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Gift Ideas for the Traveller in Your Life

Know someone who’s caught the travel bug? With the holidays coming up, we decided to create a list of gift suggestions for the person in your life who plans on travelling in the new year!

  1. Polaroid Camera

Years ago I was given a polaroid camera as a birthday gift, not for any reason relating to travel, but it has become something I cannot travel without! These days most people come home from a trip with memory cards full of thousands of photos, usually including many, MANY multiples. But who has the time to actually look through all of them? I love my Polaroid because I don’t just snap pictures of anything, and my album becomes a collection of special highlights of the trip, with a short description and date right at the bottom of each photo! Ser loved it so much when we were in Aus, she ended up getting one too!

https://www.amazon.ca/polaroid-camera/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Apolaroid%20camera

 

  1. Swell Bottle

You may have heard of Swell bottles before, but wondered what might make a water bottle so expensive? I wondered the same thing, but these bottles keep liquids cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours at a time, which can be incredibly useful while travelling! Plus, they are very durable, which is important to someone like me who tends to drop things.

https://www.swellbottle.com/swell-2017-holiday-gift-guide#the-everyday-adventurer

 

  1. Turkish Towels

These towels are ideal for someone who needs to pack light, because with the cute designs and comfy cotton material they can double as a scarf, sarong, or blanket for plane/train/bus rides!

https://www.sandcloudtowels.com/blogs/news/37659457-turkish-towels-101-what-are-turkish-towels

 

  1. Travel Journal/Planner

Although I am not always the most adamant about recording my travels and journaling along the way, I am always so thankful when I do! And I find that having a proper travel journal or planner really encourages me to do so. There are many great options out there, but here are a few of my favourites:

For the road-tripper: https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/lifes-a-road-trip

For the creative: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/home-gift-i-was-here-a-travel-journal-for-the-curious-minded/22817797

For the momento-collector: https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/ticket-stub-diary

 

  1. Scratch-Off World Map

Let’s be honest, we all love talking about the places we have travelled to, and showing off a little bit. Scratch-Off World Maps are a fun way to keep track of all the countries that we have been to and to display it proudly!

https://www.amazon.ca/Scratch-World%C2%AE-scratch-detailed-cartography/dp/B00O8PNW6M/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_229_bs_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=YJ4MBT9BW04EEW035VV3

https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/scratch-map

 

Mel’s Update 12.9.2017

I was lucky enough to be able to stay in Aus at the end of our semester abroad to road trip along the East Coast for about 5 weeks, so I didn’t get home until July 31st. Truthfully, my student visa expired at midnight the night of July 30th, so I booked a flight for 11:50pm that night, the last possible flight I could have taken! The most exciting part of getting home for me was reuniting with my dog, Molly. Everyone that knows me knows that I should be embarrassed of my co-dependent relationship with my dog. She’s an absolutely adorable 9lb Maltipoo, so can you really blame me?!

Reuniting with Molly at the Airport 🙂

I finished my undergraduate degree while I was in Australia, so lucky me, I didn’t go back to school this September! I had originally planned to start a Master’s degree then, but I think the laid-back Aussie lifestyle helped me realize that there was no need to rush into a program that I didn’t really know if I wanted to do. However, I have been taking some really interesting continuing studies courses for interests-sake and to keep my mind ready for when I do go back to school. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable class is when you’re not being graded! I just completed a certificate program in Applications of Applied Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation, and look forward to sharing a bit about what I have learned with you guys!

I was also recently offered a job as a Research Assistant at Sunnybrook Hospital’s Health Sciences Centre, in a lab run by a psychiatrist. I am really looking forward to starting this soon! But I have to say, it has been really nice to have some time off to spend with my family. Between living in another city for school, and travelling for the first half of this year, I really have not had enough time with them recently!

So there’s a little summary of my last few months (leaving out the many sentimental moments looking at photos of Aus and missing Ser), and I look forward to sharing more with you guys in the future!

New Virtual Technology Will Improve Lives

Electrovibration technology is an up and coming technology that will allow people to feel products using our touch screen and mobile devices.

This is just another way to enhance our online experiences! An electrostatic field creates tactile feedback on our touch screen devices. Of course my mind jumps to shopping, or even petting cute animals when considering how this will affect me. However, this technology could open doors for people facing various disabilities such as having amputated limbs, blindness, or other sensory defects.

The opportunities are endless with this new technology, and I’m excited to see it integrate into our everyday lives.

Ser’s Update 11.21.2017

On June 27th I flew back to the United States from the wonderful land of Oz. It’s been about five months and I think it’s time to let you all know where I’m at currently. This blog will absolutely have loads of content about travel tips, hacks and suggestions, but I’m hoping some updates along the way will help you all to get to know me on a less generic level!

I started my internship!
Two days after my return home I had an Interview for the one and only internship I applied for while I was away. Lucky me, I got it! So, my week has consisted of working 8-4 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I worked at Nike for two years prior to studying abroad…and let’s just say it was time to move on. I loved working there, but working at my new internship is giving me tons of skills that directly relate to my major. It has helped me to figure out what I like and dislike about the business world and life in business casual attire.

I’m a Senior in college now!
I’m in my final undergraduate year of university, and it’s extremely bittersweet. I don’t want to graduate so soon, but it’s time to move on to the real world! I’m in the Early Entry MBA program at my school, so I’ll still be around for another year completing my MBA. Who knows what will come next!

I’m older!
I turned 21 not too long ago – which is a pretty big deal in the United States! While it’s nice to legally enjoy wine on Tuesday nights in my cozy college house, I know that this year has many other amazing things in store. Not to sound sappy – but hey, I’m feeling pretty lucky! By the age of 21 I have lived by myself in Australia for roughly five months, I have traveled to four different countries, I have started a super convenient and quality MBA program, and I already have plans to do more amazing things that bring me joy. I never imagined this life for myself but I thank God everyday for it!

Of course way more things have happened these past five months – but these are some of the big ones in my eyes. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

How to Make Your Way Across the East Coast of Aus

I recently did a road trip from Melbourne to Cairns, which turned out to be a pretty typical thing to do for foreigners and Aussies alike. During my trip, I met many other travelers and discovered other ways of getting across the coast that I hadn’t considered when planning my trip. So here are some options to consider when planning your trip along the coast:

  1. Campervan
    I have to admit, I loved the three weeks we spent living in a campervan. It was nice to have a consistent living space (rather than switching hostels or hotels every few days) where I could have things somewhat spread out, well, at least not crammed into a backpack. I went slightly overboard in the beginning to try to make it feel cozy and put up some decorations, but it really did start to feel like home. We found tons of great caravan parks along the coast, and Queensland has plenty of free campsite options.

There are many companies that you can rent camper vans from and multiple sizes/styles available. It is important to do some research to determine the size/style that is ideal for you, but in terms of choosing a company, well I personally just went with the cheapest available. For me, that was Wicked Campers, and although I have friends who chose not to rent with them based on poor reviews, I thought we had a great experience. There was an issue with the heating in a camper van so not only did they replace the car no questions asked, but they even gave us an upgrade. Other options to look into would be Jucy, Spaceships, and Hippie Campers.

  1. Car
    There are tons of options to consider if you choose to travel the coast by car. You can choose to pack a tent and stay in campsites, find hotels/hostels with parking, or a combination of both. The bigger question is, renting or buying?! When we took a road trip with friends to Karijini National park, we rented a car and a camper van, and pitched a tent every night. But I met some people who actually purchased a used car. This might be more cost-efficient; the girls I met had spent the same amount of money purchasing their car as we did renting our van, but they were able to sell it at the end to make a lot of the money back. However, you have to consider the potential additional costs and inconvenience of buying a car. For example, setting up your insurance might be more complicated, if there are any issues with the car you will have to figure out how to deal with it and may incur huge costs, etc. If it’s smooth sailing, this can be incredibly cheap, but it is a bit of a gamble.

 

  1. Hop-on, Hop-off Busses
    Greyhound offers the option of purchasing hop-on, hop-off passes which are more cost-effective than buying separate bus tickets for each trip. This is slightly more restrictive in the sense that you will only be able to travel along the routes offered, but very flexible in the sense that you can plan your own route and timeline.

 

Another option would be to plan a trip with flexible travel companies like Loka. They offer some guided tours and plan part of the trip for you, but also give you the ability to extend your time in any city along the route as long as you please, offering some additional freedom and flexibility. This will be a relatively pricey option, but it includes a ton of activities thereby saving you the time and headache of planning everything on your own, and is an easy way to meet fellow travelers if you’re doing the trip alone.

 

  1. Organized Trips
    Many companies including Contiki and Life Before Work will do all the work for you, so that you can enjoy your trip without having to plan or organize anything on your own. This will likely be the most expensive of your options, but they do have sales so if your schedule is somewhat flexible, sign up for mailing lists and keep an eye out for their promotional e-mails! 

    No matter what you choose, you can’t go wrong on the east coast of Aus. I hope that this information helps you with your travels!

     

(App)solutely Necessary for Travel

Here are some of our favorite apps to help make traveling as pain-free as possible!

Maps.me
I know what you’re thinking, I have a gps app that I love and trust unconditionally. Maybe you usually use Waze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps. I have personally had issues with each of these apps while traveling. Sometimes it was as simple as losing service while I was trying to get directions, but there were also times when the directions I was given were wrong and I ended up lost on a man’s farm being told to drive off a cliff. Maps.me has been the most reliable in my travels, and every traveller I have discussed maps.me with along the way has raved about this app. The app allows you to download city maps before you get there, so that if you don’t have wifi or data you can still find your way!

Splitwise
When you’re traveling with someone, dividing up the costs can get tricky. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for you to split every individual charge, and keeping track of what everyone pays for can just be tedious and complicated. Splitwise allows you to input each cost as you go (if you don’t have Internet connection it will sit in the app and upload when you do), specify who paid and whether the cost should be split equally, and then the app does all the math for you. Splitwise will tell you what the final tally is when your trip is over, plus you will have a record of all your purchases, which is great when trying to keep track of expenses or stick to a budget!

Some form of Cloud
A few friends of mine have had phones or cameras stolen while traveling, or lost them to the bottom of the ocean. As terrible as it is losing an expensive piece of technology that you want to use for the rest of your trip, the worst part is always losing your photos – you can’t buy those back. This is why I suggest using any form of online drive to store these photos; be it iCloud, Onedrive, or whatever else you generally use. My personal favorite is Google Drive because I never seem to run out of space and it’s easy to use!

CamperMate
This one is necessary for those of you that are planning on camping or road-tripping in Australia or New Zealand. You can specify whether you’re interested in caravan parks, campsites, or all of the above and CamperMates map will show you all of your options. They include information about price, and allow you to search for strictly free sites if you choose, utilities, etc. but my favourite part was the reviews section. Other campers will tell you about cleanliness, what the utilities are really like (ie. the washing machine has been broken for ages), and anything else you could possibly want to know!

So, you want to study abroad? 5 tips and tricks for the application process

When I was in my first year of university, my older brother was applying for an exchange program. I always thought ‘wow that sounds like so much fun, I’m going to do that too!’. Next thing I knew, my final year was approaching and I hadn’t even looked into the application process. Studying abroad isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that you’ve got to work for, and it can be a pretty tedious process. Luckily, applications were still open for my last semester, and I was able to rush to get it all done, but boy did I wish I had started earlier!

Here are some of our tips and tricks for the application process:

1. Start Early
It took over a year of preparation for me to get to Australia. My home and host universities both required a lot of paperwork to ensure I would meet all the requirements for the program, and would get credits at my home university! The earlier you start, the less you have to stress out about all the paperwork. Give yourself time to get everything completed so that you don’t end up running around last minute to get everything done!

2. Take advantage of your school’s study abroad events
Study abroad fairs, guest speakers, student panels, etc… If you have access to these events, GO! They might seem like a waste of time, but this is really the best way to find out information and get your questions answered. Not sure what to ask about? Focus on the programs that are offered, costs and scholarships, and what is allowed for your major!

3. Do your research
If you want to study abroad for a semester or longer, you need to make sure you choose a destination that’s worthy of that commitment! Things like diet, language barriers, and transportation can be overlooked for short vacations, but for longer-term trips they should be considered. It might sound crazy, but you don’t want to touch down in your new home and realize that you don’t like most of the food there.

I know of a girl who decided to study abroad and actually went home because she was such a picky eater, and the place she was staying couldn’t accommodate her diet. Don’t be that girl.

4. Find a support system
It’s nice to have a support group through this process. My home university had everyone who was studying abroad take a class together, and meet up a few times throughout the semester before we left. These meetings reminded me that I wasn’t the only one going through it. The study abroad office faculty at my school also helped to keep me on top of all my paperwork. They gave me deadlines that were a little bit earlier than necessary and gave me constant reminders of what I needed to get done. Find this kind of support!

5. Remember, It’s SO worth it
After a while, all the tedious paperwork and requirements seem pointless, and might have you wondering if it’s worthwhile. I’m not gonna lie, I considered giving up at times – but boy am I glad I didn’t. Fight through the paperwork, and remember that it will all be worth it! This is a once in a lifetime experience, and it’s one you will cherish for the rest of your life.

 

Welcome to our blog!

I’m inclined to tell you all about Serena and me, and why we’re writing this blog, but that’s way too much for one post so you’ll have to get to know us over time. I will start by telling you how we met. We both did exchange programs at the University of Western Australia in Perth, where we both lived at Trinity Residential College. It’s kind of funny how it took traveling to the other side of the world for us to meet, but I think we are incredibly lucky with how things turned out.

One of my first memories of Serena was during a weekend trip we took with some friends from Perth to Busselton and Dunsborough. While at the beach in Busso we swam to the jetty, climbed up, and a bunch of us were jumping off into the water. I was pretty terrified but somewhat embarrassed of that so I kept my mouth shut and did it anyways. When I climbed back up I found Serena there telling someone that she’s afraid of heights. I was so impressed with how open she was about telling people, and how strong she was to decide completely on her own to jump. She had lots of love and support from friends, but no one could have convinced her to jump if she didn’t want to. Needless to say, we became very close over the semester.

Well – Melissa pretty much gave you the run down! That’s how we met, but I never expected us to become as close as we have – long story for a different day. Melissa and I both want to travel the world, and we get along well enough to be able to do so together. This blog is our way of documenting these travels and the planning process, as well as tons of other fun stuff like baking, fitness, and – well – whatever else we feel like writing about! Stick around!

Photography: James Gavigan, https://jamesgaviganphotography.com/ (London, England area)