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Top 5 travel moments of 2014

I am moving to www.thelitebackpacker.com 🙂

Blogging… it isn’t easy.  I still remember my first post about my favourite village in England.  It took me hours to write, days to re-write, weeks of feed back from friends and family, and countless hand wringing moments.  When I finally hit the publish button I felt simultaneously elated and exhausted.  The next few posts got only a little easier – and then suddenly I had an epiphany – no one but people I knew was reading my blog, I stopped taking it so seriously.  Over night, I relaxed my writing style, poured more of my heart and personality into my posts and found fulfilment in just writing.

Then suddenly there were people following my blog who weren’t related to me…

The excitement I felt at seeing that email in my inbox to tell me that someone was following my blog… AND I DIDNT KNOW THEIR NAME! I then called my mum (obviously), texted my best friend and spent the whole day smiling.

That was the beginning – 2 1/2 years ago!

Lyme Regis in Snow

The last couple of years has helped to shape me as a blogger and a writer. Through the highs of getting likes to the lows of feeling un-inspired.  I have loved every second of it and through this blog I have learnt so much, about writing, connecting, networking, how big and small the world is, and about my own strengths!

The time has now come for me to take the next step, to build further on the foundation of this amazing blog.

I have spent the last couple of months building a website that will embody all of the things that I loved about this blog and have the platform to build so much more.  It’s still about travel (obviously) but with a healthy twist!

Check out www.thelitebackpacker.com to keep in touch with my adventures!

Here you will see some of the posts that you have loved from this blog, such as:The Lite Backpacker

Looking forward to connecting with you all through my new site.  Would love to keep in contact and continue to share. If you are my wonderful family and friends who have faithfully followed this blog from the beginning – I expect you are already following my new website… 😉

Thanks,
Helen AKA The Lite Backpacker

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Croatian Island Hoping My Own Way

A Better Moment

It’s a question that every backpacker faces  – whether to do a tour or work out how to do it on your own? With the Europe summer fast approaching my inbox is being flooded with early bird Sail Croatia deals…. oh so tempting!

Sunny Croatia

With several itinerary options – some starting in Dubrovnik and others in Split, some are round trips, some visit the islands to the south and some do the islands in the north.  You would be hard pressed not to find the perfect itinerary for you.  They also offer a number of styles – for the under 35s backpacker, luxury cruises, sail and cycle and there is even one for young professionals.

Yet with all of these great reasons to do the Sail Croatia experience (or one of the many other companies that offer the same thing) I am still dubious. There are some major drawbacks – the obvious…

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SUP – the New Alcohol!

When you’re travelling alcohol can become a big part of your social scene.  It’s an easy way to get to know people, a few drinks lowers inhibitions and causes everyone to relax and connect. However if your liver is complaining about the constant abuse while you are travelling there is another great way to connect with people.  Something that will help lower your inhibitions, raise your confidence and cause squeals of laughter.  And would you believe that its healthy!!

Stand up Paddleboarding - better than alcohol

Stand up Paddleboarding – better than alcohol

I am talking about stand up paddle boarding! What?! I hear you say – how can this do all of the above as well as alcohol?

Start by inviting some friends… or random strangers who you have met while travelling (or drinking the night before), tell them to get up super early and catch a couple of buses to a place where you can SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard – for those of you who aren’t in with the lingo).  If you’re in Sydney, I suggest Rose Bay, its relatively close to the city, has great places for breakfast around the corner and is off the beaten tourist track so it’s something different – with spectacular views of the harbour. Finally, hope for a sunny day! Now it may be awkward for those first few moments when you stand in the stand waiting for paddle board.  The nice man who organises it, tries to explain the best way to stand on the board, but because you are so nervous you don’t listen properly and inevitably slip off the first time you try to get on.

THIS IS THE FIRST INHIBITOR LOWERING MOMENT

As your group paddles out into the bay there will be one person who will get the “hang” of it straight away – that person is the devil.  You will bond and with all other members of your group as you watch this person sail away towards the horizon while you flail about trying to work out why you are going around in circles. Eventually you realise that you should stop worrying about how awkward and ridiculous you look and concentrate on not falling off – all inhibitions have now disappeared. Suddenly you will work it out and start racing off in pursuit of that uber coordinated friend. Stand up Paddleboarding - better than alcohol Your confidence soars, you add more power into each stroke which releases the exercise endorphins giving you a little high – which when mixed with the confidence you feel at mastering this awkward looking sport gives you the ultimate rush.

THIS IS THE CONFIDENCE GAINING MOMENT

However, as you gain speed and agility there will be one person in your group who takes that little bit longer to master the skill… the squeals that you hear from behind as you race towards the sunset encourage you to perfect this newly found skill. At last everyone is in control of making their boards going in the direction they actually want and you move together as a pack of boarders – confident in your skill and talent. Then a wave comes! At least two of your group will end up in the water, another one will be reduced to crouching on the board, whereas if you are the lucky (and I use the word luck) to have maintained your balance – you must raise your paddle in the air in triumph!

THIS IS THE PART WHERE EVERYONE SQUEALS WITH LAUGHTER SUP the new alcohol Everyone regains their boards, feeling completely relaxed from all of the laughing.  There is now unity within the group as everyone bonds over challenges met and overcome. You are now SUP experts and revel in this success. An hour later as you sit around a café gorging on a well-earned breakfast you bond with your new-found friends by describing their face as they fell in the water.  You now have friends for life! Without a single drop of alcohol being sipped.

Are you a suitcase snob?

Santa Monica Beach - how do you travel?

This morning I had lunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  She has been off travelling the world for the last year, roaming around Europe and Asia – she has made a pit stop in Sydney over christmas before she continues her adventures in New Zealand… oh what a life!

Over breakfast she was telling me a story about how she had met a Chilean guy while traveling, at first she didn’t think he would be cool to hang out as he was travelling with a suitcase but then on further acquaintance she learnt that the reason he had a suitcase was because he was so broke he couldn’t afford to buy a new backpack.  She looked at me and said with refreshing honesty “I’m a suitcase snob”.

Cambodia - to suitcase or backpack - how do you travel?

It got me thinking – previously I have written about how we are all travel snobs, how we judge people for not travelling in the way that we think “real” travel should be done.  What it came down to is that there is no right or wrong way to travel – but you may not get along with someone who is cocktail bar hopping when you are chasing down the cheapest beer in town. Fact.

My friend is a very practical lady, throughout our misspent youth there would be many times when her practicality would win out – such as at 3am after dancing all night in heels and a short dress… suddenly my feet were sore and I was cold.  Whereas she would be in cute but sensible shoes and would have packed a cardigan – all warm and toasty! So she practically unpacked her comment – suitcases just weren’t a sensible travel accessory if you want to travel on a budget. Therefore anyone travelling with a suitcase is either a) travelling in “style” or b) not sensible.

Croatia - taking a suitcase or backpack... oh so many stairs

After a few moments thought on my last few trips I had to agree.  Suitcases were not sensible for the budget traveller!

So can your travel bag define your travel style? And does it determine the travellers you will associate with while on the road?

Yes, your travel bag is definitely going to determine your travel style. Without the money to splurge on door to door taxi’s wheeling a suitcase through most cities would be a nightmare.  I could mention the crowds and the numerous stair cases but I think the main problem would be the cobbled streets – your arm would vibrate off! Then imagine schlepping it through the underground in London or New York – up and down those escalators with people rushing past climbing over your bag – just awkward. If your island hopping through South East Asia try wheeling your suitcase through sand as you walk along the beach looking for the path to possible accommodation.  None of this sounds like fun. So you wouldn’t do it – if you are travelling on a budget a backpack is always going to be your choice (unless of course you are one of those people who common sense eludes).  You would catch a cab from the airport instead of public transport.  You probably wouldn’t go to little off the beaten track islands which have no resorts on them to avoid getting bogged down in the sand. And the underground was never an option. Therefore a suitcase would be no hassle and actually the right bag for you.

But should we backpackers be snobby towards the suitcase pullers? Like my friend, when I am in a hostel and I see a group of girls with suitcases – my first thought is always “they are probably not my sort of travel people” and yet 9 out of 10 times once I have chatted to them I have learnt that the suitcase never mattered – they are girls, I have had a good gossip with them, maybe even borrowed their hair straightener – which they mercifully had room for in their spacious suitcase – and found some fabulous new friends. In short, no – lets not judge the suitcase pullers for their bad decision.  Their travel style is just a little different is all. You can still travel on a budget and have a suitcase – you may choose to spend your money on those methods of transport that make your life easier rather than the numerous beers your average backpackers consume every night. Or you may enjoy carrying a suitcase up several flights of stairs as it’s how you get your daily work out in while travelling.

I ask you fellow backpackers out there – are you a suitcase snob? be honest now!

Backpack or Suitcase - how do you travel;

5 things you can do to be a tourist at home

We all think our city is great for a variety of reasons, and we all like to boast/defend our city to the death.  How many backpacker conversations have gone sour when someone says “oh I have been to (insert your home town) and I didn’t like it very much…” When I lived in

Walking around the Lake - Canberra

Walking around the Lake – Canberra

Canberra (which if you know anything about Australia you will know that a) it’s the capital city and b) it’s not renowned for its “entertainment”) I would rave about all of the amazing things you could do there if you just knew a local who could show you around (bushwalking, Tidbinbilla, the space tracking station, lake walks – just to mention a few). Now I spend most of my year in Sydney which many argue IS the greatest city in the world. It’s famous for its stunning beaches, relaxed life attitude, beer gardens, seafood and of course the harbour.  But, I would question how many Sydney Siders really KNOW Sydney. Sure they know that Cabramatta is the best place to get Vietnamese, or if you want a great surf beach away from the crowds you need to head to Marobra not Bondi and every local knows that underground bars dot the city if you know where to look. But have the locals walked the harbour bridge, surfed Bondi, gone up Sydney Tower or eaten a Balmain bug on the balcony of the Fish Markets? Sometimes its easy to miss the amazing things that make your city so famous to the rest of the world – so here are five tips on how to get to know your city a little better.

1. Pub Crawl – we all have our favourite bars or pubs, for whatever reason we prefer a select few above all of the rest – but they are usually far away from those that are considered tourist hot spots. Spend a lazy Saturday afternoon doing a pub crawl through your more touristy areas. If you are able to look past the tourist prices and the tourists themselves you will see why those pubs are so popular. Maybe it’s the view, the micro beers, the great cover band or even the mismatched group of tourists who are so friendly that you are instantly their best friend for the afternoon.

Rocks pub crawl

Rocks pub crawl

2. Picnic – when you are travelling you often end up grabbing a quick takeaway sandwich or salad and sitting next to the famous tourist attraction just taking it all in. Why not pack yourself a picnic, grab a blanket and head to that great-place-with-a-view for a relaxing lunch. Don’t be afraid to do it on your own, take a book and soak up the feel of the place.

Picnic in front if Salisbury Cathedral

Picnic in front if Salisbury Cathedral

3. Get a little lost – When we live in a place we rush from point A to Point B as quickly as possible, we know all the short cuts and have passed each of the stores so many times that we don’t even notice them. Give yourself a mission – head into the centre of town, pick a direction, start walking and go in search of a new bookshop/dumplings/whisky bar/clam chowder/vintage clothing – the only rule – DON’T USE GOOGLE!

Searching for long lost pubs in London

Searching for long lost pubs in London

4. Tourist Attractions – Every city has a top 10 tourist attractions, just type it into Google and I am sure TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet will be able to tell. Run your eye over the list and make sure that you have been to all of the items on there. I have yet to go into the Sydney Opera House and I live in Sydney (shock/gasp). Spend a weekend ticking every single one off the list.

Westminster - London

5.Eat – Your city has specialties, things that it thinks it does better than anywhere else in the world! If you’re in Sydney head to the Fish Markets and delight in fresh oysters, if you are in San Francisco head to the piers and warm up with some chowder, If you are in Ho Chi Minh head to Pho 2000 to eat where President Clinton did! They are specialties for a reason, I guarantee their reputation is well-earned!

Crab, Cheese and Cornish Pasties - Doreset

So this weekend – instead of heading to your local or your favourite beach, read the lonely planet for your city and head out on the town with camera in hand and get to know it a little better!

Top 5 Travel moments of 2014 – Bring on 2015!

Top 5 travel moments of 2014

2014 is nearly over and 2015 is looming eerily in the future, pulsating with new possibilities. The introvert in me (yes shockingly I do have an introverted side) needs to stop and take a quick breather before I jump head first in the new year, I need time to look back on all of the awesomeness that took place in the last 12 months; to ensure that the memories are firmly lodged in the vast sometimes empty space that is my brain – I don’t want to lose a single second of my favourite moments.

Here are my top 5 travel experiences for 2014! What an amazing year!

1. Climbing Yosemite Upper Falls Hike – 2,600ft in 6 hours in about 28degree heat with only one water bottle. I learnt a lot during my few days in Yosemite. About how to push through the pain, how small negative comments can completely demotivate you, the buzz of exhilaration when you reach the top and most importantly I learnt that coming down hurts WAY more than going up. By the end I discovered a new hobby – hiking really big beautiful things!

Things I learnt while hiking Yosemite Upper Falls Trail2. Exploring Sydney… again – I live in one of the worlds most beautiful cities, but sometimes it is easy to forget.  If you walk from Coogee to Bondi often enough you stop seeing the beautiful cliff tops and only focus on how many calories the stairs are burning, you head out for drinks at Opera bar and complete ignore the sun setting behind the harbour bridge in favour of another mimosa.  This year I have made a conscious effort to see and get to know Sydney again – discovering new underground bars, a sneaky lunch at the fish markets or a walk through the botanical gardens reminds me that I am pretty lucky!

Sydney harbour bridge

Getting a little lost in San Francisco – It’s a city that has spawned some of America’s greatest authors, artists and poets and as you wander through the hilly streets it’s not hard to see why. Breath taking views of fog rolling across the bay swallowing the bridge, ships and Alcatraz juxtaposed against the graffiti alleyways of Mission and culinary gems of all cuisines that are dotted mysteriously through the city. Letting your feet and stomach guide you as you stumble around – it’s much more fun.

San Francisco, Mission, Lonely Planet Walking tour

3. Bushwalking – Tourists flock from all of the world to enjoy Australia’s natural beauty.  Growing up in a place so naturally blessed its easy to forget that its there.  This year I have made a huge effort to get out and do some of the bushwalks around Sydney, including parts of the Great North Walk and the Kiama Costal track.  Not only is it a mini city break but its also a chance to get fit!

bushwalking the Kiama costal path

4. Eating a Japadog hotdog in Vancouver – some meals you forget about before you have even finished the last bite. Other meals you dream about for years to come, you try and re-create them, you tell all of your friends about them and when you meet someone who has had the same experience you feel like you have found your soul mate. Japadog was one of these life changing meals for me. The concept of the Japanese style fused with the New York hotdog was not something that appealed… especially as I didn’t particularly like hotdogs. Two bites in, I knew I would never be the same again!

Japadog - Kobe Beef. Things to do and eat in VancouverLooking back I think that 2015 has a lot to live up to.  How exciting to think of the possibilities of what could happen next year! What were your best travel moments of 2014 – would love to hear them all!???

Things to do in Vancouver

It’s Time to Pay Mona a Visit!

Mona art gallery

So you are heading to Tasmania for a weekend of great food, amazing scenery and delicious wine. You are struggling to squeeze everything into your already adventure and gourmet gorge fest itinerary.  The question has been posed – should you visit Mona? It’s an Art Gallery, sure… but it’s in Tasmania… is it really worth giving up some valuable wine tasting time for??

The short answer is: Yes! Hell Yes!

If you are a spontaneous person and need no more encouragement, I suggest you stop reading now, jump online and purchase your ferry tickets to Mona.  If however, you want more a more detailed analysis behind the “hell yes” then keep reading!

Mona Art Gallery

What is Mona: It is the Museum of Old and New Art hat was created by Tasmanian Millionaire David Walsh who is a professional gambler with an extreme love of art. The Museum is primarily stocked with pieces from his own collection and is the biggest privately own and run art museum in Australia.  But it’s not just an art museum – on the site there is also a winery, an outdoor theatre and restaurants – it’s basically a one stop shop for all of your cultural needs.

But what makes it sooooo special? Mona is a complete experience. Every part of your journey to, through and from Mona is incorporated in art.  This is what really sets it apart from other museums – the complete emersion in the design of the concept.

Start with the ferry ride from the central Warf in Hobart – a giant catamaran painted in camouflage colours sports a bar that sells delicious wine from the Mona winery. Sit back and relax with a glass of wine while looking at some of the art pieces that are gracing the ferry’s decks.  The fun has started before you even arrive.

Spend some time exploring outside before you head through the Museum.  There are loads of great pieces dotted around not to mention some great views of Hobart. Then get in the elevator and descend through the levels to start exploring the exhibitions.

When you first emerge from the elevator it takes a while for your eyes to adjust.  It helps that there is a bar selling delicious wine right there – I suggest grabbing one, if only because the wine is delicious and heightened by the artful atmosphere.  I also strongly suggest you grab one of the audio tour devices – they are great and they completely change, expand and enrich your whole experience.

Mona Art Gallery

Take your time where you need it – with Mona I think its important to linger over the pieces that are speaking to you, that grab your attention.  Plug into the audio tour and relax as you take it in.  Some of the exhibits are fun hands on experiences, don’t be afraid to take your shoes off and jump on the chimed trampoline.

Some pieces are dark and powerful while others are playful and light.  Some I just didn’t understand and others grabbed me like a powerful jolt to the stomach.  There are paintings and sculptures, performance pieces and statement pieces.

Lunch is a complete continuation of the Mona encounter.  The menu is vast and full of fresh local produce.  Everything that comes out of the kitchen will set your tummy grumbling.  There is also a great wine list with loads of local wines to sample. If its warm sit outside with the chickens and the ducks that roam the yard antagonising your fellow art lovers.  If its cold then definitely sit near a window to admire the view and to still be able to see the previously mention chickens.

Mona Art Gallery

If you have time before your ferry home then take a rest and enjoy some sweets and some more wine at the Mona Winery.  There is usually a hens do or two happening so there is plenty of people watching for those who appreciate their macaroons with a side of the absurd.

Finally relax on the ferry back to Hobart – watch the sun set over the sea and sip that final glass of wine before you head home to dream of blank TVs and model cars!