After more than twenty years of value-focused travel, I'm finally saying a fond farewell to hostels - for the most part. Here's why.
Even before I had my final hostel stay, I knew it would be my last.
The previous couple of hostels I stayed at brought roller coasters of emotion. One, set in a gorgeous historic location, was clean and friendly but offered bare-bones dorms with whisper-thin mattresses, a single stingy pillow, and squeaky wooden bunk beds. My bunk was positioned in the centre of the room, without a single wall at my disposal for leaning or privacy. The muggy, warm room and back-aching bed made sleep impossible and I cringed every time I moved, fearful my squeaky bed was keeping everyone awake. It was a rough night – and a rough morning as I tried to be as quiet as a mouse, packing up my computer to escape to a nearby cafe for a bleary and bright conference call. While I was waiting for my call to connect, I found clarity in my exhaustion. For the first time ever, I sacrificed my two remaining nights of prepaid bunk accommodations in favour of relocating to a private bed and breakfast room.
I spent an extra $300 I wasn’t expecting but when I finally got to my snug room and sunk into the plush, squeak-free mattress, I nearly wept with relief – and guilt. Who was I, giving up an otherwise great-on-paper hostel just because my bedding wasn’t as sumptuous as I would like?
Planning a budget trip to Hawaii? These are our favourite frugal and free things to do in Waikiki for $5 or less.
When Ryan and I took our first international trip together as a married couple, we went to Hawaii. While we had long dreamed of warm weather getaway, we hadn't exactly spent much time planning and saving for the trip. A combination of fortuitous factors meant that we snagged a last minute departure and a great hotel deal at the final hour - but we didn't have a lot of money to splurge on Hawaii's biggest temptations, like submarine rides, helicopter tours, and famous luaus. Instead, we put together a list of extremely frugal and free things to do in Waikiki, our main base. The result was an incredible week in a tropical paradise and a very affordable one as well.
My goal for this list was to limit costs at $5.00 per person or less and to concentrate primarily on the Honolulu neighbourhood of Waikiki but you will find great value at many price points across the state. Whether budget travel is a necessity for you or simply a preference, I think you'll love this affordable take on Hawaiian travel.
Axe throwing in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, is easy for everyone.... except maybe not for anti-adventurists like me. This is what happened when I stepped on the axe throwing platform at the Boxing Rock Brewing Company.
Have you ever signed up for an activity you're a little unsure about it and the organizer tells you not to worry, that they've never lost someone/ had someone capsize/ had someone utterly fail? It's a heartening speech designed to bolster low confidence and soothe the very nerves that lead to shaky performance. And thus far, it's proven true for me.
Until now, folks. Until now.
This is what happened when a confirmed anti-adventurist (that's me) took on one heck of a crazy challenge (that's axe throwing in Shelburne, Nova Scotia) and utterly failed.
Rogers Interzip zip line connects Ontario and Quebec and offers unparalleled views of downtown Ottawa and plenty of thrills. But would this anti-adventurist be able to take the ultimate leap of faith?
There are many reasons a person might decide to step outside of their comfort zone. Perhaps they want to test their limits, experience life to the fullest, or make an incredible travel memory. Or maybe, just maybe, they want to show their husband that they don't know you as well as they think they do.
The latter was me. In an effort to make Ryan think "Hmmmm.... Maybe I don't know Vanessa all that well. She is far more enigmatic than I gave her credit for" I found myself on what is billed as the world's first interprovincial zip line.
Yes, fellow anti-adventurists. I went zip lining. On my wedding anniversary. All so I'd appear just a smidgen more inscrutable than normal to a spouse who knows me very, very well.
These are my favourite cozy micro-adventures and things to do in Charlottetown, PEI's capital city and all round amazing travel destination.
As Canada's smallest provincial capital city, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is just made for cozy adventures. But it's not just the size of this 40,000 strong city that makes it so snug and inviting. Charlottetown's pretty seaside location, impressive architectural history, and prominent place in Canada's political, cultural, and social fabric make for an irresistible combination for visitors. This is where you want to be if you'd like to celebrate the meetings which led to Canada's confederation in 1867, to honour the artistic legacy of Anne of Green Gables author L.M. Montgomery, or simply feast on homemade ice cream, rich lobster rolls, and damn fine coffee. With no shortage of things to do in Charlottetown, I've focused on the coziest experiences I've enjoyed in more than 30 years of visits and I have a feeling you'll love them just as much as I have.
From boats to balloons, Hawaii to hotels, these are ten of our most memorable travel experiences in ten years of blogging.
"But really... what's your favourite place?" "So where should I go next year?" "Well there must be some place you didn't like."
After ten years of blogging, I hear questions like this all the time. Alas, dear reader, I am horrible with these queries. If you need someone to weigh in on finding pizza in Bruges or the quality of food tours in Quebec City, I am your girl. But sweeping generalizations are not my strong point. I can tell you about some destinations I didn't like - but I'd also have to get into how I slept funny the night before and skipped breakfast and honestly, that's probably what made me dislike Istanbul on my first visit (for the record, I love it now). The reverse also holds true. I'm convinced that an unexpectedly stellar hotel and accompanying breakfast factor into my long standing enthusiasm for Athens as the spot everyone should visit next.
That leaves the biggest question of all, my favourite place. People seem to think it's a bit of a cop out if I try to explain about how sometimes the most memorable trips aren't the most fun in the moment, or that the things that made me love a trip had less to do with the particular destination and more with other factors in my life. So sometimes I just name Hawaii as my favourite destination but this is what feels like the real cop out to me. Like, a decade spent travelling and writing about the world and my best answer is the one place that has long been established as the most desirable destination? Surely I can do better than that?
And that is exactly what I'm going to attempt here. These are ten of my most memorable travel experiences and destinations after ten years of blogging. I'm not going to go so far as to rank them or even say that they're my definitive top ten travel moments. These are simply the stories that flood my heart with happy remembrances and what they all have in common is that I invariably thought at some point that I truly have the best job in the world. And I do!
After ten years of being a travel blogger, I've learned some important travel lessons - and I bet you can relate to all of them. From toilets to temperature control, these are the ten things I know for sure about travel.
I like to pretend that this photo represents me at my best as a travel blogger. I'm crumpled, dusty, and sunburned, clearly exhausted as I slump in the back of a Land Rover, a water purification bottle within easy reach. It's the kind of photo that suggests I could be fatigued from any number of glamorous, travel blogger-y tasks. Maybe I was up at dawn to interview a farmer or worked through the night to "research" local liqueurs. It definitely doesn't suggest that my stomach is churning from the bumpy, twisting road or that I'd sell my soul for a working toilet. And most travel images are like that. There can be a lot of irksome truths behind soothing composition.
After ten years of travel blogging, I've learned a thing or two about what a photo really says and a whole lot about what travel is truly like. I've picked up a lot of hard earned wisdom in this job and I'm here to share my biggest lessons. After a decade of jaunting and jetting, this is what I know for sure about travel.
This easy-to-make chickpea and sweet potato stew is perfect for travel, whether you're making dinner at the cottage or campground, contributing to a hostel potluck, or just need a quick meal at home after a long road trip.
This delicious, easy-to-make flexible chickpea and sweet potato stew is the perfect travel meal. It comes together in about 20 minutes and it freezes beautifully. All of the ingredients are very frugal and available just about anywhere in the world. You don't need any special equipment at all and you can make it in the most humble of kitchens. Oh, and did I mention that it's delicious!? This is wholesome, hearty, stick-to-ya kind of food that will have you reaching for another bowl.
I have to confess that, while this is the ideal dish to make in an RV or at campground or in a rental home or cottage or hostel kitchen, I consider it an old reliable standby for when I'm actually home. If you're about to go away for a few weeks and you're staring at a sparse fridge and considering takeout, this stew will save you. The same can be said for when you return. The fresh ingredients (primarily a sweet potato and an onion) can live in a crisper forever and everything else hangs out in your pantry indefinitely.
Once upon a time, I left for aweek in Bulgaria and Ryan departed a few days after me to head to the US. I had 48 hours at home before I had to hit the road again and meet up with him in New York and then HE returned home and I followed a week after him after spending time near Niagara. Suffice to say that we weren't exactly doing a lot of grocery shopping with all this coming and going and we were getting kind sick of take out food. Chickpea and potato stew to the rescue!
After nearly nearly two years of research, we're finally ready to crown a winner! These are Ottawa's best chicken wings.
My quest to find Ottawa's best chicken wings began in the early summer of 2020, when restaurant patios were just beginning to reopen - temporarily, as it turned out. I revelled in the simple joy of sitting outside and ordering the kinds of foods that always taste better from a restaurant. I loved every bite of those meals but it was the chicken wings that made the strongest impression. They were so delicious! Had chicken wings always been this crispy, this juicy, this tasty? I was so enamoured that I decided to try as many wings around the city as possible.
I envisioned myself as a kind of Ottawa chicken wing hero, giving the public the kind of much needed independent wing assessments they've long craved, all while delivering sub-standard wings the evisceration they've long deserved. Little did I realize it would be a hobby that would hold me in good steed through many a lockdown.
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