8 x Travel Trends for 2020

What’s happening in the world of travel this coming year? A lot, if we believe the experts. They are predicting 8 travel trends for 2020 and we’ve lined them up for you. 

Are these travel trends for 2020 are here to stay? You decide!

1. Sustainable Travel

Needless to say, that the biggest travel trend of 2020 is sustainable travel. This is a big subject that can be divided into separate subjects like; fighting the plastic problem, flight shame, compensating and awareness. Millennials and Gen Z search for sustainability in their destination; looking for opportunities to use less plastic and to travel more sustainable by taking the train or sleep in eco hotels for example. Travel bloggers like @chelseakauai and environmental activist Greta Thunberg, raise awareness which inspires young travellers to think different. 

Chealsea Instagram

Tip: Find out how to actually compensate your CO2 emissions!

2. Space Travel

When it comes to traveling, we continue to push our boundaries and that includes space tourism. As a result, the travel industry and other companies will invest in tests with space travel on earth to make space travel possible. They meet the growing demand of consumers who want to take the big leap. 40% of travellers confirm that they think the prospect of space travel is fantastic, and would also consider this experience themselves (38%). Until space travel becomes reality, 60% of travellers opt for adventure below sea level. 

3. Under Tourism

It’s the opposite of Mass or Over-Tourism. People are more into discovering less visited places, where, consequently, you’ll find less tourists. Mass tourism is also taking it’s toll on nature, that resulted in popular beaches like Maya Bay being closed to the public. By finding alternatives, you’ll gain a more local experience and you have more unique tales to tell. Firstly, two-thirds of travellers (60%) value experiences more than equipment. That is why ‘Doing’ when traveling becomes just as important as ‘going’, and perhaps even more important. There is no less pressure on life, and therefore experiences can help to strive for a less stressful existence. Find out more than 150 less known places in the world in our new book Off the Beaten Track which is available from May 12th!

Off the beaten track by wander-lust

4. Travel to learn

For travellers, making meaningful trips is becoming increasingly important. More than half (56%) of travellers say that traveling has taught them new skills and insights. 68% of respondents want to participate in a cultural exchange and learn new skills, 54% indicate that they want to volunteer and 53% opt for international work placements. For instance, we can totally relate and traveled to Bolivia 3 years ago to report about women rights. It was incredible, tough and we learned so much.

5. As easy as possible

In 2020, convenience will become the standard when it comes to technological innovations in the field of travel. The innovations that, according to travellers, will strike the most, are those who offer practical solutions for traveling with artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and speech recognition. Think of opening your hotel room with your smartphone or a robotic concierge who speaks the language of the guests. Crazy? Well, 57% of travellers are interested in solutions such as an app for real-time baggage tracking or one app that has everything for planning and booking their trip. In addition, 31% are interested in the idea of ​​a ‘virtual travel agency’ in their living room, with for example virtual assistants with speech recognition who answer travel questions. 

travel trends 2019

In 2020, a lot is going to happen in the travel world

6. The more personal, the better

The generic travel guides are history and make way for shorter but personally relevant content. One third of travellers (34%) want “something” or someone to take the difficult work off their hands and provide them with travel recommendations: 41% would like companies in the travel industry to use technologies such as AI to provide travel suggestions based on on previous travel experiences. By the same token, personal is becoming increasingly important; individual recommendations are increasingly giving direction to each journey.

travel trends 2019
Be the travel trend

7. Awareness Travel

In 2020, the social, political and environmental problems of a possible travel destination will be examined before travellers actually book: 48% of travellers think that social problems in a travel destination are taken into account when deciding on a visit. In addition, travellers are increasingly looking for new and authentic adventures, and want to be sure that they can travel safely – regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. Platforms such as Destination Pride provide destinations with a score that allows travellers to see how LGBT + are friendly. 19% of travellers plan to visit a Pride festival in 2020, of which almost a third (30%) is between 18 and 34 years old.

8. Small is good

More than half of the travellers worldwide (53%) say they plan to make more weekend trips in 2020. These small trips are characterised by the fact that more activities are planned in shorter times. ‘Less is more’ is the motto, and consumers swear by custom on these trips. Think of weekend trips, city trips or road trips. This also results in more train travel, which is better for the environment of course.


Take a city trip to Budapest!

Happy traveling in the year 2020!

Wander-Lust

Our best travel moments of 2019

As the year comes to an end, it’s time for one of those lists that reminds us, that we are blessed to do this thing we call our job.

We travelled far and wide, met new people along the way, and left with a suitcase full of new memories. Here are our best travel moments of 2019.

Georgia

Individual press trip, February 2019
This is by far Elke’s most memorable press trip of 2019. We wanted to travel to Georgia for a while now, but with the release of our upcoming book Off the Beaten Track, we wanted to visit the countries less visited places. Unfortunately, Elke only had 4 days in total to explore, while there was so much more to see. Nevertheless, it was unforgettable! Read our article about Georgia.

Gergeti Church, Georgia

Sri Lanka

Holiday Sarah, Januari 2019
Sarah travelled to Sri Lanka with her boyfriend and was pleasantly surprised by the people, culture and amazing food. She felt safe and can highly recommend a trip here. If you are looking for a safari, read this first. Plus you can find detailed info in our 2,5 weeks Sri Lanka itinerary

Train ride Sri Lanka


Northern Iceland

National press trip, June 2019
To be honest, Iceland was always on our bucketlist, but became less urgent to visit due to the immens popularity (we always prefer to visit less mass tourism destinations). But fortunately, we received an invite for Northern Iceland which was absolutely amazing. Best of all, we hardly saw other tourists on the road! Our favourite spot? Check it in our article about Northern Iceland that is totally Off the Beaten Track.

Aldeyjarfoss, North Iceland

Oman

National press trip, March 2019
In like manner, this was also a destination we wanted to visit dearly. You can imagine Elke’s joy when Wander-Lust was invited by Visit Oman to explore the unknown country Oman. It was a week filled with adventure, dune bashing, culture, and we even saw sea turtles! It may not be your usual holiday destination, it’s more than worth it to explore! Read all about Elke’s adventure and tips for Oman.

Oman Desert
Wahabi Sands, Oman

Madeira Island, Portugal

National press trip, June 2019
We won’t blame you if you need to look up where Madeira is located on the world map. It belongs to Portugal and is located in the middle of the sea. Some people call it Europe’s Hawaï and we totally get why. Don’t come here for the beaches, but for the amazing nature, natural pools, dolphins, walking trails and their infamous Poncha drink. Read more on Madeira.

Madeira Guide

Thailand & Malaysia 2018/2019

Holiday Elke, Januari 2019
Elke’s first far away destination with her son, who was 1,5 years old at the time. It was the perfect destination to travel around and she made tons of new memories. Starting in Kuala Lumpur, they then traveled to Thailand’s Koh Lipe (pictured), Koh Adang and celebrated new years eve in Penang.

Koh Lipe Island Guide

Doha

Press trip, November 2019
Equally, the city of Doha really surprised us. Elke was invited by Qatar Airways (where she flew in the best business class ever!) to explore the capital of Qatar. It was 4 days filled with luxury, great food, loads of free time and wonderful people. Additionally, the Museum of Qatar is truly the most amazing museum we’ve seen.

NMOQ Doha
The amazing Museum of Qatar in Doha

Essaouira & Taroudant Morocco

Individual press trip, November 2019
Recently, Sarah travelled to a part of Morocco we weren’t familiar with, yet. For our book, we wanted to travel to places that weren’t overrun by mass tourism, like for example, Marrakech. Especially Taroudant surprised us. It was a truly local experience that we would highly recommend to anyone that wants to steer away from the usual travel experiences. The photo below was taken in hotel Jardin des Douars near Essaouira, one of the best hotels we’ve stayed in.

Hotel Jardin des Douars in Essaouira, Morocco

How about that for some of our best travel moments of 2019! And we are not finished yet.. 

Happy 2020!

Wander-Lust

THE MAGIC OF THE ISLE OF SKYE

In the first week of November, a small remote island on the west coast of Scotland prepares for winter lockdown. Tourists flee and sea mist covers the land in shadows. All that’s left is deserted roads curling through rough landscapes dotted with thousands of sheep. Not the best season to visit Scotland, or so you might think.

But on an island where history has been dominated by myths and legends, you might be rewarded if you put your trust in the hands of the Gods. I was ready for the Magic on the Isle of Skye.

Isle of Skye

For two weeks, I drove around the Isle of Skye in a campervan with my good friend and journalist, Hans Roozekrans. We drove, hiked, and camped all day, every day, experiencing all the magic the small island had to offer.

Magic on the Isle of Skye

Magic on the Isle of Skye

I’d heard many things about Scottish weather, but shiny, calm, and sunny weren’t any of them, especially about the fall season. We got lucky. We opened the door of the campervan each morning and found ourselves deserted under a perfect, blue Scottish sky, looking out at spectacular cliffs of lush green valleys. Each morning was a gift. The landmarks on our map of Skye had names like “The Fairy Pools,” “The Fairy Bridge,” and “The Old Man of Storr.” It was easy to imagine that, on this little island, fairy tales could be real.

Deer

Walking through The Isle of

Off the beaten Track

I’m always on the hunt for the most rugged and remote landscapes to travel and photograph. One of the things I love about photography is that it allows me to get outside so often. My two weeks in Skye were filled with long hikes, sleeping under the stars, and walking for days without seeing another soul.

I love the independence that photography gives me. Truthfully, there’s no right or wrong way. Therefore I love being able to walk outside and photograph whatever I want. For me, travel photography is about wandering and observing. There are just as many unique ways to look at things as there are unique things to look at.

Magic on the Isle of Skye

 

Pie Aerts

*Pie Aerts is a professional Instagram photographer from The Netherlands and travels around the world trying to capture those special places. He recently got featured in the amazing photobook Depart where 12 photographers tell their story. Follow him on Instagram or contact him on info@pieaerts.com.  

Backpacking with Children » 5 Reasons To Do It

Do you know what backpacking means? If you type the word into Google you will find about 235.00 results. To many, backpacking means freedom, adventure, fun, meeting new people, and having little or nothing to fall back on. In short, a journey of discovery!

So when you have children, does this all change? As a mother of two, people often me and my partner how we ‘do it’ and they wonder if backpacking with children is even possible. I wasn’t always this flexible about travelling with my children so I understand where this question is coming from. It sounds exciting and adventurous but maybe it’s a bit too much? Here are 5 reasons why backpacking with children is always a good idea.

1. Create Forever Lasting Memories!

The great advantage of backpacking is that you get to travel and therefore you experience more. For children, it is often an impressive experience. They experience new things they have never seen before. We make the lives of our children richer by showing them the world. And best of all, you and your  family will create memories that will never be forgotten.

create-memories
Cheryl’s family Backpacking through Asia

I loved traveling when I was single. I love traveling with my wife. But I love it more now that I have kids. – Santorini Dave 

2. Freedom and Adventure

Backpacking means travelling around from location to location. You don’t need a fixed plan. The whole idea of backpacking is to be flexible. Arrived some place and want to stay longer? Then do! Our advice for backpacking with children is to prepare your trip. For us this means we select a view accommodations at each location (so when we arrive we can make fast decisions). Flights we book in advance, any other transport we arrange at the destination. Choose train & bus above the plane (unless your kids are very young, then travel less locations or lower the distance). Any other preparation is not necessary, you’ll handle it!

3. It’s good for your budget

Feel like exploring the world with your children but you don’t have a large budget? Backpacking is low budget travel. Sometimes you’ll find a hidden gem, sometimes you end up in a little less more pleasant environment. Don’t focus to much on what the accommodation looks like, as long as it’s clean it will be fine (and the kids will be ok). Try to select your next stay with the children. Keep their wishes in mind!

Taking care of their own backpack makes them more independent

4. They learn to be a little bit independent

It starts even before you head off on your little adventure. Give older children in your family some responsibility during traveling. It makes them grow in their self esteem because they contribute to family interests. Taking care of their own backpack makes them more independent and last year our daughter Jessie (then 11 years old) purchased and carried her own backpack. Of course you need to decide as a parent if your child is physically able to handle this. Not every eleven-year-old is the same. Our daughter liked to have her own backpack. Because she’d have to carry her own stuff she packed less! responsible!

5. You realise anything is possible

If you decide to take your children on an adventure, you are taking a leap of faith and yes, it can be scary. But how cool is it when you’ve actually done it! Backpacking is all about surprises and backpacking with children is the 3.0 version of that. A lot of people regret things in life, just because they didn’t do something. Break the rules and be different. Be that person that has no regrets. And look back at it with pride, no matter how the experience was. A fact is, that you did it and that itself, is pretty damn awesome.

Backpacking with children
Traveling by boat, Cheryl has done it all

Tip! Lower your expectations

If you are a hardcore adventurer and backpacker, you might want to lower your expectations a little bit. The truth is, backpacking with children will be a bit different from doing it by yourself. You have more responsibilities and it starts with the items you pack. This time, bring the first aid kit that you would normally leave at home, research the area you’re traveling to and the list goes on. Once you are prepared, your backpacking adventure will be a lot more relaxing.

Tip! The less you bring, the better!

A suitcase with 30 kg of clothes, shoes (and more) sounds interesting until you have to travel from one location to another (and you have to carry that large heavy thing everywhere). From my own experience: this will make you cry. The suitcase is a NO-GO, buy or borrow a backpack.

Tip! Take care of yourself and invest in a backpack!

Find an outdoor shop and try a number of different backpacks. You will see (and experience) that there’s a real difference in types. Find a store on and try several (including weights!), but we love this backpack for kids.

Love,

Cheryl

Wander-Lust now has a TRAVELING WITH KIDS section, check it out!

7 tips to make traveling with your kids as relaxed as possible

THE BEST OF DOHA, QATAR

Doha is considered the pearl of the middle east that set itself on the map after being elected for the 2022 World Cup. Time to find out why it’s good to travel to Doha now, before it’s becoming the next Dubai.

The city of Doha has many amazing sky scrapers, entertainment, shopping, glitch and glamour, yet it still offers an authentic culture and history. We were invited by Qatar Airways to see the best of Doha.

HOW TO GET THERE

Given that Qatar Airways is officially the best airline in the world, I was happy to fly with them for the first time. Luckily, I was upgraded into their QSuite (O Em Gee), which has been voted as the best business class by the Yearly World Airlines Awards, the oscars of aviation. For someone with a fear of flying, this was the most relaxing flight I had ever experienced. A direct flight to Doha takes about 6 hours, so that’s pretty reasonable. Qatar Airways for that matter, is offering Doha as a stopover, which you can add to your booking. As a matter of fact, if you fly with QR, you can get a discount on hotel prices. 4-star hotels are available for as little as 23USD! Nice to know: Qatar Airways offers all passengers 1 hour free wifi!


Business Class Qatar Airways
Enjoying the QSuite

THE STORY ABOUT QATAR & DOHA

First thing to remember is that Qatar is a reasonably small country which makes it fairly easy to travel around if you want to. You can actually drive from North to South Qatar in approximately 3 hours. As you may have heard, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world due to their gas & oil, but it wasn’t always like this. For centuries, pearl harvesting used to be the main source of income for Qatari people. But due to the great depression and competition, pearls lost their value and the country needed to find other ways to earn a living. The pearl however, remains an important symbol of Qatar until this day.

Baskets at Souq Waqif

Doha on the other hand, is only 40 years old, which explains the modern vibe and ongoing construction. People often compare it to Dubai, but the people who live here, find Doha to be very different. For one, Dubai is all about entertainment, luxury and shopping. While Doha is certainly up there when it comes to luxury hotels, restaurants and bars, but also offers culture, sports and traditions.

GOOD TO KNOW

The best time to visit Doha is from October until the end of April. It must be remembered that the weather is undoubtedly less hot during those months with temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees. While this still seems quite warm, during summer period it can get up to 50ºC! It also has to be considered that Qatar is a muslim country, so dress accordingly. This means long dresses or trousers and try to cover your upper arms. On the contrary, you can wear pretty much whatever you want in most hotels. Alcohol is not served in public spaces, but only inside some restaurants and bars. That being said, I never heard a police siren while I was there, something I haven’t experienced in a city before.

Skyline

WHERE TO STAY

In general, there is enough choice when it comes to accommodation in Doha. For the most part, there are many big hotels, but the city also offers boutique style hotels and homestays. The best place to stay in Doha is in the West Bay area. Here you are near the airport, museums, and Souq Waqif. During my three-day trip I stayed in the following hotels.

  • Mandarin Oriental

    Brand new in Doha so modern and stylish. The rooms are truly exquisite and spacious. The hotel has an outdoor pool, 3 restaurants and a spa. Their latest gastronomic addition is Mosaic, an international kitchen with an Arabic twist. The location of the hotel is recently build, so taxi drivers may not find it that easily. On the positive side, Mandarin Oriental is located at walking distance of Souq Waqif!

Hotel pool

  • Marsa Malaz Kempinski

    In contrast to the Mandarin Oriental, Kempinski is more classical and larger. The entrance is quite impressive and the hotel offers a large pool area and a beach. They have a very cool must visit rooftop bar named Secret Garden and club that is only accessible via the parking lot. Bare in mind that the dresscode is smart/casual and visitors must bring their passports. Ask the reception for all the details.

Hotel bed

Kempinski Hotel Doha

The above mentioned hotels are both amazing but understandably not for every budget, so you are best to compare the best rated hotels online.

WHERE TO EAT

Luckily, Doha offers a wide range of cuisines and flavours. Even vegetarians have plenty of options! Here is a list of some must try restaurants.

  • Al Mourjan Restaurant offers some of the best Lebanese food in Doha. From the outside terrace you have an amazing view. Try the lemon/mint juice, amazing!
  • Nobu Doha is famous for sushi, but the same goes for their good service. The Japanese chefs welcome every new customer with a traditional greeting while working their magic behind the counter. Upstairs you can enjoy a drink at the bar, which overlooks part of Doha’s skyline. Nobu is part of the Four Seasons Hotel, due to open in early 2020.

Mezza in Doha

  • Apparently, Spicemarket is the best rated Asian restaurant in Doha. The restaurant which is located in the W-hotel, takes you on a journey across South East Asia and brings the authentic flavours to the table.
  • If you are a brunch person, go to Arc Brunch Eatery! Apparently they serve a killer coconut latte.
  • As previously mentioned, Mosaic is the newest restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. They offer a variety of Arabic food with a twist!
  • Spots like Soul Bowl and Evergreen Organics are made for those that crave something healthy and vegan. Plus both locations look cute!

Mosiac

Nice to know: Little did I know, but coffee is a thing in Doha! You’ll find many trendy coffee bars around the city and our favourites café’s are Flat White, Cue Café, Fleurs at Café, 20 Grams Coffee Bar, MIA Café and Tea Garden.

Coffee bar Doha
Cue café, in the Pearl (source)

CULTURE & TRADITIONS

You may not expect it, but Doha is full of culture and traditions. For example, the falcon, Qatars symbol and bird, is still as important as centuries ago. Some falcons even travel first class with their owners! At Souq Waqif you can find a falcon market where the birds are sold and traded. There is even a falcon hospital to keep them in good shape. The traditional Souq itself is also worth a visit. During the evening it gets more crowded but if you come between 7:30 – 12:00, you can take photo’s without hardly any people. They sell everything from handmade baskets, colourful carpets, spices, sweets and tools. The souq is also the best place for traditionally Arabic food, but you can also find Indian, Lebanese and Iranian food here.

Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif during the day

Doha Falcon

Museums

I never expected to find the best museum I have ever visited in Doha, but I did. The National Museum of Qatar is truly impressive. The design – inspired by a desert rose, is incredible. But once inside, NMOQ is curated beautifully. It takes you through the ancient times, including the amazing displays of  different species that live in Qatar. How pearls came and went, war and traditions. Not to mention that kids will love the interactive and playful set ups, while adults enjoy the beautiful indoor architecture and information.

NMOQ in Doha
The stunning National Museum of Qatar

But this is not the only museum Doha has on offer. MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) is also one of the city’s pride and joy. The building portraits a Qatari woman wearing a bourqa. From here you have a stunning view of Doha’s skyline. If you like modern art, check out Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art. With new exhibitions each month, Doha also has many galleries. Find out more here.

MIA Museum in Doha
MIA Museum

THINGS TO DO IN DOHA

Equally important are the activities Doha has on offer. A unique selling point has to be the desert with one of the world’s natural wonders; the inland sea. Next to Namibia, Qatar is the only place on earth where the sea reaches the desert. You can book several tours that will take you dune bashing. If you come in the beginning or end of the month, the sea will reach the sand dunes completely, otherwise the sight of it may be a bit disappointing.

Desert Qatar
Me, in the desert. Photo by Roel van der Krabben

Desert and sea
Camels standing at the inland sea

Visit Banana Island

Besides the thrilling desert of Qatar, you can also spend an afternoon at the luxurious Banana Island Resort. From Doha City you can take a ferry in just 35 minutes that will take you to the man-build island. There are a few restaurants, pools and beach area for visitors to enjoy the day. If you want to stay the night, you need to bring your credit card, because it ain’t cheap! Even so, it’s perfect for honeymooners or to escape the city.

Banana Island entrace
The entrance of Banana Island Resort

Katara Cultural Village

What’s more, a whole village was build to bring different cultures together through art and creativity. There are shops, restaurants, theatre, exhibition area’s and festive events. Doha is full of expats and they love to come here to listen to familiar sounds and meet friends. There is also a stunning mosque which was designed by a woman, which is quite special.

Mosque
The Mosque at Cultural Village

MY VERDICT

Having experienced Doha for a few days, and can say that it’s the perfect city for a stopover before heading home or continuing your trip. With this intention you can truly enjoy the best of Doha. In short, the capital of Qatar can be quite expensive indeed, but if you if you want, you can go all out here and treat yourself to great food, sunshine, glitch and glamour. Hop from hotel bar to beautiful restaurants or experience rich culture the sand dunes and meet some of the nicest people as a bonus, both expats and locals.

And remember that Dubai once started out as Doha. Quietly and full ambition. I think it’s time to visit this relatively unknown destination and enjoy it before it becomes a place where you’ll become just another tourist.

Love,

Elke

 

 

 

 

The adventurous South Island of New Zealand

As the ultimate New Zealand ambassador (seriously, if the immigration laws weren’t so impossible, I would already live there) I would highly recommend to visit every part of this beautiful country. But I also know that you need at least two months to fully explore every corner. 

Reality is that a lot of (short-term) travellers have to be selective on where to go and pick the South-Island of New Zealand as their go-to destination. With reason, it’s a dream to drive the long roads, stare at the ridiculously gorgeous and ever-changing scenery, wander through the cozy towns and have fun with the hilarious, straightforward locals. Next to all this beauty, there are also a ton of opportunities to have some adventure. I’ll let you in on some of the ones I experienced.

Oh and by the way, if you are going to travel the whole country (you lucky bastard), make sure to check out our insights on the Stunning North Island as well!

The North Island of New Zealand
The North Island of New Zealand

Pick Picton

Easily overlooked by many, little port town Picton (where the ferry from the North Island arrives) is worth to stay for a few days. Where the town is small, the nature is grand! the maze of the Marlborough Sounds with its valley’s, peaks, beaches, birds and crystal clear waters just scream for some exploring. Be prepared to feel really small when walking (pieces of) the Queen Charlotte trail. If you are not a hiker, there are also plenty of kayak and bike tours, as long or short as you like. Also, if you’re into sailing, make sure to ask around in town if the local sailing club still has training nights and if you are allowed to join. It’s what we did and it resulted in an epic afternoon of high speed sailing on an amazing sailboat, sarcastic jokes and home-brewed rum by the crew included. 

The seals of Abel Tasman

Of course you are going to visit Abel Tasman National Park. Golden beaches, lush nature, secret waterfalls, they have it all here. Whatever you have planned for this park, make sure to add some kayaking even if it is just for a few hours. It’s paddling on open sea and therefore pretty damn exhausting, but you’ll forget about that when you look around you. The occasional seal will lazily float by your canoe, enjoying the sun as much as you’ll do. I did a two day tour, with one day of kayaking to a campsite (the tour agencies will provide you with a fully stocked kayak, tent included) and walking back to following day. This really was a magical two days, bonfires included!

south-island of new-zealand abel-tasman-park_kayaking
Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park

new-zealand_south-island_abel-tasman-park_anchorage_kayaking

Roadtrip

If you have been doubting whether to hire a car to get around or just take the easy way and buy a buss pass: hire a car!! This coming from me (the most scared car driver alive) says something. The South Island offers not so many roads, and they are also not that busy. As a matter of fact, they are breathtaking. And at some parts also quite adventurous, with mountain passes, hairpin bends, cliffs, no gas stations for miles and of course driving on the left side. Having your own car gives you the opportunity to really wander off the main roads, stop to gaze at your surroundings wherever and whenever you want, travel at your own pace. Trust me, take the car. Car rental Picton (you can rent the car her, and drop it off in several other cities, Christchurch for instance.

new-zealand_south-island_roadtrip_crystal-clear

Adventure capital of the world

The true thrill seekers will know this: Queenstown is the place to be if you are looking for adventure (and for a scandalous pub-crawl). This town does, In my honest opinion, no real justice to the rest of the country since it pulls in a lot of tourists who just want to get hammered. Also, it’s the best place to book a trip to Milford Sound, a mystical fjord which seems to come straight out of a movie (remember that movie with elves, a ring and some bad orcs 😉 ). From jet boating to luging to bungee jumping, make sure to save some of your money to engage in at least one of the adventures on offer. You have multiple bungee sites to choose from.

The Nevis bungee let’s you fall ‘ only’ 180 meters, The Ledge offers cool views on Queenstown (but not sure if you’ll be aware of that if you are about to make a free fall with nothing but a rope around your ankles). Eventually, I decided to do the the Kawarau Bridge jump, since this is the first commercial bungee site in the world and my inner nostalgia bubbled up because of this. Imagine jumping off an old bridge, in the middle of a gorge, dipping into turquoise water. Yes, I was scared, I screamed, I was terrified. And I would do it again any day.

new-zealand_south-island_queenstown
Queenstown

south-island of new-zealand queenstown_kawarau_bungee
It’s the perfect place for thrillseekers

Stewart Island

Most people know about the North and the South Island, but forget the third island of New Zealand: Stewart Island. I’ll admit, it will steal some days of your travels to get there, but if you have the time and you’re looking for nature in it’s purest form, go! While on the island, we had the privilege to actually spot a real life Kiwi bird. They only live in the wild on Stewart Island and are hardly seen. The same goes for the little penguins that show up at dawn in the harbour. Getting to Stewart Island is possible by ferry boat. But if it has always been your dream do go cage diving with great white sharks, you can also book a (really expensive) tour which offers you the cage as well as the transfer to the island. 

Meet a sea lion

Another place that a lot of people skip is student town Dunedin. Which is a shame, since they have a chocolate factory! Jokes aside, it’s a very laid-back city, home to the worlds steepest residential street of the world. More importantly, it’ s also home to the Otago peninsula, where you can drive around and spot marine wildlife. Think penguins, albatrosses, seals and sea lions. We encountered two sea lions of which one was surrounding a bird watching hut to ensure that the people in there, would stay in there. The other sea lion (which we named Claude) was actually chasing us. Quite the adventure, but I guess that’s what the South Island of New Zealand is all about.

new-zealand_south-island_dunedin_otago-peninsula_sea-lion
Claude chasing us!

Given these points, this is only a small list of everything you can do on this amazing island. There is whale-watching in Kaikoura, climbing Franz Josef glacier, Mount Cook. You can spot dolphins in Greymouth, hike around Lake Wanaka, and so so so much more. Go there, and make me jealous.

Love,

Jill

The Stunning North Island of New Zealand

They call it the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa or simply: New Zealand! There is so much to see but for now, we’ll take you around The North Island of New Zealand.

New Zealand is known for their sheep, kiwi fruit, Hobbits and friendly people (called Kiwi’s). But those sweet people are also batshit crazy thrill seekers. It is with a reason that they opened up the first commercial bungee jumping location in the world (Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge near Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand ).

Start at the North Island

Since almost all European flights connect to Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, I’ll cover that part first. You’ll have to come back here later to find out about the South Island shenanigans. If you are heading for New Zealand, make sure to check out Grab One on a regular basis, its the NZ Groupon and they offer pretty sweet deals, also on a lot of adventures!

Getting around

First things first, the distances in New Zealand are quite far, so make sure to get yourself some solid transportation around the islands. Of course it’s most adventurous to rent a camper van. But a normal car is also pretty cool. On a budget or on your own? Take a look at Stray Travel, they offer up some nice itineraries to get around by bus (and find travel buddies). Armed with a Lonely Planet or booking.com you’ll be able to book some sweet hostels. Be aware though, it’s a pricey country.

Bay of islands

Okay, ready for your first adventure? Drive or bus up to Northland, about 3 hours from Auckland. It’s where you enter the Bay of Islands, which is full of breathtaking views and cute small villages. And it’s also the place where you can get yourself thrown out of an airplane with a sassy Kiwi on your back. Of course accompanied by a parachute, it’s perfectly safe (although you won’t feel that way when you are hanging out of the plane on a 5 KM height). Skydiving above the Bay of Islands is gorge!

The grassy hills and azure waters dotted with islands will cause some serious neck pain from wanting to look all around you. You almost forget that you just tumbled down the sky and you are floating with just a thin piece of fabric behind you (oh right, and of course that sassy Kiwi). If you ever had just one fiber in your body thinking about doing this, the Bay of Island is the place to go! While you are in the area, there are tons of other nice things to do and to explore. Visit the most northern part, Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea collide. Or book a day trip to 90 mile beach. This usually includes sand boarding on some steep dunes, another must for adventure seekers! 

Bay of Islands New Zealand

Coromandel

Just like most of the country, the Coromandel is beautiful and very different from other areas. From Auckland you can get there in 2,5 hours, enjoying the scenic road or take the ferry (but that leaves you out of transport once you arrive). This is where super famous cathedral cove is located and a ​ great spot to do some hiking or canoeing. Make sure to touch down at hot water beach.

Yep, this is the place to start digging some holes to create your own hot tub (or boil some eggs) as the underground hot springs warm up the water that comes up when you start removing the sand. After chilling in the warm water, it’s time to actually get some thrills (and chills). Leave the beach behind you and make way for the extremely freezing water. Yeah, the contrast is quite big, but the massive waves will make up for it. This is the time to jump and scream around in the water, as if you are ten years old again. It’s a pretty mean surf spot as well.

catherdral-cove-new-zealand
Cathedral Cove

Coromandel New Zealand
Endless walks on the beach

Tongariro Crossing

Lord of the Rings fans, pay attention! Here’s your chance to pretend to be Frodo or some other kind of Ork and walk around Mordor. Near Lake Taupo, in the middle of the North Islands lies the Tongariro National Park. Mt Ngauruhoe appears in the movies as Mt Doom and is a part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This (approximately) 7 hour hike will lead you through a volcanic wasteland and you will definitely recognise Middle Earth at it’s finest. Although the hike very is do-­able, make sure you have good walking shoes (leave your beloved Converse in your backpack) and watch the weather forecast as it can get a bit spooky (and dangerous) if the conditions are bad. But men oh men, this is one cool day trip. A beer at the end of the day is much deserved (and needed).


The Emerald lakes

tongariro-new-zealand

Wanganui River

Where most travellers continue their trip south after completing the Tongariro or Lake Taupo, I advise you to stick around for a couple of days. Why? Because canoeing the Wanganui river is almost a life changing experience. Imagine a river, surrounded by lush green forest and high stone walls. Next to that, imagine paddling for 3 days through it with just you and your canoe buddy. That’s what happened to me and it was astonishing. Stress does not exist and complete peace of mind is guaranteed. Find a nice little bar and reminisce about all the adventures you’ve experienced on the North Island of New Zealand, memories for ever. I still think about it all, every day. And then I haven’t even told you about all the geothermal parks, surf spots and that place where the hobbits live…although this may be true, I guess you’ll just have to go find out for yourself!

wanganui-river-new-zealand
Crossing the Wanganui River

Love,

Jill

Find out more about the South Island of New Zealand!

New Zealand travel movies

3 X TOP PLACES IN LAOS

Located cozily in between Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam, Laos is often one of the South East Asian countries that’s left un-visited when traveling this to part of the world. And that’s a shame, because Laos is a true gem and one of the cheapest countries to travel in.

 If you are a first time visitor to Laos, these are definitely my top three places for visiting!

Been there, Don Det

Don Det is a small island located in the south of Laos, close to the Cambodian border. The island is well-known for its beautiful scenery and relaxed hippy vibe. Staying in one of the bungalows on the island means going back 2 basic with cold showers and toilets that can only be flushed with a bucket. Straightaway, you will feel the relaxed vibe on this island which is very contagious. Soon you’ll be unwinding in a hammock with a fruit shake in your hand. For those who find it hard to sit still cheap bikes can be rented all over the island to go for a ride and explore the breathtaking waterfalls.

Don Det Waterfalls

Don Det, Laos
Don Det

Soaring through the jungle in Laos with the Gibbon Experience

If you’re up for a little more action after being completely rejuvenated at Don Det travel all the way north to go on The Gibbon Experience. Sleeping in the worlds highest tree houses, flying through the jungle of Laos on a zipper-line. Furthermore, you can hike through beautiful woods while contributing to preserving everything that surrounds you. That’s the Gibbon Experience. Of all my travels this is by far one of the most amazing things I’ve done. Make sure you make a booking in advance as the Gibbon Experience is often fully booked.

Gibbon, Laos

Oui oui, Luang Prabang

From Luang Prabang you can get on the night bus to the Gibbon Experience. It goes without saying that Luang Prabang is a town where French influences decorate this charming town everywhere. You can walk through Luang Prabangs enchanting streets or visit one of the many temples. About 40 minutes from Luang Prabang you will stumble upon the Kuang Si Waterfalls which are so greenish blue that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Take a swim in these (cold!!) waterfalls or simply walk around and enjoy the surroundings. When you get back to Luang Prabang pay a visit to the market where delicious baguettes and fresh fruit shakes are sold for just under €1,50.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos

Next to these three highlights Laos has so much more to offer like visiting the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng or strolling around its capital Vientiane.

Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos

Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos

Ultimately, I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in this partly undiscovered little piece of Southeast Asian heaven 🙂

Love,

Evelien

How to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. And this is no surprise since the lost city is the biggest religious monument in the world which dates back to the early twelfth century.

These days almost 5 million tourists yearly make their way over to Cambodia to wander around the temples of Angkor Wat themselves, making it a very popular but very busy place to visit. You better think again if you ever dream of having these Asian temples all to yourself, but there are a few tricks to avoid the big crowds and wander around in peace…

1. Watch the sunrise and leave a little early

Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a definite must-do when you’re visiting these temples. Not only is it a truly magical experience when a new day presents itself by rising up against the temples, but it is also a great way to arrive at the temples early. If you want to have a good spot without hundreds of iPad and Selfiestick waving Chinese tourists in front of you, walk right instead of going straight ahead at the famous ‘sunrise temple spot’. You won’t be right in front of the temples, but you will share the view with just a dozen of other tourists. When the sun is up and you captured enough Instagram-worthy shots, head back to your Tuk Tuk driver before everybody else does. Doing this you’ll arrive at the other temples as one of the first, having the temples (almost) all to yourself 🙂

Beat the crowd at Ankor Wat
The most impressive temple of Cambodia, but very busy

2. The further away, the better!

Firstly, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to bring you to the popular temples that are further away first. Many Tuk Tuk’s and tour buses follow a certain route, creating the perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite thing 🙂 Also, if you see tons of big tour buses standing outside of a temple, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to another temple which appears to be less crowded first. Clever thinking!

no crowds at ankor-wat

3. Go back at the end of the day

Wandering around the temples of Angkor is extremely beautiful, but also extremely tiring and HOT! If you decided to watch the sunrise you will probably feel very tired around 12pm, making you want to go home and take a nap during the hottest hours of the day. If you buy a one-day-pass this pass is valid for a whole day, so you can come back to the temples in the late afternoon, when most of the crowds already have disappeared. Make sure you don’t go too late as Angkor Wat closes at 6pm.

Ankor Wat Cambodia

I hope the three tips above will help you explore the ancient Ankor Wat in peace and quiet. Enjoy 🙂

Love,

Evelien

Did you know Cambodia is one of the world’s cheapest countries to live in? Check which countries made it to the top 5!

WX191DV28C

Why you should Travel Solo at least once

It’s midnight and I’m walking through the rainy streets of Koh San Road, Thailand. I’m surrounded by fried scorpions and Thai neon signs which I can’t read. With a backpack full of courage I try to connect with the already drunken tourists, but unfortunately without any success. It’s my first time out of Europe, the first time backpacking. 

It was the best decision I could have ever made and I’ll give you 5 reasons why I think you should Travel Solo at least once in your lifetime.

I walk alone, but I feel more powerful than ever. A sense of freedom, I can do what I want, whenever I want.

Why you should travel alone

Nobody can discover the world for you

We can get lost in the most beautiful travel documentaries, dream away with breath taking photos and listen with unbelief to the stories of others. But nothing can compare to the experience in real life. If you want to discover the world we live in, go. Cause nobody can discover it for you. Being on your own means you can decide where you want to go, which places inspire you and choose the adventures that most appeal to you. You are in charge of broadening your horizons.

There is nobody here to stop me. It was time to discover the world on my own.

Finding your own rhythm

I’m definitely not a morning person and it has always been a challenge to agree with the overenthusiastic waking-up time of my friends. It’s a great feeling waking up and start doing whatever you want. There is no boss waiting for you at the office or a friend that desperately wants to go to that trendy, hipster breakfast place four blocks away while you’re starving. You have the time and space to create your own rhythm and discover your own needs. This is a valuable lesson to learn, also regarding your daily routines back home.

toa-heftiba-205018
You are more in the moment when you travel alone

While traveling, I realised that the differences between all of us are insignificant compared to what connects us.

Experiences will be more intense

The autopilot of the mind will be switched off when you’re confronted with new situations, which results in a higher level of focus. You’ll have to stay alert, take care of yourself and create your own path. Because of this you’ll feel more aware of your surroundings instead of looking at it passively or getting lost in a conversation with your partner. You will experience the world around you instead of only seeing it.

Ásbyrgi North iceland

New perspectives

Not being with friends or a partner means you have to go out of your comfort zone to meet new people or talk to locals. You’ll meet travelers from different cultures, backgrounds, social environments and also different characters. While traveling I realised that the differences between all of us are insignificant compared to what connects us. Traveling alone will teach you to be flexible, open minded and less judgmental.

Trust your intuition

Being on your own in an unknown country will give you a major confidence boost. Not only will your self-esteem grow because it’s really awesome to travel solo, the trust in your own intuition will increase as well. I can be quite the control freak so I tried to avoid making too many plans for my backpacking trip. It made me really nervous in the beginning as I was constantly questioning myself if it would workout.

And to be honest, not everything did work out like it was suppose to. There was one day I didn’t have any money, food or a place to sleep cause my credit card got blocked. But in the end, everything will be fine, one-way or another. There is no need to stress or worry cause if you trust on your intuition it will always work out. Are you worried about traveling alone as a female? Check these 5 safe destinations that are perfect to start from.

why-you-should-travel-alone-eva
Eva in Chiang May, 2015

So what are you waiting for?

In my opinion, Solo Travel is not just a “cool” thing to do but it also really helps you to extend your boarders and develop yourself. You will gain new insights of the places you’ll go, the people you will meet and the cultures you will learn about. Secondly, it will also deepen the perspective on your own social environment and needs.

Traveling solo is the greatest gift you can give yourself. 

Love,

Eva