Walk your own walk…

walkyourownwalk


Hi all,

Each and every one of us has our own travel style. Some of us prefer luxurious all-inclusive vacations, while some of us like survivor-style wilderness adventures. I’m somewhere in the middle – some trips are made for backpacks, hiking boots, and bug spray, whereas other trips are all about the beach, margaritas at the swim-up bar, and unlimited chips + pico de gallo.

I happen to love the spectrum. I’ve done the seven-lake-portage canoe trips and I’ve also done the all-inclusive resort trips, and I couldn’t tell you which I liked better because both were amazing. That being said, though, the more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve been able to figure out my preferred style of travel. I like being active when I travel and I also like being comfortable…but I also like going out and dressing up – basically, I like balance.

I have a lot of friends who’ve gone on amazing trips for months on end, where they’ve trekked through several countries, climbed numerous mountains, ridden on the backs of elephants and camels, and flown by the seats of their pants. I know people who are comfortable camping their way through Europe and couch surfing their way through the Middle East. I’m a little less adventurous – and that’s okay.

I also know people who pack their suitcases to the brim and shop so much they have to purchase another bag while travelling just to bring souvenirs home (I won’t name names, but you know who you are – no shame!). I know people who dress to the nines, shop ’til they drop, and go to shows every night while on the road. I’m a little less ambitious and a lot more laid back – and that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping (every year, my mom and I go on a trip purely to shop – it’s so bad but so good!) – but I like to break up what I do when I travel with different activities. Variety is a good thing!

You may know your travel style right away. You may need  to take a few trips before figuring out what you like best. And what you like now may not be what you like ten years from now (incentive to keep travelling!). But that’s okay! One of the best things about travelling is self-discovery – getting to know more about who you are, what you want, and what you want out of life. Whether you travel as a lone wolf or as a part of a big group, you will learn a lot about yourself. The more you travel, the more you’ll learn. And the best way to do this is to walk your own walk.

“Walk your own walk” is a mantra inspired by backpacker and adventurer Francis Tapon’s book, Hike Your Own Hike. A lot of people I know have hiked or biked El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage from France to Spain, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Over the past month and a half, my family and I have followed the journey of a friend as he traversed the Camino, and I’ve loved reading about his experiences.

Inspired by his friend’s adventure, my dad started doing some of his own research of the Camino. He came across a post online that alarmed him somewhat – written by Tapon, it’s called “10 Reasons Why El Camino Santiago Sucks”. Tapon argues that the Camino really isn’t this amazing walk everyone says it is and goes through a list of why it isn’t worth it. The article could have been a very discouraging read if Tapon hadn’t also included the caveat that what he may have found sucky on his walk may not be something you or I won’t really enjoy or prefer.

Toward the end of the article, Tapon reminds his readers that, at the end of the day, the most important thing on your travels is to hike your own hike – something I recommend every traveller does on every trip. Travelling is something you should do for you! As much as possible, try to walk your own walk and truly savour every moment of your travels (and of life! Aw!). The more you walk your own walk, the more you’ll get out of your experiences, and that, my friends, makes it all worth it.

Stay well,
Katrina

That time I forgot my pants…

Hey happy travellers,

Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked a lot about packing – how to prep, what to bring along, and what I can’t live without when I travel – I started with packing because, honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with the process. I know it’s super necessary to do the legwork because I know that it’ll help me be more prepared when I’m out and about, but I also dread making those lists and narrowing everything I want to bring along down to those essential items. That being said, friends, I have learned from experience just how integral it is to pack things up properly!

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I have certainly neglected to pack necessary items on some of the trips I’ve taken – not my finest moments. I’m going to tell you about one of those moments – prepare to laugh at my mistakes (and learn from them).

Zambia
With a lovely student in Choma, Zambia. FYI: those aren’t my pants.

In August 2011, I travelled to Zambia, Africa for my practicum in Conflict Resolution Studies. I was a member of an audit team that was reviewing  a development agency’s programming in various parts of the country – I got to conduct interviews with important stakeholders, meet with amazing people (including a Nobel Prize-winning scientist!), and experience a whole new culture. It was one of the coolest trips I’ve ever been on.

To prepare for my trip, I had to do a lot of research – but the purpose of my research really had nothing to do with preparing to go to Zambia…it was all about preparing to do the practicum work I would be doing. I did a few academic assignments, got my immunizations and malaria pills, and read up on the NGO I’d be working with, but I didn’t spend a lot of time considering what to pack.

Closer to my departure, I asked the professor I was travelling with about cultural considerations while we were in Zambia, and this older gentleman told me to pack long skirts and dresses, because that was the required apparel for women. I went to Forever 21 and tried on every maxi dress in the store (shout out to my friends Darcy and Kaeri for putting up with hours and hours of dress shopping!). After trying on piles of dresses, I came away with one that was deemed appropriate, and it, along with a few long skirts I already had, became my wardrobe staples for the three and half weeks I was on my trip.

I took what my professor told me as absolute truth and didn’t do any other research. When I arrived in Zambia, my mistake was slowly but surely revealed. Zambia in August is chilly in the morning and evening, and mild during the day – the seasons are on a different schedule, so August is really springtime, meaning it was a lot like May in Winnipeg (in fact, the weather in Winnipeg was nicer than in Zambia). Basically, it was a bit brisk for dresses and skirts. And true story, I noticed that most women I met and saw wore jeans. Yep. The two other women on the review team wore pants every day. Both of them were African (one, a Congolese woman who was the NGO rep for Tanzania, and the other, a Zambian government official).

I was kind of peeved that I didn’t have any pants to wear, really I was. But what can you do? I went on as usual, pretending my outfits were on purpose and that I wasn’t freezing cold in the mornings.

But, apparently, my lack of pants didn’t go unnoticed. On a particularly nippy morning, the two women on my review team approached me and asked why I never wore any pants.

“You must be freezing  – why don’t you wear pants?” They asked. I replied that I didn’t really have any pants along that were appropriate (I had pjs, some sweats for flying, and tights for under dresses).

“Oh, well, why didn’t you come prepared?” (A trademark trait of both women = blunt honesty).

So I told them how I had been advised not to bring any pants along, and how I was instructed to bring long dresses and skirts instead. Much to my surprise, these women were kind of outraged…on my behalf. They were upset that the information I had been given was super outdated – they pointed out that they themselves wore pants almost daily, and that most young women in Zambia wore pants…pants were the norm. Yay modernity! Boo false information!

Needless to say, I felt pretty dumb! Long story short, the lovely ladies I was travelling with took pity on me, and one loaned me a pair of her pants for the rest of the trip – so kind, so funny.

Truck in Zambia

Those pants came in handy more than once – as the youngest on the team, I was often booted to the back of the truck for long drives and jeans were preferable to a dress! Only while travelling can you borrow pants from a total stranger and it be totally okay.

Moral of the story, my friends? Do that preliminary research before you start packing, and make sure that you always pack some pants (even if you think you won’t need them!). Also, make friends with strangers – you never know when you might need to borrow a pair of pants.

Until next week, stay well.
Katrina

The Essentials

Travel Essentials

Hey travellers!

Over the past two weeks, I’ve covered some packing tips and tricks of mine – we’ve gone over how to pack a backpack for extended travel, and what to bring in your carry on. Today, we’re looking at what my “must-haves” are – those essentials I can’t leave home without.

Packing Guide Part 3: The Essential “Must-Haves”

An over-prepared (and often overpacked!) traveller is a happy traveller – I know I suggested taking away five items (or more, if you’re like me) when packing your luggage, but I will say that being over-prepared isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I may take away a few luxury clothing items (I’m certainly a culprit of bringing along clothes I only wear once, or not at all – I’ve gotten better, I promise!), but some items are non-negotiable.

Here’s what I recommend bringing every time you travel – you never know when these items may come in handy!

  • International travel adapter for electronics – even if you’re just road-trippin’ through your province or state, it’s handy to have one along. Adapters often have extra USB outlets, allowing you to plug in multiple iThings, even if you’ve forgotten the correct adapters. If you’re travelling internationally, you’ll need one of these so that you don’t fry your electronic devices. Make sure you check that you have the correct converters along before you head out (for example, my adapter doesn’t have the correct outlet for South Africa, so I had to take a separate adapter along). That being said, you can always pick up additional adapters in airports or electronics stores once you arrive at your destination.
  • A fast-drying towel – my favourite brand is PackTowel but Norwex also has a similar product that works super well. It’s so worth it to have one of these along! They pack flat, don’t take up a lot of space, and dry quickly so that you don’t have to worry about damp and musty yuckiness.
  • A raincoat – again, worth it! Even if the forecast is predicting sunny skies and balmy temps, things can change on a dime. I always have one rolled up at the bottom of my bag, just in case – I have a model from MEC that rolls up into its hood for a nice, compact fit and it’s been a lifesaver.
  • A small cross-body/clutch purse –  I always pack a little purse for those days that I don’t want to lug around my backpack or giant purse. I like a bag that can be converted from clutch/wristlet to cross-body because they’re super versatile and great for going out.
  • Comfortable walking shoes – so necessary. Whether you’re on business travel or a casual getaway, it’s important to have shoes you can last in for an extended amount of time. My advice: don’t travel with brand new shoes – allow for time to wear shoes in advance to swear off blisters and ensure that the shoes you’re bringing along are, in fact, comfortable. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable space in your bag AND hurting your feet – no fun!
  • Laundry detergent and stain remover – I always have travel-sized laundry soap (I’m obsessed with CampSuds – biodegradable, gentle, super concentrated, and environmentally friendly, you can use this stuff anywhere and it lasts forever) and stain-remover (Tide to go is perfect) along to wash delicates and anything that may need immediate cleaning. All you need is a sink, water, and some soap to keep your clothing clean and fresh.
  • Pouches – I like to separate groups of items by packing them in different  pouches. This ensures that I can find things quickly when I’m in a rush and it keeps things neat and tidy in my bag. I also pack along Ziploc bags to separate my liquids (keeps messes to a minimum if there are accidental spills) and garbage bags for dirty shoes, laundry, and wet items.
  • A first-aid kit – You never know when a blister might pop up or when clumsy feet might cause a tumble – when it comes to your health, you can’t be over prepared. I always pack a little travel-sized first-aid kit in my bag. Pro tip: stick a few safety pins in one of these babies and you’ll be prepared for anything.
  • Disinfectant – I typically pack a travel-sized Lysol spray (AMAZING for dirty public toilets that freak you out – so reassuring to know you’ve sanitized!) and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Makeup Remover Wipes – these are made for travelling and being on the go. They’re great for flying and for camping – Wet Ones are a great substitute and I also have friends who rely on baby wipes.
  • Toilet Paper and Tissues – at the minimum, never leave home without some tissue!!!! I can’t stress this enough – you never know when some toilet paper may come in handy. You will NOT regret being prepared. I came across travel-sized toilet paper rolls from Charmin and I always pack a roll.
  • A journal – Not only can you store important info like medical numbers, international consulates, maps, hotel/train/flight info, a photocopy of your passport, and emergency contact numbers in your journal to have with you at all times (especially if something gets lost or technology fails you), but you can also write down your memories! I am not the journaling type – the only time I actually “journaled” on a trip was for a class assignment when I was in South Africa (more on this in a future post!) but I can’t tell you how much I value having those experiences and memories written down. I recommend that everyone take a journal along and jot things down!
  • Multipurpose makeup – save space and take all you need in a compact travel palette! So many brands have come out with amazing travel-sized palettes (many available at Sephora). One of the most versatile value sets on the market right now is Urban Decay’s Naked On The Run set – it includes mascara, eyeliner, bronzer, blush, highlighter, lipgloss, and eye shadow – everything you need for day-to-night looks in a super tiny package. Convenient and pretty!

These items are necessities in my books – some of you may have more items on your list and some of you may have less, but it’s a good idea to write down your must-haves and make sure you have them on hand for you next big adventure. What’s on your must-have list? Post a comment, send me a tweet, or hit me up on Facebook – I love hearing from you!

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

Carry on

carry-on-layoutHi all,

Last week, I went over how to pack a backpack for extended travel. Today, we’re going over how to pack my favourite bag – the carry on! 

Packing Guide Part 2: The Carry On

The carry on is your lifesaver – especially if you will be in transit for a long time. International flights, missed connections, and a few layovers later, you’ll be tired and cranky, and in need of some creature comforts – all of which you can bring along in your carry on.

I recommend putting all the things you can’t live without (within reason) in your carry on. If your checked baggage goes missing or arrives late, you’ll have the basics to survive without it until it’s either found or replaced.

Here’s what I like to pack:

  • Reading material
    • This one’s pretty obvious for a book lover like me, but whether you pack an e-reader, book, or magazine, you won’t regret having something to read on long flights and train rides (or long waits in airports or train stations!).
    • I always pack magazines because not only are magazines great reading material that will last, but they are also super useful for flat-packing and protecting any souvenirs you’ll be bringing home in your checked baggage (I always bring back artwork!)
  • Extra socks
    • It gets chilly on airplanes! It’s always good to have an extra pair along
    • *Tip: if you’re paranoid like me, throw in an extra pair of undies so that you’re golden in the event that your luggage doesn’t arrive
  • A scarf
    • Whether you wear it or keep it in your carry on, a scarf doubles as a blanket for those chilly flights – I never go on a trip without one, even if I’m going in the summer or visiting somewhere tropical.
  • Prescriptions
    • Quantities depend on where you’re going and how long you’re going for, but generally: bring the maximum amount you’ll need for your trip so that you’re good to go, no matter what.
    • Tip: try to keep medication in packaging with an official prescription label so that pills don’t look suspicious!
  • Medicines
    • When I travel, I bring a personal pharmacy – you never know what might happen (future hilarious stories coming your way!). Bring painkillers for headaches, antihistamines for allergies (even if you don’t have any – more on that in a future blog post), Immodium for unhappy bellies, and anything else you think you’ll need.
    • While it is true that you can always stop and replenish at a pharmacy on your travels, sometimes you won’t be able to find a medication you’re familiar with and comfortable taking, and that can be troublesome
  • Electronics
    • I love noise-cancelling headphones – you don’t realize how noisy airplanes are until you have a pair of these! Trust me, they’re worth it.
    • I always bring an iPod/mp3 player so that I can listen to music (also useful for long train rides with no televisions. I watched all three LOTR movies on trains in Europe last summer – great way to pass the time!).
    • Camera – whether you’re bringing a fancy DSLR, a tiny point and shoot, or you’re simply taking pictures on your phone/iPod, keep this on you.
  • Toiletries
    • Like medicines and medications, bring your must-haves (remember, you have to fit all of your liquids into a plastic bag a certain size, and each item has to be 100mL or under). I bring all my essentials, including makeup
    • Lotion and lip balm = a must. Flying is dehydrating and you’ll want this with you.
  • Important info
    • This is more of a no-brainer – keep your Passport and important travel docs on you at all times, as well as your money. I have a money belt, and while I only wear it for my first flight and then take it off and shove it deep in my bag because, let’s face it, it’s ugly and uncomfortable, it is worth it to have a safe place to keep your important things.

That’s pretty much it! Of course, it varies depending on where I’m going and how long I’m going for, but this is the basic list. If you’re looking for more tips on what to pack in your carry on bag, I love the blog “Chelsea Tells Stories” – a fellow Canadian bookworm, storyteller, and traveller, she provides great tips and tricks for what to wear on your flights, and how and what to pack (the image above is straight from her blog – her advice is spot on!).

Next week, I’ll let you know what’s on my must-haves list!

Stay well,
Katrina

To pack, or not to pack…

Hi all!

This week, I got to do a demonstration of how to pack luggage for a typical backpacking trip – which is, surprisingly, my preferred way to travel. I had no idea just how badly I wanted to go on a trip until I had my trusty MEC Supercontinent backpack (the BEST bag ever, trust me) all packed and ready to go – I had everything I needed and could have gone straight to the airport and on an adventure. It was mighty tempting, I’m telling you.

Today, I’m going to share some of my favourite general packing tips – over the years, I’ve developed my own style of packing and I’ve picked up on a few tricks that I hope you’ll find useful!


 

Packing Guide Part 1: Checked Luggage

With some considerable international and local travel under my belt, I’ve had to pack a lot of backpacks and suitcases for a variety of trips. I have packed for canoe trips in the bush, business trips to the United Nations (fancy!), and typical backpacker trips to a few exotic locations, and the tips I’m going to go through on the blog today are tips I use every time I pack for a trip, no matter where I’m going or what I’m doing.

Step 1: Do Research
– Keep location, duration, and purpose in mind before you start packing.
– It’s integral to know where you’re going, how long you’re going for, and why you’re going before you start packing so that you pack the appropriate amount of clothing, the appropriate type of clothing, and the most useful items for your trip
– doing a little bit of research can tell you a lot about the climate/weather, and cultural considerations you’ll need to keep in mind when packing

Step 2: Make a List
– Go ahead and write down everything you think you’ll need. It’s actually so useful to make a list before you start packing, even though that may sound like a lot of work. But in all seriousness, it’s worth it to put in the work – having everything you need on your travels will come in handy. That being said, you can always buy anything you need once you arrive.
– Not sure where to start with packing? Check out Pinterest for some amazing packing guides!

Pinterest packing guides provide some great inspiration! I've picked up some awesome ideas from these posts.
Pinterest packing guides provide great inspiration! I’ve picked up some awesome ideas from these posts.

Step 3: Take everything out of your closet that you think you’ll need
– I like to physically take out everything on my list that I think I want and need for my trip (from clothing to toiletries to shoes, take it all out).
– This is how you find out if you’re about to overpack! I overpack every time. It’s all trial and error, so no worries.
My recommendation: once you’ve gathered everything you want to pack, take away 5 items, because you likely have things you won’t wear or use that will just take up unnecessary space. Save that space for bringing new things home!

Step 4: Roll 95% of your clothing.
– If you’ve never heard this tip before, I’m telling you now: this is the best space-saving tip ever. Roll your clothing instead of folding! And, as an added bonus, if you’re really good at this method, you’ll also reduce wrinkling and creasing. Easy tip for creased clothes: hang your wrinkled clothing up in a washroom, turn on a hot shower, and let steam do it’s thing – this is easier than tracking down an iron when you’re on the go.
– This rule applies to the majority of your clothes. I don’t roll my pants because they pack better flat. The same goes for hoodies and heavier jackets – these are typically too bulky when you roll them.
– If you’re really concerned about space, wear your bulkiest clothing on days you are flying. Not only will this take away the packing conundrum, but this will also save you on cold flights and train rides – I always wear pants, a sweater, a scarf (which doubles as a blanket), and runners. You can always take off layers, but at least you’re ultra-prepared.

Step 5: Pack everything up.
– I like to put items into groups (ex. electronics, toiletries, hair accessories, socks + underwear, etc.) and then put smaller items into separate compartments and baggies. This makes things easy to find.
– I also pack in the shape of my bag. It’s a little bit like Tetris and you may have to pack and unpack a couple of times to get it right, but once you find a good fit, stick with that for your entire trip. You’ll keep things tidy and always be able to find what you need.
– Once you’ve got everything in place, you’ll be all set for your adventure!

Remember, lovely readers, if at first you don’t succeed, pack and pack again. Packing is a little bit like riding a bike: practice makes perfect and once you get it, you get it.

Next week, I’ll be going over what to put in your carry-on (my favourite bag to pack!!) and my must-haves (a.k.a lifesavers).

Until then, stay well!
Katrina

I wonder, I wander

Hello, all!

I just finished watching this week’s episode of Amazing Race Canada (hilarious, amazing, I’m in love) and I’m suffering from a major case of the travel bug. There’s nothing like a good backpacking trip with a friend or family member – I’m honestly considering signing up to compete next season. Anyone want to partner up?

There are so many reasons to travel – I can’t name all the virtues of traveling in one post but I hope to cover as many as possible throughout the year. You find out so much about the world and about yourself, and you get to encounter so many new things. I’m not very spontaneous or adventurous by nature, but the more I travel, the more open I am trying new things. I’ve been out of my comfort zone in quite a few situations (you can look forward to future blog posts on this) and it’s so incredibly true that those situations make for the best stories. My advice: get out there and go on an adventure!

Travel Snapshots
From top, left to right: Chobe National Park (Botswana), Taj Mahal (Agra, India), Victoria Falls (Zambia), Neuschwanstein Castle (Bavaria, Germany), Colosseum (Rome), Arc de Triomphe (Paris, France), the Golden Temple (Amritsar, India), Metropol Parasol (Seville, Spain), the Grand Canal (Venice, Italy). All photos my own.

How did I get bitten by the travel bug in the first place? My parents are big travellers – we did a lot of family road tripping, summer camping, and winter vacationing to tropical places when I was a kid. Later, I went on trips through school, including a 9-week exchange to Germany when I was in eleventh grade. Living in Germany was a game-changer for me – after exchange, all I wanted to do was travel!

I continued to travel throughout university, going to Ottawa, New York, South Africa, and Zambia on school-related trips. But what I really wanted was to go on a trip with my best friend – something we’d been talking about for years but had never acted on. Both of us had done some significant travelling since our German Exchange experience, but we hadn’t gone on any trips together. It wasn’t until my last year of university that we finally committed – we went on an amazing trip to India, Spain, and Germany right after I graduated (best grad gift ever!). My obsession has started to rub off on my family members, too, so last summer I took my mom and younger cousin, Hayley, backpacking through Europe. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

Now, it’s safe to say, I’m addicted. I can’t stop. All I want to do is go on another adventure! I’ve made it a habit to visit one new place each year, whether local or international (because it’s also fun to be a tourist in your own city, province, and country!). I don’t know where I’m heading next, but I have a growing list of destinations I’d like to visit.

If you’re looking to plan a trip in the near future, the best way to get started is to set goals. Trust me, setting goals doesn’t take the fun out of anything! Write down all the places you’d like to visit (write it all down – landmarks, cities, countries, etc.), and then set some budget goals. Set aside some funds, look into flight discounts and deals, and dream a little dream. The more you consider where you want to go and what you want to do, the more serious you’ll get about heading out into the great wide yonder. Soon, you’ll be packing that backpack (tips coming soon!) and hopping on a plane.

Where do you want to go next? Send me a tweet @KatrinaSklepo or comment below.

Stay well,
Katrina

Off the Beaten Track

Hello readers!

A new school year has started, and with new beginnings comes a new blog theme – exciting! As many of you may know, I’ve done a lot of traveling in the past and I have major wanderlust. I’ve picked up a few travel tips and tricks throughout my travels that I’ll be sharing with you on the blog, along with some personal travel stories and recommendations for where to go and what to see. I can’t wait to share these stories and tips with you!

I know I’m taking us off the beaten track – never fear! If you’re looking for my book reviews and recommendations, I have a treat for you. Over the next year, I’ll be expanding my review horizons through a literary podcast series! Every two weeks, keep your eyes and ears out for a new episode, which I’ll be releasing on Literally, Katrina.  The first episode will be out on September 14th and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Check out the new site for your book fix and get your reading on!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to talking all things travel with you.

Warmly,
Katrina

Turtling in style - off to India in 2011.
Turtling in style – off to India in 2011.