Career Crush: Travel, Work and Friendship

The summer time for many people means that the holiday you booked and planned months in advance is finally near. You get to go out and purchase new swimwear, research the best beaches and finalise your travel itinerary. 

We do this because let’s face it; work sucks. Holidays are when you switch off the work email and have fun with friends. But what if your holiday was your job, and your work colleague was your best mate? And you basically got paid to travel? Whaaaaaat?

Well that’s what Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman, or Tash and Dev as they call themselves, have achieved with absolute perfection, with their blog and brand, A Bikini A Day

A Bikini A Day Back Story 

It doesn’t sound like it was much of a rough starting point to the average girl living in the North East England as such, but it’s definitely a small-time to big-time success story. So, Tash and Dev were living and working in Hawaii shooting look books and videos for local swimwear brands. Sounds like a pretty good job so far, right?

Then they went travelling but kept their connections with the swimwear brands and started sharing pictures wearing said bikinis on the relatively new social network, Instagram. They took this simple idea and turned it into a fully fledged blog with travel and swimwear related content and named it, A Bikini A Day. Amassing a huge following this hobby quickly became a full-time job for both women.

A Day in the Bikini Life

OK so a comparison here would be helpful…

My social media: A snap of my lunch, quick video of my dogs and possibly a picture of my trip to the gym for good measure. 

Their social media: exclusive fashion party in the Hamptons, photoshoot on a beach in Turks and Caicos and definitely boat trips off the Amalfi coast. (I would love to share tons of their pictures but can’t because they aren’t my pics to share! – So head to their Instagram here or I have embedded a few Tweets of theirs throughout). 

This might make some people envious or slightly irritated. But these women are always working. The difference is they have managed to carve a career out of doing something they love and other people want too. In Tash’s own words:

“It’s a full-time, all-consuming job to be constantly creating content.” – Harpers Bazaar, 2016

Moral of the story is: find something you love and turn it into something that’s useful to other people too. 

A Blog that Works

With an endless stream of the type of share-worthy content everyone loves; from bikini reviews and healthy recipes, to the best suncreams and stylish beach bags, A Bikini A Day is a blog designed to fuel the ultimate traveller day dream. 

Starting out as photographers and bloggers themselves, Tash and Dev have continued to shoot and edit their own blog content, even with an audience well into the millions, located all across the globe. 

Making Waves

Tash and Dev now have their own bikini brand; Monday Swimwear. The reason for the name..?

“Because when you’re in a bikini on a Monday, you’re having a good day.” – Monday Swimwear

Fair play. As bikini experts they have managed to source the best fabrics in mix and match shapes and sizing to suit a variety of body shapes (only up to size 16 though I would mention as a downfall). But I really want one. They price at around £120 though, so this is unlikely for me. They also launched an activewear range; Monday Active and have multiple design collaborations with brands including Guess, Revolve and over in the UK, Missguided

Travel and Life Inspiration

If you’re looking for travel inspiration, or even if you have just booked a holiday, don’t forget to check in with A Bikini A Day blog as they have lots of tips for the best products for skin and hair protection in the sun as well as unique places to visit. Plus, if you have started working on a project with a friend that you love, just look at how it’s turned out for Tash and Dev – anything is possible. Dream big, work hard and have fun.

30 Things To Do After 30 – A Bucket List for Grown Ups

For most people, the bucket list is reserved for before you turn thirty. Everyone seems to want to cram everything in before this milestone birthday to feel that renowned sense of achievement. But why? What happens when you turn thirty?  

30 things to do after 30

When the hotel tries to romance you on your birthday. 

I turned thirty on 4th June and I spent the first few hours hungover in Palma airport with a cut knee, waiting for a second flight having missed my first (in my defence it was also my hen do). In this moment I realised I am not quite the person I expected to be at age thirty. However, having got over my hangover and made it safely back to the UK I have since realised I’m totally fine with that – and not just in a Ross from Friends kind of way – genuinely content. 

30 things to do after 30

View from my balcony in Palma (my hen / 30th holiday)

I never made an official bucket list before I turned thirty – so I’m doing one now and it doesn’t have a time limit, so feel free to pinch some ideas if you are looking to also create a no-pressure-bucket-list. So here it is  – my bucket list, after 30 – including travel experiences, goals for personal improvement and plenty of life ideas that are just plain sensible. 

30 Things To Do After 30

  1. Write a book. 
  2. Write a blog for Huffington Post.
  3. Learn to surf in a surfers paradise e.g. Hawaii, Gold Coast, Malibu… etc
  4. Win a bet in Las Vegas. 
  5. See the pyramids in Egypt.
  6. Learn another language.
  7. Quit smoking.
  8. Be a success in my own right (i.e. actually consider myself successful career-wise).
  9. Have a child or two. And raise them well. (Note to mum: remember this has no time limits). 
  10. Raise money for charity and / or give time to charity. 
  11. Eat sushi in Tokyo.
  12. Fly something better than economy class. I’m realistic: it might not be ultra first class, but a step up would be great. 
  13. Get really fit. Stay fit. 
  14. Save some money. Spend it on something worthwhile. 
  15. Read lots of the classics (in addition to all the other crap I read). 
  16. Swim with sharks in the Maldives. (This was a childhood one and I am already regretting adding it). 
  17. Go white water rafting in Canada. (Another one from childhood but I would do this tomorrow. Can you say: ‘The River Wild?’)
  18. Salsa dance in Havana. 
  19. Spoil my partner with an expensive gift or lavish holiday. 
  20. Learn to play guitar. (I own a guitar but don’t know how to play it. Got the first step down, just need the main step covered now).  
  21. Buy a piece of art that makes me feel happy.
  22. Print and frame lots of family and friend photos.
  23. Ruthlessly clear out entire wardrobe. And general possessions. If you haven’t used it in the last year – bin it (or charity shop of course). 
  24. Say ‘yes’ more. Events, gigs, holidays, a night out – whatever it is just saying yes could lead to so much more. 
  25. Call friends and family more. 
  26. Be an absolutely awesomely badass auntie (nephew coming soon…).
  27. Make fresh pasta. Ohhh yeahh.
  28. Deep clean the house more regularly. Not just when guests come. 
  29. Be more knowledgable about politics and world news. 
  30. Take my make up off every night. 

30 things to do after 30

Buy more flowers for the home? Nearly made the list, but that’s a job for other people. Like when it’s your birthday. 

The point is, turning thirty has not been a big deal, but it has made me realise how much more important it is to collect memories instead of things. So having a bucket list might just help me on my way to pursuing a fulfilling life – or at least, one without regret. 

What’s on your bucket list?

Garden Life: Outdoor Styling to put a Spring in your Step

Outdoor Accessories for a Stylish Spring

As Brits we are renowned for premature BBQs, flip flops and even public displays of shirtless torsos on a sunny day. But so what? We don’t have the best weather in the world, so when the sun does shine we make sure we max out the outdoor lifestyle. 

The sun has already shown it’s big bright face a few times this spring, and so far I have:

  • Sunbathed milk bottle legs in denim shorts once.
  • Had two BBQs.
  • Worked outdoors with squinty eyes and a laptop on a few occasions.

AND I AM LOVING IT. One thing we don’t do as well as other cultures is styling our outdoor spaces. In Scandinavia they live and style by the concept of hygge, Asian living has given us the balanced zen styling and in the UK we are just starting to catch on. With all these popular styling trends, an idealistic way of living is the driving force behind it. It’s not about tshirt tans and burnt sausages, but a much more holistic lifestyle that sees the outdoors as another space in the home that should be used regularly.

Here I’ve picked out a few outdoor accessories that will make the outdoor lifestyle even more appealing, come rain or shine. Because whatever the British weather we should all be reaping the benefits of a bit of fresh air and nature from time to time. 

Dial up the Decor with Garden Accessories

Edward and Erica the Elephant Planters – Next – £70 (Erica) and £40 (Edward)

Planting flowers in elephant shaped pots just seems a lot more fun than regular plant pots. Plus, Next have named theirs, which somehow makes them even more desirable. I now have the urge to create a miniature herd at the end of the garden…

outdoor accessories

Light it Up with Outdoor Lanterns

Orb Hurricane Lantern – London Garden Trading Co. – £59.95

With the right lighting you can party all night long outside. Just don’t disturb the neighbours, unless of course it’s a block party! This lava-like lantern looks a burning ball of fire, which is both awesome and practical. 

outdoor accessories

Heaters, because, you know, England.

La Hacienda Moda Lime Firepit – Homebase – £79.99

Being realistic it only stays warm outside in British springtime whilst the sun is out, and even then it’s hit or miss. This stylish firepit looks great, keeps you warm and gives you purpose – you can make a fire, gather round it and heat up marshmallows on sticks. Best. Day. Ever.

outdoor accessories

 

Grow your Own with Herb Planters

Multi Herb Wall Planter – Urban Outfitters – £50

If you don’t have much space outdoors you can make the most of wall space with a wall mounted herb planter. If you have no outdoor space at all (then this post is probably a tad annoying) then you can even use this herb planter indoors – bring a touch of the plant life inside. It’s not just a feature either – get cooking with your freshly grown produce.

outdoor accessories

Outdoor Comfies with a Giant Waterproof Bean Bag

Leda Tribal Transform – BeanBagBazaar – £149.99

Bean bags are not just for kids. This unique bean bag floor cushion can be used indoors and outdoors making it great for lounging away on for perfect lazy, sunny sunday. Caution: you may forget to get up again and lose hours of time. 

outdoor accessories

 

Three Benefits to Being Outdoors

Don’t wait until summer to get outside, it’s too good for your health to pass up the chance of some time spent in the Great Outdoors. 

  1. Vitamin D: it’s essential for a healthy immune system with serious supplies coming directly from the sun. Just keep it safe with factor 30 or higher.
  2. Fresh air: indoor pollutants are far worse than outdoor pollutants. Plus, if you are living in the countryside you are already winning by avoiding the inner city smog. 
  3. Eye sight: artificial light from electronic devices and staring at screens all day is bad for your eye sight and health. Get outdoors and look around occasionally, feed your eyes some natural light.

 

10 Freelancer Tips – Lessons I’ve Learnt One Year On

One year into freelancing I had a little think about what I have learnt. Here’s my 10 freelancer tips and some of them may seem a bit daft, but they are in fact all-too real. 

10 freelancer tips after one year of freelancing

1. Get dressed. Because no, it is not cute. 

So many times I read about freelancers working in their PJs, and then people would also ask me, “do you just stay in bed and work?” And ohh, how I would revel in telling them that “yes, some days I don’t even get dressed!” However, on those days you will find this is the day when the postman / delivery person will knock at your door to take delivery for a neighbour’s parcel – as you are now the only person in the street at home in the day. You may also find that said neighbour will then knock to collect their parcel the next day. Just get dressed. You’ll feel much more human and connected with the normal world when you do. This goes for things like makeup and washing hair too. Honestly I’ve been that bad before. 

2. Overcome the daily struggle with the non-work life.

Working from home is great, but it’s also a problem. My daily distractions are normally dog-related (I have two frenchies). So I will be typing / reading and then all of a sudden I find myself shouting “don’t chew my camera lead!” or “stop humping each other!” As you can imagine this quickly can disrupt one’s creative flow. If it’s possible, try setting up your work area away from distractions. Then there’s just plain procrastination to deal with. I often find myself shocked at the time I’m starting work but then I realise I have spent an hour cleaning and tidying the room so that I feel zen to concentrate. Make lots of lists. This helps focus your day and you get a bit of everything done. After all, you don’t want a new client prospect calling you with your arms full of washing and your frenchie snorting like a pig in the background. 

3. Do something WILD in the middle of the day.

This may sound contradictory to the above point, but here I mean doing something that’s planned and beneficial. You should take the opportunity to enjoy your freedom, otherwise you may as well go back to full-time employment. You now have the power to control your working hours so stick something random that you enjoy right in the middle of the day. It will keep you sane. For example, going to the gym when it’s quiet. This is something people who work in offices can only dream of. Go on, hit the gym at 11am or 2pm. Like I said, WILD. 

4. Find a local cafe. Don’t take the piss. 

This is something I still actually need to do. But it is also something that I know I will really benefit from to stop me from becoming ‘crazy dog lady with no friends’. I’m going to chose one day a week where I work for an hour or two from a cafe. I will likely just do some of my own social media updates – i.e. not something that is right on deadline for a really important client. I put ‘don’t take the piss’ because it’s important to remember the cafe owner is trying to run a business too. So don’t sit there all day, order a tea and plug every electronic device you own into their sockets. If you have client meetings, maybe suggest you meet there. This shows willing with your new cafe owner friend and that you’re a benefit of a customer, not a nuisance. 

freelancer tips

Maybe order more than a tea. 

5. Promote yourself. Networking aint easy. 

Building up your connections takes time. Start promoting yourself with a blog, social media presence and networking regularly before you quit your full time job (and actually take on freelancing work before you quit!) Then, even when you are freelance and have a decent client base you will still need to promote yourself like you’re Kylie Jenner. Don’t be shy, put yourself out there. You are now the face of your business and you aren’t going to grow your business unless you are constantly connecting with new people and making a lasting (and positive, hopefully) impression. 

6. Get a kick out of saying ‘no’. In a non-sadistic way. 

OK, so when you first start out the urge to say ‘yes’ to anything and everything is strong. On the flip side, if you need to earn more money, then it’s understandable. The solution is to find a way to make this work for you. Be clear on what your services are and how you create value for your clients. Make sure your client is also clear on this before agreeing to work with them. Then, if it still doesn’t feel right, it is OK to say ‘no’. Be proud of yourself for turning down a job that isn’t right for you. You should be developing a specialism and a brand. Try and still be helpful though; this client may have a job in the future that is perfect for you, so put them in touch with someone you think could be better placed to help them. 

7. Make friends and ask questions. You don’t know everything. If anything at times. 

This may sound harsh but I have a tendency to want to do everything myself – hence: ‘freelance’. However, I have recently come to accept that I simply do not have all the answers. Plus, freelancing can be down right scary at times when you’re struggling with a job. Join Facebook groups with other like-minded people; I’m a member of regional blogger and PR Facebook groups, which are filled with kind people going through the same thing daily! You should also not feel scared about reaching out to people you used to work with if you just want some friendly advice. Just think, if it was the other way round I know I would be more than happy to help one of my former colleagues or friends if they came to me with a question. If they don’t want to help you, then maybe stop being friends with that weirdo. 

8. Be a pro.

Here we have the seemingly boring crap; written agreement, spreadsheet with your income and outgoings, receipts. All that jazz. You’ll be thankful for it when you come to doing your annual return, or when a client is late paying you. You will also feel like one of those really cool businessy people that knows what they’re doing / has had screwed on. Even when you mostly don’t. But if you can get your business admin down you are winning half the battle. 

9. Keep learning. 

When you go from working in an office surrounded by talented people with different career backgrounds and years of varied industry experience, to then working with two frenchies that know how to fart, sleep and eat really well, you realise how much knowledge you used to absorb on a daily basis. It’s now up to you to keep learning and absorbing knowledge and new skills in your chosen field. Using your hard earned freelancer cash is always well-spent in Boots or ASOS (my vice), but it is also well-spent when you reinvest it in a training course. I took a creative writing course last year (read my course review here) and I’m planning another one for this year. Whenever I hear of training I’m noting it down, I’m subscribing to online tutorials and I’m reading successful copywriter’s blog articles. The biggest fail as a freelancer is to stay still too long. Keep learning!

freelancing

Floyd is needy during work hours. 

10. Have confidence.

One of your best USPs for selling your services as a freelancer is believing in yourself. When you quit your job, you quickly realise that you kind of have no choice but to believe in you – it’s one of those ‘sink or swim’ situations. When you get your first payment and you realise you did it all by yourself, and that someone out there is actually willing to pay for your work – that feels pretty good. Really good in fact. If you have a tough time, try and remember the time when it was good and motivate yourself to keep going and be proud of your self-confidence!

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This Girl Can – and Phenomenal Women Will

Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign sparked a conversation a year ago that hasn’t stopped. It returned to our TV screens and social media a week ago and is already having phenomenal impact – especially with it’s new message to women; that it’s OK to start again. 

You’ve got two burpees left and your legs feel like two planks of wood, but you’re not stopping when every single person at the bootcamp is screaming your name. You sit down at the leg press machine at the gym and today, you’re going to push yourself a little more, so you move the metal pin down a notch pressing the heaviest weights you ever have *smug face. There’s never enough hours in the day, but a quick run around the block is better than nothing at all, so you go for it and with your short window, you actually achieve a personal best… 

This Girl Can

Lydia, 29, hated P.E., loves roller derby.

This Girl Can – but how do you get there?

Working out can fill you with an enormous sense of pride and achievement, but what about if you stop? When you stop for a week, a week can easily become a month and a few months all of sudden can become a year. The impending doom felt walking back into that class, gym or just stepping out solo on the tarmac, is enough to weigh heavy on anyone’s shoulders. Quite frankly, it’s awful. 

I used to go to dance school three or four times a week plus doing sports at school. During uni and my working life I’ve tried a few different things; I tried the gym and even going to dance classes again. But the gym was a whole new world of intimidating machinery and dancing felt embarrassing as I couldn’t do anything I was able to do all those years ago. Group classes at the gym were tough and without even a basic fitness level, (I smoke cigarettes and drink wine like it’s water) I started telling myself I needed to go to the gym alone before starting again at a group class, just to make sure I could do it (excuses, excuses). 

This Girl Can – and it’s OK to feel nervous

When I looked into the latest campaign for This Girl Can, I was actually relieved to see so many other people shared this feeling of anxiety about getting back into working out (not that I want people to feel anxious, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone).

“Many of the women we’ve featured talk about stopping, then starting again. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to return after a few weeks off, when you fear you’ve lost ground or fitness, but we want to surface this as a discussion point, to say it’s normal to take a break, but that needn’t stop you for good.”

 – Sport England chief executive Jennie Price, Feb 2017

This year, I have a motivating factor that I’m getting married and I just want to be fitter and healthier. So I’ve started learning kickboxing, because I need something that keeps me focused on learning something new (running on a treadmill is mind-numbing to me). My partner and I also do a weekly strength and conditioning session together with our trainer. Plus, I’m starting to get into weights more at the gym in my own time. 

So I’ve finally found my way back to sport and more than anything I feel like me again. I always considered myself a busy and active person, and now I really am, plus I’m aiming to be the fittest I’ve ever been. Because, why not? 

This Girl Can

This Girl Can – and she’s going to make waves

Sport England has returned with it’s latest advert for the This Girl Can campaign to keep the positive momentum going and to continue to inspire and connect with a female audience – because believe it or not there is still a big gender gap in sport participation. 

“…the job is far from done. With a gender gap of 1.73 million fewer women playing sport compared to men, we need to keep getting the message out there that women come in all shapes and sizes and levels of ability, and they should all feel able to exercise and play sport.”

– Sport England chief executive Jennie Price, Jan 2016

This year, the target age demographic has widened; originally targeting 14-40 year olds, this year’s campaign focuses on 14-60 year olds. If the success of the original campaign is anything to go by, with a whopping 2.8 million women saying they did more sporting activity as a result of the campaign, (Sport England, Feb 2017) then this year’s is set to inspire even more, including that older demographic.

this girl can

Sue, 67, cold water gives her a buzz.

Just check out 67-year-old Sue who enjoys cold water swimming (!) To overcome the anxiety of getting back into something, or even starting something new, maybe consider what motivates you to be active then find the right activity to suit your lifestyle – there’s so much out there to choose from! There’s everything from aerial trapeze to rave trampolining, but cold water swimming is absolutely not for me. I couldn’t possibly think of anything much worse, but props to anyone that chooses to do this! 

This Girl Can – and nothing will stop her

Personally, I have always whinged about going to fitness classes. My mum used to tell me as she pushed me towards the car, “you’ll be fine when you get there” (a phrase that covered a multitude of foot-stomping situations, see also: ‘getting to school when feeling sick’). But I always was fine. In fact, I was more than fine, I was really happy. So take the advice from my mum, because ‘Mum knows best’ and tell yourself, ‘you’ll be fine when you get there.’ Then you can feel extra surprised when you feel phenomenal when you’re done. 

This Girl Can – watch the full advert

 Click to watch the full 2017 This Girl Can advert from Sport England.

Featuring words by Maya Angelou and soundtrack by Beth Ditto. 

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