Life – The Barefoot Nomad Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Creative Ways to Preserve Your Travel Memories Fri, 22 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000 How do you keep the memories alive long after your dream trip is over?

Charles and I have traveled together extensively for over 15 years now. Since we travel so much, we have to be pretty picky about how many souvenirs we pick up.

The truth is, if we bought everything that caught our eye on our travels, we’d need another garage to store everything. Honestly, we probably overdid it in the beginning of our travels, as we still have boxes of souvenirs that we’ll probably never display. As a result of those, we’ve gotten pretty picky about the souvenirs we now bring home.

10 Creative Ways to Preserve Your Travel Memories

While it’s easy to pick up a T-shirt at any souvenir shop (and we still do sometimes!), we’ve aimed for some unique, interesting ways to preserve your trip memories.

After a lot of thought (and a lot of pruning of the list), these are the travel memories ideas that we love the best.

Send a postcard to yourself

Postcards are a classic way to preserve travel memories. The problem is that often they’re often pretty generic and boring.

That’s all changed now that apps like My Postcard let you send your own photos as physical postcards. You can send then straight from your computer or smartphone from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world. How cool is that?

Create a travel scrapbook

I’m not the scrapbooking type, but I do have to admit that they look pretty cool when they’re done.

It honestly looks pretty easy to do: just pick up a travel scrapbook kit, use the book and stickers they provide, print out some photos, and add things like airline tickets and notes.


Get a travel memories map

There are plenty of travel memories maps available, and they look great once they’re filled in and framed.

Some maps come with push pins, but most are scratch off maps. The best ones come with a scratcher, memory stickers, an eraser to clean scratch smudges and a magnifying strip.

You can buy it on Amazon here.

Create a memory box

A memory box (or shadowbox) is just a glass enclosed display box for displaying objects. You can even use a picture frame if you only have flat items to add.

Just add photos, plane tickets, and decorations and you’re done, like this DIY beach vacation shadowbox from MomDot, made with sand from a family vacation.

We really love this shadow box frame with a wooden background. It’s available on Amazon here.

Collect a unique souvenir from wherever you travel

Because we travel so often, we struggled with finding souvenirs that wouldn’t take over our house. There are many things that make great souvenirs, like fridge magnets, pebbles, patches, shot glasses, and the like, but we settled on bring home a paper map from wherever we visit.

Even in the age of Google Maps, it’s easy to pick up a paper tourist map at almost any hotel or airport. We just mark places we visit, and make notes to make the maps more personal. The best part is that they take up almost no storage room.

Write a travel journal

I’ve never once regretted keeping a travel journal. It’s amazing the details that you forget over time!

Unfortunately, the demands of working while we travel and taking care of a family mean that I don’t write in my journal as often as I’d like.

A travel journal doesn’t need to be on paper, emails to friends or family are great ways to preserve memories. If you like to write and take photos, consider creating a travel blog!


We love this highly rated Dingbats travel journal, made with biodegradable and recyclable materials. Get it on Amazon here.

Retro photo viewer

This is one of the cutest ideas I’ve seen in a while. I haven’t had a chance to try it out personally, but it’s definitely unique and whimsical.

RetroViewers are 3D viewers that are made from your own digital images. Each reel can hold seven images, and you can add text like location, time and so on.

Collect sand from everywhere you go

There’s something wonderful about being able to run your fingers through sand that you walked in on a tropical beach.

There are plenty of ways to display the sand, from keeping it in a bottle, to having it added to jewelry. I like to keep ours in small, separate glass bottles, rather than layering it in one bottle. One drop and it would be mixed together anyway!

You can pick up these adorable glass bottles on Amazon here.

Tip: Just be careful that you don’t take any sand or shells where it’s prohibited.

Keep leftover money

I think we’ve managed to keep just a little bit of leftover money from almost every country we’ve ever visited. Years later, I still love looking at the coins and bills.

If you’re crafty, you can include some of the small bills and coins in a scrapbook or shadow box.

We love this Punch Studio photo box. It would make a great storage box for coins and paper bills, plus other travel momentos.

Get it on Amazon here.


One of the best ways to bring back memories is through foods and smells. When we can, we love to pick up local spices as we travel and take them home. Cooking with them later never fails to bring back good memories from our travels and, if you can get typical mixtures that the locals, use that’s even better!

It’s unfortunate that spices only retain their true flavor for a few years at the maximum however if you get a local mixture that you love, ask for the amounts of each spice in it so you can reproduce it years later.

Spices in the souks of Marakkesh

Spices in the souks of Marakkesh

Bonus idea: Take more video!

I almost didn’t mention this because it’s pretty self-evident, but video is one of the best ways to keep travel memories. I wish we’d taken more videos on our travels.

As great as photos are, video brings back so many more memories, from sounds to little details you may have forgotten.

How to you preserve your travel memories? Let us know!

DIY ideas for how to preserve and display your travel memories and souvenirs. While it’s easy to pick up a T-shirt at any souvenir shop (and we still do sometimes!), we’ve aimed for some unique, interesting ways to preserve your trip memories. After a lot of though (and a lot of pruning of the list, these are the travel memories ideas that we love the best. 10 Creative Ways to Preserve Your Travel Memories. Since we travel so much, we have to be pretty picky about how many souvenirs that we pick up. These are our favorites. ]]> 8
Tips for Getting the Best Gear for Back to School Tue, 05 Sep 2017 18:00:00 +0000 Whether you’re preparing for a round the world family trip or just getting your kids back to school this fall, having clothes that last them the duration is important.

Quality counts, and sometimes the best way to save in the long run is to make sure that you’re not buying more clothes halfway into your trip or halfway through their school year.

So whether it’s for school or travel, here’s a list of things to look for when buying new gear for your kids.

Buy quality

Even though our kids grow like weeds, we’ve learned that cheaply made clothes still wear and fade faster than they can grow. Low quality clothes are also more prone to rips and tears, as well as shrinking in the wash. We’ve learned that it’s well worth it to look for stores and brands with quality clothes, shoes and backpacks.

Do the purge

Get rid of styles that they don’t like, that aren’t comfortable, or that don’t fit any more. On our 3 month trip through the South American Amazon, with a stop at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando on the way home, we brought only carry on luggage, making this essential. When we’re at our home base in British Columbia, we work hard to keep their closets streamlined as well. Keeping their closets purged of clutter makes it a lot easier to keep track of what new items they need, and it’s so much simpler when they pick out their clothes in the morning before school.

Make comfort a priority

Life is far too short to wear uncomfortable clothes, which is why I’ve banned pantyhose from my wardrobe forever. I’ve given my kids the same permission to just say no to any clothes that itch, scratch, or are just uncomfortable to wear. I love this soft little Under Armour cotton t-shirt we picked up for Jordan at Sport Chek. It’s cute, and she loves the soft comfy feel.

Find things they love

At ages eight and twelve, our kids are already fussy about the styles and colors they like. When the kids choose their favorite colors or styles, they are much more likely to wear the clothing than if I pick it out. I also love to see how my kids go forward with so much more confidence when they’re wearing clothes and other gear that they like and feel confident wearing. It’s so much easier to let our kids choose what they love at a store like Sport Chek that carries multiple, quality brands with some great products.

Our 12 year old loves anything fun and quirky, so I wasn’t surprised when he picked out this fun Firefly brand graphic T-shirt in store. As a bonus, it’s an incredibly soft and comfortable cotton blend. I think he’s found his favorite shirt of the season.

Make it easy

If the thought of shopping in store with your kids gives you hives, then give yourself a break and order online. A good quality sport themed store like Sport Chek has plenty of styles to choose from online (there are 35,000 styles at Sport Check), making it easy for picky kids to find something they like. Orders can be shipped to your home, or picked up in store. Returns are easy, as customers have 60 days to return products, and there’s free shipping on orders of $99 or more.

Insist on a great fit

Like her Dad, our little girl has high arches. For the longest time, we struggled with finding shoes for her that fit well and were comfortable. It was only after we tried on several brands that we found a few that fit her feet.

As such, we need a store that has plenty of shoe styles and sizes, like Sport Chek, where they guarantee approximately 30 footwear styles in any size and from where we’ve bought nearly every sandal or runner we’ve owned in the past few decades. Styles include kids and adults models and they have have one of the largest sport sandal selections in Canada so Charles is always happy.

Get clothes that work for active kids

Whether we’re at home in British Columbia or on the road somewhere, our kids always seem to be on the go, so they need gear that helps them stay active.

Chasing waves in the Galapagos Islands

Choose clothes that go together

Sticking to colors and styles that work well together makes getting our kids ready for school or their latest adventure on the road so much simpler. You never need to worry about clashing colors or styles if you stick to what works together. If your kids like bold colors and funky designs then that’s fine too. The important part is that they’re comfortable in their choices.

Be realistic about the weather and occasions

Jordan, our daughter, loves comfy shorts. She’d wear them every day if she could, but with winter coming here in Canada that’s just not realistic. I really appreciate that Sport Chek has seasonal clothes in a great selection of colors and styles. While she may not be able to wear her favorite shorts in our cooler Canadian weather, we did find her a comfy pair of Firefly girls’ Sydney graphic leggings and Firefly girls’ Fiji pants that she adores for the fall.

You can find all of these great styles and much more this back to school season with Sport Chek. Visit or in store for all your back to school shopping needs.

Do you have any tips for getting the best gear for back to school?

I have partnered with YMC and Sport Chek and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own. That said, we have been regular shoppers at Sport Chek for over 20 years and are big fans anyway.


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Keeping Your Travel Memories Alive Forever Wed, 09 Aug 2017 01:45:40 +0000 One of the biggest reasons we all travel is to experience new things.

Whether that’s to meet new people, eat new food, see new places, or to walk a few steps in another person’s shoes, the result is new memories to record and cherish.

Keeping Your Travel Memories Alive

So, how do you keep the memories alive long after your trip of a lifetime is over? If you loved roses, I would suggest getting something like an Eternity Rose as a premium gift for her in Canada, but how do you gold plate a travel memory?

Well, the trick to retaining memories is having something that triggers the memory.

Want some ideas? Here are some ways to keep your travel memories alive forever.

A picture lasts a lifetime

Probably the easiest way to relive a travel experience is to record it. That usually involves taking lots of pictures and a smattering of video which is something most of us do anyway.

Standing in front of some monument is classic but how do you remember the restaurant you ate in with the crazy waiter or the hour long lines at Disney World? Well, the secret is to take two kinds of pictures, what I call the public look at me pictures and the private remember this moment pictures.

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them. – Bob Dylan

Most of the time we take pictures to impress the people that weren’t with us. Those are what I call the look at me pictures. They’re the kind of enviable photos you see on the best travel instagram accounts. As in, look at me in front of the Statue of Liberty. Look at me in front of the Taj Mahal. Look at me dangling off a cliff. Look at me swimming in the ocean.

Those look at me pictures are wonderful for sharing on social media and letting others know exactly where you are in the world. Years later those look at me pictures will still trigger memories, but the memories will include just the pretty highlights of your trip on the whole, and maybe not any particular, meaningful, moment.

Grinding argan oil in Morocco

Jordan grinding argan oil in Morocco

The private remember this moment pictures are usually the photos that don’t make it to social media. Those are the ones you only share with the people you know best or just keep for yourselves. They might include a picture of a flopped cake or a look of annoyance at something in the distance. These are the pictures that will bring you back to the moment the waiter tripped on his shoelaces and spilled dessert all over you or the time you waited 6 hours in customs due to having a major language misunderstanding.

The private remember this moment pictures and videos are the ones that really bring back the details and emotions of your trip.

If you want to really capture a memory, try to make sure your photo or video captures your feelings at the moment. It’s these little nuances that made your trip memorable that you’ll end up treasuring in your photo collection.

You can take it with you

Another great way to relive your travels and keep the memories forever is to purchase a souvenir from abroad. The thing is, the more authentic the souvenir, the more the memory will stay with you.

When Micki and I first traveled together many years ago, we picked up keepsakes from every country we visited. As a result, we have boxes full of memories. In truth, we overdid it in the beginning and could probably furnish a few houses with our knickknacks (which, to be honest, are still in boxes in our basement). Whenever we want to reminisce about our first trips, all we need to do is open one of the boxes and it all comes flooding back to us.

Paper umbrellas being made in Chiang Mai Thailand

Paper umbrellas being made in Chiang Mai Thailand

The cool part about mementos is that sometimes the search for the perfect one is a story in itself. Like the time we followed the advice of a few Danish fellows we met in Malaysia and decided to spend three weeks in Sumatra, where we met an expat who told us to go on a hike to a remote village. In this village, we chanced on a master goldsmith and his shop. It was there where I ended up buying Micki’s engagement ring. She still wears that ring today and it’s backstory is one of our favorites.

So don’t stock up on mass produced souvenirs from the first stand you stop at, grab something that’s personal from the farthest or the last. It will make the journey to find it that much sweeter.

The fabric of life

Clothes are also a great way to relive your travel memories and, as luck would have it, we all need to wear clothes anyway.

Whether you’re in love with that Indian silk blouse, that Scottish plaid kilt or that traditional Mexican Sombrero, nothing captures the hands on pure feel of a country better than local adornments.

If you can, try to buy articles that are made locally using locally made fabrics, but if you have to have that t-shirt with a cool looking Bob Marley image, then that’s fine too. The important part is making sure that whatever you buy has an emotional connection to the area you’re visiting, so that every time you don that clothing, you travel back to the land where you bought it.

Write it down

A travel journal is one of our favorite ways to preserve precious vacation memories.

We haven’t always put pen to paper, though. We’ve used a lot of ways to journal your travels, including email, notes on our smartphones, and even this blog! Emails to friends and family from way back in 2002 are still some of our favorite travel journals.

Sounds good

It doesn’t matter if it’s Reggae in the Caribbean, Latin beat in the Americas or Spanish guitar in Spain. Music can be heard on many street corners throughout the world and each one is as unique as the country it’s found in.

One of my earliest memories is of seeing my mother in her beach chair, reading a book under an umbrella by the water’s edge while my sisters and I played beside her. Of all the life lessons she taught me, that is one of my favorites: to take time at a place I love, restore my spirit with books and the beach. – Luanne Rice

If you’ve taken a lot of video, then you’ll notice at least a few of them have some music playing in the background. That’s because no matter the country or culture, music is universal. Now it might be chanting in a remote village in Africa, or a flavorful polka in Germany, but every land has its own beat. One of the quickest ways to relive your travels is to turn on the music and engulf yourself in memories.

If you’re more old school, feel free to grab a CD or vinyl record that highlights the countries brightest stars. If you want the money to stay local, purchase it from some street performer who’s selling her music one CD at a time.

The spice of life

We’ve covered sight, sound and touch, but how do you bring back the tastes from your travels? It’s actually easier than you probably think.

Istanbul's Spice Bazaar

Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar

The trick with recalling the tastes of your travels is to bring back a little piece of it with you. The easiest way to do so if you’re traveling in an exotic land is to bring back some of the spices that make the meals so special.

As any worldly traveler can tell you, most places in the world have their own flavor. Whether that’s cumin in India or oregano in the Mediterranean, if you love to cook, then you know that the right spice can make any dish go from ordinary to extraordinary.

If you love the food, talk to the waiter and see if they may just sell you a bag of the chef’s favorites, or hit a market.

Tip! The only problem with spices is that they don’t typically age that well. The best spices are the freshest ones and they’re one of the reasons certain countries use them in every other dish. As with anything in life, you work best with what you have so if you run out, hit up a local shop specializing in spices and ask for a certain countries typical mix.

You’ll be surprised how a handful of spices and herbs can bring back memories of lavish nights on the Mediterranean or backpacking in Asia.

Smells like heaven

As well as the food, everyone knows that a lot of countries have a certain odor to them. Experts say that smell is likely the strongest emotional memory inducer there is.

Though smells don’t have the same memory acuity of, say, an image, they do bring back the feelings of a certain place, which in turn bring back memories of days lounging on the beach or partying the night away in Rio.

Usually, a country’s aroma is of their most used spices, but it can also be anything from ocean salt spray to a certain clove cigarette that the locals enjoy. The trick here is that it doesn’t have to be the most pleasant of smell to trigger a memory.

We have items covered with a cheap preservative from Asia that never seems to dissipate that one whiff will take me back to the day we bought it. Likewise, we own objects from Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand and Morocco, where even the tiniest of sniffs brings us back to walking the street markets looking at local goods.

Wildflowers among the Agora ruins in Kos Greece

Scented wildflowers among the Agora ruins in Greece

If you’re so inclined, candles and incense can also remind you of your journeys. We don’t typically burn them since we don’t want to use them up, but one sniff can send us back in time and allow us to relive certain portions of our trip.

If nothing else, scents help us relive the feeling of the moment and isn’t that what we truly wish for the most? The freedom, excitement and wonder of visiting a new land and all the marvels that come with it.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you rekindle the memories of trips gone by. So throw on some music, grab that hula skirt and mai tai, pull up your pictures and indulge in a little mini vacation as you walk through memories of past trips.

Hopefully, it won’t be long until your next journey begins and your new memories get made.

If you have any more ideas for keeping your travel memories alive forever let us know in the comments below.

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How To Stay Safe And Organized As A Solo Female Traveler Mon, 13 Feb 2017 17:00:00 +0000 I’ve been doing a lot of solo travel lately, with trips to Boston, Anguilla, Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, and even a trip back to Canada from Belize.

Those trips have really opened my eyes to the challenges of travel for solo female travelers.

While I still have a lot to learn, I have picked up a few helpful tips and tricks in the past year. Here are my thoughts on staying safe and organized as a solo female traveler.

stay safe and organized as a solo traveler woman in YYC airport


Well meaning friends and relatives are probably going to ask you how you’re going to stay safe on the road. The answer? Act in a way you would back home to stay safe. Traveling afar isn’t that much different than staying closer to home, and most of what you already do to stay safe works perfectly well on the road.

Stay aware

Of all the tips and tricks below, I think this is the most important: always be aware of your surroundings. If you’re always aware of what’s going on around you, you’ll probably be aware of the creepy guy following you, or you’ll notice if streets empty quickly as night comes. Knowledge is power, and the sooner you can extricate yourself from possible problems, the safer you’ll stay.

Being polite is never more important than staying safe

As women, our culture expects us to be pleasing and polite. If your gut tells you that a situation or person is “off” or unsafe, don’t be afraid to do what you need to in order to stay safe.

Watch what you drink

This advice works at home, as well as when you travel, but it’s wise to be careful when accepting drinks. Don’t accept drinks from someone you don’t know or trust, and keep an eye on your drink so someone can’t slip something into it.

Travel as part of a group

The old saying, there’s safety in numbers is no truer then than it is today. The truth is that some areas of the world, probably even areas in your home city, that can be a bit sketchy. By reading ahead, talking to other solo travelers and talking to friendly locals in the know, you can either avoid those areas altogether or at a minimum, travel as part of a group and watch out for another.

Give someone your travel information

Making sure you pass on your info to a travel mate is a great tip from Vantage Travel’s 111 Tips for Women Travelers. Here’s what they have to say:

Solo travel means thinking ahead – including about emergencies. Make a list
of emergency contact information, list medications that you take, and write
down your insurance information. Then give it to a travel mate to hold on to
so that someone else has the information in case it’s needed. – Vantage Travel

Book with a company that specializes in solo travel

There are some fantastic companies out there that specialize in tours and accommodation for solo travelers.

Vantage Travel offers several Deluxe World Travel solo options. They even offer cabins built specifically for solo travelers on their river ships. Even better, they don’t charge a single supplement.

Win a free river cruise for two!

We have a special treat for our readers – Vantage Travel is giving away a Deluxe River Travel Cruise of up to $10,000! It’s for two, so you can bring a friend!

You can enter by going to the Vantage Travel contest page here. Then, select a trip, and enter your name and email address.

That’s it, you’re entered to win!

Win a Free Deluxe River Cruise with Vantage Travel


Choosing the right things to take with you on the road can make traveling as a solo woman much easier.

how to stay safe and organized as solo traveler

Prepare for feminine hygiene needs

Many of us female travelers need to ensure that we have feminine hygiene products on the road. Either pack as much as you need, or make sure you know that you’ll be able to get them as you go. Some countries, for example, have limited supplies of tampons. I always carry a Diva cup when I travel. It’s lightweight, and hardly takes up any space

Tip: Pack extra panty liners. They’re tiny, light, and can help keep underwear fresh.

Don’t overpack

Nothing quite takes the fun out of travel like having to lug around awkward, heavy, over-sized luggage. I love shoes as much as the next woman, but I keep my travel gear to two pairs, one for every day wear, and one that’s little nicer. Both pairs are comfortable enough to walk in for hours.

Know if you’ll be able to get replacement clothing

I can speak from personal experience here. In some countries, like Thailand, the average woman’s size is smaller. If you’re an average size North American woman, you may have trouble finding clothes that fit.

I learned this the hard way when both of my bras spontaneously snapped their underwire (serves me right for buying two of the same kind) in Bangkok. I had to go to seemingly countless stores until I finally found a replacement in my size at a large chain department store.


Tech can be an enormous help for a solo female traveler. Here are a few of my best tech tips for the road.

Download an offline Google Map

Google Maps Offline

Google Maps has a great feature that will let you download offline areas in their maps app. This has been incredibly useful for me whenever I’m out of WiFi or cellular data range. Not only does it show me where I need to go and give me basic reviews on nearby attractions and restaurants, but it also lets me verify that my taxi or Uber is bringing me to the right location and not heading off to who knows where.

Have a cell phone number

If you have a cell number and phone plan, you’ll most likely be able to reach help quickly if you need it. You may also need a cell number for SMS verification of your identity, because more and more sites and apps require 2-factor authentication when logging in from different locations.

Right now, for example, we’re traveling without a local cell plan, using only WiFi wherever and whenever we can connect. Sadly, this isn’t working the best for us, as more and more apps seem too need to verify your identity via SMS.

Here’s an example: Airbnb locked me out of my account in the middle of Mexico as I was booking a place for that evening. To re-enable my account, I needed to enter a code they sent via SMS or a phone call to my home number. Luckily, I was able to access my voicemail via WiFi and get the code. Otherwise, I would have been left looking for accommodation in my last 10 minutes before catching a flight. To re-enable by email, Airbnb said it could take up to two days (!!!!) with customer service. I use Airbnb a lot, and generally love them, but I have no idea what they were thinking, since many travelers are without a roaming plan.

Use Uber, Lyft or companies like them rather than a taxi

Calling a taxi can sometimes be easy in another country or very hard, and there’s no guarantee that the driver won’t try to overcharge you. Save yourself the headache and having to deal with touts on the road by booking via an app with online payments. You’ll always know ahead of time how much the ride will cost you and a lot of times it’s often cheaper than a cab.

Companies like Uber are great because they track both you, the driver, and your route, adding an element of safety.

Tip! Make sure you verify your driver’s identity against his or her photo, and the car make and model before getting in the car!

The cool part about it is you can often select your driver before you book and can track the vehicle the whole time. Since the fare is set when you book it, there’s no confusion, or resentment, when the ride is over.

Tip! If you’re stuck without a working cell number and haven’t pre-registered with Uber before you left home, they have an option to use Uber without needing a cell phone number to verify. Just go to this page to set up access. It took about 24 hours to have it all set up for me. You can then use Uber through their mobile site at or through the app without SMS. You still need WiFi to book, so I book a ride from the hotel room, wait until the ride is close and then head down and wait for them to arrive.

Avoiding roaming charges

If you want to avoid ridiculous roaming charges on your phone while you travel, you have three options:

One, get a phone plan with reasonable charges for roaming. This can often be easier said than done and some companies charge ridiculous daily fees when you’re outside your home country.

Two, get a local SIM card for your phone. Many countries have very low pay as you go rates compared to others and it’s often cheaper to get a local SIM card for your cellphone than paying roaming charges. The only catch is that your cell phone needs to be unlocked and you won’t be able to be reached with your standard home number.

Your third option is to travel with WiFi at all times, by using a portable WiFi hotspot. I use (and love) Tep Wireless (code barefootnomad gets you 10% off), which works in Canada, the USA, Mexico, and many other countries. You can check out our review of Tep here.

Here’s a tip: You can use Google Voice (only available for US numbers), and connect it to Google Hangouts, allowing you to receive texts and voice calls made to your cell number in Google Hangouts, using WiFi only. There’s a helpful tutorial here.

There are also numerous apps like Skype, Magic Jack, Fongo, WhatsApp, Talkatone and others that give you a number that can be used anywhere in the world that will work as long as you have WiFi or a data plan.

Tip! If you’re only using WiFi, make sure you have local emergency numbers on hand since 911 and similar numbers likely won’t work with WiFi calling.

Do you have any solo travel tips? Let us know below!

How to stay safe and organized as a solo female traveler

This post was brought to you by Vantage Travel, but all opinions are our own.

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Enjoying the Little Things with Back to School Tue, 11 Aug 2015 16:00:00 +0000 Marshalls back to school shopping notebook and pencils

As frequent travelers, we’re fortunate that we go on wonderful adventures like riding camels in Morocco, hot air ballooning in Turkey, and exploring cities like Madrid and Lisbon.

We’re so grateful for those experiences.

But spending so much time on the road often means we don’t get a chance to do everyday things, so we really appreciate the little things when we’re able to enjoy them. This year, we’re loving back to school shopping with Cole (who’s now 10) and Jordan (who’s six). Marshalls back to school shopping books and snack container

Picking up school supplies is a blast down memory lane. It brings back memories of driving down gravel roads from our farm to go back to school shopping with my Mom. We’d go to the town drugstore for stationery, pick up some back to -school clothes and then stop for an ice cream on the way home.

So I thought I’d head to Marshalls to get some back to school essentials. I love not having to drive all over town looking for different items, so it was great to find everything from cute clothes and backpacks to great footwear in one place.

If you’re a fan of getting brand names and designer brands for less, and if you’re looking for some cute footwear, check them out. I ended up with a top and jeans for Jordan that are perfect for fall back to school. So cute! Marshalls back to school shopping girls clothes Marshalls back to school shopping girls clothes and books

Cole got a T-shirt and a pair of comfy pants. My boy once ripped holes in the knees of four pairs of pants, four days in a row.

These look like they can withstand a little roughhousing, though!

Marshalls back to school shopping boys clothes

Enter to Win a $100 Marshalls Gift Card

And now, our very favorite part; your chance to win a $100 gift card from Marshalls!

What Back to School style are your kids looking for this year? Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win!

You can connect with Marshalls on their website, Facebook, and on Twitter at @marshallscanada. You can find a Marshalls near you through the Store Locator.


The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss

The Dr. Seuss quote comes from a Dr. Seuss book called I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! You can pick the book up on Amazon

. I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

This post was sponsored by Marshalls.

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The Quirky Christmas Traditions of Nomadic Travelers Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:00:49 +0000 It seems that every year, Christmas finds us in a different location. Whether we’re with family and friends, or on the road somewhere, our unconventional traditions follow us.

We’re probably not that different than your average nomadic traveler however, since Micki and I have gotten together, we’ve started a few quirky Christmas traditions that have become “the norm” for us.

Some are a little odd, a few are traditional, but the most important part of any holiday is being together with our kids.

So when we were approached to work with the TYLENOL® What Matters Most campaign, which looks at how modern families celebrate what matters most during the holidays, we were intrigued by what other people defined as traditional. We then decided to look at our Christmas traditions and how they came about.

Hope you enjoy!

A not so Christmas tree

Merida Peacock Feather Christmas Tree

Sometimes you make do with what you have… Cole and Jo with our peacock feather tree at Christmas in Merida, Mexico

The first time I can remember not being home for Christmas was when I was eight. My parents decided that we were going on a three week road trip to California for the Christmas holidays. Strangely, I can remember more from that trip than I can some of the last places I’ve been to. Maybe it was the novelty of it all that stuck with me.

Being from central Canada, not freezing my arse or having snow on the ground was an obvious difference. The second was that we didn’t have our home with a Christmas tree and all the decorations around. That year, Christmas found us hidden away in a little hotel somewhere in Nevada.

Instead of having friends and family over that year for our typical huge Christmas Eve celebration, we went swimming in a heated outdoor swimming pool and then sat back to watch a Christmas movie on a little tube TV. This old TV was also our Christmas tree that year since it was precariously perched on this cute little stand. I can remember waking up and seeing five little gifts all tucked under the legs and thinking that this was going to be a Christmas to remember.

It was and from then on out, Christmas has always included a tree, or whatever we have on hand that will do in a pinch. This has included everything from a coat rack to our kids favorite, peacock feathers in an oversized vase from a few years ago while we were in Mexico for the holidays.

We’ve found that it doesn’t matter what we use, it’s the spirit in which you use it that counts. Of course, singing O’ Christmas Tree to a coat rack just isn’t the same no matter how much spiced eggnog you’ve had.

Turkey or roast? Nah, it’s Christmas Enchilada time

Tradition dictates that the Christmas meal has to be special. Growing up, that either meant a turkey or roast and all the trimmings. I’m not going to lie, there’s not much I love more than roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, however being married to a vegetarian means that it’s not going to happen often. Especially when you’re on the road with limited facilities.

Our Christmas enchilada tradition started back in 2003 during our first Christmas on the road together. We were in a cute little cabin by Lake Taupo on the north island of New Zealand that year and wanted to make something special. We had already been away from Canada for 10 months and were craving something unusual. We both love Mexican food so, Micki whipped up a huge batch of enchiladas and voila, a new tradition was born.

It’s been such a hit with us that one year we even convinced Micki’s family to eat Mexican food for the big Christmas meal and everyone enjoyed it.

It also helps that the kids love Mexican food even more than we do so everyone wins and, being the only meat eater, I’m not stuck eating leftovers for two weeks solid.

Stockings hung by the chimney with care! (Let’s just make sure they’re washed first)

I know it’s a little cliché, but in both our families, every year stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St Nicholas soon will be there.

It was a huge tradition for both of us, and so we continue the tradition wherever we happen to be. The biggest difference is that back home we have dedicated, oversized stockings that are perfect for cramming in various small presents.

On the road, they aren’t practical to carry, however we always have at least one pair or regular socks with us so every year they get strung up on a wall waiting for Santa to appear.

Amazingly, he finds us no matter where in the world we happen to be!

Our Makeshift Christmas Stocking in Playa del Carmen 2010

Our makeshift Christmas stocking in Playa del Carmen

A piñata, sure, why not

A piñata might seem a little odd for non-Spanish people to pick up every year, however since we have spent three Christmases in Mexico with the kids over the years, I guess it’s not that odd.

Here or there, it’s a great tradition and the kids look forward to it every year.

But even pinatas can be a little lost in  translation. Unknown to us, the first piñata we bought in Mexico years ago wasn’t pre-filled with candy, so when a young Cole finally managed to crack it open, the little guy was devastated that it was hollow. I had to make a late night Christmas Eve run to the local store to pick up some treats to make it up to him. Needless to say, we’re a little more careful when we chose one now.

Christmas traditions with a twist

So there you go, there are our take on four classic Christmas Traditions that have been nomadicized (our word; you won’t find in in the Merriam-Webster) for our family. Not exactly the classic Norman Rockwell portrait everyone associates with Christmas traditions, but not so different either.

For us, the most important thing is that we’re together, whether that be sitting at a table eating enchiladas or huddled around a vase of peacock feathers opening presents. There’s no better place to be for the holidays than with your loved ones.

So, our story really isn’t that different from the ones in this For What Matters Most video by TYLENOL. Our families may be different, and we may all celebrate in different ways, but all of us hold family itself dearest to our hearts.

If you’d like to learn more, visit the TYLENOL® What Matters Most campaign, or spread the word on Pinterest.

Tylenol What Matters Most #ForWhatMattersMost

This is a sponsored post. We have received information and materials from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. All the opinions are our own. That said, they never asked us to mention dirty socks or peacock feathers. That’s all us. Happy Holidays!

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A Dream Worth Striving For Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:36:34 +0000 Paradise

My future awaits

My dream

I have a dream. It doesn’t involve world peace or solving the hunger crisis. It’s a personal vision. In truth, the only thing remarkable about it is its simplicity.

Imagine this…

A hammock, an endless ocean and powdery white sand. Me, a cool drink in one hand and my favorite book in the other. The gentle breeze and surf mixing together to create a perfect harmony of sound while the warm glow of sunshine paints the world in hues of red and yellow.

It’s a simple dream, though as vivid in my mind as the computer screen I’m currently staring into. I’ve had it ever since I can remember.

I believe most people have a similar dream, though few take the time to shape it into anything more than a fuzzy idea of where they hope their future takes them. Most of us wake up with a purpose, however have no greater plan than to make it through another day hoping that we’re working towards a better future.

I believe the lucky ones in life have a clear vision of where they’re going. For some of them, their dreams are so focused that they’re like arrows pointing them exactly where they believe they need to be.

I’m a little jealous of those with such a clear focus on what they need to do to make their own dream a reality. I also applaud them for having the strength and patience to see their dreams come true.

An unusual dream

That said, I believe my dream is a little different from most. It’s clear as day, however it doesn’t push me in any direction. Mine is just constantly playing in the background of my mind.

At times, I believe it gives me the energy to keep going. Other times it gives me perspective on the road I’ve already traveled. Sometimes, it cheers me up on days that I’m feeling blue and occasionally, it even gives me focus on days where my choices seem cloudy.

The funny part is, it’s such a simple dream yet it has no urgency. In it, I’m content to spend the entire day just lounging and there’s absolutely no rush to get anything accomplished except maybe finish reading the chapter I’m on or the cool drink in my hand.

Realizing my dream

In terms of dreams, it’s also fairly obtainable and a dozen years ago, I thought I achieved it.

A few months into our first year long round the world trip together as a couple I found myself in almost exactly that place. It was everything I ever dreamed and more since I had someone I loved beside me. The problem was that after a few days on the beach, there was a restlessness growing inside me.

Up until reality smacked me in the face that beach and that hammock was my lifelong dream. Don’t think that the absurdity of that statement isn’t wasted on me. I know it’s not much however guess what, it’s still my life dream. Except now when I close my eyes, the dream isn’t only a vision but also a memory I continue to cherish.

You might ask yourself why after every country I’ve explored, every natural wonder I’ve seen, every “once in a lifetime event” I’ve had the good fortune to participate in that my dream hasn’t changed. You’re not the only one. I ask myself that same question every day.


I think the answer lies in the definition of a dream. For me, swaying in the breeze that day the truth hit me. It wasn’t an abrupt realization but a slow understanding of myself and the world around me.

You see, I never realized the dream didn’t start with me laying on a hammock, it ended with it. The sense of peace, completeness and happiness I felt in it wasn’t from finally getting there, it was from having completed everything I wanted to do before I got there.

That hammock was my reward for having lived a full life. It was the icing to my proverbial cake and though that hammock still sits there waiting for me, I know in my heart that I’ll never by truly content until I’ve eaten as much lifecake as my body can stand.

Every person has their own dreams. Some are vague, others are more defined however what they each have in common is a goal we all hope to one day reach. It sits there waiting for each of us. Whether it’s finding Shangri-La, owning that mansion on the hill or achieving the unthinkable, never let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing your dreams. They’re part of who we are and give us the strength, endurance and perseverance to reach for the unobtainable.

My future awaits

For me, that hammock is still swinging near that sparkling clear ocean just waiting for me to finish whatever life decides to throw my way. For now, I can concentrate on the tasks at hand like raising my kids and making sure that their own dreams are forged. That they too have the tools necessary to reach whatever heights they dream of.

For now, the hammock can wait. I have other dreams that need tending. I’m fine with that. Regardless of what I do, it’s one step closer to my dream anyway and isn’t that worth striving for?


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Road Trip Time Machine – Mackintosh Toffee Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:22:47 +0000 There’s an old saying that states you can never go home again.

While that may be true, there are definitely certain tastes and smells that can transport you back in time and let you briefly relive moments from your past.

For me, nothing transports me back as fast as a certain smells. I mean, who doesn’t smell bacon and think of Saturday breakfast or Sunday brunch? Similarly, smelling freshly cut grass for me signifies summers of pushing lawnmowers and the smell of rain always reminds me of crazy Prairie storms.

For travelers, who can smell the ocean and not remember the first time they got their toes wet or the smell of certain foods they ate contentedly for days on end during their travels?

Last weekend I set out to relive a memory of my youth that will always signify the family road trip. For me, that’s the taste of Mackintosh’s Creamy Toffee. Those of you not from Canada or the Northern US States may have never tasted it.

Mackintosh's Toffee

The Original Mackintosh’s Bar

A cross between hard English butterscotch toffee and soft American caramel, Mackintosh’s toffee starts off hard (nearly brittle) and softens as you eat it. The first few bites can be murder on teeth and I know more than one friend who lost a baby tooth to it’s goodness.

As a kid, it came in a distinct thin, red tartan plaid cardboard box surrounded by wax paper in one solid piece of toffee. It was unlike any other candy bar wrapper and that was a good thing.

Seeing that the toffee starts off so hard, there were only two ways to eat it. The first way was to heat it up in the sun or next to your body and slowly rip off chunks with your teeth. Frankly, that took too long, was really messy and definitely wasn’t great for sharing.

The most common way to share it was to break it or to “Smack the Mack” as they say. This was our preferred method of enjoying it since this way, everyone got to enjoy a piece of it. To “Smack the Mack” you held the closed package in your palm and hit something hard to break it into small pieces. You only had one chance to do it because once the package was open, smacking it again left a mess.

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” Babs Hoffman

You were also never guaranteed what size your pieces would be since it was completely random, but part of the bar’s allure was hoping you got the biggest piece first. Being the youngest in the family, having an equal chance to get the biggest piece was always a thrill.

Growing up in a small town, one of the only places I could recall ever seeing those flat boxes of Mackintosh’s was at the duty free shop when we crossed the border into the US. My family loved deals almost as much as the road trip so crossing the border just over an hour from our house was a semi annual affair.

My mother, not known for her sweet tooth, loved Mack’s just as much as us kids and always bought a Mack’s bar when we crossed the border into the US. To this day, the only time I ever eat Mackintosh’s toffee is when I’m crossing the US border in a vehicle. That’s why for me, nothing signifies a family roadtrip to the States as much as a Mack’s toffee bar.

On that note, last weekend we took the kids down to Osoyoos, a sleepy resort town in BC, Canada, just across from the US border during Spring Break. Even before we left our house I knew it was a given that we’d cross over into the US.

To be honest, I knew that we’d be passing a Duty Free Shop and my mouth was watering at the prospect of getting my hands on a Mackintosh. I even explained my love of the toffee bar and explained our long standing tradition to my kids as we approached the border. They were excited by my eagerness (and to be honest, the prospect of getting some candy), so I knew they’d share my love for this toffee bar I grew up with.

“Until you’ve learned to drive, you’ve never really learned how to swear.”  Robert Paul

I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we somehow missed the Duty Free store turn off. Before I knew it, we were in the customs line waiting for our turn to hand in our passports. To say I was mortified was an understatement. I was so saddened I was tempted to do an illegal U-turn right then and there. Micki convinced me that it wasn’t in our best interest if we ever wanted to enter the States again so I reluctantly remained in line.

Even as we crossed back into Canada later that day I was still upset about not getting my Mack fix. If there hadn’t been an hour long lineup through customs I would have even circled around and gone through again.

As we returned to our hotel, Micki and the kids took the elevator up to our room as I wandered over to the vending machine for a quick dessert.

Low and behold, to my amazement, in slot #17 was a Mackintosh’s Toffee bar.

I was ecstatic. It was as though fate had smiled down at me. I couldn’t have been happier if I had conquered the desert and found both the holy grail and Shangri-La waiting for me. Of course, I bought the last two in the machine and ran up the stairs to quasi-heroic fanfare.

The only remaining evidence

The only remaining evidence

My kids thought I was nuts when I showed them how to crack the Mack but they enjoyed it as much as I did and fought for the biggest piece just as I did as a kid. We all had our fill and with the last piece of the quest complete, proclaimed the day a success.

The best part? It was just as good as I remembered.

Tossing it in my mouth I was immediately brought back to days before air conditioning was common and getting a window seat was a treat. Of being plopped in the back with my brother and sister patiently waiting for another piece of the quickly disappearing toffee while dad made a beeline for whatever town we were headed for, and thankful that, at least for a few minutes, we were behaving ourselves and he could have a moment of quiet bliss.

Sadly, the memories faded away as the last of the toffee melted in my mouth. The good news is that I knew the memory would come back again as soon as I opened the other package of Mackintosh toffee that I bought.

You know, the one I forgot to mention to my kids. 😉

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The Best Of The Barefoot Nomad for 2013 Fri, 24 Jan 2014 18:00:00 +0000 The World in Mosaic The Barefoot Nomad

2014 is now well upon us, and we’re still testing the limits of our resolve for our New Year’s resolutions.

Like the experienced procrastinators we are, Charles and I have just gotten around to looking back on the past year.

2013 was definitely a busy year, with us traveling to 10 countries and covering at least 28,377 kilometers (or 17,632 miles for you Americans out there) in our travels.

This site has also grown a lot in the past year, and we have to thank you so much for reading and sticking with us. You’re what makes working on The Barefoot Nomad so much fun.

Since we’ve seen so many new readers this year, we thought it would be a great idea to highlight some of our favorite articles from 2013 to give you a chance to catch up.

Getting Personal

Leaving The Past Behind: Why You Should Let Go While You Travel One of my very favorite posts from Charles, where he chats about how when we travel, we not only leave our homes behind but also our past selves.

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Us A fun post where we talk about Charles’ love of baking, Micki’s somewhat disturbing mojo with Polynesian pigs, and oh so much more.

How to Make an iTurd I wish I could say this one is classier than it sounds… but it isn’t. In this post, we coin a new word, “Splorksh” and pass on some hard earned knowledge about how to rescue an iPhone from a toilet baptism.

Taking the Midnight Ferry to Ko Samui In this blast from the past, Charles takes you back to before we had kids. Highlights: Sleeping with goats, wandering around lost in Thailand and cruising around in the back of a stranger’s pick up truck. Mom: You might not want to read this one.

 Helpful Tips and Tricks

31 Tips for Better Family Travel This is the post you want if you’re looking for some insight into how to make family travel better for everyone.

25 Free Must Have iPhone Apps We go all geek here, with a list of free apps that will make your trips a lot easier.

Six Quick Steps to Nailing the Cheapest Flight Looking for a quick guide to saving money on airfare? This is your ticket.

How to Find The Cheapest Flight to Anywhere Have you ever wanted to jump on a flight to somewhere else – anywhere else? We tell you how to get the best deal if your destination is entirely wide open.

25 Great Tips for Planning Your Trip from Top Travel Bloggers and 20 Helpful Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Trip We crowd-sourced these to some of the best travel bloggers out there. The result? A collection of practical, quirky advice.

11 Ways to Go Local Tired of being a tourist all the time? This post gives you some quick ideas on how to blend in and feel like a local.

How to Call Home While On The Road A fun and useful post on how to stay in touch with family and friends back home who believe traditional telephones are the only option.

Travel Posts

Falling in Love with Porto, Portugal in Photos If you’re in the mood for some pretty photos, you can’t do much better than to visit gritty, atmospheric Porto. Unfortunately, this post is lacking in photos of the port distilleries because, well, we were having way too much fun drinking port.

Golf Carts and Baby Turtles, a Great Day on Isla Mujeres A little island off the coast near Cancun holds some great day tripping surprises.

This Should Be On Your Bucket List: A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over The Cave Houses Of Cappadocia Some colorful photos of our hot air balloon ride over the fairy tale landscape of Cappadocia Turkey. Check out the video (one of our best) here.

For the Love of Squares, a Walk Around Centro, Madrid A look at Madrid’s squares of and how they play such an important role in day to day life in Spain.

Moose Jaw: The City of Secrets A post about a small Canadian prairie city that hides some surprising secrets beneath its streets.

Wandering through Merida’s Colonial Centro: A Photo Essay Charming weathered doors, mint condition VW bugs and everything else you’ll see on a stroll through the center of the colonial city of Merida, Mexico.

Tripping Over History: Kos Ruins in Ruins, a Greek Island in Photos Walking through the abandoned ruins of the ancient Greek Agora among wildflowers and wild grasses.

A Tour Of Morocco Through Our iPhone Lens Riding camels, weaving through the chaos of Marrakesh with the kids and visiting the Sahara Desert.

The Best of Lisbon: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss An incredibly cool aquarium, some of the best pastry in the world and trying the local tipple.

Looking Forward

We hope everyone’s having a wonderful start to the New Year. We’re going to be working hard to make The Barefoot Nomad even better this year with a new updated site layout planned and tons of great new content in the works.

We’re also going to start adding more local Canadian content for any of you visiting this area of the world. With the Rocky Mountains on our doorstep, Vancouver and the islands a stones throw away and living in the beautiful wine and lake area of the Okanagan you can bet there’s a ton for us to cover.

Mostly, we’d love to hear your thoughts about the site. What would you like to see more (or less) of? Any family, travel preparation, destination advice or whatever you’d like us to tackle in a post? Let us know. We’re always looking to expand our repertoire and always willing to share our thoughts.

Happy 2014 everyone!


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Leaving the Past Behind: Why You Should Let Go While You Travel Tue, 24 Sep 2013 17:00:18 +0000 There are dozens of reasons I love to travel: new sites, new sounds, new tastes, new places and faces, the thrill of doing something different and the desire to see every square inch of this beautiful planet we call home. Travel is amazing and they’re all valid points.

That being said, there’s also another reason I travel. It’s probably not something a lot of people have discussed, or even really given a name to, however it’s there all the same. When we travel, we not only leave our homes behind but also our past selves.

Charles Kosman at the Hierapolis Turkey 800

Charles at the ancient Hierapolis, Turkey

One of my favorite reasons to travel is that travel lets me be the person I want to be. The moment I step off a plane or a train, a bus or a boat I’m a new person. I open myself to whatever the world throws at me and without a past that future is wide open. I can be a rock climber, a sailor, a jet setter or a scroungy backpacker and no one in the world can say different.

At home we often live the life we think others want us to live.

Back home, we’re constantly surrounded by our past. Family who have known us since birth and believe they know what’s best for us. Friends we’ve had since youth who frown when we do something dangerous or unbecoming. Acquaintances who we fear will see us walking around town looking grubby or not in the best light. Work buddies who might think less of us because we’re walking around the dollar store with a full basket of dollar goods.

In our regular 9 to 5 lives we live with a past that is constantly interfering with our present. It not only holds us back. but also limits our choices. At times it seems we often live the life we think others want us to live rather than the one that is our own. It’s also hard to step outside the norm and not aspire to the Western sense of achievement. Bigger cars, better houses, higher paying salary, nicer furniture and more toys to brag about are the western ideal. Not a problem if you truly value those things, however, what happens when you don’t?

When we travel we feel richer than we ever have before.

When we travel we often have no vehicle. Most of the time we stay in simpler places with simpler amenities. A lot of the time, the things in our bags are the only material goods we own within a thousand miles. The truth is, when we travel we feel richer than we ever have before.

The smells wafting up from the bakery below are our currency. The gorgeous castle we just walked through is our home. The open-aired double decker bus we just rode on is our ride. The huge park across the street is our yard. The benches outside the local ice cream shop are our furniture. The zipline we just flew down is one of our many toys.

I can walk through sprawling open air markets in ripped shorts and a slightly dirty t-shirt and I don’t care. On the flipside, I can dress to the nines, walk into a high classed restaurant and order with the best of them. If I want to get up at 11 am because I was up late I can. If I want to get up at 5 AM and jump on a hot air balloon I can. If I want to help build a well, teach a class, live in the jungle or go to Disneyland with the kids I can. If I want to climb a mountain, swim a river, sail a boat, ride a camel, go looking for tree kangaroos or swim with stingrays I can because on this trip I am who I want to be.

When you travel, every step forward brings you farther from the person you used to be.

Travel is more than seeing something new, it’s also about leaving behind something that’s old. Whether that be your past, your misconceptions, your comfort level or your anxieties, the next time you head down a new path, realize that there’s no better time to be the new you.

Don’t fear it, embrace it. To me, that’s the best part of a new journey.


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