Get there then eat the same things as at home ?

Here I am, a ‘Berta girl traveling across the world to eat corn on the cobb….

what the hell am I doing?

It is hilarious when you go traveling and you spot a McDonalds and you get excited… or a Burger King. I could NOT be bothered eating at either of these places when I am at home, I swear I have eaten at more McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Pizza Hut’s in Asia than I have in my own province. But whyyyy!!!

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It’s probably the familiarity. The food is delicious there, but we see something in the mall that reminds us of back home and we have to eat it.

PS. Being from Alberta, Canada and going to Subway in Asia asking for “ranch” sauce and getting told “what’s that”…..

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What did you eat from “back home” while you were traveling?

Getting sick on vacation

What the media does to us

the best food

Morning coffee with a view

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Learning to motorcycle in a busy city in the Philippines

One of the cool things about traveling, especially in cheaper places such as South East Asia, is the ability to travel like a local.

Instead of taking constant cabs around town, or walking literally all day, why not be like the locals and rent a motorcycle for the day? We had done this many times before when we traveled, but I had always been on the back of the bike, telling my driver where to go and basically just enjoying the wind in my hair.

In Canada I had been dirt biking before so I figured in the Philippines why not try to ride my own motorcycle? It’s not like it had a clutch or gears I had to master like at home…

I didn’t even make it down the busy street before I walked my motorcycle back to the rental shop, got my money back, and hopped on as a passenger once again.

Asia has organized chaos to their streets. I don’t understand it and may even call it dangerous in my own head, but it is not to them… they understand it! Adding me into the mix of things was not good, I was still trying to get my grips with the bike itself let alot figuring out when to stop, when to go and why these people were passing me on all sides. It was all too much !

If you are in South East Asia and want to try out a bike, then do it ! It is a really fun and cheap way to get around. If you are confident then you will have no problem hopping on and driving around like a local. If you need some practice I would suggest testing the bike out in a less populated area and slowly working your way up. It would be a good idea to not have a passenger on the back of the bike as well if you are not the most confident driver, and of course, helmets! You never know what could happen in these busy streets so it is best to pop on a helmet if you are nervous !

 

I later came home and purchased my own motorcycle (Suzuki S40), and got my motorcycle license ! All in good time 🙂

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Traveling with a fear of heights & water

How I plan my trips .

Swimming with sharks

Paragliding

What the media does to us

I tattooed the bottom of my feet- Drunk Bamboo tattoo

Are we really travel savvy ?

Are hammocks really that awesome ?

What do you think?

I enjoy hammocks that are already set up, on a beach or a resort somewhere. What I don’t like about hammocks is trying to put them up yourself.. how high do I put it up so I am not dragging on the ground, and so I don’t have to run and jump to get in.

I tried sleeping in a hammock once, I got out with diamond shapes pressed into my body and a ton of bug bites on my back. Not to mention if you get them wet they smell like wet dog for the rest of their life.

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Living in the jungle

Swimming with sharks

Take the picture or enjoy

I always wonder if it is appropriate to take the picture.

I travel to explore, for an adventure. Sure taking pictures and uploading them to facebook is great, other people love to hear about your trips and sometimes the pictures help you remember all that you did. I love reminiscing on my trips when I am stuck at work or in a snowstorm and pictures are a great way to do that.

But..

Sometimes you see those people who hiked a huge mountain, or are watching fire works or a show and they insist on taking non stop pictures, and watching the view or performance through a screen. I wonder what those people have as motivation to even go? Can’t you just google a video or picture, do you really need to be there then? Maybe our generation is so enthralled with our phones or camera’s that we don’t even realize we are doing it… we see one thing that is cool and we automatically want to snapchat it.

Then you get to the places like war museums, Auschwitz, Pompeii, places where really horrible things have happened to people like genocide, or being sold as slaves, and you see people taking photos. I understand to a degree, you may want to go home and show people you know will never go what it looks like in Auschwitz. I myself have a photo of my friends and I in Pompeii where they sold the slaves.. I don’t think we planned it at the time “cool, they bought and sold people here.. let’s selfie” I think it was more like “finally we don’t have a crowd around us, let’s take a picture”. But looking back, was that really appropriate?

There was a man who wrote an article and attached photos he found online of young people posing, or taking “profile pictures” in these types of places. He then photo-shopped in the background pictures from history where the Jews were starving to death, skin and bones, with this girl in the front doing a yoga pose. It really surprised people I think. The overall reaction was “how could these kids take those kinds of pictures in a place like that”, but unless he put the historic pictures in the background would you have ever though twice before?

The tourists that pay money to the locals that have a monkey or a snake on their shoulders to hold that animal, take a quick photo then give it back drive me insane. A huge snake, a monkey, all these animals do not want to be held. They are not our photo props, they are wild animals. How do you think they are treated when they are used soley as a pay cheque? They are stolen from the wild, drugged, and forced to be passed around like stuffed animals so that tourists can have a profile picture of them holding a monkey. It’s not right. Again, most people would not even think these things, they would see an opportunity and take it.

Off topic: I am an animal lover, completely. I grew up with dogs and I want to cuddle and hold literally anything that has fur. The biggest lesson I learnt when it came to animals was when I bought a pet rabbit. Rabbits are prey animals that hate being cuddled and held. I had to learn that my rabbit shows me affection way differently than my dog does.. she just wants to be in the same room as me, maybe sit on my lap for a head pet, and that was good enough. We can’t just assume all animals are the same as our household pets. 

I have a love hate relationship with electronic devices and I am not sure where I stand all the time on it, I flip and I flop.. But I try to remind myself when I reach for my camera or phone… is this really necessary and appropriate?

Do we travel to take profile pictures ?

These views

Ping Pong shows – Travel mistake

Pets on holidays

Are we really travel savvy ?

Can you believe this beach

Getting sick on vacation

I don’t mean the  drank too much kind of sickness..

Getting sick on vacation is the best thing in the world ! All the time you spend getting shots, taking medications, bringing medications, and then you get some weird sickness that you have never even heard of before ! Awesome, right!?

I have had my fair share of sickness on holidays from drinking too much and puking (on beaches so that’s paradise), eating too much and puking (I entered an eating contest, at least I won), horrible stomach cramps (probably because I did not want to hike that day… let’s be real), but NOTHING prepared me for this !!

No, this wasn’t an allergy. I know this because I was in a hospital in Thailand being treated for an allergy for many a days and hours. Nothing helped, it only got worse.

I spent the day on a motorcycle, cruising around the town and going to the beach. It was a super hot day out and I was loving it ! In the evening time we went for some drinks and played Uno on our porch. I felt like my forehead skin was a little tight, whenever I would raise my eyebrows it looked like I had a goose egg forehead. I did have a small sunburn, so I figured that must be it. I felt completely normal.

The next morning I wake up and look in the mirror to see this horror…. I looked like Quasi Modo. My forehead had swollen much larger, my one eye was swollen shut (yet I could still see fine… hmmmmm), and I basically look like I took on an entire Muay Thai fighting team and lived. Again, I felt completely normal ! I did not feel sick one bit ! I could breath fine, everything was all good. Wearing sunglasses you could not tell the horror that laid underneath. I went to the hospital and got an IV, I got allergy medications, I got this and that and cream and boom.. nothing worked. So I continued to grace the other tourists with my lovely face for the next 4 days cause I was there to party, not sit in my room.

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After a few days my face started to go down and I never did get sick. I rode it out and nothing has happened since. During this time I was going through a super stressful time (my traveling partner had to go home for an emergency and I had never traveled alone before). After they left and I had a few days too cool down and realize it wasn’t all that bad was when my swollen face started to go down again. I think this was my bodies way of protecting me, making me look like a fool so I was safe… so no one would come near me.

Let’s just hope I never get this stressed out again.

Have you ever gotten sick on vacation?

What the media does to us

 

How I plan my trips .

Here it is, detailed information on how I plan my backpacking trips !

Mine may be very different from how you would book a trip because of many factors. I keep my full time job and I travel the globe within my annual holiday leave… so I don’t really have the ability to travel for long periods of time (anymore… I did when I was younger), and getting lost, because to me that means missing my flight home, or missing out on something I really wanted to see while traveling.

Because I only have a few weeks holidays each year, I try to stick to one Country and completely travel that one place instead of jetting around trying to see everything.

I also like booking my holidays in advance because

  1. I am an organization freak… I love to know exactly when to show up, knowing someone will be there to pick me up, I like having all my bookings in order. I find that I spend tons of time before my trips booking and planning  (which is actually super fun) and then when I arrive on my vacation I just go with the flow and I don’t have to be booking hotels or travel trains while on the fly..
  2. It is cheaper. It’s true that if you just “go with the flow” on traveling around you will be paying more money. I book my rooms and flights and travel well in advance so that I get the best seat, or bed on the night train, and I am not paying an arm and a leg for it. When these companies like hotels or trains see that you are wanting to travel today, they may jack the price up on you, which means less money to spend while there.
  3. I can just enjoy myself knowing I get to go to all the places on my list and see all the amazing things I wanted to see.
  4. I can pay for the trip slowly while I book everything and then by the time I go I just need spending money. I can come home with no debt and start saving for my next adventure.. cause nothing makes you want to travel more than coming home from an awesome trip

Where to go ?

The first thing I decide is, well, where to go !? If you are just getting into the backpacking world you may want to start where everyone goes… Thailand. My moto is that I want to see the entire world so it doesn’t matter if I go to this Country this year, or next, I will still be going… Because I am a young adult starting out in the world on an entry level pay cheque I tend to stick to South East Asia as it is really cheap (and because I also am in love with it !). I will keep the other more expensive Countries for when I am making more money, or more settled in my life.

Destinations

Where to go within a Country is hard… What I do is I usually will look up travel companies online that go to that destination, so for example if I want to go to South Africa I would do tons of research on where to go, where to avoid, and then I will find a company that travels there and they usually have a brief itinerary of where they go on their website with a map. This is so I don’t just bounce North to South to back to the North and oh I missed that place in the South.. I go in a well thought out circle of places. These companies are also good beause they take you to places that you wouldn’t usually think about going, like a national park or a small town that has something amazing in it. I then decide how long I want to stay in each place depending on how much there is to do there, or how much other people in reviews said they liked it.

I will then create my itinerary with very basics:

When I am flying in.

Where I am going in order

How many days I want to stay in each place

different travel options between each place

Where I want to end up to fly back home

Paying for the trip

The thing that bothers me so much is when I invite someone to come traveling with me and they say “I can’t afford it”… I literally went to Thailand for 24 days, got veneers, blew my money away like I was Kylie Jenner and I ended up only spending 5000$ (that would be 2000$ if I didn’t get my teeth done, which you can read about HERE). YOU CAN AFFORD IT, you just don’t want to.

To make my life easier I don’t pay for the trip at once. Like I said above, I like to slowly book my holiday so that I can slowly pay for it so I don’t have debt. It is hard for most people to save up say 2000-3000$ without spending it, and then pay for the trip all at once.. why do you think that these travel companies let you make payments for their trips…

I will start planning like 6 months in advance (which is fun as well because that gives you something to look forward to), so this is most likely right after I return from a previous trip. I will give myself a budget per month, so I will say OK this month I will pay for my main flights, next month I will give myself 300$, and I will start booking until I hit my 300$ and then wait to continue booking till the next month. I also like paying for as much as I possibly can before arriving, so if a hostel tells me I only need to pay a deposit, or just for the first night, I will ask to pay the entire amount so that I don’t have to carry around as much cash when I arrive, and I know that all the cash I have is for me to spend freely… I don’t need to budget to pay for my next room.

I put everything I can on my master card because I get cashback. Also awesome if you get points or have a travel reward Credit Card because you can use your travel expenses to pay for your next trip! This also gives you a month to pay off this portion of your trip (so for me my MasterCard billing cycle ends on the 12th of the month, so I will spend my budget for that month up until the 11th, then I will continue with my next month budget on the 12th.. I do this because once you get into looking and finding cool places to stay you want to keep booking things, you don’t want to wait! )

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Finding Flights

After I have made my skeleton itinerary I will decide when I want to fly in. Flights are usually cheapest when you clear your computer history and cache cookies (no clue what that means but just clear your history) because once your computer catches onto you looking up flights the prices may go up… Booking flights during the week like a Tuesday afternoon are usually cheaper as well, who knows why. Flying days are also cheaper on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as well because most people like to travel on the weekends.

I will google : Destination to Destination (ex: Calgary to Bangkok) and I will look through sites like cheapflights.com or kayak.com, while deleting my history every once in a while. I will keep a list of how long the flights are and how much they cost in a spreadsheet. I will keep watching these flights for quite some time before actually booking them. Flights are usually cheapest about 40 days before you want to depart but I have watched flights before and got killer prices like months in advance. When I see a really low price for a flight that has the least amount of fly time I will book it. No waiting when you want a good price !

Inner flights or other travel

Once I have my main flights booked I am good to start booking the rest of my trip ! I will go back to my skeleton itinerary and fill in my new flight information, I will then start booking my trip in the order I will be traveling. I do this so that if a train doesn’t go on a certain day of the week that I need to travel to the next place, I can just adjust my itinerary and not have to cancel or extend previous rooms.

When traveling larger or more spread out Countries like Thailand or Vietnam I like to look at trains, buses and flights. With such a short period of time for me to be traveling around I might pay the extra few dollars (literally like 5$ difference sometimes in Asia) to take a flight instead of sitting on a train for 18 hours. The inner flights in these Countries range from 40-150$ CAD which is super cheap ! The only thing with this is you need to be prepared with your luggage on what to check under the plane and what to bring on, you have to keep your bag flight ready during your holiday.

I do enjoy taking the night train in these places as well, they range from 50-100$ CAD and are a lot of fun. I enjoy these because you travel while you sleep instead of losing an entire day you could be enjoying sitting on a train. They are also very luxurious trains if you buy the beds instead of the chairs and its a great way to see a ton of the Country instead of just flying everywhere. I also really like the trains because if I want to travel to one destination to go Scuba Diving but I only want to be there for 1-2 days, I might fly in and then take the train out (to avoid the decompression chamber!)

The local buses are also a good way to get around. They are super cheap sometimes less than 1$ to get from one end of town to the other. The locals on the trains are also very helpful if you are not sure what bus to get on or when to get off. I tend to carry around a card of my hotel or hostel with me so I can easily ask anyone while pointing to the address, in case they don’t speak English.

When to go

I always book my vacations around the same time every year because that’s when school is done (for my traveling partners) and that’s when there is a lull in my job. But I would check where you want to go and what the weather is there before booking a trip. You may end up traveling in typhoon season, or rainy season which might put a damper in your plans.

Booking rooms

Once I have my main flights booked, and most of my inner travel like my trains, buses, and flights, I will start going through the places I want to stay. In areas like Asia where the cabs or getting around is cheap I don’t really care where I stay. In other Countries where the cabs might be expensive I would either stay close to the train station or airport, or I would find a place in the heart of the action so I could explore around without paying for expensive cabs.

I google “Ho chi Minh hotel or hostel” and just start looking at prices, reviews, and what is included (breakfast, free shuttle pickup). I also ask the people I am traveling with to look as well and usually we book the places they choose.

Things to do

In my itinerary I will also leave a section for “things to do”.When I am researching I may find this museum is amazing, or this is the best beach in this town, I can then write this down in that City spot and when we arrive there we are not looking for things to do, we already have a list of possible adventures to go on. I also write down the hours of operation for some things such as “Asia Park” in Vietnam is only open from 3 pm – 10 pm, so we don’t plan to wake up early on day to go and find out it is closed. I also put down how much something costs so we can budget our money, or know how much to take out at the ATM.

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Visa

Visa are different for every Country so I would just google whether the Country you live in needs a visa for the Country you want to visit. Most of the time you can just buy the visa online or upon arrival. This is something I would absolutely look into for every Country you go to as you might be denied entry if you didn’t get an approval letter or a stamp in your passport. The prices for each visa are different so again, just google it or read other people’s online threads.

Thailand night train- 1st and 2nd class

Are we really travel savvy ?

How do you not move ?

Booking vacations for yourself is actually super fun, I don’t see it as work. I get the joy of booking places and flights and putting together my itinerary for months prior to my trip and then I get to go and enjoy myself.

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But the shopping….

I am not a shopper, I cannot spend my day in a mall trying on clothes and walking around with numerous bags on my arms. That would make me extremely hot, cranky, and hungry. I am an avid online shopper because it kills time at work and it all arrives right to my door. BUT I AM ALSO SUPER FRUGAL. Obviously… one kinda has to be to go backpacking every year. This is why I am making this blog… all about the amazing things I found shopping on my adventures.

My first trip to Italy I was broke, like literally in high school and had hardly any money. I packed all nice things to travel with so I didn’t have much room in my bag to shop. I found the prices in Italy to be about the same as home as well, minus the guys that brought you into dark back alleys and tried to sell you knock off purses and watches… those were a good price. But overall I didn’t really “get my feet wet” in the shopping game until my next trip… THAILAND.

The obvious first real “backpackers” trip for any 18 year old that just graduated. I had packed some nice things in my pack, as I hadn’t really figured out my packing game yet, ( Read My Packing List Here ) but most things I purchased at home from a second hand store so I wasn’t too attached to it anyways. I traveled all down and back up Thailand, finding cute little markets that I would purchase the odd thing from like shirts, tank tops, thai pants (a must), but it wasn’t until we came back to Bangkok before flying home that I really understood the shopping.

First of all, the custom made suits and dresses…. Men could get full, pants, jacket, dress shirt, vest, the whole nine yards, CUSTOM made to fit them in whatever color, pattern, fabrics they wanted for like 200$ CAD. What a STEAL of a fricken deal. These shops are literally everywhere, people asking if you would like a new suit. They would bring you in, take your measurements and have the suit done in 1-2 days then do the final fine tuning. This was cool and all for the men on the trip, but I was like “what about me!?” Well ladies, let me tell you. We went to a fancier part of town one night for a show and it had numerous, beautiful shops that would custom make dresses and clothing for women. Then I thought…. WOW, one day (fingers crossed) I could bring back a really fancy design of a wedding dress (say brand name) that would cost like 8000$ back home, and get it exactly the way I want (adding or taking things out of the design), custom fit to my body for like 1/8th the price! WHY HASN’T THIS BEEN SPOKEN OF BEFORE!

Obviously that is just an idea for the future, I didn’t actually buy a custom made dress…. yet. But the Mall in Bangkok… MBK… 6 floors of pure bliss! Let me let you in on a little secret… the prices go down as you travel up… There are floors dedicated to a certain item such as electronics.. so I mean you can walk around to different booths and barter the price of what you want within this floor. We bought Bose speakers – OK side note, I don’t think that Thailand has copyright laws or they don’t enforce them because they sell knock of “brand” items for super cheap, so when I say BOSE speakers, I don’t actually believe they came from the maker of BOSE – for like 18$ CAD each. We purchased I think 12 all together to go home and give our friends. These speakers are amazing, they hook up to bluetooth and are great quality speakers… especially for only 18$.

The first time I went to MBK mall I started at the bottom and worked my way up, which was a mistake I know now. For clothing, jewelry, or anything that you would find on every floor the prices will go down as you go up because they assume most people stay on the main floors they enter the building on… makes sense. I loaded up my bag and purchased another bag (Fake brand Diesel dufflebag to be exact) to fill and bring home with me. I bought over 10 pairs of “brand” name jeans… True Religion, Diesel, Seven, Rock n Rebulic, for only 30$ a pair. I bought “Calvin Klein” underwear and sports bras, “brand name” shirts and tank tops, sweaters, a diffuser with essential oils, those new hair elastics that cost like 7$ each at Sephora for 10 cents each, a “Burberry” rain jacket (that is so cute!) and of course my favorite… purses. Purses are my all time favorite thing to buy on vacation. They have many to choose from, and some are almost identical to the real deal

Here are my hints for buying purses.

  1.  I find a style I like (obviously) and if it has a “brand” name logo on it such as “Michael Kors” I make sure that the logo is on properly, straight, and spelt correctly. You don’t know how many times I find a beautiful purse but the logo is LOCO… looks a little drunk.
  2. Make sure all the zippers work. This goes for wallets as well. I have purchased these items before, so excited, only to discover the zipper doesn’t work… BOO!!
  3. Make sure it is real leather. Now you CAN find real leather purses for like 30-50$… I have had some of my purses for YEARS (going on 6 years now for my favorite purse that I use 90% of the year) and they have not cracked or broken at all. The way I make sure it is real leather is I ask the seller to light the purse on fire… with a lighter! If they refuse to hold a lighter up to the purse that means that it is probably not real, or is plastic. If the purse is plastic and they know it… it will melt under the lighter. Real leather will not melt.
  4.  Barter barter barter. The more purses you buy the cheaper the price. So if you only want one, maybe your friend wants one and you can barter together for a cheaper price. The price they originally tell you is absurd.. I usually pay half or less than the original price they rattle off.
  5.  To pack these bags for home I roll up my new clothes and fill the purses then shove them in my backpack.

The newest thing I recently found to purchase is makeup. THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. Some people HATE knock off makeup.. and for good reason sometimes. If you have sensitive skin I would be careful with this one. I do not have sensitive skin, and I do not mind the lower quality of the makeup. They have booths filled with perfume (OK they have the same bottle and smell the exact same as the “real” perfume, and only cost like 10$ each, but beware these perfumes don’t last as long as the real deal), and “brand name” makeup. I purchased what would have cost me in Canada well over 2000$ in makeup for only 40$ at MBT…. The quality. I have had some HITS and some MISSES (I will only name a few). The hits I have found are the beauty blenders… they look the exact same, I paid 50 cents instead of 30$ each and they work amazing (note: some fake beauty blenders are crap, they don’t expand and they are hard as rock. I just got lucky I guess). Another hit for me was a “glow kit” (I won’t say the “brand” it was), this was the exact same as the real one that costs 60$ and I paid I think 7$. The biggest miss I had was a mascara I bought. I don’t remember the brand it was supposed to be but at home it was like 40$ and I paid 4$. This mascara was nothing like the real one, it was very runny and filled my entire eye with black! AHHHHHHH!!!!

The Jewelry. They have tons. I purchased a few “brand” name watches for like 10$ but I am not that into watches so I bought them for the look instead of the function. All the watches I purchased have since stopped working but I just move my arms really fast when I wear them ;). The Cartier bracelets that cost like 10,000$ each (you know… the ones Kylie has like 40 of on her arm) I purchased at MBK for 6$ each…

Asia definitely has some of the best shopping (if you are into everything I mentioned above… some people wouldn’t even entertain the idea of fake items), but I also found some good shopping in Turkey, mostly Istanbul.

The Grand Bazaar is amazing. They have everything! They even section it off so you can buy spices in one part, purses in another, anything leather in another, and clothes, then lamps. What a place to get lost in… seriously you will get lost. I purchased many purses here (same as above), and a few leather men’s wallets to give as gifts (my brother has been using his now for 4 years and I paid 30$). I also bought Turkish lamps for I think 30$ each. They have different plugs then us so I had to come home and rewire the lamp (not that hard) or you can just use a converter. But these lamps are absolutely beautiful, they look like stain glass (maybe they actually are), and you can get them in any color or style you want. I wrapped mine in tons of clothes and then in a purse and then in my backpack to come home and it made it just fine. I also bought 2 Turkish rugs in Cappadocia…. I was not into the Turkish rug thing before I came, but my parents asked me to find one for them. I spent an entire afternoon in this store that had thousands of rugs, they would bring out rugs for me while I sat drinking tea. I fell so in love with 2 rugs myself that I purchased them (500$ for both… DOH!) and they shipped them to my house for me.

I live for shopping in other countries, the different things you find and the funny knock offs (like Michael Doors) you will see make me smile. By no means am I endorsing spending all your money in other countries as I understand you must also support local (which I do for 99% of the things I buy daily). But for someone like myself who just graduated University and puts all my extra money into traveling, its nice to get a few special items for yourself at a great price.