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Interview: Sustainable Travel with Kate from Travel For Difference

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Interview: Sustainable Travel with Kate from Travel For Difference

Sustainability is a big topic lately in which I’m more and more interested in but also I feel is getting more and more important for most travellers.

Through the magical app that is Instagram, I discovered Kate from Travel For Difference, who regularly shares amazing tips and educate people on how to be a little bit more sustainable in our everyday lives as well as when travelling. I actually discovered so many things myself which I didn’t think could be more sustainable!

I asked her a few questions to discover more about her as well as her passion to make a difference!

Hello, can you introduce yourself and what you are working on with your blog?

Well, I'm Kate!

I'm from Melbourne, Australia and I have been blogging for about 2 years now. I'm currently focusing a lot on sustainable and ethical travel and writing inspiring, thought provoking pieces!

I am also a firm believer in peaceful activism, so that's what a lot of my content is based around.

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How did you get into travelling responsibly, ethically and sustainably?

I went on my first big trip in 2014, which was to Europe with my partner. But at that point eco-travel was not something that I really cared about.

I have travelled pretty frequently ever since then, but I only started to care about sustainability in 2016 after visiting Alaska... For the first time, I was confronted with the clear signs of climate change and from that point on, something inside me switched!

It took me a long time to realise it, but I'd say that the last 18 months is when my passion for sustainability really bloomed!

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What are the causes that you care most about?

To be honest, I care about everything (haha) - I'm a pretty deep thinker and I'm constantly looking to learn about issues and how my personal actions can help to resolve them.

But environmental destruction is definitely what pulls on my heart strings the most! Seeing extreme plastic pollution in India and the effects of climate change in Alaska are the two things that forced me to change to begin with, so naturally, they are the issues that I always try my hardest to avoid.

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How can travellers start to travel more ethically?


Research, research, research, research! It really is key.

The most important thing is to try your best to give back to the local communities, travel with intention, avoid unethical practices and be respectful to different cultures.

Just make sure that you always take the time to learn about how your actions can avoid doing more harm than good.

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Beyond travel, what little every day actions do you value to be more sustainable?

Without a doubt, reducing your meat/dairy consumption is the easiest way to be more sustainable. But I understand that this sort of lifestyle change isn't for everyone...

For me, I just try to be a conscious consumer! I am currently aiming towards a very sustainable lifestyle (zero waste, plastic free, palm oil free, cruelty free etc). But I think the very first step is to just be more aware of your purchases and your actions.

There is a sustainable alternative to pretty much everything these days, it's just up to us to find them!

Lots of people would like to be more sustainable but don't know where to start or feel like they can't make a big change, what would you say to them?

Progress over perfection!

Don't ever expect yourself to be perfect at the click of your fingers... Sustainability is loooooooong process. I used to think that our individual impacts would make no difference in the grand scheme of things, but that's so far from true!

As they say "small acts when combined by millions of people, really can change the world"

Just try your best and don’t beat yourself up!

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There is a lot of change and questions at the moment with animals and tourism, what advice would you give to people to avoid making common mistakes and not participating into animal cruelty while travelling?

This is such a good question!

I think the easiest way to avoid participating in unethical animal tourism, is to simply avoid any "tourist attraction" that has animals involved. If a company is using animals to make money from travellers, it was generally created with bad intentions.

That's not to say that there are some amazing wildlife rescue organisations that use tourism to fund their work, but it's important to do your research first! Green washing is a real thing, and sometimes "sanctuaries" aren't always kind.

In the end, the easiest and most simple way to avoid any destruction is to see animals in the wild! Go and see them in their natural habitat instead of taking the easy route at these attractions. And trust me, it's 100X most fulfilling too!

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What was your favourite encounter with animals during your travels and why?

There have been SO many!

Experiencing wildlife is the base of many of my trips as I'm a big fan of wildlife photography. My trip to the Amazon Rainforest and seeing wild Orangutans in Borneo were both incredible, but Kenya is definitely the winner for me!

I travelled there during the great wildebeest migration and it was so amazing; seeing such a huge amount of different species in one place was simply beyond belief!  

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What is your next adventure?

I am heading to Tasmania in October, which is a part of Australia that I am yet to explore - so that is very exciting!

But after that, I'm not entirely sure where my next adventure will be! I am hoping to visit Samoa, Tonga, Lord Howe Island and the Cook Islands in the near future, but I'm just going wherever the wind takes me!

If you’d like to read more about Kate, give her a follow at @travelfordifference or read her amazing articles on Travel for Difference

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My top 10 tips on how to wake up for sunrise

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My top 10 tips on how to wake up for sunrise

I’ve never been an early bird - but I changed. For a long time, I was the typical frenchie who would go to bed between midnight and 1am and would be extremely happy to wake up no earlier than 9am.

This now feels like a distant past life…

I think Australia truly changed me in many ways and waking up early is a big one. Now I know I can wake up for sunrise most times - unless I am way too tired, the weather is extremely miserable or cold, or I am too hungover. But, yes, I can do it - those are the only exceptions.

It hasn’t been an easy road to sunrise though and although I now feel comfortable to get up, it took me a while to mentally prepare myself for it.

And because I think everyone should experience this more often, see and feel the very first sun rays and welcome the day with such a beautiful gift from nature - here are my top tips on actually getting up and enjoying it.

 Sunrise surf in Manly Beach, Australia. Photo: Marine Raynard

Sunrise surf in Manly Beach, Australia. Photo: Marine Raynard

  1. Spoiler: go to sleep very early!


There’s no secret here… If you go to sleep late, you’ll struggle waking up early! Figure out how many hours you at least need to function and try to go to sleep a little bit earlier than usual.

If that’s hard of seemingly impossible for you, try to have a big day to sleep early or relax by reading a book - no screens! Surely, you’ll fall asleep quicker than you think.

2. Visualise yourself

This is a technique I’ve always learnt and used recently but I swear it helps! Even though you feel weird for doing that, just try it. So before you go to sleep, just visualise yourself, physically going to that place you want to watch sunrise from, meeting your friends or preparing your photography equipment, and the feeling you’ll have from watching the sunrise. Hopefully, those little visualisation tricks will help you get up faster when you wake up!

 Pink sunrise in Manly beach. Photo: Marine Raynard

Pink sunrise in Manly beach. Photo: Marine Raynard

3. Get everything ready to go the night before

One big strategy I have is to not lose a minute when I get up super early so I can maximise my sleeping time. So obviously, prepare everything the night before - cameras, bag, clothes you’re going to wear, snack, water - so that all you have to do is dress up, grab your stuff and go watch that sunrise!

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4. Have a strong motivation

So you want to wake up for sunrise but you don’t know how. BUT you do want to wake up and watch that sunrise, so that’s already some motivation here! Use every little bit of motivation you can and why in the first place you wanted to get up that early. Surely this will help you to actually do it.

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5. Get into a habit

As everything in life, the first few times will feel a bit tough to wake up so early and get organised. However, you’ll quickly notice that the more and more you do it, the easiest it will get for you to get up in the morning.

Set up a little challenge and tell yourself you’ll do sunrises at least twice a week for a month and see how you go! After a while, you’ll surprise yourself and wake up before your alarm (I certainly do that now…!)

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6. Get some friends and unite

There’s nothing like knowing your friends will also be there for sunrise! I love that little text as 5am being like “you awaaaake?”. It motivates you so much knowing you’re all in the same boat, you’ve all woken up so early and you will all witness an amazing sunrise.

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7. Remember how good you felt / imagine how good you will feel

If you’ve gotten up quite early a few times now and loved the experience, try to take a moment to print that feeling in your brain. This seems silly but when you have to visualise yourself again to motivate yourself, this is quite important!

That happy  / emotional / still / calm feeling you had? Hang on to it and you’ll feel it again at the next sunrise!

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8. Pick your favourite spot

Needless to say, if there’s a beautiful place you know about and you love watching sunrise from, this will help you!

If you don’t know it yet, search where you think the sunrise will be most beautiful, and change it up by trying different spots facing east. Every sunrise is unique!

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9. Go back to sleep after… or not!


If really you think you’re going to struggle waking up so early, then you can always go back to sleep after or go for a nap!

But I personally think that sunrises really energise ourselves so it would be a shame to not start the day the best way. But I don’t mind a little arvo nap if I’m tired!

10. Be proud of yourself for accomplishing something different / getting out of your comfort zone / being one with nature!


If after all of this, you’ve made it to sunrise - congratulations! You can be truly proud for being an early bird and pushing hostels to do something different and appreciating the beauty nature has to offer.

You also had the power to do a little change in your life and you took it! So all props to you for being so awesome.

So are you ready to get up early this time? Let me know if you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them!

And if you want to see more of my sunrise pictures and stories, head to my instagram @thefrenchieescapes !

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10 things to know about snow holidays in Australia

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10 things to know about snow holidays in Australia

Snow holidays and Australia wouldn’t be two things that come to one’s mind, yet it’s becoming more and more popular! Although if you live in Australia, you’d probably head up to New Zealand or Japan for incredible snow - Australia also delivers when it comes to snow holidays. 

I recently went back to Thredbo for a long weekend and really felt like I reconnected a little bit with the mountain spirit. I quite miss it being previously used to go every year when I was in France. However, I’ve decided that I really want to keep trying to go every year now and really practice my snowboarding and exploring new mountainscapes. 

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And I think you should too! There’s nothing like thinking you are in Australia and that you are in the snow. It’s quite unusual, fun and a good story! 

So here are 10 things you need to know about snow holidays in Australia and why you should totally go for it! 

1. Yes, it is possible!  

OK, this is obvious but I would never have thought five years ago that I would be able to ski or snowboard in Australia. Most people here haven’t experienced the snow at all and actually many don’t know there are mountains and ski fields in Australia. 

Yet, with a bit of knowledge, a bit of money and willing it’s definitely possible to go experience the snow in Australia & extremely fun!

If you'd like to read my detailed article about skiing in Thredbo, I also wrote one here from 2015! 

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2. It can be very very expensive  

So let’s be upfront: snow holidays in Australia are VERY expensive. Like so expensive, you’d really think twice if you should really go… Which kind of crushes my heart every single time I’m looking up to go. 

BUT don’t despair! If you really plan in advance, you can find good deals on various websites and around the shoulder season too. You also have the option of not staying in the village like Thredbo, but staying in Jindabyne (about 40 minutes away) and paying less for accommodation. But definitely take into account the lift passes, rental, accommodation and food which can be up to a 1000 dollars per person for just 2 to 4 days. 

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3. It’s perfect for beginners and good for intermediate but don’t expect crazy conditions  

Beginners, rejoice! Learning how to ski or snowboard in Australia is really good and not too difficult. The slopes aren’t that hard, the instructors are really really nice and helpful, and it can be crowded but not so much that you can’t learn at all. 

I particularly found that snowboarding is really good in Thredbo to learn as the slopes are wide and the instructors I had were really awesome and helpful. I think I did more progress in 2 days of snowboarding than 3 years of it when I was a teen! 

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4. The season runs from early July till mid to late September  

Obviously but for visitors from the Northern Hemisphere, it can be a little nerve-racking to understand the different seasons! First time I went to Thredbo, I never thought in my life I’d be skiing at the end of July - being a typical summer month for me! 

Another point to remember, the season is quite short. It shouldn’t snow before July and you’d have to be lucky to still have snow end of September. Yet the conditions can be really amazing in a good year!

5. There are 16 ski resorts in Australia   

According to Travel Weekly, the top 5 is: 

  • Thredbo, NSW (That’s the only one I went to and really enjoyed it both times)
  • Perisher, NSW
  • Falls Creek, Victoria
  • Mount Hotham, Victoria
  • Mount Buller, Victoria 

If you’d like to see the full list of ski resorts and areas from the Australian Capital Territory to Tasmania, check the Wikipedia page here. Funny how Corin Forest in ACT has only one lift! 

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6. The après ski can be super fun too! 

It doesn’t compare to the French Alps but there are a few things to do - you’ll find the good old Aussie cafe, fun bars and more activities to try if you’re willing to spend a bit more. But to be honest, there’s nothing better than also chilling at your accommodation after a day on the slopes. 

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7. The closest to Sydney is Thredbo with a 5 to 6-hour drive  

If you are currently living in Sydney, Thredbo is probably your closest and best bet to get some snow time. But if you feel like something different, Perisher is about and Charlottes Pass is about. 

Otherwise, you can always fly to Melbourne and drive to the Victorian ski resorts too! 

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8. The snow can be good but don’t expect crazy powder 

Following the years, the seasons can be very good in Australia compared to New Zealand but it can also be the other ways. You can expect some decent snow and the snow guns are usually pretty good too. 

However, don’t expect insane amounts of powder like you would in Japan or maybe Europe if you’re lucky! The snow can also get quite slushy towards the end of the day and the villages aren’t always covered in snow like they would in other places in the world. 

Just don’t set your expectations too high and you will be sweet. 

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9. You might want to try NZ at some point too...  

It’s great to experience the Australian snow but if you are an avid skier or snowboard and want to get more bang for your bucks, you’ll probably want to look over the Tasman to New Zealand! New Zealand is supposed to have amazing ski resorts and also a really cool atmosphere that brings you back a bit more like in Europe. 

If you feel even more adventurous, there’s always Japan that’s just a 10-hour plane away. 

10. You’ll probably never get as cold as in The Alps or Japan! 

That can be a good and bad thing. It’s good because it means you’ll never need that many layers or extra-thick socks or your toes might fall! So you can enjoy mild conditions without feeling frozen. However, it can still get cold so don’t underestimate it! 

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Just go already!  

Still thinking about it? Just start researching, plan a 3-day trip and enjoy! It may be a bit of money but there’s nothing like knowing you’ve skied or snowboard in Australia. It’s a truly unique experience which I’m sure you’ll want to do again! 

Have you been skiing or snowboarding in Australia before? Let me know! 
 

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5 long weekend road trips from Sydney to take up this winter

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5 long weekend road trips from Sydney to take up this winter

Winter time in Sydney doesn’t mean the exploration stops! Although it can be a little cold in Sydney, we’re lucky to enjoy many sunny weekends and at the best hour of the day, some warmer temperatures!

So rather than spending hours on the couch watching Netflix, get yourself out there and plan that winter escape! Believe me, a couple of escapes and you’ll barely notice winter was here (or not) and it will be summer before you know it!

Here are some of my top winter escapes from Sydney!

 Photograph by  Darcie C Photography

1. Drive up to Palm Beach

From Sydney by car:  about 45 minutes
From Sydney Central by bus: about 2 hours

Lovely by any weather, hitting up Palm Beach on Sunday afternoon is the perfect winter escape right on the doorstep of Sydney. My favourites? Lunch at The Boat House and then hike up the lighthouse. Plus, the drive up and back is really scenic. Stop at Whale Beach for a little extra beach time.

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2. Go South and avoid the crowds

The drive south is as stunning and as it does get busy in summer, especially in Jervis Bay, going in Winter and beating the crowds is actually much better! Favourite stops for me? Wollongong and Hyams Beach.

Sydney to Wollongong by car: 1h15 minutes
Sydney to Wollongong by train: about 2 hours

You’ll need a car to go to Hyams Beach!

 Winter road trips are fun - thanks to  Honda Australia  for lending us a car! 

Winter road trips are fun - thanks to Honda Australia for lending us a car! 

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3. Go further South and discover the beautiful Shoalhaven region

I’ve discovered this part of New South Wales only recently during Summer but also for a surf trip during Winter.  Guess what? It was rainy and cold in Summer and yes it was cold in Winter but still really fun and beautiful. My favourites? Mollymook beach, Green Island and its beach, Ulladulla and Milton. But I’ve yet to discover so many more places there.

There’s actually the 100 beaches challenge in Shoalhaven which sounds pretty fun and a good way to discover the region too!

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4. Go feel the winter charm and go to the Blue Mountains

Now yes, it might be a bit contradictory to get into colder territories but there’s something very special about visiting the Blue Mountains in winter. The cold chill, the soft sunny light, a hot drink in hands and it makes it perfect! And the best about going to the Blue Mountains in Winter? You can go up and down those hikes and not feel like you’re overheating!

My favourites? I have a lot! Discover all my favourites places in the Blue Mountains in this article I wrote previously.

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5. Go the whole way and get some snowy time in the snowy mountains!

Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte’s Pass… you call it! Why not make the most of the short winter here and hit the slopes this time. Just beware of planning well in advance as it can get a bit expensive but it’s so worth it once you are there! I’m actually going next weekend to the snow so will definitely report back on how it is.

In the meantime, check out my article from a few years ago about skiing in Australia!

Sydney to Thredbo: 5h30 minutes drive - maybe a bit more!

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So do you have any road trips planned this winter? If so, let me know where you are going!

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And special thanks to Honda Australia for letting me experience and capture their car on my latest road trips! It’s been an amazing partnership which I’ll tell you more about soon!

 

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Why the Maldives should be your next travel destination

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Why the Maldives should be your next travel destination

The Maldives - that dreamy destination full of crystal-clear waters and incredible islands and atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It seems like an exclusive destination, full of luxury and decadence, yet there is so much more than that in the Maldives.

From overwater luxury to adventure and discoveries, there’s something for everyone in the Maldives and it’s definitely a destination on the rise which I think is getting more and more interesting by the day!

I’ve been lucky enough to spend an incredible week in the Maldives and at Club Med Kani, experiencing everything: snorkelling, surfing, diving, relaxing… And I can’t wait to go back already!

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1. There’s an option for all budgets

From guest houses on local islands to luxurious hotels, Maldives can be done on a tight or extravagant budget. Many airlines fly to the Maldives and deals can be good - especially with low-cost airlines of course. We paid only 700 dollars return from Sydney with Air Asia and got there safe and sound. We did get a little misadventure with a cancelled flight on the way back but everything was solved pretty quickly and we even got to spend another night in the Maldives for free!

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It’s probably best to plan your trip in advance or as soon as you get a good plane deal. Finding a place to stay, building an itinerary and finding boat transfers can be lots of research and probably not that easy to wing once there. But with a bit of organisation, it can be the most magical trip!

2. It’s an incredible place to discover

Everything revolves around the ocean in the Maldives and for ocean-lovers, it’s definitely an incredible place to experience. Firstly it’s always warm and the water is divine so it’s really easy to relax and there’s no excuse to not get in the water for any activity.

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The ocean wildlife is quite stunning with rays, turtles, sharks, and so many colourful fishes! I’d definitely recommend snorkelling and diving as well. I actually did my discovery dive there and totally loved it! I want to do a course now in Australia to go diving again!

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And with so many islands to discover, sandbanks to explore, turquoise waters to dive in, you’ll never get bored.

3. For surfers, it’s a true wave paradise

It’s not a legend, the Maldives are the true deal for surfing! I’ve never surfed in Bali or Indonesia but apparently the Maldives are the softer version of it - although sets can be big!

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At least half of the year, there are some amazing clean and peeling waves breaking on the reef. From 2 ft to event 15 ft, there’s a lot to choose from and better be brave sometimes but it’s an experience of a lifetime. Beginners would be ok in smaller spots like Chickens but I would recommend the Maldives more for intermediate and advanced surfers.

I got to surf at Sultans and although it was a bit bigger than I thought on that day, I had the best time ever in the water! Next time I come back, I’ll definitely bring a shortboard and surf as much as I can!

If you'd like to learn more about surfing in the Maldives, read Zoe's experience of surfing in the Maldives here last winter!

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4. The Maldivian people are incredibly nice and fun to hang out with

I only met a handful of locals but all were so helpful and fun to hang out with. From lots of other friends and visitors in the Maldives, they’ve also always had a great experience with the Maldivian people.

So many of them are also totally connected to the ocean, it’s part of them. And I even got to witness some of them surfing and they are just incredible!

I just wish I got to discover a bit more about the local islands but maybe for next time!

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5. And you can of course indulge and have a taste of luxury too!

The Maldives probably wouldn’t be it without all the luxury of course! Whether you’d like to stay a week in a resort or a day, there are so many options out there. I was lucky to stay in Club Med Kani for a week but saw lots of people coming for day passes, hoping from island to island. I know some other resorts do it too.

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But after all, why not indulge a bit and treat yourself to also a nice overwater experience in the Maldives? When in paradise, might as well do it well!

So to conclude, I had an amazing time in the Maldives and did so many activities I actually barely had time to slow down and relax! So looks like I gotta go back right? Who’s coming?

 

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Five things you didn't know about Mauritius Island - with photographs

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Five things you didn't know about Mauritius Island - with photographs

A tropical paradise located in the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar and the French Island La Reunion, Mauritius is a destination on the rise and has a lot to offer if you are looking to relax, explore diverse landscapes from lush nature to incredible blue waters and discover its amazing culture.

Going from North to South of the island will take only an hour and fifteen minutes but don’t mistake Mauritius’ tiny scale for not a lot to discover and do! With an incredible mix of culture, many different places to discover and even micro-climates following one region to another, it will surely surprise you as it did surprise me on my recent trip!

 Eureka House near Black River, Mauritius. 

Eureka House near Black River, Mauritius. 

Here are five things which you might not know about Mauritius and which I hope will make you want to discover this beautiful place.

 Road near the Seven Coloured Earth, Mauritius,

Road near the Seven Coloured Earth, Mauritius,

1. Mauritius has an incredible mix of cultures

I went to Mauritius when I was actually 2 years old but when I came back I didn’t realise how heavily French-influenced the island is. And not only! Mauritius proudly mix all of the cultures which have been present through its history from the early times to colonisation to the independence 50 years ago. You’ll discover the incredible Creole culture, full of flavours and colours, mixing both French and English cultures. For a French-speaking person, it’s quite funny to try to understand Creole language but it’s pretty hard! Mauritian kids have to learn French and English as a first-language and then can choose a third-language of their choice, often being Mauritian Creole.

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Another culture very heavily influenced in Mauritius is the Indian culture. Indo-Mauritians actually make up to 60% of the population which you can imagine is huge! You’ll see many Hindou temples around Mauritius and delicious Indian food as well. More than Hinduism, there are also Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Baha’is… An amazing melting pot of culture, all living in peace!

2.  It’s a small island but with so much to see

Mauritius has an area of only 2,040m2 - which makes it a whopping 3,795 times smaller than Australia! But with more than a million people living there and many many places to discover, there’s a lot to see on this tiny island!

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 The seven coloured earth, Mauritius

The seven coloured earth, Mauritius

Some famous places are Black River Gorges National Park with a stunning waterfall, the seven coloured earth, Rhum Distilleries to discover, Port-Louis for a day, L’Ile aux Cerf for the most incredible blue bay, Flic-en-Flac for some beach time, Grande Baie for shopping, Majestic Le Morne Brabant which you can hike… So much to discover!

 Delicious Chamarel Rhum in Mauritius. 

Delicious Chamarel Rhum in Mauritius. 

 Me in Club Med Albion, Mauritius 

Me in Club Med Albion, Mauritius 

3. Tourism and Travel is the first industry among others

Being such a small island with no natural exploitable resources, Mauritius has managed to be a champion in many industries over the years. And tourism is now one of the biggest! Take anyone who’s been in Mauritius and they will tell you about the incredible Mauritian hospitality, how nice and helpful people are and all of the incredible places you can stay in! Mauritius is good to explore but also really nice to relax.

Other significant industries in Mauritius are textiles, agriculture with sugar cane (and delicious Rhum) and more and more Information Technology Services.

 Incredible sunset over the Zen Pool in Club Med Albion. 

Incredible sunset over the Zen Pool in Club Med Albion. 

4. Mauritius has over 27 microclimates!

When talking with Mauritians during my trip, they explained to me how driving from region to region, we could experience very different climates and temperatures. Quite crazy for such a small island! I totally noticed it when we went from the west to the north, where it barely rained during our few days.

 Blue water and ski in Club Med La Pointe aux Cannoniers, Mauritius

Blue water and ski in Club Med La Pointe aux Cannoniers, Mauritius

According to Mauritius Inside Out, there’s that much to know about the local weather as there is:

  • a tropical climate in summer

  • a subtropical climate in winter

  • a maritime climate throughout the year

  • a cyclone season

  • a rainy season

  • southeast trade winds from March to November

There are definitely ways to enjoy a sunny holiday in Mauritius but it could rain from time to time! Again according to Mauritius Inside Out, October is the best month to visit.

 Beautiful lush green in Mauritius

Beautiful lush green in Mauritius

5. The late Dodo bird is a national symbol

Fun fact, when I went to Mauritius for the first time as a 2-year old I was absolutely obsessed with the story of the Dodo bird. But the history on how the Dodo bird disappeared is quite sad actually being a combination of human stupidity and the introduction of new species.  The Dodo bird was a beautiful big bird (23 kgs) which couldn’t fly having any predators in over 4 million years. When the Arabs arrived as the first people to set foot in Mauritius and Portuguese as well in 1505, Mauritius was a big destination in the spice trade and the Dodo bird was hunted for its meat.

 The Dodo of Mauritius - it's about that big!

The Dodo of Mauritius - it's about that big!

And later as the Dutch colons arrived, they brought other species with them: rats, monkeys, and pigs - which all ate the egg of the Dodo bird. Unfortunately, the Dodo bird was laying only one egg per year so its population quickly diminished and the last was seen in 1681.

However, the Dodo bird proudly remains in Mauritius’ culture as a symbol in the coat of arms of Mauritius and in pretty much everything that you’ll see in Mauritius.

 Myself in Club Med Albion, Mauritius. 

Myself in Club Med Albion, Mauritius. 

Overall Mauritius is a great destination to explore and discover more about its history. I really enjoyed discovering different landscapes, tasting delicious Mauritius food and Rhum, and talking with the local. I must say thanks to my work with Club Med for sending me there, discovering both Club Med Albion and La Pointe aux Cannoniers and re-discovering the Mauritian Culture all over!

After Mauritius, many told me to check its nearby French neighbour La Reunion - so maybe on my list for next time!

Have you been to Mauritius? Let me know!

 Lush green in Mauritius 

Lush green in Mauritius 

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How to visit Rottnest Island in one day and see lots of Quokkas!

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How to visit Rottnest Island in one day and see lots of Quokkas!

Located just an hour and a half off the Perth coast by Fast Ferry, Rottnest Island is another incredible Australian gem with quirky perks such as having no cars or seeing very cute and furry little creature: the Rottnest Island quokkas!

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Taking advantage of spending a few days in Perth, I could not miss the Rottnest Island day trip and truly made the most of it in just about 7 hours! Discover below how to visit Rottnest Island, what to see, where to spot Quokkas and how to come back with the ultimate Quokka Selfie!

Have you seen my Rottnest Island Video? If not watch here! 

Where is Rottnest Island and how to get there

Rottnest Island is a small island just off the shore from Perth in Western Australia. The only ways to get there are to either take the Fast Ferry (Rottnest Island Fast Ferry or Sealink ferry) from Elizabeth Quay in Perth or Fremantle near Perth, to get with your own motorboat or sailing boat, or to get a small plane to Rottnest Island airport.

I opted for the Fast Ferry early in the morning from Elizabeth Quay, which took me a nice one hour and a half to reach Rottnest Island. I had also good commentary and beautiful views all the way. And then opted for the way back from Rottnest to Fremantle so I could hang around Freo for a few hours in the evening.

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The total price for me to get a return trip to Rottnest Island + bike hire - more on that below - was about 120 dollars which is quite expensive but definitely worth it. I also booked it a day before so probably didn’t get the best rate! Keep an eye in advance for better rates and offers.

What to do on Rottnest Island and how to get around

Rottnest Island has an incredible variety of things to do for all ages and all tastes! Whether you are staying a few hours or a few days, you’ll definitely get a good glimpse of the island.

There’s something you need to know: there is no car on Rottnest Island! And this is truly awesome. You’ll see maybe one odd car needed for maintenance around the island or the local police. But the main ways of transportation of Rottnest Island are either: cycling or  the only tourist bus going from stop to stop! So no worries if you are not totally fit to cycle for a day, the bus is also a good option.

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On Rottnest Island you can: cycle, sightsee, relax at the beach, discover incredible landscapes, eat and drink, stay over for the night or a few days, snorkel, surf, sail, swim (from port to pub - very famous swim), spot quokkas, fish, spot whales, dolphins and more…

I chose to cycle around the island for the whole day and did about 12 kilometres on that day! I did most of the island except the pointy bit thinking I might get too tired and might not have enough time.

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My favourite beaches were Little Salmon Bay and Salmon Bay with incredible blue water and white sand, and I also spotted dolphins! This is easy to get to if you are only there for a few hours. I also wish I explored more of the Basin with nicer weather on the other side. Overall it’s worth going around the island and inside as well to see a bit of everything. You can do it all in one day but you’ll have to be pretty fit to cycle so much and have lots of hours ahead of you.

About the cycling: I thought it was totally manageable but I also cycle to work quite often with lots of hills. I would recommend for everyone to try at least the small circle and see a bit of the island this way. Also, no locks are provided unfortunately so keep an eye on your bike or bring your own!

Where to spot Quokkas on Rottnest Island and how to get the ultimate #QuokkaSelfie

This is the ultimate questions when on Rottnest Island: WHERE ARE THE QUOKKAS?! Well luckily, they are very easy to spot and very easy to approach. On the map provided by Rottnest Island, you’ll get some spots for Quokkas sightseeing. They do approach the humans a bit for food in the more touristy areas and definitely don’t feed or touch them but you can still get quite close. I recommend keeping an eye on bushes and more remote areas near the road and you’ll definitely see some!

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And yes, they are the cutest animal ever! They are so just happy and friendly, it’s incredible. They have no predators on the island so they are very trustworthy of others and should be truly protected.

How to get the ultimate quokka selfie? Be patient and be ready to get to the ground! It’s totally fine to get a selfie as long as you are respectful and patient with the animal. Western Australia and Rottnest Island tourism boards are even encouraging it! Just don’t touch or feed them, get on the ground and get ready to take about 1000 pictures before getting THE ONE! It will make your day, week or every year really!

Are you planning a visit to Rottnest Island soon or have you been? Tell me your stories in the comments below!

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6 things I learned during my first solo trip as a woman

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6 things I learned during my first solo trip as a woman

I’ve travelled alone before but this particular week in San Francisco last year was really my first vacation from start to finish where I had no one but myself to count on for a a bit more than a week. San Francisco is quite a big city that’s not particularly unsafe and known for being very fun and interesting. So when I had the opportunity on going, I took it. And it just happened that I was going on my own and this was no problem at all.

However, to my surprise, this isn’t the first thought most people had when I told them I was travelling alone - especially as a woman. Family, friends, strangers, both men and women, were quite curious and interrogative on my solo vacation. How come as a woman I would like to travel alone? Did I not feel scared? Isn’t it dangerous? Wouldn’t I feel alone and bored?

Here are 5 things I’ve learnt during my first solo vacation as a woman and why you should totally go travel alone too - whatever your gender is.

1. It gives you a feeling of freedom

I already knew that going on a holiday alone, I would be able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. But I didn’t realise just how free you would feel all the time. Want to wake up at 11am and take your time in the morning before visiting? Go for it. Want to spend 2 hours getting that picture you really wanted? Go for it. Want to spoil yourself with endless sushis for dinner? Go, go and go for it!

And the good news is that if you screw up something or miss a connecting flight or train, well there’s only yourself you can blame. But in the end you don’t care and you’ll probably just laugh at yourself because you know what? It’s your own holiday.

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2. You will actually not feel that alone

This is the one thing I didn’t really expect. In 2017, we are so into our virtual lives, we barely talk to strangers. Yet when travelling, it all feels like this feeling is mysteriously disappearing. Travelling alone doesn’t mean you cut yourself from all forms of social life - unless you are deliberately leaving for a deserted island.

I am not a shy person and chat quickly to people so making friends is quite easy for me. However, I’ve had people come talk to me all the time during this trip in San Francisco and during my little detour to Yosemite Park. There’s not one day I felt alone during my trip. In the plane, at my Airbnb, while waiting for coffee, in a shop, at a walking tour… So many possibilities to meet new people. If you’re looking for some serious solo time, you might even get annoyed at it!

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3. Either people don’t give a damn about you or totally stare at you

This is a weird one. I definitely think as a woman you get more stares, questions and people approaching you but when I travelled during that week in SF, it was really one or the other. Either people would barely notice me, either people would stare and sometimes approach me as to what I was up to, why I was alone etc. It was never threatening and if I felt like I didn’t want to hang around, I was just saying “sorry I gotta go” but most of the time people never noticed.

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4. You will have lot of me time and that’s so relaxing

Travelling solo also mean you’ll have a lot of me-time and time to think with yourself, which is, I think, quite pleasant! You’ll discover more about yourself, what you like to do, what are your travel and adventure boundaries.

This one I think is one of the most important things you learn when travelling alone, especially if you are not familiar with travelling in general. We all know we are a little bit bolder and crazier when travelling, so just be the new you and surprise yourself!

 Another 24 hours flying solo in Seoul, Korea!

Another 24 hours flying solo in Seoul, Korea!

5. It might be more expensive unless you plan wisely!

OK, there is a downside of travelling solo: it is quite more expensive. The main difference of course is about accommodation. I couldn’t help myself thinking “if I was sharing this room with my partner, I would save that much”.

But fact is, there are ways for you to still go on travelling solo and not ruin yourself. The solo travel industry is booming and there are many many ways to plan for it. Maybe don’t look at hotels but look instead for Airbnbs and live the local experience. Book at a bed in a hostel and meet many new people. Don’t stay right in the main neighbourhood but explore off the beaten path…

And in the end, just treat yourself. Spending on holidays and experiences, even solo, is always more valuable than buying that brand new bag or shiny watch you-don’t-really-need.

6. It is safe to wander alone as a woman and totally worth it

Believe it or not, even if solo travelling is becoming more and more popular now, there is still a lot of stigma around women travelling alone. I really didn’t expect people around me would be so surprised and asking so many questions about my choice to travel solo on that week but they did.

Truth is I’ve never felt unsafe even going through what is said the least safe neighbourhood in San Francisco. As in any other situation or city, you just have to be careful. Sure, be prepared for people staring at you and asking you questions as I said earlier but you can also choose to continue to go your own way and ignore or politely (and firmly) respond those questions and then leave.

Now, why do I think everyone should travel alone - especially as a woman - at least once in their life?

Because you’ll push the boundaries of your travelling habits, you’ll know who you are and what you like and mostly, you’ll meet people or encounter situations you wouldn’t have before.

And there’s no way because you are a woman that it should stop you from travelling alone. There are so many ways and safe places to visit that it’s a shame to not encourage more women to travel alone nowadays. Mostly, ignore the stupid comments and reply why it’s important to you and those questions would certainly not be asked to your male counterparts.

I can assure you it will be nothing but fun, you’ll feel empowered to do more and to travel solo again.

So as they say, go your own way! I already can’t wait to plan my next solo trip!

Want to know more about my actual trip in San Francisco? Read my full itinerary of San Francisco with photographs here!

Disclaimer: this is my experience of only one trip and my opinion only and I'm sure everyone has had different experiences in different countries. Also I met a friend for the last two days of the trip but was still flying solo most of the time :) 

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How to visit the Whitsundays: my sailing experience

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How to visit the Whitsundays: my sailing experience

In October 2017, I finally ticked off one of the top things I wanted to do in Australia: sailing the Whitsundays! It took me a while to decide if I would visit the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns or the Whitsundays. I finally set my mind on sailing the Whitsundays Islands because I thought the experience could be a little bit different and I also really wanted to experience new landscapes I hadn’t seen before.

You can experience the Whitsundays through the air - check my blog post here on my flight experience over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef with Backpacker Deals, through day trips from Airlie Beach or for a few days with a full-on sailing cruise.

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Always wondered what it could be like and if this adventure is for you? Discover my sailing experience in the Whitsundays in details. Let’s go, sailor!

Before - book really in advance and ask yourself what kind of sailing experience you’d like

I started to look at what boat to book in early September for the end of October and they were all almost full. So big tip: book as early as possible if you want several days on a sailing boat! This is important because then you’ll be able to choose the boat you prefer and which one is the most suitable for your budget and travel style. I booked through Sailing Whitsundays which was very easy as there were lots of boats on offer on the website and all kind of prices - but lots were booked out already so we had to choose our second best option.

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There are many styles of sailing experiences - sailing for just one day, backpacker style sailing (with a lot of loud music and a lot of people on the boat but cheap!), young active/couple sailing cruises with smaller groups, family-friendly sailing with no partying and easy activities, some other sailing boats go around for more than three days and some even go to the reef. So many possibilities!

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If you want to see the Whitsundays without rushing and feeling overwhelmed with the crowds, I would suggest booking a boat with 10 to 12 people maximum so it’s intimate but still affordable. I personally wouldn’t go for the big party boats unless you’re really in the party mood and don’t mind sleeping a bit rough (I heard from our boat crew some of the boats have also some bed bugs so careful and read reviews before!).

Although not our first choice, we ended up on a family-friendly boat called Prima which was super relaxing and nice to sail on! We opted for a 2 nights - 2 days and half days package and had some meals included which was really convenient and pretty cost-effective in the end.

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During - Sailing the Whitsundays is really relaxing and beautiful in good weather

Overall you can expect the Whitsundays Sailing experience to be quite relaxing and easy - just get comfortable in your cabin, head out and breath in all that pure ocean air.

 With the crew on the boat

With the crew on the boat

About our boat - don’t expect 5-star comfort but a lot of fun

Sailing is a different experience though if you’ve never sailed before. You can expect to have minimum personal space - if you stay in a cabin, it’s very tiny but cosy and the bathroom - that you may have to share - is a combined toilet-shower of about a square meter. You can also expect to take very short showers to save the precious water and really you won’t dress up fancy at any time or wear make up for the girls. But it’s part of the charm of sailing, you just relax, let your hair down and don’t give a damn about anything else in the world just for those few days.

 Our boat Prima 

Our boat Prima 

Our boat, Prima, was really nice on the outside deck with tons of space and a sitting area to observe the different landscapes and islands. The inside was really cosy and nice as well with 4 private cabins and 4 beds available on the center of the boat (cheaper beds but you would have to sleep in the “living room” of the boat basically.) Our cabin was really good, I didn’t mind it being tiny and we shared our bathroom which meant it was a bit cheaper than private bathrooms. On those boats, you wouldn’t really spend much time inside anyway as there’s so much more outside of course!

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The crew was also amazing, super knowledgeable, friendly and always willing to help or accommodate so you’d have the perfect Whitsundays experience. The food they made was also super delicious - which is always a bonus as you can get quite hungry after so much adventuring, snorkelling and sailing!

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Snorkelling is quite basic but still beautiful

When sailing the Whitsundays, don’t expect to go snorkelling on the reef as this is a lot further away than the islands itself. There are some spots though where the boat will take you and you can definitely get a lot of snorkelling in. I snorkelled about five times in total which was really nice and it’s always good to swim around but doesn’t expect to see crazy stuff.

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I saw some cute fishes but none were super exotic. The coral was also quite basic although I didn’t see any that was dead. There also has been a big storm in March 2017 so the corals may have had some damage too which was maybe why it’s wasn’t as stunning. Finally, we didn’t see any turtles inside the water but we did at sunrise looking from the boat, which was still really nice!

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Oh and since the region around the Whitsundays is prone to deadly Jellyfish - see my jellyfish section on my top things to do in Airlie Beach blog post - it was highly recommended to wear a stingers suit to protect ourselves from any passing jellyfish. It wasn’t the season so we weren’t at high risk but nonetheless, it’s better to wear it plus it protects from the sun and makes you float! Not the sexiest wetsuit though! Also, bring your own flippers if you’d like to swim faster and easier.

Whitehaven Beach is very very bright!

Part of our sailing adventure, we got to spend a few hours on Whitehaven beach - said to be one of the most beautiful beaches and with the whitest sand in Australia. It really is a stunning place with incredible sand and colours. I really loved the lookout Hill Inlet over the beach but the crowds were really annoying. There were so many people everywhere, the beach kind of became the victim of its success. Be prepared for a lot of brightness and to be very hot, but it’s worth it. I wish I could have spent an extra hour on the beach and exploring the other side actually as it was really nice.

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After - back on land the head full of memories

It’s funny how, when on a boat, time seems to go fast and slow at the same time. You kind of forget about the outside life, and it feels good. I loved sleeping on the lightly rocking boat at night, looking at the stars from my tiny window, taking my breakfast on the deck overlooking the islands, jumping in the water for a snorkel, and walking on Whitehaven beach…

Our boat was quite relaxing and quiet so nothing crazy for my saling experience in the Whitsundays but each sailing experience will be unique so make it your own! If you’re hesitating, don’t worry just go and you’ll have the time of your life I swear!

What would you like to see in the Whitsundays? Let me know!

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12 days of travel stories

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12 days of travel stories

As the end of the year approaches, my feet are itching for some more travels and since I won't travel internationally till 2018, I shared a few travel stories on my instagram account before Christmas day. A good way to countdown, isn't it? 

But I haven't forgotten about you either dear readers so here's a recap of my 12 stories in one blog post! Hope you enjoy those. 

Happy holidays! 

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Day 12 - Planes are the best  ✈️

Some may dread being on a plane, some may love it. I definitely love it! .
Whenever I’m at an airport, it makes me super happy because I know I’m going on a new adventure. I do struggle to sleep in planes and it’s hard to stay still for long, but it’s fine because it’s all too exciting.

My favourite thing? Look at the stars and lightning 🌩 on a night flight! .
 

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Day 11 - Visiting familiar places 🗺

I was thinking, how does it feel to travel in your own country or to a place that is or was familiar?
After three years of living in Australia, I finally went back to Paris this June. It was funny to consider myself as a traveller in a city where I use to live and that I visited countless times.

Yet, I loved rediscovering my favourite spots in Paris, getting lost and capture moments like this one at the Trocadéro with my friends.

Because I think, after all, we appreciate even more familiar places when we are relaxed, visiting and enjoying them rather than getting stuck into the daily routine.

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Day 10 - Gotta love a road trip 🚗

Road trips in the USA, so many in Australia, in France to Germany or Portugal, in New Zealand, in Uruguay... so many good memories on each of those

And since I’m living in Australia, I’m even more addicted to road trips! I just love the feeling of getting on the road, discovering new landscapes, having a good playlist and sometimes singing along... 🎤

My little indulgence? Go to Macca’s on a long road trip 🍟🙊 don’t tell me this is a road trip classic! 

My most funny road trip memory was our car breaking down in the middle of the US countryside while driving from North Carolina to Washington D.C. and having to stay overnight in a random city.

And finally, it’s fun to share road trips with loved ones. This picture is from road tripping in Tasmania two years ago with my family and I still vividly remember the winding roads, the lush environment, endless kilometers without seeing a car and the fun of it... I'd road trip there again in a heartbeat! 

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Day 9 - living in New South Wales, Australia

I consider myself very lucky to be able to live and travel around Australia and my state of New South Wales so easily and still be in awe of every new corner I’m discovering.

This photo is from the Stockton Sand Dunes, 2.5 hours from Sydney, I’ve been only twice but I really want to go back again as the landscape is so magical and mystical. Plus, there’s so much to explore around like Port Stephens, Newcastle and more!

The landscapes in Australia, whether by the sea or inland, are just incredible. This is also such a big country, you can never go bored of travelling around!
 

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Day 8 - New York City 🗽

I’ve only been twice to New York City but I have so many stories attached to it weirdly

First, a funny one when I went to NYC in August 2001 for the first time with my parents. My mum made me walk countless kilometers to see this building, the flatiron building, because she was obsessed with seeing its unusually shape. I can still remember asking how much long I would have to walk to see it and after probably asking a billion time, we finally made it! I was exhausted but happy we made it and thought this building was quite funny

Of course when I came back for the second time in 2012 before studying in North Carolina, I had to go back to this specific place with such a vivid memory of it. The building was as impressive as I thought it was back then but I didn’t think the walk was that long then! I’m pretty sure we didn’t walk that far in the end, how funny it seemed like forever as a kid!

But I also have a more emotional memory about NYC. As I said above, I discovered the city in August 2001 and passed many times in front of the World Trade Center. Weirdly, we never went up the towers. My dad just didn’t feel like it and I honestly really don’t know why we didn’t go up. Maybe we had a feeling...

Needless to say when 9/11 came and I was just getting out of my school day, I was terribly
shocked and sad of what had happened and
how just a few weeks before I was just standing in front of those towers where people were coming in and out.

So once again when I went back in 2012, I had to visit the memorial which was also super emotional. Just standing in front of those massive fountains and reading each name of every person in those towers was just... I was speechless.

But there’s so many other cool memories I have made with NYC. Getting massive slices of pizzas at the local delicatessen, walks in Central Park or on the high line in the upper west side, Brooklyn views, checking gossip girl spots and more...

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Day 7 - I missed a flight... 🛫

This one’s for the mini-meltdowns and struggles of travelling!

Don’t be fooled, getting to this magical island of Kangaroo Island and *finally* be able to observe those funny creatures that are sea lions from Seal Baywasn’t as easy and seamless as I imagined.

Last year, I thought it would be a good idea to leave about 1h30mn before our flight to Adelaide from Sydney. That was on the 27 December, aka one of the most busiest times of the year to fly domestically.

I also thought it would be a good idea to leave only one hour and half in advance given that we had to park the car at the airport (I was living a bit far at the time) and then catch the shuttle from the car park to the airport. 

What I didn’t take into account: car park was full so had to park on the edge hoping it’s ok (I booked before though!), shuttle took forever to come get us, the most insane lines I’ve ever seen for check in, virgin airlines system totally broke down anyway but weirdly they didn’t want to take us.

So missed the flight. And although I was a bit angry but still calm, managing my annoyed French family was another thing. Luckily the VA staff saw my despair on my face and booked us on the next flight, for free! Relieved.

But next problem: we would miss the ferry to Kangaroo Island. And did I mention busiest time of the year? Back to the start: now finding a way to go to Kangaroo island in time to not loose 3 nights of accommodation non-reimbursed. Ouch. Thank god after countless calls with Sealink (who’s staff was so lovely), they booked us on the last ferry of the day! I mean, we even considered flying to kangaroo island. After all that, we made it to this amazing place. 

Moral of the story: take your time before flying during the holiday period, don’t book flights and small ferry transfers to small islands back to back, don’t let your family get into a mini-meltdown. And, have a nice holiday!

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Day 6 - Arriving late at night to discover new landscapes!

After traveling through a big part of New Zealand, we finished by settling down for a few nights in Baylys Beach on the north of the north island.

After a long drive we arrived pretty late and saw the relatives of my boyfriend and didn’t get to the place till it was pitch black. And as we arrived in a small sea side town, we really didn’t know what to except nor could see much when we arrived. I still remember though the very rough and heavy noise of waves rumbling down the beach, not far from our little cabin, and wondering what it looked like up there.

So of course when the sun came out in the morning, I just couldn’t wait to see this beach. And I wasn’t disappointed! The light on that morning was just incredible and on top of that, there was no one else on the beach!

I wish we could stay a little longer and that I took a few more pictures with that incredible light. But in the end it was such a nice moment, that’s all that matters really.

 

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Day 5 - if life gives you lemons, make lemonade! 🇰🇷

Last June, I had a 20-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea between my way from Australia to Europe. A little detour but I was determined to make the most of those 20 hours.

I decided really last minute on where to sleep, what to see and get a bit of advice from a dear friend as well. I was running short on time so literally downloaded maps and guides for the plane and figured out what I’d do when on the plane.

What I didn’t expect was an amazing supercity, bustling with energy, between traditions and technology and a totally new scenery for me. Now I just can’t wait to plan a trip back to Seoul and to discover more of South Korea as I am quite unfamiliar with its culture still. Funny fact: I’ve never had Korean BBQ!

So I’m super grateful for having this 20-hour layover between my planes and having discovered a brand new country and culture. You can read all about it here in my blog: 20-hour layover in Seoul: My experience. Random travel opportunities like that are the best! 

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Day 4 - Travel photography 📸

What I love about photography when travelling is the spontaneity of it. When I was on this little weekend escape and discovery this new place last month, I was walking over to the headland when I noticed this group of teenagers ready to hit the water.

I already thought it would be a good shot but then they all lined up perfectly with their surfboard and I was so glad I could capture that moment. So I guess that’s true for any travels or escapes, when spontaneity hits it can make amazing pictures!

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Day 3 - Wombats, wombats, wombats...

I haven’t posted a wildlife shot in a long time and thought about this funny story while I was camping in in Kangaroo Valley last year. We were at this cute and basic camping called Bendeela and as the sun was setting, wombats and wallabies arrived as well.

It was amazing seeing them so close and observe them munching on the grass. .
What wasn’t amazing though, was once we were sleeping in our tent to hear them literally crunching the grass right next to our tent. I am sure I literally felt one wombat next to me eating extremely loudly. A bit annoying when you want to sleep

At one point of the night, my boyfriend even thought a wombat entered the tent and quickly moved his arms around as to defend himself. Turned out it was just me moving around because I couldn’t sleep, it was so ridiculous, I laughed so hard haha.

So yeah observing wombats is great but sleeping next to them isn’t that fun

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Day 2 - Travelling Solo

I absolutely loved travelling solo to this wonderful city and the feeling of freedom when travelling alone was just amazing.

I was surprised at the different reactions I got when I said I was travelling alone (positive and negative) and how weirdly it isn’t yet totally accepted! I wrote a blog post about that which I still didn’t publish but promise it will come out.

Re-discovering San Francisco after 7 years was also really fun. To go back in places I knew, to discover new ones and try to live like the locals! I also met up with a friend I hadn’t seen for almost 5 years!

My favourite part of this solo trip in SF was to hire a bike and bike 12 kilometres in one day around SF. I had so much fun!

This trip definitely makes me want to go on more solo trips and made me learn one thing: although travelling solo you are never ever alone. You meet so many people!

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Day 1 - Travelling for Christmas! 🎄

This one’s a bit special because it’s Christmas! So merry Christmas to wherever you are in the world and I hope you had or will have a wonderful time surrounded by loved ones 💓

Although I wanted to travel so bad this end of year, I decided to stay in Australia and explore a bit more of the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales with my family. .
I especially chose this place so I could surf everyday during my little break and mostly on Christmas Day! I never surfed on Christmas Day before so this was for me quite fun and made me super happy!

But most of all this holiday, I’ve decided to kick back a bit and enjoy just relaxing and not go exploring all the time. Something I don’t do often because I can’t really stay still haha...

Just a few days now before the end of the year now, watch out for my best nine of 2017 in my stories soon and a few more snaps before the year ends!

And that's a wrap for my travel stories of this year! Hope you enjoyed those and watch out for many more stories in 2018 :) 

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A surfing experience in the Maldives by Zoe

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A surfing experience in the Maldives by Zoe

If there are world-class waves in the world, you would expect them to be in the Maldives of course! Although mysterious, It’s been one of the hottest surfing destinations for quite a few years now. So let’s fly to the Indian Ocean and discover Zoe’s guide to surfing in the Maldives!

Hi Zoe, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Hi I’m Zoe. I’m a Kiwi who has recently moved back home after living overseas for the last 8 years. I found my passion for surfing around 5 years ago since living in Australia and now I’m what you might call a frother - I can't get enough!

How did the Maldives trip come up and was surfing your main purpose?

Well my husband and I decided we needed to get some serious surf time in before we moved back to NZ to start a building business. So yes it was definitely always going to be a surf trip!  Besides, our stuff was going to take a number of weeks to ship so we decided it was the best way to spend a month with few belongings. We researched some different surf spots around the world that we haven't been to yet. Initially we ruled out the Maldives as we thought it would be too expensive. But after researching some more we realised there are cheap options there!

 Zoe's husband on a makeshift bridge. 

Zoe's husband on a makeshift bridge. 

How did you prepare before the trip, did you research on best spots to stay in the Maldives for surfing, did you have some recommendations etc?

So I used the internet mainly. We read up on the surf breaks in the area. My husband being natural and me being goofy we wanted a spot that had access to both lefts and rights. We chatted to a few people along the way who gave us a bit of info, but most of the people we met had stayed in resorts or on the charter boats. After realising there are accommodation options including surf camps on local islands, I dug a little deeper using the internet. I also read a few blogs and followed a couple of Instagram accounts to get a better idea of the local island that we decided on - Thulusdhoo.

 Zoe on a Maldives beach in Thulusdhoo.

Zoe on a Maldives beach in Thulusdhoo.

How easy or hard is it to get there from Australia plus to bring your own boards?

Yes I would never travel to a surf spot without my own boards! We took 5 boards between us in a double and triple board bag. It was actually relatively easy to get there - we stopped over in Singapore for an hour and then landed straight in to Male - the capital of the Maldives. We arrived late in to Male so stayed a night in the city before getting the boat the next day, but if you can avoid it, I would recommend getting to your island asap. From Male Thulusdhoo is about a 45 min fast ferry ride away ($30 USD).

 Zoe on a wave in the Maldives.

Zoe on a wave in the Maldives.

What did you think of the surf in the Maldives compared to other places you’ve been before?

I highly rate it! Oh my gosh it was so much fun! The great thing about the Maldives is that the reef is more forgiving/less sharp than the likes of other places such as Fiji and the waves are not as fast and hollow like places in Indonesia. So for a surfer of my ability, it was fantastic. Perfect peeling waves, but also a bit of variability which made it challenging enough. It got a bit too big for me on some of the days - double and triple overhead but it was great to watch the guys and girls out there! Also a couple of days we were there the wind went onshore, but even then I thought these waves are better than some of the waves I would surf in Australia! We mainly surfed the Chickens and Cokes surf breaks as they were closest, but there are plenty of others around closeby.

Do you think you need to be a very good surfer for Maldives waves or could any levels go?

From what I experienced, I would say you would want to be able to surf confidently before heading to the Maldives. You don’t have to be an advanced surfer - I’m certainly not!, but you do want to be able to feel confident in the ocean.

What I found was that there would be some rogue sets coming through now and then that would clean up the line up. And because you mainly get dropped by a boat you have to be able to paddle back out through/around the breaking waves to get back to safety - i.e. there’s no turning around and paddling to the beach!

We could also jump off the rock at our local break off the island, but again, you are jumping off near the break zone, so you need to be able to get out the back confidently. You also need to be able to paddle against currents, as they can get reasonably strong with the change in tides in some spots.  

But in saying that, I went in the peak season (August) when there is the chance of bigger swell, and from what I hear there is enough variability in the spots and seasons that you could pick your times to suit your ability i.e. go in the shoulder seasons

 Maldives hold world-class waves.

Maldives hold world-class waves.

Do you meet some locals with the same love of surfing?

Yes! I met a great new friend Ni who is one of the only female surfers in the Maldives. She has overcome many challenges all in her journey to become a better surfer and is just an awesome human being. She is fully committed to learning to surf better and an inspiration. We pretty much hung out every days. She is currently planning a trip to NZ so I hope to see her soon!

What boards did you bring and are there any other essentials? 

I took two boards there. Both were 5’10 short boards slightly different shapes. Always good to take a spare!

And yes, reef booties are a must in my opinion if you are planning on staying on an island. Also sun protection in the water i.e surf tees/rashies in necessary.  And, make sure you bring your own zinc, spare fins and leggies!

 Zoe tackling big waves in Maldives.

Zoe tackling big waves in Maldives.

What did you think of the destination apart from surfing?

The Maldives are the bom dia! The people are great, the waves unreal, you’re on island time and there’s plenty of fresh Tuna to go around. Great snorkelling too!

What were your best and worst moments?

One of the  best moments would have to be when we were sitting in the line up with only a few of us out, and as a set was approaching, we saw a big Manta Ray roll up into the wave about 3m in front of me. I was in so much awe, I almost forgot to duck dive through the wave! Other notable ones were being able to see some of the pros surf  - Sally Fitzgibbons, Taj Burrows, Rob Machado etc.

Worst moments would have to be when those aforementioned rogue sets would come in and you just knew you were about to take a beating no matter what. My new mantra when i’m facing into a big set wave is Hakuna Matata! I say this outloud sometimes before Im about to get pummeled! Oh and another worst moment would have to be getting a sea urchin stuck in my foot - ouch.

 Zoe on the right with her new Maldivian friend, Ni, and her husband. 

Zoe on the right with her new Maldivian friend, Ni, and her husband. 

Your next adventure?

My next adventure is exploring my own backyard here in NZ. I didn’t surf before I left NZ so it’s going to be a whole new experience living back here and exploring the surf breaks with my husband. We have already done a couple of road trips to Gisborne when the surf has been up but I’m also keen to check out Raglan and up North very soon!

 

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Top things to do in Airlie Beach, Queensland

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Top things to do in Airlie Beach, Queensland

I discovered Airlie Beach in Queensland for the first time in October 2017 part of my trip to the Whitsundays Islands and found that there are a lot of things to do in just a few days! My total stay there was only two days and a half but I felt it was the right amount of time to discover the surroundings. I’d say it’s good to add a few more days if you’d like to explore more of the region as a road trip.

In the meantime, I’ve listed here the top things to do in Airlie Beach for endless inspiration on your next stay whether it shines, rain or hail! And stay tuned for my next blog post soon about sailing the Whitsundays Islands.

 Airlie Beach Free Lagoon! Photo: Marine Raynard.

Airlie Beach Free Lagoon! Photo: Marine Raynard.

1. Obviously, check out the FREE lagoon in the middle of the city

What I love in many Aussie cities, especially in Queensland, is all the free lagoons you can dive in! Airlie Beach makes no exception and right at the heart of the city, you can see the lagoon located between the beach and the main street.

The lagoon is huge and on a nice day surprisingly relaxing although I usually prefer to swim in the ocean (but it’s complicated in Airlie Beach, more on this below.) And you can also relax around on the grass, pure bliss!

 Airlie Beach Lagoon fun with the GoPro and the Dome case. 

Airlie Beach Lagoon fun with the GoPro and the Dome case. 

2. Check the main street with food & bars

Since we are on the main street, don’t look further it’s really all happening here! Airlie Beach has quite the backpackers vibe so don’t be surprised to see many bars coming to life at night and a horde of young travellers from all over the world happily going from bar to bar. And good news for Sydney-siders, there are no lockouts in Queensland!

For food, there is a massive amount of choice on where to eat in the main street. From McDonald’s to seafood restaurants, you have lots of choice for different budgets. However I wasn’t very convinced by the restaurants there, lots were overpriced and the food didn’t seem that good. We found a gem of a cafe though a bit further - more on this one below!   

 Airlie Beach's beach walk. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Airlie Beach's beach walk. Photo: Marine Raynard.

3. Go for a tiny beach walk

It does say beach walk but I would rename it “tiny beach walk” because it literally takes 15 minutes to do it haha. It’s good though for the lazy ones wanting to take a quick stroll and you can still see Airlie Beach main beach, enjoy the park and if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday, have a look at the market.

 Shades of Blue in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Shades of Blue in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

4. Lay down by the ocean - but beware when swimming!

The beach isn’t the most beautiful I’ve seen but nice on a sunny day. However, there’s one thing you got to know in Airlie Beach: the jellyfishes can be super dangerous! During “stingers season” as they call it - which is from November to May - you can see or be stung by certain types of Jellyfish in some part of Queensland. The main two types that you need to watch for are the box jellyfish (typically huge and very dangerous, you shouldn’t but can die from it) and the Irukandji jellyfish (typically tiny, you can’t see it, and extremely dangerous, you can very well die.).

Therefore you’ll see in many beaches huge signs warning about the dangerous Jellyfish and how to prevent stings. During stingers season, it’s very recommended to wear a stingers suit or to not tempt swimming. During non-stingers season, it’s still recommended to wear the stingers suit just in case and as the water temperature is raising. There’s also vinegar available on each beach in case of stings. If in doubt that you’ve been stung and can feel a massive pain, call 000 if you are able or get some help nearby.

 Beautiful view of Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Beautiful view of Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard.

5. Check one of the two marinas and secret relaxing spots!

The first one is Port of Airlie where you’ll find more cute cafes and restaurants. I haven’t tried any of those but the setting is pretty relaxing and there are some shops too. The one good thing to know if that a few minutes walk from it, you also have another small beach called Boathaven Beach which is much nicer than the main beach in Airlie Beach, plus you actually have nets to prevent jellyfish! So perfect for a safe swim while overlooking boats coming in the marina.

The other marina is Abel Point Marina and is a 10-minute walk from Airlie Beach. There you have more nice restaurants (there’s one pizza place where you get 2 pizzas for the price of one on some days!) and more cafes. It’s a nice view, plus the walk to this place is really nice from Airlie Beach (more on this one below).

 Flying over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Flying over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Marine Raynard.

6. Go on a flying experience above the Whitsundays islands and outer reef

This was definitely the highlight of my trip to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays Island. After booking our experience through backpackers deals, we took the tiny plane from Whitsunday Airport onto a magical ride of one hour over endless blue paradise. It was really incredible to see the different islands, the white sand beaches like Whitehaven beach and finally the Great Barrier Reef from up high.

I think the Great Barrier Reef part was even the best because the colours and shapes are just out of this world and it’s really amazing to witness this. It was the perfect combination of our sailing trip as we only stayed in the islands. Thanks for backpackers deal for organising this amazing adventure, you can check my full flight adventure on their blog here.

 Inside the plane when flying over the Whitsundays. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Inside the plane when flying over the Whitsundays. Photo: Marine Raynard.

7. Go swimming in a wild waterfall

Things don’t always go as expected when travelling. And you would certainly not wish for crazy rain on the first day of your trip! Well, we had to deal with it and after a bit of researching, I found this incredible waterfall spot about 25 minutes drive from Airlie Beach. That said, if you don’t have a car it’s a bit hard to get there and there is no phone reception once there.

 So much fun in the wild waterfall of Cedar Creek Falls. Photo: Marine Raynard.

So much fun in the wild waterfall of Cedar Creek Falls. Photo: Marine Raynard.

The spot itself is super cute, a small waterfall called Cedar Creek Falls, which might get dry if it hasn’t been raining but otherwise quite consistent. The best thing is that you can swim there and there are not many people around. Nothing like a wild swim in a waterfall!

 The Palmtree swing near Hideaway Bay in Queensland.

The Palmtree swing near Hideaway Bay in Queensland.

8. Get away to secret beaches north of Airlie Beach

It’s a bit of a drive but I can assure you it’s worth it. If you have a bit more time, don’t hesitate to go out explore other surroundings from Airlie Beach. Once again researching for cool places to explore, I discovered a secret beach next to Hideaway bay, part of the Montes Reef Resort. The view is more than amazing and you wouldn’t think you are in Australia. Plus, there is a SWING attached to a PALMTREE! Yes, you’ve read that right! It’s so beautiful and let’s be honest - instagrammable.

It’s peak beauty if you get there for sunset and watch the sun sink into the ocean. There’s also a bar and restaurant at the resort - which seemed lovely! Finally, you can also stay in the resort which seems like a good escape away from everything. I wish I could stay in this place all day, it was a true paradise.

 Enjoying sunset in Queensland.

Enjoying sunset in Queensland.

9. Back in Airlie Beach, go for a walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale and end up in a nice cafe

Or vice-versa! The walk is really nice and you’ll see beautiful ocean views on the way. I particularly liked the wooden walkway which is quite picturesque. There’s also little creeks along the way to relax in. The whole walk would take about 30 minutes.

Finally when you get to Cannonvale, take a break in my favourite cafe: fat frog cafe! Remember how I said I struggled to find a good place to eat in Airlie Beach? I am glad I discovered this little gem which has Campos coffee (I do love me a good Campos coffee) and delicious and good-priced food. Bonus, there even was my favourite dog (border collie) while I was there so it could have enhanced my experience…

 The walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale. 

The walk from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale. 

10. Plan your sailing experience in the Whitsundays

If you haven’t planned yet to sail in the Whitsundays, I’d highly recommend it to those loving the ocean, boats, snorkelling and some beach time. I planned my sailing adventure in advance as the spaces are filling up very quickly so I would recommend planning as soon as possible.

There are boats and itinerary for all kinds of holidays and ages. There are backpacker/party boats, day boats, 3+ days boats going to the outer reef, family boats, luxurious boats and more… I was on Prima, a sailing boat that’s doing lots of snorkelling and has a very very relaxed vibe. It was great although a bit too calm sometimes! I’ll write my sailing experience in the Whitsundays very soon to stay tuned.

 Sailing in the Whitsundays is quite magical. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Sailing in the Whitsundays is quite magical. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Bonus: check the kangaroos before the airport!

On your way in or out, you’ll notice so many Kangaroos feeding on the grass next to the airport. You can easily stop and observe or photograph them, it’s super cute!

airlie-beach-paradise.jpg

So have you been to Airlie Beach? If not, what will you do first? Let me know!

You can also check the video of my flight over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef here:

 

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An incredible road trip through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

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An incredible road trip through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

In August 2017, Matt and Kel, two friends and photographers from Sydney, Australia went onto an incredible adventure and road trip through two of the "Stans": Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Although those two countries are not the most popular destination as it's not very known - yet - they are home to magnificent mountains and landscapes, warm local experiences and still hold something a bit mysterious for all the adventurers out there. 

Discover below the journey of Kel & Matt, their itinerary, their gear, adventures and misadventures as well as pictures. 

Cover photo: Bel Tam Yurt Camp - Camp situated on the sourthern shores of Issyk-Kul Lake. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Could you introduce yourself in a few words?

Kel: I’m Kel Morales, an amateur photographer originally from the Philippines. I moved to Sydney in the summer of 2012. I work as an IT professional in a government branch during weekdays and I like to explore and go on micro-adventures during the weekends

Matt: My name’s Matt Horspool, I am a 30-year-old photographer and special needs teacher from Sydney, Australia.

 Adventure Mode On - Matt Horspool on the left side and Kel Morales on the right side.

Adventure Mode On - Matt Horspool on the left side and Kel Morales on the right side.

Can you explain your adventure and how it came about?

Kel: I’ve been an Olympus camera user since 2015 and I initially saw a post regarding Olympus Vision Project. It was a competition to grant aspiring creatives to pursue their passion project. I didn’t really think about it at that time but after I attended the Sydney Travel Bootcamp, I got interested. I originally planned on submitting a proposal for a project documenting the religious festivals of the different islands in the Philippines. However, Matt told me that he also want to pitch an adventure project and I thought maybe to just submit one with him. We initially planned on doing India but I wanted to do something a little bit different. I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but I just found myself looking at photos and articles about the Pamir Highway in Central Asia. It piqued my interest and Matt agreed that it’s a great place to explore. We decided to do our project pitch for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan instead. After a couple of months, we learned that we got the photography grant and the rest is history! :)

Matt: I had caught wind of a competition that Olympus was running which provided a grant to assist aspiring photographers and videographers to complete a dream project. Initially, I had entered with another friend focused on a completely different style of project and thought I would love to also pitch an adventure with Kel who I had been shooting with regularly. We met in a local library to sit down and decide what it was we wanted to do. I had my heart set on India and as we were trawling the internet for ideas, Kel came across the Pamir Highway aka second highest highway in the world. We were sold.

 Orto-Tokoy Reserve - Large salt lake formed in the desert. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Orto-Tokoy Reserve - Large salt lake formed in the desert. Photo: Matt Horspool.

What was your itinerary and preparation?

Kel: Originally, our focus was only driving through the Pamir Highway. But after spending a lot of time researching, we found out that there were a lot more amazing and interesting places to see in the other parts of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. We decided to spend two weeks in Kyrgyzstan and another two in the Pamir Highway and Tajikistan.

Preparation wasn’t easy at all. These places are known to be some of the least explored regions in the world and unsurprisingly, information were pretty scarce. We spent a lot of time researching online and contacting people who have traveled there to get an idea of what we should expect. Apart from that, we spent almost every weekend to go out and practice shooting. I also had to prepare myself physically as I am not really fit and I knew that the trip would be physically demanding. Doing mountain hikes in high altitude and being on the road every single day - I had to prepare myself.

 Picture Perfect - Sunset silhouettes along the eastern shores of Song-Kul Lake. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Picture Perfect - Sunset silhouettes along the eastern shores of Song-Kul Lake. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Matt: Many many hours of trawling the internet for information, emailing people who had ridden the Pamir Highway and learning to use the camera gear which was foreign to me. Nearly 6 months worth of weekends and evenings after work spent preparing. Funny though, it only takes one thing like a broken car to throw hours of work out the window.

What gear were you using?

Kel: We took a lot of gear on the trip. From photography gear to camping gear, we brought everything we can.

My photography kit consist of the following:

  • 2 x OMD EM1 MKII Body (with 9 BLH-1 Li-On batteries)
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.2 PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital 75mm F1.8
  • 1 x DJI Mavic Pro (with 4 batteries)
  • 1 x Olympus Tough TG5 (+ 2 extra batteries)
  • 1 x MC-14 M.Zuiko DIGITAL 1.4x Teleconverter
  • 1 x HLD-9 Power Battery Holder
  • 1 x CBG-12 Camera Backpack
  • 1 x RM-CB2 Cable Release
 Lone Horseman in Song-Kul. Photo: Kel Morales.

Lone Horseman in Song-Kul. Photo: Kel Morales.

Matt: For anyone who had accessed our website you would have seen we took over a lot of gear. So much so that my two bags were 29kg and 15kg respectively. It was a difficult trip to pack for as the locations would range from sub-zero temperatures through to 40+ degree heat and everything in between. My wallet has hated me, but I always buy top quality lightweight items, e.g. tents, mattresses, cooking gear etc. As long as you take care of it, they generally last for 10+ years or more, meaning you can take more, and save your back.

My photography kit consisted of too much to name. In a nutshell, it was as follows

2 x OMD EM1 MKII Body

  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO
  • 1 x M.Zuiko Digital 17mm F1.8
  • 1 x DJI Mavic Pro
  • 4 x MAvic Pro Battery
  • 1 x TG-Tracker Tough Series Camera
  • 1 x MC-14 M.Zuiko DIGITAL 1.4x Teleconverter
  • 1 x HLD-9 Power Battery Holder
  • 1 x FL-900R Electronic Flash
  • 1 x CBG-12 Camera Backpack
  • 1 x RM-CB2 Cable Release
  • 9 x BLH-1 Li-ion Rechargeable Battery
  • 2 x BCH-1 Rapid Lithium Ion Battery Charger

The list goes on and I recommend you check out our website “gear page” for the comprehensive list and photos

 Heaven On Earth - Turpar Kul, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Kel Morales.

Heaven On Earth - Turpar Kul, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Kel Morales.

What was your most memorable moment of the whole trip?

Kel: Ah, just thinking about the great moments that I’ve had during the trip makes me smile. :) I’ll choose one standout moment for each of the countries we’ve visited.

My most memorable moment in Kyrgyzstan was definitely when we visited a rural village in Kyrgyz Ata. We went there as part of an organised day tour by the tourism board in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. When we got to the village, there were quite a number of people and they were really kind. There was a group of elderly people dancing and they invited us to dance with them. It was so much fun! :) After that, I asked if I could take their photo and they were pretty happy for me to do so. I took their photo, printed it (I brought a portable photo printer), and gave it to them. They were so happy with it - the happiness on their faces was indescribable. It was such a great feeling realising that a simple act of giving a photo can bring so much happiness to people. As a thank you, they gave me a watermelon. Haha!

 Worth the Struggle - Morning in Ala Archa. Photo: Kel Morales. 

Worth the Struggle - Morning in Ala Archa. Photo: Kel Morales. 

In Pamir Highway/Tajikistan, my most memorable moment would be when I got invited by a local to their house and we just sat there exchanging stories while drinking tea. This happened when we arrived in Langar and I decided to explore the place. I was just walking on the street - feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed by everything - and a lady standing in front of their house with her kids saw me and asked if I was a traveller. I said yes and that started our conversation. She spoke very good english and I found out that she is an English teacher from Dushanbe. They were just in Langar for the holidays. We exchanged stories about travels and culture, and I’ve shown her some of photos and videos from home. It was such a normal conversation and situation but it’s really something that stuck with me. It was what I always wanted on this trip - getting to know people and understanding the way they live and their culture. :)

 Watching the sunset in Sulaiman Too in Osh Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Kel Morales.

Watching the sunset in Sulaiman Too in Osh Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Kel Morales.

Matt: I have so many and for different reasons, feelings or joy, sickness, frustration, and shock. I guess for both of us the most memorable moment would be when the car crash occurred but I will touch on that in the next question.

My greatest positive moment of the entire trip would have to have been when we arrived at the tiny isolated yurt camp at Sary Gorum. The place was nothing short of stunning. Nestled deep in the valleys of Tajikistan, surrounded by rolling green hills and towering snow-capped peaks, an area 5 star resorts would die for. There were around 4 - 5 yurts that formed the small community of shepherds who grazed their goats, yaks, and horses in the vast fields. The light was near perfect for an epic sunset, the composition was nothing short of breathtaking and there was so much to photograph. However our kind and generous hosts had other plans for us. We were invited to partake in a ‘social’ game of volleyball. Which suited me fine as I love the game. Kel, however, was a little more apprehensive. The game started and gradually we ended up competing with around 20 men, women, and teenagers, laughing, yelling and having the time of our lives. Of course, the moment wouldn't have been complete without the stunning sunset that shrouded the valley. I stopped at one stage and wondered how the hell I got here and asked if this was even real?

 Skazka Stars - Sun flare over Skazka Canyon aka Fairytale Canyon. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Skazka Stars - Sun flare over Skazka Canyon aka Fairytale Canyon. Photo: Matt Horspool.

What was the worst moment you’ve experienced?

Kel: I experienced my worst moment third day into the trip. We did a trek in Ala Archa National Park and it was supposed to be an easy 4hours hike - but I can’t believe how wrong I was. I did a lot of hikes and walks back in Sydney so I was pretty confident in doing the hike. Not even one fourth of the way, I was already struggling. We were supposed to go to a base camp but we had to reassess because I was just so out of it. My mind wanted to finish the hike but my body just cannot do it. It was the worst feeling. I was devastated. I felt really broken and I started questioning if I am able to actually do the trip. And to add salt to the wound, I also lost my drone and one of our radios. It felt like the universe was against me.

Coming on this trip, I knew it would be physically demanding and a lot of things can go wrong - I just didn’t know that I would experience all of it all at the same time. Thankfully, I managed to persevere and finish the trip without any more big hiccups!
 

 Serene Song-Kul Sunset. Photo: Kel Morales.

Serene Song-Kul Sunset. Photo: Kel Morales.

Matt: Basically, we were driving along a winding dirt road a few hundred metres above a river. The road went on for hours and weaved in and out of sketchy areas. As I was coming around a small left-hand bend I noticed in my side mirror, a car speeding towards me. The car took me on the inside, lost control and flipped off the road, rolled about 4 times down a waterfall and crashed into a river. It was the first time I had heard Kel swear and everything happened in slow motion. I ran down to the car to pull the guy out whilst Kel ran off to find phone signal. There are some pretty crazy videos that documented the whole experience and you will have to wait until they are released on our blog to see.

Another terrible moment I guess would be when I was sick at the end of the trip. No idea what it was but it crippled me. I always seem to get sick at the end of an overseas trip!

 Bird of Prey - An eagle that lives with a local Kyrgyz trainer. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Bird of Prey - An eagle that lives with a local Kyrgyz trainer. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Did you encounter any challenges to pursue your adventure?

Kel: Nah, I didn’t encounter any challenges. Haha! Kidding. I definitely had a lot of challenges on the trip, it was crazy. Language barrier, the physicality of the trip and focus are the top ones I can think of.

I haven’t travelled to another country before except for Australia and the Philippine so everything was really new to me. It was a bit of a culture shock. The language barrier was definitely a big challenge. Every region had their own language so it was pretty tough and miscommunications and misunderstandings always happen.

As for physicality, as I’ve mentioned earlier - the trip was physically demanding since we were almost always on the road and we don’t really have much time to stop and relax. It felt like I was always tired and add the fact that you have to go out to explore and shoot, it just takes a toll on your body and your mind.

This leads me to the other main challenge for me - focus. Being tired all the time, I just can’t focus on what I need to do. Also, being a new traveller and experiencing a lot of new things for the first time, I just get excited all the time and lose focus on what I need to do. There were a lot of times that I just wanted to sit down and talk to people - which is a good thing since I am able to have a natural travel experience but also bad since I was on the trip to also take photos and videos, and I wasn’t able to focus on that.

 Almost Freedom - Three horses are shepherded along a grassy stretch of grass. Their feet are tied so they cannot run too far. Photo: Matt Horspool

Almost Freedom - Three horses are shepherded along a grassy stretch of grass. Their feet are tied so they cannot run too far. Photo: Matt Horspool

Matt: For me there were two difficulties in our trip. The first being the obvious language barrier. We found that many of the young people in both countries could speak basic English which was helpful however when it came to reading signs, menus and other written text. We had to rely on Google Translate. It was quite a difficult trip to plan for as there were 4 or more languages that were spoken across the two countries. Impossible to learn prior to our departure.

The second challenge I found was how tiredness. In the early stages of our trip whilst I was driving, I found it difficult to concentrate for consecutive 8-10 hour days on some of the most sketchy roads in the world then unpack and venture out to shoot creative photos. It just wasn’t happening. Definitely glad that we ditched the car once it broke down and hired a driver.

 Our Drivers Family in Tajikistan. Photo: Kel Morales.

Our Drivers Family in Tajikistan. Photo: Kel Morales.

Did you meet up with some locals in both countries and can you tell me a bit about it?

Kel: Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are countries that have amazing landscapes. But truthfully, it’s  the people from these countries that really made the trip special for me. I’ve already mentioned above that the most memorable moments that I’ve had from the trip were interacting with the locals. All of the people we met were kind and hospitable and they made our trip amazing.  From people of the Kyrgyzstan community based tourism boards who helped us a lot while we were on the road in Kyrgyzstan, to the family in Song-Kul yurt camp who made us feel really welcomed. From the villagers in Kyrgyz Ata who’ve shown us the Kyrgyz horse games to the nomadic shepherds in Sary Gorum who let us play volleyball with them. And from our drivers along the Pamir Highway who really took care of us and made sure we had the best time along the road, to the people in the Green Square Bazaar in Dushanbe that was so keen to have their photos taken. There were just countless great moments that I’ve shared with them.

Matt: We interacted with so many locals it is impossible to name them all. Each with their own unique stories. All the families that we stayed with were lovely, welcoming and extremely hospitable towards us. They really made us feel like we were a part of the family. I had the opportunity to teach 2 sisters English at a local yurt camp at Song-Kul which was cool. They were both really keen to learn new words and phrases that would help them interact with guests that stayed with them. They now follow us on Instagram which is cool! Will be sending them some more pictures once the blog post goes live.

 The Road to Kazerman - The incredible road which snakes its way across these stunning mountain ranges. Photo: Matt Horspool.

The Road to Kazerman - The incredible road which snakes its way across these stunning mountain ranges. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Did you prefer Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan in the end?

Kel: This is a tough question. Each country has its own charm. I would say that I’d be keen to explore Kyrgyzstan more. I feel that there’s a lot more to explore and discover, and also - the people won me over. :)

Matt: I enjoyed both countries for their different landscapes and cultures. However I think I’d like to go back to Kyrgyzstan and explore the mountains further.

 The Kyrgyz Eagle Hunter. Photo: Kel Morales. 

The Kyrgyz Eagle Hunter. Photo: Kel Morales. 

What’s your next adventure?

Kel: Nothing major planned for now, possibly some small ones around Australia. I was thinking of travelling for a couple of weeks in South East Asia next year. I would probably shift my focus more on exploring and discovering the cultures of these countries on my next travels rather than doing an adventure. :)

Matt: I have a few projects in the works. If all works out I should be heading to India at the start of next year with a side trip to South East Asia again followed by a return to Italy later in the year.

If you'd like to read more about Matt and Kel's adventure, head over to their website The Stan Collective. And if you'd like to see more of their images, follow them on Instagram: @etchd for Matt and @kemikulz for Kel. 

Have you been to any of those countries? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

 Bel Tam Yurt Camp - Camp situated on the sourthern shores of Issyk-Kul Lake. Photo: Matt Horspool.

Bel Tam Yurt Camp - Camp situated on the sourthern shores of Issyk-Kul Lake. Photo: Matt Horspool.

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How Sydney made me more active

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How Sydney made me more active

Without a doubt, I’ve never been so active and motivated to do sports than now. It’s been three years I live in Sydney, and lots of things have changed for me since, read here how living in Australia changed me, but one of them is definitely the level of activity I am doing.

If you’ve never been to Sydney, you’ll quickly understand this beautiful city is super outdoorsy, people live outside and exercise outside - a lot. There is a real beach body culture in some parts of Sydney too.

After those three years, I’ve realised that although I’ve always been active, I really wanted to up my game lately and become a lot stronger, fitter to be mostly a better surfer! Surfing has really changed a lot for me and my workout routine revolves a lot around it.

Discover below five sports which I think I really got into - more seriously - since living in Australia and I hope that you will too!

Cover photo of this article by Darcie Collington @darcieec

1. Surfing baby!

Surfing had been a goal/dream for me since a very young age but I unfortunately never lived close to decent waves and did only a couple of weeks of surf camps in France. Moving to Australia, this really triggered my willing to surf and I really started to take it seriously about a year and a half ago. I actually wrote a blog post here on how to start surfing in Sydney.

And I never thought surfing would bring me so much closer to nature, my body and my mind. I couldn’t imagine my life without it now and wish I could be in the water much more often (and that the conditions were good every day too!). Although I leave only 20 minutes driving away from a surfing beach (without traffic), it’s hard to get out there every day when working full-time in the city but I am grateful for every opportunity I get and have a ferocious will to get better at it and surf amazing waves with great style one day!

 Bondi to Coogee walk 

Bondi to Coogee walk 

 

2. Walking and hiking kilometres and kilometres...

I remember the first few weeks in Sydney, I was quite impressed with how many hikes were available in and around the city. Whether it’s a 20 minutes water walk, an hour coastal hike with incredible cliffs views or a 4-hour bush walk at nature’s heart - there is enough for a decade!

I love walking because it’s just so easy, perfect to discover surroundings, take photos and just take a moment to appreciate what nature has to offer to us. The most iconic walks in Sydney are Bondi to Coogee, Split to Manly and Heritage Walk in Vaucluse but don’t hesitate to explore further and try new walks! Check my blog on 6 walks in Sydney that you must do.

 Biking the harbour bridge in Sydney for the first time. Now something I do every day!

Biking the harbour bridge in Sydney for the first time. Now something I do every day!

3. Biking to work

This one is very recent. Since I moved to Sydney lower north shore this winter and my full-time job is now in the city, I decided that I’ve had enough of the bus and wanted to bike to work! I bought a $200 brand new blue bike from 99 bikes in Enmore and I was set! The beginnings were a bit hard as there are so many hills on my way (especially from work to home) but since doing it regularly, I am pretty much fine now.

I still haven’t done it 5 days in a row because of being too tired sometimes or having places to go after work. It takes me about 40 minutes instead of 30 minutes with the bus so not bad and a great workout + it’s free! My highlight is definitely biking on the harbour bridge and passing in some quiet streets feeling so free and happy! I’ve really noticed the difference in my mood and productivity at work after a few weeks as well.

I really want to research more bike paths now to just go biking on weekends too and mix exercise, fun and exploration!

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4. Zen vibes with Yoga and Pilates

I really got into yoga and pilates when I was in the USA, as I had free classes at uni (didn’t realise how good that was at the time), and decided to get back to it in Australia. There are SO many places to do both, it’s incredible. The price isn’t as fun though as it can get quite expensive but if you find a nice club you like, it’s worth the spend.

There’s yoga by the sea, acro yoga, yoga up to Sydney tower, even yoga beer I heard haha? I’m just loving the zen vibes of those classes and how relaxed I feel afterwards. I still need to find myself a new club as I haven’t found one since I moved. But I know that there are some great places that do it for free like the Buddhist Library in Camperdown - which I used to go to when I first moved to Sydney.

And you can always you know, just rock some youtube yoga video and do it at home or in the park!

 The Sydney Botanic Gardens - a nice place to run!

The Sydney Botanic Gardens - a nice place to run!

5. Run, run, run!

Sooo running is still a very much work in progress for me. I’ve never been bad or good at it, but just hated the feeling after running for a while. Swimming is my thing, running not really. But I decided to get better at it because it’s still fun and free!

And when you have such an amazing scenery to run to, you cannot be tempted! The Royal Botanic Gardens, Eastern Suburbs water runs, the Northern Beaches, etc… So many places. Only little problem: the hills and the crowds! Some places can get really hilly very fast and is just a killer. And the crowds can be pretty insane at some times in the day, especially Manly on a summer day.

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If I had more time, I’d even love to pick up even more activities… I”d love to join a sailing club, do a surf lifesaving course, try ballet lessons at the Sydney Dance Academy… I’ve got endless ideas but not endless time unfortunately so will continue focusing on surfing and do what I love.

Did a city make you more active before as well? Do you have a favourite activity that you love doing no matter where? Tell me everything!

 

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Living in Australia after 3 years: How It Changed Me

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Living in Australia after 3 years: How It Changed Me

Today marks my 1,100th day of living in Australia or in short, a little bit more than three years! I can’t believe how fast those three years flew by, how much I’ve done (or how little as I sometimes think!) and how much I have changed as a person too.

I think I realised this when I went back from my European trip last June, that I was definitely quite different from when I left in 2014. I haven’t entirely changed of course but a lot of aspects of my life have and I think, in the end, my personality has changed a little too. We all evolve as we grow up but by moving to a new country, it definitely has a bigger impact.

I wanted to share a bit of this change with you as moving to a new country isn't the easiest thing to do but the most exciting thing you can do. Here are a few things that changed:

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I’ve had to adapt to a new way of living

This is an obvious one but you realise with time that you really adapt to a new way of living when moving in a new country. I’d say the first thing is definitely about food. Although I still keep my old habits of eating lots of bread, my tastes and food habits have changed so much since I left France. What I love the most is how I’ve learnt so much about Asian food and wouldn’t imagine eating or cooking it! Sydney has the most diverse and amazing food available and I feel super grateful to be able to try all of those. Oh, and yes, I now love Vegemite on my bread too!

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Sydney made me a lot more active

I’ve always been a bit active and did a bit of sport here and then but I think by living in Sydney, you really want to get more active. It’s a very outdoor city and lots of people exercise so it really encourages you to do it. Personally, I am so happy I can go surfing almost every week, I can now bike to work, I try to run more and more and sometimes I take some yoga classes (wish I could do more but it’s a bit pricey). And there’s so many more clubs or sports to do around here that there’s really no excuse to not do it and it’s an amazing way to meet people too! Watch out for my next posts on this topic soon.

 Photo by Darcie Collington

Photo by Darcie Collington

It made me go out a lot less

I’ve been the real party girl before (oh, uni days!) and when I arrived in Sydney, I still partied a fair bit but not as much, and I’d say that I now almost never party. I guess as you grow older, you party less and you think about what’s priority on a weekend after a hard week of work!

I love a drink here and then but you’ll now rarely see me up after midnight or maybe 1 or 2 am maaax. The reason? I feel there’s so much more to do during the day in Sydney! I like to wake up early if I’m going to surf, go on an adventure, maybe sleep in and just be lazy, go see friends etc. But I don’t feel the thrills of going out right now. And let’s be honest, Sydney isn’t exactly the best city to party between the lock-out laws, strict rules, venues that are not super exciting and so many rude security guards or bartenders I’ve encountered. When I went back to Europe or even just partied in Melbourne, I really saw the difference and had awesome nights!

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Living in Australia makes me appreciate nature and my surroundings so much more

When I lived in France, I think I took for granted how beautiful and varied my country is. I wish I visited a bit more by myself rather than just stick to the places I knew. (well I was a student too so not exactly tons of money to travel!)

Since I moved to Sydney, I really realised how precious and beautiful nature is around here but also how much there’s to do (for free most of the times!) and how I should never take it for granted. There’s nothing more rewarding than discovering a new national park or take a walk on a new beach.

And the good thing is that after working in the city the week, I just crave going to different and greener places on the weekends and I just love it! Here’s to exciting road trips and exploring my surroundings!

Living in Sydney & travelling in Australia made me spend a lot more money

Living here is expensive for sure. And salaries are quite good but rent is also extremely high. Maybe it’s also the fact that I am not a student anymore where I had to be careful of my spendings but I would say by living in Australia and in Sydney mainly, you start to get used to the prices and then spend a lot more than originally planned!

Also, travelling in Australia is a bit expensive. Now, there are ways to keep cost downs like travelling/sleeping in a van, sleep in hostels, stick to the free views and activities. But if you’d like to go a bit further, generally air fares are not always that cheap, hotels are more expensive than they should be (especially in high season!) and extra activities can also be really over the top. But hey, it’s all worth it and possible!

Living Australia is now making me think about what kind of life I want...

Living so close to nature and the ocean really makes you think more about the environment, what you like in life and what’s important to you. I think surfing really has had an impact on me (I always knew it will) and I couldn’t imagine myself living in a place where I couldn’t go surfing regularly anymore. Same as exploring, I love the city but I also love escaping and discover or re-discover my surroundings. And these are so important to me, I don’t think I could ever spot doing both. I think this really makes a difference when thinking about your life and it definitely influenced me because I live here.

Sometimes I wonder if I stayed in Paris if my life would look different now? I know I wouldn’t have stayed anyway because as I always say I love visiting Paris but not living there. But what if I was in another city in the world? All I know now is that Sydney is my home now and I can’t wait again to see what will be happening next in this wonderful city.

Do you think living abroad has changed you in some ways? Or even if you are living in the same country, have you noticed changes by travelling a bit more maybe? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And if you’d like to read more, I also wrote about my two-year checkup in Australia as well as my first complete year in Sydney.

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How I fell in love with the Algarve in Portugal

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How I fell in love with the Algarve in Portugal

Portugal is quite a trendy destination right now. I can’t remember how many pictures and check-ins I’ve seen from friends over the last few years. Looks like my family is trendy too, without even trying, as they moved to this beautiful country when I moved to Australia almost three years ago - how convenient!

This gave me the opportunity to discover their brand new region twice (before moving to Sydney and most recently in June): Algarve, a stunning part of Portugal, located in the South.

I have yet to discover so much more but the very few things I’ve seen, I loved them. And now that I’m back from Portugal, I just can’t wait to go again.

Here are a few things that made me fall in love with the Algarve region and Portugal:

 Quinta do Lago, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard.

Quinta do Lago, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard.

The Portuguese landscapes

South of Portugal has very different landscapes from other places, it can be lush green, extra dry or endless ocean and beaches. You also have spectacular cliffs and coastlines from Sagres to Faro. Perfect for photography and droning! It also reminds me of Australia from time to time.

 A beautiful beach in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

A beautiful beach in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

The Portuguese beaches

Portuguese beaches are simply awesome: they are free, they are clean, they are set in wild scenery and the water is delicious. It can get a little cold sometimes but really not that bad. Oh so perfect for a swim or a relaxing time.

Even better, you can go surfing on the Atlantic side coast near Sagres in Algarve. I did it only once but I loved it! I really want to surf more on the Portuguese coast. Maybe not in the north though, like Nazare, where you have some of the biggest waves in the world - see for yourself here!

 A typical balcony in Loule, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

A typical balcony in Loule, Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

The cheap cost of living

Let’s be honest… Portugal is quite cheap. Beers are 1.5 euros and you have a nice dinner for 10 euros. Petrol, tolls and hotels can be a little more expensive but still very accessible when you come from France or Australia. Of course, the cost of life is cheaper and makes sense when the minimum wage in Portugal is only 600 euros a month. But it’s quite convenient when travelling!

 Tourists and Portuguese enjoying the summer holidays in Algarve. Photo: Marine Raynard

Tourists and Portuguese enjoying the summer holidays in Algarve. Photo: Marine Raynard

The kindness of Portuguese people

I didn’t know many Portuguese people until my parents moved there and up to now I’ve met so many kind locals willing to help, always with a smile on their face and living through optimism. There’s nothing better when travelling in Portugal than getting to know the locals and understand they’re the heart of the country!

 Myself exploring the streets of Loule in Portugal. 

Myself exploring the streets of Loule in Portugal. 

The never-ending things to do and places to discover

For a small country with only 11 millions of Portuguese, there are so many things to do and see in Portugal and especially Algarve!

There’s an activity for every taste: golf, surf, sightseeing, beach life, boat life, shopping, party, try new food, relax… It’s great for families, couples, friends… All styles of holidays and endless discoveries, really.

 A vintage Schewppes ad in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

A vintage Schewppes ad in Algarve, Portugal. Photo: Marine Raynard

The sweet climate

I think the climate is comparable to Australia with hot summers and mild winters. The weather is generally good although you can get some rainy weeks (highly needed before the dry summer). I love the warmth and blue sky so it definitely makes a difference if you want a sunny holiday!

 Traditional Portuguese tea towel. Photo: Marine Raynard

Traditional Portuguese tea towel. Photo: Marine Raynard

The delicious food & lively culture

Fishes, meats, cakes… there are many Portuguese specialities to try which will leave you longing for more! I love the cod fish and other specialty fishes - see here 10 of the top Portuguese dishes and tell if that doesn’t make you hungry!

As for the culture, Portugal is very rich in history, art, architecture and the language of course! In Algarve, you’ll find plenty of museums, castles like the Loule one, and other things to admire like colourful ceramics.

 Lisbon streets before the placa de comercao. Photo: Marine Raynard

Lisbon streets before the placa de comercao. Photo: Marine Raynard

And you always want to see more…

It’s a bittersweet feeling every time I have to leave Portugal as I know my parents live there and I wish I could visit more often. But unfortunately, it’s not so close from Australia!

On my list for next time is to visit more of the North with Lisbon, Porto and Sintra as well as surfing the coast!.

And my ultimate wish would also be to visit the Azores, a set of island 2 hours of flights from Lisbon, in the Atlantic Ocean. Just google the images of the island and you’ll understand why!

Have you been to Algarve in Portugal? If yes, let me know where!

 Myself admiring the beautiful beaches of Algarve, Portugal. 

Myself admiring the beautiful beaches of Algarve, Portugal. 

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From Alaska to Ushaia - The Ultimate Americas Journey

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From Alaska to Ushaia - The Ultimate Americas Journey

Warning: this adventure may give you ideas of stopping everything right now, book a one-way ticket to somewhere on the american continent and just live the life. Just a few months ago, Gaëlle, a French 25 years old graduate, came back from the very long and exciting trip from Alaska to Ushuaia.

I asked her a few questions to know more about this incredible adventure. I warned you, it will definitely give you the travel bug!

 Gaëlle and Noëmie at the Rio Carnival

Gaëlle and Noëmie at the Rio Carnival

Marine: Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Gaëlle: My name is Gaëlle, I’m 25 years old and I finished my communication studies almost 2 years ago. During my licence, I studies for 6 months in Valencia, Spain, which gave my the travel bug. I lived there with a Mexican girl who is a friend since and who I saw for a month in Mexico three years ago. This was my only travel outside of Europe before this big road trip.

 Guatapé, Colombia.

Guatapé, Colombia.

Why did you choose this trip and what was your itinerary?

For a few years, it was my dream to cross the american continent from North to South - so from Alaska to Ushaia. I thought this was a crazy thought so it stayed as a dream for a long time. But at the end of my studies, with no boyfriend, no kids and no job either, I thought this was the best time to leave. I got my flatmate to come with me and we were both on the road.

At the start we planned to only do the USA, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba. We didn’t want to get too greedy at first but we still wanted to reach our goal ;). Few countries actually got added to the itinerary: Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and French Guinea. 16 in total! We left for 14 months.

 Tulum, Mexico.

Tulum, Mexico.

Let’s talk logistic. How did you do to finance your long trip and once there, how did you plan country to country?

I financed with all of my savings from my (young) life haha! And I worked for 7 months between the end of my studies and the departure to save even more. But I may have borrowed a little bit of money from my parents at some point… I was lucky that they were encouraging me and wanted me to reach my goal.

 Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.

Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.

What’s your best memory?

THE one question I get! This is the question everybody asked me when I came back and also the hardest to answer… There’s not only one because I instantly think at the discovery of the Grand Canyon, the Rio Carnival, the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia…

But I think our 4-day stay in the Amazon rainforest will stay as one of the best memory. We fished piranhas, built a camp in the jungle in which we slept in, met the local community living next to monkeys, snakes, toucans and more! We also saw some pink dolphins, chased baby caimans in the middle of the night, discovered medicinal plants which could cure lots of diseases here, talked about sexuality with the village chief and our guide while drinking caipirinhas… So many things I would never have thought of doing in my life!

 Glacier Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Argentina.

Glacier Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Argentina.

What was your worst moment?

There’s been the theft of my bag with cellphone, glasses, debit card on the beach of Copacabana. The very expensive 800 dollars bill in the Las Vegas emergency room for a tooth pain which no one took care of in the end (the doctor looked at the tooth with his Iphone light lol), the car breakdown in the middle of a tropical storm at the heart of Costa Rica….

But the most painful experience mostly concerned my friend travelling with me. While we were picnicking in San Francisco, some cucumber juice dropped onto her passport which made a little stain next to her photo. We took dozens of flights with this document without a problem until our depart from Guatemala where the ground crew staff refused to let her on the flight, saying the customs in Panama - our next country - were very strict and that they won’t let her in.

 Playa estrella, Panama.

Playa estrella, Panama.

We didn’t want to lose two flight tickets so I left alone thinking she’ll do an emergency passport and she’ll be here in two or three days. It actually lasted a month… The emergency passport didn’t work and she had to wait the digital passport from France but once it arrived, there were more problems.

First, the embassy took her previous passport and she didn’t have the stamp of entry in Guatemala. Once this was solved, she booked her flight at the airport but couldn’t pay because there were some missing documents she needed to bring on her departure. But she couldn’t even get on this flight because after two hours of wait, on the departure day, they announced to her the seat had been sold.

And finally when she could leave, there had been a blackout in the airport which almost made her miss her flight while a cyclone hit Panama - which also almost cancelled her landing. You can imagine I was extremely relieved when I saw her at Panama City Airport. It was definitely the most difficult time.

 Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Which tips would you give to travellers wanting to try this adventure?

Just do it! This is usually the most difficult part because our subconscious stops us as it’s not easy to get out of our comfort zone. But to be honest, DARE to do it! You’ll never regret it.

Practically, travel light (this wasn’t really our case haha…), research the seasons mostly for Central America to avoid rain seasons and cyclones (which we didn’t do either haha…) and keep a journal. It’s a bit heavy to do it daily but in the end, we were extremely happy to write down all of those memories and to be able to keep them forever.

 Gaëlle and Noëmie's tent in the middle of Monument Valley. 

Gaëlle and Noëmie's tent in the middle of Monument Valley. 

Travelling alone as a woman is becoming more and more common but many are unsure to actually do it. What were your thoughts on this for such as long trip, and what’s your advice?

I didn’t travel solo and honestly I don’t know if I would have been able to for such a long time. But during the month I spent in Panama and after all the stories from the girls travelling solo we met, it is totally possible. Wherever you go, you always meet people and you share moments and sometimes travels, so in the end you are never alone.

 Gaëlle and Noëmie with Princessa, an Anaconda of 4 meters length and more than 30 kilos in the Amazon Rainforest.

Gaëlle and Noëmie with Princessa, an Anaconda of 4 meters length and more than 30 kilos in the Amazon Rainforest.


My advice is to not have a plan that’s too set because it’s often following who you meet that will set what you’ll do next. You need to be open to the unexpected. My friend also gave me the French “L'art de voyager seule quand on est une femme”, [the art of travelling alone as a woman] which gave me some clues on lots of topics and proves it’s possible!

 Sambodrome Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sambodrome Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Of all the countries you visited, which one would you settle down for a while?

I think I would choose Brazil and mostly Rio - a city where we stayed a whole month and we loved! The weather was beautiful, hot, there’s the sea and mountains, and the cariocas (people living in Rio) were so friendly.

This city has a real cultural identity and a very rich history which makes it so interesting. And Brazil is so big, I think there’s enough travels to do for a long time. We didn’t do the Northern beaches but we heard it’s beautiful. And as they speak Portuguese, that could be a new language to learn for me!

 Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil.

What’s your next adventure?

Asia, I hope! I would love to travel between four and six months to discover this new continent. I also dream to cross Russia with the transsiberian and to visit Canada - a country we didn’t visit during our trip. So in short, new travel projects are not missing ;)

Few more pictures from Gaelle incredible trip:

 Mont FitzRoy, Patagonia, Argentina.

Mont FitzRoy, Patagonia, Argentina.

 Vinicunca Mountain, said the 7 colours mountain, in Peru.

Vinicunca Mountain, said the 7 colours mountain, in Peru.

 Sunset on the canoe in the Amazon Rainforest.

Sunset on the canoe in the Amazon Rainforest.

 Monkey in the Amazon Rainforest.

Monkey in the Amazon Rainforest.

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Winter in Sydney Part 2: Where to chase the sun

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Winter in Sydney Part 2: Where to chase the sun

Sydney Winter weather can get truly weird. You can go from 7 degrees to 22 degrees in one day. You’ll be wrapping yourself in layers in the morning and peel off like an onion throughout the day. Only to later feel way too warm while walking through the city.

Winter in Sydney starts on first June and ends on 31st August. I won’t lie, I much prefer warmer seasons as I don’t feel like wrapping myself under a blanket 24/7! But there are ways to keep warm during Sydney winters and even to - almost - feel like summer.

Here are some outdoor places suggestions per time of the day to keep you warm and happy in Sydney during those winter months!

 People enjoying sunrise at Bronte Beach Rockpool. Photo: Marine Raynard

People enjoying sunrise at Bronte Beach Rockpool. Photo: Marine Raynard

Sunrise at Bronte Beach

There are many many places in Sydney to enjoy the sunrise, but the best is without a doubt on the beach, whether it’s on the northern beaches or eastern suburbs.

A little while ago, I went for sunrise in Bronte Beach to take some pictures and although the 5am wake-up call was a bit hard, there was nothing more gratifying than the sunshine powering through the beach.

Some early morning people were as courageous as going swimming and surfing this early. But I am sure you start your day with a huge smile on your face after such a sunny start of the day.

Oh, and did I mention sunrise is amazing for pictures?!

 Sunrise on the ocean at Bronte Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard

Sunrise on the ocean at Bronte Beach. Photo: Marine Raynard

Morning walk from Dee Why Beach to Long Reef Beach

Mornings can still be cold and there’s nothing better than a good walk under the sun to warm up a little. I recently discovered Long Reef beach and how it has an amazing walk up to Dee Why beach. The whole walk would take about half an hour at least but has amazing views and you can also observe the surfers.

Start from Long Reef to then finish at Dee Why and have a warm coffee in any of the awesome coffee places by the beach - I really like Girdlers!

 From Dee Why Beach with a view of Long Reef in the background. Photo: Marine Raynard

From Dee Why Beach with a view of Long Reef in the background. Photo: Marine Raynard

Lunch at Hyde Park

I actually work next to Hyde Park so this one comes from daily experience! Hyde Park isn’t a huge park but a really nice place to walk around, sit on the grass or a bench. You’ll also get amazing views of Sydney towers through the middle of the park.

Many people have lunch there on a sunny day but there’s still space to take a break and relax. Also, make sure to check the Pool of Reflection next to the memorial, beautiful reflections obviously!

 Lunch time at Hyde Park, in Sydney CBD during the Winter months. Photo: Marine Raynard

Lunch time at Hyde Park, in Sydney CBD during the Winter months. Photo: Marine Raynard

Afternoon nap in the Sydney Botanic Gardens

Another park, another beautiful place! The Sydney Botanic Gardens certainly have the views, the greenery and the wonderful smells of flowers. It’s perfect for a stroll around with incredible sights of Sydney as well as lunch at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, coffee or some more exploration inside the park.

I find relaxing on the grass next to a tree is the best way to truly unwind with a bit of sun. That well-accompanied with a hot beverage and a book. I admit not having done that in a long time but it is definitely nice!

 The beautiful pathways of Sydney Botanic Gardens with palm trees. Photo: Marine Raynard

The beautiful pathways of Sydney Botanic Gardens with palm trees. Photo: Marine Raynard

Sunset vibe in Shelly Beach - Manly

Being on the East coast, we don’t, unfortunately, get sunsets right on the ocean horizon like in Perth. However, there are places in Sydney where you can still try to get every bit of sun as much as you can before it’s gone for another cold winter night!

Shelly Beach in Manly is one of my favourite places to soak up every last bit of the sun before night. You can get beautiful views over Manly, relax by the water and even take a little dip if it’s not too cold. The perfect way to end the day before wrapping back into a very warm blanket again!

 Selfie at sunset after snorkelling at Shelly Beach, Manly. Photo: Marine Raynard

Selfie at sunset after snorkelling at Shelly Beach, Manly. Photo: Marine Raynard

Don’t worry the Winter in Sydney isn’t that cold, the temperatures don’t get under 7 generally but it’s always nicer with a bit more sunshine! Do you have favourite places in Sydney to keep warm? Let me know where and I’ll make sure to check those out!

And if you’d like to read more about why winters in Sydney are awesome and what to do, check my previous blog post on 5 reasons you’ll love Winter in Sydney.

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20-hour layover in Seoul: My experience

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20-hour layover in Seoul: My experience

Layovers are generally not fun. The last thing you want to do when travelling is sitting for hours and hours at the airport, that while being extremely exhausted.

However, layovers can be fun and even be the best experience ever. For the first time in my years of travelling, I actually got to do a 20-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, on my way from Australia to the UK and it was well worth it.

Let me tell you about it and hopefully, you’ll see layovers differently!

 One of the street in Seoul 

One of the street in Seoul 

The plan

I landed at 5:30 pm on Saturday in Seoul and was taking my plane back at 1:15 pm on Sunday. Quite a short amount of time but enough to do a few things.

I had two options: either stay at the airport the whole time - there is a hotel there, free showers, lots of entertainment OR go out and explore a new country, new city and new culture in Seoul in few hours.

As you can guess, I chose option 2 and it was totally worth it.

All you need is a bit of research and organisation

I organised my layover only two days before arriving. I originally didn’t think I would have as much time but I suddenly thought “I can’t waste this opportunity on seeing a new place!”

All I researched was how to get from Incheon International Airport to Seoul centre, accommodation for the very-short night, and essential attractions to see.

Transportation from airport to city

For only AUD$8 one way, the AREX express train was the most seamless and cheapest way to go from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station. I just couldn’t believe how easy it was with such great comfort, nice views on the way and only 43 minutes to ride to the city. The train is every half hour. On the way back, make sure to go directly into the big Seoul Station and ask for information on where is the train. It is massive so I admit I got a bit lost!

Also, allow plenty of time to come back to the airport and clear immigration. Although it went extremely fast for me, there might be times where lines are long so you don’t want to miss your plane!

 The AREX train to Seoul from the Airport

The AREX train to Seoul from the Airport

Accommodation in Seoul

Although I wanted to explore the city, I also wanted to have a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed in between my planes. I booked K-POP Hotel right next to Seoul Station (the name made me laugh a lot, apparently it’s a chain of hotels) as this was super convenient location and not too far from the centre. And this was such a good deal for only 40 dollars the night, with a super clean, comfy and cosy room (small though but I didn’t care), a rooftop, a kitchen with free breakfast, and even laundry facilities. Just what I needed for my layover.

Transportation in Seoul

In Seoul, Uber isn’t very present yet so I had to hail taxis to get to the places I wanted. Be aware that taxi drivers in Seoul don’t really speak good English, so my technique was to show them on my phone where I wanted to go. Which worked pretty good although there were a few times where I had no idea if they understood haha! I didn’t have any data either so I was using the offline version of Maps.me for Seoul. Also, taxis are so cheap you can really use them every day. I didn’t try the train or buses though but they would probably be even cheaper.

 A street in Seoul traditional quarters

A street in Seoul traditional quarters

You can have a glimpse of Seoul in just a few hours

Since I arrived the Saturday evening and was leaving Sunday morning, my time was extremely limited but enough to at least have a feel of the city and the Korean culture.

I read a bit before arriving about the essentials I should visit and got great information from my Korean friend who wasn’t there, unfortunately. It was great to know as well that as a woman alone, I could walk around the streets at night without having to worry. And she was right, it was super super safe!

 The Seoul Tower

The Seoul Tower

I settled in my hotel and drafted my plan:

  • Saturday evening: go to the Seoul Tower and look at the city views

  • Saturday night: go to Myeongdong district with all the shops

  • Sunday morning: sunrise on the rooftop of my hotel & sneak peek at the Temple

  • Sunday morning: stroll around the traditional neighbourhood

  • Sunday lunch: back to the airport

The Saturday night was extremely fun although I was on my own! After realising the taxi couldn’t take me up to the tower, I had to take the Nasnam Cable Car up to the Hill of Seoul tower. Although cheap, it was quite a long wait for a busy Saturday night and I wondered once up there if it was really worth it. But as it was night already, it would have been hard to walk up but it’s possible.

It was however extremely fun to observe Korean families and experience the atmosphere once up there. Lots of young couples, friends and families were enjoying their night up there. The view itself isn’t crazy but interesting to see the big city from up high.

 The Myeongdong neighbourhood at night, buzzing.

The Myeongdong neighbourhood at night, buzzing.

After that, I got back down with the cable car again and went to my favourite part of the night: exploring the streets of Myeongdong. The stores were pumping with music, markets and all kind of people roaming around. I also accidentally stumbled upon a cat cafe in the middle of Myeongdong and since I was a bit hungry, it was perfect. From 10 pm to 11 pm (their closing time), I got to play, observe and photograph at least 15 very fun cats all alone with the staff! This was so far such a good moment.

 The cat cafe in Seoul

The cat cafe in Seoul

On the Sunday morning, it was a bit of improvisation and a trek to see the things I wanted. I wanted to go to the Temple but since I started visiting at around 7am, everything was closed of course. I still saw the doors haha!

 A door of the Temple

A door of the Temple

After getting lost for quite a bit trying to find the traditional neighborhood Samcheong-dong, I finally caught another taxi who got me there. I didn’t even know what it was called exactly as there are a few different ones and the distances are massive! But the taxi driver understood when I said “traditional houses” so phew, I got there! This was a definite highlight of my visit to Seoul. I loved being alone so early in the morning in those tiny streets, observe the traditional houses, take pictures, observe the few locals around, look at the only souvenir store opened so early in the morning and try to talk with the owner, get a fresh juice from the only food place opened as well.. I’d love to go back there.

 One of the traditional streets in Seoul 

One of the traditional streets in Seoul 

If you have a few extra hours, the airport itself is amazing

Finally, if you have time on this layover or for the next one, make sure to explore Incheon International Airport. Quite an amazing airport with so many facilities.

The best was the free shower, almost like in a hotel with a really nice Italian-style shower. I re-lived in between my flights! You also have classic music performances, traditional Korean performance, rest lounges and even a nap room.

And even better: the airport offers a FREE service for tours! You just have to make sure you are in the right hours and tours are from 1 to 5 hours, visiting nearby the airport or directly into Seoul. That’s a super quick experience but perfect if you really don’t want to hassle or organising. Check the Incheon International Airport website to know more about it.

Finally, I flew over with Korean Air the whole way to Europe and back to Australia. It was the first time I was flying with them and really enjoyed the experience. The food was really good and served regularly, drinks are regularly served as well, the staff is super nice. Only the entertainment system is a bit old and there are not that many movies to choose from.

 Incheon International Airport awesome services

Incheon International Airport awesome services

So did I convince you to take a layover next time? And maybe in Seoul? Let me know about your layover experiences below!

And if you want to check more of my pictures of my Seoul layover, have a look here!

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How to survive long-haul flights when crossing half the world

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How to survive long-haul flights when crossing half the world

Since living in Australia, I’ve started to become a specialist of long-haul flights across half of the world. Originally from France, I’ve done many many return trips to Europe and therefore many hours / days and nights in a plane.

I say I’m a specialist but in theory - I’m still struggling from time to time with surviving those countless hours of flying, transfers, waiting and the exhaustion when landing.

However, since a few months, I’ve decided to get better for several reasons: the need to maximise my time, the need to reduce my tiredness to the minimum because of a busy life awaiting for me as soon I land and just the need to stop “nailing it” by going into long flights without a strategy and failing it anyway.

 Some views are just worth the plane ride... Somewhere over China! 

Some views are just worth the plane ride... Somewhere over China! 

When I was a teenager or student, I used to not care thinking I’ll be fine the day after. I still fall into those bad habits sometimes but there is nothing worse than not closing one eye during a long flight and arrive as alive as a zombie in a new place or back home.

I’ve even gone as far as the first time I visited Australia when I was 15 to not sleep at all during both of the 12 hours flights. Needless to say on my third flight from Sydney to Cairns and as soon as I arrived in Cairns, I was feeling super unwell. Believe me ten years later, I still remember the feeling.

So I’ve decided to put a stop to all the improvising during long-haul flights and go into “strategy” mode. It’s not often that I have many hours ahead of me to relax, work a bit, eat and sleep so why not use it? Let me talk you through it:

Find out a plan to set yourself on destination

Depending on where you stop and where you are going, make a plan on when you should be awake and asleep to set yourself right for when you arrive.

Tip: set your watch to your destination so you are already psychologically in the right time zone and can adjust your flight time according to it if possible.

Definitely sleep a bit in each of the planes

Don’t skip on the sleeping part, really. Even if it’s just a bit of sleep and if it’s not long, it’s better than nothing. It’ll save you when landing.

Tips: choose the seat you prefer prior to the flight - having a window seat gives you more option to rest your head on the wall whereas aisle seat might be easier to spread legs and get up for exercise. Take a sleeping mask to avoid light disturbance and earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones for a calmer environment.

Do a stopover if possible

So I only tried this strategy this year and it made a HUGE difference on me. I stopped in Seoul for 20 hours between Sydney and London and although I also did some sightseeing, I slept very very well for 5 straight hours in a hotel and it made the whole difference. I was tired during the day but not the same kind of tired and I didn’t feel the jet lag at all when arriving in Europe.

Tip: From Australia to Europe, If you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend one or two nights either in Asia or in the Middle East to combine rest and sightseeing between two long flights! Works for other kind of destinations following how long / where you fly.

 My stopover in Seoul from Austrlaia to Europe, South Korea with Korean Air. 

My stopover in Seoul from Austrlaia to Europe, South Korea with Korean Air. 

Make your life easier on the plane

Being comfortable on a plane is key to relax. We all know how cramped it can get in economy class (lucky you if you’re flying business!) so better wear the right clothes, have all the entertainment you need and everything by your side to not go up and down looking in your bag.

Tip: Drink water, water and water! I am not a fan of drinking alcohol on planes - unless it’s a day flight, champagne is flowing and the flight isn’t too long - it sure can make you sleep but make you dehydrated and exhaust you faster.

 I'm a big fan of French beauty products Nuxe and this mini versions were perfect for my plane ride!

I'm a big fan of French beauty products Nuxe and this mini versions were perfect for my plane ride!

Get some information about your connecting airport

It’s so precious to know little things like you can take a free shower between flights at your connecting airport or be able to relax in peace in a special lounge or just discover the culture of the country directly from the airport!

Tip: I found this website called Sleeping in Airports and it has some very precious information on many airports. Definitely worth researching before your layover!

And finally, just take time to sit back and relax

You have some many hours ahead of you, just enjoy those and relax! You’ll get to your destination in a breeze and will think it was faster than you thought when arrived. Congrats!

Tip: in our ever-connected world, sometimes it takes only a flight to get us out of social media and the internet. So enjoy those few hours being off-the-grid and watch that movie you’ve wanted to see for so long or finish this book that’s been hanging since three months. You have nowhere else to go right now…

What are your strategies to survive long haul flights? Let me know and I’ll try!

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