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Monday, 2 January 2017

An Honest Look At 2016; Mistakes, Triumphs, Achievements, Lessons Learnt

luxury crete


I was debating whether or not to do a '2016 round up post'. Usually, I'd have had one written by the end of December but in December, life threw many curveballs at us and my priorities changed. I went from feeling on top of things to only wanting to focus on my family and their health and wellbeing. If you read my blog post about the truth behind social media, you'll know that we've been dealing with a few not so nice things recently, behind the glamour of social media and it kind of knocked me off track and put my life into perspective. One thing 2016 really taught me is the importance of family and wellbeing. It's crazy, my job is social media and I'll do everything I can to defend these wonderful platforms we have, but, I do agree, it's so important to remain real, which is why if something is going on, even if I can't go into detail about what it is, I'll let you know that behind the filtered cocktail, posed bikini photo, there is a real heart, person and emotions in there. I think it is so important to put perspective on life. Now I'm finally getting myself together after some much needed rest, I've decided to write this blog post as more of a reflective post. I wanted to do this from an honest reflective point of view and talk to you about some of my highlights of 2016, my mistakes of 2016 and the things I've learnt, as well as some things I'll take with me this year. It's interesting, you see a lot of people on social media bashing people for making goals and celebrating the new year. I have an issue with that. If someone wants to use the new year as a way to set goals and better themselves, then why not let the new year be a fresh page for them? Yes, of course January 1st, 2017 is just another day in the calendar, but, if it gives people a reason to make positive changes and set achievable goals, then I'm certainly not going to turn my nose up at that. Let's chat, grab a coffee, it's a rambly one but I hope you'll love it.

If you've been around for a while (thank you from the bottom of my heart if you have, you're welcome to sit and giggle over cake with me anytime), I'm sure you'll have read my 2015 review post. 2015 is one of those years that I'll forever look back at as one of the best years of my life. I moved across the world. I took risks, chances and pushed myself out of every comfort zone possible. Without that scary, exhilarating and year of complete freedom, I definitely wouldn't be who I am today. I think because 2015 was such an epic rollercoaster of emotions, I guess I didn't feel like I achieved anything near that (from a personal point of view) in 2016. 

Success - You see, success and achievements are measured in different ways, by different people. Some people measure success by money. Some people measure success by followers. Others, measure success by personal triumphs, for example: I got on a plane by myself, I got out of an abusive relationship. Those mini fist pump moments that benefited you in more ways than money ever could. I feel like actually, most of my 2016 triumphs weren't about money or numbers, but actually, were about how they built me as a person. 

Fuel The Fire - I went for a chat with an old colleague the other day and he asked me what drives me. He said it isn't money, so what is it? It took me a while, I guess we're conditioned to think success = material possession, a fancy house and a good wage, but then I realised, the fire in my belly and my huge drive (one which has knocked me over with exhaustion a number of times because I drive myself into the ground far too often workaholic wise) come from people telling me I can't do it. At school, I won the award 'most likely to be a playboy bunny' simply because I was blonde. I did well in school, I got A's and was definitely into my studies, but people would judge me because I liked fashion and beauty. How is it a bad thing, being blonde and liking beauty? It does not define me as dumb and it certainly does not define me as a 'playboy bunny'. I remember teachers looking at me as if I'd never become anything, they assume I'd become a 'footballers girlfriend' and live off a mans money (something I couldn't bring myself to do by the way, my Mum has brought me up to be the breadwinner, just a personal opinion but it just shows how wrongly people judge). One teacher told me 'you'll be that Mum who doesn't care about her child and is too busy doing her hair to pick them up from school'. I guess my life has been full of people telling me what I can't do and that fuelled me to prove every single person wrong. No-one at school knew what I was going through with my home life but I gritted my teeth and got through it. I was laughed at so much when I started my blog in my last few months of 6th form. I was ridiculed when I walked into the communal areas. Looking back, I'm so glad I continued to follow my passions. Another fuel in my belly is a person who left and abandoned me when I was in my first year of University. Again, something I just can't really talk about right now and don't have the strength to discuss as this battle is not yet over, but if this person didn't abuse me and treat me the way they did (and still continue to do, against police orders), I may not be the person I am today. Bad things happen for a reason and they make us strong, they make us fight and they make us work hard. Without these bad things, I may not be as revved up and fuelled to make something of myself, to inspire others and to work hard. You may see the pretty pictures and you wouldn't know half the stuff I've been through in my young 23 years, but I do have plans to talk about them, one day. Thanks for sticking with me. 

Achieving - I love seeing different peoples achievements as Facebook statuses and tweets, what may not seem like an achievement to you, could be a huge one to someone else. So often we don't celebrate our successes and it is truly important to pat yourself on the back every once in a while. 

Let's look at my 2016.

January - I kicked off January by shooting a campaign for Clinique. For me, working with my all-time favourite brands is ridiculously exciting. As much as I adore working with and discovering new brands, there's nothing more exciting than working with a household name, a brand you have used and loved forever, for me, Clinique is one of those brands. I headed to Milton Keynes with Lydia Millen where together we took part in a campaign for the launch of their Pep-Start range (a range which is now, months on, still a skincare staple for me). I also appeared on a billboard in Piccadilly Circus for this campaign which was a little bit of a pinch me moment! You can read my behind the scenes blog post about this online here. 

February - I spent some time at London Fashion Week, working with some amazing brands (read those posts here) but mainly, getting to shoot with Oscar May who is fabulous and has turned into a friend, rather than colleague. That's the great thing about this industry, so often people end up becoming my friends and I really appreciate having such incredibly supportive and inspiring people in my life.

Whilst all of this was going on, I found myself in my final and 4th year of my degree at The University of Leeds, unsure if I'd ever be able to complete it. The year came with many almost mental breakdowns. I physically couldn't juggle everything. 

blogging tips
March - In March, I finally put together an updated blogging tips post. It was more of a reflective, 'what I've learnt through blogging post' and I was so happy with the results. Blogging is an odd one, you can't tell anyone how to do it, you are your niche and it's a really personal thing, but I really enjoyed writing this post. In 2016, from January onwards I took part in a lot of talks at University. I was lucky enough to be invited to talk on the media panel alongside some serious industry experts at the University Of Leeds, as well as talk in a few lectures for the business school and then I hosted my own lecture for a media futures event for the University of Leeds. I love giving back so these were really great, they helped me grow as a person, they built my confidence and my people skills but also taught me I love presenting to large audiences. The feedback from these was unreal, I got to meet readers but also, engage with people who are as in love with this industry as I am. I'd love to do some more, bigger talks about blogging in 2017. 

I decided to start writing more personal posts in March, I kicked it off with a blog post about the importance of loving yourself, something I massively learnt in 2016. It's so easy to lose sight of what really matters but how can you be 100% happy if you're not caring for yourself along the way? We're great at caring for those around us, but sometimes you need to give yourself some credit, treat yourself to a glass of wine, a night off and a pamper. I realised I definitely need more sleep! Sometimes, you need to be kinder to yourself.

halong bay
April - I really missed the amount of travel I'd done in 2015 and was determined to continue this into 2016. If you read my blog post about honesty, you'd know that I restarted my final year at University, moved back to student accommodation in Leeds and broke up with my long term boyfriend. It seemed in 2016, I definitely wouldn't have the time to travel and see the world. Doing a degree alone, is hard enough, let alone getting over a long relationship, juggling a business but somehow, I made it work. It was all about prioritising and I decided to focus most of April on writing a draft dissertation so I could be free to Easter to go and explore with Matt. I set a goal and reached it, meaning I was able to join Matt for a whirlwind Asia trip. We visited Halong Bay and spent a week in Hanoi - two of my favourite places in the world. 

I got round to visiting a lot of new places and visited China for the first time. As much as I love revisiting places, I also love exploring new places and China had been on my list for a long time. Matt's launching a clothing brand (which will all be UK British made) but we headed to China to decide whether or not Chinese manufacturing was for him. It was still an amazing experience. Read about Chimelong safari park and staying in the W hotel in Guangzhou which was incredible by the way

hong kong
We headed over to Hong Kong and I fell in love with the vibrant city and the amazing food. We were really unlucky with weather and our hotel, but, we made the most of the incredible city and fell in love. Read my Hong Kong guide. I can't wait to go back. 

Promising to do more personal posts, I finally opened up about something which has massively affected me. I wrote about my experience of getting cheated on and what it did to me. This was one of my most popular posts of 2016 and whilst it helped me by getting it off my chest, what means the most is the amount of people who still email me about this post to this day. They say it's helped them and for me, that shines brighter than any comfort it gave me. I really realised in 2016 that using your voice in a way to talk about taboo topics or personal things that have happened to me, really help people in ways I could never imagine. 

I feel like 2016 was the year of writing about things close to my heart. Amongst all the beauty and fashion, I upped my fitness game. I wrote about the dangers of clean eating and really delved into social media and eating clean. Again, the response to this blog post blew me away and I'm so happy I wrote it. 

vietnamese village
As much as I adore luxury travel, I had the chance to visit Yen Duc Village and learn about the daily life of a Vietnamese family. It was such a humbling, lovely experience. We learnt how to make rice, we went fishing with the locals and more. It's little things like this that mean the most to me, they allow me to move away from Westernised life and realise that other people live so differently. You can read about my time in Yen Duc Village. 

I also got the chance to visit Malaysia. It was great to see the world with Matt. Read about my time in Kuala Lumpur.

May - As with every year, you learn a lot about true friends. Another personal post, I wrote about the importance of good friendships. It's so true, if you hang around with like minded, supportive individuals, it really is good for your well being. Sadly, people who may be your friends at the start of the year don't always end up being there at the end of the year. More on that soon. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by a seriously fabulous bunch of blogger ladies, who aren't just bloggers, but are genuinely my friends. They lift me up, support me and help me. 

June - 2 days before my final law exam, I flew to Milan with Essie for a whirlwind 24 hour trip of a lifetime. Much like Clinique, Essie have been one of my favourite brands for a long time and exams or not, I couldn't turn down the chance to 1. visit Milan and 2. experience such a dreamy trip with one of my all time favourite brands. I made it work and revised on the plane, in the hotel and any spare second I had. I was also invited to do a photoshoot with Rankin when I got back, but sadly, it was on the day of my final exam. Read about my whirlwind 24 hours in Milan. You can make it work, I just had to do a lot of juggling and had a lot of late nights.

kourtney kardashian beauty tips
July - I'm not a huge reality TV fan but who doesn't know who the Kardashians are? I was given the opportunity to grab a quick coffee with Kourtney Kardashian and ask her a few questions with Manuka Honey (and incredible brand I discovered in 2016). I asked her all about her favourite beauty products, beauty tips and more. If you missed it, make sure you read my questions with Kourtney Kardashian

what to do in cyprus
I headed back to a location I'd visited as a child with my family, Cyprus. Somewhere I never thought I'd go back to, but Matt and I wanted a cute little warm weekend trip and we honestly had the best time. It led me to write about Cyprus as a massively underrated location. Read about why you should visit Cyprus

Pretty much straight after Cyprus, I headed to Ibiza with Barry M. I had the most amazing trip, learning about a brand I've grown up with but mainly, meeting some incredibly, inspiring women on the trip. I feel so lucky that in 2016 I was surrounded by so many girl bosses. Read about my girls trip to Ibiza. 

July - In July I teamed up with Pink Soda Sport to bring you a number of workouts for my channels and theirs. It really meant I could film loads more fitness videos and push out one of my biggest passions, fitness and health. You can read more here.  

I had a really difficult decision to make in July. Sadly, I had to move out of my beautiful student house (which I loved and I loved the people I lived with too) as everyone moved home and graduated. This left me with nowhere to live. My friends either went home or moved away for jobs and as much as I adore home (I really do) I wanted to be in the city so I could easily get the train to London (I'm in London multiple times a week) and I also wanted to be close to Matt who lives miles away from me and is currently studying for his masters. I made the decision to sign for a beautiful house with two girls, paid my rent and then a few weeks before we moved in, it fell through and we were left back at square one. After this, we panic signed for anything we could find. Things seemed okay to begin with and I used it as a base, rarely, but at least I had that base.

leeds university graduation
I somehow managed to graduate amongst everything, woohoo! I graduated from the University of Leeds and it inspired my what University taught me post. I invited you to graduate with me on my graduation blog post. The hardest part? Choosing a graduation dress and trying not to fall down the stairs in my Louboutins! I genuinely nearly crumbled, a fair few times in 2016 because of this degree. I couldn't finish it, I couldn't physically do a degree on top of everything else, but somehow, I managed it. I'm so glad I stuck with it but it did come with a ridiculous amount of stress. 

I had a none working week in Spain with my family and it was absolute bliss. I absolutely adore travel but I spend the whole time away concentrating on getting great content. Sometimes, it's nice to stop viewing things through a lens and actually take in the moment. No phones, just eyes. I did blog about this trip briefly though, online here but I put absolutely no pressure on myself. You just can't keep me away from the camera haha!

It seems health and fitness were big topics in 2016 (rightly so!) and my post about improving your body confidence was another one of my most read in 2016. I love promoting a positive body image and I myself felt pretty low at some points in 2016 about my body thanks to my brain. I pulled myself together and realised that these girls on Instagram are often 1. behind a filter 2. it doesn't mean they're happy, we don't know what they're going through! 3. Just because life is perfect on Instagram, it doesn't mean it's perfect in real life. and 4. There's always going to be someone better/worse than you in life, life is what you make of it!

I vowed to explore more of Europe and the UK in 2016 and for Matt's birthday, we headed to Edinburgh! I'd visited many times as a baby but never at an age where I actually remembered it. It's safe to say, I'll be back to Edinburgh! What an amazing city. Read my blog post about a weekend in Edinburgh. 

After taking the plunge of full time blogger and seeing some judgemental tweets about bloggers, one along the lines of 'we should put all bloggers in real 9-5 jobs and see how they cope then' I just had to comment on it and write a blog post about whether blogging is a real job or not? As someone who has often worked two jobs at a time, done gruelling shifts in not so glam places such as supermarkets and litter picking, as well as a whole load of free work, I think it's safe to say, you cannot judge someone on their job and you certainly can't say one job is real whilst another isn't. If you read anything today, please give this post a read, is blogging a real job?  Blogging really allowed me to use my voice in 2016, to discuss topics close to my heart. 

wilderness festival
August - I love festivals and getting the chance to visit a really different festival, Wilderness was epic. I worked with Naked juices, another favourite brand and getting to stay in a gorgeous little hut, dance around with glitter on my face and eat deliciously yummy things (it was more of a food crawl) was seriously a dream come true. I got to take my sidekick Matt with me and we honestly had the best weekend. You can watch my vlog here. I really hope 2017 takes me back to Wilderness, it was such a happy, artsy festival and was almost made for me. 

Turning negatives into positives is one of my mantas in life. As cliche as it is, everything really does happen for a reason. I opened up and wrote a personal post about how to turn negatives into positives. I'm always blown away with the response to my personal posts, so thank you.

Something that's always affected me is my hair. If you've read any of my blog pots about my hair, you'll know that I've struggled with hair growth and strength for a long time, ever since shoddy bleaching jobs and bad hair extensions. I opened up about this and talked about how my hair killed my confidence and why finally, I'm happy with my hair. You can read all about my hair growth journey and how to find the perfect hair dresser.  I'm glad I covered more beauty topics close to me in 2016 too. 

pink inflatable
I jumped on a plane to the incredible Daios Cove in Greece for some much needed girl time with my favourite blogger girls. It helped me to re energise, get my creative juices flow and just giggle! Along with some midnight jumping in pools!

asos silk maxi dress yellowI wrote an honest and open letter to my high school bullies. The girl who once punched me in the stomach at school and the people who petrified me. Mainly though, it was a personal reflection, about how I've changed. 

I gave myself a health overhaul and really mixed up what I've been eating and the workouts I've been doing. It's safe to say, I've never felt better.

velassaru maldives
September - I visited Velassaru in the Maldives and had the most incredibly relaxing time. For me 2016 was filled with times for me to re energise and this year, I feel totally ready to create new exciting content. The Maldives was like nowhere I've ever seen, absolute paradise and we even got to swim with huge turtles. Another pinch me moment and I just wish I could take my Mum one day!

kandolhu maldives
It's certainly going to be hard for anywhere to compare to The Maldives. Let's just say, Kandolhu in the Maldives ranks as one of the best places I've ever visited and I definitely want to explore more tropical locations in 2017.

instyle magazine
September - We had to cut our Maldives trip short as I got an email whilst out there to say I'd won InStyle magazines top lifestyle and travel blogger award. I couldn't quite believe it. What an incredible opportunity and one I would never have won without your votes, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was shell shocked to even be nominated, I certainly didn't expect to win. I paid thousands to change flights and fly home but I couldn't miss the shoot which was unfortunately on a day when I'd planned to be away. As my Mum always says, nothing comes without challenges. We left the Maldives at around 4pm, landed in England that evening at midnight, got to our hotel which was cancelled, manically drove around London in an Uber for over an hour whilst trying to figure out what to do, where to go and where to stay. Cried. A lot. Ended up begging for a hotel room (everywhere was sold out?!) and then got to sleep at about 4am. Woke up at 7, did half a day of shooting and by 4pm that day we were back on a flight to the Maldives. I was determined to  finish the trip I'd started. It totalled about 69 hours of travelling for one quick three hour shoot but hey, that's dedication for you! We got through it, somehow and I wasn't allowed to announce the news or what had gone on until the December issue was on sale! But genuinely, I am so grateful and happy - so thank you. It's just a shame everything in my life clashes but where there's a will there's a way and me flying from the Maldives and right back again in 24 hours was pretty crazy.

From the Maldives, we flew to Sri Lanka and had the most amazing and finally, relaxed time. First, heading to Serene Pavilions and then, I got to fulfil one of my life-long dreams, to visit real life elephants and take part in a safari thanks to Cantaloupe hotels. It was honestly a dream come true. We then moved to another Cantaloupe hotel (Cantaloupe Levels) where I learnt to surf, something I've always wanted to do and I well and truly ticked that off my bucket list in 2016. It's safe to say, I left my heart in Sri Lanka. Cantaloupe hotels made our stay so beyond special and I can't thank them enough for being so lovely throughout the stay and really helping shape our trip. That's the sign of a great hotel. 

blogging couple
In October, I celebrated 1 year with Matt. When I say one year, we were actually seeing eachother for at least 6 months before hand, so it's much closer to two years, but one official year since he asked me to be his girlfriend. It's safe to say, this boy has changed my life and I am so fortunate to have turned my best friend, into a boyfriend.

I also did a meet up in October with Clinique. I was lucky enough to host it in Leeds on their Pep-Start bus. I was so shocked that people actually came, but so many of you came to say hello, have a giggle, a chat and I cannot explain how much it meant to me. Thank you to Clinique for allowing me to work with you again and thank you to the people who came to say hi, it really meant everything. 



In November, I decided to finally do YouTube. It was over brunch with my wonderful friend Victoria, where I finally plucked up the courage. So yeh, I definitely didn't reach my goal of 'doing YouTube more in 2016' that I set myself in 2015, it took me until November to really want to do it, but I think that's what it's about, wanting to do it. For so long, I felt like I was creating content just because everyone else was, or content to fit in. YouTube for me has been on and off. I've had a channel for years but would upload maybe once every 3 months or just never like what I was uploading. I needed Victoria to tell me to get my act together and inspire me. I wasn't doing anything different and my personality wasn't coming across on videos. I felt rubbish and unconfident with the content I was putting out. I finally started filming two times per week in November and already feel more positive and natural with the direction of my channel. I'm massively behind (I should have done this years ago but confidence was a massive issue for me) but not to worry, I am planning on continuing this year, not thinking about the numbers and just putting out what I want to put out, when I want to. If you could click here and subscribe, it would mean the absolute world to me. I'd love it if you could leave me a comment about what you do and don't want to see on my YouTube, any suggestions are much appreciated. 

I wrote a blog post about putting life into perspective in 2016, a really personal post but one I felt I needed to write. Whilst we can all sit here and talk about our achievements, for me, emotional battles were the hardest this year. With invisible illnesses affecting members of my family, physical illnesses too and me feeling like I'd almost lost some very important people in my life, I see these as challenges and fight against them. As I always say, these things are sent to test us and really help to put life into perspective. 

nike sparkly gym kit
2016 was the year I got to work with Nike, one of my all time favourite and dream brands so this was an opportunity I couldn't turn down. I'm so thankful for the support I got with this post and love that you guys fell in love with the kit I chose. You can read about my top new years work out tips and about the best gym kit. 

December - My second to last trip of 2016? Hamburg. Such a beautiful European city and so close to home. A ridiculously quick flight and before we knew it,  we were in an amazing city. You can read about my weekend in Hamburg - somewhere I'd highly recommend visiting. 


sweaty betty ski thermals
December - I finally learnt how to ski. It's something I've always wanted to do, but I was so scared to do because I thought I'd left it until I was too old. You can read my blog post here about the best ski kit and top ski tips for beginnersI'm so glad I took the plunge and did it, I already can't wait to go back and ski. It's one of those skills I really wanted in my life and now I can ski, I feel like it wont hold me back so much. I've turned down so many exciting ski opportunities purely because I was embarrassed and scared to jump on a pair! I also stayed in a shared chalet which is something I've never done before and actually, had so much fun!

london edition hotel

I got the chance to stay at a lot of lovely London hotels in 2016, I really think the UK is home to some of the best hotels and I vow to stay at even more of them! You can read my blog post about the best hotels in London. As you can tell, a lot of my time has been spent abroad or in London this year, housing wise, I stuck it out in Leeds until October time but realistically, I was never there. I could count the amount of times I slept there (less than 5) and showered there (twice) so looking back, it was a huge mistake living there. I would have been happy to stay and use it as a base but as time moved on, arguments started over bills and I felt unhappy and uncomfortable in a place I was paying rent for.  It's sad but money really does bring out peoples true colours and it's shown me that even when you think you're friends with someone, money talks sadly. In 2017, I'll be living wherever life takes me rather than being tied to one place and feeling pressurised by others. I already feel positive because as soon as Matt finishes his masters early this Summer, we're moving together to London, that way, I no longer have to commute every day! 

I finished my blog in 2016 with some words of wisdom for the new year, something I think everyone would benefit from reading (even if I do say so myself) 

It wouldn't be right not to mention a few of the incredible and mind blowing opportunities that came in 2016. Including working with not only Clinique, but also favourite brands such as Starbucks, L'Oreal, Nike, Missguided, Lindt, Thomas Sabo, Reebok and many many more. I will forever be thankful for these opportunities and still feel crazy about it all. You can read more about it on my blog post about sponsored content with bloggers if you haven't already. Thank you if you have supported my sponsored content and organic content this year. Everything I do comes from the heart and I only write about things I'm passionate about, so if you've supported me, through sponsored content or any content, I thank you so much. 

So there we have it, a little look at my 2016. Plans for 2017? Rather than stressing myself out and setting myself massive goals, mine are the little things, such as seeing more of the world (on my list, Australia, Bali, Thailand and the West Coast of America), stressing less, caring less what others think and treating others how I want to be treated. I want 2017 to be my strongest year yet, body wise too. I don't want to turn down opportunities either this year due to me being scared, worried and nervous. I'm going to throw myself into things that scare me. I promise to keep pumping content out, but I really hope you'll love it. 

Please do leave a comment and let me know what you've loved from me in 2016, what you've hated and what you'd like more of less of! 

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR EVERYTHING! I am beyond grateful for everything. 

Lots of love, Em x

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