The Adventures of D — A Retrospect

Oh, my little blog. It’s been around since before I decided to take my career break and travel. It’s been around since I one sleepless October night in Atlanta when, around midnight, the words to the start of my story I wanted to share just popped into my head. Then, I was up. Out of bed. Laptop open. WordPress blog created.

And the rest is history.

Now, nearly two years later, I certainly have shared. At times, I’ve shared too much. At times, I haven’t shared enough.

Regardless, this ride has been the highlight of my life, taking me through moments, through happy, through sad, that have left me wanting more … and ready to start the next chapter in “The Adventures of D.”

So, when Jason from Jason’s Travels, asked if he could nominate me for this fun little project, My 7 Links, put on by Trip Base, of course I said “yes.” I mean … I get to relive some of my favorite posts!

Without further adieu, My 7 Links:

The Most Beautiful Post:

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

It’s not a beautiful photo essay. But it is an example of the beauty and generosity that still exists in this world. It is also one of the many reasons I fell in love with Croatia.

The Most Popular Post:

How to barter like a pro

I spent a good amount of time in Turkey during my trip, where negotiating is a part of the package. It constantly awed me that people could go in to a restaurant and negotiate the cost of their meal. While that wasn’t for me so much, it was fun to go back and forth with the shopkeepers at the Grand Bazaar and elsewhere.

The Most Controversial Post:

My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

It wasn’t controversial in the sense it started a heated debate, but to my family and friends, this post was controversial because I was throwing away a comfortable life for the unknown. I was … LIVING instead of deciding to just go through the motions.

The Most Helpful Post:

Airport Sleeping 101

Oh, the beauty of backpacking and being on a budget. There were a few times when I had stop-overs that, while they were 12 or so hours, were overnight. Rather then haul my 40 kilo backpack and my tired self to a hostel in the city, I opted to just crash out on the floor … or a bench … in the airport. This post gives tips on how to make the best of airport sleeping.

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me:

Dude, don’t be a Hostel Dick

Yes, it’s meant to be funny. I just didn’t realize this post with these tips would be one of my most popular posts of all time. In all seriousness though, every backpacker who stays in hostels should read this.

The Post That Didn’t Get the Attention I Feel it Deserved:

The Best of … Madrid

It’s got some pretty good tips in the post and in the comments for anyone headed to Madrid.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of:

Love, Life and Loss … on the Road

By far, this was the hardest post I have ever written. It took every ounce of me to pull myself together to write this.

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And now comes the fun part. Here are the five bloggers I want to do this on their site, too. These folks are some of the best out there! Be sure to check their sites for the My 7 Links project soon!

Adam from The Travels of Adam

Anna from Frill Seeker Diary

Candice from Candice Does the World

Lindsay AKA Hogga from The Traveller

Margo from The Travel Belles

30 Life Crisis Africa Americas Blog Croatia Morocco Rwanda Spain Travel Travel Tips Turkey

How to have a Travel Adventure without Adventure Travel

 

 

Adventure. It’s a pretty hefty word with a lot behind it.

To me, adventure is more than just jumping out of airplanes … more than climbing a mountain. I’m so not that girl. In my world adventure is about taking risks. Going off my beaten path to experience something new.

As a traveler, each day is an adventure. Whether it is getting off a bus before check-in time at a hostel and trying to find something to do, or kayaking in the Mediterranean.

I tried to be adventurous each day on my trip. And, unlike the time I fell off the cliff while embracing adventure/sports, I normally was met with pretty great results.

So, how can someone have an adventure without raising your pulse?

Well …

1. Don’t plan. Well, plan a little. But, don’t feel the need to always stick to the plan. There were plenty of times when I would wake up in the morning and decide I wanted a different view, so would ask around to other people in the hostel, find out where they were going/coming from, and then make a game-time decision as to where  I would go later that day. To ensure I wasn’t bed-less for the night, I would book a room, but that’s it.

Really, I’m a Planner

2. Book a hostel, not a hotel. Hostels are much more social than hotels. At hostels, you are much more likely to meet like-minded people who want to check out A, B or C. Some of my closest friends today have come from hostels. Just be sure you follow hostel protocol during your stay. Nothing sucks worse than being That Guy/Girl at a hostel.

Dude, don’t be a hostel dick

3. Try the local cuisine. I didn’t really venture anywhere with cuisine that was too out of my comfort zone, but I can assure you eating bugs AND snake are both on my list when I hit Asia this year.

Para morirse — food to die for in Valencia

4. Get lost. Within reason. Pop on some good music, grab the camera and wander. Take note — don’t be ignorant about wandering. Find out the safe places to go before you leave your room. Ladies, keep your purses under your arms. And don’t broadcast your riches.

Being Jewish in the Krakow Jewish District

5. Hit the local markets. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of fresh fruits, veggies, flowers and crafts. Super easy. And, most times you can actually purchase items at these markets without spending a lot of money.

6. Rent an apartment for a little. If you want to spend more than a night or two in a city, rent an apartment. All over the world, there are apartments to rent for a few nights to months or longer. When I traveled, I rented a gorgeous little place on the Adriatic for a few nights with some friends. It was amazing.

Living in Technicolor

7. Talk to the locals. Nothing can make an experience in a foreign place better than having a local’s insight. The more locals you meet, the more opportunities you have to really get the flavor of a place.

A week of Spanish

8. Volunteer. There are plenty of options for short-term volunteer work all over the world. Plus, volunteering opens you up to meet other travelers and locals. And, its totally good karma.

The only English-speaking town in Spain

9. Take a class. Learn how to make sushi or prepare Thai dishes. Or do a language exchange.

10. Rent a car. This may be a little bit risky, but it lets you travel places you might not normally see.

Steering wheel death grips and driving in Romania

11. Go camping. Get a cheap tent and fork out the few bucks to camp instead of stay at a hostel.

12. Use a squat toilet. Seriously. You haven’t lived until you use one.

13. Go to a nudie beach. Or a topless beach. If necessary, grab some tall boys before hitting the surf. Just make sure you do it. And use sunscreen to prevent burning of the bits.

To be or not to be … topless

14. Find a festival or event that sounds good and go. Like La Tomatina in Spain, or Exit Festival in Serbia. Or Fringe in Scotland. This would require a little planning, but still. Go.

15. Don’t book a return ticket. Until you have to.

What do you think makes for a travel adventure?

This post was sponsored by InsureandGo Travel Insurance.

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Dude Don't Be A Hostel Dick | The Ultimate Guide to the Dos and Dont's of Hostel Life via www.dtravelsround.com

Dude, Don’t be a Hostel Dick

Dude Don't Be A Hostel Dick | The Ultimate Guide to the Dos and Dont's of Hostel Life via www.dtravelsround.com

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: via Grumbler

I’ve spent more than 200 nights in hostels. The good hostels. The bad hostels. The awesome hostels. If you are planning to stay in a hostel, or sometimes get confused about hostel etiquette, the following post is for you. Consider this your do’s and don’ts should you decide to be a roommate.

The Check-In

1. Smile. Even if you have just had the most hellish time finding the place, a smile will go along way at reception.

2. Be nice. No one wants to see you throw a tantrum because you have to pay for sheets. Or because the Internet is down. (Well, you can get a little cranky on that one.)

Your Room

1. Don’t let your backpack throw up all over the room. If you need to take stuff out, take it out, but don’t have things sprawled everywhere. Unless you don’t mind it getting stepped on. Or lost. Many hostels have limited floor space, and you’re not the only one in the room who needs to unpack a little bit.

2. If you are on the bottom bunk and want some privacy, hang your towel down from the bed above you.

3. Nowadays, it is hard not to stay connected. However, many hostels seem to only have one or two power sources per room. Don’t hog all of them. And, if your stuff is finished charging, kindly unplug it so others can use the outlets.

4. Bring a lock. A good lock.

5. Lock up your stuff. Seriously. If there aren’t  lockers, still lock your bag. Especially if you are leaving anything of value.

6. If you are leaving early in the morning, pack the night before. No one wants to get woken up by your inconsiderate zipping and unzipping and rustling of plastic bags. No one can get it all done the night before, but keeping the noise down to a minimum and only having to pack a little is one of the most considerate things you can do for other travelers.

7. If you think you may be in late, do everyone else in the room a favor and get the stuff out of your bag that you need for the  night before you head out.

8. When you get in late at night, try not to turn on the light. Use a flashlight, or your phone, or your iPod, or whatever. If you have to turn the light in, do it quickly, and then turn it off. Don’t leave it on while you go to the bathroom/kitchen/etc.

9. When you get in late at night, hush. No one wants to hear recaps of the night in your normal voice. Or a whisper. Go outside of the room to talk. And, remember: whispers are loud when there’s no other noise in the room.

10. Don’t get it on in the dorm room. No one wants to hear moans and fluids and such. Well, at least most people don’t. If you want to hook-up, go somewhere else. Like the common room. Or outside.

11. If other people are sleeping in the morning, don’t be loud.

12. If it is after lunch and people are still sleeping, it’s OK to go about your business in the room … and not worry too much about needing to do whatever it is you need to do. Chances are the people who are still sleeping are the ones who woke you up at 4 a.m. when they stumbled in, turned on the light and chattted drunkenly.

The Kitchen

1. Buy your own food. And lable it with the dates you are going to be staying at the hostel. If you see someone else’s food, don’t take it. It’s not yours. Backpacker karma exists.

2. Clean up. This is a group environment. No one wants to wash your egg-covered pans or the sauce remnants from the pasta you cooked last night. Wash. Dry. Wipe down. Got it?

3. If the hostel provides meals or snacks, enjoy them. But don’t go nuts. You aren’t the only person who wants to enjoy the chocolate cereal or hardboiled eggs. Just because its complimentary doesn’t give you permission to take it all.

4. If you’ve made extra food and aren’t going to save it, offer it to another backpacker or the staff. Don’t waste.

The Common Room

1. Backpackers are a friendly bunch. If there is a solo packer in the common room and you are there, start up a friendly little conversation. You never know, that person could turn out to be a great friend.

2. Don’t hog the TV/DVD/stereo. Ask around if there are other people in the room. Don’t assume someone wants to watch/listen to the same thing you do.

3. Clean up after you’re done. Just like in the kitchen.

Want more hostel rules? Check out Michael Hodson’s Hostel and Dorm Rules. Ah, great minds think alike.

Got more tips? Add ’em below.

Travel Tips

How to be a superfly hostel (The List)

Hostels — love them or hate them — most backpackers have to stay in them.

What makes a superfly hostel, D?

I’m glad you asked.

1. 24 hour reception for people who take the night train and arrive early in the morning … or late at night.

There is nothing worse than arriving to your hostel and finding you can’t even get in the front door until 9 or 10 a.m. That makes 4 a.m. arrivals miserable. And, there is nothing comfortable about sleeping on a front step of a hostel in a new city. For me, a hostel that doesn’t offer 24-hour reception is a deal-breaker. I am fine if I can’t get a bed right away, but at least let me in off the street so I can put my bag down and close my eyes in a safe environment.

2. Common rooms.

Meeting people isn’t too difficult in a hostel, especially if you are sleeping in a dorm … that just breeds conversation. But, a key factor for those not in a dorm, or just not ridiculously chatty is the common room. Most hostels have them. The good ones have them placed strategically near reception allowing new arrivals to peek their heads in and survey the guests. The great hostels not only have centrally located common rooms, but have them stocked with couches, tables, chairs, a TV, speakers, etc. to facilitate a friendly, interactive environment.

3. Kitchen.

Backpackers have a budget (afterall, money spent on beer is a much better investment than on food, right??) so a kitchen is a necessity. Hostel kitchens have the staples — pots, pans, microwaves, stoves, utensils. The really good kitchens will even have salt, pepper and oil (bring your own olive oil, it’s too pricey to give away at most hostels). Hostels with big kitchens score more points for me. Even more points go to hostels with a table in it big enough for more than two people to sit and enjoy their food. And, a note to you backpackers — don’t steal food. It’s bad karma and a travel no-no. Buy your own, cook your own and when you leave, if you have leftovers you can’t take with you, mark it as “communal” so others can enjoy. I repeat — DO NOT STEAL (MY) FOOD.

4. Lounge for parties.

Aside from the common room, there needs to be a room for travelers to enjoy new friends and old in a place that won’t keep the entire hostel up until the wee hours of the morning. I like rooms like this in the basement. Even if a group is loud, it isn’t as bad as having it in an area where you can hear every word while trying to sleep.

5. BBQ for impromptu cook outs.

Cooking pasta day in and day out gets old. When you’ve got a group, a great, tasty and economical option for chowing down is the barbie. In Hvar, the BBQ was perfect — overlooking the Adriatic. Not every hostel has the killer views Green Lizard had, but a BBQ adds a different social element to the mix — cooking and drinking beers and enjoying the outdoors with friends, simultaneously.

6. Free wifi.

Staying in touch (and writing blog posts) is important so if a hostel doesn’t have wifi, it means having to haul your computer to a cafe, or wait for hours for the lone hostel computer to open up. So, free wifi is a must. Bonus points if the wifi is accessible throughout the hostel, it lends to more private Skype conversations and peaceful writing.

7. Free brekkie.

Again, budget-conscious travelers need some incentive to stay at a hostel. Free breakfast, even if it is just toast and jam, or cereal and coffee/tea can help keep the wallet fatter. Hostels, take note: not many of you offer fruit, and damn it, I would LOVE me a banana or orange. Or a hard-boiled egg.

8. Free drinks.

Even if it is only one drink when you check-in, free drinks are great to spark up an evening in the hostel, encourage people to interact and a nice way of saying “thank you for your business.” Bars are good to have, too. Activities, such as quizzes or games, also adds nicely to the mix.

9. Tours.

It is a hassle to book tours. Hostels that offer low-cost tours (or just tours in general) score more points with me. Traveling isn’t always easy, so if a hostel has something already on the books and all you need to do is sign-up, then I’m in.

10. Laundry.

Free laundry is even better, but I will settle for cheap laundry service any day. It beats having to haul clothes to the laundromat or re-wear stuff that has no business being worn again.

11. Friendly staff.

Staff can make or break a hostel. The friendlier and more helpful the staff is, the better. Not being fluent in many languages makes it difficult to phone a car hire service or book a stay at another hostel. Staff that can help do this make a world of difference.

12. Deals.

I am partial to the offer of staying extra nights at a discount or for free. In Brasov, I didn’t need to stay five nights, but the fifth was free, which was cheaper than leaving, so why not?

13. Location.

Please, don’t tell me to take one metro, one bus and five trams to get to your hostel. I won’t. Location is key — the closer to the center of town and public transportation, the better. As a rule, if it takes me more than 15 minutes to get to where the action is, I won’t stay there. Unless I want peace and quiet, but that’s a different story.

Special thanks to Kismet Dao Hostel in Brasov, Romania to having every one of these things.

Related note: For more on hostels, head over to Michael Hodon’s site, GoSeeWrite, and read his tips for hostel owners.

What else makes a hostel superfly? Share your comments below!

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What I learned in Croatia (The List)

1. If you want Zagreb’s Upper Town to yourself for wandering, it is deserted at 2 a.m. There is nothing more magical than having the city in your hands to breathe in. Even if nothing is open, to walk on the old streets, to see the gothic buildings, it is an amazing experience. Bonus points if you have someone with you to share the moment. And even more bonus points if the person is a cutie. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

2. For a trip back in time and an eerily beautiful moment of peace, wander around Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s grounds. It is quiet — a great place to do some writing, thinking, or relaxing.  The unconventional tourist.

3. Plitvice Lakes National Park is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The bluegreen water, the waterfalls that lightly mist you as you walk by, the winding wooden paths — every turn is something new and more beautiful than the next. It’s about two hours from Zadar and Zagreb and a great day trip. Should you want to stay longer, there are a few hotels in the park. The prettiest day trip ever.

4. Don’t get lost. Or take the wrong bus. And, if you do, hope for the bus driver I had in Zadar. Quite possibly one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Remember — if you’re not sure what bus to take, or if the gate number is the seat number of vice-versa, ask. Croatian’s are remarkably wonderful and helpful. English isn’t a common in Croatia, but the closer you are to the tourist areas, the better chance you have. If someone doesn’t speak English, they will help direct you the best they can. I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.

5. Take the time to stop in Zadar. If you are time crunched while traveling Croatia, it is a great starting point to kick of Adriatic coastal adventures.  There are a lot of ferries from the city, as well as tours of the surrounding islands. While visiting the old city, be sure to head to the water and swing by the Sea Organ. It’s haunting melodies still play in my mind. Plus, the grilled corn is delicious. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

6. Spend at least two days in Split. Climb to the top of the cathedral in the old city for captivating views of the entire city and Adriatic. Every nook and cranny in the main square has something wonderful. Next to the Lacoste shop is a great little food stop with delicious breakfasts cooked fresh while you wait. The egg sandwich is mouth-watering. This could be heaven.

7. While in Split, make sure you hit the beach. The one with the sand. It’s outside the old city and perfect for swimming, sunning and people watching. Plus,  if you have the right company, it will change your life. Instantaneous enlightenment on the Adriatic.

8. If you want to bare it all in Croatia, you can. There are plenty of nudie beaches up and down the coast to run around sans your skivvies. Just  mind where you jump. Birthday suits and Split.

9. An hour ferry trip from Split is Hvar, an upscale island covered in lavender. Hvar’s beaches are rocky and pebble-y. It’s not too bad, but if you want smooth sand, venture to a surrounding island. Renting a little motor boat won’t cost too much, and you can negotiate. Rocky, rocky, pebble-y, pebble-y.

10. A bathroom can lead to another bathroom. And, it is possible to shimmy from one bathing suit into another without revealing anything. Well, almost. Booze, boobs and a beach bar.

11. The sea is not free of dangers. Those little black spiky things in the water? They are not your friends. In fact, Sea Urchin are the devil. No, seriously. There’s WHAT in the water?

12. Never say “goodbye” to the travelers you meet. You never know, you may just cross paths with them again. It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see you soon.”

13. The bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik is a MUST. Yes, you hug the cliffs, but you also see some of the most stunning sights on the Adriatic. The city of stairs.

14. Dubrovnik is a city of stairs. Be prepared. The city of stairs.

15. Opening yourself to new people, new places and new opportunities can change your entire world. A BRIEF intermission: My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

Do you have questions about Croatia? Tips you want to share? Be sure to leave a comment.

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