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Top 10 Most Affordable U.S. Cities to Live In

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

City living is wonderful, but the cost of living in some of the big U.S. cities—looking at you New York and Los Angeles—is a big deterrent for living there. Luckily this country has multiple wonderful cities throughout it where the cost of living is more affordable. Here are 10 of the most affordable cities you’ll find in the U.S.

1. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is a great place to get the hustle and bustle of the city without feeling overwhelmed. It’s also cheap, especially when compared to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s other main city. One of the best benefits here is the low cost of housing and utilities.

Built around where three rivers meet, it’s also in a unique and gorgeous location. Even when you live there, the view of the city from Mount Washington doesn’t get old. Three major sports teams have stadiums there, and the energy in Pittsburgh on game day is something that’s hard to find anywhere else.

2. Fayetteville, AR

Another city with a very low cost of housing, Fayetteville comes in under the national average in every major expense. If that doesn’t sell you, the city has also been in the top five in the best places to live ranking two years running now. Factoring into that ranking was the low commute times, low unemployment rate and a lower crime rate compared to cities similar in size.

There are multiple parks in the city, as well as Lake Fayetteville, a sizeable lake great for fishing and kayaking. If you’re into history, the Clinton House Museum is here, as well as one of the most intact Civil War battlegrounds in the country, Prairie Grove.

3. Omaha, NE

omaha nebraska

Image via Flickr by vwCampin 

Omaha is also under the national average in all the major expenses, with housing and utilities being the farthest under. The city is located right in the heart of the country, giving you equal distance to all sorts of destinations.

Omaha itself offers a strong arts and culture scene with many museums and cultural events. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is outstanding and takes at least a full day for you to see it all. Sports fans looking for something out of the box can enjoy the AKSARBEN Stock Show & Rodeo.

4. Des Moines, IA

Des Moines has a solid 10% lower cost of living than the rest of the country—housing and groceries being the lowest amenities. It tops the list as the most affordable city in the country due to less than 25% of income being spent on living expenses. It’s the only city that’s under 25% in that category.

If you’re a political junkie, the Iowa caucus is one of the biggest factors in a presidential election, meaning campaigns are sure to stop here. Downtown has been revitalized recently and is home to festivals, restaurants and other hot spots.

5. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis is becoming more affordable, with its housing prices going down a bit this past year. Indy boasts both the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Colts, so it’s another city that’s heaven for sports fans. It has a great arts and antiques scene, as well as live music. And if you need a break from the city, it’s surrounded by state parks.

6. Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids MichiganImage via Flickr by amtrack_russ 

While the transportation costs are a bit above average, Grand Rapids makes up for that with low housing and health care costs. If you love public art and craft beer, Grand Rapids is a great choice. The city gives off a small-town feeling, with people always waving hello as you walk by. There are 1200 acres of parks within the city, and if you’re looking for more water than the river offers, Lake Michigan is less than an hour away.

7. Knoxville, TN

Knoxville’s housing costs come in at a whopping 23% below the national average. Knoxville is known as the most dog friendly city, which is probably the best selling point a city could have. The Knoxville Museum of Art has fun classes so you can continue to learn and hone skills throughout your lifetime. Turkey Creek offers 300 acres of shopping if you’re craving some retail therapy.

8. Buffalo, NY

New York City may not be affordable, but Buffalo definitely is. It’s also one of the most beautiful cities to live in with all the waterfront views—it’s right on Lake Erie and the Niagara River. You’ll also have one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders, Niagara Falls, a short drive away. Winter is king here, with great skiing and ice-skating areas.

Whether you are looking to move, or just visit, check out this guide to Buffalo for where to stay, where to eat, what to do & what to see!

9 + 10 Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN

They don’t call them the twin cities for nothing. Both of these have a low cost of living and residents only pay a little under 26% of their income towards housing and utilities. The cities offer a high quality of life and the job market there is in its prime. You can be right in the thick of two cities and reap the benefits from both. It means more things to do and explore, and more job opportunities that are close to you.

Living in an amazing city doesn’t have to break the bank. While they might not be the biggest cities the country must offer, they still have that city feel and their own unique charms—not to mention being affordable.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts.

Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!


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Surprisingly Simple Luxury Hotel Amenities That Make A Difference

By Kacey Mya of Drifter Collective

Going on a trip means that you’re going to have to pay for a place to stay, and there are so many options to choose from nowadays that it can be difficult figuring out what to do. Do you book a rental from your phone, or reserve a hotel room online? When you’re traveling, staying in a place where quality is guaranteed can make the whole trip worth it, which is why luxury hotels are the best places to stay at on vacation.

If you’re going to spend more money than usual on your room, you have to know what to look for. Not only should you keep your eyes out for any deals on your room package and any extra amenities your hotel may include (think restaurants and bars), you should also look for the small things. Not all five star hotels have the perks you’re used to, and they could make all the difference.

Free Wifi

More affordable hotels almost always offer free wifi as part of your room deal. It makes for a great advertising opportunity to draw travelers in who just want to relax and surf the web after a long day on the road. Not all luxury hotels will include this though. Pay close attention to the details listed under your chosen room option to see if wifi is free or not, and prepare to work it into your budget if it’s an extra charge.

Sometimes free wifi makes the difference between staying at a particular hotel or not, depending on your budget and how long you plan to stay there. It’s easy to forget that it’s not freely offered at every venue, so don’t forget to check before you click that reserve button!

Complimentary Breakfast

tea and towels hotel amenities

Free breakfast is another amenity that many hotel guests take for granted. It can save you a good chunk of money in your meal budget, especially if you plan on staying somewhere long term. Some luxury hotels include this feature in the room price and some don’t, even though complimentary breakfasts were recently discovered to be one of the top three hotel room amenities.

If having a free breakfast or not is what makes you choose to stay somewhere, you’re not alone. Make sure that when you pay top dollar to stay at a luxury hotel, you’ll also get some food included in what you pay so you can grab a snack for the road before you head out on an early vacation adventure.

Free Parking

Depending on where you live, the idea of not having free parking at a hotel could seem crazy. Most regularly priced hotels don’t make you worry about parking, but it really depends on the location that you’re staying at. Because luxury hotels are often where people visit the most, you may end up forking over money just to leave your car in the lot.

This is another feature that many guests consider a deal breaker. Free parking is actually one of the most important features a hotel offers, according to a survey taken by frequent travelers. That’s because the price of parking can really add up, and the cost isn’t exactly predictable if you don’t know how much you’ll be going in and out of the lot on your trip.

lowes hotel vogue montreal

Blackout Curtains

Not everyone thinks about curtains when they’re trying to find an available hotel room, but curtains can be the one thing that turns a good hotel experience into a bad one. Don’t just assume that your luxury hotel has these in each room. Call ahead of time and ask if the curtains in your room will blackout lights or not. These kinds of curtains are one of the things that should always be in hotels, so if your luxury hotel doesn’t have them, you’ll know to spend your money somewhere else.

 

Just because you’re planning on spending money on a luxury hotel doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to have a great time just because of the price tag. Hotel experiences come down to the little things, like the amenities that you’ll be using. Do all the research you can on the luxury hotels you’re looking at to make sure these basic needs are included in your room payment, because they can make a great trip quickly turn into a terrible experience.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts.

Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!


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5 Travel Essentials For Your Carry-On

By Taylor Schear of SOFLOFOODFINDS

We all know that traveling is fun, but let’s be honest… it’s not easy. I always go through the dilemma of what to pack, what to wear, and most importantly how to make it all fit in the suitcase! My biggest dilemma is what to stick in my carry on for flights. I fly into a new city and within the first hour have to be in a meeting. There is no time to spare, and I surely can’t go digging through my suitcase.

5 Things You Shouldn’t Travel Without

After much trial and error I have put together a list of my tried and true travel essentials.

Essential #1: Mable Toothbrush

Mable Toothbrush ranks at the top of my list due to the amount of times it comes in handy. Something about gum just doesn’t cut it for me. I always feel like I need to brush my teeth at the airport before heading out to a business meeting. The best part about Mable is the fact that it helps save the planet. Rather than the plastic toothbrushes everyone is used to, Mable is made of biodegradable bamboo and vegetable based coloring. The toothbrush stands on its own, which is a lifesaver for those airport and hotel bathrooms!

Essential #2: Monkey Mat

Alright so this may seem far-fetched at first glance, but adding a Monkey Mat to my carry on has probably been one of the best choices I have made when it comes to traveling. For those not familiar with the product, Monkey Mat is a 5’ x 5’ mat that stuffs into a pouch the size of a softball. The mat is water resistant and has weighted corners. Honestly, it’s great as a replacement for a beach towel or picnic blanket. However it has a complete different purpose for my travels. The mat is great for layovers at airports. Every time I have a long layover, everyone has already taken the seats at the terminal, and the last thing I want to do is sit on the dirty floor. Well, I use the Monkey Mat as my portable clean floor, and it works like a charm!

Essential #3: Bobble

essentials for carry ons

Bobble is one of the best products ever created. Purchasing water at airports is like buying a beer at a baseball game… expensive. I toss my Bobble in my backpack empty (makes it past security) and then fill it up at one of the water fountains once inside the gate. The filter takes all of the unwanted items out and leaves you with water comparable or even better than the $8 bottles the little kiosk tries selling you.

Essential #4: Healthy Snacks

You knew this was coming… no one can make it through a flight without eating. I am all about staying full for as long as possible. The problem with having meetings right after a flight is it leaves you no time to grab an actual meal, and I’m sorry but typically airplane food won’t cut it. I have three snacks that I carry with me at all times: Super Yummys, Goodness Knows, and Kind Bars. Super Yummys comes in handy when I have a sweet tooth. The coconut snacks have less than 80 calories each and give me just enough sweetness where I’m not craving more. Goodness Knows is a go to since the bar is separated into 4 larger bites. I like this due to the fact, I can eat half and then save the rest for after the flight easily. Lastly, Kind Bars are just plain amazing. The amount of protein and minimal sugar makes me feel all good inside.

Essential #5: TOMS Backpack

This is what holds all the pieces in place. Can’t pack a good carry on without the proper bag. TOMS is known for their iconic shoes, but what people don’t know is that they make amazing backpacks. I refuse to use any other bag besides theirs for a carry on. The backpack is larger than the typical which allows me to carry more. Additionally, it has a padded laptop holder, side pockets, and loops for clip ons. Not only that, but I love the philanthropic side of the business. For every backpack purchased, TOMS helps assist a safe birth for a mother in need.

 

 


Taylor Shear ProfileABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey guys… it’s Taylor Schear! Thanks for reading! I always love being able to share my passion for food and adventure with others! If you have enjoyed joining me on my food quest throughout the South, then make sure to continue to follow me! I am @soflofoodfinds on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. For more food travel guides then check out soflofoodfinds.com!

 

 

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below & click “Pin it”! If on MOBILE, tap the photo below & click ‘Pin It’ when it appears!

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The Top 6 Wineries to Visit in NYC

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

With more than eight million people living in New York City, you’d be hard pressed to find room to plant and cultivate a full-fledged vineyard. Fortunately, though, the concrete jungle is surrounded by greener pastures, where some experts have been able to grow those tasty grapes.

The next time you’re in New York City, set aside some time for a day trip outside of the metropolis to find the bona fide wineries New York City has to offer. We’re not talking about the exquisite wine bars you’re sure to find on the island, either: these are green, rolling vineyards with more to offer than just a delicious glass of wine.

Read on to find out where you’ll stop on your next Big Apple getaway.

Benmarl Winery

Benmarl Winery is widely known as America’s oldest vineyard, since its first grape vines were planted in 1848. Since then, the place has flourished and expanded to produce 15 varieties of wine, with many flavors inspired by the winery’s location in the Hudson River Valley. Speaking of which, you can take in some lush, green scenery while you sip amidst the valley’s rolling hills.

Martha Clara Vineyards

The Martha Clara Vineyard knows its clients might be coming in from New York City, so they’re prepared: groups shuttled in by bus, limo or car service can sign up for a group tasting once they arrive. And the flavors they sample won’t be disappointing: the winery has barreled everything from trendy rosé to super sweet Riesling.

Bashakill Vineyards

wine glass

The Hudson River Valley is clearly a hub for New York wineries, but developers have only scratched the surface of the area’s potential: 225,000 acres of land viable for wine-making, only 500 have been used so far.

Fortunately, Bashakill Vineyards has taken up shop — and taken advantage of the near-constant temperatures and high humidity in the Catskill Mountains. The winery can produce precisely aged pours because of this climate, and you’ll be glad to imbibe their tasty creations.

Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Most New Yorkers heed the call of the Hamptons each summer, but they do so to lay out on the area’s pristine, star-studded beaches. Your next trip should also include a visit to Wolffer Estate Vineyard, where Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are never in short supply. They pair these staples with smaller batches of specialty wines and ciders.

Oh, and, speaking of pairing: you can get the right charcuterie or cheese board to match your wine here, too. And, if you’d rather just sample the wine, they have tasting flights on the menu as well.

Orchard Hill Cider Mill

wine glass in a field

Mixing things up a bit, the Orchard Hill Cider Mill serves up hard ciders rather than wine. But, don’t make the mistake of thinking that cider is a one-flavor, one-size-fits-all beverage. Instead, Orchard Hill has multiple ciders on deck, including extra-dry and fizzy varieties. Much like Wolffer Estate Vineyard, they pair their pours with seasonal food, though they also incorporate their ciders into the ingredients list to create savory glazes, for example. Yum.

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard sites on Long Island, and its picturesque pastures full of horses do more than just produce wine. They also provide homes for the livestock at this half-winery, half-horse-rescue. They’re equally as serious about both pursuits, too, as they brought their vines directly to Long Island from France.

If you head to Baiting Hollow, you’re likely to be told how many of the pours take their names from horses who have been saved and rehabilitated there. You can also see the horses for yourself Thursday through Sunday, when the winery offers pony rides and live music to its guests.

It’s not the first, second or even the third thing that comes to mind when visiting New York, but the state’s winery reputation just keeps getting better and better. So, as you plan your trip to the Big Apple, don’t let a day trip outside of the city fall to the bottom of your list. Instead, experience all that New York’s wineries have to offer and add another unforgettable destination to your big trip. Cheers!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


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10 Best Dates in Washington, D.C. That Aren’t Dinner & A Movie

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital, and for good reason: the city has a rich history and a lively, diverse culture to match. In other words, you’d be remiss to spend every single night out at dinner and a movie when there’s so much else to do.

Date Ideas To Spark Some Fun & Romance in Washington, D.C.

Need a little help planning your next out-of-the-box excursion? Here are 10 ideas for making your D.C. date something extra special:

Picnic in the Park

A picnic is a roundabout way of eating a meal on a date: you won’t be dining at a restaurant, but you can still whip up a meal to impress. On top of that, you’ll be able to go and grab a seat at any time you want without reservations. If that’s not enough incentive, the city has a lengthy list of gorgeous parks that would paint a picturesque backdrop to your picnic. It might even be more romantic to dine on a blanket beside the Potomac or under a cherry tree, right?

Monument Tour

Chances are, you’ve seen the majority of D.C.’s most famous monuments. But, when is the last time you went on a stroll to see them all in one fell swoop? You and your date can embark on a walking tour of the National Mall and check out the city’s most famous landmarks. Plus, all that time walking will give you two a chance to chat and really get to know one another.

Washington DC Monument

Arcade or Billiards Bar

Another dating rut to fall into is grabbing drinks over, and over, and over again. Instead, make your trip to the bar a bit more memorable by choosing a spot with tasty beverages and a memorable activity. A gaming bar like the city’s Atlas Arcade allows you to play retro video games while you imbibe. Or, you can hit up a billiards room and play pool, as well as darts, shuffleboard and arcade games, depending on the place you go.

Outdoor Movie

Okay, so this is technically still a movie date. But the fact that you and your date can grab a blanket, some snacks and sit under the stars while watching a movie makes it just a tad more special. scape the room by solving various puzzles, too, so you can find the one nearest to you or the screen showing the movie you most want to see. Offerings range from blockbusters, to 80s classics, to cartoons — the choice is yours.

Escape Room

Don’t worry — it’s not as scary as it sounds. Places like Escape Artist DC give participants a full narrative, creating a world that has a puzzle to solve within it. You and your date will have to try and scape the room by solving various puzzles but it will be a fun challenge for you to complete together. Once you’re out, you’ll feel like you really earned a good cocktail, which will round out a seriously memorable evening.

Kayaking

The Potomac River you picnicked beside is the perfect place for a kayaking trip, too. You and your date can sign up for a guided tour, or simply rent a kayak or canoe together and start rowing. If you want to do something a little less challenging, you can also rent paddle boats in smaller bodies of water like the Tidal Basin, where you’ll have incredible views of the Jefferson Monument.

Washington DC Date ideas

Museum Hop

Washington is home to some of the nation’s best museums, and they cover a broad range of interests. In fact, allowing your date to choose the museum you’ll visit will give you an insight into his or her interests and personality. Will it be the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, or the International Spy Museum, where you can pick up an alias and try your best to live like an undercover? The choice is theirs.

Visit a Winery

You might be surprised to find out that there are some bona fide wineries within a stone’s throw of Washington, D.C. Many of them have open hours, tours and tastings, as well as activities like live music, movies and bocce ball on the vineyard lawn. Your date will be impressed as you whisk him or her off, though it would be best to grab a shuttle or taxi out to the winery so you can both imbibe.

Volunteer

The nation’s capital has endless opportunities for locals to get involved and make the city — and world — a better place. You and your date can brainstorm the causes you care most about and find a charity involved with your top choice. Then, sign up to fill grocery bags at a food bank, walk shelter dogs or help re-paint a local school. The few hours you spend doing good will make you feel pretty good about yourselves and each other.

Cook Together

Finally, you can always keep things casual and simple and still eat a hearty meal. Simply skip the fancy restaurant dinner and find a recipe online instead. You can work together to peel, chop, sauté and bake, producing a full meal as a team. Sometimes, a meal you make yourself tastes even better than what you buy in a restaurant, anyway — you should try that theory out and see.

Now, Make It A Date!

Chances are, at least one of these date ideas suits you and your significant other. So, cancel your dinner reservations and plan something out of the ordinary instead. You’ll both enjoy doing something different, but mixing things up will make you enjoy those special dinner-and-a-movie nights even more. To us, that sounds like a win-win.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


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Best Places To See A California Sunset In San Francisco

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

Typically when people are planning a vacation, they think of fun activities to do during the day, like hiking or seeing museums. When you’re going to vacation on the west coast, however, it’s a great idea to plan ahead to see the sunset in a way you wouldn’t be able to at home. It’s one of the best things you can do, especially when you’re visiting San Francisco. Thankfully there are easy ways to incorporate the sunset into your next trip.

Unique Ways to Enjoy the California Sunset Next Time You’re In San Francisco

Here are some ideas for finding that perfect sunset spot while in San Francisco!

Golden Gate Bridge Sunset

golden gate bridge sunset california

You already know that when you go to San Francisco that driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is going to be on your list of things to do. Why not drive across it and see the sunset at the same time? The international orange color of the towers will only accent the hues of the sunset, just make sure you keep an eye on the road! If you’d rather sit and watch, there are multiple places to gaze at the bridge where you’re sure to see the sunset from as well.

Outdoor Evening Performance

Besides the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is also known for being a hub of local talent, so if you want a true experience of the city, you’ll want to catch a concert while you’re there. There are plenty of outdoor concert places where you’ll be able to see the sunset at the same time, and some of them are even free. Check the listings for the time you’ll be in town and take in every moment!

Bonfire on The Beach

sunset in san francisco california

Bonfire supplies are probably not among what you’ll pack in your suitcase, but you should definitely pick some up at the store once you get to wherever you’re staying in San Francisco. You’ll have access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, so why not be on one while the sun sets? This is a great option for both people who want something fun and casual to do, and people who want something romantic. As long as you read up on recreational fire regulations, you’ll be in for a great night.

Cocktail Cruise

While you’re at the ocean, look around for a fun cocktail cruise that will end your day on a great note without forcing you to reschedule your whole vacation. Cocktail cruises are usually no longer than a couple hours, but the key is to pick one that has the kind of entertainment you like that’ll see sights you want to explore. Some cruises are scheduled to end in a gorgeous sunset.

This is another great idea for people wanting casual or romantic sunset activity ideas. It’s popular to take a cocktail cruise with a bunch of your friends, because the atmosphere is so laid back. Still, it can give couples a private moment on a balcony that floats past stunning scenery, so why not give it a try? Especially if you get a cruise that focuses on ending with the sunset, you won’t even have to worry about timing your night. Let the cruise staff do that for you!

Hippie Hill

If you’re more of a laid back, easy going kind of person, Hippie Hill is definitely a place for you to try and catch the sunset. A gathering spot in Golden Gate Park since the 1960s, Hippie Hill provides a place where you can enjoy a range of sunset activities, like playing some fetch with your dog or holding a barbeque. With all of the ways you can enjoy the park, Hippie Hill is a great place to watch the sunset from, especially if you’re visiting with a group of friends.

 

Watching the sunset during a trip to San Francisco can easily make the top of the list of things you’re going to tell your friends about once you get back home. The key is to do some research and find the activity that fits your trip. Whether you’re looking for something fun or romantic, San Francisco will be able to offer something that fits your needs, all while basking in the orange glow of the sunset.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


 

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An Australian Sunset Road Trip

By Roxana Oliver

There is something magical about sunsets. Everybody loves watching them and soaking up the sweet energy and colours they bring. If you happen to be in Australia, you cannot miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime to see the most mesmerizing sunsets in the world.

The Best Waterfront Sunset Spots in Australia

Pack your things, gather your closest family and friends and hit the road for a magical sunset road trip hitting these five stops.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

twelve apostles australia

You can start your road trip on the Great Ocean Road and move your way north. However, don’t miss out on seeing the most amazing sunsets the Great Ocean Road has to offer. This is one of the most iconic places in Australia, which can be busy with tourists during the day. Since your mission here is to capture the sunsets, you will manage to avoid the touristic chaos. The biggest star of the show is the Twelve Apostles, with its rocky coast and colourful sunsets. Sit down, unpack some snacks and drinks and watch the horizon. The colours will change magically, from bright orange to the most calming pink reflecting on the water and providing tranquillity and joy.

St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne

melbourne australia beach

Your next stop is Melbourne itself, with its stunning beaches and great atmosphere. Just as you ride into town, you should make your way to St. Kilda Beach. Melbourne is famous for its beaches filled with peace and landscapes, but on this one you can experience some of the most amazing sunsets. Watch the sun go down while you’re sipping some wine and having a snack and enjoy the view of the warm changing colours and calm clear waters. If you get the chance to take a boat out, you will be able to see the most amazing view, filled with silhouettes of boats showered in the sun and share it with your close ones.

Byron Bay, NSW

Byron Bay New South Wales

As you progress with your road trip, you should head east. Go to Byron Bay if you want to be present for some of the most amazing sunsets on the east coast. As you wait for the sun to set, you can take a long stroll along the beach and enjoy its sweet smells and calming sounds and colours. You can even visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse and snap some stunning photos of the most calming sunsets on the east. However, since the road is long from Victoria, and Byron Bay can be quite long, you can easily rely on charter bus rental agencies to provide you with the most comfortable vehicles for your long road trips on your sunset adventures.

Moreton Island, Queensland

Moreton Island Queensland

If you continue along the east coast, you are on the road to more memorable sunsets. Moreton Island can be your next stop and it is just an hour’s drive from Brisbane. This island is a peaceful oasis that can help you forget about the hustle and bustle of urban life and it will provide some compelling sunsets. This island features some of the most wonderful beaches, untamed forests and massive sand dunes, and if you find just the right spot before the sun goes down, you will witness something amazing. Since this island is filled with shipwrecks, the sunlight will reflect from the water and hit the corroded metal and it will provide a colourful oasis of light, shadow and tranquilizing colours that are worth seeing.

Daydream Island, Queensland

Daydream Island Australia sunset

This island lives up to its name. It is a perfect place for finishing up your road trip and enjoying the last sunset of this adventure. The whole island is filled with a romantic atmosphere and as the sunset comes, it becomes even more dreamy and passionate; that’s why it is a perfect place for couples to enjoy. The rocky waters make the greatest music found in nature, while the shades of orange will shift and create a great setting for sipping wine and leaning against someone’s shoulder.

If extreme adrenaline-rising adventures are not your thing, don’t despair. A sunset adventure can be equally as exciting, because you can see the most amazing views and beaches on your trip. Pack your bags, consider renting a vehicle and hit the road filled with colours and joy.

 


roxana guest post

Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing following her on twitter.


 

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6 Great Tips To Help You Travel With Instruments

By Natalie Wilson of Musical Advisors

Music is a universal art form, which makes the nomadic lifestyle a great fit for musicians of all types. Traveling and sharing music can be one of the most enjoyable ways to see the world. However, many musicians struggle to find ways to keep their instruments in good shape as they move from place to place. Often, moving instruments around, checking them as baggage on planes, and bringing them to environments with extreme temperatures can result in bangs, scratches, and cracked wood. However, traveling with an instrument can be a positive experience if you plan ahead to reduce the likelihood of any damage.

How To Go Travelling With Instruments

Here are some helpful tips for taking instruments while you travel:

Choose Travel-Friendly Instruments

mandolin and banjo

Some instruments are just made to be traveling with. These travel-friendly instruments will be lightweight and compact. For example, a ukulele is an excellent instrument to travel with because it’s so light that it won’t add much weight to your total luggage, but it will add countless sing-alongs. A tuba, on the other hand, might be a little more difficult to travel with.

You might find that large, heavy instruments are too burdensome to carry around and they might put a damper on your trip. Here are some other travel-friendly instruments that will add some extra enjoyment to your next trip:

  • Guitar
  • Mandolin
  • Banjo
  • Harmonica
  • Violin
  • Fiddle
  • Flute
  • Clarinet

Extra Padding

This is one of the most important tips because it will reduce the likelihood of your instrument getting banged up or scratched as it moves from place to place. When you place your instrument in its case, try laying down some towels or cloths to wrap your instrument in a protective layer. This extra padding will reduce the amount of room your instrument has to move around in its case, which will help to prevent the instrument from getting damaged.

Buy Your Instrument a Seat

If you’re planning on flying and you have a high-quality instrument, you might want to consider purchasing your instrument a seat on the plane. Many airlines now offer this as an option because of too many complaints about instruments getting damaged when they’re checked as regular baggage. If you’re instrument is expensive, it’s highly recommended you consider this option to prevent the instrument from breaking in the baggage compartment.

Additionally, if your instrument is made of wood, it might crack when exposed to very cold environments. By buying an extra seat, you’ll be able to ensure that your instrument is kept in an area with a mild temperature. Although buying an extra seat is expensive, replacing a high-end instrument will likely be much more.

Purchase a Lower Quality Instrument

old violin

If you have a high-end instrument that you’re worried about damaging on a trip, you might want to consider leaving it in a safe place, such as at home or at a friend’s house and purchasing a low-end travel instrument. When you purchase a cheap instrument specifically for the purpose of traveling, you’ll be much less upset if it becomes scratched or dented along the way.

When we’re traveling, we usually don’t have as much control over the environments our instruments will be exposed to. Not only is your instrument more likely to get damaged on a trip, in rare cases, some musicians have reported their instruments as having been stolen. Purchasing an instrument that won’t break the bank will prevent all of these worries from interfering with you enjoying your trip.

Buy a Humidifier

This tip also applies to instruments that are made of wood. If you plan on traveling in a cold and dry environment, you might want to invest in a small humidifier for your case. If you have a guitar, for example, you can buy a small humidifier that will sit between the strings of your instrument and maintain a humidified environment. This will prevent the wood from cracking.

Create a Strategic Pedalboard

If you play electric guitar and plan on traveling with technology, such as effect pedals, you’ll want to be strategic about the devices you bring with you. While at home you might be able to incorporate three boost pedals on a pedalboard, it might be more useful to only bring one when you’re trying to travel lightly. Consider what the absolute essential pedals are, and try to leave some of the not-so-necessary pedals at home. In fact, it can be easy if you know how to set up a pedalboard.

Ready To Take Your Instrument On The Road?

musician guitar

Hopefully, you found these tips on how to travel with an instrument useful. Traveling and playing music can be highly rewarding. Music is universal, and you’ll, therefore, be likely to make many new friends and acquaintances along the way by playing songs everyone can enjoy on your instrument.

When you’re trying to determine which instrument you should bring on your travels, search for one that will be lightweight and won’t take up a lot of room. In terms of technological musical devices, ask yourself what is absolutely necessary to bring, and leave the rest at home to make your luggage lighter. Additionally, remember to reduce the likelihood of your instrument getting damaged by providing extra padding, buying it a seat on an airplane, or buying a humidifier.


natalie musical advisors profile pictureABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi there! My name’s Natalie Wilson and I’ve been playing guitar since the young age of five. As a performer, I’ve traveled extensively with my instruments and love to share tips about what I’ve learned throughout my career on my music blog.
On my blog, you’ll find reviews, tutorials, tips for musicians, and more.
Contact me: natalie.musicaladvisors@gmail.com.


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Amazing Countryside Road Trips In The USA

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

When one day blurs into the next and your coffee sits cold on your desk, you long for country roads to reconnect to your inner self. At home, after a long day, you wind down by doing yoga, binge watching a T.V. show or enjoying a glass of wine.

You seek whatever simple pleasures you can find. There’s something about the way mountains, meadows and farms stretch out over vast landscapes that soothes the soul, how the world is wide with wonder.

Enjoy the Countryside by Traveling to These Places

Wind down by taking a road trip on those winding country roads to these rural places:

Lover’s Leap in Virginia

“Virginia is for Lovers,” says the road sign as you cross the border into the state. The roads write and coil slowly upward like something alive, as the foothills flirt with daring cliffs. With stunning views from high precipices, Lover’s Leap winds through Patrick Country, Virginia and is located in Meadows of Dan, close to the North Carolina border. A sad tale surrounds the site as two lovers — a settler and Chief’s daughter — chose to be together in death, much as did Romeo and Juliet.

Also located in Meadows of Dan are farms, craft shops and botanical gardens. Wonder down to Henriedda Crafters to enjoy nostalgic crafts and take a stroll through nature at Dehart Botanical Gardens.

You’ll find wineries nearby in Floyd, Virginia. Give the Chateau Morrisette Winery and Restaurant and Villa Appalaccia Winery a try, which both feature live music and beautiful views.

Amish Country in Indiana

indiana countryside

For a return to simplicity, escape to Amish country in Indiana, where five locations make up the top ten settlements by Amish church districts: Allen County, Daviess County, Adams County, Elkhart and Lagrange Counties. The latter two make up the largest Amish settlement for the state. The settlements have Swiss roots, but there are differences in the communities, as some are more conservative and have various types of carriages due to slightly different practices.

In Elkhart county, visit Nappanee to try the delicious, traditional food at Threshers Dinner, where the threshers would gather every season to separate wheat grain from chaff. Stay at The Inn at Amish Acres, which is central to many of the area’s Amish attractions.

Kayaking and Whale Watching in Washington

You can’t get more picturesque than the small town of Port Townsend, Washington, especially if you physically need to be close to water at all times. At around 10,000 residents, this adorable town has a rich maritime history set on the northeast point of the Olympic Peninsula. Victorian homes and architecture dot the area, and residents and tourists alike enjoy kayaking and whale watching.

On rainy days, enjoy the rural pastime of antiquing, and listen to musicians play as you taste the wide selection of food: Try the seafood at Doc’s Marina Grill or the breakfast at Hudson Point Cafe.

From the daring cliffs of Lover’s Leap, to the simplicity of Amish Country and whale watching in an adorable marine town, let the countryside take you home in a way you haven’t been in a long time. Winding rural roads soothe the mind, body and soul, while teaching travelers the lessons of endurance, patience and simple joys.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


 

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Why Beijing Poses More Questions Than Answers

By Jane & Nigel of The Time of Our Lives

Ever been to a new place, desperate to learn about a fascinating culture, a unique cuisine or an unfamiliar way of life? I guess that’s why most of us travel. If we only wanted to experience a similar vibe to home but with a nice beach and better weather, we’d be holiday-makers. Nothing wrong with that, but in our minds, travel is something different.

In September 2016, we embarked on the biggest travel adventure of our lives … a 57-day, self-planned whizz around the world. Nine countries, packed full of bucket-list experiences, and over 35,000 miles of air, train and ship travel. And one of those countries was China.

As you can imagine, 57 days to do nine countries is nowhere near enough time. But it’s all we had and one of the tips that our flight booking agency gave us was that China waives its rather expensive visa fee if you spend fewer than 72 hours there and you are in transit. So we decided to shoe-horn in a 66-hour visit to Beijing, in between Japan and Vietnam. And we were really excited to see what the capital of the world’s most populous country and one of oldest surviving cultures had in store for us.

First Impressions of China

Beijing Scooter

Our first experience of China was immigration. Despite having special lanes for the 72-hour visa waiver, it appears that Beijing’s border team doesn’t see applicants very often. There were certainly no others in the immigration hall that evening and our case was escalated up to managerial level pretty promptly. Whilst not being rude, the questioning was not exactly what you might describe as welcoming. Ultimately, with all of our fellow passengers long gone, as well as all of the immigration officers except ours, we obtained a couple of passport stamps once we’d conclusively proved that we were planning to leave in 3 days’ time.

After a good night’s sleep in the luxurious, but not overly expensive Prime Hotel Beijing Wangfujing, we were up bright and early to take a look around – with the Forbidden City (a UNESCO world heritage site) being top of the list.

By this stage, we had already noticed that we couldn’t access our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and that Google search results seemed drastically reduced. We all know that China is an authoritarian communist regime, but also that capitalism and entrepreneurship is a mainstay of the country’s huge growth. We were fascinated to see how these two apparent opposites sit alongside each other. And it wasn’t long, walking down Wangfujing Street that we further grappled with this conundrum. Having walked past what can only be described as a shanty town, built out of scrap corrugated iron and cardboard, we came to a major crossroads, where the world’s most premium designer brands – Rolex, Tiffany, Gucci – vied for the newly rich’s attention … and cash.

We walked on a little further, trying to get our heads around this place. And then a young man, spotting Nigel taking candid photos with a long lens, struck up a conversation with him about photography. We were slightly wary by this point and Nigel’s answers were uncharacteristically guarded. After a few minutes, the young man explained that this was where the famous Wangfujing night market had been until June that year. He showed us photos on his phone of the market’s last night. The government had apparently given the shopkeepers 2 months’ notice to vacate the place as it was designated for redevelopment. He said it was a sad day for the area.

Feeling slightly guilty for mistrusting the young man, we parted with hearty handshakes and mutual wishes of ‘all the best’.

Exploring the Major Sights in Beijing

Summer Palace Lake Beijing, CHina

The Forbidden City, built in the 15th century, is a remarkable sight, as much as anything for its vast scale. Our audio guides helped us make sense of it all and distinguish our Mings from our Tangs. It was crowded even in the chilly mid-October drizzle. One of the interesting visitor demographics was smart middle-aged professionals showing their elderly parents, presumably from a rural region, around the place. This juxtaposition, perhaps more than anything, showed the two sides of China … impatient, well-heeled ‘cut-and-thrusters’ and swarthy Maoists, slack-jawed at the majesty of their surroundings.

On a gloomy second day, we explored the Summer Palace, a taxi-ride away to the north-west of the Forbidden City. We ended up doing a boat ride to the palace with a raucous party of Chinese tourists. We appeared to be slightly more fascinating to this group than the gorgeous royal surroundings, which made us slightly self-conscious and bemused. On disembarking, Jane, in particular, was grabbed by the arm to be included in photos. The smiles were warm and friendly, but, once again, we were puzzled by the experience. If anything, we preferred the Summer Palace to the Forbidden City. We took a long walk along the lake in the mist and the palace itself is more self-contained and less crowded.

On our departure day, we had planned in a trip to the Great Wall. Having negotiated with a taxi driver to take us there and then onto the airport afterwards, we set off early. Communicating in China for us non-Mandarin speakers, is generally conducted via a translation app. This ended up in a few hilarious exchanges, but ultimately, we got by.

We went to the length of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. This is not the closest stretch to the centre of Beijing, but, maybe for that reason, it’s known for being less crowded, especially if you get there nice and early (say 8.30am). More by luck than judgement, we took the gondola (not the chair lift) to the top of the wall and got a toboggan back down. Having seen all of the options whilst we were there, we would definitely recommend that combination, unless you are determined to walk. That left us with a 1.5 mile walk along the top which was just about perfect. It’s really something else to say you’ve been there.

So What Did We Make Of Beijing?

Time Of Our Lives Great Wall of China

Well, maybe it was because we had just come from uber-courteous Japan, but we found most of the Chinese people we encountered loud and brash. But then we came across the young man in Wangfujing and the Summer Palace day-trippers – who were warm and full of smiles. Puzzle number one.

Puzzle number two was the capitalist/communist thing. We definitely noticed the touch of an authoritarian hand. And then we saw motorways fully loaded with BMWs, Audis and Mercedes. How these worlds are coexisting happily is not at all obvious.

And puzzle number three is the culture. We tasted food with flavours that were so unfamiliar as to be otherworldly. The folk religion, involving ancestor worship, is as old as civilisation itself. Customs, traditions, language … it’s all so alien to westerners, that it would truly take a lifetime to comprehend.

So we spent 66 hours trying to understand a little bit of this world. But we left with more questions than answers. Which, in a way, is the best excuse for a return trip for the curious traveller.


Time of Our Lives Profile PicJane and Nigel are a travel-blogging couple from the UK, both with two daughters and a passion for people and places. Former BBC journalist, Jane is always looking for a great story and is never happier than when she has a notebook and a travel ticket. Since he was a teenager, Nigel’s ambition has been to travel to 50 countries by the time he was 50. And he’s recently achieved that goal. Follow them at www.thetimeofourlives.net, on Twitter, on Facebook and on Instragram.