8 things to do with kids in Paris that won’t break the bank and might even educate!

8 things to do with kids in Paris that won’t break the bank and might even educate!

Eiffel tower

Do you dream about visiting Paris with your kids? Are you worried about how much it’ll cost to hang out in the city of lights with the kids? We recently took three of our children to Paris for three weeks and we found a lot of things to do that were fun and didn’t break the bank – many of them were even educational.

Here are our top eight activities to do with kids in Paris:

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower 2

You seriously can’t go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower (with every other tourist in Paris on that day). Before visiting Paris I had assumed it would be quite expensive to go up the Eiffel Tower but actually it was quite reasonable (between €4.50 and €11 for the 2nd floor). You can avoid the queues by booking online – it’s easy on their website: www.toureiffel.paris

Top view from Eiffel tower

And as an added bonus if you happen to be in Paris between December and March you can ice skate on the first floor of the tower for free – they even give you skates to wear. We did this and it was amazing!

Sled

Louvre

Louvre

The Louvre is another iconic Parisian institution you and the kids can’t miss – even the building is incredible, from the glass pyramid and the internal court yards full of marble statues. Children are free when visiting the Louvre and the adult price is just €12 for the permanent collection. I would suggest taking your own lunch as the options once inside, are as you would expect, not cheap (in fact we had a habit of making delicious salami and Brie baguettes in our apartment each morning).

The other annoying thing about lots of tourists, are the queues – you queue to get in and then queue for tickets (took us two hours the first time). If you enter the Louvre from the pyramid the queue is massive however if you go down and through the Carrousel du Louvre (under ground shopping mall) the queue is much smaller. Then you can leave via the pyramid if you wish. There are also options to purchase tickets online or via machines once inside to save time in that queue. Here is the official Louvre website which lists the place you can buy the tickets online: www.louvre.fr/en/advance-tickets

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

The famous Notre Dame is just extraordinary to visit. You can enter for free and wander around this amazing building full of so much history and centre to many stories. This was one spot we had a guided tour, again this was free because we used Discover Walks (www.discoverwalks.com/paris-walking-tours/notre-dame-paris-tour/). We had a very passionate local young man as our guide, he didn’t take us inside but walked us around the outside, down some nearby streets and over the Seine, telling us lots of stories around Notre Dame and the area. It was great to hear some of these stories, it really bought the place to life.

Although it’s free, they do try and get you to pay something at the end of the tour – he told us that he had to pay €5 for every person on the tour to his bosses. We did give him something, but do be aware that there’s the hard sell at the end. In a couple of Asian countries you can get free student tour guides who are wanting to practice their English – they are worth looking out for. The kids loved wandering around inside the church and even wrote a peace pray each.

Catacombs

catacombs

The catacombs are a rather macabre activity that our teenagers were very keen to do. We eventually gave in to their pleading and headed to the catacombs. The first thing you’ll notice is the very long queue – we went in winter and it was very long but in summer it is apparently extraordinarily long.

Once inside we read some of the history and then descended some 130 steps into the actual catacombs. It was an amazing site – millions of bones from reclaimed cemeteries around Paris, arranged in respectful ways. At first you are a little taken back but after a while you just feel fascinated.

The tunnel is 2km long and ends in a very narrow spiral staircase with 83 steps up – it’ll probably take 45 mins to 1 hour to complete the tour. There are no toilets and no facilities for people with mobility issues.

Again kids were free and it wasn’t too expensive for adults (€10) and older kids love it… for more details check out their website: www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/homepage-catacombs-official-website.

Champs Élysées

Champs elysees

This famous street is a fantastic free activity for the kids. We wondered up and down here a few times – it’s quite doable from the Louvre, through the gardens, past the ferris wheel and up the Champs Élysées; loads to see. We’ve been avid tour d France watches over the years so the kids had heard of this street and it fascinated them that people cycled (even raced) on these cobbled streets!

Take a packed lunch and stop to people watch on one of the many seats on your way up – with the money you’ve saved by bringing your lunch you can afford a coffee/hot chocolate in one of the lovely cafes near the Arc.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de triumphe

This is another Parisian land mark you have to visit – our favourite way to get there is wandering up the Champs Élysées, the arc slowly comes into view and then suddenly you’re there. Again the kids are free to go to the top of the Arc making it a reasonably priced activity for you and the kids – €8 for adults. The view from the top is amazing – you can see the streets of Paris circling away from the Arc as if it’s the centre of a wheel and the streets are spokes. Many of the buildings that face the Arc are in a triangle shape with the narrow end towards the Arc – this is what give the spokes of a wheel look. There is also a good little museum to show the kids on the way up or down.

A trip to the top of the Arc de Triomphe provides amazing street vistas of the city of lights and you’ll see the Eiffel Tower in the distance as well, the kids will love it. Here is some more information on the Arc: www.arcdetriompheparis.com/visitor-information

Boat trip on River Seine

Top of boat

The River Seine runs through Paris and is a great way to get another perspective of the city. There are loads of different companies offering boat rides on the Seine and many at very reasonable prices. We went with one that had an open top area, however it was freezing so we could only stay up there for 20 minutes before retreating inside. One of the advantages of touring in winter is there were hardly any people on the boat while we where there and no problem getting a window or ten to yourself. This is the company we used, they were great, but as I said there are loads of them: www.bateauxparisiens.com/english.html

Winter – ice skating

Ice skating

Another advantage of being in Paris during the winter are the ice skating rinks – apart from the Eiffel Tower I’ve already mentioned, there is also one in the centre of the city in front of the Paris City Hall/Hotel de Ville. These rinks are outside and are very reasonable in price (which include skate hire). Remember to bring your gloves as you need them to skate on these rinks. There is something quite magic about ice-skating outside in Paris in winter – just incredible!

Paris streets

Paris streets

One of my favourite things to do in Paris with the kids is wander around the streets of the city and just take it all in – every where you look there are beautiful Parisian things – beautiful shops, stunning buildings, cobbled streets, gorgeous stylish people walking by, tiny dogs on leads and in bags, famous street names, awesome statues and magic little side walk cafes to have coffee/hot chocolate and feel Parisian. This again a great thing to do with a packed lunch – find a spot and eat your home made baguette while you people watch in Paris!

Paris chairs

ABOUT: Michelle Frost and family are Outbound Ambassadors. ‘Up Sticks and Go’ are an Australian family travelling the world with three kids for 18 months while they work online – how cool is that? You can follow their adventures online; they’d love to catch up with you some where in the world!

Website: upsticksandgo.com
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Twitter: twitter.com/MichelleF

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Travelling With Technology

By Spencer Giese, Pilgrim of Tomorrow

When I set out on this adventure across Asia nearly five months ago, I contemplated whether or not I should bring any electronic equipment with me. A really big part of me didn’t want to bring my phone, my laptop, or even my camera because of this notion that I just wanted to be alone with the world around me. Then I realised I was going to Asia, an intensely populated area where I would be lucky to find some space to be alone with the world around me. Spencer, you idiot. Realising how stupid that idea was, I went out and purchased a cheap, second-hand tablet and allowed myself to bring along my camera, but I was very adamant on not bringing along my phone or laptop. I didn’t want to have my phone stolen, broken, or have it magically disappear after 6 too many drinks at the local watering hole. The laptop is too big and I would have never been able to safely carry that around in my backpack.

So, I set off from Canada armed with nothing but a crappy little tablet that would allow me to Skype family and perform basic Internet functions, and a camera so that I could take pictures that I would be able to one day look at as an old man and reminisce about the adventures I had as a young warthog. I only had two small pieces of electronics with me and I was confident I’d be able to keep them safe. I mean, how hard could it be?

Within the first two weeks of stepping off the plane from Canada, my trusty camera suffered a horrifying end. After my gruesome night of drinking copious amounts of local rice wine and eating dog with our hotel owner in Da Lat, Vietnam, in my drunken stupor I had concluded that the best possible option for me at this point was to take a shower. While fully clothed. With my wallet and my camera still in my pocket. My friends tell me that after they had come into the room and found me in the shower, I transformed into Gollum and…well, yeah things didn’t end so well for ol’ Spencer that night.

A week later while biking through a heavy monsoon rain in Vietnam, my piece of crap tablet got mildly damp from the rain and decided to shut it’s eyes and refused to wake up again. Despite many attempts of coaxing it back into life, it remained determined in death. So! Three weeks in and I had already broken two pieces of technology, the only two pieces of technology I had brought along in the first place. My response? Purchase more cheap Vietnamese technology.

But Spencer, didn’t you say you really wanted to go along without technology and doesn’t it seem like a sign that you weren’t meant to have technology for the trip? WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THIS DAMMIT?!

A fair point but just hang on a second, I’m going somewhere with this. Stepping off that plane, I had no idea just how wrong I was about my conceptions regarding technology and the role it plays in distant parts of the world. Nearly every single person/family I met or saw over the last five months had a cell phone, and I really do mean nearly everyone. You can walk into temples in the most remote corners of Northern Laos and see a Buddhist monk surfing the web on his iPhone. You can come across a small shanty town in rural Cambodia where small kids are watching TV shows on their parents phones or tablets. Hell, even the village of people that lived in the middle of the lake in Myanmar had cell phones. Technology is absolutely everywhere now and more and more places are getting WiFi connectivity so that no matter where you go, you can still send that stupid selfie of you and a confused local to your friends.

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See?

And that is precisely the point I’m trying to get across. While seeing how technologically dependant the whole world was kind of broke my heart, I also realised that on the other hand I had grossly underestimated how beneficial it would be to have a device that would allow me to connect to the world practically whenever I needed. Though I’m a huge fan and advocate of tossing technology and just experiencing the world as it, I found myself wishing on a number of occasions that I could find look something up or share a moment with friends and family. I also found that I wished I could find a more relevant, up-to-date, and authentic way of learning about new places other than looking up travel tips from yahoo answers or wikitravel. To not be restricted to following the Lonely Planet trail through the countries that everyone else seems to be doing these days just because it’s what everyone is doing, but because surely there must be some other places that people have seen that are incredible and I don’t know why. If only I could actually talk to somebody who has travelled in these countries and who could help me discover sides of it not everyone would, then I could help pass on this knowledge to other travellers in turn. That, dear reader, is where Outbound comes into play.

Outbound is a free travel app which connects travellers with each other from all around the world. It is the social network for wandering pilgrims and vacationing families alike. Expats, wanderers, tour adventurers, whatever kind of traveller you may be, this app can help create the travelling experience of a lifetime. The Outbound app allows a traveller to connect and contact other travellers in a number of different meaningful and helpful ways. By simply posting on the noticeboard you can have a response from another traveller who can give you advice based on their own personal experiences. Looking to meet up with some people for a drink later on? Create an event on the app advertising your plan and other people nearby will be able to see that and meet up if they so desire. Desperate to find WiFi because you nearly forgot it was your Mom’s birthday and have to send her a message (totally didn’t happen to me…), yeah Outbound has you covered there too with their WiFi finder.

This app is absolutely essential for travellers and really can help connect people all around the world. It’s a social network where your profile consists of the adventures of your past and the ones you’re planning in the future. Using the features from the app, I’ve met up with some travellers and had a great time exchanging tips on countries and generally enjoying the rare feelings that come with having deep conversation with other travellers. The WiFi finder has saved me from being labeled “a terrible son” and the conversations I’ve had with other travellers on the app have been informative and helpful for both parties.

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Not bad at all, being Outbound

If you’re a traveller and you’re eager to meet people from all over the world, the Outbound app is going to help you do that in the simplest and easiest of ways. The different array of features can help connect the technologically advanced reality of travelling today, with the authentic and grand experiences that can only come from locals or other travellers who have actually experienced these things themselves. It’s your personal guidebook tailored directly to your wants and needs and is a constantly evolving social network. Create friendships, learn a thing or two and connect with travellers all over the world. That’s the Outbound way.

ABOUT: Spencer is an official Outbound Ambassador. He’s a traveller who enjoys the thrill of spontaneity in his adventures. He has seen and done things all over the world that his mother deems “very nice.” He loves the self-discovery that comes with exploring new lands. Spencer enjoys local beer, good schnitzel, and dancing like a fool. Want to read more from Spencer? Check out his blog here: www.pilgrimoftomorrow.wordpress.com

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How to cope with loneliness while travelling

How to cope with loneliness while travelling

I had just finished a long road-trip along the west coast of the USA, and now I had a private room for one month in an incredibly friendly party hostel in sunny San Diego. Surrounded by the kind of people with whom I usually love to spend time, with total freedom to do anything I wanted, I should have had the time of my life. Instead, I felt lonely, isolated, and terribly unhappy.

Most of the time travelling is a wonderful experience. But everyone who travels for long enough has periods of loneliness — sometimes against all rationality. So what can you do when it happens?

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1. It’s okay to feel down sometimes

Unfortunately, there’s a stigma attached to feeling down when you’re on the road. We’re living the dream, right? And if we’re not enjoying it, then maybe we’re just a bit spoiled.

But humans are complicated: whether we feel happy, sad, angry, motivated or lazy all depend largely on what has happened in our immediate past and what we expect to happen in the immediate future; the same event in a different context can make us feel any number of emotions. So even though most people view travelling as an intensely enjoyable and rewarding activity, it’s nearly impossible to feel that way consistently over long periods of time.

The good news is that the difficult times create the context for more enjoyable times afterwards. Meeting new friends is all the sweeter after a period of loneliness. And all the best stories come from the worst travel experiences. Once you accept that negative emotions are a normal part of travelling, it is much easier to deal with them when they come along.

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2. Combine social activities with time for yourself

Travellers are notoriously social, and it’s easy to use the countless pub crawls, club nights, and other hostel activities to distract yourself from negative emotions. Unfortunately, excessive alcohol and a rapid turnover of friendly faces is rarely a good solution; the worst place to feel lonely is in the middle of a crowd.

If you’re travelling because you want to find yourself, you’re going to have to spend some time by yourself.

While most people focus on the social aspects of travel, your time on the road is also a valuable opportunity for introspection. Who are you? When you’re in a new country, amongst new people, entirely free of the constraints of your everyday life and identity, it’s often not such an easy question to answer.  But it’s definitely one worth exploring.

Don’t mistake introspection for total isolation, however. As Christopher MacCandless famously discovered, “Happiness is only real when shared”. And if you’re having trouble making friends, there are plenty of social networking apps for travellers — including Outbound — which make it easy to connect with other travellers on the road.

3. Identify the source of your troubles

Dwelling on your problems is rarely an effective route to finding a solution — but making an effort to understand how you feel and why you might feel that way is an important part of self-growth, which is probably one of the reasons you’re travelling in the first place.

One of the advantages of travel is that you experience the same general patterns over and over in a short time frame. You arrive in a new place, you meet new friends, you have a variety of new experiences, and then you have to say goodbye to everything and everyone — often permanently.

After a while, you’ll begin to recognise the events that trigger negative emotions in you. Whether it’s nervousness about arriving in a new place, shyness when making friends, or sadness when leaving everything behind to start again — once you’ve identified their source, you can begin to manage your feelings. For example, I know that I lose momentum after three or four weeks of staying in one place, so I time my travels so that I move on after about that period of time.

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4. Make use of your support network

Even though you might be a long way from home, your friends and family are only ever as far away as the nearest internet connection. In all of human history, it’s never been easier to contact the people who love you for emotional support.

Of course, everyone wants to feel like a pioneer, courageous and independent, as we trot around the globe, but the truth is that human beings thrive best when we maintain close social connections — and sometimes it’s not enough to confide in a person whose only relationship to you is eating dinner together two nights in a row.

However, take care. It’s natural for your friends and family to tempt you into returning home when you’re going through a rough patch. Every situation is different, but my personal rule is to refuse to end any trip on a low note. No matter how bad it gets, I hold on until it’s good again — and some of my best adventures have come after my worst experiences.

5. Change your circumstances

It’s often quoted that “the definition of stupidity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result”. Unfortunately, when you’re travelling, it isn’t always obvious when you’ve fallen into a pattern of doing the same thing repeatedly. After all, you’re in different places with different people aren’t you?

Maybe so, but you might still be having the same general experiences — hostel-hopping is particularly bad for this. If you can’t shake your mood, shake up your circumstances. Go camping or couch-surfing instead of staying in a hostel. Hitch-hike or take a road-trip. Replace the endless tourist traps with volunteer work for a few weeks. Stop spending money or spend a lot of money in a short time. There are many different ways to travel — try something new.

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My four weeks in San Diego were a failure. Despite the best efforts of the staff and my hostel-mates, I had totally failed to take advantage of what should have been ideal circumstances for a good time. I needed to try something new. I took a bus north and started to volunteer on a remote ranch near the Oregon border. Gone was the steady stream of new faces, the nightly parties, and the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Instead I had 6am starts and daily labour alongside a small close-knit community.

And, strangely enough, my funk disappeared in a matter of days.

ABOUT: Christopher Drifter is a 24-year-old traveller from the UK. He has taken several major trips across North America and Europe, covering more than 13,000km via public transport, borrowed vehicles and hitch-hiking. He is the author of Rules of Thumb: How to Hitch-Hike and Live on the Road, which is available as a free PDF, on Kindle and in paperback.

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Five tips to improving your travel photography

Five tips to improving your travel photography

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1. Find your style

Your photography style will be as unique as you are, so take some time to explore a technique that suits you. We are lovers of colour and landscapes: the more vibrant and spectacular the landscape, the better the photograph. But this is simply a matter of taste. Perhaps you’ll prefer to try grittier styles of photography, or maybe you’ll prefer capturing street photography. It’s your choice! Be creative and explore.

2. Equipment

Although you can take impressive photos on your iPhone nowadays, if you’re really looking to improve your travel photography then it’s worth investing in a few key pieces. SLRs are extremely affordable and it’s worth remembering that whilst the base unit is important, the quality really comes with the lenses. Having an array of lenses will enhance your photography immeasurably: we prefer to use wide-angle lenses to capture those dizzying landscapes. However, if you prefer wildlife photography whilst you travel, then a zoom lens will be invaluable. A tripod is also extremely useful, especially for those dusky evening shots.

3. Patience

Ever seen a perfect shot and wondered how the photographer got so lucky? That perfect picture of a bird taking flight or a boat sailing peacefully across the sea? The chances are this wasn’t just luck, but patience. Photography is a peaceful hobby: for it you need to be still, calm, patient and willing to wait for that perfect capture. Not only do we find this extremely relaxing, but also well worth it when you get that million-dollar shot!

lake

4. Edit

We know the feeling: you’ve just taken what you suspect is the best photograph of your life and you’re desperate to share it with your friends. But before you start sharing away, take a deep breath and take some time to edit your photos. Think about colour, composition and exposure. Take some time to crop your photos, tone down that glaring light and perfect the hue. The brilliant thing about photography is that your masterpiece isn’t completed after a click of the camera; but is something you can work on and perfect for days after.

5. Tell a story

We know it’s cliché, but a picture really is worth a thousand words. When taking your photos, take some time to think about what you’re trying capture. Think about what you want people to feel when they see it. A happy scene? A sad story? This isn’t just a photograph, but a moment. Make sure it has a story to tell.

Optimized-mountainousABOUT: This is a guest post on behalf of “Twins That Travel”: a blog dedicated to travel adventures and vibrant photography. Run by Claire & Laura, identical twins and self-confessed travel addicts, TTT shares travel stories, tips and photographs from around the world. www.twinsthattravel.com

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Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan – by Nikki Near And Far

Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan – by Nikki Near And Far

Oh my god, I want to pinch myself.

I’m in Bhutan. And I’m about to hike to Tiger’s Nest, a Buddhist monastery that clings to a cliff 10,240 feet above sea level in the Himalayan mountains. I had stared at pictures of this place back home in California, and I was mind boggled at how unreal it seemed. And now I’m here, and I’m about to experience one of National Geographic’s Secret Journeys of A Lifetime in person!

So what is the story behind Tiger’s Nest?

Guru Padmasambhava, also know as Guru Rinpoche, is said to have flown to this spot from Tibet on the back of a tigress to subdue a local demon. Afterwards, he meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in one of the nearby caves. Then in 1692, a temple was built around the cave by Guru Padmasambhava’s reincarnated form.

The morning of the hike, my excitement was palpable. I think I said “I’m so excited” about five hundred times at breakfast, and it only got worse as our car approached the trailhead. We stopped for our first glimpse of the monastery, just a speck in the rock impossibly high up. EEEEK!

Thank goodness our guide was a really good sport. If I were him, I’d want to switch the “off” button on me, especially so early in the morning.

At the trailhead, there were vendors selling prayer flags to hang along the trail, along with jewelry and other handicrafts. There were also horses for hire, for those who didn’t think they could make it to the top on their own.

The morning was sunny, but with a crisp chill in the air, so we started the hike in warm layers. Thankfully I had used the Outbound app to connect with a woman who had completed the hike just a few days before me, and she gave me tips about the current weather and what gear I should pack. The beginning of the trail was mellow and flat, and the terrain reminded me of Yosemite, with its pine trees and pine needles littering the ground. We passed a series of stone structures that housed water prayer wheels, and a lovely little bridge.
On Bridge
Then we started ascending, and it got steep quickly. I’m in fairly decent shape, but with the thinner air at that altitude, I found myself breathing hard and slowing down. It was humbling, but the slower pace allowed for better enjoyment of the scenery along the way.

Halfway into the hike, I reached a flattened out area with a series of prayer wheels, vistas of snow-capped mountains, and the first official viewpoint of my final destination.
Totems
Just around the bend, you can rest your weary feet at the cafeteria. So when my friend and our guide caught up, we stopped for tea and biscuits with a fantastic view of Tiger’s Nest. We heard that many people end their journey here, which is a shame since the second part of the hike and the monastery itself is so incredible.

My friend was feeling sick from the altitude at the halfway mark and worried she wouldn’t make it all the way to the top, so luckily there was a horse for her to rent for the second half of the hike.
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I struck out first after our tea-break and passed many elderly folks with walking sticks. The monastery teased me as I saw glimpses of it through the trees. Sometimes it appeared close, and then very far away again.

I passed by a small shrine and other “retreat” structures, where visiting lamas can meditate, just like Guru Padmasambhava did.

Finally, I reached the second viewpoint, which was stunning.
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From here, I saw a series of zig-zagging stone steps going down, down, down. I was confused and asked a guide if this was another route up. NOPE. Although I could see Tiger’s Nest just across the way (and it seemed so close!), I had to go down these steps before going back up to reach it.

So down I went.

Where it bottoms out, I was treated to a nice surprise of a waterfall, bridge, and overlapping strings of fluttering prayer flags.

From here, it was just a short set of stairs up to the temple entrance. I was greeted by local volunteers offering free hot tea (very sweet and yum!) and more biscuits. It was apparently an “auspicious” day of the calendar, so they were offering snacks out of pure kindness.

Unfortunately, you have to store your bags, camera and phone in a locker at this point, as no pictures are allowed in the temple itself. So while I cannot share photos of inside Tiger’s Nest, know that inside is breathtaking. There are actually multiple temples inside, as well as outdoor “balcony” areas. These have the best views of the entire hike, as you are surrounded by the temple with the cliffs towering on both sides and views of the Himalayan mountains and Paro Valley below.

When my guide nudged me that it was time to go, I was sad to leave. I could have stayed staring at that view all day. It had just topped as my all-time favorite hike, and my all-time favorite travel experience. Luckily, I still had the hike back down — which was much easier and much faster — to soak in every last scent of pine and view of mountain.

If you make the journey to Tiger’s Nest, it will not disappoint. But please don’t stop and turn around at the cafeteria! Trust me, you want to make it all the way to the top, even if you need to go slow or hire a horse for the rest of the journey up.

ABOUT: Nikki Near and Far is an outdoorsy adventurer who marvels at natural wonders, world cultures, and really old stuff. She’s talented at eating cheese and chocolate, making crafts, and climbing mountains. When she’s not off exploring the world, she’s uncovering off-the-beaten path adventures in California. What to read more from Nikki? Visit her website here: www.NikkiNearAndFar.com IMG_1519

 

 

 

 

 

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Travelling with(out) Electronics – Pros & Cons

Nowadays, technology determines our lives. Just think about it: Who would honestly leave the house without bringing their phone? Who does not have a laptop? And most importantly: Who does not need Internet? Certainly, technology is much more than our electronic devices we use in order to access the Internet. We live an almost digital lifestyle and our electronics play an imperative role. We don’t and can’t even miss them anymore.

When it comes to traveling, we feel the urge to post as much as we possibly can about our experiences and more or less meaningless personal adventures (sure, I shouldn’t generalize here because everything matters in a way). Photos on Instagram, tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook – the list of things we share on various social platforms is sheer endless. But it’s not only that because we also use technology to orientate in a new city, to find out the nearest restaurant or bus station, to find a good train connection or connect with other like-minded travelers and maybe even meet up with them wherever we are in the world.

But, have you ever thought about traveling without your electronic devices or at least just use them sporadically?

There certainly are pros and cons when it comes to traveling with a backpack full of electronics. I’ll start with the latter.

1. We learn to simply appreciate the moment – stress-free.

Leaving our phones, laptops and even cameras at home can add to a less stressful travel experience. We are oftentimes so focused on taking this one picture we can then upload on Instagram, inter alia, in order to show everyone what we see. However, we only see things literally through the lens. Why not appreciate the moment and soak it all in? We’re here, it’s our experience and we should be a little more egoistical and not constantly think about sharing impressions with the world.

2. By getting lost we discover and see new, unplanned things.

What is so wrong about getting lost from time to time? Think about it: we choose to explore destinations we have not been to before so the best thing that can indeed happen to us there is getting lost. It’s all new, all exciting, why always consult our phones to make our way around? Just wandering the streets of a new city, for instance, is sheer bliss. Plus, we are human and this includes a certain sense of orientation anyway. Who knows what things you might see and stumble upon?

3. We make our very own experiences, meaning sometimes we need to rely on others.

Yes, we are forced to talk to people, to socialize in a way. This point is intertwined with the preceding one, for if we really do not know how to get back to our accommodation for the night, we have to approach a person and ask for directions. It is not unlikely that we get caught up in a conversation. Just not having our phones with us can seem a little intimidating for many of us. However, we are capable of managing life in a foreign country without electronic devices. We just have to rely on others from time to time.

But what are the advantages of bringing our important electronic devices when on the road?

1. There is a chance we won’t get lost easily.

There is a certain beauty of getting lost every once in a while. Sure. But wouldn’t it also be nice to know where we’re heading especially when it’s dark and cold outside and we don’t actually feel that safe running around desperately trying to find our way back home? Having the chance to consult our digital map helps – and makes us feel more relaxed. Plus, we don’t waste our precious time.

2. Memories are made – and will remain.

Who honestly does not think cameras and smart phones are a great idea? We get so many new impressions when on the road and sometimes it’s hard to let it all sink in. Capture the beautiful sunrise, that time you rode a camel or went hiking in a world-renowned national park. We do have the technology to freeze moments, scenes, and thus re-live our adventures whenever we want to.

3. We can ask for other like-minded travelers’ advice.

Why head out into the world unprepared? We now have the possibility to connect with others and find out about their experiences – the good and the bad. We can get insider tips and avoid the unsafe areas in a town. Gaining first-hand knowledge in an instant before the actual journey has never been easier.

4. The world moves up closer in every respect.

Undoubtedly, social media makes the world a smaller one and blurs boundaries. We can exchange our thoughts, share impressions and get carried away by wanderlust. It’s not unlikely that virtual friendships also work in real life. How awesome is it to know a person in a country you always wanted to go? You might have a place to stay. Without technology, these encounters wouldn’t be possible.

What do we learn from this brief comparison?

Technology determines our being and this is okay. In fact, it has many advantages and can make the travel experience even brighter and mostly so much easier and “precise.” The world literally has no borders when we connect with other travelers on social platforms, share information and advice and plan the next step. All this certainly helps to make trips more memorable. And the cherry on top: we can stay in touch with friends and family back home.

Using electronics is only normal and a huge part of our lives. Why not use it to our advantage – especially when on the road? As long as we enjoy the precious moments from time to time, not stressing about capturing this one perfect moment in order to then share it on various social platforms, there’s nothing wrong about traveling with a load of electronic devices. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s simply you and the world – face-to face – and no one else. And this is when you, we shouldn’t care about taking pictures.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 4.34.27 pmJulia Haase (23) is an ex-German expat and a recent MA graduate in London. She wears her running shoes on the road to the world, carries a pocket full of dreams and lacks orientation in every respect. In January, she starts her 3-months backpacking trip in California. She is the writer behind The Redhead Story, tweets happily about her life journey @julia_freckles and shares moments on instagram @julia_freckles. You can also find her on Google+.

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