adventure travel

Are you a tourist or a traveller?

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

Let us introduce to Mirka, who quit her corporate job years ago and went backpacking to South East Asia. Little did she know that the months will turn into years and backpacking will turn into something else - trying to find a place in the remote parts of Indonesia she could call home. Today, Mirka will share her perspective on solo travel, having travelled all around South East Asia for years, and how that has changed from her first backpacking trip all those years ago.

Are you a tourist or a traveller?

By Mirka

Nowadays travelling is easy, affordable and lately also fashionable, ever since the social media wheel started to turn.

So much so, that we came to the point that hosting countries started to shut down places to prevent complete nature destruction. For example, Thailand’s most famous beach where The Beach movie was filmed has recently been closed for tourism activities. Similarly due to the environmental destruction caused by mass tourism, a well-known Boracay Island in Philippines was also shut down for a number of months. It is quite possible more places will follow soon.

It becomes more difficult to find unspoiled places and if you find one, better keep it to yourself.

Most people who take upon travelling, stick to the places discovered long time ago and only few move on to find new destinations for themselves. This is precisely what travelling should be called. If you consider yourself passionate about adventure and travelling, here are a few tips to consider. Especially if you are thinking of taking time travelling, going backpacking or spending your gap year seeing the world.

Firstly, there is no need to pre-book your travels including flight tickets back home, hotels or any other things. Who knows, maybe you will come back on camel… (This sounds more like a traveller’s spirit!)

When taking up travelling and backpacking, booking return tickets will not make you more adventurous and quite often lead you to more expenses. You may end up changing the date on your flight or departure point. With the return ticket in your hand, we tend to plan carefully our moves. The return date in your head limits us from going too far from the point of pre-set departure or venturing to off beaten paths or non-existent paths. It also happens that our mind cannot relax completely, often thinking and worrying about how is it going to be when we will come back home.

Pre-booking hotels or guesthouses limits that travelling spirit inside you. Best practice is not to book any room, only if you arrive late at night. Finding accommodation on the spot is usually much cheaper. This way you can choose better-located place, support local people by choosing to stay in locally own place and identify the place where you can meet and socialize with fellow travellers.

To be a traveller, who people ask for advice is not as easy as it seems. Almost every passionate traveller will agree that their priority is experience. Therefore, it means that they are prepared to see good and bad things eventually balancing these two, by patience and understanding. To gain that experience they travel to unknown places where comfort is less, but authenticity is more, that’d be a nature, culture or any other thing what a traveller is looking for.

But please, do take your travels gradually. Especially if you have never been to the remote places. Start with popular places, familiarize yourself with customs of country you will be dealing with, learn a bit of local language. If you are girl travelling solo - find a travel partner. To avoid disappointment, choose places where you will want to be - wisely, do not rely on guidebooks or well-advertised websites. They are often misleading and full of biased opinions with hidden selling tricks and well edited pictures.

In general, to avoid disappointments do not rely on anything.

Go – See – Experience – Form Own Opinion.  People are different and tend to enjoy different things, so their opinions will only create images in your head, often leading to disappointment, because it can turn not as good as you have imagined. What actually gives that traveller’s feeling is coming to the place without prior detailed research and embracing things as they stand.

Apart from detailed preparation, the crucial thing that distinguishes traveller and a person on holiday, is that a traveller decides to be on the road not only for self-indulging reason. He does not want to limit his journey to see beauty in it, but on the contrary puts himself into uncomfortable situations to discover new ways and himself. No matter how exiting this may sound, travelling with purpose or without purpose at some point becomes a routine. It manifests in the way that things are no longer perceived with excitement. If you come to this point – your traveller spirit has been tested. So what to do? Go to Katmandu?

Relax…. but the last thing one should do, go back to the old lifestyle back home. Believe me, you will not be satisfied and will become even more miserable. The traveller spirit that you have been developing for many years will not leave you alone. There is no perfect answer for this question, because all of us need to figure it out on our own. No matter what you do, keep smiling, you have been privileged to see the word this way.

The future of travelling lies behind adventure with an open mind. Hopefully travellers will exist long after the fashion is gone.

Blessings to all the people with travelling spirit. Hope to see you on the road!


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California Road Trip

Part Two

In the previous post, we have visited San Francisco and Northern California highlights; we will now take a trip further South, via scenic Pacific Coast Highway.

‘We've been on the run
Driving in the sun
Looking out for number one
California here we come
Right back where we started from’

- Phantom Planet

Monterey & Carmel

Heading South from San Francisco, a scenic 17-mile drive along the Monterey Peninsula will take you towards two picturesque little towns, Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monterey is a former capital of Alta California (Upper California) and a beautiful coastal town, immortalized by writer John Steinbeck in his novel Cannery Row. These days Cannery Row offers an eclectic mix of shops and boutiques, art galleries and world class restaurants. Monterey is also home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a pristine city with an artistic heritage, founded by writers such as Jack London, George Sterling, Mary Austin and Robinson Jeffers. It’s known for its fairy-tale cottages, art galleries, museums and stunning white sand beaches, suitable for surfing and scuba diving. There are plenty of beautiful hotels and B&Bs for those who want to enjoy an atmosphere of this pristine town for a little longer.

Big Sur

From Carmel, you can continue your scenic journey towards San Simeon, 90 miles South. You will drive through the world’s most memorable and alluring stretch of coastline – Big Sur. The blue of the ocean and the sky, the orange rocks, raw and unspoiled beauty will give you plenty of awe inspiring and unforgettable moments during your California adventure. You can experience some of the most amazing hikes here, surf unforgivable waves, visit famous McWay Falls – one of the most Instagrammed Big Sur’s spots, explore Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to trek amongst magnificent redwoods, take SUP in one of many Big Sur’s coves; or just absorb the beauty and spirit of Big Sur, relax and… do nothing.

American Riviera

From Big Sur taking a scenic Highway 1 through Central California, you will head to Santa Barbara, also called American Riviera because of its Mediterranean climate and a reminiscence to that region. Santa Barbara is a stunning and upscale coastal town. If you decide to take a break here, you can enjoy beautiful beaches, and plenty of outdoorsy activities, such as biking, hiking, surfing, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, or sailing. From here you can explore beautiful Santa Barbara County and a must-visit Channel Islands National Park. This remarkable natural reserve seems like worlds apart from California’s mainland, encompassing five remarkable islands and their ocean environment, with unique flora and fauna preserved by thousands of years of isolation.

Orange County

As you head south from Santa Barbara, towards Los Angeles, you will find yourself in Orange County, one of the most iconic California destinations. If you are a surfer, it’s time to take a break from the road and put the wetsuit on, because you have reached your destination. Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA has been voted the best California’s surfing beach. All-year-round swell and a 10 mile stretch of a coast, make it a perfect place for all levels of surfing. If you haven’t tried surfing yet, you can learn how to surf in one of many surf schools; or just watch locals and maybe get inspired to give it a go.

Newport Beach, Venice, Santa Monica, or Malibu are also worth visiting for all surfers and non-surfers alike.

Some of the Orange County highlights worth seeing include San Juan Capistrano - the oldest California Mission, which you can combine with the Los Rios district, the oldest neighbourhood in California. Take a day trip from Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island, for hiking, trekking, or water sports activities, or venture to Santa Ana Mountains to take a hike.

Joshua Tree National Park

Whilst Northern California featured in our last blog, provides excellent outdoor opportunities, just a few hrs drive from Los Angeles or San Diego lies a Southern California wonder - Joshua Tree National Park. Surreal geologic features sculpted by nature, where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together. Rock climbing and bouldering are very popular here, with 8000 climbing and 2000 boulder routes, making Joshua Tree National Park the ultimate climbing destination. Mountain Biking, Hiking, Camping or Horseback riding are also activities to be enjoyed in this fascinating natural ecosystem. You can forget about civilisation for a moment and enjoy natural beauty and uniqueness of the place, without the temptation to check your phone, as there is no cell signal in the park. Just unplug, bring plenty of water and explore the wilderness.

San Diego is where your California Pacific road adventure is likely to end, unless you have the luxury of time and the lust for more adventure, in which case you can venture through Baja California to Mexico!

 

Practical Tips

Here are some practical tips for your California Adventure, for San Francisco and Northern California described in Part One and the Pacific Highway road trip through Central and Northern California described in Part Two.

The largest international airports in California are San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego.

The best way to travel in California is a car, and car rental is strongly recommended. It gives you the flexibility and freedom in deciding where to go, when and how long you will stay in each place. Maybe except San Francisco, unless you fancy driving and parking on very steep roads.

BART is a public transport system in San Francisco, while Caltrain is a California commuter rail line on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Santa Clara Valley.

It’s definitely worth bringing portable charger with you, as California provides plenty of photo opportunities, which can drain your battery pretty fast. Google maps also come handy, especially in San Francisco and bigger cities.

Uber (or any other similar taxi service), is a life saver in San Francisco and California if you do not drive. Uber Pool can save you money and sometimes, if there aren’t others booking it along the way, you will end up being the only passenger taken to your destination with no diversions to pick up or drop off others.

You can find other practical tips here.

 

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California Dreamin'

Part One

California is a dream destination for many adventure travellers, and for a good reason. This beautiful and diverse state has so much to offer for the outdoorsy and adventure savvy types, not to mention taking that dream road trip along the Pacific coast.

When ‘all the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey,’ in California the sky is blue, and the palm trees are tall. Autumn is a beautiful time to visit California, when is less crowded. California is a huge state, thus if you want to see it properly, you may not be able to do so during your one- or two-week holiday. In this post you will read about San Francisco and some of the Northern California highlights. In Part Two, we will go further South, taking a scenic Pacific route towards Big Sur. If your time allows, go off the beaten path and you may discover gems, you won’t find in the travel guides.

San Francisco

Somehow the great cities of America have taken their places in a mythology that shapes their destiny: money lives in New York. Power sits in Washington. Freedom sips cappuccino in a sidewalk café in San Francisco.

– Joe Flower

Let’s start here, as many people who will arrive by plane will either fly to San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Jose. San Francisco airport is conveniently located in the South of the city, with direct links to downtown San Francisco.

If you are planning on staying in San Francisco, choose a place downtown, as this is where you are likely to spend most of your time. Take comfy shoes and you may even want to download Uber app for when you are tired of walking. Let me tell you, I have never walked more in my life during a city break. It is good to make San Francisco your base and do some day trips from there. You can also hire a car and once you are done with the city, start your road adventure.

San Francisco has plenty to offer, and to cover all, I would need to dedicate this blog to the city alone, so l will tell you about my highlights and some practical information in part two, and leave the rest for you to explore.

North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf are the areas where you may want to start your little San Francisco adventure, accompanied by the noise of seagulls, sea lions and the city. If you are taking BART (practical tips coming in part two), the best stop to get off is Embarcadero. From there, you can take a walk towards the Ferry Building, with nice little shops and cafes inside, and further towards the famous San Francisco Piers. The most visited is probably Pier 39, a mandatory stopover to see a colony of sea lions sunbathing on the docks. These guys know how to chill. Before you get there, you will pass through a vibrant area of bars, restaurants and stalls. If you are thinking of visiting the infamous Alcatraz prison, this is the right place to be, as from the piers there are boats taking you there multiple times a day. You can also make a half day trip to a beautiful little town of Sausalito, North of San Francisco. Further along, you have Fisherman’s Wharf. You might be hungry by this point and there is no better place to try some seafood, like the famous shrimp or lobster sandwich or a clam chowder soup.

So, where do we go from here? Well, you have two options. Head to the most photographed spot on the planet - The Golden Gate Bridge. Or take an iconic cable car towards the Union Square and Chinatown.

If you decide to head towards the Golden Gate Bridge, make sure you will charge your phone before you arrive there, as it’s a photo opportunity not to be missed. The lengths people go for that perfect Instagram snap… From Fisherman’s Wharf it may take you up to two hrs walking to get there, through a beautiful route by Pacific Heights towards Presidio area. Alternatively, you can check public transport links, or hop into an Uber!

You may also want to dedicate an entire day to the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding neighbourhoods and explore the beautiful and probably the wealthiest San Francisco area – the Presidio, as well as visit the Golden Gate Park.

Financial District, Union Square, Chinatown and Little Italy are the areas which you can all explore within the same day, and you can also take a cable car between Union Square and Chinatown. In little Italy, which is just next to Chinatown you will find one of the most unique culinary places to visit for some garlic infused feast – The Stinking Rose. That if you like garlic of course, as this is where garlic is served with your food, not the other way round. They process over 3,000 pounds of garlic each month to make the food. And besides stinky is really good!

Mission District is where you will find a lot of city’s art and street art, and it may be good to get a guided walk through the area. Here is where you will find another highlight of the city – The Painted Ladies, colourful Victorian houses near Alamo Square. Another Instagram worthy location.

There is so much more to San Francisco, from museums, parks, galleries, nightlife, that it’s impossible to cover all within one blog without putting you to sleep, so let me stop here and let’s move on.

 

Muir Woods and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Only an hour drive North of San Francisco, are two magical places, where people not just come to visit. They come from around the world to see. Both Muir Woods and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve are great for a day or a half day hiking trip, and even better if you stay overnight. Camping is not allowed directly in Muir Woods National Monument, but you can camp in Armstrong Redwoods. Why people come there? To see the oldest and tallest living organisms in the world. The trees’ ages range from 400 to over 1000 years old, with height up to 310 feet. These magnificent sequoias once covered most of the United States, but when logging industry came to California, they were largely destroyed. It is worth visiting what is left of them and escape the crowds of San Francisco.

If you aren’t planning of hiring a car, both can be visited as a half day, or a day trip from San Francisco and often combined with wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa Valley. However, if you book a day trip to do the redwoods and wine tasting, know that it will be a bit rushed. You can also take a ferry to Sausalito, and Muir Woods is a short Uber ride from there. You can make it a day trip to Muir Woods National Monument and enjoy staying as long as you’d like.

 

Sonoma County and Napa Valley

What would be a visit to California, without some wine tasting? Both Sonoma and Napa Valley are around an hour drive from San Francisco. Take a day for this trip, as you would want to soak in the sun, slow down and enjoy wine and food, in at least three of over few hundred wineries, ranging from rustic to regal. When you visit Sonoma, you can make a stopover for lunch in the picturesque city of Sonoma, or check which wineries offer food to go with your wine. You can also tour Napa Valley in style, taking a historical Napa Valley train, where you will have fine dining experience, coupled with… you guessed - wine. If your time allows, you can slow down further, by booking yourself overnight in one of many wine county’s B&Bs, as the weather, the wines and the scenery are to be indulged.

 

Yosemite National Park

Up to this point you are just a tourist. But if you are a true adventurer, in Yosemite you will have almost 1200 square miles of wilderness for you to explore. My advice – if you are staying in San Francisco, taking a day trip to Yosemite, to just ‘tick the box’ is a waste of your time and money. It takes four hours to get there and back, living you with just a few hours to explore the park. So, check out multi-day tours, or if you are driving, even better, you have all the time you want. Plan ahead, to make the best out for your visit. Camping, lodging and backpacking is very popular in Yosemite and your feet would most likely be the transportation of choice.  

Adventure tribe will thrive here. Waterfalls, deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, hiking trails. If you are hiking, here are some of the most popular hikes you can take in the park. Yosemite Valley, The Glacier Point Road, Wawona Area Hikes, Hetch Hetchy, White Wolf, Tuolumne Meadows. Most people visit Yosemite between April and October. For the above-mentioned hikes, different times of the year may be suitable, so check before you go. Also, some are accessible by car first.

Did you know that Yosemite is one of the world's greatest climbing areas? Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service offers guided climbing trips for all levels, as well as equipment rental. If you like your adrenaline rush triggered in a different way, you can try water rafting along the Merced River.

There is plenty more to enjoy in Yosemite, as it’s an ultimate outdoor playground for adventure seekers, and if Northern California is on your bucket list, you should definitely make it in one of the top places to visit.

Lake Tahoe

Straddling the border of California and Nevada, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies the cobalt blue Lake Tahoe. It’s the largest alpine lake in the United States and the second deepest.  If you are looking for more adventure opportunities, you will definitely find them here. You can explore the area on foot, or mountain biking using Tahoe Rim Trail, which is open between June and October. You will experience one of the most iconic views on this trail. For the most famous postcard view, head to Emerald Bay, the crown jewel of your Lake Tahoe experience, where emerald blue water meets colourful granite cliffs.

There is plenty to enjoy in Lake Tahoe and no shortage of sunny days. Water sports enthusiasts will thrive here, as swimming, kayaking, windsurfing and stand up paddle surfing (SUP) are all on offer.

Hiking, camping and backpacking in the wilderness and world class ski resorts in winter, are both Summer and Winter fun opportunities here.

Well… this itinerary alone should fill a couple of weeks of your California adventure, if you want to properly experience everything and make unforgettable memories. There is plenty more to see in California, so in the next blog we will be heading South.

You will also find some practical tips in Part Two, so subscribe to our blog and follow @tribdapp on social media to know when it’s published!

If you don’t have anyone to go with you, download Tribd on the App Store. Who knows, maybe your adventure buddy is also looking for you! Tribd helps you to find travel buddies and connect with other solo travellers with similar travel plans.