15 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Lagos in Portugal

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Lagos Portugal Algarve

Stretching 150 km along the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve is arguably one of the most beautiful and varied coastlines in the world. 

You can find solitude on sandy islands, action-packed golden beaches with amazing nightlife, and the famous breathtaking cliff-backed shorelines that have taken over Instagram. There are also charming towns packed with cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, and lots of cobblestone streets to wander through when the sun goes down. 

If you are looking for resorts and nightlife, the east and center of the long coastline is where you should base. The west is a little quieter and more rugged. If you are looking for the best of both worlds, head to my favourite spot — Lagos.  

 

Why Lagos?

Lagos sits right on the coast with an old town that is surrounded by a 16th-century wall enclosing picturesque plazas, cobbled lanes, churches, charming restaurants, fantastic nightlife and more. Many of the hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and rental apartments are located outside of the old town but are easy to walk to. There are also a lot of grocery stores and markets if you are wanting to self-cater. 

Nearby beaches offer every type of activity imaginable, but you are also close to the rock backed nooks that you can climb down to if you are looking for a more secluded spot for the day. 

Getting there 

Portugal has fantastic train and bus networks that you can use to get all over the country. You can access Lagos from Lisbon by train, and there are also coastal trains that run back-and-forth along the cost if you would like to visit different towns and beaches during your stay. 

You can pre-buy your tickets on the Comboios de Portugal website. (TIP: The first-class ticket is usually only a few Euros more than the regular class. If you are looking for more space, a quieter car, and free wifi consider sitting in a first-class car.)

When to go

As with any location with a beach, as soon as summer hits locals and tourists alike flock to the sand and clear blue water of the Algarve. The summer months will find towns and beaches packed with people and temperatures soar. 

By October, the tourists clear out, but if you are (like me) okay with hitting the beach in around 20-degree weather (78-degrees Fahrenheit), then the fall and spring are lovely times to visit. You'll be sharing the town and beaches with locals, some expats, and the odd tourist, and prices will also be significantly lower. 

Watch out for

The beaches and towns along the Algarve are some of the busiest areas in Portugal in the summer months and the pickpockets know it. Keep your eye on your belongings, especially when laying on the beach.

Be careful if you decide to search out a cliff-backed beach, as the cliffs can often be unstable. And, make sure you are aware of ocean conditions — some areas can experience dangerous currents and winds.  

Surrounded by a historic wall, there are only a few paved roads that cars, and pedestrians, can use to access the town of Lagos through curved entryways. 

The streets of Lagos are paved with unique patterns laid out in cobblestones. Buildings are painted white, orange, pink, or blue, or are covered in stunning Portuguese tiles. 

Sun drenched streets make the tile-covered buildings in Lagos look even more beautiful. This shot was taken on my visit there in November when it was still hot enough to lay on the beach all day, but not hot enough to be packed with tourists. 

Cafes, restaurants, and charming souvenir shops spill out into the cobblestone pedestrian street in Lagos. 

One of the famous cliff-backed, secluded beaches, Praia do Camilo is a bit of a hike to get down to but is SO worth it. It is about a 40-minute walk from the heart of Lagos, but there are also local buses that will drop you off near this spot. 

A rock face at Praia do Camilo from the beach level. To the left is a passage through the thick cliff that gives you access to a smaller, more private beach on the other side. 

The homes that are located outside the city walls are colourful, covered in stunning flowers, and are often available for rent if you are looking for a base to have a longer stay in the area. 

Because of the year-round beautiful weather, even in November, these stunning flowers were in full bloom. 

There are hiking trails along the coast from Lagos heading west to a historic lighthouse. They take you past incredible views, to the top of staircases that lead you to secluded beaches, and go for miles. 

Near the lighthouse, there are caverns in the rock that can be accessed by boat. If you aren't interested in the hike, there are boats that leave from Lagos that will give you the ocean-side view of the cliffs. 

Looking east from the top of the cliffs near Lagos, you can see other whitewashed towns dappled along the coastline. 

The golden sand and stunning blue waters of the Praia Dona Ana, located just outside of central Lagos. 

I was surprised to see how many unique and colourful shells are washed up on the beach every day — most of them completely intact. The beaches of the Algarve are a beachcombers dream! 

Gotta love having a quiet, secluded spot to set up a selfie at sunset! Nothing better than getting that perfect shot for Instagram :) 

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Lagos Portugal Algarve
Lagos Portugal Algarve



The Most Epic Road Trips in the World

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Road trips are one of the best ways to travel because you get to experience everything hands-on — the culture, the people, and the scenery of every place you visit (or pass through). Some of the best parts of a new place, that you would miss if you are rushing from place-to-place on a plane or train. 

That’s why I love this awesome infographic guide to the longest roads (aka most epic road trips) in the world!

It includes travel times, cool stops, and fun info about each route, like The Golden Quadrilateral Highway in India (such an awesome name), which takes you past the Taj Mahal and India’s countryside.

Or, the Pan-American Highway that is longer than the length of the equator! I had no idea this road even existed! There are some seriously dangerous spots on this trip though, like the Summit of Death, a mountain pass in Costa Rica that many travelers don’t make it through. Also the Darien Gap, a stretch of swampland that is basically completely untouched because no one can access it. Travel at your own risk!

Check out the full infographic below!



Longest Roads in the World



GUEST POST: The 10 Best Cities To Visit In China

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


The 10 Best Cities to Visit in China

China is a huge and diverse country, which can be overwhelming to travel through — especially if you have a limited timeframe or budget. There are cities full of skyscrapers and those will transport you back in time, but they all hold a uniqueness that will make you want to linger a little longer. 

To help you plan your trip, I've narrowed down the huge list of cities in China to the ones that you absolutely must see as a first time (or repeat) visitor.

Beijing

The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall of China — you could spend your entire time in Beijing exploring all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but some of the most interesting parts of this city can be found within its traditional narrow alleys.  

A few of these alleyways are even protected to preserve them from future development, and you are definitely going to want to wander through them to capture a glimpse of what everyday life is like in this city. I recommend the alleyways near Nanluoguziang and Ping’anli to see and experience. 

When it comes to art and culture, the 798 Art Zone, which used to be filled with Mao-era factories, is complete with contemporary art galleries, bookshops, and cafes. It is the perfect destination for a relaxing and people watching at any time of day.  

Xi’an

Beijing may have a lot of cultural attractions, but Xi’an has its fair share as well.

The awe-inspiring Terracotta Army Museum was discovered in 1974 by local farmers, and this archaeological site contains a staggering collection of life-size terracotta sculptures that depict the army of Qin Shi Huang. 

The Hanyangling Mausoleum also displays terracotta figures from two thousand years ago and it is not as crowded as the other museum. 

While in Xi’an, you will also want to visit the Muslim Quarter and take a bike ride along the top of the impressive city wall. 

Shanghai

Shanghai is fast-paced and glamorous but also has an undercurrent of history. 

Walking down the Bund, which is the historic and glitzy walkway on the waterside, is necessary as is visiting the fabulous Yuyuan Gardens. 

There are also a number of hip neighborhoods throughout the city, including Tianzifang, The Cool Docks, and M50, and you will want to wander through a couple of them to check-out what all the hype is about.

Chengdu

The food in Chengdu is amazing and you will love eating your way through this city. 

Start with rice cakes and sesame sauce before diving into the spicy chicken on a stick, but do not forget to try the Sichuan hot pot. This infamous dish is a spicy broth that you can dip a number of different types of food into. You will be able to try any of these delicious dishes at any restaurant, market, or tea house in the city. 

Once you've experienced all the food in Chengdu, you will find that the city is relaxed and low-key. 

One of the more popular places to visit is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and once you've been there it is all about the local parks. The best park is People’s Park, where you can relax by the lake, practice calligraphy on the pavement, or join in on one of the many dance classes that are always on offer. 

Guilin

Nature abounds in Guilin with rolling green hills, beautiful water, deep dark caves, and jagged rocks. 

Most people that visit cannot believe that this area is a city at all due to all the beauty that lies before them. Embrace the tranquility and enjoy the solitude that Guilin has to offer canoeing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, and spending time in nature. 

Guangzhou

This city has long been part of the famous Maritime Silk Road and one of the best times to visit is during the Canton Fair. 

People do arrive in this city for more than business though, and you will love sites like the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family and the Bright Filial Piety Temple. At nighttime, the city is best experienced by a cruise along the Pearl River. 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong really heats up after the sun goes down, and the best place to see it all is from Victoria Peak where you can capture magnificent panoramic views of the city well above the sprawling high-rises, while also catching a glimpse of the laser light displays and fireworks. 

Kowloon and Lan Kwai Fong are the best places to head for a late-night meal and a night out on the town. 

Sanya

Sanya is not a traditional city in any way, and there are no fast-moving crowds to be found anywhere. Instead, you will find white sand that meets warm waters on the shoreline as well as people who want to spend their time either relaxing or out in the water. 

Jet skiing, surfing, snorkeling, diving, and swimming are the most popular water sports in Sanya, and you will find that there is always something fun and exciting to do. 

Shaxi

Located along the old Tea Horse Trail, what makes this city amazing is that it has been completely restored instead of rebuilt. 

The original walled town and the Old Town Market Square are definite must-see destinations while you are in Shaxi, and then you can head out towards the mountains for some fantastic hiking.     

Tibet

"Technically" a part of China, Tibet is like a totally different world.  

The attractions are breathtaking — three of the best places to visit in Tibet include the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, and Barkhor Street. 

*     *     *

If you choose to visit one of these ten cities in China and there are numerous local tours that you can take to explore them in-depth. Just like a Halong Bay tour in Vietnam, any of the tours that you find in China will include great information about the places that you are seeing, as well as give you the opportunity to meet many of the locals that live there. 

Meeting locals is the best way to experience and learn about not only a city but the culture and traditions as well. So, talk to as many locals as you can and listen to what they have to say. You will find that your time in China will be that much better because of it! 

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The 10 Best Cities to Visit in China
The 10 Best Cities to Visit in China

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Meet The Author

Jessica Watson has been writing for websites and blogs for four years now. Currently, she is the editorial manager at Bhaya Cruises who are offering best cruising services in Vietnam



15 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Lisbon

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Portugal's capital city, Lisbon is enchanting with its maze of steep cobblestone streets, stunning tiled buildings, sun-drenched squares, outdoor cafes, and beautiful historic sites. 

If you still need to be convinced that you should add this destination to your travel bucket list,  what makes this city even more appealing is that fact that it is one of the most affordable places to visit in Europe (you can get a coffee and a croissant for 1 Euro!). Plus, the location of the city gives you access both to mountains and water, its restaurants are packed with delicious local delicacies and amazing Portuguese wine, and the people are unbelievably welcoming.

What more could you want?! 

One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to get around the city is on one of the many streetcars that pass through the narrow historic streets that most cars can't (or aren't allowed) to travel down!

The Arco da Rua Augusta sits at one end of the huge main square (Praca do Comercio) facing the water. The square is bordered on two sides by lemon-yellow buildings and covered in cobblestones.

It was the place where anyone arriving to Lisbon by sea used to disembark, and it is always bustling, full of restaurants and cafes, and one of the best spots to watch the sunset. 

A view of the Praca do Comercio from the other side of the Arco da Rua Augusta. You can see straight through to the water beyond. The arch marks the beginning, or end, of the main pedestrian street that is lined with shops and high-end cafes that trickle out into the street. Once the sun begins to set, it is the place to see and be seen whether you are a visitor or a local out for an evening stroll. 

A view into the interior courtyard of the breathtakingly detailed Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. This monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site and was home to monks of the Order of St Jerome for four centuries before the order was dissolved in 1833. 

One of the most photographed historic sites in Portugal, the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower) is also a UNESCO world heritage site and is said to epitomize the Age of Discoveries

If they aren't covered in tiles, the buildings in Lisbon are painted in pastel hues that make the streets feel like they are always basked in a morning glow. 

Laundry hanging in the sunshine off of wrought iron balconies is a common sight throughout the city, as are doors that have a character all their own. 

The 360-degree views from the Castelo de Sao Jorge are impossible to capture in a single photograph. Built in the mid-11th-century, the castle allows you to take in the terracotta rooftops of the entire city — handy if you haven't gotten your bearings yet! 

A quirky attraction, this wrought-iron elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa) was built in 1902 by Gustave Eiffel's apprentice (the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris). It is Lisbon's only vertical street lift and you can ride it to the top for fantastic city views!

Freshly baked Portuguese tarts sit in bakery windows — but not for long! 

Restaurants and cafes spill out into the streets giving diners the chance to people watch while they eat and enjoy a little fresh air. 

Lisbon isn't all historic buildings and cobblestones! The Parque das Nacoes, located in the north-eastern part of the city, was built for Expo '98 and is full of modern architecture like the Gare do Oriente train station pictured above. 

The breathtaking Basilica da Estrela is huge and is decorated with complex patterns in pink and black marble. 

There are massive churches all over the city, some in the more ornate gothic-style, and others that are a little more austere like this one. 

Almost every single building facade in Lisbon is covered in tiles, a result of the art of tile-making being brought to the city by the Moors hundreds of years ago. It is a feast for the eyes to wander through the town center and take in all the different patterns and designs! 

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6 Essential Winter Air Travel Tips

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Essential Winter Air Travel Tips

Are you avoiding below-zero temperatures and traveling to a warm-weather destination? Or, are you heading right into the storm and traveling somewhere cold to enjoy winter sports? 

Wheather you are leaving from a snowy destination or headed to one, these are the essential winter air travel tips that you need to know to make sure your vacation gets off to a good start! 

Get to The Airport Earlier Than Usual

Icy road conditions as a result of weather mean potential delays as you travel to the airport, and you don't want to arrive too late to check-in or be stuck in a line at security. 

Because cooler temperatures mean that everyone will be wearing more layers, this also means longer lines at security, as it will take each person a few minutes more than normal to get themselves — and all of their belongings — through the checkpoint. 

Check-In Online

Almost all airlines now allow online check-in — either through a website or an app — at least 24 hours before your flight time. You will be able to select your seat, pay any baggage fees, and provide contact information where you can be reached if there are any disruptions to your flight. 

If you still have to check a bag when you get to the airport, you should be able to skip the line and just drop it in a designated area. If not, checking in online allows you to skip the check-in lines altogether and head right for security when you arrive! 

Be Accessible

Make sure the contact info you have provided can be checked regularly or easily accessed. That way you will receive any flight status updates as soon as they happen and not only when you are in front of the screens at the airport. 

Keep in mind that you might not be using your cellular data while traveling in a foreign country, so email might be a better way to reach you than a telephone number.

Check Your Flight Status Before Leaving For The Airport

Icy runways, blizzards, fog, freezing rain — there are so many winter-related events that can cause flight delays or cancellations. Avoid waiting at the airport, or arriving for no reason, and check the status of your flight about an hour before you plan on leaving for the airport. 

Essential Winter Air Tips

Pack To Prevent Security Delays

Here are some tips to keep in mind when packing:

  • Valuables, Electronics, Documentation, and Medications should be in your carry-on bag, NOT your checked bag. Make sure that all medications are clearly marked with their original labels.
  • Keep any gifts that you are traveling with unwrapped. 
  • Most airlines one or two carry-on bags. Though the sizes vary slightly, they are consistently only permitted to be 10kg in weight. Make sure you are aware of your carry-on allowance to avoid any unexpected fees. 
  • Remember that any liquid or gels are only allowed to be in containers that are 100ml/100g/3.4oz, and must be kept in a clear plastic bag. There are bags at the airport you can use, or a Ziploc bag works as well. 
  • Galaxy Note 7 phones are not permitted on board any airlines at this time. 
  • While it is important to have a name tag attached to the outside of your bag in case it gets lost, make sure you have your information on the INSIDE as well. You never know when an exterior baggage tag might be ripped off in transit! 

Make Sure Your Passport is Up-To-Date

If you are traveling outside of your country, you will need a valid passport.

While all passports have an expiry date, you should think of your "real" renewal date to be 6 months earlier than the printed one.

While you may be able to get on the plane still, many countries won't allow entry to foreigners whose passport expires in less than six months. You don't want to fly all the way to your destination and have to turn around and fly right back! 

NOTE: If you are traveling with children, you will have to have additional documentation like birth certificates, legal documents, or letters of consent. 

Visit IATA Travel Centre for details regarding country-specific passport, visa, and health entry requirements for destinations around the world.




Your Guide To Trekking The Sulphur Skyline Trail In Jasper, Alberta

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


There are a lot of stunning hiking trails in Jasper National Park, but when it comes to day hikes, the Sulphur Skyline Trail offers the biggest bang for your time and effort.

Yes, waterfalls are beautiful, glaciers are awe-inspiring, and fragrant flower-filled mountain meadows are delightful, but nothing beats a 360-degree view that seems to stretch out forever and makes you feel like you are on top of the world. And, while there are many hikes all over the Rockies that can get you this view, ones that you can do in a day are rare. 

Enjoying the breathtaking view at the Summit

But don't get me wrong, while this is a day hike, it is anything but easy — it's straight up, with a bit of a scramble to get to the summit, and there is nowhere to replenish your water along the way. If you are looking for a nice walk in the woods, this isn't the right trek for you to tackle. 

Before I dive into details about the trek and a gear guide, here are some quick facts

Miette Hot Springs is located at the Sulphur Skyline Trailhead, and is a great place to soak sore muscles after your trek!

  • Starting Point: Trailhead is accessed from the Miette Hotsprings parking lot
  • Hiking Time: Half-day | If you are a more experienced hiker, you can probably do the whole thing in 3-4 hours, an average-to-new hiker should allow 4-6 hours
  • Distance: 10 km round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft or 700 m (this is a pretty quick gain)
  • Elevation at the Top: 6,790 ft or 2,020 m
  • What's It Like In 3 Words: Switchbacks, Steep, Stunning

Getting There

Once you have entered Jasper National park through the East Gate, continue 7 km (4 miles) west along the Yellowhead Highway/Highway 16 until the Miette Hot Springs Road. Turn left onto the road and drive 17 km (11 miles) until the road ends at the Miette Hot Springs Parking Lot. The lot fills up fairly quickly, especially on weekends, so try and arrive early if you want to avoid parking on the road. 

Once you have parked, walk towards the Hot Springs entrance. The trail head is to the right of the entrance and is clearly marked by a large sign (there are other trails that leave from other parts of the parking lot, so make sure you are where you want to be.) 

Where do I pee?

An important question. Driving up a windy road is no fun when you gotta go, and you definitely don't want to start a trek if you need to use the facilities. 

Lucky for you, there are public washrooms located on the outside of the Hot Springs building, they are clearly marked so should be easy enough for you to spot. 

There are NO washrooms along the trail at all, so bring some toilet paper (and some bags to pack it out with) just in case nature calls while you are in the middle of nature. 

Trek Details

The hike begins on a fairly wide, paved pathway — do not be deceived. It switches quickly to an unpaved trail and then you are on a single-track that is muddy (if there is any moisture), rocky, and crisscrossed with tree roots. 

This is the typical terrain you will find for the majority of the trek

It's a steady (read, you will be sweating and breathing hard) climb for about 2.2 km — don't be ashamed to take frequent water and recovery breaks — until you come to the Shuey Pass Junction. Then it becomes a grueling, steep, switchback ascent (did I mention that it's worth it!?)

Stay right when you get to the junction — there are a few other hikes that veer off in other directions. 

The trail is then pretty much just narrow switchbacks, scattered with rocks and roots, running through forest with views of the surrounding valley. 

You emerge from the treeline around the 4 km mark into a grassy clearing with a massive white rock in the middle of it. This meadow is fairly protected from the wind and has pretty incredible views. Many people will stop here to enjoy the views, the sunshine, and have a snack. 

The summit is up a steep, bald rocky face (see image below) that is more like a scramble than anything else. It can also get really windy, so make sure to take your time and watch where you are putting your feet. 

The scramble to the summit is steep and exposed to the elements

The view from the ridge is a breathtaking, 360-degree panorama of several remote valleys and the Fiddle River, Utopia Mountian, and Ashlar Ridge. There are lots of places to perch and enjoy lunch or just soak in the view, but make sure you bring warm layers because it can get pretty chilly up there. 

The trek down goes a lot quicker than up, as it is pretty much downhill the entire way. Though, if you have injuries that make going downhill painful, make sure to allow yourself time to get down safely. 

Top Tips

  1. Get there early
    Because of the amazing views, its status as a day hike, and its proximity to the hot springs, this is a popular spot. If you want to get a parking spot and have parts of the path to yourself, try and get there as early as you can. 
  2. Pack lots of water and some food
    There is nowhere to get water along the hike, and you are pretty exposed on hot days. I carried 2 liters with me for the round trip, but it never hurts to have too much. Make sure to have snacks/lunch with you as well. Something high in protein that will give you a quick boost of energy is smart — think nut-heavy trail mix, beef jerky, or peanut butter and banana sandwiches. 
  3. Remember that you are gaining elevation quickly
    Like, really quickly. You know how when you're on a plane and your water bottles get sucked in because of the pressurization? That's what mine looked like when I got to the top of the hike. That's pretty extreme — give yourself a break if you feel like you are breathing too hard. You aren't out of shape, you're just climbing at a really quick rate! 
  4. Don't veer off the beaten path
    There are lots of tempting side paths and shortcuts along this trek, but it's really easy to get lost if you take a wrong turn. Try to fight the urge to go a different way. No shortcut is going to make it any less steep. 
  5. Pause and listen every once and awhile 
    It's easy to get caught up in the sound of your footsteps and heavy breathing, but if you take a second to just listen, you can hear the wind moving through the valley and it is a pretty amazing sound. 
  6. Pack warm layers for the top
    The summit is windy, exposed, and can get cold if (like me) you are drenched in sweat by the time you get up there. If you want to spend some time enjoying the view, make sure you have a sweater, windbreaker, and even a hat or something to cover your legs. 

Gear Guide 

Shoes
This hike doesn't require hiking boots (I just wore my super supportive and comfortable running shoes), but there are a lot of rocks to contend with, so your feet are going to end up pretty achy if the soles of your shoes are too soft or not thick enough. Whatever you do, don't try new footwear out on this hike, the elevation makes for some nasty blisters.

Asics Women's GEL Noosa Tri 10 Running Shoes $66.95 - $199.95
Merrell Men's Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot $69.57 - $159.99


Pack
All you need is a small daypack to hold your layers, snacks, and water. Whatever you do, don't overpack. This hike is grueling and if you have too much extra weight you will not be a happy hiker.

The North Face Jester Backpack, TNF Black, One Size $64.95
The North Face Women's Jester Backpack - TNF Black - One Size $61.59

 


Water Bottles
Nalgene bottles are always my go-to. They last forever, are easy to clean and are lightweight so as you empty them during the climb, it lightens your pack too! 

Nalgene BPA Free Tritan Wide Mouth Water Bottle, 32 Oz, Gray with Black Lid $10.20
Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle, Trout Green, 1 Quart $10.99

 

Sunscreen
Even if it's not that hot, the sun can still burn! Make sure any exposed skin is covered. 

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 30, 5 Oz. $7.47
Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 7 Fl Oz $7.57

 




GUEST POST: Planning a Big Trip? Your Guide To Long-Term Travel

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


This guest post is written by inspiring travel blogger Emma Fell of GoBigEmma. Read more about Emma at the end of the post. All photos in this post were taken or supplied by Emma.

The travelers of this world understand why traveling is addictive. There is this thrill of being in a new place, the sensation of experiencing something that you can only experience in this one exact spot. Sometimes it is the vibe of a Central American beach town or an Asian metropolis that captures your heart, sometimes it is a remote stretch of wilderness that takes your breath away. The exhilaration of travel is enough to make you wonder: What if I could just keep traveling forever?

While “forever” might not be a realistic goal for most, long-term travel is a reality for many passionate travelers. During my own travels, I have met many people who have been traveling for a year or more. It wasn’t until I moved into my 1975 VW bus that I got the chance to see for myself what it was like to travel for “forever”. 

My boyfriend and I intend to drive our bus along the Panamerican Highway from Alaska to Argentina, a popular overlanding route. We’ve been camping and living out of our car for over a year. We’ve done a lot of car repairs, visited many unforgettable places and met even more unforgettable people. Travel has become synonymous with living. On the day that marked our first year on the road, we found ourselves in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. 
 

The dream: Travel as a lifestyle

How did I like traveling for a year? I asked myself. I watched the sweat dripping down my arm in the tropical heat as I pondered the question. The answer I would have given a year ago didn’t apply anymore: Travel is travel, what isn’t there to like? Before this trip, my longest traveling stints had been a meager eight weeks or so. Traveling for a year had been the dream, but what did the reality look like, now that I was there?

Quite different, of course. There are a number of things that we have struggled with along the way that make that answer more complicated.

Long-term travel involves much more planning and investment than shorter trips. Before, traveling had always been a break from normal life for me. You lock the door, go somewhere fascinating, explore parts of the world you have never explored before. But eventually, you come back, unlock the door, and let your usual life continue. Long-term travel, on the other hand, takes your everyday life with you. There is a simplicity to giving up most of your possessions and not leaving rent or a sublet waiting for you when you return. However, that also means you need to store or take everything else you might want or need with you, which comes with certain complications.
 

Getting from A to B (with all your stuff)

One of the biggest questions is how will you travel? What will be your main mode of transportation? Will you backpack, or overland (travel - and often live in - a vehicle)? Will you travel by bus or by plane? Will you stay in hotels or hostels? Or even a tent? We decided to overland it and live in our vehicle. Old VWs are especially reputable for this. Overlanding did mean, however, that we had spent most of the last year camping. This was fine for us, but it’s not everybody’s thing. Two of the hardest questions traveling in a vehicle - which will apply to all long-term travelers, no matter the mode - was What will we take with us? and Where will we put it all?

If you are a backpacker, this question might sound ridiculous to you - you are more than used to reducing your material possessions to those that you can literally carry on your back. A vehicle is, in the end, no different. You just have more space to work with, but also likely an actual living space — such as a bed — to transport as well. All space is valuable. 

Up in Alaska, we were happy to have brought our winter hats and scarves with us. Now, in southern Mexico, we wonder why they are taking up valuable space. I keep them there, however, because I know I will be wandering through new climates again before I know it. Long-term travel means taking everything you might need with you or spending money multiple times on acquiring it. Packing and climate go hand in hand. Can you fit your winter coat in with your flip flops? Or will you buy your flip flops when you get there?
 

Travel can be cheap, but it isn’t free

Speaking of buying things: Traveling for over a year will cost you money. Making use of great resources like Couchsurfing is helpful, but you will still be paying for transportation costs, food, any activities you want to do, and many other things. For us, we can surely add camping, car repairs, and phone cards (aka mobile Internet access) to that list. Travel can be cheap, but it isn’t free. 

There are two common options to solve this problem: Make enough money before you leave, or be prepared to disrupt your travels to earn some on the way. We did both. Freelance writing, however, can be a competitive field, and working means we need a lot of Internet access and spend a lot of time on the computer. While a cozy beach camp is a much better work space than an office cubicle, it is worth considering to save up money and have your finances taken care of before you leave. Either way, you will need to find a way to make long-term travel sustainable, or it will be over before you even start.

Pick your travel buddies with care

I am fortunate not to be traveling alone. I have never preferred traveling solo and definitely wouldn’t want to do a trip of this scale by myself. Travel partners offer a lot: Company, shared experiences, a second set of problem-solving hands, just to name a few. On the other hand, be prepared to share a very small space - especially if you are traveling in a vehicle. However, travelers of all kinds can appreciate the fact that no matter how you travel, you will be spending a lot of time with your travel buddy.

There will always come situations where you will, at the least, want to scream at each other. At the most, you may want to drive away and leave your partner standing in the dust (the first strategy is recommended!). You will get to know each other intimately, including many habits you may prefer to know nothing about.

If you decide to take someone with you, make sure it is the right someone. Just because you don’t know each other long doesn’t mean you won’t get along in a small space and tight situations. Tessa and Dillon of The Bus and Us (who also traveled the Panamerican highway in a VW bus in 2015) only knew each other for six months before setting off on their travels and continue to travel together today. However, if you are not very familiar with each other, you should ask yourself some questions: Will it matter a lot to you if you realize you have to go your separate ways? And will you be okay doing this in a place that is likely both far away from home and foreign? 

Where are you going?

Speaking of foreign. Although some enjoy complete spontaneity when it comes to travel, most people have at least a general idea of where they want to go. Our goal is to drive from Alaska to Argentina (and the answer to your question is No, we don’t know what we will do after we get there). This means we have a definite start and end destination, and are planning on going through a total of 22 countries on our way. A year into our trip, we have three countries down and 19 left to visit. 

Many people choose international travel simply for practicality’s sake: Unless you only want to explore a huge country like Canada, the USA, Australia, or Russia, you probably don’t want to spend a whole year traveling in a single country. In addition to this, wherever you travel internationally, you will have visa issues to think about. These two reasons are why many people choose a region of the world for long-term travel. Others meander through multiple regions or decide to do an around-the-world type of thing. 

The point is that if you decide to travel long-term, you will probably be traveling internationally. Have you traveled internationally before? If not, this is something to think twice about before deciding to do it for over a year. Don’t get me wrong - international travel is a mind-blowing experience like no other, but it can also often be complicated, annoying, or straight up frustrating. 

Be prepared to be confronted with stereotypes, and practice overcoming them. Expect to learn at least some of a foreign language (no, you cannot only get by with English all over the world, so forget about that now), handle many miscommunications, get lost, and try multiple times before things happen how you think they should. Be prepared to adapt your concept of how you believe things should happen, too. International travel is always full of surprises. It is part of the beauty of it.

But it is not a passion for everybody. You might very well find yourself happy with these experiences in smaller doses, but not with a constant stream of internationality. It all depends on you and your expectations.
 

The guide to long-term travel: Try it for yourself

Is long-term travel for you? There is no guide to long-term travel. You cannot hire a guide to show you the way. The only way to find out is to try it for yourself. It is an experience that can never be accurately reproduced or described by anyone. Your version of long-term travel will not be the same as mine or anybody else’s that you read on the Internet. 

But it will be your version. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You may find that none of my advice applies at all because you are the expert of your experience. 

There is no guide to long-term travel because you don’t need a guide, you just need to be yourself.

The rest will work itself out.

Trust me. 

This is part of a guest post exchange with GoBigEmma. Check out The Anthrotorian's post, "How To Not Kill Your Travel Buddy" on Emma and Sven's blog here!

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Meet The Author

Emma is a writer, adventurer, and language enthusiast. Together with her boyfriend Sven, she is currently traveling the Americas in a VW bus called Big Emma. They document their trip on their blog GoBigEmma and on Instagram.