Friday, 29 July 2016

The Bags/Luggage I Am Taking On My American Adventure

As I highlighted in this post here, I am going on a Trek America trek in 30 days now, OMG. And whilst i'm going to share ALL the tips afterwards I thought I would also share a few posts before I go of what I plan to take etc, then when I return I can do a post about what I actually think are essentials, what I would do differently etc! SO here goes, today's post is about luggage and bags etc.

Now I quite heavily researched into the whole backpack vs suitcase luggage sitch and nearly every person who's been on a Trek America trek has said SUITCASE/holdall. Mainly because a) you don't actually lug your case around with you all day everyday (that I am aware of) and b) in a tent, trying to find what you actually need in one of those backpacks is a mare, you bet the thing you really need is right at the bottom of your lovely folded clothes and items etc. So because of this I decided to buy myself a squishy Roxy wheeled suitcase that has a handle on the front, wheels, and opens in half so you have 2 compartments. Now I opted for the In The Clouds Wheeled Suitcase because it was on sale for a great price, and the next size up, the long haul, just looked a little too big. Now the case I went for is a 76L, 26''Hx 15''Wx 11.8D case which seemed like a great size as it ensures I don't overpack, as I might if I had the long haul version, and at the end of the day i'm skint and it was on sale for £57.50, down from £115 AND I found a 10% off sale code (VIPSALE) which brought it down to just £51.75. I then also thought I would need a day backpack for my water, layers, camera, phone etc, so I went for the (yes matching..) Sugar Baby backpack for about £11!  I also can't praise the Roxy customer service team ENOUGH. They use DPD to deliver items, and apparently they had been having a few issues with them, and I emailed the team to say my delivery had now been 7 days and not arrived and they gave me ANOTHER 10% off of my total order. So my suitcase and backpack were bargains of the year.

Aside from my main luggage and hand luggage, I also will be taking my grey Zip Around Flap Across Body Bag from Accessorize that I am obsessed with! It is such a handy size, super secure and the fact that the straps detach off to turn it into an easy clutch, is SO GOOD. I think a cross body or satchel bag will be super handy for mooching about towns, on nights out, meals etc, where I don't need my backpack to store lots of bits and bobs. Now as soon as my main Roxy case arrived, I was a woman gone mad and basically packed asap (lol). These aren't bags as such, but storage bags, so sorta similar! I picked up some cute mesh organiser things from Kiko in the sale a while back, and i'm using these to store medicines and the other for my electricals and gadgets etc. I then also rediscovered a Victoria Green hanging washbag organiser which has been PERFECT for organising my toiletries and makeup. I had actually read online that these hanging bags are super handy for showering on trek as you don't really want to put anything on the floor, so I was chuffed to remember I had this buried away!

Now i'm an organisational freak and within 24 hours of deciding I was going on a trek, had written a full 'what to pack list', and i'm going to share the rest of what I plan to pack in another post soon.

If you have any tips, please let me know!

Sophie xx


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Being Okay Doing Things By Yourself

Right now I feel like I am in a really weird place with my life. I'm between jobs (aka unemployed), self-employed through my blog, 23, newly single, and I don't have my sh*t together. But slowly, slowly I'm figuring out what I like, and after an accidental day on my own in London one Thursday, i've realised I quite like doing things by myself, for myself and enjoying my own company.

Now I don't work in London, making my way into the city for one event is often not always worth it, however when I was invited to The Body Shop Christmas press event and a Buzzoole drinks event, I thought it would be a nice day out. I always knew I would have 1-2 hours to kill in between but had envisioned myself traipsing along Tottenham Court Road and probably hitting up my fave Primark, however en route to TCR, I walked past the British Museum and after fighting the hoards of groups of people, made it inside and decided to purchase a ticket for the Sunken Cities, Egypt's Lost Worlds exhibition. I love the Egyptians, their Gods, ideals, the way they worshipped things, preserved bodies, hieroglyphs, it all absolutely fascinates me. So to see items up close that had vanished beneath the waters of the Mediterranean, (the lost cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, submerged under the sea for over a thousand years) really inspired me. I had a lovely hour or so mooching about the exhibition which was breath taking, before I pootled further along TCR before ducking inside a cafe to a) escape the rain b) finally eat something and c) charge that iPhone. 

Typically when I go to blog events, I stalk the hashtags/social accounts for the event and find people going, chat to them online and usually bump into bloggers there which is nice. However for these 2 events I went to both knowing no-one, and whilst it was a little weird, it was also oddly refreshing and it was nice to walk about the press day on my own, taking in things in my own time, chatting to people from The Body Shop etc. At the evening event it was an experience like no other really, as I was the only blogger for a little while, before another one who I didn't know of arrived (she was lovely!), so it was a little daunting and totally outside my comfort zone. But I left feeling happy that I had had a lovely day out all to myself. I think blogging has played a massive part in my surge of self-confidence over the past year or so, as it has really pushed me out of my comfort zone, i've attended events alone, and had to talk to brands, PRs and other bloggers, and it's been good for me to put myself out there a bit more. 

I do think becoming more confident being by yourself is an age thing, when I was younger I would worry what people thought if I was doing things alone, would they think I had no friends and pity me? Now I don't care, because I know I am surrounded by a lot of amazing friends and family, and quite frankly people can think what they want, but I'm just happy that I'm finally getting around to doing things that I want to do, for me. And with my Trek America adventure booked for the end of August, it is probably a good thing i'm becoming more and more okay with spending time by myself and who knows I may even venture to the cinema alone next week! I think doing things you actually want to do, without dragging some along who doesn't want to do whatever it is, is great, and if you want to do something but have no one to go with, then PLEASE do not ever let that stop you. I had grand dreams of slowly driving across America one day with my fave girls/boyfriend, but life happens, people have jobs, you find yourself single, and guess what I wanted to do it now, so I am. I also wanted to join Slimming World but was using the excuse 'im waiting for a friend to join with me', and it held me back. I've lost 11.4lbs in 9 weeks and if ONLY I had actually done it when I wanted, earlier on in the year - then who knows where I would be now. But at least I did get over myself, and it is never too late to do exactly what you want.

Have you done anything fun on your own, do you have any fun suggestions for me?

Sophie xxx


Monday, 25 July 2016

Getting Back Into Dating - Online

(IGNORE the state of my hands and m phone, oops)
Alas all good things come to an end, and I am single (again). I haven't exactly had the most exciting of dating histories, I had a boyfriend when I was 17 for nearly 1.5 years, I was then single for 3 years throughout uni, before I then met my latest boyfriend (now ex) on my graduation night, who I was with for just under a year. So inevitably the time has come that I take a dive into the dating pool and have a little foray into the world of online dating. Now I've used Tinder etc in the past, but never actually properly met people off of them (unless you count bumping into people in clubs, or them being your waiter in Jamies Italian, nah). And since I was last single I swear there are a whole host of new and exciting (lol) dating apps that have joined the scene, so I thought I would share my few cents on the few that I have been using to try and get back on the dating wagon.

Tinder was the first dating app I ever came across, back in my second year of uni and I remember when myself and my housemates came across it we had a BALL just being immature and winding local lads up, soz bois. However, fast forward a couple of years, whilst it primarily is still the same app, it now has a BIZARRE new social feature, whereby you and your pals can say you're going out and match up with another group too, interesting eh. I do generally find that Tinder boys would rather hit it and quit it, however there are obviously exceptions to this rule as I know many a happy couple that met through Tinder and I have had the pleasure of chatting to a few lovely boys, although after realising we didn't actually have much in common gave up on. There is still hope yet.

Plenty Of Fish 
Oh POF. I think most single girls have at least one 'Tom POF' in their contact list, and I find this is the app where I have had the most bizarre chat up lines and boys approach me. I have had one boy who said he likes to be treated like a piece of furniture, like literally he wanted to be a rug or a chair, and one who said he had a foot fetish. I don't judge people, but I feel like those profiles potentially sum up POF. Most boys like to send super unimaginative first messages that just say 'hi' and if you're lucky you might get a normal question or sentence. I am intrigued however by these POF dating events and was super gutted to find out I was away for the Reading one, damn, so hopefully I can go to one of these in the future.

NOW onto the new(ish) kids on the block. Happn is a new dating app (to me), you set up your profile, turn on your location and it literally lists people that you have 'crossed paths with', detailing how many times within a timeframe and the EXACT LOCATION. Slightly creepy, and if you drive a lot, this might not be the one for you, lol, as it lists people you've driven past etc. But I guess it's a good way to find semi local people and the novelty is kinda fun, albeit slightly/very creepy. 

Bumble is the second app that I was new to, the premise of Bumble is you use the app like Tinder, you bumble along, swiping left or right. However when you get a match, it is ALL down the girl to make the first move, and within 24hours, otherwise you LOSE the match. Not sure what Bumble are trying to get out of this, apart from ballsy women (great), but for the more shy women amongst us, I really wasn't a fan.

Personality Match
Now this one isn't a dating app per say, however it can be used as an invaluable tool alongside dating and thus I thought the app and site were WELL worth a mention, as I have enjoyed it. PersonalityMatch is based on the classic psychological tests by Katharine Cook Briggs, Isabel Briggs Myers and the theories of the psychologist Carl Jung. With PersonalityMatch, you can take a free personality test and invite your partner and friends to do the same. The app's unique algorithm compares both your results and generates a compatibility score, which shows the areas where you're most compatible (and where you're not so). This feature has been designed to help highlight areas that can be worked on to improve a relationship with that significant other! The PersonalityMatch app is free and available on iTunes and Google Play. It is such a simple app that is super fun to use, after taking the personality test it said I am an ENFJ - The Giver, and knowing this personality type is important to know before venturing out into the dating world, as it helps you know what sort of personalities to look for, that would compliment you and not clash etc!

If you have any tips on getting into the dating scene, please share them, also do you have a fave dating app?

Sophie x

*In collaboration with Personality Match.


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sensational Gel Starter Kit Review

Gel manicures have been taking the beauty industry and world by storm for a while now, however it is the simple at home gel mani sets that are becoming more readily available. I have previously reviewed and tried out the Red Carpet Manicure kit which I adore, so when I was offered the chance to try the Sensational version, I thought it would be a good chance. The Sensational Gel Starter Kit is actually one of the first at home gel kits that came to mt attention a few christmases ago, when it was the star buy at Boots and sold out SO QUICKLY. Since then i've seen it everywhere, people raving about it etc, and the polishes are easy to purchase from Boots too, meaning the at home, readily accessible gel mani is easy to achieve.

The Sensational Gel Starter Kit's are a good way at getting a taste for whether at home gel manis for you. These starter kits retail for £49.99 and promise 10 complete manicures, working out that each mani will cost you a bargain of just £4.99. The starter kit comes with a perfectly sized gel LED lamp, with a motion sensor that turns on/off automatically, a reflective interior, and magnetic base; meaning the lamp is portable and super easy to set up for gel pedicures too! As well as the lamp you receive some lint free wipes, a stick thing (LOL), the cable that can be plugged into the mains or USB (laptop etc), nail file, Gel Cleanser 14.6ml, Gel Primer 3.54ml, Gel base/top coat 3.69ml and Gel Polish 3.69ml, in whatever shade you select. These are all miniature sizes, which is great to see whether the at home gel mani is for you, or whether you prefer your in salon pampering, I like to save where possible, so at home gel manis are the way to go for me!

The gel kit is super easy to use, it is recommend to buff your nails first, then wipe each nail, using the lint free wipes, with a little of the cleanser. Simply then apply a coat of the primer, allow to air dry, then apply a thin layer of the base coat. Cure this under the lamp for 15 seconds (until it flashes once), then apply a thin coat of the colour of your choice. For the Pink Chiffon shade I found 3 coats was necessary, but 2 is usually fine with most colours. Then cure each of these layers for 30 seconds (2 of the flashes), apply another layer of the top and base coat, cure for 15 seconds, then wipe with the cleanser and VOILA. Fabulous, long lasting, super shiny, gel nails; all done from the comfort of your own home.

Well they WOULD have been long lasting, had 2 not chipped at the ends and then just totally peeled off within 24 hours...This then led to me literally peeling the others off in the space of 4 minutes. So I think I will be sticking with my trusty long lasting RCM nails.

Before this happened though it was a tough call between my beloved Red Carpet Manicure kit and the Sensationail one. I would say it's easier to get your hands on the Senational shades as they're available in Boots, whereas the RCM ones are available in Sallys or online. However after the chip and peel episode, I do find that my RCM nails are way more hard wearing and a smidge more shiny, but I did prefer the square shape of the lamp, compared to the curved dome RCM one, as I always catch my nails on that and smudge things. BUT overall OVERALL, i'm going to stick wit my Red Carpet Manicure Gel Kit as the Sensationail one just isn't for me, however I did really enjoy trying out the Sensational Starter Kit as I like to try new things.

Have any of you tried any at home gel manicure sets, do you have a fave?

Sophie xx

*PR Sample


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Booking My Trek America Trip, So Far

As many of you know, because I won't stop harping on about it, in 50 days or so (i've scheduled this post, so it's something around that) I will be embarking on a grand solo adventure, travelling from Newark to San Francisco in 26 day days with Trek America. I recently came to be in a situation where I had no ginormous financial responsibilities and no current job and it just seemed like the right time for me to spread my wings and explore the world, embarking on a road trip I have wanted to do for so, so long. I thought I would share a few posts before/and after the trip, sharing my experiences, thoughts and any tips I may pick up. Today's post is about the process of booking my trip thus far...

Choosing Trek America
Now there are many options for seeing and travelling America. My dream has always been to rent a campervan and road trip myself across America, however due to being a single female, I decided that this was just not a feasible option. And although people say Trek America can be pricey, I paid £1,800 for my trek which covers the cost of the van, the petrol, and more importantly the trek leader for 26 days (as well as the tent, sleeping mat etc). When you take into account the cost of driving across America, it probably isn't that much more at the end of the day. There are also quite a few companies and tours that operate things like Trek America, such as Top Deck Tours, STA Travel etc, so definitely investigate other options if you want to see what else is on offer. I decided to go for Trek America as they had a trek that was perfect for me and fit in a lot of things I wanted to see and do, as well as being good value for money.

It was so hard deciding on a specific tour as there are so many amazing adventures available to choose from; however I went for the Americana, 26 day coast to coast tour as it covered states I wanted to see and quite a few national parks. I also chose this tour as it is 22 days camping, and 4 nights in hotels (Oklahoma and Vegas). Lots of people that I have spoken to have been like whaaaat WHY would you choose to do that, and tbh it's simple; I just want to have the best experience possible, and camping out in American National Parks and new states just sounds incredible. I've also heard that when you camp, you bond way way more as a group, as often people go on these types of trips in pairs and when you do the tours with hostels, people tend to stay in their pairs, or pair up with people and it can apparently get quite cliquey. However with camping everyone has to muck in, get involved, and of course i'm envisaging some camp fire bonding too, complete with beers and smores. Go hard or go home right? 

The booking process
The booking process has been amazing, and the support i've had from the Trek America team has been a dream. From the start I was assigned someone who looked after my booking right from the initial few emails asking about the tours, up until the end, paying the balance for my tour and ALL the questions after. The lovely Kerry (and Natasha) were so helpful, answering all my pretty silly e-mails and helping me. In fact I saw the tour on a 20% deal, went to book it after a weekend and saw the deal had ended, emailed the team and just because they're LOVELY, they let me have it for the discounted price, even though the sale had actually ended. BABES. I do recommend booking your tour when there is a sale on (which is basically ALWAYS). They also helped me to add on the hotel for the night before, which I decided to do at a later date, and were always there. I felt so well looked after.

I also decided to book my flights separately, and the people at Trek America were amazing for flight quotes etc, but I knew someone who worked at Flight Centre, and the lovely Shelley helped organise my flights for me and they actually worked out way cheaper than I had factored for, always a bonus.

Planning and prepping in the run up to your trek
I love organising. And the minute after I booked my trip, I had a clean notebook at the ready, a few plastic folders and some clear wallets on hand, and my organisational hat was firmly on. I think I had even sorted out my ESTA literally 4 minutes after booking it, lolll. I do recommend being organised from the get go, printing off your tour vouchers, flight details, ESTA, insurance policy etc right from the start rather than leaving it to the last minute, as no one really likes a last minute kerfuffle do they? I will do a more in depth post with more tips, most likely after I return!

I've also been annoying like everyone who has ever been on a Trek America trek, and the super babes that are Milly, Brogan and Laura have been so knowledgeable and helpful for so many things - so deffo check their Trek posts and videos out!

I'm going to do a few more posts (mainly when I return) about what to pack, details of the days I visit, things I learnt etc. If you have any questions, or even better, ANY TIPS, let me know!

Sophie xxx
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