Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Don't Tell the Guests - So Relaxed

I never ever thought that I would say this, but here we are, 4 sleeps away from our wedding, and wait for it, I'm relaxed.

The best advice that I could ever give a bride is to have the week before the wedding off.

It's a beautiful thing to have time.

Time to be able to sit by your computer with a cup of green tea (or red wine) and type up your running lists so that everyone involved knows where they have to be where.

Time to be able to just sit and smile, and get excited goose bumps about how awesome it's going to be to worry your best friend.

Time to greet your guests, particularly those who have travelled from far and wide, and to be able to go out for lunch and eat, laugh, drink and be merry.

Time to try on your dress, with the accessories and veil and look back at the person staring at you in the mirror and think wow, it's me, I'm the bride.

Time to go and have your hair trials, and not be worried about constantly checking your watch because you have to be somewhere.

Time to just enjoy the whole experience.

Right now, I am just feeling so loved, and so grateful for everyone who is helping, making an effort to be here to celebrate our time, and this overwhelming sense of happiness and contentness.

Right now, I feel relaxed.

Your wedding day and the whole experience is what you make it. Yes, there can be stressful comments from people, yes the phone calls and to do lists at times can see never ending, but if you take the time, and a step back to remember what the day is all about, you and your partner taking the next step in your relationship, then it is a truly amazing experience.

YAY - I'm getting married in 4 sleeps!

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

High Five to 10 Years with my Hunk a Spunk

Ohhh we look so young and innocent! This is Mick and I when we were 17 years old (we'd been dating for 2 years) up in Cairns after I had graduated from Year 12!

A wedding that we were both in, a fair few years later!!!

I was thinking about what I could say in a post to describe my partner and our relationship the other day, and I had to have a chuckle to myself...I thought the only way that I could approach this blog is with the words...isn't it funny.

Here goes...

Isn't it funny how your partner is the only person who can get away with;

  1. Telling you to change your attitude when you're in a foul mood (mind you, he may receive daggers and verbal abuse at the time, but it makes you think twice about how you're behaving!)
Possibly the FUNNEST photo of us on our engagement shoot!
  1. Tell you that you've put on a few kilos, in the most polite way "babe, perhaps you should start doing some sit ups haha" and not because he's being rude, but because he's probably sick of you stuffing your face with chocolate and then complaining about not fitting into your jeans after!!! 
Mick and I just chilling at a waterfall in Cambodia!
  1. Do a silly dance or crack a joke when you're really angry!!! Maybe it's just my partner, but he can somehow always turn my frown around!
Haha this photo cracks me up!!!
  1. Offer the other persons perspective or story when you are having a bitch feast because they know that as soon as you've got it off of your chest you will feel better and you'll be back being best friends the very next minute!!!
Us in Thailand!!!
  1. Scaring the bajeebers out of you when you sit on the couch together and a scary movie starts to get to a really tense part of the story and they tickle your spine, or jump or scream, just to get a reaction! (Okay so my partner doesn't get away with this he usually gets a 'mickkkkk in a high pitched voice followed by a slap haha!)
We've traveled the world together and had an absoloute ball!
  1. Constantly shit stirring and sometimes cross the line on sensitive topics, but you just give it back, move on and realise they are just trying to get a reaction!
A photo taken on our 7 year anniversary!
  1. Pinching your bum in public (let's face it, you wouldn't want anyone else too!)
Mick and I in Fiji!!!
  1. Start eyeing off your food before you have even finished and then proceeds to devour your "percieved leftovers"!
Jumping for joy on our engagement shoot!
  1. Fart on and dutch oven you with the most disgusting smelling flatulence and yet you still love them!
Celebrating on the night Mick proposed in Far North Queensland!
  1. Rubbing you up the wrong way, driving you nuts, making you sometimes ponder murder, but still fill you with love, respect, pride and joy!
The goobers that we are at our engagement party!
Happy 10 year anniversary to a man who has celebrated with me when I have achieved my highs and carried me on when I reached my lows!!!

He truly is my best friend and he always makes me laugh, chill out, take a step back and appreciate the simple things in life, and just how fortunate we are!!!

We seriously have so much fun together!
I wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life with anyone but him, even despite the things he can only get away with saying and doing!!!

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Don't Tell the Guests; The Final Countdown!

Wow, I can not believe that it's only 11 days until our wedding and what a journey it has been! It's crazy to think that there's so many decisions to be made when it comes to planning your big day that I have been able to write a weekly segment for a whole year!

Planning your big day is such an emotional roller coaster, and to be honest, I'm not one to sugar coat the experience!

There's definitely been some pretty tense times, and times when we find ourselves saying 'we're over it', 'hurry up already so that we can move on with our lives' and 'boy oh boy not more money!' I know this probably makes us sound ungrateful and like horrible people, but the truth is, it's a hell of a lot of energy, time and money, for one day!!!

So where are we at 11 days out?

The logistics (all together now yay!!!)

These are the things that brides certainly never tell you, or maybe we were just completely naive to the final countdown craziness.

Some nights I can't sleep as I lay there thinking about how special and exciting it is going to be to wear my gorgeous dress down the aisle as I walk hand in hand with my mum and dad and I look into the faces of those closest to us, as I greet my future husband at the alter.

Other days I find myself in tears from exhaustion trying to juggle full time work, life and keeping up with the emails, running sheets, whose getting what where and whose letting who in and where does such and such have to meet at exactly what time!!!

So the things you need to think about in the final stages;

Just how everything is going to actually come together. We've discussed in this segment over time the different elements to a wedding from florists to celebrants, videographers, decorators, cake makers, chefs, musicians, hairdressers, make up artists, dress makers, suit stylers, car drivers, invite designers, waitresses, venue coordinators, photographers, bar tenders and so much more and now you have to work out how to coordinate everyone so that the day runs smoothly.

We quickly realised just how important running sheets were!

The photographer and videographer need to know;
Where the bride and bridesmaids are getting ready for pre wedding shots.
Where the groom and groomsmen are getting ready for pre wedding shots.
Where the ceremony is and what angles you want shot.
Where your post ceremony photos will be.
Where the reception is and what you'd like to be shot.
For the videographer specifically; what the names of all of the wedding party are, what your music is for walking down the aisle, the signing, entering the reception, leaving the reception, first dance, father and daughter music etc

For the caterer;
How many people are attending.
If there are any dietary requirements.
When you would like entree, mains and desserts served.

For the musicians;
Your entrance music to the reception.
The style of music you'd like.
How you are staggering the reception to know how many sets to play.
Whether you'll need microphones for speeches.
Whether you'll need an iPod plugged in between sets.
Whether you have a table organised for them to sit and eat at.
Dinner and drinks for the band members.

Finalise the ceremony.
Work out where they are going to stand.
Work out how to position the bridal party and the bride and groom.
Sound and music.

Do you need to use their sound systems?
Are you bringing food to the site and do you need a refrigerator/ to use cutlery and crockery.
How would you like the venue set up.
Where are you going to position the guests.

Where and when would you like the drivers of the cars to meet and pick up the bridal party?
How are you going to get the cars to these pick up points?
Who is going to drive?
Where do you leave the keys?
(The last 3 are for if you are borrowing friends cars)

Master of Ceremonies (MC)
What is the plan for the night?
Speeches; who and when during the night?
Is there a microphone and sound system?
Running sheet.

When do you have access to the venue to decorate?
How many tables and chairs are there?
How many people can sit at a table?
How are you going to lay out the room?
Who is sitting where?
Do candles need to be light? If you have candle lighters and back up candles?
Who do you need to get the key off to get into the venue?
When can you drop off the alcohol (if you can byo)
Where does the cake table go?
Where will the bridal table be positioned?
Where will the presents table be situated?
Are you needing extension cords?

Where do they have to be when?
When do they need to contribute during the ceremony?

Hairdressers and Make Up Artists
Where do they have to meet you or you meet them?
What time will you start getting ready?
When do you have photos?
What colours and styles?
How many people?

The night before the wedding; where will you have tea? Will you need to reserve a place or are you ordering in take away?
The morning of the wedding; what are you doing for breakfast? Fruit and crossant platters?
Lunch; do you have lunch before or after the ceremony?
Do you order platters ie subway or just make rolls?
Are you having an afternoon tea?
Who is bringing what?
Is there a fridge or esky available to keep things cool?
Is there an oven or a microwave to heat things up?
Are there crockery, cutlery and napkins?
When should the cake be dropped off at the reception?

If byo, when can you drop not at the venue?
Is there a corkage fee?

Who is going to pick up the fresh flowers on the morning of the wedding (luckily we're having fake!!!)

Flower Girl and Paige Boy
Will they meet you at the ceremony or will they come with you in the car?
Are they going to throw petals or hold a sign?

Who is doing a speech?
When are they needing to speak?
For how long?
About what topics?

Wow, I'm sure there are things that I have missed, but as you can see there's lots to organise!

As a bride I think you just 'wing it' and you learn what needs to be done as people remind or ask you ie the musicians reminded us that we needed a table for them o sit at between sets and to provide meals and drinks (5 extra seats and meals to add into the plans!) Whoops!

It can be overwhelming when everyone fires questions at you, particulary when you haven't even thought about it or don't really mind!

We had no idea about the music for our reception as far as the entrance song, bridal dance, exit song etc, so we've kind of left it in the hands of our musicians and we're still yet to choose a first dance song!

I think one of the things that I have definitely found the hardest is the balance between reminding yourself to enjoy the process as you only do it once, and it should be fun, versus the stress, constant questioning, thinking and correspondence to coordinate everyone.

As with every wedding we've had a few hiccups with different opinions, but I guess you grow a tough skin and realise that you can't please everyone!

We're just so fortunate to have so many friends and family who are willing to help out and to make our special time come to life and represent us as a couple.

We seriously wouldn't be able to do it all without their help, especially when we both work full time!

My biggest tips would be;
To have the week off before your wedding just to mellow, organise the last minute things with time and not cramming them in on lunch breaks and late at night after a long day.

To try and keep the information and decisions between you and your partner because at the end of the day it's your day.

To realise early in the piece that in this whole wedding process you are probably going to offend someone, so try and take their comments and opinions as lightly as possible, because it's not worth worrying over.

Yes organising a wedding is full on, tiring, exciting, exhilarating, nerve racking, at times scary but the majority of the time, when you forget about all of the little details and think about the reason for the day, to become husband and wife, then it all becomes much more bareable and exciting!

Try to never lose focus of the true meaning of the day.

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx

Monday, 23 September 2013


Sometimes I have to take a giant step back to put things into perspective;

Is my belly full? Yes (perhaps a little too full tee hee).

Do I have a roof over my head providing me shelter and somewhere safe to rest my head? Yes.

Am I loved? Yes.

Do I love others? Yes.

Am I healthy? Yes.

Am I safe? Yes.

Do I have security? Yes.

Will I be okay? Yes.

The simple questions are sometimes the most difficult to ask, and often the ones we over look, but sometimes, it's important that we pause, and take the time to answer them.


Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Depression; My Journey Through My Blog

Without a doubt, writing about my experiences with mental health is what has helped me to accept, deal with and to start the journey of moving on from such an emotionally challenging, traumatic and life changing time in my life.

I must admit that while I was right in the middle of my depression, I swore my friends and family to secrecy as I didn't want people to find out and think any differently of me.

There is no way, that during that time, I ever would've had the courage to blog; I wasn't in the right frame of mind, I couldn't concentrate, I had switched off from the old side world and I was too ashamed to accept my illness.

Sometimes, I wonder whether the reason that I started my blog was purely a selfish one. Did I start it so that people could try to start and understand depression so that if it ever did return when we moved back to the country, that people would be more accepting of it?

Did it start out as my way of saying hello world, this is me and all of me, you may have heard about my illness through whispers and this is my way of telling the story and setting things straight? 

Was I scared of how people would react when they found out and would think I'm some nut job and distance themselves from me when we moved back to the small country town that I grew up in?

Maybe they were subconscious reasons, that at the time of writing my first blog, I hadn't given a lot of thought too.

The truth is, that whatever the reason, I was determined to speak more openly about mental health to try and help others in similar situations, and to try like hell to stop anyone from going through what I did; if I could reach just one person then it was worth putting my story and experience out there for the world to read about.

So where did my journey start?

The first ever blog post that I wrote was called 'Grabbing Life by the Balls and Going For It.'

Blogging was completely new to me, and I wanted to test the water and peoples reactions when I first ever posted my opinions on a public forum.

One of the very first things that I said was

'I'm totally stepping outside of my comfort zone to explore whether sharing my life experiences in blog form is beneficial to me and others'.

I was so uncertain, but I had this deep burning desire to write, and to write truthfully.

After that first blog post, I grew more confident.

In the second post, I knew that I wanted to slowly open the doors to depression, and start my attempts at trying to break down the stigmas.

I don't think anyone but a depression sufferer could possibly know how hard it was for me to write 5 small words.

I titled the post 'Knowing the Difference Between I'm Good and I'm Really Not Coping But I'll Say I'm Good Anyway.'

Five little words at the end of the post broke my heart; 

It started with 1 in 3 people suffer from a mental health.

I am one of them.

Five tiny words carrying the weight of my world.

I bawled and bawled and bawled when I wrote that first piece; I'm pretty sure I sobbed.

It was the first time that I had outwardly admitted to those outside of my closest friendship and family groups that I had suffered from a mental health illness.

I am sure that there were people who knew of me, or knew me, that were completely shocked when they read that sentence; there were people in my netball club and people who I worked with who would've had no idea just how sick I got; I just went missing for a couple of months.

Of course people would ask where I went, but they were met with diversions from my friends and family as I had told them to keep it quiet while I delt with it.

Again, the response that I received blew me away. People who I didn't really know emailed me, people would give me hugs apologising that they didn't know or weren't there for me, and I think people were genuinely in shock.

I didn't realise but that was a real turning point for me; it was like a cork had been placed in my mouth that stopped me from talking about my experience and then all of a sudden, once the cork had shot out like it would from a champagne bottle, the words started to flow.

I wrote my third blog post addressing depression called 'What It's Like to Suffer From Depression.'

I remember writing it at 530 in the morning. The idea came to me and I knew that I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep until I had the words down on paper. Once I had finished it, I read it to my loving partner, and then I very nervously clicked the post button and waited for the reactions.

I think I checked the blog post count 1,000 times that day!

The post gave me a chance to reflect on the causes of my depression, and made me realise just how far I'd come to be able to accept that there were both uncontrollable factors (my genes) and controllable factors (just how busy and stressed that I was) that contributed to my depression.

I remember my friends all celebrating that I could finally speak openly about it for they all knew how tough that blog was to write.

I realised that like me, there were many other people who had experienced similar stories, which made my experience start to feel 'normal' for someone suffering from depression. At the time that I was sick, I thought that surely no one else must of been feeling as low as I did, or that I just wasn't handling it at all and why could everyone else, particularly because I did have the support of my loved ones, but as other peoples stories started rolling in, I knew that I was not alone.

After that the next toughest blog post was called Depression; the Silent Killer. I knew that I wanted to make a real impact to people when they read it; I almost wanted to shock people with the use of pictures of me when I was healthy and sick, into seeing that even though the illness is invisible it is very real.

It was the first blog post that I shared onto ABC Open. I think at the time I was going through my angry stage of dealing with my illness. I was still angry that people questioned the illness; how could they be so blind? With all of the rates of suicide, how can people still think that it's all in people's heads?

I thought that if I was honest with my experience, then maybe it could open peoples eyes.

This post lead into Depression; Breaking the Myth Around Happy Pills.

People had obviously started asking more questions about my depression, and how I had overcome it. I knew that I wanted to write something to show fellow sufferers that it's okay to take the medication, and to show that you wouldn't think twice about taking panadol, so why doubt depression tablets?

I knew that there was a stigma out there about them making you all ga ga and happy all of the time, and I really wanted to make people think twice.

I think deep down that I wanted to make people feel comfortable to take the medication, because if I had've taken mine sooner, then I'm sure that my illness wouldn't have gotten so bad. For so long I was determined that I didn't need them and that'd I'd get better; I didn't want to have to accept that I needed help as the illness was outside of my control. As soon as I accepted that the medication was my last choice, and that I had tried everything else, I finally started getting better. While the medication did take some time to kick in, once it had it allowed my moods and thinking to stabilise so that I could start to gain control over my life again; it gave me back my will to survive.

My confidence grew with my posts and I knew that ultimately, I wanted to address the taboo subject of suicide; after all my blog was called Unspoken Conversations and if I couldn't talk about it openly in a forum like this, when would I ever? I started to realise that if I wanted to be able to break free from the anger, regret, self loathing and sadness of my actions during depression, then I needed to be able to let it all out.

By far, the hardest post to write was 'l Almost Lost My life to Depression'. I remember reading a newspaper article about the government hiding suicide statistics that made me so angry that I knew it was time to be open about my experience.

I forwarded on the post to my closest friends and family before I put it up on my blog. Obviously my suicide attempts had affected them immensely, and I didn't want to make them hurt anymore then I already had.

As soon as I wrote that blog, I felt free. It sounds silly, but I could finally admit to myself that I had in fact, gotten that low, that suicide had impacted my life.

Don't get me wrong, I still cry over just how bad my depression got. I still think how on earth did I let it get that bad? I'm still grateful that I'm here to tell my tale and that's exactly why I wrote that post, because I am still here, unlike so many others in the same position that I was in.

Remembering those dark and lonely days, where I was scared, and felt so far from myself, breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to think that there are people out there today, who are feeling exactly that way, with no light insight.

I wanted them to know that suicidal thoughts were all part of the illness.

Even though I began to feel better as I wrote more openly about my experience, the thing that i couldn't let go and stop blaming myself for was how my depression affected those around me. My mum wrote a blog post on how it affected her and my dad. I remember reading it and falling apart. 

No parent should ever have to see their daughter in the Intensive Care Unit struggling for survival after a prescription drug overdose. Knowing that I could never taken those images back killed me.

But the fact that I could write a blog post openly about my suicidal attempt, showed just how far I had come in my journey with moving on from depression, that my friends and family were super proud.

Since then, my most difficult blog post to write was 'Remembering Those Who Lost their Lives to Depression'.

My heart breaks thinking of those who lost their life to depression; I know the pain they were feeling, and I know jut how low you must go to think that suicide is the only answer to the illness that at the time robs you of life, and makes you feel like the world would be a better place without you.

I guess I really wanted to write the post so that people could see that suicide isn't a selfish act; it's a serious outcome to a silent and deadly illness; an illness like no other.

I thought that perhaps I could help the loved ones of people who have died from depression to get a glimpse inside the heads of the people they'd lost, and just for a minute, maybe begin to understand their reasoning a little more.

Without a doubt, the journey of my post depression has been made a whole lot easier through my blog; and I have been able to deal with my experience much better by being open to myself and others.

I truly hope that my honesty has helped others.

To say that depression will never happen to me again, or that I am completely over it, is a complete understatement, and something, that I'll probably never be able to say.

You never get over depression, or at least, the memories of it and I am grateful for that, because it makes me stop and appreciate the little things, and just how lucky I am to still be alive, and to be happy.

There's still a long journey ahead for me, and at the moment, I'm struggling with whether I should start to decrease my medication, but I don't think I'm quite ready yet.

But I thank my blog, and my readers, for giving me the courage to face my demons, and to be able to slowly move on, and to turn my experience into a positive one to help others.

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Don't Tell the Guests; The Seating Plan

Who ever knew that choosing a place for people to sit could be so stressful?

Yup, the wedding seating plan.

You've got Great Aunt Martha who doesn't talk to her ex husbands family, so you can't sit Martha anywhere near (and I don't mean just at their table) that side of the family.

You've got fighting brothers, and girls who are likely to start a bitch fight when you throw a belly full of bubbles into the mix, you've got Great Granny Joan who has to wear a hearing aid because she's as deaf as a bat, versus the young and roudy who can't wait to get stuck into the open bar tab and who need to be at opposite ends of the room, and you've got divorced ex lovers who definitely don't want to see x, y, or z, let alone be in the same venue as them.

Okay okay, so I've made up all of these characters and probably over exaggerated a little, but I think every family has a little bit of tension in the room, and when you mix a wide range of friends all together you're bound to get some clashing personalities, so just how do you decide who sits with you?

Do you put family on some side of the room and friends on the other?

Who do you sit closest to the bridal table?

Do you mix friendship groups to encourage mingling or do you try to put people who may have been introduced at some event a couple of years ago together so that they might have something in common?

Do you hide the roudy down the back corner or do you have them right in the middle to stir it up a little?

Do you have odd numbers of people at each table or do you keep the numbers even?

So many decisions, and certainly ones that you have to have a bit of a laugh at, like imagine sitting granny next to so and so!!!

The seating plan is something you have to leave reasonably until the last minute, or at least until you get your RSVPs back.

It's important to check with the venue to see what types of tables they have and how many people can fit at each table, before deciding who fits where.

We are having roughly 140 guests, with round tables that seat 10 each, so 14 tables of 10 people.

Michael and I have decided to do things completely different and we're sitting on the bridal table by ourselves. There's so many reasons that we chose to do this, but mainly because we have such a large bridal party that we'd end up taking up one whole side of the room!!! Haha no, the real reason is because we wanted a chance to spend some time together during the day, and figured that it'd be lovely to be able to sit and eat our meals, and to let it all sink in together! It also gives the bridal party the opportunity to sit with their partners, which is always lovely at a loved up occasion.

We still haven't decided our setting plans, despite messages and discussions with our parents over their table preferences, who we should and shouldn't sit together in the family,and sketching up something ourselves.

So far we've got 2 on one table and 24 on another haha

We're still working out how to split the room, and exactly where the tables will fit and which groups of people should be seated in close proximity to others, but we're getting there!!!!

Do you have any tips or tricks for the seating plan?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Sunday, 1 September 2013

My Top 10 Travel Tips

Travelling is kind of like sex; it's addictive, exciting, can be taken slow and steady or fast paced and full on, is fun, adventurous, and once you pop your cherry you can't help but wait for your next experience.

So what is it about travel that  makes it so addictive?

That you're breaking routine? That you're anywhere but at work? That you get to experience different cultures, ways of life, food, entertainment, music and senses that tickle your fancy?

That you get to see the things that you only thought existed in movies, in real life? That you get to play out your real life dreams and create memories that you'll have forever?

The planing, saving, anticipation and excitement?

Seeing and doing things that you never dreamt of?

I'd say all of the above and more.

Travel doesn't have to be some super expensive, across the other side of the world, full on planned, out there trip away, it could be popping down to a little local spot for a couple of days, or playing tourist in your own state, country or region. The best thing about travel is that it's what you make it.

Now more then ever, globalisation and the advances in technology means that virtually every corner of our planet is now accessible in some way shape or form, making travel a multi billion dollar industry.

You just have to hang out at your local pub on New Years Eve to realise that people are either planning a trip, have recently returned, or are missing in action due to travel calling them far and away from home!!!

So what tips does a travel agent have for those who want to travel?

1. Try to pick one country and do it really well, instead of trying to cram 20 countries into 4 weeks. Going to a country and seeing only the capital is like coming to Australia and only seeing Canberra or Sydney and saying that 'you've been there.' As we all know, Sydney is only a very small snippet of what Australia has to offer, and many would argue that it isn't the 'true' Australia at all. When I travelled to Europe in 2008 I saw 6 countries in 6 weeks (Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Norway). But what I mean be 'being to' a country is going to France and seeing Paris for 4 days, so it isn't exactly seeing the whole country. As I become a more experienced traveller, I have definitely prioritised seeing one country in depth, over rushing through several and it all becoming a blur.

2. Determine what type of a holiday you are after right from the start. Are you over your super busy, flat out all on all of the time lifestyle and are desperately looking for some r n r and cheap cocktails? If so, then you are probably better to invest more money in a decent resort with a day spa, by the beach, where you can hang around in hammocks, chill by the pool and beach, and become a sea lion basking in the sun and then refreshing in the water. If you are after an adrenaline seeking holiday, but you're on a budget, then you're probably best to stay in cheap accommodation and spend more on activities. Just be careful what countries you choose to do these activities in, as different countries have different safety regulations. If you are after a cultural experience, then doing your research and 'going off the beaten track' is probably the best way to experience the 'true culture' of places, instead of being sold 'fake replacements.'

3. Always, always take out travel insurance, no matter whether it's a domestic or international holiday. My motto is if you can't afford travel insurance then you can't afford to travel. You never know what unforeseen circumstances my be lurking in the future, and it's always best to be safe then sorry. You insure your car, house and income, why wouldn't you insure your holiday that you've probably worked and saved darn hard for?

4. The Lonely Planet Guides are like bibles for travel. They include recommendations for places to stay, amazing restaurants to eat out at, activities with great value for money, maps, local sayings, currency conversion, culture and religion and so much more! I don't travel without one.

5. Pre book your must see activities, you know, those activities that you travel half way around the world to go and see and experience for yourself? You wouldn't want to go all that way to find yourself in a queue 1,000 people long, waiting out in the hot sun, parched, and end up thinking stuff it, and then regretting it later on!!! Pre book the activities that you really want to see and do and you won't be disappointed.

6. Consider a guided tour. Tours have changed so much over the years. I know personally, that I used to hate the idea of tours; I thought they were fast paced, with late nights and early starts, full of drunken idiots, and a waste of money. Now I view tours entirely different. When I travelled to Europe I missed out on so much knowledge, so many inside, unique experiences and so many attractions because I stringed on tour guides and screwed up my nose to Contiki and the like. Now I would seriously consider a partially guided, leisurely paced tour when I next travel. They are awesome because they can include first class accommodation, right in the city centres,with local tour guides, the opportunity to have meals cooked for you in peoples houses, activities that you couldn't even imagine, things that you don't see unless you are on a tour, and plenty of free time, as well as guided opportunities.

7. Don't be afraid to try new things. I've drunken snake wine in Vietnam, eaten Reindeer in Norway, tried chips and mayonnaise in the Netherlands, eaten god knows what in Cambodia and probably other things that are a bit hazy due to giving the local beverages a crack, but I don't regret a thing. Be open to new experiences, new foods, giving the local language a go, taking a chance, and stepping out of your comfort zone, and that's when your real experiences begin.

8. Always organise airport transfers. Sounds stupid but can you think of anything worse then being on a plane for 12 hours, not sleeping, jet lagged, blurry eyed and maybe a little drunk after hammering the free alcoholic beverages on international flights and rocking up to a country that doesn't speak your language and having to try get your bags, find a cab or train station and explain where you need to go?

Wouldn't you rather get off the plane and seeing someone with your name on a sign who'll take the stress out of it for you?

9. Don't overlook travel in your backyard. There's such a focus on overseas travel now but there are some truly amazingly beautiful places in Australia. I've travelled the world and I still think Far North Queensland and the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia are two of my favourites! You're keeping your money in your country, and enjoying what your country has to offer, from the Great Barrier Reef, to tropical rain forests, to deserts, large rocks in the middle of no where, mountains, rugged cliff lines, untouched beaches, four wheel driving tracks, man made attractions in Sydney and Melbourne, and so much more!

10. Take the stress out of your holiday and book through a travel agent; they'll do all of the organising for you and you just need to rock up at the airport on the day of departure ready for the ride of a lifetime!

What tips and tricks do you have for travelling?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx