eTramping Adventure Travel Blog https://etramping.com Spend smart. Keep fit. Travel more! Mon, 21 Jan 2019 08:22:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 https://i2.wp.com/etramping.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/cropped-eTrampinglogoB18-2-2-e1533721426720.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 eTramping Adventure Travel Blog https://etramping.com 32 32 37340027 Protected: How to Take Better Travel Photos https://etramping.com/how-to-take-better-travel-photos/ https://etramping.com/how-to-take-better-travel-photos/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2019 08:21:59 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=39379 There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

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Are These People the Most Inspirational Travelers of All Time? https://etramping.com/most-inspirational-travelers/ https://etramping.com/most-inspirational-travelers/#comments Thu, 17 Jan 2019 13:47:34 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=39263 Most of our planet has been discovered, but there was once a time it was not. Are these intrepid explorers the most inspirational travelers of all time?

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Imagine the world, several hundred years ago, when only a small percentage of the planet was documented. They didn’t have google maps back then, did they?! Nor did they have any real concept of what was out there in the vast, dark void. But that didn’t stop them from bravely venturing forth out into the big wide world (believed to be limitless at the time – which is very big indeed) to be the first to conquer a new territory, document an exotic beast, or map our planet as we have come to know it.

These intrepid souls have gone down in history as the most inspirational travelers of all time, and without their fearlessness, our history might be an altogether different one. In today’s blog post, we salute those who have gone before us, and continue to inspire every traveler who dares to venture forth into the great unknown.

Marco Polo

One of the most famous explorers ever to grace the seven seas, Marco Polo inspired countless of voyages after him, adventures, books, and then later films and television – and even board games. There’s little doubt he is the poster boy for exploration during the golden age of discovery. Hailing from Venice, Polo was an Italian merchant operating in the 13th century, and the first European to meet Kublai Khan – the ruler of the Mongol empire.

His writings on Asia and China in particular were ground-breaking, and the first real source of information that Europe had about the far east. However, the definitive print of this work can never actually exist, because of the difference in the manuscripts. Lost in translation you might say.

Christopher Columbus

Polo was to significantly inspire another Italian – Christopher Columbus – the Genoa-born explorer credited with discovering the New World. His voyage in 1492 is perhaps one of the most famous of all time, as he set sail westwards from Spain, expecting to reach Japan to open up a new East India trade route.

Instead, he happened upon the rather large continent of the Americas, and the rest is history. The fact that North America had already been discovered by a Norse explorer in the 11th century is often overlooked, but Columbus himself had accomplished his goal of spreading the word of the Catholic church in Central and South America.

Ferdinand Magellan

Not to be outdone, the Portuguese had their own fearless seafaring adventurer in Ferdinand Magellan, the man credited with the first circumnavigation expedition in 1519 to 1522. It took much longer to get around the circumference of the planet back then. Actually setting out in a Spanish backed voyage to sail to the East Indies, Magellan managed to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the process.

He went on to discover the Philippines but was to meet his end there while attempting to convert the islanders to Christianity. Magellan’s legacy nonetheless continues, particularly when it comes to naming spacecraft or topographical points of interest on planets.

James Cook

Cook was a British explorer and captain in the Royal Navy. Hailing from the north of England, Cook is credited with being the first person to discover the Hawaiian Islands, as well as Australia and New Zealand. No mean feat considering the vastness of ocean that exists in those parts, not to mention the dangerous currents therein.

His experience sailing the Pacific over 12 years pretty much provided Europe with everything they needed to know about the region at the time. His two famous ships, the Endeavor and the Discovery, regularly lend their names to space exploration and scientific ventures.

Nelly Bly

Although the golden age of discovery was dominated by men, women began to play significant parts as inspirational travelers in later years. None more so than Nelly Bly, who was a pioneering US journalist known for her work exposing the treatment of mental hospital patients in New York. However, perhaps her most famous exploit was to circumnavigate the globe in 72 days, by hook or by crook. Determined and inspired to beat the fictitious “Round the World in 80 Days” record set in Jules Verne’s classic, she achieved the feat in 1888. A movie about her exploits is currently in production – and more people need to be aware of her incredible adventure.

Jacques Cousteau

There is simply no name as synonymous with undersea exploration as the great Jacques Cousteau, a French Navy officer, explorer and conservationist who pioneered the development of the aqualung. Cousteau was a brilliant filmmaker who documented the subaquatic world in the 60’s and 70’s with his popular television programme “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” He was to continue to produce over 120 films and 50 books, and was the first person to win the coveted Palme d’Or for a documentary feature in 1956. Although passing in 1997, Cousteau’s adventures continue to inspire both travelers and filmmakers in equal measure.

Neil Armstrong

We’ve gone underwater, so let’s finish by going into space – and more specifically setting foot on the moon. That’s exactly what Neil Armstrong managed to achieve in 1969, and he needs little introduction. Arguably the most famous pioneer of all time, his immortal worlds “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” will still give you goosebumps every time. Armstrong and his team of Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin entered the Apollo 11 spacecraft at the turn of the decade and made history.

In becoming the first man to walk on the moon, Armstrong passed into legend, and to this day it is still regarded as our greatest achievement. Maybe someone reading this is destined to beat it. Mars anyone?

To boldly go…

Yes, we know we’ve missed out a bunch of extremely important and inspirational travelers and explorers, including Lewis and Clarke, Shackleton, Amelia Earhart, Ibn Battuta and James T Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Please accept our humble apologies – we’ll include them next time. While you’re waiting, why not follow in their legendary footsteps, and set out on your own voyage of discovery? In the words of poet T.S Elliot – “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know that place for the first time.” What he said.

Who is your favorite inspirational traveler? It doesn’t have to be someone in the past! Let us know!

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5 International Winter Festivals to Go to for Your New Year Party in 2020 https://etramping.com/new-year-party-festivals/ https://etramping.com/new-year-party-festivals/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 03:15:46 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=39003 It's never too early to start planning for the big arrival of 2020. So to help you out, we have listed the best places for the New Year's Eve selebractions!

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New year is just around the corner, and we can’t help but be excited about the celebrations that it brings! People all across the world immerse themselves with the party spirit, and there’s no doubt you would also love to be a part of their rich festivals.

Fireworks 2020

There are plenty of international winter festivals and new year celebrations that witness a huge swarm of enthusiasts coming from corners of the world. You too can be a part of the grand celebrations and begin your new year with an ecstatic spirit!

To help you out, we have listed below top 5 festivals and new year parties where you can cheer up for new beginnings. Scroll now!

1.  Hogmanay Festival, Edinburgh

If you really wish to see how to party for a new year, head to Hogmanay festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Considered one of the largest new year celebrations, Hogmanay festival continues for three days full of massive street parties, live music concerts, traditional dance performances, torchlight possessions and many more!Not many know but Guinness Book of Records has also honoured Edinburgh’s celebration for being the world’s largest New Year Party in 1997-98 with almost 400,000 people.

Edinburgh

This is the reason that now numbers are restricted and only some people get the chance to be a part of the Hogmanay festival. So don’t wait and buy your tickets soon!

2. New Year Extravaganza, Brazil

Brazil is known for its exclusive parties and the one happening on the eve of a new year is just extraordinary. Copacabana beach witnesses the wildest version with lots of fireworks and music. Most of the people come dressed in white to represent good luck.

Beach fireworks

At midnight, people also throw flowers in the ocean to give tribute to sea goddess Yemanja. However, this is not so noticeable for the party is so boisterous.

3. New Year’s Dive, The Netherlands

This is something we bet you wouldn’t have heard before. Every year, thousands of people gather near the beaches and jump into the ice-cold sea wearing bright orange hats.

Though the reason behind this Dutch tradition is no less than a mystery, it has gained huge popularity with people flying to the Netherlands to witness this fun experience. After a long night street party, we are sure that the cold water will refresh your spirits for the new year.

4. Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin

Though not a new year party, this festival is bound to enchant you with its mind-blowing snow sculptures. Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival occurs in Heilongjiang, China. In 2017, the festival garnered 18 million visitors giving enough explanation of why it is considered the world’s largest ice and snow festival.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

The festival usually begins in December and continues till February. Some popular activities you can try during the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden and winter-swimming in the Songhua River. The city looks like a freezing oasis and is a delight to see. So you don’t just get to party but also explore the nature’s beauty at this international winter festival.

5. Junkanoo, Bahamas Carnival

If you love parades, Junkanoo is perfect for you! This massive street parade is organised in the Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26) and on the New Year’s Day. The locals wear bright coloured clothes and beautiful headwear to dance and sing during the parade.

The best spot to watch the celebrations is Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas. After the parade, you can go out to explore the scintillating islands and the magical culture of the Caribbean!

The Takeaway

When planning a trip abroad, don’t forget to buy travel insurance online. It’s important t have fun to the fullest while celebrating the New Year but it’s even more important to be prepared for all situations. That’s why, you should always plan ahead and make provisions for the unexpected.

Are you ready for 2020? We wish you all the best!

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Love is in the Air – The Most Romantic Places in Asia to Spend Valentine’s Day https://etramping.com/the-most-romantic-places-in-asia/ https://etramping.com/the-most-romantic-places-in-asia/#comments Sat, 12 Jan 2019 11:24:26 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=38886 Asia is a vast continent filled with memorable travel destinations, but what about the romance? Here we take a look at the best places for lovers to visit.

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When it comes to winged Cupid shooting off arrows willy-nilly, the world has some truly wonderful hot-spots to help ignite a lover’s passion, especially now, when Valentine’s Day is approaching!

Awwww – isn’t that cute?!

Whether you’re in a fledgling relationship, honeymooners who’ve just tied the knot, or well into your twilight years and looking to inject a spark back into your marriage. Whatever your romantic wants and desires – there’s a place out there for you.

Are you looking forward to this special day?

Everyone’s aware of those famous lover-friendly destinations such as Paris in the springtime, a Grecian island in late September, or New York at Christmas; but what of the mighty continent of Asia? Surely in a land so vast they too have some amorous destinations in which to practice getting up close and personal with a significant other? Thankfully, we are here to show you the more romantic locales of this backpacker haven!

Bukhara – Uzbekistan

What could be more romantic than taking a journey along the ancient silk road? Travel back in time to the charming and often beautiful streets of Bukhara, Uzbekistan in the heart of central Asia. While it’s a country that you might not automatically think of for lovers, this historic caravanserai will change your mind.

Bukhara’s courtyards are a delight.

The city center is an open-air museum with UNESCO world heritage status, and its cozy streets and alleyways are charming to walk around, hand-in-hand on a chilly, but sunny autumn morning. The Kaylan Minaret square is particularly lovely and a must if you’re in the neighbourhood.  

Koh Phayam – Thailand

In a country riddled with romantic island destinations and resorts, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that’s not already overrun with honeymooners and lovers. Either that or revellers out to get totally mangled at a full moon party and ruin your holiday.

It might be very romantic to set one of these off on a Thai beach – but consider the environment!

For somewhere a little off the beaten track, try heading to Koh Phayam island in the Andaman Sea off the east coast of the country. There are no cars on the island, it’s still relatively untouched and there are some lovely spots for beach glamping with a loved one. You’d better hurry though – it’s not going to stay that way for long. Dabbing tiger balm on a partner’s multiple sand fly bites will definitely be a special moment.

Sri-Lanka

An island nation that’s often overlooked in favor of India, Sri-Lanka has so much to offer those seeking romance. It’s a stunningly beautiful country, boasting eclectic, delicious cuisine and friendly, hospitable locals. It’s also a budget-friendly option if you’re looking for an exotic holiday without breaking the bank.

Sri Lanka is one of the most scenic and romantic spots in Asia!

And you can’t get much more romantic than sharing a day with a loved one at one of the many elephant sanctuaries on the island. Sri-Lanka is populated with an abundance of beautiful flora and fauna, and wildlife spotting is a great way to spend a vacation with your better half. Don’t be riding elephants or petting drugged up tigers though – make sure you visit an ethical sanctuary when you do.

Cappadocia – Turkey

If you’re not feeling the love in the basket of a hot air balloon when the sun is coming up over one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, you’re probably dead inside. The stunning rock formations around the town of Goreme in the heart of Turkey are world famous, as are the hot air balloon rides that rise at daybreak and sunset every day of the year.

Love is, quite literally, in the air.

Exploring this outdoor museum is one of the most romantic things you could do anywhere in the world, made all the more special if you blow the budget on a champagne balloon flight for two. Staying in a cave hotel and indulging in Turkish massage is a sure-fire way to make you loathe the fact you’ll need to go home eventually.

The Maldives

We couldn’t really get away without mentioning the Maldive islands, a region of the world seemingly dedicated to all things romantic. Here you’re without a doubt in paradise on earth, and there’s no better way to spend time with a lover than languishing on perfect white sand beaches as the brilliant blue waters of the Indian Ocean wash over you.

eTrampers in the Maldives. Not holding hands because we’re just friends – honest!

Those inclined for a more active getaway  will find some of the finest scuba-diving and snorkeling in the world, but there’s really nothing like a stroll on the beach lit only by the light of the moon. There’s a strong possibility that if you’re not already engaged, you will be before you leave this tropical love cauldron.

Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow…

As you can probably tell, we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the romantic hot-spots of Asia. Such is the sheer size of the continent it would take several articles to cover everything, but we’ve gone with a real mixed-bag of locations that are sure to set hearts racing and Cupid drawing back his bow. Some of our choices might surprise, but we’re confident a visit to any one of these destinations will stoke the fires of romance in even the most burnt out relationship. Don’t just rely on the location though – you’ve got to put in the work!

Where would you pick in Asia for a romantic getaway? Let us know!

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Uncovering the Rose Red City, Half as Old as Time: Petra, Jordan https://etramping.com/uncovering-petra-jordan/ https://etramping.com/uncovering-petra-jordan/#comments Thu, 03 Jan 2019 08:56:06 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=38171 Petra in Jordan is an often-overlooked travel destination, but its history is incredible. Here’s how to uncover and what to do in the Rose Red City Petra.

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Hidden behind a crack in a mountain, Petra remains one of the biggest mysteries when it comes to ancient Kingdoms. Belonging to the Nabataean kingdom, very little was left behind by them for historians to piece together in today’s Jordan. At the heart of their empire though, Petra, which spent over 1000 years hidden, still stands and gives us some clues as to who they were and what they wanted.

Petra in Jordan is an often-overlooked travel destination, but its history is incredible.

You’ll probably recognize Petra due to its iconic front Façade carved into the mountains. Having featured in numerous films – including most famously Indiana Jones and Last Crusade – The Rose Red City Petra is a place anyone interested in history, ruins, or just cool places, needs to visit.

A perfect place for anyone who is interested in history and ruins.

What was the Nabataean kingdom?

The Nabataean kingdom was one of the most dominant civilizations in the area from approximately the 6th century BC. They lasted independently for over 700 years until in 100 AD they were absorbed into the Roman Empire. Before this, they were incredibly powerful and their kingdom managed to spread from modern-day Yemen all the way to Damascus.

Unfortunately, despite having been this large, they left behind very little written words. This is probably due to the fact that the refused to create written content. Their cities lack libraries, their temple walls lack inscriptions. Very little has been left behind for historians to sift through. The big question is why? Why not write anything down? They had the ability, yet they refused to use it.

What is Petra?

Petra is both a literal crack hidden inside of a mountain, and a historical one; being one of the most significant structures left behind by the Nabataean kingdom. The city itself flourished all the way up to 663 AD, being a huge center for trade in the region. Yet after this, it was lost and forgotten about, with it only reappearing over 1000 years later in 1812.

Welcome to Petra, Jordan.

Today, the Rose Red City Petra is designated as an archaeological park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is open to the public both during the day and at night, yet both require paying an entrance fee. The entrance fee is 50 JD (70 USD) for 1 day, 55 JD (78 USD) for 2 days, or 17 JD (24 USD) for one night.

What to See in Petra, Jordan

The Siq

The Siq is the long, narrow crack in the mountain which functions as a sort of driveway to the main attraction of Petra. It is over 2km long and if you look carefully at the walls of the canyon as you go, you’ll be able to spot some small and simple carvings. Whilst the Romans were here, they built terracotta pipes into the sides of the canyon, the remains of which can also be seen.

The Treasury

Once you’ve made your way through the Siq, you’ll be confronted by the Treasury. This is the area which you probably know from it’s screen time in movies such as Indian Jones. The ornate structure was carved into the mountainside in a relatively quick time. Some historians believe that it was actually rushed, yet the reason for why is unknown.

Make your way through the Siq and be confronted by the Treasury.

At the top of the carvings, you’ll notice an urn which is rumoured to contain the treasures of the Pharoh. There are numerous bullet holes which attest to this fact, as curious travelers have shot at it over the years.

If you manage to make it here early enough (pre 7 am) you should have the area completely to yourself. You’ll feel like you’re Indiana Jones.

The Roman Theater

Between the Treasury and the Roman Theater, there is another long Siq. Here you’ll be able to spot many different tombs and carvings. After you’ve traveled through the Siq though, you’ll end up at The Roman Theater.

This 7000-seat theater is known as the Roman Theater as it was they who expanded it after the Nabateans gave their kingdom to the Romans. However, it is originally Nabatean in design, and the original structure was built by the Nabateans. Occasionally you’ll be able to see a performance held here. Make sure to ask before you book!

The Royal Tombs

The Royal Tombs are known as such because they are the largest and grandest in the area. Whether they were designed for royals though, is not actually known. Another mystery of The Rose Red City Petra.

The Monastery

The Monastery s is the largest carved monument in Petra. Whilst designed similarly to the treasury, it comes in at 50 meters high by 45 meters wide. Also similar to the treasury though, the inside is much, much smaller. The Monastery also features a much larger plaza in front of it, which was actually carved out by the Nabateans.

Locals praying.

Bonus: Petra by Night

If you’re willing to organize a trip during the evening, then Petra at night is an incredible sight to behold. It’s much cheaper, at only 17 JD (24 USD) for a ticket, and you’ll be treated to a much more unique experience.

Sunsets and sunrises are spectacular to experience in Jordan.

First, you’ll be shown a play comprised of Bedouin music whilst surrounded by candles. You’ll then be served some local tea and sit on mats in the Treasury, as though you were living there 2000 years ago.

It’s generally better to try Petra at night the evening before you go there during the day. The reason for this is that once you’ve seen it during the day, the shadows and darkness don’t retain their mysterious impressiveness. That’s what makes the Rose Red City Petra, at night, so impressive.

The Rose Red City Petra

It might not be the easiest of places to visit, but Petra’s combination of history, unique sights, and access to an ancient culture, make it one of the most interesting travel destinations in that part of the world. Just make sure to visit during either Spring (March – May) or Autumn (Late September – Early December) as the summer temperatures are incredibly hot.

Is Petra already on your bucket list?

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How Does Travelling Make You a Better Person? What You Need to Know https://etramping.com/how-travelling-makes-you-a-better-person/ https://etramping.com/how-travelling-makes-you-a-better-person/#comments Fri, 28 Dec 2018 09:31:04 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=37488 They say that travel broadens the mind and never a truer word was spoken. Here we take a look at how it will make you a better person – and why you need it.

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We’ve all heard it said that travel broadens the mind, and it’s an extremely accurate and descriptive cliché – mainly because it’s true. You can gain far more knowledge from one year travelling the planet than you can in ten years looking at a textbook, which is probably why more and more parents are “home” schooling their children while on a trip around the world. But perhaps the most useful knowledge you will gain when you’re on the road will be about yourself. In this day and age, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings coupled with an over-reliance on western medical principles, has managed to suck the life out of many people – and many of those people don’t honestly see a way out of it. But the answer is as plain as the nose on your face – go travelling.

You can gain far more knowledge from one year travelling the planet than you can in ten years looking at a textbook.

In today’s blog post, we, as long-term globetrotters and travel buddies, are going to give you our thoughts on how travelling will make you a better person, and why you need it – even if you think you don’t.

Feeding elephants Agness and Cez of Etramping
Go explore the world, meet people, feed elephants and be happy!

Why we should all travel

Mark Twain said “…travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness…” and he was not wrong! We live in a world that is blighted by racism, hatred and xenophobia – but these negativities are born from misunderstanding and fear – which can be fought with education and courage. Stepping out your front door to travel the big wide world might be utterly terrifying, but it will ultimately lead you on a path of acceptance, serenity and mindfulness. And not only is travelling fatal to the hatred of other cultures, it’s also fatal to your own insecurities, depression, low self-esteem and anxieties. In short, there is basically no disadvantages to travelling – so you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’ve provided a handy guide below to assist you.

Agness of Etramping in Zurich
Stepping out your front door to travel the big wide world will ultimately lead you on a path of acceptance, serenity and mindfulness.

Who would benefit from travelling? Everyone.

Who wouldn’t benefit from travelling? No one.

It’s literally that simple. So, what exactly will you gain?

Life Skills

Travelling, especially travelling solo, is a sure-fire way to improve your life skills. You’ll develop more than just an acute sense of direction when you’re on the road. Everything from timekeeping to understanding currencies, to knowing how to negotiate packed train stations carrying everything you own on your back. You’ll learn how to solve problems, how to think critically and quickly, how to adapt to any situation and how to communicate effectively. You’ll also learn the vital skill of empathy – which is much needed in today’s society. And by the end of this strip, you’ll know how to peel a potato properly – a significantly underrated skill to possess!

cooking, scrambled egg, forest
Travelling can teach you how to cook and survive in the wild.

Instant Stress Buster

Sure, travelling can provide you with its own kind of stress, but with a bit of practice and advice (stick with us) you’ll be hopping around the globe like a pro in no time. And travelling is an amazing stress buster – especially if you learn to let go, clear your mind and enjoy the sights and surroundings you find yourself in. Stepping out of a frantic office and onto a beach somewhere does wonders for your blood pressure, and for your zest and energy for life.

Agness of Etramping is eating a waffle in Brussels
Travelling makes me happy or … just a waffle with whipped cream on top :)

Endorphin Release

Travel, much like exercise, is the best way to combat anxiety, depression and other negative thoughts that might plague you in your life. Getting out into the big wide world and seeing new things, making new memories and having new experiences will release those all-important endorphins into your brain – which help to beat the black dog and his friends. Keeping on the move keeps the negativities occupied, and you’ll be amazed at how such simple distraction can make you feel. Travel makes you happy.

Education, Education, Education

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, someone once said. There are also books – but the idea is there. You’ll learn so much more from experiencing a country first hand than you will reading a book about it. Learning about new peoples, countries and cultures by actually visiting them is the number one way to destroy xenophobia and bigotry. And you’re likely to be a smarter, funnier, more entertaining dinner guest in the process. Maybe.

Learning about new peoples, countries and cultures by actually visiting them is the number one way to destroy xenophobia and bigotry.

Friend Magnet

Arguably one of the best things about travelling is all the friends you make along the way. You might think that you have friends now, and some of them might very well be with you for the long haul. But there’s no accounting for the characters you meet when you’re moving from place to place, and you’ll discover genuine, life-long friendships from people that you might only get to know for a few days! Such is the power of travelling and the shared experience – you all have something in common, and that’s something you will cherish for the rest of your lives.

Happy people during the elephant tour
You can meet awesome people on the road, create unique bonds and even find your second half :)

It’s All About the Confidence!

There’s nothing quite like the sense of achievement when you return home from a long period of travel or accomplish something marvellous while you’re still on the road. And with that feeling comes a renewed sense of confidence. Whether you were busting with it in the first place or a timid little wallflower, travelling will breed a confidence that will encourage you to achieve anything in your life – and not let anyone bring you down along the way. Go get ‘em, tiger!

Agness cruising
Take a control of your life and be more confident – that’s what travelling taught me.

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Governments and the media spoon feed us all with a skewed sense of reality regarding other countries, attempting to instil fear, control populations and divide nations. The best way to beat them at this game? Travelling! A journey to a country that has a bad reputation at home will often surprise you with just how beautiful it is and how hospitable the people are. Especially the likes of North Korea or Iran. Wherever you go, you’ll be able to return with the truth – and with the ability to speak out against lies and propaganda when you hear it.

Tour guides in North Korea
Memorable moment from North Korea.

A Polished Resume

An often-overlooked advantage of travelling is how much more employable it makes you. We’re not just talking jobs in the industry – although seeing 65 countries plus is a big advantage there – but in all walks of life and in all occupations. Employers will be impressed by all those aforementioned life skills you’ve picked up along the way, and communication is an essential skill for most companies these days. A boss won’t see a gap year student as a bum, rather someone with a thirst for knowledge about the world – and the skills to go in search of it. That’ll certainly give you an advantage over someone who has never left their hometown!

It Doesn’t Stop!

This is literally all we have time for, but the list is not exhaustive. Travelling benefits you in so many more ways, and sometimes the fun part is discovering just how much you can learn and develop as a person when you’re out there experiencing it. You’ll return a bigger, brighter, stronger, more confident, knowledgeable and understanding version of the person who set foot out into the unknown all those days, weeks, months or years before. And that is absolutely priceless.

What have you learned while travelling? Let us know your best stories!

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Best Destinations for Bloggers in 2019 https://etramping.com/best-destinations-for-bloggers-in-2019/ https://etramping.com/best-destinations-for-bloggers-in-2019/#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2018 01:11:16 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=36518 What are the best locations for digital nomads? Here you'll find a list of best places to work remotely in 2019!

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You’re reading this article because you want to find a perfect place to settle for a while to work on your blog. It means that you are:

  • about to start a blog,
  • you have recently started your blog, or
  • you’re an established blogger.
Agness blogging at the beach in the Maldives. Seems like a dream job, right?  

In all of the above situations – even though your experience level differs – your needs are very similar. You need a place where:

  • the internet is fast and reliable,
  • it’s relatively cheap (since you can work from anywhere, go somewhere you can afford a decent living),
  • there are other bloggers around (so you can network and learn from each other),
  • you don’t have to explain to everyone around that you aren’t unemployed, you don’t need help finding a “real” job, and you don’t have unlimited time because you don’t work 9 to 5 (sorry for the angry voice – it’s not like I’ve had enough of explaining myself).

I’ve been traveling and blogging since 2011, together with my blogging partner (Agness), and we’ve been to some of the best blogger hotspots, while we also heard from our fellow bloggers about other and upcoming digital nomad destinations for 2019

Here you’ll find a list of best places to work on your blog in 2019:

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Surrounded with culture, beauty and other like-minded travelers, Chiang Mai, is the most popular digital nomad destination. There are many reasons why this is such a great hotspot for bloggers, but the main draws are the fact that it’s cheap, it’s safe, it’s peaceful and the locals are some of the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet. Spend your days exploring golden-roofed temples and the old city walls, head out into the jungle for an unforgettable trekking experience, or simply work together with all the other bloggers in the Camp at the Maya Shopping Mall.

Advantages of blogging from Chiang Mai

  • Very low cost of living (monthly rent $200-$500)
  • Good weather (easier to stay positive and no need to spend money on winter clothing)
  • Probably the highest concentration of digital nomads in the world
  • Plenty of things to do in the city and around
Welcome to Chiang Mai – the most popular digital nomad destination.

Disadvantages of blogging from Chiang Mai

  • Cliche (everyone goes there)
  • Need to do a visa-run every 30 days (leave the country and come back to start a new 30-day visa-free period)
  • Not a great place for kids as they may miss out on lack of Western education standards
  • Very expensive and less advanced emergency/health services (less advanced than most Western countries)

Mykonos, Greece

With inspirational beaches, peaceful tavernas and a buzzing nightlife, the Cyclades island of Mykonos offers the perfect blend of ‘work hard, play hard’. Hire a private villa with a good Wi-Fi connection, some stunning views and a pool to reward yourself with after a day of writing. With its white-washed architecture, traditional windmills and golden shores, Mykonos is über Insta-worthy too; making it a perfect spot for any blogger, or a family holiday.

Mykonos offers the perfect blend of ‘work hard, play hard’.

Advantages of blogging from Mykanos

  • Beautiful and inspiring scenery
  • Fast and reliable internet
  • Greece is part of the European Union (fair and easy visa process, protection of the law)
  • Good emergency/health services (and free for citizens of European Union)

Disadvantages of blogging from Mykanos

  • Pretty expensive compared to other entries on this list
  • Seasonal pricing (high-peak season results in price increases)

Tallinn, Estonia

Did you know that Estonia is one of the most digitally developed countries in Europe, if not the world? It was even the first country to declare internet access to be a human right. Well, there’s one of your main reasons to visit right there. Aside from the Estonians’ views on technology, Tallinn itself is an exciting city, well worth exploring. Bursting with history and surrounded by beaches, you’ll never be short of material to write about.

Historical Tallinn.

Advantages of blogging from Tallinn

  • Low cost of living
  • Estonia is part of the European Union (fair and easy visa process, protection of the law)
  • Good emergency/health services (and free for citizens of European Union)
  • Highly developed infrastructure for digital nomads (including very advantageous taxation and first ever e-residency for digital nation)

Disadvantage of blogging from Tallinn

  • Very cold winters (I find it an disadvantage but you may think otherwise)

Cape Town, South Africa

The gateway to many of the most incredible experiences in southern Africa, Cape Town has to make it on the list for the top blogger hotspots of 2019. Boasting breath-taking landscapes to rival any other, you’ll find yourself captivated by Table Mountain sunrises and Boulders Beach sunsets shared with a colony of African penguins. It’s a remarkable city with a culture and lifestyle that, on visiting, will surely win you over.

Table Mountain sunrises and Boulders Beach sunsets of Cape Town.

Advantages of blogging from Cape Town

  • Cost of living is relatively low (apart from the rent which may get pricey)
  • It’s a great base to explore Africa

Disadvantages of blogging from Cape Town

  • Safety may be a concern in certain areas, but don’t let media scare you

Where else would you recommend to move to work on the blog?

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London attractions at Night – Top 20+ things to See and Do in London https://etramping.com/london-attractions-night-top/ https://etramping.com/london-attractions-night-top/#comments Tue, 11 Dec 2018 06:30:00 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=36606 London is one of the top cities in the world for just about everything. You’re going to be spoilt for choice – so here’s what to do on a night out in England’s capital.

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Writer Samuel Johnson said, “by seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.” He might have been slightly biased coming from England (and writing in the 18th Century not too familiar with what goes on in Bangkok at night). Still, he’s not far wrong and London has always been a capital city filled with rich delights, sights, and sounds, where you can usually find what you want when you want it – no matter the hands on the clock.

View of the Big Ben and a bridge over the Thames, London
London – All the lights shine.

The Big Smoke

Interestingly, at the time of writing and according to Forbes, London is second only to the provocative Thai capital as the most visited city in the world (having just lost the number one spot). Some 16 million tourists descend on “the big smoke” every year and those people are all looking for fun things to do. As you might expect, London has it in abundance.

And like any world-city worth its salt, it offers much when the sun goes down and the people come out to play. Here then, are 20 + things to see and do in London in the evening or at night.

Finding Your Way Around

Before we dive right in, we’ve included a handy Google map of all the main attractions listed here. However, please note for the likes of pubs, clubs and restaurants etcetera, there are simply far too many to pin – so you’re just going to have to sniff those out on your own!  

West End Musicals and Theater

Love them or hate them, there’s no doubt that musicals are enormously popular, particularly when in their territory of London’s West End or Broadway in New York. Remember the amount of people who visit London? Well, the Society of London Theater claim that 15 million bums were on auditorium seats in 2017. While we’re not saying that every tourist who visits the city goes to a show – there’s a tremendous amount of them that do!

Beauty and the Beast sitting in front of a house in the musical on stage.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – Just one of hundreds of West End shows.

Musicals like The Lion King, Wicked, Les Misérables and the Phantom of the Opera have been mesmerising audiences for decades, with the cream of film and theater acting talent regularly adding their own box-office clout. If you’re not a fan of musicals, don’t miss some of the world’s best cutting-edge theater, and you might see a global superstar doing what they do best. For many, the highlight of a visit to London is grabbing a ticket to one of these timeless spectacles. Don’t miss it.

Sightseeing the Lights

London, like Paris, is famous for its lights at night and there’s no better way to see them than an evening stroll through the city. It’s particularly stunning at Christmas time when scores of fluorescent bulbs illuminate the streets, but you don’t need to just visit then to experience the magic and charm of London when her lights are on.

Tower Bridge in London at sunset.
Tower Bridge at night is truly a sight to behold.

World-famous sights such as the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge, and St Paul’s Cathedral are all spectacularly lit up at night, and you’ll find no shortage of great walking tours to guide you around them. Just don’t forget your camera’s tripod for taking those truly stunning twilight photographs.

Famous Pubs, Bars, and Clubs

London’s nightlife is up there with the finest in the world, with some of the best pubs, bars, and clubs you could possibly hope to find. From beautiful, ye olde worlde style taverns to avant-garde, swankiness, this city has an establishment to cater for every taste.

Outside view on The Dickens Inn
Stunning locations like the Dickens Inn await you when you’re thirsty.

If you’re that way inclined, you can even do specially designed London pub tours to make sure you don’t miss out on all the best ones – because your head will be spinning from more than a pint of ale with how many there are. And when you’ve had your fill of the vintage and traditional, hit up some of the best dance clubs on the planet and cut some rug until the early hours.

Comedy/Stand Up

Rattle off a list of British comedians and you’ve got a who’s who of the funniest people ever to grace a comedy stage – and they all started somewhere. The comedy circuit in London is extremely popular for international funny people and a great choice for an alternative night out. You’ve more than half a chance at catching tomorrow’s stars before they make it big.

A comedian on stage.
Visiting a stand-up show – laughter is the best medicine.

And the beauty of it is, you’ll find many gigs for free! Check Time Out for listings or remember that google is your friend for finding who’s playing where. Just be ready to have your side’s split!

Gigs, Gigs, and More Gigs

The UK is home to the finest music scene in the world and this is reflected in the sheer amount of live performances you can see across the country week in week out. London has more than its fair share of music gigs available every night, where you can catch all the legends or the next big thing.

Musicians on stage viewed from the crowd
Gigs in London can be intimate affairs or huge sell-out stadium concerts

And while you’re at it, why not take in the famous history and sites by doing a rock and roll music tour? One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the experience and one for true music aficionados everywhere – especially if you’re fans of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

The Tower of London – Ceremony of the Keys

Visiting the crown jewels is always a highlight for tourists coming to London, many of whom flock here to enjoy the history of the British Royal family. The infamous Tower of London is forever synonymous with that history, with a brutal and bloody past that makes it an exciting and educational attraction – especially at night.

Tower of London building viewed from the outside
Many a ne’er do well met a timely end here.

The Ceremony of the Keys is the oldest military ceremony in the world, dating back to the middle ages. It starts at exactly 21.53 every night, where the guards perform a fascinating interaction to ensure the keys are kept safe until the morning. It’s totally free, but only 40-50 tourists are allowed access to it, which means that it is nearly always sold out at least 12 months in advance. Remember to book ahead!

The London Eye

When the London Eye opened to the public back in the year 2000 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Now ranking number three, it’s still the tallest in Europe, and one of London’s premier tourist attractions. As you might expect, you’ll get some of the best views of the capital from here.

View of the London Eye ferris wheel.
The London Eye.

Both it and surrounding docks on the river Thames light up beautifully at night – and it’s well worth it to get your ticket in advance to beat the queues. The London Eye features regularly in popular culture and it’s a landmark you really shouldn’t miss when visiting the city. Providing you have a head for heights of course!

Late-Night London Museums

Have you ever seen the movie Night at the Museum? That could very well happen in London town! While the exhibits might not literally come to life, there’s plenty of opportunity for seeing some of the city’s best museums with late opening times offering something to keep all the family happy.

Natural History Museum London from the inside
History at your fingertips

Museums like the Tate Modern, British Museum and Transport Museum regularly stay open well into the evening to give everyone the chance of enjoying the exhibitions, while some like the Natural History Museum (pictured above) even have sleepover events where you can stay the whole night! Perhaps the Tyrannosaurus Rex does come alive when nobody’s watching!

A River Thames Cruise

The River Thames is the iconic body of water that flows through the heart of London, inspiring a catalogue of stories, shaping history and defining a city. It’s fondly regarded in these parts, and what better way to see it than taking in a sunset cruise?

Helicopter view of the Thames, London at sunrise.
The dramatic River Thames.

Enjoy a glass (or two) of bubbly as you float down this world-famous river, passing all the major landmarks along the way. It’s surely one of the best ways to see the city at a leisurely pace from a unique vantage point, perfect for treating a loved one.

Jack the Ripper/Ghost Tour

England – and the UK in general – is one of the most haunted places on earth, and as such, the popularity of ghost walks and tours has skyrocketed. London is in the very thick of it, with the capital having more than its fair share of ghostly goings on. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!

Dark street
You go guys – I’m…washing my hair tonight.

But of all the tales coming out of the capital, perhaps the most infamous is that of Jack the Ripper – the Whitechapel murderer who was never found. He terrorised the city back in 1888, and he still does to this day, as you can “enjoy” a spine-tingling tour through the streets of his old stomping ground. Just don’t look behind you!

The Sky Garden

While not nearly being close to having the skyscrapers of other world cities such as New York or Hong Kong, London certainly has some distinctive ones. 20 Fenchurch Street is one such architectural construction, known affectionately by locals as “the walkie-talkie.”

Sky Garden, London, viewed from the river
The “walkie-talkie”

One of the most interesting things about it is that it has a beautiful, three-floor sky garden with stunning views over the city. It all lights up rather charmingly at night and being the 6th tallest building in the city, it will give you unrivalled views as London sprawls out below you. Sunrise yoga is also extremely popular too!

Visit Shakespeare’s Globe

“All the world’s a stage,” quoted Shakespeare in his play As You Like It, and you’d be mad to miss one of the most beautiful and iconic stages in the world while visiting London. Shakespeare’s Globe is a faithful reconstruction of the bard’s 16th-century theater, and seeing a performance here is a must for anyone who is a fan of the “upstart crow.”

Theater and crowd shown from the top-side of the stage.
Watch theater how they did in Shakespeare’s time

The theater has a repertoire of seasonal work and has been playing to delighted audiences since it opened in 1997. Catch a mesmerising, candle-lit performance of Hamlet, Macbeth, and co if you can, but there’s still plenty to see and do when no shows are scheduled.

Late-Night London Shopping

Just as tempting as visiting a city’s tourist attractions is visiting its shopping districts, particularly if you happen to be in one of the fashion hot-spots of the world. London is no stranger to style and high-end couture, and you can soak it all up by exploring any number of shopping streets in the capital.

Regent Street, London during Christmas time
Regent Street at Christmas

Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, and Mayfair have become by-words for shopping excellence, but there are literally hundreds of locations to choose from for a spree at night. And if your legs can’t carry you anymore and you’ve shopped until you’ve dropped, try a chauffeur driven experience to help you carry those bags instead. You can thank us later.

Night Bus Tour

It might not be the night bus of Harry Potter fame (although London does have a number of attractions to keep wizards happy), but taking an open-top bus around the sights is a wonderful way to spend an evening.

London bus near the palace.
One of these – but at night.

For just under two hours you can enjoy views that you wouldn’t get from a walking tour, all from the comfort of your seat. A professional guide is included as well as the option of listening in several different languages.  May we suggest you wrap up warm though if sitting upstairs in winter – and be aware that the summer version is mainly conducted in daylight.

Observatory Stargazing

The longer nights bring the perfect opportunity to turn our gaze to the heavens and enjoy some celestial activity, and what better way to enjoy it than visiting one of London’s famous observatories? Hampstead Observatory is open every Friday and Saturday night from the end of September to the beginning of April and it’s free to enter. You’ll learn a lot about the night sky from one of the centre’s knowledgeable and keen volunteers.

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich viewed from the entrance
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Alternatively, you can visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which is located in a UNESCO world heritage site. There you can stand astride the Greenwich Meridian Line and be in the western and eastern hemispheres at the same time! Make sure to visit in the evening for stargazing experiences, astronomer talks and a planetarium show.

Dining Out/Chinatown/Late Markets

London is a foodie’s paradise, with world-class, top quality wining and dining at thousands of restaurants and eateries scattered across the city. There’s something to suit all tastes, but even if you don’t find what you’re looking for, why not visit one of the late-night markets and cook something up for yourself? You could even try a food tour to sample a little bit of everything.

Two plates with food, carried by a waiter.
Dining out – one of life’s little pleasures

Alternatively, take in the sights, sounds, and smells of London’s Chinatown. Fine east Asian cooking and experiences await right in the heart of the city and it’s always a joy to visit the region at night – especially if there’s a party going down.

The Shard City View

The Shard is London’s newest addition to its skyline, completed in 2012 making it the tallest building in the UK. Its 95 stories are shaped into a giant shard of glass, and you can enjoy the spectacular, panoramic views from the 72nd floor during the day or at night.

View of the Shard in Southwark, London, from the river.
The stunning Shard in Southwark

If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can even venture out onto the open-air viewing platform – which is the highest in Europe. There’s also multimedia exhibits and knowledgeable staff on hand to inform you about the London skyline. A great experience all round, but especially magical in the evening.

Late Debate at the Houses of Parliament

One of the most famous buildings in the world, the UK Houses of Parliament is a London icon, not least for the stunning Big-Ben tower and clock. But did you know you can sit in on debates in the public gallery? MPs often work late into the night, and it’s possible to catch them having an argument or two about current affairs.

The houses of parliament viewed from the Thames
The emblematic Houses of Parliament

Of course, you can never be sure what they’re going to be talking about, so it could be sleep-inducing monotony, but it’s still a great alternative attraction at such a revered and historic seat. Don’t forget you can also visit in the day with a guided tour should you prefer.

Bat Tour

Visiting Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon (or any London park for that matter) particularly if the weather is fine. But there’s an increasingly popular activity that has been garnering positive press for members of the order Chiroptera. That’s a fancy name for bats, and you can see them if you attend one of the Royal Park’s Bat Walks.

Close-up from a bat from the back
Not scary at all!

Bats get a bad rep, but with the help of a guide, some of the negative myths will be dispensed with as you use “bat-detectors” to locate and study the creatures. Other nocturnal animals might well make themselves known too, but if you’re not happy with that and a big scaredy-pants – you can always just visit the London Zoo during the day – which is the oldest of its kind in the world.

Become a TV Show Audience Member

The UK is home to some extremely popular TV shows, including the likes of the Voice and the X-Factor, the Graham Norton Show and comedy options Live at the Apollo, Q.I, Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Plus loads more besides.

View from behind the mixer of the stage of a TV show
Get behind the scenes at a TV show

Whatever your preference, if you book in advance you just might be able to score some tickets to your favourite TV show. And the best thing about it is – they’re usually free! Failing that, you can join millions of people each year who enjoy one of London’s many film tours, with Harry Potter easily being the biggest draw.  

Late Night Madame Tussauds

The world-famous waxwork museum needs little introduction and no visit to the capital is complete without seeing the incredible life-like sculptures of people in the public eye. It’s been drawing in the crowds for over 200 years, constantly evolving and adding new exhibits and experiences. But while it usually closes in the afternoon, late-night Madame Tussauds is also a thing – an adults-only evening that’s guaranteed to be loads of fun.

Wax figure of Brad Pitt in Madame Tussauds museum
Brad Pitt is waiting for you late at night…

Rub shoulders with the Queen of England, meet a galaxy of Star Wars characters or give Donald Trump a piece of your mind. You’ll need to book in advance and check dates, but a late-night with a bunch of life-like wax figures couldn’t possibly go wrong!

London Calling…

“A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else,” said an unknown author, and we’re sure that with these sights and attractions, you’ll also have a good night there too. This barely scratches the surface of what you can do in the UK capital, but they’re arguably some of the best ways to spend an evening. You’ll soon discover that London is everything you dreamed it would be.

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How to Get a Job in a Hostel and What to Expect When You Do https://etramping.com/get-a-job-in-a-hostel/ https://etramping.com/get-a-job-in-a-hostel/#comments Thu, 06 Dec 2018 10:29:37 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=36480 Working in a hostel might sound amazing, but it’s not always what it seems. Don’t miss this advice for what to expect and how to get a job first.

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People will always ask long-term travellers how they can afford to do it, expecting to be told they won the lottery, raided their college fund or robbed a bank. The actual key is to be clever with your money, budget well and pick up work on the road. This can be anything from teaching English to starting your own blog, working remotely or even offering any talents you might have as a service, like massage or hairdressing.

The Great jump at the Great Wall of China.

Being selected for gainful employment isn’t always easy though, particularly if you’re light on relevant skill sets, you’re not tech savvy or there’s nothing that appeals to you. However, there is one great way to prolong your travel and it’s relatively easy to get into, but it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be. We are, of course, taking about working in a hostel.

Would you like to be a hostel receptionist?

We have travelled around the block a few times and we know a thing or two about budgeting, blogging and staying on the road longer. Here we are to guide you through some top-tips for getting a job in a hostel and what to expect from it when you do.T

Timing is Everything

First thing’s first – you’re going to need to get the job to begin with, so how do you go about it? Many hostels – particularly the larger chains or summer party destinations – will be fully staffed well before the season, so getting your foot in the door can be tricky. The best piece of advice is and so long as you know where you’re going to be traveling, the further in advance you inquire about a volunteer position the higher the chances of getting on their staff.

Hands up who wants to work in a hostel?!

That’s not to say you won’t get lucky if you’re a cold caller – it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. Hostels are likely to have a high turnover of volunteers as travellers come and go, so you never know when you’re rocking up at just the right time. Ask many and ask often and you’ll maximize your chances of getting a job. You can also try work exchange sites to get ahead of the curve.

Skills and Stuff

Obviously, if you’ve had hospitality experience you’re going to stand a better chance over someone who has never served a customer in their life, but in the hostel game, that’s not everything. Don’t be put off if you’re a first timer, as for the most part, working in a hostel isn’t rocket science – it’s just very hard work.

eTramping with friendly hostel staff in Belarus – you’re going to have to smile round the clock!

If you’re willing to show you’ve got the energy, determination, and gusto to keep the pace in a busy environment, you’re going to be a shoe-in over someone who’s been working behind a bar for 10 years but struggles to get out of bed. A friendly, outgoing, confident nature and a willingness to get stuck in will open many doors for you.

It’s a Dirty Job, but Someone…etc, etc…

Yes, someone has to do it. There’s a common misconception when it comes to hostel work that it’s one big party. You get to throw down with the guests, drink like a fish, stay up all night and enjoy the lascivious activities that can often come with the territory. And while these can indeed be the perks of the job, you’ve got to remember that it’s still a job!

Hostel kitchens – you’ll be spending a lot of time here

You’re most likely to be on the bottom rung of the food chain, which means you’re going to be tasked with all the nasty jobs. If the hostel doesn’t already employ a dedicated cleaner (or even if they do) expect to be cleaning up all kinds of horrible messes, bodily fluids, and stains over the course of your employ. The stories we could tell you about things found in hostel bathrooms would make your toes curl – and YOU’RE the one who gets to clean it up!

Sheets, Sheets, and More Sheets

Holy sheet – you’re going to be doing a lot of these. Arguably the worst part about working in a hostel is the endless (and we mean endless) changing of the sheets. If you’re in a 30 + bed place then expect this to be 90% of your workload – and you WILL want to murder someone after a couple of hours at it. 

Expect to be changing A LOT of these!

Removing, washing and replacing bed sheets is the bane of the hostel volunteer’s existence, and if you’re not prepared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in – you shouldn’t be applying for the job to being with.

Unruly Guests and Ungrateful Managers

You might very well have to put up with both. Most guests that come through the hostel doors are kind and respectful, but you get the odd one or two a week that ruin it for everyone else. When you multiply that by the whole season, you can get pretty sick of the number of people who can potentially rub you up the wrong way.

The delights of cleaning hostel bathrooms will be yours. Several times a day.

You’re living and working there and they can (and will) waltz in with blatant disregard and make your life a misery. If you’re not a tolerant, calm and peaceful individual – this job isn’t for you.

Spotless room in a hostel in Bangkok.

By the same token, you could be working under a really obnoxious, ungrateful, slave-driving manager who will think you’re just there to be abused. They’re getting free labour in exchange for giving up a hostel bed for you to sleep in, but it doesn’t mean they can treat you like a desperate bum. If you ever feel like you’re getting a raw deal – pack it in immediately and go somewhere else. Hostel managers have been known to take serious advantage of volunteers – particularly the younger crowd.

Perks of the Job

If you can manage to put up with a lot of crap, you’re going to be richly rewarded. And when we say richly, we mean modestly. You’ll be benefiting from a free stay to help you budget, and not spending money is almost as good as making it. The hostel should offer you discounts on food and drink if they provide them and getting money off at the bar is music to many traveller’s ears.

Cez making new friends by KICKING ASS!

Tours and excursions might also be thrown in for free or heavily discounted, and if the hostel has contacts further along your route, the perks can have a welcome knock-on effect.

The Time of Your Life

If you can manage to put up with the rigorously hard work, the odd obnoxious guest and thousands of bed changes, you’re likely to have the best time of your life. You’ll meet an amazing bunch of people during your stay, many of whom you’ll be in touch with forever. Working in a hostel isn’t as easy as you might think, but the rewards, in the end, more than make up for it. And the nightmares afterward will stop…eventually.

Have you worked in a hostel? Tell us some of your horror stories!


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7 of the Best Sights in Taiwan for Photographers https://etramping.com/photographers-best-sights-taiwan/ https://etramping.com/photographers-best-sights-taiwan/#comments Thu, 29 Nov 2018 08:32:29 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=36153 Taiwan might not be the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to travel, but it’s actually very photogenic. Here are some of the best sights to capture.

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If you follow us on Instagram, you have probably heard the news: we’re now based in Tainan, Taiwan! It’s a city on Taiwan’s southwest coast, well-known for its centuries-old fortresses and temples and it’s our first visit here, although we have explored Taiwan in the past. We’ll be staying here until the end of 2018 and who knows where we head next.

Welcome to Tainan, our temporary base.

Since we have been here, we’ve noticed the island of Taiwan isn’t exactly a travel hot-spot. Generally speaking, you can ask anyone if they know anything about the place they would most likely come up short. Heck – the vast majority of people are unlikely to be able to point to it on a map!

For those who’d like to know, it’s a little island roughly the same size as the Netherlands, located about 100 miles off the coast of southern China. It’s bustling, silicone-chip capital is Taipei, a heady mix of ancient and modern lifestyle and architecture.

Taiwan’s misty mountain landscape is just one of the reasons for a visit.

Historically known as Formosa, Taiwan has a surprising number of interesting sights and attractions, and with a beautiful, mountainous topography, it can be a photographer’s dream. Since we’ve spent a long time in China and explored its island neighbour, and they’re here to give you the skinny on some top sights at which to point your camera lens.

#1 The Taipei 101 and Skyline

Undoubtedly the modern symbol of Taiwan, the Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa stole top spot in 2010. The iconic skyscraper dominates the Taipei skyline from almost everywhere you look, but it’s best viewed from the nearby Elephant Mountain, which is a great location to take fantastic photographs of the whole city.

The 101 from Elephant Mountain – a great spot for pics.

It’s best viewed at night when the cityscape lights up, but it’s enjoyable to make the moderate hike up at any time of day. Just don’t forget your tripod if you want a really good night-shot!

#2 The Sun Moon Lake

Located almost in the heart of the island just over three hours drive from the capital, you’ll find this picture postcard lake. It’s the largest body of water in the country and if you time it right and are blessed with good conditions, you could well snap one of the best photographs of your trip.

The Sun Moon Lake’s dream-like landscape.

There’s an undeniable air of mystery about this beautiful spot, nestled in the foothills of the Nantou mountains. The area is also home to the indigenous Thao tribe, but make sure you respectfully ask for permission before taking photographs of them.

#3 Yehliu

Heading north and at the very tip of the island is this geological cape, with its distinctive and unusual rock formations carved from the sea. Strange shapes have been eroded down through the centuries, creating a unique landscape from hard and soft rock.

The eTrampers at Yehliu Geopark.

The Geopark is an extremely popular day trip to get you out of the big city while being a great location to take some distinctive shots. Don’t miss the iconic “Queen’s Head” rock formation – a big tourist draw in these parts.

#4 Jiufen Teahouses

One of Taiwan’s most famous and visited regions is the charming mountain town of Jiufen, which has an air of magic about its tiny, clustered streets. Everywhere you turn there’s a kodak moment, but it’s the city’s teahouses that are particularly photogenic.

Chinese lanterns decorate Jiufen streets.

Such was the influence of the town’s mystical aura it became the inspiration for the setting in the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. As such, scores of visitors (and photographers) now flock to this once declining former mining town.

#5 Rainbow Village, Taipei

If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your photographs then you’ve come to the right place! The Rainbow Village is a fascinating curiosity located in a district of Taipei. It used to be a military settlement, but a local man and former soldier decided to brighten up the place by painting the houses. He then got seriously carried away!

Taichung Rainbow Village – sunglasses required!

Now the region attracts locals and tourists alike to marvel at the colorful streets and dwellings, which have been saved from demolishing thanks to his artistic talents.

#6 Taroko National Park

One of nine national parks in the country where countless photographic opportunities abound, Taroko is arguably the most famous and attractive to tourists. Although there are options to day trip from Taipei, if you really want to explore the region you should be booking accommodation in the area.

The gorge is a particular highlight.

You’ll be dazzled with stunning mountain vistas, dramatic gorges and thundering rivers, and it’s the perfect region for avid hikers. Make sure you take the Swallow Grotto trail for the best experience.

#7 Maokong Mountain

If you’re into drinking tea as well as taking photographs (everybody should be really) then this is the spot for you. Maokong mountain is reached by a scenic gondola just outside the capital and it used to be the city’s largest tea-growing region.

Taking the gondola up Maokong Mountain.

Today there’s still a thriving tea culture as well as some of the best spots to view the whole city. There’s also some excellent hiking and camping to be had in the region, so pack your gear and go for a couple of days. You won’t be running out of tea anytime soon, that’s for sure!

Tantalizing Taiwan

Taiwan is a really diverse little country that packs a lot in considering its size. The locals are an extremely friendly bunch too, so don’t be afraid to ask around for the best locations to fire off that shutter. You’re likely to come home with some really beautiful pictures and a memorable experience in this seriously underrated country.

Let us know your thoughts on Taiwan – where would you like to visit?

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Courting Controversy – 5 of the World’s Most Questionable Attractions https://etramping.com/worlds-most-questionable-attractions/ https://etramping.com/worlds-most-questionable-attractions/#comments Mon, 26 Nov 2018 00:03:46 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=36079 Exploring some of the world’s most controversial tourist attractions – sites of death and suffering that pull in millions of visitors every year.

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For some of us, visiting the popular tourist attractions around the world adequately satisfies our naturally inquisitive nature. Locations such as the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China are morally safe visitor destinations.

The Great jump at the Great Wall of China.

Generally speaking, ethics are not questioned, nobody scowls when you mention where you’ve been, and a good time is had by all. But what about those attractions on the planet that court controversy? Places that raise an eyebrow or garner a disapproving comment should you choose to pay them a visit. Some of you might be familiar with the term “dark tourism” – a phenomenon whereby tourists deliberately seek out locations of suffering and death – a practice that has been steadily increasing in popularity for some years. Let us take a look at five controversial tourist “attractions”…

Auschwitz-Birkenau

If you’re looking for the poster boy of dark tourism, you’re most likely to see the infamous train gate at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Located a short distance outside of Krakow, Poland, the Nazi death camp needs little introduction.

The site of the extermination of a disputed number of Jews and POW’s (estimates vary wildly from 510,000 to 4.1 million); nonetheless it stands as the location of the largest mass murder in history. Today it serves as a memorial and museum, a sobering and emotional reminder of the tragedy that occurred behind the barbed wire. It’s important to pay your respects here at least once, but what isn’t OK is posing for grinning selfies beneath the notorious “arbeit macht frei” iron gate. That needs to stop.

Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Ground Zero

The world watched in horror on the 11th September 2001 as two hijacked planes brought down the World Trade Centre in New York, and everything changed. Ten years later the city completed the memorial and museum, but visitors had been flocking to the site no sooner than the dust had settled.

One of the most respected places in the USA.

The memorial consists of a list of the victims of the attack, as well as two large sunken voids where the towers once stood, into which flow serene waters. Guided tours of the site are available, but while the site itself is respectfully done, the souvenir shop has attracted heavy criticism for tasteless, cash-in items. Nonetheless, Ground Zero will continue to receive millions of visitors a year.

Pripyat, Ukraine

When the nearby Chernobyl power plant exploded on the 26th of April 1986, the town of Pripyat was evacuated. A population of just under 50,000 was relocated while some 500,000 workers valiantly attempted to contain the radiation. 31 people died in the first few days, a figure that has been on the rise in the years since the disaster, an event which ultimately led to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In 1986, a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union.

Pripyat has become an eerie tourist attraction; an uninhabitable ghost town reclaimed by nature, but still containing fascinating artifacts, belongings and buildings reminiscent of its once human presence. Gas masks, school text books, dolls, shoes and toys litter the abandoned school. The famous Ferris wheel stands lonely in the crumbling amusement park. Soviet iconography is evident across the urban decay. It’s a photographer’s paradise and little wonder it attracts so many curious visitors – strictly by guided tour only.

The Killing Fields, Cambodia

From 1975 to 1979, the brutal Khmer Rouge regime ruled Cambodia with an iron fist. During those bloody years, more than one million people where executed on various sites around the country. The communist party in power suspected the victims of being in contact with foreign governments, or supporting Cambodia’s previous one. Also known as the Cambodian Genocide, around 20,000 mass grave sites have been excavated following the killings, with expectedly macabre results. Located at Choeung Ek, 17 kilometres south of capital Phnom Penh is one such site, and includes a stupa containing thousands of human skulls and bones. It is estimated around 800 tourists a day visit this location alone – which hampers preservation when people don’t respect it.

North Korea

You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors – and this is certainly the case when it comes to the mysterious, secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. You’ve all heard the stories of a brainwashed populous, concentration camps and killings, but regardless tourists still want to peek behind the curtain. We certainly did, and side on the opinion that it’s important for the outside world to not forget the people there, who we found to be warm and welcoming during our recent visit.

Inside the Pyongyang Metro.

The country is certainly becoming more open to visitors, but with the current climate and a madman rattling his sabre in the White House, the prospects for tourism here could be very dark indeed.

“With its mosaics, chandeliers and gilded statues, the Pyongyang metro can feel more like a series of palatial ballrooms than a subway.” – The Guardian.

Dark tourism shows no signs of slowing down its appeal, and with these five examples we’ve only scratched the surface. There’s something fascinating about the macabre, which continues to grab the curiosity of tourists and drive them to visit sites of death and suffering – perhaps as a way of understanding. But there are important points to note and lessons to be learned if you’re planning on following in dark footsteps:

Be respectful

Laughing and joking with your tour group while visiting a mass grave site is a no-no. Obey the rules. If there’s a sign which says no noise – then don’t make a noise. Wear appropriate clothing, and respect local customs.

In places like this one, laughing and joking with your tour group while visiting a mass grave site is a no-no.

Don’t take giggling selfies in a location where millions of people perished. Sheer idiocy.

Only take pictures

Unless of course you’re not allowed to – as some sites forbid photography. But certainly don’t remove anything to claim as a souvenir. At Prypiat this is likely to be covered in radiation. In Cambodia – it’s not unknown for tourists to take human bones. Don’t be so silly.

Only leave footprints

As well as not taking anything, likewise don’t leave anything. Littering at a memorial site isn’t a clever idea. And don’t even think about causing any damage.

Now it’s over to you. Have you been to any of these locations? What are your thoughts on dark tourism? Where would you like to visit?

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Snowshoeing at Vall de Núria #inPyrenees https://etramping.com/snowshoeing-vall-de-nuria/ https://etramping.com/snowshoeing-vall-de-nuria/#comments Thu, 22 Nov 2018 04:43:00 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=35990 We headed into the Pyrenees Mountains to experience snowshoeing for the first time at Vall de Núria, a valley 2000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level in Catalonia.

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It had been a trip full of firsts after we successfully conquered the skies in our tandem parachute jump and traversed the rocks of Sant Feliu de Guíxols using a Via Ferrata. And with climbing, kayaking and mountain biking also in the bag, it was one of the most active excursions we’ve had in a long time. Quite different from lounging on a beach in the Maldives, that’s for sure – and we weren’t done yet!

Joined once again by our good friend, fellow blogger and travel companion Lydia, our sights were set on our first snowshoeing adventure, up into the mountains of the Pyrenees. We were on our way to a place called Vall de Núria (Valley of Núria), accessible only by railway and footpath and a site of historical religious significance and pilgrimage. Once again, we set out early from our base in Girona to enjoy the day.

Waiting at the Ribes Vila Station, a handy two minutes from our apartment.

Into the Mountains

We boarded the train to our destination which winds its way up into the Pyrenees, a forty-minute journey through gorgeous scenery. From the comfort of our seats, we took in the alpine landscape unfolding before us outside the train windows. Craggy mountains dotted with coniferous forests and scree-covered slopes bathed in bright sunlight from a brilliant blue sky.

This landscape left us speechless!

As we rattled along the tracks, we would occasionally pass rushing waterfalls and white-water rivers, heartily fed by the winter’s melting snow – something incredible to see.

Nature photographer of the year – but you get the idea!

It was a train ride that we’d have happily doubled in length, but before we knew it we were stepping onto the platform of the Vall de Núria station. We should really take this opportunity to mention that we were accompanied by Damià, our guide for the day, and he took us to his office nearby for a boosting breakfast. Snowshoeing is an energy-sapping activity, so we loaded up on ham and cheese baguettes, fruit and plenty of water. We’re were going to need it!

Getting the Gear On

Shortly after our morning feed, Damià provided us with our equipment for the day. Snowshoes and walking poles, sunscreen (vital when you’re exposed at high altitudes) and sunglasses. Well, for me anyway, because I’d forgotten my own pair!

We’re off! Our first taste of snowshoeing!

Eye protection is also very important as the sun can be blinding off the white snow – a perfect reflector that can damage your eyes and REALLY ruin your day. It was great they had spares for forgetful types like me!

Shedding the Layers

It was interesting to note that once we’d put on all our warm clothing, including hats and scarves, it wasn’t long before we’d taken them off again. Believing it to still be chilly in the mountains, we’d come prepared, but the combination of bright, warm sunlight and the exertion that snowshoeing demands, soon had us sweating buckets and down to lighter layers. Cez was even in his T-shirt at one point! We really didn’t need half the stuff we brought with us!

Our intrepid guide Damià leads the way.

Breath-taking in Many Ways

The scenery was once again beautiful to behold as we huffed and puffed our way into the mountains, making it literally and figuratively breath-taking. The weather was perfect and it was amazing to be out in such uplifting surroundings, although it certainly was a challenge learning how to snowshoe. It was a blessing that we stopped at regular intervals to snap some pics and fill our lungs with the thinning air.

Lydia is dwarfed by the mountains.

It’s Snow Joke!

It turns out that snowshoeing is a lot more challenging than it looks. It’s not the common misconception that it’s a pair of tennis racquets strapped to your feet; as there’s a technique you need to master in order to make decent progress and not run out of steam. I struggled to keep my balance, moving slowly and tediously with all the grace of a drunken elephant. The view was really nice though!

This must have been what Shackleton felt like…

Cez faired little better (although considerably better than me) while Lydia once again took it all in her stride. Along the way, we chatted with Damià and enjoyed the landscape while trying our very hardest not to fall over. This endeavour yielded mixed results.

A Valiant Effort

Well, we gave it a shot and while the company and knowledge of Damià was charming, snowshoeing is not something we’d be in a rush to do again.

This is what happens if you snowshoe too much!

We’d heartily recommend for anyone to try it as it’s an interesting experience, but I think it would be more suitable for those who can really nail the walking technique and maintain their balance. It’s a fantastic work out though, and you’re going to have buns of steel if you do this regularly!

Homeward Bound

Snowshoeing in the Pyrenees was a fun day out, but there was nothing left in the tank at the end and we’re definitely going to sleep tonight! We bid our farewells to Damià and returned via train for our last night in Spain, tired but happy.

The beautiful alpine landscape of the Vall de Núria.

Our Costa Brava adventure is drawing to a close and home is calling. At least for a little while anyway!

Have you ever tried snowshoeing? Let us know if you found it as challenging as we did!

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