,

Simple Ways To Make A Difference While You Travel

Eco-friendly tourism, sustainable tourism, green travel, the list of buzz phrases we’ve developed to describe a more responsible, more attentive way of experiencing the world is pretty lengthy. All of these have become hugely popular and hotly debated. The impact that travel has on the environment, cultures and wildlife are issues that have come to the forefront of people’s’ minds as they choose how and where to travel. There are also often differing views on what these buzz words mean, how they should be implemented and what it really means to ‘travel responsibly’. It can be expensive, time-consuming, confusing and frustrating to sort through and choose an option that feels right and many times people just avoid it altogether.

simple ways to make a difference when you travel pin 2

6 Things Every Traveller Can Do To Make A Difference

While we don’t have all the answers and certainly muddle our own way through our efforts to travel with the most positive impact possible, we’ve come up with a few things that every traveller can do to make a difference while they travel. These six ideas can be easily incorporated, are inexpensive and only really require a little extra effort and some thought.

 

 

 

Just Say No To Straws

straws

This is something we’ve been trying to incorporate into our everyday experience when we dine out. When we found out that in the US alone, approximately 500 million straws are used per day, we were astonished. Add to that the fact that:

  • they aren’t always recycled,
  • contain BPA,
  • contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter the ocean every year,
  • are harmful to animals,
  • and are one of the top ten items found as litter on beaches

The list could go on but it’s pretty clear that straws are really cylindrical tubes of destruction when it comes to the environment.

What would happen if we all just did away with straws? Next time you go to a restaurant while travelling, or at home, make sure to ask for your water or drinks without a straw. For us, this is the hardest thing to remember as that initial interaction tends to happen fast or, if we do remember, we are inevitably brought one already opened anyway.

If you stop at a fast food restaurant, take your drink without a lid and drink from the cup. Wherever you find a straw imposed upon you, find a way to prevent it from happening the next time. And if you really need to use a straw? Get an alternative like a compostable, stainless steel or glass straw to take with you when you leave the house!

Something like the SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws or Green Heart Stainless Steel BPA Free Reusable Straws are great alternatives to the disposable plastic ones we see everyday!

Waste Not, Want Not!

At this point, you may be asking, “So, I’ve gotten rid of the straws, but what do I do with the disposable cups and lids I’m always holding?”. There’s a simple answer but this time it requires more than just thought and effort, it requires a little cash.

If you’re inclined to fork over a bit of dough to help the cause, buying and bringing a tumbler or water bottle whenever you travel can make a huge impact. In certain countries where clean water is hard to find, this may get a bit tricky. Our advice is to find out how the locals source clean water. For example, in Thailand, there are larger bottles that are refilled regularly with drinkable water. We used these extensively while there and it cut down not only on waste, but also cost of water.

If you’re travelling light, or are concerned about the weight and size of a bottle, you can always go with the collapsible kind – like these Collapsible Silicone Water Bottles – which work great even when you’re at home and going out for the day.

You may find you can’t, or won’t, use one in all scenarios and destinations but by incorporating it as much as possible, you’re still reducing your footprint and eliminating a significant amount of plastic waste.

Want A Clean Beach? Help Clean It Yourself!

beach cleanup

We all love going to a beautiful beach so seeing trash along the shoreline or in the sand is not only an eyesore, but also frustrating. We’ll trudge our way through the sand, carrying our towels, chairs and coolers and grumble under our breaths about how inconsiderate people are as we nudge discarded pieces of trash to the side.

Not only are these items blights on a beautiful sandy landscape, they are also incredible harmful for wildlife. Garbage can be mistaken for food and can be especially harmful to sea turtles who nest on beaches and their offspring who are born there.

A brilliant way to do your part? Bring a bag with you when you go to a beach (or a park or other outdoor destination where litter is often seen). All you need to do is pick up the garbage from your car (or drop off point) to where you choose to sit and back again.  If everyone were to do that, think of how garbage-free and wildlife-friendly beaches and other outdoor areas would be. Of course, spreading the word and recommending this to others increases the amount of garbage pick-up that will go on, the number of beautiful outdoor spaces that are clean and the amount of wildlife saved!`

Leave The Paper Trail & Take Photos

We recently saw a brilliant concept at the Brevard Zoo in Florida where the focus on conservation and education was evident in almost every aspect of the property as was their dedication to the environment. What we thought was especially inspired was their lack of paper maps. Instead, visitors are encouraged to take a photo of the main map (’cause who doesn’t have their phone or camera with them?) and use it to navigate. At the start of each of the larger exhibit entrances, another map specific to that area is displayed to look at or snap a photograph.

While this would be an amazing thing at many of the attractions around the world, it realistically won’t be happening overnight. So why not play your part and take a photo of the large maps most sites have displayed at the entrance and skip grabbing one of the handheld paper ones? Encouraging those in your group to do the same could even start something down the line.

If Your Body Says Yes, Walk Or Cycle

bicycle riding in europe

This may not be for everyone depending on their physical abilities but it’s something to consider if you’re able. We often forego taxis, driving or other forms of transportation while we explore a destination and opt to use our own two feet. Whether we’re walking (which is the majority of the time for us) or cycling, we find we can really get a better feel for local life and even spot some hidden gems we otherwise would have missed.

Not only does this allow you a different perspective, it also keeps your heart healthy and saves you from using more environmentally harmful transportation methods.

Though the saying “it’s like riding a bike” is popular, we’re not sure how easy it is to hop on a bike after an extended period of time without riding and navigate the streets of some of the crazier cities, but walking at least some of the way is a good way to cut down on your footprint.

End The Shame. Pee In The Shower

It’s something that few people talk about. It’s a closeted practice that few admit to and yet it could save gallons of water every time you do it. Yep, that’s right. Peeing in the shower is one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do and it’s even got benefits for you too!

While there doesn’t seem to be any sanitary risks (urine should be basically sterile in healthy individuals) there could be potential health benefits with respect to cleanliness. In fact there are a whole host of potential benefits of peeing in the shower!

But we’re talking about the environment right? Not only will you reduce toilet paper consumption but you’ll also be saving up to several gallons of water per flush you avoid by letting the shower water do the job. There has been criticism that doing this prolongs shower time thus reducing the benefit, but calculations have shown it’s a small reduction and the water-saving benefits of peeing in the shower are still huge.

Imagine how much you could save on a daily basis, not just when you travel? But in countries where water processing is not as developed, where water is hard to come by or where water usage is conserved, going number one while you are showering can be considered doing your part to helping the environment and cutting down on your footprint!

All The Small Things

Really, we believe it’s about the small things. It’s about changing the way you think about the environment and your role in it. Small things add up and can add up large. Once we eliminate the detachment most people feel to the environment and start changing the apathy people have when it comes to their own pollution and creating waste, we’ll find that the destinations we travel to will be kept cleaner and safer for longer.

It’s a group effort and it takes time. It doesn’t have to be a trip dedicated to environmental cleanup. It doesn’t have to be a volunteer opportunity that you sign up for. It’s about making a point to contribute in ways that you can, wherever you go and as often as possible.

 

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

    Simple ways to make a difference when you travel pin how to be environmentally friendly while you travel pin

, , ,

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.


 

, ,

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.


 

, ,

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.


, , ,

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.


 

,

Beyond Insurance: Travel Protection Options You Should Know

You know not to leave home without travel insurance. But your basic coverage may be missing some important travel protection. While your travel insurance will get you through some of the more common mishaps and misfortunes, it often won’t help in the most severe, devastating, or expensive situations.

What’s Missing From Basic Travel Insurance?

Your basic travel insurance generally includes coverage for medical or dental emergencies. It typically covers procedures, tests, hospital stays, and prescriptions, as well as trip cancellation or interruption, lost luggage, and accidents. You’ll usually purchase travel insurance on a trip-by-trip basis or find long-term coverage for longer stays abroad. The credit card you use to book the trip or your employer-sponsored coverage may even provide basic travel insurance.

There are, however, some significant areas of additional protection that your basic travel insurance doesn’t cover, such as medical evacuation or repatriation, travel security, and crisis assistance. Luckily, membership programs like MedjetHorizon offer essential travel protection options. Ensuring that you’re covered for these areas is important, and it means making yourself aware of what your travel insurance plan covers and whether you need additional protection.

Medical Evacuation and Repatriation

medical evacuation travel protectionImage via Flickr by bert knottenbeld

Imagine yourself in an unfamiliar destination, requiring hospitalization for an illness or injury. While your medical expenses may be covered, you’re in a strange place, away from friends, family, and the comforts of being in your hometown. Even insurance plans that cover evacuation include only air transport to a hospital that the provider deems suitable. Having additional protection for medical evacuation and repatriation means arrangements will be made for you to be transported to the hospital of your choice, anywhere, regardless of the medical necessity.

This is huge, especially for longer hospital stays, as you’ll be able to spend your time healing close to home and with the support and medical treatment you know and trust. Without this, the expense to travel home via medical transport would be ridiculously high and not feasible for the majority of people. In fact, the cost of an air ambulance will most likely be no less than $10,000, and that’s not taking into account international distances or additional variables that can increase costs.

Travel Security and Crisis Assistance

Though serious incidents are few and far between, knowing you’ll be protected should an emergency or crisis arise while you’re abroad offers peace of mind above and beyond what basic travel insurance provides.

Acts of terrorism, political threat, or wrongful detention are some of the security issues that additional travel protection providers, such as MedjetHorizon, can help with. Crisis response networks are also available to help with other major issues such as medical and legal aid as well as global evacuation and rescue.

The worst part of being involved in a crisis abroad is not having the network and support you’d normally have while at home and having to search for the information and help yourself. By tapping into security and crisis assistance, you’ll be able to cover yourself in many unforeseen situations.

Illness and injury, political unrest and crime: it’s during unpredictable circumstances like these that having additional travel protection can make all the difference. So no matter where you’re going, take a look at your options and make sure you’re covered when it counts the most!

, , ,

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.


 

, ,

A Guide To Visiting New York CIty

New York City Travel Guide

New York City is the most popular destination in the world, and for good reason. With first-class entertainment options, world-famous landmarks, buzzing street activity and nightlife, it is an epicenter of culture, diversity and excitement. Your choices are seemingly endless when it comes to hotels, which means deciding which hotel to book can be a challenge, as options range from hostels to ultra-luxurious global chains. IHG® can help you find accommodations that cater to your wants and needs while you explore what makes NYC so unique.

New York City CityscapeImage via Flickr by hijanisch

Things to See

New York City is home to a multitude of world-renowned landmarks, so prioritizing your time during your visit is essential. For the ultimate sightseeing adventure, consider one of the hotels in Manhattan, home to the Empire State Building, Times Square, Wall Street and the 9/11 Memorial. Manhattan can easily fill your itinerary with must-dos, and a short boat ride across the harbor takes you to the Statue of Liberty. After a day of sightseeing, a stroll through Central Park is an excellent way to unwind.

Hotels in New York City

New York City hosts almost 55 million visitors each year and offers an incredible array of destinations and attractions to explore. Regardless of when you go, where you stay or what you do, there are plenty of hotels to fit your specific needs, and by booking through IHG, you are assured a great stay while you explore New York.

Where to Stay

When considering hotels in New York City, first choose your ideal borough, since each has its own character, advantages and charms. You may want to be closer to the multicultural cuisine of Queens or the tree-lined streets of Brooklyn. Midtown Manhattan is a prime location for visitors wanting to be within walking distance of Broadway plays or 5th Avenue shops, although they can be expensive. If you want to be in the middle of the action, look for a Times Square hotel location. Luckily, there are many reasonably priced hotels inside and outside of Manhattan, and getting around is easy.

How to Get to New York City

The New York City metropolitan area is served by three key airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, La Guardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, which is only 15 miles from Manhattan. Those visiting the city by rail will enjoy the iconic Grand Central Terminal or Pennsylvania Station, the city’s two main railway stations. Travelers with shorter stays may find New York City hotels near major transportation hubs more convenient and more budget-friendly.
The thought of getting around the city can be intimidating for first-time visitors, but traveling throughout the city and its five boroughs is surprisingly easy, thanks to the extensive Metro subway system. Along with its low cost and vast network of routes, the Metro is an efficient way to explore the city. In addition, you can easily hail a cab for a direct route to your destination.

, , ,

24 Hours of Food in Orillia, Ontario

We love it when we stumble across a town or city that has an unexpected culinary scene. That’s exactly what happened when we recently visited Orillia, Ontario and found an abundance of incredible food at every turn. Though we could put together an extensive list of restaurants, we’re going to highlight a few restaurants that will get you through a day (or weekend) trip to Orillia and have you licking your chops long after you’ve left!

Breakfast: Shaws Maple Syrup Bush Pancake House

shaws maple syrup bush pancake house

If you’re in Orillia from February to April, you’ll probably not want to miss the chance to try some freshly made maple syrup from Shaws Maple Syrup Bush. Their pancake house is pretty much a perfect breakfast place in Orillia where you’ll find fluffy pancakes, delicious french toast, fresh pork sausages and maple syrup galore! We also tried some of the maple baked beans which we were told was a must – and we agreed!

Lunch: The Grape & Olive

The Grape & Olive Dinner

Though The Grape & Olive is a great restaurant any time of the day, it makes for a great lunch spot if you’re out and about in Orillia. They have a variety of menu options, great service and some dishes that will leave you satisfied and full, ready for whatever the rest of the afternoon holds for you. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there and, as a tip, if you like bread, you may want to ask for an extra order of theirs before you even start!

Dinner: Rustica Pizza & Vino

Rustica Pizza & Vino Dessert

Rustica Pizza & Vino has become one of our favourite restaurants, especially for pizza. The flavour profiles are phenomenal, the wood oven pizza is created to perfection and it has a great atmosphere. We’d pretty much recommend any of the pizzas on their menu and if you can, take a peek at how they make them – the extensive training to master the art and technique of creating such a delicious pizza is visible as they work. What’s great is that the rest of their menu is just as fantastic, whether you are ordering a salad, some arancini or dessert. While the photo above doesn’t show one of their pizzas, it does show their incredible culinary talent with these pieces of fried pizza dough, nutella and strawberries!

All of the above & late night: Casino Rama Resort

St Germain's Casino Rama Meal

Since Casino Rama Resort is an entertainment destination, you’ll find more than just one restaurant here and even if you’re not staying at the resort itself (Casino Rama has some incredible hotel rooms!) you can still stop by for some food at one of their eight dining options.

Whether you go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late-night meal, there’s pretty much something for everyone from their steakhouse to their pub. You’ll find a buffet with a huge assortment of food, a Chinese restaurant, a noodle house and more. We always find ourselves trying new dishes whenever we go and we’ve enjoyed every meal, no matter the time of day!

, ,

A Winter Getaway in Orillia

Ontario’s Lake Country is a gorgeous area that, as the name suggests, has stunning landscapes of lakes and rivers and Orillia is one of the city’s in the area that not only has natural beauty but also cultural and historical finds as well. As it’s only a short drive from Toronto, it is an amazing destination to escape to – whether it be for the day, a weekend or even a week. It caters to locals and tourists alike with things to do and see for all four seasons making it a place you can return to again and again. Since Ontario has several months of winter weather, Orillia is a fantastic destination for a winter getaway – so, if you’re looking to head there in the colder months, we’ve put together a list of some of the amazing things you can do and see while there!

Maple Tree Tapping and Pancakes

maple sap samples orillia ontario

There’s really nothing like fresh maple syrup and whether you’re Canadian, or just visiting, you’ll appreciate the connection between maple trees, maple syrup and the country. You’ll definitely gain a larger appreciation while learning more about maple syrup production and luckily, there’s one must-see place in Orillia that will allow you to eat some amazing maple syrup AND learn about the whole process.

Shaws Maple Syrup Bush has been tapping maple trees since 1904 but there’s also so much more to do while there. We walked through the Maple tree bush with 4000 trees and saw the interconnected tubing that brings sap right to the processing area, saw the sap boiling area (there are times to view the boiling process) and, the tastiest part of the day, got a chance to enjoy recently produced maple syrup at their Pancake House! Here’s where you can try some fresh-made pancakes and french toast and several other maple-influenced items like maple baked beans and maple tea. It’s definitely a perfect breakfast in Orillia with a little something more!

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Horseshoe Valley Resort

Cross Country Skiing Horseshoe Valley Resort Orillia

There’s really nothing to do about winter and snow in Canada other than getting out and enjoying it and if that’s what you’re looking to do, Orillia has got you covered! There’s one place in particular that we enjoy because of the sheer number of options for outdoor fun in the winter – Horseshoe Resort. As the two of us are composed of a skier and an non-skier, hitting the snow in anything other than boots can be intimidating for the one half of us that is, shall we say, winter-sport challenged (hint: if you want to know who we’re talking about, take a look at the person on the RIGHT of the photo above…). Horseshoe Resort offered different activities for our comfort levels, amazing instructors and great ways to warm up after!

It was here that we first tried cross country skiing and snowshoeing and had an absolute blast. Downhill skiing is also available and while we were up for giving the slopes a whirl, the temptation of trying some of the other activities won out. Our instructor for cross country skiing was amazing and the trails for it and snowshoeing were a pretty sight with the white snow glistening. We also had the chance to go tubing which was not about skill but instead about pure fun! Warming up for lunch had us enjoying a great meal and heading back outside to sit by an outdoor fire and roast marshmallows.

Since they also have fat biking and snowmobiling, and we didn’t end up downhill skiing, it will definitely be somewhere for us to return to next time we’re in Orillia in the winter!

Explore Art & History

The Orillia Museum of Art & History Orillia

Though it may be considered a small town, Orillia has a cultural scene that shouldn’t be missed. From the Rama First Nations history, art and culture to the town’s own history and art scene, there’s something to be found if you’re looking.

We made a stop in to the Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) and found some incredible talent along with some interesting tidbits of local history. OMAH is dedicated to showcasing local history and art as well as the artwork of surrounding areas. They have some incredibly interesting exhibitions that move through and we were fortunate to be able to be there for the 21st annual International Women’s Day exhibition with a theme of ‘renewal’.

History of the area is displayed in various artifacts and in the story of the building itself and these, combined with the stellar art, give a glimpse into the community of Orillia.

Exploring the Orillia Museum of Art & History is just one way to experience the arts and culture scene and a great way to spend some time out of the winter weather outside.

A Getaway at Casino Rama Resort

Casino Rama Resort Orillia, Ontario

Orillia is usually closely linked to Casino Rama Resort and is often what is first thought of by people from outside the area… and with good reason. The sprawling resort is more than just a casino, it’s an entertainment destination with so much more to do than just gaming and has been dubbed ‘The Great Indoors’.

It’s also a fantastic place for a winter getaway in Orillia – the spacious hotel rooms, multiple dining options, theatre that hosts amazing performers and the casino floor itself offer a multitude of activities and make for a perfect place to spend time while in Ontario’s Lake Country whether you plan to combine it with some outdoor fun or just stay inside the resort the entire time!

Imagine a cold winter day while inside the resort, swimming in the saltwater pool and taking some time in the sauna before heading in for a spa treatment. Whether you top that off with a fantastic meal and maybe a show is up to you, but either way, it’s a pretty fantastic plan for a day in the great indoors!

Tour The Phenomenal Culinary Scene

Rustica pizza and vino orillia, ontario

The food scene in Orillia may just blow you away. We know were were absolutely blown away by the meals we enjoyed while there. In truth, you could spend your entire winter getaway in Orillia hopping from restaurant to restaurant enjoying incredible food, but then you’d also be missing out on all the other things to do that we just mentioned!

If you’re already intrigued by the pancake breakfast at Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush, we’ve got a couple more recommendations to make sure your meals are covered while in Orillia – Rustica Pizza & Vino and The Grape & Olive.

Rustica Pizza & Vino not only serves ridiculously good wood oven pizza but also a variety of Italian dishes that are perfectly executed. We started off our meal with some arancini (rice balls) which were scrumptious and followed it up with some pizza – each option as good as the other but all of them out-of-this-world good. Seriously. We are planning to drive to Orillia again soon just to dine at Rustica. Their dessert solidified it for us – we had fried pizza dough with nutella and strawberries and we really don’t have to say much more than that, do we?

We quickly realized that The Grape & Olive would become one of our staple restaurants when visiting Orillia. The service was impeccable, the food was delicious and we had a fantastic dining experience overall. Though we ate off one of their featured menus, we took a look at their regular options and we’ve chosen a few dishes we’ll be ordering the next time – or we may even go as a group and check out the interactive dining that they have available where the chef will prepare your 3-course meal right in front of you!

 

No matter how long you plan to stay in Orillia, there’s no shortage of things to do and planning a winter getaway to the area gives you access to a whole host of activities to help you enjoy the cold weather and snow!