It’s a big step

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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

The Lite Backpacker - logo

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 Reasons why NOW is the time to visit Sydney!

Visit Sydney!

Not sure what the weather is doing in the rest of the globe – but here in Sydney it has turned completely fabulous with gloriously sunny days. It’s just a hint of what is about to come as BOM (the Bureau of Meteorology) predicts another scorching summer. This is my favourite time of year in this beach side city, I like it more than summer.  If you are planning on a trip to Sydney here is why you should visit in October or November.

1. Sydney is Emerging from Hibernation! Sydneysiders like to pretend that they enjoy the laidback lifestyle all year round, but the reality is for most of July, August and half of September we all retreat into our houses as the weather gods hit our beautiful city with more rain than London gets in a year (true story!). As spring starts we slowly start to emerge from our caves and resume normal life at the beach, in beer gardens, bushwalking, paddle boarding, rooftop dining and sitting in sun lit parks. By the time October comes around the city has forgotten that there was ever a thing called winter and has packed away all of its space heaters, donning flower spotted dresses and thongs (flip flops to the uncouth).

When to visit Sydney - things to do!

2. Daylight Savings! Suddenly the days a longer and the mornings brighter and all of Sydney rejoices with dinner picnics in the park or on the beach, early morning boot camps dominate every space of green grass from Maroubra to Manly, and everyone races to finish work as early as possible to try and get in a quick swim before the sharks come for dinner.

When to visit Sydney - things to do

3. The Sydney Good Food Month events! For the whole month restaurants all around Sydney are putting on great specials for ridiculously low prices. There are cooking classes by some of Australia’s best chefs and even a whole weekend devoted to chocolate. But the crowning glory of the Good Food Month would have to be the Night Noodle Markets which transform Hyde Park in the centre of the city into a mini Bangkok for a couple of weeks. You will sit in the warm night air and gorge on noodles, dim sums, rice paper rolls and down it all with more cider than is sensible!

Night Noodle Markets - things to do in Sydney

4. The Races! There are racing carnivals on during summer and autumn as well but everyone who is anyone knows that the Spring Race Carnival is the best. It’s a chance for everyone to get dressed up, stand out in the sun screaming hysterically at horses, then due to the sun and the champagne you will probably end up stumbling home before its even dinner time.

When to visit Sydney - things to do!

5.The Weather of Course! How many tourists think that Sydney is the land of eternal sunshine? Spend one winter here and you will quickly realise it isn’t… it rains… A LOT! But then spring comes and brings with it the sun. However this sun isn’t as hectic as the sunshine we will get come January – where you step outside at 8am without a hat on only to find your nose has been burnt off. No, this time of year the sunshine is gloriously warm without any of the painful sting (though please still slip slop slap because that melanoma can still get ya!)

Things to do in Sydney - when should you visit?

How to Avoid Coming Home from a Trip Without Looking Like you Deep Fried the Whole Country then Dipped it in Chocolate and Stuffed it into Your Mouth!

In the health conscious society that we live in at the moment I find that quite a few of my conversations are concerning eating healthy and maintain a healthy weight.  A friend who recently booked a trip to the UK asked “How do you avoid putting on weight and also eat healthy while travelling amongst so much new and amazing foods?”.

I have always been lucky to lose weight on every trip bar one – even round Europe with its pasta and beer, even in America with their Burgers and Pepsi – only place I packed it on was when I stayed at my grandmother’s house.  It takes a person of stronger will than mine to resist second helpings of her famous roast followed by treacle pudding… don’t even get me started on how amazing her meringues were – just ask my cousins!

But at the same time a trip/holiday is meant to be fun and full of naughty little treats – no one wants to be worrying about how many calories that pina-colada has!

So I threw the question open to my well-travelled friends and here is what we came up with!

DO:

Walking tours – great way to orientate yourself while getting a work out!

Eat local – Your hotel restaurant may be easy but the food is probably cheaply made in bulk and full of sugars and fat, instead grab your jacket and head out to a local restaurant, as the local food is often made with local fresh ingredients and so therefore healthier.

Drink – water, it’s cheap, easy to fill up (obviously be careful if you are in a country where you can’t drink tap water) and it’s a lot healthier than a bottle of soft drink two or three times a day – having said that on my trip through Asia I pretty much drank nothing but Coke and I still lost 15Kgs…

Eggs – eat em! A great cheap breakfast when you are travelling through places like Asia and South America and they are jammed packed with protein giving you loads of energy to last you through the rest of the morning.

Massages – I am not sure if they have any weight loss benefits but they make you feel good and restore your muscles after a long day walking or bungee jumping.

Workout – a short fifteen minute intensive workout will get the heart rate up and release the endorphins leaving you pumped for the day, and you can tailor your workout so that you need no more space than it takes to lie down which is perfect for hotel rooms, airports, parks or a hostel common room (just get up and do it before everyone else) – check out this guys site.

Swimming – everyone loves a splash in the waves, whether you’re splashing the California Coast, or a paddle in a lagoon with the crocs in Northern Australia,  if your lolling off an island in Thailand or dip in pristine lakes when trekking through Italy – while you are fanning about enjoying yourself why not throw in 15 minutes hard swimming, it will make sun bathing that little bit more relaxing.

Activities – do you know how many muscles steering a quad bike up a hill on a run-down track while in search of a lost lagoon uses, no? Well you will the next day! Get out and try anything and everything, you end up burning energy without even realising, beats the gym any day

Proportions – as tasty as a second helping looks there is a good chance that you may be doing something exciting after lunch so don’t fill up or it might come up…

Sleep – tiredness makes you hungry, so use this as an excuse to sleep in when you can, why not – you are on holiday after all!

Sleeping on the beach in Nha Trang

Sleeping on the beach in Nha Trang

Eat In – try eating in a couple of nights, eating out every day can result in over eating and is expensive, why not grab some groceries and make dinner for yourself and a few of your fellow hostellers – it’s a great way to make friends.

Picnic – a great way to eat healthy and cost effective is to pack picnics, grab some veggies, meat and cheese and stow them in your backpack as you head out adventuring, then at lunch time all you need is a great spot to sit and watch the world go by and your trusty Swiss Army Knife!

Be accountable to yourself – You keep a travel diary?  Well why not embrace the Bridget Jones in all of us and make a note at the top of the page of what naughty things you have eaten that day and how much exercise you have done, some days the naughtiness will outweigh the exercise but other days you will see how awesome you have been and get a little kick! E.G

Naughty: Two Gelatos, Two bottles of wine, Three cocktails… whoops
Good: Two hour walking tour, one hour swim in pool, four hours dancing… also whoops!

DON’T:

Packet Noodles – are cheap and easy, leaving more time and money for partying… but they also expand your waist line fast and are not very yummy!

Snacking – you don’t have time for it! Unless you are stopping to grab a refreshing Gelato that is.

Snacking on Gellato in San Sebastian

Snacking on Gellato in San Sebastian

Stress – they say that stress makes you hang onto fat cells, so remember you are on holiday and relax!

Carb it up – try having one leafy meal a day, salads may not be your idea of great travel cuisine but you will be surprised at some of the great dishes you will have if you step out of your traditional salad box.

Airport/plane Food – stay clear of the junk food that swarms around you terminal, just cause it’s there doesn’t mean you need to eat it. If you think you will be hungry at the airport bring some fruit with you for while you sit at your gate praying your flight won’t be delayed. Also it sucks!

Stuff your face – its often the case that travellers are scared about when they will have their next meal being on the road all day – but this should result in panic eating, calm down and eat only what you need – you can always find food!

DON'T Supersize your burger and soft drink...

DON’T Supersize your burger and soft drink…

Let me know your top tips???

Not the Kitchen Sink

Packing again?  Doing the old trick of laying out everything, halving it, then halving it again… and your pack is still too heavy. You call your mum/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/neighbour to look at your pile of stuff and remove anything they deem unnecessary.  Finally you are set to go – adventure begins – and when you arrive you realise the all-important item that you forgot (tooth brush) but it doesn’t really matter as you just go buy new one.

Yet what are the items that you can’t travel without? That can’t be replaced successfully, whether because they are unique or sentimental –that you could never start an adventure without?

On my first trip abroad alone, at the fresh young age of 18, my well-travelled godfather gave me several essential travel necessities.  Over the years some of those items have dropped by the wayside, deemed less important or disappeared into the great chasm that consumes everything, eventually, when you stay in hostels – but two items have stayed with me for every trip and I will not travel without!

NUMBER ONE – My red Swiss flat army knife card– it’s the size of a credit card so slips easy into your wallet or money belt. This may seem like a tourist trinket to most, but this little red card full of gadgets has gotten me out of many tough spots. It contains so many little useful things in one easy to use card:

  • How many times have you grabbed some rolls, cheese and salami and gone for a picnic only to realise that you didn’t pack a knife – here comes trusty Swiss Army Knife Card.
  • Then there was the time I locked my backpack up with a padlock… with the keys inside. I used the tweezers and mini pen to pick the lock.  This actually happened to me twice – have since bought a combination lock – if I can pick this lock anyone can!
  •  Got a splinter from climbing out a junk boat – no problems, Swiss Army Knife comes fully equipped with tweezers.
  • Not to mention the time your tore a nail when rock climbing but your nail file disappeared in week one of your trip – it has one of them too
  • Or when you finally decide to cut off all of the bright string bracelets you have been collecting – you can use the scissors.
  • Scissors also come in handy when needing to open any number of things like food packaging or cutting tags of new clothes.

NUMBER TWO – The quick dry towel – mine is a jumbo which is AWSOME.  Now, I am not purposely ripping off Douglas Adams – I just happen to wholeheartedly agree with him.

  • It packs down to a small bundle, unlike other towels which are big and bulky taking up valuable souvenir space
  • Doubles up as a pretty warm blanket
  • Or a pillow
  • Sand doesn’t cling to it so your bag doesn’t shed sand for several weeks after you have left the beach
  • Great for wrapping up the breakable souvenirs in
  • It’s in the name Quick Dry – ten minutes and you can pack it, ready for another adventure

What are your “must not travel without” items?