Five Things No One Tells You About Moving Abroad (And Why You Should Do It)

Packing up your belongings, booking a one-way ticket, and travelling across the world to find your new home is something that many of us dream of. There’s a reason why Eat Pray Love was such a success, many of us have that secret itch to try somewhere new. To discover and immerse ourselves in a new culture, climate or language even if just for a little while.

It’s not for everyone, many of us are happy staying where we currently call home, and that’s inspiring as you’ve found where you are most content and don’t feel the urge to shake that up. However some people feel that need to explore. To settle somewhere different, to start afresh or to have a change of scenery and routine.

Thinking about moving to a new country is one thing, but then actually going and doing it, well that’s where the fun starts. If you are thinking of moving, looking for the catalyst to begin your new journey abroad or want to know what it’s really like from people who have done it before, then look no further than this article.

I have spoken to a series of ten friends, colleagues and family members who have lived in at least two places overseas, and have kindly shared their experiences of living somewhere entirely different with me.

The best parts of living somewhere new

I asked ten people what they thought was the best thing about living abroad, and the top answer time and time again was, you guessed it, food.

The chance to try new cuisines, local dishes and learn new ways to cook food was a really big draw when choosing where to move to and settle down.

New cultures, habits and the chance to learn a new language were close contenders, as was the chance to ‘explore new experiences and opportunities that are now on your doorstep’. It seems that when moving we are looking for something unique, that we haven’t come across before. Less of the same old and more of the new and undiscovered.

For me, food certainly is up there, alongside the chance to immerse yourself in local traditions, history and culture. When you visit a place, even for an extended period of time, you don’t truly get to know the day to day way of living, eating and adventuring. Moving there lets you soak in the culture over a period of time, and take away from it the parts that really resonate with you.

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Photo by Martin Péchy on Pexels.com

What can be frustrating or difficult?

When moving, it’s certainly filled with so many highs and new experiences, but it would be misleading to pretend there’s not a fair share of lows you have to go through as with any other journey.

Again, this question resulted in quite a unanimous answer across the group. First and foremost, when moving abroad the most frustrating part of settling in is getting to grips with the new languages. For many people, classes and lessons in person are seen as an essential when you move to a new country. If you don’t make this effort, it can make day to day living much more difficult, especially if you have a problem like one of the respondents such as water coming through your ceiling on a bank holiday. Plus, as a lot of people said making friends was a big challenge for them, language classes are a perfect way to do this.

Second most common was missing family and friends from home. Even if the distance isn’t too far, people said that they didn’t really realise how much they’d miss home and the people that made it special until they had left. Modern technology makes it a little easier now but it’s important to make sure you make time to go back now and then and connect in person, or even better, treat your friends to a free-accommodation holiday with all the local tips and tours included in your new country! On a personal note, having a steady stream of loved ones come out to see us over the last five months has been so important and we are forever grateful to our friends who have made the journey to come see us. You’ve helped us settle a lot easier.

Lastly, a big one is learning to adapt and getting to grips with the local quirks, habits and culture to make sure you feel like you really do fit in. Examples include later dinner timings, local noise laws, paperwork preparation and driving etiquette to name a few. The more you can research, observe and practice local habits, the easier you’ll settle.

Adapt to your new home, don’t try to make it adapt to you.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Where is the best place you’ve lived?

Obviously this is a subjective list, but I wanted to ask it to give you a flavour of why certain places really resonate with people.

  • San Francisco – The city and ease of being able to travel around California
  • Harrogate – Because of how beautiful Yorkshire is each and every day!
  • Spain – For the food, weather and later chilled lifestyle
  • Switzerland – For the incredible outdoors, the environmentally friendly nature, the pet friendly culture and the views. It’s such a healthy, happy country. Plus, it’s super central, making it so easy to explore other countries.
  • Greece – For the people, the history, the food and the culture. It’s warm, both in personality and in climate.
  • Germany – Language, very green and great vegetarian food, as well as being really environmentally friendly.
  • Germany – But more for the circumstance and being in early twenties without kids
  • Belgium – For the easy access to travelling in Europe
  • Switzerland – For the nature, quality of life, food and outdoor activities
  • Vietnam – Because it was so different to what I was used to, so always interesting
  • Spain – Because it has all the excitement of living somewhere foreign but with the ease of access to home comforts. Plus it’s a beautiful, hot country.
  • New Zealand – So much space, I loved all of it. Such a varied selection of scenery and places to visit. The Southern Alps to the Beaches, the Glaciers to Milford Sounds. North Island to South Island. Cultures within cultures
  • Norway – I loved the country and the no nonsense approach to life of the people.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How has living somewhere abroad changed you?

A big theme for everyone I asked was that living somewhere overseas had a big impact on their confidence. A lot of them developed a stronger understanding of what they were capable of, and also became more social in situations with new people or experiences.

Also, things became less of a need for many people. As they moved, they became very conscious of what things they kept and prized, and what they would often leave behind or find a pain to move. Living with less became more of a reality, in the search of more experiences and adventures.

As you choose to travel to create a new home, it becomes unsurprising that many of our respondents said that living abroad only fuelled their passion to travel personally more as well.

Finally, many of our respondents said moving abroad changed their health outlook and activeness, for the better.

For me personally, moving abroad made me be more adaptive and open to the unknown. As a chronic planner, I like to know what’s going on and can be a little bit of a control freak when it comes to organization. Knowledge and plans soothe me, but you can’t rely on this when moving abroad. Things will go wrong, you will hit local roadblocks, and there’s going to be hurdles to overcome that you didn’t expect. It taught me to make a plan, but then be flexible when it comes to putting it into practice.

And lastly, what one piece of advice would the insiders give to those who were considering living overseas?

  • Any move is what you make of it
  • There’s never a right time. People do it alone, with kids, with pets. If you keep waiting for the right moment, you’ll never do it.
  • Learn the basics of the language and keep at it when moving
  • Research before living somewhere, and do this in detail, even if you have vacationed there or have family there who love it, it doesn’t mean it will suit you
  • Immerse yourself in the culture and don’t expect it to feel like a holiday
  • Get involve, get immersed and enjoy every moment of the experience as you don’t know how long you’ll be there
  • Just make sure you understand what you are hoping to get out of it, a new country won’t fix longer term lingering problems.
  • Understand local laws and customs

But the main advice from everyone? Just do it. You can plan, organize and dream about it, but the reality is, until you are there, you won’t know what to expect so go for it.

Thanks to everyone who helped me pull this together, your insights have been so valuable. I hope if anyone reading this is thinking of moving abroad, it inspires you to go for it. Even if it’s just for a little while, it’s a great opportunity.

FAQ – Travel Edition

If I had to estimate how many questions I regularly get based on my writing, I would average it out somewhere between more than I get letters through the post for any topic, but less than I get texts from my budget app telling me I have spent too much on eating out that month again.

But in all seriousness, I do get some really great regular questions around travelling from all you wanderlust lovers out there. To make things a little simpler, I thought I would collate a small sample of the most frequently asked travel queries and my answers here.

What are your three favourite countries?

Without a doubt Italy, Iceland and Switzerland. Italy for the food, the architecture and history. Iceland for nature, dramatic landscapes and people. Switzerland for the mountains, the lakes and the outdoor activities on offer, as well as really good food.

We did our first holiday, technically our honeymoon from the UK together to Rome, and every year since we’ve visited Italy at least once. So far we’ve seen Amalfi, Capri, Naples, Sardinia, Venice, Milan, Lake Como, Bergamo, Aosta and Rome. This year we are going to explore Tuscany.

What’s your favourite weekend getaway?

When I lived in the UK, I actually loved to explore local as I think often when we think of travel, we think it has to involve crossing borders. For me, a perfect weekend included an old castle, stately home, rustic B&B or even a tent somewhere in the UK’s dales, moors or lakes.

Scottish highlands is my favourite, but wasn’t the easiest to get to.

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Who do you travel with?

90% of the time, I travel with my wonderful husband. However we love a group adventure and so we regularly do trips with our siblings, parents or friends.

Around once / twice a month I will travel alone for work.

How do you afford to travel so often?

Live minimally, buy little, and only what you really need. Often a return flight can cost the same as a new pair of shoes you really don’t need. If travel is your end-game, you need to prioritize this over a new Xbox game or upgrading a car when yours works perfectly.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s important to us, so we make these choices.

Our home, transport and clothes are not the best, but they do the job, which leaves more money to see the world.

Oh, and I work hard to make it a reality too.

How do you travel and work? What is your job?

Prioritization, it’s the most important factor. A recent study by CIO showed that if you take all your allocated leave in a year you’re up to 26% more productive than people who don’t.

Time off is important, and it’s important to spend that time off valuably. We organize leave so it works best for us, for travelling and adventuring. One day off makes a long weekend, which equals a three day break.

Don’t look back and regret it, plan your time wisely, and put those plans into action.

Long haul flying advice?

Go with a good airline, keep hydrated, book your seats in advance to get the best options and know you’ll be comfortable (rows of just two seats for a couple are worth the extra money).

Take entertainment, a good sleep-aid is never a bad idea, and invest in a travel cushion, comfy layered clothes and a foot rest or inflatable pillow.

Oh, and antiseptic wipes, planes are FULL of germs and a good seat and tray wipe-down is never a bad idea.

Lastly, match your in-flight sleep to your new destination timezone, helps with the jet lag.

How far in advance do you book a trip?

If it’s somewhere I want to go that year, I use flight alerts and book it when the cost is lowest. Many travel apps can also help you with previous years’ data to predict when flights will be at their lowest cost. Hopper is a really good app for this.

For weekend breaks, often I book around three months in advance. I always book a hotel as soon as I book a flight, and then cancel it closer to the time if I see a better deal.

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Where should I go next?

Wherever makes you happy. Look for a place that meets your travel needs and wish-lists, don’t try and seek out the hit new destination or follow the crowds, chances are it may not suit you personally and you may be disappointed. Find something you love to do, and find the best place to do it!

Any downsides to travelling?

I get pretty bad anxiety so before any trip I usually find myself nervous and wanting to cancel, rather than the excitement you should get. For this, my husband is a trooper who makes sure we get on the plane.

Language can be a barrier in tricky situations, so downloading the Google Translate app is a real must.

If you do it too much, you can find yourself weary, so make sure you have a good balance between coming and going.

If it goes wrong, it goes wrong. Cancelled flights, bad weather or lost luggage can ruin a trip. Which is why it’s always good to be prepared, have a plan B, and get good insurance!

The environmental cost is not great at all, which is why we always try and pay the optional offset contributions that airlines now offer, and reduce our impact in other ways day to day, such as not eating meat at home or recently deciding to no longer own a car.

Any other questions? I’d love to hear and answer them so pop them in the comments below!

How To Decide Where To Include On Your Travel Bucket List

Modern transport, low cost fares and easier access to visas has made travel, adventure and exploring a lot easier and more accessible to all. With return flights to Spain costing less than most capital city train tickets for a daily commute it’s easy to see why we are often choosing Sangria over subway stations.

For people who love to explore and adventure, the question is less about how, and more about where. Where should we go to next? Like many people I have my own ‘bucket list’ of dream destinations I hope to visit over the next few years, but trying to decide what we included, or where we should go next, involves a lot of deliberation. 

Unless you’re a full time travel editor, blogger or don’t need to work, non-stop travelling isn’t a long-term reality. We may get a few weeks a year, a gap-year opportunity or a career break but still within these periods we need to make some hard choices about where we visit, what we see and what countries are non-negotiable in our explorations.

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Several factors helped to shape our destination dream-list, but overall, every place we put on there needs to do three things:

  • Are we going because it will provide us with an experience, memory, or taste of culture we want to experience and take-away? Not every experience is for everyone, so whilst one person may have loved the place, make sure you’re visiting it for the right reasons or you may be disappointed in your experience.
  • Do we know enough about it? It’s easy to choose a place down to photos or Pinterest inspiration alone, but before any place goes on our list, we make sure we know about everything from what the cities can offer, to the climate, food and adventures on offer at the destination. A white sand beach looks incredible on a photo, but if that’s all the place has to offer and you need daily action and activities, you may find the trip lacking.
  • Will a trip here make us happy? Make sure you’re going for the right reasons. I know many people who have travelled to a place because it’s the ‘hit’ place to be seen (myself included!) and yet when they get there, it’s not comparable to what they saw the online bloggers, travel journalists and influencers experiencing. This is because often they have the budget, know-how and infrastructure of a team working with them to make the trip look the best it can, because at the end of the day, it will be used to sell more of the same going forward. We’ve all seen and learnt from Fyre Festival right?! So choose somewhere that makes you feel happy and excited to go to, no one else.

But before we get to assess a place using the above criteria, and adding it to our list, we firstly need the inspiration. Now there’s no right or wrong way to get ideas for your next trip, but here’s some insight into how we discover places, in case it helps you.

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Visual search

Whether on Pinterest feeds, Instagram wanderlust accounts or a quick google search for iconic places, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Often, after seeing the photo, we start to do some research into the place it was taken. What else is there on offer? Does it always look like this or is this some clever influencer framing going on? If we discover that that photo is just the tip of the iceberg and the place has way more to offer in terms of adventure, good food and good views, it goes onto the list.

Interest based

Find something you love to do, and then find the best places to do this across the world. If you’re a top surfer, looking for the best places to ride waves worldwide is a good way to begin compiling your bucket list.

For us, we love good food, watersports (especially on boats), mountains and hiking, and photography. Often we use these as checkpoints to make sure a destination can offer us elements of all or most of the above. We know when we get to do all of this on a trip, we have the best times.

We won’t put anywhere on our list that’s just ‘I want to go to this country’. It has to be ‘I want to go to this country and do this’ because this way, it’s more concrete as to why this destination appeals.

Speak to others

So I know my point one of deciding if a place should be on your list says be wary of recommendations, but this is only if you fall in love with the idea of a place because someone says ‘it’s the best place they’ve ever been’ and you leave it at that and book your flights.

Often, the best travel advice I have got is from my close friends who also travel regularly too. I make sure when they are telling me about somewhere I ask for the details, like why was the place so amazing for you, what did you do there, or what was the food, culture and transport like?

If you go for more of the insider tip route and dig deeper into their passion, you will quickly discover if their experience is similar to what you are seeking. If they went for the best beach holiday, and you’re after more of a city hopping vibe, you’ll find out that perhaps it’s not for you.

Rely on the experts

Lonely planet, National Geographic, and many big travel editors and bloggers are still around and being listened to for a reason.

If you are looking for new inspiration, or want to check if a place really is for you, their websites are a great place to get ideas flowing.

I don’t visit any place without the latest Lonely Planet guide in my backpack.

Final thoughts

All the above is great for choosing where, but then you need to choose when. For this element, it becomes a little easier because you can think more pragmatically.

Budgets, weather at the destination, what kind of escape (City, beach snow) you are seeking or who you are travelling with will help you whittle down where’s next.

At the end of the day, there’s so many places to choose from, but there’s no right or wrong. Just choose places you dream of, that make you happy. Don’t follow the crowd to be disappointed, at the end of the day, it’s only your memories you’ll be impacting.

Five Best British Weekend Breaks. Where Should You Visit Next?

Sometimes you really need a break, but don’t fancy the hassle, cost or duration of going abroad. This is where the brilliant British staycation comes into it’s own.

I leap at hopping in the car and going away for a night or two. It gives my mind and body a chance to recharge, and allows us to explore more of this little Island we call home.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that little weekend retreats are something that my husband and I try to do regularly. This year we have managed to really make it a priority, and it’s been wonderful.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of my favourite places to sneak off to for a few days.

As you can see, a lot of the list is rural rather than city breaks. This is down to my preference and type of break.

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Yorkshire Dales

A lush area of green valleys, with picture perfect villages dotted about, the Yorkshire Dales is easily one of my favourite places to explore. There’s plenty to see, from historic crumbling castles, to caves, waterfalls and cosy inns.

Personally, my perfect weekend in the Dales would consist of a morning walk around Asygarth Falls, where you can view the beautiful waterfalls from three different levels, all split up by a gentle and leisurely walk through the woods.

Follow this up with an excellent pub lunch at one of the local villages, make sure you sample some of the local delicacies, and then spend the afternoon exploring White Scar or Ingleborough Cave. Finally, head back to your B&B for a quiet evening, good food and an after dinner walk.

My favourite place to stay? Riverside Bed & Breakfast in Bainbridge. It’s right on the river, and you can hear it flowing past from your room, providing a really peaceful natural soundtrack to go to sleep to.

Wake up early the next day and either visit the fantastic Forbidden Corner (I will say no more, you should just trust me on this one) or a local castle such as Skipton Castle.

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Scotland – Argyll and Bute

This is easily my favourite area of Scotland to visit, partly because it brings back warm memories of living here.

The landscapes you see are just incredible, from lochs to little beaches on small islands, and old castles in the middle of nowhere. There’s so much wildlife to be seen, and of course, plenty of Whisky to be sampled!

Spend a long weekend here exploring the quaint town of Inverarey and it’s castle, Oban and it’s glorious seafood, and Tarbet, a gorgeous little seaside town on the banks of Loch Fyne.

Of course, while you are here, make sure you get across to one of the islands. I personally love Jura and Mull.

I would recommend staying in local inns or B&B’s, they have such a welcoming warm feel, and if you go in the winter, look for one with an open fireplace to eat your haggis by! Other delicious local foods to try? The lentil soup, fresh seafood, Cullen Skink and potato cakes.

My must see places? Portavadie, Mount Stuart, Loch Fyne, Lunch on one of the lochside restaurants on Loch Eck, Rothesay Castle. In fact, so many things to see and do, you’ll have one filled up itinerary that’s for sure!

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Peak District

There’s just something so beautiful about the peak district. I’m not sure whether it’s the the local village towns, the rolling countryside, or the huge stately homes, which seem to be around every corner.

Growing up in Manchester, a lot of our school trips were to the local peaks, and I think ever since I have held a strong connection and warm nostalgia for the district.

Whether you are exploring the bookstore of Buxton, the hills of Mam Tor and Kinder Scout, or the gorgeous grounds and interiors of Chatsworth House, I can guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time.

Stop off in the village of Castleton for a quick bite to eat, and make sure you put aside some time to explore the fantastic Blue John Caverns!

I recommend staying in a country house hotel, or one of the great YHA locations such as Eyam Hall. It is a personal favourite of mine for a budget stay with character. The Peacock at Rowsley is a great alternative, if you are after the luxury experience.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Cambridge

I absolutely love the city. It’s got character, charm and it manages to have a smaller town feel in a large bustling city environment.

Walking around in a winter evening, in a warm coat, and hopping in and out of cosy bars, restaurants and bookshops makes for a perfect visit.

Take a ride under the Bridge of Sighs on a punting tour, walk around the impressive college buildings, and explore the many museums on offer.

I prefer to stay just out of the city in the evening, in a local AirBnB cottage.

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North Wales

North Wales has it all. Gorgeous walks, beautiful beaches, little marinas, historic towns and crumbling castles. Not forgetting the wonder that is Snowdonia. My favourite area has to be Betws – y- coed for the Shallow Falls, Conwy Castle and walks galore.

Visit for a long weekend, and start by tackling Wales’ highest mountain. Then follow with a couple of days relaxing by the beach, out on a boat, or walking around heritage sites.

The lighthouse and beaches of Anglesey are beautiful, and my favourite beach of all time is the remote Porth Iago, which can be visited in the morning, have lunch at the Aqua Beach Bar, and then you can spend the afternoon at Caernarfon Castle on the way home.

To stay, try Ruthin Castle, Penmachno Hall or The Royal Victoria Hotel. I have visited them all and they all have their own unique charm and sense of luxury, as well as breathtaking views.

Where’s your favourite place to stay in the UK? I’d love to hear why in the comments below.

Explore Cagliari – What To Do When Visiting The Sardinian Capital.

A city blended and created by many different cultures. Cagliari is a buzzing Italian city filled with old architecture, flamingos and a buzzing tree-lined marina.

A long weekend is enough time to absorb all that this island capital has to offer, before you set sail or embark on your drive round the rest of the Sardinian coast.

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Day One in Cagliari

Start your visit with a coffee and gelato alongside the marina road, I would wholly recommend Gelateria PeterPan is the place you choose to fix your ice-cream cravings. It was never not full of locals and tourists when we walked past to our hotel just round the corner, and open until almost midnight. We definitely gave it our custom more than once a day (especially on our way back after a few Aperol Spritz). They do a big range of flavours, including dairy free and vegan varieties.

From here, walk along the bustling marina until you hit the Largo Carlo Felice, the big main road up the hill into the hub of the city and towards the distance Castello.

On your way, don’t miss the excavations beneath under the church of Sant’Eulalia where you can see an old Roman paved road, and a sacred temple remains.

I would recommend taking the route around the left of the city, dipping in and out of the backstreets where possible to get a little more authentic and crowd-free view of the pastel coloured city. This way also takes you past the botanical gardens, and the Roman Amphitheatre. Look out for listings of upcoming outdoor concerts that take place here during the summer. We unfortunately missed any showings but they are apparently fantastic.

Spend a few hours wandering around the above, and end your uphill hike by taking in the views from the Cagliari Castello District. There is a great terrace up here where you can reward your long hike with a drink from one of the outdoor bars.

Have a little rest back at your hotel, before heading out in the evening for seafood and plenty of late night live music.

Day Two

Take the bus to Il Poetto Beach. You will need to buy your tickets from a local newsagent before boarding, and all day passes are super reasonable (under three euros when we visited). It takes around twenty minutes to get there, and you’ll be rewarded by eight kilometres of sandy coastline lined with busy beach bars and plenty of watersport opportunities.

It is not Sardinian’s most beautiful beach, but it is really easy to get to, and a full day can easily be filled here.

Take a change of clothes with you, to dance the night away on one of the beach bar terraces which turn into luxury bars and nightclubs in the evening.

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Day Three – Cagliari at Sea

The best way to experience Sardinia isn’t from the land, but on the sea. Plan to get offshore and set sail around the southern coast, taking in the turquoise waters, quiet bays which can’t be accessed by road, and enjoying seafood on deck.

Sardinia is best seen, experienced and explored from the sea.

We booked our yacht day through AirBnB with Sardinian Yacht Charters. This trip gave you a chance to learn some of the key sailing skills and get involved with the journey, as well as including a delicious multi-course lunch and free flowing bar.

Whether by kayak, yacht or pedalo, experience the best of this Italian island from the water.

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Good Places To Eat

We really enjoyed eating at Nui Cagliari, where even your beer came in an ice bucket to keep it cool, and Antica Cagliari for delicious seafood. The mussels are incredible.

Top Tips

Public transport is really easy to get around by, however hiring a car gives you the opportunity to see more of the island without spending hours on local buses.

Taxi’s at the airport are cheaper than pre-booked private transfers. Just check your agreed rate before getting in.

As always with Italy, eating off the main squares and streets means much better quality food, and also more economical prices.

 

Easy Camping – Top Tips For Just Switching Off

When you’re looking for picturesque views, ultimate peace and quiet and a chance to really get away and escape, not much can beat camping in the great outdoors.

Everyone has their own reasons why they love camping, and it’s no surprise that the popularity of this fuss-free getaway just keeps on growing.

Life is getting louder, more stressful and harder to switch off from, it’s a fact. We are exposed to 5000 advertisements and messages on an average day, spend over eight hours on staring at a screen, and thanks to the internet we now receive five times as much information a day as we did in the 1980’s. 

So no wonder people are turning back to basics, and seeking the peaceful respite that camping can provide. Especially if there’s no phone signal at your chosen destination.

This is the main reason we love to get away, pop up a tent and talk the hours away under the open skies. Now I wouldn’t say we are camping experts. I certainly have many more pitches and tents to erect before I could claim that title. However we have been on a fair few trips, and we are starting to feel that we have got the basics down when it comes to having a perfect outdoors break.

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So below I will share my easy camping tips. For those who are more seasoned outdoor sleepers, please share your advice in the comments below, it will be great to hear your insights.

Book a great campsite

There are thousands of campsites across the U.K, so you will be truly spoilt for choice when it comes to immersing yourself in nature for some much needed R&R. Personally, my favourite places to pitch up are in the Scottish Loch Lomond area, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Coast. Being by the lake or the sea is a top priority when I am looking for a destination, especially if I can open up my tent in the morning and see right out over the coast whilst still toasty in my duvet.

I love the site www.pitchup.com for instant booking of tent pitches, camping pods and much more. We use it when we are booking a last minute getaway and need quick sight of visibility rather than ringing around a lot of destinations. Plus, they have loads of reviews, so you can quickly see if the site is right for you.

Arrive Early

Get to your site with enough time to put up your tent, and discover where the bathrooms, showers and water points are whilst it’s still light. It’s fully possible to do it all in the dark via torchlight, but it makes for a much more relaxing stay if you can get yourself set up in the daytime.

Practice at home first

We have all been there. Whether it’s a tent, flat pack furniture or a new recipe. Following instructions for the first time is never easy. Prepare yourself for putting up your tent by making sure you have practiced at least once at home first. You will be really grateful, especially if the weather isn’t pleasant and you want to get it up as quickly as possible!

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Invest in your kit

Good quality camping gear can make or break a trip. Invest in the core pieces which really matter. A good tent, quality camp chairs, a robust airbed and stove or portable BBQ. There’s nothing worse than getting to a dream weekend away and the tent collapsing, airbed deflating or BBQ breaking (I have experienced the two former, and only thanks to Duct Tape did we get through the stay!) Oh, on that note, duct tape fixes a lot of camping issues – so have some in your bag.

Pop-up tents can be brilliant for dry one-night stays, we often use it if we are away for half a day, but I wouldn’t advise you use it for wet weather or longer breaks.

Side note – before you do invest in all the above however, maybe lend the kit from a friend first to try out if camping is for you.

Camping doesn’t have to mean being uncomfortable

Take what you need with you to make yourself comfortable and relaxed on your trip. We always pack:

  • A good quality airbed
  • Picnic blanket and groundmat to go under it – double dry
  • Portable toilet (when the night-time walks for the bathroom blocks are too far)
  • Extra throws to go on top of the airbed (most heat is lost from the cold ground below you)
  • Camp chairs
  • An actual duvet on warm nights (much cosier than a sleeping bag)
  • Portable speaker
  • Whistling kettle (got to get the morning coffee in!)

Prepare your entertainment

Quite often, relaxing under the stars is enough, however it’s always great to have some cards, and travel board games that you can play as the night winds down and the sun is still in the sky.

Deet is your best friend

Like I have written many times before, Deet is one of my top ten must-have items when travelling. Midges and camping go hand in hand. Firepits and citronella spray can also help.

Plan for rain

You’re going to sleep outdoors, in the UK. There’s a high possibility of rain. By being prepared, it makes it a whole lot easier. Take clothes that dry quickly, keep wellies on standby, and an umbrella for cooking in the drizzle.

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Take the right essentials

I always think the key to a good camping trip is solid preparation. I don’t go without the following little extras as essentials:

  • Spare plastic bags for wet clothes, rubbish, and much more
  • Wet wipes
  • Deet
  • Bottle opener (or better yet, a multi-tool knife)
  • First aid kit
  • Spare tent pegs
  • Duct Tape
  • A water container to refill on site
  • Torch and batteries
  • A charging powerbank (for loading up your phone for a map to get home the next day)

Camping is fun with friends

Camping can be romantic, but also a great social activity with a great group of friends. Stories round the campfire, slightly warm wine and roasting marshmellows make for a great group weekend away.

Book a site and get people on board for a new take on group holidays.

What is your top camping advice? Do you have any brilliant sites we should check out? Comment below and I will share in the next blog.

 

What’s On My Travel Bucket List?

I am not one for setting too many hard goals when it comes to travel. I believe that if you set a goal to visit five places in a year and only manage four, you will feel like you have failed, when in reality you will have enjoyed four incredible adventures.

I do however have a travel ‘bucket list’ of places that I would love to visit before I am thirty-something. Why this age? Because I think these are the places I would love to explore in my youth with my husband that we may not be able to get to as easily if we ever decided to start a family or invest in bigger financial commitments.

People regularly ask us where we are thinking about heading next when it comes to our adventures. Honestly, until recently, I felt a little apprehensive about sharing our bucket list. I think it’s because we have had it for years, but also because I feel that by sharing, people will expect to see us visit the below places in the coming years. Especially as we often book trips outside of this list, because we spot a good deal or just like the look of somewhere.

I also feel that bucket lists can be really personal, and often people may be shocked at your choices of places to visit because they don’t meet with their own expectations and dreams.

However the question keeps on coming, and I think that’s because I share so much other content relating to travel. So here it is, the Weir Travel Bucket List for the next five-ish years…

Note: The places highlighted as visited are places we have been together rather than individually.

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Out of all the traveled places we have been to so far, my top three would have to be Cuba, Amalfi Coast and San Francisco.

If you want to download a blank copy and check it off or use it yourself, click here to download and then print. I would love to hear where you think we are missing, or how many on our list you have checked off, or top tips for the places we have yet to adventure to!

 

 

Long Haul Flights – Insider Hacks and Tips

The opportunities and experiences which become available when you travel long haul are unbelievable, and certainly a fair reward for the hours you have spent in the air journeying to get there.

Though if you are like me you will have often wondered, as you coast along at 8,000 feet in limited space, if taking yet another ten-plus hour flight to paradise is really worth it.

Over the years I have religiously researched top long-haul flight travel advice in order to make each journey better than the last. As soon as someone returns home from a distant adventure, I quiz them for their hacks and tips to discover how to make any trip that involves hours in the sky more bearable.

Below is a guide to the best advice, personal experiences and travel hacks that I now swear by and follow each time I board a plane.

Be Airline Smart

The first thing you should really consider when travelling long-haul is the airline provider you trust to deliver you to your destination in comfort, and within budget.

My personal favorites are Emirates, Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic. I would choose them again and again when taking to the skies. Emirates new planes are comfortable and roomy, even in economy. They also have all the little extras which help make half a day or more of flying that little bit more enjoyable, such as a huge range of films, free eye masks and toiletries, and delicious and regular light meal and drink service.

Air New Zealand has a great range of premium wines and all the seats have plenty of legroom, and Virgin as always goes above and beyond with service.

If you are choosing between two and the price between them isn’t too extreme, I would wholly advise you go for the best rated airline as it will make a lot of difference when in the sky.

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Choose Your Seats

Many airlines now allow you to pre-book and choose your seats way in advance of taking off. This is something I would really advise you to do if you are flying economy, as you can at least improve your long journey for a fraction of the flight cost.

It also helps get rid of those pre-flight ‘will I be stuck in the middle seat’ jitters, which trust me, you can do without.

I always use http://www.seatguru.com to find the best available seats on the plane I am booking, and leave it to the experts to decide!

My top tip if travelling without children: avoid the front few rows in any section, even if they do offer the extra legroom. This is because this is often where families with young children are seated as default, especially on Emirates planes as they have the drop down hanging cots on the walls.

Pack An Expert Carry On

Taking everything you need, without overloading and having to carry around a huge bag of non-essentials, is a pretty good skill to get mastered when it comes to long-haul flights. Have a look at what I always include in my flight bag below:

Long haul flight essentials

  • iPad with shows and movies downloaded in the Netflix app in case there’s nothing great on board. Also included a writing app to blog on the go.
  • Ear plugs. I swear by the Howard Leight foam plugs.
  • Lavender sleep spray, or roll on oil, as well as Valerian extract tablets to help you get some sleep when up in the air.
  • A couple of good books, including a Lonely Planet guide to your destination, for on-board planning.
  • Thick slipper socks. Nothing worse than wearing shoes for a whole flight, and they also help to disguise the not so flattering flight socks you’ll have on underneath.
  • Makeup remover, cleanser, and moisturiser. No one wants to fly for hours with a face full of makeup, and the aircon really dries out the skin. Reapply SPF loaded foundation and a light coat of mascara ready for landing.
  • Powerbank – in case you can’t get near an outlet and you need to keep your phone going for in-flight playlists.
  • A travel game. We love Bananagrams, Scrabble, Uno and most recently we have come across Hive, which I would wholly recommend.
  • Eye mask that blocks out all light.
  • Vaseline, to avoid in-flight lip chapping.
  • Notepad and pen, handy for also filling in your landing cards when on the plane.

Not pictured but always in the essential hand luggage bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Jumper and pair of leggings
  • Makeup bag
  • Inflatable foot rest (no more awkward hanging legs when trying to sleep)
  • Travel pillow, memory foam
  • Antibacterial wipes – always wipe down your seat and tray before take-off to reduce the chance of catching an in-flight bug
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Bottled water
  • Mints

Keep hydrated, and eat little and often

I can’t stress enough the importance of drinking a lot of water when onboard a long-haul flight in order to help you feel good both on and off the plane.

Move about

Make sure you take walks around the plane and do some stretches, it will help your circulation, reduce the risk of a blood clot, and reduce the aches and pains which come with sitting in a small space for hours at a time.

Lounge around

I always try to book an airport lounge pass before taking off. It helps you start your adventure right. Away from the crowds, stress free, with plenty of drinks and magazines to pass the time after check-in. I find that whenever I have a good airport experience, I enter a flight in a much more positive and relaxed mindset, and it makes the journey a lot easier to handle. Just go easy on the free alcohol though, it may seem fun at the time, but six hours into your flight you may regret that third large glass of Sauvignon Blanc (or at least your bladder will).

Time it right

Over the last couple of years, we have really started to realise the benefits of a well-timed flight. Landing a couple of hours before bedtime in your destination to help you get right into the new timezone, or the morning in the UK seems to work perfectly for us, and keep jet-lag at bay.

Sometimes it’s worth really checking your flight times are sensible so you don’t spend a couple of days struggling to adjust rather than enjoying your trip!

These are just some of the things I always try to stick to when adventuring further afield, however in reality spending hours on a plane is never going to be the best or most comfortable experience.

Overall, if you just bear in mind that the journey is just something you need to do to take you to a destination well worth the travelling, then it becomes a lot easier to power through. It won’t go on forever!

Do you have any top tips I have missed? Share them below and help out your fellow passengers…

Cuba Travel Guide – Ten Days In Pastel Paradise

Cuba, the Caribbean destination for culture, history, Cadillac’s and true escapism. Although it’s not got the reputation of the nearby islands for luxury five star retreats and resorts, it offers so much more in the experiences and opportunities you can digest whilst exploring this magical isle.

Never has there been a better time to visit and experience the mix of faded and crumbling Spanish colonial architecture, a dose of communism, white sand beaches and dancing Salsa and drinking rum until the sun goes down. In the last decade, private enterprise has been given the green-light and so many Cuban entrepreneurs have started to offer new opportunities for visitors. From private tours in a vintage Chevrolet to delicious food served in someone’s own casa, there’s a lot more to sample, straight from the locals themselves.

A pastel paradise, Cuba is a destination for people who enjoy travelling but also can adapt to the unexpected and be prepared to slow right down and appreciate an unhurried way of life. While we were there, we got used to we came to call ‘Cuban time’. A little longer to be served, an extended wait to buy a ticket or the complexities that came with getting from A to B. However for us, all this added to the charm of being able to explore a country that seems to be hovering between the past and present.

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There are so many places to explore in Cuba, and we feel that we only just dipped our toes into the history and culture that the cities could offer. However if like us, you want to explore a mix of cities, Caribbean beaches and tropical forests, the guide below might be just right for you.

Varadero – Best For Beach Breaks

We landed after a ten hour direct flight from Manchester Airport, and began our stay in Varadero, a place which could only be described as the classic white sand Caribbean beach resort. The incredible 25km of beach, running into crystal clear turquoise warm sea, was a blissful place to begin our journey into discovering the Caribbean holiday lifestyle.

Along the esplanade there’s an abundance of hotels, so my only advice here would be to make sure you read the reviews and facilities when you look to book. The standards vary greatly between them.

Our hotel was fantastic and included its own private beach, several unique restaurants rather than the all-inclusive buffet standard, and unlimited watersports (brilliant for snorkelling in the clear blue waters where fish and marine life is abundant!)

After the long flight, we spent three days relaxing, kayaking and developing a taste for the local varieties of rum, before heading out on the road to see a more authentic side of the Island.

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Havana – A Capital Like No Other

Havana is an enchanting maze of a city, which we first glimpsed from the old Spanish fort El Morro situated across the bay, overlooking the vast capital. Instantly from afar we could see the patchwork of different architectures all woven together, Colonial, Gothic, American and Russian, illustrating the complex history of Cuba in just a glance.

We found the best way to explore Havana was on foot, weaving our way through the crumbling and pastel lined cobbled streets. Stop to absorb everything you have seen in the many bohemian bars, wander into the art-deco hotel Hemingway made his home for months and stand in one of the many squares that represent the different times and layers of history that have shaped this city like no other.

Our top sights included the Malecon seafront, the Plaza Vieja Square, Plaza de la Revolution and the old town. You should also make an effort to explore the less regenerated area of Centro Habana, in order to get a true feel of life and reality for many Cubans. It is filled with an energy and buzz, away from the crowded tourist hotspots, and showcases the less polished side of the capital, away from the pastel cafes and restored main squares.

In addition to exploring Havana, there’s also the town of Varadero itself which can provide respite away from the tourist crowds in the hotels. Here we found a delicious state run restaurant, Restaurante La Barbacoa, which served incredibly cheap steak or Lobster in a rustic wood panelled setting.

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Cardenas – Into Nature

Forty minutes from Varadero, there’s the bayside town of Cardenas and the national parks filled with woodland and greenery, providing incredible views from the top of the hills right down to the coast. It’s worth a drive through, with a stop for something to eat whilst taking in the nature all around you, and of course to spot some of the native crocodiles in the marshes!

Top Tips for Cuba

Change your money at the airport

You can’t change money until you are in the country, and you get the best rates at the airport or banks. Don’t expect to be able to use your debit or credit card and take everything you will need in cash.

Don’t rely on an internet connection

You can access WiFi at many hotspots or in some hotels, however it’s at a cost, and the network is incredibly unreliable. Expect to disconnect from the world for a while.

Get out of your hotel

Explore and adventure to really experience all that Cuba has to offer. Our best food came from a dining room in a local’s house which turned into a restaurant in the evenings. Even better, stay for a night in one of the local homestays, which you can now find many of on AirBnB.

Agree on taxi fares in advance

It’s great to ride in the vintage cars, but make sure you know the fare before hopping aboard. Transport is really limited in Cuba, so they are a great way to get around but can be expensive. They often are not metered like the state run yellow taxi cars.

Buy your rum outside of your hotel

For more options, and local produce, buy your rum outside of your hotel. Drink it neat with just a few cubes of ice.

Let go and enjoy an unhurried way of life

If you can’t relax and slow the pace down in Cuba, you may at times get frustrated. Leave the rush behind in London, and take each day a little easier when in the Caribbean.

Only swim where safe

The sea can be strong when there is wind in the air, and rip tides are common in Varadero. If there’s a red flag, don’t swim. If there’s bad weather, probably best to wait a day for it to blow over.

Take Deet

A strong mosquito repellent will be your best friend during the stay. The only time we got bitten was when we left the deet in the room one night. We didn’t do that again!

Print your medical insurance certificate before leaving

They do spot checks in the airport, so make sure you have a copy of your travel insurance policy handy.

Get out on the water

See the marine life, snorkel, boat and kayak. The waters are clear, warm and full of tropical creatures. Just watch out for sharks!

Overall, we loved Cuba. It was one of the best travel experiences we have had to date. The food, the romantic vibes, the beaches, the history and the culture made it memorable and incredible. If you have chance to go, now is the time, before changes make it unrecognisable from the Cuba of the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Bug Confessions: How I Plan & Book My Holidays

It will be no surprise if you know me well, follow me on Instagram, or you are a regular blog reader, that I absolutely love to travel and explore. I feel as though nearly half my life since I left home has been spent on airplanes, boats or cars.

From camping to local overnight breaks or once in a lifetime adventures, I crave them all. For me personally, nothing feels better than the opportunity to explore and discover all that is brilliant about a place or culture that you have never experienced before. I feel fortunate that I am able to regularly do something I truly love and get so much happiness from.

In an average year, I will likely take:

  • Two longer haul adventures (flights over 6 hours)
  • Three city breaks
  • Three to four UK breaks
  • Camping at least once

The reason I am sharing this post is that often I will be asked how I manage to fit in, afford, and plan so much travel every year whilst still holding down a full-time job and living. It’s not intended to be an essay to brag about my well-travelled soul, so if reading about how to explore more isn’t your cup of tea, I don’t mind if you don’t want to read on.

So below, I am going to debunk some regular travel ‘myths’ and also share my top tips on how you too can really adventure more, if you have the travel bug too!

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I have no time to travel

Because I am away regularly, people often assume that I either don’t work, or have some extraordinary leave package. Although my employer is generous with their leave policy, I don’t get bounds more than the average full-time worker and I definitely do have a job.

What I have discovered is that if travelling really is your ‘thing’, you will be able to make time for it. For me, it was working out what my five priorities were in life. Then, as long as most of my time was spent fulfilling one of those, I would be happier and more content.

Try not to take time off to do gardening or decorating if you really don’t have to. It takes us longer to renovate a room as we just use weekends, but I would rather it take four weeks and get to travel then take five days and lose an opportunity to explore.

The worst thing you can do with time is have nothing planned and accrue your leave and end up just taking ad-hoc long weekends near the end of the year. I am guilty of this, I have done it before, and although at time the break feels amazing, I often see it as a missed opportunity when I look back.

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Travelling is too expensive          

So this leads me onto the next common question I get. Okay so you have got plenty of leave put aside for travelling, but how on earth do you afford all your trips?!

Firstly, I find this question quite an interesting one. It seems travelling is one of the only ‘things’ that where we are happy to challenge someone’s financial and budgeting situation. You wouldn’t dream of saying to someone, ‘nice new house, how on earth did you afford that?!’ or ‘another expensive haircut, just eight weeks after the last?! Wow you must be loaded’.

However I do regularly get this question, and in the spirit of debunking travel myths, I am happy to be open and honest about how we fund our adventures.

Step One – Work.

We are both full-time workers in jobs we are passionate about and work hard at, and although I wish I was paid to travel alongside my main job, I am not. Some influencers you may see on social media may have this blessing, but this post is for anyone else with a less curated social media feed that wants to know how they can explore more whilst funding it.

Step Two – Be minimalist with your money

I live a fairly minimalist life, so rather than buying new clothes, the fanciest car or the biggest house our money will stretch to, we choose to instead live way below our means. By making this conscious choice, to not ever ‘need’ anything material, and be happy with what we have and not keep up with the Joneses, wasn’t easy. Every piece of advertising and media will try and convince you otherwise.

It has been a four-year journey, but it has meant we have more disposable income for the things which really do make us happy. For things we remember and cherish. Travelling, experiences with friends and family, and time to pursue our hobbies.

If you find you want to travel more, but can’t work out how, list all the things you have purchased over the last two months. Now think of how many of those you ‘needed’ to exist. How many made you happy, and how many looking back you probably wouldn’t buy again. Include your takeaway coffees and more in this. Everything.

Step Three – Shop for deals

When booking a trip I go through a process. It begins with where I want to go. If I don’t mind, and just want some sun, then I use SkyScanner to find me the best option in a month when I can go, and then AirBnB and booking.com to find accommodation. Oh and I really try and avoid anywhere I have seen many travel writers or bloggers heading to over the last year, as I know that’s going to be pricey. I can always go the year after when a new destination is ‘in’.

This route is obviously the most purse friendly, as you follow the deals. If you are quite open to where you want to explore, you can get several shorter breaks in a year using this method. This is what we do for our city breaks three times a year.

If I however have a set destination in mind, I set up flight alerts usually around three months before I HAVE to book to inform me of flash sales and deals. This way, I am ready to secure the best price when it pops up.

Finally, when booking accommodation I tend to go with somewhere with a cancellation waiver, and then check regularly in the run up to my stay for any last minute price drops or better options. This way, you can cancel without a fee and bag a bargain at the same time, whilst knowing you have a reserve booked just in case!

Lastly, although we all love the internet for travel deals, sometimes the agents can be your best friends for longer haul trips. STA Travel and NetFlights have both found better deals than me in the past for my trips. All I did was call and give them some details, then they do the bit you don’t have the time for (searching all options to get the best prices!) and call you back when they find it for you to book.

Finally, when it comes to Christmas or Birthdays and people want to get you a gift, I tend to ask for vouchers for travel over something material. These can bring down the cost of any adventure quite substantially.

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I don’t know where to go

This is something I hear often. How do you choose where to go to next?

As you can see from the above, sometimes I don’t, I just let the airlines pricing algorithms tempt me. Otherwise, I use my travel bucket list which I am slowly working my way through for inspiration.

Follow top travellers on social media, talk to your friends and family to get top destination tips, and always remain open-minded!

Overall, if travelling is something you truly are passionate about, and you have decided you want to do more, then my best advice is save, book it, and get going. Don’t let life, a new pair of shoes which cost the same as a flight, or any worries get in the way.

You won’t look back.