If you’re headed to Peru, find the nearest stair climber or mountain and get to work ASAP. Your body will thank you if you have any desire to head to Cusco, the high altitude gateway to my new favorite wonder, Machu Picchu. The city sits 11,000+ feet above sea level and makes a leisurely stroll feel like the hike of your life. Acclimating to what feels like a whole new stratosphere is key before doing anything too strenuous, like hiking up to Machu Picchu.
When I quit my real estate job back in 2014, I did so with a dream of escaping the corporate grind. I was sick of monotonous routines, four-walled offices with no windows, and limited vacation time. Little did I know, three years later I’d actually have pulled it off. My office has expanded from a single small room to the entire world. I’m finally doing the digital nomad thing, and I couldn’t be happier.
As someone who works online, I’ve come to the conclusion that slow travel is the way to go. If you move around too much your productivity goes down, stress levels go up, and you don't give yourself a chance to enjoy the places you’re in. This is why I decided to drop anchor in Valparaiso, Chile for a month. I don’t think it’s a common choice, and many people have asked me why I chose this particular city. I don’t really have a good answer to that question; I just know I was ready to sit still for a while. Plus, Google mustered up some pretty persuasive images. Search “Valparaiso” and you’ll see what I mean- a sea of color by the ocean.
Whether you’re planning to hang around for a while or just swinging through for a day or two as many travelers do- I’d like to share my favorite spots and what I learned. Valparaiso is a beautiful place to explore but hang around for the end and some tips on how to stay safe. For the first time in my life I had my life threatened, and there’s a few simple ways of avoiding the same situation, especially if you’re traveling solo.
Being from the US, it might seem odd that I never paid much mind to my southern neighbors Central and South America. When I finally did decide to venture into this unknown territory, my plans were made a bit haphazardly, and the itinerary ultimately came down to price. This is how I ended up flying to Panama City, a hub and connector of Central and South America. I showed up without a plan, and without much knowledge about the country in general. On more than one occasion the words “San Blas” were mentioned as a must-see place, and after a quick Google image search, I was sold (a similar Google search is pretty much how I ended up teaching abroad and subsequently living in Thailand for two years).
The epitome of paradise, there are enough San Blas islands for every day of the year, and only 49 of them are actually inhabited. If you search online, you’ll find a series of tours that’ll put you up on one of these islands, all-inclusive, for $250 or more for only two nights. Considering I’m traveling on a budget and have made $250 last me an entire month before, I wasn’t a fan. Unfortunately, Panama isn’t the cheapest country, so two nights in paradise came with a price tag, but a reasonable one that even I was willing to splurge a bit for.
A few words of caution before I continue; if you’re not down with the following, this option probably isn’t going to tickle your fancy:
Huts with sand floors
Zero cell service
Two bathrooms, one island
Specific hours for water usage
Bumpy and often wet boat rides
No-frills meals (think lots of rice and chicken and/or vegetables)
After spending 10 weeks in Turkey over the months of December, January, and February, it became very clear to me that off-season travel is by far the most enjoyable. Sure, it’s not the warmest time of year, and yeah, some areas are a bit dead and you may be sharing drinks with retirees, but the lack of tourists, while detrimental to a social life, is much more of a blessing than a curse. This particularly applies if you decide to visit Cappadocia, one of the country’s most famous and highly visited regions.
Known for sprawling landscapes filled with fairy chimneys, an abundance of cave hotels, underground cities and sunrise hot air balloon rides, Cappadocia is a fascinating draw for travelers from all over the world. Located in the Central Anatolia Region, it’s a short 1 hour 20 minute flight from Istanbul to Kayseri airport, or night buses (Metro Turizm is great!) are available and can get you there in 10-12 hours for cheap cheap!
If you want to be where the cave hotels are, and where the balloons launch, you’ll want to stay in the town of Göreme. There are loads of places to choose from, and you can ball out for a luxury cave hotel for less than a budget hotel in the US. On the budget end of the spectrum, you can get a private room at Yasin’s Place for $13-15 USD/night. Alternatively, if you want to imitate the best Instagram photos out there and stay at Sultan Cave Suites with cute puppies and an outdoor breakfast watching balloons casually float by, you can grab a room for as low as $65-$70 USD/night.
Prefer to stay for free and get an amazing cultural experience? Read my previous post on Couchsurfing and see how ridiculously easy and wonderful it is to do in Turkey! There are tons of opportunities in the area, and you may be surprised when hosts start reaching out to YOU offering up a place to stay.
Want even more great news about visiting during the off-season? Balloon rides that typically cost around $200 USD in the high season (if not more, sometimes they sell out and jack up the prices for the next available day) can be haggled down to around $70 USD in the low season.
What’s the catch? It’s cold- unreasonably cold. I’m glad my fingers are still attached and able to report that in the month of February it was -17 degrees Celsius (about 1 degree Fahrenheit) in the mornings. So, if you’re heading out to watch the balloons or take a ride in one at dawn, I'd strongly suggest putting on as many layers as you can while still being able to walk. The cold is temporary, but the memories and photos of incredible snowy landscapes all to yourself will last forever.
In an effort to really drive home my point, here are 10 of my favorite photos to prove winter truly is the best time to visit Cappadocia.
I’ve recently wrapped up two months of traveling around Turkey, and I can count on fingers and toes the amount of identifiable foreign tourists I saw. My boyfriend (aka The Lonely Traveller Matt) and I lived in and traveled around the country from mid-December to the end of February, and spent our time in Istanbul, Kalkan, Antalya, Cappadocia, and Izmir.
6 days before we arrived, 44 people were killed in a twin bombing attack on an Istanbul football stadium. On New Year’s Eve, 39 more people were killed in a nightclub shooting in Istanbul. These are only two examples of many terrorist attacks on Turkish soil, the combination of which have significantly deterred tourism. Needless to say, friends and family heavily criticized my travel plans. Having already booked flights and accommodation, and not being much of a listener, I went anyway. Now here I am, two months and many adventures later, and after several weeks of incredible hospitality and kindness, I would like to write in defense of Turkey, and possibly restore your faith in humanity.
We’ve all just rung in the New Year, and one of two things has happened: you’ve either made some grand travelutions, or your precious vacation time has just reset. Whichever is the case, I have some rather persuasive information and photographic evidence that may sway you in the general direction of Africa- bizarre, exotic, mysterious, colorful Morocco, to be exact.
The majority of people that visit the country make a beeline for Marrakech. I can understand why- it’s relatively westernized, tourist-friendly, full of culture, and absolutely stunning. I was headed along the same track, until somewhere, floating around the social media realm, photos of an incredible blue city called Chefchaouen surfaced. With staggered blue-washed buildings, a maze of narrow streets, and sprawling mountain views, it caught my eye and jumped straight to the top of my must-see list. With a loosely planned 8-day trip ahead, and a starting point in Tangier and an ending point in Marrakech, it was conveniently on the way.
I've never been happier to be a photography enthusiast, as it’s one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever seen. I could have wandered through the old medina’s maze of blue for days on end with my camera. Chefchaouen is a relatively simple place with a complex character, so if you’re content with charm, relaxation, and a bit of cultural immersion, it’s a great place to hang out for a couple of days. It is also the setting for some of my all-time favorite photos, so I highly recommend it for any photographers that make it to Morocco.
So, what makes Chefchaouen stand out from other destinations?
I’ve compiled a list of its 5 most memorable features.
First impressions can set the tone for many things- a person, a restaurant, a job, and most definitely a trip to a new country. The majority of my traveling experiences have been positive, but occasionally someone likes to throw a wrench in the mix- ya know, just to keep things interesting. Maybe this will help my fellow travelers in a set-your-expectations-accordingly kind of way, or maybe it's nothing more than a tale of African adventures gone slightly awry. Either way, I feel like telling a story.
Morocco has been a bucket list country of mine for a long time. The images from fellow travelers and magazines proved it to be nothing short of a photographer’s dream. With thoughts of camels, deserts, fortressed towns, mosaic tiles, spices, and colorful fabrics dancing in my head, I boarded a ferry from Algeciras, Spain, headed for the port of Tangier Med, Morocco.
What ensued wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I'll be honest, these things are pretty basic, and yet- I'm pretty sure there's a lot of people out there who hesitate to do them. Originally published for Elite Daily, here are 6 activities you need to try solo at least once, whether you're in your 20's or not! See the original article here: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/things-do-alone-in-20s/1685387/
Speaking as someone who moved to a foreign country alone, I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to solo activities. It might seem like an unattractive idea at first, but you should never underestimate the joy of doing things by yourself.
You may worry people will judge you or stare at you, and it’s entirely possible that they will. This shouldn’t matter, though, because doing things alone — while considered odd to some people — is actually a sign of being a confident and independent person. Not only that, but it is fun and satisfying in a way you can only understand once you do it. So trust me, you don’t need a friend, boyfriend, spouse, family member or furry animal to enjoy the following six activities solo:
1. Go on a trip.
I could write nonstop about the benefits of traveling alone, but for the sake of short attention spans, let me just say that traveling solo is single-handedly the best thing a person can do in their 20s. Wait until “someday,” and you may very well miss your chance. Jobs, homes, mortgages, marriages and children will soon stand between you and your dream backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, South America, Europe or some other equally amazing place. Traveling alone will empower and challenge you in unimaginable and wonderful ways, and you’ll see the world through a new set of eyes. You’ll learn invaluable lessons, create memories and develop a level of independence and confidence that will last a lifetime.
It might seem like an unattractive idea at first, but you should never underestimate the joy of doing things by yourself.
Pop-up wine and sausage stands, anyone?
Summer has ended and your tan has surely faded, but some may say that the best season of the year is now upon us.
It’s the season of boots, scarves and sweatshirts. The season of colorful and crunchy leaves, and the season of pumpkin and apple flavored well… everything. It’s the season of mulled wine, hayrides and Halloween. Even your favorite TV series have started up again.
Fall is here, and it’s a season that must be embraced to the fullest before those pretty trees are nothing but bare branches and you’ve lost feeling in each and every appendage while shoveling your car out of 3 feet of snow.
Here are five of the best places to travel in the fall (warning: passport may be required):
Planning a trip to the Philippines? After my own experience, I feel confident enough to offer some very simple advice:
Step 1: Beeline it straight for El Nido
Step 2: Book a bed (or room!) at Spin Designer Hostel
I promise you won’t regret it, and I'll tell you why.