Hit The Beach! Your Guide to the Best Beaches in the USA

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Winters are long and cold, and I find myself dreaming of the beach for most of the year (who am I kidding, ALL of the year).

There are so many incredible tropical locations to explore in the world, but when the warm weather hits, the beaches in the US are well worth a visit.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the total length of the US shoreline (which includes outer coast, offshore islands, sounds, bays, rivers, and creeks), is a staggering 95,471 miles (153,646 km)!

That’s a lot of beach to explore!

What’s interesting about the beaches in the States is that they are so varied. Some do feel like a topical paradise, others are stormy and rocky, while others are deserted and isolated. Because of the sheer size of the country, there is no way you could visit all of the beaches in a single visit, but there are some more famous and popular ones that are definitely worth planning your trip around.

Surf Spots

Is catching a wave your idea of the perfect day at the beach? There are some amazing surf spots in the States. Here are two of the most famous:

Huntington Beach

Orange County, California
Also known as “Surf City,” this beach attracts serious crowds. There are actually four different surf spots in the area that cater to all levels — from the novice to the expert.

According to Gear Patrol, “longboarders should head to the northwest beaches, while shortboards are best in the south, by Huntington Beach Pier.”

Pipeline

North Shore, Oahu
I couldn't talk about surf spots and not mention a beach in Hawaii!

Considered to have the some of the world’s biggest and best waves, this spot is for serious surfers only. The currents are strong and the reef is sharp and cavernous, but that’s the reason for the incredible 30-foot waves and the large, hollow tubes of water that surfers are often photographed on. If you aren’t experienced enough to ride the waves yourself, it’s the perfect spot to take some amazing photos of world-class surfers!

Suntanning + People Watching

Located on opposite sides of the country, these two spots are the best beaches to see and be seen in America.

Miami Beach

Miami, Florida
This famous beach has more than 13 million visitors each year (!) making it the ideal spot to people watch.

The southern portion, or South Beach, is known for being the spot where models, celebrities, and other millionaires hang out (get ready for some celebrity spotting!), and this is where you will find the famous Ocean Drive with its stunning Art Deco architecture.

Venice Beach

Los Angeles, California
More than 16 million people visit the quirky and charter-filled Venice Beach every year to experience the sights and sounds of this one-of-a-kind spot.

Stroll down the boardwalk, purchase some unique souvenirs from a street vendor, get your fortune told, play some basketball, go dancing, relax in the sand, or get a little surfing in — there is so much to do here!  

Sunsets + Romance

Walk barefoot in the sand and catch the sunset at one of these locations that seem made for romance.

Your guide to the best beaches in America

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach, North Carolina
This gorgeous spot in the Brunswick Islands has a mile-long beach that is south facing, which means that you can watch the sun both rise and set over the water.  

Located at one end of the beach is the Kindred Spirits Mailbox, where lovers can pen notes to each other, or leave behind wishes for the future.

Montauk Point State Park

Montauk, New York
A favorite escape for New Yorkers, couples love this destination for its peace and serenity.

Go for a romantic horseback ride, take in the stunning views from the majestic rocky shore, or explore the beautiful 200-year-old lighthouse that sits on the cliffs in the park.

Get Your Party On

It’s 5 o’clock all day at these destinations that are always ready to party!

Your guide to the best beaches in America

Wildwood Beach

Wildwood, New Jersey
The famous Jersey Shore is known for its boardwalk and amusement park with more than 100 rides!

There are a variety of clubs and bars that turn up the heat when the sun goes down, and are where you can enjoy great food, indulge in some cocktails, or spend the night tearing up the dance floor.

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach, Virginia
The beach’s boardwalk is home to a strip of bars that is perfect for those that are looking to bar hop the night away. There are also some pretty incredible happy hour prices along the strip — some starting as early as 11 am!

LGBTQ-Friendly Destinations

Sun, sand, and all-inclusive fun await you at these LGBTQ-friendly destinations!

Race Point Beach

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Dubbed “P-town,” this free-spirited beach town has been a must-visit destination for LGBTQ travelers for years.

You’ll find a thriving art scene, whale-watching, incredible seafood, and lots of romantic and secluded spots to stroll.

Will Rogers State Beach (aka Ginger Rogers Beach)

Santa Monica, California
Located right off the Pacific Coast Highway, this is the closest (unofficial) gay beach to Los Angeles, so you may have a chance to do some movie star spotting here!

This is also the beach where the movie Creature From The Black Lagoon was filmed, as well as the TV series Baywatch!

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Your guide to the best beaches in America
Your guide to the best beaches in America



12 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Nova Scotia in Canada

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Though Canada’s east coast has been occupied and built up longer than most of Canada by outsiders who brought farming, building, and industry to the “New World”, there is still something raw, wild, and just beautiful about this part of the country.

Yes, a lot of that beauty is a result of human occupation, but there seems to be a symbiosis between the land and the people who live in it, and a respect for the roaring ocean that is always close by.

These 12 photos show some of my favourite parts of this stunning province, and showcase why it is worth the visit.

The boardwalks that take you from a gravel parking lot on the side of the road, through the sand dunes, and out onto the beach that is stunning if it is shrouded on fog or glowing under the blue sky!

The happy, multi-coloured buildings found everywhere you look — in cities, villages, and on farms!

Sleepy fishing villages with moss covered roofs in quiet coves.

Fishing nets, boats, traps, colourfully painted floats, and the fishermen themselves are full of character.

The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove — it doesn’t matter how touristy it is, this will always be one of my favourite spots!

Short ferry rides that give you views of small villages along the water and shorten your drive time.

Stunning parks are found throughout the province, like this one in Halifax.

Weathered, historic buildings that have held their own through winter storms and bright sunshiny days.

It’s just so ridiculously beautiful — I mean, look at those colors!!

Everywhere you turn, you seem to be at the beach, which is almost more beautiful in the fog than it is in the sunshine.

I could stare at the rough and wild Atlantic Ocean that crashes against the shoreline for days.

The colourful buildings in the North End of Halifax that have so much character!

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Visit Nova Scotia in Canada
Visit Nova Scotia in Canada


What to See, Eat & Experience in Lisbon, Portugal

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


See, eat and experience Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is one of my favourite cities in the world! Sun drenched squares, colourful architecture covered in elaborate tiles, charming locals, amazing coffee, bakeries everywhere, amazing views, and easy-to-navigate public transit — what’s not to love!?

Here’s everything you need to see, eat, and experience in Lisbon on your next trip.

Must-see sights in Lisbon

Praca do Comercio

The former gateway to the city, this main square is bordered by imposing looking lemon coloured buildings on three sides and the riverfront on the fourth. There are cafes and restaurants looking out onto the square and a statue of Dom Jose I in the centre.

The most stunning and eye-catching part of the square is the Arco da Rua Augusta, a massive arch that is the entrance to the pedestrian-only Augusta Street.

Augusta Street (and surrounding streets)

Leading eight blocks from the main square, this street and the surrounding streets, are filled with restaurants, cafes, and shops. They are packed with people, strolling, window shopping, and dining, at all hours and are lovely to wander through at any time of day.

If you are in shopping mode, keep your eye out for Zara. Even though this retailer can be found all over the world, the clothes are actually made in Spain and Portugal so (even with the exchange rate) they are often cheaper than they are in other countries and there are some unique items that you won’t find in any other location.

Elevador de Santa Justa

I know, I know, an “elevator” doesn’t seem like something worth seeing, but this outdoor wrought-iron elevator is definitely a sight to behold.

It was built by the apprentice of Gustave Eiffel (yup, that’s the man who built the Eiffel Tower), and gives amazing views over the central part of the city. A ride will coast you about 5 Euros — make sure to get there early to beat the crowds.

Convento do Carmo & Museu Arqueológico

This convent was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, and now the remains of it’s pillars and arches are exposed to the elements. It is an incredible sight from both far away and from the inside.

There is also an archeological museum attached to the site that is definitely worth wandering through. It costs around 4 Euros to enter.

Castelo de Sao Jorge

Towering above Lisbon, it costs around 10 Euros to visit the castle, but the breathtaking view is well worth the entry fee.

There is a cafe and restaurant, or a you can purchase a glass of prosecco from a kiosk and enjoy the view from the pine-shaded courtyard after exploring the castle ruins. 

Museu Nacional Do Azulejo

In Lisbon, tiles are everywhere, and they are ornate, detailed, and absolutely stunning. The national tile museum is where you learn the history behind tile making and why it continues to be an important tradition in the country.

The museum has a free app that accompanies all of the exhibits to give you extra detail about what you are looking at, and there is a charming courtyard where you can dine after you are finished exploring. Entry is 5 Euros.

Basilica da Estrela

I would suggest wandering into any church you come across (it’s free!), as the architecture and treasures inside these churches are absolutely amazing.

The Basilica da Estrela is a bit outside of the main tourist zone, but is definitely worth the trip. It is covered in pink and black marble and has incredible carved wood, paintings, and tiles throughout. There is a beautiful garden across the street, that reminds me of parks you see in New York, that has two spots to grab a coffee or snack.

Dos Prazeres Cemetery

I love visiting historic cemeteries in Europe! They are always so peaceful and there are eras of amazing architecture to see. This cemetery is located a short walk from the Basilica da Estrela and was originally built to handle the thousands of victims of the cholera epidemic in 1833.  Then in 1839, wealthier families began to build elaborate tombs and many important Portuguese figures have been buried there since. 

The Prazeres Cemetery became the model for most cemeteries in Portugal, and is considered to be “the most cosmopolitan cemetery” still existing in the country.

Belem

A suburb of Lisbon, Belem is a short tram ride away from the city centre and is home to two MUST-SEE sights. It also has a lovely waterfront promenade with some pretty impressive monuments and parks along it, and some fantastic art galleries and museums to explore. Here are the two can’t-miss spots:

1. Belem Tower

The Torre de Belem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a symbol of Lisbon and Portugal (you will see on postcards everywhere). You can pay to enter the tower, or just enjoy the stunning building from the outside, or from a one of the nearby cafes.

2. Mosterio dos Jeronimos

This monastery is absolutely stunning and completely took my breath away. I’ve been to monasteries all over Europe and this one was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The detailed architecture, view of the central garden, and attached church are definitely worth exploring. It costs around 10 Euros to enter.

Where and what to eat in Lisbon

See, eat, and experience Lisbon
See, eat, and experience Lisbon

Time Out Market Lisbon

Do you want to try a variety of different types of Portuguese food in one place? Look no further than the Time Out Market Lisbon! Created by the Time Out team in 2014, this gourmet food market has 24 restaurants, 8 bars, and a dozen shops. You can try food from different stalls and get an amazing sampling of some of the best fare the city has to offer.

Food Trucks & Kiosks

The waterfront is lined with food trucks and kiosks selling everything from cocktails to ice cream to entire meals. There are usually a few cafe tables available outside of each one and is a lovely way to enjoy some local food and watch the world go by.

Portuguese Tarts

You must try Portuguese Tarts in Portugal!! And you will have no trouble finding them, as they are literally sold everywhere. In my experience, the best ones come straight from bakeries (rather than restaurants or cafes). Pasteis de Belem is considered to be the BEST place to try these treats, so plan on stopping in there during your trip to Belem.

Can’t miss Lisbon experiences

Fado

Born in a working-class Lisbon neighbourhood, the melancholic, haunting music of Fado has been around for centuries. A lone voice is paired with a 12-string Portuguese guitar and the raw emotion of the songs, recalling broken hearts and lost youth, will bring you to tears. You can buy tickets to a formal performance, or catch one in a more intimate setting at a restaurant or cafe.

See, eat, and experience Lisbon

Checking out the tile covered buildings

The narrow, winding cobblestone streets in the centre of the city are lined with historic buildings covered in stunning tiles. They are definitely worth exploring, but make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes — some of the streets are incredibly steep!

Tram 28

This yellow tram is usually packed with tourists at all hours, as it travels between all of the major sites for less than 3 Euros. If you are short on time, this is a great way to get around and take in some amazing views. Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings when riding this Tram, however, as it has a become a popular spot for pickpockets.

Wander along the riverfront promenade

Known as Ribeira das Naus in Portuguese, this promenade runs between the Praca do Comercio and Cais do Sodre and gives you amazing views of the river. There are spots to sit and read all along it, kiosks selling coffee, cocktails, and other treats, and excellent people watching!

A few Portugal travel tips 

  • Of all the countries that use the Euro as their currency, Portugal is by far the most affordable.

  • Almost all locals speak English, so don’t be shy about asking questions!

  • Portugal charges for wifi like we charge for cable in North America — there are different levels and packages. While most businesses have wifi, it is usually the basic package so while you will be able to check your email and access some social media, you won’t be able to access things like Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. Keep that in mind if you are planning on working abroad and needing access to certain websites.

  • The streets in the areas where all the main sights are located are mostly uneven cobblestones. These can be a bit of a challenge to walk, so keep that in mind. when choosing your footwear!

  • If you are taking the train anywhere ask for a first class ticket. The first class seats are only a few Euros more than regular class and they are air conditioned, have bigger seats, have free wifi (though this can be spotty depending on where you are traveling to), and are much quieter.

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See, eat and experience Lisbon, Portugal
See, eat and experience Lisbon, Portugal



13 Travel Quotes to Feed Your Wanderlust

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


Travel quotes to feed your wanderlust

I have always loved quotes — those one or two sentences that can shift your perspective, inspire you to say yes to an adventure, or pull you out of a funk. 

These are some of my favorite travel quotes by writers, travellers, fictional characters, and people who just had something inspiring to say. 

“Coming back to where you started is not the same as not leaving.”
— Terry Pratchett

“Never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome. Keep your mind open and suck in every experience. And if it hurts you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
—Richard from the movie The Beach

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“But I am a born pilgrim. Even when I am feeling really lazy or I’m missing home, I need take only one step to be carried away by the excitement of the journey... I realize that I will never reach my goal by staying in the same place all the time. I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads. ”
— from Aleph by Paulo Coelho

“If adventures do not befall a lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”
—Jane Austin

"If at some point you don't ask yourself 'What have I gotten myself into?' then you're not doing it right" 
—Roland Gau

Image Credit: Oliver Sjöström, Instagram: @ollivves, Website: https://ollivves.com/ 

“Travel is rebellion in its purest form. We follow our heart. We free ourselves of labels. We lose control willingly. We trade a role for reality. We love the unfamiliar. We trust strangers. We own only what we can carry. We search for better questions, not answers. We truly graduate. We, sometimes, choose never to come back.”
—Author Unknown

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them”
—Amelia E. Barr

“We travel because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something inside our minds has changed, and that changes everything.”
—Jonah Lehrer

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
—Amelia Earhart

“Twenty years from now you will more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
—Mark Twain

“May you never be too busy to stop and breathe under a palm tree.”
— Unknown




Your Guide to Literary Road Trips Across America [Infographic]

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Road trips are at the heart of North American culture.

From the pioneers who chased the Gold Rush out west, to college students who take to the open road at the start of summer, cross-country road trips are a rite of passage.

It’s one of the beautiful things about this giant continent — anyone with a car can go anywhere! 

There is nothing like the pull of the open road — a set of wheels provides you with a freeing feeling that can’t be obtained anywhere else. But road trips aren’t just about exploration, they are also symbolic. A car is the visible expression of freedom, a driver's license the ticket and the cross-country trip the destination. It’s no wonder a host of authors have written classic literary novels that document their experiences along the way!

Inspired by well-known works of literature, like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, this infographic follows the narrative arcs of six books to give us a guide to literary road trips across America.

Check out these awesome routes that recreate each authors' experience. Who knows — you may end up writing a literary road trip of your own! 



literary road trips

This infographic guide to literary road trips across America was created by and is being reproduced here courtesy of carrentals.com.  

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literary road trips across america
literary road trips across america



Hit The Open Road! Road Trip Tips For An Epic Adventure

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Road trip tips for an epic adventure

Have you been craving the feeling that comes when the city is finally in your rearview mirror and you have hit the open road in search of new experiences and epic adventures? 

Yes? 

Well, you've come to the right place! 

Here is everything you need to know to make sure your next road trip is focused on fun and not on being hangry, locking your keys in your car, or getting stuck listening to crappy music the whole way! 

Before you hit the road

  • Ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your place, bring in your mail, water your plants, etc. while you are away. It will look like someone is still home and prevent break-ins — plus you don't want your plants to die!
  • Even I know that you keep a spare key under the flower pot! Remove all of your spares from their hiding spots while you're away. 
  • Unplug toasters, computers, hairdryers etc. to protect them from power surges.
  • Make sure all of your windows are closed and locked (even the ones on your second floor), and that includes any pet doors. 
  • Back-up all of your electronics and store your backup somewhere safe and dry. 
  • Store all your valuables in a safe place.
  • Leave a map of your route or travel plans with a friend or family member. This way if you get in an accident or find yourself stranded, at least someone will have some idea where you are! 
  • Make sure you know how to change your own tire, check our oil, and add coolant and windshield washer fluid if necessary. 

What to pack in your road trip survival kit

  • Pillow and blanket so you can get comfy.
  • First-aid kit (not to be mixed up with the Emergency Kit below).
  • Snacks that won't make a mess (great snack ideas below!). 
  • A bunch of grocery bags to use as trash bags.
  • Tissues for when you get the sniffles (from a cold or a road trip tune that just really gets you).
  • Toilet paper (trust me).
  • Wet Wipes (again, trust me).
  • Hand sanitizer (roadside bathrooms are not always nice, and are sometimes a tree).
  • Bug spray (for when the bathroom is a tree...)
  • Sunscreen (did you know that you can get a sunburn through your window?!). 
  • Books and magazines to pass the time. 
  • Car chargers for your electronic devices.
  • Cash — both bills and change.
  • Bottled water, or reusable bottles to keep filled with water.
  • Motion sickness medication and a small pail "just in case". 
  • A paper map of your route just in case your phone dies. 
  • Tunes! Whether it's music on your phone or you've pulled out all your fave CDs for the occasion, make sure you've got some playlists ready to go! 

Items for your car's emergency kit

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries 
  • Jumper cables
  • Candles and matches
  • Strong rope
  • Warning light, cones, or road flares
  • Umbrella and rain ponchos
  • Scraper or snowbrush 
  • Small shovel
  • Antifreeze

The best road trip snacks

First of all, you need to make sure that you have somewhere to keep your snacks! Bring a cooler that you can easily restock with ice to keep perishables cool. Also pack a fork, spoon, a sharp knife, a bowl, and a plastic storage container/bag to throw any leftover food into. And, remember not to pack anything smelly or messy. 

Here are some things to stock up on: 

  • Apples or oranges (they last longer and don't get squished as easily as other fruit)
  • String cheese
  • Beef jerky or pepperoni sticks
  • Hummus and pita or sliced vegetables
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Trail mix
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut Butter
  • Granola bars

Check out these resources for more great snack ideas:
The 10 best snacks to pack for a road trip
18 best foods to pack for a road trip
23 road trip snacks to keep morale high and your hands on the wheel

The rules of riding shotgun

If you are the passenger during your road trip, there are some things you need to do to make sure your driver is alert and happy — in other words (unless you are both okay with it) don't fall asleep! 

  • Always carry a spare key with you in your pocket
    If the driver accidentally locks the keys in the car, you won't have to wait for someone to come and unlock your car (or worse, break into it yourself). 
  • Be the DJ
    It's your job to keep the music going. 
  • You're the navigator
    Whether you're using a paper map or digital map, it is your job to make sure you know where you are and give directions with lots of notice. No yelling "left!" at the last minute. 
  • Keep the driver fed, watered, and awake
    Your driver needs to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, so it's your role to hand them water and snacks and make sure they are awake and entertained. 
  • You are the official texter and phone answerer
    Most countries now have distracted driving laws that make it illegal to be on your phone or texting while driving. If the phone rings, or a text needs to be answered, it's your job to play receptionist. 

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Road Trip Tips For An Epic Adventure
Road Trip Tips For An Epic Adventure


Exploring The Slums of Mumbai, India [Video]

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


World traveler and filmmaker Jacob Laukaitis, recently spent five days living deep in the slums of Mumbai and documented the experience in an eye-opening film. (Check out my Q&A with Jacob to learn more about him here.)

"This experience opened my eyes in ways I couldn’t have imagined because I got to spend so much time with the local people, who completely transformed my outlook on what their lives were like," explained Jacob,  "I visited their homes, schools, apartment buildings, sewers, marketplaces, and a lot more places."

Check out the film, and my interview with Jacob about his experience, below. 

What made you want to have this experience? 

The movie Slumdog Millionaire and the book Shantaram.

Also the fact that some years back I spent two days exploring the slums, but didn't have the chance to live inside them and thus left with more questions than answers! 

What surprised you the most? 

The fact that most of the people in the slums were really positive and seemed to be quite happy with their lives. Also the fact that a lot of them had profitable businesses or worked in high-end financial institutions or technology companies and simply lived in the slums to save money on rent.

What was the most memorable moment?

I don't there was one most memorable moment, because I would have dozens of really memorable moments every single day.

Taking a shower in the morning would be memorable, having breakfast would be memorable, walking around the slums and mingling with the people would be memorable — all of it!

What is the one thing you want outsiders to know about life in the slums?

They shouldn't judge or have pre-conceived notions about the people of the slums. They are exactly like the rest of us — they have their own dreams, goals, thoughts, emotions, career paths, friendships, obstacles, and everything in between. Some of them are incredibly smart, others are good with sports, or running a business or raising kids or riding motorbikes — just like the rest of us.

Are you planning on going back?

Yes, absolutely.

Initially, I thought spending five days in Dharavi would be an obstacle, but I liked it so much that I spent two extra days just hanging out even after Praveen had to start working again and couldn't take me around anymore.

Wish I had even more time!

Where is your next adventure going to take you? 

I'm currently traveling full-time, so there are quite a few new adventures in the pipeline — motorbiking around Mongolia, venturing into Northern Africa, doing the Trans-Siberia railway, traveling all around South America, and more.

When it comes to my future videos, I'm currently working on a video about how I motorbiked the second highest motorable pass in the world (Khardung-la in the Ladakh region of India), which was the craziest motorbike trip of my life.

Check out more of Jacob's films here, or follow him on Instagram here

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exploring the slums of mumbai
exploring the slums of mumbai