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Friday, 30 June 2017

Well today is the last day of June, and boy has this month gone by quickly. We've had crazy weather where it was far too hot and humid to do anything (why do we complain about the cold but then complain about the heat?!), I've been attacked by god knows how many insects and after today we're officially in the second half of 2017 which means winter is fast approaching..oh dear.

I thought it would be nice to do a roundup post of June - beware, this isn't a beauty post - sharing what I've been loving this month such as music, cute pictures on the internet and such. (Actually, reading back on this post now I realize I haven't included ANY music or cute pictures, but you get my drift...). It may even go on to become a regular feature - who knows.

Still, this is the first, so bare with me if it's a little messy.

Formidable Joy | Lifestyle | June Favourites | Buzzfeed Meal Plan | Buzzfeed | Instagram Stories | I Heart Forever | Lindsey Kelk | Bloglovin'

BUZZFEED'S MEAL PLAN
I'm not normally one to follow meal plans because usually they're filled with a bunch of recipes I don't like - or I'm at the point in my life where I can't afford to bulk buy. But this meal plan by Buzzfeed really caught my eye as everything looks so yummy! The guide covers prep information and pricing (if you're in America, anyway) and is totally customizable. I really love how you don't need to purchase a huge boat load of food either - of course it's more than your normal weekly shop but not a ridiculous amount extra. Plus it's for seven days - I can't tell you how many meal plans I've come across that lie when I click on to discover it only covers five days worth of meal prep. 

BLOGLOVIN' ACTIVATE 
Although I've yet to really explore the new Activate section on Bloglovin', I am really loving the new profile area in this section which shows lots of stats and analytics such as audience demographics and brand partnerships. It's such a clear interface and so easy to understand in terms of analytics, which I find really hard to get my head around when it comes to Google. I'm not sure how valid these are (is it like blogger analytics that no one ever uses anymore or is it legit?!), nor do I know how it looks to a brand's point of view, but I'm finding it super helpful to see how my blog is doing and such.

BLOG POSTS
I have to admit, up until the last few months, I really slacked on actually reading blogs and was more concerned with just blogging myself. Luckily, I have turned this right around lately by following new blogs, commenting more and generally just taking time to enjoy reading blogs. Therefore, I thought it would be nice to share the love and recommend some posts I've really enjoyed this month. I love this brutally honest post by Colours And Carousels, where she talks about real reasons she unfollows blogs - it's refreshing to see someone admit that sometimes they just grow out of their interests and therefore don't particularly enjoy content they used to. Here, Emma Inks shares a personal post about music (I love personal posts that aren't necessarily for the reader), and I particularly enjoyed Rhian's post about six Trek America tours she'd like to do in future. I'm also itching to get away with Trek America again, so this post is jam packed full of inspiration.

I HEART FOREVER
There is news of another I Heart book, I repeat, Lindsey Kelk has written another book for her I Heart series! I'm so excited as this is one of my favourite book series EVER. I Heart Forever focuses around a wedding, a secret (any bets Angelia is preggers?!) and Alex going travelling. I need it NOW. But unfortunately it isn't out until September. 

INSTAGRAM STORIES
Out of all my social media, I have to admit, I am slaying on Instagram stories currently. Well, on the days I actually leave the house or have something interesting to do anyway. I love how creative they are and it's so much fun messing around with text and filters to make it look pretty. Boomerang is my favourite effect. Some bloggers who are really killing it with their Instagram stories lately include Cattitude And Co, Coffee With Meg and Shiny Thoughts. Give them a follow - watch their stories and let me know what you think. And if you have any other recommendations, do let me know..!

So there you have it; my June favourites. What have you been loving this month..?

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A while back, I attended the launch party of Yuc - the Yelp community - and as I had a plus one, I invited my boyfriend. My boyfriend doesn't really know much about blogging, apart from the fact that when he games I blog and I sometimes leave my blog open on his PC so he can read it, so I thought it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on what it was like being a plus one to a blogger event for the first time.

So I sat down and quizzed him and came up with these five things he learned from attending.

Also this isn't the best photo of us - soz - but it's the only high quality photo of us from the said event.

And yes, that is a unicorn horn I'm wearing. The party was wild animal themed and so of course I finally had an excuse to wear it.

Formidable Joy | Lifestyle | Blogger Boyfriend | Funny

IT WAS MORE HIGH END THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
I've never been to a 'blogger event' so I wasn't sure what to expect - I thought it would just include a visit to the ice bar. However, it was a lot more than that. The event was to publicize a launch so there were speeches, a competition for best dressed, and free food and drink. It was clear to see that it was a classy event and not just a mooch around an ice bar or a publicity stunt.

IT WAS REALLY SOCIAL
People were friendly and it was easy to make contacts - I mean, I chatted to the bar tender as I'm not a blogger myself, but I saw that Louise and other bloggers use these type of events to meet new people and network - it's not just a party, you do have to put yourself out there and see it as an opportunity to learn about the company who hosted the launch and their products. It's not just an excuse to go and make use of free drink.

PEOPLE LOVE FREE SHIT (CANAPES AND DRINKS FOR THE WIN)
I - along with everyone else - loved the fact that the food and drink was free. Free food at an event? Who knew. I couldn't eat anything as I'm vegan, but I humoured my girlfriend stuffing her face with mini burgers and shrimp cocktails. I totally took advantage of the free bar though. And I'm still loving my free mug too!

THE ICE BAR WAS REALLY FUN...
...and a lot colder than I thought it would be. Also, although we were there on my girlfriend's behalf, I did find the idea of the app interesting.

I'M OBVIOUSLY BEING TRAINED TO BECOME AN INSTAGRAM HUSBAND/BLOGGER BOYFRIEND
I had to take lots of photos and sort of get out of my comfort zone by talking to people too. I'm obviously being trained to be one of these blogger boyfriends who take outfit photos and the like. However, I'm looking forward to being a plus one to more cool events. It was interesting to see such a sociable event on behalf of learning about a new brand as opposed to something boring such as a sit down presentation; I didn't really know that new products or brand launches could be presented that way and it worked well.

In answer to his last point - yes, I am training him to become a blogger boyfriend and will soon be enlisting his help for some outfit posts. I don't know how successful I'll be however as he already gets annoyed when we're out eating and I take photos or I insist on adding random things to my Instagram story when out and about - oops!

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Monday, 26 June 2017

On Thursday night, I had one of the most surreal nights of my life.

I headed into London - courtesy of another competition win via Love Pop Ups - London - to attend Temple Of The Tongue, an all out party at renowned foodie masters, Bompas & Parr. 

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | London | London Event | Lifestyle | Bompas & Parr | Temple Of The Tongue

If you don't know who Bompas & Parr are, they're a foodie duo who often create and put on really obscure and unique events/projects revolving around food. Past adventures have included Beyond The Waterfall - an immersive and magical land featuring mermen and themed cocktails (in the middle of Westfield), Height Of Winter - a romantic experience at The Shard and the famous Alcoholic Architecture - an alcoholic cloud. They're pretty offbeat and quirky, right?!

Anyway. I've wanted to go to one of their events for a long, long time now so when I had the chance to attend Temple Of The Tongue, I was super excited. 

The whole evening was in celebration of the duo's 10th anniversary and also saw their weird and wonderful studio being opened to the public for the first time.

Most of the event took place outside with so much going on. Some of my favourite parts were the waste shoot (basically a giant waste slide which was a sheer drop - I did go on this after some dutch courage!), the optic chandelier (which was a punch bowl of soft drink and a chandelier of various alcohol which you add yourself), and the volcano jacuzzi. We were told in advance to bring our swimwear but I didn't really expect many people to jump in a hot tub in the middle of a party - I was wrong.

About five drinks in, I did of course end up in there - it was mighty fun!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | London | London Event | Lifestyle | Bompas & Parr | Temple Of The Tongue

Other going ons included a super soaker cocktail blaster, a talking tongue, a minature miniatures bar, a glitter plunge pool and more. Overall, it was just one big party, but I loved how immersive it was and it was really cool to see a bunch of smaller projects come together for the night.

The only thing I would say was that I was a tad surprised there was no canapes or anything like that on offer, being that Bompass & Parr specialize in food. There was one food stand though and the amount of free alcohol made up for it. Another thing was that there was just one small toilet. Of course the party was confined to one small yard, but as so many people attended, it would have been wise to bring in some portaloos.

Overall though it was a really, really fun event and it was great seeing everyone get into the spirit. I was expecting it to be more like an exhibition with all the different projects on offer but to be honest it was so laid back and immersive that it just all felt like a really good time which is awesome.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | London | London Event | Lifestyle | Bompas & Parr | Temple Of The Tongue

I'm really happy I finally got to attend a Bompas & Parr event - oh and did I mention there was also a unicorn there? ;)

So it was a pony with a horn on its head but I cannot tell you how over the moon I was with this. At first I was a little concerned at seeing this poor pony arriving to a crowd of drunk people, but the pony was actually looked after really well and safely in a more quiet area which is good.

It's crazy to think how far Bompas & Parr have come in ten years with so many various projects under their belt and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

The party was actually just one part of a major new retrospective taking place in Sao Paulo. You can find out more about Tongue Town here.

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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

I haven't done a wishlist post in so long!

I recently discovered this Wish app via a weird Facebook advert; I kept seeing an advertisement of those weird feet booties (that shed dead skin) and other odd body treatments and I don't know why. Still, out of curiousity I clicked onto it as I actually do kind of want the feet booties and then I discovered how cheap everything on the app was!

At first I was wary, everything seemed too cheap and too good to be true. But I read through the reviews and figured it wouldn't hurt to buy one or two things just to see if it's legit and check out the quality as it was so cheap. I ordered a sweet black crop top to wear beneath some of my wife beater tops and although it took a while to arrive (as most things would from another country), it was great quality! 

The only issue was that one of the straps was a little loose but this can easily be fixed.

Anyway. Since then, I've been adding items to my wishlists left, right and centre! Here's what I've been eyeing up...

HOMEWARE

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Wednesday Wishlist | Wishlist | Wish App | Shopping | Bargain

ONE | I am loving these cute chic laundry baskets. I'll be honest, I've been keeping an eye out for one for my boyfriend as he doesn't have one currently, so I think the 'home' one would be ideal.

TWO | These cushions! Oh my god. There's so many beautiful cushion covers on this app and I really like these. The problem is to not have too many clashing, but most of these are quite subtle and versatile colours. I particularly like the pineapple one.

THREE | I really love the boho vibe of tapestries; especially when they're hung on the wall as a statement piece. There's a few from this collection but I particularly like this colourful elephant one. Although I wouldn't hang it above my bed, I'd probably instead hang it on one plain wall or in a reading nook.

FOUR | I'll actually be purchasing these soon as I love the idea behind hanging bags on the wall and the more you get, the better they look together. They're small, but perfect for 'bits and bobs'. I'm going to buy a couple to hang at my boyfriends to keep some of my own stuff in; as I'm getting sick of lugging a huge bag of clothes, toiletries and makeup every time I go to his to stay for a couple of days. I constantly joke about how I'm slyly moving in bit by bit without him realizing..!

CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES 

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Wednesday Wishlist | Wishlist | Wish App | Shopping | Bargain

ONE | How stunning is this bikini?! I love the colours and the fact that it's a little bit different whilst still being relatively classy. Most swimwear on the high street this year offers cut out parts, lots of gems etc and it's just too much for me, so this more laid back but still pretty two piece is what I've got my eye on for my summer holiday in August.

TWO | How gorgeous do these matte lipglosses look? I still haven't taken the plunge and splurged on any MAC lipsticks yet, so I'm going to give these a go first, as they look beautiful. I've just put my order in for the deep purple one.

THREE | I know, the idea of these booties sound disgusting but they have become a huge trend this year. It's not even that I want baby soft feet - I hate my feet so I don't care - but I'm sick and love peeling off dead skin #sorrynotsorry. The only thing is, the process is rumoured to take so long that I'd have to avoid leaving the house for a whole week...it would be worth it though..right?

FOUR | And finally, this uber cool watch. I don't really wear watches to tell the time, only to accessorise, ha! And this would look really sweet on my wrist.

I actually found it so hard to narrow everything down for this post as there's so much I want, I've actually had to take a step back and stop using it for a few days because I'm adding so much to my wishlist to buy and talking myself into it because it's just so cheap. The homeware gadgets, in particular, are AWESOME. There's even a thing that collects food in the sink so you don't have to touch manky wet food, rejoice!

Although this post isn't a collaboration of any kind and I did genuinely want to share this super cool app with you, I will note that if anyone does want to sign up, you can use my code to get 50% off your first order! (And the discounts don't stop there, there's promotions such as free items where you just pay shipping, items made even cheaper if you buy them within a set time and the more you use the app the more discount you get!).

So if you'd like to use the app yourself and get 50% off, you can use the code htprwlq. I do also get 50% off is someone uses it but if you know me, you'll know I love sharing a good bargain or wishlist anyway, so you'll know that I haven't written this post for that specific reason. You can also find my profile here, where you can see the wishlists I've created & find all the items mentioned above.

What do you think? Do you think you'll treat yourself to anything off Wish? Let me know with a comment!

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Monday, 19 June 2017

It's been a while since I've done a book review so I thought it was time for another. I picked up I See You by Claire Mackintosh (and another book, Miss You, which I'll also pop a review up for) recently at WHSmith, as I realized it had been ages since I'd bought a new book.

It was also not the type of book I'd normally read, as usually I'm set in my ways with chick lit books or zombie novels, so this thrilling psychological thriller was new to me.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Book Review | Books | I See You | Claire Mackintosh | Thriller | Mystery

The blurb reads -

You do the same thing every day.
You know exactly where you're going.
You're not alone...

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She take it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different women, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is it someone keeping track of every move they make...

The first thing that attracted me to this book was how local the story was set; it's based all around a women's usual commute around London - and often on the tube - which is something I'm used to doing myself. The story actually brought up some interesting points about how we never really pay attention when on our regular commute and how easy it is for someone to be watching us or to steal from us.

I thought by reading a story based around something I know of would give it an interesting twist and it did. It definitely felt just that bit more gripping to me to know that anything that was happening in the book could happen to me - the whole premise behind what was happening was entirely realistic.

This story was gripping and I couldn't put the book down once I got past the first few chapters. The first few chapters were setting the story and focused on different crimes that were related, which meant that for a while there were a lot of different characters and names to remember. This got a little confusing, so I was pleased when the story faltered out of this to focus on the main characters.

The story also kept me guessing until the very end - this wasn't a book where I could guess the ending nor who was behind it all which is always a good thing. Throughout the book there were tiny parts that were added to pad out the story that didn't really make sense at the time - although looking back now and thinking about it more, I can see where each little thing slotted in - smart!

The characters were likeable and I especially loved the fact that the main women of the hour were such strong characters. A lot of the story was based around men preying on unsuspecting women, but to read the main characters as being such headstrong women was refreshing.

Finally, the ending. I liked the ending and liked that it tied up all ends nicely. I did find some of it a little unrealistic, but it all made sense and I think had it ended any other way I would have finished the book feeling disappointed and let down.

All in all, it was a really interesting and gripping read for my first thriller novel - I'll certainly be reading this type of genre a lot more often.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Book Review | Books | I See You | Claire Mackintosh | Thriller | Mystery

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Saturday, 17 June 2017

I'm finally coming to the end of my Trek America trip posts, with this post summing up my last two days on the trip. You can read all the others here, and I still have a couple more posts about Mexico in general to pop up, but in the meantime, read on...

Tulum was next on the agenda. On the way to our final hotel, we stopped briefly to explore the coastal ruins. Although these were pretty, I didn't enjoy exploring these in particular for a few different reasons. For me, I was far too worried about my money situation and couldn't concentrate enough to enjoy the beauty.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Tulum | Playa Del Carmen

I also felt that although the ruins were beautiful, they didn't hold a candle to any of the more vast and impressive ruins we'd seen throughout the week. I think perhaps if we had started with these ruins and built up to the others, we would have appreciated them even more. I also think with it nearing the end of the tour, we'd seen so many ruins that we just weren't as blown away as we should be.

I do wish we'd taken the time to appreciate them more though as they were really beautiful. 

Driving around Playa Del Carmen however was a lot of fun. I almost fell in love with the place with each and every turn and wish we'd had more time there - it was filled with so many beautiful restaurants and different places. When I do one day return to Mexico, I think I'll stay in Playa Del Carmen and take my own time to explore.

Our final hotel for the night was beautiful as usual, with a small pool on the ground floor and a tiny one (which unfortunately wasn't working) on the roof. But, the roof area was stunning, with hammocks and lots of comfy seating and cushions. Once we checked in (and grabbed a quick lunch in a pirate/burger themed restaurant in central Playa Del Carmen), we headed to the roof once more for pre-drinks.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Tulum | Playa Del Carmen

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Tulum | Playa Del Carmen
Yes, I had this whole bed to myself *heart eyes*

This seemed to be a routine we settled into during our journeys and it was one of my favourite parts, having laid back conversations and drinks in lovely areas of hotels, especially as it was always warm enough. 

That night we went to Coco Bongo! 

I wasn't actually going to go to Coco Bongo originally - to me, it just sounded like a big nightclub which isn't really my thing and I knew it would be expensive, so with my money worries, I didn't think it would be worth it.

But as our whole group was going and it was our last proper night out, I gave in and I'm really glad I did. It was so much fun.

If you don't know, Coco Bongo is kind of like a giant nightclub meets a West End show - there's varied performances like a Freddie Mercury Impersonator and a fight between Spider-Man and The Green Goblin whilst they fly through the air, but it's much more than that with singers, dancers and gymnastics. What's even better is that you don't sit in your seat to watch it - you get up and dance along, you get covered in so much confetti and we even ended up dancing on our seats and partying for a good few hours afterwards.

It is expensive, but for a big night out, it's worth it. I'd definitely recommend getting a table as you're really part of the action that way. Between us it wasn't too bad and Delai found a deal so we got VIP entry with welcome drinks, free drinks all night, waiter service etc. It was such a great night and probably the most drunk I got throughout the trip but boy was it worth it.

It was the perfect end to the perfect trip.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour | Tulum | Playa Del Carmen

The following morning we took our hungover asses to the beach to chill out and eventually start our final drive back to Cancun, where we checked into the same hotel we started with on the trip and said goodbye to one another.

It was kind of emotional, I'm not going to lie. The whole week had been so much fun and even slightly challenging, but it was more than worth it and I wouldn't have changed any of it for the world (except the money thing, but that was out of my hands). 

When I stepped into my room alone, I was sad and felt like I was ready to go home now that the trip was over. However, there was more in store for me so I took a long shower and grabbed an early night, ready for the final part of my Mexican adventure.

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If you're considering booking a tour with TrekAmerica after reading my experiences on my Mexican BLT adventure, you can visit their website to see the variety of tours on offer.

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

I thought it would be nice to do a more personal post today or a post 'about me' as I haven't done one in a while now! I spotted this tag on I'm Just A Girl's blog, although the tag was originally created here.

I haven't actually been tagged to take part - so I won't be tagging anyone - but it's always fun to answer a quiz, no? I used to be addicted to the Myspace quizzes...

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Personal | The Tell Me More Tag

WHAT'S YOUR REAL REASON FOR BLOGGING?Well I actually first started blogging as a way to have something to coincide with my dissertation at university, which was to create a print magazine. But I'd been reading blogs for a while before that and considering starting one; I was just too scared I guess because I didn't think I had it in me. Now, my main reason for blogging is, well, I'm not sure really. Currently, I feel like I do it more for me than anyone else; I enjoy writing and growing my blog, but of course I want people to read my content too.

BEST THING ABOUT BLOGGING?
There are a few things. The community, how helpful it is to write and get your feelings out and just having something to look back over, to see all your memories from the past few years etc. I also enjoy the opportunities I get and the fact that I have something to call my own.

WORST THING ABOUT BLOGGING?
I'd definitely say the pressure. It's so easy to compare your blog to others and feel like it's not good enough. I can't tell you how many times I've read news about a big blogger and wondered what the point of my own blog is. But, I enjoy it and I do it for me.

PROUDEST MOMENT SO FAR?
My relaunch at the start of 2016 and realizing I'd been running a blog for five years at that point. It's crazy that I've kept it up all that time, despite setbacks such as irregular posting, running out of content ideas and not being entirely successful. 

WHAT ARE YOUR ULTIMATE BLOGGING GOALS? DON'T BE SHY!
Haha. It's hard to specify really, as obviously I'd like to be more successful but how can you define success? I'd love to be a bigger blogger so that I can grow my audience and work on more opportunities, but I wouldn't want to be on the level of Zoella fame. I'd love to be the first blogger to take part in Strictly Come Dancing, haha! I'd also like to publish my own book but not related to my blog, if that makes sense.

IF YOU RELEASED A BOOK, WHAT GENRE WOULD IT BE?

IF YOU RELEASED PRODUCTS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? HOMEWARE, BEAUTY, OR SOMETHING UNEXPECTED?
Hmm, maybe homeware? I'm really into homeware lately but I don't think I'd be very good at designing it.

WHAT WOULD YOU NAME THE PRODUCTS AND WHY?
No idea. I'm terrible with names. I'd probably team up with my sister and release products with her and make her come up with the name, haha.

WHAT HAS BLOGGING TAUGHT YOU?
To concentrate on yourself/your own blog - focusing on others is rarely ever a good thing, unless it just helps challenge you and inspire you. It's taught me about both the good and bad side of the internet and I've learned tons of skills related to HTML, social media, SEO etc, as well as working with brands.

SUM UP YOUR BLOG IN THREE WORDS?
Edgy (sometimes!) I hope - I like to believe I focus on different posts sometimes. Honest, and down to earth. Yes, I'm aware that down to earth is actually three words, but you get my point..

So there we go. The 'Tell Me More Tag', all about my blog! If you'd like to take part yourself, please do leave me a comment so I can come read!

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

In life, it's important to push yourself to step out of your comfort zone sometimes. 

It's great for your confidence, it can reduce stress and will leave you feeling better all round. I've always been a firm believer in taking risks and trying new things; it keeps life exciting and can be a nice change if you're stuck in a rut, which can often happen in life.

However, many people think of stepping out of a comfort zone as doing something crazy like going travelling or trying bungee jumping - which can be so scary! Of course, things like this are beneficial, but sometimes it's a better idea to start of small too - especially as not all of us have the time, money or resources to do something extreme.

Therefore, if you're feeling like you're in a bit of a rut and need to change it up a bit, here are some small ways you can step out of your comfort zone.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Lifestyle | Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone | Taking A Risk

TRY A NEW LOOK 
Buy a bold lipstick you wouldn't try normally, get a haircut or even colour your hair temporarily to achieve an instant confidence boost. You can use apps like the L'Oreal hairstyle app for a small physical change which will make a lot of difference; you'll more than likely find yourself standing up straighter and continuing the change by experimenting more in future or trying out some new styles of clothes and people will see the changes too so will likely compliment you on them. 

WIN MONEY ONLINE
If you love games like me, why not try a bit of light gambling? Of course I'm not promoting dropping your life savings, but logging on to play a bit of online card games or playing at an online casino can be a lot of fun. Online casino games, for example, can give you that thrill as you hope to win but of course there's also the possibility of an outcome where you can win some extra cash too!

DATE SOMEONE DIFFERENT
Forget any types you might have and go on a date with someone you might not usually - whether that's by going on a blind date arranged by a friend or taking the plunge and replying to that message on your online dating profile. Back when I was online dating and using apps like Tinder, I tried to go on dates with people who weren't my type at all or who even didn't peak my interest at first - and I actually ended up having such a good time with these people. You never know what'll come out with it = a friend, someone you can network with or even a relationship in the long run.

VISIT SOMEWHERE NEW ON YOUR NEXT ROAD TRIP
If you have the travel bug like me but can't necessarily afford to fly abroad and go travelling, it's important to remember that even if you just travel to a new town in the UK, it's still considered as travelling! First, research nearby towns online or just see where is cheap to get to by train or coach. I'm still determined to travel to Cambridge and Canterbury for a day trip, which are both less than a two hour drive away and can be super cheap. The benefits of travelling to somewhere new are endless.

TRY NEW FOOD (OR A NEW CUISINE) WITH YOUR NEXT TAKEAWAY
Okay, this doesn't sound like a massive step out of your comfort zone, but it totally can be, especially if you're a fussy eater or often always eat the same thing. I guess even trying a spicier curry can be a step out of your comfort zone, or trying a new restaurant. The main benefit of this is tasty food of course, and if you do end up liking a new cuisine, you have tons of new dishes to try in future.

These five steps might be small but they're so beneficial, as trying something new always is. It's just important to remember that it doesn't always have to be a big change and that you can always achieve the same effect with something small - good luck! 

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Sunday, 11 June 2017

After a laid back time in Bacalar, we headed off to Mahahual for two days. This authentic beach town was really fun to explore and I loved kicking back and taking things at my own place for a couple of days.

Upon arrival into the town, we were intrigued to see roads cornered off, large crowds of people and large lights shining into the sky. A big event was clearly going on - more about that later!

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

Our accommodation for two nights saw us staying in what was more like wooden beach huts really. Although this place was probably one of the most low-budget places out of the whole tour - aka what we expected on a budget tour - it was still pretty damn nice and one of my favourite places. 

Turning up and seeing how clear the stars were above us was such a nice feeling! It was right on the sea front too and only a ten minute walk from the main area of Mahahual.

Mahahual was beautiful overall - we stumbled across bars with swings at the bar tops, restaurants with people spilling out onto the street and gardens surrounded by fairy lights and lots of laid back but still luxurious beach bars.

We mostly spent the two days on the beach, soaking up the sunshine and occasionally venturing out to explore. On day six, we went snorkelling too which was nice. We got to see lots of beautiful fish and some really cute turtles during our time on the water.

The beach bars all had really great deals too. Many of them seemed expensive for entry, but our favourite one, for example, included Wifi and beds/cabanas, and rather than pay for entry, we just had to make sure we spent a certain amount whilst there - which was easy for our group as we gorged on delicious lunches of nachos and chips, as well as some afternoon cocktails!

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

The waters here were absolutely amazing - sky blue and clear and just the right temperature. It all felt very luxurious and we enjoyed taking time to relax.

By night, we ate at a street bar which was super cute. Mismatched chairs were simply borrowed and thrown around plastic tables in the middle of the street, and the tiny, tiny takeaway served generous portions of traditional Mexican food, as well as late-night snacks such as onion rings and chips. It was nice to eat somewhere really authentic and relaxed.

Our first night consisted of beer pong, never have I ever and a jaunt down to the lighthouse where the music event was taking place. We're still not entirely sure what it was - an all night rave/music festival, but it sure was fun. Beer was cheap, the artists were talented and they even played one or two songs we knew. It was pretty cool because there were barely any stalls there - it was like it had just been set up in the community - and we ended up staying till 4am.

My hangover the next day was spent blissfully lying in the sun, taking a slow stroll around the shops and an afternoon nap back at the hotel before dinner.

Although this was obviously free time for us, our guide, Delai, was still on hand to take us to dinner and to help with anything we needed, from recommendations to cash points.

Our tour was soon coming to an end however, whilst many of the group were due to fly back home in just a couple of days, I still had until the end of the week in Mexico, so the time spent relaxing was very much appreciated.

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If you're considering booking a tour with TrekAmerica after reading my experiences on my Mexican BLT adventure, you can visit their website to see the variety of tours on offer.

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Friday, 9 June 2017

I can hands up admit that I am terrible with money.

I'm ridiculously bad at saving and I usually drop my money on really stupid stuff, but when it came to travelling around Mexico, I did tons of research in advance when choosing how to deal with my money over there.

I also spoke to two other members of the trek and came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to take half my spending money in cash (and then keep it hidden in my suitcase, taking out only what I needed day by day) and keeping the other half on a cash card. That way, if I lost one, there was the other option.

I went with a company called FairFX, which was actually recommended by TrekAmerica - BIG MISTAKE.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Money | Travelling | Currency | Cash Cards | FairFX

I can only apologize in advance as this is more than likely to come across as a whiney, complaining post; although I hope it offers some advice for those of you travelling soon and looking into your money options whilst abroad.

I had so much trouble with this cash card that I almost ended up stranded with no money halfway through the tour. Although it worked out in the end, there was one point that it really got to me bad, and of course all the stress was the last thing I wanted when away.

Here's my story.

THE WRONG CARD
The first time I tried to use the card, I tried to pay for something in a restaurant and had my card declined. I thought nothing of this, until it happened a few more times and I was even unable to withdraw cash. I compared my card with other members of the tour and one other girl who had a similar cash card pointed out that her card stated USD in the corner, whereas mine said EUR.

They had sent me a Euro card by mistake, despite the fact that I'd ordered a USD one. Still, I was later told that this wasn't an issue and that the EUR should have worked fine.

Despite the fact that I'd activated it the moment it had arrived, I tried it at a few different cash points where one asked me to activate it again. I tried, but of course this made no difference.

At this point, I tried to contact the company...before promptly realizing I could not find a contact number nor an emergency number anywhere. And so I began to email. The closer I got to halfway through my tour (and running out of cash), the more I panicked.

LACK OF COMMUNICATION
After around three days, I received an email reply simply stating that someone would be in touch soon.

Then I really began to panic. I sent numerous emails, stating that I was stuck abroad with no money and that it was an emergency. I begged for a contact number so I could speak to an actual person and begged that someone just refund the money back into my bank account, but again got no reply till around two days later.

I was absolutely amazed at their lack of communication; what company doesn't have an emergency contact number - or a contact number at all? And despite the fact that it was an emergency, the only reply I got was an automated email saying someone would be in touch soon.

Eventually I was told what had happened was the card had automatically been blocked from the first time I used it as I was using it abroad - which is odd because, y'know, it's a travel card which I ordered to use abroad. I was told an email would arrive, asking me to email back to state that it was me using the card abroad and that it wasn't a mistake, even though I'd already told a member of the team this.

This email eventually arrived in my junk box the following day.

Finally.

AN UNBLOCKED CARD?
I replied and got my card unblocked, then let out a sigh of relief. My money worries were over and I was finally able to use the rest of my money, just in time for the end of tour.

Oh how wrong I was.

Again, I was unable to use my card AT ALL and ended up going round in circles again; emailing repeatedly, looking for a phone number to contact them and simply being told that someone would be in touch soon.

Any emails I sent just asking for my money to be refunded were entirely ignored which was crazy because essentially it was just a cash card; it wasn't like I'd brought a faulty product and was trying to return it, I was simply asking for my own money to be moved back to my account.

It came to the last day of tour and all I had left in cash was the money I'd kept aside for my hostel. That's it. 

All I could think was that at least I had money to have a roof over my head for my last few days in Mexico; in fact it didn't even hit me that I didn't have money to get from the hostel to the airport on my last day or anything like that. My hostel offered free breakfast and dinner, so although it meant I would stay in the hostel, at least I wouldn't be on the streets!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Money | Travelling | Currency | Cash Cards | FairFX

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
Finally, after so much time going back and fourth, I had a call the following morning where a member of staff was somewhat apologetic after realizing the issue was their fault; the EUR card was now no longer available to use in Mexico and only half their staff force knew this (seriously?!).

The lack of communication between the company and their customers as well as among their staff was absolutely ridiculous, and it still makes me angry to think that had there not been so many communication issues; I wouldn't have had to go through so much stress and panic.

For some people it may not seem like a big issue. But being that I was travelling abroad for the first time ALONE, it honestly got to the point where I would have been stranded had I not kept money aside for my hostel.

Luckily, 

So eventually FairFX agreed to refund my money but did not know how long that would take, so luckily my boyfriend agreed to lend me the money. I soon realized my bank card wasn't working either (despite the fact that I'd contacted the bank to let them know I was using my card in another country)! I wasn't having much luck AT ALL.

A lovely couple from the tour were still in Cancun the day after the tour thankfully. I used the money I had for my hostel to grab a bus across Cancun, transfer the money my boyfriend leant me to them, and they withdrew it from their bank account for me.

Had they not stayed on in Cancun for a few days, I would have had no money and had my boyfriend not leant me the money, I would have also been buggered. I am so grateful to them all.

Also, my hostel was cash only and I had to dip into that money to travel across Cancun to try and access money. Essentially I was putting all my eggs in one basket and it that hadn't of worked, I wouldn't have been able to pay for my full time at my hostel and would have had to sleep at the airport or something for my last night, lolz.

Still, everything could have been avoided entirely had FairFX just called me after my first email to explain the issue and refunded the money; I would have easily been able to get someone else to withdraw it for me as I would have still been on tour.

IN CONCLUSION
SO. The moral of the story is do NOT use FairFX. Although the fact that the card couldn't be used wasn't their fault overall, their lack of communication and refusal to just refund the money that was mine caused a whole lot of stress and I cannot even begin to explain how scary it was on the last night of tour when I was so far away from home worrying about my last few days in Mexico.

I will note that they did eventually refund the money (long after I was home), and they also agreed to refund any additional charges I incurred when in Mexico, which in the end was just an expensive phone bill from where I'd been browsing the web trying to find an emergency email, emailing back and fourth and even calling Trek America's emergency number.

Would I ever use cash cards again? I honestly think that although they sound great on paper, after my experience with FairFX, I have been put off using them completely. I'm sure there are some trustworthy ones out there, but personally, to me, I wouldn't feel safe using them again.

THINKING ABOUT USING A CASH CARD?
- Never put all your spending money onto a cash card in case of any emergency. Always take half in cash with you.
- Check and double check your card can be used in your country of travel; and not just on the cash card's website. Look on official travel websites and even do a quick google; the changes to my card being used abroad had only incurred recently when I was travelling, so not all websites will be entirely up to date.
- Make sure you have an emergency contact number for the cash card's website!
- Double check your card when it arrives and that it states USD or a similar code depending on where you are travelling.
- Check the T&C's just to be sure you can get a refund or move the money back into your own account and that this can be done promptly.

Have you ever had trouble with cash cards abroad? How did you come to a solution? Let me know!

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Last weekend saw the anticipated return of Slam Dunk, one of my favourite festivals in the UK. It's a personal favourite of mine because although it runs for three days over three different locations, it's more of a one day festival for most people, as the acts are always the same each day.

It's usually a full and busy day but is pretty laid back too, so it's a great first festival for music fans, but it's also quite fun for people who go to festivals all the time as it's doable in just a day.

Plus although the ticket is more expensive than your average gig (for me, anyway, rock gigs are always quite cheap), it's still pretty cheap and is super affordable when you take into account how many artists you see throughout the day.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Music | Lifestyle | Slam Dunk | Slam Dunk Festival | Slam Dunk 2017 | Bowling For Soup

So even though a group of us went again this year, I actually calmed it down a lot. In previous years, I always found myself getting drunk and running around like a headless chicken, trying to see all the bands I wanted to and see all my friends (as it's such a big event so I always know so many people going from so many different circles: Twitter friends, blogging friends, old friends, friends of friends and even Myspace friends..!) but this year I decided to not drink so much and just stick with Briony, Becky and Zoe.

Anyway. As usual, the day went really quickly and I managed to see a few different artists throughout the day. Both Reel Big Fish and Zebrahead were really fun, especially Reel Big Fish who are really upbeat and ska so their sets are really fun to jump around and dance to. 

I also made sure to check out Cute Is What We Aim For, although I didn't stay for their full set once they'd played the famous Curse Of Curves! This song isn't too upbeat so I actually enjoyed the rest of their songs a little more as I could jump around to them, but it was still nice to see it performed live as it was one of my favourite songs as an emo teen.

Of course, although I didn't drink that much, I took loads of snapchats and then forgot to save them the next day, so I have next to nothing in terms of photos, do'h! I did, however, manage to create this ace look using hair chalk!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Music | Lifestyle | Slam Dunk | Slam Dunk Festival | Slam Dunk 2017

My favourite sets of the day were of course The Maine and Bowling For Soup though. I was really excited to see The Maine, because as you all know they are one of my favourite bands and I hadn't seen them in a few years - plus it was their first time playing Slam Dunk, as well as my first time seeing them perform some of their newer material from their Little Lovely Lonely album.

Their set did not disappoint, as usual, front man John O'Callaghan had tons of energy and charisma and the whole band sounded great live. Sometimes bands don't sound as great at festivals for a manner of reasons (different stages, such a short time to set up etc) and usually people don't really care as much as it's not like they've paid to see one specific band - they're just happy to see them. But The Maine actually did impress me - as they always do.

Unfortunately I missed We The Kings and The Ataris, but I got to hear The Ataris' cover of Boys Of Summer as we were arriving so that's okay.

My other favourite performance was by Bowling For Soup, who were headlining. I actually saw these alone as my friends went to see Enter Shikari instead, which I did consider for a while. I have seen Bowling For Soup a million times and it was actually a special set from Enter Shikari as it was the tenth anniversary of their debut album. They are great live, but at the end of the day I had to go with my old favourites Bowling For Soup.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Music | Lifestyle | Slam Dunk | Slam Dunk Festival | Slam Dunk 2017 | Bowling For Soup

A lot of people weren't entirely happy with their set as there was a lot of talking between songs and a lot of the songs seemed sped up to allow as many as possible into their set but if I'm honest, it didn't bother me. Anyone who is a fan of the band know that they are very banter based anyway and it's all part of their charm.

As usual, they were on point and funny. I hadn't seen them in a few years so it was nice to see them again and I think it made me appreciate their set a lot more. Even though they're older now (and fatter - but I loved that they joked about this), they still put on a hell of a show. And being that they're in the UK so often, they put on a beautiful dedication to Manchester, asking us to chant loudly towards the sky before they performed one of their slower tracks, Turbulence. 

As a whole, it was a great day and gave me the opportunity to check out a variety of different bands and spend some time with friends!

Have you ever been to Slam Dunk Festival? Let me know!

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