29 Sep

Three Ways To Sleep Around The World

No, not that kind of sleeping around! I’m talking about regular, old fashioned, lay-your-head-on-a-pillow kind of sleeping. Those of you that thought this would be some kind of salacious, really-get-to-know-Gillian posts will be disappointed ;-)

Sila Resort, Sukhothai, Thailand

One of the things I was really worried about before leaving was sleeping in so many different places. I imagined all kinds of sketchy scenarios that included creepy crawly critters, stained bed sheets, foul smells, and paper thin walls. And, while we did encounter each of those, it was never as bad as it had been in my imagination.

Turns out that one of the most difficult parts of traveling around the world is actually finding a place to stay for the night. Oh, there are plenty of rooms for rent, but I seemed to have trouble finding a reliable way to filter through them all and find the best one for us.

I think that searching for a place to stay was one of the biggest tasks I had. I never seemed to find the ‘sweet spot’ of balancing research and finding the perfect place. I tried researching many, many places and then choosing…and I tried only researching one or two places and neither method changed the result. I spent hours cross referencing all the places on TripAdvisor but, even then, still wasn’t confident that I’d made the best choice. It always seemed to be a crap shoot as to whether the place would be good or not.

Bed at Hostel Verona, Arequipa Peru The three best ways I found are:

1. Check The Guidebook

Use a guidebook that caters to the type of travel you’re doing. No point checking Lonely Planet if you’re expecting luxury any more than it’s worth checking Frommers if you’re expecting budget.

We used LP and usually looked at the midrange price options – we may be budget travelers but we don’t need bottom-of-the-barrel. I’ll be honest, it was hit and miss. The descriptions of hotels/hostels seemed to be all over the map. What one writer described as ‘clean, cute and cozy’ was definitely not what I would call any of that. Yet, other times, we found some real gems.

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2. Surf Accommodation Sites

We used the internet a lot in researching where to stay. There were a few regular accommodation sites that I would search but, just like the guidebook, I found a lot of variation within and across sites not only with descriptions but also with price.

Here are some of the sites I used:

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3. Get Real Traveler Recommendations

This was, by far, the best way to find a place to stay. Speaking directly with other travelers , or connecting with them by email, provided the best information regarding what a place was like and whether we would like it.

After meeting someone, or reading their blog, or chatting by email, we would know a little bit about what they were like. Did they travel in the same style as us or did they flop in dorms all the time? Was their budget twice ours? Or half? Then, when I asked their advice I would know where that advice fit within our travel style.

This was my absolute favorite way of finding a place because all the research had been done for me. I didn’t have to check it out online, or look for user reviews, or worry that we wouldn’t like it. I would just book a night, or just show up, based entirely on the recommendation.

Thank you so much to all that I contacted for advice. I really appreciate that you took the time to get back to me. I always pay it forward and am more than happy to help anyone who contacts me.

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Bonus: Get An Apartment If Possible

Many times, if staying longer than 3 or 4 nights, getting an apartment is totally worth it. We had apartments in Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Berlin, Germany. Each time, the nightly cost was a little more than our usual budget for a night but it was worth it to be in a neighborhood and have a kitchen and living room for a few days. We would be able to relax, cook a meal or two, explore a real neighborhood and enjoy quiet evening cocktails. We could really pretend that we lived there and, in each case, we really wished we did!

There are plenty of ways to find apartments – Craigslist probably being the most popular – but we always used an agency. I just felt more comfortable having the buffer of the agency to guard against scams (not that an agency couldn’t scam you either). I found some of the agencies I checked out in the Lonely Planet and sometimes I just googled looking for them.

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20 Sep

OneGiantStep SlideShow

OneGiantStep PosterSo I had this great idea that I would put a few pictures together into a slideshow, gather a few stories of my travels and invite some friends to get together and share. I know me and I think I tell a better story after a beer or two so I took the steps necessary to be able to have some at the shin-dig.

Now I’m thinking that I’m going to need something a wee bit stronger than beer. I’m nervous. Really nervous. Even just sitting here writing about it is making me all anxious and jittery.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I know – I was thinking that it would be cool if someone came home from a really big trip and then told really great, entertaining, inspiring stories of that trip. Like when I went to see Colin Angus and his wife Julie Wafaei after they returned from their human-powered around the world trip. Or when I went to listen to Mick Bromley talk about trekking in Nepal. Or when I hear of other bloggers giving talks about their experiences and travels.

It all sounds so cool, and interesting, and fun…until it’s me.

Up until now I had imagined myself up in front of the group being all witty, and funny, and entertaining…you know, people rolling in the aisles laughing at my hilarious stories or being in awe of the fabulousness of my fabulous experiences.

But now all I can imagine are blank stares facing me as they wait for the good part of the story…and it never comes.

My family had a great idea this weekend when they suggested I should videotape the story-telling so that I could send it to other friends and family or even post it here on the blog. Which also sounded like a very good idea until this morning when I realized that not only would I be facing a crowd of people but also a camera…that’s just great.

I think it’s worse that I will know every single person in the room. I’ve done public speaking before and I always do best if I don’t know anyone in the room because then I have no stake in whether they like it or not. And I’ve only ever done technical speaking – presenting to project stakeholders or training groups of users etc – I have never, ever, ever tried to be entertaining!

But I want to do this. It’s another step in the ‘make myself uncomfortable’ plan that we started more than two years ago when we decided to step out and go traveling.

Well…I’m uncomfortable.

Do you have any advice for me? And don’t tell me to imagine them all naked…this is my family people!

At least wish me luck.

10 Sep

Continuing Inspiration

We’ve been back in Canada for four months now and life has, in many ways, returned to ‘normal’. Our feet are still itchy but we scratch them as best we can by heading out almost every weekend to visit friends, mountain bike or discover new cities – we have not lost the ability (or want) to just pick up and go!

I still read a huge number of travel blogs too. It’s fun to read stories of those who are now on the road or who are just starting to plan their own great journeys. They offer continuing inspiration for others  who aren’t quite ready yet…and help those of us who have returned home relive our own time away.

Here are some that I have been following. Enjoy.

  • Surrounded By The Sound: Amy and Sean are 6 months into a one year RTW trip. They write great, amusing posts accompanied by fabulous photos.


  • Thom And Sean’s World Trip: Just 3 months into their two year! RTW journey, these Brits have just completed classic USA road trip portion of their itinerary and have just landed in New Zealand ready for more driving, some camping and, hopefully, extreme sports!


  • Living The Dream: Currently in Japan (and making me extremely envious!), Jeremy is in the first month of his one year RTW trip. He is chronicling every detail of his  trip and so is an excellent resource for those of you planning your own trip.


  • To Uncertainty And Beyond: Clark and Kim just redesigned their site and I love it! Full of great stories, beautiful photos and Kim’s great City Guides. They are working their way through Europe before heading into the Egypt/Syria/Jordan area.


  • Wallagrams: This is a couple to watch as they plan and save and dream about their RTW trip planned to start in 2012. Corey and Lisa know that it takes time to live their dream and they are writing about it as they wait.