was one I'd been looking forward to the most - visiting the ruins of Palenque and going on a jungle tour. These activities really exceeded my expectations - the ruins of Palenque were absolutely stunning and like nothing I had ever seen before. My photos don't do them justice but it truly was an amazing site to climb up some of the ruins and gaze across at the archaeological site with the backdrop of the jungle.

It's something I'll never forget.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Isn't it beautiful?!

After a brief break, we headed into the actual jungle where we learned more about the types of plants and wildlife within and the history of the ruins in the jungle. This was so cool - I honestly felt like Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones! I can't even believe I can tell people I've been into an actual jungle. It was completely off the beaten track too and I would 100% recommend a jungle tour if you're ever in Palenque.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Palenque

However, that afternoon, I had a bit of a bad time! We had the choice between going to two waterfalls and of course we chose the more dangerous one, expecting it to be high so that we could jump off it. We were wrong. 

When we arrived, it was overcrowded and we soon realized we couldn't take our actual stuff down to the natural waterfall, as we'd be starting at one end and ending at the other. So we packed the van as close as we could and had to walk down just in our swimwear with nothing on our feet. I don't think we quite anticipated what we would find at the end but the first part of the waterfall basically required us to walk down slippery rocks through the gushing water, with just a small bit of rope to hold onto. It was so scary. I think if we had the right equipment and had realized what we were really in for we might have been okay but I just found it disastrous from start to finish. Because we had no shoes on, the floor was so ridiculously slippy that we kept slipping over repeatedly. We had to hold on a lot and could have very easy of slipped down completely and just...fell/slipped down the rest of the waterfall. Two or three times I almost hit my head on the rocks too.

Although it sounds like I'm over exaggerating, it's something I would love to do under proper circumstances one day. But I didn't enjoy any of it as I didn't feel safe at all. Then it came to the area where we were supposed to jump off. I took one look at it and knew it wasn't possible.

There was just a small ledge to jump from, with thick branches jutting out beneath. It wasn't a straight down jump and would require us to jump forward OVER the thick branches, which I just didn't feel I could do. The ground was slippery from the rain the night before, so a running start (which may have helped) wasn't possible either.

Some of the group did it and I'll be honest, I felt like a complete tit for backing out. Normally I'm the first person to say 'fuck it' and do that type of thing - but even I knew my clear limits there. I knew straight away that I didn't have the capability to jump off safely. Myself and another girl made our way through the jungle to the bottom and although the view when I had a little swim was pretty, I just didn't have it in me to enjoy it.

Still, I had a kick-ass gnarly bruise from rope burn that I enjoyed showing off for the rest of the holiday.

That night, whilst the others went for a nocturnal jungle tour at a nearby zoo, Tommy, Matt, Dom and I had a nice dinner in the restaurant. I had the most amazing meal of melted cheese and chorizo in a pot with little wraps filled with tomato, onion etc and it was so good. I still haven't stopped thinking about it. We also had a hilarious incident dubbed 'lemongate' (the staff simply did not know what a lemon was) and I giggled when the waiter insisted on bringing over a coat rack for my tiny bag and lightweight shawl.

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Saturday, 20 May 2017

There's no way I can consider myself an expert on travelling just by taking one trip and I'm certainly in no position to doll out expert advice.

But despite the fact that going on my trip to Mexico was one of the scariest things I've ever done, I also learned so much whilst I was away. And I know going on a trip with a tour (though admittedly staying on alone) isn't the same as entirely packing up your life to travel the world alone, I am super proud of what I done.

Here's what I learned during my time away.

Formidable Joy | Travel | Travelling |

PACK LIGHT
This is such an obvious point - and one I'll probably get better at with practice - but my god do I wish I'd packed less. It wasn't so much that my stuff was heavy, just that I bought along so many things I didn't use and having to root through my suitcase to find what I did need each morning was just stressful - plus it ended up super messy. I bought so much crap - I even brought a bloody body/bikini chain. I've never worn a body chain in my life! I spent so long packing as well. One tip I will give is to take everything you want to bring, lay it out and then half it. I have a spare clothes rail so I hung everything on there, thinking I had a fair amount but when I looked at how much was on there, I just knew it was too much. I cut it down, but I could have cut it down more.

RESEARCH THE WEATHER
Again, this is an obvious one and it's always important to bring some clothes for other weather too. I bought a lightweight jumper and leggings, but one thing I didn't realize was just how hot it was. We didn't even go during Mexico's peak of summer. I knew it would be hot, but not humid. Therefore, most days I'd open my suitcase and couldn't be bothered to put on anything but a loose dress! Accessories were a definite no, although sometimes I chose to wear some pretty thin vest tops with skirts. Still, I really wished I'd thought to realize just how hot and humid it would be - not that I'm complaining!

BIKINI BODIES DON'T MATTER
They really don't. I definitely felt a little insecure on my way out to Mexico, but when you're having so much fun and travelling around, no one really cares about how flat your stomach is or how large your thighs are. And neither will you.

BUS DRIVERS ABROAD ARE CRAY CRAY...
But you should still do a stint on local transport at some point. Not only is it a great way to feel like a local, but it's also good for seeing areas of a place you wouldn't otherwise - driving past people's homes, through the town etc. I still remember the day we took the tram from one end of Amsterdam to the other on a trip a few years back - armed with snacks (& slightly sore heads from our hangovers!), we saw some interesting sights.

YOU STILL HAVE TO PUSH YOURSELF
When I stayed on after the tour, I purposely chose a fun hostel that had plenty of day-time and evening events, giving travellers plenty of chances to meet other people and make new friends. The first couple of times I walked down to the bar, it was petrifying seeing everyone talking to each other and having to find somewhere to sit, knowing it would be next to a stranger. As it goes, once I did, everything flowed quite well and I met some great people, but there were still moments where I found it hard to push myself to put on a confident front and socialize, so instead spent a couple of hours in my dorm. And that's okay - I've come to accept I'll never be the most outgoing person. At the time, I felt guilty that I wasn't constantly putting myself out there, but looking back now, I'm glad I took some time to myself at points because it was an exhausting holiday. But overall, I learned that even if you're thrown towards people on a tour or a hostel hosts events to meet others, there are also times where you have to dig down deep and find the confidence to really put yourself out there.

RESEARCH MONEY OPTIONS
I'm a fool with money, so I thought I did the right thing by bringing half my money in cash and the other half on a travelcard. That way, if I lost one, I had the other to rely on. I used a Travelcard company recommended by Trek America and this turned out to be a huge mistake. I will be writing a separate blog post all about this, but as it goes, it didn't work and this led to at least half my holiday being filled with worry. It worked out in the end (just about!) but I could have really of done without the stress, and it was only my boyfriend coming to the rescue by sending me some emergency money that I managed to enjoy the rest of my time in Mexico. I really wish I'd taken the time to research into travel card options myself, instead of just choosing the first one recommended.

JUST DO IT
Finally, I can't even begin to tell you how scared I was to take that chance to finally book and go - nor how proud I am for finding the guts to just do it. I had a million reasons not to go. Many things came up to try and stop me. But I persevered and I'm so happy to say I did it. I had so much fun, but it was such a big step for me. I'm even proud that I successfully got on a plane alone (and took a long-haul journey) without a) getting lost in the airport, b) getting on the wrong plane or c) getting horribly drunk on the plane to calm my nerves and missing my connecting flight.

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Monday, 15 May 2017

I know, I know.

You don't go on holiday to shop and I'm very rarely the type of person that splashes cash or spends a day shopping when I'm meant to be on holiday - after all, there are plenty of other things to do with your time, no?

But on one particularly rainy day at the hostel, a few of us decided to head to the local mall, although the boys immediately split to drink beer and us girls grabbed some lunch then had a mooch around the shops. Whilst there, I came across a shop called Pull&Bear which, can you believe, I've never heard of before?!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Pull&Bear

Apparently it actually originated in Europe and there's plenty of shops around the UK, none of which I've come across before. I was drawn in by their quirky instagrammable slogan tops (I'm not big on slogans, but these were too cute to resist), H&M quality shabby-chic clothing and some edgy tops. I actually spent ages browsing and tried on so much - and I was really impressed with the sizing. 

Everything seemed to fit really well or even seemed to be a bit baggy which is always good as I hate it when I go into a shop and their sizes come up really small. I only purchased three things but I'm already on the hunt for a close-by shop near home to buy more..

Anyway. Here's what I brought.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Pull&Bear

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Pull&Bear

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Pull&Bear

First up is this gorgeous lightweight loose top. I've been after something like this for so long, especially as it's such a wardrobe staple. I see lots of women wearing tops like this out and about, with skinny fit jeans, a leather jacket and a messy bun and I absolutely love that laid-back stylish chic look. So I'm so pleased I've finally got one of my own. It's a little see-through, but I think that's fine as it's that kind of top. I wore this on my first day back from holiday with skinny fit jeans, sandals and a bunch of jewellery - definitely still channelling the holiday vibe.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Pull&Bear

Next is this sweet slightly preppy long sleeved top. I've really been digging the jersey style tops lately with coloured sleeves, so that's definitely what drawn me to this top. I didn't pay much attention to what the actual slogan said but when I wore this to the bank recently I actually got complimented on it, haha. It's really casual and lightweight and so easily to just roll out of bed and throw on. It's great for the current season too where it's too cold for a full on sleeveless top but too hot for a jumper. Again, I've just paired this with jeans so far and a pair of white Primark pumps.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Pull&Bear

Finally I also bought this cute 'bite back' top. It's a little cheeky but hey, it's not sprawled out over the front of the top and is only little so I think it's okay. Again, it has a bit of a preppy girl gang feel to it, but a more sophisticated one as opposed to the type of slogans you'd wear as a teenager. I haven't worn this yet but I imagine I'll vamp it up a bit when I do - maybe I'll pair it with wet look leggings and a leather jacket for a gig.

I'm really digging this brand right now, it's cheeky yet sophisticated and I'm definitely pleased with the above purchases - I think, once working out the currency difference, all three tops only cost me around £30 which is such a bargain, especially as they're such good quality too.

What do you think? Have you ever shopped at Pull&Bear? Let me know!

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Here is the second instalment of my posts all about my recent trip to Mexico! You can read part one here...

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Ruins Of Uxmal

DAY TWO | RUINS OF UXMAL AND CAMPECHE
The following day we visited the ruins of Uxmal (official name Zona Arqueológica de Uxmal) which were also impressive - especially as we could climb some of them which led to some amazing photos! The climb was also a lot higher than we thought and going back down again was a little scary once we realized how high and steep it was.

Although the ruins of Uxmal is officially a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we chose not to have a guide at this particular site and instead decided to wander around the ruins at our own pace. I don't think we missed too much by doing it this way; it was such a large site with so much to see and ruins dotted everywhere, that we felt we took in enough just by exploring ourselves.

We did come across another game court though, so we already knew the history of game courts from the previous day.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Ruins Of Uxmal

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Ruins Of Uxmal

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Ruins Of Uxmal

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour

Not long after we were done, our guide took us to an on site swimming pool and hotel. The pool was deserted so after all that climbing, we slipped in to cool down, drank some cocktails in the pool before residing to some sunbathing. This was our first taste of luxury - enjoying cocktails in the refreshing water and then doing a little bit of sunbathing, which was well deserved after two days of climbing!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour

We had a delicious lunch, before beginning our drive to Campeche.

Campeche was gorgeous. Again, we ended up in a really sweet hotel, this time small but so chic. Just after reception there was a tiny courtyard with a water feature and iron tables and chairs then, on the second floor/the roof of the first floor, the most perfect seating area. We dumped our stuff and headed into Campeche for another walk and I found myself particularly in awe of the bright buildings and the colourful graffiti. The street art and graffiti around Mexico is seriously stunning and I can't believe nobody offers any graffiti tours telling the story behind them. Campeche is right by the sea with old buildings, rusty cannons and ruins. We stopped along the sea front for one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen in my life. It blew the famous Ibiza sunset out of the water!


Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Campeche

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Campeche

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Campeche

We then headed back to the hotel and chilled on the roof for a few hours, drinking and chatting. I'll go into more detail about the Trek America tour overall in another post, but I will say, the company is great at making sure similar minded people end up on tours together. It was so nice to sit beneath the stars and chat away. Eventually we grew hungry and dipped into a nearby restaurant for dinner where we got to wear some sombreros! I also had the most delicious avocado filled with prawns. We then headed back to the hotel and to bed, but not before being caught in a quick downpour in the process! At this point this evening we also found the most gorgeous outdoor square with live music and live bands - how lovely.

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