Great Expectations

Hey there wanderers!

One of my favourite things about traveling is that no two trips are the same. You can visit the same place over and over again and experience something new every time. You can go at a different time of year and have a completely different experience, or go with a new group of people…all of these factors can have an impact on what you do and see. And I love that. Like I’ve said before, traveling is what you make it! When you go on a trip, it’s totally okay to expect the unexpected. It’s often even more fun that way!

I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany for the first time nine years ago. Two summers ago, I got to go back! It was raining and gorgeous on both occasions.
I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany for the first time nine years ago. Two summers ago, I got to go back! It was gorgeous (and raining!) on both occasions.

After writing my city guide for Venice last week, I got some great comments from a few of you. What I loved most about your feedback was finding out how we had both common and vastly different experiences! What happens to your friends may or may not happen to you. Your favourite thing about Paris may end up being the very thing your sister dislikes. It all depends – and that’s the beauty of traveling.

Even though doing research before you head out on an adventure is important  (it really is!), take what you find out with a tiny grain of salt. Ask friends and family for advice, check out Pinterest for travel inspo, and hit up the travel section in your nearest bookstore for information, but keep in mind that while being informed is smart and necessary, your expectations might not be met…or they might be exceeded!  Information might be outdated (we all know how quickly situations can change) or based on one person’s experience – all of this can create positive or negative feelings toward a place before you even get there.

My best advice: keep an open mind and roll with it. Due to different circumstances, you might end up having a less than ideal time in any given place you visit, but with the right attitude, you may end up liking a place more than you thought you would! When I was traveling around Europe two years ago with my mom and cousin, we ran into some bad luck in Rome and had a few misadventures. I was kind of sour about it – I had expected more from Rome! But it wasn’t Rome’s fault that we had a few run-ins with bad luck and it certainly wasn’t personal – once we all got over taking an illegal taxi (true story) and having no power or water in our apartment for a few days, Rome really wasn’t so bad. In the end, I kind of loved it there and am looking forward to going back this summer. It really is all about your state of mind.

Until next week, stay well!

24-hour City Guide: Venice, Italy

Photos by Katrina Sklepowich

What to see and what to skip if you only have one day in the Floating City

Hello wanderers!

This is your very first 24-hour city guide of what to see and what to skip if you only have one day to “see it all”. Whether you’re trekking it for business or pleasure, sometimes you will only have a day or a couple of hours in a given destination before having to move on to the next spot in your itinerary – when this happens, you’re faced with the challenge of prioritizing what to see and what to skip, knowing that you only have a short window to make the most of your experience. This has happened to me so many times on my travels – an evening in Nairobi, Kenya, a day in Toronto, a couple of hours in London, etc. It’s so hard to know what you should try to go see in such a short amount of time, especially when there’s simply so much to see!

These new 24-hour city guides are designed to help you figure out what’s most worth your time when you don’t have a lot of it. Do you spend the day in line at the Vatican or do you hop on a bus tour that hits all of Rome’s top tourist spots? Or is off-the-beaten track a better choice? These guides will be from my own experience or from friends who’ve lived in or traveled to exotic spots across the globe – hopefully we’ll give you some insight on what to see and what to skip the next time you’ve only got a few hours to see as much as possible!

First stop: Venice, Italy.

I love Venice – it’s the greatest city to just get lost in. With so many canals and tiny, winding streets, it’s the best place to simply wander. Grab a daypack armed with water and a trusty map (you can usually get these for free in hostel and hotel lobbies!), and start exploring!

What to See:

The Grand Canal
While there are many canals in Venice (canals being more popular than streets in this Floating City), the most famous artery in Venice is the Grand Canal. Follow the waterway all the way to the Ponte di Rialto, Venice’s most famous bridge (it’s the oldest of four bridges that crosses the Grand Canal). To be honest, there isn’t too much to see here, but it’s a great stop on the canal and is perfect for photo-ops. Keep going along the canal and you’ll hit Piazza San Marco.

sanmarcopiazzaPiazza San Marco
Dominated by St. Mark’s Basilica, a gorgeous church (one of many in Venice), the piazza is Venice’s main public square. There’s lots of history here, from the basilica to the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) to the Campanile, and you’ll get a ton of great photos. Most of the historical buildings located at the square are open to the public and offer guided tours (very worth it if you want to learn the history of Venice and see a ton of cool things all at the same time. I’m a huge fan of guided tours – especially free ones!). You can spend all day here or just a half hour – it all depends on how much you want to see. My recommendation: give yourself a maximum of an hour to explore the square and take photos (you likely won’t have time to pop into the Basilica).

IMG_1996Murano and Burano
From here, I highly recommend popping on a  Vaporetto (like a long-distance water taxi) to visit Murano and Burano, two distinct islands off of Venice. Murano is famous for glass-blowing. Pop in a few shops and take in the marvels of glass artistry – but I wouldn’t recommend buying your glass trinkets and jewelry here. In my experience, you’re better off purchasing these items on Venice, where they aren’t so expensive! Burano is my favourite of the two islands – famous for it’s colourful buildings and lace production, Burano is tiny but full of life. Very worth the stop! Murano and Burano will likely take up your entire afternoon, but I highly recommend this excursion.

What to Skip:

There isn’t much to skip in Venice! I could spend days simply wandering the canals, plazas, and tiny streets taking in all the sights without getting bored. There’s so much to see, but you can see a lot of it in a day purely by walking around or hopping on a water taxi. If you’re really short on time, I would skip guided tours as well as line-ups at St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace – while both are beautiful, they’ll take up a lot of your precious time. I would definitely recommend spending a day or afternoon exploring Murano and Burano – and you don’t have to spend a whole lot of time on either island to take in a ton of culture, art, history, and delicious food. While 24 hours probably isn’t enough time in this enchanting city, you can see and do a lot!

What else do you recommend seeing in Venice when short on time? Is there any spot you love that I missed? Comment below or send me a message on Facebook – I love hearing from you! I’ll be back in Venice this summer and I’ll take every recommendation that comes my way.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the #WanderlustWednesday contest! I loved seeing your gorgeous travel photos on Instagram and Twitter (take a peak by looking up the hashtag #hopelesswandererblog). I’m so happy to announce that the winner of this contest is Miranda Lynn Bergen – congrats, girl! You won a sweet travel prize and I can’t wait to see how you use your prize on your next big adventure.

I’ll be back next week with more travel tips and tricks. Until next time, stay well!

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,