A Love Letter to Travel

Watching my entire industry be torn to pieces by the COVID-19 outbreak has been absolutely devastating. This pandemic is wreaking havoc throughout the world, of course, but all I can speak to is my own experience. I’ve been trying to figure out how to express all of my emotions, but it’s all tangled up. I work in travel, travel is my greatest passion, all my hobbies revolve around travel. It’s completely wrapped up with my identity, and the grounding of flights, closing of borders, worldwide travel warnings – that identity has been pretty much torn away. I am SO lucky that I still have a job, I still have my income, my health, my family, my friends, my boyfriend. While my heart breaks for the people who aren’t as lucky, I’m still upset about how it has affected my life and I just needed to get my feelings out on ‘paper’ so to speak.

A few times, before I left on a trip, family or friends asked, “What’s the rush? The world will still be there in a few years.”

I never felt like I agreed with that – you never know what is going to happen. If you don’t go to that country you really want to see, who knows what could happen – a war could start, a pandemic could spread, a border could close. And look who was right!!!

In all seriousness, though, I am so lucky to have been able to travel to 57 countries, and see some of the most beautiful places in the world. That makes it a bit easier to put this all on pause, so I know that I made the right choice to follow my dreams right away. Because you really just never know.

My hope for the next few months are that we beat this quickly – that the world gets back to normal, people get well, borders open, industries come back to life. It’s bigger than me, but selfishly I can’t WAIT to get on that next plane. I’ve been thinking a lot about who I would be if I hadn’t found my passion of travelling. Certain countries have taught me specific lessons, certain journeys have shown me different ways to look at the world, and the essence of it all is that travel is one of the best things to ever happen to me.

China taught me that the whole wide world could be mine, if I was brave enough.

I grew up travelling with my family, but at 18 I still hadn’t really connected the dots that if I wanted to keep travelling, I just could. I kind of waited for trips to fall into my lap courtesy of my parents. Then, I spent a summer working at an accounting firm, which I thought was going to be my job for the rest of my life. I was mind-numbingly bored, and had LOTS of time to browse the internet. I discovered a world of girls not too much older than me, travelling the world alone and making it happen for themselves.

With that I booked a ticket to China, and I flew to the other side of the world. It’s so normal to me to get on a plane myself now, but then, it was scary and exhilarating. The whole trip showed me that if I wanted to see somewhere, there may be obstacles and it may be hard (see this article), but I can do it all by myself.

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Little baby Bethany in China

Morocco taught me that I could be whoever I wanted to be, and it was all up to me. 

After China, I didn’t stop. Several short trips later and I was off for 4 months on the road. The first few weeks were pretty comfortable, either with my sister, or a friend. Then, I got on a ferry all by myself to Africa. I had no idea what I was doing, nothing booked, and when I got off the ferry to my first experience of touts hassling me and realized I didn’t have any directions, I almost broke down and left. Then I realized – it was all up to me. Nobody knew me, or anything about me. I could spend this month being exactly who I wanted to be. I didn’t have to be scared to be alone, or shy around strangers. I could be the girl who lit up a room, who picked up new languages, who lived spontaneously.

So I was. It wasn’t perfect, and I still cried a lot (wouldn’t be Bethany without some tears), and sometimes I still felt frustrated by my own limitations. But I was only 19, and I realized something that would serve me so well for the rest of my life: you are in charge of your own self. If I want to live my dreams, the only person who is going to make that happen is me. If I want to be kinder, be more fun, be happier, I know exactly what I need to do to get there – it’s just a matter of doing it.

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As I wandered across Morocco with my new friends, I stopped looking at mirrors to pick apart my appearance. I stopped toning myself down to make friends, just being exactly who I was. And I never let that go, even at home.

Zanzibar taught me that I can conquer the things that scare me most, even if I’m alone across the world.

A year later, I took off again for a post-graduation trip. I was thrilled to be getting back on the road but nervous about what awaited me in ‘real life’. I had a lot of fears about the future, so I decided why not get over some of my lifelong fears to prove that I could.

I used to be afraid of everything, and some of those things still terrify me – birds and snakes, mostly. And yes, I sometimes still sprint to my bedroom from the bathroom in the middle of the night because I’m scared of the dark, but I’ve basically gotten past that one.

But even when I was afraid of everything, water was the worst. I never really learned to properly swim because deep water freaked me out so much, and the panic I felt every time I snorkelled was second to none. I still went on snorkelling trips, and swam at the lake in the summer with my friends, but the whole time I had to choke back this all-encompassing fear of the unknown at the bottom of the water.

On Zanzibar, a blissful week of sleeping steps from the Indian Ocean finally taught me how to fall in love with the water. Even swimming alone in the daytime was scary for me at first, because what if something grabbed me and my dad wasn’t there to pull me back?

But I built up my confidence, and one day gave myself the ultimate test by scuba diving. I learned that the only frightening thing about the bottom of the ocean was how beautiful it was, and that freed me from my panic. The rest of the trip, I barely left the water, from pre-breakfast morning swims to sprinting into the ocean with new friends,  This was one of the best weeks of my life, and my memories of it will always be entwined with the feeling of salt on my skin, tangles in my hair, and a smile on my face.

I went home feeling ready to conquer whatever the world threw at me – and this gave me the confidence to quit that shitty corporate job 10 months later, for a life of travel and living my dreams.

Turkey taught me that home is people and attitude, not about where you are.

Many trips and many tumultous life changes later, I headed on another odyssey, this time for a literal round the world trip. I headed back to Turkey for the third time, this time with my best friend Haley. Walking back into Cheers Hostel, somewhere I had visited with my sister at age 19, genuinely felt like coming home. The golden retriever was as cute as ever, the surroundings were familiar down to the intonation of the call to prayer, and the owners recognized me and made me feel so welcome.We headed up to the bar for one drink after an overnight train ride, and ended up meeting a group of friends who we spent the next few days with. We found a local restaurant where we felt like regulars, we basically made the top floor bar our home, and everything just fell into place. I have never wanted to leave a place less – I was heading to some huge bucket list destinations in the Middle East but all I wanted was to stay in this little bubble of home, friendship, and ‘family’.

The way you look at a place really influences how your time there is. I went into Istanbul excited to return somewhere I knew and loved, and this turned the entire experience into pure joy. And of course, we really lucked out with some cool roommates.

It’s fitting that this was the last country I decided to write about, because this lesson was the most important thing I brought home with me. I had several trips coming up that will likely be cancelled, and about 50% of the time I feel absolutely panicked about the fact that I am ‘stuck’ here at home for the foreseeable future. But the other 50% of the time, I remind myself of what I learned in Istanbul. My attitude is what matters, and I am using this time to write blog posts, learn languages, read books, do puzzles, learn to cook, and spend time with my boyfriend. And as for people, I am so grateful that if I’m gonna be inside for weeks on end, I am stuck inside with my amazing boyfriend who is the OTHER greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

Learning to be at home is hard, but being at home with someone I love is making that easier. Watching my industry collapse is hard, but working for a company who values us and is doing everything they can to help us is making that easier. Living with uncertainty is hard, but getting all my feelings out in this mammoth blog post is making that easier.

Best of 2019

Every year, I write these massive recap posts with my favorite highlights of the year, even when I have been terrible about blogging for the rest of the year. I’ve done 2016, 2017, and 2018, and now it is time to recap the best of 2019 – one of the craziest years of my life. I am never quite sure if these are interesting to anyone else, but I look back at them SO much myself, so here you go!!

In 2018, I moved home to Nova Scotia. At the very end of the year, I met a boy – and I can’t make that a highlight because it technically happened in 2018 but it was definitely one of the most important parts of my year. However, I also went on a 4.5 month trip so I have a LOT of travel highlights. I could make this a list of 50 things, but for everyone’s sake I will try to condense slightly. These are in chronological order, and a strange number of them are specifically about hostels. Also, I  made this cool map of my round the world trip so for reference – here is my route!

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Continuing to explore Nova Scotia

100% the best part of having a boyfriend has been having someone to drag on weekend trips with me – especially someone who can drive. A side perk is that we also have a blast together on these weekend trips! In February we stayed at the most charming little farm Airbnb in rural Nova Scotia and despite the freezing temperatures it was so cozy in the cabin with a woodstove. This is where we decided we were officially dating, so it will always have such cute little memories for me 🙂

We also went to my cottage for his birthday weekend right before I left on my trip, which holds a few more mixed emotions..but I LOVE my family cottage and I loved showing it to him.

When I got back, I dragged him on another weekend trip to make sure he still liked me! We drove up to Cape Breton and stayed in a YURT which I have been wanting to do ever since I learned what a yurt was. We hiked, got hit by a car at a gas station (super fun), and I even had a few driving lessons. It was lovely and a great way to end summer.

Biking around the North Shore of Oahu

The beginning of my trip was REALLY fricking hard, and I wrote about it here, but one evening was where I remembered how much I loved travel and almost cried because I was so happy. When my friends and I biked back from an evening of drinking on Sunset Beach, it was pitch black and we kept going down the wrong path and one of our bikes didn’t work, and it was absolutely pouring down. I couldn’t stop laughing, and I knew that everything was going to be okay.

Snorkelling in the Gilis, Indonesia

During my 3 nights on Gili Trawangan, I didn’t do much except eat and drink. One day, however, I went out on a full-day snorkelling tour for the crazy good price of $10!! It certainly wasn’t the best snorkelling tour I’ve ever been on – the boat was old, lunch wasn’t included, and every single boat went to the same spots at the same time, but….$10. I jumped off the top of the boat, got stung by jellyfish, made amazing new friends and started to fall completely in love with this corner of the world and its amazingly affordable adventures.

Hearing the Dalai Lama Speak

I already wrote about this in my Best of India post. It wasn’t a perfect day, and it ended with some severe illness, BUT I saw the real life Dalai Lama in person and heard him speak and I will never forget it!

Wandering off the Beaten Path in Sikkim, India

Sikkim left the best impression of India, and made me yearn to explore the areas nearby – Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal.

I felt like a really intrepid explorer, wandering through a place that had very little written about it on the internet, and entering a province where you needed a permit. This was a bit of a hindrance, because as a solo traveler you need other foreigners to travel the most beautiful areas with, but it was still worth every long Jeep ride and I met a few really amazing people.

Exploring Athens with my parents

Athens is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I LOVE when I get to meet up with my parents on my travels. I flew to Athens, so thrilled to be leaving India, and so excited to be reunited with my parents in the beautiful Airbnb they booked. We had a great time exploring in the heat, eating yummy food and I’m sure they were glad to see me alive!!

My precious backpacker parents!!!!!

Exploring the Greek Islands by Yacht (again)

Honestly, the best thing in the world is living on a yacht. My hair is always full of salt, the beers are never cold, and trying to sleep in a tiny unventilated cabin is a challenge, but man, it is blissful. Add that to the fact that I was reunited with my best little travel buddy Haley, and I get a bit teary when I think about this week.

The islands and sea caves that we moored at were breathtaking and I really couldn’t process that I was there – but that might have been the hangover. Time seemed to slow down and speed up simultaneously, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Hiking in Albania from Theth to Valbona

In the remote northern mountains of Albania, we took one of the most scenic ferry rides in the world and then stayed at a warm and cozy homestay where meals were served lovingly by the matriarch, teaching our new friends cribbage and falling asleep to the sound of pounding rain on the peaks. The next day, we hiked for almost 12 hours through a mountain pass, the views getting more beautiful every second. We passed locals who waved gleefully, including one particular character who was dressed in a full suit and seemingly just doing this hike with no effort while we panted up every incline. The summit was freezing cold and the patches of sun were burning hot, and we snapped at eachother as we got more and more tired, but even our crankiness couldn’t mar our awe. At the end of the hike, we sat at the first restaurant we saw and ordered beers and french fries, and both of them were the most amazing things we had ever tasted. We managed to lug ourselves to a guesthouse, checked into the first room they showed us, and slept for hours and hours after a delectable 7 course dinner. In the morning, a worker introduced us to FOUR PUPPIES and bought us coffee before we headed off back to the nearest city, blissful and relaxed despite our aching muscles.

Really, just all of Albania

The above anecdote pretty accurately sums up our time in Albania. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Every single local we met went out of their way to befriend us and help us and give us countless free beers and shots of raki. The hostels were never more than 10 Euros a night and they were some of the most beautiful boutique hostels I have ever seen. The food is incredible, the beer is less than a Euro, the scenery changes as you travel the country from top to bottom but it is unfailingly beautiful. I can’t wait to share more about my new favourite country, but go now, before everyone else discovers it – as long as you are comfortable with a little bit of chaos any time you try to get anywhere!

I was this happy the whole time I was in Albania

Paradise at the Grove Hostel in Montenegro

There are some hostels that just feel like home. When we arrived at the Grove, we knew this was going to be one of them. We had just endured a very long journey from northern Albania on a very intense hangover, and it was a million degrees. We arrived to a family dinner and a free beer, before we were each given our OWN DOUBLE BED in a dorm. For 10 Euros, you get this bed, you get access to family dinners (5 Eur a night for absolutely incredible food), 1 Eur beers, and get this – the hostel staff rounds up a group to drive off for an activity every day. We went to a beautiful local beach, and I wish we had stayed longer to experience more of the surroundings. As it was, we didn’t need to leave except to walk up to nearby Stari Bar for an iced coffee or groceries. If I ever open a hostel, I want it to be just like this one.

I have three photos from Montenegro. Here is one.

Celebrating my Best Friend’s Birthday in Serbia

Haley and I had been travelling together for about a month before we got to Belgrade, arriving just in time for her 25th birthday. Basically I can sum up our time in Belgrade with the following:

  1. We got tattoos from a guy who….didn’t speak very good English
  2. We bought the cheapest bottle of vodka in the store, which we literally had to open with a knife because it didn’t have a CAP
  3. There was no cap, so we drank all of the vodka (sharing some, of course, with our new friends) and had a truly ridiculous night out.

….this is the only photo I have from Belgrade. And possibly the worst photo of myself ever. So I am putting it on the internet.

10/10, Serbia rocks.

Returning to Cheers Hostel

I stayed at Cheers Hostel in Istanbul four years ago and I literally have not shut up about it since. I dragged Haley here and she was immediately sold when she heard about the golden retriever. The hostel owner remembered me and my sister, asked how she was doing, and was thrilled to hear she was getting married in the fall. The view from the bar upstairs was even more stunning than I remembered, and the rooms just as cozy. And of course, Zaman the dog is still a sweet pure angel from heaven.

I did have a very different time here – we went out a LOT. It was our last 3 nights together and again, we immediately made some amazing friends.

Pretending I Lived in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv was my first intro to the real Middle East, after a few days in Istanbul. I stayed at Hostel Florentine, and I had a few nights before my friends arrived to join me for our Middle Eastern leg. I was exhausted from our last night in Istanbul, where I literally went from a nightclub to the airport (that’s another story) and I really thought I was going to get a good night’s sleep in Tel Aviv. However, I forced myself to socialize so I headed up to the communal rooftop. I inserted myself into a group of chatting travelers, we started playing drinking games, and the next thing I knew we had a little family. This hostel was another place where you immediately feel at home, and if Israel wasn’t so expensive I would have loved indulging in all of the nearby restaurants and bars – I mean I still loved it, but I also had a pang every time I handed over my shekels.

Tel Aviv’s beach is amazing, and I love how open Israelis are – random groups of friends would come over us to chat, and not in a weird hitting-on-us way, they literally just wanted to chat. I knew I would like Tel Aviv, and what do you know – I was right.

A New Best Friend in Egypt

On my G Adventures tour in Egypt, I got paired with a roommate who I immediately disliked. I have no idea why, because 5 minutes into the next day we were giggling in the souks and buying eachother friendship necklaces. We had an absolute blast ditching our tour to do activities on our own to save money, finding the nearest pool and grabbing a beer, gossiping on the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor (I love overnight trains SO MUCH), jumping off the top of our traditional felucca boat into the Nile, and having Instagram photoshoots at every temple we visited. Andrea was so there for me during a week that I was very emotionally overwrought, and I am so thankful that we were roomed together!

One Last Hurrah in Dublin

I arrived in Dublin sick, tired from several long layovers and redeye flights, and to be honest, I was excited to get home. I had one last night at a hostel before I went back to my family, my dog, my home and the boy I was pretty sure I was in love with. I could have just slept for 16 hours, but I decided I needed to have one last big night: and thus I did. As had become so natural to me after 4.5 months, I met a friend in the common area and Hannah and I teamed up for the hostel pub crawl and headed over as it started to rain. We drank many Guinnesses (I don’t even like Guinnesses), did many free shots, and stumbled home around 5AM – I had to be up at 8AM for a VERY important flight. I made it, passed out for the duration, and disembarked in Halifax to power-walk through the airport and cry in my parents’ arms.

The one photo I took in Dublin. LOL.

My Sister’s Wedding

My older sister Anna got married in October!!!! She lives in Winnipeg, but the wedding was at a beautiful oceanside resort near Halifax. It was literally the perfect day, and I cried a LOT, especially at my parents’ speeches. It was amazing to meet my new brother-in-law’s entire family and we had a lovely few days of celebrations.

My wonderful family!!!

Coming Home

I never would have thought that moving back to Nova Scotia would feel like this much of a highlight, but I am so happy to be back. I returned to a promotion, so I now run my very own travel agency. I also returned to the previously discussed boy, and at the beginning of December I moved into his house. We have a Christmas tree, a chore schedule, and I have never felt so domestic, or so happy.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

I felt ALL the feelings this year, saw some of the most iconic places in the world and literally circumnavigated the globe. But the biggest lesson that I learned is how to be happy in one place. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop travelling…very much the opposite! In the next 6 months I have a work trip to Southeast Asia, and I’m introducing my boyfriend to the backpacker life with 2 weeks in Peru. I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds.

My Round the World Itinerary

I love writing these planning posts so that after I actually go on my trip, I can look back and see whether everything went according to plan (spoiler alert, it never does). Without further ado here is more detail on where I’ll be going and what I’ll be doing!

Hawaii (6 nights)

I am still trying to convince SOMEONE to come to Hawaii with me. I still don’t have my driver’s license (I know, it’s embarrassing) so if someone comes along, they can drive me (us) to more off the beaten path places. However, via a one night stop in Vancouver, I will be on Oahu for six nights. I’m staying on the gorgeous North Shore and hiking/snorkelling for four nights and then in Waikiki (more hiking) for two nights. Fingers crossed I can figure out how to do Oahu on the cheap!

Me and my sister on Waikiki beach in 1999!

Australia (10 nights)

I lived in Australia for a year when I was three, and have been wanting to return ever since. When I learned you could fly direct from Honolulu to Sydney for $220 I snapped up the deal. I have friends in Sydney, so I’ll be staying with them – with day trips to a few places, and some of the coastal walks on the agenda. Then I’m crashing my friend Kate’s family road trip to see Melbourne over Easter weekend! They’ve got a gorgeous Airbnb booked and I’m so grateful they invited me.

20 years later I’m finally going back!

Bali (9 nights)

I almost feel like I have been to Bali, with the amount of Instagram pictures I see. I’ve booked a full ten days, and I plan to just show up and see where the wind takes me. I know I want to stay in Seminyak, Uluwatu, and Ubud – and maybe hop over to the Gili islands if I have time. Any Bali hostel recommendations? Otherwise, I’m going to gorge myself on the delicious vegan food and see all the waterfalls and beaches I possibly can!

Definitely going here! Sourced from Creative Commons

Singapore (2 nights)

I could have spent 3 hours in Singapore, but I chose to spend 2 nights instead. This is pretty much just because I want to see the Gardens by the Bay. Also, the hostel I’ve booked has a free scooter tour which is awesome. I can’t wait to see Southeast Asia for the first time – a nice preview of what I’m sure will be a long future trip!

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore – sourced from Creative Commons

India (6 weeks)

Ask me how excited my parents are that I’m backpacking India solo for six weeks! The answer is that they are not excited at all. But I am thrilled!! I fly into Amritsar, home of the amazing Golden Temple and then I’m planning to brave Rajasthan in the heat so I can see the Taj Mahal and some cities like Jaipur, Udaipur and Pushkar. Varanasi is also really high on my list. I know it’s the hottest time of year so if it’s unbearable I’ll just head up to the Himalayas. I fly out of the south so near the end of my trip I’l hop down to Kerala or Goa. I don’t plan on booking anything in advance and I seriously can’t wait for this part of the trip. I know India is going to be challenging but I also think it’s going to be life changing.

Varanasi, India – sourced from Creative Commons

Greece (12 nights)

Two summers ago my friend Haley and I spent a week on a yacht, sailing around the Greek Islands, and I have literally not stopped thinking about it since. So we are going back for more! Medsailors has two routes in Greece – last year we sailed the Saronic Gulf and this year we are sailing the Ionian coast, starting in Corfu. Before that I’ll meet my parents in Athens for 2 nights in an Airbnb with views of the Acropolis. I cannot WAIT for a week of total relaxation on a boat in the middle of my adventure.

The Balkans (1 month)

Haley has opted to join me for this portion of the trip as well and I am so excited! We are going to backpack our way through the Balkans, from Corfu to Istanbul. The plan is to go via Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria, but we don’t plan to book anything in advance. Haley’s birthday is near the end of this portion and I think we’ll aim to be in Belgrade, where apparently the clubs are awesome.

Did you know the coast of Albania looked like this? Sourced from Creative Commons

Turkey (3 nights)

I have been wanting to return to Istanbul for four years and it is finally happening!!! Honestly I am the most excited that I will be reunited with the adorable golden retriever that lives at Cheers Hostel, because that is obviously where we are staying. I can’t wait to show Haley one of my favourite cities in the world!

Middle East (3 weeks)

Haley leaves me here and then I fly to one of the regions of the world I’ve most overlooked in my travels. The Middle East! I’m planning to hit the highlights of Israel, Jordan and Egypt in this time and I’m excited to see what it’s like to backpack here as a solo female. Top three things I’m looking forward to: wandering around Jerusalem at sunrise, exploring Petra in Jordan, and riding a felucca down the Nile.

Petra, Jordan – sourced from Creative Commons

Ireland (1 night)

Ireland is a place I’m saving for when I can drive (or someone else comes, lol). However, Dublin I can do! So I’m doing a night in the city on my way home. It’s going to be super quick, but it never hurts to get a taste for a city before a future visit.

Busy day at Temple Bar – sourced from Creative Commons

And that’s a wrap! I can’t wait to see what goes wrong on this trip, and to see all of these amazing places. 

How I booked a trip around the world for $2000

The summers of 2015 and 2016 were the first time I travelled for a few months in a row. I had the absolute best time, despite being robbed on the first trip – and the second summer was perfect and I couldn’t wait to do it again. Sadly, I have had to work full time since, and I have still made room for several awesome trips, but I’ve been longing for the freedom of flexible travel – showing up in a city with no idea where I’m going to stay, scheduling a month to explore an unknown country – that kind of stuff.

Living my best life in Morocco, summer 2015

After 2-ish years of blowing all my money in Toronto and admittedly being deeply irresponsible, I decided I needed to get my shit together and moved home to Nova Scotia to save money. I lived with my parents, then found the cheapest apartment ever and have been living as frugally as possible. And finally, I can afford to get back on the road!!!

Backpacking with no plan in Colombia

When I started figuring out where I wanted to go and when, the only certainty was I needed to be in Greece for a week in June so I could do another yacht trip. Flexibility is KEY to finding cheap flights and I took full advantage of that. I started playing around with flights and realized I could possibly book a round the world trip….so I decided to see how cheap I could do it.

Approximately $2000 Canadian and nine tickets later, I have a route that sees me visiting 17 countries, 5 continents and having a whole bunch of adventures. Here’s how I did it!

I work at a travel agency, so I have all kinds of great systems that are awesome for finding flights. However, kiwi.com has been the absolute best tool ever for finding CHEAP flights. It has a tool that lets you search for ‘anywhere’ so I literally put in Halifax as the origin, found a cheap flight to Hawaii by hitting the anywhere button, and then hopped my way around the world using the anywhere button.

Kiwi is really cool because it pairs airlines together that you can’t normally book together. So instead of just showing you all the options from city to city with one airline, it tells you how to get their the very cheapest way. You might have to make long stops and they might be budget airlines, but it’s worth it to me! More on these layovers below.

Also, you can type in an entire country. When I was trying to figure out where to fly from India, I just typed in India as my origin – because I don’t care where I end my trip through the country! This opens up so many more options.

Who knew flights from Hawaii to Australia were so cheap!

Here is the breakdown of how I did all these flights, with all pricing in Canadian dollars:

Halifax-Honolulu with Westjet $325

Honolulu-Sydney and Melbourne-Bali with Jetstar $469.73

Bali-Singapore with Air Asia $95

Singapore-Amritsar, India with Scoot $149

Kerala, India to Dubai with Indigo $136

Dubai to Sofia with Wizzair $175

Sofia to Athens with Ryanair $50

Istanbul to Tel Aviv with Pegasus $121

Cairo to Halifax via Athens and Dublin (24 hour stop there) $563

Grand total $2083!!! There are some legs where I’ll be travelling overland – between Greece and Turkey there is about 6 weeks of travel through the Balkans with no flights.

I can’t wait to be back in Greece!

The other biggest money-saving tip I have is to fly carry-on only. I saved hundreds of dollars with these tickets because I don’t need to pay for luggage – which is never ever included on budget airlines. It is really important to make sure that you know how much your carryon weighs, because if you show up to the airport with something more than you paid for, they will charge you SO much more. On some of these flights I paid maybe $20 more to slightly increase the weight I’m allowed to take as a carryon, but if I had to check a bag, it would have been $100. Another post to come – but I am a die-hard carry-on only traveller.

I’ll be back in Asia for the first time in a couple years

And finally, my other biggest tip to see more of the world on trips like this – extend your layover! For example, on Kiwi when I searched flights from India to Greece, it had 5-6 hour layovers in Dubai and Bulgaria. I didn’t want to sit in Dubai airport for 5 hours, I want to see Dubai! And why not Bulgaria as well. So I checked if the flights out of Dubai and Bulgaria could be moved ahead to later in the day or a few days later, giving me time to actually see the cities – and they could. So rather than 24 hours of travel with really long layovers, I get 15 hours in Dubai to sightsee and two nights in the capital of Bulgaria. Short layovers are a great way to see where I want to spend more time in the future, and you can see a lot in a day in places like Dubai.

Another post to come with full details on my plans…..for now, let me know if you have any questions about using Kiwi or finding cheap flights!

Best of 2018

What a year! I spent 4 months living in Toronto crying a lot, and then 8 months back at home in Nova Scotia getting my life together quite successfully. I didn’t go on as many trips as usual, but I still made it to Prague, Budapest, Krakow, Amsterdam, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic – in addition to lots of trips around my beautiful province of Nova Scotia and jaunts back to Toronto!

Taking the train from Toronto to Halifax

When I moved home in May, I decided to take the train instead of flying because I had TONS of bags (free on the train) and it actually worked out cheaper because of my travel agent discount. I also really love trains, so it was a win win. I had my own private cabin, got to sleep to the lovely backdrop of train noise, AND all my meals were included! I read multiple books, journalled the hours away, and just had the best time. Also, I carried my giant teddy bear around multiple train stations and got a lot of weird looks.

The 27 Waterfalls in the Dominican

Creative Commons photo

I just got back from a lovely family trip to the Dominican Republic for Christmas. My parents and I flew down from Nova Scotia and my sister and her fiance came from Winnipeg and we spent about 5 days together in Puerto Plata! The whole thing was amazing but the highlight was definitely a day trip to the waterfalls in Damajagua. Blog post to come but we spent a couple hours jumping and sliding off waterfalls up to 24 feet high, and it was SO fun. If you want some adventure and you’re in Puerto Plata, take a cab here instead of a tour to save money!

Living the luxury life in Jamaica

Jamaica was freakin’ awesome. I went for a work trip, so I paid basically pennies for 7 nights in 5 star all inclusive resorts. Sandals was hosting, so we visited every single Sandals and Beaches resort around the country and stayed at three of them! It was honestly exhausting, but the other women on the trip were so lovely and fun and the setting was beautiful. I still wouldn’t choose an all inclusive resort for my own vacation but I certainly see the appeal now!

A return visit to Budapest

Budapest – still my favourite city in Europe! This is one of the few trips I actually blogged about this year, but it was great. Alex and I were here for 3 nights at the cutest hostel ever, and I could have stayed for a week. One of the few cities where I never get bored!

One of my wildest birthdays yet

Very descriptive of our night

I LOVE celebrating my birthday abroad. This year I booked a super short trip to Europe (before I had asked for the vacation time) and spent 3 nights in Amsterdam with 3 of my friends from university. I think in the 5 nights around this trip I slept a total of 12 hours, but it was an absolute blast. We went to a club called Claire – I think – and partied until 7AM. So, so much fun.

A random night in Copenhagen

Now if you know me at all, you know that I couldn’t fly all the way to Europe and JUST go to Amsterdam, especially since I was there a few years ago. So I threw in a night in Copenhagen! I took the overnight bus from Amsterdam (saving money AND time) which was literally the best sleep of the whole week. A friend from England met me in Copenhagen and we packed in all the highlights before I depressed-ly flew back to Canada the next day. I want to go back and see Tivoli! Also….Danish boys tho.

Weekends at my family cottage

Ah, the cottage. I truly hated being dragged somewhere without internet or running water as a teenager, but now it is one of my favourite places. I went a couple times with my parents and once with my friend. I especially loved showing my best friend all my favourite spots nearby (aka the prettiest beach in the world) and visiting all the cool new breweries and local shops nearby!

Falling back in love with Toronto

Toronto and I had a very complicated relationship when I moved in May. I’ve been back four times since, once for work and the other times on extended layovers before an international flight. It’s so nice to know my way around the city whenever I return, and have SO many friends to reconnect with (and to sleep on their couches). When I was back for 3 days last week I went to all of my favourite vegan restaurants, revisited some of my old haunts and hung out with as many of my friends as I could. It’s nice to be back in love with Toronto.

Hiking Cape Split and finding a secret beach

One of the best days of the whole summer was my family’s day trip up to hike Cape Split! I had done this hike as an ungrateful kid, but as an adult it was beautiful and worth the trek. We also did a little side trip down a debatably official trail and found this amazing beach!

A weekend on Prince Edward Island

On Labour Day weekend I dragged my hungover self into a rideshare to visit my friend Haley on Prince Edward Island. We fit in lots of alcohol, lots of beach time, and lots of gossip. The more I travel around Eastern Canada the more I love it!

Finally getting back to Cape Breton

I have been begging my parents to do a family road trip up to Cape Breton for YEARS. This is partially because I like travelling with my parents and partially because I don’t have a car or a license and therefore need someone to take me. Anyway, we finally went and my mind was blown. I cried in the car multiple times because I was so taken aback by the beauty we were driving past!! Seriously, Cape Breton will blow your mind. And the 0 degree camping temperatures couldn’t take away from the magic!

And that was my 2018 – not necessarily in order! Hoping for more continents, fewer tears (lol) and many more fun adventures in 2019!

Best of 2017

Last year, I wrote a massively long Best of 2016 post and I still reread it constantly, every time I want to reminisce on how awesome that year was. I don’t know if anyone else found it as interesting as I do, but either way I really enjoyed writing it.

This year, I was thinking about writing one but I didn’t think there would be enough highlights since I didn’t travel as much. Then I realized I had been to Chicago, Vancouver, Victoria, Nova Scotia three times, Colombia, Greece, Italy, England, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. So I guess 2016 just really spoiled me; because objectively this was still an awesome year. When I actually got in to writing this post it was so nice to reminisce on everything wonderful that happened this year. Also this is long again. Sorry.

Sailing around Greece

Obviously, this is number one. I wrote a whole post about my week with MedSailors aboard a yacht, but suffice it to say this will be a tough adventure to top. Honestly, the best thing about this week was that I didn’t touch my phone after the first day. It was so freeing to actually live in the moment and not worry about posting the perfect snap story.

Me and Haley still text constantly about this trip, and we are definitely still planning to do the same in Croatia ASAP.

Exploring the Cotswolds

I LOVE England. I’ve been five times now, and I always try to make it to somewhere new while I’m in the country. In January I headed over to Surrey to visit my friend Brooke, who was au pairing for the sweetest family of all time. On her weekend off, we bussed to Cheltenham to visit my parents’ friends Rob and Karen. I’ve seen them lots of times over the years, when they come to Canada or when we go to England, and they are possibly the best hosts of all time.

Me and Brooke were just grateful that they let us crash with them, so we weren’t expecting the royal treatment we got: a personalized tour around the Cotswolds, wonderful home-cooked meals accompanied with lots of wine, and definitely more generosity than we deserved!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend getaway, and I know I’ll be back to the Cotswolds. Every town was breathtaking and charming, especially since it was January and they weren’t packed with tourists.

Seeing the northern lights

On a related note, I flew to London via Reykjavik on Wow Air. I paid $400 CAD for the ticket, which was a darn good deal for a flight to Europe – but of course it came with the reduced service of a budget airline.

Right before I checked in, my dad sent me a message suggesting I get a window seat on the left side of the plane in case the northern lights were out. I took his advice, not really expecting it to happen. About halfway through the flight, the flight attendants announced that we were about to see the Northern Lights out of the left side. I immediately threw my book down and pressed my face against the window.

I don’t have a photo of the Northern Lights because I was busy crying. Here’s Iceland.

For the next twenty minutes I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky: as a child I loved the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, following a child named Lyra in a magical world. A lot of it takes place in the Arctic, and the northern lights feature heavily. I felt like Lyra, staring out at the sky and feeling strangely spiritual. It was a beautiful experience (I sound like a hippie) and I can’t WAIT to see the northern lights again.

Falling in love with Naples

Something I have learned this year: I do not appear to be destined to visit the Amalfi Coast. Three times I have booked and paid for a stay there, and three times something has gone wrong and I didn’t make it.  Our flight to Naples was so delayed that we couldn’t get to Positano without paying a truly absurd amount of money for a cab.

So we hopped in a cab to downtown Naples instead, at 1AM, without a place to stay. We went to the hostel we had booked for the NEXT night, assuming they’d have availability, but we were out of luck. We eventually found somewhere, and crashed around 2:30.

With this inauspicious start, our time in Naples could have been total crap. On the contrary, we fell in love! The castles and forts have stunning views, the people are so friendly, every alley is stunning. Naples certainly has a special Italian magic, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Properly seeing Chicago

My previous experience in Chicago involved an unplanned overnight layover. I had been wanting to go back since then, so in June my friend Sunjita and I flew down for a weekend and had an absolute blast.

This was also the weekend that Porter Airlines delayed us over 4 hours on the way there and OVERNIGHT on the way back, and I swore off Porter forever. However, Chicago was worth it.

Ironically, in my Best of 2016 post I talked about two awesome girls I met in Austria. They lived in Chicago, so we stayed with Kim and spent the whole weekend with them!! It is so, so nice to actually reunite with friends I meet abroad, and I can’t wait to see them again.

Anyway, Chicago is awesome. We went to a taco festival, tanned at the incredible beaches (who knew?), and tried the life-changing deep dish pizza. 10/10.

Our Meteora Hotel Room

I am confident that this is my favorite accommodation of all time, and I’ve stayed in some pretty awesome places from houseboats to resorts. We stayed in dirt-cheap hostels for our entire Greece/Italy trip EXCEPT in Meteora. I came upon Hotel Doupiani House and once I saw the view I knew we had to stay there.

This was our view!

Everything about our room was perfect, and the staff at the hotel were unbelievably helpful and sweet, but the best part by far was our balcony. We sat out there until late in the night, drinking a bottle of wine and catching up on all the gossip that we had missed in eachother’s lives.

Meteora is a magical place, and staying at the Hotel Doupiani House is an amazing way to make it even more magical.

One of my favorite photos from Greece

Hiking Grouse Mountain

If you read my Best of 2016 post you may remember that I have suddenly found myself really into hiking. Obviously, there were gonna be some hikes on this list as well. I visited Vancouver for the first time since I was three in May, spending two days in Victoria and two days in Vancouver. The indisputed highlight of my trip was hiking up Grouse Mountain!

Look how Canadian I am in this photo. Shorts in the snow! It was great to hike this right at the beginning of the season since it was fairly empty, but I did trip into the snow and get soaked at one point. Good thing I was sweating from the hike!

The view from the top is gorgeous, but the hike itself was a great experience as well. I met a lovely Austrian couple and we chattered away in German and English about their trip to Canada and my trip to Austria. We hiked most of the way together which was a nice change since I usually hike solo! It was probably the hardest hike I’ve ever done but well worth the effort.

Going back to Carter’s Beach

Carter’s Beach is a specific place in Nova Scotia, but really this highlight is just about learning to appreciate my home province again. I never realized how much I would miss the ocean when I moved to the middle of the country, and now every time I come home for a visit my first request is to visit a beach.

Carter’s Beach in particular is one of the most surprising beaches I’ve ever been to. The water is beyond freezing, but from the look of it Carter’s could be in the Caribbean. Being away from home has made me fall so much more in love with my home and I have loved being back here for Christmas!

A Day in Paradise in Colombia

Every single day in Colombia was amazing, and I still need to write a few more posts about it. The best day, though, was on our boat trip to the Rosario Islands. I don’t want to give a ton away here because I’m dying to write a really detailed post and use every single one of my photos, but basically, I had no idea this kind of water existed off the coast of Colombia. The Caribbean coast here is such an underrated gem and I had the time of my life snorkelling, hanging out with a random extended family from Miami, and getting a really great tan.

This is the aforementioned random family from Miami

Jungle Living in Minca

Another Colombia entry. Warning, the next one is Colombia too.

Anyway, Minca was so cool. Staying in a jungle cabana was such a lovely way to connect with the sights and sounds of the jungle, and I will never forget how lovely it was to wake up and grab coffee while everything around me woke up. The second night, staying in a dorm bed perched at the top of the building, with a totally open wall to my right, was simultaneously terrifying and extremely peaceful.

Ugh, now I miss Minca.

The Most Fun Five Days Ever in Cartagena

A friend recently asked me what to do in Cartagena, and I said, “I went to a rooftop that was really nice. But it was my friend’s apartment so you can’t go there. Otherwise I don’t know, just like walk around.”

Really, that sums up my time in Cartagena. I didn’t really DO a lot, but I sure had a lot of fun. Our hostel, Republica, was pretty much the definition of a party hostel, and we took full advantage of the party.

From having a beer on the city walls, to exploring a different nightlife district every night but always ending up in the same club, to the pool parties at the hostel, there was definitely a lot of drinking involved in our Cartagena stay. The vibe of the city just makes you want to live it up, and we did.

Also, I met a very cute and very tall Australian boy, which never hurts.

Quitting my job

Remember what I said about sailing in Greece being my number one highlight of the year? I take it back, quitting my job was DEFINITELY the best thing I did in 2017. I was so deeply unhappy sitting in an outdated office in a sketchy part of town, doing work I physically couldn’t have cared less about. One day I arbitrarily applied for a few travel jobs, hoping someone would throw me a rope that would convince me to take the plunge and quit.

Now I have fun coworkers who do things like get me sweet 16 cakes for my 22nd birthday.

Flight Centre called me in for an interview, and I made it through the process. I was hooked! I make a ton less money and work a lot more hours, but I am also about 1000% happier as a travel agent than I was as a “Category Shopper Development Analyst” (Barf)

How fitting to end on the best decision I’ve ever made. To 2018 – hoping for even more adventures!

2017 Travel Goals

2017 will be the first year of my life that I have a full-time job  for twelve straight months. Writing that sentence practically caused me physical pain. I am the model of a commitment-phobic millennial, so despite the fact that the last few weeks at my job have actually been pretty good, the thought of the next twelve months (and longer) at this desk is scary.

Also, I realize  that I am very lucky to have this great job right out of school, and I shouldn’t be complaining. But I’m going to do so anyway.

My favourite way to make 2017 seem less intimidating is by planning trips and adventures. My day planner is packed with tentative long weekend jaunts and a few longer trips. I wanted to write this post to make sure I actually accomplish some of my travel goals in 2017: otherwise, who knows how quickly the year could slip away!

GO ON A MULTI DAY HIKE

This is the one I’m most excited about! If you read my Best of 2016 post you may remember that I talked about how strange it is to realize I’ve become a hiker. If you haven’t, five of my highlights are hikes and you should go read about them.

Anyway, in 2016 I want to take this to the next level and go on a trek. I will admit it’s very likely that this will happen since I have one planned for February, but it still counts as a goal. The thought of hiking continuously for multiple days makes my entire body feel sore already, but even some of the four-hour hikes I’ve done have felt life-changing: think what a four DAY hike could do!!

More on my plans: I’m off to Colombia for nine days in February and the anchor of my trip is the Ciudad Perdida trek; kind of an off-the-beaten-path Machu Picchu. It’s four days through the jungle and I’m SO excited.

KEEP LEARNING LANGUAGES

Learning languages is my favourite activity, as nerdy as that is. There’s something so magical about teaching your mind some new sounds and then being able to actually talk to people across the world with those sounds. Every time I communicate in a new language it blows my mind – I speak French pretty much fluently, and have picked up enough Italian, German and Spanish that I can get by. However, Spanish is definitely the weakest link out of that list.

On this trip I learned a lot of German swear words.

Since I’ll be in Colombia to immerse myself, and Spanish is such a widely spoken language anyway, I want 2017 to be the year that I drastically improve my levels of Spanish. It’s also the perfect time to do it because I’m living with two Spanish-speaking guys who I can force to practice with me. I’m already fairly confident in my Spanish reading abilities, so speaking and listening are the goal for 2017.

DON’T FOCUS ON COUNTING COUNTRIES

One of my main sources of anxiety in life is the worry that I might not be able to visit all the places I want to visit. Ah, the luxury of my first world problems. However, this worry often stops me from revisiting places, in favour of whirling through a bunch of new countries. There are a few places I consistently return to (London and New York come to mind) but those really just keep happening because they’re convenient. There are so many places I’m desperate to see again like Italy (all of it), Switzerland (more of it) and Austria.

Would go back to Austria in a heartbeat

There’s nothing wrong with going back to somewhere I love deeply, and I need to recognize that! I’ve been to 35 countries, which is not bad for a 21 year old, but it’s not all about the list. Aside from that, I sometimes book a trip to a new country rather than an unexplored region of an old one (like the west coast of the US or anywhere other than Paris in France) just because I want to see new countries. A valid reason, but not a good one.

Again, I’m already on my way to achieving this – next weekend I’m headed to London for the fourth time – but like I said, I always seem to end up in London! I just want to remember that even if I only visit one new country this year, there’s nothing wrong with that.

MAKE THE MOST OF WEEKENDS

It is frightening to me that I’ve been at this job for six months – the days feel like they each last an eternity, but when I think back on the last six months it feels like no time at all. I don’t want to feel like that six months from now, because I need to intentionally fit things in other than work. I’m still not adjusted to the 9-5 model; I tend to get home, crash on the sofa and watch 6 consecutive episodes of Jane the Virgin or whatever show I’m binging at the moment.

A particularly delightful weekend in 2016

I need to figure out how to fill evenings with more happiness, but weekends are an easier battle – I can book trips! I did pretty well in the latter part of 2016 with trips to Stratford, Muskoka, New York and Winnipeg, but I can do better, especially with my long weekends. Tentatively this year, aside from two long trips (Colombia in February and somewhere else in September) I’m hoping to make it to Montreal, Miami, Cuba, the Bruce Peninsula, London (already booked) and Iceland. Ambitious, but doable.

TAKE BETTER PHOTOS

My dad is a great photographer, and I’ve always been very mediocre. I have a few photos I’m really proud of, but the vast majority of my travel shots are just okay. I’ve definitely seen an improvement since the beginning of my travels, particularly in the realm of solo travel self timer pics, but there’s a long way to go. I also used to edit my photos in Lightroom but then got too lazy, and I’d like to get back into this – they look SO much better when I touch them up. Basically, just putting more effort into my photography is all that really needs to happen.

See my dad’s photography?! I must make him give me lessons.

VISIT MY SIXTH CONTINENT

This goal is also cheating, since I’ve already booked my flight to my sixth continent. However, I’m super excited about reaching that milestone so I’m putting it here anyway. I’ve never been to South America, and my trip to Colombia will get me there in just under a month!! After that, all that’s left is Antarctica, and I need either a lot of time to wait for a good deal or a lot of money to just book something, so that’ll have to wait. I’m pretty proud that I’ll have been on six continents (and to more than just one country in every continent!) by age 21.

What are your travel goals for 2017? 

I’m Back: Post Travel Blues, Toronto, and Future Exploration

Five weeks ago, I was standing on top of the place Hitler died.

Six weeks ago, I was arriving on the Zanzibar beach about to try scuba diving.

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Seven weeks, I was riding down the Tanzanian highway in a rickshaw, hot and disoriented and blissful.

Eight weeks – dancing in a Turkish bar after basically hitchhiking (they weren’t strangers mom, it’s okay) back to town with a fast friend from Oregon.

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Nine weeks and I was gliding down Salzburg’s streets on a bike, singing my heart out to the Sound of Music soundtrack.

Ten weeks: somewhere on the Parisian streets.

Eleven – I was about to hike Pulpit Rock in Norway, an experience that would literally change the way I thought of the world.

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Twelve weeks: I had just hiked Ben Vrackie in Scotland, through hail, rain, and insane winds, and I had never been so proud of myself.

Exactly one month ago, I returned from a trip that took me to three continents and eleven countries, exhausted and happy.

This trip may have been even better than last summer’s adventure – although it was half as long, I packed in twice as much. A month later, life is a little different – I have a 45 minute commute to my new full time job on blistering hot subway cars, I have no idea what I’m doing at my job, and I come home at night to my swanky one bedroom apartment.

Even though I was only gone for two months, it felt like a lifetime, and now that I’m back it’s hard to believe how different life can become, so quickly. I’ve gone from easily making friends in countless cities to having no friends in my city. From sleeping in a hostel dorm with 10 other people every night to sleeping alone with more room than I need. From waking up to a completely new experience and living my dreams every day to following the same routine every day, wasting my weekends with exhaustion.

It’s not all bad – of course – my amazing friends from university have been visiting me and we’ve been exploring together; my coworkers are incredibly friendly and helpful, and I even got to go on a business trip to Boston on my second week on the job. This life isn’t bad, it’s just different. Acclimatizing myself to living on somebody else’s schedule is hard after doing literally anything I wanted for two months straight.

You’ll notice I haven’t blogged since March – oops. From March to May, I was just too ‘busy’ making my last semester of university as fun as it could be, and I totally succeeded. I may have attended several parties and had several hangovers. I also may have skipped a few classes. Then, I was on my trip with just my phone, and I tried to put that away as much as possible. Now that I’m back and settling in to my new life, I am excited to get back into sharing my adventures, and as usual I have lots of shenanigans and stupidity to share from my time on the road.

And now that I’m living in Toronto, there’s lots to share about this incredibly diverse and beautiful city: once I start exploring, that is. I’ll also be down to Boston a decent amount for work, which is really exciting – my first trip gave me the chance to buy a Harvard baseball cap and wander around campus being mistaken for a student, which is obviously bucket list worthy. And stay tuned to find out how I turn 3 weeks of vacation into sufficient travel time….first up, I’m looking at a trip to Japan and Hong Kong around my birthday in November!

 

Summer Plans

I’m two months into my very last semester of university, and I am simultaneously so ready for it to be over and can’t believe it’s really happening. I’m excited to start my big scary job in Toronto in July (read more about that here) but I am definitely more excited about the trip I have planned in May and June. I have basically no schoolwork and my hours have been cut at my part-time job, so I have a lot of spare time which I have been dedicating to obsessing over this trip. I spend a lot of time reading guidebooks and blog posts, watching Rick Steves videos and just basically drowning in excitement. I told you where I was going in the post about my job, but here’s a more detailed look at my very scattered three-continent trip:

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SCOTLAND (4 nights)

Westjet is one of my favourite Canadian airlines – they have the best service I’ve experienced domestically, and one time they actually flew me out to Calgary for a business competition so that was cool. Recently they’ve added a lot of European routes and they are SO convenient – most flights from Halifax, where I live on the East Coast, go through Toronto, but in the summer Westjet has a ton of direct routes. I snagged a sweet deal on a direct overnight flight to Glasgow, so I arrive there and then hop on a train straight to Pitlochry, in the Highlands. After two days there, where I’ll hopefully be climbing Ben Vrackie, I head down to Edinburgh to explore one of the cities that I’ve been dying to see! Anywhere with castles is cool in my books.

The view from Ben Vrackie - Source

The view from Ben Vrackie – source

Gorgeous Edinburgh - Source

Gorgeous Edinburgh – Source

Accommodation:
Pitlochry Backpackers
Castle Rock Hostel

ENGLAND (4 nights)

I’ve been to London twice and explored a fair few other places in England, but this time I’m hitting up a new city, York, basically just for the Minster, and then spending a few nights in London. I usually try to get out of London pretty quickly because of the prices, but this time I’m staying with a friend who I met in Perugia, Italy – I can’t wait to reunite and see this city on a more local level! We’ve bought tickets to see The End of Longing (a play written by and starring Matthew Perry, who I shall always call Chandler Bing) and I also want to see the Museum of London.

The York Minster - Source

The York Minster – Source

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One of my favourite views in London

Accommodation:
Airbnb
Friend’s house

NORWAY (6 nights)

I have been dying to go to Norway for years, but I figured I’d save it until I had more money. I do not currently have ‘more money’, and yet I am going anyway. I fly into Stavanger, where I am staying at a beautiful lodge hostel and will be hiking Pulpit Rock. Then it’s off for what’s supposed to be one of the most amazing train rides ever – eight hours to Oslo. Two nights in Oslo was about all I could afford, but I’m excited to see this fascinating city!

The breathtaking Pulpit Rock - Source

The breathtaking Pulpit Rock – Source

Stavanger - Source

Stavanger – Source

I can't wait to explore Oslo - Source

I can’t wait to explore Oslo – Source

Accommodation:
Preikestolen Hostel
2x Airbnb

FRANCE (5 nights)

I couldn’t go back to Europe without going back to Paris. I was only there for two days last summer, which was just not even close to enough – so I’m back for five days! I’m staying in Montmartre literally just because I loved Sacre Coeur so much. I may actually go to the Louvre this time, but I’m planning to spend most of my time wandering neighborhoods and expand my super cliche love for the city of light.

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Accommodation:
Plug Inn Hostel

THE NETHERLANDS (2 nights)

Honestly I’ve never really felt a draw to Amsterdam, but it’s kind of one of those places you have to see, and it’s not as if I don’t want to go. It worked out super well en route from France to Austria, so I’m spending three full days there. Plans so far only include the Anne Frank house and attempting to bike. I found a really good deal on a sleeper train from Amsterdam to Salzburg, as well – I love sleeper trains because a) I just love trains and b) they save you spending money on a night’s accommodation!

Okay, I guess it's beautiful!! Source

Okay, I guess it’s beautiful!! Source

Accommodation:
Hostel Meeting Point

AUSTRIA (4 nights)

I was SO sad about not getting to Austria last summer, and I tried to squeeze it in at least a million times, but it never happened. This time I knew I had to make it to Salzburg and Vienna. I am 200% obsessed with the Sound of Music, and the real Von Trapps lived in Salzburg, so that’s basically the coolest thing ever. After some research, I have determined that with just a bit of mild trespassing you can actually access the meadow featured at the beginning of the movie, and so I will obviously be doing that. In Vienna, I’m excited to visit the famous cafes and the Hofburg Palace – especially this unbelievably beautiful library.

The amazing view of Salzburg - Source

The amazing view of Salzburg – Source

Austrian National Library - Source

Austrian National Library – Source

Accommodation:
Yoho Hostel
Hostel Ruthensteiner

TURKEY (1o nights)

Ah, Turkey. I adored Istanbul so I’m going back, and seeing another few famous Turkish places. First I fly into the Cappadocia region, where I’m staying at this amazing cave hostel with an amazing pool and an amazing terrace and amazing everything. For amazingly cheap. Obviously I’m here to take one of the famous hot air balloon rides, but also to hike! Then I fly to Izmir, and I’ll be staying in Ayvalik, a gorgeous little beach town. I may even take a day trip to Lesvos, in Greece, but it depends on the refugee situation! From here, I take a night bus to Istanbul and check back in to my favourite hostel of all time – Cheers, featuring the cutest golden retriever ever. I want to explore more of the Asian side of town while I’m in Istanbul.

I cannot wait for this once in a lifetime experience in Cappadocia! Source

I cannot wait for this once in a lifetime experience in Cappadocia! Source

Ayvalik - Source

Ayvalik – Source

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Accommodation:
Shoestring Cave House
Taksiyarhis Pension
Cheers Hostel

QATAR (0 nights)

From Istanbul, it’s off to Africa!! First, I have a day long layover in Qatar, which I will hopefully spend on one of Qatar Airways’ free city tours of Doha that exempt you from the visa requirement and also provide air conditioning and water (good during a 42 degree Ramadan). If not, I’ll still venture out in a cab and try not to melt. Why miss the opportunity to explore a new city and country?

Doha's skyline - Source

Doha’s skyline – Source

TANZANIA (13 nights)

I could not be more excited for this. I was originally going to spend my whole trip in Southern Africa, but all the activities and safaris would have added up and been insanely expensive. Even my two weeks in Tanzania is pretty budget-busting, but how could I say no to sleeping under the stars in the African savannah and relaxing in a bungalow on the beaches of Zanzibar? I arrive in Dar es Salaam and immediately hop another flight to Kilimanjaro, before somehow making my way to a nearby town where my safari pickup will happen the next morning.

I’m booked on a 6 night budget safari with Duma Explorer; we’ll be seeing Lake Tarangire National Park, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater. I mean even just the word Serengeti evokes such incredible images in my head; I can’t imagine how beautiful the reality will be. I have not been camping in 10 years, so logically I’m getting back on the horse in…the wilds of Africa. It should be an experience. After safari, it’s off to Zanzibar for a relaxing stay full of sunbathing, snorkelling, and beach walks. I haven’t decided where to stay yet, because there are simply so many incredible beaches with dirt cheap private bungalows.

The Serengeti. I'm so excited I could die. Source

The Serengeti. I’m so excited I could die. Source

Zanzibar, aka paradise - Source

Zanzibar, aka paradise – Source

Accommodation:
Tents 🙂
Undecided

GERMANY (1 night)

Flying to Berlin and then Reykjavik was the easiest way for me to take advantage of a crazy good flight deal from Reykjavik to Halifax, so that is what I am doing! I’ve only been to Munich when it comes to Germany, and it’ll be interesting to see such a different city from the Bavarian one I visited. I’ve been taking German as an elective at school all semester, so maybe I’ll even be able to try out some of my language skills! I have two full days in the city before a super late flight out to Reykjavik.

Berlin Cathedral - Source

Berlin Cathedral – Source

Accommodation:
One80 Hostel

ICELAND (3 nights)

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I swear Iceland is suddenly the hottest destination around. Everybody is going or wants to go, and it’s not hard to see why! Icelandair makes it really easy for Canadians to go – I just found my parents a crazy good deal on a trip Halifax-London, Paris-Iceland and Iceland-Halifax. Their sales can be really, really affordable, which might soften the blow of the prices in-country! I know I want to see the Blue Lagoon and do the Golden Circle Tour, but otherwise I’m not really sure!

Landmannalaugar - I'm really hoping I can make it here! Source

Landmannalaugar – I’m really hoping I can make it here! Source

Accommodation:
Hlemmur Square Hostel

What’s Next: Three Continents and an Actual Career

On Christmas Day, I signed a contract for a full time job starting in July 2016. I may have backpacked places like China and Morocco alone and with no experience, but for me signing on the dotted line was way scarier than any of my travel experiences. I thought after graduation I’d get a job teaching English, or try to make money off my blog, or something, but I definitely thought I’d be wandering the globe and checking off all the places I have yet to see. I went into the interview process for this job so I could see where it took me – it was an opportunity that interested me, and I was really honest the whole time that I wasn’t sure I even wanted a corporate job – but I came out of it excited about the job. I was home in Halifax while trying to decide if I should take the job, and my parents kept catching me staring into space as I contemplated my early onset quarter life crisis.

However, by being my bratty and picky self (or perhaps assertive is the word I’m looking for), I managed to get the two things I wanted out of a job: a start date that would allow me to travel, and a good location. I snagged a position in Toronto, one of my favourite cities in Canada and somewhere I’ve always wanted to live. It has cheaper flights than my smaller local airport, tons of ethnic neighborhoods and diversity (I can practice languages and try new foods!) and in general, so much more opportunity and freedom. I’ll make enough money so that when I get to travel, I can splurge on actual good food and maybe even avoid sleeping in airports! Revolutionary. I’m interested to see how I’ll manage to see the world on three weeks of vacation a year, but I know I’ll be able to manage. With weekend breaks to places like New York and Boston easily accessible and the chance to explore all the gorgeous national parks in Ontario, I can take a trip abroad yearly and save long weekends and holidays for local adventures.

I’m nervous. Moving to Toronto alone is big; I love change and I love throwing myself into new situations but this is a whole new kind of new. But I’m also excited to have the chance to do things like take language classes, try new ethnic foods, explore new neighborhoods, everything.

HOWEVER.

Before I embark on THIS adventure, I also want to talk about the OTHER adventure I just planned!! I negotiated a later start date as I mentioned before, and I’ve managed to cram in time for a two month trip between exams and the time I need for apartment hunting. This might be my most exciting trip yet (do I say that every time? Yes I do) and I can’t wait!!! Here’s a quick rundown – look out for a more detailed post on my plans coming up soon.

SCOTLAND (4 nights)
ENGLAND (4 nights)
NORWAY (5 nights)
FRANCE (6 nights)
AUSTRIA (6 nights)
TURKEY (10 nights)
QATAR (1 night)
TANZANIA (13 nights)
QATAR (1 night)
GERMANY (1 night)
ICELAND (3 nights)

Three continents, nine countries (five new to me), two months of adventures.