So You’ve Got a Reaaallly Long Flight… Now What?!

“When you get into an airplane by yourself and take off,
you find yourself in this lovely, three-dimensional world
where you can go in any direction. There is no
feeling any more exciting than that,”
- Gene Roddenberry

The harsh reality of travel (for some) is that it can quite literally take days to arrive at your destination, even by plane. For those on a budget, this is even more of a reality in which you end up having to take a plane, bus, and donkey just to get from one city to another in order to save a couple dollars. Even without all of the transportation switch-ups, it can take a 24 hour flight to get from, say, Canada to Australia. So you’ve decided where you want to go and that no amount of distance can stop you. Congratulations! You won’t regret it, but there are a few things you can do to make the travel time a little better.

1. Stay hydrated!
It can be easy to forget to drink when you’re on a flight because you’re not particularly exerting yourself. Take advantage of those little cups of water that come around every so often, but also try to bring a larger amount of water for yourself. We should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day and it makes all the difference. Once you land, your skin won’t appear so dull and tired as it might feel.

Also, carry facial wipes to wipe your face on the flight. This will remove excess dirt and oil from the day and it’s just better for your skin to breath without makeup blocking up your pores.

2. Dress for comfort.
I’m always one to dress for comfort on planes. Leggings, a comfy top, a sweater in case it gets chilly (and it always does!). A scarf makes for an excellent accessory to use as a cushion for your head or blanket to keep warm.

Wear clothes that allow your body to sit comfortably, to fall asleep in without snagging, squeezing, or being generally annoying.

Pick shoes that are easy to slip on and off. If you’re on a long flight, slipping off your shoes is wonderful.

If you can dress for comfort and style at the same time, then do it! It will help you look and feel a little more put together after sitting around for 10+ hours, in and out of sleep.

3. Move around.

Try not to stay seated the entire time. This can lead to sore muscles, stiff joints, and a numb butt. Stand up, walk around, do a few simple stretched to get your limbs loose and your blood flowing.

4. Entertainment

There is nothing worse than being stuck on a 10 hour flight with no form of entertainment. Not all aircrafts come with TVs on the seats (you may want to check for this when booking a flight). Other forms of entertainment include books, ipads/tablets, games on your phone, music, pen and paper if you like to draw or write, and of course the tried and true… CARDS! Pull out a deck of cards and be friendly, chat with the person sitting next to you (as long as they’re not trying to sleep).

5. Make your meal requests beforehand.

If you have specific dietary concerns (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergies, etc.), its important to mention this before the flight. Usually you are able to do this during the booking process and thankfully most airlines are accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions or preferences.

6. Opt for food that is light and healthy prior to boarding.

You don’t want to be stuck in close proximity to a bunch of other passengers with your stomach feeling like it’s been loaded full of rocks.

7. Try to sleep.

If I will be arriving to my destination during the evening, then I usually do my best to stay awake for as much of the flight as I can. This helps me pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow at my accommodation.

If you’re arriving during the day, it’s important to try and sleep during your flight. Both of these suggestions help to reduce jet lag. To help get you to sleep, I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and some ear plugs. These are incredibly useful on the flight and if you are staying in shared accommodations like hostels.

What I wouldn’t suggest bringing is a blow up pillow that wraps around your neck. They really aren’t that great and it’s just an added thing to have to carry around with you afterwards.

Some travelers opt for sleeping pills to help them nod off. Melatonin is a more natural sleeping aide that has helped me in the past. I’ve also used Ambien on my flight home from Thailand, which was a little miracle. However, I probably wouldn’t take any type of sleeping aides on my first long-haul flight unless I knew how my body reacted to them already.

8. Handle Turbulence and Nausea.

Not only does turbulence make some folks jittery, it can also cause nausea. Again, refrain from eating fatty foods before the flight. Excess fat plus turbulence can lead to stomach troubles. Same goes for carbonated and alcoholic drinks.

Picking a seat in the middle of the plane, by the wing, will result in feeling less turbulence than sitting in the far back or front.

Ginger pills are a natural option for preventing nausea. Take them before take-off and landing.

Practicing some deep breathing exercises can also help clear your mind and calm your body.

9. Relax :)

You can’t change the circumstances of your flight. Accept this, sit back and relax. Don’t forget, there is bottle service for those who like to have an alcoholic beverage or two. Try not to drink too much though, as you can end up feeling even more exhausted after a flight thanks to the alcohol dehydrating your body. There is always a journey to be had before arriving to your destination so you might as well try and enjoy it.

Do you have any other helpful ways to make a long flight better?

Lazy Summer Afternoons

With being caught in between school years with not much cash to spare, it’s been a mission this summer to do a few things around my own city that I might not take the time to do otherwise. With a trusty best friend by my side, we decided to take a day or two to hit up some of the parks in our city.

First up was Whitemud Ravine, a place where you can go to get the feel of being surrounded by nature but still be in the middle of a city. The ravine has excellent walking and biking trails that are accessible any time of year.

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Park benches are scattered throughout the ravine where you can rest and take in a pretty view.

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And we happened to come across a friend in our wandering who was keen to eat grass from my hands.

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A blazing hot day brought about our next set of urban park adventures. Armed with all the necessities required for an afternoon of suntanning, we made our way to Hermitage Park. Located in the north of the city, Hermitage has paved paths that eventually connect to Rundle Park.

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Here, you can rent out a canoe and take a paddle on the large pond. If fishing is your thing, family fishing is allowed in the pond and you can have some fun trying to catch the rainbow trout that are kept in there. For those of us with dogs, there’s an off-leash dog area where your furry friend is free to run, jump and play to their hearts content. It’s also a great place to get a group of people together for a fire and a cook-up of food on one of the barbecues scattered around the park.

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As we had come fully prepared to do nothing more than take a walk around the park and scope out the best place to lay around for the day, we finally found ourselves with a meadow entirely for ourselves. Surrounded by trees, we had all the privacy we could hope for and a view of the pond ahead. Thoroughly pleased with our find, we spread out all that was needed for a lazy afternoon in the park and welcomed the sun with open arms.

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The Real Devonian Gardens

This might sound like a repeat post, like you’ve read the name Devonian Gardens somewhere around here before. And you did, right here. But there are two Devonian Gardens in Alberta, apparently. One nestled on the top floor of a shopping mall (which is a great escape from the winter blues) and one that is located just outside of Devon, AB that greatly exceeds the size of the one I’ve previously talked about. The Devonian Botanical Gardens have been around since 1959 and cover a whopping 240 acres. Whether you prefer flowers or plants, a space that is polished and manicured or one that is left a little more wild, you’ll have a chance to pass through it all in an afternoon here.

One of the most popular areas of the garden is the very well kept Japanese Garden, with its rushing water, vast expanses of green lawn and still ponds. Walking through it makes me want to jump into a yoga sequence or sit on the edge of a rock and meditate.

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But don’t forget to take a stroll through the butterfly house on your way there. Kept hot and humid, stepping into the butterfly house feels like you’re walking into the tropics. Butterflies of all sizes and colors float through the air, flitting from one flower to the next and resting on giant leaves. This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the gardens, not only to imagine myself being in the tropics but also because if you have the patience to stand very still, very quiet, for a fair amount of time, you might just have a butterfly land on you!

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As we were with my great grandma, who can’t walk quite the distance she used to, we opted to try out the guided tour of the gardens. Led by a chipper girl who clearly loved her job, we hopped on board the train of golf carts and began a journey through the history of a place that is over half a century old. While I prefer walking through a place so I can get a little snap happy, the guided tour was extremely educational and quite a good idea if you like knowing what you’re looking at as opposed to simply admiring the beauty.

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Calla Water

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If you are taking a stroll through the property, there’s even an area that is built to satisfy more than human sight. Guests are encouraged to touch and even taste the herbs and plants that grow in these areas!

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The gardens make for a peaceful afternoon of wandering about, admiring pretty things, taking children frog catching. You can visit on a Thursday evening for a designated date night with a special someone or group of friends and can even use it for elaborate events such as large or small weddings.

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: Temple on the Hill.

If there is one temple everyone tells you to go to in Chiang Mai it is the one located on Doi Suthep, the mountain just on the edge of the city. After a winding, uphill ride to the base of the temple, you’re still not quite there yet. Pass the many stalls offering you an assortment of trinkets to purchase and make your way to the 309 stairs (or take the tram for a small fee).

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This temple attracts foreign tourists, local Thais, as well as monks and other Thai nationals from other cities. One of the pieces that you will see once you enter the pagoda is a statue of a white elephant. The albino elephant is rare and is historically held in high regard by Thai people. It is said that a monk once had a vision telling him to go to a certain spot to find a relic. What he found there was a bone. Some even say that this was the shoulder bone of Buddha.

The monk took the bone to a northern city in Thailand, where it apparently broke in two. One piece of this bone was put on the back of a white elephant by a king and the elephant was sent off. The story goes that this white elephant climbed up Doi Suthep where he let out three trumpets before dying. The king took this as a sign and thus, built what is now Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

 

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When I visited, there was a monk and a shaman who were sitting in a temple and blessing the string bracelets (Sai Sin bracelet) that many travelers to Thailand come to know. These string bracelets are blessed by monks in Thai ceremonies and those who wear them are brought good luck – in travels, in their endeavors, health, success, and even wealth when blessed over a pile of money. They tell you not to cut these bracelets and either untie them or allow them to fall off, for cutting them diminishes all the luck they are meant to bring.

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This is also the temple where I was taught by a visiting monk how to pray.

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As you walk around the temple, you will notice a few areas where you can sit, relax, and take in the beautiful views of Chiang Mai that can be seen from both sides of the pagoda. Whether you are in Chiang Mai for a day or a week, this temple is one of the most beautiful in the area.

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Sunday Snapshot: Alberta Prairies

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Today’s snapshot features a photo from home, taken on a country road just outside of Edmonton. The more I travel the more I find that I appreciate where I come from. Nothing beats the Alberta prairies, yellow fields as far as you can see and wide open blue sky. Driving down those back roads always calms the mind and gives you a beautiful view like this one. You might even find yourself slamming on the breaks to jump out of your car and lay down on the road to snap a photo (watch for cars!) ;)

A Day in Chiang Mai

So you’ve found yourself in Chiang Mai, a large city in Northern Thailand. Maybe you were told by friends how great it is or maybe it’s just a random stopover before moving on. Whatever your reason for being here, you might be wondering how best to spend your day.

If you’re looking for cheap accommodation filled with young, lively folks like yourself, Little Bird Guesthouse and MD House might be two possibilities. Both located within walking distance from each other in the Old City, these two hostels are right where the action is happening but tucked away in their own little nooks so as not to disturb those trying to get to sleep at night.

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Start your day off with a trip to Somphet Market, where you can find Tip and her big yellow sign, serving up delicious fruit shakes and fruit muesli. This is also the market that many local cooking classes will take their students to collect fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices for their meals. If you enjoy cooking or simply want to do something you may not have done before, cooking classes are a fun way to spend the day and you have the choice of an in-city class or one on a farm in the countryside.

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After browsing around the market, flag down a songthaew, a truck with two rows of seats, to take you on up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple on the hill and the most popular temple in the city. This alone could easily fill up your afternoon with the intricate detail of the temple and the beautiful views of Chiang Mai below.

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Interested in speaking with an English-speaking monk? Head over to Wat Suan Dok and make your way to the university that is attached, where “monk chats” are available by donation to learn more about Buddhism and their way of life.

As the afternoon comes to an end and night begins, the buzz of the night market comes alive covering nearly 2 kilometers of road. Selling beautiful handcrafted items such as paintings and jewelry, the night bazaar has become one of Chiang Mai’s most popular tourist attractions. If you happen to be around on a Sunday, there is the famous Sunday Night Market.

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Looking to get your drink on and let loose a little? THC Rooftop Bar is a good choice if you’re looking for something a little more chilled out. After climbing a windy staircase, you’ll find yourself in a colorful, shoes-off, chilled out atmosphere that overlooks Thapae Gate. Zoe in Yellow, or Zoe’s for short, offers a garden/seated area if you just want to sit down with a few beers as well as a big dance floor for when the night gets wild. It’s also where I spent my 21st birthday. Reggae Bar, just down the road from Zoe’s, is a fun place to go if you’re looking for some Jamaican music, live bands, and a dance floor.

With it’s mix of modern and traditional, Chiang Mai is a popular city that attracts thousands of tourists and is home to many expats who have fallen in love with the place and decided to make it their home.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Traveling Alone.

I recently wrote a post about having the courage to acknowledge and pursue a desire for an “unconventional” life, such as one of travel. That got me thinking about one of the biggest reasons people have that stop them from their travel journey:

“I don’t want to go alone.”

I can’t count the number of times someone has told me how much they would love to go somewhere, if only they had someone to go with. For so many reasons on why people believe they shouldn’t travel solo, I am here to tell you why you should.

To travel solo is to let go of everything that you have been certain about for all your life. It is the exhilaration that comes with uncharted territory, language barriers, plans that only last a day and just a backpack of belongings.

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To realize, particularly at a young age, everything that you are capable of doing entirely on your own is one of the best feelings of empowerment and liberation. With no friends to persuade you and no family to guide you, the only person you can count on is yourself. Across the world in an unfamiliar city, this can be slightly terrifying, but it’s the best kind of fear you can allow yourself.

This type of travel offers the freedom to do anything a traveler desires at any point during their trip and at the speed they are comfortable with. Decide halfway through the day that it’s time to move on to the next city? You can do that. Tired of constant travel and want to “settle” in one place for a few weeks? You can do that too. When traveling with a companion there is always a compromise that has to be made whether it be regarding what restaurant to eat at or what attraction to see. When you are solo you have the freedom to be spontaneous in any and all decisions.

This spontaneity is often the key exhilaration factor when traveling alone, as it often leads you to having amazing experiences that you never would have imagined being involved in.

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Loneliness is often people’s biggest misconception about traveling without friends. Sure, there are days that you might spend exploring new places alone. You may even come to prefer eating lunch in a restaurant on your own with a book or a journal to jot down the great things happening to you on your adventure. You may begin to appreciate the true beauty in the art of a museum when  you have the silence to contemplate on your own.

One thing that I’ve found on my own solo travels is that I am much more likely to push myself out of my comfort zone when I don’t have a friend traveling with me. If you’re worried about being constantly alone and bored of your own company, stay in a hostel. It is impossible not to make friends to spend your time with. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to be heading the same way and decide to travel together for a little while. It is these passing strangers that you will share some of the best moments of your life with and remember whenever you tell a travel story.

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Through the moments of doubt, determination, and ambition that often accompanies solo travelers, a person you may not know even existed can emerge.

A trip like this can not only give you incredible memories and allow for unbelievable opportunities, but it can seriously boost a persons self-esteem and identity. I hope each and every person can find the strength to take a breath, say farewell, and board a plane to the destination of their wildest dreams. My only warning to embarking on a solo journey is the risk of falling so in love with embracing new cultures, people, and experiences, that you will be renewed with a new sense of passion and have to take many more adventures.

Sunday Snapshot: Lake Annette, Alberta

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It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a sunday snapshot up on the blog and since I’ve been busy with final exams and summer is just around the corner (or so I’d like to believe), now is as good a time as any. This photo was taken at Lake Annette in Jasper National Park, AB in the summer of 2013.  With crystal clear water and the mountains in the background, the lake makes an excellent day trip if you’re in the area.

Are You Breathing Just a Little and Calling it a Life?

“Listen—are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”
–Mary Oliver

If you live in any of the Western countries you will know all too well the typical route that a life is supposed to take. Graduate, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family… not necessarily in that order. But what happens when the idea of all of these things that equal a “successful” life fills you with dread and makes you want to run in the opposite direction? What happens when a university degree is not going to give you what you always wanted? What if marriage just isn’t in the cards for you? What if buying a house seems like the most absurd and impractical thing you have ever heard? Above all, what do you do if you’re okay with feeling this way and wanting a different life but nobody else quite understands it?

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The decision to reject everything that society has been telling you to strive for can be difficult. Scary. Nerve-wracking. Overwhelming. Exciting. Liberating. But all of these feelings regarding your decision are normal. In fact, they are necessary. The combination of fear and happiness is what works to drive you forward, to begin those steps in pursuing the life that you always wanted. One thing that I have learned from making decisions and following through with them despite discouraging remarks is that you should always stand by your decisions and feel proud of them. For myself, if I hadn’t got on that plane alone at 18, my favorite memories would not exist. Friendships I have all around the world would not exist. My sense of self and purpose would not exist. The person that I am today would not exist.

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There is not much that I am certain of. The only thing that I am one hundred percent sure of, without a doubt, is that I want to see the world, and that is enough for me. There is an inherent feeling of wanderlust that I have and it emerges after mere months of being in one place for too long. I have been living in a brand new city for eight months now, and by the sixth month mark I felt it again. That pull towards something greater, something farther, something more fulfilling. I began to feel claustrophobic in a big city once again, bored, lacking motivation to continue my current commitment of university.

It is these moments that reaffirm my belief that I am meant to see as much of this world as I possibly can. Long-term travel has had to be put on hold in order to get my degree (something that I do believe is relevant in my life and will get me to where I want to be) but I know without a doubt that as soon as I’ve accomplished this goal, there will be nothing stopping me from doing the one thing I know I want to do with my life.

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I saw the quote at the top of this post today and realized that right now I am just going through the motions and waiting until my life can really start up again. I also realize that there are probably hundreds of other people in the world that this quote will resonate with. People working at an unfulfilling job that they resent, bored with the progress of their life, dreaming of being able to do everything that they truly want to do but have put on hold because of society’s expectations of what a successful life means.

If that is you, then maybe now is the moment to change things. Now might just be the time to put all of those trips and ideas that you secretly have already planned out, saved in the files on your computer or your mind, into motion. The unease that you feel bubbling up through the excitement is okay, of course it is. You are leaving a comfort zone that has been built around friends, family, and a job you are familiar with. The world is a huge place filled with both beautiful and terrifying things, and if your dream is to explore it, then you should stick by those dreams, honor the person that you are and all that you want, and finally begin living the life that you want, not the one society has been telling you to have.

A Dip Into The Sorgeto Hot Springs

This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about Ischia. As mentioned in that previous post, Ischia was where I first had the opportunity to soak myself in a volcanic hot spring. Earlier that evening, seven of us crammed ourselves into a tiny mini van that managed to squeeze itself at a ridiculously fast pace in and out of the narrow alleys.

After a huge Italian meal with new friends, we all made our way to Sorgeto Bay at the suggestion of our hostel staff. To reach the beach itself, you need to walk down about 200 steep, stone steps. If you are coming with somebody who cannot make the trek up or down these steps, you can also reach the springs by water taxi during the day.

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The Sorgeto Springs are comprised of a number of different thermal pools, each one fluctuating in water temperature due to the natural heating of Ischia’s volcanic activity. Once we had stripped down to our bathing suits, we tiptoed carefully into the water, the smooth stones of the hot spring floor slippery beneath our feet. Luckily for us, we had the entire springs to ourselves and, at 2AM, the water is still comfortingly warm, with the odd areas of cold and scorching hot. If you come during the day, be sure to note the signs warning you where not to venture because some areas of the spring are inaccessible due to the overwhelming temperatures. It’s been said that some people even bring eggs to boil in the hottest areas of the springs!

If you’re seeking a luxurious, spa-like activity, these thermal springs should be at the top of your list. Oh, but there’s one more little tidbit of information that will give you no excuse to miss out — access to the springs is free! So even if you are a penny-pinching backpacker, you can still take advantage of what the springs have to offer. If you ever find yourself on the island, I would highly recommend stopping in to the Sorgeto Hot Springs. I can’t say personally what it is like in the daytime, but I know very well the beauty and fun to be had in the late hours of the night (preferably with some wine!).