Sunday, 8 July 2018

Interrailing: Choosing Your Pass & Packing

Hello friends! I am finally back to blogging! Exam season has ended, and those of you following me on social media will know that I've also just returned from an inter-railing trip with my boyfriend, Eoin and I've been working ever since. Ever since we left I've been inundated with questions from all of you ranging from what to pack, to where to go and what type of pass to buy. Thankfully, interrail season has really only just begun for some of you, so hopefully the advice that follows will reach you in time! If any of you have been inter-railing in the past, feel free to leave your tips/advice in the comments section and I'll try to add them to this post.

The Pass

Choosing an inter-rail pass depends on a variety of factors; where you want to go, how long you'll be away for, your budget and the amount of time you plan to spend in each place. We bought our passes through the website, but you can also find them at, a website ran by the Irish company USIT. Here you can find passes for single countries, or global passes.

Single country passes range from 3 to 8 travel days within one month, starting at €166 for a "Youth" travellers (a.k.a. anyone under the age of 27), and a Global pass ranges from 5 travel days to an entire month with prices starting at €208 for "Youth" travellers. Single country passes only allow you to travel within a single country (hence the name) whereas the Global Pass allows you to travel with all participating trains across Europe.

If you're planning on travelling with a Global Pass (like we did) I would definitely recommend going for at least 3 weeks if possible. Most of the first and second week of travelling seem to consist heavily of finding your feet, and travelling is definitely a lot more enjoyable when you're confident and comfortable with it. We spent 4 weeks interrailing, and it definitely seemed to be the perfect amount of time for us. It was our first time sharing rooms with other people in hostels, rushing around early in the morning and late at night with huge backpacks and having to basically figure out our plan as we went along. At the start this seemed a little bit tricky, and we were definitely landed with a few culture shocks, but by the second/third week we found our feet and everything became a lot easier!

Before buying our passes, we decided that we wanted to spend about 2 days in each city we visited, so we chose our passes based on this. We chose ten travel days within a period of one month. This worked out perfectly for us, and we had just enough travel days to cover the entire trip. If you're making train journeys within a country while your away, it can also be useful to check train ticket prices for specific journeys, rather than using a travel day for a short journey.

When you buy your interrail pass, you must put in your start and end travel date, so don't forget to plan these before you reach the checkout! Also in all European countries, free passes are offered to a limited number of 18 year olds (to increase our sense of European identity), so I'd definitely recommend applying for one of those! In Ireland, 200 passes are given out for free every year.

The pass comes with a map and a guide. It has two parts that you must fill out when you get on the train. On the ticket, you write down your travel day, and then you log your journey on the travel diary. It's super easy to use, and most people checking the passes are so friendly so they'll let you know if you've made any mistakes. There's a few rules about travelling overnight and how that effects your travel days, so definitely look those up when you're planning. We decided not to do any overnight travels, but instead we just left early in the mornings to avoid the stress of overnight trains.

The best thing about the interrail pass is definitely the freedom it gives you. You can choose where you want to go the day you leave, and you can change your plans so easily! Hostelworld definitely makes travelling easy too - you can just open the app on your phone and book a hostel within minutes. I'd recommend to only loosely plan your trip. See where the journey takes you, change your mind as you go, meet new friends and join them on the journey. Make it an adventure rather than a plan.

The Backpack

Backpack or suitcase? This seems to be the age old interrailing debate. Because we were away for four weeks, having a backpack seemed to be the only viable option. Somedays we had to carry our bags for over an hour, sometimes while walking and other times whilst sprinting for trains. The whole trip definitely wouldn't have been as comfortable without a backpack. Even though ours were pretty heavy, and asper usual I was overpacked, I definitely wouldn't have managed carrying a suitcase around train stations, up stairs and across cobbled streets. 

When it comes to buying a backpack for travelling, there are so many options. Every person I talked to about buying a backpack told me that you must try it on before buying. Apparently backpacks are like a pair of shoes; while one may suit you perfectly, someone else might find it completely uncomfortable. In Ireland, outdoor adventure shops are so expensive, so buying a backpack in store is so difficult. Bearing in mind I am a totally broke college student, I had to find a way to work around the insane prices, so I tried on my bag in a local store (where it was €160),  bought it on amazon later for about €110. I'm sorry for not supporting local, but I swear I can only just about support myself!

My Bag

The bag I chose was the Osprey Fairview 55 litre bag. The fairview is designed specifically for women, so the straps suit a woman's body shape. You can find my backpack here. It literally had all the features you could possibly need, so I was pretty much sold on it straight away. 

Some of the reasons why I chose this bag (aside from the fact that it was pretty comfortable on) were because of..

- detachable backpack that can be zipped and strapped to the main bag
- zips all the way around as opposed to only from the top
- a lil' whistle on one of the straps
- the backpack straps can be zipped away so they don't get damaged during travel
- compression straps inside and outside the bag

My only issue with this backpack was the lack of colours it came in. I had to go for a kind-of-ugly green, but I guess the comfort was a bit more important than the colour!

You can find out more information on my bag HERE on the official Osprey website (it's cheaper on Amazon than there), and I also found a good YouTube video about the bag HERE

What to Pack

As I mentioned earlier, I am the queen of overpacking, someone please hand me my tiara. To try to manage my packing I bought a set of packing cubes - you can find them HERE. They basically let you section out your bag. I used one for pants/skirts/shorts, another for tops, one for underwear and swimwear and the last one for PJs and anything/everything else that I needed. They were pretty handy, so I definitely would recommend buying a set. Mine were about €20 for 4 cubes and one bag that I used for dirty washing.

Another thing I purchased specifically for this trip was a sleeping bag liner. We stayed in hostels for the entire trip, so I thought this would be really handy if I ever felt like where I was sleeping wasn't super clean. While I didn't use this during the trip, it definitely gave me a great peace of mind.

Here's what I packed:

- 2 pairs of pants
- 3 dresses
- 2 shorts
- 8 tops/t-shirts (I sweat a lot, hence the high number)
- 2 pyjamas
- 10 knickers & 3 bras
- 10 pairs of socks
- Sleeping bag liner
- A pair of Toms
- A relatively comfortable pair of shoes
- Flipflops (for showering and chilling around the hostel)
- 2 pairs of swimming togs
- A travel journal (because I'm all about those mem's 
- Passport
- European Travel Insurance Card & Health Insurance Card
- Student Card and Driving Licence
- Photocopies of all my IDs
- A small purse
- A fanny pack (or bumbag, whatever you like to call it!)
- Travel Insurance
- A book (if you have a Kindle, definitely bring it along)
- A light windbreaker/rain coat (I got mine in Topshop)
- 1 fleece

If you're going for a four week trip like we did, 7 - 10 days worth of clothes and underwear is definitely enough. Most hostels have an area where you can wash and dry your clothes. A wash usually costs around €3, and a dry usually costs €3.50. If you're going with friends you can all pop your clothes in together to cut down on costs - usually the washing machine and drier drums are pretty big so it's not really an issue. 

I'd also definitely recommend getting travel insurance. I got mine with Laya Healthcare and it was only about €30. Again this just gave me peace of mind. I also made sure to photocopy all my ID's and put them in different places around my bag. It's really easy to get pickpocketed in a lot of countries, so most people recommend doing this, just in case you lose your passport or ID.

A fanny pack is also definitely super handy, just so you always know where your most important bits are when you're travelling, and again to make you feel a bit more secure about all your bits. 

I had planned to pack my iPad to keep you guys up to date as I went from place to place, but at the end of the day, travelling isn't really about spending your time letting people know what your up to or keeping up with those insta worthy vibes. It's about living in the moment, making memories, meeting new people and learning, about yourself and about the world. I've learned so much from my time away and I'm so excited to share more with you guys about my whole adventure over the next few weeks. I really hope this post help some of you guys with your packing and planning!

Until next time,


Thursday, 22 March 2018

For My Younger Self

Saturday 24 March 2018 marks my twentieth birthday. Twenty years in this world. Twenty years of happiness and heartbreak, laughter and tears. Who would have thought it would go so fast? When I was younger I always used to imagine what my twenty year old self would be like. Will she have long hair, or will it be short? Will she being daring, and caring? Will she fall in love with herself, with life, with the world? Will she laugh everyday? Will she be strong? Will she be brave enough to hold the world in both hands? Will she be brave enough to stand up for herself, to stand up for others, to stand up for what's right? Will she find happiness in the little things; a sunny day, laughing with friends, singing along to her favourite songs? Who will she be?

Becoming who your younger self wanted to be seems, well, unrealistic at times.  Life is full of expectations, and as you grow up expectations become saturated by peer pressure and judgement. Social norms change, quickly, until suddenly life is like a river and some people aren't quite strong enough the swim against the current. Some are. When staying true to who you are and what you believe doesn't always feel like the right thing to do, trust me, it is. I'd like to think that I've learnt a lot about this from my parents over the last twenty years. "If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too," are words that are usually uttered every time I question myself. When you're young, sometimes that seems like the only option, but as I continue to grow, each day the answer becomes more and more obvious. Don't follow the crowd. Trust yourself. Be fearless, be courageous, be unapologetically you. Love yourself unconditionally. 

I've been lucky to have grown up in an environment surrounded by people that have believed in me when it seems like no one else does. To have found best friends, supporters, fans and motivators in those around me. Life will always be full of ups and downs, but these people are what make everything worthwhile. Nothing can every be perfect until you accept that it's not. Perfection comes in the form of the twinkle in your eye, your crooked smile as you laugh once more to a joke you've heard too many times and your ability to see the world not only for what it is, but for what it can be.

With every blessing comes hardship. Don't hate the people that think they have torn you down, for they have built you up and you are stronger than before. Don't hate rumours or lies, for they have taught you that life will not always be fair, and people will not always see the truth. Don't hate those who have hurt you, for they are the ones who are hurting the most. But never forget. Never forget the hurt and the lies that have brought you here. Never forget how you stood as strong as the greatest tree in the forest, that has grown so tall because of all the rain that pours down on it.

Know how to stand tall, but also know when to walk away. When you believe in yourself and believe in the truth, people will believe in you. If they don't, don't waste your time. Find the right time and the right place to let your voice be heard, and even if your attempts are in vain, know that you tried. Trying brings about two outcomes; success or failure. Be proud of your successes, and be grateful for each time you fail. This will build you higher. 

And trust me when I say, to my younger self, you would be proud of who you are. You would be proud of how brave and kind you have been, even when the world has not been kind to you. You would be proud of your crooked smile and your sometimes silly laugh. You would be proud of your ability to speak up for yourself and for others. You would be proud of how strong you are (although mentally more than physically - keep working on that upper body strength). You would be proud of all the beautiful people in your life, and everywhere you go happiness radiates from you like sunshine on a warm Summers day. You are now as you were then, but stronger. You don't need to weather the storm, because you alone are a storm in yourself.

Until next time,

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Breaking Habits

Each new year comes with many positive changes; New Year's Resolutions, fresh beginnings and another book of twelve chapters, twelve beginnings. It seems as though making a change should be easy at the best of times, but when we think about change, we generally think about how it can help us. How will change advance our interests? How can change get me to where I want to be? In a world scarred by materialism, it's easy to be self-centred or self-absorbed. 

I wrote an article recently for Motley Magazine, one of University College Cork's student publications, interviewing the brains behind "The Nu Wardrobe". If you haven't heard of the sustainable fashion brand, you should definitely check out their website HERE. Talking to Aisling of "The Nu Wardrobe" definitely put a lot of things into perspective for me about fashion and life in general really. All too often we forget how our actions make an impact on the wider world. Problems that are far away seem irrelevant, while those that are right in front of us are often avoidable. When we pick up a t-shirt in Penneys for €3, generally all that springs to mind is *bargain*, or when we choose to use plastic straws on a night out, we don't tend to consider its environmental consequences.

While our environmental impact seems to be exponentially growing on a daily basis, this can be easily connected to the choices we make. Do you recycle, or just pop it in the bin? Do you use unnecessary amounts of plastic, or when you're shopping do you try to avoid extra waste? While it's easy to brush our environmental impact under the carpet, pretending that nothing is happening, the choices we make ultimately determine who we are, and how we impact the world.

The same can be said for most other choices we make on a daily basis. How we choose to interact with our family, our friends, our peers, our neighbours and even strangers passing us on the street says a lot about who we are and who we want to be. In the words of Amelia Earhart, "a single act of kindness throws roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." The domino effect can be a very powerful force, if we use it correctly. 

Jacket, H&M // Jumper, Vero Moda // Culottes, Penneys/Primark // Shoes, Zara

If every one of us performed one act of kindness, or made one positive choice or change, just imagine what the world might look like.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Bonjour Bruxelles!

Ah, Brussels. The infamous capital of Belgium and the unofficial capital of the European Union; a city of cultures (plural) and beautiful chocolate, food and architecture. If you've been following me on Instagram, you've probably already notices that at the beginning of this month myself and my friends ventured off to Brussels (along with the majority of Irish college students). The city is so photogenic that I thought I just had to share a few snaps with all of you!

D A Y  1

Day one of three in Brussels consisted of exploring the city. In the morning, we decided to go on a free walking tour, starting at the Grand Place. The tours seem to leave regularly and they're definitely a great way to get to know a little bit more of the city and its history.  The tour finished up just outside a series of Art museums so we decided to visit the infamous Magritte Museum. If you're an art lover, I would definitely recommend a visit! We grabbed a bite to eat on route back to the Grand Place and later that night we got dinner in Bia Mara - an Irish restaurant serving fresh fish! 

D A Y  2

Day two saw us venture off to Bruges by train. The journey took about an hour, and it was definitely worth it, even just to see the absolutely beautiful city. We spent the majority of the day wandering around, taking a stop for lunch (which was pretty disastrous - it's hard to find lunch spots in Belgium!) and later for waffles in The Waffle Factory. We also decided to climb the Belfry Tower - a medieval bell tower in the centre of Bruges.

D A Y  3

On our final day in Brussels we grabbed breakfast in a cute quirky cafe - Chicago Cafe, before heading to a vintage market, that hits Brussels on the first Sunday of every month (you can catch more details about that HERE). During the day, we also decided to try chocolates from some of Brussels most renowned chocolate shops, and of course we had to stop for waffles along the way in Maison Dandoy. Later that day we walked out to the European Parliament and had a look at its museum. The parliament itself wasn't open, but the museum was really cool - and it was free!

Until next time,

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