For my 25th birthday, I decided to celebrate it in Europe. My first stop was London and so I started planning my itinerary while I was still in Canada. Obviously, what’s a trip to London without experiencing the London Eye?
Back in high school, I remember watching the movie If Only and there was a scene where Jennifer Love Hewitt was in the London Eye. I found that scene so beautiful that I dreamt of going there one day and experience it myself.
I really am not a fan of buying tickets to anything on the day of, so I booked most of my tickets online before my trip and that included my ticket to the London Eye. As I was looking through my options, I saw that they offer a Champagne Experience and so I opted for that one thinking, “Well, it is my birthday after all. Why not make it fancy?”
My schedule on the ticket was July 22, 2014 at 7 p.m. It was advised that I be there 45 minutes prior to my schedule. On the day itself, I went and showed my ticket. I was then ushered into this really fancy room with a Pommery Champagne bar. Although, there was a bar in this room, the champagne was not free. The free glass of champagne will be later served while on board the London Eye. Only the ones who purchased the Champagne Experience gets to be in this room. There were not a lot of people in it, there were a few couples and a family. I was the only single person in the room. These were also the people I shared a London Eye capsule with, which was nice because our capsule wasn’t crowded and we did not have to line up to get in.
About 15 minutes later, our host escorted us over to the London Eye for boarding. We got in the capsule, and our host started handing out glasses of champagne to each of us except minors or those who don’t drink, instead they were given glasses of non-alcoholic beverages. Our host imparted some information about London while we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the city and our champagne. We also took pictures.
The whole experience lasted about 45 minutes or so. Afterwards, I went to a shop and purchased some souvenirs and photos from my experience.
It was definitely an experience I would never forget.
Expenses: £24 plus £4.80 tax = £28.80 The price included entrance to the London Eye, a glass of champagne, and a viewing guide. It shows in the picture below. *Take note this was the price back in 2014. Prices may have changed.
This a complete budget guide for a six-day trip to Japan in 2016.
*I have listed all my expenses but for instances where I split the cost with my boyfriend, I have indicated it and computed it to show the cost per person. The grand total found below will show how much I spent for my entire trip to Japan from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, 2016.
Expenses before leaving for my trip:
Flight:CAD$1,286.01 – flight itinerary Aug. 27, 2016 Calgary to Tokyo, Sept. 2, 2016 Tokyo to Manila, and Sept. 12, 2016 Manila to Calgary (booked on Dec. 22, 2015 at 11:30 am) Please take note, this is the cost for a multi-city flight between Calgary, Tokyo, and Manila.
Accommodation at Oak Hostel Zen in Tokyo: CAD$501.40 for five nights from Aug. 28,2016 to Sept.1, 2016 (booked on april 15,2016 9:08 pm) divided by two that equals to CAD$250.70 per person
Japan Rail Pass: CAD$697 for two 7-day Japan Rail Pass, a Japan Railway map and timetables, Japan by Train travel guide, and postage fees. Divide that by two so CAD$348.50 per person. You can read more about why we decided to buy a Japan Rail Pass by clicking here. If you have already decided that you want to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, I highly recommend buying it from here because we had a good experience with them. FYI, our JR pass is not sponsored by the website mentioned, I’m just really happy with their service.
Accommodation at Kinoe Ryokan in Kyoto: This is a more traditional Japanese accommodation.The total cost was approximately ¥51,800/CAD$690 which includes one night-accommodation for two people, a traditional Kaiseki dinner, and a traditional Japanese breakfast. I only paid CAD$200 and David, my boyfriend, paid the rest because he’s the best ;).
Disney Sea ticket: ¥7,400/CAD$98.67 this is a one-day pass to Disney Sea for one person
Total expenses before leaving for Japan: CAD$2,183.88
Expenses during the trip:
When I traveled, the exchange rate was approximately ¥75 for every CAD$1 so that’s what I used for this blog post. Please take note of the current exchange rate.
I also budgeted myself to only ¥10,000/CAD$133.33 per day. Some days, I spent less than my budget while on other days, I spent more.
It’s no secret that travel can teach some of the best education you’ll ever get. No amount of reading can ever really compare to the cultural experiences you have when you’re traveling overseas. Spending time flitting between different countries can make a person become more tolerant, improve their language skills, and even make them more street-wise. But as you travel, you may face various problems and challenges that could severely impede your trip. Traveling should be a magical experience and no one wants to get into any kind of trouble that could detract from that. The important thing is to make sure you cover your own back so that you’re not at risk of anything ruining your trip.
A large majority of countries now require travelers to hold a valid visa in order to enter. If you have a Canadian passport, for example, even though you will be ranked sixth in the world for travel freedom, there are still 134 countries you need a visa for. Booking a flight to a country without a valid visa can get you into a lot of trouble, and you won’t be allowed on the plane when you reach the airport. Visas can differ hugely depending on where you are going to and how for long, so make sure you do your research months before you depart. If you are in any doubt, visit the official ESTA site or similar official sites for more information.
Our world is full of diverse cultures, and that’s what makes it so beautiful and fascinating. But, you need to be aware of other country’s local culture if you choose to spend time over there. Even if you don’t mean to, you could end up offending some of the local people if you don’t make an effort to fit in. For example, in some countries, it is advised that you don’t wear anything too revealing, as it goes against religious beliefs. You may not be religious yourself, but it is a mark of respect if you adhere to these customs. You must also be aware of how different laws operate overseas. Something that isn’t illegal in your home country may well be in a country you’ve not been to before. So, don’t take any risks – educate yourself before you depart.
Nine times out of 10, the people you meet while traveling will be nice and trustworthy. But sometimes, you could be at risk of getting conned out of money – especially in a country where there is a severe language barrier. If you book a tour, for example, but then cannot make it, you may still be asked to pay. If you cannot pay, there could be some kind of consequence. Never trust anyone who offers you a deal that looks too good to be true, and if you’re in any doubt, find a translator who will be able to help you.
I started traveling solo after becoming single in 2014. Since then, I have traveled solo to almost 10 countries. I have learned a lot about myself during those trips and in addition, I think I have become wiser. I highly recommend traveling solo after a break up!
At those times, I really enjoyed the freedom that comes with solo travel. Obviously, I can just jet off whenever and wherever I want without having to inform another person of my travel plans. I can go anywhere I want, do whatever I want, eat wherever I want, and spend my time with anyone I want.
I will admit, though, that there were times when I felt lonely during those trips as there were some experiences that were best shared with someone else. Let’s take, for example, my trip to Paris in 2015. Going to Paris has always been a childhood dream of mine but I went there when I was single. You can imagine how it made a single woman in her 20s felt visiting the City of Love. I would like to say that it was still a good trip but to be honest, it was just a depressing trip for me. Once I got into the City of Paris limits, I instantly felt in love but then I realized that I was traveling alone. The feeling of love was so overwhelming that I wanted to kiss the person sitting next to me in that bus.
After traveling solo for quite a few times, the desire to have a partner to travel with became stronger. In early 2016, I met my current boyfriend who has so far joined me in all of my travels (Japan and Philippines last August and September) and he will be joining me in my trip to the USA this December. In January 2016, I planned a trip to Iceland and my brother decided to come with me. The year is almost over and I have been to three trips already and one more to come but it is safe to say that I have not traveled solo at all this year and I’m not going to lie, it does kinda bum me out. I can’t believe I’m going to say that I miss traveling solo. I am itching so bad to book a flight somewhere new on my own but things are different now and I have to keep in mind other people when making travel decisions. I’m not saying that I do not enjoy traveling with someone else but traveling solo and traveling with someone else are two completely different experiences and I do miss the freedom that comes with solo travel.
I guess my wanderlust is just insatiable and maybe I’m just greedy for wanting both traveling solo and traveling with a partner. What about you? Do you enjoy traveling solo or traveling with a partner? Let me know in the comment section below.
Marlin has been blogging for almost seven years and according to him, he leads a double life as a financial analyst and a travel blogger.
“I posts travel blog posts back in 2010, but it wasn’t until early 2014 that I decided I wanted to be an actual travel blogger,” said Marlin. “I wanted to do this because travel is a passion and I wanted a creative outlet for the times when I’m not actually on the road. It keeps me going.”
When asked what the best part of being a travel blogger is, he said it is the “infinite travel inspiration” he gets from it. With that being said, he looks up to Ása and Andri on From Ice to Spice.
“They have not been traveling long and have already been to some incredible places with captivating stories and beautiful images to go along with. It’s a must read,” he said.
For the full interview with Luke Marlin from Backstreet Nomad, continue reading below.
Tell us something about yourself not many people know about you?
Well, not many people on the Internet know I’m a Financial Analyst for an investment company by day, and not people at work know I’m a travel blogger. I tend to lead a double life!
What is your blog called and what sets it apart from other travel blogs?
My blog is called The Backstreet Nomad and I like to think it is somewhat unique in that I focus on the road less travelled through humour and narrative, and I do so in part by also collecting stories from other bloggers via interview. This is not to say mine is the best out there, but I think it’s certainly unique.
Why should people check out your travel blog?
Well if you’re heading to Australia any time soon I love writing about my own country in the form of blog posts and travel guides, so you’re bound to pick up something you hadn’t thought of yet. But also, I just really like my theme, it’s new and shiny and I’d like to show it off even though I had 0% input into its design.
How long have you been blogging?
I published my first blog post back in January 2010 to a humble Blogspot blog. It had little to no theme, just bare bones travel diaries from living in Europe. When I came back the posts dried up because it was just about telling stores to those back home. It has not been updated since.
However, I published my first blog post under the Backstreet Nomad name on the WordPress.com platform in May 2014. I’ve since graduated to my own domain, changed it, then changed it back to its current form.
Why did you decide you want to be a travel blogger?
As I mentioned, I posts travel blog posts back in 2010, but it wasn’t until early 2014 that I decided I wanted to be an actual travel blogger. I wanted to do this because travel is a passion and I wanted a creative outlet for the times when I’m not actually on the road. It keeps me going.
What is the hardest part about being a travel blogger?
Every blogger who started at nothing will agree that the hardest part is when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels and it seems like no one is visiting your blog, even though you feel like you are writing your best content.
And what is the best part about being a travel blogger?
Infinite travel inspiration. Seriously. I find new content on new places every single day, and whenever I want info on a place I am visiting soon I know exactly where to look, or whom to ask.
What are the top three things you always bring with you in your travels?
My Polaroid camera, my DSLR, and my iPad.
Do you have another travel blogger you get inspiration from?
One of my favourite bloggers is Ása and Andri on From Ice to Spice. They have not been traveling long and have already been to some incredible places with captivating stories and beautiful images to go along with. It’s a must read.
Share to us your favourite travel hack?
It’s not much of a hack but if I’m going overseas, even for a short time I’ll always get a sim card for my phone. Facebook, Twitter and whatever else can go jump off a bridge, but I can no longer travel without using FourSquare for ideas on the best places to eat, drink, and visit.
Where was your last travel destination? Tell us all about it!
My most recent trip was to the South Island of New Zealand with my wife. We did a three-week loop around the coast of the island stopping wherever the hell we wanted to. It was an incredible trip, we saw an absurd amount of mountains and were able to get really close to some wildlife as well.
Where are you going next? What are you most looking forward to on this trip?
My next trip will be to the Whitsundays off the north coast of Queensland. This won’t be my first trip so I know exactly what I’m in for. However I’m always excited to see Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach again (voted Australia’s prettiest beach). It’s also a super relaxing time because we can go at our own pace while also getting in plenty of hiking and snorkelling.
All photos (except for the first one) in this post are provided by Marlin.
In my travels, I collect a few souvenirs that I use to decorate my room. I thought that it might be a good idea to share what kinds of souvenir would be great to bring back with us and decorate our homes with.
These are probably the most common and most popular type of souvenir amongst travellers. My parents always buy magnets when they travel and fill our fridge with them. It is a great conversation starter when we have guests at home and they see the magnets we have up.
Postcards and maps
We see a lot of people hang up pictures on their fridge or on their walls showing places they have been but I personally collect postcards and maps and stick them up on my bedroom wall but you can put it anywhere in your home. I collect postcards because they are really cheap and as for maps, you can sometimes get them for free at visitor information offices. In addition to that, postcards and maps are not bulky and super light which means they are not a trouble to fit in our luggages.
Bottles of sands
Growing up in the Philippines, I can say that I am an island girl. I love the beach. It has grown to be a hobby of mine to collect sand from every beach I go to. I know that some people are against taking anything away from nature but I love comparing the different textures and colours of sand of the beaches I have been to. I put the sand in really small bottles and label them. I have seen others get a huge bottle and just layer the different sand they collect. The downside of putting different sand in one bottle is that it might mix together if the bottle falls or anything like that. You can put these bottles of sands anywhere you see fit. Something similar that my parents do is collect stones and they have a collection of stones from their travels showcased in our bathroom.
Travel DIY jars
Whenever I travel, I bring home with me keepsakes including boarding passes, local transportation tickets, tickets to shows, receipts, information pamphlets, and everything else that I acquire during the trip. At home, I buy big jars at a dollar store and put all of these keepsakes in the jar. I then design each jar and label it with the name of the place I went to and when I went there. I place these travel DIY jars on a shelf in my bedroom and whenever I miss traveling, I open these jars up and reminisce about my trips. It’s like a time machine!
Replicas of iconic landmarks
This has to be my favourite souvenir of all time and I am so proud to display it at home. I buy mini replicas of iconic landmarks and decorate my bedroom with it but you can display it anywhere in your homes like the living room or kitchen or wherever you see fit. For example, I bought a mini Eiffel Tower in Paris, a mini Fushimi Inari torii gate in Kyoto, a mini Big Ben in London, and a mini Statue of Liberty in New York. Seeing them displayed in my room makes me feel like I am back in those cities again.
When you are travelling, there is a lot to consider all at once. One of your main concerns, of course, is that you find decent accommodation for your trip. No matter where you are going, or for how long, this is something that you need to put a lot of thought into. In fact, there are a few different main types of holiday accommodation you can choose from. If you are currently planning a trip away, then it might help to know what they are. The more you know about what options you have available to you, the better. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the major types of holiday accommodation.
On The Cheap
There is something very pleasing about travelling on the cheap. One of the best things about doing it this way is that you get to engage yourself in even more travelling than you might otherwise. The less you spend on each trip, the more money you will have to spend on others. If you are someone who likes the idea of being able to travel all year round, then this is probably the option you will go for. If you do decide to travel cheap, then you will be pleased to hear that you still have plenty of options for what accommodation to go for. The most popular type for travellers of this kind is the hostel. Regardless of where in the world you intend to go, it is likely that you will find a hostel of some kind nearby. Hostels are dirt cheap, and that of course means that you shouldn’t expect luxury. Nonetheless, it is rare that you will feel taken advantage of in a place like this.
A Little More Fancy
Travelling, despite what many think, does not have to be a case of extremes. There is such a thing as travelling on the mid-range. If you choose to travel in this way, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of certain luxuries, but without paying through the nose for it. Sometimes, it can be nice to treat yourself to accommodation of this kind after a long stint of going cheap. We are talking here about the likes of a private pool villa or a fairly upmarket city hotel. For those who wish to travel long term, this might not be the best option. But if you are in the mood for a little glamour, without glamour prices, then this can be a good compromise.
Of course, every now and then you are going to want to treat yourself to something otherworldly. This is the kind of place you might only be able to afford once in your life. However, when you have the opportunity, it is a good idea to take it. A good example of this kind of accommodation is any of the five-star hotels in Dubai. A city famous for its extravagance, you can easily experience the thrill of riches if you have the resources. When the opportunity for this arises, you might as well grab it.
For our last day in Iceland, we decided to take a dip at the Blue Lagoon before our flight. The milky blue water of this man-made lagoon is just so mystical. It is such a great way to end a trip and rest my tired bones. For more travel video diaries, subscribe to my Youtube channel. (This is a travel video diary for January 27, 2016)
What started my fascination with Japan was after I read the book Memoirs of a Geisha. I have always been a bibliophile and I always make sure that I read the book first before watching the movie version. However, the movie Memoirs of a Geisha painted a more colourful picture of Japan in my mind which made me daydream even more about someday visiting the Land of the Rising Sun.
There was a particular scene in that movie that just stuck to me and it was when Chiyo was running along these seemingly never-ending orange gates. At that time, I did not know what they were called or where exactly in Japan they can be found but that image just stuck in my head.
As a 26th birthday gift for myself, I booked a trip to the Philippines with a five-day layover in Japan. With my short stay in Japan, I made sure that I get to be in that exact place where Chiyo was running. I also made sure that I get a chance to walk around Japan wearing a kimono or a yukata to even make my trip as memorable as possible (but that’s a story for another day!).
Anyways, those orange gates shown in the movie (also called torii gates) are located at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Fun fact #1:“One or more torii gates mark the approach and entrance to a shrine. They come in various colors and are made of various materials. Most torii, however are made of wood, and many are painted orange and black.”
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is as beautiful and peaceful and calming as I imagined it to be. With the amount of tourists in that place, one would think that it would be a bit chaotic but that is not true at all. Just being there is such a magical experience in itself and has easily made Fushimi Inari my favourite part of my Kyoto trip. In fact, it is my favourite and most memorable part of my whole Japan trip. It was only the second day of my Japan trip when I went to Fushimi Inari but I felt like I could go home because I’ve been to and seen what I came to Japan for.
Fun fact #2:“Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shintoshrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.”
One can easily spend about two to three hours in this place. I did not get the chance to go to the top of Mount Inari due to a lack of time, which is sad but I guess it just gives me a reason to go back.
There is no entrance fee to the Fushimi Inari Shrine and one would find that most places in Japan do not have entrance fees and if they do, they cost between 400 to 600 yen. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is also always open.
Fun fact #3:“Inari Shrines are dedicated to Inari, the kami of rice. They can be recognized by fox statues, as the fox is considered the messenger of Inari.”
There are a lot of stores near the Fushimi Inari Shrine selling souvenirs and street food so make sure to stop by as there are plenty of interesting items and food that you can try.
I, for one, had a chicken skewer for 500 yen and my boyfriend had a matcha milkshake?
How to get there? We took a JR Nara line train from Kyoto Station and we got off at Inari Station. Inari station is two stops from Kyoto station and is about a five-minute train ride.
I have a sweet-tooth and I definitely am a dessert-kind of girl. Surprisingly, though, I never had a favourite ice cream place until I went to Made by Marcus. Sure, I’ve been to a lot of ice cream places but I haven’t fallen in love with any of those places. But now that I’ve had a taste of Made by Marcus, whenever the mood for ice cream strikes, I’ll know where to go.
According to their website, they “produce premium craft ice cream made from scratch with local ingredients, and with no stabilizers.” I also love that they support other local businesses.
They do offer a variety of baked goods as well so their store is not limited to ice cream. Their ice cream flavours keep changing as they only make ice creams in small batches.
I actually learned about Made by Marcus after seeing a picture of the Happy Camper Sundae on Instagram. I did some research as to where that sundae can be found. After getting my answer, I dragged my boyfriend to 17 Avenue to visit Made by Marcus. We saw that there was a line up which I didn’t mind but my boyfriend wanted to go some place else because he did not want to wait in line. With a little bit of convincing, he gave in. 😉 During our very first visit, I got a Happy Camper sundae for CAD$6. It was super sweet and creamy just the way I like it! <3 My boyfriend got two scoops of ice cream. I think it was chocolate and salted caramel? If I remember correctly. It was so good we bought a jar of toasted coconut and mango ice cream to take home!
The second time I was there, my boyfriend got me a Birthday Cake sundae for CAD$6 and oooh it was sooo good! It had liquid cheesecake in it. It is very sweet just like the first sundae I had so have a bottle of water ready. 🙂 My boyfriend and I decided to share this sundae this time because we didn’t finish our ice creams on our first visit since there was a lot of ice cream in one cup! The cup may look tiny but it will definitely get you full! On our second visit, Marcus himself was there to serve customers so that’s a plus! I like businesses whose owners are there engaging with customers.
Also, expect a lineup when you visit their store but trust me, it is worth it!