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Srebrenica: My eye-opening trip to the Genocide Memorial

I’m going to warn you before you start reading this post that it could trigger some strong feelings. If you find yourself having trouble reading about loss, genocide, and human cruelty, you should probably skip this post. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write about my experience in Srebrenica on the blog but I’ve written about this for school, and I find it’s an important part of history that is often overlooked so here it is.

Overview: What is Srebrenica?

Srebrenica is a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the location of the biggest massacre in Europe since WW2 where some 8000 Muslims were sentenced to death. 50 years after the end of WW2, humanity still hadn’t learned its lesson regarding genocide and the atrocities in Srebrenica took place.

Why I went

I was visiting my uncle, Robert, in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2007 and he organized a ‘field trip’ for his work while I was visiting so that I could learn more about a country and culture I knew nothing about. Other than my uncle and me, everyone on the tour was from Bosnia. They had all suffered some form of loss and hardship during the war.

Srebrenica: My eye-opening trip to the Genocide Memorial

Robert and I had to wake up pretty early that morning to head over to his work to meet up with everyone and get on the bus. The bus driver was also our guide which was a great perk because he was explaining stuff to us along the two and a half hour drive to Srebrenica. I was 18 years old at the time, still living at home with my mom and had no clue where I was going with my life. My uncle invited me to Bosnia to get me out of my suburban middle-class life and experience something different. Sidebar here, I have to give credit to that man; he knew what he was doing by bringing me to Bosnia. That trip, as you’ll see later in this post, helped shape me into the person I am today.

He introduced me to his co-workers who were all from Bosnia. They had either lived through the war or had gone elsewhere as refugees and returned once the war was over. They were all extremely nice – I have yet to meet a Bosnian person I did not like.

The drive down

Everyone was in good spirits; happy to have a day out of the office and get out of Sarajevo. Everyone shared with me some of their experiences during the war which started to set the tone for me. Our tour guide pointed many things out (mostly for my benefit I think), so I learned different things along the way.

The guide made a stop at an abandoned building and had us disembark the bus. He lined us up by the wall facing him and told us he wanted to tell us a bit more about the Srebrenica massacre. Over many months and even years, Srebrenica was under constant fire; sometimes falling under Serb control and then returning to Bosnian power. The entire area (not only Srebrenica) was a series of villages being destroyed and people being uprooted or killed. Here’s a quote from the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague to give you an idea:

Between April 1992 and March 1993, the town of Srebrenica and the villages in the area held by Bosniak were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircraft. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potočari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During these times, many Bosnians were unceremoniously executed or involuntarily removed from their homes and lost everything. In April 1993, the UN declared Srebrenica to be a “safe zone.” In May of the same year, General Halilovic (Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and General Mladic(Bosnian Serb military leader) agreed to Srebrenica being a demilitarized zone (although both parties violated that agreement repeatedly).
I’ll skip most of the history behind the events that lead to Srebrenica Genocide as I don’t want to bore you but I’ll say that if you’re interested, you should read up on how it all happened.

So, our guide continues to explain that there was an area called Potokari very close to Srebrenica where many refugees were located but that living conditions were awful (no food/water) due to roads being blocked. These people were under the “protection” of the blue helmets. I put protection in quote marks because the soldiers stationed there could not interfere with the horrors they were witnessing.

The Massacre

We are all listening to the guide like our lives depended on it – hanging onto every word he is saying. He goes on to explain how on July 12th, the Serb forces came to Potakari and told the refugees that they would be bused to Bosnian territory. People saw the light at the end of a very dark tunnel; they would be reunited with loved ones, they wouldn’t have to suffer through rape and murder anymore. The Forces informed the now hopeful people that they would be going on buses; men and older boys were directed one way while women and children were sent another way. They were assured that they would be reunited later that day.

However, this was a lie. The men and boys were driven out to empty fields, buildings, soccer fields and told to exit the bus. They were lined up one next to other, and they were shot. Either left for dead or put into mass graves. The guide took a long pause before speaking again. When he spoke, he told us to look behind us. We turned and looked at the abandoned building, and we saw many holes in the wall that we hadn’t actually given any thought to before (holes in buildings are very common in Bosnia as remnants of the war). He told us we were standing at one of the many locations where these massacres had taken place.

This news was a big shock to everyone. One woman dropped to her knees sobbing; people were crying. I can’t even begin to understand the pain they were feeling. It hit me as well; silent tears were coming down my face. My uncle came up to me looking somber and asked if I was doing alright. I could only nod and look around at the people around me; my heart was so full of compassion and sadness for them and for everyone that had suffered during this war.

We got back on the bus and made our way to the memorial. On the bus, the sadness I was feeling was slowly transforming into anger. How could this happen again? How can people be so evil? Why was I not taught about this war in school? It was an important part of history that I knew nothing about. Isn’t it essential to pass on the bad things that happened in our past to try and prevent them from happening again?

The Memorial

We arrived at the memorial where we met a lady that ran the souvenir shop. She had lost both her son and her husband in the tragedy. She played a video for us and explained a little bit more about the memorial.

We then proceeded to walk around the monument. There were so many names carved into the stone – it was a very emotional experience. The group split up and I just walked around, looking at the names, the people there, just trying to wrap my head around such evil. I think everyone needed a moment of solitude to reflect.

Such a small piece of the memorial and so many names.

Once everyone was ready to go, we got back on the bus. We made our way to a restaurant where we were all going to share a meal together. This place was more like a home than a restaurant, and I think it might have actually been someone just taking us into their home (I feel like it was someone the guide knew, but it was ten years ago, so my memory is getting fuzzy). We all sat at a big table and passed around food and drink. After the emotional day we all had, it was nice to laugh and enjoy the moment.

I remember thinking to myself how amazing these people were. They had lived through hell, had lost people they loved, had fled their country yet they were sitting at this table laughing and enjoying the company. My life had been nowhere near as complicated or painful, and I couldn’t even begin to understand the pain of everyone around me. It put things into perspective for me.

The impact

The impact of visiting Srebrenica had on me was quite significant. I left Bosnia with more questions than answers. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that my trivial issues were nothing compared to the suffering of others. It had a prominent role to play in my decision to join the Canadian Armed Forces and be part of something bigger than myself. It breaks my heart that as I am writing this in 2017, we still have issues of the same nature in the world. That people cannot accept others because of their religion or the colour of their skin. Have we, as a species, not learned our lesson? How many more lives need to be claimed for an ideology that makes no sense?

This is one of the primary reasons I love travel so much; to learn about our past, to learn about other cultures, to see how diverse and beautiful our planet is. Perhaps if more people traveled, took the time to meet people from different cultures, and took the time to learn about our dark history, we would be in a better place today.

Curious to learn some more?

Check out these pages if you want to learn a bit more about the Bosnia War and Srebrenica Memorial:

History: Bosnian Genocide
Britannica: Bosnian Conflict

What about you?

Have you gone on a trip that had an impact on your life? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Want to start traveling so you can learn more about our world and cultures that inhabit it? Check out my post on getting cheap flights and get started.

 

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Deals Packing Tip Series Tips Travel

The travel accessories you need when you’re backpacking!

Knowing what you need to pack and not pack while backpacking is a struggle for many people. You don’t want to forget anything, but you don’t want to bring useless stuff that will take up space in your bag. Having the right travel accessories is key to having a great trip!

Here is a list of things that I use over and over during my travels that I can vouch for.

Peripatetic Kat’s Ultimate Travel Accessories

A lock

You need a lock if you’re backpacking. Staying in hostels, you want to make sure your backpack is safe (just in case there is that one asshole who is going to steal your stuff). I’ve been lucky enough never to have had anything stolen even when leaving stuff around, but you never know. Most hostels have under bed storage space or lockers, but you have to provide your own lock so be prepared and buy one in advance!

A travel RFID Blocking Wallet

This wallet is GREAT. It fits all of my cards + my passport so I can keep it with me and not leave it at the hostel. I also love the colour, but they have multiple ones so you can choose whatever you like. I like that it’s big enough to fit Euro bills (I’ve had wallets that didn’t, and it was SUPER frustrating) since they can get pretty big.

Sunlight Bar Soap

I actually wrote a whole blog post on this magic stuff (which you can find here) because it’s so amazing. I take it everywhere I go now. You can cut it up as to not bring the whole bar which is a great space saver. But honestly, this stuff is GREAT for stains. I legit spilled red wine all over a couch once when I was in France with my mom, and we were able to get all the stain out with the soap; it’s a lifesaver.

Packing Cubes

I LOVE these cubes. They are great to stay organized while living out of a backpack. An added bonus is that this one has cute little laundry pouches too which is great. They all fit into one another when you aren’t travelling, so it takes up next to no room. And even better they have super cute colours (I have the watermelon, and it’s so friggin’ cute!).

A microfiber towel

Okay, guys, this was a revelation when I found these towels – legit one of my favourite travel accessories. They dry super quick and take like no room in your bag. Plus, they have different colours and sizes which is great. I got the 32″ x 60″,  and I love it; it’s big enough that I wrap around my body (no awkward openings when I am in the hostel = WIN!).

Reusable mini bottles

I used to buy the travel sized stuff at Walmart but eventually, it starts adding up, and you realize you’re not helping the environment (plus you can’t use your own products), so I switched to these reusable ones that I can just fill up with the stuff I use at home. They don’t leak, and they are the perfect size that they don’t take up too much room in my bag.

A travel pillow

If you’re taking lots of planes or trains, these are a life saver. They just make those long hours just a little more enjoyable. I like the ones that have a “necktie thingy” so that I can tie it to my bag and it stays on my neck better.

Ziplock bags

People often forget about these, but you never know when they can come in handy. I always bring a few along just in case. They are really great when you’re following my tip number 2 about saving money while backpacking (you can find that post here).

A universal adapter

This is a must have travel accessory. If you want to use any of your electronics while you’re abroad, you need a power adapter. Most electronics today have a broad range of voltage they can take so you don’t need a converter, but you should always check before you plug anything in so you don’t blow up your belongings. I usually bring two with me, so I am sure I won’t be stuck without being able to use and/or charge something.

I personally use each product that I’ve just recommended to you and continue to use them. These are my must have travel accessories that I don’t leave the country without. Keep this post bookmarked and check back often as I will update it as I go!

What is your favourite accessory? Let me know in the comments below.

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Europe Food Ireland Travel

Kilkelly, Ireland: why every backpacker MUST visit!

Kilkelly ireland

So Matt and I are heading to Ireland in 61 days, and it just makes me want to relive all my previous experiences. I want to tell you guys about a small town in Ireland called Kilkelly.

As you know from a previous post, I went to Ireland with Jordan and Dani in July 2015, and I had a blast. Ireland was so much fun that I decided to go back for eight days at the end of my trip to drive around the country and see more of it. I decided to find small towns around the country to staying with Airbnb and just go with the flow. I covered a lot of ground this way and ended up staying in tiny towns which were all great experiences.  By keeping my options open and not settling on the typical tourist spots, I was able to find the town of Kilkelly in Mayo County.

According to Wikipedia, in 2011, Kilkelly had a total population of 1211 including rural and urban living. That’s pretty small when you look at Dublin for the same year pop. 527,612 and then think of all the tourists added on to that number. It’s just under three hours to drive from Dublin to Kilkelly, and it’s a beautiful drive. I was comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road at this point, so I was able to enjoy the scenery. Although, some of the roads are tiny so when cars came rushing by me the stress levels went up a bit.

Arriving at Kilkelly

When I drove onto the main street of Kilkelly, I knew I had found something special. I was in “real” Ireland and not the bustling city/tourist laden Dublin. The Airbnb I was staying at was right on the main road. I had to go to the butcher’s to call my host and let them know I had arrived. The B&B I was staying at was right over a bar (y’all can appreciate how happy I was about this) which was also owned by the same family (the Duffy’s). I had my pick of rooms, and they had breakfast food for me in the fridge which was very appreciated. Mr. Duffy told me that the bar opened up a little later in the afternoon and that I should come by for a beer.

I showed up a bit after opening and sat down at the bar. Mrs. Duffy was bartending, and she greeted me warmly. I decided it was time to have a Guinness in Ireland and I was not disappointed. I never liked Guinness before, but there was something completely different about the taste. Interestingly enough, I learned later on when I went to the Guinness store house that it tastes differently due to the water used to make the beer in Ireland. I sat and talked with one of the locals and Mrs. Duffy and enjoyed learning about the County I was in.

A bit later on, a group of younger people arrived at the pub. They seemed to be a lively group, and they clearly knew everyone else in the pub. I got up to go outside and dropped my cell phone on the floor and one of the guys in the group laughed at me. That was our introduction.

I explained that I was a Canadian travelling in Europe for fun and he invited me to their table. Everyone introduced themselves, and I will always remember meeting Colette. She spoke SO FAST! Every time she said her name I would just hear “Clit” which I thought was a pretty unusual name. You can imagine awkward me going: “Clit… okay nice to meet you!”. They all laughed, and she said: “No! It’s Co-lette” in an over exaggerated way. I laughed full heartedly and apologized for misunderstanding while everyone else just howled at my expense (another one of my epic blonde moments).

I met many people that night. Each and every one of them made my night amazing and fun. I sometimes had to ask them to repeat themselves due to their accents but it was well worth it.

The beers were flowing, and everyone was having a good time. One of the guys I met, Bryan, decided it was time to get his guitar and sing some tunes. To my delight, he legit pulled up a bar stool, sat down with his guitar and started singing some Irish songs. Everyone sang along (except me because I knew none of these songs) and I was just in utter awe. How cool was this? I had no words, but the smile on my face would have given you a good idea of just how happy I was.

Karen, another of the people I met that night (who was dating Bryan the musician) asked me if I had tried a real Irish breakfast yet. I told her that I had not had the chance yet. Her mom was at the bar with us, and they both invited me over for breakfast the next morning. I was a bit shy about just going over to their house, but they insisted: “just walk up the street – it’s a few doors down and just come in!”.

Breakfast in Kilkelly

I  woke up the next morning feeling like death. You know the feeling I’m talking about – the “I am so hungover I just want to die” feeling. I looked exactly how I felt which didn’t help me feel any better. Then I remembered I was invited to breakfast. At that moment, it was probably the last thing I wanted to do. Crawl back into bed with a big bottle of water seemed like a much better idea. However, you only live once, and I knew I would never get such an amazing opportunity again, so I put on my big girl pants and got ready for breakfast.

I was a bit nervous that once the alcohol wore off, things would be awkward but I convinced myself to stop being ridiculous. Funny how we always create our own fears which often stop us from doing awesome things. I walked out the door, marched up the street (I think it was like three or four doors up), knocked lightly on the door and walked in. Karen’s mom greeted me with open arms and welcomed me into her home.

She made a FULL spread. I couldn’t believe it! Bacon (the Irish kind), sausages, tomatoes, eggs, pudding, beans. It was ALL there.  Karen and Bryan came down for breakfast, but Karen’s brother stayed in bed (like I said it was a rough night of drinking). I was completely blown away by their hospitality and their kindheartedness.

breakfast in kilkelly
My proper Irish breakfast

More of County Mayo

After breakfast, I decided to head out and explore some more of Mayo County. I visited the Cong Abbey as well as Ashford castle. They were both breathtaking even if it was a very windy/rainy day.
Having a car made this infinitely easier but driving those tiny roads in those weather conditions was interesting, to say the least! Kilkelly is located in a good spot where I was close to lots of cool things.

Here is a video I took while at Ashford castle (you can hear the hangover in my voice – sorry not sorry!). It’ll give you an idea of how massive and beautiful it is. It’s actually a hotel now, but I can’t fathom the price per night.

More of Kilkelly & Ireland

I decided to stay in that night and relax. I ended up watching Taken on TV and catching up on some much-needed sleep. The next day, I walked around Kilkelly a little bit and decided to head out again to do more exploring. I drove an hour North East to Parke’s Castle and lucky for me it was a beautiful day. If you hadn’t realized this yet, I have a thing for castles.

Ireland
An epic view on the drive up
Ireland parkes castle
Parke’s castle

That night, I met up with Colette and some others from the gang and went out once again. A few people stopped me at the pubs to welcome me to Kilkelly. It was kind of crazy to have people know who I was before I even met them. Word traveled fast about the Canadian girl visiting Kilkelly (I’m a pretty big deal, m’kay?). We had another great night, and I am so glad I picked Kilkelly out of all the places I could have gone to.

To sum it all up

Kilkelly had some of the nicest and most generous people I ever met. If you like to have fun and you enjoy your pints of beer – you’ll fit right in. I hope I can return one day to enjoy their company once again. I can’t highlight enough just how great it was. And like I said, the location is great to hit up a bunch of different spots in the region. I never expected to write a 1500 word post but there is now a Kilkelly shaped hole in my heart, and I had to share with you my time there.

Time for some promotion

As I said, I met Bryan during my time in Kilkelly. He had an incredible talent, and he’s currently in the process of launching his first album (I believe it comes out in October)! If you guys want to discover a great musician from Ireland now living in Australia, go check him out. His links are below:

Facebook

Soundcloud

Youtube

 

As always, your comments are welcome below the post 🙂

6 Comments
Europe Random Travel

Have an adventure – Be daring! My daring Irish Adventure

Do you wish you had a little bit more adventure in your life? Would you like to have some awesome stories to tell your friends and family?

There’s actually a simple way to achieve this.

Go with the flow. Be brave; dare more than usual.

Here is a great example of an adventure I had in Ireland that could have been a very typical “go visit the nice old castle and go home” type of day but turned into so much more.

Jordan, Dani, and I decided to rent a car in Dublin and head out into the country to see some real Ireland (Dublin isn’t the picture we had of Ireland – it was missing the rolling hills and the beautiful landscapes we had envisioned). We wanted to see the sweeping green landscapes and the castles we had heard so much about. I’m the only one who knew how to drive a standard transmission so as you can imagine; I am the one who got to drive for the first time on the opposite side of the road. I can’t even describe how nervous I was for the first hour – the word terrified comes to mind.

When I had to face my first roundabout (which for the record you need to take from the opposite side as well), I was in complete panic. I got out of the roundabout and stopped in someone’s driveway to calm myself down. Both girls were telling me I was doing a great job and that it was OK for me to take a breath and regroup which really helped me calm down.

Jordan brought her Ireland guide book with her, so we decided to go to Glendalough in Wicklow County to see the Monastic Site which was a bit over an hour drive away.

The site was breathtaking, the ruins were incredible, and the scenery was surreal. It was quite something to find myself sitting on ruins older than my own country.

 

We walked through the ruins, snapping pictures and enjoying the moment. As you can see from the above photos, it was pretty amazing.

Next, we decided to move to quaint town relatively close by (about an hour away in County Carlow) to check out this small castle Jordan had read about in her guidebook. We drove up to the entrance and walked around a little bit to find out that we missed our chance to see the grounds and the inside of the castle. We are all disappointed and STARVING at this point so we figured we would find some food in town. If you’ve ever been around a hangry (so hungry you get angry) woman you know three of them together could turn into a disaster, so we needed food fast. We found this random tiny fast food place with two tables outside and decided to order some burgers and fries.

As we are eating our food, a group of Irish construction workers in pickup trucks went in to order some food. As they waited for their food, they kept looking back at us and whispering amongst themselves (note that was a tiny town and we probably stuck out like sore thumbs). Some of them took off with their food and others sat down at the other table to eat. They started talking to us a little bit, and we told them we are from Canada and that we tried to go see the castle but it was closed.

One of the guys stays behind after everyone else left. He told us he’d been living in the town for his entire life and he used to play in the gardens of the castle as a child. He says he can take us around and show us a ‘secret entrance’ so we can check out the grounds. The three of us looked at each other excitedly and we jumped on the occasion to have a bit of adventure.

The real adventure begins

His ‘secret entrance’ was actually jumping over a fence and just walking onto the property. We got a little nervous at the idea of trespassing, but it’s was a chance in a lifetime, so went ahead and jumped. This guy was the embodiment of small town Ireland; we could barely understand him when he spoke because of his accent. He tried to tell us stories of him playing on these ground when he was a child, and he brought us to a few cool spots.

Funny side anecdote: this guy was TOTALLY enamored with Jordan and it was hilarious to watch him try to flirt when she could barely understand the words out of his mouth. Awkward for Jordan but hilarious for Dani and I.

Walking the grounds, trying to be relatively stealthy as we were technically breaking the law by trespassing on castle grounds (yeah… I’m a badass!) and listening to this Irish guy talk was a pretty surreal experience. I would have never experienced this had I not gone with the flow and let things happen. We could have just seen the castle from afar, been disappointed and gone on our way but we decided to live a little and it was SO worth it.

So be daring, embrace your opportunities, and go where life takes you. Click To Tweet

Opportunities for an adventure show up when you least expect them in life and it’s the same with travel. You need to let yourself go sometimes and not let a schedule interfere with possible adventures. It’s a crazy world out there and you just need to open yourself up to it to make your adventures even more incredible. So be daring, embrace your opportunities, and go where life takes you.

Do you have some crazy adventure stories from your travels? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Are you a clumsy person? Don’t miss my blog post on a great tool for the clumsy traveler. You can find it here.

Cheers,

PKat

 

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Berlin Europe Travel

The best tours in Berlin for the young adult

Hello, travel peeps! I know I said I was going to post about Amsterdam for my next post but I got a message from one of my readers about Berlin and I decided to share with you the best tours in Berlin that I used when I was there. One is a free (donation based) day walking tour, and the other one is a night (bar hoping) tour. They’re both from the same company, and I couldn’t recommend them more.

The free walking tour

If you don’t know already, Berlin is an incredibly special city. It’s the perfect mix of a bustling capital and underground culture. There is a ton of history to learn about and witness, and you should definitely look into the regular free walking tours most hostels offer to learn about all the interesting parts of Berlin.
The tour that I want to recommend is slightly different and does not focus on the regular WW2 historical tour but more on the fringe aspect of Berlin. You get to see some amazing street art (Berlin is famous for it), learn about the different underground culture of Berlin, and even witness it first hand.
The guides are extremely knowledgeable, and you get to learn a lot about Berlin that you wouldn’t usually learn about in a regular walking tour. If you have any interest in learning about ‘the fringe side’ of Berlin I couldn’t recommend this tour more. Don’t forget that this is a FREE tour so if you liked, it tip the guide well!

Here is a pic of my favourite piece of street art which actually has a really cool story. I won’t spoil the story for you guys but I will just say ‘bring back the lampost’,  and you will know what I mean once you go on the tour!


You can find more information about the free tour here.

The bar hopping  tour

OK, let’s be honest. One of the cool things about travelling through Europe is going out to party with other travellers and having fun. Berlin has a TON of underground bars and clubs that you would never now about unless someone told you to go there.
The 666 Anti Pubcrawl is your chance to experience some pretty impressive establishments in Berlin. I got the chance to drink in a 60’s hippy bar, play ‘around the world ping pong’ (ping pong is HUGE in Berlin – it’s very surprising, and you learn about it during the free walking tour I mentioned above), be amazed in a Gothic style club (which actually had a big bronze penis at the top of the stairs – super random), dance in one of the biggest nightclubs in Berlin, and end my night in an underground club. This underground club was in some old factory in the basement (you had to take a freight elevator to get in), there were different rooms, the whole place smelled old, wet and musty, they had german rap battles going on in the back room, and had people doing face painting on random couches. I can’t even tell you how weird and epic it was at the same time.
You get a bunch of free shots, and the tour only costs 12 euros, so it’s definitely on the cheap side and perfect for the young backpacker looking for a good time. I went with a friend I met in my hostel in Prague (we were both on the same train to Berlin and decided to do a few tours together) but we met a few people on the tour, and there were lots of solo ‘partiers’ so don’t let that stop you if you’re travelling alone!

I can’t recommend this tour company enough. The guides were great for both the free tour and pub crawl, I always felt safe, I learned a lot, and I had a ton of fun. I linked the specific tours throughout the post but if you just want to check out the company itself click here.

 

Have you ever been to Berlin? Let me know in the comments!

 

If you haven’t already, check out my post about the most important thing to do when travelling here.

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Cheap airfare Deals Tip Series Tips Travel

Tip Series: Another money saving tactic when flying!

Image Source

 

Hi, everyone!

MY EXAMS ARE DONE! I am finally free… until May 9th when I start two new courses at least, haha! Now I have some free time to work on the blog and plan my next trip!

So, I’ve decided to start a ‘tip series’ section of the blog. Each time I post tips or tricks with regards to travel, I will put tip series in the title. This will make it easy for you readers to see right away that there is some useful advice in the post and it will be an easier way to archive/look through old posts.

So, I posted a couple of weeks ago about being open-minded when planning a trip to find the best deals. This post if sort of a continuation of my previous one. If you combine both of these tricks together, I guarantee you can save a ton of money.

Living in Ottawa, I am suuuuper lucky because I have three major airports within relatively short driving distance. I have the Ottawa airport which is literally in my backyard, I have the Montreal airport less than 2 hours away, and I have the Toronto airport a bit further. For anyone in the same situation as me, that have multiple airports in close proximity: you’re sitting on a ton of savings!

How does having multiple airports access give you savings you ask?

It’s actually quite simple! You can look at the price differences between various airports and find the cheapest option. I’ve had flights leaving Ottawa and stopping in Montreal on a layover be cheaper than the flight leaving from Montreal. How does that make sense? IT DOESN’T! But it’s great news for you and your bank account (happy dance for extra savings!!!).

If you recall in my previous article, which you can find here, I mentioned using Google Flights as an excellent way to look for flights all over the world. Combine that with switching departure airports as well, and you’re laughing at all the savings you can be achieving. Look at the difference:

I did a search departing from Ottawa airport to a few cities in Europe. Here is the price breakdown:

London: $800
Amsterdam: $1280
Paris: $1135
Brussels: $1181

Then I did a new search, but I changed my departing airport to Montreal. I kept the same dates and location, and my price breakdown was as follows (look at all those savings!):

London: $803
Amsterdam: $1110
Paris: $884
Brussels: $1076

As you can see, London is the only one that varies slightly; everything else has pretty significant savings.

This is pure gold, people!

I can’t stress this enough. Imagine if every time you flew, you saved $100 or more on a flight. That’s some pretty significant money you can put elsewhere during your trip!

If you have the option of going to various airports, I would definitely use it. Sometimes, the cost of taking a bus or a train to another airport will still be much cheaper than going from your local airport. Especially if your airport isn’t as big of a hub as others that are a bit further. Now get out there and start saving some money!

Happy hunting.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!

PKat.

 

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Tips Travel

My ONE rule when I travel

I have many rules when I travel, but I have one main rule that I will never break.

I want to share this rule with you.

Research is important

Making an effort to research the country and culture I am going to visit is a must, and if you’re not doing this before you travel, you need to change that immediately.

Simple things like knowing what languages are spoken in that country and what religions are practiced are essential to making your trip a success. Finding out if it is customary to tip in that country is also crucial. Many countries don’t believe in the tipping culture so it’s important to to know what’s expected before you go!

Researching key differences between your country and the country you are visiting is also important. Some things that may be considered standard in your country could be considered obscene in your host country or vice versa. In North America, spitting is frowned upon but in China it’s common practice. In Western countries, women can wear whatever they please, but in most Middle-Eastern countries women should cover at a minimum their shoulders and sometimes their heads. There are so many little things that could be different and that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve taken the time to research the country you are about to visit.

It’s easy to buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room, and just “wing it” but chances are if you’re going to a country with a culture that differs from yours in many aspects, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.  I can imagine people being completely taken by surprise at how different a country is to their own and have a miserable trip because they did not prepare themselves adequately.

Another important part of research, at least in my opinion, is researching the language. Knowing what the primary language used in the country is great but it’s not enough. I also make the extra effort to learn a few simple words (Hello, goodbye, thank you, I’m sorry, excuse me, where is? Do you speak English?). Honestly, doing this is a great way to get people to help you. Chances are you will get turned around, and you might need some help. Being able to approach someone in their language can go a long way. People are always willing to help, and that’s especially true when you made an effort to learn some of their language.

Cool anecdote time: I remember the day I went into a coffee bar in Italy, and I was able to do the entire transaction from ordering the coffee to leaving the establishment in Italian. As I was walking out the owner of the shop, who had just served me, asked me in English where I had learned Italian. I explained that I didn’t speak Italian, but I studied a bit of the language to get by while I was there. The owner told me that people never really attempted to speak his language and that he appreaciated my effort. He then proceeded to ask me if I wanted another espresso on the house!

Making an effort can go a long way, and I guarantee it can get you out of a bind as well.

Obviously, these are my two cents on the matter, and you’re all free to do whatever you please, but I think you should definitely put it the effort to ensure maximum awesomeness during your travels!

 

Comment below and tell me what you think!

 

PKat.

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Blogging Tips Travel

What are you afraid of?

Are you aching to go on a trip but something keeps stopping you from making the commitment?

Do you want to see the world but keep telling yourself you’re waiting for the right person to travel with?

Do you dream of sandy beaches, century-old buildings, or cobblestone streets but can’t seem to get yourself to see these in person?

If you said yes to any of these questions, I have but one question for you: WHY? 

WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Actually, here are some more questions for you: What are you afraid of? What is holding you back?

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t wait until the right person comes along (friend or significant other), or until you ‘feel more comfortable’ travelling alone, or once you’ve done all the dreaming, lists, and planning you could without ever going anywhere.

If you can afford to travel now, DO IT!

Travelling alone gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and to do it however you want to do it. Do you want to see a museum? Do it. Do you want to get on a plane on a whim and go to a different country because you heard there’s a big festival happening tomorrow? Do it. Do you just want to sleep in one day and NOT see any of the sites? Do it. You don’t need to ask someone else’s opinion; you don’t need to curb your plans or ideas because someone else doesn’t want to do the same things. You avoid disagreements, you avoid awkwardness, and you avoid shitty feelings in general.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying travelling with others is a waste of time. Travelling with people can be a blast and if you have the opportunity to do it, you should. BUT, if you’re waiting out to travel with someone, don’t. You should never put your dreams on someone else’s shoulders. If you want to see the goddamn Eiffel tower, see it. Don’t wait for Susan to save up enough money so she can come with you. Susan says she wants to go, but she’s not making any real efforts to save the money and come along. You’ve noticed it, I know. You think to yourself: “will I ever get to travel if nobody is willing to commit to it for real?”.
So forget Susan and her lame excuses, buy that ticket to Paris and explore everything it has to offer!

You’ll meet a ton of people on your travels, other solo travelers like yourself, groups, or locals. Trust me; you won’t be hurting for company. It’s actually the perfect arrangement: you meet other people, you do activities with them (sightseeing, bar hopping or whatever it may be) and then, once you’re craving some alone time you can just leave. You owe these people nothing, and they owe you nothing. You can hang out with your new friends as much or as little as you desire.  In essence, you’re completely free and it’s an incredible feeling.

Are you afraid? Do you feel like you won’t be safe if you travel alone?

Start with Europe. It is the best place to begin your backpacking adventures; it’s like dipping your toe in the water before jumping in the pool. It’s is one of the most popular places for solo backpackers; it’s modern, and most people will most likely be able to speak English which means you won’t be too disoriented. Travel between countries is relatively cheap; they have a ton of budget airlines that sacrifice comfort for savings so you can cover lots of ground in short amounts of time. I’ve travelled solo in Europe twice; I even walked around the streets of Sarajevo on my own (which let’s be honest isn’t ‘Western Europe’), and I’ve always felt safe. I think I’ve felt safer walking around certain cities in Europe than I do walking around Montreal late at night.

You’ll learn a lot about yourself while you’re out there on your own. What you really enjoy doing, seeing, eating. What kind of person you are when you’re not surrounded by your usual entourage. It’s an incredibly enriching experience, and you’ll come back filled with new ideas, lots of new knowledge & friends, amazing memories and a thirst for more.

So, I know it can seem daunting. I know it can be scary to take that step forward. But it is SOOOOOO (the amount Os should tell you something here!) worth it to take the plunge and experience everything this beautiful world has to offer. You’ll regret that you waited so long, you’ll regret all the time you wasted being afraid instead of travelling. And I promise you’ll feel ridiculous once you’re there having a blast and you realize there was nothing to be scared of.

Comment below and tell me what kind of fears are keeping you from travelling!

PKat.

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