Well 2013 was a great year for adventure and new ideas: Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Croatia and The Piece Collection was born. And 2014 has already taken us back to beautiful southern Mexico… Where to next?? Here are some great ideas! Where will 2014 take you???
The backpacker’s dream: buy an Around the World Ticket, pack your backpack, hop on your plane, arrive at your destination, check in to your hostel, meet lots of young travelers, party, explore, keep in touch. Go to next destination aaaaaand repeat.
Backpacker’s realty: buy an Around the World Ticket, pack your backpack, hop on your plane, arrive at your destination, check into your hostel, meet lots of young travelers, party, explore, keep in touch. Go to next destination and repeat. IF you pick the RIGHT hostel.
But what if you are 30? The most common question I get from friends that ask how I afford to travel, is where I stay. When I mention to my friends that I often stay in a hostel or guesthouse, I always get the response, “Isn’t 30 too old to be staying in a hostel? Aren’t hostels only for 18-26 year olds?” . My answer is “No, not always.”
When I first started traveling at the age of 21, Youth Hostels were where we mostly stayed, with the occasional guesthouses in smaller beach villages that didn’t have any hostels. Youth Hostels offer a cheap bed and shower, with an opportunity to meet like travelers.
What to look for in a Hostel:
Private Room vs. Dorm Room
So just because you are staying in a hostel it doesn’t mean that you have to bunk up with 12 other backpackers in one room (although that is an option too). Many hostels offer the option to stay in a private room. This is nice if you are traveling with one other person, sometimes the private rooms will even have 2 beds for 3 to sleep comfortably. The private room will offer you the luxury of sprawling the insides of your backpack all over the room and the ability to sleep with little disruption. Some private rooms even offer the luxury of a private bathroom gasp!
If you don’t mind sleeping in a dorm style type room, there are many options usually offered. Many hostels will offer you a “mixed dorm room” or a “female dorm room”. Dorm rooms usually sleep about 6-10 people. Now if you choose to stay in a dorm room, be ready to be woken up in the middle of the night or at most cases early morning by the group of backpackers that went out drinking that night. There is also the case of the backpacker that has to catch an early flight, bus or train ride and is trying to pack up quietly, turning lights on and off bumping their heads and loudly whispering to their travel companions. The major benefits of sleeping in a dorm style room, the price! Most dorm style beds run about $15-$20 a night. Great price when you are traveling for long periods of time and need to save some dinero.
Often hostels will have organized activities, giving you the opportunity to explore the city and meet new people. Many hostels will organize pub-crawls, and family style dinners, which is a great way to meet all the other people staying in your hostel. Family dinners usually include a delicious meal and wine. At the front desk of your hostel signups for city tours and activities are offered and usually at a discounted rate. Good hostels also have experienced staff, who can help you with the best places to eat and drink, which busses or trains to take, and more local advice for the city.
When traveling for long periods of time eating out every meal can get quite expensive. A benefit of staying in a hostel is most have a communal kitchen to store and cook food. An added benefit, many hostels provide free breakfast! Which usually consists of fruit, cheese, bread, and of course the international staple condiment
Nowadays, most hostels offer Wi-Fi for their guests. 10 years ago the only place you could access the Internet was an Internet Café gasp! No longer are the days to wait for 20 minutes for a dial up connection on an old desktop computer. Your trusty smartphone and the ever-changing hostel Wi-Fi password is all you need.
So am I too old for a hostel?
I say “No!” on most occasions. While it is nice to post up in a big comfy hotel room all to yourself, I still do enjoy what staying in a Youth Hostel has to offer. The friends I have made over the years that span the globe are testament to just that. While it may be a jam-packed youth hostel one day, your next trip you might be staying at the house of the friend that was staying in the bunk below you!
Best hostels I’ve stayed in:
Mondo Taitu— Bocas Del Toro, Panama
El Misti Hostel- Rio De Janeiro- Botofogo, Brazil
Palermo House- Buenos Aries, Argentina
Lisbon Lounge Hostel, Lisboa Portugal
Gordon Inn Guest House—Tel Aviv, Israel
The Rising Cock—Lagos, Portugal
The Funky Monkey– Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Havana Palolem— Palolem, Goa, India.
- How To Get The Best Hostel Accommodation For Less (ozroaming.wordpress.com)
- What Is A Hostel (mademan.com)
- Question time: Hostels v. Hotels ? (savingitalianpineapples.wordpress.com)
- The best hostels in the world (according to me) (nzmuse.com)
- Hostels: the good, the bad and the downright ugly (travellingcoral.wordpress.com)
Best Party Hostels
Need help getting through this Monday morning? Here is a video that should help, as well as fuel your Wanderlust! xx
- WHY? Because everyone you know raves about how amazing San Sebastian is every chance they get… and they are right! There are a million reasons to visit San Sebastian, to enjoy the lush green mountain scenery of the Basque country…to tan on one of Spain’s most beautiful beaches…to party all night like a college kid… but honestly the ONLY thing that matters in San Sebastian is the tapas. (Actually its “pinxos” if you speak Basque, but we are assuming you don’t.) And if you do your tapas right, the beaches and the partying will fall right into place. Allow me to explain.
- EAT AND DRINK: It works like this: you walk into a bar, the entire bar is covered in hundreds of plates of tapas. You grab a plate, pick up 1 or 2 tapas by grabbing it by the toothpick, order a glass of wine or cider, and pay. Then, find a place to stand, eat standing up, talk to the people next to you, throw your napkin on the ground, walk out, find a new tapas bar and repeat. Over and over and over. This is the best way to enjoy the cuisine, the culture and meet new people. By the time you are full, you will be slightly buzzed and will have at least 5 new friends who are also buzzed. You will all decide to go out for more drinks and next thing you know its 5 am. You will retreat to your hotel and wake up bright and early at 3:00 pm just in time to join the thousands of other revelers on the beach. (We prefer Playa de la Concha because it is the most sprawling, has shallow water you can wade out in, and floating diving boards in the middle of the bay if you find the energy). Inevitably, you will get hungry and head back to the scene of the crime–the Old Quarter. You will eat and drink the night away and pick up at least 5 more friends in the process. Again you will wake yp and head straight to the beach, as you swear that you will not repeat the process again. Oh, but you will friends, because it is too fun and absolutely too delicious to avoid.
- THINGS TO DO: Assuming that you make it to you hotel at least a couple of the nights before 3 am, there are many things to do besides sleep on the beach. For example, you can trek from the Old Quarter to the top of Monte Urgull, one of the main focal points of San Sebastian in just about an hour. The vegetation on the way up is gorgeous and the views from the top looking back down onto San Sebastian are spectacular and not-to-be-missed. Not to mention that that there is a man who sets up a bar 2/3 the way up, which serves an ice-cold beer and great views of the city. Bilboa, home of the Guggenheim, and Biarritz, France, and a quick day trip if you have a couple of extra days. And if you find yourself lucky enough to be in San Sebastian in July, you are a 45 minute bus ride from Pampelona, home of The Running of the Bulls!
- TIPS: San Sebastian is in the Basque country, so we should clarify a few things. First, the name of the city is actually “Donosti” (Donostia) so when you arrive by train, don’t miss your stop because you are waiting for “San Sebastian”. Second, we called them tapas in this blog, but they are “pinxos” (pronounced “pinchos”… the ‘x’ in basque has a “ch” sound) so don’t be annoying and make sure to call them by their proper name! The Basque region is famous for cider, try it… also the Rioja region is nearby and produces delicious reds. Buen Provecho!
- Life Abroad: San Sebastián y Bilbao (thebruinclub.wordpress.com)
- Condé Nast Traveler Insider’s Guide: Northern Spain Food (alegriaonline.net)
- San Sebastian Film Festival: 5 reasons why it’s the best in the world (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sipping in San Sebastian (anitaandray.com)
- Five things to know about San Sebastián (metro.co.uk)
- The rain in Spain falls mainly in San Sebastian (schatzandschatz.wordpress.com)
- WHY? You are looking for adventure, while being tucked away in a quaint South American town. You wanted to be surrounded by trees and gorgeous mountain ranges. Located roughly 300 Km from Bogota, San Gil is known as Colombia’s adventure capital.
- EAT AND DRINK: Well a trip to Colombia cannot without a little Aguadente, or fire-water (although we do warn to drink with caution).
- THINGS TO DO; There are many tour companies that can offer you a variety of fun activities each day. San Gil is known as the pioneering place for rafting in Colombia! Many of the tour companies will follow with a guy in a kayak who will video tape your entire rafting trip. Hold on tight though, Casey was filmed falling out of the raft! Get down and dirty and crawl through muddy crevices and go caving in the “Bat Cave” (Antigua Cave), Its worth crawling with spiders and bats, you will get to see underwater waterfalls! Paraglide over the beautiful Chicamocha Canyon. The mountains and canyons around San Gil make it a great area for mountain biking. Rent your own bikes or hire a guide!
- DO NOT MISS! Repelling down the Juan Curi Waterfall! Go down an 80 meter waterfall with breathtaking views over the mountains of Santander! Grab the rope and descend down and get a adrenaline rush like you have never felt before!
- WHY? You fell in love with Rapunzel as a kid, You wanted to drop your long hair down for a prince to climb up. Or you wanted to repel up the side of a castle of a damsel in distress and make her your princess. Just about 25 minute drive outside Lisbon and the home for Portugal’s monarchs, Sintra is a romantic little town of historic castles and mansions all set against the backdrop of lush hills.
- EAT AND DRINK Paris Café was delicious! Enjoy a tall ice-cold lemonade and slurp on a refreshing gazpacho topped with Lemon sorbet! Stroll down the streets with a yummy gelato in hand and check out all the artisan projects along the river.
- THINGS TO DO A trip to Sintra must not be without a visit to its famous castles, including the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, the hilltop and storybook Palacio de Pena, and the hilltop medievil Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). The Palacio de Pena and The Castelo dos Mouros are within walking distance to each other, makes checking them both out very easy! DO NOT FORGET YOUR CAMERA, Sintra is a photo-op haven. Be ready to clog your intsagram feed, because it will be too hard to pick just one picture to post.
- DO NOT MISS! Quinta da Regaleria! A magical and mansion and garden located a nice short walk outside of the main street, La Quinta de Regaleria is great place to take and walk and explore the lakes, tunnels, statues, grotos and towers of the never ending maze of lush beautiful garden. The estate on the property is equally amazing, with beautiful Roman gothic architecture styles that mesmerizes the eyes. DO NOT MISS the Inception Well, be sure to take a walk down the 27 meter steps and explore the underground mazes. Again, don’t forget your camera!
Our morning inspiration was filled when we came across this video…. If this video doesn’t make you want to travel…. We aren’t sure what will! Enjoy! xx
- WHY? Jeri, is a palm tree white sand beach oasis, hidden behind majestic sand dunes on the Northwest coast of Brazil. Get mesmerized by the stunning coastal scenery. Enjoy the remoteness of this beach town that has no traffic lights or paved roads. Jericoacoara could quite possibly be one the most beautiful beaches in the world.
- EAT AND DRINK: Be sure to get some delicious seafood or mouth-watering Brazilian BBQ filets on the beach. Sip on a romantic beachside cocktails at sunset. Explore the alley ways and stop in to Café Brasil for a yummy sandwich or smoothie.
- THINGS TO DO: Kite and Wind surfing. Buggy rides in the Sand Dunes. Sandboarding. Search for sea horses in the streams. Watch capoeira groups practice on the beach. We must not forget our favorite activity, sunbathing in the white sand.
- DO NOT MISS! Por do Sol or sunset dunes. At sunset make the pilgrimage to the top of Por de Sol and capture the beauty of the famous sunset spot.
Just Do it.
No we are not advertising the new amazing Nike Lunarglides, although they DO feel like you are running on clouds. We are talking about the ticket abroad you keep thinking about buying, but making excuses on why you shouldn’t go.
What could possibly be an excuse for not traveling abroad??? Lets look at a few of the most common excuses or obstacles I hear among friends and colleagues.
“I don’t have a passport.”
According to the US Travel Association, only about 39% of Americans have a passport. That means that 3 out of every 5 Americans cannot even hop across the border to Mexico and grab some lobster and beer in Puerto Nuevo. (PS this is a must for anyone visiting San Diego, be sure to get the cheesebread balls!) Well this is an easy obstacle to overcome. The US Department of State has a comprehensive website to answer all your passport questions. Passports can be issued (with enough allowable time), which is about 4-6 weeks from the time of application for $135. Need it sooner than that? You can expedite your passport application process in about 2-3 weeks with an additional fee of $60. Don’t limit your travel within our beautiful American borders. Important Tip: Make sure to check whether the country you are planning to travel to require a visa to visit for Americans (or your country of origin). Obstacle number one, check!
US Department of State Passport Page
“I can’t afford it.”
Yes you can!!
First step is that plane ticket! There are many websites that offer travel deals on flights. I have two that I religiously use when shopping for a ticket. Kayak.com and Cheapoair.com are my top two where I consistently find the best deals. Both of these sites have an iPhone app to make searching for a flight convenient. Look everyday, all day, ticket prices fluncuate. One tip I learned from a friend recently when looking up flights on these websites, is to clear your cookies after every search to keep you flight prices down. Plan on buying your ticket on a Tuesday at 3pm Eastern time, it’s the day airlines offer the cheapest flights. Also the cheapest day to fly on is Wednesday followed by Tuesday and Saturday.
Step two, affordable place to stay. Now just because you are taking a trip to the beautiful beaches of Brazil, it does not mean you have to stay in a 5 star resort. There are many affordable options for traveling on a shoestring. Check out the websites and download the iPhone applications of Hostelworld.com, Trip Advisor, Couchsurfer, and VRBO.com. Each of these sites offers great deals on places to stay from hostel dorm beds, guesthouses, apartments, to someone’s couch. Remember you are traveling to experience the culture not sit in your room, watch TV, and drink from the mini bar all day. Another way to make it affordable is if you are leaving for a longer period of time, say a month, sublet your room (with your roommates permission of course). When I was in college my roommates and I often did this to help pay for our trips. If you live in a great home where you think people would want to stay on vacation, post your house on VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner). Obstacle number two, check!
“I don’t have any time.”
It is true, and unfortunate that Americans compared to Europeans, do not have a lot of paid vacation time. Two weeks paid vacay is pretty standard for the average American in the workforce. While I do advocate the longer the better (that’s what she said ;)), a good trip can be done in 7-10 days. A great tool for planning a trip, long or short, is a Lonely Planet Travel Guide. Go to your nearest Barnes and Nobel and pick up a Lonely Planet Travel Book for whatever country you plan to go to (they have them all). Lonely Planet can help breakdown your trip for a travel of 1 week , 2 weeks to 3 months. They can offer advice on how to get around; domestic airline options, bus routes, and train times. LP also gives great suggestions on activities to do while on your vacation. My favorite thing about Lonely Planet is the background information offered on each city you are visiting!!! Biggest tip is to plan and research. Make a calendar and figure out your travel times etc. Obstacle three, check!
“I have nobody to go with.”
So what?!? Embrace this opportunity to travel alone. I guarantee that you will not be alone for long! While traveling you are guaranteed to meet people from all walks of life. Don’t be scared to talk to the couple sitting next to you at the café or on the bus. Chat up the person staying in the bunk below you. Traveling alone forces you to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people! Ask friends before you leave, if they have friends living wherever you are going. My best experiences traveling are meeting up with a friend of a friend in a new city and having a “local” tour of that city. You don’t know what a city is really about until you experience it with someone that ACTUALLY lives there! Local Status! Obstacle four, check!
REASONS YOU SHOULD TRAVEL
1) The memories you gain will be unmatchable
2) You will truly begin to understand the different cultures of the world, which can help you any all aspects of life, including in the workplace.
3) You will meet new people, and make new friends across the globe.
4) Shopping is ALWAYS better abroad.
5) You will have caught the Traveling Bug and you wont be able to kick it, so ENJOY!
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page” – St Augustine
– Casey xx
WOULD YOU RATHER
Would you rather never be able to travel again and have to stay in one place for the rest of your life, or never be able to listen to music again, like zero, no music of any kind ever again?
Casey posed this really annoying question to me while we were sitting in pool looking out over the Mediterranean in the south of Spain. I mean I am looking at the Mediterranean considering the question… the answer was so obvious. I would give up music. Duh. I thought Casey would immediately agree that this was the only answer and the next round of WYR would commence. Casey wouldn’t give up music. Ummm WHAT?!?
I was like “Wait. No, stop… really?! You would stay in San Diego for the rest of your life??!?” and her answer was interesting. She said that she couldn’t live in silence and she loved music too much to never hear it again… and that music took her places. Like she could hear music and it would take her to different places and times. Sort of like traveling. Ahhhh, cool. I mostly understood. I love music too and was really pissed about having to choose between travel and music. But I definitely couldn’t live the rest of my life in one place, it would drive me completely insane and so, welp, sorry music. Plus (random thought that I totally considered during my 45-second internal debate) I once had this really amazing and inspiring session with a batty psychic at my friend’s house on Mullholand Drive. (Pffff, LA, of course.) Anyway, she told me that I didn’t concentrate enough on the sounds of the earth and that as a result I wasn’t as present and focused as I should be. She told me that if I listened—really listened to birds chirping, and wind blowing and water flowing, and tried to hear the layers and depth, tried to differentiate the tones and really hear it, I would find a peaceful calm and strength. I can’t say that I have often heeded this advice, however, I have often THOUGHT about it heeding it. And when I was considering about never hearing music again, I thought that maybe if I had no more music, then I could finally focus and zen out on birds, oceans, and life. Without music, I guess I would be forced to really hear the sounds of the Earth, and that would be my music. Plus, I could always sing in the shower.
We debated it for a good three minutes, and then moved on to a much more superficial WYR which I won’t repeat here. So, good thing I don’t have to give up music…. Because, well, I’m listening to it as I write this even. One of my favorite discoveries of all time is an incredible music blog, which everyone should be checking allll the time. Songs are provided daily and every month a “mixtape” with an hour of the best new music is compiled and available for downloading. This guy is a genius and his taste is really impeccable. You can thank me later.
http://www.etmusiquepourtous.com/ and make sure to check the “miel du mois” tab where the mixtapes can be found.