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?
Updated in 2022! These snug bookstores are well worth travelling to! Discover more than 30 of the world's cutest, coziest bookstores.
Is there anything that rivals a bookstore when it comes to that perfect combination of smooth paper, fragrant coffee, and superb people watching? I think not! Bookstores are such a snug, warm, homey way to settle into a new destination and learn what the locals are reading, drinking, and talking about. They're the perfect spot for when you want a quiet moment, yet also ideal when you want noise, hustle, and bustle. There's no other word for it: Bookstores are cozy.
Some of my best cozy travel memories are set in bookstores, like the rainy day I visited the now-closed Mainly Murder in Cork, Ireland, to get some recommendations for an on-the-road mystery. Or my frequent visits to the Maneno Bookshop in Lilongwe, Malawi, where I gorged on every available Jeffery Deaver thriller to help pass the time during quiet nights on the road. I'm not alone in my love of these cushy, intimate, cheerful spots either. Several of my travel blogging friends feel the exact same way about bookstores and they have kindly shared some of their personal recommendations for the best bookstores around the world.
So go turn on the kettle and get ready to settle in with a hot drink. Here are more than 30 cozy bookstores from around the world to inspire your next travel adventure.
The Véloroute des Bleuets is my favourite of all cycling Quebec adventures - even in the off season!
With sunny blue skies and a bracing wind, I bravely mounted my bike to go searching for blueberries in the Quebec countryside. But if you're looking at my jacket and scarf in the photo above and thinking it looks far too cold for blueberry season, you'd be partially right. You see, I wasn't in search of blueberries to eat! I was searching for Quebec's famous blueberry bike route, known as the "véloroute des bleuets".
Made up of over 20 different short to medium length rides through the blueberry-producing countryside, the véloroute des bleuets circles around Lac St Jean, not far from the northern Quebec city of Saguenay. The route includes towns such as Alma (my personal favourite), Saint-Felicien, Roberval, and Sainte-Monique, as well as Pointe-Taillon National Park, and includes terrain suitable for all riders.
We're retracing some of our favourite travel memories along Oahu's North Shore.
The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii's most populated island, is one of the world's most famous surfing spots. But I am one of the world's most famous wimps - how is it possible that I fell head over heels in love with such a daredevil destination?
Sometimes opposites really DO attract. I've been telling people by word of mouth just how much I love the North Shore for years now. It was one of the very first trips Ryan and I ever made together and we often get asked for recommendations. How can it be that we've never written it all down? So here it is - a story of love at first sight, sandy feet, gourmet treats, and a little bit of everything for everyone.
All roads really DO lead to - and from- Rome. If you're interested in biking the Appian Way in Rome, this post is for you.
Julius Ceasar, Saint Peter, Spartacus, and now the team from Turnipseed Travel.... there's been more than a few legends who've walked, rode, and peddled their way down the Appian Way. This ancient highway, nearly 400 miles of engineering marvel, connected Rome with southern Italy and the sea, forming a critical trade and communications link with Greece and Egypt. Considered the world's first super highway, everyone who was anyone traveled along the Appian Way, along with over two thousand years of worth of anonymous citizens too. We were happy to start our first day in Italy by following in their footsteps and biking the Appian Way in Rome.
Shakespeare once wrote "Boldness be my friend!" That's great advice for exploring Prague!
Cozy bookstores never fail to tug at my heart. I absolutely love discovering these charming, locally owned literary nests all around the world and I know you do too. I'm always happy to wander around no matter what style or language of book is offered, but I'm especially excited when I discover an English bookstore when I'm in another country. I usually can't resist picking up a new novel for the road and I enjoy bumping into other expats and hearing about upcoming events (and occasionally crashing them, especially when there's free wine involved!)
I heard about Prague's Shakespeare and Sons bookstore long before my visit. It's arguably the city's most famous bookstore and it comes highly recommended by all guidebooks. Still, my heart skipped a few beats when I saw it for the first time as I explored the cobblestone streets at dusk. Here it was!
In Malawi I had my first battle with travel burnout. It wouldn't be my last.
Lying under a bed net in Malawi's sweltering heat with a cold, wet towel on my bare stomach, my face was a mess of tears. The silent air conditioner served only ornamental purposes. In the darkness its knobs became eyes, watching my every move, my futile efforts to cool down, taking pleasure as I winced whenever one of the tiny, pink, pus filled blisters that covered my body - compliments of a whopping case of prickly heat - spontaneously burst.
It was over 10 years ago, but I'll never forget my worst day of travel burnout - a horrible combination of homesickness, culture shock, and sheer exhaustion. And pus. Lots of pus.
People often sneer when they hear the words 'travel burnout' and offer disparaging comments such as "Must be soooooo hard to be traveling all the time" or "Poor you, with your first world problems". But the truth is that anyone can experience burnout from any activity or circumstance.
No person is fully immune from feeling lonely, overwhelmed, frustrated, or isolated. And unlike burnout from work, family stress, or a stalled creative project, travel burnout comes with geographic, cultural, and linguistic isolation which even the most optimistic traveler would find difficult to cope with. You are separated from your support system, you lack control over your environment, and you may even face a serious conflict in your values and ethics.
I suspect that fast paced trips are even more susceptible to burnout than a slower style of travel. City hopping can be exhilarating but also overwhelming. The excitement of a new hotel each night doesn't always mask the loss of community; the sense of place that comes when you stay in the same neighbourhood for a few days. With more extremely fast paced travel planed, I'm trying to learn from the past and prepare for a balanced, healthy, happy trip. Here's are my top three tips for keeping sane on the road.
Every trip is unique but this one is truly like nothing else we've ever done.
If you've been following along on our social media channels, you'll know we have been stirring the travel pot and have a big trip to Europe in the works. And I mean BIG! This is officially the longest amount of time that we've been on the road together. Five weeks is nothing to sneeze at!
Long time readers might remember that we talked about doing this trip back in the fall of 2015 but for a number of reasons we just had to postpone things. They might also remember that the letter "S" figures prominently - Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland! We swear, this is just a coincidence (...... or is it......?)
As we make our way through an alphabet's worth of countries, we can't wait to have you all along for the ride. Here are five neat things you need to know about our five week trip.
I swear, I haven't been hiding! Just busy! Here's what's making November a happy month for me.
I swear, I haven't been living under a rock somewhere! Life has just been busy, but in a really good way. Here's what I've been up to since mid-October.
Traveling to Pembroke.
Have you ever heard of Pembroke, Ontario? It's a beautiful town just a few hours outside of Ottawa and I was so lucky to travel there in late October, just as the autumn colors were starting to fade, to take part in the Ontario Highlands Tourism Summit.
The Ontario Highlands holds a very special place in my heart, as it was the destination for one of my favourite girls' trips (snowshoeing! dog sledding! art! food!). I loved meeting so many inspiring small businesses in the travel/tourism sector and presenting to many of them on using Instagram.
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