Review: eBags Slim Packing Cubes

For a while that I’ve been doing reviews of how I pack my luggage when I travel, and recently I wrote an article about my trip to Australia where I used for the first time this amazing thing that are the eBags Slim Packing Cubes.

First impact

Review: eBags Slim Packing Cubes
Review: eBags Slim Packing Cubes

When I received the first three cubes, the first thing I thought was that I threw money away for no reason. They are way smaller than I thought they are, and I thought they would be pretty useless considering their size. When I got home I decided to try them, so i folded a few t-shirts to see how many I could fit inside each cube…, I was really surprised that they have way more space than they look like, I managed to pack 5 t-shirts inside a single cube! Really compact, and without reshaping it into a cylinder either, almost perfect parallelepiped.

Packing

What better way to test these cubes other than jumping from hostel to hostel for the period of two months? I think I already traveled a bit, and one of the things that annoyed me the most was really to keep my bag organized so that I wouldn’t have too much wasted space. During those two months those cubes proved how a great investment they were, I never had to care much about packing or keeping my bag organized, because the cubes would do it for me, all my clothes were folded all the time and always organized. I needed underwear? I just had to take the cube where I had my underwear, and if that cube was under another one? No problem, I just had to move the upper one without messing with the tidiness of my bag. Simply amazing, sometimes I even threw the cubes to my bed so that I could choose what to wear, and in seconds everything was inside again, compacted and organized!

Different ways to use them

Using these cubes to keep your clothes organized is probably the best way to use them, however I also used them to keep my camera cables, accessories and computer cable together inside the same cube, so to avoid losing any of them. In this case, being compact isn’t the advantage as you can’t compact something that is solid, but it is a great way to keep things organized. Way easier to find that USB cable that you need for the GoPro, and less chances to lose it as well. We just need to make sure we won’t put things in different places and everything will be ok.

Backpack with eBags
Backpack with eBags

I also used another cube for the toiletries, and again, being compact isn’t an advantage here either. Though, it is perfect to take all your shower products with you at once and always having them together. The cubes have a small handle to carry them individually in a more easy way.

Details about the cubes

  • These in specific, are longer, which means they aren’t real square cubes but parallelepiped.
  • They have two zips so that you can close it from both sides.
  • One of the corners has a net, so that you can peak inside without opening the cube and know what’s inside.
  • They are washable, but not impermeable (don’t forget about the net).
  • They have different colors, perfect keep your bag organized (I have 3 blue and 3 black ones)
  • They have a small handle from the side.
Content that fit in 6 eBags
Content that fit in 6 eBags

Opinion

Basically, the first impact was a bit scary, but it became love at second sight! These cubes are more useful to keep your things organized rather than compacted. No vacuum compaction, nor any other kind of compaction technology. The goal of these cubes is to make your life easier to pack and unpack your bag, faster way to pack everything inside with less chances of leaving things behind, having everything in the same place even if you chance the position of your cubes.

I tried several different ways how to place them inside my bag, some ways worked better than others, but that also depends on your bag’s format. I also noticed that having lose items inside the bag affects greatly the way you should place your cubes inside. But in overall I never had any issue with packing, I don’t think I could have a better opinion about this travel accessory.

What did I pack for Australia?

Now that I am back, it’s time to review how well I packed for Australia. Did I overpacked? Or did I packed a bit way too light? After all, it was two months in Australia, always jumping from hostel to hostel, camping, sailing and a few more adventures. Before boarding to such an aventure, of course I had to think how to pack, in a way that I wouldn’t carry my house on my back, but also not having to buy clothes while there just because I overlooked some detail. It’s all part of the big plan!

 

Gadgets

Well, this list is simply massive. Looking at the following list, it gets clear how I prioritize my packing for this trip… And the thing is, from the list above, I used every single thing! The only thing I didn’t use that often and I kinda of regret to pack was the chest mount for the GoPro. I only used it once, and I didn’t find it that practical, and oddly the selfie stick was the accessory I used the most (even though, I still think it is a stupid accessory, when used solely for selfies…).

Regarding memory cards, I ended up using them all, and the external hard drive was as a safety mesure, to have always a backup of all my photos. Thankfully I didn’t get robbed, but I had quite some peace of mind knowing I had three copies of everything, on my mac, on the external hard drive and the memory cards. (I’ll write an article about this later).

The mobile phones…, I bet some will find this odd, why having two phones? Since I went on a longer trip, I decided to take three debit/credit cards with me of two different bank accounts, and I was quite afraid of having one of my cards cloned, hence the two phones, one with my Irish number always on, and the other one with the new Australian number, that I used for local calls.

And the Pebble…, well…, at some point it stopped to work…, but that’s a totally different story…

Clothing and hygiene (and extras)

From this list, there are only two things that I never used. The wool jumper, that I took with me thinking that I could need to use it in case I wanted to go out at night, however, something I didn’t know, the bars and pubs in Australia are quite easy going, as long as one isn’t bare chest, and not using flip flops nor bare foot, it’s all fine. And the scarf, I knew that I would get the Autumn time in Melbourne before I came back to Europe, though the temperatures were never that low (and I’m glad for that!).

A mala que levei para a Austrália
The backpack I used in Australia

And the pillow case? Well, it might seem strange, but I gave it in a totally different use that it would be expected. In previous trips I used plastic bags for dirty laundry, the problem with this is that the dirty clothes start to smell a lot, and if mixed with humid clothes, then it’s a disaster! The reason for this is that plastic bags don’t let any air out, nor in. However, with the pillow case, the dirty clothes don’t stink, the wet clothes don’t get a rotten moldy smell…, and the best part is that you can wash the pillow case with the rest of your laundry, which means, you’ll reuse your “dirty laundry bag” and have it clean again! In two months traveling around I doubt one plastic bag would suffice, so this option besides being cheaper and more hygienic, it’s also environmentally friendly 🙂

During two months I met and crossed with a lot of people, and obviously, I also saw a lot of luggage bags. I am proud to say that I never encountered with anyone with less luggage than I! I felt really proud for this, I never felt overpacked, and I never had to use the same clothes twice without having them washed first. However, of course, I had to wash it every 6 days and I had to plan the “washing” according to my adventures too.

What did I buy along the way

Why did I buy some of these things instead of taking them with me? Nail clipper and hygiene products, since I didn’t dispatch any luggage to Australia, only carry-in luggage, I had to leave a few things behind, like liquids and the nail clipper (which we can’t take in the carry-in luggage). And yes, my luggage was that light that I managed to take everything with me!

Regarding the beach towel, that was simply because someone stole my travel towel (or took it by mistake) and I had to buy another one. The sun glasses, I lost the ones I had, and I had to buy new ones…

And the memory cards, I had a few problems with my GoPro, and the technical support told me that the issue was due compatibility between the card and the GoPro. Nope, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was with the cable, I was using a 3rd party cable…, and well, I ended up spending unnecessary money that could be avoided if they knew how to help me properly…

The travel pillows. Well, this was simply an opportunity I got, I found that modular pillow and since it was on sale I decided to take it. It was a great idea, since the other travel pillow was a bit too uncomfortable, I actually slept worse with it than without any pillow…

The bags…, the thermic bag, I guess the reason is obvious, I was jumping from place to place, and trying to save money by cooking meals, so it was handy to have something to keep my food fresh between cities. The other bag? To go on a sailing boat we can’t take any zips! Nothing at all! The reason is that the bed bugs love to hide inside the zips, I have no idea how, and in boats that’s a big problem, so they simply decided to forbid any bags with zips.

So basically I managed to organize myself really well for a long trip, packing really light, and still, I even listed two things that I never used! What can we learn from this? There is always something we can take from our bags, there is always something we won’t need.

For short trips, this isn’t a problem, for a few days if we don’t use everything it also doesn’t hurt to carry the bags. But for 1+ months trip, the weight becomes a problem, and it gets really annoying to pack between cities, and it also gets easier to lose things. The travel luggage is that thing where we have what we need without being a burden, and after a few weeks, trust me, you’ll hate your bag if you have to carry and pack too much…


Note: These are affiliated links, which could help as a tiny source of income to help to keep the blog.

 

Reviewing the hostels and B&B where I’ve stayed in Scotland

Once upon a time I used to surf couches, but now it seems like just another fairy tale… I still love the concept though, but nowadays I am more into hostels. Those times when I was hooked to couchsurfing, the main reason was the experience and contact I had with the hosts, never for the fact that was for free. However, my last experiences were way too impersonal, even as a host. Nowadays I prefer to pay, and take my chances, I might or might not meet people who I get along with, and to add to that, there is also less responsibilities, as I am not staying at someone’s house.

On what this trip regards, since we were two, the options were totally opened, for both B&Bs and hostels in Scotland, and initially, due to our lack of experience searching for a place to crash for more than one person, we ended up not finding the best options. But everything is a lesson.

Continue reading “Reviewing the hostels and B&B where I’ve stayed in Scotland”

Pessegueiro Island, Portugal

This is a new series I decided to create, where I’ll present a few photos I took a while ago. Some more recent, some that I found deep inside my chest box while I checked old photo albums.

To start this new series, nothing better than my own country, that has so much to see! By the end of that road you can see an island, Pessegueiro Island, at the Alentejo’s coast. I took this photo in 2012 on my way to Algarve, by the coast, with my parents, nephew and niece. By then I was already living abroad, each time I go back to Portugal I look at my country from a different perspective, with more pride.

Ilha do Pessegueiro, Portugal
Pessegueiro Island, Portugal

This place, besides it’s natural beauty, it is also part of my childhood’s memories where I spent some short holidays several years ago, with my parents. I don’t remember much in detail, but I remember what I felt. When I wrote the article 5 places in Portugal I recommend to visit, I had this place in mind, and I’ll repeat what I said, this region should really be on your bucket list!

And before ending this article, here’s a song (in Portuguese) mentioning this island, which I listened to while I was writing this article 🙂

7 Instagramers you should follow to increase your Wanderlust!

First of all, what’s Wanderlust?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries,

A strong desire to travel:a man consumed by wanderlust

According to me? It’s a bug, and once it bites you, you’re done! The poison can be painful, it can even make you depress, it can make you do unthinkable things. Unlike any other bug.

Yes, it doesn’t look like a good thing to mess with… But there is a very efficient treatment. It won’t cure you though, but it will ease the pain and definitely will help you with your wander-depression. You. Must. Travel.

It feels like a drug, and I think I am hooked to it! I dream about my next destination every single day. I get anxious when I don’t have any flight booked or any road trip planned. I really do! I swear! It’s that feeling like you must go somewhere else, and it doesn’t matter if it is that über-amazing place that everyone heard about, or if it is that little town in the middle of Siberia where you’ll have to find a way to communicate without words, like Zoe does. It’s all about experiences, new places and mostly also the new people we meet.

Another way to ease your wanderlust, it is by increasing it. It doesn’t sound right, does it? Well, I look at it as an exercise, to see other places through someone else’s eyes. Getting to “visit” amazing places that I never heard about before, or to see (again) those places I really want to visit one day but I never got the time, or the money, to visit. And with that in mind, I decided to share with you 7 instagram accounts that will make you want to wander! That will feed your wander-bug and ease your pain 🙂

Zoe

from the MOVING OUT OF MUM AND DAD’S blog

“Zoe” must mean travel in some language out there, because she is all about it! She got infected by the wanderlust bug quite young, her family and her used to go abroad at least once a year on holidays, which then became twice a year…, and three times a year… And now she is totally hooked to travel! She describes herself as a slow traveller, she lives and works in one place for 4-8 months which gives her the chance to explore the areas around it in depth. Her quest actually is to make long travel a reality through teaching, and her priorities are alined to live this reality. She is now living in snowy Siberia and you definitely should follow her Instagram account, her adventures won’t stop any time soon 🙂

“I think the bug’s always been there but with more experiences comes more knowledge, and with more knowledge comes more bucket list items to chase!” by Zoe

 

Tiffany

from A Girl and Her Passport blog

Tiffany isn’t a tourist, she is a real traveller. Her quest is to discover the culture of a location through history, art, people and food using her stories and photography. She wants to live and feel the place she is visiting, or right now, where she lives. She got the wanderlust bug when she was a baby, her grandparents and parents used to take her and her sister on road trips in the US, but her desire to live abroad only came up when she was living in the Turks and Caicos Islands (I’m so jealous of her…). And now, she is an expat living in Qatar and you can follow her adventures through her blog and Instagram. And speaking on adventures, her next trip will be to Egypt and it will be soon! If you are not following her, you definitely should do it now!

“In a nutshell, I knew I could see the world and work by living abroad.” by Tiffany

 

Carmelisse

from Here & Air blog

Where will you find Carmelisse next? You can ask her, but she won’t know it either! She just knows she wants to be everywhere! She got the bug about a year ago, and now she considers herself as an impulsive traveler. She wants to encourage people to live a better lifestyle, being the best version of themselves, and traveling for sure will help her with this quest.

just me and my trusty $3 hawaiian sandals. ? #gottaloveem #burntUP

Uma foto publicada por here & air? (@carmelisse) a

“I try to capture the beauty in the simple things in life during my travels in hopes to inspire people to explore more.” by Carmelisse

David & Angela (Dang)

from Dang Travelers blog

David and Angela, the Dang Travelers, love the outdoors and nature, but they spend time exploring big cities as well. They have many exciting short trips planned for the spring and are looking forward to their epic 11 week road trip in the summer. They will be visiting 11 National Parks across nine states and one Canadian territory. If this isn’t a good reason enough to follow them, I don’t know what would be then!
“We’ve both been obsessed with travel since a young age. We are slowly working towards long-term slow travel.” by David and Angela

Kristen

from I’m Not A Tourist, I Swear! blog

She swears she’s not a tourist, and that’s the way she writes too. If you’re curious about other cultures, you want to know about a place from a different perspective, so her blog is the right one to follow. She is currently living in New York City, but soon she’s going on an adventure to Miami and then Guatemala, where she’ll be climbing a  14,000ft volcano!!! You definitely should also follow her instagram, I bet it will be amazing! And if that wasn’t enough, wait until April when she’ll be heading to the Middle East for the first time, to visit Dubai and Oman. Kristen will have a great year, and all to be shared on her instagram page 🙂

“I left the country for the first time when I was 19 and headed to Italy where I studied abroad. It opened my eyes to the world and I haven’t stopped traveling since!” by Kristen

 

Stevie

from Stevie on the Move blog

“I wish I had the money to travel like you”. – Stevie is the proof that this isn’t true.He travels with hardly any money, he hitchhikes from place to place and gets food by dumpster diving. He says that the reward is not only to see those amazing places that he shares on his Instagram account, but also to experience the kindness and heartwarming encounters from all of those places he passes by. He has been traveling since always, but for the last two years he has been doing it nonstop and soon he will embark on an epic big trip, he called “Cape2Cape”. Currently volunteering and living on a husky farm in Arctic Norway, he will hitchhike from the North Cape to Cape Town in South Africa, so here’s another great reason to follow him on Instagram!

“I want to inspire people to get out of their comfort zone of their ordinary life and to go for their dreams and start doing what makes them truly happy.” by Stevie

 

Heather and Matt

from Travelationship blog

Heather and Matt met a few years ago on Valentine’s day at a pub, soon they realized they both were planning big trips, and that’s how two travelers get together! They are currently traveling the world for two years, and they hope to travel to several countries in 6 of the 7 continents, or if they win the lottery, also Antartica! They are currently in Malaysia and soon they’ll head to Sri Lanka, where I bet they’ll post amazing photos on Instagram 🙂

“I was bitten by the wanderlust bug early in life. I remember watching National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau documentaries and wanting to go to every place they showed.” by Heather

And for last, and extra account to follow…

My own Instagram account 🙂 I haven’t been much present on Instagram, but soon I’ll be embarking on an epic (or so I hope) two months trip to Australia! So if you are not following me there yet, I would really appreciate if you did so 🙂

5 Epic Railway Routes in Europe

Some of the most famous railway routes cross entire continents, and for the majority of us time to enjoy properly such an epic trip isn’t easy to have. It isn’t easy to take a full month for holidays, and even though one only needs 7 days to cross Siberia, to enjoy it properly it’s better to take a few stops, and for that 7 days isn’t enough… We need time, always time.

A few years ago I made a dream come true, an Euro-interrail (article in Portuguese). It was my first solo trip which took 10 days on a trip from Germany to Portugal, it was a dream that ended up becoming a reality by chance. The return tickets to Portugal by airplane were way too expensive, much more than 10 days by train through Europe. The decision was easy to make.

This is my first infography (original in Portuguese), with a few suggestions of small train trips in Europe, and obviously with one route in my gorgeous country, Portugal

Europe - Railway Trips
Europe – Railway Trips

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Look Left Stats, an in Depth Review of 2015

First day of 2016, is it there any better way for a Back to the Past edition than reviewing the whole past year? This article is the follow up of the last article regarding the 2015’s goals and the new goals for 2016, where I’ll analyze the stats, blog progress and all the background work that I have been doing to make this blog survive another year.

Articles published in 2015

Having in mind that I should focus on my followers, I decided to install a plug-in to split the articles by language, Portuguese and English, feeding the RSS aggregators with content directed to those that only read in English or Portuguese. All of the articles published in English during 2015, with one exception, are all translations of articles that were previously published in Portuguese.

In average, I published 4 articles a month, February was the article with less published articles, only two went public, and November the one with more, 7 published. It doesn’t make much sense to list all the articles here, therefore I’ll highlight just a few of my favorite ones.

The Wild Atlantic Way

Even though it’s a short article, it is one of my favorites just because it’s all about one road route I love. It’s a route I intend to explore in depth, and to write a few more articles related to it. There is so much to explore in Ireland and a lot of it can be visited while traveling through this route, one will get to visit some of Ireland’s most iconic places following the Wild Atlantic Way.

5 not-so-known places in Portugal you should visit one day!

This was the first list-article I wrote, I was a bit annoyed by of what people think of Portugal so I decided to write my own list of places that are well-known (or maybe not) by locals, but easily overlooked by those who visit Portugal. Since I had so many places to add to this list, I decided to choose only those that mean something to me. Since I would have to filter the list anyway, the best criteria is being absolutely parcial and write based on my own memories. With so much to see, a list of places is just another list, therefore I decided to make it personal.

My “Not To Forget” List

I wrote this article after talking with a few friends and realizing that each person has its own method, some too organized, while some just throw all their stuff inside the bag. After each trip I do a review of how my “packing” went, and I noticed that there are a few things that I always have to have ready to be packed, almost a “Not To Forget List”.

I wrote more articles that I like, obviously, but these three were the ones that I had more fun writing. It wasn’t just reporting an experience, but they required research and talk with several people so that I could gather some facts. Those articles aren’t (yet) my most popular ones, but without any doubt they are part of a never-ending learning process. One of the things I refuse to do, is writing an article with stats in mind. Of course it is nice to see an article becoming viral (it didn’t happen yet), or to see that my articles reach a lot of people, but my main goal is to write because I like and to those that want to read it. Quality first.

However, and as I noticed in the past (article in Portuguese), it’s also important to look at stats. But more important than that, it is to ask for opinions (thank you all who gave me any kind of feedback).

Hanging clothes in #Kotor #Montenegro #OldTown #KotorOldTown

Uma foto publicada por Gil Sousa (@gfpsousa) a

Blog’s stats

Totalizing 52 published articles, written in 2 languages, I published more than the double comparing to 2014. Looking at this stats is quite rewarding, realizing that goals were overachieved. Regarding views, I had a non-defined goal of having more views per month than last December, which was achieved as well! In another words, an excelente year 🙂

Social Networks’ stats

Right now I am managing my social networks in two very different ways, in real time and/or with automatization. As one would expect, the social networks where I invest more time are the ones that bring more visitors to the blog, the other ones don’t send me much traffic and I only keep them for a few other reasons, or some I just gave up. Everything explained in detail below.

Twitter

Oddly, I don’t have many visitors coming from Twitter, however it is my favorite network to find new materials. One quite important thing I learnt during this year is how important it is to share 3rd party articles. So that my followers keep interested in following my accounts, I should share for them and not (just) for myself, sharing what I think they would like to see. I don’t follow any specific metrics in a rigorous way, what I simply do is scheduling some of my articles and then I add to the queue articles I really like as well, always in mind that it is important to keep sharing articles with good quality. My Twitter activity can be resumed in three parts, scheduled posts to Buffer, manage the list of people I follow, and real time activity.

Facebook

Facebook is my main source of views and visitors. On Facebook I use several different strategies, my personal page, the blog’s page, several groups where I share my latest articles, and paid ads. Honestly, I still didn’t figure out what’s the best way to manage a facebook page, at first I was using it as if it was Twitter, sharing several articles, and recently I decided to share less but focusing more on my blog’s articles, plus a few 3rd party articles that I find interesting to share with the community. The groups are my best strategy, it’s from them that most of my views come from and since I want to keep people interested, I only share one article a week, to avoid spamming and creating a bad reputation.

Regarding my personal account, where I also share my newest articles, unfortunately I notice few visits coming from there, and considering that I have a few hundreds of contacts…, well, I hope things change there as well 🙂

Google+

My ugly ducking, with which I don’t spend any time with, but why do I still share there? Because it is a way to index on Google, and because Google gives authorship to my articles. Even though the traffic coming from Google+ is really tiny, adding my articles directly to Google’s database ends up being crucial. If Google knows everything about ourselves, more people will get to find us as well. I hope 🙂

Pinterest

This is my new hobby. I am still exploring its potential, however I haven’t invested enough time with this network yet, but it is something I intend to do much more next year. To be honest, at first I couldn’t see how Pinterest could be useful or even interesting, but nowadays I even use it for personal use. My strategy for this social network is to widen my followers network, sharing pins travel related (with a few of my own in between). If they get to be shared, hopefully they’ll get to reach more people 🙂

Instagram

This is another network I don’t understand. A lot of bloggers say that Instagram is a great way to drive traffic to their blogs, I can’t understand how though. Then, there is all this concept behind Instagram that a lot of people seem to ignore, editing photos and sharing them weeks or months after taking them, which is totally the opposite of the concept of “instantaneous”. I still don’t have any strategy for this network, but it seems that it is one of the areas I need to invest time with, after all, if a lot of people say that it is great to drive traffic to their blogs…

Tumblr

Another ugly ducking, but this one I actually ended up abandoning. I didn’t find any interest in keeping sharing to Tumblr, it is another blogging platform and what I was doing was basically duplicating all my content in an automatized way. I didn’t even got any visitors coming from there, and I would have to invest way more time than I was willing to. I didn’t have any work with it, but the fact that I was just duplicating content was annoying me, therefore I disconnected the link between my blog and this network. Maybe I’ll reactivate it again in future…

LinkedIn

I keep sharing on LinkedIn just to show another side of myself as a professional. We never know when one can invite us to work as a travel blogger, so I keep the automated sharing on.

Newsletter

Even though a Newsletter can’t be seen as a social network, I used it to share my work and ask for feedback in a personalized way next to those that were receiving it. It kinda of worked, but after a few editions I noticed that the workload was way too big for what I was actually offering. Almost all I shared in the newsletter or was uninteresting information for those that were receiving it, or not much relevant for what people were expecting. That said, I decided to suspend the Newsletter until I can have time to dedicate to it, I indeed to reactivate it in a few months though 🙂

Processes’ Automatization

Like the saying, time is money, and to save some money it is important to know how to use time properly. Writing is just about 20% of the work one has to do to keep a blog, the other 80% is used to research and to advertise the blog. To research, I use a few tools like Quora that help me find information based in opinions, but it is still some work that has to be done manually. How to save time with the rest? With processes’ automatization.

There are out there several tools that make repetitive tasks much easier to handle, my favorite one is Buffer where I simply add to a queue the articles I want to share on my Social Networks, and at the set time those articles should be published. Basically, what I do is adding those articles to a queue and for one or two weeks I don’t need to worry too much about what is being shared. Not only I save a few hours, but also a few days!

But not everything is connected, even though I am not an active Instagram user, when I travel I share photos (directly from my iPhone) and I like to have them shared to other social networks, like Twitter. But how to add that to Buffer? Simple, I use IFTT 🙂 After a few hours those photos will also be shared to other social networks (I still need to tweak a few settings there)

Finally got to meet them! #scotland #highlands #Lockness #visitscotland

Photo published by Gil Sousa (@gfpsousa) on 

Personal Organization

This might be the most interesting part, with so many tasks and no income, why so much work? Mostly because I have learnt so much about a field that isn’t mine, because I’ve been reading a lot about Marketing, Advertising, Writing and Personal Organization. Simply, because I am constantly learning, and learning something that I actually have pleasure doing.

The first step to fail is by setting unrealistic goals. I failed in the past by dreaming too high, and this time I did things differently. I learnt that giving up is not a synonym of failing. The newsletter is a good example, I gave up without having failed. And in order to stay focused and organized with so many tasks, I have a few other tools to help me to stay on track.

  • Spreadsheet with tasks and deadlines – Yes, I set deadlines to have my articles published on time. And the spreadsheet has all the information I need, how many days I still have to finish an article, review it, add photos to it and handle the SEO behind it.
  • Calendar – But, why a calendar when the spreadsheet already has the deadlines? Not really, the calendar will give me a visual overview of how realistic my schedule in reality is. Scheduling two articles for the same day requires twice as much work to be done, so it is important to have a visual representation of how many articles I need to have ready on time (like this one, that has a portuguese version as well).
  • Evernote / Notebook – I use Evernote to add notes while on the road, as I also use a paper notebook. The more details the merrier, which will help me writing more accurate articles afterwards.
  • Feedly – Having a News Aggregator is really important, where to store all the articles I want to read later from other bloggers, and having all the useful information I want to share with my community I take it as a priority. Instead of spending hours browsing for good articles, it’s way easier and better to make them come to me 🙂 Then, I just need to select what I want to share and that’s it 🙂

This article is way longer than normal, a lot of details of how I work is being shared here. I hope next year I have more interesting stats to share 🙂

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2015 Review and 2016 Goals

Do traditions make any sense? Maybe some do, but in my opinion, the commemoration of the end of a year isn’t one of them, after all, that will depend on which calendar you use. In another words, it’s just a matter of perspective. However, sometimes those traditions branch into other new traditions, more local or even family traditions, and those then start to make some sense, either sentimental or by convenience.

For me, these reviews are one of those traditions that make sense, I started writing them a few years ago (article in Portuguese), and honestly I don’t even know why I started doing that, but it became a very interesting practice. Mostly after moving to Ireland and then stumble with this surprise while reading the goals I had for that year, which I accomplished even without be aware of that. It’s quite interesting to set goals and then just let life follow its way without making a big deal out of it, and then just looking back and realizing how great our year was after all, even better than we thought. These kind of reviews always boost my mood, I look into detail how bad or great the year was, and usually things are way more positive than I expected them to be.

2015 in Review

Obviously, I’ll take into consideration my 2014 goals, which were few but precise. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

Visit at least three new countries in 2015

Well, I’m not even sure where to start from…

This “travel year” started a bit late, but it was full of adventures nonetheless. In just one trip I passed through 5 new countries! Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia! One month later, I went to Scotland for the first time, and even though Scotland is (still) part of the United Kingdom, it is considered as a country (not independent). Goal achieved with distinction!

Become more active with the blog (for real)

I think this achievement is more than obvious as well! With exception for the period while I was on the road, I never missed any of my goals! The next article is regarding the blog and social platforms’ stats that are directly associated to the blog. But I guess that a total of 52 published articles, utill now, sprinkled between two languages, is a real proof that something went really well! Another goal achieved!

Paying attention to the stats and to my followers

My next article will get in more details regarding stats, but basically I worked quite hard so that I could increase the list of people that follow the blog, via twitter and Facebook, and also some other social networks where I invest some time. This was the hardest part, but also the most rewarding one, it’s possible to see in real time how the blog is doing, it was also with this background tasks where I learnt more during this year. Obviously I still have a lot to learn, and it is these background tasks that I want invest more during 2016.

And for last, an objective I added as a stretch goal.

For 2015 I also have a stretching goal, this one will be tough but hopefully I’ll do at least half of it! Ireland has an amazing tourism trail of 2500km, the Wild Atlantic Way. I plan to do this by bike in several different stages, maybe one weekend a month which would be about 200km a weekend… Yep, that’s just a stretching goal :)

And here it is! A massive fail! I didn’t even cycled one km of this route…, but this goal won’t be postponed either. It was just for fun, and even if it sounds like an interesting adventure to share, I won’t add as a goal to 2016.

Sun Clock
Sun Clock, Athens

2016 Goals

Now the hard part! Goals… I’ll start by the easiest one then.

Visit a new continent

Yes, this one is indeed the easiest to achieve, considering I already have those flights booked, I only need to board and arrive safe and sound 🙂

Start a new series of articles

My main goal for 2016, for the blog, is to create a stronger network of followers, and in mid 2016 I would like to start inviting people to write articles for my blog, expand my contacts and introduce other bloggers to those that follow me.

Targeting the Portuguese speakers as potential followers

During 2015 I expanded, a lot, my list of followers on Twitter and Facebook, but since I decided to invest more time with writing in Portuguese, it makes also more sense to target those that in fact read the majority of my articles. So, for 2016, I want to get more people to read my articles and understand them 🙂

Stretching Goal: More articles per month

Adventures are never outdated, but due the huge amount of articles I have in queue to write, I am already publishing articles a few months behind. Even though I managed to keep the rate of published articles, that was a goal for 2015, I want to start sharing more recent articles. Therefore, after my 2016’s big trip, I’ll invest way more time to write articles, and hopefully increase the rate of published articles to one per week. And in order I can do this, I’ll need some time to write articles, so I foresee that I can only start sharing more articles after June or July. Anyway, here’s the stretch goal 🙂

And I guess this sums up everything, 2015 was an excelente year for the blog, 2016 looks bright as well  packed with new adventures to share, so that’s what I hope for 🙂


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2015 Review and 2016 Goals

My route through the Balkans

Being back from an adventure through some of the Balkan countries, it’s time to start writing about it. My first article of this series is about the route I took from Zagreb to Athens, the places I passed through and the reasons why.

Croatia

The decision to pass by Croatia was quite easy, I flew to Zagreb to meet with a friend from there, and that was my plan. She’s from there, so she knows better what to visit, being my first time there, anything would be new and interesting to me . I didn’t spend enough time in Zagreb though, our destination was the Dalmatian coast, mostly Šibenik area. We went several times to the beach, actually our house was literally across the road from the sea, and it wasn’t busy at all. We also went to Krka National Park for a day trip, just amazing 🙂

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Going to Bosnia was a mix of a “mistake” and “will“. Part of my plans was to go to Mostar for its famous bridge, however the real reason why I decided by Bosnia was due the cultural impact I was expecting to face, which indeed surprised me a lot. I still don’t know if it was a mistake not passing through Sarajevo, a lot of people tell me I should have included it in my plans… but just Mostar is a great place to visit, totally worth it, beautiful and full of history.

Montenegro

Of all the countries I passed through during this trip, this one was the one that I actually felt like visiting it and also the one I enjoyed it the most. Even though they are not part of European Union, the currency they actually use euros, a very cleaver way to avoid dealing with currency drops in case of a national crisis. In a few days I visited several national parks, in a so small country, and I spent most of my time in the charming town of Kotor.

Rota pelos Balcãs
Rota pelos Balcãs

Albania

Albania was one of the improvised stops of this trip, initially it wasn’t part of my plans to stop, but I had to cross it nonetheless to get to Macedonia (FYROM). The plan was to go from Kotor to Ohrid on a night bus, but when in Kotor I realized it would be way more interesting to at least cross the country during the day and see something, so I spent that night in Tirana and the next morning I headed up to Ohrid. It was a great decision, the trip was way more relaxed and I saw a few interesting things on the way 🙂

Macedonia (FYROM)

Macedonia, with official name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and where I stayed for two nights at the ancient capital Ohrid, by the lake with the same name. As one would expect, you can breathe history in each corner of the old city, with monuments everywhere that easily you can spot the different historical eras that passed through that city. There I decided to take my time to relax, with a full day dedicated to spend time at the lake sunbathing and swimming 🙂 I only regret not staying in a hostel, besides history, that city is also full of life. Day and night. And being alone, a hostel would be a great way to meet new people.

Greece

And back to my beloved Greece! Not much to stay about this country that I love so much, you can find plenty of articles in this blog detailing experiences I had while living there. I spend one night in the north of Greece, as a strategical stop so that I could take a rest before arriving in Athens, and another night in Athens to meet with some friends only. And as expected, it was totally worth it 🙂


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My route through the Balkans

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UNESCO in the Closet

We, travel bloggers, often write about our amazing experiences, how lucky we were handling some situations, how knowledgeable we are when looking for the best ways to get from A to B or how to find the best accomodation. Only great experiences… But lately I’ve noticed a few articles pointing in another direction, after all, traveling isn’t only a peaceful sea, sometimes we also have to deal with heavy storms and we have to find the way to keep sailing and get to a safe port.

Another thing I notice a lot, is solo female travelers asking for safety tips, which countries are safer for women to travel solo (or even a group of women). Safety, safety, safety. Who doesn’t want some peace of mind while traveling? After all, that’s why so many people travel, to have some peace of mind.

But what if…, you’re illegal?

I mean, not that you did something wrong. Not that you’re being hunted by INTERPOL. I’m not even talking about crossing borders illegally.

What if…, you are just illegal.

[TWEETBLOCK text=”Tweet this”]What if…, the person you are is breaking the laws of some country you want to visit?[/TWEETBLOCK]

How can one feel safe, when he/she is that way? Born this way?

There are so many places in the world I want to visit, and life is so short. Of course one can’t see everything. But why would I have to scratch from my Bucket List so many places, just because I could face imprisonment, of even worse, death penalty, for loving someone? For solo travelers this should be fine, not that we would be advertising to the world our sexual orientation, that doesn’t even make any sense. But…

What about couples?

Imagine that you can’t be with your loving partner when on holidays? That doesn’t sound right, right? So basically, a gay/LGBT person has two options:

  • Don’t go there.
  • Go back to the closet while in there.

This doesn’t sound right either to me…, but this is the world where we are living in…

I combined two lists together to see how much one can miss in the world, just for not being legal. The UNESCO World Heritage List, and the list of countries where homosexuality is illegal. These two lists together made me realize which wonders are theoretically unreachable for so many people.

Egypt

Wow…, where should I start? So many amazing places there! But certainly, the only remaining ancient World Wonder is known to everyone, if you don’t, you shouldn’t even be in this blog! The Pyramid Fields, from Giza to Dahshur, a UNESCO World Heritage.

Giza Egypt
Giza Egypt ©Sue Kellerman

India

Another World Wonder, now one of the new ones, who never heard of Taj Mahal? And India is just the country that has more UNESCO Heritage! I was so surprised when I saw the list, such a place full of history and heritage, for sure in so many people’s Bucket List…

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal ©Ville Miettinen

Morocco

Another country full of heritage, and a lot of amazing places to visit, and not only UNESCO sites. One can experience so much in Morocco, the Medinas, the desert, the amazing beaches, contact with the nomadic tribes. And so much more!

Place Moulay Hassan
Place Moulay Hassan ©Ángel Hernansáez

Singapore

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to see this country in that list. I’m highlighting it here because I bet most of you would think that Singapore wouldn’t have such discriminative laws. Regarding this list, even though it is a small country, it has its Botanical Gardens listed as UNESCO World Heritage.

ONE
ONE ©Sheu Hau Chow

I could highlight so many other countries, so many amazing places that make it hard for some people to visit just because they were born illegal79 or 81 countries where being gay is illegal. 26 of those that don’t have any UNESCO World Heritage site listed, but I bet they have so many amazing things to see, and so many amazing locals to meet. Covering a total of 226 listed UNESCO Heritage.

The list below is only regarding countries that have UNESCO Heritage and also have anti-gay laws. Numbers not always put things into perspective, maybe listing wonders will?

Afghanistan

  • Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam
  • Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley

Algeria

  • Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad
  • Djémila
  • M’Zab Valley
  • Tassili n’Ajjer
  • Timgad
  • Tipasa
  • Kasbah of Algiers

Bangladesh

  • Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat
  • Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur
  • The Sundarbans

Barbados

  • Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison

Belize

  • Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Botswana

  • Tsodilo
  • Okavango Delta

Cameroon

  • Dja Faunal Reserve
  • Sangha Trinational

Dominica (See)

  • Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Egypt

  • Abu Mena
  • Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
  • Historic Cairo
  • Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
  • Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
  • Saint Catherine Area
  • Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Ethiopia

  • Simien National Park
  • Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela
  • Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region
  • Aksum
  • Lower Valley of the Awash
  • Lower Valley of the Omo
  • Tiya
  • Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town
  • Konso Cultural Landscape

Gambia

  • Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites
  • Stone Circles of Senegambia

Ghana

  • Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions
  • Asante Traditional Buildings

Guinea

  • Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve

India

  • Agra Fort
  • Ajanta Caves
  • Ellora Caves
  • Taj Mahal
  • Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
  • Sun Temple, Konârak
  • Kaziranga National Park
  • Keoladeo National Park
  • Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Churches and Convents of Goa
  • Fatehpur Sikri
  • Group of Monuments at Hampi
  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments
  • Elephanta Caves
  • Great Living Chola Temples 12
  • Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
  • Sundarbans National Park
  • Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
  • Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
  • Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
  • Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi
  • Mountain Railways of India
  • Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
  • Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
  • Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
  • Red Fort Complex
  • The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
  • Western Ghats
  • Hill Forts of Rajasthan
  • Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area
  • Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat

Indonesia (Aceh Province and South Sumatra)

  • Borobudur Temple Compounds
  • Komodo National Park
  • Prambanan Temple Compounds
  • Ujung Kulon National Park
  • Sangiran Early Man Site
  • Lorentz National Park
  • Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
  • Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy

Iran

  • Meidan Emam, Esfahan
  • Persepolis
  • Tchogha Zanbil
  • Takht-e Soleyman
  • Bam and its Cultural Landscape
  • Pasargadae
  • Soltaniyeh
  • Bisotun
  • Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran
  • Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
  • Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
  • Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
  • The Persian Garden
  • Gonbad-e Qābus
  • Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan
  • Golestan Palace
  • Shahr-i Sokhta
  • Cultural Landscape of Maymand
  • Susa

Iraq

  • Hatra
  • Ashur (Qal’at Sherqat)
  • Samarra Archaeological City
  • Erbil Citadel

Jamaica

  • Blue and John Crow Mountains

Kenya

  • Lake Turkana National Parks
  • Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest
  • Lamu Old Town
  • Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests
  • Fort Jesus, Mombasa
  • Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley

Lebanon (See)

  • Anjar
  • Baalbek
  • Byblos
  • Tyre
  • Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)

Libya

  • Archaeological Site of Cyrene
  • Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna
  • Archaeological Site of Sabratha
  • Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus
  • Old Town of Ghadamès

Malaysia

  • Gunung Mulu National Park
  • Kinabalu Park
  • Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca
  • Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

Mauritania

  • Banc d’Arguin National Park
  • Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

Mauritius

  • Aapravasi Ghat
  • Le Morne Cultural Landscape

Morocco

  • Medina of Fez
  • Medina of Marrakesh
  • Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou
  • Historic City of Meknes
  • Archaeological Site of Volubilis
  • Medina of Tétouan (formerly known as Titawin)
  • Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)
  • Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)
  • Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage

Myanmar

  • Pyu Ancient Cities

Namibia

  • Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes
  • Namib Sand Sea

Nigeria

  • Sukur Cultural Landscape
  • Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove

Oman

  • Bahla Fort
  • Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn
  • Land of Frankincense
  • Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman

Pakistan

  • Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro
  • Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol
  • Taxila
  • Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore
  • Historical Monuments at Makli, Thatta
  • Rohtas Fort

Palestine/Gaza Strip

  • Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem
  • Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

Papua New Guinea

  • Kuk Early Agricultural Site

Qatar

  • Al Zubarah Archaeological Site

Saudi Arabia

  • Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih)
  • At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah
  • Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah
  • Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia

Senegal

  • Island of Gorée
  • Niokolo-Koba National Park
  • Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
  • Island of Saint-Louis
  • Stone Circles of Senegambia
  • Saloum Delta
  • Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes

Seychelles (See)

  • Aldabra Atoll
  • Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

Singapore

  • Singapore Botanical Gardens

Solomon Islands

  • East Rennell

Sri Lanka

  • Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
  • Ancient City of Sigiriya
  • Sacred City of Anuradhapura
  • Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
  • Sacred City of Kandy
  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve
  • Golden Temple of Dambulla
  • Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

St Kitts & Nevis

  • Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

St Lucia

  • Pitons Management Area

Sudan

  • Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region
  • Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe

Syria

  • Ancient City of Damascus
  • Ancient City of Bosra
  • Site of Palmyra
  • Ancient City of Aleppo
  • Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din
  • Ancient Villages of Northern Syria

Tanzania

  • Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  • Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara
  • Serengeti National Park
  • Selous Game Reserve
  • Kilimanjaro National Park
  • Stone Town of Zanzibar
  • Kondoa Rock-Art Sites

Togo

  • Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba

Tunisia

  • Amphitheatre of El Jem
  • Archaeological Site of Carthage
  • Medina of Tunis
  • Ichkeul National Park
  • Punic Town of Kerkuane and its Necropolis
  • Kairouan
  • Medina of Sousse
  • Dougga / Thugga

Turkmenistan

  • State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv”
  • Kunya-Urgench
  • Parthian Fortresses of Nisa

Uganda

  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Rwenzori Mountains National Park
  • Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

United Arab Emirates

  • Cultural Sites of Al Ain (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas)

Uzbekistan

  • Itchan Kala
  • Historic Centre of Bukhara
  • Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz
  • Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures

Yemen

  • Old Walled City of Shibam
  • Old City of Sana’a
  • Historic Town of Zabid
  • Socotra Archipelago

Zambia

  • Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe

  • Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas
  • Great Zimbabwe National Monument
  • Khami Ruins National Monument
  • Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
  • Matobo Hills
Sources:

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Madeira Island – Machico and Funchal

This was my first time in Madeira, and the main reason why I went there was for a wedding of a friend of mine, though, I also had time for some sightseeing obviously. One of the things I noticed the most was the huge amount of tunnels, so criticized in Portugal’s mainland, but that make such a big difference for those living there. A few hundred meters make the difference between several hours up to just a few minutes to reach the same destination. Unlike a lot of people think, the tunnels aren’t a matter of luxury or wealth, but something that is indeed needed. It is one of those things that one has to be there to understand.

Machico

My host’s city, where I also stayed and the first place I saw after my arrival. Coincidently, also the first settlement in Madeira Island, where João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira arrived and stablished the first port of the island.

The landscape is breathtaking, the city is in a valley with has several really steep roads through those hills. More towards east but not far, in Caniçal area, a totally different landscape with a very arid aspect. All part of the same municipality, but so distinct landscapes.

Something I noticed was the massive amount of small lizards, according to what I’ve been told, they are an invasive specie that was introduced by accident, carried by ships. Due lack of natural predators, the lizards became almost like a plague. Cats kinda of helped controlling the amount of lizards, but it is still very common to see those small reptiles through the whole island.

Escarpas na zona do Caniçal
Cliffs in Caniçal area

Funchal

The capital of the Autonomous region, was the place where, oddly, I spent less time at. However, for a Nature lover, I think this was kinda of expected. But I have to admit, the view is also fantastic, either by day or night-time. The historical center is really cosy, several narrow streets with old houses, and with a lot of street art as well. A bit of a paradox, I know, but it all combined really well. As I was the last guest to arrive I missed most of the touristic thingies the other guests did there. I haven’t been to the highest point, through the cable car, but maybe another time 🙂

Ribeira no centro do Funchal
Stream at Funchal’s old town

Something that I really enjoyed to see, but haven’t tried it either, was the Monte’s basket cars. A 2 km ride in 10 minutes, always sliding down the street, a bit overpriced, but certainly a very interesting experience. Again, maybe another time…

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the most enigmatic and known monuments in the world, also one of the 21 finalists of the New 7 Wonders and without a doubt a place to visit, not only by those interested in archeology, but certainly by everyone.

Historical context

This monument is by the same period as the pyramids and the pharaohs, but had a totally different civilization, and apparently not so developed either. However, there are still many unanswered questions about this monument and about the knowledge this civilization had, for example, the fact that the rocks are aligned with the winter solstice and the avenue with the summer solstice. How did they do that?

Stonehenge is a circle of stones, weighting more than 50 tons each, that were carried from about 240 km away (there several theories how they moved those stones). There are other archeological sites in the area that also prove that this civilization had knowledge that was lost and that nowadays it is still unknown to us.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Some curiosities about Stonehenge

Stonehenge had several construction and reconstruction phases, it’s believed it took thirty million working hours for the three phases. The archeological site is a complex of two main circles, one of them with blueish color stones, an avenue and by some man-made dirt hills in a shape of a circle surrounding the site as well. The archeological site area extends to the surrounding area, and a lot is still to be discovered. Unsurprisingly, this site is part of UNESCO World Heritage‘s list.

Regarding the surrounding area, even though this site is of an extreme importance, until recently it didn’t get the deserved investment by the British government, it was only in December 2013 that the visitor center opened and the busy road that was passing just a few meters from the main site was closed. Slowly, what is left by that road is now being reclaimed by Nature, but it is still quite visible how awful and damaging that road was, literally passing a few meters from those stones.

In order to avoid spoiling (too much) the area of the site, the visitor center was built 2,4km away from the main monument, which isn’t visible from there. At the visitor center you can see several animations of the construction an reconstructions phases of Stonehenge, and in real size. You also can test your strength, there is a fake stone with a rope attached, so that you can try to pull it and see how many people exactly like you would be needed to move that stone 🙂 It is quite impressive, trust me 🙂

How to get there?

The best way is really by car, the parking area is fairly big and without a doubt a hassle-free way to find the site.

Regarding public transportation, from London, you should take a bus to Amesbury, which is about 3km from the archeological site, and from there you can go either by foot or by taxi.

The distance from the nearest train station is considerably more, and even though trains are usually a more comfortable way of traveling, I don’t think it would be the best way to get to Stonehenge.

You can find detailed information how to get there on Stonehenge’s website.

And to conclude this article, it’s quite obvious why this is one of the most visited monuments in the world. It totally worths the time invested to get there to see what was built thousands of years ago. The work done by the local entities to restore and maintain the site is notorious, the visitor center is simple but really a must see. Even if late, it is nice to see that something is being done to keep Heritage preserved. The visitors can be a major reason for the deterioration of important sites, but in this case, at Stonehenge there is a fairly good safety distance to visit it without damaging, and even the entrance fee is to be used to ensure the safety and conservation of the site. You should visit one day.

Red Bull Cliff Diving – Inis Mór 2014

Yes, the title is correct. This event took place last year…

What’s the reason for this delay? I let the time pass, and then it wouldn’t make much sense anyway, and now it is time for more Red Bull Cliff Diving. This year’s series already had a few jumps, and again this year one of the amazing stops was the Islet of Vila Franca, next to São Miguel Island, in Azores. And without realizing, I almost saw another jump but this time in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they’ll jump from the historical bridge. Unfortunately I was there two weeks before the jump. So, considering my trip and this even, I think this article is now on time 🙂

Red Bull Cliff Diving
Red Bull Cliff Diving

Red Bull Cliff Diving

The competition takes place in several places around the world, is a series of dives in places that might change every year. This event is both for men and women as different categories, men dive of heights between 26 and 28 meters, which is comparable to a 8-9 store building high, while women jump of heights between 20 to 21 meters, more or less a 7 store building high. A bit scary, and even more when you’re there and you see how high that is!

The “pool” in Inis Mór really resembles a pool, a rectangular shape open rock with sea underneath. The event’s reception was a few hundred meters away from the sea, so we had to walk a fair bit before we actually could see the dive stage, with a fantastic view to Dún Aonghasa, a pre-historic fort. The pricing for the event was a bit odd, two different prices for three different areas where you could watch the event. I think we got the worse area possible, even though I don’t regret the money I spent to see it. It was a very pleasant experience and the day was simply amazing! So great, that I got a sun burn!

Red Bull - Inis Mór
Red Bull – Inis Mór

Inis Mór (Inishmor)

Inis Mór island is the biggest of the Aran Islands archipelago, on the west coast of Ireland. It isn’t hard to get there, but it isn’t straight forward either. To those coming from Cork, the best way is through Doolin port. To those coming from Dublin, you have direct ferries from Galway to the islands or a short flight of 20 minutes (if even that long). Since we went from Cork, we took the ferry in Doolin, which took about 1 hour and a half with intermediate stops in two islands, the third and last one was our destination. Inis Mór. The travel was quite ok, with view to the amazing Cliffs of Moher, with the company of a few dolphins that followed us during part of the trip 🙂

To those that enjoy a nice retreat, those islands seem to be the perfect spot! Internet coverage is quite weak, and in some parts of the island almost none. The permanent populate is also quite small, which makes that place even more quiet. Like almost everywhere in Ireland, people are really nice, however with a very bad notion of time and distance 🙂 We almost missed the last ferry because someone told us that it would be fast to get to the port walking (about 20 minutes they said), a distance of almost 9km…, without internet for most of the time to help us having an idea how far we were, we almost had to spend the night over there… 🙂

Dún Aonghasa
Dún Aonghasa

The Aran Islands are also another nice detour from the Wild Atlantic Way. If you’re planing to visit Ireland, and it is part of your plans to do the Wild Atlantic Way, don’t forget to include these islands as part of your plans. Or maybe not, if the weather gets really bad 🙂

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My “Not To Forget” Packing List

Packing to travel is one of the most exciting feelings ever, for me it is even better than booking a flight or the preparation for the trip itself. Packing means I am up to leave, and soon what I have been dreaming for the last weeks will be a reality and that fills me with excitement!

Long trips and small trips have different requirements for packing, but for both we should pack light. After all, we are going on vacations, not carrying our house with us on our back.[TWEETBLOCK text=”Tweet this”]Pack for your travel, not for a travel.[/TWEETBLOCK]

The basics will always be there, underwear, clothing, etc. So it is a bit pointless to think about that, in my opinion the first thing you should think of is what’s your goals, photography? Adventure? Beach? Mountain? That’s what will make the difference and what will make you organize your stuff.

Photography is a passion of mine, although I have a lot to learn but that’s not the point, so making sure I have space for my camera and lenses is mandatory! An adaptor is also important, and considering that I live in Ireland where the plugs are different from the rest of Europe, the adaptor is actually crucial…

Specific clothing, this can be important mostly for longer vacations where easily you overlook some place you’ll end up in. I always take some hiking pants with me, those that you can turn into shorts with the zip. Usually those pants dry really fast, are breathable and very adaptable as well, so I always add them to my list.

I also carry my iPad or iPhone with me, where I’ll store documentation about the places I want to visit, contacts and addresses and scans of my IDs. It is always handy to have a scan of your passport online, you never know what can happen… Better be prepared 🙂

[TWEETBLOCK text=”Tweet this”]Be prepared for not so uncommon complications.[/TWEETBLOCK]

About longer trips, when I have luggage to check in, I also make sure I take with me clothes for at least two days. Unfortunately it can happen that your luggage takes a detour to another exotic destination, and you might stay two or three days without clothes to wear.

When traveling, size always matters! Be careful with more restrictive airlines, you don’t want to end up squeezing stuff inside your carry-on luggage because they require just one piece per person. Also be aware of layovers or transfer flights that are not connected. Sometimes you can pass with some luggage in one flight and not the second one (been there done that…).

About shoes, you’re not going to a party. If you’re going on a short trip, take just the pair you’ll be wearing and get the most comfortable ones. You’ll be wearing it all the time. If you’re going on a longer trip, take no more than one spare pair of shoes, depending on what you’ll do.

And enjoy your trip and don’t forget to relax 🙂

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5 not-so-known places in Portugal you should visit one day!

Have you ever been to Portugal? No? You definitely should get that flight ticket and go there, now! It’s one of the cheapest countries in Europe to visit, it has 800 years of history as a nation plus a few other hundreds of culture and heritage. Lisbon, the capital, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe! Even older than Rome!

The average temperature in Lisbon, during Winter, is 17º! That’s like Summer for most of European Northern countries! And in average, we have only 82 rainy days, that’s even less than three months a year!

Portugal has culture, has history, has beaches (a loooot), has mountains, you can have adventure and relaxation! You can find it all in that tiny country next to Spain.

So, after this not so short introduction, here’s my list of 5 not-so-known places in Portugal you should visit one day.

5th – Douro Vinhateiro

Douro is the second longest river in Portugal, in the north with its mouth in Oporto city. The Douro Vinhateiro is a long valley which is the region where you can find the vineyards of the famous Porto wine, and where it is produced. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.

You’d need a few days to properly explore the region, and to make your life easier, you can find several touristic plans and tours. My recommendation to visit this region is by car, but if you’re a new driver or not used to drive on the right side, then you should be extra careful. Almost all roads are two-ways lanes and quite narrow, through the edge of the valley cliffs. There is also the option to do this route by train or by boat on one of the several river cruises that you can find in Oporto city or Vila Nova de Gaia.

Douro Vineyards
Douro Vineyards, ©Paulo Soares

4th – Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo is a small city right in the very north of Portugal, also the seat of the district with the same name. If you like small and cosy cities, Viana do Castelo should be on your list to visit. Besides all that you should expect from a city to relax, certainly you will be surprised by some familiar architecture. The Saint Luzia Basilica will for sure catch your attention, placed in a very high and visible part of the city, it is quite similar to the famous Sacré Coeur Basilica in Paris, however, unlike most people think, this one isn’t a copy as the project for this Basilica was draft before Sacré Coeur being even built.

Those that are more into architecture might also notice that there is another landmark with characteristic lines, the railway bridge, which is also a work of Eiffel’s house.

180.2011
180.2011 ©Francisco Oliveira

3rd – Almeida

I don’t remember when was the last time I visited this small town, but I still remember that I was quite impressed by it. It is for sure a place to visit by all of those that like warlike architecture. Almeida is a star shape fort-village part of a group of 3 medieval villages (from the same municipality), located to form a strategic defense of the Côa river’s valley. Besides its cultural importance, this village isn’t an UNESCO World Heritage, however it is recognized as National Heritage since 1928.

After your visit to the Douro Vinhateiro, you can do a detour to Almeida, I can assure you won’t regret it 🙂

Almeida - Guarda Portugal
Almeida – Guarda Portugal ©[email protected]

2nd Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast

A really nice area in Portugal for those who like less crowded beaches even desert beaches, with several cosy villages and small towns, a huge natural park and much more to explore. It is an amazing area for those who love Nature, and tanking into account Portugal’s climate, it is also really inviting for ciclo-tourism 🙂

On of my favorite places in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast is the Pessegueiro Island (direct translation would be peach tree) where you can find a 500 years old fort. On the opposite side of the Natural Park you can find the Cape St. Vincent, in  Portugal’s Southwest, very close to Sagres Fort.

Monte Clerigo beach. Costa Vicentina. Portugal.
Monte Clerigo beach. Costa Vicentina. Portugal. ©Ricardo Fernandez

1st – Óbidos

I left my favorite town for last. Since I was a kid that I go to Óbidos, my summer holidays were spent very close to this beautiful town, so often we used to go there to spend just a few hours. Óbidos is a castle-town, the name comes from the latin ópido which means citadel. It is easy to get there from Lisbon either by train or car, the trip by train takes a while, but it totally worths the waiting. The ideal would be letting yourselves get lost through the narrow streets, walk through the walls and visit the castle. Outside the walls you can also visit the Aqueduct. And if you go in March, don’t miss the Chocolate Festival, it is getting very touristic nowadays, but it is still an experience mostly for those who love chocolate. But who doesn’t anyway? 🙂

Óbidos
Óbidos ©Francisco Bernardo

I hope you like this list, it is just a list of a few places to visit in Portugal besides the most popular ones, which also should be visited 🙂 They are popular for a reason 🙂


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5 not-so-known places in Portugal you should visit one day!