I think it’s safe to say that social media has bitten most
of us with wanderlust and travelers are now exploring unimaginable corners of
the world. As travel continues to become more people’s motivation, they will seek
experiences that are completely unique whilst being affordable. With that said,
it’s why we are seeing a rise in alternative travel.
Alternative travel, or termed also as anti-tourism, is a new
way of experiencing travel to make it more meaningful and not conventional in
nature. There are a number of reasons why people find alternative ways to
travel, but I think the biggest determining factor is attainability. Budget is
often something we consider when book flights and accommodation. Alternative
travel makes things a bit more affordable as you save money or even make money
along the way. Secondly, you learn empathy through authenticity. It’s a deeper
dive into the culture and it’s people, and so you become hyper-aware of the way
people eat, think, worship, and work. Finally, alternative travel brings
accountability as we might look for ways to decrease our footprint, volunteer,
or support locally.
Now that we know the benefits of alternative travel, let’s dive into some of the best ways to do it!
There is no better way to travel the world than
by saving the world! There are a number of Non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) that act as the middleman between volunteers and local communities. All
you have to do is cover the cost of some of the logistics and food per month!
2. Wellness Retreats
Travel teaches us so much about ourselves as we
are oftentimes put in the most vulnerable of situations. There’s something so
special about coming back from our travels with a peace of mind and
reconnecting with ourselves. Think about ashrams, camps, and spas!
3. Teach or Study/Learn Abroad
The beauty of traveling abroad is exposing
yourself to so many different cultures, why not partake in that? In college, I
spent a year studying abroad and used it as an opportunity to learn a language
and travel the region. There are also options to go abroad to teach English or learn/teach
whatever you’re passionate about! Languages not your thing? Why not learn to cook
up a Moroccan feast with La Maison Arabe?
The easiest way to get accommodation covered is
house-sitting! You can find house-sitting jobs from a weekend to a year in
length! It allows you to travel slow, live like a local and save an enormous
amount of money. It’s how I was able to getaway
to Haapsalu for a weekend in Estonia for free!
5. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
This has become a growing trend among young
people who want to do good for the world by promoting sustainability and I got
to partake when I went apple
picking in Kent. WWOOF is a global movement that connects people with
organic farmers to exchange cultural, social and educational experiences
without monetary exchange. Ecotourism allows people to truly live, learn and share
So, are you considering an alternative way to
travel in 2020? What’s on your itinerary?
One of the things I feared the most when deciding to have a baby was that I would lose my freedom, my own sense of self. I mean, motherhood is exactly glamorized in the most positive way sometimes. I was scared of the “mom” label. Did that suddenly mean I would go to the supermarket in sweatpants, with a screaming baby who I would yell at all day. Would it mean I was confined to my house, leaving behind my wanderlust and desire to see the world? Were my best years behind me?
When my first child Nathan was born, I was determined I wouldn’t be one of “those” moms. I decided I would just carry on with life, with a baby in tow. I always knew I wanted to have kids, but I wasn’t one of those overly maternal people. I never crumbled into ooohs and ahhhs when a young child was around and wasn’t one of those people who everyone said “aww you will be such a great mom one day.” But I really had no idea how much you could love something so little and grow so selfless overnight. Literally overnight.
So rather than jump on my mission to naively prove that I could be my own person, and have a baby, it changed to taking him everywhere because I just loved him so much that I wanted to share him with everyone.
In New Zealand, we are lucky enough to get paid maternity leave. When Nathan was born, it was 12 weeks of paid leave and now it is 22 weeks (going up to 26 weeks in 2020) This bonding time is amazing to have, so I decided to use this time to visit my parents who lived in the USA. So at 8 weeks old, I took my first trip with a newborn baby, solo, on 24 hours of travel. To be honest, people thought I was crazy. But my husband was going to meet me there later on and come back on the plane with us, so I figured, “if it’s a nightmare on the way over, at least I’ll have help on the way back.”
So how is flying with an 8 week old baby on your own? Totally doable. As a mother of 3, looking back, it was a piece of cake. But at the time, it was still pretty good. My number one piece of advice is to have a baby carrier of some sort, so that you can have your hands free. I have an Ergobaby soft shell carrier (which means no metal frames) and it can be used as a front pack and a backpack. He snuggled in there through all the security and customs in our connecting flights and loved the movement from walking between terminals.
As much as possible, I tried to keep him on schedule with feed times and sleep times, similar to at home and he was no more unsettled than he would usually be. I got a bassinet on our 12 hour international flight from Auckland to San Francisco and it was awesome to have somewhere to put him and get an hour of sleep here and there.
Perhaps the first thing I learned on this trip, was how much empathy other people can have, and how easy it is to go the extra mile and make such a difference to someone. Let me give you some context… New Zealand has a real “tall poppy” syndrome, meaning we hate when anyone thinks there are better than someone else. We think everyone is the same no matter what. And naively before travel, I would have seen parents with small children, and barely have given them another look. Now though, I can’t help but look for ways to help them. Whether it is to pick up a bag, hold the door, give a kind word of support, I feel such empathy for these other parents who are basically juggling ticking time bombs and trying to hold everything together.
I never expected extra treatment for traveling with a little baby, as I am just like everyone else, but it was just the little things that made a difference. The family line through customs, the extra glass of water when you usually had a pay for a bottle (on a cheap airline), the priority boarding etc. They sound like little things, but they made so much of a difference.
While we were in the USA, we took a trip to New York City. Another one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. It was just after New Years, it was 1F (-17C) in the middle of a blizzard, and we took our 8 week old on holiday. I mean, what were we thinking? Well, we rugged up wee Nathan in winter gear, in a sleeping bag in the stroller, with a weatherproof cover so he was toasty and warm and we pushed him around the city sightseeing.
Again, people were so incredibly nice. We were in a store on 5th Avenue and store clerks offered us space in the changing room if we wanted to feed him. We went up the Rockefeller Centre Building to get a view across the city, and the lovely people there offered us to skip the queue since we had such a little one. On the way down the lift, they offered an alternative exit that wouldn’t be so busy. I just had no idea that people could be so helpful. Perhaps it was always happening around me and I was too self-centered to noticed. I mean I don’t think I was a narcissist by any means, but I never had any reason to wonder about the parents, nor any context on how to help them. Everyday people were going out of their way to help little old me, traveling around a foreign country, with a baby I was still figuring out how to program.
These beautiful acts of altruism have continued as our family has grown. With three children, we hike around New Zealand and show them the beauty of our surroundings. On a recent 7.5 hour hike up to Little Mt Peel,(where I took all three kids by myself), members of the local tramping club, held my kids hands as they traversed a ridgeline. They slowed their own trek down through this narrow section, just to give us a hand.
So here I was, trying to prove to the world (or myself) that I could travel with a baby and life could be amazing… but that actually wasn’t the lesson at all. It was opening my eyes to the kindness and the love from other people. It was learning in practice how a little kindness can go a long way. It was understanding that, in the context of the tall poppy syndrome, that sometimes, other people are more important, and that’s okay.
Now when I travel, I look for opportunities to pay forward that kindness, because I just know how much it helped me. I offer to hold or look after a child while their mum goes to the bathroom, we bring extra small toys and encourage our kids to share them while waiting, and we try to offer kind words of encouragement and support to those that really need it.
As I stand in the sausage shaped queue with little chatterboxes littering the air with their thoughts, I don’t just ignore and carry on. I think of the community I have joined, I understand how we are all one people and I bend down and look into their eyes and know its not about me, it’s about all of us.
NYC is my forever home, and I’m so proud of my city. The hustle, the diversity, the beauty… I love it all so much. Every day I seem to discover a new side to New York, and I’ve been here for years! First timer’s in the city might feel overwhelmed by all there is to see and do in dear ol’ NYC – but today, I’ve gathered up my top recommendations. (After hosting many friends and family members, it’s always nice to have a go-to itinerary suggestions!) Without further ado, here is my first timer’s guide to NYC! Filled with must-do activities, some hidden treasures, my absolute favorite eateries, rooftop bars and photo stops as well.
Use The City Sightseeing Pass
If it’s your first time in NYC and you’re not keen on taking the subway just yet and not interested in wasting tons of money on expensive cabs and Lyfts all day, hopping on the Hop On / Hop Off bus on The Sighseeing Pass is one of the best ways to get around.
We know, we know… it sounds touristy, but it’s an efficient way to see majority of the city in a short time frame (especially if it’s your first time in the city). It also helps you get a the lay of the land. Just leave your bags with an NYC luggage storage company and start riding! This is super helpful, because you can mental notes of where you’d like to go back to visit and spend more time. The stops are in the most convenient locations and the buses run frequently too!
Consider spending time in Downtown as the area has grown quite a bit over the years since 9/11. There are tons of things to do! Be sure to stroll along Stone Street and stop at the many bars and restaurants. Don’t miss out on check out the beautiful architecture at the Oculus (which also serves as a mall and a train station). Shopping at Brookfield Place is a treat… and afterward, I’d recommend heading to Pier 17 to catch stunning views of Dumbo and the water.
A movie night on the rooftop? Rooftop Cinema has a mission to transform nights at the movies to cinematic events like no other. Starlit evenings, cocktails, snacks, and a great movie selection… what’s not to love?
Best Observation Deck – Top Of The Rock
Getting an iconic shot of the New York City skyline is a must for first timers, if you ask me! Because you want a view of the city with the iconic Empire State Building in it, Top Of The Rock is my top recommendation of observation decks. Plus, it’s the only deck with epic views of Central Park.
Insider Tip: reserve tickets in advance because they sell out! I personally love coming to Top Of The Rock at 8am because it’s the only time you can get photos without crowds in them!
Runner Up For Best Observation Deck – The Empire State Building
Just as beautiful as Top Of The Rock’s perspective, and you’ll get a chance to see the well-established and world famous Empire State Building from the inside out. Every inch of the building is filled with such history!
One World Trade Center
No modern trip to NYC for a first timer is complete without paying homage to the One World Trade Center. It’s such an emotional experience learning about the history here… and the architecture is simply stunning. It’s a fantastic place to people watch and have a moment of reflection. I also adore the viewpoint from One World Trade Center because you can see both downtown and uptown views, Brooklyn, New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty.
P.S. I’d highly recommend coming to these places later in the evening. Observation decks are best to visit and photograph during golden hour/sunset!
Sitting at 6,000 feet long, the Brooklyn Bridge has become just as recognized as the Manhattan skyline… and it’s simply not to be missed. No first timer’s guide to NYC would be complete without a recommendation to see the Brooklyn Bridge for yourself. Seeing the bridge early in the morning is an incredible experience. Minimal crowds, cool air and a stunning sunrise – it’s a photographer’s delight.
Little Italy is perhaps the most charming of the Manhattan neighborhoods This Italian immigrant haven has transformed over the years in Lower Manhattan, but it’s retained its traditional flair and commitment to the families, restaurants and businesses who brought it to life.
Take a trip to the other side! If you have the time in your itinerary, I’d highly recommend exploring Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. P.S. a trip to Williamsburg’s William Vale is the perfect vantage point to get a look at the Manhattan skyscrapers from the riverfront.
New to the NYC skyline is the modernist structure you’ve probably seen scattered around Instagram… the Vessel! Created as part of the Hudson Yard’s Redevelopment Project, this climbable landmark is the perfect place to people watch. The sculptural, honeycomb-esque design is truly unique against Manhattan’s skyscrapers and it’s the perfect backdrop for some photos too!
Once home to the ferry landing, Dumbo has become such a trendy part of NYC! I have a soft spot for it’s cobblestone streets, chic converted Brooklyn warehouses and up and coming cafes and restaurants. You’ll find people from all walks of life here, including many photographers soaking in the beauty.
Where To Eat & Drink
Au Za’atar has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in the city! Their Lebanese/Middle Eastern menu is so special. Fresh ingredients, homemade recipes, an inviting space and a great vibe – I couldn’t recommend it more and their table side shawarma makes it such a fun experience!
Famous for its cruffins (a delicious mix of croissant and muffins) – Supermoon Bakehouse puts a twist on traditional pastries and then some!
What once began as a Mexican BBQ food truck is now a full fledged staple in the city! Tacos, tequila, lots of interesting combinations of Americana/Mexican staple foods… it’s simply a great spot to meet up with friends.
Hong Kong’s famous egg waffles right in the heart of NYC! Their ice cream concoctions are so much more than just photogenic, they’re incredibly delicious.
The Loeb Boathouse
The Loeb Boathouse is one of my all-time favorite spots in New York City. The restaurant is set on the most peaceful pond where you can watch the row boats go by while having a drink outside on their patio or lunch/dinner inside of the restaurant. It’s my go-to destination to take New York first timers to get away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
Queensyard has one of the best views of The Vessel – and its British inspired menu is top notch! It’s the perfect mash up of English classics with an American twist. It’s an excellent brunch spot!
An airstream trailer serving burgers, fries and soft serve ice cream? Yep! You read that right. Only in New York! Mister Dips is parked at the William Vale hotel, a 15,000 square foot public outdoor park overlooking the Williamsburg waterfront. It’s the perfect little spot to enjoy the weather, catch a view of the water and catch up!
Come here for one of the best bagel experiences in the city! Sadelle’s is a New York establishment with lots of history. A first timer’s trip in New York without a delicious bagel would be a sin.
Vegan ice cream that actually tastes even better than the real thing (trust me). Van Leeuwen must do some kind of magic to create such delicious flavors!
Another exceptional spot for a New York bagel! This time with a dash of more color and pizzazz. Brooklyn Bagel’s doughy goodness is hand rolled, kettle boiled and the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy. It’s a great breakfast spot!
The best burgers and milkshakes place! Black Tap has such a cool vibe. Their Soho menu is top notch and in a great location too! Be sure to order one of their infamous Crazy Shakes.
A book lover’s outlook is a special one. There are thousands of books set in locations around the world. All inspire a sense of wanderlust and wonder to those who read about their fascinating landscapes through their pages. It’s a very special thing when a place exactly inspires an author with a narrative. These places almost serve as a soul to these stories.
Today, we’re spotlighting some destinations that directly inspired some incredible literature. There are so many to cover, we’re sure to miss some of your favorites… so please be sure to comment with your favorite book and the destination that inspired it!
Edinburgh – “The Harry Potter Series”
It’s hard to imagine J.K. Rowling not creating the beloved Harry Potter series when you explore old Edinburgh. The city’s many castles atop steep hills, the eery and old graveyards, the cobble stoned streets! Be sure to explore Greyfrier’s Kirkyard to find some familiar names from the book series… more Edinburgh recs right here too)!
Paris – “Les Miserables”
The French Revolution’s relics are scattered throughout the City Of Light. “Les Miserables” author Victor Hugo lived in Paris for many years. In fact, visitors can see his home and the many places within the city where he wrote the worldwide read novel.
St. Petersburg – “Crime & Punishment”
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s psychological novels is one of the best ever written. However, not many people know that its inspiration stemmed from crimes he learned about while living in St. Petersburg. “Crime & Punishment” fans will find snippets and slivers of the story’s inspiration through the city’s alleys and details.
Missouri – “The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer”
Mark Twain’s classic American novel takes direct inspiration from the surrounding areas of Missouri and the Mississippi River. The adventures of the young boys can be clearly imagined when exploring the area’s wildlife, caverns and caves.
Pamplona, Spain – “The Sun Also Rises”
Hemingway, an avid traveler, was extremely inspired by his time in Pamplona, Spain when writing his best selling novel. The city’s bull festivals are still celebrated to this day.
Stockholm – “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”
Steig Larsson’s “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” highlighted a hidden, darker side to Stockholm. Larsson’s lived in Söder, where he lived for many, many years living locally and working as a journalist. His experiences in the city gave him great inspiration for the series settings and darker underbelly.
New York – “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”
The American Novelist, Truman Capote was once the most well-known author of NYC. His lavish time in Brooklyn Heights inspired Holly Golighty’s storyline.
Birmingham, England – “The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy”
Tolkien was a man who drew direct inspiration from nature, most of which he recalls fondly from his childhood. His notoriously detailed writings about flora and fauna has a direct correlation to where he grew up – Birmingham’s fields and mills.
Big Sur – “Big Sur”
Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur” was written during his meaningful time along the California coastline. The area’s inspiration is so present in his descriptive writing about the rugged beaches and stunning landscapes.
London – Shakespeare’s Work
No trip (for a Shakespeare fan) to London would be fulfilled with a trip to the Globe Theater.
The Swiss Alps – “Heidi”
The dramatic and lush Swiss Alps inspired Johanna Spyri’s picturesque setting of “Heidi.” It’s said that the book also inspired many travelers to experience its beauty for themselves too, boosting the area’s tourism by leaps and bounds after its release.
Tokyo – “Norwegian Wood”
Murakami’s masterpiece was directly inspired from his collegiate experience in Tokyo’s Waseda University. His time and love for the bustling city is evident through the pages of his many books, especially Norwegian Wood.
Every year at its annual meeting, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee unveils new additions to its epic list of significant cultural and natural sites. This year, the committee added 29 sites to its powerful list… which has got us totally inspired to revisit our bucket list. Pretty awesome, right? Here are some of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’re chomping at the bit to see for ourselves!
India: Jaipur City, Rajasthan
India’s northern fortified city was designed years ago to be a commercial capital, and its grid-like city planning is proof. Jaipur’s organization creates uniformity throughout its public squares, residences, temples, markets and stalls. But its grid plan with different districts actually pre-dates the Western idea of city layout!
Australia: Budj Bim Cultural Landscape
Located in the country of the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is one of the planet’s most expansive aquaculture systems. Through oral tradition, historians have been able to understand that the creation of this complex system goes back centuries. The system allowed the Gunditjmara people to call this location home for over six thousand years… but it’s believed to have been thirty two thousand years old/
The sacred site of thousands of temples, stupas, monasteries, frescoes, sculptures, and archeological gems – Bagan is a wonder. It’s incredible architecture and collection of ancient Buddhist art illustrate the power of the Bagan empire.
Babylon is home to the Hanging Gardens (one of the seven wonders of the world). But, the surround villages and the ancient city also once housed the world’s most influential ancient empires. Rulers like Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar sat within the city walls as emperors, forever changing the world’s history.
Italy: Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano a Valdobbiadene
Prosecco anyone? The “ciglioni” checker board designed rows of vines dates all the way back to the 17th century. You’ll find lots of small plots of land with the design atop the area’s rugged terrain. (P.S. if you love a good glass of vino – check out this round up of destinations for wine-lovers).
United States: The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
You know a Frank Lloyd Wright design when you see it. Frank’s iconic Fallingwater in Pennsylvania or the modernist Guggenheim Museum in the heart of NYC spotlight his “organic architecture” style. Each of his eight buildings scattered across the USA blurs the boundaries of indoors and outdoors, making a strong impact on the many architectural designers that followed his legacy.
Iran: Hyrcanian Forests
Iran’s Hyrcanian Forests date back to 50 million years ago. Yep, you read that correctly! This ancient forest area covered most of the Northern Temperate region of the planet many moons ago. The biodiversity within the forests now is staggering. 180 species of birds and 58 mammal species have been recorded within its dense woods.
Iceland: Vatnajökull National Park
This volcanic region of Iceland covers 14% of the island! Within the national park, visitors can find ten volcanoes (eight of which are subglacial and two of which are the most active on the island). The amazing volcanic action creates incredible landscapes, including river systems, growing canyons, massive waterfalls and more.
Japan: Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan
The burial mounds of all shapes and sizes found above the Osaka Plain are tombs for the elite. Archeologists have found weapons, armor, ornaments, clay figures in the shape of homes, humans and more within the funerary system.
What do you think? Find some new destinations to add to your bucket list? Every traveler should get familiar with UNESCO’s listed destinations and sites. It’s beyond inspiring to learn about their mission. (P.S. you can check out the whole list of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites, if you’re interested in learning more!)
Have you visited any of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites? What was your favorite?