Tag Archives: backpacking the world

Hilarious Travel Planning Memories with a side of Budget Travel Tips

13 Aug

A lot of people ask me how I afford such a pricey (MYTH!) travel endeavor. Listen folks, travel isn’t that expensive. Trust me! In fact, I definitely spend more money living in Canada for three months than traveling for the same amount of time in a faraway destination. You do need money upfront, which involves some saving, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing fun things with friends or forcing you to live in a cardboard box. Long term travel is quite affordable. You just need to reflect on a few unnecessary items and lifestyle choices. For example, I decided to sell my car to fund my South East Asia trip. It might sound a little ridiculous to some people, but I was moving to the big city after traveling and I didn’t need a car anymore. Cars are luxury money holes. Reflecting on how to fund travel helps put life into perspective and your priorities in check.

Long term travel is a bit different. It requires you to cut a few strings. One way I can afford going on a 6 month adventure is by giving up my lovely studio apartment in Toronto. I’m moving out of my humble abode and moving back in with my family (cringe…..). But hey, every budget traveller needs to make sacrifices, even if they are a tad embarrassing. I could have found a subletter, but I wanted to be free from the shackles of my modern, cosmopolitan life. Sounds a little dramatic, eh? I simply didn’t want to worry about an apartment back home and a stranger doing unmentionable activities on my bed. You get the drift.

There’s a point to this little story….

While rummaging through my book shelf, I found an old notebook my travel partner/best friend and I used to jot down travel ideas and inspirations. Between the pages, I stumbled upon a hilarious doodle from over two years ago. Check it out! Continue reading

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RTW: Step Four!

17 Jul
Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne

Hello Melbourne!

BOOKED BOOKED BOOKED! I’ll be arriving in Australia November 30th, 2012! Exciting stuff.

Yes, I realize I skipped a step. Step three is booking return flights to Bali, Indonesia from either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. I’m still trying to figure that one out, so I moved on to STEP FOUR! Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne is an important flight, which I can’t leave last minute. It can also be a really expensive one, so when I saw a great promo price, I excitedly got out my credit card and started to input away. Eight tries later, my booking finally went through! It was a bit of a hassle, but the rate was worth it.

Oy vey. My credit card bill is going to be outrageous this month…

Flying into Melbourne is a bit of a surprise. Stefanie and I were originally thinking we’d fly into Cairns and then work our way down the East Coast to Melbourne with a pit stop in Ayers Rock. The whole Ayers Rock expedition throws the whole route off, as you can see in the map below. Flights were also much more affordable to Melbourne than Cairns, despite the longer distance. So, I thought… why not just do a loop? I am no stranger to the travel loop! In fact, I’ve done loops for all of my travels. This is mostly because I book round trip in and out of the same airport. The Aussie loop will allow us to travel through South Australia as well. In total, I’ll be exploring 4 out of 6 Australian states and both territories. I’m not going to Western Australia, despite hearing how absolutely beautiful it is. Oops! I just don’t have the time, nor funds! Tear.Map of Australia with States

More good news on its way! Stay tuned.

RTW: Step Two!

11 Jul

San Francisco to Singapore

Life is good.

RTW: Step One!

7 Jul

Wow. I am terrible at keeping up with weekly photo challenges. I suppose I just got caught up in the excitement of travel planning. Last week, I managed to take some time off and visit my family and friends in my hometown. It wasn’t all about catching up though. Stefanie and I had some major travel plans to discuss. In fact, I was hoping to book my flight while I was down there. Flight where? I guess I should start from the beginning…

Seeing as this will probably be the last opportunity for me to travel with very little strings attached, I’ve decided to pack up my things, leave the dog with a friend and jet off to some faraway destinations for a while. How long? Well, here’s the kicker…. 6 months! Yikes, even typing it is exhilarating yet terrifying. This adventure will be my longest one yet. Some people won’t understand it, but I’m confident in my choice. And as the wise man Drake once said… YOLO (you only live once). I feel ridiculous writing that.

So, WHERE AM I GOING? Continue reading

Internship blogging

23 Mar

Melissa To and Fro BloggingRyerson University‘s Master of Professional Communication requires all candidates to complete an industry internship. It’s one of the main components that persuaded me to apply for the program. I feel really lucky to have such a great internship position. Since early January, I’ve been interning with Siren Communications, public relations agency extraordinaire. Most of Siren’s clients fall into the ‘travel & tourism’ sector, which is ideal for yours truly. One of my many tasks is blogging and I thought I’d share two of my recent travel tips/advice posts:

Interested in learning the ‘highs and lows’ of Thailand’s crazy capital? Check out: Citified: Bangkok

Need travel advice about Peru’s Inca capital? Check out: Vacation Notes: Cuzco

Have any of your own tips about Bangkok or Cuzco? Leave a comment! =)

Sharpening my travel senses

18 May
Melissa Medeiros To and Fro

Hmmm…. road trip through Vermont? Camping in Algonquin? Hiking the Bruce Trail? Clubbing in Montreal? Eating hotdogs in NYC? Suntanning in Cuba?

You’ve guessed it. I am in the midst of travel planning – once again! Jessie and I have decided to do a little travel dance at the end of June. I haven’t gotten the time off yet, so nothing is set in stone. Actually, we haven’t even decided where we want to go. We are just searching the best travel deals on the web. If all else fails, we are going camping. Go Canada! Continue reading

Don’t rain on my parade

26 Apr

It’s my BIRTHDAY!! I’m sitting in a coffee shop (not the kind in Amsterdam, although that would be a story) and enjoying a delicious Americano while writing this overdue blog. Despite the dull, rainy weather, today is going to be a fantastic day! Last year, I was in Toronto for my birthday a mere week before backpacking Europe with my best friends. I’ve come full circle. My nomadic lifestyle has finally come to an end, for now. Continue reading

I want SUMMER

16 Apr

I want a backpack strapped to me
and a plane ticket in my back pocket.

Running out of time

15 Mar

My last week in South East Asia was jam packed. I tried to fit in as many activities as possible, as I realized we hardly did a thing. To some of you, that may seem absurd. I mean, yes I did loads but in comparison to South America, Stefanie and I pretty much chilled the entire time in Asia.

So, in Luang Prabang, Laos – we visited a waterfall and hiked up a hill. Yes, hiking!! It was a lousy 10 minute hike, but ridiculously steep. I realized how out of shape I am. Then, it was back to Thailand. We had only had a few short days before heading back to Canada.

Stefanie and I met up with Adam, the Canadian and Scott, from Manchester. It’s funny how you see the same people again – we really need to pick a road less traveled next time. We stayed at this dingy, but friendly hostel. We had 4 single beds, all aligned with each other along the one wall. You could roll from one bed to the other in one swift action. We were that close – but thankfully, we’re all friends. Continue reading

Oh La Laos!

4 Mar
Night Market in Vientiane, Laos

night market in Vientiane, Laos

I was ready to say goodbye to Vietnam. We heard such amazing things about Loas and we were to keep moving forward. We headed straight for the capital city – Vientiane. There isn’t so much to do in Vientiane, but we did rent bicycles for the day and found this amazing herbal sauna and spa. We thought we broke in to some Monk village and were not sure if women were allowed to talk to a Monk – but thankfully, two monks approached us and lead us in the right direction. Thanks boys!

For $6, we enjoyed the steamiest, rustic herbal sauna and shared hot green tea with a bunch of local Lao women – including a lady boy. Side note: A lady boy is the term given to cross-dresses in Asia. They are so convincingly feminine! We ended the afternoon with a 60 minute traditional massage. Bliss. I never sweated so much in my life and the massage was backcracking-ly authentic. Continue reading

Travel woes in Halong Bay

2 Mar
Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Wow. Why haven’t I updated since Hanoi, Vietnam? I suppose too many things have happened and we’ve been busy bees – but that’s no excuse. I thought I was making a better habit out of writing these posts…. I failed.

Our Halong Bay tour was a bit of a disaster. Stefanie and I ended up stuck in Hue because the bus to Hanoi was sold out. We only realized this after we had already checked out of the guesthouse and one hour before we thought we would board the bus north. Continue reading

Made to Measure

17 Feb
Biycles in Hoi An, Vietnam

Biycles in Hoi An, Vietnam

I splurged. I couldn’t help myself. Just one more thing!! Ah!

Custom clothing in Vietnam is a treat. Stefanie and I spent the last few days running around the old town of Hoi An going to fittings and stopping for lunch in between. It was tiring, but really fun. When will I ever have the opportunity to choose my fabric, design the style and fit ever again? Why not pick up a few items… or several. There are over 400 tailors in Hoi An – a population of 90,000 people. In other words – fierce competition and cheap prices.

After 3 days, I walked away with a custom cashmere blazer and high waisted skirt with silk lining, a long wool peacoat, two summer dresses, one silk chiffon dress with silk shawl and brown leather riding boots. One minute, I’m trying on the piece and the second it’s whisked away on a motorcycle to have the changes made. “Come back in three hours!” they tell you and the PRESTO! It’s completed. Of course, you may need it altered several times but it’s practically a 24 hour turn around. The price was right too. I bought things made to measure for a third of the price it would cost me in Canada. Continue reading

Good Morning Vietnam!

12 Feb

We are heading north through Vietnam– stopping at cities and towns along the way. Leaving Cambodia was a struggle – as are most in-transit days. Our last day in Cambodia started off just right – beach bumming and working on our tan. We visited Otres Beach, which was much more relaxed than the main beach and only a short motor-taxi ride away. At first, I wasn’t so keen on taking a motorcycle, but now I really enjoy the ride. It’s an authentic way to travel, especially when the driver is balancing your giant backpacking in-between his legs.

Otres Beach, Cambodia near Sihanoukville

Otres Beach, Cambodia

We booked an overnight bus out of Sihanoukville, but had already checked out early in the morning. I was desperate for a shower, so the front desk said I could rinse off using the tap and bucket in the bathroom. I walked into the dingy stall with a squat toilet. I realized that the bucket and tap were used to wash your business down the porcelain hole in the ground. UGH, but what can you do? I washed the bucket with soap and used the fresh water from the tap and ‘showered’. haha! I was first to go and then Stefanie. At least, she was warned and could prepare herself. Continue reading

Cambodia’s Capital and Back to the Beach

2 Feb
Royal Palace and Temples, Cambodia

Royal Palace & Temples, Cambodia

Anyways, the following the day – we took it easy (mentally and physically). It was over 34C in the capital. We visited the Royal Temple, which has a 9,000 diamond encrusted Buddha statue and a Silver tile Pagoda, which was less than impressive. Each tile is made from pure silver and weighs 1kg each, but they covered the entire floor in cheap carpet and had display cases of knick knacks that all looked the same. Why not polish the floor and show it off! Kind of lame. The royal palace and temples in Bangkok were a lot more dramatic and better maintained. Still, the gardens were beautiful and the architecture was very inspiring.

Royal Palace and Temples, Cambodia

Royal Temples, Cambodia

Stefanie’s coworker’s brother lives in PP, so we arranged to have dinner with him and his boyfriend. He’s 65 years old and has been living in Cambodia for 3 years, working as a principal and a teacher. Before Cambodia, he lived in Japan for 28 years teaching at a university. He brought us to this restaurant called Friends, which trains underprivileged youth for careers in the restaurant industry. Stefanie and I arrived early and we were curious to meet his boyfriend. Was he Canadian, American, European, Cambodian, young, old? Well, weren’t we were surprised! Continue reading

Khmer Culture

1 Feb

There are too many posts about beaches, but I can’t help it! Hearing about all the snow in Canada makes me want to hide under my beach umbrella and order another fruit shake!

But don’t worry, I didn’t spend all of my time on the beach. We had a serious culture injection in Phnom Penh. Our first day was a serious one. We hired a tuk tuk and visited the Killing Fields. The Khmer people (Cambodians) have a dark history. From 1975-1979, the Ultra Communist Khmer Rouge Regime was responsible for over 2 million deaths in Cambodia – essentially, a genocide. They envisioned an agrarian society and forced Khmer people into the farmlands to grow rice in harsh conditions. They destroyed education, religious and economic institutions and enslaved the people – including foreigners.

Memorial for Khmer Rouge victims, Cambodia

Memorial for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia

The Killing Fields was just one of the many areas across the country where the Khmer Rouge executed the population. Over 129 mass graves were discovered and thousands were murdered in this field – including children and babies. In fact, there is a rumored ‘baby killing tree’ next to one mass grave, where the Khmer Rouge would smash babies and then throw them into pits. My stomach turns even as I type. They believed that if they didn’t kill the babies, one day the children would seek revenge. The Khmer Rouge did not want to waste money using bullets, so everyone was murdered by bludgeoning, stab wound or forced object to the head – using pitchforks, hoes, etc. Unthinkable. Continue reading

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