All posts by Lauren

What I want to get right during my trip to Eastern Europe

It’s been a while.

Not only am I returning to blogging, I’m looking forward to leaving this freezing winter behind, ready to catch the end of the European summer. In a few weeks I’ll be exploring Eastern Europe, and the closer it gets the more I find myself wanting to use this trip as a way of improving myself, as well as experiencing all of what Europe has to offer.

Reacquainting myself with solo travel

Statue in Veliky Novgorod
Statue in Veliky Novgorod

It’s been five years since I’ve travelled solo outside of my state. While I’ve taken many trips with friends and family, there’s something freeing about going on your own.

While I’ll be joining some group tours along the way, and I’ll have my fellow tour group members to go exploring with, I also want to take the time to make sure I experience the things that interest me most about the places I’m going to. I feel like it’s easier to break away from a tour group and do your own thing than it is when travelling with friends and family.

It’s also a way of clearing my mind from what has been a busy and stressful first half of 2018. About three-quarters through a trip, my mind has usually quietened and found enough space to relax and it becomes quite clear about what I need to do when I get back home.

Learning to pack lightly

I identify as a minimalist, and have been actively culling my possessions down to only those I love or use, ever since it first sunk in that the less things you own, the easier it is to travel.

While I’ll never be able to fit everything I own into one backpack, one area I really struggle with is taking too many clothes with me. My suitcase is full before I leave Australia.

I want this year to be different. I did a trial pack for my seven week trip the other week, pulling all of the clothes out of my cupboard and packing them into my suitcase. I ended up with three pairs of jeans, two pairs of trousers, three skirts, three dresses, and thirty tops. I know I try to avoid doing as much laundry as possible whilst I’m away, but this was kind of excesive.

At the same time, I’ve read a lot about people using packing cubes to organise their luggage while travelling. I didn’t quite understand it, and wrote it off in my head as something I didn’t need, but after seeing how many clothes I was trying to take away with me, I managed to get some on sale from Kathmandu, and am challenging myself to only take away with me the clothes that fit into one of their large packing cells. I’ll let you know how successful I am in a later post!

Brushing up on my German

The gardens of Schoenbrunn Palace
The gardens of Schoenbrunn Palace

I’m spending four days on this trip in Vienna, and as a challenge to myself I want to spend it speaking only German. I learned German in high school and have kept it up with a few refresher classes since, but immersing myself in a German-speaking city will help me with my confidence with speaking the language. Watch out for a post on how well I managed!

Doing justice to Vienna, Prague and Budapest

Overlooking Budapest from the dome of St Stephen's Basilica
Overlooking Budapest from the dome of St Stephen’s Basilica

This trip sees me travelling around Eastern Europe, including visiting Vienna, Prague and Budapest. I’ve been to these cities before back in 2010, however I never felt like I took the time to fully understand them. There are many reasons for that including that a few days earlier I had walked into a pole in Salzburg, which meant I had to walk around Vienna and Budapest feeling self-conscious about the plasters on my forehead marking my head injury, and then had to spend half of my time in Prague waiting in a doctor’s office so I could have the stitches taken out. It rained constantly in Budapest, reflecting my miserable mood, so after exploring the Grand Central Market and having a Tokay wine tasting, I spent the rest of the time catching up on sleep at the hotel. I looked at my photos of Budapest the other day and was amazed at how pretty the buildings were – I was in such a bad mindset at the time that I hadn’t even noticed.

This trip I want to spend some time admiring these capital cities for the magnificent places that they are.

Autumn in Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens

We’re in the final days of autumn here in Australia. The trees are slowly losing their leaves as the air turns from crisp to chill. One of the things I wanted to do before the season ended was to explore Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, and see for myself the glorious reds, browns, oranges and golds of the autumnal leaves before winter stole them away for another year.

The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, tucked away in the Adelaide Hills, are only a thirty minute drive out of Adelaide. On the way there, as I drove through the townships of the Adelaide Hills, I caught glimpses of
gorgeous trees in vibrant reds and yellows and my anticipation heightened. I had decided to go at just the right time!

After parking in the Upper Carpark (free to park on Sundays, and not as full as the Lower Carpark) I didn’t pick up a map of the Botanic Gardens and decided to wander instead in search of colourful leaves. The day was perfect for walking along the sometimes steep paths, and there were moments when there was nobody else around where I could stand still, and appreciate the beauty of nature.

By the time I made my way down the hill to the Main Lake, I had not been disappointed. There were flashes of colour everywhere in amongst the evergreen trees. Coming across the Duck Lake was the showpiece of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, with the colours of the foliage reflected in the lake.

After an hour of wandering around the Rhododendron and West Asian Gullies, it came time to make the hike back up to the carpark, which tested my fitness after what was a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

As it’s spread over more than 90 hectares, there is still a great deal more of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens that I’ve yet to explore. Hopefully, as I keep my resolution to travel more locally during this year, I can return over the next few months to explore the other paths through the garden. I hear the camellias and magnolias are beautiful in August!

Renaissance Shows and Medieval Fairs

I love to travel, however over the years my idea of travelling has been warped to mean overseas. And since I currently average one of these big trips a year, after I come home from one, it could be twelve months of waiting and anticipation before I leave for the next one.

Life is about having adventures, and adventures shouldn’t be limited to once a year. However this is the holding pattern I’ve fallen into. I tell myself excuses: I need to wait until my friends are available to go on a road trip; I’ll see that exhibition next month, when I have more time but this leads to an unadventurous life.

There’s so much on at the moment that I should be out experiencing. It’s History Month in my hometown, which means that all of the grand nineteenth century mansions throw open their doors to the public. There’s an Impressionist exhibition on at the Art Gallery, featuring works on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. And it’s that lovely time in autumn when the weather’s cooling down and the leaves are starting to change from green into gorgeous reds, yellows and browns.

Instead of spending my free time exploring, I’m being a homebody, staying in and binge watching the life of Mary, Queen of Scots and her time at French court in Reign.

If I was overseas travelling, I wouldn’t have this problem. I’d go exploring by myself without a second thought. That’s just what you do when travelling solo. So why can’t I adopt this mindset when I’m at home?

Last weekend, I decided to make a start on changing my mindset, and took myself on a road trip to the Gumeracha Medieval Fair. I first heard about the fair about three years ago, and as each year has passed I have been more determined to go. This year, after asking everyone I knew if they were interested in going and coming up short, I psyched myself in to my travelling mindset, packed my bag for the day, and went for the forty minute drive to Gumeracha.

I didn’t know what to expect from the fair. How big was it? What was it like? Would everyone there be in costume? Would I stand out if I was there by myself? Would I get there, spend ten minutes wandering around, and then feel like leaving again?

I needn’t have worried. I ended up spending five hours at the fair, most of them watching the mock battles at the Combat Arena. There were plenty of performances and demonstrations. Not only were there three swordplay groups, there was also an Armouring a Knight presentation, and the Skills at Arms (unfortunately the scheduled joust was unable to take place which is a shame. It’s on my bucket list to watch a joust in real life!).

The fair sprawled along Federation Park, with many different areas to explore, including a Viking area, an Artisan area, and an area especially for children. Some people embraced the occasion and dressed up in medieval costume, and I almost convinced myself to buy a cloak from one of the clothing stalls (maybe next year)!

Once I was there, I didn’t worry at all that I was by myself. It just didn’t matter. I’m looking forward to going next year – and in the meantime push myself to go on many other adventures!

Checking In: March 2018

The craziness of Mad March is here! It’s easy to be inspired at this time of the year, as the intense forty-degree days of summer dissipate and the cooler autumn nights set in. The Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Festival, and Adelaide Writer’s Week are all on at the moment, full of performances and talks by creative and inspiring people, and re-igniting my own creativity.

Last Friday I spent a couple of hours listening to Cole Porter songs and Sinatra standards while cruising along the River Torrens on the Popeye – a boat that holds a lot of childhood memories and is a South Australian icon. Afterwards we joined the crowd admiring the mesmerising Parade of Light along North Terrace. The projections are always beautiful to watch, but the most impressive was the Borealis, a clever combination of smoke and light wafting over the gardens of the South Australian Museum, which almost made up for me sleeping through the real thing.

Popeye riverboat
The Popeye cruising along the River Torrens

I’ve finally booked in my trip to Eastern Europe that was on my 2017 travel wish list! While I’m missing out on Romania this time, I’ll be exploring a lot of other countries which will be new to me, including Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia.

I’ll also be spending a day or two in Český Krumlov – a medieval town in the Czech Republic recommended to me eight years ago as somewhere I’d love. I’m also returning to some places, including Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, since due to seeking medical attention and walking around with plasters on my forehead after colliding with a shop awning in Salzburg, I didn’t see everything I would have liked to the first time around.

Now I’m off to spend the afternoon at the Garden of Unearthly Delights, soak up the Fringe atmosphere and be re-inspired.

Visiting Disneyland All Grown Up

Visiting Disneyland All Grown Up
Did visiting Disneyland all grown up meet my childhood expectations?

When I was little, Disneyland seemed like a magical place. To my eight year old mind it was the home of all of my favourite characters from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, and to actually visit it would be like stepping through the cinema screen into the world of Disney, just like Mary Poppins and the Banks children stepping into the chalk paintings on the footpath and finding themselves in a world of fantasy.

Now that I’m all grown up, I was worried about how different my experience of Disneyland would be compared to the idea of Disneyland that I had as a child. Would it still be exciting? Would I still have the wonder of my childhood, and the ability to accept anything at face value? Or would it all have been edged out by the rational thoughts of the adult that I’ve become?

My nostalgic side had one thing in its favour – I was visiting Disneyland with my brother, the person with whom I had spent my childhood engrossed in hours of Disney movies, who had participated in the endless sing-alongs of each movie soundtrack, and who knew the importance of pretending to be a mermaid whenever we found ourselves in water.

We bought a two day Park Hopper pass, which allowed us to go between Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure Park as many times as we wanted, and both days we were at the gates when they opened at 8AM, and only finished exploring when the final parade had finished for the night, revelling in the fact that we were at Disneyland.

However, when you hold on to a dream from childhood to adulthood, you develop very particular expectations around what it’s going to be like when it actually happens. Visiting Disneyland was no different. There were things that surprised me, things that I loved, and things that didn’t measure up to the experience I had imagined as a child.

What I loved:

The fact that we were at Disneyland

Being able to walk through the gates of Disneyland, to walk down Main Street USA, to ride in the spinning tea cups of the Mad Tea Party, to journey into the depths of Tortuga on the Pirates of Caribbean ride, and experience The Matterhorn and Splash Mountain for ourselves after a lifetime of reading about them in books was surreal. As we figured out our way around all of the lands, searched out the rides we most wanted to go on, and sat on the side of the path waiting for the parades and the fireworks to begin, we had to pinch ourselves to believe we were actually in Disneyland!

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at night

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, with its blue turrets rising high into the sky, was the one thing I most wanted to see at Disneyland. Not only was it the most iconic sight of Disney, being part of the production company logo that began each one of its movies, but its design has parallels with Neuschwanstein, the Bavarian castle which ignited my dream of travelling the world and starting Castlephile Travels.

Hyperspace Mountain

Rollercoasters are my favourite type of ride, and we experienced the adrenalin rush of California Screamin’, with its giant loop-the-loop, five times over the two days.

HyperSpace Mountain eclipsed it though. The wait for it was long – we decided against a FastPass and found ourselves in a queue that seemed to hardly move – but once we got on the ride, it was one of my favourite experiences that we had at Disneyland. It was essentially a rollercoaster in the dark, so there was no way of telling which way you would be sent next. It was awesome and unpredictable and I loved it!

The FastPass system

It took us a while to figure out how and when to use the FastPass system at Disneyland – where you pre-book a time slot to go on one of the more popular rides, allowing you to go off and continue exploring, and then skip the majority of the queue when you show up during your time slot. Once we had worked it out, we timed it to work to our advantage, especially when going on the California Screamin’ rollercoaster at Disneyland California Adventure Park. We managed to go on the ride three times within the space of an hour using FastPasses, thanks to the kindness of a stranger who gave us their unwanted FastPasses to go on the ride again (we were helping him as much as he was helping us – you are only allowed to have one Fast Pass booked on your ticket at any one time, and he obviously wanted his to be used up as soon as possible).

What I wanted more of:

I wanted more behind the scenes

As I’ve grown up, I’ve become fascinated by how things work. I love watching the special features of my Disney DVDs and learning more about their story and character development process. I didn’t find much of that in the park. What I found instead was an overwhelming amount of merchandise stores lining the streets (though it was impressive that most of them stocked different items), but I wasn’t there to buy a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. I wanted to learn more about Disney and his vision for his company and theme park. That’s the grown-up in me talking, my inner child wouldn’t have cared so long as I could go on the rides and feel like I was inside a Disney movie!

I wanted the complete stories

There were a few rides we went on which were re-tellings of the most iconic Disney movies. The one that frustrated me the most was Snow White’s Scary Adventure. The ride started off well, focusing on the terror of the Evil Queen demanding Snow White’s death. The singing of the dwarves echoed in the cavern as they mined for precious jewels, the queen cackled as she transformed herself into an ugly hag and kept tabs on Snow White via her magical mirror, and the sinister trees reached out towards us with their branches as they threatened to seize us from our ride capsule, making me squirm with trepidation. Then came the climactic scene of the dwarves stalking the queen to the top of a craggy rock. I waited to see her fall, wanting to see good triumph over evil. But suddenly, we’re passing a sign proclaiming ‘and they all lived Happily Ever After’ and being pushed out into the real world. Did the Queen tumble to her demise? Did Snow White wake up? This is never answered during the ride, and the sudden change from the darkness of the story to the brightness of the happy ending left me feeling a bit disappointed that the entire story wasn’t told.

I wanted more character encounters

Even though I wasn’t looking to actually meet any of the characters, I assumed there would be a lot more of them around the park. On the two days we spent at Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure Park, aside from the planned parades and shows, we spotted only Goofy, Pluto, and Cruella de Vil. Maybe we were in the wrong place at the wrong time (after all, we never looked to see if there were specific times to go and meet the characters), but in my head I had imagined we’d be running in to characters around every corner!

I wanted to go on a ship that sailed

It looked glorious docked at Frontierland. The white steam-powered Mark Twain Riverboat reminded me of the paddleboats that cruised down the Murray River at home. I dragged my brother over to it, determined to sail around the Rivers of America.

After a full day of trying to pack everything that both Disneyland California Adventure Park and Disneyland had to offer, it was nice to have a moment of calm. Being ferried around on a riverboat sounded like just what we needed. We climbed on, made our way to the top deck, and then waited, looking over the lines of people waiting to go on the Pirates of the Carribbean which seemed to have increased exponentially since we last walked through there, making the small New Orleans Square even more congested.

After ten minutes had passed, I turned my attention to the gangway. A trio of jazz musicians boarded, and five minutes later, they started playing. Soon the paddle steamer would leave, I kept telling myself. A man with a captain’s hat came on board, which bolstered my spirits and gave me the ammunition I needed to convince my brother that we needed to stay on the boat – our voyage was surely about to begin.

We moved around the boat as we waited. Every now and then, more people would board, and then a few moments later, some others would disembark. I gazed off into the park, wondering whether we too should leave. I decided to remain resolute, and stay.

In the end, our stomachs won out, and thirty minutes after we had first boarded the Mark Twain Riverboat, we left in search of food. The next day, I kept my eye on it whenever we passed through Frontierland, wondering whether it ever did leave the dock. As far as I could tell, it was always docked right where we had left it.

I wanted to be a child again

Disneyland makes you nostalgic for your childhood. No matter how much of a big kid you are, no matter how much you give in to the wonder and the make-believe, you still feel like you are lacking something in comparison with the children who were there experiencing Disneyland during their childhood. Their enthusiasm as they lined the parade route was infectious. They excitedly waited for their favourite characters to wave to them. They were ecstatic about seeing Belle, Ariel, Elsa and Anna. That’s what I really wanted from my Disneyland experience – for the line between reality and make-believe to remain blurred, and for the feeling of being a child again.

Checking In: The Mid-Year Review (2017)

The Mid-Year Review

I have no idea where the first half of 2017 went. Surely it was only a few weeks ago when I was dreaming up travel plans for this year? Yet somehow I am sitting here with my laptop, listening to it pour with rain outside, counting the days to when winter is over and wondering how the first half of 2017 has passed without travelling much at all.

The 2017 Travel Goals List

Back in January, I came up with a list of dream destinations to visit in 2017. Some plans are still in the works and others have fallen through. So what’s still on my travel list for this year?

The capital cities of Australia

With trips to Sydney and Melbourne planned in September, dropping in to Hobart to visit relatives as part of the Great Tasmanian Odyssey in October, and spending my weekends venturing around my home town of Adelaide, by the end of the year I would have visited four out of the eight capital cities (the others being Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, and the capital of Australia: Canberra). Half of them isn’t that bad, right?

Eastern Europe and Eastern Canada

My plans to visit Croatia, Slovenia and Romania fell through due to scheduling issues. Hopefully early next year I’ll be able to get to Vlad’s Transylvanian castle, the lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes and the picturesque towns of Slovenia.

The Eastern Canada trip will have to be moved back, too.

Tasmania

Tasmania is definitely happening, and I’ll be waking up on my birthday on the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that makes the crossing over Bass Strait between Melbourne and Devonport. From there, the plan is to go hiking around Cradle Mountain, spend some time exploring the north-western coastline of Tasmania, venture down to Hobart to visit relatives, learn more about Australia’s convict past by visiting Port Arthur, get my fill of the heritage homes that are around Evandale and take in the spectacular scenery that Tasmania is famous for.

Local day trips

Staying so close to home during the first half of the year has meant that I’ve been able to take advantage of what my local region has to offer. However, there’s still so much more I’d like to explore this year!

During the next six months, I would love to:

  • Take a day trip out to the Naracoorte Caves, the only UNESCO heritage site in South Australia
  • Return to Moonta, a mining town originally settled by the Cornish, where I grew up
  • Learn more about my family history by visiting the Barossa Valley towns of Tanunda and Nuriootpa, where both my mum’s and dad’s fathers settled when they migrated to Australia from Germany in the 1880s
  • Explore Kangaroo Island
  • Visit one of the major salt lakes
  • Visit Martindale Hall, where Picnic at Hanging Rock was filmed
  • Do the Adelaide Oval Roof Climb
  • Face my fear of ghosts at the Adelaide Gaol
  • Explore the Tunnels that are underneath Adelaide (already signed up to do this in August – can’t wait!)

There’s so much to look forward to!

What are your travel plans for the next half of the year?

A Lazy Mother’s Day in the Adelaide Hills

Leaves
The autumnal colours of the leaves are beautiful this time of year

The last few weekends have been grey and chilly as we head towards winter. But this weekend the sun was out, and the temperature was hovering around a lovely twenty degrees making it the ideal day for a Sunday drive through the Adelaide Hills.

Red pops of colour as the leaves change
Red pops of colour as the leaves change

And perfect timing, too, since it’s Mother’s Day! To celebrate, I spent the day with Mum and Dad exploring the windy roads of the Adelaide Hills.

My parents are avid photographers, and so much of the time was spent pulling over to the side of the road and jumping out of the car for photo ops as we tried to capture the changing colours of the vineyards, apple orchards, and autumnal trees on the side of the road. We even passed Camelot Castle peeking out from behind the trees that lined the side of the road.

Catching glimpses of Camelot Castle on our Sunday drive
Catching glimpses of Camelot Castle on our Sunday drive

We managed to snag one of the last tables at the Lobethal Bierhaus, and tucked in to a warm loaf of sliced bread, and mains of pulled pork and venison as Mum and I sipped on the local Lenswood LOBO apple cider and watched as Dad worked his way through the tasting platter of eight beers that were each brewed on site (I don’t usually like the taste of beer, but even I liked the spiced Christmas ale!). We would have loved to have stayed for dessert, but we were too full!

Lunch at the Lobethal Bierhaus
Lunch at the Lobethal Bierhaus
The Tasting Platter at the Lobethal Bierhaus
The Tasting Platter at the Lobethal Bierhaus

A visit to the Adelaide Hills is never complete without stopping in at Melba’s Chocolate Factory at Woodside. Everyone else must have had the same idea, as the shop was full of people buying chocolate with their mums. The chocolate shop has rooms where you can wander in and watch the chocolates, lollies and other treats being made – and taste some samples!

Me;ba's Chocolates at Woodside - it's a tradition to go here whenever we're in the Adelaide Hills
Me;ba’s Chocolates at Woodside – it’s a tradition to go here whenever we’re in the Adelaide Hills
Chocolate honeycomb from Me;ba's - yum!
Chocolate honeycomb from Me;ba’s – yum!

It was a lovely lazy day and although we didn’t really do much, it was relaxing taking photos, eating great food, and most importantly, spending time with Mum.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mums out there – hopefully your day was just as relaxing!

Why I’ll Always Remember Salzburg

Mirabell Gardens
The Mirabell Gardens, in the Old Town of Salzburg

As soon as I set foot in Salzburg, I felt at home. Here was a town I could easily fall in love with, from the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress overlooking the town, to the idyllic Sound of Music setting of the Mirabell Gardens, to the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town, and I couldn’t wait to explore it.

Five hours later, I found myself in hospital being examined by a doctor who looked like he had come from the set of Grey’s Anatomy and having X-rays taken to determine if I had any head trauma. I was right in the middle of one of my travel nightmares (the other being watching an ATM gobble up my debit card), and I wondered why this had to have happened to me.

So how did I end up in hospital? It sounds ridiculous to say, but I hit my head by walking in to a pole. In my defence, I was distracted by the window of a Swarovski store when I felt my forehead collide with the shop’s awning. I thought nothing of it at the time – I just banged my head, I’ll laugh it off and everything will be fine. But one of my friends pointed out that I was bleeding, and when after several hours and several plasters the scrape was still not healing, my tour guide took me to the hospital.

The doctor examined me, and I was sent to the X-ray room after making a midnight phone call to my parents back home in Australia to discover my tetanus immunisation was out of date (Make sure you know when you were last vaccinated, it makes life much easiest and doesn’t freak out your parents when you tell them you’re in the hospital!). Nine stitches and a tetanus booster later, I was free to go, with plans to get the stitches taken out in Prague eight days later.

Despite walking around with a big white plaster stuck to my forehead, I spent my remaining day in Salzburg continuing to fall more in love with it. I loved the fortress, the casualness of the beer gardens, and walking along the river in the bright summer sunshine.

I hope to go back to Salzburg one day and continue exploring this beautiful town. Although next time, I’ll make sure to watch where I’m going!

How To Travel With Your Sibling

How To Travel With Your Sibling
 

Travelling with siblings can be awesome if you get on well with each other. Having lived with each other for such a long period of time as children, now that you’ve both grown up you know each other’s likes and dislikes, and when you each need your space. Since they care about you, they’ll be considerate of what you want from your vacation time (and vice versa). And they’ll be there to reminisce with once the holiday’s over.

I’ve been on two trips with my brother over the years: a visit to Belgium, France, and the UK in 2014, and a trip to the US and Ireland in 2016. Though I initially had some concerns about how well we’d travel together before we left for our trip in 2014, it all turned out well, and we’re even throwing around some ideas about doing a road trip of Scandinavia in 2018!

However, no matter how well you get on with each other, and how well you think you know your sibling, there are still a few things you should do in order to make sure the trip is memorable for all the right reasons:

The Planning Stages

So you’ve decided to go travelling with your family. What do you need to do to get organised?

Decide where you want to go

Perhaps the most obvious place to start would be deciding where you’d like to go. This could take some time, especially if you’ve both got long bucket lists of dream destinations. Find places you both want to go to, or work together to find some inspiration for destinations you both want to travel to.

Work out your Must-Do list

Once you’ve agreed on your destination, take the time to separately write down a list of what you would like to do and see at each place.

After you’ve each compiled your lists, compare them. Some things may be the same. If so, great! Add them in to your itinerary as they are important to both of you. If there are things that are different, and it’s not something you’re remotely interested in, compromise. Maybe when they go and do that, you’ll do something else on your list that they don’t particularly want to see.

While You’re There

So you’ve packed your bags, arrived at your destination and checked in to your accommodation. Excellent! Now how do you make sure everything runs smoothly from here?

Give each other space

When I’m visiting a city, I love to discover it’s history, and explore the heritage buildings, whereas my brother loves to hit the shops in the hope of finding something he can’t buy back home.

While I can spend part of my holiday shopping, and he can spend part of his time learning more about the history and culture of the destination we’re visiting, we get drained if we spend too much time on the thing the other person loves.

Therefore, we accept that we’re interested in seeing different things, and plan out our travelling days so that we’re together for the sights we both want to see, but also allow for time to split up and fulfill our own wish lists. Doing this also stops us from getting tired of being around each other 24/7.

Compromise

Compromise is important when you’re travelling with other people. If you chose the restaurant you all ate at last night, perhaps tonight it’s the other person’s choice. Though you may not have as much freedom to do whatever you like when you’re with someone else as you do when you’re travelling solo, letting someone else choose may lead you to discover something fantastic that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself.

Don’t hold grudges

Nothing ruins a holiday faster than if you harbour regrets or antagonism towards the person you’re travelling with. On our recent visit to New York, my brother would stay up late and sleep in until lunch time, whereas I’d wake up in time to see the sunrise and want to start exploring. Instead of hanging around waiting for him to be ready, I went for morning walks by myself (avoiding the famous landmarks we both wanted to see), and therefore got to see Lincoln Centre, spend time in Greenwich Village, and explore the city on my own terms. If I hadn’t done this, I would have been angry at him for what I saw as wasting precious travel time. If something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, either accept it or find a way to work around it. Don’t let your attitude ruin your holiday.

Hopefully these tips help get you in the right frame of mind when you’re travelling with your brother/s or sister/s! If you have any other tips you would like to share, feel free to write them in the comment section below.

And just before you go: today is my brother’s birthday! He has his own YouTube channel and vlogged our trip to the US and Ireland (blog posts to come soon!) last year. Check the vlogs out below for some travel inspiration!

New York

The Republic of Ireland

Northern Ireland

The Trees of Ta Prohm

The Trees of Ta Prohm
 

Out of all of the temples in Angkor, I was most looking forward to visiting Ta Prohm. From what I had seen online, it looked like an abandoned temple, left for the trees and vegetation of the area to consume it.

One of the most recognisable trees in Ta Prohm
One of the most recognisable trees in Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm was constructed in 1186 as a Buddhist monastery and temple dedicated to the mother of Khmer king Jayavarman VII. As Khmer rule moved elsewhere, Ta Prohm, like some of the other temple complexes in the area, succumbed to nature, leading to what we see now: the stones of the temple dislodged by the roots of large trees.

The masses of roots from this tree adds to the atmosphere of Ta Prohm
The masses of roots from this tree adds to the atmosphere of Ta Prohm

It is these trees and their spectacular root systems that set Ta Prohm apart from its neighbouring temples, which have been better maintained over the years. At Ta Prohm, the trees appear to be growing on the roof of the temple itself, their roots stretching over the stonework, clawing their way to the ground.

Tree root running along a wall of Ta Prohm
The shapes that the tree roots make are so interesting to me.

As you move through the temple complex, you see the effects of nature reclaiming the buildings as you come across walkways and corridors blocked off by rubble – fallen stones dislodged a long time ago as the tree roots fought their way through the temple walls. While restoration efforts by both Indian and Cambodian organisations are preventing further deterioration from occurring to Ta Prohm, you still feel like you have stumbled over a forgotten place (if you ignore the other visitors exploring the complex!).

Looking down one of the corridors in the temple complex
Looking down one of the corridors in the temple complex

When you do visit Ta Prohm, make sure to glance to your left as you walk back to the carpark. There you’ll see a somewhat out-of-place carving of what on first glance appears to be a stegosaurus. Whether it’s intended to be a dinosaur or something else entirely is up to you to decide!

While this carving looks like a stegosaurus, it could be a depiction of another animal entirely.
While this carving looks like a stegosaurus, it could be a depiction of another animal entirely.