An Idiot Abroad

Karl Pilkington. Just thinking about him cracks me up. This loveable bald man has an interesting view on everything. He complains about the day to day, is confused by common sayings and loves (and believes) everything he hears about monkeys. He is the star of one of the greatest travel programs ever made, An Idiot Abroad.

The reason I love this show, is it’s unlike every other travel show. I love most travel programs, but it gets tiresome hearing about how fantastic it was to dip into an alley and sample the most unbelievable local cuisine, later to go on the most incredible hot air balloon ride over some tremendous site. While that sounds like a perfect day, even if I could afford some exclusive hot air balloon ride, I probably wouldn’t find it as outstanding/unbelievable/incredible/awesome/fantastic as the host would describe.

This program sends someone around the world who doesn’t think everything is great. He doesn’t try to use creative language to describe his experiences. He doesn’t do things normal people wouldn’t consider. He acts the way any stubborn, squeamish and tired person would act when presented with foreign and weird situations.

While Karl isn’t what I would call a normal human being, as far as travel shows go, he has the most normal experiences. Refusing to eat disgusting cuisine, complaining about weirdos, and being generally unimpressed with the seven wonders of the world. He says the strange and often rude things we’re all thinking, and gets away with it.

If you want a good laugh, and to see the downside of traveling, you should watch this show. You’ll never learn as much about strange toilets as you will watching An Idiot Abroad.


Mexico for Christmas 2009

Trip cost $1400, 1 week

I was talking to a girl several years younger than me about travel, she wanted to know where she should go after she graduated high school, I told her enthusiastically “Mexico!”. She said “I’d rather go somewhere with culture.” Ok…whatever. While Mexico is a great party destination, and a great place to relax, it does have culture.

Mexico is home to a number of festivals and ruins. The day of the dead is a national holiday, where families remember there loved ones who have passed away. It’s also a celebration of life. The celebration varies from place to place. Some towns have midnight dances, some towns celebrate something very similar to our Halloween. I haven’t been yet, but I plan to.

and I plan to look like this the whole time!

Mexico is a religious place, most people are Catholic, and Easter is a really big deal. Schools are given 2 weeks off and it tends to be the hottest time of year. You can expect serious crowds at the beach, but it would be one of the best times of year to check out the city streets. Many places have plays where they reenact the crucifixion on Good Friday. That’s right, it’s not just about chocolates and bunnies like some of those places with “culture”.

My experience with Mexico was the typical tourist experience. I spent a week in a 5 star all inclusive resort being pampered, waited on, and enjoying every second of my time. The weather was phenomenal, the beach was perfect, and the drinks were endless. A really relaxing vacation. When you’re tired of all that napping in the sun though, there are some sights you really shouldn’t miss.

Chichen Itza is a Mayan built city featuring a giant pyramid, it’s the most popular of all the archeological sites Mexico has to offer. One of the main reasons for it’s popularity is that tourists can pronounce it, our tour guide gave us a handy tip for remembering the name, it sounds like chicken pizza. It’s also one of the 7 wonders and about a 3 hour bus ride from Cancun. It gets really hot in the middle of the jungle, so don’t forget to bring your own water as it takes about half a day at least to see most of the ruins.

The pirate ships in Cancun may not be one of the 7 wonders of the world, but it is a great time for anyone who doesn’t get sea sick. There are 3, life sized pirate ships all crewed by movie pirates; Captain Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow and the all too freaky, Davy Jones (who did make a number of little kids cry so maybe take a different ship if traveling with little ones). They take you out on the sea for a few hours where they serve a really good steak and lobster meal and have unlimited drinks. The pirates perform a fantastic show where captains from other boats swing by rope onto your boat and have a sword fight. It’s really well done and another fun diversion from resort living.

I love Mexico, and I’m sure I’ll return before 2012 is up.  Perhaps an end of the Mayan calendar party is in order. I can’t think of a better way to ring in the “end of the world”. Spooky!

Norway. A Nice Place To Visit And My Friend Wants To Live There.

Trip cost $1990, 1 week

In 2008 my sisters and I went on our second trip to Norway, first time as adults. The tickets to get over there were pricey, but we had family to stay with so that was our only expense. We took with us 2 of my sisters closest friends DinDin and Kaylyn.

Our first stop was in Oslo, that’s where most planes will take you. I have an Uncle who lives in Oslo and he showed us some of the sights. I was lucky enough to see Frogner Park for a second time in my life.

The first time I had the privilege of walking through this unbelievable city of statues I was 12 years old and completely uncomfortable and offended by the nudity. Naked statues everywhere!

10 years later I have enough perspective to really appreciate this artists skill and dedication to his life’s work. The sheer amount of sculptures is impressive, not to mention the detail of expression these works of art posses.

Take a look at the angry boy

or this statue made popular by an internet meme.

The most impressive work in the park has to be the monolith.

After our all too brief time in Oslo, we went on a long and winding drive to Trondheim . While I appreciated my chance to see the country side, I couldn’t wait to get into bed.

Trondheim is absolutely picturesque. We spent much of our time visiting, but we did get to see a few sites. The Nidaros Cathedral being the main one.

I did a terrible job taking a picture of it, sorry!

What metal fan could go to Norway without asking about the church burnings of the 90’s? My first trip to Norway would have been in 1998, and the arsons would have been fresh in the minds of many Norwegians, I was 12 and didn’t know anything about metal then. When I returned in 2008, nobody really knew what I was talking about, but they did take me to a black metal exhibit at the Ringve music museum. It was…ok…

The rest of the museum is far more impressive. I’ve never seen so many unique instruments from around the world. It also contains Chopin’s death mask and casts of his hands.

We did get out to one of those famous fjords, but I can’t say we did much about it. Even though it was July, we were fully dressed. Perhaps in another 10 years I’ll appreciate a beach without beach weather.

Though it’s been 3 and a half years since our girls trip to Norway, we still talk about it often. Kaylyn, one of the girls with us, is moving to Oslo next week. I guess you could say we enjoyed it!

7 Tips to Get Your Dream Vacation Cheap

7 – The internet is your friend. Cheap hotels aren’t always seedy hotels. The internet is a great tool when trying to book a frugal vacation. You can find out which hostels are the cleanest and safest, and if you’re into actually getting some sleep, which hotels you can trust even though the price makes it look iffy. Keep searching. Type “free things to do in _______” and there will be at least a little good information.

6 – Talk to everyone. Talk to people who have been there, who want to go there, have seen a show on it, anything. You never know where the best ideas are going to come from. Never stop talking to other people, even once you get to your hotel, keep asking everyone what are the best things to do. People love to brag about the deals they’ve discovered!

5 – Go with friends. Every travel company has discounts when you go with 10 or more people. Try to find something that gives you a discount for 4, or as many as you have going with you.

4 – Book around the most expensive part. If you’re flying overseas and staying in hostels, your flights are going to be the most expensive. Find the most frugal flights and book the rest later. If you’re taking a month long cruise, find the inexpensive cruise first and book the flights after.

3 – Narrow down what really matters to you. Sometimes, a room with a view isn’t really the most important part. If you’re anything like me, you don’t spend very much time looking out of the window in your hotel room. Sometimes you don’t need a guided tour for the entire trip. If you really want a guide, try doing part of it with a tour group and another part on your own. Much less expensive and you get to see what you want on your own terms.

2 – Travel in the off season. I had a really great European vacation for very little just because I went in September. Be flexible with your dates.  Sometimes leaving a day sooner or a day later will save you hundreds.

1 – Charity. Do some good in the world! Find a cause you really care about in any part of the world and volunteer to help out. Once you have a cause behind you, fund raise like crazy to get there.

Hello world!

While I love travel programs, travel blogs and traveling, I’m often thinking “I WISH!” when I’m reading or watching. 22 months around the world…I have a job, for a reason, I also have bills. How do people do that?!?!

I want you to see the world. I don’t want you to admire my travels and wish you could be there, I don’t want you to read my stories and say “How did she afford…” I want you to want to see the world as badly as I do, and I want you to do it, like I (hopefully) eventually will. 2-3 weeks at a time and in a reasonable budget.

My very first vacation was to Norway. I was 12 years old, had never left the province of Alberta, and my Granddad flew us out for the visit. I had never been on a family road trip, and now I’m going on a 20 hour journey over the ocean with a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt to get to the country where my father was born.

I really don’t think I enjoyed it that much. I don’t think I let myself. I had it in my head that I was poor, travel was for rich people, and not to get a taste for it because I’d never leave Alberta again.

I was wrong about a couple of things. Travel isn’t just for rich people, if you do it right, you can have a great trip to just about anywhere that is at least a little affordable. I did leave Alberta again. When I was 22, I went back to Norway, and in the past 3 years, have had a hard time sitting still. After Norway was Mexico, Egypt, London, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Paris, Rome, Sicily, Turkey and Greece. I also managed to see more of my own country;  Canada. Now, I can really appreciate traveling!