Travel Tips

Unbelievable travel stories that you need to read today

opened book covered with grass, compass
Every travel experience is an adventure, but there are a few travel tales One of the all-time greats of travel success stories centres on Steve Jobs and his trip(s) to India in the seventies. Very little is known about these trips because they took place before Apple was founded, and thus it was well before anything essential was documented about the iconic founder. What we do know is that between 1974 and 1976, Steve Jobs was employed by Atari, a defunct …

Every travel experience is an adventure, but there are a few travel tales

One of the all-time greats of travel success stories centres on Steve Jobs and his trip(s) to India in the seventies. Very little is known about these trips because they took place before Apple was founded, and thus it was well before anything essential was documented about the iconic founder.

travel stories

A Steve Jobs church in Manhattan, New York.

What we do know is that between 1974 and 1976, Steve Jobs was employed by Atari, a defunct video game company with a cult-like following. Fascinated by Eastern Philosophy like many young westerners, Steve Jobs travelled India for a period of several months with his friend Dan Kottke.

Documentation is murky at best and it seems the two friends repeatedly got sick, there were several instances of thievery and scams, plus Karoli Baba, the guru that Steve so desperately wanted to find had already passed away once they arrived at the Ashram where he was rumoured to be. So this is not a nice collection of funny stories about traveling per se.

unbelievable travel stories

In India, begging is almost a profession, something Steve Jobs noticed as well.

What is more remarkable is that Steve Jobs, despite all the hardships he experienced in India, recommended Mark Zuckerberg travelled to the country as well. At least that is what Mark Zuckerberg said during a presentation in India not long ago.

Reading up on Steve in his biographies reveals that he had several moments of clarity, and that there was a turning point when he realized India was much poorer than he had expected. Instead of finding the enlightenment so many came to India for, Jobs gradually came to the realization that maybe an inventor like Thomas Edison had done more for the people of the world than Karl Marx or Karoli Baba combined.

Mourning Steve Jobs

This traveller certainly left his mark on the world.

Now of course this is all speculation, but it is safe to say India deeply affected Jobs to the point of trauma and most certainly changed his life. He made it back to Atari as a Buddhist, and with a newfound focus and determination he reconnected with Steven Wozniak, working at Hewlett-Packard at the time. It wasn’t long before the first Apple computer rolled out of a garage somewhere in Palo Alto, California. The rest is history and Apple eventually became the most successful company in the world.

 

 

On the road

As fictional as it may be, Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road” is all about travel and what comes with it. Essentially, the go-to-go book for anyone who has a fascination for counterculture, it has inspired great artists like Van Morrisson, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrisson and my personal favourite, Hunter S. Thompson. It is safe to say that On the Road is the quintessential American Road Trip, and a leading cause in other works of fiction like “Easy Rider” or “Thelma & Louise”.

Biker driving on the Highway on legendary Route 66

How many road trips have been inspired by Easy Rider.

It is interesting to see that some of the language and behaviour in the book hasn’t dated very well and can be described as “corny” at its best. But as a story about the travel experience and overlaying themes like the search for meaning, finding pleasure, friendship and personal growth, it simply works.

Anyone disgusted by the comfort of the middle-class lifestyle will come across this book sooner or later, whether it is hinted at in other works like “Into the Wild” or you may find it at a second-hand book store somewhere in Nepal. Probably in a language that you don’t speak, because life likes to throw curveballs at us sometimes. Don’t worry, keep looking through the pile of books; you’ll likely find a copy of “The Motorcycle Diaries” in there somewhere too, which is very much in the same vein as well – two friends, traveling, discovering but perhaps with a heavy political overtone.

 

 

Digital Nomads and The Eternal Journey

With the advent of online telecommunications and digital media, a new type of phenomenon popped up. Instead of travellers like Jack Kerouac having to come home eventually, the right setup allows one to travel eternally. No more savings to burn and necessary jobs to finance the next trip to Africa, as smart entrepreneurs make traveling their main source of income.

story about travel experience

A 2012 vlogger starter kit.

Bloggers and vloggers with the right amount of followers or significant gigs “en route” can sustain themselves indefinitely. Nomadic Matt is an example of a guy who had a desk job and hated every second of it. With a consistent approach and an understanding of his target audience, Matt has is now a best-selling author and a blogger with over one million visitors per month – and essentially, he is doing short travel stories about himself and his experiences.

Note: I think it is safe to assume that he probably employs a team of virtual assistants by now, taking care of fulfilment and other menial tasks that come with running the back end of a successful website. Keep in mind that he has been churning away at it for a while, making his debut back in 2006, so there are no instant success stories.

I occasionally come across lifestyle bloggers who just “happened to roll into the online life” but a defining characteristic of all these people is that they very much “fake it until they make it”. There are countless articles online exposing these people as “less than credible”. Either they rent the property they call their own, or they were affluent to start with, with a silver spoon jammer up in there somewhere.

funny stories about traveling

We’ve all seen these social pics, but more often than not, they’re lies.

The darker ones are the beautiful girls that tend to travel the world with ease, seemingly moving from one 5-star hotel to the other. The truth is that many of them are luxury escorts, and not the successful businesswoman or product endorser they like to present to the outside world. Once you know this though, it certainly puts their short stories about traveling the world in a different perspective, along with all those quotes about empowerment and “living like you mean it” or whatever slogan website they plundered that day.

But the Digital Nomad is real. Whether it is a photographer with a wide range of customers, a successful copywriter working hotel rooms and lobbies or the all-time classic, the website builder. These people take maximum advantage of the differences in wages and prices in general in different economies. If you are a professional with a steady customer base, working for 1st world clients and deal with 3rd world living costs, the benefits are numerous.

travel story examples

Find your niche, and start producing content NOW.

Granted, this lifestyle is not for everyone, as there are several uncertainties that some people adapt better to than others. But for travellers who can’t seem to get enough of the travel bug, this lifestyle is a dream come true. I’ve even met poker players who manage their life in South-east Asia by checking in a few hours a day, and preying on less experienced players overseas. Depending on their skills set, some of them did extremely well.

A friend of mine runs several websites selling a variety of articles, both through Amazon and through his own domain names, with a nose for emerging trends and opportunities. Originally from America, he sustains himself with ease as he is extremely good at his job and has the necessary experience to adapt to market changes.

Note that a lot of travellers in South-east Asia see other people pursue this lifestyle and are hell bent on carving out a niche for themselves. They spend their last money on expensive equipment, a domain name or start watching “how-to’s” on YouTube, and end up disappointed when the money doesn’t come in like an instant flash flood. What’s more, many of them can’t even commit to the first and most important rule of blogging/vlogging, which is to consistently put out content. Held down by a mental block, they can’t sum up the creativity for two or three short travel stories.

Smiling adult vloggers taking selfie

A standard Travel vlogger theme – King of the world.

The truth is that even the most successful digital nomads started somewhere on the side, carefully preparing to make the jump to the full-time nomadic lifestyle. There are exceptions here and there, but the absolute worst point in time to decide to do this is when you are traveling, and you are at the end of your resources.

Coincidentally, this is when a lot of backpackers start contemplating on what they can do to keep traveling “just a little longer”, and come up with crazy schemes involving the sales of T-Shirts online, or even elephant pants. With no experience whatsoever. Any dropshipper will tell you that it takes between 3- to 6 months to get your first product completely up and running with all the different moving parts set up correctly, and then you are not even making any money. So do take that into account before signing a 6-month lease somewhere on an island.

 

 

The greatest travel success storyYou!

But you don’t have to possess a skill that involves online work to make money and travel. There are countless jobs out there that allow you to travel and work at the same time, and the very best ones are right under your nose, but you never actually noticed them.

Forget about being a purser or stewardess by the way – those jobs are overrated and stressful. Flying hasn’t been glamorous for several decades now and passengers can really take it out of you. No, if you intend to work in the service industry and transport people, have a look at yachts. You know those articles we see about Russian billionaires trying to outdo each other with bigger and bigger yachts? Well those are just the tip of the iceberg, as there is a literal armada of super luxurious yachts out there, roaming the oceans right now, and all of them need reliable staff at one point or another.

The port of Antibes, French Riviera

Luxury vessels like these hold a crew of dozens.

The reason that you hear very little about these stints is that most recruiters (it is usually agencies that handle these things) also have their staff sign ironclad non-disclosure agreements. There is nothing a yachts owner hates more than their crew spilling the beans to a paparazzi or gossip journalists, so unless you have a friend who is employed in this very industry, chances are you will hear very little about it. But in the meantime, these recruiters are constantly on the lookout for personal trainers, cocktails bartenders, cooks, mates, nannies, security staff and anything else their clientele desires.

On your end of the deal, a few certificates and a declaration of good behaviour from a reputable source could potentially seal the deal, and of course it really helps if you are good at your job.

Alternatively, you may get seasick and do not like the idea of living on an ultra-luxurious barge for months on end. In that case, have a look at seasonal jobs with the bigger travel organisations. Club Med in particular is known to have operations all around the world and they make it a habit to shuffle their crews to whatever they need. So one assignment might be somewhere in the Indian Ocean, while the next one will bring you to the French Alps. If you are truly resourceful, you may not even need a job when you travel – you simply make things work locally.

Sunset on Maldives island, water villas resort

Resort holidays (especially the ultra-luxury ones) require multilingual staff.

Getting around the different legislation may prove to be problematic, but why let that stop you? Well in advance, you simply look on the internet to find out what is and what isn’t allowed in your next destination and you adjust your plans accordingly. You’d be surprised at the demand of Caucasian-looking models in other parts of the world for instance. Or the ever-increasing hunger in China for remote English teachers. All you need is a good internet connection and some sense of patience, and before you know it, you’ve secured yourself a USD 20/hour payday wherever you go!

The possibilities are truly endless and usually one opportunity comes from another. So start making some moves, and go experience some short travel stories by yourself. Who knows, you may even become the next hot travel blogger. And before you know it, you’ll have been to more countries than you can remember.


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Alexander Grootmeester is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

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Travel Tips

Tips about travel: How to avoid excess luggage fees

important travel information for traveller
These are the best tips about travel from nearly 2 decades on the road Whether you are a seasoned traveller or a backpacker about to leave for a gap-year trip of a lifetime, nobody likes to pay excess luggage fees. For instance, I will never forget something I saw at Eindhoven Airport, a notorious low-cost airport in the South of the Netherlands. A family at the check-in counter was having a complete meltdown, as the parents were opening suitcases left and right, throwing away toys, diapers, food, drinks and other perishables while their three children were crying, …

These are the best tips about travel from nearly 2 decades on the road

Whether you are a seasoned traveller or a backpacker about to leave for a gap-year trip of a lifetime, nobody likes to pay excess luggage fees. For instance, I will never forget something I saw at Eindhoven Airport, a notorious low-cost airport in the South of the Netherlands. A family at the check-in counter was having a complete meltdown, as the parents were opening suitcases left and right, throwing away toys, diapers, food, drinks and other perishables while their three children were crying, seeing their candy and toys being thrown away.

tips about travel

Good luck with that.

Whether the crying children were an advanced “distract the ground-crew” tactic or not, I am certain this family was trying to avoid excess luggage fees by Basiq Air, who at the time were particularly savage when it came to squeezing their passengers.

 

 

Air Travel Tips to keep those costs down

From my time working for one of the bigger windsurfing companies in the world, I learned all about the struggles travellers face when transporting unusual luggage. Back in the old days, airliners really didn’t enforce their rules about excessive luggage weight, but once the low-budget companies stepped in, “creative luggage pricing” became a fast and easy way to make some extra bucks from travellers.

And if that is only for a few kilos, imagine the pain and suffering professional athletes have to go through, hauling around hundreds of kilogram in sports equipment. Windsurfers especially rack up ridiculous amounts of excess baggage costs, as they can easily carry four to seven board bags, filled with boards, sails, masts, booms and tons of equipment.

And unlike Formula 1, where the incomes are astronomical, windsurfers are not quite the millionaires, so every penny counts. As a result, these athletes are the uncrowned kings of getting around the excess baggage regulations. I like to think that spending a few years with these experts has rubbed off on me, and I will discuss some of their techniques on how to avoid excess luggage fees in the article below.

 

 

Do your research

Different airlines tend to have different rules about their excess luggage fees. Expect most budget airlines to use the luggage as an easy way to “upsell” their customers. Their management will instruct their staff to keep a lookout for the bigger luggage, weigh it, and slap it with additional fees wherever possible. There are exceptions of course, and generally speaking a smile can go a really long way at the counter. However, nothing beats preparation when it comes to dealing with low-cost airlines and their pricing systems.

travel tips and tricks

Some airlines are notorious for hidden fees.

As mentioned previously, the low-budget carriers are likely to squeeze you, and unfortunately they will often fly to that one destination nobody else is flying to, because they figured they could make some money on that trajectory. Lucky you…

 

 

Know the luggage policy of your airline

The regular airliners are different from budget companies in the sense that their luggage regulations vary drastically. This is an advanced technique, because those websites that compare tickets are a great tool to see the initial prices, but when it comes to excess baggage, they won’t tell you anything.

So even though one ticket may be 50 USD cheaper than the other one, that difference in price becomes insignificant if it turns out that “Southwest” allows for two free checked bags per person (they really do that!), and Singapore Airlines will slap an excess fee on anything over 7kg (they also REALLY do that!). I can think of many things I’d rather do with my time than comparing luggage policies, but fact is that you can save a LOT of money by reading up on the different luggage policies of the top 3 airlines you are considering for a trip. Especially when you are bringing a lot of luggage, this is one of the most valuable air travel tips I can think of.

Likewise, airliners will often make a point to promote certain sports, events or activities. Allowing their guests to carry free golf bags allows these airliners to look very good in a range of Golf Magazines, offering a lot of advertising opportunities for instance. I’m am not saying that you should, but in theory that would mean your golf bags are free of charge, regardless of what’s in side them, am I right?

air travel tips

Depending on your airline, ending up at the dreaded “Oversized counter” can be absolutely painless or cost an arm and a leg.

The same goes for the surfboards, where it is not uncommon for an airliner to “Proudly sponsor the Summer Olympics” or any other event. As a result, these guys will transport your equipment at a highly reduced rate. And once an airliner allows certain equipment to be transported for a reduced fee, all you have to do is convince the staff at the check-in that those enormous bags that you are traveling with in fact, DO contain camping gear/photography equipment/bass drums for that special event you are going to attend. And as long as they do not open the bag, you are going to be fine.

 

 

Mail vs. excess luggage fees

This doesn’t apply to all scenarios, but can be a real life-saver sometime. Let’s say you’ve travelled around Asia for three months, gradually collecting more and more souvenirs, gifts, equipment and other priceless items you simply cannot leave behind. Looking at all that stuff, you know the airline company is going to make a killing once you try to check in all of it, and you are already at the end of your budget.

travel tips packing

You’ll be surprised at just how cheap it is to send your luggage.

In this situation, mailing the better part of your luggage to yourself is a great solution. And this doesn’t just work in a “traveling home” situation. Hotels, convention centres and resorts are perfectly okay with receiving packages on your behalf, if you just give them a heads-up. So a little preparation will allow you to save a lot of money.

 

 

Get a carry-on suitcase

I realize this is not really an option for backpackers, but you will be amazed at the amount of stuff you can really cram into a carry-on suitcase. And while the official weight for carry-on luggage usually hovers between 7kg to 12kg, hardly anyone every checks carry-on luggage for weight. So putting the heaviest stuff in your carry-on luggage is smart for several reasons. First of all, you are paying less, but you also get to keep your valuables close to your heart (I am looking at you, professional photographers!).

travel tips for europe

The ideal way to travel and skip those pesky costs. A carry-on suitcase, a backpack and no doubt some advanced packing skills.

This also extends to clothing by the way – when everything counts, make sure you wear the bulky stuff on your flight, because you won’t get charged for it.

 

 

Get into a frequent flyer program

Like any other business, airlines love repeat customers enough to give them special privileges. These privileges will extend beyond business lounges with free coffee and WiFi. Have a look at their small print, or simply drop them an email inquiring about upgrading your luggage allowance. You will be surprised at how much lenience a few credits can get you.

 

 

Buying additional luggage space vs. possible excess baggage fees

Have you ever noticed how a normal sandwich costs three times as much on an airport than anywhere else? My stepmother, who worked as a purser for several years, jokingly referred to the price hike on airport grounds as “airport tax”, and it applies to luggage especially.

travel the world and get paid

Maybe select additional luggage, just to be on the safe side when you buy the ticket?

When you buy your ticket, checking the box for a few kg extra is not going to break the bank. But when that same 20kg is discovered at the check-in counter, it can potentially set you back hundreds of dollars. So sometimes, spending a little extra when buying the ticket can save you a lot of money down the line.

 

 

But you already bought the ticket – what now?

Okay, so you are at the airport, and just getting there was a major pain as nobody wanted to transport you in the first place and you had to rent a minivan to get there. Before you start queuing up at the next best check in counter, think.

 

 

The back-of-the-line method

One of the best ways to get out of paying for your excess luggage is by taking advantage of the time constraints airliners have to deal with. There is a thing called tarmac fines, and they are very, very important. What it means is that an airliner gets fined for additional time they spend on the tarmac and runways outside of their (tight) schedule. Especially around holiday season this can be a real lifesaver.

airplane staying inside an hangar

The longer an airplane stays on the tarmac, the more they have to pay.

What you do, is find a spot close to the check-in. But make sure you are out of sight of anyone who works for your airline and works at the check-in counters! This is crucial! Next up, you keep a very close eye on the check-in and choose an opportune moment where there are still a lot of people waiting to check in, but the counter is about to close.

Approach the counter with one of your oversized suitcases, flight cases or whatever it is you are carrying and leave the rest out of sight. This may require a buddy to keep an eye on all your stuff, but if it works, it this is going to be well worth it. Next up, try to pick the counter where the check-in staff looks particularly stressed out and approach them with the friendliest smile you can think of.

time to weigh your luggage

This is NOT how you do it. Keep the other suitcases out of sight and wait until the very last moment to check them in as well.

Stall the conversation as hard as you can, and remain friendly throughout the process with little jokes and compliments until it is time to weigh your luggage. This is the part where you start negotiating hard and pull out all the stops. “I really did NOT expect to pay that much…” “Isn’t there some special deal you can make me?”, “But I can’t possibly afford that, considering the follow-up flights we are going on…”.

The point of this approach is to play for time. The staff knows they are going to incur tarmac fines, and your checking-in is delaying them even further. However, you are being friendly and there is no possible way for them to speed things up.

Departures board with cancelled flight

Delays are a nightmare for airlines and very costly.

And just when they think they are completely done, you smack your head and remember that you still have “all the other bags with your buddy around the corner”. In this situation, there is a very big change that your additional luggage will get waved through, as the line behind you is getting restless, and the stewardess is having a really bad day. Alternatively, he/she will just apply the same tariff you just negotiated really hard over and this will still save you some hard-earned cash. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it effin’ sweet.

 

 

Manipulating the scales at the check-in

This doesn’t work at every airport, but depending on the size of your luggage and the field of view of the ground crew, there are moneysaving opportunities. For instance, a big weekend bag that rests partially on the scales and partially on the side of it will weigh considerably less than one that is perfectly placed in the middle of the scale.

assenger Weighing Luggage At Airport Check In

Now just imagine “helping” that bag to be a little lighter instead of holding that useless passport…

And who says you can’t sneak a foot in there either, lifting your bag a little either? It’s an advanced technique, but especially with the bigger packages it is easy to get away with it.

 

 

Conclusion

Now, granted that cheating the scales is a pretty desperate move, but I’ve seen it being pulled off in front of me repeatedly so it does actually work. Never forget that the ground crew checking you in actually has a lot of decision-making power, so whatever you can do to “tip the scales in your favour” is fair game.

The worst thing that can happen is being told to “please take your foot away from under the bag Sir!”, and the knowledge that you’ve been made. Don’t expect anymore sympathy from that person anymore, and maybe accept that you won’t avoid excess luggage fees for this particular flight. But maybe they have an exit seat available with extra leg room – can’t hurt to ask, am I right?


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Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

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Europe & Travel Tips

Check out the best places to see and things to do in France

girl looking to Eiffel tower from metro
From the boulevards of Paris to the fashionable seaside resorts of the Côte d’Azur, France offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world If I ever was to move back to Europe, I will probably try to settle down in France, as it is my favourite European country. There are tons of things to do in France, the food is amazing, and unlike some of the smaller European countries, it is still possible to find large uninhabited stretches of land. But for you, the casual visitor there are so many things to do in France as well. [caption id=”attachment_7567″ …

From the boulevards of Paris to the fashionable seaside resorts of the Côte d’Azur, France offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world

If I ever was to move back to Europe, I will probably try to settle down in France, as it is my favourite European country. There are tons of things to do in France, the food is amazing, and unlike some of the smaller European countries, it is still possible to find large uninhabited stretches of land. But for you, the casual visitor there are so many things to do in France as well.

things to do in France

Wine tasting in the Provence – you’ll never taste a better wine.

Get this: Whether it is tropical (Réunion), snowy (the French Alps) or urban (Paris and Marseille), France has it all. Réunion is one of many paradisiacal islands under the French flag, and even parts of the arctic belong to France.

Needless to say the French are notorious for doing things their own way, sticking to strictly French words for everyday items, and there have been several instances where French officials have walked out of International meetings, refusing to speak English. So it is safe to say the French may be a little chauvinistic. More on that later.

I am not even going to go into Paris, as you can’t write about France without it. Paris is a given, and you really should spend at least a few days there. It’s an awesome city.

popular activities in france

The incredible Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy during a low tide.

 

Mt. Saint Michel

My most favourite attraction and sight in the whole of France must be Mont Saint-Michel. As all kids grow up fantasizing about feudal castles and the battles between knights, Mont Saint-Michel is on a different level. Having grown up in the Netherlands, it is quite normal to visit a local castle during a school excursion, but none of them come even remotely close to this island community.

Built on an island a mere 600 metres out of the coast, legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared before a local Bishop and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. Over the centuries, the structure grew in size and importance eventually becoming a perfect model of feudal society in Europe: Outside of the walls, the farmers and fishermen had their houses and stalls. Inside, the store owners and their shops were at the lowest point, followed by the houses of nobility. even higher up the rock, the abbey and monastery are to be found, with the church (the house of god) at the very top.

abbaye du mont saint michel

Part of the abbey or “Abbaye du Mont Saint Michel”, almost at the top.

When visiting, this becomes abundantly clear as you gradually make your way to the top and more attention seems to have been put in the buildings higher up. Nevertheless, the view riding up to the rock is spectacular, and for tourists unfamiliar with Romanesque architecture it is an absolute must-see (I am talking about you, my American reader).

Do you remember Minas Tirith from the Lord of the Rings movie? It was the white city, and the set designs were heavily inspired by Mont Saint Michel.

 

 

A word on the French and Chauvinism

One could Say France has a dividing quality, as I know people who can’t stop talking about the country and all of its merits, and then there are the others. They will say that it is an overrated country, and come up with a bunch of other casual remarks that is meant to communicate their dislike for France.

This is the point where you should be asking questions, because in 99% of the cases, it boils down to a simple thing. While travelling through France or somewhere else, they encountered some French Nationals who behaved like jerks.

Usually, it all comes down to the language barrier, and with the French, it is an unusual thick one. Most European countries, especially the Western ones put a huge emphasis on languages. France has always stood out, considering itself “La Grande Nation”, and as such, there was no need to learn foreign languages.

With globalisation speeding up, this policy has come back to bite them, as there is an entire generation of French millenials who cannot compete with other EU residents because of their language barrier.

French people speak very little English

Expect little to no English and you won’t get frustrated.

But here is where it gets astonishing; if you find yourself in a situation like this, try moving out of your comfort zone instead and speak some French. You will see faces instantly shift from hostile to smiling, and insurmountable problems suddenly become little details in the big scheme of things. “Monsieur, we are so sorry we put zis coffee additionelle on your bill… consider it on ze house please!”

Truth is, the French, especially the older generation are still terrified to speak any other language than their own. If you take that into account, you are going to navigate the French territories much easier, earning yourself smiles, respect and free drinks.

 

 

French alps and winter sports

Having grown up in Southern Germany, I am very familiar with the German and Austrian alps, and on occasion I have made some trips into the Swiss alps as well. For winter sports though, the French alps are on a whole other level as skiing is one of the popular activities in France.

French alps and winter sports

In French resorts, being able to take of your skis on the doorstep is not a luxury.

Where the German and Austrian resorts gradually evolved from wonky one-seaters and a family-run hotels to support the emerging tourism sector, the French went about it completely different. Instead of working with existing villages and communities, they developed mega-projects in areas that were carefully selected for their suitability. This resulted in massive resorts that were purpose-built. And while there are some backcountry areas that are great for off-piste discoveries in Austria and Switzerland, the French alps have no equal when it comes to variety.

Les Trois Vallées is the largest linked winter sports area in the world, boasting over 600km  (370 miles) of slopes, 183 lifts and the ability to easily transport 260.000 skiers per hour. Consider that an average skier covers between 20- to 30 km in a day, and you see that these resorts are truly massive.

Visitors usually buy tickets that give them access to certain sections of the area as they don’t expect to be covering the entire in the one or two weeks they will spend there. And unlike the other European resorts, where it is not uncommon to see patches of green everywhere towards the end of the season, most areas in Les Trois Vallées were selected for their ability to accommodate skiers late in the season.

Snowboarder stands on slope backdrop

Courchevel (part of Les Trois Vallées) has some of the best maintained slopes.

If you are extremely late in the season though, maybe look into Tignes? With an extreme height of up to 3500 meters above sea level it is considered the most snow-sure spot in the country. And for good measure, there are over a hundred snow cannons to patch things up.

 

 

Cote D’Azur

An experience of a different kind awaits at the cote D’Azur in Douce France (“Sweet France”). The French Riviera has been the playground of European royalty and nobility for centuries and numerous celebrities have one- or several homes on the Cote D’Azur. And for good reason, as the area boasts over 300 days of sunny weather a year and some incredible coastlines.

Prince Palace and old town of Monaco

Monte Carlo on the rock, and Monaco, the micro-state.

The microstate Monaco is also located on the Riviera, housing a highest numbers of millionaires anywhere in the world, which should give you an idea of just how good the quality of life is around this area.

For lesser mortals, high-end spots like Cannes and Nice are very popular tourist destinations too, but be ready to be in awe of the high pricing around these areas, especially during the summer months.

I have spent most of my summers there in a tiny fisher village called Sanary sur Mer just outside of Toulon, and while it is much more affordable than the jet set cities like Cannes, Nice and Saint Tropez, the lifestyle is just as easy-going and gorgeous.

sanary sur mer in france

The idyllic sleepy town of Sanary and its harbour.

Largely undiscovered by mass tourism, these small communities combine great weather, gorgeous beaches and cute little harbour towns to make a perfect getaway. One of my fondest memories is driving a vintage Mercedes through never-ending fields of Lavender just outside Aix-en Provence, which is a small university town just above the Cote D’Azur and closer to the Italian border.

During the summer months, this area of France is buzzing with activity and seasonal business come to life. The rich and famous have their yachts brought in well in advance and the countryside is littered with ultra-luxury villas owned by designers, Russian oligarchs and the occasional movie star.

If you have the means, Johnny Depp is rumoured to sell of an entire village for $63 million in the area close to Saint-Tropez, which is another hotspot where the likes of Puff Daddy and other celebrities like to party.

Roussillon village, built from a red sandstone

Johnny Depp is selling his. If you have the means…

If none of this concerns you, windsurfing, sailing or playing golf are one of the many popular activities in France and tennis is a popular pastime as well, judging from the many private courts you can see on satellite pictures of the region.

The ideal way to check out the Riviera is by renting a car and driving from West to East or vice versa over the course of several days. Stop in the cities mentioned above and walk down the boulevards, or check out the harbours for a dose of opulence. Especially outside Cannes and Monaco, the real super yachts are too big to enter the ports and they anchor outside of the city, flying in its owners by helicopter.

 

 

Shop at a local market

You haven’t experienced France if you haven’t bought artisan food at one of the many markets all throughout the country. It simply is one of the things to ear in France. Mostly a weekly affair, the different cheeses, fish and other delicacies are sold here locally and it is a great way to connect with the regional foodie culture and make some friends along the way.

shopping at the food market in Aix

A typical food market in Aix en Provence.

I remember examining some avocados that I found far too small to consider, when the grocer stopped me in my tracks, sliced open one of them and spread its entire content on a baguette (local bread). After sprinkling it with some salt he demanded we each take a bite before we leave. Of course we ended up buying a bag of these mini-avocados because they happened to be delicious. And I admire that grocer’s commercial instincts to this very day.

Note that the French are extremely proud of their culinary heritage, and that there is an infinite amount of different cheeses on sale, each one being the speciality of a specific village, region or district. All of these taste amazing, and depending on your skill level most of them deserve at least a try. I mention skill level because some of these really ought to be labelled “for experienced users only”.

I once ate a cheese people told me that was “the thing to eat in France” but I simply couldn’t enjoy without covering my nose, as the smell was like a fist of knuckles planted in your face. Afterwards I was praised for eating it like a professional… All things considered, it is one of the more adventurous things to do in France.

various types of cheese on rustic wooden table

I’d eat all of them in a heartbeat, except the blue one, with the threatening posture.

Regardless, its taste was rich, creamy and very satisfying. And I have been told there are cheese far worse than this. As a person who runs for his life when he sees blue cheese, France can be like that TV show Fear Factor at times.

 

 

No-go areas in France

Much has been said about certain no-go areas outside of Paris, and I tend to agree with all of them. The housing projects outside of Paris are depressing and besides aggressive locals and the occasional burning car, there is very little to see.

Beautiful evening view of the Place du Tertre.

Paris is awesome – just don’t venture too far from the city centre.

The same applies to certain areas outside of Marseille and you will notice right away just what I mean when driving into the city. Some of the suburbs outside of Marseille look like post-apocalyptic shanty towns and like the suburbs in Paris there is nothing to see.

I would like to expand this section to travellers on a road trip through France. While the Provence is beautiful and deserves all the attention you can give it, there are certain areas in Northern France that you should drive through as fast as possible. Stuck in the past, when mining was a formidable industry, many of these little villages are gradually emptying out and you can almost smell the resentment of “city people” and strangers in general. Plus, these are the last areas in France where you will still find squatting toilets, so it really is best to just keep driving.

Pro tip: When in Northern France, avoid former mining communities like the plague.

 

 

Conclusion

While most European countries offer a many a treat, somehow France was at the start of the line when the goodies were handed out, because they really got the best deal it seems. Without a doubt my #1 holiday destination in Europe for its sheer diversity, France simply has it all. You simply can’t go wrong with a tour of France, whether you are going there for sports, extreme sports, sightseeing, culinary experiences or simply to relax.


More InspirationCheck out other amazing places you need to visit


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Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

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Travel Tips

These are some of the best places to visit in 2017-18!

Dog in airport terminal on vacation
Finding the best places to visit in 2018 is hugely dependent on what kind of travelling you are into. A beach holiday is not the same as venturing into an unknown city; and I am not even touching on winter- or water sports here, as these are highly susceptible to personal preferences. But for some great travel ideas, the article below should be perfect for someone looking to find some travel inspiration.   1. Portland, why not? As a non-American, Portland may not sound like much and definitely doesn’t rate high on the list of cities to visit for many travellers. But …

Finding the best places to visit in 2018 is hugely dependent on what kind of travelling you are into. A beach holiday is not the same as venturing into an unknown city; and I am not even touching on winter- or water sports here, as these are highly susceptible to personal preferences. But for some great travel ideas, the article below should be perfect for someone looking to find some travel inspiration.

 

1. Portland, why not?

As a non-American, Portland may not sound like much and definitely doesn’t rate high on the list of cities to visit for many travellers. But that makes those lists wrong and incomplete and I consider Portland one of the best vacation spots in the US, and most certainly one of the best vacation spots for couples. Portland, or “The City of Roses” has an unofficial slogan that insists it is important to “Keep Portland Weird”, and as a couple, it is great to take in all the “weirdness” while enjoying the beauty of the city.

best places to visit

Portland waterfront during fall.

As a result, Portland has spawned unique phenomena like Yarn Bombing, the famous “Naked Bike Ride”, the 24-hour Church of Elvis or the Portland Ukelele Association.

With all this creativity caught up in Oregon, its capital features numerous micro-breweries, hipster coffeehouses and a thriving music- and art scene.

Famous residents include Matt Groening, Chuck Palahniuk, Courtney Love and Esperanza Spalding (Google her – seriously!).

The best time to visit Portland depends on what it is that you are looking for. If you have rose-dependency issues, June is probably your best bet, as the annual Portland Rose Festival takes over the city and the International Rose Test Garden will be at its very best. For ski- and snowboarders, winter is probably best, as Mount Hood is truly legendary in their circles. For snowboards especially, Mt. Hood is one of those places to travel in the US.

places to travel in the us

Multnomah Falls, a 40-minute drive outside the city centre.

Make sure to check out the Portland Saturday Market , regardless of the season. its proximity to the Waterfront Park makes it a great combination day trip, and with several performances and events occupying the market, you are bound to find something interesting for everyone. Alternatively, try to make some time to visit Washington Park. It houses the previously mentioned International Rose Test Garden and features a Japanese Garden as well, along with numerous monuments and playgrounds.

 

 

2. Rome

As mentioned in one of our earlier articles, Rome is definitely one of the best places to visit in 2018. “The Eternal City” is a shining example of antique and baroque architecture and for anyone with a fascination for Christian history, Rome is a must-see.

Rome, top travel destinations 2016

The Coliseum, one of the top q0 tourist destinations in the world.

And even if you decide to skip Vatican city, the city offers numerous attractions like the Coliseum, the different antique ruins, and then of course there is the Italian food.

For a quick overview, Rome is best visited outside the timeframe of May until September. During that period, the city is incredibly hot and doesn’t lend itself as well for walking tours as it really should. You see, almost everything in the city is in walking distance, and the parks and “vicolos” tend to go uphill and downhill. I find sightseeing already tends to wear one down and in the very hot Mediterranean summer you may be tempted to stay indoors at times.

top 10 tourist destinations in the world

The beautiful Trevi Fountain.

Another reason to avoid the summer season is the prices; with the influx of tourists from all over the world, the amount of people crowding the different attractions can really diminish the experience. Exploring the Spanish Stairs or seeing the famous Trevi Fountain just isn’t as interesting when you are battling droves of camera hungry travellers.

Plus, these people drive up the prices in the hotels and it is not uncommon to see restaurants adapt their pricelist to the high season as well. In short, it is simply best to travel to Rome outside of the high season. And when you do, “”The Eternal City”” can be majestic.

 

 

3. Thailand

With 2017 being a difficult year for Thailand due to the passing of its beloved King, 2018 is bound to be better. The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the country as a whole continues to focus on foreign tourists as a very welcome industry, so whatever you heard about Thailand being amazing – it is absolutely and completely true.

Located right in that sweet spot where affordable prices and 1st world luxuries meet, Thailand seems to represent the best of both these worlds. The service level is unlike anywhere else in South-East Asia, and it is going to take at least another decade or two before pricing truly catches up with the rest of the developed world. On top of that, it is one of the best tropical vacation spots in the world.

As such, a traveller coming into Asia through Thailand can enjoy five-star hotels at a fraction of the price that this would cost anywhere else, and enjoy luxurious amenities wherever they choose to go.

best vacation spots for couples

Come to Thailand, and annoy people at home with “modest” pictures like this.

For those travellers with a penchant for exploring, there are countless areas in the Kingdom that have seen very little development, and areas like Umphang (on the Thai-Burmese border) are breathtakingly beautiful and impressively savage.

Beachgoers will flock to the Southern part of the Kingdom to relax in paradise-like conditions (“The Beach” was shot in the Andaman Sea after all), while adventurers and trekkers travel to Northern Thailand and enjoy crossing borders over land instead of by plane.

Concerning the best time to visit Thailand, I would have to say that Thailand is great all-year round. However, there are regional aspects that should be taken into account. The monsoon season (July to October) has been erratic the last few years, but I would not recommend traveling to the Southern islands during that period as there are less rainy alternatives.

top 10 places to visit in the world

Flash floods like these usually disappear within an hour.

The North occasionally has to deal with the so-called “haze” or “”burning season”” and while it doesn’t affect me personally, I hear people with asthma and other allergies are concerned. During January and December this seems to be a thing. Checking a local calendar before you travel is always a good idea in general and like anywhere in the world, this applies to Thailand as well.

 

 

4. Amsterdam, you can’t forget about Amsterdam

“The best time to visit Amsterdam really depends on what you are looking for, as there is a regular influx of tourists from all over the world who do NOT come to Amsterdam for sightseeing. I will leave it to you imagination what the big fuzz is all about, but lets just say it rhymes with “”eat”” and gives you the munchies.

For travellers looking to see the world famous tulips and flowers, April makes the most sense as it is in the middle of tulip season and the high season hasn’t kicked in yet.

best places to travel 2017

Travellers come to Amsterdam for a variety of flowers and plants.

I strongly recommend only venturing into the city on a rental bicycle if you are confident on a bipedal. There are streetcar tracks everywhere, the locals are extremely impatient with their fellow traffic participants and for those people who drive on the left side of the street, there is an added level of difficulty right there.

Also do check out  the canals with one of the tour boats, preferably after you spent a few days in the city already, as it will really force your brain to remap the city as a whole. All the streets and alleys follow a complete different pattern than the canals and it messes with your sense of orientation. On top of that, the perspective on the different merchant houses from the 16th century is mesmerizing and it is a great way to unwind for a few hours.

hiring a private boat with a few friends

A typical canal cruise, slowly floating along.

If you have the money, I recommend hiring a private boat with a few friends, as you won’t have to listen to a pre-recorded tape about the dark ages and the differences between the rich and the poor in Amsterdam during the pre-industrial era. It’s all a little depressing and you should simply take in the sights while sipping on that rose you and your friends brought along for the ride.

Another hilarious phenomenon you should look into is Kings day. This proud display of Royalism used to be on the 30th of April, but with the new King this national holiday is now held on the 27th of April, unless this is a Sunday, automatically transferring the holiday to the 26th.

proud display of Royalism

One of the main canals during King’s Day in Amsterdam.

Make sure to wear something ridiculously orange, and if you can’t stand loud music, an abundance of beer and slow-moving crowds, it is probably best to stay away altogether. If it sounds like your type of deal though, make sure you know where the best parties are at and book a hotel nearby. Getting through the city during the festivities is going to be very, very slow.

 

 

5. New York

New York is an iconic city, and if you haven’t been there in the last five years, it’s probably time to hit the big apple again if you can. I would not recommend visiting New York during the deep winter months, with January and February being the worst, but then again, this is the time when hotel rooms are the cheapest.

And with the ridiculous pricing in- and around the city, that may be something you should consider. Spring is already much more hospitable, with locals flocking into Central Park, whereas summer can be on the hot side of things. But then at least it is New York, and unlike Rome mentioned earlier, you will be using the mass transit system to get from A to B so walking long distances won’t be that much of an issue.

Night traffic nearby Times square

New York, the big apple.

I prefer New York in the fall, especially since it allows you to head out to Boston through New England, taking in the sights along the way. This is not for everyone though, as most travellers will probably fly in- and out of New York, consistently making it one of the best vacation spots in the US.

There is no single destination where I have done more classic sightseeing than in New York, and I highly recommend most of them. Ellis Island really deserves a visit as it tells the tales of this relatively young country.

After 9/11 Ground Zero gradually morphed into the “World Trade Center Site”, with a dedicated memorial where the twin towers stood. The two gaping holes serve as a strong reminder of just what happened here and if you are in the Tribeca area I recommend checking it out.

Other great areas to visit are Harlem, especially on a Sunday, although it must be said that gentrification is coming on hard these last few years. So for travellers expecting to see a scene straight out of “Barbershop” or “Do the right thing”, this may get a little disappointing.

East Harlem, Harlem, Manhattan

East Harlem and its brownstone architecture.

The brownstone buildings in the area are iconic though, and along with the gentrification in Harlem, soulfood and hair salons are making way for bookstores and art galleries. I think it is safe to say that while the architecture is painstakingly preserved, the area is gradually becoming an extension of Manhattan’s upper east side.

 

 

Conclusion – Get off the beaten path

Just this morning I read a Bangkok review by some South-American kid who described Bangkok as “inhalaling ballons” (sic) on Khao San road. While I understand the need for everyone to party, I can’t get my head around why anyone would travel to the complete other side of hte planet, only to spend their precious time their amongst other travellers from all over the world.

In that sense, you may as well go to Spring Break, Coachella or Burning Man. These are all massive events, but have very little to do with their location.

I understand that leaving the familiar tourist infrastructure behind is mildly unsettling, but the rewards are incredible. Even if you don’t speak the language and can’t properly communicate in English or Spanish, certain things are universal. Besides, the further away you move from the usual hotspots, the more patience people seem to have for you and your attempts to communicate. Use your hands, your feet and the pictures on your phone to find that restaurant you read about and locals will praise your persistence, hell, they may even recommend a better place.

Have you noticed that the most interesting travel vloggers tend to stay away from the beaten path and actively try to carve out new destinations and experiences? Next time you travel anywhere, find a local who is not involved in the tourism ecosystem and question him/her about the best places in town. You’re going to be amazed!

 


More InspirationCheck out other amazing places you need to visit


Author's profile picture


Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.

 

 

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