Women in Business: Get Blogging!

I had a guest post published today by Communities Online, about why professional women should be blogging more. Of course, there’s a huge focus on getting women into board positions just now. For aspirational girls and women, being able to read first-hand advice and anecdotes about that journey would be inspiratinal, and help to forward the movement.

Girls and women have always looked for role models – our mums or our peers, and especially celebs in glossy magazines. So it follows that to see an increase of women on Boards, we need to see women on Boards, or women on the path to Boards.

Blogging is a great way to become visible, and is a tool that could be used (and should be used) by successful women to achieve that. By blogging, inspirational ladies can be the professional role models young women need without even leaving the comfort of their own homes.

To read the whole article, including why women don’t blog more, click here.


Love Yourself Like You Love Your Neighbour

Gone are the days of “love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

We seldom do love ourselves. If we were to follow this idiom, and treat others as we treat ourselves, the results would be carnage! We would keep them awake at night with worry and stress. We would be critical of their appearance. We would constantly question whether they are good enough. We would work them like dogs; at work, at the gym, at home, with friends, treating them to a constant monologue breaking down each action and telling them how they did that wrong, should be embarrassed about this, should be doing the other. It would be downright cruel. And yet, we do this to ourselves every day. In this day and age we spend so much time pleasing others, helping others, loving others, and we seldom treat ourselves to the same kindnesses.

I had the pleasure last month of attending a seminar courtesy of Earth Events, with Leona D’Vas as the representation from Woman.com.au. The event was Self Love and Sisterhood, and featured four inspiring women teaching us the ways of self love. Not that self love, calm down! No, the kind of self love that means we treat our body, soul and mind like it’s the only one we’ve got, like it’s fragile and precious. Because it is, right?

Read Leona’s review of that event here, and get your free eBook about the event here.

So the event got me thinking about our attitude towards ourselves. ‘Self Love’ is about being selfish. Not in the mean way – it’s good to help people, and it’s great to care about people. I’ve been reading Kamal Ravikant’s Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, and he uses the best example I’ve heard. Anyone who’s been on a plane knows, you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you. Why? Because we can’t help others if we run out of oxygen ourselves. We need to stop saving this attitude of self preservation for life-threatening situations. Life is precious every day! And we need to appreciate it and love ourselves. Every. Damn. Day.

We are so much kinder on others than we are on ourselves. The Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign is testament to that – if you haven’t seen it, have a look here (and have tissues at the ready!) In the ad, a forensic artist draws women purely from their description of themselves. Then he draws them again, this time from a description by a random stranger. Not a friend or loved one, just a person they’ve had a wee chat with for ten minutes. The differences are phenomenal. The drawings from the strangers descriptions are not only more beautiful, but more accurate. We need to start showing ourselves this kind of appreciation!

Let’s change the saying. Let’s love ourselves as we love others. Let’s notice the good stuff about ourselves, and excuse the negatives. Let’s encourage ourselves to be better without criticising. And let’s realise that some days, being better means just taking a quiet moment to appreciate and love ourselves. Then we can get around to loving others just as much.

List: Unexpected lessons from traveling the world

I’m far from an expert, but after traveling for three months, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the world, different cultures and myself. I could write for pages and pages about all this, but here’s a quick rundown of the things that I wasn’t expecting to learn.

1: Bum hoses are the future

As anyone who has traveled to Asia might tell you, the whole toilet situation can become quite stressful, from Delhi Belly to squat toilets – but I’m here to tell you that it’s not all trauma in the little girls’ room. Something that I had never heard mentioned is a toilet hose, which you can find hanging beside any plumbed-in toilet in Thailand and Vietnam (and probably beyond, but I’ll stick to what I know). We didn’t know what it was called, but it looked like a hose for your bum – hence, bum hose. We were dubious at first, but by the time we flew to New Zealand five weeks later, we were bum-hose-converts – there’s nothing like the fresh feeling of … well, you get the idea.

But that’s not where it stopped – I soon found many uses for the trusty bum hose. It’s great for giving the toilet seat a quick clean before sitting down. If there isn’t a sink, use it to wash your hands. Been to the beach? Don’t traipse sand all through the apartment, bum hose your feet! I also once raged a war on a team of ants trying to get in about my shower with the bum hose. The possibilities are endless, and every toilet should come equipped with a bum hose.

A handy guide to using the toilet hose

2: There is such a thing as too many noodles/Buddhas/museums

I set off on my travels with an ambition: I was going to eat local food all the time, and I was going to see everything. The first leg went really well – we saw two Buddhas, celebrated the King’s birthday, shopped in Siam square and ate in a different place for every meal, all in just four days in Bangkok (when you take into account the two days we suffered with jet lag, this is pretty impressive). Cut to week four in Vietnam, and we were sick to death of noodles, and we were exhausted. We had looked down upon those who caved in and had pizza and full English breakfasts in Bangkok, but Oh-Em-Gee, were we craving bread and bacon now! On top of that, temples were no longer impressive, and museums were downright boring. We felt like we had literally seen it all, and where’s my pina colada on the beach already?

My advice to you: you can’t see it all, and sometimes you need home comforts. Choose the educational and cultural things you want to see, and remember to schedule in a few days to relax and really enjoy the 3/6/12 months you’ve taken off work – if you don’t, you’ll only need another holiday afterwards. And take your home comforts when you can! A lot of the smaller towns and islands won’t have real milk (how I missed tea!), and the menu options were noodles, rice, or noodle soup. Take some time to look after yourself, or else you’re going to burn out.

3: Pineapple juice is good for jellyfish stings too

Now I’m not a doctor, biologist, zoologist  or anything clever like that, so don’t take this as gospel. When we were scuba diving in Railey, Thailand, my boyfriend felt something zap him on the lips and had to stop. He never saw what caused the damage, but his trout pout was pretty impressive, and he said it was stingy. We’re still not entirely sure, but we reckon it was a teeny tiny jellyfish, or a bad reaction to a sea lice sting. Well, we all know the cure for a jellyfish sting, but for some reason he wasn’t really up for a wee in the face – each to their own, eh? So we got on Google (other search engines are available, but who knows what they are), and discovered alternative cures such as vinegar or pineapple juice. We met up with some friends at a bar, and Chris spent the night drinking rum and pineapple juice with plenty of soothing ice. Whaddya know? He felt fine in no time. Whether this was the rum or the pineapple at work, we’ll never know.

4: People are mostly good eggs

Throughout our travels, we had to rely on the kindness of strangers a lot. From asking a local in Bangkok where the hell we were, to politely requesting a jump-start not once, but twice in campsites in New Zealand, there were a lot of opportunities for people to double cross us, make fun of us or just be generally unhelpful. But they weren’t. We got a bus all the way across Vietnam with no-one who spoke English. We entrusted our worldly possessions to uncountable hotel receptions while we waited for transport/an available room. We let people know that we were totally lost, broke or homeless, and asked for their help. And, aside from one or two incidents, people looked after us. While I’m still sensible and cautious, it’s made me far less cynical about other people’s motives. After all, if you were on the other side, you’d do your best to help too, wouldn’t you?

Review: Born to Blog by Mark W Schaefer and Stanford A Smith

Thanks to The Social Penguin Blog, I had a chance to review Born to Blog by Mark W Schaefer and Stanford A Smith.

Born to Blog

The book takes the reader on a journey of discovery, starting with the question: were you born to blog? Spoiler alert – you were. Apparently we all fit into five blogging specialities: storytelling, dreaming, persuading teaching or curating. We’re taken through each skill, shown examples and told stories. With three years of research behind the book, including 500 blogs and interviews with over 150 bloggers, I know I can trust this book. Then a sentence like this kind of makes me doubt that:

“A person who cannot dream will die”

Whoa! That seems a bit tough to back up – how many people have died from ‘an inability to dream’?

Uh oh, not a great start …! Read the full review here to see if the book redeemed itself.

Apostrophe Girls Create Copywriting Collective

While in Australia, I had the opportunity to join the community at WOMAN.com.au – bringing  people, places, resources and happenings together in one place. Our chief focus is on enabling and inspiring women to achieve their goals, with an emphasis on careers, business and lifestyle.

My work with WOMAN.com.au is mostly in an editorial context, but when KerryAnn Bartle got an interview with two female founders, I was asked to write it up. Hell yes! The story was about a new copywriting collective, founded by a couple of fabulous females.

It all began with two women who share a love for storytelling and a knack for words. Despite doing what they both love working in advertising, they were unhappy, constantly searching for inspiration over tea breaks. Driven by a desire to change their circumstances, Apostrophe Copywriters – Melbourne’s first copywriting collective – was born. Founders Crystal Fong and Stefanie DiGianvincenzo created a group of award-winning, freelance copywriters who collaborate with almost anyone, from design to digital agencies, brand managers and even like-minded start-ups.

If you want to read the whole article, check it out here. Although I’m back in the UK now, I still do some work with WOMAN.com.au – and of course I keep up to date with all their stories too!

Four Brands Rocking Social Media

We spend a lot of our time telling everyone how to “do” social media. Use hashtags – but not too many. Reply to commenters. Choose a tone of voice and be consistent etc etc etc. Often we include examples of people who get it so, so wrong. But who’s getting it right?

To find out what four brands I dig, read the original post on The Social Penguin Blog. It also got picked up by Social Media Today – I feel like an online celeb already. Excuse me, my milk bath is ready now …

Thailand Diaries: Ton Sai, Ao Phra Nang and More Monkeys


Dinner with a view – Ton Sai

On 13th December we returned to the mainland – sort of. We were on a peninsular that you can only reach by boat, called Laem Phra Nang. It has a series of beaches that you can trek between, but the easiest way to get between them is a long boat taxi or by renting a kayak. We stayed three nights in Ton Sai, which is a hippy paradise! The rock climbing is great, so you get a lot of people who come just for that, and we saw some people base-jumping too – it looked terrifying! They were really high up, but it just didn’t seem high enough to get a parachute up; there were no casualties, thankfully.


That orange blob is the parachute of a guy who has just jumped of a ledge on that cliff …


… and touching back down to earth, with a bit of an audience.

Other things to do on Ton Sai are listening to reggae music, drink and learn circus tricks! There are tight ropes everywhere, and opportunities to learn fire tricks like poi and fire breathing. I took three steps on a tightrope!


Me on a tightrope! In the dark, sorry.

We saw a great fire show, but we thought that one of the guys could do with a bit more practice with the fire poi because he kept dropping them and hitting himself …


This guy kept losing his poi and hitting himself ...


... But this guy was pretty good!


We stayed in another hut on Ton Sai, but it was so lovely. We were up the hill in a resort called Pasook resort, which was clean, mostly bug free, sturdy and included a fully hole-free mosquito net! They also have a small shop where you can buy these mosquito incense spirals, which are really useful but definitely not a replacement for your mosquito repellent! The huts are kind of in the jungle though, so beware monkey invasions. They come and raid the bins on the verandas, and took a big bag of crisps and a bottle of coke (!) that I had left outside.


Stealing crisps – well that’s easy …



… but surely she can’t get into a closed bottle of soda??




On one of the days in Ton Sai we rented a Kayak to explore the neighbouring beaches. We went to investigate Railey, as we intended to move on to there the next day, and also went to Ao Phra Nang beach: the home of Tham Phra Nang, or Princess Cave (‘Phra Nang’ means ‘revered lady’). The story goes that a beautiful Indian Princess was involved in a nearby shipwreck, and her spirit came to reside in this cave. The locals believe that she influenced the fertility of the sea and leave her gifts to encourage large catches … very specific gifts … phalluses. There are loads of them and they’re mostly massive.


Cave full of willies


Thailand Diaries: Snorkelling in Koh Lanta


Beautiful decoration on the Thai long boats

So, we finished our time in Ko Lanta with a snorkeling trip. We got a big boat to Ko Phi Phi, then a long boat around the various islands of Ko Phi Phi. We stopped at Monkey Island, where we fed the monkeys our left over bananas from lunch.


Feeding the monkeys – our guide hurried us a bit here, and we learned why later. A friend we met got bitten by one of these guys!!

Then we headed to a cove where we could climb stairs up to the island and walk around to Mia Beach, where they filmed The Beach with Leonardo Di Caprio. It was beautiful, with white sand like sherbet, but packed full of people. We definitely had more fun actually in the water, where we saw loads of coral, a gazillion fish and some scary sea urchins. (Unfortunately for this post, we don’t have a waterproof camera, so no pictures of Mia Beach or sea urchins)


We were there with a lovely Malaysian family – just the five of them and the two of us on the trip – and they had a little boy who didn’t want to put his face in the water. They got a sandwich bag and some bread and spent ages trying to catch one to show him! They did it eventually, and because they were throwing loads of bread in, all the fish came to our boat, it was great. Don’t worry, they threw the wee fish back!


Thailand Diaries: Beach Bumming on Koh Lanta


On the 8th we just chilled out, in preparation for our 16 hour train ride that night. We got the sleeper train from Bangkok to Trang, then a bus (and two car ferries while on the bus) to Koh Lanta Yai, off the Andaman coast. So far we’ve only booked flights and sleeper trains in advance, so we just popped into a travel agent in Trang to arrange a bus, and book our first two nights in a beach hut.


The Island of Ko Lanta is beautiful. We stayed on Ao Phra-Ae (Long Beach) for four nights. By the end of that though, it was a bit too long – the whole island was really quiet, with not a lot to do in the evenings. We missed the only party on the first night we were there! We were so tired after the long journey, and the music kept us up until the wee hours. We considered going out, but reckoned there would be another party tomorrow – wrong! According to the bar staff, it was unusually quiet for this time of year, but I get the impression that even when it’s busy, it’s not THAT busy. The weather was brilliant though, so we took the opportunity to relax on the beach, drink some beer and work on our tans (or, more accurately, my tan and Chris’s freckles).


We stayed the first two nights in a teeny tiny beach hut, with a cold shower and a hammock on the veranda – the resort was called Lanta LD Beach. It was our own beach paradise in theory, but a bit open to the beasties in reality. I’m not great at the budget travelling – the hut was raised from the sand, but you could see down through the floor boards, and our mosquito net had a few holes. It was great for the price we paid, but I was glad to move on to something a bit sturdier for our second two nights at Palm Beach Resort.


Although it’s supposed to be the dry season here, we did see a lot of rain in Ko Lanta. It came on like clockwork at 4pm every day, and absolutely poured down for about an hour. This is a good time to get a nap and a shower before dinner – it did rain again in the evening one night, but the sun was battering down the rest of the time, so we didn’t mind too much. If it does start raining while you’re on the beach, drop your towels and bags off at one of the beach bars, and head into the sea, where the water feels as warm as a bath. It’s a great experience!

Thailand Diaries: The Grand Palace


The Grand Palace

Picking up where I left off, on the 7th we headed out to the Grand Palace to see the Emerald Buddha. According to an old friend from school who is Thai, if we don’t see the Emerald Buddha, we just haven’t seen Thailand! The Grand Palace was beautiful – it puts Buckingham Palace to shame. The guards were rubbish though; they kept scratching their noses and laughing. It was blisteringly hot that day, the sun was splitting the sky! I was glad to whap out my maxi dress for the Grand Palace, but Chris wore shorts – not allowed! You can borrow long pants for free, but the queue was massive, so we paid 20THB and a 100THB deposit to rent some from outside the palace. They had elephant patterns on them, Chris looked very dashing.


Thai guards – not quite as disciplined as what we British are used to


Emerald Buddha – no photos allowed in the temple, but you get the jist!


Elephant pants

At the palace we nearly fell for one of the common scams, which we actually read about in the guidebooks. We approached the wrong entrance (we didn’t know that at the time), and a guy told us that the palace was shut for prayer. He said we could go on a boat tour instead, and he would get us a tuk tuk, and we could come back later, all for 900THB. I fully expect we would have got our boat tour, but we decided to explore on our own, found the right entrance to the Palace and realised what had just happened. It is quite a common thing, these people just want to direct your custom to them and their own, albeit at a high price. We didn’t feel unsafe and the guy was really polite and not pushy at all, which is why we almost considered it! But as far as scams go, some overcharging and encouraging you to see other sights isn’t too bad – everyone has to make a buck!


Walking around the temple of the Grand Palace