Tag: where to go

Tips for Traveling Locally

Tips for Traveling Locally

This post will discuss tips for traveling locally–in your state or in your region. Why? Because the world is experiencing a pandemic, as we’ve detailed our recent travel experience with COVID 19. When I was talking with a friend recently about her travel plans for 

5 activities for your first trip to Charleston, South Carolina

5 activities for your first trip to Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina, was a bucket list item of mine for many years (we did not quite make it there on our original epic road trip through the South). I know so many people who count it as one of their favorite cities. And whenever 

Five words to describe the Faroe islands

Five words to describe the Faroe islands

Driving around the Faroe Islands, R asked me this question: what are five words to describe the Faroe Islands? It did not take long for us to agree on the following: Sheep. Waterfalls. Tunnels. Green. Clouds. We also attempted to find five words that do not describe the Faroe Islands. We came up with people and sunshine before we got distracted…probably by a sheep or a waterfall.

The Faroe Islands are not the easiest place to get to. We flew from Boise to Copenhagen, stayed for a night, and then caught a two-hour flight to the Faroes. As we circled the islands and came in for the landing, cliffs of green started peaking through the clouds. By the time we landed, it was obvious: we were in the middle of nowhere.

The airport is small. You will be outside, in your rental car and exploring the Faroes in 15 minutes (give or take). We rented a car from Unicar and it was a great experience. Renting, that is. Driving is a bit of an adventure–we encountered our first sheep within minutes of leaving the airport. The roads are nice and traffic is scarce, but the sheep, fog, tunnels and one-way roads demand extra caution. I was relieved when we returned the rental car without any incidents.

The Faroe Islands are made up of 18 islands connected by tunnels, ferries, causeways and bridges. We made it to seven and everywhere we went, we saw sheep, waterfalls, tunnels, green goodness and clouds.

describe the Faroe Islands with three sheep
There are more sheep than humans on the Faroe Islands and they roam everywhere.

Sheep

It is hard to emphasize the number of sheep you will see. Seriously. They are everywhere. We knew there would be a lot of sheep before we arrived, but I had no idea it would be impossible to look out the car window and NOT see sheep grazing. There are some 50,000 people who live on the Faroe Islands, but the sheep population is around 70,000. This makes driving a challenge. But it also means there is always something to see when hiking.

We visited in the spring and that means babies. Baby sheep everywhere! They were so adorable and curious. They did make driving a little more hazardous since I never knew when one might dart across the road looking for its mother. But to watch them folick and play was an absolute delight. I came home with way too many pictures of baby sheep, it is ridiculous.

describe the Faroe Islands with waterfalls
Waterfalls abound in the Faroe Islands. They run through towns, down mountainsides and over cliffs.

Waterfalls

I was expecting sheep. I was not expecting so many waterfalls. The Faroe Islands are flush with them. Perhaps there are more during the spring because of all the rain, I have no idea. But I was a little blown away. By the end of the trip, we hardly paid attention to them anymore. They were just everywhere. At one point while we were driving, R pointed out that we could see seven different waterfalls. None of them were named in any guidebooks, but there they were.

We did visit some known waterfalls including Fossá and Mulafossur, but there were plenty of unknown waterfalls to enjoy on our various day trips.

describe the Faroe Islands with tunnels
One-way tunnels are scary. Especially if there is a sheep waiting for you on the other side.

Tunnels

Currently, there are two subsea tunnels on (under?) the Faroe Islands. They are long and a little disconcerting if you think about where you are driving too much. But they are big and easy to navigate. There are also tunnels that go through mountains. Some of these are one way and one-way tunnels are scary. In general, driving is pretty chill in the Faroe Islands. I did not find that to be the case for one-way tunnels.

My first time driving through a one-way tunnel was a breeze, probably because I never saw another car and it was short. My first time driving through a one-way tunnel as the car with the right-of-way was also pretty easy, although I was a little uncomfortable seeing headlights coming directly at me with nowhere to pull over. Thankfully, those cars always pulled over with plenty of time to spare.

My first time driving through a one-way tunnel as the car without the right-of-way was not my finest driving moment. I did not hit another car…or a sheep…so I suppose that overall it was a win. But I drove like the total novice I was. As soon as I saw headlights, I pulled into the first pull out. We then had to wait several minutes for the car to pass us. I had pulled into the pull out way too soon. I also ended up getting passed by a car going in the same direction as me! When I pulled into the pull out, the car just flew right past. Needless to say, that car spent a lot less time in the tunnel than I did. It was a unique driving experience and one I am not anxious to repeat anytime soon.

describe the Faroe Islands with the color green
So much green. Green upon green upon green.

Green

There is not a lot of variety in the landscape. It is dramatic and green. All over. Rocky and volcanic, trees are few and far in between and turf roofs are the norm. Coming from the high desert, the landscape of the Faroe Islands is about as different from my home as one can get. Which makes it a wonderful place to see and explore.

describe the Faroe Islands with clouds
Don’t expect bluebird skies. You will probably be disappointed. Embrace the clouds.

Clouds

The weather in the Faroe Islands is tempermental at best. We had a couple of blue-sky mornings, but for the most part, we explored the Faroe Islands under clouds and fog. I did not mind the clouds so much. Sometimes they spit out a little rain, but I do not remember any major downpours. What was disappointing was the fog. More than one view was ruined by the pesky stuff. Weather can be one of the disappointing things about travel. Thankfully, none of our activities were ruined by the weather. Our ferry to Mykines was not canceled due to weather (which happens quite often I hear) and the fog was missing during our helicopter ride. Although I would have preferred to see the sky a bit more, at least the clouds did not stop us from exploring.

Conclusion

The Faroe Islands are unique. I can think of no other place that I would describe with the words: sheep, waterfalls, tunnels, green and clouds. If you do not enjoy those things, you may want to find another place to visit. It will be tough to avoid them in Faroe Islands.

B’s favorite cities to visit

B’s favorite cities to visit

It is very difficult for me to name a favorite country. I do not have children, but I imagine it feels a bit like having to choose one of those. However, even though I struggle to name a favorite country, I do not struggle to 

24 hours in Riga, Latvia

24 hours in Riga, Latvia

I often leave a place with a wish that I had more time there and an internal promise to return someday. Riga, Latvia is one of those places. We spent just 24 hours there and it was not near enough time. But sadly, 24 hours 

5 Montenegro Must-Sees

5 Montenegro Must-Sees

On a recent visit to the Balkan Peninsula, B and I found ourselves spending one full day in beautiful Montenegro. This country is blessed with sweeping mountains, azure seasides and historic medieval towns. It is simply wonderful. Here are the five Montenegro must-sees that we visited and recommend for anyone lucky enough to travel to this Balkan gem.

#1: Centinje

Our first stop on our tour was the mountain town of Cetinje. This little town (only about 15,000 people live here) used to be the capital of Montenegro. By European standards, it is very young–only about 500 years old. However, when we walked through the cute little historic center on cobble stone and saw a man hammering on iron to make some nails, it certainly didn’t feel modern.

Cetinje Monastary Five Montenegro Must-Sees
Cetinje Monastary

Other than the old town, we visited the Cetinje Monastery. This pretty stone structure is nestled at the edge of a park. When we walked up we saw several surprisingly young monks. Make sure if you visit not to take pictures of the monks. It’s rude.

#2: Lovcen National Park

Up, up, up the mountains from Cetinje we drove to arrive at the Lovcen National Park. It is in this region that the whole country received its name. Monte (mountain) + Negro (black) = Montenegro (black mountain). Although, to be honest, the mountains seemed more gray to me. They were indisputably beautiful, though.

Lovcen mausoleum, Montenegro
On top of ol’ Lovcen, all covered with….mausoleums.

On top of the second highest mountain in the area, a famous Montenegrin built a mausoleum for himself. To reach it, you have to climb several hundred stairs. Once you do, you are rewarded with 1) a cool structure, and 2) a stunning 360 degree view.  You can see the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Balkan’s biggest lake, Lake Skadar on the opposite side. In between you see striking mountains, green valleys and the red roofs of houses dotting every now and again.

Stairs are necessary to see the sights in Montenegro.

#3: Kotor

Our decision to hire a driver was validated once we began our descent from Lovcen to the coastal city of Kotor. This mountain pass road was something else–mostly unpaved and not really wide enough for two cars. Not to mention the hairpin switchbacks as you travel down 5,000 feet in elevation. Yikes!

Kotor Montenegro Church is one of Five Montenegro Must-Sees
Kotor, aka the cutest town ever. This church was built in 1166. 1166!

It was well worth the nerve racking ride though, once we arrived in Kotor (a.k.a possibly the cutest town ever). Our driver dropped us off at the gated entrance to Old Town and for the next two hours we wandered inside a real life wonderland. B’s first comment was that it looked like something you’d see in Disneyland. No cars are allowed inside the walls of old town, so you are free to ramble down the cobblestone alleys without fear of being mowed over. We were constantly looking up at the sandstone colored houses and buildings that line the streets. And just when you forget where you came from, boom, there’s the crazy high limestone mountains erupting from the edge of the town.

#4: The Adriatic Sea

With our day (and access to a car) quickly disappearing on us, we made our final stop at the Adriatic Sea. B and I both prefer mountains and old cities to sunbathing by the beach, so we didn’t make the ocean a priority. However, one does not travel to the Adriatic without dipping one’s foot in it. So our driver took us to the fashionable town of Budva. We walked along a small beach and splashed a little through the lovely blue water.

Budva beach, sunny day
Soaking up the sun and sea in Budva

Were we the partying types, Budva would also have been a good destination to dance at some discotheques. This region is called the Montenegrin Riviera and is the most popular tourist destination in Montenegro. As it was, I felt sufficiently unfashionable next to the beautiful bikini-clad 20-year-olds, so I was okay not spending too long here.

#5: Podgorica

If you pronounce the capital of Montenegro ‘Podgoricka,’ then you will get corrected by a rather presumptuous whippersnapper. Or at least I did. It is actually pronounced ‘Podgorizza.’ Like rhymes with pizza. Nobody has much good to say about this capital city, so B and I didn’t allot any time other than evenings to spend here. However, I think this town might be getting unfairly critiqued.

Podgorica nightlife
B enjoying the nightlife scene. After I made her stand next to the tall men. Sidenote: Montenegrin men are freakishly tall.

We spent two evenings wandering around downtown. The nightlife scene seems to be hopping, tons of people were out and about starting around 9:00 p.m. We mainly saw people gathered in outdoor restaurants and bars, but I imagine there are also clubs around. It is very safe, in fact, our hotel lady actually laughed at us when we asked if it was safe to walk around. As B and I are usually tucked into our hotel rooms by 9:00 p.m., I consider the fact that we stayed out much later than that to be high praise for Podgorica.

A couple tips for traveling in Montenegro

Transportation

Prior to visiting this less-traveled area of the world, we did some research into transportation options. I’ll give it to you straight: the options weren’t great. Unlike other parts of Europe, public transportation is old and a little sparse. To hit the five Montenegro must-sees we wanted to go, we would have to rent a car and drive it ourselves, or rent a driver and have him take us around. After reading some scary stories about the roads, we decided to seek out a driver.

Settling for not perfect, but good enough

I couldn’t find any private tours on the internet. There were a few taxi companies with websites in English, so I sent out a few emails. I had looked up highlights of the area and listed where we wanted to go in one day and asked for a quote. A gentleman named Radoslav responded with a price of 100 Euro. Since we didn’t really have any better options, so we agreed and told him where to pick us up. This was a bit of a leap of faith, yes, but it worked out just fine for us. Sure, the little English the driver spoke seemed to be (good-naturedly) mocking me. And sure, we had to get creative about explaining what we wanted to do. If this is out of your comfort zone, you might want to think about a car rental. Anyhow, our driver arrived on time and off we went to our five Montenegro must-sees

Conclusion for five Montenegro must-sees

The Balkan countries are much less visited than their Greek and Italian neighbors. This is beginning to change, though, as people hear about lovely countries like Montenegro. It would be terrific to be able to spend more time here, but if you only have one day, we highly recommend hiring a driver and visiting the above five Montenegro must-sees. 

Thirteen Day Itinerary in Bali, Indonesia

Thirteen Day Itinerary in Bali, Indonesia

A trip to Bali was just the birthday present S needed to celebrate her big day. Luckily, she invited B and me along to Indonesia and together we explored Bali and threw in a little Java for good measure. This post will discuss our 13-day 

European Christmas [A Travelogue]

European Christmas [A Travelogue]

For 2017, we opted to try out a European Christmas instead of our usual celebrations. B and I joined together with four more people to take on The Continent during the holiday season. We’ve discussed the importance of keeping a travel journal, so we wanted 

Birthdays: Treat Yourself to Travel

Birthdays: Treat Yourself to Travel

Yeah for your birthday! I do not know very many people who enjoy getting older (besides kids that is). Regardless of whether you embrace getting older, pretend it isn’t happening or actively work to prevent it, those birthdays roll around once a year no matter what. I do not necessarily embrace getting older, but I figure you might as well enjoy your birthday. It is the only day you get to be selfish and no one minds. Official holidays are great, but you share them with everyone else in the state, country or planet. Since you may only know a couple of people who share your birthday (if that), it makes the day of your birth unique and special. (I am sorry if your birthday falls on a holiday.)

Celebrate your birthday with a trip

I suggest you take the time to make your birthday all about you. Naturally, I suggest you take a trip to celebrate. Since my birthday falls in February, I like to head somewhere a lot warmer than Idaho. This year, I am headed to Arizona to spend the big day (and weekend) with my girlfriends. Technically, I could visit them any old weekend (and I have). But it makes my birthday so much more fun if I plan a trip around it. I end up looking forward to it instead of dreading it. Growing up, I looked forward to snow days on my birthday. Now I look forward to a new adventure.

Birthday horseback riding in Hawaii.

Be creative in your planning

I like having a February birthday because travel is very affordable. Whether I go to another cold climate or head south, it is not too hard to find a decent price on a plane ticket. The crowds are thinner as well. R’s birthday falls in the middle of March. Unfortunately, that is the middle of spring break season and it can be difficult to find decent prices on flights, hotels and rental cars. Even if you want to go to places that are not considered spring break destinations, it just costs more to travel in March (same with summer and the holidays). If your birthday happens to fall during a peak travel time, start planning early. Also, you may have to think outside the box a bit. R had a great idea for her birthday this year, but flight prices would not cooperate. After a couple of weeks of research and brainstorming, she came up with a new, great idea: road trip to the other side of our beautiful state, rent a cabin and get spa treatments in Jackson Hole. The right adventure for your birthday is out there, you just have to find it.

Our friend C’s birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s. If we could convince her to leave home for the holidays, she could go on an epic birthday trip each year. But alas, she is not quite ready to give up her family traditions. And that is okay. It is her birthday so she gets to do what she wants.

Acadia National Park in February
Acadia National Park in February. Sure, it’s cold. But it is beautiful and the crowds are nonexistent.

Milestone birthdays are great excuses for big trips

I have been known to go a little crazy on milestone birthdays. After I turned 29, I figured I might as well start planning something epic for 30. I was not even sure I minded turning 30, but I wanted to make sure I had fun plans just in case. The morning I turned the big 3-0, I woke up, put on ski boots and hit the slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland. It was sunny and warm and I will never forget the views of those blues skies and snow-covered mountains. The next year, our travel buddy S turned 30. She remembered our time in Switzerland and decided to make big plans herself. The morning she turned 30, we went scuba diving in Bali. (Side note: even without the skiing-in-Switzerland thing, I was A-Okay turning 30. However, when my little brother reached that particular milestone, I had a much harder time coping.)

Scuba diving in Bali
Happy 30th birthday to S!

Planning and saving are crucial

That is the interesting thing about birthdays (milestone or not), you know they are coming. There are plenty of big events in life (e.g. promotions, kids, marriage, etc.) that you never see coming. But a birthday has a definite countdown. That makes it really easy to plan for. Last year’s birthday was 35. It was not a major milestone, but I was at a point in my career and my personal life where I could celebrate it in a major way—and I took full advantage. I spent the entire month of February traveling around Australia. On the actual birthday, I did a reefsleep on the Great Barrier Reef. It was an experience of a lifetime and I am so grateful I used my birthday as an excuse to sign up. It took me two years save and plan for that month-long trip, but it was worth every penny saved and every extra hour worked. You can bet I am already thinking about 40 and what I want to do for that. Do I want to turn 40? Hell no. But I am going to regardless, so I might as well plan something fun.

Birthday selfie out on the Great Barrier Reef reefsleep.

Seize the moment

My coworker just celebrated his 50th birthday. He mentioned, probably around his 47th or 48th birthday, that he wanted to do something big for 50. Hawaii was brought up several times. I whole-heartedly agreed and encouraged him to make plans. It was actually frustrating to see the big day coming closer and closer without him committing to anything. (Side note: I know this coworker well enough to know that there were no financial, personal or professional reasons for his lack of commitment.) He did finally decide to take a trip to Texas to celebrate. He did not take the trip on his actual birthday, but he still called it his 50th birthday trip and he was happy with his choice, which is all that matters I guess. His experience taught me an important lesson though: if you do not seize the moment and make plans, birthdays, even the milestones, come and go just like any other day.

snow skiing in Zermatt
Seizing the (birth)day in Zermatt, Switzerland!

Non-travel fun can still be had

I realize that it is not feasible for everyone to go on a trip, big or small, for their birthday. If funds are holding you back, I would like to point out that even the smallest travel fund grows over time and if it takes you five years to save up a for a special birthday trip, I think it will be worth it. However, you may be dealing with unavoidable life circumstances that make travel unrealistic. If that is the case, then there are plenty of ways to make your day special. At the very least, one should take the day off work (in my opinion). I even know of a company that gives its employees a holiday on their birthday. It is a day to do what you want to do. Sleep in, get a massage, throw a party, treat yourself to a fancy dinner, get a manicure…or do nothing at all. It is your day to do what you want.

Conclusion

Your birthday is your special day. And whether you like it or not, that special day comes around once a year. I suggest you plan something fun. If you can swing it, I suggest you plan a trip. It will give you something to look forward to and is the perfect excuse to get out of town.

Ten Reasons to visit Europe at Christmas

Ten Reasons to visit Europe at Christmas

As we might have mentioned once or twice, we spent Christmas this year in the Benelux region of Europe. Apparently, these countries are pretty small and close to each other geographically and culturally, so they get their own cute acronym. (BElgium, NEtherlands, LUXembourg.) We had