Monday, February 23, 2015

Once Upon a Time in The Blue City: My Chefchaouen, Morocco Photo Diary

Chefchaouen is located in the northern region of Morocco. We got there via Tangier from Marrakech by taking a night train and a coach. 

Chefchaoune put me at ease immediately and it was just the contrast to busy and bustling Marrakech that I needed at that point in the trip. It was one of the last days of Eid which meant that most of the shops and businesses were closed. However, enough restaurants and stalls and attractions were open to keep us mesmerised for our 48 hour stint. 

I first saw images of the City on Lonely Planet's instagram account and knew that I had to visit it while in Morocco. For months I would google and pinterst images and they all gave me the same vibe, serenity.  I hope you enjoy the Soul Adventure through the perspective of ever eager lens. 

The view from our room in La Casa Perleta
Cats everywhere!
Everyone was on chill mode
"This is my Mohammed" his father said to me, I think the word son escaped him in that moment, but it made the introduction that much more memorable
"And this is my wife", he said. What a gentle and creative soul! 

Can you tell from my expression, the good vibes were flowing 
I think at this point gratitude radiated some much I had to twirl
El Kasbah
This is one fancy bathroom door
Oranges and Olives with everything!
Oh this store smelled so great!
Wandering through the Magical Blue Medina on our last day
My travel companion
Magic Carpets!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

This week: A Photo Diary

Some days suck and it gets really hard to convince yourself to keep on pressing forward, but then there are some gems in and between your pity parade...cherish them. 

Here are some of those gems

Being fortunate enough to go to the beach after work 
Matching Sandals, in Grenada we call these Dog Mussels 

That moment you discover the flowers on your cactus 
Then wait patiently for that 7 am morning glow 
Sweet sweet Marley, he has taken up residence in a basket in my room  
Luminescent 7 am light 
New Bloom on the flowers you planted 
My charismatic dog, Yogi 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Grenada Soul Adventurer Guide to: Traveling on a Budget

Some time ago I received a comment on instagram asking for advice on how to plan a trip. Living in the Caribbean it almost seems impossible to reach the far corners of the earth. Although Grenada has an international airport it is a far cry from a hub like Gatwick or Heathrow. That also means that flights out are quite expensive. Here follows my offering on how to plan that trip you always wanted to take...on the cheapish! 

Please excuse the endless slew of cheesy travel quotes I clearly stole from Pinterest...but they make sense!

Believe you can do it!
I remember saying to myself that I would never be able to make it to my dream destinations because I could not even afford the shitty economy class ticket on British Airways to get to London. That was the wrong approach! As soon as I read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist my whole mindset changed, I was a woman on a mission and that mission was travel!

Plan ahead
If you know you want to take a trip make sure and give yourself enough time to research your potential destinations and price your expenses. You want to get a good idea of where you will be staying, what you want to do and how long you want to do it for and how much you will spend on day to day expenses.

Be Flexible
A lot of people have this idea that they need to travel at a certain time, usually at the peak touristy seasons (which are usually the peak pricey season). If you are working you usually have the option of choosing your holiday time. From my experience, prices on flights and accommodation drop right after the peak touristy seasons. Unless you have school holidays to factor in I say travel at random times of the year (i.e not Christmas or Summer Vacation time).

Shop around!

With amazing resources like Kayak and Momondo (which also have mobile apps) all the hard work is done for you. All you have to do is key in your starting point and your destination and the dates and voila, a list of the cheapest and fastest flights pop up. To be even more anal you can go onto the airline's website and double check it!

Budget Airlines
It may mean that you can only pack one bag and that you will have to bring your own meal...but let us face it...airplane food is not worth the money anyhow! I have traveled with easyjet and it was a brilliant experience, the crew on the way to Marrakesh were hilarious and filled with personality. 

If you take a budget airline you are usually allowed one carry on bag which has to meet the airline specifications. It is small, but absolutely doable. If you are an over packer this is an opportunity to seriously minimize and take a critical look at how much things you actually need to take with you. Pack pieces that can be paired together easily and can be reused for several outfits. Personally I have found that one pair of converse and sandals do the trick in the shoe department (and only the sandals go in the suitcase because you will wear the converse to travel). When it comes to underwear, wash them in the shower and hang them to dry, this way you don't have to pack a month supply! Get your toiletries in the travel size, or fill them into travel size containers, better them at your destination! 

Accommodation: Three requirements (in my book) Clean, safe and central...oh and cheap!
For accommodation you have to know yourself, and then maybe adjust your taste a bit if your pocket does not match your taste. That being said, expensive is not always good and cheap is not always bad. Reviews really count when it comes to deciding where you rest your head at night. My suggestion is to start with Lonely Planet, they usually have an index of accommodation categorized by class and price. Lonely Planet, is a well known and long standing travel resource, they send people out into the field and sometimes they give a place their stamp of approval (that stamp means something to me). Next head over to Tripadvisor, and look at the reviews for the places you are considering. Take the bad reviews seriously and keep away from those places!  Next,, there you can book accommodation without necessarily paying in advance. The site requires your credit card information to hold the place and gives you some time to change your mind if you want to cancel the place without incurring any cost. Another resource I have heard good things about but have not had to opportunity to try is Air BnB. With Air BnB you can rent a person's home or at least a room in it. I am definitely gonna give it a try one of these trips. 

When I was in Barcelona I stayed at a Hostel, it was a wonderful way to meet people as a solo traveler. Hostels usually plan events and offer walking tours for cheap or free. If you are on a budget,open minded and don't mind sharing a room with strangers I think hostels are a great option. 

What is the most expensive part of my trip?
Once you have a figure to work with you are able to work out a saving plan. An example of a savings plan is to divide the cost of that item by the amount of months you have until that item needs to be purchased, then you know how much you have to save per month. Once you have saved up enough for the largest expense you can bit by bit save towards the smaller expenses. A great way to ensure that you commit is by actually purchasing the most important/expensive thing, then you have to commit to the rest...otherwise you would have just wasted a lot of money. 

Embrace your inner cheapskate
Travel is expensive, and for many of us it means some sacrifices will have to made in order to afford it. It comes down to a simple question: What do I value more? An overnight trip to the Sahara desert riding camels and watching the night sky or partying every Friday night and spending a ton on drinks? I am the type of person that says...but this could be an budget airline ticket to Amsterdam...or that is 4 nights in a hostel!

I hope my offering helps you plan an epic adventure! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Barcelona: My Sole Adventure

Do you see what I did there with the title?

Travelling alone can be intimidating, especially if you are like me and decide to dive into travelling solo to a place where you do not speak the language.

Before I convinced myself that everything was going to alright I read countless testimonials and blog posts on solo female travel. However, it was not until I read the blog of an old school friend about her accidental solo trip to Paris that I was convinced I could do it (This was after about 3 persons in my immediate circle of friends praised it for its liberating quality).

I arrived to Barcelona from Morocco with a friend who was going on to travel to Gatwick. She speaks fluent spanish and so her parting gift to me was a few spanish phrases scribbled on a tiny piece of paper that she thought would help me out (or atleast get me to my hostel). 

Armed with my spanish phrases I looked into my phone which contained the directions to my hostel. I promptly made my way to the Aerobus station and took the bus to my first stop from where I would take the metro for the first time to a street from which I was supposed to find my hostel. Did I mention I have no sense of direction? It is not is none existent ( I would probably get lost in Grenada if I did not live here...and we basically have one main road that leads right around the island). 

After asking for directions in several stores (in English) I finally found the place I would stay, The Gracia City Hostel in the Gracia District. 

My next few days would be spent discovering places both by accident (because I was lost) and also after following the directions of lovely Baristas who I spoke to in every other Cafe along my rout. I found the first monument on my list, Casa Batllo by asking some girls at the Bobbi Brown Counter in a department store (several days later I returned and bought an amazing concealer). 

Travelling solo gave me the opportunity to speak and interact with people I may have just politely greeted if I was with a friend. In no time I felt like I had become a part of the Gracia City Hostel Family. Shout out to Ana, Bryony, India, Luciano and Jacqui! At the hostel I encountered so many interesting people; travelers, adventurers, back packers and those who just sort of got stuck after being seduced by the amazingness that is Barcelona...or got stuck because they lost their passport while out drinking way too much. It was amazing to see how differently some people live their lives, travelling did not just mean a three week vacation, it means months upon months of living away from home. 

All that being said what I loved above all about my solo trip was the freedom of solitude. Although after my second day I had met up with a traveler from Australia who I did a large portion of my site seeing with I also took time to myself. In the mornings I would wonder around my neighbourhood (which was absolutely charming) popping in and out of shops, getting breakfast and just thinking, contemplating my life. It was beautiful.

The obligatory Park Guell Photo...I had to wait in line to take this!

Jacqui and I with Glorious Barcelona in the background
If you are weary about taking the plunge into solo travelling, I say do it. Go to a city where you don't speak the language and get lost...get wonderfully and beautifully and magically lost. Sooner or later you will find your way back to your hostel...your feet will be tired but your spirit will be full because you proved you are more capable than you thought, and your own company is pretty amazing!

The street performances are just amazing, this is a real person...she moved from time to time 

The beautiful side streets, I bought that famous Bioderma in a Pharmacy in one of those side streets
They call this Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Familia
It is out of this world amazing filled with so many details 
You cannot help but stand in awe 
One of the things on my must see list was this amazing market, La Boqueria

So many boutiques had sweet Dogs in them
This is the type of Vespa I would want