5 reasons you should avoid Halong Bay

Halong Bay in Vietnam is a beautiful and mystical place. But is it really worth visiting? We’ll tell you our top 5 reasons to avoid Halong Bay

Halong Bay is this beautiful, magical, mystical place in Vietnam… or rather, it should be.  It was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of nature.  It’s on so many people’s bucket list.  It was supposed to be the highlight of our trip to this ancient South-East Asian country.  We looked forward to our cruise for weeks.  We imagined being on this cool-looking junk boat, floating amongst the karst limestone mountains jutting out of the water.  But what we experienced was far from this dream.

Tour boats in Halong Bay Vietnam
Tour boats in Halong Bay

The tour packages

Each company will have some specific things that are unique to it, but trust us when we say that there is not much creativity with the service providers in Halong Bay.  Having shopped over 15 different cruises, here is what we found were the main options.

Tourists kayaking in Halong Bay Vietnam
Tourists kayaking in Halong Bay

Mostly, all providers will take you to the highlights of Halong Bay.  This includes a trip to Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave, kayaking at Luon cave and the lookout at Ti Top island.  Usually, food and water bottles are also provided in the package.  Most tour operators will offer transfers to and from your hotel in Hanoi.  All you have to do is decide how long you want to stay in Halong Bay.

  • 2 days / 1 night on the boat: Keeping it short and sweet so you can experience the Bay and the main highlights.
  • 3 days / 2 nights with Cat Ba island: You will spend one night on the boat, another on Cat Ba island.  You also have the chance to sleep at Monkey Island (on Cat Ba, just a different location), though you will pay a premium for this.
  • 3 nights / 2 days on the boat: This is the option we went with because we wanted to get the most out of our time in Halong Bay.  It included everything mentioned above, and was supposed to include a trip to the Virgin Cave, time on a beach, a visit to a traditional pearl farm and floating village, and kayaking at a different cave than Luon.

As for the cost of the cruise, it can vary from one boat to the next.  There are luxury boats and more basic ones.  We chose a middle range boat, paying $500 US for the both of us, but it seems like even that was not ‘good enough’.

A cruise in Halong Bay is not cheap.  In fact, compared to other things you can do and see in Vietnam, it is a lot more expensive, especially since these boats are geared toward ‘tourists with money’.

Derek riding a long boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Derek riding a long boat

Looking back at this trip now, we wish we had known more about visiting Halong Bay.  Not only would we have skipped out on this experience, we would have saved a ton of money, our environmental impact would have been lessened, and we probably would have had a better time overall.

So here are all the reasons we would highly recommend you avoid Halong Bay when you head to Vietnam.

Environmental reasons

This will always be our main concern when we travel.  We are always super conscious of what our environmental impact is.  This world is beautiful, and we want to keep exploring it.  The best way to do this is by making sure that we have the least negative impacts on the places we visit.

Ti Top beach Halong Bay Vietnam
Ti Top beach, Halong Bay’s premier beach

Unfortunately, when you visit Halong Bay, your impact is huge, and you can feel it all around!

Food waste

Every single meal we had on our boat was plentiful.  Although delicious, there was too much variety and the quantity of food was almost a joke… but not a very funny one!

Making spring rolls onboard our boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Making way too many spring rolls onboard our boat

At the end of the meal, everyone would feel so bad seeing barely-eaten plates leave the table.  We brought it up with the staff, asking them if they could make less food considering there was so much waste.  We were told that this is how they do things and there was no way to change this.

Sure, this food was then thrown overboard to feed the marine life, or used to feed the pigs.  Some may argue that it’s not wasted if it’s being eaten by others, but we beg to differ.  Just think of the amount of time and resources it took to make these meals.  They could have fed so many other people.  For us, this is a waste!

Plastic pollution

From providing plastic bottles, single-use condiments or toiletries, rubber gloves for the staff handling food, the amount of plastic on the boats is shocking.

Beautiful karsts in Halong Bay Vietnam
The beautiful karsts of Halong Bay

What’s more shocking however, is that most of these plastics end up in Halong Bay.  The staff (and probably a few tourists) just throw everything off the boat.  We’re no longer surprised to see plastic bottles floating around, but during our 3 days in Halong Bay, we were dumb-struck when we saw rubber gloves, chairs, life vests and bits of styrofoam floating around.

That is the part of Halong Bay no one talks about.  Sure, the limestone karsts are beautiful.  Sure, the mood created when floating around is mystical.  But seeing this much plastic is just disgusting.  A sad reminder of what we have done to our planet.

The pollution created by these cruises is the main reason we would recommend skipping this experience and avoiding Halong Bay.  But there are many more reasons!

The service providers

While surely some tour providers do have nice boats in their fleet, many of them are old.  Most show signs of not-so-gentle use, and even more boats are in need of repair… or at least a new paint job.  The tour that we took was of the latter variety.

Sailing through Halong Bay Vietnam
Sailing through Halong Bay

You won’t get what you paid for

After talking with the others on our three different boats, we all realized that we all didn’t get what we paid for.  Those who had paid for bigger rooms had the same thing as everyone else.  The activities we were supposed to do were not as described.  Most were either rushed or had us surrounded by hundreds of people doing the same thing, making it rather unpleasant!

A ton of tourists at the virgin pond in Halong Bay Vietnam
A ton of tourists at the virgin pond

We were supposed to have a deluxe room, which we did not get.  We were supposed to have time on a beach… that didn’t happen.  Instead, we stayed docked in the middle of Halong Bay, near the pearl farm, for nearly two hours.  The pearl farm was actually just a ploy to get unsuspecting tourists to buy things in order for the cruise operators to get a kick-back.  And the kayaking we were supposed to do at different caves, well… we were taken to the same cave three times.

You may think that this was only a stroke of bad luck for us.  But having spent time on three different boats, and having spoken to three different groups of people, we realized that this was par for the course.  The overwater bungalows that people had booked on Monkey island were falling apart (despite costing a premium) and had no windows and mosquito nets with holes in them.  The rooms people were given on the boats were sub-par or simply not what they had requested.

Carine gazing out the boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Carine gazing out of our boat

Had we been the only ones who had an unpleasant experience, we would have been quick to dismiss this, but we spoke to so many people who agreed that had they known what they were going to go through for the next few days, they would have avoided coming here as well.

The hosts and staff are unpleasant

Because this trip to Halong Bay is one of the most popular tours in the country, you can feel it in the attitude of the hosts.  Each boat has their ‘guide’ who usually shares tidbits of history and lore behind Halong Bay and its various sights.  Because these guides work almost every single day, you can feel their lack of enthusiasm during the whole stay.  They obviously give the same speech day-in and day-out!

If it were only the lack of enthusiasm, we would have understood.  However, when we brought up the problems we had during our stay, and the fact that we didn’t get what we paid for, the staff, both on the boat and at the sales office, became extremely rude and disrespectful.  This is when we understood that we had just been scammed by a very large and ‘reputable’ business.

We don’t complain often.  We always try to find the silver lining in every experience.  And when we do complain, we do it in a respectful and solution-oriented way, in the hopes that we help the business improve their services so others can have a better experience.

However, this time was different.

A long boat in Halong Bay Vietnam
A long boat cruising in Halong Bay

We were called liars when we told the cruise provider that we had never been to the beach we were supposed to go to.

We were called stupid when we said we had been taken to the same kayaking spot three times.  They told us that the spots just looked the same to us… come on.

The view from a lookout in Halong Bay Vietnam
The view from a lookout in Halong Bay

We were met with insults for every complaint we had.  Not only from the cruise provider, but from the staff at our hotel where we booked this cruise as well.  You can only imagine how annoyed and insulted this whole experience left us.

Too crowded

At this point, do you expect anything different?!  Halong Bay was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site twice, in 1994 and 2000.  It’s called the “descending dragon bay”.  It spans over 1,553 square kilometres.  It’s made up of 1,969 islands and thousands of limestone karsts.  Basically, it’s what Vietnam travel dreams are made of!

But when you think of something so mystical and beautiful, you know that there will be a ton of people there.  After all, there are over 550 cruises that operate in Halong Bay.  In 2017, the Bay was host to close to 3 million tourists. The numbers have only increased in the following years.

A ton of tour boats in Halong Bay Vietnam
A ton of tour boats clogging up Halong Bay

This means that the peaceful experience you are looking for likely won’t happen, unless you pay a pretty penny.  Almost all boats leave and arrive at the same time.  They all have a rotation of highlights that they visit.  Every single place we went to was swarming with tourists… even the “lesser known” spots!

The Ti Top island lookout was so packed that it felt like we were being herded up the mountain like goats, up a narrow staircase, just wide enough for two.  When we got up there, we were surrounded by people posing for selfies, pushing others around them to get ‘the shot’.  After five minutes up there, we were ready to throw ourselves down the hill.

The Sung Sot Surprise cave was much of the same.  Crowds of people being pushed down the same path.  Guides pointing at the same rocks with the same old jokes.

Look! This one looks like a penis!” *Insert awkward laugh.

Look! That one is a monkey with a big penis!” *Insert odd look and even more awkward laugh.

Look! That one is a hole. You know, like a lady hole” *Insert final eye roll.

Ok! Can we turn this into a drinking game already?!

Carine heading to the virgin pond in Halong Bay Vietnam
Carine heading to the virgin pond

It was the same thing at the ‘secret’ Virgin cave.  Same again for the tourist-trap pearl farm.  It seemed like every single stop was packed with tourists.

And at night, if you had the ‘luck’ of being parked next to a party boat, well, you got to know just how crowded 1,553 square kilometres actually feels.

Tips to have a better experience

All hope is not lost.  You can still have a great experience in Halong Bay, but at least now, you know what to expect.  Here are some other tips to make the cruise even more enjoyable.

Choose a less touristic spot

Instead, of going to Halong Bay, we heard only wonderful things about Bai Tu Long Bay.  Although the karst islands are more spread out, you will have a more peaceful experience there.  If we were to redo this experience again, we would choose Bai Tu Long Bay.

Spend less time on the boat

Actually, just spend less time in Halong Bay.  Sure, we were wrong to pick the 2 nights on the boat, as it seems like it was more of a kayaking trip than we anticipated for.  However, our friends who went to Cat Ba island didn’t have a great experience either.

Karsts in Halong Bay Vietnam
The famous karsts of Halong Bay

Instead, we would recommend you save your money and either only do a day trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi.  If living on a junk boat is on your bucket list, then opt for a one-night/ 2 day cruise.  You will see the best of Halong Bay, without getting over-whelmed by the crowds and pollution.

Take the eco-friendly route

There are a few cruise providers that are eco-friendly.  They don’t waste food, try to reduce the amount of plastic that they use and even have clean-up efforts to make Halong Bay in Vietnam more beautiful.  Pick one of those providers!

Also, make sure to bring your own toiletries, and a reusable water bottle like the LifeStraw Go.  This will make a huge stride in trying to reduce the amount of trash and plastic that end up in Halong Bay.

Plan your timing

Although we had pretty good weather during our stay in Halong Bay, most mornings and nights were overcast and grey.  Don’t let bad weather spoil your trip, because nothing is worst than going to Halong Bay and not seeing what you came to see.

Cave in Halong Bay Vietnam
One of many caves in Halong Bay

From March to June are the best times to visit.  Low season is from June to September, so expect to get better deals, but also expect some storms.  Make sure you keep an eye out on the weather forecast for that!

October and November are high season and it will be sunny.  December is going to be cool, cloudy but dry.  While January and February are cold, foggy and drizzly, so maybe not the best time to go.

Sailing through Halong Bay Vietnam with many other boats
Sailing through Halong Bay Vietnam with many other boats

Sure, some people might then say, “You know what, the tour wasn’t great, but at least you got to go to Halong Bay!  It’s so beautiful, I can only imagine what it must be like to be sitting on the deck of the boat, taking in the beauty and serenity of this natural wonder!”

And they would be right.  Halong Bay is beautiful.  Unlike anything we have to offer here in Canada, or in many of the countries that we visited.

The view from a lookout in Halong Bay Vietnam
The view from a lookout in Halong Bay

The unfortunate truth however, is that Halong Bay is taking the same path as places like Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand, Borocay Island in the Philippines, or Machu Picchu in Peru.  All of these places are limiting the amount of tourists who can visit because of the negative impacts of this mass tourism.  Some are even closed indefinitely to allow them to return to their previous splendour.

If tourists keep flocking to Halong Bay the way they have been the past years, it too may need to be shut down.  While doing so would help the area, the loss of jobs would devastate the local economy.  The fact that the amount of people visiting Vietnam in the past 3 years has doubled and that tourism accounts for a significant part of the country’s GDP should be motivation to find a sustainable solution.

Getting to Ti Top beach by longboat in Halong Bay Vietnam
Getting to Ti Top beach by longboat

Have you ever been to Halong Bay?  How was your experience?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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5 reasons to avoid Halong Bay in Vietnam. As beautiful as it is, there are tons of reasons to remove Halong Bay from your bucketlist. Wediditourway #vietnam #halongbay #travelguide #ecofriendlytravel

40 pictures to make you fall in love with Vienna

Vienna, Austria’s capital, is a beautiful city. Whether you are looking to enjoy the architecture, the food, the concerts or the people, Vienna has something for everyone. We fell in love and these pictures will show you why.

Vienna, a city where, over 100 years ago, a revolution took place.  Philosophy, physics, music and a culture of art were born here.  It was done with the help of notables such as Schlick, Einstein, Mozart and Egon Schiele.   This UNESCO world-heritage city centre was also the home to the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

The famous St-Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria
The famous St-Stephen’s Cathedral

Dubbed the city of music, it is here that we kicked off our epic European train trip.  It set the bar very high for what was to come on our journey through the beautiful old continent that is Europe.  Strolling down the historic streets of Austria’s capital, how could we not fall in love with Vienna?

The National library in Vienna, Austria
The National library

Home to almost 2 million people, Vienna has been voted as one of the top cities to live in year after year.  It boasts some of the most epic castles, museums galore, historic sites, concerts, churches, and the famous Viennese dessert, sachertorte!  Whatever you’re into, you will find it here.

The State Opera House in Vienna, Austria
The State Opera House

The best way to take in this European gem, is by taking a leisurely stroll through the city.  You will be drawn in by the wonderful sights scattered throughout.  Make sure that your camera is handy, as it’s one of the most photogenic cities we’ve been to.

See the fountains in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria
See the fountains in the Schönbrunn Palace

Getting lost in the maze of streets is a pleasure, to say the least.  Around every corner, there is architectural beauty ready to greet you.  The State Opera House will fill your ears with enchanting music.  Monet’s French impressionist paintings and Picasso’s surrealism will take you back a century at the Albertina museum.  The Riesenrad, a 200-foot plus ferris wheel, will give you a view of the city like no other.

The Karlskirche in Vienna, Austria
The Karlskirche

Then, treat yourself to the opulent beauty of the many Viennese churches.  You will be excused while you pick your jaw up off the floor, as the sheer beauty and design will leave you awe-struck.  Being no strangers to churches, temples and mosques, we were still taken by the sheer beauty we witnessed.  St Stephan’s, St Charles, St Peter’s, the Votive church, the list goes on and on!  These imposing structures are designed with such an overwhelming sense of luxuriousness, that you would think yourself at the Vatican itself.  They are scattered all over the city, making it easy to turn a street corner and come upon one ready to be discovered.

The opulent Dominikaner Kirche in Vienna, Austria
The opulent Dominikaner Kirche

If grand palaces are more your thing, head to the outskirts of the city, where you will discover the sweet serenity that comes from walking the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace. In yesteryears, it was the summer residence of the Habsburg house (who’s family sigil may remind you of a certain golden-haired ruling family in one of our favourite HBO shows, Game of Thrones).  Today, it can serve as a portal to another time, where you can almost imagine the elite of the past vying for control of the Austrian empire.

Setting up the Christmas tree in front of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria
The Schönbrunn Palace

As you walk the peaceful grounds you can daydream of the long history of royalty who called this their home.  The fall colours come to life in the rows of trees that lined the grounds.  You can catch perfect reflections on the many fountains, making the setting even more magical.  The crowning piece of the gardens is the Gloriette, where you will gaze out at the view of the city and the castle.

The spectacular Gloriette in Vienna, Austria
The spectacular Gloriette

The few days that we spent in the capital of Austria were grey and gloomy, but this wouldn’t stop us from marvelling in its beauty and its history.  Visiting this gem, it’s easy to imagine how all of these historical figures made names for themselves, given the inspiring nature that Vienna offers.

The winding Danube river in Vienna, Austria
The winding Danube river

Have you ever been to Vienna?  Did you also fall under its charm?


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wediditourway Vienna

 

Top tips to have the best European train trip

There is something so romantic about train travel, nowhere more so than through the European countryside. But you still have to be prepared. Here are the top tips to have the best train trip possible with the Eurail pass.

Who has never dreamed of exploring Europe by train?

There is something so romantic about train travel, nowhere more so than through the European countryside.  This was a huge bucket list item for us, and was a dream come true for us to partner with Eurail and discover the beauty of this old continent together.

 

It was also the perfect way to end our 15-month adventure around the world!  With so much to see and do, here’s how we made the most of our train trip through Europe, and how you can too!

Why choose the train?

There is nothing better than sitting back in comfy seats, and enjoying the view out your window.  Watching the scenery change from one stop to the next, from one tunnel to the next, from one country to the next.  You don’t have to worry about strenuous security checks, long lines at customs, or any of the usual hassles that come with flying.

Best of all, train travel can be super spontaneous!  You can show up at a train station on a whim and grab the next train to your location.  We loved having the flexibility to change our plans and take off to a new location without the heavy planning and expensive cost of plane travel!

Passing by the cutest Austrian town on our way to Salzburg
Passing by the cutest Austrian town on our way to Salzburg

In fact, one of the best things about taking the train, is that it’s one of the more eco-friendly ways of traveling.  By now you should know how we love being eco-travelers.  Trains emit between 66 and 75 percent less carbon than cars and airplanes.  Trains are also more sustainable in terms of energy consumption, use of space, and noise levels.

And finally, train travel is by far the most comfortable way to travel across borders.  With smooth turns and solid rails, you can forget the bumpy bus rides or turbulent flights.  With plenty of leg room, and handy tray tables (or even actual tables), working on the train is so much more pleasant that trying to get work done on a plane.  Regardless of if you want to work or just enjoy the ride, the atmosphere in the train feels less crammed and is more enjoyable than any other mode of transportation.

Crossing the river by train on our way to Salzburg
Crossing the river by train on our way to Salzburg

This is why, the train is our all-time favourite!

What Eurail pass to get?

The best choice for your Eurail pass will depend on how many days you want to travel, how many countries you want to explore, and your style of traveling.  For example, the Global pass is available for a few days, up to three months, and can be used all throughout Eurail’s network of 31 countries.  Or, you can opt for a country pass that is valid from one to four countries.

Passing by The Cologne cathedral in Germany by train
Passing by the Cologne cathedral in Germany by train

You can also choose to buy your tickets individually, but this might mean that you spend more money than you expected.  It will also mean that you need to be either very loose with your itinerary, or plan it all out.  Yes, that seems like polar opposites, and there’s a reason for that.

By keeping your itinerary loose, you can show up at the train station and pick your next destination on the fly (which you can also do with a Global pass or a country pass).  Or, you will have to know exactly when you want to go where.  However, you will only be able to buy your ticket to the next destination once you get to the city you are leaving from.  So it really depends on your style of travel.

Passing by Austrian mountains
Passing through the Austrian mountains

When we were debating on what pass to get, we found that the tool on the Eurail website was super helpful to see what pass was best suited for our needs.  We could input how many days of travel we wanted, and what countries we wanted, and voilà!  We were presented with the best option for us!  The 1-month continuous Global pass was it.

Now, we had the flexibility to travel to as many countries as we wanted, when we wantedfor up to 30 days.  If that’s not the ultimate freedom, we don’t know what is!

How to plan your trip?

Our goal was to get the most out of our Eurail pass, but we also wanted to enjoy the cities we visited.  Even if a part of us wanted to do 30 cities in 30 days, we figured that might not be so wise.  Our crazy idea was to visit as many countries as possible, without killing ourselves, so we opted for 13 cities in 30 days (well, 32 days, but you know what we mean!)

Being silly at the Budapest train station, Hungary
Being silly at the Budapest train station, Hungary

Once again, the Eurail website and their Rail Planner app were the best tools we could have asked for!  We could not recommend them highly enough, regardless of what type of traveler you are.  You can pick what city you start from, where you want to go and at what time.  Both tools will show you all trains from start to finish, the number of stops in between, train transfers and if you need a reservation.

So to make your ultimate itinerary, start with the countries you want to visit.  Then pick the cities you want to visit in each country.  Obviously, this is the simplest way to get started.  Now, let’s start having some planning fun!

Looking out the window on our way to Prague
Looking out the window on our way to Prague

Pull up the handy timetables available on the app or on the website and start with your first city (where you’ll be leaving from or where your plane lands).  Then, pick the second city you want to visit.  We found it helpful to look at Eurail’s map and see what the closest connecting city was.  This was done to ensure that we don’t spend too much time on the train, and to check if we could get to the next destination (city #3) easily.

Going one city at a time, you’ll be able to build your itinerary quite quickly.  Just make sure you keep the next city in mind when building it.  This will help you be more efficient with your time on the train.

As for the number of days in each city, that depends on your style of travel and your goals.  We spent two days in each place, knowing we would come back to these countries or cities.  If you want to take your time, then feel free to do that.  This is not a race.  Just go at a pace you are comfortable with!

Day trains vs night trains

Sometimes going from one city to the next via train can take some time, like when we traveled from Prague to Krakow, and then again on towards Bratislava.  That’s why in some cases, your best bet might just be to take a night train.

Our bed for the night on our way to Bratislava
Our bed for the night on our way to Bratislava

By doing this, not only are you saving yourself one night’s accommodations, but you’re also not missing out on time to explore your destination.  You’ll arrive early in the morning, ready to go on your next adventure.

If you have a long trip, usually 8 hours or more, do yourself a favour and take the night train.  You’ll get to your destination nice and rested the next day.  We would recommend grabbing a sleeper car and getting in a good night’s sleep.

Working on the sleeper train on our way to Bratislava
Working on the sleeper train on our way to Bratislava

You could always opt for a regular seat, if you are the type to sleep sitting up easily.  But the seats don’t always recline too much, and you’ll have your head bop around all night (yes, even with a neck pillow), so go ahead and spend the extra money.  Get yourself a cabin, get some good shut eye, and go out to explore the next day!

Cabins are comfy, safe and clean.  The beds are pretty spacious, enough so that Derek (and his whole 6’4″ frame) could even almost fit in them!  You can even choose between a private cabin, or shared cabins (between four and six people).  To us, it was a no-brainer – it made night travel so much fun!

First class vs second class

The price difference between first class and second class on Eurail’s network is not significant.  So if you’re not strapped for cash, we highly recommend opting for first class.  Traveling with the added service and comfort will justify the extra cost, without a doubt!

Our first train ride, heading to Ceske Budejovic
Our first train ride, heading to Ceske Budejovice

If you’re wondering what the differences are, here’s what to expect.  In first class, the seats will recline and are more spacious.  This means there are less people per wagon, making it more comfy and quiet overall.  An added bonus for long-term travelers like us, is that first class wagons usually have more room for luggage as well!  Sometimes, on some high-speed trains, the first class ticket will include a meal.

Second class train tickets are going to be more affordable, but you have a lot less space, because the seats are smaller and there are more per wagon.  Also, because most people travel second class, you may need to reserve your tickets in advance.  Having first class tickets, we never had to worry about pre-booking our spots as there were always seats available on our trains.

 

If the majority of your train trips are going to be short (1-2 hours long), you may not need to splurge on first class tickets.  Because we had a few days where we spent 5-6 hours on the train, it was well worth it for us to choose first class tickets!

Tips to make the best of your train travel

We learned quite a few things while we were on the train, things we wish we knew before we embarked on this adventure.  We hope these tips will help you avoid some of our mistakes!

Walking through the streets of Bratislava
Walking through the streets of Bratislava

Bring water

This will always be our #1 tip for any type of travel.  Always bring water with you, because water is life!  But being the eco-warriors that we are, we would recommend you bring a reusable water bottle so you can easily fill it up, or get yourself a LifeStraw Go so you can turn any water into drinking water!

Checking out Prague
Checking out the sunset in Prague, Czech Republic

Bring snacks

Not all trains are created equal!  Some trains have a restaurant in them, where you can get drinks, snacks and actual meals.  We tried quite a few items on the train menus across Europe, and we can attest that they are delicious!

The most magical view ever at Lake Bled in Slovenia
The most magical view ever at Lake Bled in Slovenia

But in case you take a train that doesn’t have a restaurant integrated in it, make sure you bring snacks.  This is our #2 rule in life, in travel, and in relationship advice.  You never want to travel with a hangry person, so avoid the situation altogether!

Give yourself time

When you are building your itinerary, check if you have a connection.  If you do, leave yourself enough time between the trains.  The trains are very punctual, so if the change is tight, make sure the connecting train comes often so you don’t have to spend a night in a city if you miss the second train.

A beautiful day in Prague
A beautiful day in Prague

Luckily, we never ended up missing a train, but we did have to run between one platform and the next to make the next train.  Often, we were ok with having 5-10 minutes between them.  We did get lucky however, in the fact that none of our trains were delayed.  And although we ran into some maintenance issues with some trains, the Rail Planner app made it easy for us to get back on the right track, so it was fine!

Make your reservation early

Most of the trains we took did not require a reservation, so we would just hop on the train and pick an empty seat.  However, some trains to more popular cities require reservations.  If they do, make the reservation as early as you can!

Jumping for joy in Amsterdam
Jumping for joy in Amsterdam

For us, it was our train to Paris that needed a special reservation.  We thought we would be ok reserving our seats 24 hours ahead of time, but we were wrong!  We couldn’t get on the specific train we wanted, so we had to take a few connections to get to a location that had 2 free seats into Paris.  We made it all the same, but having known this, we would have made the reservations online much earlier!

Enjoying the sunset in the main square of Ceske Budejovice
Enjoying the sunset in the main square of Ceske Budejovice

Also, if you are traveling in the high season (summer in Europe is a dream), make sure you reserve your tickets in advance.  Trains tend to fill up faster, especially in second class.

Not all trains are created equally

Depending on the country you’re in, if it’s a ‘international’ train or a local one, you will notice that there is sometimes a huge difference in services, comfort, and amenities.

Working and chilling in 1st class on the train
Working and chilling in 1st class on the train

Before you get on the train, you can always check what is included online or on the app.  This will help you be more prepared for the trip to come.  We sometimes found out the hard way that a train was not equipped with Wifi or power outlets (even in first class), which made working on it a little harder.

Validate your tickets

Before you board your first train, make sure you get it validated at the station.  You will also need to fill out the travel form so the staff can stamp it.  These are not long to do, but to avoid any problems and save time in the long run, make sure you do them!

Kissing in front of the Hundertwasser house in Vienna
Kissing in front of the Hundertwasser House in Vienna

Find a hotel near the train station

Going from one city’s train station to the next every other day meant finding a hotel near the train station.  Being able to hop off the train and simply walk to your hotel means you don’t need to find transportation after your train ride, and makes for easy timing when you need to go catch your next train.

 

Seemingly every European city’s train stations are usually situated close by to the old parts of town, where you will likely be spending most of your time.

Ask the staff

The staff on the train, and working at the counters were probably the nicest people we have met!  They were all so helpful and accommodating, especially when it came to getting those reserved tickets to Paris.

Wandering through Ceske Budejovice
Wandering through Ceske Budejovice

Don’t be shy, just go ask them if you’re confused about your platform, your wagon or seats.

Count your days

This mainly applies to Canadian and US residents.  We found this out the hard way, though luckily, not the expensive way!

 

As Canadians, we have a limit as to how many days we can stay in Europe, and more specifically, the Schengen area.  This area is a made up of 26 European countries that created common entry and exit requirements to remove the need for internal borders.  This same agreement allows us foreigners to travel freely between these countries without having to go through border controls.  This is super convenient for sure!

We don’t need a visa to travel to these countries for stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, so 3 months out of 6.  If you leave the Schengen area and return within the same 6-month period, the previous stay counts against the permitted 90 days.

Enjoying the view on our way to Prague
Enjoying the view on our way to Prague, Czech Republic

If you plan to stay for longer than 90 days, you have to contact the high commission or embassy of the country or countries you are traveling and obtain the appropriate visa before you travel.  If you don’t obtain the appropriate visa and you stay longer than the 90 days in the Schengen area, you may be fined or deported.  So count your days and make sure you avoid any troubles!

Our itinerary

Just in case you were curious, or crazy enough to attempt the 13 cities in 30 days, here is what our itinerary looked like.

Our one month itinerary through Europe
Our one month itinerary through Europe

We ended up staying two nights in each city.  This gave us about two days to explore each city.  We started our adventure in Vienna, Austria, then headed to the Czech Republic to visit České Budějovice and Prague.  We then took a night train to Krakow, Poland and after two full days there, we were off to Bratislava in Slovakia.

We took another night train to head to Budapest in Hungary.  Then, it was Zagreb, Croatia, followed by Ljubljana in Slovenia.  We then made our way back to Austria, checking out Salzburg this time.  Then we met up with friends for 3 days in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Romance in Bratislava
Romance in Bratislava, Slovakia

As our month was coming to an end, we spent a single night in Frankfurt, then four days in Amsterdam, two days in Maastricht and finally made our way to Paris, where we headed back home from!

If we were to redo the trip, we would probably take an extra day in each city.  Not that we didn’t have a blast doing it this way, but it did get tiring after a while, and we would have loved to visit more of each place.

No visit to Budapest is complete without hitting up the baths
No visit to Budapest is complete without hitting up the baths

We loved our month long adventure though Europe.  We discovered so many cities.  We traveled in comfort and style the whole way through.  We were able to get work done easily, either catching up on blogging, or even planning the itinerary for the city we were getting to.  Overall, we could not have imagined a better way to end this 15-month trip.


Disclaimer:  This article is produced as a part of our collaboration with Eurail.  We were given 2 one-month Global passes that allowed us to travel by train through Europe.  However, all the opinions and commentary in this article are our own unbiased account of our trip.


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How to plan for long-term travel

So you’re finally taking the plunge and traveling long term?  Amazing!  Get ready for one of the best times of your life.  But before you set off, there’s a lot of planning to do.  Planning for any trip can be so fun.  But there is something even more special about planning for long-term travel.  It comes with a lot more considerations than a short 2 -week trip.  Having spent more than 14 months on the road, we learned quite a few things really quickly when it comes to planning.

So here are the main things to keep in mind when you decide to travel long-term.  We’ve broken it down on a timeline, but obviously, it’s quite flexible.  We decided to leave 4 months before our date, so this is more of a general guideline.

6-12 months before

Ask the important questions

There are tons of ways to travel long-term.  That’s why it’s important that you ask yourself some key questions to prepare accordingly.

  • What’s your travel style going to be? Will you be roughing it or living it up in luxury?  Will you stay in dorms or private rooms?
  • What’s your budget?  This will depend on how much you can save, what you plan on spending, where you want to go and how long you will travel for.
  • How are you traveling? Are you going solo, with a friend, or a partner?
  • Will you be working as you travel?  You can choose to pick up odd jobs, doing a working tourist visa, freelance, workaways or just enjoying life.
  • How long do you want to travel for?  Is it a few months? A year? Until you run out of cash?
  • Why do you want to travel the world?  
  • What do you want to get out of the experience?

Start saving

It’s never too early to start saving.  Regardless of how you want to travel, chances are the money you save now will help you travel for longer.  Your dollar saved will probably go further abroad than it goes back home, so put in the effort and start saving now.  Even before you decide to travel, if you can!  Here are some tips on how you can save money before and during your travels.

Some important advice that might help you:

  • Have a piggy bank account:  Basically, make sure you have a contingency that you keep on the side.  This is in case things go wrong, or your trip costs more than you think.  Because it always ends up costing more than you think!
  • Keep money for when you get back:  Just like your piggy bank, make sure you keep some money for when you get back.  We kept about $2,000, just enough to get things started again.  Depending on where you live, and what your situation is, you may need more or less than this.

Passport

Regardless of where you’re going, you will need a valid passport.  Make sure yours won’t expire for at least 6 months, or longer than you plan to travel for.  Check that you have at least 4 empty pages.  Also, make electronic and hard copies of your passport and keep them in a secure location while you’re traveling (not in your wallet).  And finally, give a copy to your parents or someone you trust.

Passports.jpg
You won’t be going far without these bad boys!

Start planning your itinerary

This does not mean to start planning every single day of your trip.  In fact, we beg you not to do that!  Keep some flexibility because itineraries change.  What we mean is to start making the list of countries you want to visit.  Check when the high and low tourist seasons are, look at the weather (dry vs wet season), look at the cost of living there, make sure there are some festivals happening.  This is also going to help you decide what to pack.

Travel map Europe
Grab a map and figure out where you want to go!

Visas & other paperwork

While your checking the list of countries you want to visit, look into visas as well.  A few countries don’t need any visas, others you’ll need to get online and some you can get at the airport.  Some are more expensive than others, so just make sure you do your research before you head out.

Also, if you’ll be driving in any of the countries you’ll be visiting, make sure to get an international driver’s licence.  You may need it to rent scooters in certain countries so make sure you have it done.  It’s not that expensive and it’s well worth it.

3-6 months before

Vaccines

Once you have your initial list of countries, make your way to the traveler’s clinic.  Get all the shots you need to get.  Start doing this at least 4 months before you head out, as some need multiple shots.  They will also let you know if you need any medication.

Insurance

We debate about this all the time, but really, there should be no debate.  Just get travel insurance.  It is a hefty chunk of money, but it’s well worth it.  Our rule is that is your trip is going to cost more than the cost of insurance, you should get it.  You can see what you want to have covered, but keep in mind that luggage gets lost, goods get stollen, flights get cancelled.  Don’t be stingy on this.

Start downsizing and selling

Depending on if you’re looking to live the nomad life forever or for a determined amount of time, start downsizing and selling what you no longer need.  You can start getting rid of things you know you won’t need or miss before you leave right away.  For anything else, wait 2 months before leaving to start selling it.  You’ll probably need it until then.

You can get rid of clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchen supplies, whatever.  You’ll notice as you travel that you get used to having so little so you don’t want to come back to unnecessary clutter.  Good sites to sell things on are Craigslist, eBay, and Kijiji.  You can even host a garage sale or a private sale for your friends.  Some things you can donate to charities.

1-3 months before

Check-ups

About a month before you head out, go get your usual check-ups done.  Dentist, gynaecologist, family doctor, allergy specialist, whatever you need to do on a regular basis.  Let them know you’ll be traveling for a while and where you’ll be going.  They may have important information to give you or medical advice to follow for your specific condition.

Car and real estate

At this point, you’ll need to decide what to do with your car.  Will you sell it like we did?  Will you break your lease?  Put it in storage?  These are options you can look into.  Obviously, it will depend on what your current situation is and what you expect to come back to when you get back home.  Our car was quite old but in great condition, so we just sold it.  We know that when we get back, we can get a cheaper lease or use a car-sharing service.

As for real estate, again, it depends on your current situation.  We own our condo, so we decided to put it up for rent, and have our parents take care of any issues that come up urgently.  If not, our neighbours and tenants can reach us at anytime, so this was not an issue.  If you are renting your place, you may want to break your lease or sublet your apartment.  Either way, make sure you let your landlord know.

Get gear you need

Sign up to your favourite stores’ newsletters and start keeping an eye on sales.  You’ll probably need some gear, so make sure you get them when they are discounted.  Even if you haven’t started packing yet, you know what you need to update or upgrade, whether its your photography gear, hiking shoes, backpack, whatever.  Just start looking so you have enough time to compare prices, test out some options and get a great deal.

Book your ticket

This is the other exciting thing you’ll be doing.  Book that ticket baby!  Usually, they say it’s best to book it 3 months before you go, so start looking at prices and be flexible.  Check to find the cheapest but most convenient way to get where you’re going.

2-4 weeks before

Quit your job

This is probably the most exciting and nerve-wracking part.  It’s time to quit your job!  Depending on your relationship with your employers, and what you what to do on your trip, and when you get back, you can look at different options.

Derek after leaving his job for the last time
Last day of work, peace out!
  • Leave of absence: You can ask your employers to take an unpaid leave of absence.  If you know your return date, they can potentially keep your position so that you can return to it.
  • Work abroad: We’ve met quite a few people who were able to continue working for their employer as a freelancer from abroad, or as a temporary employee when they need some extra help.  If you plan on working as you travel, this is a great option for both you and your employer as there won’t be training required.
  • Quit your job:  If these 2 options above are not possible, you can just quit your job.  Give them enough notice so that they are not stuck in a tight situation.  You want to leave on good terms.
  • Find new work: If you choose to work while you travel, start looking for contracts you can pick up as you travel.  Either you can contact local clients or you can offer your services online through sites like Fiverr.

Let your bank know

This is an obvious one.  Make sure you call up your bank and credit cards to let them know you’ll be traveling abroad, and how long you’ll be gone for.  This is so they don’t block your cards as you’re on the road.  Make sure you also know where to contact them in case they do freeze your account.  This happened to us because we stayed on the road longer than we expected.  Luckily, we knew what to do.

Power of attorney

Depending on what your situation is, you may want to give power of attorney to a trusted loved one.  Because we own property and have investments back home we can’t tend to on a daily basis, we gave power of attorney to one of our parents.  This way, if anything were to happen, we had a legally-assigned person to take care of things.  This will really depend on your situation, so it may not apply to you.  The best thing to do is to call your notary and see what does apply to your specific situation.

Packing

About a month before, start packing.  Carry your backpack around the house, check that it fits well and isn’t too heavy.  Try living with only the clothes you want to take with you.  This is a great way to figure out what you still need to get, what you think you need but don’t really, what you can live without and your absolute musts.

Cancel contracts

Cancel any contracts you don’t need anymore, like your phone contract, electricity, internet, etc.  Let them know your last date in country and when you’ll come back, if ever.

Redirect mail

Pretty straight forward.  Make sure you get your mail redirected to a loved one’s place.  Your parents, siblings, BFF, whoever.  Just get it sent there.

Say your “see you laters”

This is another one of our favourite things to do.  Have a huge party (or 3, like we did) to say Au revoir to all your friends, family, colleagues, and loved-ones.  Try to convince them to come visit you on the road.  But more importantly, enjoy your time with them.  Take pics and videos and keep those memories dearly!

And there you have it, that’s all you need to plan to get going on your long-term trip.  Is there anything else you did before leaving on your trip?  Let us know in the comments!


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1 year of traveling: our best adventure yet

After one year of traveling full-time as a couple, we wanted to take a minute to share the moments that made this trip memorable for us.

We said it after the 6-month mark, and we’ll say it again.  Time flies when you’re having fun!  After one year of traveling full-time as a couple, we can tell you that this is the most fun we’ve had ever.  So we wanted to take a little moment and go over the little and big moments that made this trip memorable for us.

We picked out the best highlights from each country we visited.  We never planned the whole list of countries we wanted to visit.  As each month passed, we modified our list a little.  Some countries were musts and we actually made it there.  Others, we had to drop because of timing or visas or surprise visits from friends and family.

In either case, each country we visited taught us something new about its culture, its people and ourselves.

Surprising nature days in Korea

wediditourway Nami Island South Korea
An afternoon stroll on the magical Nami Island, South Korea

Yeah, you probably weren’t expecting that from Korea, but this country is home to crazy beautiful waterfalls, hikes, beaches and mountains.  We actually went to Korea without many expectations, and we were blown away!

On Jeju Island, we chased waterfalls and hiked up Korea’s highest peak, Mount Hallasan.  In Busan, we chilled on the nicest beaches.  In Andong, we watched barrels of hay on fire get thrown down cliffs.  Sure, Seoul was amazing with its temples and skyscrapers, but Korea’s nature is what we will always remember.

High-speed travel in Japan

Japan was a whirlwind, we visited something like 18 cities in 21 days.  This was largely possible thanks to their awesome high speed trains, called Shinkansens.

wediditourway Tokyo Japan
Taking a stroll in the park near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan

We were like total children every single time we had the honour of taking the Shinkansen.  This high-speed train connects all major cities in Japan to each other.  It’s the fastest and easiest way to get around.

To be honest, it is the coolest thing ever!  Seats that rotate, comfy chairs, enough leg-room for our friendly giant Derek, clean wagons, and such punctual drivers.  Seriously, what more could you ask for?

Discovering beach life in Australia

Beach life is two-part for us when it comes to Australia.  First, there are the actual beaches of Australia.  Then, there is the underwater world that we finally got to explore.

To us, Australia has the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever been on.  We spent a large percentage of our 8-9 weeks in the land down under working on our tan.  We would jump in the water, battle the mega waves and just chill by the water!

Wediditourway near Bondi beach Sydney Australia
Hanging out near Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia

From the shores of Airlie beach, to the WhitSundays, down through Mooloolaba and Maroochydore, without forgetting the famous Bondi beach in Sydney, and the colourful beach house lined sandy playgrounds of Melbourne.  If you’re a water-baby, Australia is the place for you.  It sure might be the place for us!

Beyond its beaches, we also go a glimpse of the underwater world in Australia.  We had the privilege of discovering the biggest coral reef system in the world.  The Great Barrier Reef spans almost half a billion square kilometres, teaming with life, beauty, and mystery.

The corals weren’t in their best shape, as half of this living organism has died since 2016.  It’s such a shame… but there are steps to be taken that can bring this marvel back to life, things that we strive to do every day of our lives.

We are so grateful that we were able to visit the GBR and still had a great time.  There was still a vast amount of marine life.  Carine saw a turtle, something Derek has been snakebitten towards (he’s never seen one).  We even swam right up to some reef sharks, which sounded a lot scarier than it really was.

Driving a campervan in New Zealand

Roadtrips have always been one of our favourite things to do.  So it’s no surprise that our journey through New Zealand was another of the major highlights of our trip.  Having the freedom to explore this beautiful country on four wheels was amazing.  Going where we wanted, when we wanted, and seeing the beautiful landscape that New Zealand has to offer around each and every corner.

Wediditourway Roy's peak Wanaka New Zealand
Looking out at beautiful Wanaka from Roy’s peak, New Zealand

Add to this the relaxation of packing it in for the evening and meeting new people at campgrounds across this marvellous country.  Sitting by a camp fire with a beer or two in hand and sharing our experiences with new people every night was great.

And the stars… the indescribable stars.  You have to see them to believe.  Never have we been so enthralled by balls of gas burning light years away.

Scuba diving in Thailand

One of the great things about this trip is that we learned a new skill together.  We found an activity we are passionate about and can do all around the world.

Wediditourway Railey beach Ao Nang Thailand
We couldn’t be happier than being here at Railey beach in Ao Nang, Thailand

Scuba diving has been one of our favourite things to do on this trip.  We got bitten by the scuba bug in Thailand.  It helps that we saw a whale shark and got to swim naturally with one right before our last dive to get certified.

Beyond learning a new skill together, scuba diving has taught us some great life lessons.  Mainly that in many moments in life, you can just disconnect and focus on the now.  When we scuba, all we need to do is appreciate our surroundings and focus on our breathing.  This is something we can all do when life gets overwhelming.

Discovering technology and culture in Singapore

Singapore is such a unique place in Asia.  It has all the craziness of South East Asia, but it has the refinement and technology like nowhere else on earth.

Wediditourway Supertree groove Singapore
Wow, these SuperTrees in Singapore are just amazing

On one end of the spectrum, you have your typical hawker centres, where you can taste foods from the four main cultures in Singapore (Malay, Indian, Chinese and Western) for pennies.  On the other end, you have the marvels around the Marina Bay Sands, with the SuperTrees, the FlowerDome and the Cloud Forest.

With so much to do and see, Singapore was one of our favourite places in South East Asia.  Best of all, it was actually more affordable than we expected, so it was a double-win for us!

Small town living in Vietnam

Vietnam has so much history to share, and the major cities have a very real hustle and bustle vibe to them.  If you are trying to cross the street in either Ho Chi Min or Hanoi, well… good luck!

Wediditourway Ho Hoan Kiem Hanoi Vietnam
Walking around the old town of Hanoi, Vietnam

But what really stuck out to us during our time in Vietnam was the quaint city of Hoi An.  After being on the go for much of the 5 months that lead up this country, we finally stayed put for more than a week in this charming UNESCO World Heritage site.

We made some great friends here, notably our favorite Coloradans, Bre and Daniel, also known as The Love & Adventure.  Though we only briefly met them in Hoi An, we would meet them many more times throughout our time on the road.

Zen vibes in Cambodia

wedidiitourway Angkor Wat Cambodia.jpg
Stepping back in time at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia was the epitome of zen for us.  Sure, the Angkor Wat temples are completely insane and sometimes get crowded.  But to be able to walk around these century-old sacred places was just magical.  There are always little nooks where you can find total zen in the chaos.

This is something we learned from our first yoga retreat at Angkor Zen Gardens.  For 4 days, we stayed in a hut, ate delicious vegetarian food and practiced yoga for 4 hours a day.  Basically, we disconnected from the world to better connect with ourselves.  This was the ultimate zen time.

Scooter life in Malaysia

After experiencing scooter-insanity in Vietnam and Thailand, we were happy that our first South East Asia scooter-riding experience was in Langkawi.  For 1 month, we stayed put on a beautiful island to do our Workaway.  This was the first time we had access to a scooter, and needless to say, we took full advantage of it.

Wediditourway Langkawi Malaysia
Discovering Langkawi was awesome with our scooter!

Scooter life in Langkawi was the ultimate freedom.  We explored every inch of the beautiful island.  We hopped on and off at every cool spot and just whizzed around this place we called home for 4 weeks.

A traditional Filippino wedding in the Philippines

The Philippines were exciting for two reasons, both of which were that we met up with friends of ours!

Bohol cliff jump Philippines
Peaking down before taking the plunge in Bohol, Philippines

First was Derek’s best friend Shawn, who flew into the Philippines for his father’s wedding.  We actually first met up with Shawn in beautiful Vancouver, Canada.  Shawn isn’t exactly a travel type, so the fact that we met up with him halfway across the globe was very exciting.

We got to stay in the small town of Tanjay city, where we were literally the only tourists.  Staying with Shawn’s future step-mother Laura, we were able to get the real Filippino vibe.

After being a part of a traditional Filippino wedding, we then moved to Bohol, and were reunited with our friends Bre and Daniel!  We spent a good two weeks hanging out with them by the sandy shores of Panglao island, working on the blog and enjoying island life.

Food with a great view in Spain

We only had a short time in Spain, but it was a memorable week.  Needless to say that the food and wine were delicious.  If you’ve never had tapas, you need to.  As they say, sharing is caring, and this is what Tapas Life is all about.

Wediditourway Science centre Valencia Spain
Having a little fun at the science centre in Valencia, Spain

The beaches also took our breath away, whether in Barcelona, Valencia or Málaga.  After days exploring the cities, the beach breaks helped us cool down and disconnect from the city hustle.

But there’s one thing that stood out to us more than anything and that was the stunning architecture in these 3 cities.  From the famous Gaudí structures in Barcelona, to the bay windows, to the modern City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, each city had beautiful architecture.

Sleeping under the stars of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Being two Canadians that have become accustomed to harsh, cold winters, the Sahara desert was the polar opposite of what we are used to.

Wediditourway Hassan II mosque Casablanca Morocco
We were blown away by the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

Going to the desert was a no-brainer when we decided to visit Morocco.  Derek rode a camel, we slept under the stars (a nights sky that almost rivals the New Zealand sky), we frolicked in the sand dunes, and visited Berber tribes living out in some of the world’s harshest conditions.

To say it was hot, well that is obvious.  But we certainly were blown away by 50°C heat and just how much water you need to drink to stay hydrated while there.

Another surprise, the desert has an abundance of water!  We always thought that there was no water in the desert, but in reality that sand dunes of the desert could not be possible without a vast amount of subterranean water.

Country life in France

Imagine being surrounded by the rolling hills in Southern France.  Fields of vines ripening in the hot sun.  Sunflowers as far as the eye can see.  Beautiful century-old churches at the centre of every picturesque town.  Not to mention eating delicious local foods from the weekly markets and drinking wine from the neighbours vineyards.

Wediditourway Gaillac vineyard France
We are just going to go get a glass of wine, and maybe some cheese!  Gaillac, France

Our time in France is what you expect every French dream is made of. We will fondly remember this time as the month we had too much to eat and drink, and that we worked insanely hard on the blog.  Basically, it was the perfect mix of chilling and work.

Island hopping in Greece

After spending nearly three months with friends and family, we got a nice 2 weeks of going back to just being the two of us!

Wediditourway Naxos Greece
The Greek island of Naxos is just perfect!

We went from Santorini, to Paros, to Naxos, and finally finished our trip of Greece in Athens.

Our time in Santorini gave us beautiful sunsets.  In Paros we spent as much time as we could at the beach.  We discovered the Aegean sea in Naxos, while sailing with Xanemo Sailing.  And Athens gave us all of the sightseeing we could stuff into the two days we spent there.

All in all Greece was amazing, highlighted by the copious amounts of food we ate!

Getting local in Armenia

Since the day we met, Armenia has been on our bucketlist.  Carine is of Armenian descent, so you can guess why it was on our list.  If you know any Armenians, you know how proud they are of their heritage and their country.  It was also an opportunity for her family to finally come see us, after a full year of traveling.  Can you believe that most of them had never been to their homeland?

Wediditourway Republic Squarte Yerevan Armenia
Chilling at Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia

From the delicious food, to the beautiful landscape, the warm and generous people to the impressive history of the country, Armenia is a mix of everything we’ve seen so far… well, except the beaches.  A hiker’s paradise, a foodie’s dream come true, a historian’s heaven, a mix of European flair, amazing traditions, low cost of living and comfy standards.

As we’re writing this, we still have a good 3 weeks left here, and so much more to explore. Armenia is probably the best place we could have celebrated our 1-year on the road, mainly because there are always celebrations going on here.

This year was a great reminder for us.  We learned the importance of living in the now, of enjoying every moment we have together.  It also reminded us of how lucky we are to be able to chase our dreams, as we’ve seen so many people just struggling to survive.  It showed us how beautiful our planet is and how important it is to take care of it.

floating through life and enjoying the ocean
A year of floating through life, carefree as can be. Bohol, Philippines

This trip is one of many more we’ll take to explore every corner of this earth.  We’re excited to head back home soon (we do miss our friends and fam), but we’re even more excited to head back out.

Have you ever been on a long-term trip? Tell us about it in the comments, we’re ready for more inspiration!


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The highlights from our 13 months on the road. The amazing experiences we've had after 1 year of traveling. This is our best adventure yet. www.wediditourway.com

How to survive traveling as a vegetarian

We all know it, travelling as a vegetarian comes with its own unique set of challenges.  These are the tricks I’ve learned along the way to make things easier.

We all know it, traveling comes with its own unique set of challenges.  Well, so does being a vegetarian.  When you combine the two, it can really go either way.  It all depends on how you prepare yourself.

I love eating and have quite a refined palette.  I’m a firm believer that food is a great way to learn about someone’s culture.  It’s also a way to share joy, pleasure and love.  There was no way I wasn’t going to take full advantage of the countries we were visiting, and try all their delicious dishes.  Luckily, I didn’t have to cheat on my vegetarian diet to do it!

Vegan burger and fries at Shaka Burger Bohol Philippines
Vegan burger and fries at Shaka Burger, Bohol Philippines

After a year on the road, I want to share some of the things I learned along the way, and help you avoid some of the mistakes I made traveling as a vegetarian.

Why I became a vegetarian

Short answer, for all the reasons.  Because of the way we treat animals, because of the environmental impacts of eating meat, because of health reasons.  All of the reasons.  But I won’t get into that here.  I’ve already shared my journey in another article.

Traveling as a vegetarian

I’m not going to lie.  Traveling as a vegetarian is not easy.  People will constantly question your motives and try to convince you that the animals were put on this earth for us to eat.  Some people may even laugh at you for it.

Just be respectful with the people you meet.  If they ask you questions, answer them as honestly and calmly as you can, but know that you will probably not change their minds with one conversation.  If they pressure you, understand that it comes from a place of love.

Mozarella di buffalo tomato and pesto brushetta in Athens Greece
Mozarella di buffalo tomato and pesto brushetta, Athens Greece

A lot of cultures are very meat-heavy and can’t imagine a meal without a dead animal on their plate.  To refuse more politely, you can tell them meat makes you sick.  After 3 years of not eating meat, I can tell you that my system can no longer digest it.  So I’m not even lying when I tell them that!

So here are some tips I learned while traveling as a vegetarian.  I don’t eat fish either, so it may be easier for those who do.

Stay positive

Don’t despair.  It’s true that some days will be tough.  You won’t find much to eat except rice and eggs.  People won’t understand your reasons.  They may even mock you.  Just stay positive and know there is a huge community of vegetarians worldwide.  In fact, there are over 375 million people in the world who are in our Veg crew.  So don’t let a few nay-sayers ruin the good thing we have going.

Do some research

If you’re a foodie like me, you probably want to eat everything in sight.  Do your research and see what the local delicacies are.  Find out if they can be made without animal meat.  See if any of the local dishes are actually vegetarian from the get-go.  In most countries we visited, we were able to find vegetarian versions of all their local meals… or at least the best ones!

Vegetarian Laska at Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House, Penang Malaysia
Vegetarian Laska at Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House, Penang, Malaysia

Ask a local

Once you get there, ask a local about their food customs.  They will be able to give you the inside scoop on what veggie options you can find fresh, in-season and locally without breaking your neck or your bank account.  They may even be able to teach you how to make those local dishes.  Double score!

Know that in most places ‘Vegetarian’ doesn’t mean much

Once, in Japan, I ordered gyoza (dumplings) with a mushroom filling.  I took one bite and knew the gyoza had meat in it.  When I asked the waiter, he said “No meat”.  Being with some locals, I asked them to inquire again, but to find out what the actual filling was.  The waiter then said “Mushroom and chicken.  No meat.

Surprisingly, not every culture categorizes meat the same way.  Some don’t consider fish or chicken to be meat.  Others think seafood is fine for vegetarians (and sometimes, some vegetarians think seafood is fine too).  So go beyond learning “I am vegetarian” in every language.  Instead, learn how to say what you can and cannot eat.  Or at least, bring a phrasebook with you so you can clearly translate what you are ordering.

Get a kitchen

This is something we do to save money, and to make it easier to eat vegetarian meals.  Often, we’ll book a room or Airbnb that has a kitchen or a kitchenette included.  This way, we can make our own meals with the fresh ingredients we find.  Curries are super easy to make and can be shared easily.  Because you know, sharing is caring.

Use Happy Cow

If you’re already a vegetarian or vegan, then you know about Happy Cow.  And you probably love it!  It’s the easiest and best way to find veg-friendly restaurants in town.

Fried sesame pau at Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House, Penang Malaysia
Fried sesame pau @ Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House, Penang Malaysia

And if all else fails, just find the closest Indian restaurant.  When we were in Korea and Japan, the least vegetarian-friendly countries we visited, we would stop by the Indian restaurant. They’re almost always delicious, cheap and have tons of vegetarian options.  SCORE!

When in doubt, order a bunch of starters

Sometimes, the restaurant you find only has meat dishes or things made with animal meats as mains.  It’s happened to us a few times, when we get caught eating very late, with only a few options available.  Or we’re with friends who want very specific things to eat.  If there are no main dishes that are meat-free, chances are, you will find starters or sides that do the trick.  So don’t despair, and don’t forget to share!

Make a request

Usually, if there is nothing meat-free on the menu, you can still make a request and see if the kitchen can accommodate you.  Chances are, they don’t want to lose the potential business and they will create a vegetarian dish just for you.  You can ask them to remove the meat, or substitute it for something else.  Just beware that this doesn’t always work.

2 Fruit bowls at Shaka Burger Bohol Philippines
Our favourite fruit bowls at Shaka Burger, Bohol Philippines

In the Philippines, we ordered nachos and asked that they remove the meat.  They said it was impossible to do.  But when we asked if they could remove the pork from the pancit, that was no problem.  Why?  We’re still not sure!

Pack snacks and stock up of fresh produce

If you’re traveling short-term, you can bring some snacks, protein powders or nutrition bars with you.  If you’re traveling long-term like us, we recommend stocking up on snacks when you find some that are protein-heavy or highly nutritious.

Fruit stand Langkawi, Malaysia
Our favourite fruit stand in Langkawi, Malaysia

There are many places where the only vegetarian options I found to eat were rice and eggs.  Those nights were less fun but I was happy to have bananas and apples with me.  In most countries, the produce is super fresh and local so fill up when you can.

Know your limits

Some people change their eating habits when they travel.  Vegans will become vegetarian when they travel.  Vegetarians will have fish once in a while from local vendors.  Know what you are ok “breaking the rules” for.

Kimchi at street market in South Korea
Kimchi at the street market, Busan, South Korea

If you are comfortable with eating something once, you shouldn’t feel bad about it.  For example, when we were in Cambodia, I chose to eat bugs.  Not sure what the rules are about vegetarians eating bugs, but I was quite ok with the idea.

Be flexible

Another time, in the Philippines, we had a meal at the home of a family friend.  She cooked the whole day for us.  But our friend forgot to mention I was a vegetarian.  So she cooked tons of shrimp, crab, chicken and rice.  I’m always happy when there’s rice.  I didn’t want to be difficult, so I had some shrimp.  I didn’t like it, but I didn’t want to insult this person who welcomed us into her home and fed us.  It was just not worth it for a few shrimps that were caught by her family a few hours earlier.

Traditional Morocan vegetable Tajine
A traditional vegetable tajine, Tangier, Morocco

In other countries, where soup was a main staple, I didn’t constantly question if the broth was made with beef or chicken stock.  I would have driven myself, the waiters and my husband crazy.  I just chose to have it and not make a fuss about it.

Know where to go and be prepared

It’s always good to know if the country or city you’re traveling to is vegetarian-friendly or not.  Make sure you look into their cuisine and available veg options.  The countries that I found were the least vegetarian friendly were Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.  Those are the places where I had the same veggie meal over and over again (every day, for weeks).  On the other hand, Australia, New Zealand, Greece and Armenia were great for vegetarians!

Vegetarian Rendang at Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House, Penang Malaysia
Vegetarian Rendang @ Yun Shui Ge Vegetarian House, Penang Malaysia

These are the little things that I’ve learned to help me survive as a vegetarian.  Overall, just stay true to who you are, stick to your values, and keep an open, loving mind.

I’d love to hear what other tricks you’ve found too.  Has traveling as a vegetarian or vegan been easy for you?  Let me know in the comments.


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How to survive travelling as a vegetarian. It's not easy but it is a decision I would make over and over again. www.wediditourway.com