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Category Archives:Destinations

10 ways to get off the beaten track

There is an ever-present, yet largely unspoken discussion that goes on with travellers. It’s the traveller vs. tourist mentality where a tourist is there to tick a box, read the guide book and follow other tourists, and the traveller is more up for adventurous, serendipitous experiences.

While these two types of people definitely exist, I think it’s a little pretentious to think one is better than the other (and I’m definitely talking to past me in this instance). Different people are just up for different types of experiences. Regardless, if you want to get away from the crowds and create your own unique experiences, let these ideas inspire your creativity.

Hop on an early train. Return late at night.

Trains are a great way to explore. Not only is the window a gateway to a countryside you might not otherwise see, it’s an easy way to make a day trip outside of a city. I know in England, trains are not only a great way get around the island nation, but there are sooooo many little villages you could explore just by picking a stop at random. And when I spent a weekend in Copenhagen, one of those days I caught a train to Sweden. I visited 3 little towns with no plan and had a fantastic time.

Lake District hike near Windemere, UK
Lake District hike near Windemere

Ask a local like your barista or bartender where they like to hang out

When I travel I love finding cool places for coffee in the morning, and unique places for beer…later that morning. When it comes to finding places only locals know about, why not go straight to the source? Ask your order taker where they like to goof off and I have no doubt they’ll give you more than one.

Follow a local

I mean, be inconspicuous; don’t be weird about it. Just find someone that looks interesting, might be going somewhere interesting, and see where they end up.

And you know, if you really do want to up the ante, you can always still be weird about it.

Sleep in the suburbs

When you stay in a city, chances are that you won’t actually leave the city for exploration purposes unless there’s a specific reason. If you stay in the suburbs, not only will it be a bit cheaper, but you’ll likely experience the local transportation system and see a part of town you otherwise wouldn’t.

A perfect example is when I visited Amsterdam for about 4 days. I stayed about a 30-minute train ride from the city at (in my opinion) the best hostel in the world. It was set on a property near a lake which was fun to explore, and a short bike ride away was a town called Abcoude, quiet and quaint just waiting for me to explore.

Street in Abcoude, near Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A highlight of my time in Amsterdam was actually the day I didn’t even see Amsterdam

Couchsurf

I’ve personally never done this but I love the idea of it. No one is going to help you find awesome places better than a local who understands the traveller mindset. It’ll be an adventure in and of itself. You can find a couch in over 200 destinations, so even if you’re looking for a hotel in Mumbai, you have the opportunity of linking up with a local.

Hire a bike

Public transportation can be clunky and predictable, while walking can be too slow. But hiring a bike can give you the best balance between mobility and speed. We hired bikes in Miami Beach and had a blast exploring the beautiful art deco district. However, at one point we were forced to trek across sand…that wasn’t ideal.

Kynie on a bike in Miami Beach-sm

Get off a train at a station you’ve never heard of

I mentioned it briefly, but if you don’t have a plan, why not keep it that way? Go where the wind takes you. Just remember what station it what so you know where to get back?

Throw out your map and guide book

I mean, maybe don’t physically throw it out, just maybe leave it in the hotel one day and hope for the best. I still read up on places I’m visiting and maps are definitely handy, but one sure-fire way to end up somewhere you didn’t plan is to not plan to end up anywhere.

Backstreets of Copenhagen Denmark
Backstreets of Copenhagen

Eat somewhere that looks like super dodgy

Risk the food poisoning for a good story. When it’s meal time the last thing I want is hawkers trying to get me into their restaurant to have lunch. I’ve eaten my fair share of questionable foods but there was one time I actually listened to hawker. It was in Negril, Jamaica. We’d spent 2 days looking at and walking along 7 Mile Beach so this time we walked along the road behind the resorts.

As we crossed back to the beach we passed through what looked like someone’s backyard and approached a small shack with cognac bottles strewn everywhere and a few locals looking a little worse for wear. Some guy asked is we were hungry and if we wanted lunch. I was really hungry so we just said “whatever” and sat down at a wooden table. The menu was verbal only and consisted of fish, beef or chicken, which was another red flag. But it actually ended up being the best meal I had on the island.

Negril Sun Restaurant hut Jamaica-3

Travel alone

It definitely takes a certain type of person to travel on their own for an extended period of time. I spend 4 days in Copenhagen on my own and while I saw so much more than if I was with someone, I was in dire need of a conversation by the end of it because I don’t tend to meet people particularly well.

It’s also much easier to do something random when you don’t have to consider someone else’s agenda. It’ll make you more inclined to meet other people and learn from their experiences and local knowledge. This was the tale of when I became stranded in Brussels due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. I met a couple of girls on a day trip to Luxembourg, I met a guy who took me around the red light district for some reason (maybe I just looked really lonely), and when the sky didn’t clear so I took a random train to Amsterdam until it did, where I met a bunch of crazy strangers at Lucky Lake Hostel.

Backroad in Brussels, belgium
A Backstreet in Brussels, Belgium

It can be really easy to stick to what we read about in books, blogs and brochures, and keep to where we are comfortable, but building unique experiences through serendipitous travel are what have created some of my best memories to date. It’s not always how I travel, but it’s always fun when I do.

What have you discovered from leaving logic behind? Let me know in the comments below.

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5 East Coast USA Places That are Way Off the Beaten Track

I’ve been to the USA a number of times, and each time I go, the list of places I want to see grows. One of my fondest trips was a month long loop around the Northeast, starting and finishing in Chicago. A carload of buddies and I hit most of the major cities in the area, but we also managed to balance that with a few locations closer to nature. If you’re planning to drive around the Eastern Seaboard, consider these places when you go.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

A Beach in Cape Cod, MA

I visited Cape Cod on that loop, and it served perfectly as a quiet break from a road trip itinerary otherwise dominated by cityscapes. The sleepy town of Provincetown was our destination on the furthermost tip of the hook that is Cape Cod. We walked on beaches and explored MacMillan Pier Marina, but the best thing to do in Cape Cod is to eat seafood. You don’t live this far out into the sea without mastering the art of shellfish.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City

Image via Flickr by shinya

I’m a big fan of Las Vegas, so the idea of Atlantic City also intrigues me. Atlantic City is billed as the Las Vegas of the East Coast, but it really does have its own character. With its long boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean, you can easily zip out for some fresh air, something severely lacking in most casinos.

For the kids and kids at heart, the boardwalk actually extends out into the ocean, sporting a massive amusement area, not unlike those in Galveston or Santa Monica. I’m also a massive “Boardwalk Empire” fan, so picturing the boardwalk during the Roaring 20s and pretending to be a mob boss is all I’d think about.

Ocean City, Maryland

Two states south of Atlantic City lies Ocean City. A resort town on a thin strip of land bounded by the Atlantic to the east and Isle of Wight Bay to the west, Ocean City is very much a family vacation spot. It boasts a water park, an amusement park, and plenty of sandy beach. Don’t worry, though, as there are also plenty of golf courses for the parents to escape.

The presence of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! definitely signals that you’re in tourist territory. But if you’re just after a beach break, the wide, sandy beaches of Ocean City will definitely do the trick.

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Luray Caverns, Virginia

Although not on the coast, Luray is definitely off the beaten track. Located just two hours from Washington, D.C., Luray is perfectly nestled in Shenandoah National Park. There are three reasons to visit Luray: the incredible ribs and wings at Uncle Buck’s Steakhouse, the hiking in nearby forests, and the ancient Luray Caverns.

There are three reasons to visit Luray: the incredible ribs and wings at Uncle Buck’s Steakhouse, the hiking in nearby forests, and the ancient Luray Caverns.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, ME

Image via Flickr by heipei

If you make it as far north as Acadia National Park, you might feel like you’ll run out of land soon. And you will, as the park is located on an island off the coast of Maine in the far Northeast. Acadia is a beautiful spot year round. Camping and hiking are popular in the summer, with hundreds of trails of all difficulties. In the autumn, the island is awash in oranges and browns, as the canopy becomes the trail. The winter then brings snow, where hiking turns into cross-country skiing.

As a traveller, it is a constant balancing act between seeing what you came to see and exploring serendipitously. By taking a detour to some of these lesser-known destinations, you can not only make your dollar go a little further, but also create some unique experiences that few others will.

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48 Hours in Sydney: How to hit all the major sites

Despite the requirement to battle with throngs of fellow tourists, regardless of your travel style you would be kidding yourself if you came to Sydney without wanting to see the icons that make Sydney, Sydney. Some are fairly concentrated, others are a little more far flung but you should be able to knock them all off in 2 days before slowing the pace to seeing what the locals see. But first, this is what to see in your first 48 hours in Sydney.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

To Australians, the Harbour Bridge is iconic Sydney. The best and most accessible view is from the Sydney Opera House or better yet, from the back of a ferry. Walking across the bridge itself is not as silly as it sounds either.

Catch a train to Milsons Point Station (North Shore Line), explore the other side of the Bridge (there are markets on the second and fourth Saturday each month) and make the trek back across. But if you’re happy to admire the bridge from a distance, walk north up George or Pitt street until you can walk no more. You’ll see it.

Sydney Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay

Sydney Opera House.

Around the corner from Circular Quay is the Opera House, which, let’s be honest, is one of the main reasons you came to Sydney. If you are lucky, you have checked the website and are seeing a show or concert there tonight in the incredible concert hall.

Sydney Opera House from the Harbour Bridge
Sydney Opera House from the Harbour Bridge

Botanical Gardens

If you were to continue walking past the Sydney Opera House you will see the city greys fade into greens as the concrete jungle becomes an actual jungle. Or at least, a large grassy area with scattered trees and gardens. If you are feeling abnormally energetic walk the entire way through the park, past the Tropical Centre and Fernery, over the M1 and exit through Mrs Macquarie’s Road to St Mary’s Cathedral, Hyde Park and eventually Sydney’s Anzac Memorial. It’s about a 2 km walk. It’s pretty easy to find if you just keep walking south.

Sydney Tower Eye

Formerly known as Centrepoint Tower, Sydney Tower Eye is Sydney’s highest building. It features an observation deck, revolving restaurant, and Skywalk Experience, all with their own admission prices. The cost is steep, but the views are unparalleled due to the height and incredible views of the harbour.

If money is an issue though, don’t feel bad in skipping it because there are other buildings  you can go up for free to see the view. I’ve been up the to the Shangri La restaurant and bar before, which is still 36 floors up, it’s closer to the harbour and still offers an incredible view, all you have to do is buy a drink to enjoy it.

Sydney Tower Eye

George and Pitt Streets.

This is where all the action happens. Businesses, bars and cafes lines George St while Pitt St turns into a pedestrian mall full of big brand shops, boutiques and buskers. You will most likely walk these a number of times while exploring the city on foot. Some of the best buskers in the city can be found along Pitt but you’ll want to avoid if you get claustrophobic in large crowds, as this is the mother of them all.

Queen Victoria Building

The QVB is an ornate Victorian building from the outside and an upmarket mall on the inside. If you exit Town Hall Station in a particular way you will walk through the QVB. But escaping the labyrinth that is Town Hall is challenge for even the seasoned commuter.

If you have taken out a loan there are plenty of places to drop cash and the Tea Palace is a perfect morning stop for the tea lover. The Tea Room also boasts front row seat to the QVB’s enormous clock that celebrates Sydney’s History every hour.

Queen Victoria Building Sydney

Martin Place

Martin Place is another pedestrian mall stretching east to west from Hyde Park down to George Street. In contrast to Pitt Street Mall, Martin Place is more big business focussed with companies like Channel 7, Commonwealth Bank, and the General Post Office all having flagship presences here.

However, the appeal of the Martin Place to the visitor is the historic buildings that line the walkway. Martin Place has some of the oldest and best preserved buildings in the city; sandstone blocks reaching from ground to sky.

Lastly, Martin Place often plays host to events and promotions, so you never know what you might find. Last time I was there for example, they were giving out free bratwurst hot dogs and waffles. Can’t remember what the event was though. Didn’t care!

GPO at Martin Place
GPO at Martin Place

Darling Harbour

On a hot day Darling Harbour will very much make you feel on vacation. Busy restaurants will serve the many ambling tourists as they wander around Cockle Bay. The quantity of restaurants is astounding, especially if you keep walking south towards the Entertainment Centre, so you are sure to find something that tickles your fancy.

Darling Harbour is also host to weekly fireworks every Saturday at 9pm. Get there early with an ice-cream in hand to get a good seat on the southern end for the best views.

Darling Harbour Sydney Australia

I actually remember when they used to do water skiing stunt shows in Cockle Bay; haven’t seen that for many years now though.

Slightly underrated is the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a bicentenary gift from China. A tranquil escape from the hustle and hassle of city life offers shady trees to relax around as well as a Chinese tea room.

Manly

Ok we’re out of the CBD now and if you love ferries, a strip mall with touristy shops and classic Australian beach, you will love Manly. An institution of the Manly mall is the souvenir shop yelling at you that they are in the finals days of a closing down sale – and have been since the mid-2000s. Misleading marketing aside, you never do know what you’ll find in there.

Catch a ferry to Manly from Circular Quay, walk through the mall to the beach and hang a right. Keep walking for about 15 minutes to Shelley Beach, a very pretty, quiet beach that is seldom visited by tourists with time constraints. Have a drink and a Burger at 4 Pines Brewing before heading back to the mainland.

Manly Beach, Sydney

Bondi Beach

If you’ve seen sweeping shots of Sydney during an after school special then you’ve seen Bondi Beach from the air. While it is definitely worth your time, so too is the Bondi to Coogee walk that begins to the South of the beach. Find the path and follow the runners. Be warned though. It. Gets. Crowded.

It can be a bit of a mission to get out to Bondi with the quality of Sydney’s public transport on full display. Catch the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra train line from Central to Bondi Junction and change to bus 380, 389, or 333 to Bondi Beach. Get off where everyone else gets off.

Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

There you have it, the 9 most popular sights that would round out a very busy 48 hours in Sydney. Sydney has some world class sights that is backed by a relaxed and somewhat hipster culture. But as for what to do with the rest of your time in Sydney, that’s an article for another day!

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Space Centre Houston: How to make the most of your day

If you do a Google search on things to do in Houston, NASA’s Space Centre Houston will undoubtedly appear on every listicle you come across. And there’s a very good reason for this: there’s actually not that much to do in Houston. Well, that is unless you get your jollies off in museums; in that case you might never leave the place. Space nerds, regular nerds, and people with a vague interest in space travel will all find Space Centre Houston a must-see attraction.

And just to clear the air so there is no confusion: Space Center Houston is the museum or visitor centre, Johnson Space Centre is the NASA control Centre where the astronauts play.

This is what we did on our day there, and what you can do to make you day run smoother.

Rocket Park at Space Centre Houston
Rocket Park at Space Centre Houston

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Los Angeles: Fun things to do in the world’s worst city

Hollywood sign over the hills from Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles is a sprawling mess. Highways criss and overpasses cross, and despite 7 lanes of traffic they still manage to get possibly some of the world’s worst traffic jams. It’s attractions are vastly spread and you can feel like you might waste your entire vacation in transit, especially if you try and rely on public transport.

So with that wonderful introduction done, welcome to a blog post all about Los Angeles!

Alright so the above is what we generally know so far. If Florida is America’s dong (look at a map), LA must be America’s butthole. So when Kynie said she hasn’t seen any of LA before and wanted to do Disney’s California Adventure, I took it as a challenge to find some good in the city that has given me so little.

And I succeeded. I had 4 days in Los Angeles and  this is how I spent it.

Hollywood Sign, the closest you can walk to

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