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sirwanderlust

Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia

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If you are looking for complete relaxation in a beautiful secluded location hidden away on the cliff sides of Bali, then The Four Seasons Resort is the answer. This property boasts some of the most spectacular views in Bali situated on prime real estate. With a beautiful beach below, infinity pools looking across to the ocean and colorful gardens lining its corners, this resort is a must. It steps out of the busyness of the bigger cities.

As we entered the front gates to the property in Jimbaran Bay, it was clear to see why this resort has time and time again been noted as one of the best stays in Indonesia. Once arriving at reception we were greeted by the staff and took a seat in the lobby area. Immediately my attention was drawn to the stunning view from the top of the cliff side. After taking some time to soak up the atmosphere we were provided with our itinerary for the day and were ready to make the most of this experience.

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We were ushered to the resort’s very own Fitness and Spa Centre where we would be spending a large portion of the day. The center is equipped with a large gym, spa and massage treatments, yoga room and outdoor tennis court. The changing rooms are equipped with indoor and outdoor shower facilities, lockers, hot and cold plunge pools, a sauna and steam room.

Kelly began her day with an Anti-Gravity Yoga Class conducted at the property and from what I could tell, this was a very pleasant, soothing and relaxing experience. While the lesson was happening, I found time to sneak away and explore the property. Everywhere I walked or looked I was either greeted with magnificent view, smiles or hellos from all of the staff. A great highlight to the resort is its enormous size and the feeling of openness as you stroll about the property. There are so many spots across the resort where you can find your own little area for the day to kick back and relax. The infinity pools are a large selling point for the resort and are situated in a perfect location, which claims stunning views.

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After venturing about the property I had worked up quite the appetite and was excited to make our way down to the Sundara Restaurant within the resort to indulge. The staff was very attentive and sat us at a table with a sensational view out across the ocean. Once presented with the menu I quickly skimmed through the dishes and was left with one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in the past 8 months of travel – “What was I going to order?” Honestly, everything on the menu jumped out at me so there were some tense moments. The menu definitely does a great job to cater for the needs of all types of eaters. We ordered the Maki Maki (sushi), Salt and Pepper Crush (seafood tempura dish), Balinese Mixed Satay, Lamb Curry and the Beer Battered Fish and Chips. The food was delicious and not one crumb was left behind! After filling up on the sensational meal it was time to sit back and have a rest on the day beds, which overlooked the infinity pool.

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After some time taking in the picturesque setting that is the Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran Bay, we were shown about the property on a tour to see first hand the range of options people have when staying with the resort. We ventured about the Four Seasons Residences, which are everyone’s dream holiday retreat. These properties come equipped with your very own in-house butler, an enormous indoor/outdoor living space, large pool and can sleep up to 6 adults comfortably. These are perfect for families or a wedding party looking to have time with their loved ones. We were then shown to the villas, which line the cliff tops of the property. Once entering the front doors you immediately take in a spectacular view across the ocean. These rooms come with an outdoor-seated area, small pool, large indoor/outdoor bathroom and all the amenities you would ever need. It was a true retreat to sit back, relax and soak up the view. Whilst we drove about the property I found my eyes glancing to the lovely gardens that line the properties side walks, meticulously maintained with staff who stop what they are doing to say hello to each guest that passes them. Such a beautiful, beautiful place to be!

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After our tour of the property it was time for me to kit up and take part in a one-on-one personal tennis lesson with a pro. As a cricketer, from a young age tennis has at times been a struggle with a very sloppy forehand and backhand. With the patience of my instructor and some pointers, I was able to slow down my movements and improve my game. The lesson went for 60 minutes and I did work up quite the sweat, but I still had an awesome time! The Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay also offers surfing lessons and stand up paddle board to name a few and these activities really add to the experience had at the resort.

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As the sun set, we wandered down to one of the many pools found on the property. We stopped at an infinity pool, which had an impressive view and reminisced on our day at the Four Seasons. While the sun came down we wandered back to the fitness and spa center where we went our separate ways and indulged in complete relaxation using the ‘quiet room’, sauna, hot and cold plunge pools, steam room and showering facilities. This center is all about complete relaxation and as we excited the doors I felt completely refreshed and rejuvenated after our experience.

Overall the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia was an exceptional experience with sophistication throughout the entire day. From the reception to the hotel and restaurant staff we enjoyed every moment we spent at the property. I would highly recommend this resort to anyone looking for an escape where they can truly relax, forget about real life and be catered to for all your needs.

To make a booking with the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia click here.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Am I Ready To Stop Travelling?

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The plain and simple answer is no. Do I kind of have to stop… the answer is yes. After spending the past 8 months abroad adventuring throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Indonesia I am ready to recharge my batteries and plant myself in one place for more than a few days. I know I will tell myself this and arrive back home to Sydney and within a few weeks I will already be mapping out my next adventure.

To be honest this last adventure has been the most taxing on myself with the amount of moving around that I have been doing. The promise I always make to myself for when I arrive to a new destination is to take it easy and relax. However the excitement of wanting to explore always trumps this. I will admit it physically I am drained I feel like I need to sleep for at least a week. This adventure has brought me to this point and the consecutive late nights don’t help. I mean when a beer is cheaper than a bottle of water back home and you’re in great company then you’re going to make the most of the experience. You’re crazy if you don’t.

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Emotionally and mentally I am exhausted after the countless stressful moments I have had to deal with throughout my travels. From the crappy airlines, double booked hotels, over priced border crossings and many scamming antics used to rinse you for all your worth. However these are all things you will never see unless you travel for an extended period of time. The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone undertaking extended travel is to ‘DO YOUR RESEARCH’. The amount of people I have crossed paths with on this journey that have no idea of where they are, what they are doing, what they can see here, the local customs and how to not get ripped off is madness. This is no word of a lie I have met some really ‘bad travellers’ who have left home underprepared with no real plan of what they want to be doing. I struggle to make sense of this however these people make for humorous conversation at time as I feel like they don’t even realize they are abroad.

Financially I am starting to hurt as the past 8 months of adventure have of course come at some cost although South East Asia is a much cheaper option than venturing throughout Europe. I would say with all my flights, accommodation, tours, transfers, motorbike rentals and spending money for the past 8 months has cost me under $10,000 AUD. Your dollar definitely goes a lot further here than elsewhere in the world.

I am definitely looking forward to spending some time back at home with my friends and family. With my eldest brother and his wife due to have their first child in the coming days, I am about to become an Uncle. Am I prepared for this responsibility… of course! I look to my brothers that are both happily married, with stable jobs, a home to come back to and this makes me think is this what I am searching for? Is it really time for me to find a real job and slowly begin to settle down? I believe I have convinced myself of this over the past few months of travel however there are no promises on how long this will last. The desire to travel is too strong to be in one place for too long.

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When I reflect on the past 8 months of travel through South East Asia I consider the good and the bad moments that I have experience that have got me to this point. The countless memories and newfound friends I have met along the ways that have impacted on my life in one way or the other.

What I will miss most about Asia:

  1. The cuisine
  2. The people
  3. The culture
  4. The smiles
  5. The price

What I won’t miss about Asia:

  1. The scammers
  2. The language barriers
  3. The delays
  4. The frustrating moments
  5. The hard beds.

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To believe I am a few days away from leaving this paradise and stepping back into the real world is crazy. The past 8 months has taught me so much about the world, myself and how I can make a difference to others’ lives. My goal has always been to motivate others whether in the classroom as an educator or through my website. I try to show people that stepping out of your comfort zone is absolutely okay and travelling can be one of the greatest times in your life. I want everyone to see that they can do what I do and travel for an extended period of time it just takes that first step of booking a flight.

Top 5 things I miss most about home:

  1. A home cooked meal
  2. My bed
  3. Operating in dollars not monopoly money
  4. Silence (no constant beeping horns or hasslers)
  5. Friends & Family

Top 5 things I don’t miss about home:

  1. The cost of living (housing, car, food & bills)
  2. Negative people
  3. Expectations
  4. Responsibilities
  5. Working

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In less than 72 hours I will be back home on Australian soil, immersing myself back amongst my friends and family. I always hope on return that I can uncover a change although this never seems to be the case. Everyone seems to be operating in the same way and conversation seems to flow from where I left it when I first boarded that plane in Sydney.

What I will take away from the last 8 months in Asia:

  1. Don’t be quick to judge people.
  2. Life is too short to deal with negativity.
  3. Stay cool, calm & collected.
  4. Friends & Family are always there.
  5. Embrace the time we have and make the most of every opportunity, no matter how big or small.
  6. Happiness is key.
  7. We don’t always need to please others.

Review: Oceans 5 Dive Resort, Gili Air, Indonesia

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After six weeks of no under world adventures it was an absolute breathe of fresh air to arrive at the Ocean 5 Dive Resort on Gili Air in Indonesia. After a flight cancelation due to the volcanic activity on Lombok, we had to change our travel plans in order to cater for the deep desire to dive in the Gili’s. With a few minor changes we finally arrived on Gili Air a few days later. For anyone who has not yet been to the Gili Islands, you should try to make the journey as I can guarantee you this is the destination that you can just kick back and unwind. Island time is definitely present here because time moves much slower!

After settling on the island we made our way over to the Oceans 5 Dive Resort to check in with their staff for what would be our base for the next 5 days of adventure. The Dive Resort is situated on prime real estate right in front of the Gili Air pier where all boats arrive from the other islands and mainland. This dive resort oozes such a cool and relaxed vibe and if I were to open one myself it would be done exactly the same way as Oceans 5. The outdoor area offers all guests of the dive shop and resort a café named ‘Coffee & Thyme’, small boutique stores, big pool, a central bar and numerous options for seating from the large picnic tables, to bean bags or pool chairs there is something to meet your needs.

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Oceans 5 Dive Resort further offers Aqua Yoga Classes for those who are looking for the body-mind-spirit connection and freediving courses for those looking to challenge themselves.

The Oceans 5 Dive Resort is a 5 Star IDC PADI operated dive centre that offers a full range of PADI courses from beginner to divemaster and professional levels at an affordable price. The Resort further offers 10 stunning pool bungalows and garden rooms which have views across the pool and out to the ocean. With the location being so central and the island so small it’s in a great spot to access everything you will need throughout your stay on the island.

We met with the Oceans 5 Dive Resort staff who operated very professionally and did everything they could to accommodate for all of our needs during our stay. Ocean 5 offer 3 fun dives per day, which are conducted at 8:30am, 11:30am and 2:00pm. There is also the option for night dives, but these are on request. As the dive sites are maximum 25 minutes away, it’s only a one-dive boat trip which means less time on the boat more time in the water.

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A Day Of Diving:

After arriving at the dive shop early in the morning the office staff introduced us to our local dive guide for the day. He then took us to size up and set up our gear for the dive. This process was extremely stress free with our guide and other staff collecting our BCD, fins, regulator, tank, mask, wetsuit and computers ensuring these were the correct size. It’s important to note that Oceans 5 Dive Resort ensure safety and all of there gear is of the best quality and regularly serviced and maintained.

After setting up the gear, we took a seat with our dive guide who let us know which of the 17 dive sites across the Gili Islands we would be diving. The guide informed us of what we could expect to see and a rough dive plan referring to the map of the dive site. As a group, we went over the signs and signals for marine life and safety under the water to make sure everyone is knowledgeable and comfortable for the fun dive.

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Before we knew it, we were climbing aboard the dive boat and heading out to the dive site. Onboard the boat there is emergency oxygen and free water to drink before and after the dive to stay hydrated. On arrival at the dive site we suited up, buddy checked as a group then entered the water individually and descended as a group.

On your dives you can expect to see all kinds of marine life in all kinds of settings. From sandy bottoms to wrecks, there is so much on offer across the Gili Islands. Here are a few things you may spot on your dives: sharks, nudibranches, trigger fish, turtles, spotted rays, eels, lion fish, sea horses, orangutan crab, numerous coral formations and octopus just to name a few. I wouldn’t want to give too much away for your dive. but let me just say the Gili Islands has been one of the best locations I have dove around the world and Oceans 5 Dive Resort’s operation and dive guides make the experience extremely memorable!

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As a confident diver I still enjoy diving with a guide as the locals just have an eye to see the smallest of things that I would usually have missed. I can assure you that you are in great hands with the Ocean 5 Dive Resort guides. The ocean is their backyard and they conduct themselves in the water in a very calm manner on each and every dive.

A dive company making a difference!

Oceans 5 are trying their best to make a difference on Gili Air with an ocean clean up every few weeks. The coolest part about this ocean clean up is the fact that this is free to anyone who would like to be a part of it. Ocean 5 Dive Resort wear the cost and place you into small groups with a limit of around 45 minutes to enter the water off the beach directly in front of the resort and clean up the harbor. When we took part in the clean up between 12 people we brought up 80 kilograms of rubbish consisting of plastic, glass and household items.

It’s empowering to be a part of an ocean clean up. Even if this impacts in the smallest of ways, we were making a difference. As the staff in the Oceans 5 Dive Resort say, “If one local person sees what we are doing or asks the question, that can make the biggest of changes to the environment.”

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We had such an awesome time diving with the Ocean 5 Dive Team and have definitely made some life long friends here. I highly recommend anyone looking to dive in the Gili Islands to make their way over to Oceans 5 as this company operates in such a professional, safe and welcoming manner. It’s truly a memorable experience. We will be back!

To make a booking with Oceans 5 Dive Resort click the link here.

For any inquiries emails can be sent to info@oceans5dive.com

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Oceans 5 Dive Resort in Gili Air, Indonesia in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

5 Things I Have Learnt In The Past 248 Days Of Travel…

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These past months of travel have really opened my eyes to a much bigger picture and have provided me with many life lessons that I would have never learnt back home. South East Asia has been my playground and has left me thinking in a completely different way in terms of what I find important in life and what isn’t so necessary.

  1. Happiness is what you make of it – Happiness is key!

After adventuring top to bottom through South East Asia, I have been witness to how simple life can be and how this ripple effect brings forth happiness. How strange is the thought that people living day to day in harsh conditions can greet you with a big hello and enormous smile. Offer you into their homes, share what they have with you with no complaint at all. When back in Australia, America or England if you smile at someone they may think you’re strange.

I love the fact that many countries across South East Asia are so family-focused where they will arrive home from a hard day of work and have quality time with their entire families. They will sit and share a meal, play with the young children in the fields or tell stories. To observe this really opened my eyes to how important family time is and how I sacrifice this each time I set off on a new adventure.

One memory that will stick with me forever is from when I was on Don Det Island in Laos, and I sat down for a meal and watched the local children playing outside in the dirt. They were all smiling and laughing as the community spectated during their game of marbles.

Happiness shines through from the simplest of things in life and to think I am about to step back into a society where I have so many expectations is now something that intimidates me and makes me think how can I make these situations happy ones!

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  1. I have no time for negativity

When I think of home every now and then as I have been travelling I consider the things I miss in terms of friends, family and those materialistic items that at times make life so much easier. Then I consider those negatives that assisted with my decisions to stay abroad and travel. These negatives associated with my life include individuals and groups of people who still feel the need to act like 15 year olds and show their true colors over and over with their immaturity and attempts at ridicule. I am unsure if these are attempts to rekindle a friendship that I definitely don’t wish to be a part of or jealousy. To be honest at times I wish I could trade in what I have been doing for a desk job where I can rock up to work and not have to worry about border crossings, flight transfers or scams at each destination I arrive.

Negativity will only throw fuel on the fire to motivate me that little bit more to achieve what I have set out to achieve. I can tell you now I am very happy with where I am in the world and what I am doing. Life is pretty sweet! A big lesson I learned is that negativity will never get you anywhere.

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  1. Patience is a virtue

There have been countless situations in the past months where I have been very irritated that things have not gone the way they were supposed to. For example cancelled flights, no notification of changes to bookings and double booked accommodation just to name a few.

Efficiency is something I have always been used to at home and when travelling through developed countries. Once stepping into a developing country where English is a second language and their idea of a day’s work is much different to that of home’s, frustration and stress levels can go through the roof.

In the past 248 days I set myself a challenge to be as patient and calm as possible when a situation went wrong. My five top tips:

  1. Take a deep breathe before speaking.
  2. Think before saying.
  3. Talk very calmly, softly and slowly .
  4. Always let them speak, never speak over them.
  5. A simple smile will get you very far!

Once again anger and frustration will never get you anywhere especially in South East Asia. It has the complete reverse effect where the people whom are meant to help you will do everything they can to actually not assist you!

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  1. I am still learning

I’ll admit it – I don’t enjoy reading books or articles, but over the past months I have made the effort to read at least one article per day. This new found information that I am obtaining amounts to so much more when in conversation with other travellers. Travelling provides you with a much greater knowledge and understanding of the world than the information provided to you back at home. With all the current global affairs, it’s so interesting to speak with people where this is present at their back door or neighboring countries as the information and details they present are so different. Travel has provided me with the ability to learn new things every day!

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  1. We don’t always need to please others.  

When I think of home I think of where I could be and where I am now. The countless number of expectations and responsibilities I would have whether in a house hold or at work. Our lives are based around making other individuals’ lives much easier with those certain responsibilities or set tasks we need to achieve on each day. I look to my friends who spend countless hours in the office staying back until 4am to be noticed and hopefully climb that ladder within their company. Why do we always have to seem so busy when at work? If we are set a task and complete this before the due time why can’t I pack my bag and return home to my family. This reverse effect where we please others then ultimately affect our own wellbeing. We need to take more time for ourselves then to worry about others all the time.

After observing the way families operate throughout South East Asia especially in the rural and remote communities life makes so much more sense. There is not necessarily a set expectation. You do what you can manage for that day and that is completely fine. The only people these individuals feel the need to please are their families and this is the most amazing thing to witness.

VIDEO: What To Expect From Travel In Laos

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Laos is hands down one of my favorite countries to explore around the world. With such a rich history, it’s honestly the most unique destination when adventuring through Southeast Asia. Buddhism pervades every facet of life so change comes very slowly and the cities have curfews that are obeyed by most.

This is the perfect destination to kick back, relax and take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is Laos. From the mountainous terrain and countless waterfalls, this country offers so much to all travellers in the most honest and peaceful way possible. Laos is nothing but peace amongst the jungles where time feels like it slows down, and you can really appreciate each day for what it is.

For more information on Laos check out my complete travel guide by clicking here. This is a look into our past three weeks travelling from the North to the South of Laos. So many memories!

A Complete Travel Guide To Laos

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Visa on arrival (30 days) – Easiest way to attain a visa to Laos is by arriving into their international airports. Although this isn’t always cheap and there are limited airlines that fly the routes, it’s a good option to beat the hassle of a border crossing. Be sure to have 2 passport size photos on hand and US Dollars to make payment for the visa. The cost for the Visa’s differs for all countries and can easily be accessed online (Australia $30 + $2 process fee, USA $35 + $2 process fee.)

Minivan/Bus/Sleeper Bus/Flight Bookings –

The country is easy to travel through with many option from minivans to VIP buses. Note: Some of the roads are not that great with many turns and steep cliff sides. All forms of transport are very easy to book once you have arrived at a destination. Here is a quick rundown of the costs I paid this year (2015). These prices do change and the best bet is to shop around and find decent companies. Don’t always go with the cheapest options.

Hanoi – Luang Prabang (Flight) – $140 USD (Laos Airlines)

Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng (Minivan) – $14 USD

Vang Vieng – Vientiane (Minibus) – $4 USD

Vientiane – Pakse (Flight) – $160 USD (Laos Airlines)

Pakse – 4000 Islands (Minivan/Boat) – $7 USD

4000 Islands – Siem Reap (Boat/Minivan) – $30 USD (Asia Van Transfer)

Destinations

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Luang Prabang –

If peace and quite is what you’re looking for, then book a one-way flight to Luang Prabang. I have never been to a city that is so quiet, relaxed and peaceful as this UNESCO World Heritage City. This destination lays aside the Mekong River, which is the perfect backdrop for many great bars and restaurants. Accommodation is easy to come by and varies from hotels to guesthouses at affordable prices for all travellers. Many can be booked online via Agoda, otherwise you wont have any trouble finding a place on arrival.

What Not To Miss

Night Market – This market stretches for about 500 meters down the main street of Luang Prabang each evening from 5pm – 10pm. Here you can buy all kinds of souvenirs from hand made fabrics to silver and shoes. Just know that the prices can be negotiated so have your price set, and 9 times out of 10 they will be happy with this.

Alms Giving Ceremony – Awake early and walk to the main street of Luang Prabang where the ceremony will take place each morning. Your best option is to purchase offerings in the form of food prior to the day or arrival. Be sure not to interrupt the ceremony after it has begun. Follow as the locals do by kneeling down ready to give your offering to each of the monks. This is a great experience to be had, and I highly recommend this for everyone travelling to Luang Prabang.

Watch The Sunset From Mount Phousi – Prepare yourself for a short but steep climb to the peak of the mountain that looks over all of Luang Prabang. The cost is 10,000 Kip ($1.50 USD) and is worth every cent. As the sunsets over the Mekong River, this is a perfect spot to snap a few pictures and appreciate the true beauty that is Laos. 

Kuang Si Waterfalls – This is a great place to spend the day hiking, swimming and observing the jungles of Laos. This location is also the home to several rescued bears and is a great spot to adventure. Minivans operate from town for $5 USD return allowing you to have 2.5-3 hours at the waterfalls. You will need to further pay an entrance fee of 40,000 Kip ($5 USD) at the gates.

Tad Sae Waterfall – These are my favorite waterfalls in Southeast Asia and offer a great day of relaxation and natural massages from the waterfalls. Although a little bit trickier to arrive at, they are definitely worth the journey and I would highly recommend these for a day trip for families. There are many activities at these waterfalls including elephant rides, restaurants, numerous hiking trails, caves and waterfalls. To arrive at the waterfalls you need to:

  1. Find a tuk tuk driver and negotiate to pay no more than $5 USD per person for the 20 minute return journey and 3 hours at the waterfalls. If you want more time there then the price should be negotiated at this time. They will not leave until at least 4-6 people are in their tuk tuk.
  2. Arrive at the boat ramp and pay the 20,000 Kip ($2.50 USD) fee for the return journey on the pencil boats to the waterfalls.
  3. Arrive at the waterfalls and pay 40,000 Kip ($5 USD) to enter.
  4. Return journey make your way back to the boat, head over to the ramp and climb back into your tuk tuk who will then drop you in town. 

Bike Ride – Rent a bicycle or borrow one from your accommodation and take the riverside road around the town. Its a spectacular ride and very easy for all abilities with a flat, paved road. Be sure to time your ride so you don’t ride in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky.

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Vang Vieng –

Famously known for its party scene and tubing, let me say this destination is still going strong. After a change to regulations on tubing and the consumption of alcohol on the river, there seems to be an agreement now between the government and locals. In a nutshell, there are still 11 bars open on the river of which only 4 can operate per day. These bars are in full operation, but for those of you who have been tubing previously, there are no longer any high diving boards, zip lines or slip and slides. Everything else is still present with such an awesome atmosphere. There are great accommodation options. It just depends what you’re looking for, and food is very affordable.

What Not To Miss

A Day or 2 of Tubing – Arrive at the tubing rental in town around midday and pay the 55,000 Kip ($6.50 USD) fee for rental of a tube and 60,000 Kip ($7.50 USD) Deposit for the tube, which will be refunded to you if you arrive back before 6pm otherwise you will be fined 20,000 Kip ($2.50 USD) from your deposit. You will also sign your life away for full responsibility if you are injured whilst tubing on the river. Once there are 4 or more people they will provide you with a free tuk tuk ride to the top of the river. Once you jump in, the bars will be sure to throw you a line and pull you into their bar. Beverages are quite fairly priced at a few dollars per drink, and they will play all kinds of games to try and keep you at their location. Once you are finished with a bar, move onto the next. It’s important to note that usually from the last bar it will take you at least an hour to tube back into town to return your tube.

The Sandwich Ladies – If you are hungry, then you can’t go wrong with a sandwich from the numerous stands throughout the main area of the town. For $1 USD, these will blow your mind!

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Vientiane –

This capital city is almost like a through town for those travelling down to the south of Laos. Best bet is to relax in one of the riverside rooftop bars with a beverage in hand and watch the sunset over the Mekong River. There is an abundance of accommodation, restaurant and café options scattered across the city, which meet the needs of all travellers. The architecture of this city has a French twist and is a beautiful location to jump on a push bike and make your way to the sites of the city.

What Not To Miss

Night Market – Stroll up and down the night market that is set up each evening on the riverside and has all kinds of souvenirs you may be looking to purchase from shoes, clothing, rip off wallets, sunglasses and watches.

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Pakse –

This tiny little town is a pit stop to be made on the way to the 4000 Islands in the South of Laos. Pakse is super laid back with one main road that will cater for all your needs from accommodation, restaurants, motorbike rentals and tour operators. When arriving into the airport, be sure to walk outside the gates and jump into a Tuk-tuk (Song-teow) into town for $4 USD. The airport tries to charge $10 USD per person, so don’t be a sucker.

What Not To Miss

Day trip – Rent a motorbike for the day, costing you 100,000 Kip ($12.50 USD), Gas/Petrol ($5 USD) and entrance to the waterfalls around $5+ USD total. The bike rental will provide you with a map and help you choose your path whether to visit the waterfalls and/or villages in the region. The ride alone is awesome with countryside views on each side and a nicely surfaced road. The main waterfalls to get to are Tad Champi, which you can swim in & Tad Fane. I don’t want to give too much away, so just rent a bike and see where it will take you!

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4000 Islands (Don Det) –

Anyone who arrives at the 4000 Islands suddenly is overcome with not a care in the world. This is the easiest way to describe this destination. Time goes slowly in Luang Prabang, but in Don Det time goes even slower. This makes for such peaceful and relaxing days. If you’re about adventure or just tucking into a restaurant and relaxing with spectacular views across the water, Don Det Island will not disappoint. It’s important to note that this island has the occasional power shortage, lack of WIFI and most accommodation options only come with a fan. With that said, if you’re travelling through Laos make sure you stop here for a few days as it’s a quiet and tranquil destination.

What Not To Miss

Sunrise/Sunset – The Island of Don Det is broken up with the sunrise side and sunset side. Both sides of the island offer close to the same options however in the evening, your best bet is to tuck into a small restaurant/bar and watch the sunset over the river. I have never seen anything like the sunsets that we witnessed here with such vibrant and bright colours!

Eat at Mama Thanon’s – We dined here many times while on the island, and the small family run business has delicious food options at a very cheap price .The restaurant is located on the sunrise side, and you will not leave disappointed. Mama’s Banana & Chocolate Pancakes are mouth watering!

Kayaking Day Trip – This is a day well spent and the cost should not deter you as you get your bang for your buck! For the cost of 180,000 Kip ($22 USD) you will have breakfast and lunch included, bottled water, an English-speaking tour guide, kayak rental, entrance to both waterfalls, transportation between pit stops and entrance into Cambodia where you have lunch. The kayaking is awesome and if you are lucky you will stumble across the small pod of dolphins. For anyone adventurous, this is a must! 

Bike Ride – Renting a bicycle for the day will cost you 10,000 Kip ($1.50 USD). It’s an awesome ride around the Island of Don Det, and there is a pool at each end of the island. The pool costs 25,000 Kip ($4 USD) and is definitely worth it! You can also takes the bike over to Don Khon, which is one of the larger island, but you’ll pay 35,000 Kip ($5.50 USD) to enter the island.

My Fear: The Fear of Flying

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From a young age I have always had this strong desire to travel and adventure to every corner of the globe. Always jumping at any opportunity to book a flight and travel abroad at any cost. However booking the flights is always the easiest part, taking my seat is always easy as well. It’s what happens next that leaves me on edge for the full duration of the flight until we are back on the ground.

Let’s rewind back to my childhood. As far back as I can remember I have had an enormous fear of heights. This stemmed from falling from someone’s shoulders when I was very young during some sort of relay race at a rugby presentation day. Anyway this fear developed further and further to a point where I recall staying in a hotel with my family and having to take two lifts to arrive at our floor. The second lift we took I was sitting on the floor. I guess in an attempt to make myself smaller and fall that meter less if the unlikely chance that the lift started to free-fall. I can recall at the age of 10 flying from Sydney to Melbourne with my older brother finding refuge on the floor during turbulence. Basically this fear of heights mixed with somehow getting a plane up in the air and mother nature’s plans has developed this incredible anxiety I have now once the plane begins to move.

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Every time before I board a flight it’s as if I have ignored the previous experiences as the excitement of getting abroad always trumps this. Then once the airhost closes the doors I think to myself “Oh god not another one.” My heart sinks. Soon followed by VERY sweaty palms. With any slight movement, it’s like I am on edge. The plane is called onto the runway, and next thing, I am praying in my head that everything will be A-Okay.

On each flight we motor down the runway gathering as much speed to launch into the sky. Now I don’t know if it’s just me but I still to this day think how the hell does this enormous A380-800 get off the ground. We launch and 30 seconds into the flight it’s as if the engines turn off! Silence over the wing, I think to myself is this meant to be happening. The plane begins to turn almost to the point where I feel like we are at a 90-degree angle to the earth. Pushing up through the clouds, we finally hit cruising altitude.

After the vast amount of flights I have been on in my life both domestically and internationally, it’s quite ironic someone like me is so fearful of being up in the sky. You would honestly think I would be a good at this by now. To be honest, my fear of flying is getting worse and worse with each flight. Perhaps it’s the smaller little propeller planes we continue to fly with. Each time I fly anxiety and sweat just take over me, and there is no chance of sleep. I have these little pep talks in my head with no successful outcome. I stay completely still as for some reason I feel like this is going to help and I rarely use my phone or laptop on a flight. Arriving on the ground could not sooner. It’s an immediate relief, and I ignore the fact that I am going to put myself through this once again in the near future.

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My Two Worst Flying Experience:

  1. Sydney – LAX (Delta Airways)

Before take off, the flight crew informed all passengers that we might experience a little bit of turbulence on our 14 hour flight. Personally I feel they could have expanded on this point a little more. Moments after take off it was as if Mother Nature was pissed off at everyone aboard this flight. She was throwing us about like a rag doll. After some time the flight finally found a nice cruising altitude. This was a small window of opportunity for the airhosts to serve all passengers their meals before turbulence was once again out of control. To watch an airhost serve food on a flight screaming out, “What do you want beef or chicken”, whilst the overhead compartments break open and they were tossed around in the aisle was outrageous. Note to any traveller: it’s extremely hard to consume a meal with crappy plastic cutlery and holding a beverage with your other hand. The highlight of this flight besides the solid 13 hours of turbulence was the second time we began to cruise nice and easy. This peace was quickly interrupted by the pilot saying, “Seat belts on immediately.” There was no please or anything. I have never in my life experienced anything like this before and hope I never have to again. Even though the flight was nice and cool, I was sweating from head to toe, and I can guarantee you could see the fear in my eyes!

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  1. Hanoi – Luang Prabang (2015)

We boarded our little 50-seater propeller plane and were soon steaming down the runway and up into the air. Everything was surprisingly smooth, almost too perfect for words. Oh wait, I spoke too soon. I swear the moment I turned and told Kelly that this was going to be a perfect flight with no clouds in the sky, the flight attendant immediately said over the speakers, “Keep your seatbelts fastened nice and tight. We will be experiencing some turbulence.” “We will be.” Who ever says this… at least lie and say there may be a possibility of turbulence, not that there will be a 100% chance that we are going to experience this. Anyway I am already on edge sweating buckets at this point. We then fly into what I could only describe as the eye of the storm and begin to drop meters and begin to be tossed around.

I’m not sure what it is about flying in Asia that scares me so much. Perhaps the fact that the pilots don’t do as much training as other places around the world or the fact I like being in control of the vehicles I am in, but I didn’t feel safe. I honestly thought that was the end, until the voice of an Australian pilot came over the speakers. A breathe of fresh air and reassurance of home, I knew I was in safe hands.

I understand the fear of flying is no laughing matter, and honestly it’s an fairly irrational fear that I wish I could easily overcome. As my life revolves around the next adventure and travelling the globe, I somehow manage to get myself into boarding that flight. Sometimes we just need to try and overcome these fears. Turbulence is another story!

Things Not To Miss In The North Of Vietnam

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Phong Nha

This absolute gem hidden away in the jungles of central Vietnam has so much to offer each traveller who makes the trek out to this destination. It’s easy to access by bus from Hue or a short taxi ride from Dong Hoi train station which will cost you $17 USD. This is such a beautiful place which is so new to tourism and shows a side of Vietnam not many people would ever get the chance to see. Walking or riding a bicycle down the streets everyone seems to have a smile on their faces and wave and scream “Hello!” It’s not to be missed, worth the money and the time.

Phong Nha also has many cave formations, including the world’s largest cave for height, width and volume and for a pretty penny you can partake in a tour which hikes and camps in the jungles of Vietnam for around $3000 USD+. After making it to the other various caves I can only imagine the size of the world’s largest as the smaller ones are spectacular. For anyone looking to stay in Phong Nha you can view my review of the Phong Nha Farmstay as I recommend this accommodation for all travellers.

What not to miss:

Instead of telling you what not to miss this is how you should attack things:

Day 1:

  • Make your way by bicycle to meet with the boat driver who will take you to the ‘Wild Boar Eco Lodge’ also known as the last point of civilization. Here you will experience a true Vietnamese meal and gaze out into the jungles of Vietnam.
  • On the return journey you will stop at ‘The Pub With Cold Beer’ and enjoy a beverage in company of other travellers if they are about.

Day 2:

  1. Jump on a bike and ride to the pay station for the Phong Nha Cave and Tien Son Cave.
  2. Pay for the entrance fees to the cave and boat rental for the duration of the trip ($15 USD Entrance & Boat Rental.) Note: the boat rental maybe a little more if it’s a smaller group of people as you pay a flat rate for the boat to take you to the caves and return.
  3. Arrive via boat at the the Phong Nha Cave and be paddled around 1 kilometer into the wet cave then walk yourself out and up to the Tien Son Cave.
  4. Board the boat and drive back to the port.

Day 3:

  1. Arrive in town and rent a motorbike ($8USD Rental + $5 USD Fuel) from the bike store opposite ‘Easy Tiger Hostel.’ This place is brilliant as they provide you with a map, ‘road side assistance’ if you break down and this even includes them driving out and fixing the bike for no charge at all. We didn’t sign anything; no passport handed over just a verbal agreement and a smile.
  2. Jump onto the bike and ride into the Phong Nha National Park and ride to the ‘Phong Nha Dark Cave’ where you will zipline, swim and explore the dark cave for around 3 hours. For the small cost of $17 USD its well worth the money. NOTE: After rainy period the dark cave may be closed due to the water level so make sure to check before arriving.
  3. Jump back onto your bike and ride to the ‘Paradise Cave’ ($12 USD Entrance Fee). After a short hike you will arrive at an enormous cave that you will walk one kilometer into. The cave could honestly fit skyscrapers inside. It’s something very special to see. We also had our lunch here, which was reasonably priced and decent food!
  4. Jump back onto you bike and complete the loop back to the motorbike rental store. On the ride back there are many photo opportunities. The complete loop is around 65 kilometers and will take you the day to complete.

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Ninh Binh

This area of Vietnam is known for its spectacular rock formations, caves and endless rice paddies. Easily accessible through tours departing daily from Hanoi ($20 USD+.) For those who are travelling by train through Vietnam, it’s easy to stop for a night or two snatching up a home stay online. This way you will experience something different from the rushed day tour.

What not to miss:

  • Tam Coc & the Caves . Arrive at the port and board a small boat to be paddled through the rice fields and three small caves to then return to port. Note to all travellers: be prepared to be hassled by vendors in small boats and almost forced into tipping the boat rower (typically $1 USD per person)

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Hanoi

This city in the North of Vietnam is much more lively than Ho Chi Minh City in the South in my opinion. It’s a fascinating city with streets that are lined with exactly the same sellers. For example, you’ll find an entire street of shoes or an entire street of bags. I am still unsure if this is good business. Anyway if you’re looking to buy shoes, artwork, bags or hang out drinking cheap beer then this is where you need to be.

What not to miss:

  • The Weekend Night Market is an awesome experience to be had with one of the main roads in Hanoi shut down for the evening. Here you can pick up a bargain if your negotiation skills are good, otherwise you may be paying a little bit more than you should.
  • The Beer Hois are located on many corners of Hanoi. These small bars serve the local beer for around $0.20 cents US and for that price you can’t say no.
  • The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is where you can view Ho Chi Minh body. This is open most morning however make sure to check online before arriving as it may be closed to the public.
  • Wander the streets of Hanoi and really take a grasp of their culture and cuisine.

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Halong Bay
This world heritage site has been ventured to by many tourists over the past decade and is now showing the drastic effects of tourism. After touring here since 2000 the amount of pollution in the water is truly a disgrace and something really needs to be done soon otherwise the effects on this destination are going to change Halong Bay forever. It almost looks like people have upturned their rubbish bins into the waters.

The greatest piece of advice I can give to anyone travelling to Halong Bay is to be wise on who you tour with as we had a not so great experience with an operator on our last visit. The rough price for the 2 Day, 1 Night Halong Bay tour is around $89 USD all inclusive. For those who wish to stay on Cat Ba Island as well this is usually another $50 USD.

With that being said once you see past all the mayhem and blatant rip offs of Halong Bay, you will see the beauty that still exists with magical sunrises and sunsets. It’s just a pity nothing has been done to save this ecosystem from destruction.

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Here is a summary of the cost for my travel through the North of Vietnam via Train. NOTE. Always book these at the station directly not online and not with a tour operator. You can always check online for the schedules at https://vietnam-railway.com/

Danang to Dong Hoi (7 hours) – $9 USD Soft Seat

Dong Hoi – Hanoi (12 hours) – $18 USD Soft Seat

#TravelInReality Week Six

Hello! We’re coming at you live from Don Det, one of the tiny islands that make up the 4000 islands in Laos. This is our sixth installment of our #TravelInReality series. If you haven’t read the intro, you can go here. Also, you can read last week’s post here.

We will be answering questions about traveling together as a couple – the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll be writing week-by-week, and this week we traveled from Vientiane to Pakse to Don Det. If you have any questions you want us to answer, leave a comment below or send us an email!


 

1.) Where did you travel to this week?

This week we travelled from Vientiane to Pakse and then down to the 4000 islands for the last few days.

2.) What was the most challenging part of this week?

KP: The most challenging part will have to be sleeping for 6 nights without air conditioning on the 4000 islands. But to be honest, if that’s the worst of it, then we’re doing quite alright.

Sam: We managed to book a quite nice hotel in the 4000 Islands however the hotel doesn’t have any air conditioning. We were stuck with two fans which circulate hot air around the room. The past six nights have been pretty rough with sleep!

3.) What was the most annoying thing he/she did this week?

KP: I honestly can’t really think of anything that major. That’s how well this week went!

Sam: Kelly was frustrated with paddling on our Kayak trip.

4.) What three things are you grateful for in your relationship?

KP: Adventure, joking around and ambition.

5.) What was the most romantic thing you did this week?

Sam: I shaved off the beard I’ve been growing for two months!

6.) What was the number one topic that came up the most?

KP: How hot it is on the island!!

Sam: Definitely the intense heat in our hotel room!

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View from the Island

7.) What was the best bar or restaurant you went to?

KP: The best restaurant on Don Det Island is Mama Thanon’s – hands down the cheapest and best food we’ve had here. My favourite bar is Happy Bar, overlooking the sunset.

Sam: There are many awesome little spots along the river here on Don Det Island where you can watch the sunset of an evening. Happy Bar is quite a decent bar/restaurant if your down to relax and have a few cold beers.

8.) Favourite memory from the week?

KP: Every day on the island has been amazing. My favourite memory has to be taking a small boat with about 9 people to a tiny little stretch of sand in the middle of no where and partying with strangers until the sun faded.

Sam: Would have been spending the day kayaking from Laos to Cambodia, exploring waterfalls and spotting dolphins along the way. Awesome experience!

9.) If you could tell your partner one thing you wish he/she did differently, what would it be?

KP: I wish he didn’t need the A/C on blast 24/7. I’m always freezing when I go to bed!

Sam: Be a little bit more patient. Time is time, and we are on an island now, on island time. So things aren’t always going to happen right away.

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Sunset cruise on the Mekong

10.) From 0 to 10, 0 being “I could break up with him/her right now” to 10 being “I could marry him/her right now”, how in love do you feel after this week?

KP: Crazy to think how we could go from one extreme to the other, but I’d happily say we’re around a 9. We’ve had so much fun this week, relaxing and doing nothing on the island.

Sam: Comfortable 7/10 this week has been pretty relaxing.

Fun Fact About Sam/Kelly:

Sam can eat more than any other human I’ve ever met.

Kelly is pretty good at falling over. Whether on a flat surface or a wet surface, there is a high chance she will fall.


 

Stay tuned for next week!

 

 

The Misconception That Extended Travel Is Always Easy

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I will be the first person to put my hand up and say long-term travel is not always easy. Added to this travelling with others can make these adventures ten times harder as well. It’s as if you have that little bit more responsibility that you don’t necessarily want to have in your life. You just want to look after yourself and not have to worry about what anyone else is doing around you! It’s your time to be doing what you want to do.

As of late I have posted photos and images of my adventures around the globe documenting where I have been to show people where they should get to around the world. Many responses include such phrases as ‘living the dream’ or ‘incredible journey’, which in some aspects is so true however you will never see the frustrations or mishaps of my day that lead me to this point.

Travel is a life choice we make. For many people, they dream of doing exactly the same thing, but sometimes would rather fantasize about the idea than actually do this. And that’s okay. For others, they attempt to travel for an extended period of time and realize either that they have run out of money’ or it isn’t for me them. Then for the small fraction of us who get out and continue to adventure the globe we always will put a brave face on and tell you everything is all okay. To be completely honest some of my darkest days have been whilst travelling around the world, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

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You will usually never hear about the stress from our day ever. At times I honestly wish I was sitting in an office back at home twiddling my thumbs instead of having to try and talk my way out of a bad situation or communicate with locals who don’t understand me or having to pay a bribe at the border to cross countries.

Travel can be frustrating, stressful, tense, overwhelming and so the list goes on. It’s not always happy days when you’re on the road because, unlike people at home going by there day to day jobs, we are out wandering each corner of the globe, discovering new places to share with the world or uncovering the lucrative scams being tested on seasoned travellers. We want you to experience what we are, but extended travel versus vacationing is very different.

We aren’t coming home to our family and friends; we are living out of a backpack unpacking into a dormitory or hotel room to then pack up our belongings in the coming days and move onto our next destination. I lose track of time, what day of the week it is and sometimes what I set out to do on that day altogether. That is part of the adventure.

If I were asked to define travel, this would be my answer. Travel is like an addictive drug allowing you to step out of the ‘real world’ for a moment, and into a place of discovery and new beginnings. Travelers will do anything to make this happen at times, making us feel desperate to make it a reality!

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The toughest times I have had to face on the road is losing valuable time with my friends and family back home. Missing Christmas, New Year celebrations, birthdays, weddings and funerals. Is it fair to say that I feel guilty and selfish for making the decision to stay away and achieve what I set out to achieve. It’s such a hard thing to understand at times, but travel can be my own demise sometimes. I can assure you those low moments end many travelers’ adventures, but for those who persevere, it’s a stepping-stone on your journey to recognize that you can overcome obstacles.

One of the bigger challenges I have faced while on the road is truly connecting with other travellers. We may all get along and share similar stories, but we all have differing perspectives of travel and adventure and what exactly we want to get out of this time abroad. I’m always open for opinions, but the final decision always rests with me.

A big motivator for me to keep doing what I am doing comes down to those individuals out there who add fuel to the fire and try to bring others like myself down to their level of immaturity through blatant jealousy and cyber bullying. It’s sad that we live in world of bullying and hiding behind screens. I mean most of these people are classified as adults and still feel it’s necessarily to have a laugh at the expense of others. To you I say, perhaps its time to grow up. I honestly think it comes down to their jealousy that we are out there travelling. These people could be doing this as well. We just have different priorities. Like I have said before, there are times I wish I could trade it in and come on home, but I don’t.

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When I travel compared to many others who travel, we all have a very different approach. Many people I know travel to get over to Europe and live out the summer, partying the night away, paying for over priced drinks and waking up thinking who is that laying next to me. Just to do it all over again. That’s exactly what they are searching for, and that’s completely okay . For me, I want a little bit more than a drunken memory. I travel to destinations to explore as much of it in the time I have before crossing borders and doing exactly the same thing elsewhere. Extended travel has many highs and lows which are just obstacles along the way.

If you look at the bigger picture, a vacation or short trip usually is mapped out and booked before leaving your hometown. Therefore it’s quite easy to follow your itinerary. When travelling for an extended period of time, you may arrive at a destination and immediately want to move on or stay longer. You are essentially planning day by day as to what you wish to do, and this is always going to come with issues.

There is nothing better than exploring every corner of the globe, and this is what I set out to do when I first left home on my own to adventure solo many years ago. Travel teaches you many valuable lessons and allows you to learn more about yourself if you have the time to really appreciate your journey. Although never forget there will always be a few curve balls along the way to keep you on your toes!

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