The somewhat different travel guides

You know I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet. In my opinion, their travel guides are almost as comprehensive as travel guides can get, being the perfect companion for whatever trip you’re about to plan. I recently discovered that Lonely Planet not only publishes the regular destination travel guides but books that dig way deeper. Here’s what I found:

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List

It’s a list of the 500 most thrilling, memorable and downright interesting places on this planet. These are the places that the authors think you should experience; sights that will humble, amaze and surprise you. They’ll provoke thoughts, emotions or just an urgent need to tell someone about them.

Tales from Nowhere

Many places can feel like nowhere: a desert, an isolated village, even the middle of a bustling city. And then something happens: an adventure, a revelation, an experience that changes the whole landscape. The richly varied stories in this book all celebrate and illuminate one simple truth: if we embark on each adventure with an open heart and an open mind, travel will take us to places we never planned to go, and enrich and enlighten us in ways we never otherwise would have known.

Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips

Packed with trade secrets, this book will help you have a better, safer, cheaper trip. The aim with this guide is to pass on universal advice that you can take with you wherever in the world you go, and whatever budget you travel at.

Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing

Well this is a hint – if you ever need a gift for me, this is what you should get! Written by a pre-eminent travel writer and bursting with invaluable advice, this inspiring and practical guide is a must for anyone who has ever yearned to turn their travels into tales.

Happy: Secrets to Happiness From Cultures of the World

Happiness. One word, nine letter, roughly seven billion definitions, one for each person on the planet. The book shares the planet’s lessons on youth, old age, love, death, work and family. The title features fascinating insights into how happiness is created in different cultures.

Hands down to why I love Skyscanner.

How do you go about planning and booking flights? Do you feel trapped in a myriad of travel planning sites that never seem to offer what you really need? I have the ultimate solution for you: Skyscanner. I can safely say that this is the single best website for booking flights. Here’s why:

The simple reason is that it is super flexible. If you haven’t really narrowed down where you want to travel or when to go, you can use their incredible search engine and just put in Germany to Anywhere and it’ll show you the best deals for going from your country to any country in the world. If you’ve already picked a country but are quite flexible about the city, you can choose Dusseldorf to United Kingdom and it’ll help you pick the destination based on the cheapest connections.

The same goes for the travel date. Again, if you are incredibly flexible, just put in the place you want to visit and where you want to go from and it’ll show you the cheapest months throughout the whole year. Or if you’ve narrowed your search down to a month, you can select the month you are planning on going and then you can select the cheapest days to fly from a diagram.

Since I discovered Skyscanner a few years ago, it really is my go to website for booking flights. However, it is always worth checking out each individual airline’s prices once you’ve browsed through the deals on Skyscanner as they can sometimes still be tad cheaper. But for researching, it really is the single best tool you can use!

2015 Bucket List Review!

This is it, the year 2015 is more or less wrapped up. For me, this time of the year is always dedicated to re-living everything that has happened over the course of the last months. If you are one of those awesome fellas that regularly read my blog (YAY, big shout out to you guys!), you might remember my bucket list for 2015. It’s an excerpt from my infinite bucket list that I am hoping to check off in decades from now.

A bucket list really is like a to do list for me. As I have uttered several times, I simply like checking things off lists just to be excited for the next step on that list. But what I’ve learned this year is that bucket lists are a tad different. They really mostly fuel my excitement and are less straightforward than a regular to do list. I’ve learned how much I like veering off the beaten path and finding myself in situations I hadn’t planned out for myself.

So here is what I had planned and what actually happened:

Athens, Greece

Yep, that definitely happened! I still look back to this trip regularly. Not only because I relish thinking back to the incredible Greek architecture or the vast amounts of mouth-watering dishes we consumed but also because it made me learn a life-lesson right at the start of the new year: getting robbed and still managing to enjoy your trip.

Filopappou Hill Athens

Filopappou Hill Athens

Exploring Wales

I can also cross this off my list! And as a matter of fact, I could cross it off several times because I was lucky to explore Wales more than once. Every day whenever I wander through the streets that I currently call home or used to call home, I am determined to explore and look behind each hidden corner. But not only did I meander my immediate surroundings, I took three road trips around Wales!

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Driving around North Wales

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Skrinkle Haven Wales

Scotland

Well, I was not able to visit Scotland this year. I was all too consumed with running around Wales or sitting at my desk in Cardiff, head fuming with thoughts about assignments or my dissertation. But Scotland, I’ll be back someday!

Alberta, Canada

Hell, yeah! Words cannot even begin to describe how much this trip impacted me. Being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, road tripping through the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, summitting my first mountain and just loving everyday life in rural Alberta. A trip to remember and a heart lost to Canada!

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Southeast Asia

A trip of a lifetime. My first backpacking trip and also my first time in Southeast Asia. This trip made me learn a lot about myself and about travelling. And even though we’ve been back for almost three months now, I am still basking in Bali bliss with my head in the clouds and radiant sun streams still leaving warm marks on my skin.

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Black Forest, Prague and Barcelona

These three destinations still remain uncovered. With a year as eventful as this one and with as many accomplishments and changes happening, I am at peace with not having discovered these destinations. Instead, I focused on going back to my hometown more, admiring it with the eyes of a first-time visitor and building up an immense amount of gratefulness about having grown up here.

Well, were did I veer off the beaten path then? Being caught up in one-of-a-lifetime-experiences often doesn’t come planned. Just as my most recent trip to Japan did. Sitting at home, caught up with job applications with no immediate bucket list destinations ahead, I had never expected for such an opportunity to happen that quickly. A very dear friend and her family suddenly swooped me out of my rut and invited me to a road trip through Japan. Who would I be to say no that?! Against my I-am-an-adult-now better judgement I left my job applications instantaneously and went to rove around Japan.

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Himeji Castle in Japan

It made me realize that this truly is what I love about traveling. Expect the unexpected and just go with the flow. Those are the times when you discover who you’ve always been, what drives and motivates you and how you find your utter bliss.

 

Where to research for your trip?

Whenever it comes to planning the next trip, there’s the big question of where to go. And once you’ve figured that out, what to do while you’re abroad?

I am a firm believer of the concept of travel guides. I always rely on them for expertise and a vast collection of advice from experienced travelers and writers. As for most of us, my favourite guides are the ones from Lonely Planet. If you are doing a trip through a country instead of only visiting one city or place, I definitely recommend the “Lonely Planet Discover” series. They are more compact and a bit more easy to navigate through than the regular guides.

Since my last trip to Southeast Asia, I definitely tend to consult Instagram and Pinterest for my travels. For Instagram, searching for hashtags or locations is the best way to go! Or simply search through your favourite travel bloggers feed to see where they’ve been. They offer you the best up to date information on the top destinations and insights a travel guide can’t offer you. And first and foremost, they are photo based! How to better fuel your excitement?

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Talk to people! Know anyone who’s been there before? AWESOME! No information will be as detailed and honest as when you talk to people about their trip. It can get confusing talking to a bunch of different people because all of them will have different opinions. But if Nicole hadn’t talked to a complete stranger about going to Vietnam, we would have never ended up at the Pepperhouse Homestay!

For hotels or homestays, I can wholeheartedly say that Booking.com is the best address. We booked all our accommodations in Southeast Asia via the platform and we always ended up making a great choice. The best feature about it is that you really only book your room instead of having to pre-pay for it.

I guess this list will not totally revolutionize the way you educate yourself about the place you’re going to but from time to time it’s great to rely on all of these sources together instead of only one. Who doesn’t want to gather the best possible information for their next trip and relish this perfect state of anticipation?!

Is Backpacking for me?

Let’s be completely upfront. If you’re looking for an utterly relaxing vacation, please don’t go backpacking. It is a hell lot of work (sometimes). I am repeating myself, but that’s what I enjoy about traveling. The constant challenges you encounter, discovering new things about yourself and realizing what you are capable of and how you find insatiable bliss in living out of a suitcase or in this case, a backpack. But backpacking is not for everyone. If you are thinking about embarking on your first backpacking trip, here are some things I feel you must know:

Living with less than you usually do

Carrying more than 15kg on your back is pushing it. Stick to as few things as possible if you want to be able to walk around comfortably. But how do you survive for weeks and weeks with only two pairs of shorts and a few t-shirts? Trust me, you can. It is a refreshingly liberating feeling to just own a few things at a time. And trust me, when you come home, you are going to rip your closet apart because you can’t fathom how much stuff you actually own. The bottom line is, changing your outfits daily and always having fresh clothes during your trip is impossible for backpackers.

Sweaty or dirty, the constant feeling

I read this on Wayfarer Kate’s list of ugly things around backpacking and she is absolutely right. You step out of your hostel or hotel and you start sweating (at least when you are in Southeast Asia) or are immediately covered in dust because a motorbike just passed by and caused a stir. You also feel dirty because you don’t own many clothes and wear them multiple times even though they’re dirty. Yep, I am aware of the concept of laundry rooms. But that doesn’t help you. At least not in Southeast Asia. When your clothes are covered in dirt from a hike in Bali or a motorbike trip through Vietnam, the Southeast Asian laundry service is almost useless. Your clothes end up smelling worse than they did before and you’ll find even more stains on them. Rather rely on washing your clothes in the sink or shower (in case you have hot water!).

Planning, planning and oh, planning!

Isn’t it just exciting to embark on a trip, only having booked your flight across the big pond? Nothing else, no hotel, no nothing. What an intrepid and brave explorer you must be! While that is definitely true, I sometimes wished we had planned a bit more. It is super refreshing not knowing where you’ll find yourself in a few weeks but this also comes with the downside of spending hours and hours of your actual vacation planning. Raiding travel guides, websites, other people’s Instagram feeds or talking to people. Everyone and every website recommends something different. Everyone’s bucket list is different and their top ten lists of highlights also. Take your time to figure out what you really want to see and not what others tell you to see or do.

Constantly packing and moving 

You’re a backpacker, right? Backpackers constantly move, switch location, live on a budget and see as much as possible. Let me tell you, this is so tiring. Every few days you stuff everything in your backpack (the space in there gets smaller and smaller after time because somehow you’ve managed to buy a looot of stuff) and you have to leave the place you just started to love.

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The oh-so-famous cultural differences

So you’ve packed your backpack, you know where you’re going and you think you have it all figured out. Well, that’s not going to happen. Don’t rely on public transport, train times are never accurate and you need much more time than you estimated to get somewhere. That’s okay, I can handle that. The only thing is, that when you encounter a problem, it’s sometimes a bit adventurous to get help. The obstacle here is the language barrier. Over time I have memorized quite a few non-verbal conversation methods. And like a cheesy quote says, a smile is the shortest distance between two people. As long as you are polite, smile and ask for help, you will somehow get there. You also have to be trusting. If someone tells you they know where they are taking you or that this is the exact spot in the middle of nowhere where you have to get off the bus to be picked up by a taxi someone organized for you, it is up to you to evaluate whether they are trustworthy or not. Southeast Asian people are the sweetest and most giving people and always offer their help. But sometimes they see a human ATM in you. You are mostly not treated like a local, which can be super frustrating. You sometimes find yourself longing for your own country, where you can just pick up something from the grocery store that’s clearly marked with a non-negotiable prize.

Always picking up the unique vibes of a new place

You did it. You arrived where you wanted to be. Now it’s time to explore – yet again. As incredible as it is to see as many places as possible in just a few weeks, it is challenging to always find your way around a new place, figure out where you can find the best breakie and coffee and what you simply cannot miss while being there.

The same conversations and the goodbyes

Fellow backpackers love to meet each other. Unfortunately, you always have to go through the same notions with everyone: Where are you from? Where are you heading? Where have you been so far? Also, forget the questions about life back home when you meet a surfer. All they like to think about is reading the ocean and how to find the next sick wave. Once you’ve overcome the tiring first round of questions, you mostly figure out quite soon if you’re going to see this person again. Most of the times, it stays a one-time acquaintance or you spend a few days together because it’s convenient. But there are also these rare occasions where you meet people who you can see yourself staying in contact with. And with those, the hard part is the goodbyes. You’ve shared unique experiences with one another although you’ve only met a few days ago and you somehow feel a special bond between you. But then you and them go your own ways. Goodbyes suck, really.

The constant urge

And finally, the constant urge. Imagine this: you’re in Bali, you’ve found a place you truly like, the coffee is great, you’ve had the best food so far, the people around you are incredible and you don’t want to leave. At the same time, you know you only have this limited amount of time. And didn’t you want to see so much more? This is the perpetual feeling a backpacker has. Sometimes you stay a bit longer, sometimes you leave. Sometimes you regret leaving, sometimes you can’t grasp how much better the place you moved to is. I haven’t figured out the perfect backpacking strategy just yet – go with your gut feeling and it will be just fine.

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Yes, there are just as many ups and as there are downs during a backpacking trip. You get lost, you hurt yourself, you hate a place or you just feel restless. If this doesn’t bother you, then backpacking is for you! It truly is a liberating way of traveling and I will do it over and over again. Immerse yourself in the local culture, get to know the people that live there and absorb as many experiences as possible – good or bad.