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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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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8 amazing day trips from Yerevan

Armenia has a ton to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  Here are the best day trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Armenia has a ton of things to offer.  From quaint little villages, to hikes, local markets and festivals, and so much more.  A good 2 weeks are needed to fully enjoy the beauty of the country, but if you’re tight on time, here are some of the best day-trips to do from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

Some might say that the best things to see in Armenia are the churches.  There is also a ton to do here that is not limited to churches, so get out there and explore it all!

Getting around

Depending on the size of your group, there are many ways to do these excursions.  You can either go through different tour companies and opt for private or group tours.  You can rent a car and drive yourself.  You can grab a GG in town, asking the driver for a set cost before leaving.  You can grab shared taxis or marchutkas to the villages.

Or finally, you can hitchhike.  We were told it’s easy to get around this way in Armenia, so you can always try that if you’re feeling adventurous!  Just be warned, most of the time, your ride will offer you a meal and drinks at their place before dropping you off at your final destination!

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is Armenia’s largest body of water, and it is beautiful.  Head there in the morning to take full advantage of its beauty.  The route should take you about 45 minutes to an hour.

Lake Sevan Armenia
The beautiful Lake Sevan, Armenia

Once there, you can climb up the peninsula and visit Sevanavank, the beautiful church at the top of it.  Then, head down to the shore and enjoy a walk on the beach.  If you love swimming in cold water, jump on in!

Sevanavank church lake Sevan, Armenia
Sevanavank monastery on the shores of Lake Sevan, Armenia

You can either prepare your own BBQ khorovats meal on the beach, check out one of the many restaurants on its shores, or head back on the road and stop by Semoi Mot to have the famous fish there.

Dilijan

Dilijan is named the Switzerland of Armenia, and rightfully so.  Nestled in the mountains, this city is just beautiful!  The trip there should take you 1.5 to 2 hours.  If you leave early enough, and depending on what you want to do, you can fit Lake Sevan and Dilijan in one day trip.

Wediditourway Parz Lake Dilijan national park Armenia
Beware of the killer ducks at Parz Lake in the Dilijan National Park, Armenia

Dilijan has many beautiful things to do.  If you love hiking, you have many routes there, including the TransCaucausus Trail, the Dilijan National Park and many more.  There is a beautiful hike that will take you to the quaint Parz Lake.

You can also visit the Tufenkian hotel, where they have recreated a beautiful village with 19th century architecture.  They have even included intricately carved balconies, displaying the region’s historical love for fine woodwork.

CouplePIctureDilijanArmenia
Having fun taking our pics at the Tufenkian hotel in Dilijan, Armenia

For your meal, we recommend Kchuch, a delightful restaurant where you can have an array of wood oven cooked meals.  Everything we had was delicious, but the mushroom pizza/flatbread took the cake for us.  For your coffee fix, we recommend Caffeine, a beautiful little microroastery.

Garni, Geghard, Tsaghgazor

This trip is an awesome one.  This day trip is one of our favourites.  Garni is about 30 minutes away from Yerevan, Geghard, another 30 from there, and Tsaghgazor is another 30 from there.

Garni temple Armenia
Temple of Garni, the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union

Garni is home to an old pagan temple.  It was thought to be built in the first century AD, as a temple dedicated to the sun god Mihr.  It’s really a unique site in Armenia, not only because of its structure, but also because of its beautiful setting at the top of a cliff, surrounded by mountains.

Geghard monastery Armenia
Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotayk province of Armenia

Geghard is one of the most spectacular monasteries in Armenia.  It’s a true architectural beauty!  The name “Geghard” means “spear”, as it is thought that the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored here amongst many other relics.  What makes Geghard even more special is the fact that it is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain and its surrounded by cliffs.

Ski lift at Tsaghkadzor Armenia
Take the ski lift at the Tsaghkadzor ski resort to get a breathtaking view of the Kotayk Province of Armenia

Finally, make sure you stop by Tsaghkadzor, a spa town and one of the most popular health resorts in Armenia.  You can either indulge in one of the many different spas there, or make your way up the mountain on the ski lift.  Up there, you have beautiful views of the mountains and valleys.  A gorgeous spot!

Letters Monument, Amberd & Byurakan Observatory

This little trip will only take you a few hours, but it’s well worth it.  If you can, try doing it later in the afternoon so you can finish at the Observatory to see some stars.

Letters Monument Armenia
Find your initials at the Letters Monument in Artashavan, Armenia

First stop is the Letters Monument that was built in 2005, when the Armenian alphabet celebrated its 1600th birthday.  To commemorate the important date, a gift of 39 giant Armenian letters carved out of stone were erected near the final resting place of Mesrop Mashtots, who created the alphabet.

The Letters Monument is set against the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Aragats, the highest peak in Armenia.  This is a fun little stop to make, that shouldn’t take too long.  Make sure you find the letters of your name!

Amberd fortress Armenia
Amberd fortress, built in the 7th century in the province of Aragatsotn, Armenia.

Next, make your way to Amberd, the “cloud fortress” or fortress in the clouds.  This is a beautiful 7th century fortress overlooking a gorge on the cliffside of the mountains.  There, you will also find the 11th century Vahramashen Church, and a bath house dating between the 10th and 11th centuries.

This whole complex is located on the slopes of Mount Aragats, right where the Arkashen and Amberd rivers run.  The setting here is just beautiful, especially in the fall, when the leaves start changing colours.

Finally, check out Byurakan  Astrophysical  Observatory (or BAO) on a clear night.  The observatory was founded in 1946, and located on the slope of the mountain Aragatz.  The BAO focused its studies mainly on the instability phenomena taking place in the Universe.  You can contact the Observatory and set up a tour.  Entrance is just 1,000 dram (roughly $2USD).  But make sure you call before to confirm your tour, because it does depend on the weather.

Khor Virap, Areni Caves, Noravank

Get ready to step back in time on this tour.  The furthest point of this trip is about 2.5 hours away from Yerevan, so with long stops, this will be a full day of exploration.

Khor Virap is probably the most famous monastery in Armenia.  Not only does it offer beautiful views of Mount Ararat, but it’s also the birthplace of christianity in Armenia.  They say that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit here for 13 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia.

Khor Virap Mount Ararat Armenia
Khor Virap at the steps of Mount Ararat, Armenia

You can actually visit the pit where he was said to spent these years, surrounded by snakes and rats.  He is said to have survived by the grace of God and the help of the king’s sister.  When he got out, he became the religious advisor to the king, and in 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation.  This is why Khor Virap is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.

Khor Virap from above Armenia
Khor Virap, said to have imprisoned Saint Gregory the Illuminator for 13 years, on the plains of Ararat, Armenia

Next, make your way to Areni, in Vayots Dzor.  This region is known for the production of wine, not only today, but centuries ago as well.  In 2007, the earliest known winery in the world was said to be found at the Areni-1 cave complex.  It was estimated to be 6100-years-old.  In 2008, the world’s oldest leather shoe was found.  Then in 2011, that the discovery of a straw skirt dating to 3,900 years BCE was reported.  It’s quite an impressive site to see.

Areni winery Armenia
Armenia is said to be the first place in the world to produce wine, if you ask an Armenian!

In the same region, you can go do some wine tastings.  We recommend you skip the Areni winery, where the lines are long and the wine is not so great.  Instead, head to Momik’s WineCube for some amazing wine in a lovely setting.  You can also opt to stop here after you’ve visited all the sites, all depending on what time it is, and how hungry you are… if you’re like us, that’s all the time!

Noravank Monastery Armenia_
The Noravank monastery, near the town of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia

Another awesome monastery to see that’s a few kilometres from the Areni-1 cave is Noravank.  This is a 13th-century monastery is known for its two-storey Surb Astvatsatsin church.  You can climb up to the second level by the narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building.  Luckily, there is a rope to help you up.  The setting of this monastery is gorgeous!  It’s in a narrow gorge forged by the Amaghu River.  The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs.  It’s a beautiful place.

Gyumri

There are many ways to get to Gyumri, but the most enjoyable and easy one is to take the new electric train.  This train only runs on weekends for now (including Friday).  From the main station in Yerevan, grab the 10am train to Gyumri.  Tickets cost 2,500 dram, or about $5 USD.  You’ll get there around noon.

Gyumri train station Armenia
Another example of why you should always look up. The chandelier at the Gyumri train station, Armenia

Gyumri is a beautiful city that is just building itself back after the 1988 earthquake.  It used to be the cultural centre of the country and strives to regain that title today.  Here, you can walk around Vartanants square, explore the beautiful Holy Saviour’s Church and the black fort.  There is also a market street by the church where you can by delicious local fare.

All saviors church Gyumri Armenia
Holy Saviour’s Church in Gyumri, Armenia

Right off the main square, there are a few beautiful pedestrian streets to stroll on.  Lined with bakeries, restaurants and shops, they are perfect to explore on a day trip.  And, if you have time to spare, check out Central Park, and the old soviet amusement park.  It’s a real trip back in time!

Gyumri Armenia
Gyumri was rocked by the 1988 earthquake, and though the effects still show today, the city feels rejuvenated!

If music or technology are your thing, then you can also check out the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.  It offers free after-school education to local youth in areas such as music, robotics, computer programming, and a variety of other non-classical educational subjects.

Make sure you make it back to the train station before 5pm, to grab the train back to Yerevan.  You can also spend a night in Gyumri and take more time to explore the city.

Mount Aragats

Mount Aragats is Armenia’s highest peak, at 4,090 m.  It’s actually a four-peaked volcano massif that you can climb with the help of a tour guide.  The best time to hike this peak is between June and October, as the peak gets snowy and difficult.

If hiking is not your thing, you can drive up to Kari Lake and relax at the hotel and restaurant there.  During colder months, the restaurant is known for its khash soup.  This is a traditional Armenian soup made of cow hoof.  It’s eaten with copious amounts of garlic, lemon, lavash bread and vodka!

Etchmiadzin & Zvartnots temple

The route to Etchmiadzin is about 30-45 minutes away from Yerevan.  You can stop at Zvartnots on the way there or back.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral Armenia
Etchmiadzin Cathedral is like the Vatican for Armenians

It’s considered the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  According to many scholars, it’s the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, in the early 4th century.  It’s considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world as well.  In 2000, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zvartnots Cathedral, on the other hand, is a 7th-century cathedral.  Although it is now in ruins, it is a beautiful site to see.  It was only at the start of the 20th century that the ruins of Zvartnots were uncovered.  They discovered the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery.  After more excavations, it was revealed that Zvartnots stood on structures that dated back to 680 BC.

Both sites are quite close by and really beautiful to visit. Make sure you head out on a sunny day.

Longer trips

Some people may include these stops as part of a day trip, but they are quite far, so it makes for a really long day.  We’re talking about 12-14 hours.  You can do these separately or together, it’s totally up to you.  Just know that it is quite a journey!

Karahunj

Located on the route to Tatev, Karahunj, or Zorats Karer, is said to be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world!  This place is really magic.  Unlike Stonehenge which is blocked off, you can explore Karahunj freely.

Karahunj astronimical observatory Armenia

The site is made of six different parts, and a total of 223 stones of which 80 have a circular holes.  Studies showed that 17 of the stones were for observing sunrises or sunsets at the solstices and equinoxes, and 14 for the lunar extremes.

Karahunj stone Armenia
Many of the stones at Karahunj have these circular holes, used for viewing astrological phenomenons

This place is one of the coolest we’ve seen and you can really feel the energy when you’re there.  It’s a magical spot that is well-worth the visit.

Tatev

The route to Tatev will take about 3-4 hours from Yerevan.  Not only is Tatev a beautiful monastery, but it has a really cool mode of transportation to get there.  The Wings of Tatev!  This is the World’s longest reversible ropeway, measuring a whopping 5,752 m.  The views from the tramway are just epic!

Tatev Monastery Armenia
The Tatev monastery as seen from the Wings of Tatev, Armenia

The monastery, although under construction, is still a beautiful sight to behold.  Set on the edge of a cliff, it’s breathtaking.  And if you don’t want to see the church, that’s ok too!  You can go hiking in the area, do some wine-tasting, or even go paragliding!

Kndzoresk

Past Goris, Kndzoresk will take you 4-4.5 hours to get to.  Access to this site is not for the faint.  The swinging bridge to get here swings and bounces quite a lot.  But it’s quite awesome to see what’s on the other side.

Khndzoresk suspension bridge Armenia

Khndzoresk is a village and rural community in the South-East of Armenia, right by Goris.  It’s an old village built into the side of the mountains.  With caves and ruins for you to explore, it’s such a cool place.  Especially since it was inhabited until the 1950’s.

Yerevan is a great place to do these day trips from.  If you want to, you can also visit these spots on a continuous route as part of a 2-week Armenia road trip.  The possibilities are really endless.

What do you prefer? Long road trips or day trips from a home-base?  We like to have the option of doing either, mainly because we love road trips!


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8 amazing day trips from Yerevan, Armenia's capital.  From churches, monasteries, astronomical sites, temples, Lake Sevan and so much more.  Here are all the amazing sites you can visit right from Yerevan.   www.wediditourway.com

 

What to pack for long-term travel: advice & checklist

When it comes to packing for a year of travel, the task can be daunting! After 13 months on the road, we’ve put together our best advice and a handy checklist so you know exactly what to bring

When it comes to packing for a year of travel, the task can be daunting! As if packing for any trip wasn’t scary enough? We always fear we’re going to forget something, or lug useless things around.  After 13 months on the road, we’ve learned quite a few things about packing and what to bring with you, so we wanted to share the wisdom.  Sharing is caring, after all.  So here is our best advice and a handy checklist for you.

Things to consider

Before you start making your personal checklist and starting to pack, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.  These questions will help you figure out what you can do without and what your musts are.

What countries will you visit?

Maybe your list isn’t complete yet, or maybe you have the next year all planned out.  Regardless, make sure you bring clothes that are suitable for the countries you plan on seeing.  Are they conservative?  Very religious?  Highly liberal?  Always dress respectfully and adapt to that culture.

Japanease Alps lake

What seasons will you be going through?

This goes hand-in-hand with the countries you’ll visit.  Are you staying mainly in summer weather?  Will you go through all four seasons, like us?  Are you going through dry or wet seasons?  Your list will greatly vary from one list to the next, so make sure you bring some essential items depending on the climate you’ll go through.

What type of activities will you do?

Are you a beach bum like Derek?  Do you like to go hiking like Carine?  Will you do a lot of city walking?  Will you cab it most of the time?

Wediditourway Roy's peak Wanaka New Zealand

What is your budget?

We’re more middle-budget type travellers.  We don’t mind splurging once in awhile, but we usually stick to a decent budget.  We won’t do dorm rooms, but private rooms in hostels are ok.  We brought sleeping sheets, our pillow cases and bath towels, but if you prefer a life of luxury, you don’t need these.

What kind of bag?

Check-in of carry on?  Suitcase or backpack?  We were going through all four seasons, so we couldn’t fit everything into a carry-on.  But that’s our next packing goal.

Depending on your style of travel, you may be able to work with a good backpack or suitcase.  This choice is really personal.  Regardless of your choice, make sure you pick sturdy and durable bags.  There is nothing worse than having an ill-fitting backpack or having to replace your bag on your trip.  It may be an extra investment at first, but it’ll be well worth it.

Extra tip for choosing a good backpack:  Make sure you give it a good run before you commit.  Pack it up, wear it around the house, try living out of it for a week.  Return it if it doesn’t do the trick.  This will be your home for the time of your trip, so make sure you love this bag!

Best advice for packing

We wanted to share some of the best advice that saved us on our trip.  Again, this is really personal, so just go with what you’re comfortable with.

Pack for a 10-day trip

On a 2-week trip, you can bring an outfit for every day.  When you have to lug everything around for a year, you can’t pack for 52 weeks.  Some people say to pack for a week, but laundry can get expensive and things can go wrong.  Our advice is to pack for 10 days, just to have some extra wiggle room.

Think simple

Derek learned this the hard way.  Don’t go for flashy colours or big bold prints.  Make sure everything matches together.  This will help with laundry and ensure you don’t pack too much.  Also, prioritize colours that don’t show dirt too much, or sweat marks… yeah, those aren’t cute!  And, make sure all the clothes you bring are machine-washable.  It’s a no-brainer, but a life-saver!

Make sure you can layer

In many countries, tropical or not, the weather can change greatly from day to night, so make sure you can layer things.  This is also helpful for religious monument visits (temples, churches and mosques), or certain countries where they are more conservative.

Have a packing system

Derek is the king of organization, so this is his tip.  It’s a pretty good one!  Have a system, so you know where everything is at all times.  Always pack the same way to avoid scrambling to find things.  And keep the daily things close-by and handy.

You don’t need to have everything on you

You can’t account for everything, and it’s not worth lugging things around for months for those “just in case” moments.  You can always buy or ditch things as you travel.  Things (clothing and medication) are often cheaper on the road so buy them as needed.  Also, if you haven’t used something in weeks, chances are, you don’t actually need it!  Donate it to someone who does.

Know what is cheaper at home

Mainly sunscreen and bug spray.  You have more choices (eco-friendly and better quality) at home.  We’re not saying to lug these around for a year, but if you’re going to SE Asia, know you will pay 2 or 3 times the price for these items.  And if you want to stick to a budget, you may want to bring these items with you.

Buy smart toiletries

Buying toiletries for a year in insane, so just buy smart (i.e. less plastic) and travel in an eco-friendly way.  We love the plastic-free shampoo bars, toothpaste pills, and concentrated detergent.  They last longer and are better for you and the environment.  Plus, they help you save money!  Win-win-win!

If you love it, leave it at home

Shit happens a lot on the road.  If you love something, leave it behind, because you might lose it, have it stollen, ruined, whatever.  I really miss my wedding ring, but I’m happy I can go back to it when I get back home.  I’ve heard too many stories of people losing theirs on their trip.  No thanks!

If you can, do a test run at home

This may sound crazy, but if you can do it, DO IT!  Try wearing your packed items for a month (or 2 weeks at least).  Does everything fit ok?  Do your outfits make sense or do you look like a clown?  Are there things you never wore?  At least you’ll be able to make changes to your bag before you go!

Must haves

These are things you should have on you regardless of where you go.  Basically, if you don’t have these, you’re going nowhere!

Travel essentials

  • Passport:  Plus bring a copy or 2, just in case.
  • Travel insurance:  You never know if you’ll need it, but if this trip is going to cost you more than the cost of the insurance, GET IT!
  • International driver’s licence:  In a lot of countries, you’ll need this to rent anything motorized.  It’s not expensive, but totally worth it!
  • Student card:  If you’re young and lucky like that, bring it.  A lot of places offer discounts to students.
  • Cash money:  Always have at least $200 of the local currency on you (well, maybe less if it’s a really cheap country).  You don’t need to carry it with you, but you should have some cash, just in case.  Cause as my dad says “Cash is king”.  Wise words from a wise man, because in most countries, they don’t take cards, just cash.
  • Bank cards:  A debit card to pull money from ATMs, and a credit card.  Make sure you get one with rewards, cause those plane tickets add up!
  • Prescription medication
  • Glasses or contact lenses:  Bring spares if you can.  Like we said, shit happens!
  • Scarf / Sarong Bring 2 of these.  They can double as beach towels, as cover-ups for temples, to cover your head on hikes.  They’re lifesavers!
  • Flip flops Not just for the beach, but for certain hostel showers as well.
  • Day pack:  You’ll need this on hikes, if you’re out for a whole day and need to lug water, a jacket and a camera around.
  • Purse for everyday:  A small purse is great to have.  Make sure it slings around your body, both for comfort and safety.
  • Compression cubes:  These babies are a must.  They keep everything organized and smoosh them enough to make room in your bag.
  • A good book:  Bus rides are always longer and English books are hard to find, so bring one and trade it in when you’re done.  Better yet, get an E-Reader!
  • For the ladies, Thinx:  Depending on your menstrual flow, these underwear will save you and save the environment.  Well worth the investment (plus that link will give you a discount.  You’re welcome!).
  • Laundry line:  Because you will need to do your laundry in a sink at one point, and this little guy will save you!
  • Carabiner:  To put your bag off the floor, to hang up your laundry line, to hook things together.  It’s a small investment, but well worth it!
  • Concentrated detergent:  These detergent sheets are awesome and so practical!
  • Shampoo bars:  We love the ones from Lush Cosmetics!
  • Lifestraw Go:  To save money, to stop buying plastic bottles, to have drinking water anytime, any place.  We love this guy!

Packing list

So here we go, here’s what we recommend you pack.  Obviously, you can personalize this list to where you’re going, how you’re travelling, and your own style.  It’s more of a good base to work with so do it your way.

Clothes

  • Underwear x 10:  Ladies, I recommend a mix of thongs and full underwear, but it depends on your preference.  Also, depending on your menstrual flow, 3-4 Thinx underwear for your period.
  • Bra x 2:  One sports bra and one bralette.  Note: I hate bras now.  I might burn the ones I have back home!
  • Bathing suit / Bikini x 2:  Again, depends on where you go and if you’re a beach bum.
  • Socks x 3-5:  These are easy items to wash, and you can bring less if you’re going around in flip flops all day.  Make sure you bring at least 1 wool pair, just in case!
  • Dresses x 3:  Go for light ones, and bring one long one for temple days (make sure it covers your knees and shoulders).  If you don’t wear dresses, pack an extra top and bottom.
  • T-shirts / strappy tops x 3:  Make sure they match your skirts, pants and shorts. Pack 1-2 dri-fit ones if you plan on hiking a lot.  Guys, go with 5, unless you’re packing dresses.
  • Longsleeve top x 3:  If you’re going through fall/winter months.  Bring one (like a zip-up) that you can wear over the t-shirts so you can layer.  Bring just 1 if you’re staying in warm weather.  It will come in handy in temples.
  • Shorts x 1 for the ladies, if you have dresses.  Bring 3 if you don’t like dresses or skirts.  Guys, bring 3 pairs of shorts.
  • Skirts x 2: One long, one short.
  • Pants x 1:  Go for linen, cause they’re light and pack nicely.  If you hike a lot, bring some hiking pants (maybe those that convert into shorts).
  • Leggings x 1:  Men, bring light chilling pants.
  • Hoodie x 1
  • Rain jacket x 1
  • Packable warm jacket:  This little guy will save you in winter months, and you can layer with other clothes to make it warmer!
  • Flip-flops
  • Sneakers or hiking shoes:  Or both, depending on your type of trip.
  • Comfy walking shoes:  Especially if you plan to hike a lot in the previous pair.
  • Sarong X 2:  You can use them as a scarf, a beach cover-up, a towel. So many good uses.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat

Toiletries

  • Shampoo / conditioner bars
  • Deodorant:  Or not.  We actually stopped wearing it.  It’s better for you and the environment.
  • Soap bar:  Avoid heavy liquids than come in plastic bottles.
  • Dental kit:  Toothbrush (bamboo ones, preferably), toothbrush cover, toothpaste (in tubes or pills), floss
  • Lip balm:  With SPF, obvi!
  • Nail clippers & nail file
  • Tweezers
  • Comb
  • Hair bands
  • Razor with razor blades
  • Sunscreen:  SPF 30 is a minimum.  We used 50 because the sun is lethal!  And make sure it’s coral-friendly.
  • Aloe Vera / moisturizer:  Perfect after long beach days
  • Makeup:  Only if you really need it.  I packed some, and never used it… and I used to wear makeup every day back home!  This is personal, so bring what you are comfy with.  I had a blush cream (that i used as eyeshadow and lipstick too), mascara, an eye-liner, and lipstick.
  • Contraception:  Condoms and/or pills.  Just be safe!
  • Sanitary towels / tampons / menstrual cup / ThinxWhatever works for you.
  • Sink plug:  To do your laundry in the sink.  Or get a washing bag!

Medical kit

  • Safety pins:  Bring a few, we always lose them and they’re so handy!
  • A needle:  Blisters happen!  And can be vicious in some countries. Ask Carine about her bug bites that turned into blisters in Vietnam!
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antiseptic cream:  Polysporin is our favourite!
  • Plasters / Bandaids
  • Bandages
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines:  Especially if you have allergies.  They seem more severe when you travel
  • Oral rehydration sachets (Hello Hydralyte)
  • Antidiarrhoeal (Imodium):   We hate taking meds, but sometimes, you need it!
  • Antacid:  For indigestion or heartburn
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tiger balm:  This puppy is the best! For when you have a cold or sore muscles, as a repellant against mosquitoes, or as Afterbite, it’s so so good!
  • Baby wipes:  If you must, make sure they’re biodegradable and without scent
  • Insect repellent (DEET 50%)
  • After bite

Gadgets

gear

  • Mobile phone:  Well obviously!
  • Camera and gear: Camera, batteries, 32GB memory card, cables, tripod
  • Laptop:  Go for something light and compact.  We love our 13-inch Macbook Pro
  • Plug adapter:  Get a good one, because this puppy will be your best friend.  Bring 2 even!
  • Power pack:  This guy will save your life.  On long travel days, especially!
  • External HD:  Because wifi isn’t always great and your laptop and phone will run out of space.  Just get one, you’ll thank us!
  • USB stick
  • Flashlight or head lamp:  Always good to have!  We prefer a USB charging headlamp
  • Spare batteries:  Rechargeable is better!

Miscellaneous

  • Travel towel:  If it’s a 2-pack, even better!
  • Sleeping sheet & pillow case
  • Travel pillow:  The ones you can blow up with air.  Perfect for flights, bus rides and long waits
  • Eye mask:  especially if you’re a light sleeper
  • Ear plugs:  because of birds, loud snorers, and noisy streets in big cities
  • Book / E-Reader:  We highly recommend an E-Reader.  English books are hard to come by in a lot of countries, especially that book you really want to read!
  • Safety pin / sewing kit
  • Swiss army knife
  • Waterproof cover for bag
  • Laundry line:  This little guy will save you!
  • Carabiner
  • Concentrated detergent:  These detergent sheets are great for laundry days

So there you have it!  Our this is what we had for a year of travel.  It may not seem like much, but sometimes, we feel like it’s too much.  If you have friends or family meeting you somewhere, like ours did, they can bring and take some items with them too.  Or if you really love some pieces, you can have them shipped back to your home.  Either way, don’t get too attached to things, and don’t stress too much about this.  You’re out living your dream, and you can alway buy or ditch along the way!

Let us know what kind of packer you are in the comments.  Were you able to travel long-term with just a carry-on?


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Discover our best advice and a helpful checklist on what to pack for long term travel. Includes important questions and our best recommendations after 13 months on the road

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

The best advice to start your travel Instagram account

Starting a travel Instagram account can be hard. We asked our favourite Instagram couples for their best advice to start your own travel account.

Off you go!  You’re setting out to travel the world and you want to showcase your experiences on Instagram.  But as you scroll through your feed, you realize, you’re not the only one.  So many others are out there creating beautiful content and sharing their trips with the world.  Don’t worry!  There is room for everyone on this platform.  That’s why we asked our favourite Instagram couples to share their best advice with those who want to set out, explore the world and create a beautiful Instagram feed.

@voyageatraversnous

VoyageATraversNousPictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  We’re Alizée and Jordan, a young couple in love with travelling.  It’s been 11 months since we started discovering the most beautiful places in the world.  We do this to inspire people to chase their dreams.

Why we love them:  We love their whimsical editing style, and how throughout their journey, they’ve stayed hidden.  Although we’ve never seen their face, they look like such lovely people.  We love this French couple and their feed.  They make us feel like we could be in those magical places ourselves.

Their advice:  Love what you do.  And don’t start your account with the idea that you’ll get 100,000 followers.  Be authentic and unique.  Don’t do what everyone else is doing.

Where to follow them:  You can find their stunning pictures on Instagram or follow their advice on their blog.

@wanderersandwarriors

Charlie and Lauren from @wanderersandwarriors

Who they are:  We’re Charlie & Lauren, a free spirited couple on the run originally from the UK.  We combine our sense of humour, love of travel and passion for life to explore the world.

Why we love them:  They were one of the first couples we started following.  They’re always smiling and happy and their light comes through in all their shots.  We even had the chance of meeting them in Singapore, and they are just super sweet!  They’ve been one of our inspirations from the get-go.

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We’ve been full-time travelling together for 16 months now.

Their advice:  Always make sure you show the real you and document your travels for how they really are.  Have fun and let the pictures come naturally… don’t force the Instagram life!  And always stay true to yourself!

Where to follow them:  See them travel the world on Instagram (and make sure to watch their stories) or check out their amazing blog for the best tips… especially if you’re heading to Bali.

@over_globe

OverGlobePictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  We’re Estelle and William, a 24 and 25 year-old French couple who decided to go around the world indefinitely since January 2018.  

We decided to share our adventures on Instagram for several reasons, the first was the willingness to share our day-to-day adventures with our friends and family.  Then, we are passionate about photography, so the network seemed to be the most appropriate.  Finally, because the feed allows us to have a permanent “photo album” of our travels and we really like that. 

Why we love them:  Not only are these two vegetarians, but they have a raw and unedited style of travelling.  Their dry French sense of humour got us hooked, and they keep spoiling us with some of the most beautiful and untouched places we’ve ever seen.

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We’ve been on the road for the last 10 months.  At the moment we’re focusing on Asia, Southern Africa and a work-travel visa in Australia for the following year.  Our next step will surely be the Pan-American Highway!!

Their advice:  If we had 3 tips to give to those who would like to embark on the Instagram adventure it would be the following: Post quality photos that appeal to you first, and not for the sole purpose of pleasing the community. 

Don’t hide some parts of reality.  Even if it’s not always glamorous, be honest and true.  This is important to us to create a real connection with others. 

Do not be fooled by or get sucked into the Instagram machine.  Do not be tempted to buy likes, followers or other things like that.  Instagram is too unpredictable for you to lose your legitimacy!

Where to follow them:  They have a beautiful feed on Instagram, and for amazing tips on where to go to be the only traveller, check out their blog, en Français, bien sûr!

@freeoversea

FreeOverseaPictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  We’re Patricia & Miguel, a passionate couple who quit our jobs to travel the world and chase every bit of sunshine.  Our mission is to inspire people to live consciously and work on their self-development, travel the world to engage with communities, find home on earth and promote change.

Why we love them:  They have a way of transporting us to the most beautiful places, and their captions always hit home.  They are two beautiful souls, and their light shines so bright!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We’ve been traveling together for about 2 years.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.

Their advice:  Choose a name like you would a brand. You want people to remember you so make it personal and appealing. We played a game where we wrote some words down on paper, related to adjectives that characterized our beings, as well as names or expressions that described our passions.

Have a mission, because it is even more common now to have a couple account.  If you want to stand out, you must have a mission, so make sure you write down what your goals are with your account, so you can focus on the message you will deliver with your photos and captions.

And always be yourself.  This is the most important thing in the social media world.  If you want to engage with people and have them trust your influence on them, you must be real all the time, transparent and never copy other’s lifestyle.  Remember, we are all unique and true beauty relies not only on being the best version of yourself, but the real one.

Where to follow them:  Together, they created Freeoversea, an online destination (Instagram and a blog) where they share stories, travels and promote an ethical lifestyle, focusing on sustainability and conscious living. 

@flipflopwanderers

FlipFlopWanderersPictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  We are Bram and Manon from Flip Flop Wanderers.  We met each other in 2010 and we had our first big trip together pretty soon after!

Why we love them:  They are one of the sweetest people out there!  Plus, they pimped out their own campervan and have been travelling through New Zealand for so long.  Because we loved it there so much, we love reliving the beautiful places through their feed!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  Currently, we are on our 2nd world trip which started almost 2 years ago already.  We are not planning on stopping soon either, there is still so much we want to explore!  We like to travel ‘slow’ and discover what a destination really has to offer and experience the country.

Their advice:  When you start with an Instagram account, aiming to be an influencer, it is important to think about what kind of niche you want to focus on.  This can be as simple as your own travelling style.  Think about a name that suits this niche, and make sure it isn’t taken yet.  Using a lot of underscores, numbers or dots might make the name look like a cheap rip off from an existing one, so you want to avoid that.

In our opinion, the thing that really makes a good Instagram account is content.  It’s important to make great photos, look at composition and lighting.  Try to avoid selfies and crooked photos.  It’s not impossible to grow without the best content, and of course, it’s a learning process, but if you’re planning to stay for the long haul, content is king!

Where to follow them: You can tag along their roadtrip on Instagram, or check out their amazing blog.

@our.taste.for.life

OurTasteForLifePictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  Our Taste For Life documents the story of Charlotte & Natalie – A British lesbian couple chasing our dreams around the world on a shoe-string budget.  We share a passion for adventure, writing & photography and spend majority of our time bickering over what our next meal will be.  We have recently celebrated our 1 year anniversary of being on the road, and have no intentions of stopping any time soon.

You will currently find us gallivanting our way through the fascinating & beautiful India.

Why we love them:  These ladies are funny, sweet and just real.  We feel like we could totally hang out with them, and we would laugh the whole time!  Plus, they show us the most beautiful places on Earth!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We’ve been on the road for a year, and we’re currently in our 9th country.

Their advice:  Get creative – In the modern world where Instagram is a prodigious community, creativity is most certainly King.  We aren’t all born natural photographers, however with the beauty of editing software such as Lightroom & Photoshop, there are heaps of ways you can add creativity to your shots.

Be Yourselves & Have Fun – This one is really important, as it’s easy to start comparing yourselves to others and consequently losing your own identity.  Remember nobody is more you-er than you, and that will always be your greatest strength.  It’s also easy to get so wrapped up in taking the perfect shot that you forget to have fun.  Trust us when we say the best photos are the ones taken when you’re both relaxed and enjoying yourselves.

Be Patient – Instagram is a hard game to crack so don’t feel deflated if you aren’t growing as quickly as you’d like to be.  Just keep working hard, enjoy the journey and trust that good content will prosper in the end.

Where to follow them:  They have some awesome tips and itineraries up on their blog, and you can find them on Instagram too.

@onelove.ourlove

OneLoveOurLovePictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  We met 13 years ago in Vail Colorado when Jana came from Bulgaria to snowboard for one winter.  We fell in love and long story short, we’ve been together as a couple for 11 years now.  We are very passionate about traveling, spreading positivity and living a healthy lifestyle.  Jana’s been plant-based for over 15 years and Mikey for 12. We love the ocean and care about our environment.  We hope to inspire people to love the life they live and to be more kind and loving towards every living being.

Why we love them:  How can we not?! These two have beautiful pictures, and on top of it, they always have such motivating and positive captions.  They make anything and everything seem possible!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We’ve been traveling together part-time for the past 10 years, and we’ve been to 53 countries as a couple.

Their advice:  One of the main things is to know and have a clear vision and idea of why you are doing it.  Figure out your message and the things that make you different and unique.

Another very important tip we tell everyone is to not get caught in the game of numbers, engagement and comparisons.  Don’t measure your worth by the algorithm and know that your relationship with each other is more important than your Instagram account.

Also, understand that it takes time to grow your account, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away.  Focus on getting better with your photography or other skills and make sure you dedicate more time to your relationship and the fun part of the journey.

Where to follow them:  Their Instagram feed is just goals and they have an awesome blog as well.

@barbieandpanda

BarbiePandaPictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  Hey everyone we are Corina and Greg.  A married couple living and working in NYC, travelling the world as much as possible.  Combined we have been to over 50 countries and our current goal it to hit all 7 continents together, which we only have 1 left!  Africa is the last one and we are hoping to knock off this next spring.

Why we love them:  For so many reasons!  These NYC folk show the best of the city, plus they travel to the coolest places (hello Iceland and Copenhagen!)  Plus, their editing is just super dreamy!  When we head back to NYC, we know who we want as tour guides!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We first started travelling together just 3 weeks after meeting when we made a trip to Sayulita, Mexico.  All our friends thought we were crazy to be travelling internationally or travelling anywhere with someone we had just met, but if felt right!  And hey, 5 years later, we are happily married, travelling all over the world together.

Their advice:  1: If you are trying to make this into a business know it is going to take a lot of time and hard work.  It doesn’t happen overnight and be prepared to spend 3-5 hours a day growing your account, for at least the first 6 months.

2: Content is king.  This doesn’t mean you have to have the best equipment.  It just means try to be creative and take pictures from your own perspective.  Don’t just only take the same pictures that you see 100 times over on Instagram.  Switch up the poses, try and be as natural in the photos (which can be hard).  Laughing is key for this one we find lol.

3: Do it for fun!  If it is not fun, it is not worth doing!!

Where to follow them: You can tag along their travels through their blog and on Instagram

@theloveandadventure

TheLoveAdventurePictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are: We are Bre and Daniel from Colorado, USA.  We’re husband and wife, best friends, and travel companions.  We strive to deeply learn about each place we travel to through visiting local villages and partaking in volunteer opportunities.  As for our future, we’re not sure what it holds, but we are confident that our every move will be made in love and adventure.

Why we love them:  Because they are just lovable!  More than a travel couple, these two are our friends.  We had the pleasure of travelling 3 countries with them, and we can’t wait to discover more.  Their feed is beautiful and they are showcasing the best of South America right now.  Why did we not keep travelling with them?

How long they’ve been travelling together:  The world is a vast place and we knew it would take more than a lifetime to see, so in September 2017, we sold our belongings, packed our backpacks, and boarded a one-way flight to India. We’ve been on the road for 13+ months with no sign of stopping.

Their advice:  One of our favorite parts about being an Instagram user is that we’ve been able to evolve and learn as photographers and content creators.  We recommend using the platform to push yourself, to sometimes fail, and to grow from it.  Don’t be afraid to be creative, but also stay authentic.  We worry about the future of photography when images are faked or manipulated to a point of nonrecognition.

Try new things.  If you’re naturally good at landscape photography, try some portraits and use the platform for instant feedback.  Lastly, don’t think that your account needs to look like thousands of others to be successful.  Highlight the locals.  Post food pictures.  Take silly photos of yourself.  Just have fun with it and breathe — it’s only Instagram after-all.

Where to follow them: You can see where they are on the daily through their Instagram, or check out their blog for more details and inspiration.

@leaguetravels

LeagueTravelPictureAdvicefortravelcouplesinsta

Who they are:  We’re Zach and Tara Brose, creators and curators of The League Collective of Brands.  We’re born and raised in the United States (Zach in Wisconsin and Tara in South Carolina- but we met and fell in love in New York City).  We currently call Bali home.

Why we love them:  These two are all about wellness and living a great life.  We loved following their adventures through Greece.  Their pictures are always dreamy, and we just love it when they get creative and scribbly on their feed.  Come on, look how cool this picture looks!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  In 2017, we said goodbye to our beloved NYC and set out to travel full-time and build The League Collective into a lifestyle destination for all things travel, fashion and design.  Simply put, life in style for the modern adventurer.

Their advice:  Choose a niche and do it really really well!  The market is super saturated these days, so do something that is uniquely “you” and then perfect it. You can expand later! ie- traveling with a dog, the best Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, boutique hotels, something like that! Define your space and make yourselves known for it.  The better your photos/video are, the more you’ll stand out!  Invest in a nice camera and learn to use it well!

Where to follow them:  You can check out their amazing work on their blog, or see their daily posts up on Instagram.

@theglobegoers

TheGlobeGoersPictureAdvicefortravelcouplesinsta

Who they are:  Our names are Jared and Desiree.  We met in 2012 while attending Brigham Young University Hawaii.  After our marriage in 2015, we have always had a dream of travelling the world, but we weren’t yet sure how to go about it.  Starting in January of 2018, we saw an opportunity to take Instagram more seriously, and we started sharing our photos, experiences, and positivity with others.  It took a lot of work and research, but our following finally grew large enough to start working with brands and doing collaborations.

Why we love them:  Their silly antics and fun personalities got us hooked from the get-go.  Their feed is the happiest thing we’ve seen and their stories make us think we could be good friends!

How long they’ve been travelling together:  We finally made our dreams come true at the end of August (this year, 2018), when we worked to save up money, sold everything we had, and took off to start exploring!  We have been on the road (or in the air) ever since.

Their advice:  Be yourself!  Find your niche and roll with that.  It may take a while to figure out what you want to share or how to share it, but keep experimenting until you do.  No matter how many accounts may seem similar to yours, you can always find something to make yours unique and offer something different to your audience.

Tip 2: Do your research!  Learn about hashtags, the algorithm, optimizing your posting times, how often to post, etc.  This, too, will take some experimenting, but don’t give up!  There are a lot of resources out there that have answered many of the questions we had.  We have even found a lot of inspiration from analyzing successful accounts and determining what is working for them.

Where to follow them:  You can find them on Instagram or you can check out their awesome weekly vlogs on Youtube.

@letyouwander

LetYouWanderPictureTravelCoupleAdvice

Who they are:  We are Kim & Raphaël, a French couple that grew up in the Caribbean on the island that Haiti and Dominican Republic share.

Why we love them:  Saying we love their pictures is just not enough!  They are beautiful and they go to magical places together.  They are awesome, and somehow, they make long-distance relationships look so easy.

How long they’ve been travelling together:  Our first big trip was Cuba, summer 2017.  We stayed one month, which is still too little for this wonderful place.  I started taking pictures during this trip with the idea of documenting our travels.  In the beginning Rapha was reluctant but he started getting into it, and developed a taste for it.  When we got back we decided to start our couple travel account, so we could help young travellers with authentic experiences.

Their advice:  After doing it for almost a year we we happy a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.  So here are our top tips:

Post consistently.  Posting every day is super important.  The more you post, the more chances for your followers to see your pictures (or even people that don’t follow you will find you through the explore page or hashtags)

Post good content.  Try to post the best content you can.  Good content means good quality pictures but also unique ones (either a unique angle of somewhere popular or a brand new beautiful place that no one knows).

Be yourself and enjoy this journey.  It is super important to enjoy this journey in every aspect from taking pictures, to editing them and posting them on the Gram.  If you don’t enjoy the process, you will get tired of it and will feel like all this is fake or superficial (I often felt like that, so I took responsibility for it and now I have much more fun). Always spread love!

Where to follow them:  You can see all their amazing pictures on Instagram.

Did you think we were done?  Well nope!  We have our own advice to give as well.  But we’ll keep it short and sweet, because everyone has given some amazing tips already.

wediditourway sharing ice cream bohol philippines

Our advice:  It’s called social media for a reason.  Get social, make friends and actually connect with people.  Social media gets a bad rep for being too curated and fake, and sometimes, it can be.  But one of our favourite things about this platform is that we got to make so many real connections with other couples and people.  We’ve met a few of them on the road, and our experience would not have been the same had we not created these real friendships.

Social media and travelling can both get lonely at times, so if you really want to make the best of this experience, reach out to people, talk to them, make real connections, meet up with them.  Heck!  This article would not have been possible had we not reached out to all these beautiful people.

So go out there, document your travels, bring people on this trip with you and always have fun.  And remember, Instagram is just a platform.  It may not be here forever, so until then, make friends, have fun, and enjoy this trip you’re on!

Have you found these tips helpful? Do you have other tips to add to this? We’d love to know in the comments.  And if you’re ready to take the leap and go on this journey, make sure you check out our blog on how to take couple pictures for Instagram.


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The best advice to start your travel Instagram account. We got the best tips from our favourite Instagram couples to help you figure out how to start an Instagram account you want to turn into a business. 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 take couple pics for Instagram

How do we take our pictures for Instagram? We aren’t pros, but take a look at these tips to up your photography game.

Ok, it’s time for us to come clean and finally admit how we take couple pics for our Instagram feed.  This is probably the question we get the most often, after how we’re able to travel full-time.  Most assume we have a professional photographer that travels with us, or that we ask strangers to take our shots for us.  The truth is far from that.

Actually, we take all our shots by ourselves, with help from some very handy gear.  We’re not professional photographers, and we’re not models.  Everything we’ve learned has been self-taught.  We’re nowhere close to being done with our photography journey though, so sit tight, because this is only the beginning.

CouplePIctureDilijanArmenia
Having fun taking our pics!  This one is from Dilijan in Armenia

So here are the best tips we want share with you to take some good couples pictures.  Hopefully, they help you take some awesome IG pics as well (or just good pictures during your travels).  After all, these memories will last you a lifetime, and it’s pretty cool to share the stunning things you see with loved ones too.

Find some inspiration

There are tons of great accounts out there that will help inspire you on how to take pictures.  If you’re looking for poses, you can check out other couple or wedding photographer accounts.  If you’re looking for fashion shots, editing style, or framing, you can find it all on Instagram or Pinterest.  Just be respectful of other people’s art.  Getting inspired is fine, but never copy.  That’s just not cool.

Here are some of our favourite travel couples that inspire us every day:

@wanderersandwarriors:  We met these guys a while back in Singapore and they are so fun, approachable and genuine.  You can see their light shine through their pictures.

Charlie and Lauren from @wanderersandwarriors

@mariefeandjakesnow:  These two look so sweet, so kind and they work so hard to make the world a better place.  Their feed is beyond stunning.  More on them later!

Marie and Jake from @mariefeandjakesnow

@theloveandadventure:  Another couple we were lucky enough to meet and travel with (3 countries and counting).  They’re easy-going, adventurous and kind.  Plus, they go to awesome off-the-beaten-path locations.

Brie and Daniel from @theloveandadventure

@travelingfortwo:  These guys are fun-loving, easy-going and super relatable.  We love how they don’t even look like they try to take good pics, they just do!

Marla and Joel from @travelingfortwo

@lezseetheworld:  Fellow Canucks, and all-around awesome couple.  These two are super sweet and their pics are so lovey!

Kaitlin and Steph from @lezseetheworld

Get a camera with a timer or wifi

The gear you use will help you immensely.  Our camera has a timer function that allows us to set it, get into position then snaps up to 10 pictures of us.  Sometimes, we use our phone as a remote (and viewfinder) because our camera has wifi capabilities.

If you’re just getting started, we highly recommend our camera, the Canon EOS 1300D.  It’s great to learn the ropes and perfect your skills.

Use a tripod

Yes, this is the big trick, our big secret weapon.  Get yourself a good, sturdy tripod.  This has been our greatest investment and purchase yet.  Thanks for the advice Wanderers and Warriors.  You can’t rely on others to take the pictures you want, especially if you’re shooting in Manual mode.  Trust us, do yourself a favour, and get a tripod.  It will help your art so much!

Act natural

Sure, it’s a bit weird to pose in front of a camera on a tripod.  Sure, people will stare.  But ignore them and do your thing.  We used to feel super awkward, but now, we just act natural.  Our biggest tip is just to have fun with it.

stealing my ice cream Alona beach philippines
We started shooting and she decided to steal my ice cream. Can’t get more natural than that!

Use the best light

Sure, you can pretty much change anything with Lightroom and Photoshop, but give yourself a good start.  Make sure you shoot when the light is the best and softest, aka Golden Hour.

If you love sunrise, then you’re in luck, because that’s a good time to shoot.  If you’re like us and like to sleep, then you’re also in luck, because you have golden hour before sunset too.

Chocolate Hills Sunrise shoot golden hour bohol philippines
Taking advantage of the soft golden lighting at sunrise, at the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines

If you’re shooting outside of those hours, when the sun is the harshest, make sure you underexpose your pictures so the sun doesn’t “burn” any pixels.  Yeah, we may have learned this the hard way.

Overexposed picture from the waterfalls in Negros Oriental, Philippines
Where is Derek’s foot? The sun “burned” the pixels in this overexposed shot

Use Lightroom

Ok, this is another secret lifesaver/game-changer.  Get yourself a Lightroom account, pay the $15USD per month, and turn any picture into art.  Seriously.

Lightroom has helped us up our game so much.  You can change anything from the exposure of the shot, to the colours (hue, saturation and luminance), the angle of the shot, whatever.  You can get rid of things (or people) too.  It takes some learning to master it, and we’re no masters… yet.  We’re getting there!

LightroomEditingBeforeAfterDilijanArmenia
The magic of Lightroom brought the colours of the sunset to life

Little editing tip (also a photography tip): Always, ALWAYS shoot in RAW.  You will capture so much more details in your pics and editing will be easier.

And if you want to make things even easier, we recommend buying presets.  They automatically turn your pictures into the style you want.  Our favourites come these 2 accounts:

Never stop learning/evolving

From your photography style to your editing skills, there are tons of tools out there to help you out.  Like we said, we’ve learned all our skills by ourselves, but with the help of some great teachers.

We constantly search on YouTube for photography tips and editing tricks.  We want our art to evolve with time.  You can see how we used to shoot vs how we shoot now, the change is shocking.  We’re going to keep growing and learning.

Little photography tip:  Make sure you know how to shoot in Manual mode. It will take your pictures to the next level.

Be mindful of others

Sure, we say to ignore others, but we’re talking about ignoring their funny looks and laughs.  Yes, they will laugh and stare.  Or cheer, like the time Derek picked me up in front of a crowd!  Whatever happens, be mindful of others.  Don’t take too much time in front of a popular spot.  Don’t push people out of the way.  Don’t yell at them (yeah, we’ve seen it happen).  Just be cool, wait your turn, do your thing and move on.

CouplePictureSagradaFamiliaBarcelonaSpain
We waited for 15 minutes to take this shot in front of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We did 10 quick snaps and were out of there in under a minute.

Never disrespect

This is a no-brainer for us.  Don’t break the rules.  Don’t take pictures of others without their consent.  Don’t change your outfit in a religious place to look sexier for the likes.  If you bring props, take them back with you (please don’t litter).  Don’t shoot on people’s properties without their approval.

Treat the places you’re in and the people you’re around with respect.  Don’t forget, you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing all Instagram couples and content creators.  Don’t give the community a bad rep!

Hassan2MosqueCasablancaMorocco
We asked a security guard for permission before shooting with our tripod in Hassan 2 Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

Don’t just do it for the ‘Gram

This is key.  Don’t ever, EVER, do things just for the ‘gram.  Don’t chase the likes or follows by doing anything dangerous.  Don’t go take pictures of places only because they’re the cool spots for Instagram.  Don’t get into arguments together because of pictures.  Don’t do things that don’t make you happy.  And no matter what, never take pictures if you’re not in a good mood.  Because it will show.

So if you’re not both in the mood to take pics, just don’t do it.  And if you need other tips on how to travel as a couple, you can read more about it here.

DashLangkawiInfinityPoolMalaysia
Having fun during our shoots and making sure we don’t actually kill each other

Invest in good photography equipment

Okay, so you can get yourself some really expensive gear and shoot in automatic, or get yourself some decent gear and learn the ropes before you upgrade.  This will totally depend on how much you want to invest from the get-go, and how much you’re willing to learn.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re comfortable using the gear you have.

So here is some of the gear we use, and what we wish we had (Yeah, we’ll be upgrading as soon as we have an income).

gear

Here is what we use:

Cameras

Canon EOS 1300D:  Great starter DSLR camera, tons of great functions, shoots videos in HD and has wifi capabilities.

GOPRO Session 4:  Great for underwater video and shots.  It’s small, light and compact.  The only small downside is that you don’t see what you’re shooting, unless you use your phone as a screen.

Gear

GoPro accessories kit: It has everything you need to use your GoPro in all sorts of ways.  Great value for what you get.

Benro tripod: We love this thing.  It helps us shoot in pretty much all conditions, at different heights.  It’s light and portable.

Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch:  Light, powerful, beautiful, you will need one to edit your pictures and give them that extra little umph!

Toshiba 2TB external hard drive:  Because when you take this many pictures, you’ll need the extra storage.  Cloud based storage is great, but you don’t always have a good internet connection.

Aukey battery pack:  This thing is our lifesaver.  Whenever we’re running low on juice (for our camera or our phones), this little guy saves the day.

Next items to add to our arsenal:

DJI Mavic: We have serious drone envy when we see epic drone shots.  If we were to do this again, we would totally splurge and get one of these.  Yes, this will be the first thing we get when we have an income.

GoPro Dome: This takes stunning half underwater/out-of-water shots.

Chefchaouen blue streets wediditourway morocco
Good times getting lost in Chefchaouen, Morocco, and snapping pics along the way

So there you have it!  Our top tips for taking nice couple pics.  Our biggest advice is that no matter what you do, have fun!  Enjoy the process and don’t be scared to grow and learn.  Just enjoy the ride.  Laugh, be silly and stay in love.

We’d love to hear if you have any other tips for taking good couples pictures. Feel free to share them in the comments below.


Note:  The article contains Amazon affiliate links, on which we’ll make a small commission if you end up purchasing a product.  It’s at no extra cost to you.  You pay the same amount as if you visited Amazon directly.  The good thing is you’ll be helping us create free content and keeping this blog online.  For this, we are eternally grateful!


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How to take couple pictures for Instagram. The best tips, tricks and gear we use to take our pictures www.wediditourway.com

Why I became a vegetarian & can never turn back

Many become a vegetarian for environmental reasons, for health reasons, or for ethical reasons to advocate for the ethical treatment of animals.  These are the reasons why I chose to become a vegetarian.

There are tons of reasons people decide to become vegetarians.  In fact, worldwide, over 600 million people have chosen a vegetarian diet.  Everyone’s journey is unique, yet has so many similar and familiar aspects.  Many choose to cut meat for environmental reasons, for health reasons, or for ethical reasons to advocate for the ethical treatment of animals.  Whatever the reason, it’s a good one, because they are all the reasons why I chose to become a vegetarian.

My journey took some time, as most do, but now that I’ve been a vegetarian for 3 full years, I can’t see myself turning back.  I have cut meat, including fish, out of my life, and I feel great.  Although this was very hard for my family to understand at first, they have come to grips with it.  Being Armenian, we are a culture that relies heavily on meat.  They still do animal sacrifices for special occasions, after all!  But like most Armenians, when I have my eyes set on a goal, can’t nobody stop me!

Mozarella di buffalo tomato and pesto brushetta in Athens Greece
Delicious bruschetta with mozzarella di buffalo

Don’t get me wrong, I used to love meat, all types.  I was a serious foodie.  I would eat things that were questionably edible because, well… why not?  If you told me I was going to become a vegetarian back then, I would have laughed at you a little.  But on one random night, everything changed.

It all started with baby steps

I opened my eyes to the negative impact of eating meat quite randomly.  About 5 years ago, I fell down the rabbit hole watching Ted Talks when I stumbled upon one that spoke to me.  It was a simple and short video about the environmental impacts of eating meat.  After this, I decided to become a weekday vegetarian.  I loved the taste of meat way too much to give it up full time.

So I did with the next best thing – No meat on weekdays, but fish was ok.  On weekends, I had a choice as to what I ate (meat or not).  I thought I was doing my part, and that was good enough for me.  It was a good enough compromise – I could still eat meat when I wanted, but by reducing it drastically, I was doing my part to save the environment.

Traditional Morocan vegetable Tajine
Traditional Moroccan vegetarian tajine

My big change

Two years after that, I came home from a very well-fed honeymoon to Portugal.  Hello fish, seafood and pork diet!  The next day, I watched a documentary that changed my life, called Cowspiracy.

Fruit bowl at Shaka Burger Bohol Philippines
Smoothie bowl at Shaka Burger in Bohol, Philippines

That was it for me.

When I realized the environmental impacts of eating meat and fish, the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and the brutal way we treat our animals, I knew I had had enough.

For the love of animals

I love animals. We’re a foster family for our animal welfare organization back home.  I hate seeing animals hungry or mistreated when we travel (we have even saved a few when we could).  So I knew I could no longer eat the beings I love so much.  I felt like too much of a hypocrite.

Traditional Japanease food at a Ryokan
Traditional Japanese food at a Ryokan in Hakone, Japan

Back home, we’re so blind to the idea of animals being our food.  We go to the grocery store, buy the cut of meat we want, cook it, and eat it without ever wondering how it actually got on our plate.

When we were in the Philippines, we attended a traditional Filipino wedding.  There, they served pork as the main course.  In fact, they served 3 pigs.  But just a few hours before the wedding, those pigs were alive and kicking in the front yard of the home we were staying in.  At 7AM that morning, those pigs were killed by slitting their throats.  They squealed and cried, and we heard the whole thing.  I lay in bed crying, thinking about these pigs, who saw their pen pals being murdered in front of them.

Pastries at street market in South Korea
Pastries in the markets of Busan, South Korea

These pigs were actually pretty lucky compared to how most of our Canadian and American livestock are treated.  We all see the graphic videos that one zealous friend shares on our feed showing how animals are mistreated in farms and slaughterhouses.  We all have the same reason of turning away, scrolling quicker to skip the harsh reality we impose on these animals.

We forget that these animals were actually living in cages sometimes smaller than their bodies.  We turn a blind eye to the fact that they are injected with hormones and growth agents.  We ignore the fact that they aren’t fed properly so they resort to licking the metal cages or eating their own feces.  And somehow, we’re ok with eating this meat.

I didn’t want to be a part of this cruelty anymore.  So I figured that if I couldn’t kill the animal I was going to eat with my own hands, that I shouldn’t be eating it at all.  Because we’re so far removed from the process, we forget that these animals are actually sentient beings.  We rip their young from them, we feed them hormones so they’re bigger and juicier, we literally torture them for our own culinary pleasure.  We would be outraged if we actually saw what we were doing to them, but because we don’t, we let it go.

We’re killing the environment

From the emission of greenhouse gases, to the cutting of rainforests, to ocean deadzones – eating meat is literally killing our planet.  I couldn’t stand here, and be a good advocate for the environment, and continue killing it blindly.  When you see the facts, it’s a bit scary.

  • In the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all the cars and trucks in the world.  That’s pretty crazy!
  • Meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, yet they use the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.  It’s not really worth it when you look at it this way.
  • Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.  We could put that water to better use, for sure!

I care so much for the environment.  Since I was a kid, I was the loudest one in my family, pushing people to recycle.  Just ask my sister.  When she would litter and throw things out of the car (it was the 90’s, we all did), I would stop the car and make her go pick up her trash.  I was the first in my family to compost, and I’ve adopted a minimalist lifestyle.  We even try to be eco-travellers because we know the environmental impacts of travelling.

Oranges at street market in South Korea
Oranges and tomatoes in Busan, South Korea

So knowing what eating meat does to our planet, I knew I had to stop. Plus, because we just got our scuba diving certification, I’m even more motivated to continue.  We just discovered the beauty of the underwater world.  There’s no way I’m going to kill the very thing I admire exploring.

In fact, more and more studies show that the best way to reduce our impact on earth is to avoid eating meat and dairy.  So what are we all waiting for?

What the health?

Yeah, that’s the name of a documentary but it’s a damn good title too for what I want to talk about.  The impacts of eating meat on our health are staggering.  I’ve read through so many books and studies, and the results are eye-opening.

Like most people, I was convinced we needed meat in our diet to be healthy.  Where else are you going to get your proteins from after all?  But this is a big lie we’ve all been fed.  We get our protein the same place our food gets theirs, through plants, vegetables and grains.  And these things are damn delish!

snacks on xanemo sailboat Naxos Greece
Fruits and cookies provided by Xanemo Sailing in Naxos, Greece

There are so many sicknesses that result from eating meat.  In fact, studies have found that by cutting out meat, your body actually thrives and can cure itself of these ailments like cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, and so many more.  So if not for the love of animals or the plant, why not just for your own health?

Why not become vegan?

I ask myself that all the time.  And I want to.  To be honest, the last year has been a little tough on me as a vegetarian.  Travelling full-time and on a budget is not always easy for vegans or vegetarians.  Many cultures rely heavily on meat and fish in their diets, and getting the nutrients you need with limited food is hard.  In a lot of countries we visited, eggs, cheese and rice were the only vegetarian things on the menu.  Yup, sometimes, even fruits and veggies are scarce, or super expensive.

Olives at the market in Eauze France
Olives in the Eauze Thursday market, France

When we stop travelling, I’ll be pushing for a mainly vegan diet.  I am keen on cutting out cheese, even though I love it so much. I still want to be responsible, healthy and stick  to my values.

Was it hard?

Nope.  Like I said, when I put my mind to something, you can’t stop me.  The trick I found that helps the most was to get good recipe books and find good food blogs.  I’ve built myself a monthly menu of 30-40 recipes that I can alternate between.  Even though Derek eats meat on occasion, we found ways to eat the same meal, but with the “protein” being vegetarian vs meaty.

 

In restaurants, I can almost always find nutritious vegetarian meals, or worse case, I can ask them to remove the meat.  Because let’s be honest, a house green salad isn’t going to keep me full for very long.

When I go to my family or friend’s home, I bring a meal that’s easy to share, delicious and nutritious.  Usually, they will have veggie-friendly dishes that are mainly sides.  But hey, I’m not complaining if it’s delicious!

Kimchi at street market in South Korea
No trip to South Korea is complete without a healthy dose of Kimchi!

And when we travel, well, you can read more about that soon!

So all in all, no, it wasn’t hard at all.  Vegetarian meals take more time to prepare than throwing a chunk of meat on the grill, but let me tell you, I have never felt lighter, healthier and better than I do today.  And with some prep, everything becomes easy.

What can you do?

If you’re not ready to take the plunge, there are tons of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and feel better about your choices, for ethical, environmental and health reasons.

Fruit bowl at Shaka Burger Bohol Philippines
Another smoothy bowl from Shaka Burger in Bohol, Philippines.  We could not get enough of these.

Try going vegetarian

It’s as simple as that.  Just try going vegetarian or vegan.  There are a tons of websites that can help you do it.  They offer 30-day meal plans, tips and tricks on how you can do it short-term, or even long term.  If you have a willingness to try it, we have faith that you will succeed.

Bread in Berlin Germany
Freshly bakes bread in Berlin, Germany

Reduce the amount of meat you eat

It’s that simple.  You can try to be a weekday vegetarian.  You can do meatless Mondays.  You can skip one meat meal a day.  Whatever you choose, it will be a big improvement on the current status quo.  So whenever you can, skip that meat and opt for a vegetarian or vegan meal.  And if you really want to eat a living creature, opt for bugs, they are much more delicious than you would think!

Try to eat organic or local meats

If you can’t skip out on meat (which you can, I know you can do it!), opt for organic meats, or get them straight from a farmer.  It can ensure you are supporting the right people (not huge heartless corporations), and it will encourage them to keep up their good work.  Usually smaller farms treat their animals more ethically, so that’s a win too.

2 Fruit bowls at Shaka Burger Bohol Philippines
Did we mention we sort of liked these smoothie bowls?

The smaller the better

The production of larger animals (beef & pork) and processed meats are a lot more harmful than smaller or locally produced meats.  So if you’re going to eat meat, go for a small organic chicken.

Traditional Japanease food at a Ryokan 3
Another dish from the Ryokan in Hakone, Japan

Try to reduce your environmental impact

If you don’t want to cut meat out just yet, try to reduce your footprint.  Pick up trash, compost your food scraps, grow your own veggies, adopt chickens or beehives in your backyard, don’t use single use plastic.  Whatever you do, it will help.  If you’re travelling, you can check out these ways of being an eco-traveller.

Dried fruits at the market in Eauze France
Some dried fruits at the local Eauze Market in France

Read and watch more

The more you know about the food system, the more educated choices you’ll be able to make.  You’ll also feel better about making these enlightened choices.  Here are some great books and websites that can help!

Websites

For great nutritional facts, without any opinions: nutritionfacts.org

For meal plans, facts and recipes: forksoverknives.com

For more meals, environmental and animal news: onegreenplanet.org

Am I trying to change your mind with this article?  Maybe a little.  But more than that, I’m trying to open your eyes to a different way of viewing your food.  We’re all responsible for the choices we make.  The more we know about where our food comes from, how it’s raised and how it makes its way to our plate, the more we can make better, more educated choices.  And slowly, together, we can try and save this beautiful planet of ours, and the creatures that live on it (yeah, that includes us as well)!


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All the reasons I chose to become a vegetarian 3 years ago. It's been one of the best choices I've made, and I don't want to turn back. Includes tips and tricks on how you can make the change too. www.wediditourway.com

Sail away with Xanemo in Naxos, Greece

No trip to the Greek islands would be complete without a sailing tour.  Who doesn’t dream of being sailed away on the Aegean Sea?  This is the dream-come-true day we had with Xanemo Sailing in Naxos.

No trip to the Greek islands would be complete without a sailing tour.  After all, who doesn’t dream of being sailed away on the blue waters of the Aegean Sea?  Letting the wind carry you away to islands that only a handful of people call home.  Places where time has stood still for ages and left the beauty of the land untouched.  This is the dream-come-true day we had with Xanemo Sailing in Naxos.

When we started looking for an island-hopping tour around Naxos, we knew what we wanted, and what we wanted to avoid.  We’ve had too many experiences being crammed into boats that are too small to carry everyone.  We know (and hate) being rushed off from one place to the next with barely enough time to take in the beauty of the place.  Worse of all, we never again want to be taken to a place that is so crowded with tourists, you can barely move (Hello Maya Bay, we’re talking about you!).  We wanted a tour that fit into our way of doing things.

wediditourway xanemo sailing on boat Naxos Greece
All smiles when sailing with Xanemo / photo credit Xanemo Sailing

We looked for a tour that has a personalized approach, that worked with the conditions of the day to make the best route.  We looked for a small group on the boat, where everyone could be comfy and get to talk to each other.  We wanted to go to secluded places that were still pristine.  We wanted to feel like we were the masters of our destiny, sailing the seas, free to explore as we wanted.

Xanemo sailing boat Naxos Greece
Xanemo’s sailboat ready to pull up anchor for the day

Luckily, we found Xanemo Sailing.  They checked off every single item on our wish list.  This became our favourite day of our trip to Greece.  How could it not?  We had a great captain, an amazing skipper, and a small crew to hang out with for a day.

Our day on the boat

We met Jerome, Depy and the rest of the group early in the morning, at 8:30, at the Naxos Marina.  The day was sunny, without a single cloud in the sky.  The perfect day to set out and explore the blue waters of the Aegean Sea.  We left the port and headed out to our first destination.

First stop: Iraklia

Usually, the boats that go around Naxos will take you to Koufonisia.  It’s supposed to be a really cute island right off Naxos.  Let the masses head there if they want.  We have better plans.  We are off to Iraklia.  This is what Naxos used to be like, before tourists, both foreign and domestic, discovered its beauty.

wediditourway Derek diving off xanemo sailing boat Naxos Greece
Dive in! / photo credit Xanemo Sailing

Iraklia is a tiny island of the Small Cyclades, right between Naxos and Ios.  It’s the smallest of the Cyclades, only 120 people live here, mainly fishermen and their families.  Once we get here, we set the anchor down, and jump into clear turquoise waters.

wediditourway Carine swiming underwater
Come to me, my precious.  The clearest waters to snorkel in

We are the only ship there to swim.  Just the 10 of us, and some locals.  Talk about the perfect way to jump into this trip.  With our snorkel masks on, we swim around the bay.  Clear, crisp and calm waves, a few tiny fish, and above all, refreshing waters to cool us down after our sunny journey here.

Iraklia Greece beach
The small island of Iraklia

We hear someone ask Depy how long we have to swim here.  Clearly, they are used to being rushed around on these boat tours too.  Our hostess just smiles and says “As long as you want”.  There is no set time-frame for our day, we can all decide how long we stay in each location.  Win!

The second stop: Schoinousa

Yeah…  We have no idea how to say the name of this island.  It’s teeny-tiny as well.  About 200 people live here, and yes, they are mainly fishermen too.  What we can tell you is that it’s absolutely beautiful.

Schoinousa beach xanemo sailing Greece
Clear waters at Schoinousa beach / photo credit Xanemo Sailing

The Xanemo sailboat anchors just inside the little bay of the island.  Depy points out to the beach.  There to the right, we can find a natural “swimming pool” – clear waters that go up to your belly, and a sandy floor perfect for walking around.  To the left, we have a flat rock platform where we can spot tons of fish, clams and snails.  The water there is shallow but floating is easy.

clear waters Naxos Greece
Have you ever seen water so clear?  We haven’t!

Here, we have about 40 minutes to float around, sunbathe on the deck, chill in the shade of the trees on the shore, or walk up the hill.  Once we get back on board, lunch is served.  Copious amounts of homemade tsatsiki, grilled pita, Greek salad, pork souvlaki  (for Derek), and spanakopita (spinach pie), just for me!  All we can say is yum!  An added bonus, all drink are part of the price you pay to do the tour.  No surprise at the end of the day.  No hidden additional charges.  Cheers to that.

Final stop: Aliko Beach

Once we’ve all had our fill, we head to the last beach of the day.  Aliko beach is located on Naxos island, but it’s quite hard to get to.  Mainly, locals go here to enjoy the calm waters and sweet views.

Aliko Beach Naxos Greece
Xanemo bringing us to the secluded Aliko Beach

This beach is surrounded by the Mediterranean’s only protected cedar forest.  On one side of the beach, you can see an old hotel, abandoned mid-construction, that has been standing there for 50 years.  The hotel looks like an ancient structure with its many arches.  On the other side, you have these impressive hills jutting out of the island.  Paradise views all around.

We jump in one last time and swim around the beach.  Clear blue waters as far as the eyes can see.  A perfect way to cap off the day.  Goodbye fishies, goodbye cedar trees, goodbye epic mountains.  This was a perfect day.

Sailing back to port

snacks on xanemo sailboat Naxos Greece
Don’t worry about getting hangry, Jerome and Depy have you covered! / photo credit Xanemo Sailing

Back on the boat, we’re offered more refreshments – fresh fruits, some more delicious cookies and we’re off to the port.  Sitting back on deck, Derek and I talk about the day.  The dolphin we saw in the morning (did we forget to mention that?), the turtle we didn’t see (Derek has bad luck with this) but everyone else did, the epic waters we sailed in, the kindness of our hosts, the sweet new friends we made, and these memories we will cherish forever.

Xanemo sailing boat view Naxos Greece
The beautiful coast of Naxos aboard Xanemo Sailing

Staring out at the beauty around us, we are constantly reminded how lucky we are to be on this journey, and how we are not alone in this crazy dream we’re living.  In fact, early in the day, we sat with Jerome and Depy to chat about life on the boat.  In talking with them, we realize why were so drawn to them from the beginning.

Xanemo Sailing – Jerome and Depy

Xanemo sailing Jerome and Depy Naxos Greece
Jerome and Depy, you wish you were as cool as they are!

Jerome and Depy founded and have been operating Xanemo Sailing for the last 3 years.   They set sail every day.  Yup, 7 days a week, for 6 months out of the year.  This 30-something couple met here on the island in a happenstance meeting.  He’s French, she’s Greek and they are one awesome team.

They started this as a way to make their dreams of finding balance and happiness come true.  To sail every day, to meet new and exciting people, to share with them the beauty of their home.  That is what drives them every day.  Best of all, they don’t forget to give back – they worked with the Make a Wish foundation to take some kids out on this epic day as well.

Xanemo sailing boat sunflare Naxos Greece
Clear skies, smooth sailing near Naxos

Not only do they offer day cruises around the islands, but they can also organize private charters.  Needless to say, next time we’re in Greece, this is what we’ll be going for.  We only spent the day with this awesome couple on their beautiful boat, but we can only imagine what a few days, or even a week would be like.

If you’re looking for a boat tour around Naxos, we can’t say enough good things about Xanemo Sailing.  You’ll avoid the crowds, you’ll see beautiful bays, beaches and islands, meet a few new friends, and best of all, you will get to spend time with an awe-inspiring couple.


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Sailing away with Xanemo in Naxos, Greece.  Everything you need to know to have a great time exploring the Greek islands around Naxos.  www.wediditourway.com