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Why Getting ‘Fat’ On Holidays Doesn’t Matter

Why Getting ‘Fat’ On Holidays Doesn’t Matter

I (KG here) recently turned 28. This fairly unremarkable birthday gave me pause to reflect on how I have changed since we first started travelling 10 years ago. I was lucky enough to spend my birthday drinking wine and eating great food at a wine chateau in Georgia. Once upon a time, I would have worried about the extra kilo (or five) that this treat would add to my waistline. The younger version of me constantly worried about my weight while travelling. I knew it was silly, but it was a worry that always seemed to linger at the back of my mind. But I got over it – and here’s how.

Schuchmann Winery near Telavi in Georgia
Schuchmann Winery near Telavi in Georgia

Stepping off the scales

When we first started travelling, I compared myself to other travellers a lot. I spent energy worrying about what I ate, what I drank and what I wore. Now, I am aware that objectively I am not ‘fat’. But that didn’t stop my negative inner voice taking over. Constantly second guessing myself was boring, and draining. This ultimately took energy away from enjoying our travels and meeting new people.

Then eventually, I realised I had to stop. The first step? I stopped weighing myself. I haven’t weighed myself for 5 years, and I have no intention of weighing myself again any time soon. The second step? I stopped counting calories. I didn’t need my self esteem tied up in useless  numbers.The third step? I stopped reading travel blogs telling me how to ‘stay fit on the road’ etc etc. Instead, I made a commitment to be kind to myself, and this included consciously stopping negative thoughts.

Who cares? Nobody!

I soon realised that the friends I made while travelling didn’t care about what I ate or how much I weighed. And vice versa. Travellers choose to hang out with other travellers because they’re fun to be around. Because they’re interesting, easy to talk to, or have a good sense of humour. It dawned on me that people simply didn’t care about my weight, and that I shouldn’t either. In fact, worrying about it so much was actually kind of self-absorbed, and super boring.

Karakul Tajikistan
Hanging out in Karakul, Tajikistan with some of our awesome Pamir Highway crew.

Why your weight doesn’t matter

The truth is, your weight will fluctuate when you travel. Where the food and drink is good, and you’re chilling on the beach then you will put on a couple of kilos. But equally when you’re somewhere where the food is crap (I’m looking at you Mongolia) or being super active you will lose those kilos.

And even if the weight doesn’t come off? Who cares. Seriously. I promise that the people you want to become friends with, and the people who already love you, won’t give a flying toss.

So my advice to travellers: don’t worry that you can’t go to the gym or eat the food you’re used to. You are one of the lucky few who are able to travel the world. Make the most of it! Enjoy the food, go out for drinks, meet new people, and have fun. You may never have the opportunity to return. In 20 years time, will you think ‘I’m so glad I opted for that plain salad instead of trying the hellishly fattening Parisian cheese and wine’? No, you will not.

Chicken Hotpot in South Korea
Chicken hotpot in South Korea

Look after yourself

I’m not suggesting that you go on a booze-fuelled, junk food-laden trip around the world. You still need to look after yourself when travelling. Eat the odd vegetable, get enough sleep, drink water and take a break from drinking occasionally. Listen to your body. If you’re getting burnt out, stop for a few days and rest.

Staying healthy is important. Travel can be hard on your body, and it is easy to get run down and really sick. And being sick on the road is no fun at all! Plus, you want your body to be able to do awesome stuff like hiking to Mt Everest Base Camp or kayaking in Halong Bay.

But that doesn’t mean you need to fuss over everything you put in your mouth.

Trekking to Mt Everest Base Camp
Trekking to Mt Everest Base Camp

Does this mean I never have the odd ‘I feel fat’ moment, or wish I looked like the size 0 yoga instructor at the beach? Well, of course not. I do have these moments. But I have a lot less of them now, and it’s fab.

Live in the moment and enjoy your travels! Good luck! Katherine x

Do you worry about your weight when you travel? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Photo Essay: Our Greatest Travel Fails of 2016

Photo Essay: Our Greatest Travel Fails of 2016

Travel bloggers so often focus on all the ‘awesome’ and ‘wanderlust-inspiring’ things about travel.  We try to be realistic here at The Travelators – whether it’s talking about the sh*thouse roads in Armenia to the rather ‘meh’ atmosphere of Dubai – but even we fall into the trap of just showing the ‘good bits’ in our photos. Hence why we thought it appropriate to display some of our travel fails from the last 12 months.

Don’t get us wrong – we love travelling and we are lucky to be able to do it. And the worst days often make the best stories. But here is the truth: Sometimes travel sucks.

Sometimes you just want to go home and eat mum’s roast lamb. Sometimes you’re cold, hungry, sick or all of the above. Sometimes dragging your ass up a mountain on that allegedly ‘life changing’ trek just doesn’t feel worth the effort.

So here’s a collection of photos showing 15 of our less-than-perfect travel moments over the last 12 months across Eurasia. We hope you get a giggle out of it!

1. Laundry Fail

Visit Angkor Temples Cambodia
KG checking for stains on her white singlet at the Angkor Temples in Cambodia. Conclusion? Stained AF. Hostel laundries just aren’t designed for white clothing.

2. Shower Fail

Visit Song Kul Lake Kyrgyzstan
After not showering for 3 days on our trek to Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan, we decided to go for a quick dip in the lake. The only problem? This lake is 3,000 metres above sea level. Just a tad chilly.

3. Drinking Fail

Brandy Tasting Noy Brandy Factory Yerevan Armenia
KG enjoying her brandy tasting at Noy Brandy Factory in Yerevan, Armenia. Or not.

4. Patience Fail

Everest Base Camp Trek Nepal
Tom managed to capture the exact moment KG launched a death stare at our poor porter on the Everest Base Camp trek. After 7 days of our porter talking non-stop, and KG battling a chest infection, she nearly snapped after she was interrupted and told to ‘Listen’. Woe-betide any man who tells KG to be quiet and listen! #ohnoyoudidnt.

5. Driving Fail

Pamir Highway Tajikistan
Our Kyrgyz driver for our Pamir Highway trip also turned out to be a mechanic. While this was great news for our car, it also meant we stopped to assist every broken down Kyrgyz car on the Pamir Highway. We were here for over an hour, just chillin’.

6. Sand Dune Fail

Khongoryn Els Mongolia Gobi Desert
We were so excited to see the iconic Khongoryn Els sand dunes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia that we jumped at the chance to climb them. Unfortunately, our guide decided we should make this climb straight after dinner. Cue an hour of climbing with sand blowing in our faces feeling like we were about to vomit up our boiled mutton. Noice.

7. Spice Fail

Spicy South Korea Food
Our waiter in Busan, South Korea warned us that this chicken hot pot was ‘very spicy’. We didn’t listen. Before….
Visit South Korea Spicy Food
…and after. Tears, red face and lots of water!

8. India Fail

Visit India Backpacking
After only three weeks in India, the country was starting to wear us down. This picture perfectly captures Tom’s mood after one too many days of tuk-tuks, rubbish and street vendors.

9. Museum Fail

Taxidermy Gobi Desert Mongolia
Perhaps the best worst taxidermy we have ever seen. This was in a small museum in remote Mongolia, so perhaps we are being a bit harsh. We assume it’s some kind of small cat, but we can’t be sure. 10/10 for effort.

10. Scooter Fail

Motorbike hire India Hampi
We were pretty pumped to hire a scooter in Hampi, India for only $5 per day. Turns out there was absolutely no suspension. Tom’s bum paid the price.

11. Local Cuisine Fail

Vegemite Australia
Despite being able to enjoy delicious curries every day in India, KG just needed a taste of home. Here she is preparing a gourmet cheese and Vegemite sandwich. Delish.

12. Hiking Fail

Hiking Hallasan South Korea
We set out to hike South Korea‘s highest peak, Hallasan, under the impression that the trek was 9 km return. Turns out it was 19 km return. Here is Tom resting his poor feet on the way back down. We are not built for hiking.

13. Snow Fail

Cho La Pass Gokyo Lakes Nepal
This was without a doubt the worst day of our Everest Base Camp-Gokyo Lakes trek. The day we were set to cross the Cho La pass (5,420 metres) we encountered heavy snow. KG ended up with the first signs of frost bite on her fingers as we were woefully under-prepared with poo-quality gloves. Here she is looking really happy in the snow.

14. Bedding Fail

Everest Base Camp Trek Nepal
When we heard that we would be staying in ‘lodges’ during our Everest Base Camp-Gokyo Lakes trek, we couldn’t believe our luck! Turns out our expectations may have been a tad high. Basic fibro-cladded rooms with no heating whatsoever. At least there were plenty of blankets!

 15. River Crossing Fail

Song Kul Kyrgyzstan
Now this may look like a small trickling stream to the untrained eye… and it was. But KG had an enormous amount of trouble crossing it. It was a tad boggy and she was unconvinced she’d make the leap with the extra weight on her back, so opted to throw the backpack to Tom on the other side. Needless to say, the backpack landed in the mud and stank of cow poo for the rest of the two day trek to Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan.

Have you had any ‘travel fails’? Tell us about them below!

Solo Travel: Tips & Tricks From Personal Experience

Solo Travel: Tips & Tricks From Personal Experience

This is a guest post by our great friend Heather from The Urban Gypsy. We met Heather in Central America in 2013, and have kept in touch ever since. You can follow Heather’s journey on her website, and read more about her in the bio below. In this article, Heather shares some tips and tricks for solo travel.

There are times when finding a travel partner can be quite a tall order. Not only do you have to agree on where to go (that is the easy part); but juggling careers, families and vacation time can be increasingly challenging. The first time that I was faced with traveling alone I had to overcome a giant mental hurdle. It would have been far too easy to forgo my travel plans and sit at home safe within my comfort zone. What I knew for certain was that life can’t stop because of other people’s circumstances. I had to find a way to experience my dreams with or without a shoulder to lean on (or in this case travel with). I have to admit that the biggest obstacle was getting over the fear of being alone. Once I actually started solo travel and doing what I loved, being alone was a piece of cake! Here are some tips that I have learned over the years that might help if you are contemplating seeing this great big world of ours solo.

Choose the right type of travel

With the internet at our fingertips finding the perfect type of travel is relatively easy. I have done various forms of travel throughout the years – from volunteering, to all-inclusive resorts, to backpacking to small group tours; the world is your oyster and it just depends on what exactly you are looking for.

Volunteering is a great way to become immersed in another culture, while at the same time meeting like-minded travelers. When I volunteered in Tanzania. I was able to stay in a home with people from all over the world. In the day we worked at our volunteer placements, and during the evening and weekends we were able to explore with our fellow housemates. The organization that I volunteered with was Cross-Cultural Solutions.  They are a trustworthy option if you are looking for this type of travel, but I am sure there are plenty of other great organizations out there.

Volunteering Tanzania
Volunteering at a school in Tanzania.

I can say without a doubt that the simplest and most cost and time effective form of travel has been small group tours. G Adventures is a prime example of a company that focuses on finding the perfect adventure that meets your needs while also centering on sustainable tourism. To make it more affordable they give you the option as a single traveler to share a room with other single travelers, which in turn cuts the price down dramatically. In my experiences of small group travel through G Adventures I have never had to worry about the logistics of where I am staying or how I am getting there; everything is taken care of once you set foot in the country.

Be Prepared

Before I leave on any adventure I make sure that a loved one at home has a copy of all my travel documentation. I leave a copy of my passport, itinerary and flight schedule with my family as I think it is far better to be safe than sorry.

No matter where I have gone in the world, US dollars are the easiest currency to have on hand if there are any issues with my credit or bank card. Not every machine in the developing world is reliable, so having an extra stash of cash has saved me multiple times! I also make sure to never put all my cash in one spot. Separating your valuables is a good idea for safety and to have as a back-up if you ever do run into trouble. I find that it is also important to take the minimum amount needed on day trips. If you can lock up your credit cards and passport at your accommodation, take what you need for that day and you will save yourself a ton of worry.

Don’t be a target

Another tip that I highly recommend is wearing your purse or backpack so that you aren’t an easy target for thieves. When in crowded areas wear your backpack on your front like a baby. Yes, you may look a tad ridiculous, but pickpockets are crafty and quick and can get into your bag in a second. Try not to travel with a purse that has a thin strap. I have had two friends in separate instances have someone drive by on a moped and cut the strap right off their shoulder. Keep your bag on the side of the body that is away from the road and having it cross your body will also be another stumbling block for thieves.

Arriving at your accommodation

A great trick that comes in handy is when I check in is to take the business card or some form of paper with the name and address of the residence. You never know when you will stray away from the beaten path or need it to give to a taxi driver.

Be respectful of culture and dress accordingly

No matter whether you are at home or abroad, wearing revealing clothing can always encourage unwanted attention.  During solo travel, unwanted attention can directly affect your safety. Be smart…mama doesn’t need to flaunt what she’s got!

In many countries it is important to cover your legs and shoulders. Make sure you are familiar with local customs before you arrive at your destination. You are treated with the same amount of respect that you give. Respect the local culture and you will be treated positively. I also suggest bringing a light scarf with you in your bag. At times you might need to cover your head, and this way you will be prepared.

Wearing a headscarf while visiting a mosque.
Wearing a headscarf while visiting a mosque.

Have a purpose

When you look lost and confused you immediately become a target for those looking to take advantage. It is OK to have a map and be unfamiliar with your surroundings, but my recommendation is to rip the map out of a guide book or fold it so it is less conspicuous. Instead of stopping in the middle of a crowd, figure out your route before venturing out. A coffee shop, washroom or even standing with your back against a wall takes you out of view from the preying vultures. I also believe that it is smart to walk with confidence and a purpose. If you look the part people will respond accordingly.

And finally… trust your gut!

No matter what you have scheduled or planned sometimes just listening to your gut is the most powerful compass you can use. I believe that we all have a sixth sense and if we get a negative vibe, chances are pretty high that we should get out of the situation.

Feel like danger is lurking? Trust your gut and get out of there!
Feel like danger is lurking? Trust your gut and get out of there!

Traveling is truly a gift that not everyone has the opportunity to experience. It not only teaches us about ourselves but opens our eyes to so many new ideas and cultures. I truly believe that everyone should experience solo travel at least once in their lifetime. It tends to push us out of our comfort zone and when we are in that place of uncertainty, this is when the magic truly happens.

Author’s Bio:

bioMy name is Heather Halpern and I am from Edmonton, Canada. I caught the ‘travel bug’ many years ago when I was a competitive rhythmic gymnast and since then I haven’t been able to quench the thirst for seeing more of the world. Even though I live a pretty regular life with a full time job, I try to go on at least one overseas adventure a year. This means, I skimp, save and try to live the happiest life possible throughout the year so that I can experience my one true love…travel!

Follow my journey on my website, The Urban Gypsy and on my social media channels – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

How Travelling Changes Couples (Hopefully For The Better!)

How Travelling Changes Couples (Hopefully For The Better!)

There is no doubt that travelling together will change your relationship. You will both be seeing and doing incredible things together. But you will also find yourself being pushed to your limits, meeting new people and away from the comforts of home. Here are 9 ways we think travelling changes couples – hopefully for the best!

You quickly find out who your partner really is

We have lived together for 9 years and have been married for 5 of those but nothing brings couples closer together than travelling. You are pretty much with each other 24 hours a day, every day while you are away. There’s nowhere to hide when you are travelling together. You will soon find out who your partner ‘really’ is.

If you want to find out the true character of your partner, try rocking up to a hostel that has lost your booking and is now booked out after your taxi driver just tried to charge you double and managed to find time to stop at 3 shitty antique stores along the way. Their true colours will quickly surface.

Visit Tbilisi Georgia

You can almost read each other’s minds

Travelling has put us in situations that are new and sometimes stressful. But once you find your routine and get to know each other’s travel habits it does not take long to predict each other’s behaviour. It won’t take long before a simple facial expression or knowing look will be able to speak a thousand words.

When some bell end at your hostel launches into yet another story about how they travelled across South America for 15 months only spending $7 a day, a quick glance across the room to your partner will speak volumes. The same goes for when some flog grabs the guitar to serenade everyone with shitty version of Wonderwall.

You perfect the art of comfortable silence

How good is it when you can just sit with someone and not talk? Clue: it’s the best!

Whether on a disgusting 14-hour bus to the middle of nowhere or sitting in an empty hotel room, couples will eventually perfect the art of comfortable silence. You may just simply have nothing that needs to be said or you may just need a bit of “me time” away from people all together.

You might not have realised it before you left but the ability to sit/stand/lay down together and not say a single word may be the best time you spend together all trip. Give it a go!

You talk about poo a lot more

I am really hoping that this is not just us! The longer we have been on the road the more comfortable we are about discussing bodily functions. Spending so much time together breaks down a lot of barriers between couples, especially when it comes to talking about poo.

Sitting in a tiny room in a guesthouse while your partner approaches their third hour on the toilet after a dodgy latte from a café in downtown Udaipur will actually bring you closer, although you might not realise it at the time.

Spring Peja Kosovo

You get very inventive about when and where to have sex

Once again, I really hope that this is not just us. Being on the road long term will see you staying in a wide range of accommodation, from 12-bed dorms to splashing out on a semi-decent hotel. Along the way you will want some “adult time” with your partner. Your brain starts getting very inventive as to when and where is an appropriate time for some action. This of course can be quite the adventure but more often than not it’s just a pain in the ass.

You haven’t really travelled as a couple until you have felt that crushing sensation of someone strolling in to your dorm room at 11pm just as you thought you would have the room to yourself for the night – it’s soul destroying.

You unite with/against other couples

Unlike being at home, on the road you are constantly meeting new people. Pretty much every day you will meet someone completely unlike anyone you have met before. Some of them you will get along with straight away and others… not so much.

You will quickly identify those that you know you will get along with from those that you don’t. The in-depth chat after you meet someone who you both get along with is one of the best parts of travelling.

You swap in and out of roles

Whether it be verbally or intuitively, you will quickly assign yourselves roles while you are travelling. Navigator, translator, bargainer, money handler, restaurant finder, the roles go on and on. Eventually you will get to the point where it will probably swap day by day depending on your moods.

When one of you have inevitably cracked the shits about something or you just can be bothered, it’s time for the other partner to step in and pick up the slack. Sometimes this can happen mid-process. For example, one of you may just throw the towel in when bartering with a particularly stubborn taxi driver, so enter the second partner to clean up the mess!

Bay of Kotor Montenegro

You create a wide range of in-jokes

Depending on where you are travelling it’s more than likely that you will spend A LOT of time just talking to each other. This inevitably leads to the creation of in-jokes that no one else on earth understands or even finds remotely humorous.

These can arise from film, music, literature or simply something you saw earlier in the day. You will both be in hysterics and most people will be looking at you like you are complete lunatics, but it doesn’t matter – you’re both funny as hell.

It will make or break your relationship

Travelling together will show you your partner’s true colours, and in some cases this may not be such a good thing. For others, however, it’s the best thing that can happen to your relationship. Many people would agree that travelling together will test a relationship more than living together. You will experience the full range of emotions and your normal at home routine will be out the door.

Over the years we have seen some spectacular relationship break downs on the road. If partner A has headed to Europe to party every night and sleep in but partner B would rather study the finer points of neo-classical French architecture, chances are that it will fall apart at some point. There are of course exceptions to this rule!

Has travel changed your relationship? Tell us about it below!

A Backpackers’ Guide to Car Hire

A Backpackers’ Guide to Car Hire

Hiring a car is an awesome way to see a country, and if you share the cost between two (or more) can be even cheaper than buses or trains. We have hired cars around the world, including Argentina, Scotland, Romania, Cyprus and Spain. In this guide we will share our top tips on getting the best car hire deals.

1. Get your International Driving Permit

To be honest, we have rarely been asked for a copy of our International Driving Permit (IDP). However, we would still recommend getting one before you leave home. It allows you to drive internationally without further tests or applications. The IDP is translated into numerous languages, so if you get pulled over by the police you don’t have to worry about explaining the validity of your licence. Some countries also require a copy of your IDP before you can rent a car (e.g. South Korea).

2. Do your research

Compare prices across a number of websites to check you are getting the best deal. And don’t forget small local companies! They often have far better rates than the big-name car rental companies. We have almost always used a local hire company. Usually you can walk into the local company’s office and leave ASAP. Just be sure to check the fine print, especially in regards to insurance excess.

3. Book in advance

Booking last minute (especially in high season) will sting your wallet. Book as early as possible to get the best deals, unless you want to try your luck at catching a relocation deal (see below). If you’re travelling in off-season, you can sometimes get last minute deals, especially from local hire companies.

4. Avoid extra charges

Car hire companies are notorious for hidden extra charges. We recommend doing a ‘dummy’ run through the online booking to work out the true cost of your hire. Same goes for small, local companies, make sure you go over everything before agreeing to it. A few sneaky surcharges to look out for:

  • extra fees for drivers under 21 or 25 (the minimum age differs from company to company)
  • one-way rental charges – particularly bad if your drop off location is a long way from your pick up location or you are dropping off the car in a small town
  • fees for compulsory winter tire rental
  • booking fees and credit card surcharges
  • taxes
  • premium location pick-up and drop-off fees – usually charged for airport pick-up and drop-off
  • refuelling charges – the company will state whether the car needs to have a full tank when dropped off
  • fees for extra kilometres – try to hire a car with ‘unlimited kilometres’
  • equipment hire – e.g. GPS, baby seats, snow chains

5. Inspect for damage

Before you depart, check the car carefully for dents, scratches etc. Take photos of any damage and inform the car hire company before you leave. Some companies will have a record of pre-existing damage (and sometimes make you sign it), so compare it carefully to the car and make updates if necessary before signing anything. You don’t want to pay for damage you didn’t cause!

6. Avoid being over-insured

If you have an accident, you will have to pay an ‘excess amount’ before the car hire company’s insurance will cover the rest of the bill. Often car hire companies will suggest you pay extra to lower the excess amount (e.g. you pay an extra $20 per day to lower the excess from $5,000 to $2,500). But often your travel insurance already covers you for the full excess amount! Check your travel insurance policy closely to see what your car hire excess coverage is. There is no need to pay the car hire company extra to reduce the excess if you’re already covered by your travel insurance.

7. Travel in off-season

Car hire rates are significantly lower in shoulder-season and off-season. We road-tripped around Scotland in November. No crowds, plenty of accommodation and the car hire was super cheap. It was cold but for us this made the trip more ‘Scottish’! However, if you are renting in a cold location in winter be sure to check whether you car rental rate includes ‘winter tires’.

8. Use your mobile phone GPS

GPS hire rates are ridiculous. Use the GPS on your mobile phone (offline apps like MAPS.ME are great), or even buy a GPS. It will usually work out much cheaper.

9. Look for relocation deals

If you are happy to be flexible and wait last minute, there are heaps of great relocation deals around. Car hire companies will offer extremely cheap rates for you to relocate their car or campervan from one location to another. Some even offer free fuel and an allowance! The best deals are found in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Check websites like Imoova and VroomVroomVroom.

10. Check your drop-off time

If you drop-off time is later than your pick-up time (e.g. you pick-up your car at 10am on 13 August, but drop-off at 11am on 20 August) you may be slugged a whole extra day’s hire charges! Ideally, pick-up and drop-off the car at the same time, during office hours.

Japan By Rail: Guide to the JR Rail Pass

Japan By Rail: Guide to the JR Rail Pass

Speaking as a both a tourist and a travel agent, there are not many transport passes around that offer better value for money than the JR Rail Pass. There is no better way to get around Japan. Speeding along at 300km/h on a brand new shinkansen will be one of the highlights of your time in Japan. This guide will help you with purchasing and using your pass.

Purchasing Your Pass

Which pass should I buy?

The JR Rail Pass has a number of different options and picking the right one can be a bit of a nightmare.

Duration – passes are available for 3 different durations: 7 days, 14 days and 21 days. Just pick the one that suits the duration of your trip best.

Bear in mind that your pass covers your trip to/from the airport as well as one circle line on the Tokyo metro, but these trips are much cheaper than the longer journeys. For some people it may make more financial sense to purchase a cheaper, shorter duration pass and then pay separately for the airport train line and Tokyo metro. We recommend saving your pass for longer, more expensive journeys.

Class – there are two classes available: Ordinary Class (Standard) or Green Class (1st Class). Much like an aircraft the main difference is comfort. We used the Ordinary Class and cannot see how the extra money for the Green Class could be worth it – Ordinary Class was fantastic! Plenty of leg room, aisle service for food and air-conditioning.

Location – JR offer location-specific passes which can reduce the price of your pass. There are a wide range of location options, including different ‘regions’ which include multiple locations. For most people, the standard JR Pass is what you are after though, as this will cover trains to pretty much everywhere in Japan.

Where should I buy my pass?

The most important detail is that you must purchase your pass outside of Japan. You can purchase the pass from travel agents or online.

You will be provided with a voucher for your rail pass, which you will need to exchange for your actual pass at a JR office once you arrive in Japan. Your pass will be valid for 3 months. This simply means that it needs to be exchanged within 3 months from the purchase date.

How much should it cost?

One of the many perks about the JR Rail Pass is it’s universal cost. Regardless of where you are buying it the cost should be exactly the same. Passes for ordinary class range from AUD$391 to AUD$797, depending on the duration of the pass. However, you may be charged additional booking and/or delivery fees by the website or travel agent.

A great website to explore the different passes is Rail Plus – their JR Rail Pass section will give you all the information you need to know.

Using Your Pass

Exchanging your voucher

Exchanging your voucher for your JR Rail Pass is a piece of cake. Simply find any JR Rail office (located in every major railway station and airport), hand over the voucher and you will be issued with your awesome looking JR Rail Pass!

Finding train schedules

You can simply walk in to a JR Office and ask the super helpful staff about scheduling. Just tell them the cities you would like to travel to and from, the date and time you would like to travel. The staff will walk you through your options and provide plenty of information. We found that staff in the main cities spoke excellent English and were able to answer all of our questions.

You can also check schedules online using the Hyperdia website. One of the cool features of Hyperdia is that it allows you to filter your search to only include JR Rail Pass trains. Drop down the ‘More Options’ tab just below the date search to select JR Trains. It also pays to un-select the Nozomi/Mizuho/Hayabusa tab as these are not included in your pass.

Reserving your seats

Simply visit your nearest JR Office and tell them the journey for which you would like to reserve seats. There are no fees for reserving seats. If the particular train you are looking for is full the staff will help you find another.

Which trains are included?

The JR Rail Pass includes pretty much every train you will need. It also includes buses, ferries and even a cable car or two. There are a few exceptions however: the Nozomi train (Osaka to Tokyo) is not included, but there are plenty of other options that cover this route. The Mizuho train (Osaka to Kagoshima) is also not included but once again, there are plenty of other options.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely! The JR Rail Pass will pay for itself within the first few long distance journeys. When combined with the ease of using the pass, it really is a no-brainer. You will be hard-pressed to find a cheaper, quicker or easier way to get around Japan. Enjoy!

7 Tips For Choosing Your Travel Partner

7 Tips For Choosing Your Travel Partner

We have met plenty of people over the years who have shared horror stories about falling out with friends or partners while travelling. Choosing the right travel partner is important, as your ability to wear the ups and downs of travel together will have a huge impact on your trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your decision.

1. Length of your trip together

If you are planning a long trip (say 12 months), check your travel partner is on board with this. Perhaps they only want to join you for part of the way, or they would prefer a shorter trip.

If you haven’t travelled together before, a short ‘tester’ trip to check your travel compatibility is a good idea. If you can’t hack 5 days on a beach in Bali together, you probably won’t survive 6 months in Central Asia.

2. Your budgets

Having a similar budget to your travel partner will make life a lot easier when choosing activities and accommodation. Have a chat about your budget with your travel partner before you leave. If there is a big difference between budgets, have a frank discussion about what happens if one wants to stay somewhere or do something that the other can’t afford.

3. Having similar interests

Make sure you are interested in doing and seeing similar things. This may sound basic, but it’s can be a mistake to assume that everyone else is interested in the same stuff as you! Do you prefer cities or nature? Art galleries or hiking? History museums or watching sport? There is so much to see and usually not enough time to see it all, so it helps if you have the same priorities.

4. Personality clashes

How do you both react under stress? What is your ‘arguing style’? Are you a little obsessive compulsive, or extremely laid back? Travelling someone with complimentary yet compatible personality traits is important. You are almost certainly going to have disagreements and stressful times on the road, so think about how you will both handle these situations.

5. Hostel vs hotel

Some people have a real aversion to dorm rooms, while others love the social side of hostels. Check you are both on the same page when it comes to the type of accommodation you will be staying in.

6. To party or not to party?

The age old question. If you prefer to be in bed tucked up with a book at 9pm, it probably best to avoid travelling with your mate who likes to go on drunken benders until 3am.

7. Have an escape plan

So what happens if you chose the wrong travel buddy, and it all goes tits up? It’s worth having an ‘escape plan’, so you can part ways or take a break from travelling with each other without ruining your friendship or relationship.

Of course, if you travel alone you don’t have to worry about any of this! Travelling alone isn’t for everyone, but we’ve met plenty of people who love the freedom and flexibility of solo travel.

Hostel Cooking Recipes

Hostel Cooking Recipes

I really enjoy cooking at home, so I always try to cook while we are on the road. It’s a great money saver and a good way to meet other travellers. Here are a few of my go-to recipes for two.

Your Travelling Pantry

Before you leave home there are a couple of hostel kitchen basics I would recommend packing to create your own travelling pantry. Most hostels with kitchens will have pots, pans and knives for you to use, but the knives are usually pretty blunt. I always pack a small knife with a cover just in case. It’s also handy to carry salt, pepper and a herb/garlic salt mix – you can make almost anything edible by adding these!

Recipes for two

Creamy bacon pasta

This pasta is super filling, and can be made more awesome with chicken.

Equipment: Knife, saucepan
Ingredients: 250g dried pasta, 1 tsp oil, 250ml cream, 1 brown onion, 200g bacon, 1 chicken breast (optional), salt, pepper
Method: 1) Cook pasta in boiling salted water. 2) Fry onions in oil until soft. 3) Add salt, pepper, bacon and chicken (if using). Fry until brown. 4) Add cream and simmer until thickened slightly. 5) Drain cooked pasta and serve with sauce mix.

Stir fried noodles

Ah ramen noodles. They sustained many of us through our poor student years, and they are making a glorious comeback to our backpacking diets. Simple and cheap.

Equipment: Knife, frypan
Ingredients: 1 packet of ramen noodles, 1 tsp oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce or chilli sauce, vegetables (such as onion, capsicum, broccoli and snow peas), 1 egg, beef/pork/chicken (optional)
Method: 1) Cook noodles as per packet instructions. 2) Heat oil in frying pan and brown meat (if using). Remove from pan. 3) Fry vegetables in frying pan until soft. 4) Add the uncooked egg, cooked noodles, sauce, and cooked meat to the vegetables. Stir until heated through and the egg is cooked.


Requires more chopping than actual cooking, so great for those lacking in culinary skills.

Equipment: knife, frypan
Ingredients: 1 packet of tortillas/taco shells, 1/2 lettuce, 2 tomatoes, 1/2 cup grated cheese, 300g mince (beef, chicken or pork), 1 packet of taco spice mix
Method: 1) Fry mince and taco spice mix in frypan until brown. 2) Chop lettuce and tomatoes. 3) Stuff cooked mince mix, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese into tacos or tortillas to serve.

Grilled meat and vegetables

Sometimes you just need something plain but tasty, like the meat and three veg your mum used ot cook.

Equipment: Knife, frypan, saucepan
Ingredients: 2 chicken breasts or beef steaks, 1 tbs oil, 2 large potatoes, vegetables (like carrots, broccoli, beans), herb or garlic salt, 1 tbs butter
Method: 1) Sprinkle meat in herb or garlic salt. 2) Heat oil in fry pan and cook meat until done to your liking. 3) Boil potatoes in boiling salted water in saucepan until almost cooked through. 4) Add remaining vegetables to saucepan and boil until cooked through (these veggies usually take less time to cook than potatoes). 5) Add a blob of butter to potatoes and veggies, and serve alongside grilled meat.

Fried rice

A cheap and easy way to use that leftover cooked rice from last night’s dinner.

Equipment: Knife, frypan
Ingredients: 1 cup cooked cold rice, 1 onion, 1 tbs oil, 1 tbs soy sauce, vegetables (like carrots, peas or beans), 1 cooked chicken breast (optional), chilli (optional)
Method: 1) Ensure rice is cool by leaving in the fridge or running cold water through it. 2) Heat oil in fry pan and fry onions until brown. 3) Add remaining vegetables to frypan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. 4) Add cooked rice, soy sauce, cooked chicken and chilli to frypan. 4) Stir all ingredients over medium heat until warmed through.


For the truly lazy hostel cook.

Equipment: Knife, microwave, large microwave-proof bowl
Ingredients: 1 packet of corn chips (e.g. Doritos), 1/2 cup grated cheese, 1 jar of salsa, 1 avocado (optional)
Method: 1) Put corn chips in large bowl. 2) Top with salsa then grated cheese. 3) Microwave until cheese has melted (usually around 2 mins). 4) Top with fresh diced avocado (if using).

Chicken burgers

Looks fancy, but is very simple. A good one for impressing your new hostel friends.

Equipment: Knife, frypan
Ingredients: 1 chicken breast, 2 burger buns, 2 slices of cheese, 1 tomato, 2 lettuce leaves, 2 rashers of bacon (optional), salt, pepper
Method: 1) Slice chicken breasts in half so they are wide and flat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 2) Fry chicken breasts until brown and cooked through. 3) Slice tomatoes and rinse lettuce leaves. 4) Slice burger buns in half, then top each bottom half with chicken, cheese, tomato and a lettuce leaf.

Salami and tomato pasta

Almost every convenience store around the globe will sell some kind of seemingly dodgy sausage or salami. Fry it up and add pasta sauce – guaranteed to be edible!

Equipment: knife, frypan, saucepan
Ingredients: 250g dried pasta, 100g salami, 1 brown onion, 1 small jar of tomato-based pasta sauce, 2 tomatoes, salt and pepper
Method: 1) Cook pasta in salted boiling water in saucepan until cooked. 2) Fry salami in frypan until brown. Remove from frypan. 3) Using leftover salami oil in frypan, fry onion until brown. Add tomato and fry for another 2 minutes. 4) Add cooked salami and pasta sauce, then simmer on low heat for around 5 minutes. 5) Serve drained pasta with sauce mix on top.


Brinner is simply breakfast for dinner. Ingenious, I know. It’s super easy, cheap and tasty though so don’t knock it ’til you try it. A few ideas:

  • fruit salad and yoghurt
  • banana and honey porridge
  • bacon and eggs with toast
  • ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches
  • pancakes with berries (just use the pre-made batter)
  • scrambled eggs on toast
10 Essential Items For Your Backpack

10 Essential Items For Your Backpack

On our first trip, we took waaaay too much stuff. We just had no idea what to pack! Now we take good quality, light gear that is essential to our trip (i.e. no more hair straighteners). Here are our top 10 must pack items:

1. Smart phone

While us ‘older’ backpackers often lament how smart phones have changed hostel common rooms for the worse, we won’t leave home without one now. Free wi fi is everywhere now, and having a smart phone makes it so easy to stay in touch with home, research destinations, find yourself on a map and make local calls. They take great photos too – we’ve met many travellers who don’t even pack a camera now.

TRAVELATOR TIP: You must download the MapsMe app – it’s a lifesaver! It is an offline map app, which uses the GPS on you smartphone to show exactly where you are. Fantastic for finding hotels, making sure dodgy taxi drivers don’t rip you off and knowing when to get off that public bus when no one speaks English. Check out our favourite apps here.

2. Sleeping bag liners

Great for hostels or overnight trains where you’re not quite sure if they washed the sheets. Also great for some added warmth on those chilly nights.

3. Sharp knife

Finding a sharp knife in a hostel kitchen is nothing short of a miracle. Pack your own and save yourself the frustration trying to dice tomatoes with the equivalent of a rolling pin.

4. Packing cubes

No more searching for lost undies in the bottom of your backpack! Packing cubes are cheap and great for keeping stuff like underwear, toiletries or medications under control.

5. Lonely Planet books

While almost every intrepid traveller likes the romantic notion of exploring a country with virgin eyes untainted by mass-produced guidebooks, the fact is they are actually really bloody helpful. If you don’t want to lug around the hard copies, download them onto your e reader, tablet or laptop.

6. Merino clothing

Lightweight, warm and non-smelly! Investing in some good quality merino gear is worth the money.

7. Waterproof shoes

As a rule, waterproof shoes are hideously ugly. But it beats having wet feet on a hiking trip, or freezing your toes off in the snow. Buy some good quality merino socks as well to avoid blisters.

8. Dirty clothes bag

It is easy to forget a cloth bag for your dirty clothes, but it’s good to keep them separate. And for the love of God please don’t use a plastic bag – if I get woken up one more time in a hostel room by someone rustling through plastic bags I may get violent.

9. Universal power adapter

It is expensive and annoying changing power adapters in every country, so try to get your hands on a universal adapter.

10. Lucas Pawpaw Ointment

This stuff pretty much fixes everything. Use it for cracked lips, bites, stings, burns, grazes and a myriad of other ailments. Perhaps pack two tubes…

How To Manage Your Travel Budget

How To Manage Your Travel Budget

One of our biggest worries when travelling long term was that we would run out of money on the road and have to make that call to our parents begging for money. But huzzah! We are not broke yet. Here are our top tips on how to manage your travel budget so you can retain your dignity and stay on the road for longer.

1. Set a budget before you leave home

Before you depart, it is helpful to calculate your daily travel budget. When calculating your total spending money, take into account any expenses from home you can’t avoid (e.g. car registration, insurance, storage fees) while you are gone. We also suggest having some money put away to cover expenses after you return home (for example rental bonds, moving fees and living expenses). That first pay cheque never comes quick enough!

Divide your total spending money by the number of days you intend to travel to work out your average daily budget. We know some people don’t have a confirmed return date, but if you are like us and taking a career break you will probably have a set timeframe.


Total savings ($50,000) – home expenses ($1,000) – return home kitty ($5,000) = Total spending money ($46,000)

Total spending money ($46,000) / number of travel days (365) = Average daily budget ($126)

Use your average daily budget as your benchmark while you keep track of your spending on the road (more info on this below). Some weeks you will be over budget and some weeks you’ll be under, depending on which country you are in and what activities you are doing, but this should be your budget goal.

2. Keep track of your travel spending

We recommend having a separate bank account for your travels. It makes it easier to keep track of your spending. It is also unlikely that your day-to-day account at home will be your best banking option while you are overseas, so it’s worth getting a new account. Shop around for the best deals – make sure you check the overseas ATM withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees.

Once every couple of weeks, we have a ‘Finance Day’ where we do a few calculations in our notebook to keep track of our spending. We do not track every single cent we spend every day (we have better things to do while on holiday). On Finance Day, we simply work out what we have spent so far on our trip, and calculate a daily average to compare to our budget goal. Simply check your travel bank account for your total withdrawals (minus any cash on hand), then divide by the number of days you have been travelling.


Total withdrawals ($20,000) – cash on hand ($400) = Total amount spent ($9,600)

Total amount spent ($19,600) / days on the road (180) = Average daily spend ($109)

Hopefully you are under budget! If not, you might need to have a few quiet days to reel in the spending, or head to a budget-friendly location for a while. Also bear in mind any money you have spent on things that are coming up – e.g. if you have spent $1000 for a flight that is in 2 weeks, taking this amount out of your calculations will give you a more accurate figure of what you have been spending per day.

3. Use public transport

It may not be the most comfortable option, and battling the language barrier can be a pain in the ass, but public transportation is by far the cheapest way to get around and it will really help your travel budget. It can make for some pretty good travel stories too!

4. Eat local

Buy your groceries at local markets and supermarkets to whip up a tasty meal in your hostel kitchen. If you eat out, find the place packed with locals. Not only will it usually be cheaper, it probably tastes delicious and the high turnover of food means you’re less likely to pick up a stomach bug.

5. Drink less

Boring, I know. But partying is a huge money suck. If you are pining for a beer, head to the local supermarket to buy a few cold ones and enjoy them in your hostel common room with other travellers. Make a night on the town a treat, rather than the norm.

6. Choose your activities wisely

We all have our bucket list items while travelling (think Galápagos Islands, the Trans-Siberian or hot air ballooning in Turkey), and it is worth splurging on these experiences. But not every tour or activity is worth the money, and trying to do everything will soon suck your travel budget dry. Pick and choose wisely so your money is spent on truly memorable experiences.

7. Travel slowly

Transport is usually one of our biggest expenses. The slower you travel, the less you will be paying for transport so take your time and really get to know the places you are visiting. Long travel days are also exhausting, so take it easy!

8. Look for cheap accommodation options

HostelWorld and often have great deals, but they charge huge commissions so you can often get a cheaper deal if you contact the accommodation provider directly. If you need to reign in your travel budget, Couchsurfing and work exchange sites like HelpX or WorkAway are great options for free accommodation. You can also pack a tent to do some low cost camping.

Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.