Astypalea: A Hidden Island Gem In The Aegean Sea Of Greece.
Spending your summer vacation in Greece is no longer an
insiders’ tip. The over 3.000 islands attract millions of visitors every
year, simply because the Greek islands are and always will be uniquely
fascinating. Our last journey here has been over a decade ago, so it was
about time to re-visit history. Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos or Corfu are
familiar faces, but we were on the lookout for something less popular,
yet of the same beauty. Only by coincidence did we come across a real gem in the southern Aegean Sea: Astypalea.
Due to its special form and beauty of its landscape, the tiny island
is often referred to as “butterfly of the Aegean”. Still due to her
manageable form, Astypalea offers quite a lot. Especially for vacationers who long to travel away from tourist crowds, it will be love at first sight.
Astypalea is quite, mystical, idyllic, familiar with typical Greek
ambience, dozens of beaches and crystal clear water. Yet her name holds
no meaning to many – 90% of the islands visitors are Greek. The majority
of foreign tourists are yet unaware of this hidden island secret.
Astypalea offers few sights. There are several small villages worth a
look, yet Chora is the real highlight. Narrow alleys, traditional
windmills and the remains of an old Venetian castle grace the islands
largest village. Apart from the castle and the red-hooded windmills, a
stroll through the streets is the best way to explore. You will also
come across the famous white houses with blue roofs, normally associated
But let’s not forget about the stunning beaches. A holiday in Greece
would be nothing without spending at least a couple of hours along the
shores. It would be like spending a weekend in Paris, without gazing upon the Eiffel Tower. The beaches of Astypalea don’t have a cosmopolitan vibe or white sands, yet they offer turquoise, light-flooded water, relaxation and peace.
What can we say? Our trip to Astypalea was one of the most pleasant
experiences we’ve encountered. Here, everyone knows everyone, which
makes the island even more likeable. Only in August could you encounter
not finding a room. During all other months, it’s quiet. Cozy. What
fortune for island and visitor.
Infos & Tips:
Best time to visit: From spring to fall you’ll find temperatures the most pleasant. This is when the water is warm enough to jump in.
How to get there: From Athens you can fly to
Astypalea in about 40 minutes, or you can take the ferry from Piraeus
(even with your own car), which will take about 8-10 hours.
Where to stay: The number of hotels on Astypalea is
limited. The largest house offers only 28 rooms. You’ll search in vain
for hotel bunkers. Instead several families rent out private rooms and
One Of The Most Beautiful Hikes In The World: The Quiraing In Scotland.
Scotland might just be one of the most beautiful places we’ve
ever been to. Whether you’re young or old, sporty or relaxed, easy going
or an adventure seeker, everyone will get what they’re looking for.
During our road trip, we managed to travel all across the norther tip of
England, with the Isle of Skye as our last destination.
Apart from Scotlands landmark, the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing is a
must for anyone who visits Isle of Skye; especially if you’re a travel
The weather in Scotland can be very unpredictable, so it’s best to
come prepared. It looked quite nice when we started the trek, yet it
turned on us just before we got to the end where you decide to either
turn around, or keep walking to finish the loop. It was really windy
(really SUPER windy!) and it got foggy as well so we turned around in
the end. We could barely keep ourselves from falling because the wind
was that strong! On the contrary, it was nice because the wind pretty
much pushed us all the way up. The trek itself is not hard, but we’re
just going to let the photos speak for themselves.
A few facts about the Quiraing:
Length: 6.8km (the loop)
Duration: 2-3 hours (depending on the weather)
Difficulty: Easy (unless it’s super windy, then you should be aware of the drops)
As I buried my face into the piping hot crêpe, I couldn’t help but realize how much I eat when I visit Europe.
After gorging on Nutella, cheese, sausage, beer, pasta, goulash, or
whatever else is put in front of me as I traverse the continent every
summer, my bikini body needs some work. Europe has just too many
world-class places to eat, drink, and be merry!
But, as I took that second bite, I thought, “Screw it. Bring me a second crêpe. You only live once!”
And so I continue eating my way across the continent.
few years ago, I listed my favorite restaurants in Europe, but since
that time, I’ve eaten a lot of food at a lot of new restaurants. I’ve
been to new cities, countries, and locales that deserve some culinary
attention, so today, it’s time to share a second list of eateries in
Europe that — while they may ruin your bikini body — will bring you a
lifetime of bliss and memories:
Note: I included a few favorites from my old list (which you can visit here) because I eat at them over and over and over again!
Le Dit Vin (68 Rue Blanche, Paris) I stumbled across this restaurant while looking for a place to eat near my Airbnb.
I spied lots of wine bottles on the wall and someone eating cheese and
thought “PERFECT!” It was an incredible find. The prices are reasonable
(under 15 euros [$16 USD] for a meal), there is a large wine selection
(it’s Paris, of course!), and the food is rich, savory, and delicious.
The menu changes daily depending on what’s fresh, so all I can really
recommend as a constant is the cheese plate.
Moeders (Rozengracht 251, Amsterdam)
Meaning “mothers” in Dutch, this restaurant is famous for serving
traditional Dutch cuisine. It’s a small place (you’ll want to make
reservations) filled with portraits of people’s mothers (feel free to
add to their collection!) with outdoor seating in the summer. The best
value is the Dutch sampler for two, where you can sample a heaping of
traditional Dutch food, including lots of potatoes, cabbage, and meat.
The fish of the day is always a winner, as is their carpaccio, spare
ribs, and hotchpotch (a thick stew with vegetables and meat). A main
will set you back 15-20 euros ($16-22 USD) but it’s worth the price!
U Medvídku (Na Perštýn 7, Prague)
This restaurant is one of the oldest in the city and somewhere I take
my tour groups every year. Czech food is heavy on the meat and potatoes,
and this spot is no exception. Here you can find a mouthwatering
selection of home-brewed beer, heavy goulash, thick potato dumplings,
duck, and perfectly cooked pork. Portions are huge (the pork knee is
really for two). Prices are 120-200 CZK for a meal. (Another excellent
place that serves traditional food is Kravin (Námstí Míru 109/18, Prague), which is a popular after work drinks destinations).
The Naschmarkt Vienna Centrally located near the main ring road of Vienna,
this outdoor market is lined with restaurants, cafés, and wine bars and
is popular with locals and — thanks to lots of mentions in guides and
blogs — tourists alike (yes, I’m doing my part!). You’ll be able to
choose from a selection of kebab vendors, snack shops, and vegetarian
restaurants. (You’ll also find food stalls selling vegetables and deli
goods, but prices are higher than other markets in town so I wouldn’t
recommend getting those things here.) On a warm day, I love coming here
and eating outside and having a glass of wine.
Der Wiener Deewan (Liechtensteinstraße 10, Vienna)
This all-you-can-eat, pay-what-you-want Pakistani restaurant is popular
with students (and cheapos like me; most people pay 5-10 euros for
their meal). It’s also insanely tasty, serving up daal, naan, salads,
chicken, chutney, and at least a few other dishes (usually around six
total) each night. Because it is so cheap and tasty, it is always crowded,
so if you’re a big group or going during peak eating hours, you’ll most
likely need to wait for a seat. I visit every time I’m in Vienna.
Aneka Rasa (Warmoesstraat 25-29, Amsterdam) There’s a lot of Indonesian food in Amsterdam,
given their past colonization of the country. While there are many
options in the city, I like this one the best because you get a lot of
food for your money and it’s a great place for groups. You can order
the sampler platter (about 10 dishes) for 20 euros ($21 USD) per person.
You’ll leave full and with leftovers for later. I’m especially addicted
to the rice cakes they bring out as an appetizer.
Leo Burdock (4 Crown Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin)
This well-established restaurant (over 100 years old!) serves fantastic
fish and chips. It’s simple, easy, and delicious. Unlike a lot of other
fish-and-chips shops, I didn’t find the food here too oily; it was
perfectly fried and crisp. They don’t have an extensive menu, instead
focusing on making a few dishes incredibly well. At 10 euros ($11 USD)
for fish and chips, it’s a delicious place for an affordable and filling
lunch. There are four Leo Burdock locations in and around Dublin.
The Laundromat Café (Austurstræti 9, Reykjavík)
This cute café right on the main drag is famous and serves what I can
only call American fare: burgers, pasta, sandwiches, and salads. While
expensive (it’s Iceland, yo!), it’s also damn tasty. They offer
excellent coffee and pastries, and you’ll find lots of people reading
and writing in their comfy chairs and at tables.
Sægreifinn – The Sea Baron (Geirsgata 8, Reykjavík) Turns out one of my readers in Iceland
happens to be a government official, and when she took me here, I knew
it had to be good. This tiny, hole-in-the-wall seafood place serves
thick lobster soup with huge chunks of lobster and nice creamy broth.
I’ve since heard it’s pretty famous, but when we went, there were no
crowds and only Icelanders there. Regardless of who frequents it now,
it’s delicious and shouldn’t be skipped.
Berlin’s Thai Market I’ve been a Thai food snob ever since living in Thailand.
Even the best places in the world make me go “meh,” but this weekend
food market (though there are some weekday vendors) sees Thais setting
up mini stalls and selling street stall–style food just like they do
back home, unencumbered by German regulation. It’s the most authentic Thai food I’ve found outside Thailand (and it’s super cheap at only a few euros per dish). Here you can gorge on pork noodle soup, som tam, Thai ice tea, and real street-style pad gra pow! Heaven!
Vinograf Míšenská (Míšenská 8, Prague) More of a wine bar (featuring hundreds of Czech
vintners), they make the list because they do serve a yummy cheese and
meat plate, too! The small, intimate setting with walls covered in wine
bottles offers a quite respite from the noise of the streets.
Txalaka (Carrer Bonastruc de Porta, Girona, Spain)
Oddly located near a big car park and away from the town’s downtown,
this restaurant serves buffet-style tapas: you just go and pick what you
want. Most dishes are only a few euros and the selection is
extraordinary — it’s pretty much every tapa you can imagine (I
especially liked the shrimp). Grab some food, sit out side with your
friends, drink a glass of wine, and eat at one of the best spots in the
Hermans (Katarina, Sofia Fjällgatan 23B, Stockholm)
This is an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet overlooking the harbor.
Even though meat isn’t on the menu, the food is worth coming for. You
have a wide selection of ever-changing options: healthy salads,
home-cooked warm breads, hot dishes, a smorgasbord of fruits, and lots
of desserts. Their 100 SEK ($11.50 USD) lunch buffet is extremely
popular and fills up fast. Get there early. If you have a large group,
you’ll need to make reservations. During the summer months, there’s
La Crêperie des Arts (27 Rue Saint-André des Arts, Paris)
Located on the Left Bank near the Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame train
station, this tiny to-go crêperie is the best one in all of Paris (in my
opinion). The banana Nutella crêpe is my favorite. Cheap, savory, and
with large portions — you can’t go wrong here.
Pancakes! (Berenstraat 38, Amsterdam)
This spot serves traditional Dutch pancakes: large thin, crêpelike
pancakes with tons of tasty toppings (I’m a big fan of the strawberries
and whipped cream!). It’s small, so try to avoid peak eating times as
the wait can get quite long. Large portions make this place worth your
time and money. Most pancakes are around 8 euros ($8.50 USD).
Café de Jaren (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22, Amsterdam)
Serving typical café food (soups, salads, sandwiches), this place is
located on the main Amstel canal, with an incredible view of the city.
It has an awesome outdoor area, serves beer, and has Wi-Fi in case you
want to work! I love coming here to sit, relax, and enjoy the view!
Jeanne A (42 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Paris)
This eat-in épicerie and wine shop offers country-style food
(especially meats and cheeses) and is my favorite spot in Paris. The
prix-fixe menu offers the best value at 30 euros ($32 USD) for dinner
with an appetizer and main dish. Be sure to try their lamb and duck —
they are famous for it!
Café Père & Fils (86 Rue Montmartre, Paris)
Located in the heart of Paris, this is a Parisian brasserie and coffee
shop with outdoor seating for lunch and drinks. It gets busy on warm,
sunny days when all the nearby office workers take over the patio for
lunch. There are daily happy hours and brunch on Sunday.
Australia-based Torre DeRoche runs this blog, and her name may be familiar to many of you, since I interviewed her about her book earlier this year.
I love her deep thoughts on travel and the personal nature of her blog.
You really get a sense of the ups and downs of travel through her
writing. It’s comforting to read about someone working through the same
nervous fears you are.
One of my favorite blogs as she talks about the “real” side of travel
and is not afraid to get political, talk about racial prejudice when she
travels and discusses life as a black female traveler. So much of
travel writing is from a white perspective, it’s really great to hear
from someone else. Not only that, but her tips and tricks are super
useful and her writing and photos stellar too.
Lauren is the most accident prone traveler I know. Anything that can go
wrong usually does go wrong when she travelers. She’s one of the
unluckiest travelers I know. But all that misadventure leads to some
amazing travel stories and her blog is filled with funny tales that will
keep you captivated for hours. Additionally, she provides some
wonderful practical tips on travel and detailed expense breakdowns on
how much she spends in each place.*** So
there you have it. The best travel blogs on the web (besides mine) that
I read. This is an ever-changing list so I’ll be updating as time goes
on! After all, new travel blogs start every day. Go read these ones,
laugh, learn, and be inspired!
Are you looking to start a blog too? These posts can help you do that:
you’re looking for more in-depth advice, I have a very detailed and
robust blogging course that gives you a behind the scenes look at this
website and features case studies, expert interviews, monthly webinars,
tech support and help setting up your blog, and a lot more. You’ll learn
everything I know about creating a successful blog. If you’re
interested, click here to get started now.
There is no denying that Airbnb has changed how we travel. It got
people out of the hotel/hostel quandary, gave locals a way to monetize
their extra rooms and earn more income, and got tourists into different
parts of cities, spreading the benefits of tourism around to a wider
part of the community.
It wasn’t the first company to do this, but
it made this kind of travel widespread and socially acceptable. The
idea of “renting someone’s home” is now seen, not as weird or unsafe,
but as a perfectly normal way to see a destination.
I’ve been an
Airbnb user since its early days (it began in 2008) and have had some
wonderful experiences using the service: the Swiss couple who made and
shared dinner with me, the folks in Paris who left me wine as a welcome
gift, the retirees in Tours who put a candle in my breakfast croissant
for my birthday, the couple in NZ who gave me veggies from their garden,
and countless other wonderful experiences where I got to meet locals
and learn aspects of life that I might not have otherwise. (I’ve also
hosted some really fabulous people too. The site works both ways!)
Over the last few years, I had gotten out of the habit of using Airbnb, instead staying with friends, in hostels, or hotels on points. However, while I was on my book tour over the summer, I decided to start using the service again.
I was nervous about doing so though.
overtourism to hosts with multiple listings to companies using it to
run hotels to a general “whatever” attitude toward complaints, there are
a lot of problems with Airbnb. It is no longer the whole “people
renting out their room for extra money” service it markets itself as.
But I figured there had to be some gems on the site.
And what kind of travel expert would I be if I didn’t know Airbnb’s current state?
went in determined to not rent places that were not people’s homes —
that is, any rentals run by folks with multiple listings or property
management companies, which have the effect of raising rents for
everyone. While Airbnb has a lot of problems, the “commercialization” of
the service is the biggest.
in 2016 (the most recent data I could find), true home sharing, where
the owner is present during the guest’s stay, accounts for less than 20% of Airbnb’s business in the United States; 81% of Airbnb’s revenue nationwide — $4.6 billion — comes from whole-unit rentals where the owner is not present.
That doesn’t really scream the “just a person renting out their extra space” model the company likes to tout.
And I found avoiding that a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Even having spent hours trying to weed those kinds of homes out, I was fooled in London, DC,
and Santa Monica: those listings existed solely to be rented out on
Airbnb. Those pictures that made it seem lived in? Faked. (And the place
in London, which was supposed to be a room in a guy’s house, was just a room…but in a house for Airbnb guests.)
All that time spent trying to do the right thing…and I still failed!
this happened over and over again, I thought to myself: Is it time to
break up with Airbnb? Was using Airbnb was worth the cost it exacts on
residents and the time spent trying to find gems in vain?
Being a responsible traveler is really important to me — but not contribute to the problems Airbnb causes.
is one of the biggest drivers of overtourism. It has created a lot of
new accommodation for travelers, which in turn contributes to higher
tourism numbers.3 On the one hand, that’s good: cheaper
accommodation = more tourists = more revenue. But, when unregulated and
combined with the issues highlighted above, increased tourism kills the
very places we love. It becomes a vicious cycle: more tourists = more
money = more properties on Airbnb = fewer local residents. However,
thankfully, as I highlight in this article, a lot of locales are fighting back and beginning to restrict the service.
the company doesn’t really take action against hosts behave badly. From
spying on guests to denying last-minute bookings to substandard
conditions to fake reviews, complaints against hosts go unattended until
they become news stories like this:
such, I’ve found the customer service to be really terrible and slanted
toward hosts. There are a lot of protections for hosts but not guests.
If I cancel, I have to pay a fee. If the host cancels, there’s little
punishment. When talking about my recent experiences with Airbnb on
Twitter and Facebook, I found I was not alone. A lot of people have
noticed a decline in the quality of the service lately. They still use
it, but I was surprised that so many people didn’t do so as much as they
used to. Here are some examples:
is another Arizona native. Drew has been traveling the world since he
left college and has made a full-time career working for himself.
He’s known as the Snapchat
genius. He’s created his own travel show through Snapchat. He works
with several different brands and sponsors, is part of the GoPro Family,
and writes for Elite Daily as well as the Huffington Post.
Stefan and Sebastien are the cutest gay couple! They are both from Europe and are currently traveling Argentina.
boys are taking the travel industry by storm. Their mission is to seek
out and encourage other gay couples to travel and step out of their
comfort zone. They aim to find the best places at the best price with
the greatest experiences. Can’t wait to see what South America has in
store for them!
this guest post, Alicia Erickson offers some handy tips on how you can
visit Rwanda on a budget! She spent some time living there and, today,
is sharing her tips on the country (one I haven’t got to yet!). She’s a
freelance writer so I don’t have a blog to link too! Here are her tips:
a tiny nation nestled between Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the center of the African continent, is
filled to the brim with rainforests, wildlife, lakes, and volcanoes. It
is aptly nicknamed “the land of a thousand hills.”
Rwanda also happens to be one of the safest and easiest nations
to navigate in East Africa. Sure, this nation might have a bit of a
reputation that proceeds itself. But the genocide that ravaged the
country ended more than 25 years ago. Over the past two decades,
innovation, environmental sustainability, and women’s rights have been
at the forefront of Rwanda’s rapid development.
You might wonder, is Rwanda budget-friendly? Sub-Saharan Africa
in general can be a tricky place to travel cheaply, as it is often
perceived as a high-end safari destination. Rwanda is no exception. Much
of its recent tourism development has been geared toward high-end
luxury lodges and trekking with the coveted mountain gorillas, which
costs a lofty $1,500 for a permit.
However, don’t let the hefty
price tags associated with gorillas and luxury lodges deter you from
experiencing the quiet magic that Rwanda exudes. Having lived and
traveled there on and off from 2015 to the present, I have found a
number of tricks for saving money and exploring lesser-known
destinations that are very cheap and sometimes free! Without a doubt,
Rwanda on a budget is absolutely possible, if you don’t mind forgoing
some of the higher-end tourist options.
Here is how to save money and visit Rwanda on a Budget:
Although there are many high-end hotels and lodges, there are also a
handful of hostels, reasonably priced guesthouses, and even some
Airbnbs, not to mention camping. I’ve used all these options in both
Kigali and destinations across the country.
Budget options tend to
be simple but clean. Be aware that water and electricity reliability
fluctuates, though they tend to be more consistent than in neighboring
Hotels and lodges tend to cost well over $100 USD/night. However, there
are also a number that offer private rooms for about $20-45 USD/night. The Nest in Kigali is a great bed-and-breakfast option, with private rooms costing about $50 USD/night.
Airbnbs: Airbnbs are increasingly popular in Kigali, Lake Kivu, and Musanze. Prices for a private room start at $20 USD/night.
Camping is widespread in national parks such as Nyungwe Forest and
Akagera and often available on the sites of many guesthouses. Keep in
mind that evenings can get cool and that camping is a bit of a challenge
during rainy season. Costs run $8–15 USD/person/night. Akagera National
Park, Red Rocks in Musanze, and Kitabi Eco-Center in Nyungwe all offer tents for rent.
How to Save Money on Transportation
I found public motorcycles to be the fastest and cheapest way to get
around within cities. Motorbike trips within Kigali cost 300-1,000 RWF
Taxis: Taxis are more
expensive and harder to find. However, when it rains, motorbikes don’t
drive, in which case taxis are the best alternative. An average ride
within Kigali costs 2,500-5,000 RWF ($2.70–5.40 USD).
When venturing out of town, public buses are cheap, safe, and
relatively reliable throughout the country. The major bus station in
Kigali is Nyabugogo. Countrywide buses cost 2,000-4,000 RWF ($2.20–4.30
Car rentals: There are a handful of
destinations, such as the national parks, that are better explored by
car or motorbike, both of which are available to rent. Renting a car
starts at $50 USD/day, depending on type of vehicle.
How to Save Money on Food
Kigali is rich in international food, though eating out can get
expensive quickly. Expect costs to be on par with European or American
Unfortunately, street food is essentially nonexistent
because it is seen as dirty. Instead, seek out hole-in-the-wall local
restaurants serving rice and beans, ugali (a thick, maize-based
porridge), brochettes (grilled meat), and potatoes. Wine and cocktails
are extremely expensive and are average quality at best, so local beers
are your best bet to quench your thirst.
Here are some average food and drink costs:
Lunch buffet of local food: all you can eat for 2,000 RWF ($2.20 USD).
Dinner at local restaurant: 3,000–8,000 RWF ($3.25–10 USD). In Kigali, head to Car Wash for brochettes and Panorama Ten to Two for grilled lake fish.
Produce at local market:
100-1,000 RWF ($0.11–1.10 USD), depending on the product. Fruits such
as mangoes, passion fruit, and tree tomatoes are cheap and delicious.
Lunch or dinner at an average-priced Western restaurant:
4,000-6,000 RWF ($4.50–6.50 USD). Try Meze Fresh, Borneo, Now Now
Rolex, and Baso Patisserie for tasty and filling international cuisine
that won’t break the bank.
Dinner at an international restaurant:
12,000-18,000 RWF ($13–20 USD). If you’re going to splurge, Kigali has
some phenomenal Indian food (Khana Kazana) and French food (Poivre
Local beer: 1,000 RWF ($1.10) for Mutzig or other local beer