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What I Learned Traveling Solo – Lisbon, Portugal

May 20, 2017

It was my first time traveling completely alone, no friends, no family, just me and my thoughts. Booking my flight to Lisbon was during a tougher time earlier this year, I thought this little trip would help me to getaway, but I underestimated myself because by the time I was getting on the plane, I was already over what was going on when I purchased those tickets.

But then the present fear kinda kicked in, questions started to come up in my head “What the hell did I just do?”, “I’m fine now, I don’t need this!”. I’m facing my consequences now for booking without a thought. I knew deep down I would be okay, but will I ACTUALLY have fun? Am I wasting my money doing this? Don’t get me wrong, I have been living alone in Toronto for the past 6 years now and I’m used to doing things alone (now I just sound miserable) so why am I still worried? Probably the same thoughts that go through your head when I mention solo travel.

I got some judgy comments from some people when I said I was going on a solo trip. The typical, “really, why?” What is the problem with doing things alone? Why is that a negative thing? I think it’s liberating and powerful to do that, it builds you, so at the end of the day, I come back from the trip better, and you’re still bitter. Spoilers, my trip to Lisbon as a first time solo traveler was the best experience I have ever signed myself up for.

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lisbon, portugal

Yup. Best trip ever, and I’ve done plenty of trips but this was different. I didn’t set high expectations because at the end of the day, I thought traveling alone will be limiting. I was wrong, some parts MAY be harder like eating at a restaurant alone, or watching the sunset with a bottle of wine with no one to share it with. But at the same time, I chose the restaurant I wanted to go to, and I got to finish the whole bottle myself. 😉

I was surprised at myself and how capable I was at doing this. Some of my worries about solo traveling are; will I have to go to the bar myself? What if I want to go clubbing? THAT I cannot do alone, sorry bout it. But I ended up meeting some cool people at the hostel I stayed at, went out till the morning and then back to my bed ready for the next day. I even met people from ANOTHER hostel while I was out enjoying Fado with someone I just met. These strangers spilled beer on us and conversations flowed so easily that we ended up being invited to join their private pub crawl with locals!

Meeting people was too easy. Call it desperation, but I was able to strike up conversation like that old man at a coffee shop who wouldn’t stop talking.

What I am trying to say is, don’t be scared, once you’re thrown into the situation, you will adapt and come out better. Travelling with friends is fun, but so is travelling alone. Both different experiences, can’t compare it to each other!

solo traveling, drinking sangria

solo travel to Lisbon

 

Check out my experience through video here:

Lifestyle Travel

How to Travel With a Full-time Job

April 12, 2017

Got a full-time job and still want to rid your travel bug? I got some tips. I’ve read the blogs where these travelers quit their job to travel full-time, or watched youtube videos of how amazing their life was after they made the decision to leave their 9-5. Props to them for taking a big risk and succeeding!

I have to say, I thought about it too… but I just cannot commit to that. At least for now. I enjoy my career and what I do, but this also funds my travelling adventures, I have the right balance, why would I leave that? My situation does not allow me to travel full-time and heck I don’t even have many days off to do so, but I make it work, you just gotta be flexible!

If you’re just starting out in the adult world, many fulltime positions only give you 2-3 weeks of paid vacation plus a few “personal” days. In my opinion, its not enough, but think about it this way… You are getting paid to go on vacation!

Here’s my secret:

You don’t have to take the 2-3 weeks vacation all at once. Sure, you get more of a “break” but I learned when you’re on vacation, you don’t really get “rest”. So the day after that long flight will still leave you tired either way. Besides, I don’t want to be working for the entire year and yearning for my one “break”. Be smart with your days off and BREAK IT UP. Visit multiple countries! I like to tie in my vacation days around long weekends and maximize my time off. I’m utilizing this coming Easter weekend for a trip to Lisbon. How cool is it to tell your friends you are going to Portugal for the weekend? I only took two vacation days FYI and I have a full 4.5 days in Lisbon! Just don’t get CRAZY and go to Thailand for the weekend, be SMART!

Pro tip:

Try to find a flight that leaves after your work day. For example, I finish work at 5PM this Thursday and my flight leaves at 8:30PM. Totally enough time to get to the airport within 3.5 hours. Just make sure you’re all packed and ready to jet set straight from the office (PS. No one should EVER judge you for that). You arrive the following day bright and early  and voila! You are in another country!

If your company has something like flex hours, or “summer” hours, then utilize that too! Some places let you leave half day on a Friday or a full day off as long as you work those hours throughout the week. This is your key to quick getaways in the summer. Last year, I went to New York City by leaving the office on a Friday at 1pm and tying it in with one of the long weekends. If you want to go for a longer trip but take less days off, then this is the prime time! 10 days in Thailand with only 3 vacation days? Doable but I’ll let you figure that one out 😉

You could easily fit in 3-4 vacations throughout the year. I usually like to do 2-3 small ones and 1 BIG vacation!

You don’t’ have to be drastic and quit your job to travel. All I’m doing is putting a twist to “getting paid to travel”.

Am I wrong?

Lifestyle Travel

Travel Inspiration

April 1, 2017

As I’m planning away with my trip to Lisbon and Vancouver in the next few weeks, trying to fit in another trip between those cities AND starting to figure out where the travel duo will be heading next, I had a random thought – “Woah, I’m actually a traveler now”. Where did I get this travel inspiration from?

Travelling EXCITES me, the thought of finding my next destination gives me the butterflies. If I had the capacity to travel more, I would. No doubt. When I am abroad, I am 59% happier than when I am at my home base. I am free of the responsibilities and commitments temporarily when I am away. It gives me a high.

I tried to remember when this all started… HOW did I become this so called “traveler” but honestly I think I’ve always had it in me. To no surprise, my parents also love to travel, and they brought me along. I’ve grown accustomed to the airports, the packing, the flights, etc. But it wasn’t until my exchange that REALLY did it for me.

2014 was a highlight year for me. I lived abroad in Hong Kong for 9 months as part of my international exchange program in university. If you have the opportunity to do this, I HIGHLY recommend. I had the best time meeting new people from all over the world, fully immersing and discovering a new city. Going into it, I didn’t think to travel on my exchange, it wasn’t at the top of my list. But thankfully that changed. That year alone I went to 5 different countries across Asia.

Each time I pass through immigration, my need to travel and see the world grew. I became obsessed with all things travel.

Loving to travel doesn’t happen overnight, each flight I take made me develop into who I am today (corny, I know).

My Lisbon trip will be another travel milestone for me, I will be going solo, and I am SO SO SO excited for it. Ask me a year ago and I would have told you “you’re crazy”. But here I am anxiously waiting. Nervous? Yeah. But I am so excited to see what this trip brings for me.

Follow my adventures on Instagram or Youtube.

Travel

The best thing to do in Paris

February 7, 2017

My travel partner and I have started a youtube channel documenting our adventures, if you prefer to watch our adventures instead of reading about it, please take a look and subscribe!

Travelling for me is about experiencing the culture, food, and people. For me, I don’t particularly care about the museums or going to the top of the Eiffel tower. I mean… If there were no line ups and the cost per ticket didn’t limit my overall budget then maybe. But hey I can’t do everything right? Different strides for different folks!

Ever since I was a child, media has been romanticizing Paris like no tomorrow. But that comes with a cost, pun intended. Please read my previous post on how to do Paris on a budget. I would like to expand on that for this post.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need to spend a fortune to still experience the magic of Paris. Whenever I tell my friends and coworkers about my adventure in the city of love, I can see the heart eyes emoji, so there… magic not lost!

I’ve talked about this briefly, but now I will go in detail. One of my bucket list items was to picnic by the Eiffel tower, taking in the people, wine and of course the scenery. Now get ready to spend at least 3 hours there dazing in the sun and getting day drunk. How magical is that?! Add this to the itinerary and head to Champ de Mars!

Here’s what you need:

1. Picnic blanket – If you don’t have one, a throw, or a jacket will suffice.

2. Food and Wine – Pick up some local baguettes, and pastries from the local boulangerie. Grab some cured meats, cheese and wine from the grocery store and voila! You got yourself a full day of activity, lunch, and alcohol! Here’s a tip… try to gather these items outside of the Champ de Mars area as it can be a bit more expensive. You can find your picnic essentials on any side street!

3. Music – your choice

4. More wine – If you run out of alcohol, don’t worry, there will be people URGING you to buy “champagne” and wine on a 5-minute turnover. Basically like bottle service for 5 euros. They even come to your picnic, how amazing. Always remember to bargain! We were able to get 3 bottles so called champagne… yes 3 bottles for two people… for less than 20 euros.

Travel

How to do Paris on a Budget

November 27, 2016

Paris was my first destination in Europe, and I managed to fly there for only $46! Moving on, this is my first time EVER in Europe. I have never stepped foot on this part of the world before and this really feeds and satisfies my travel bug!

As a first timer, I obviously want to do everything possible, but realistically I was not ready to spend a fortune on this trip. I never do, I never will. Getting bargains makes me dopamine levels high. I love the feeling of saving money! Don’t blame me haha.

I stayed in Paris initially for 4 days. Not plenty of time but enough for you to get the gist of it. The highlight of my Paris leg is having a picnic at Champ de Mars sipping Champagne, munching on our baguette and playing some music all while under the Eiffel Tower!

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In the middle of it  #louvre #eurotrip

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I’m here to tell you Paris can STILL be MAGICAL on a budget!

For accommodation, don’t expect a lot of space to move around whether you are living in a hostel, airbnb or hotel… Unless you are willing to fork out the big bucks.

I stayed at an airbnb for this leg of my trip, which I find is a better alternative to a hostel when you are not alone but BOOK EARLY, do not wait until the last minute, you can definitely find some great prices in prime areas if you do so!

Eating is perhaps the hardest thing to stay on budget if you are like me who eats everything in sight, but still possible. Restaurants charge on average 25-30 euros for a meal. If you plan on eating three times a day, that can add up quite significantly!

Here’s the plan, for breakfast, grab a coffee and a croissant at any bakery near you or if you want to dine fancy, go to a restaurant and get some viennoiserie off the menu. That means pastries in French, and who knows, you might just end up eating the BEST croissant of your life at a random restaurant, because I certainly did!

We ordered a croissant and a coffee for just under 5 euros!

If you are ever near Bonne-Nouvelle, I definitely recommend going to Restaurant Le Parisien for the BEST croissants in your life!

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Address: 337 Rue Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris, France 

For lunch, grab some crepes on the street, probably not the best quality crepes, but I was satisfied with my egg, ham and cheese crepe. They are everywhere, so keep getting them until you come across the best one… and please let me know when you do…

For cheap eats (again, and not the BEST) Quartier Latin is definitely the place to go. Not only is it a destination to visit, think tight alleyways, it is also close to a lot of other attractions such as the Notre Dame and Jardin du Luxumbourg. This area has ALL the cheap eats. You can find your French staples like Moules Frites, Steak, and French Onion Soup everywhere you go. You can also get all three for 10-15 euros as a three course meal anywhere in Quartier Latin!

But if you are looking for some GOOD French Onion Soup and won’t mind to splurge a bit, I recommend Au Pied de Cochon.

BLOG POST  Learn how I flew to Europe for $46! Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be writing about some tips and tricks to keep your #Europe trip cost LOW! Check link in bio to read more!

Travel

Travel Log: How To Fly to Europe for $46

November 19, 2016

Travel Log: Europe for Cheap

For the first time ever, I stepped foot in a new continent I have never been before. It is about time to cross Europe off my checklist. I recently completed a 2-week long trip to 5 cities in 3 different countries. I’ve been putting Europe on the back burner for a while now because of how expensive it can be, especially with our low Canadian dollar. But I am up for the challenge. For those that know me, you guys know my abilities to travel on the cheap. So here are a few pointers to get your trip started and go to the place you’ve always dreamed of.

This should be common knowledge by now, you can get free airplane tickets by collecting frequent flyer miles! But how can you be a frequent flyer if you can even barely afford groceries?! Sign up for credit cards that offer frequent flyer miles, that’s how! Many credit cards offer you a welcome bonus from 25,000 – 60,000 points! That’s enough for a roundtrip flight from Toronto to Paris!

My favourite is hands down the American Express Gold Card. 25,000 welcome points, 2 points with select purchases like groceries, gas and flights, and 1 point with every other purchase. There are no annual fees for your first year, but it will be $150 the year after, which is still a good deal considering you are going to be collecting a lot of points through out the years to sustain your travelling if you use the card frequently.

But here’s the REAL tip. Once you have enough points and want to redeem it for a plane ticket, you must do a little bit of research and snooping around for the best bang for your buck. For example, I mainly use Aeroplan, the frequent flyer membership for Air Canada. If you were to book a flight to Paris flying Air Canada, you would need 60,000 points AND pay $350 in taxes! That is NO deal at all considering there are many flight deal sites like Secret Flying and YYZdeals (please subscribe to their e-mail list to always stay up to date, you never know when it’ll come handy)

However, Air Canada is part of a greater alliance with different airlines. Some pay less taxes, and maybe require less points. Aeroplan also has sales during the year, where you can redeem a flight with less points than usual!

Here’s ANOTHER tip, look for one way as well as roundtrip when you are researching, as different options show up for one way compared to roundtrip flights!

I was able to fly to Paris for just $300 with 30,000 points. Now I’ve seen sale periods for Paris where redemptions were as low as 27,000! So this IS possible!

Here was the breakdown for my flight:

Flight from Toronto to Paris flying Brussels Airlines. $46 in taxes. I could have been extra cheap and fly back with Brussels Airlines and pay $46 again but I wanted to treat myself and fly direct when I am coming back from an exhausting trip, hence why I paid $254 on my return. But even then, my connecting flight to Brussels was not bad at ALL.

Nothing better than this moment, champagne with a view #eiffeltower #traveldiaries

Nothing better than this moment, champagne with a view

Lifestyle Travel

HONG KONG: Part 2

March 25, 2016

Aside from eating, Hong Kong has an abundant amount of activities for any type of person. If you are that city dude or gal, Causeway Bay is a great shopping district. If you are more a nature lover, hit up some beaches, hikes, or parks!

Speaking of hiking… did you know Hong Kong is known for their trails and hikes?

As dense as the city is, Hong Kong has a backyard with tons of natural scenery. My favourite hike was Dragon’s Back! A wonderful hike for beginners with a beautiful scenery. This is where you can get that perfect Instagram picture staring right out to the Pacific Ocean. Oh, and I almost forgot, the hike ends on a BEACH! Nothing better than sitting on the warm sand with a cold beer to relax yourself before heading back into the hustle and bustle!

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If you are not tired yet, hit up the nightlife… It does not even have to be on a weekend because there will srurely be people drinking… one because its a heavy tourist area, and two people love to drink in Hong Kong, it is a great stress reliever after work!.

Where would you go you might ask?

LKF. Enough said. My best nights happen here, I don’t even think they have a last call here! Be ready to be out until the sunrise. LKF or Lan Kwai Fong is a dense block of clubs, bars, restaurants, and 7/11s (CHEAP BOOZE!). A few years back when I did my exchange in Hong Kong, every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night (I know…) will always start off at 7/11 (aka club 7/11). For those of you who don’t know, 7/11 is a convenience store that is literally in every block of Asia. You can find almost anything here. But if you want something more quiet and discreet, SOHO is up the corner too. Oh and food after drinking is a must, go to the 24/7 Chui Wah to experience Hong Kong comfort food, or slurp down a hot bowl of Ramen at Ichiran!

Lan Kwai Fong Sign

In a nutshell, Hong Kong is the whole package. Mouthwatering food, beautiful nature and scenery, and an exciting nightlife, I truly will never get bored of this city! The best time to visit is during the fall season, an abundance of sunshine, low humidity (that’s another topic for another day), perfect weather (think 25 degrees!) and cheap flights.

 

photo by:
Eats Travel

HONG KONG: Part 1

March 19, 2016

Hong Kong, the pearl of the orient, Asia’s world city, a collaboration of western and eastern cultures, It’s the perfect city to experience Asia without the culture shock.

I recently visited the city and decided to share some of the stand outs of this city that will leave a long lasting impression that will make you want to go back every time you think about it.

Eating:

Restaurants are of no shortage here. Honestly, I cannot pick one because there are too many to choose from. But then I asked myself which one stood out to me the most and I absolutely recommend Hutong.

Hutong serves up award-winning northern Chinese cuisine, come here for any occasion, whether it be a casual dinner, valentine’s day date, or for Chinese New year!

The décor takes you back to traditional China, wooden furniture, dim lighting, and red lanterns. It might sound cheesy, but I found this executed beautifully! As delicious the food was and as wonderful the décor was, the view this restaurant provides was. Hong Kong’s entire skyline as your dinner view. This restaurant is on top of 1 Peking road. Yes, THAT skyline, the one you see on Instagram and Facebook is your view (make your reservations and request for a window table). It was the experience that got me… Not to mention if you’re in London anytime soon, this restaurant also has a location at The Shard.

HuTong, One Peking Road, Hong KongHutong restaurant interior

Hutong tableware

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photos by: & ,
Eats Travel

Where To: Breakfast / Brunch In Ottawa

November 8, 2015

If you live in Toronto and you haven’t been to Ottawa, seriously what are you doing with your life? Jokes… #notreally It’s Canada’s capital (no, despite popular belief, Toronto is not the capital of Canada…) and its also a 4-hour drive away, so what are you waiting for? Ottawa is a perfect weekend getaway!

Now, for people who HAVE been to Ottawa countless times already, I suggest hopping on over to the Quebec side and discover the quaint little town, city, village(?) of Hull! It’s a cute little “city” just across the Ottawa river!

I understand why people think Canadians are nice now… being in Toronto, the Canadians I come across are NOT nice, but over in Ottawa, people say hi to you! Like… I don’t know you, why are you asking me about my day? BUT I LOVE ITTT!

Okay… going off track, I went to this cute little restaurant called Café Cinq Sens and I was blown away by their quality of food!

This restaurant prides itself on making everything from scratch and in-house, which explains why their food is delicious. I have been there a few times now and I can easily say that EVERYTHING on the menu is simply scrumptious! Either it was their Farm-to-table philosophy that makes everything tastes so good, or their beyond reasonable prices, or the chef Jason and his wife Rosemarie (yes I basically know their life story) have a talent for making delicious food.

The standout has to be their maple bacon… yes, on paper it might seem average (but not really), in fact, you can buy that at your local grocery store. But NO, STOP, I don’t know what they did, but their maple bacon is crazy. It’s caramelized, oven baked to perfection and has all the right amounts of flavour! UGHHH I AM DROOLING RIGHT NOW!

The funny thing is… I didn’t even order it… I had their Omelette Creole  which was also terrific! Explain to me how a simple eggs, bacon, home fries and toast breakfast can taste so good?. Honestly their perfect 5 star Yelp reviews pretty much sum it up. Here’s their menu, take a look at what they offer and if you ever get a chance to be in this area, CHECK IT OUT NOW!

 

Photos below courtesy of Cafe Cinq Sens’ Facebook page!

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Check it out when you have a chance:

Address: 417 Boul Alexandre-Taché, Gatineau, Quebec, J9A 1M6, Canada

Website: http://www.senses5.ca/

Facebook: Facebook Page

Lifestyle Travel

Last Minute Roadtrip to Muskoka

July 16, 2015

If there’s anything I learned from this really last-minute trip up to Muskoka for an outdoor getaway, it is to just ignore the GIGANTIC bugs that fly around and attack you for fun. I promise the trip is much more tolerable once you get around that.

Spontaneity should be my middle name because I love doing things last-minute… especially when I get invited to escape Toronto for a bit. My friend got us a room at the Windermere House, a quaint little hotel right by Lake Rosseau. If you are like me and like to still have access to wi-fi, A/C, and the MOST COMFORTABLE BED EVER (basically too chicken to be camping out and too poor to own a cottage), then this is the place for you!kk

I am not kidding when they have the best beds ever. Their mattresses are made of marshmallows and meant to feel like heaven! Even though I would be content with just being acquainted with my bed, I knew I had to push myself out to the wilderness. Windermere House has a bunch of outdoor activities like canoeing, as well as several restaurants managed by Oliver & Bonacini  (where I stayed like 78% of the time and watched kids canoe and swim on the beach… but hey, I was on the patio, so that counts as being outside).lll

What’s the point of this post you ask? I don’t know…

What I do know is, adventures are fun and spontaneity opens up possibilities! Get out the house more often and enjoy yourselves!ww