40.

40. Wow. How truly lucky I am to be able to say that I’ve been able to visit 40 countries in my (relatively) short time on this planet.

I really struggled with sitting this post because I don’t want to seem like I’m coming from a place of bragging, I just want to express my deepest sincerest gratitude to all of you who have contributed to this is some way or another.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned from all of these experiences, it’s that there is no better way to learn about who you are and what you value than by being forced to carry it all with you. In the pouring rain. Was that last Starbucks mug jammed in to the top of your bag worth it? (If you know how I feel about them you should know the answer to this).

I guess in my old age I’m getting wise (and sappy) but I am so greatful for all of these experiences. Being at the mercy of the universe (wifi, and bus/train schedules) really forces you to explore those deep dark corners of that thing in your head called your mind. And you learn a thing or two. (Maybe even 3 but that’s a stretch).

Back when I first started this blog, I saw travel (and in part this blog) as a peformative art. I needed to go here and there and do this and that for pictures and to show everyone at home what an amazing time I was having. Don’t get me wrong. I love posting me a good instagram. But, ive learned that that’s not travel. I have found, and firmly believe, that travel should be about you. I realize that I’m breaking this rule by writing this, but that is neither here not there. Travel isnt about where you’re going. It’s about the person you become along the way (oh and the people you meet too…). The most rewarding parts of travel are the dirty, nitty, gritty moments and those moments when you get to explore the deepest darkest corners of your brain. The ones you neglect to watch Netflix. The moments where you think you’re going to miss your train because there are loose animals on the 401. And you make it. It’s in those moments that you are reminded of what a tiny cog you are in the big wheel of the universe.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. But, before I do, to each and everyone of you who have made this possible know that I extend to you my deepest and utmost gratitude.

(Oh and here are some pictures from along the way cause apparently that’s what the people want)

This is me.

In the spirit of getting back to square one with this blog, I realized that I never really introduced myself and how this blog came into existence and what I hope to give you through it.

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Hola, its me! Taken on Secret Sands Beach, USVI. 

My name is Aaron, and I’m 25ish years old and like the title, I am a world travelling Canadian. From Myrtle Beach to Myanmar, I’ve been to 23 countries and have a goal of  visiting 30 countries before I turn 30 (a very realistic goal if I do say so myself). From my experiences I’d like to think I have a little bit of travel knowledge which I can share which is kind of why I started this blog.

Originally, this blog was a way of keeping in touch with my family back in Canada during my 3 month backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. But, after getting home I realized I kind of enjoyed this whole blogging thing and with the little bit of wisdom I had, I wanted to post more.

But, life got in the way of that! I have used this blog for various other trips that I’ve taken but have never really gotten the hang of the whole travel blogging thing. So, in the spirit of fresh starts I’m going to give this another kick at the can.

I realize that the travel blogging world is quite full and it seems like everyone wants to start one so they can get trips paid for. But, as cheesy as it is to say, that’s not why I’m doing this. I’ve never found a blog or a travel guide that matches the way I like to travel so I set out to create one. Over my many vacations, I’ve realized that I love to explore new places, new foods and new cultures… but at the end of the day, I love to come home to a comfy bed and a nice hot shower. I’ve never connected with any guidebook as they just seem to give a general overview of a city or a country. I like to dive in, head to museums that are off the beaten path, get lost in the streets of a new place and to eat something that I haven’t tried before.

Here, you’ll find a mix of things to do that are off the beaten tourist path, places to eat food you might not find at home and helpful hints for those of you like me, the people that like to explore what the world has to offer – but still enjoy a little teeny bit of coddling (like a nice hot shower at the end of a long day walking).  You’ll also find my travel chronicles as well as photos and videos that I’ve taken during them, as I think that memorializing them in this way is one of the best ways to understand connections you make to people and places.

So, skål, to new adventures, new starts and to maybe, just maybe, blogging a little bit more.

Let’s get back in the saddle.

WELL, WELL, WELL.

We meet again… albeit this time a little bit older, a little bit wiser (maybe…) and with a bit more travel under my belt.

I think the time off has been good for me, its allowed me to travel without having to worry about getting a blog post up and spend more time actually “on vacation”.

While that has been great, I’d love to get this blog up and running again and see where it can take me.

SO, this is where you come in – what do you want to see from me? Pictures? Funny blogs? Places to stay? Things to do? Let me know! Drop me an email, twitter mention, carrier pigeon whatever it may be – send it my way and I will do my best to accommodate.

Muchas gracias/obrigado/tack/Thank you

Aaron (aka The World Travelling Canadian)

 

2016 In Review

Well, well, well… look who dusted off their keyboard (finally).

2016 was, in many ways, a challenging year for me. But, the good most definitely outweighed the bad. However, if there was one thing that was constant (other than my perpetual exhaustion) it was travel. Travelling, both near and far, opened my eyes to many new experiences and helped me to over come many challenges. So, in that spirit I put this little slideshow together of some of the places I listed this past year.

And, to end off, a little shameless promotion (it never hurts)… if you enjoy the photos here feel free to follow this adventure on Instagram @musingsofaworldtravellingcdn !

 

 

How Do You Travel So Often?

Be it from friends, family or co-workers, this is a question I find myself answering all too often. In all honesty, there are a few tricks I have that help with this. These by no means are the be all and end all solution to helping you achieve your travel goals, but they may help you along your journeys in future.

1. Watching Airfares

Once I get a trip idea in my head, I head over to Skyscanner or Kayak and start a price alert for my selected route. Kayak is wonderful in that it will advise you whether or not to buy now – using historical trends to predict the future to help you get the best deal possible. If prices are a little out of your price range, look for alternate airports close to either your origin or destination cities as these may bring the prices down. For example, on a recent trip I noticed it was cheaper for me to fly from London, ON to Calgary than it was from Toronto to Calgary. While there weren’t as many options from London, prices were a few hundred dollars cheaper and I was able to save this money for another trip.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Forgo the Frills

While airlines like Ryanair and Wow Air do get a bad rap for making you pay for literally everything they aren’t as bad as everyone would have you believe. When you can save hundreds of dollars on your vacation that you can spend on a hotel, or on an unforgettable experience – the fact that you didn’t have a movie on your flight makes it all worthwhile.

3. Be Loyal

I know this is probably the first tip your Mom gave you about relationships, but trust me it applies to travel too. Most airlines and hotels offer some sort of loyalty program and over time these can be super beneficial. While it may take time for you to earn some sort of status with an airline or with a hotel chain, they even provide perks at the most basic level. A top tip from me would be to pick one airline and one hotel chain that you travel with the most and start there. For example, I’ve started to collect Air Canada Aeroplan points and Marriott Rewards points because these are what I use most when I travel and Aeroplan points can be collected at other places too (ie. Gas Stations) making this a good deal for me. Check out http://www.onemileatatime.com for more information on loyalty programs. 

4. Get a Good Credit Card

Pretty much everyone has some sort of perk associated with their credit cards – mine happens to be that I collect points that can be converted into dollars off of travel. While this card does have an associated annual fee ($19), the money that I save when it comes to travel make this absolutely worth it. Sometimes, your rewards points from #3 can be associated with a credit card – for example, Marriott Rewards has an excellent credit card that can be used to collect points that can be converted into free night stays. While the fee is a little steep the perks absolutely make up for it!

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Wholesalers

While I do all of my airline bookings either through the airline directly or through my travel agent (see bonus tip #6), I tend to have little allegiance when I book my hotels. A friend tipped me off to booking.com for my Southeast Asia trip, I found that the deals that I was able to get with that website just kept me coming back. In fact, I only used this when I booked my Iceland trip. What this website and (ones like it) do, is that they take rooms that hotels can’t sell and sell them at a discounted rate saving you lots of money.

One thing I love about Booking.com is that you get free cancellation which allows you to play the booking.com game – on a recent trip I booked a hotel through them and sporadically checked back on prices. I ended up finding a way cheaper deal and booked that and cancelled the other reservation. While this did take a little bit more time, the fact that I saved about a hundred dollars made up for it. One word of caution, sometimes the cheapest rate displayed does not have free cancellation, so just pay attention to what’s included in the rate.

Fun fact: If you stay 10 nights in places you’ve booked through booking.com, you get a 10% discount and other perks like free wifi (so it pays to stay loyal!).

Bonus fact #6: Get a Travel Agent

Years ago, my family wanted to go on a Caribbean cruise. We were incredibly daunted by the abundance of options available to us so we stopped into a local travel agency and have never looked back. Having a travel agent that you know and trust is absolutely critical to the process because it saves you time. Their job is travel, so they know how to get the best deals out there and can be the best asset in your arsenal. Even when you think you know what you’re doing and are getting the best possible deal – your travel agent can deftly outsmart you! On a trip to Buenos Aires, our travel agent found us an incredible hotel (that I for sure would not have been able to find!) and I shall be forever indebted to her.

 

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of tips, these are by far the tips that have served me the best and I hope they can help you in your travels!

The Long and Windy Road

Hæ Hæ! 

Well, today was kind of one of those built in rest days – which is always a blessing in disguise. When looking through the guidebook the drive from Húsavik to Svínavatn didn’t seem to have too much to see along the way except for Akureyri (the second largest city in Iceland). So, with that in mind we decided to ask the staff at Tungulending to see what there was to do in town. I had read that Húsavik is the capital of whale watching in Iceland so we figured why not give that a try.

As we were leaving Tungulending a strange feeling washed over me. Never before had I been sad to leave a place, but here I was wishing to stay longer at this wonderful slice of heaven. (N.b. if you EVER go to Iceland you NEED to stay here. Period) We headed into town armed with a few 10% off whale watching coupons and a map. The morning’s drive started out a tad eventful as we had to climb the hill leading to the main road into town – luckily this was before it got too windy and we made it no problem.

Húsavik is a small town in Northern Iceland famed for its whale watching which means we had to try and get on a tour. Upon arrival at the harbour we found out that the companies weren’t sure if they were going to send out their next boats due to the wind. In fact, they weren’t even sure if the boats they had sent out would stay out there. We were told to check back closer to the departure time to see if we could go. So, we headed souvenir shopping (as all self-respecting tourists do)! Now, I was on a hunt (as I usually am) for a Lopapeysa, the “national sweater” of Iceland. They are made out of the wool from Icelandic sheep and are known around the world for being cozy and warm. Sounds like my kind of sweater.

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My Lopapeysa – handmade in Húsavik!

I decided to try my hand at finding one at a local artisan shop in Húsavik because we had the time and it supported the local community – not only satisfying my shopping needs but also helping the community. Deal. I ended up finding a beautiful grey and white one and some wool socks for my mom – she loves comfy things so this was ideal for her. By this time we had only spent a half an hour of the hour and a half we were to wait for the boat so we walked back to the car and got some gas. While getting gas we noticed how truly windy it was and decided for our sakes that it would probably be best not to head out in a boat. Boy, were we right.

On the drive into Akureyri we noticed dirt being blown across the road by the wind and I was white-knuckling the steering wheel to keep us going down the road. The drive into Akureyri was a constant battle against the wind, but we made it about and hour later. After a little bit of fun trying to figure out where our first stop (the Local Botanical Gardens) were, we made it and set off to look at the gardens. Even though there was little in bloom, the location was amazing. It is nestled on the side of a hill overlooking the bay Akureyri is on facing the mountains. I quite liked downtown Akureyri, it was a charming mix of colofurl old and new buildings and next time I come I’ll make sure to spend more time there!

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The View of Akureyri from across the Bay!
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The Akureyri Botanical Gardens
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Flowers at the Akureyri Botanical Gardens

We were starting to get hungry and Daylan noticed a place she wanted to eat in the guidebook so we headed there. While we were parking the car we noticed that the wind was picking up and had to battle to keep the doors of the car from hitting the cars around us. Soon enough, we were at Serrano chowing down on some burritos and deciding what the afternoon would have in store. We were going to get some Ice Cream but walking back to the car we were literally almost blown over by the wind – and when combined with the lack of map for the Ice Cream place we nixed that plan and were back on the road.

We had a little bit of fun trying to leave town as there were no signs telling us where Hwy. 1 (the Ring Road) was. But, after a few U-turns we figured it out and were soon on our way to Svínavatn. As we started climbing into the mountains, the car was fighting against the wind and we took our sweet time. But we made it safe and sound. As we drove we noticed that the wind was about 13 m/s – and any more we would have to stop and take a break (as its not recommended to drive in Wind speeds over 15 m/s!). The car was a champ and the kilometres went flying by. I had to stop to pee – and the old addage of “never peeing into a windstorm” had never been more applicable.

Soon enough, we found the road we needed to take to the place we are staying tonight – Guesthouse Svínavatn. Now, normally I would be phased by the fact that it’s a gravel road but after the wind I had been fighting I was nonplussed by it. A few kilometres down the road we noticed a few sheep by the road and stopped to take a few pictures. About 20 minutes later we were at the Guesthouse and I was thoroughly exhausted from the driving of the day. Enjoying the peace and quiet of having no one else here I fell asleep!

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Sheep on the side of the road

Now,  a little word about where we are staying tonight. 1) its literally in the middle of nowhere. In fact, we’re about 20km from Blonduos (the largest town) and decided to not go to dinner there as we don’t want to battle the elements.  2) Its beside a beautiful lake. I’d normally love to go out exploring but the clouds have been VERY ominous all day and I’d rather not risk it!

Takk fyrir for reading this and see you again tomorrow 🙂

 

There’s Nothing Like the Smell of Sulphur in the Afternoon

Today has been one of the best days of the trip, at least in my opinion! I’m not sure whether because I’m really enjoying the place we’re staying or because I’m finally on Icelandic time. But, in all likelihood its because I just downed a beer and I’m a tad tipsy.

We started out this morning by filling up the car in Egilsstadir and then took to the ring road. This mornings drive was similar to yesterday afternoons – through the mountains. We drove past snowcapped peaks under blue skies while listening to the musical stylings of Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliot and the one and only R. Kelly (we can thank spotify for that!). We noticed a few places to stop along the way and take pictures but we didn’t feel the view was actually that good so we kept on trucking. As we were driving, it started to get incredibly windy but we didn’t think too much of it until we made our first picture stop. As soon as I opened the door the wind took it and when I stepped out of the car it looked like I was wearing parachute pants! We took a few pictures and when we were back on the road I grabbed my GoPro (which I’ve lazily kept in my bag the last few days). We made another stop to admire the view and before we knew it we were at Dettifoss – the first stop of the day.

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While we were driving to Dettifoss (the most powerful waterfall in Europe) the skies turned against us and it started to rain. It was the first rain we’ve had on the trip so we didn’t mind at all. Until, we noticed the wipers on the car weren’t the greatest (and we got out of the car and walked a little). The hike to Dettifoss was one of the more interesting ones we’ve done. Even though it was short, it was covered in snow and ice! We shouldn’t have been too surprised by this but we were. What surprised us more was the choice of footwear by some of our fellow hikers. While most of them were wearing hiking shoes, a fair amount were wearing  RUNNING SHOES. Like any smart Canadian, I know not to wear running shoes in the snow (unless I want to get sick). I do understand that they are easy to pack but in the planning stages of the trip you should realize that most of the stuff to do here is outdoors and there are better shoe options out there.

We were soon at Selfoss, a smaller waterfall on the way to Dettifoss but this one was my favourite. I think it was because we were able to see the base of the falls that I enjoyed it more. This really helped to put the waterfall in scale and we realized just how massive it is. I feel that I would have been more wowed by Dettifoss and how big it was had we been able to hike down more (but alas this was closed due to snow and ice). After cursory pictures we left Selfoss and were at Dettifoss quite soon there after. This waterfall is the largest in Europe and is a testament to the sheer forces of Nature. Even though we couldn’t see it all we were still amazed by it and felt absolutely minuscule in comparison.

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Selfoss
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Dettifoss

Hiking back through the rain, we didn’t get too too wet as we were well protected but felt for the people that didn’t plan accordingly. Back in the car, we turned Beyoncé on loud and set our sights on the Nature Baths in Myvatn (where I don’t have pictures as my dSLR isn’t the biggest fan of water). On our way, we mistook a different site for the nature baths. This  turned out to be the Hverarond Geothermal Area. Driving through the area we noticed a faint smell of Sulfur but weren’t too worried about it. We had been to Geysir and lived to tell the tale – but this would prove to be a different story. As soon as we open the door of the car we were overwhelmed by the smell. This one was a tad different from the one at Geysir as it wasn’t just Sulphurous – it was a combination of a dirty diaper and pickled eggs. Something that our stomachs (and noses weren’t the biggest fan of).

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We persevered through the smell and saw some incredible Geothermal vents and mud hot pots. The gurgling of the Mud Hot Pots was similar to how our stomachs felt at the time – absolutely topsy turvy. I’d like to say I have a pretty strong stomach and nothing really bothers it but this was pretty close to a horrible ending for me.

Once we decided we were done we made our way back to the car (which still smells like sulphur) and made our way to the Nature Baths. These are similar to those at the Blue Lagoon (near Reykjavik) but different in the fact that they are truly natural – and a tad cheaper. Newly used to the smell, we changed, showered like the icelanders do (naked) and were soon enjoying the warmth of the pools.

We relaxed in the pools for about 2 hours, thoroughly killing our hair and skin but it was well worth it. The pools were so relaxing and we recovered from the last couple tedious days. We ended up grabbing a bite to eat there and I had Skyr and Geothermal Bread with Smoked Salmon – yum!

All nice and relaxed we set our sights on the nights hotel – Tungulending Guesthouse near Husavik. Now, this is where we had a little bit of fun. Not only did the pavement road turn into a gravel road halfway through (it luckily switched back) but Google Maps had lied to us in regards to its location. Luckily, we had SIM cards and Data and found our way pretty quickly to the road it was on. As soon as we turned off the highway we were on a steep gravel road down to the ocean – yikes! Daylan was an absolute driving champ and made it like a charm.

As we checked in we were immediately enthralled with the place. Its seaside location is amazing and you can see huge mountains across the fjord! The place itself is absolutely charming and very nordic chic in design. We both love it and wish we could stay longer! After ditching our bags, Daylan decided it was time for me to teach her how to use a camera and I happily obliged! You can check out her handiwork at daysdreamings.wordpress.com ! We went outside and shot photos for about 45 minutes before decided it was time for dinner (and a beer)!

This brings us to now, full on Kjötsupa (Icelandic Lamb Soup with Veggies and Pasta) and a Local Organic Ale I set out to edit pictures and write today’s blog!

Aaron’s Note: I just want to say thank you to everyone for your support as I make the transition to full on travel blog! It means a lot to me to see how well received it is.