Away we go

Hopeless Wanderer Final CollageHello wanderers!

Thank you so much for following along on my travel blog journey – it’s been an incredible year and it’s been so much fun chatting with you about where I’ve been and where I’d like to go next. I have really enjoyed writing this blog and even though my school year (and therefore my school projects – including this blog) is at an end, this is more of a “see you soon” than a goodbye.

As I keep exploring new places, I’ll try to keep you posted. As you know, I’ll be backpacking my way through Europe over the summer and I’m sure I’ll have many stories to share with you. Make sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to follow along on my adventure. Now, it’s on to the next big adventure. Wishing you all the best on your journeys – keep on travelling!

Stay well,
Katrina

Safe and Sound

safety collageHello wanderers!

I took a nice little break from blogging last week to celebrate Reading Week (and yes, I did do a lot of reading! For book reviews, author interviews, and literary news, check out my blog and podcast Literally, Katrina!). I am glad to be back with more travel tips!

This week’s post is all about staying safe while traveling, because, you know, safety first. As many of you know, I’m planning on trekking Europe with two of my friends this summer. If you’ve been following the headlines in the news recently, you might be thinking that this isn’t the best year to go to Europe…with the refugee crisis, economic instability, and the potential Brexit, things aren’t looking very stable.

As a news junkie and human rights grad, all of these things are troubling to me. That being said, none of these are major deterrents to traveling this summer. Traveling is the best way to learn about yourself, culture, and the world around you. Conflict, economics, and politics invariably play into that. At any point in time, we can say it’s not the right or best time to travel virtually anywhere on the map (for example, lots of people are writing off Brazil and much of South America because of the Zika virus outbreak, even though only a small portion of travellers might be affected by the virus). I have many friends who’ve gone places in what we might consider the worst of times and had the best experiences – and that’s all because they’ve taken every precaution to be safe while traveling.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be aware of what’s going on around the world – at all times, but especially before you plan on traveling. Remember, forewarned is forearmed. We can’t plan for everything and we certainly can’t control everything that happens, but we can control what we do to prepare for a trip. Being informed is your first step to a safe trip!

Before you book a trip, research the political and economic climate of the destination you’re planning on visiting. And then do additional check-ups closer to your departure date – things can change on a dime and a location that is safe in January may not be stable in June. When looking for updates, check out local news sites and international sources, because we don’t always get all of the international headlines in Canada. Upon arrival, pay attention to local conversations and headlines at newsstands – it’s good to stay up-to-date with what’s going on on the ground. Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of your belongings (especially money and electronics), and be aware of where the nearest embassies are while abroad, and you’ll be golden.

Another thing you can do to stay safe while travelling is to take advantage of the Registration of Canadians Abroad service provided by the Canadian government. I sign up whenever I’m leaving the country on a major trip so that if anything goes awry (think natural disaster, etc.), government officials can contact me with important info. The service also provides travel watches and advisories – all you have to do is look up the country you’re planning on visiting for info (ex. Croatia and Slovenia, two of my top destinations this summer, are both in the clear! Yay!).

How do you stay safe when traveling? I’m constantly looking for tips and tricks and would love to know what your go-to strategies are! Let me know in the comments below or on social media. Don’t forget to post your #WanderlustWednesday posts on Instagram over the month of February. Tag your pic with #WanderlustWednesday, #hopelesswandererblog, and @katrinasklepowich – you have a couple of weeks to participate and each picture posted and tagged is an entry to win an awesome travel prize pack (details coming soon!). And keep your eyes out for mini cards in all of your favourite travel guide books and accessories.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

Planes | Trains | Automobiles – Part 2

trains autos planes2Hello wanderers!

We’re in week two of the transportation series, meaning we’ve arrived at trains – my absolute favourite form of getting from place to place when travelling! I have a deep love for trains and, my goodness, if I could take a train every day, I would (no offence, Winnipeg Transit….but you suck a little bit – at least compared to trains!).

I’ve taken trains in North America, South Africa, India, and all over Europe, and I’m telling you, for a Prairie girl, trains just make sense. They’re quick, they’re efficient, they’re generally environmentally-friendly, and they’re affordable. What’s not to love? I like metros and subways, I enjoy regional trains, and I adore high-speed trains (Eurostar, ICE, La Frecce, the TGV, I miss you all!). Sure, some trains are more comfortable or prompt than others (don’t mention anything about trains being late in Germany…Germans are all about being on time and/or early!), but, all in all, trains are pretty awesome. I very, very much wish Manitoba had more efficient passenger trains  – but I suppose that is a rant for another time!

When planning a trip, it’s essential to know what public transportation systems are available and how accessible these systems are to where you are staying – and if these systems are going to help you get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient, cost-effective, and comfortable way possible. Sometimes, it makes more sense to rent a car, and other times, the metro and bus systems are going to get the job done. Sometimes, your metro pass will get you access to bus, metro, and regional trains. It all depends on the city/region you’re in, so you have to do a little bit of research before you make any decisions.

If I could tell you a straight-up answer right here, right now, and make your travel dreams come true, I would – trust me! It would be so much easier that way, wouldn’t it? But, in reality, it’s all up to you and what works best for your trip. I’ve always relied on a variety of transportation methods when getting around different cities and countries, so here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • If you’re going to Europe, do your research and see if a Eurail pass is right for you. There are a variety of passes (ex. one country passes, select passes, or global passes) for different ages and groups, and if a pass is right for you, you can save yourself a lot of money (PS: there’s also a deal on between now and the end of April – win!). The last time I went to Europe, I traveled solely by rail between cities (I used what’s called a Global Pass) and it definitely saved me time and money. Rolling with Eurail is best for routes that are close together and trips that are continuous – a lot of passes have restrictions for validity (ex. 22 days of continuous travel vs. only 15 days of travel within two months) so you’ll have to figure out what’s best for you in terms of where you’re going and how often you’re moving from city to city.
  • Another Europe tip: a lot of trains require reservations depending on how far you’re traveling and the type of train you’re taking. Night trains and high-speed trains generally require that you book your seats ahead of time – you can’t just use your Eurail pass (if you have one) to secure your spot on the train. Make sure you book your reservations, especially if you’re on a tight schedule!! On my most recent trip, we booked our first few trains the day we arrived at our first destination (Paris), and then booked the final leg of our trip at our halfway point (Bern, Switzerland). You don’t have to book everything all at once, especially if you don’t have concrete plans –  but it is important to book your train tickets once you do know (particularly if you have to take a train to a certain destination in order to catch your flight home). One thing to note: regional trains don’t generally require reservations – yay!
Regional trains are my favourite. My best friend and I had this lovely compartment all to ourselves for a few hours, traveling from Friedrichshafen, Germany, to Salzburg, Austria.
Regional trains are my favourite (you can tell I’m pretty excited!). My best friend and I had this lovely compartment all to ourselves for a few hours, travelling from Friedrichshafen, Germany, to Salzburg, Austria.
  • In South Africa, trains don’t always run on time, so don’t bank on the train getting you from place to place by a certain time. If you’re on a strict schedule, you’re best to take a taxi or drive. However, time is pretty relative in South Africa – if you’re late, you’re doing things right! Nobody will be mad at you if you’re behind schedule because the lifestyle is a little more relaxed and most people are late on the daily. I also noticed that you kind of just jump on and off the trains, and the doors don’t close. So just bear that in mind. It’s a worthwhile experience though!
  • In India, the trains and train stations are busy and stinky. There are a ton of people (again, I kind of found this to be common everywhere in India), so it’s important to get to your train early just so that you have time to navigate. If you can, try to get a ticket in first class because it really is more comfortable (there’s AC, which is wonderful!). Why is it stinky? I don’t really want to have to explain it to you because I think you can make an educated guess. It isn’t very pleasant and that’s really all you need to know. Just be prepared and you’ll be fine! One thing to note: just don’t use the washroom on the train or in the train station if you can help it. If you can’t help it, bring your own toilet paper, disinfectant spray, and hand sanitizer – you’ll need it.
  • Final tip: trains aren’t always the most efficient way to travel. If you’re in a hurry or have destinations that are really spaced out from one another (ex. Berlin to London will take about 11 hours depending on what train(s) you take), your best bet might not be taking the train. And sometimes, you’ll find that busses take a quicker route for less money. Again, my best advice here is to do your research!

Trains are wonderful. I’m sure the novelty wears off if you take trains every day, but I’m pretty excited to head back to Europe and hop on a train or two this time around. My friend Beckie, who’s travelling with me this time, has never experienced the joy that is taking the train, so I’m excited to share that with her!

Next week, I’ll be back with Part 3 of the series. Also, don’t forget to post a travel pic on Instagram every Wednesday between now and March for your chance to win a prize! Tell me where you’re longing to travel to and use the hashtags #wanderlustwednesday and #hopelesswandererblog, and tag me @katrinasklepowich. I can’t wait to hear from you (also, who doesn’t want to win a prize!).

Until next time,
Katrina

On the Road Again

2008-graduation-with-banner
Beckie, Kaeri, and I at our high school graduation! I used to have really curly hair!

Hello wanderers!

It would seem that about every two years, I get the itch to go on an adventure. Usually, these trips line up with a milestone in my life – a graduation, a major birthday, etc. And every time, I justify each trip by saying “it’s probably my last chance…”

I think it’s important to say yes to opportunities as they come along –  if you have the chance to do something you’ve always wanted to do, or go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, then why not say yes? But I’ve also come to realize that it’s never really your “last chance” to do something – so many of my trips in the past have been motivated by the “well, it’s probably my last chance” justification, but I’m beginning to think that if you want to do something, just make it happen (duh, right?).

Here’s a recap of my “last chance” trips over the years:

  • When I was in university, I had opportunities to do some extraordinary travel for school – real “once-in-a-lifetime” trips that I couldn’t pass up (I promise they were educational!). I got to go on a UN Study Tour to Ottawa and New York and sit in on incredible workshops from speakers around the world, as well as a real Security Council assembly (to this day, this was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had).
  • Following the UN Study Tour, I took a course in South Africa, came home for a month, and then hopped back on a plane to Africa – this time, to Zambia (remember that story about borrowed pants?! Yep, same trip). It was the craziest, busiest summer of my life, but I had the best time and all that travel just got me hooked on adventuring. To be honest, I thought going to South Africa would be my one and only chance to go to Africa – it’s funny how things work out, because I certainly didn’t expect to go to Africa twice in one summer!
  • When I was about to finish my degree, I thought my traveling days were coming to an end – my best friend and I planned our India/Spain/Germany extravaganza, thinking it was “our last chance to travel together”. I thought I’d return from our trip and jump right into a job and be an adult for real. However, post-grad life didn’t turn out quite like I thought it would…
  • Within a year of graduating, I knew I wanted to go back to school. I worked to save up for my studies and got my travel on!
    • I went to Osheaga in Montreal because it was “my last chance to see Mumford & Sons” (I hope that isn’t true!).
    • The following summer, right before I began my CreComm journey, I dragged my lovely mom and cousin Hayley across Europe because I thought it truly was “my last chance to travel”. I thought CreComm was it. Once done, it was adult time for real.

Well, dear ones, with another graduation on the horizon (only a few months to go!), this summer really does look like “my last summer to go on a major trip” (I can seriously justify anything!)…so I decided to take this summer off and go on another adventure!

I’m so excited to be traveling with two of my favourite people – my best friend and travel buddy Kaeri (who gets bitten by the travel bug as often as I do!), and our friend Beckie (this will be her first time across the pond!). We’re starting things off in London and then trekking it across Europe for 5 weeks, just 3 girls and some backpacks. I can’t wait!

beckie kaeri and katrina at rempel wedding
Beckie, Kaeri and I at Kaeri’s sister’s wedding a couple of years ago. I’m so incredibly excited to be traveling with these girls this summer!

As our travel plan starts to emerge and solidify, I’ll keep you all updated on where we’re going and how we plan on getting around – follow along for some great tips!

Thanks for following me on my planning journey – 2016 will be an exciting year.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

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