Life of Travel: Episode 2 (Bundi, India)

Wandering Earl

It’s time for the second episode of my “Life of Travel” video series. This episode was filmed on the rooftop of the wonderful Dev Niwas Hotel in the magical town of Bundi, India.

Bundi is one of my favorite destinations in all of India and as you’ll see in the video, it has a lot to do with its setting. With a massive palace dug into the side of the mountain and a huge fort covering the summit, with a maze of lanes full of old, charming, pastel-colored homes and a population that is perhaps the warmest and most genuine in the country, there’s a reason why travelers have a hard time leaving.

In this episode, I talk a little about Bundi before answering some more of the travel questions that you’ve submitted to me over the past couple of weeks.

I hope you enjoy!

If you have any questions about Bundi or India or anything else travel-related, simply leave a comment below, send me an email or get in touch with me on social media. I’d be happy to assist in any way I can!


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Life of Travel: Episode 1 (Gran Canaria)

Wandering Earl

It’s video time.

From here in my living room in the Canary Islands, I’ve put together a video this morning.

In Part 1, I provide a short update on exactly where I am, what I’ve been up to and what’s next as I continue my 18 year adventure around the world.

In Part 2, I answer some of the interesting travel questions I’ve received from readers over the past week. Topics include

how to access funds while traveling

how long it takes for a blog to start earning money

would I recommend the Maldives or Seychelles for snorkeling/diving

getting the most out of a short trip

dealing with friendships and relationships while constantly traveling

finding work while traveling

how I handle bribes

the best ways to meet people in new destinations

and more.

I hope you enjoy the video! (All feedback welcome.)

Any travel questions?

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer on the next episode of Life of Travel, just reply to this email and let me know. The next video will be from India in about a week.


Small Hotels in Prague Hotel Anna (A Review)

Wandering Earl

Hotel Anna - Prague

Two weeks ago, we were in Prague for a 5 night stay. It’s a popular city of course, with that impressive Baroque architecture, imposing castles and Gothic churches and an Old Town that everyone in the world seems eager to explore these days.

As a result, it should’ve been no surprise when we ran into some difficultly finding accommodation.

I’ll admit, we started looking for a room a little late, about a month before our arrival, but we still didn’t expect such a lack of availability. Hotels and guesthouses were full, the handful of Airbnb places left were extremely expensive and hostels only had beds open in their dorm rooms.

We eventually did book an Airbnb apartment in a decent location that popped up out of nowhere one day. It was a little risky though as it only had a few reviews and not much information to go on. But the price was pretty good so we jumped on it.

But then, a few days later, I began communicating with a company called Small Charming Hotels. A friend of mine put me in touch with them as they were looking for a blogger to check out their small hotels in Prague. I figured, why not? I was going to be in Prague anyway and I do like finding lesser known things to do, places to eat and places to stay. And if things went well and they really did offer the kind of accommodation I’d stay at myself, perhaps we could collaborate.

That’s how I ended up meeting their friendly office manager, Hedvika, inside the lobby of Hotel Anna, one of the handful of properties this company manages.

Here’s how I’ll describe Hotel Anna cute, cozy, located in a central, yet quiet, part of the city, more like a family-run guesthouse, with good-sized, simple, but comfortably furnished rooms that are ideal for budget travelers.

Small Hotels in Prague - double room

Small Hotels in Prague - twin room

There you go.

Breakfast is included, the staff are all very helpful and full of smiles (something you don’t see everywhere in Prague!) and the prices are more than reasonable for what you get. The hotel is only a 20 minute walk from the heart of the old town (known as Prague 1) which is perfect for those of us that don’t want to be among massive crowds every time we step out the door. As one of the hotels in Prague 2, it’s right in the hip Vinohrady neighborhood, which is where our local friends in the city actually wanted to hang out in the evenings. Plenty of lively cafes, unique bars and great restaurants all around.

Remember, this isn’t Bucharest where you can still find a great hotel room in the heart of the city for $45 USD per night or even less. This is the even more popular Prague, so you can expect to pay more. But in terms of value, for this location and style of accommodation, Hotel Anna is without a doubt very fairly priced.

Small Hotels in Prague - front desk

< Small Hotels in Prague - breakfast room

Small Hotels in Prague - lobby

Had I known about them beforehand, and had I not been traveling to Prague during high season when it seemed there were no rooms available anywhere, I would have booked a room with them myself.

The idea behind Small Charming Hotels is exactly what the name suggests to create a collection of small, charming hotels in this city that are all run with the same laid-back, personal approach. A guesthouse feel with the comfort of an actual hotel.

It’s like the trend we’re seeing with hostels these days. Upscale hostels are on the rise where you get the budget-friendly prices of a hostel with a few more hotel-like facilities. This company in Prague simply offers the key benefits of a proper hotel while adding the more personal and inexpensive characteristics of a guesthouse. It seems to be the way things are going.

That’s my experience learning about Hotel Anna. For budget travelers heading to Prague, especially if there’s two of you, their rooms are definitely worth checking out.

Even better, for a 10% discount at any property managed by Small Charming Hotels, use this special promo code: BLOG (code is valid for 2 months)

Have you been to Prague? Any questions about Hotel Anna?


Highlights From 12 Countries in Europe That I Visited This Year

Wandering Earl

Countries in Europe I Visited This Year

On October 26th, I’ll be leaving Gran Canaria and making my way to India. And with that trip, I shall say a big goodbye to all the countries in Europe as I won’t be back before the end of the year.

I’ve actually spent a decent amount of time traveling around Europe in 2017 though, much more than usual. I think it’s been 12 countries.

My European experiences began back in February when I flew from Miami to India, changing planes in Frankfurt. I had a long 6 hour layover there, most of which I spent half-asleep in one of the airport lounges (thanks to the Priority Pass that comes with my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card). I remember eating a sandwich at some point and then, before I knew it I was boarding my second flight, Frankfurt to Kuwait.

It was a quick stop but my subsequent visits to this continent would certainly be longer.

This post is a recap of all the countries in Europe that I’ve visited this year, with my personal highlights and a couple of recommendations in case you happen to be headed to any of the same destinations.

12 Countries in Europe

GREECE

In May, I landed in Athens. My girlfriend and I were in Greece to meet up with my mom who had traveled in from the US. We spent 5 days in Athens followed by a week on the island of Santorini. I really enjoyed Athens. With a nice list of interesting neighborhoods to explore, plenty of historical sights beyond the Acropolis, excellent food, markets (the Monastiraki Flea Market is definitely worth a visit) and pretty good weather year round, it’s a city that offers plenty to do no matter what kind of traveler you may be.

Highlights (Athens) The food. I mean, it was nice walking around the Plaka neighborhood and all that but the food, anywhere we sat to eat, was the real highlight. Give me eggplant, fava (split peas), saganaki (grilled cheese), tzatziki, salad and stuffed vine leaves every day and you will have no complaints from me!

Countries in Europe - Santorini, Greece

Highlights (Santorini) I could just say everything and that would indeed be true but to be more specific the magical village of Imerovigli, the stunning walk to Oia, renting a car and driving to Akrotiri, sunset every single night over the caldera and the Venetsanos wineryand the food (Argo restaurant = some of the best food I’ve ever eaten).

Accommodation (Santorini) Merovigla Studios Great low-key, budget place with large rooms and perhaps the best location on Santorini, with perfect views across the island and water (see the photo above!). It’s situated in the small, cliff-top village of Imerovigli, away from the big crowds of the more popular Fira but only a beautiful 20 minute walk away.


ALBANIA

We came to Tirana, Albania pretty much for no reason. We had a few days in between Greece and meeting up with one of my closest friends in Montenegro so we chose the conveniently located Tirana as our stopover. It was my second time here and we spent most of our four day stay wandering around various neighborhoods, hanging out and working at a handful of cafes and just taking it easy. There aren’t a ton of things to do or see here but that was perfectly fine with us. Besides, as you’ll see below, the main highlight of our visit was exactly the kind of main highlight that I prefer!

Highlights (Tirana) My favorite experience by far involved a hair dresser in the Blloku district of the city, the Italian language and a local fish restaurant. Here’s the full story.

Accommodation (Tirana) Vila e Arte Small, quiet hotel with comfortable budget rooms right in the city center. For around $35 per night, it’s a great deal. Includes a nice breakfast, too.


MONTENEGRO

Once it was time to meet my friend, we took a ride from Tirana across the border and up to the small town of Kotor, Montenegro. It was also my second time here but this is one of the countries in Europe that I wouldn’t mind returning to over and over again. Montenegro itself is small and the town of Kotor is tiny, and quiet, but the setting is gorgeous right there at the end of a mountain-lined bay. The old town is atmospheric and full of charm and the whole place just feels like you’ve been transported into a fairy tale.

Countries in Europe - Kotor, Montenegro

Highlights (Kotor) All it takes in Kotor is one look out the window at the mountains, one stroll along the water or one wander through the narrow lanes of the old walled town to feel good. There is pretty much nothing to do here apart from enjoying the dramatic setting but, hey, sometimes that’s all you need for a rewarding trip. If you venture into the old town, make sure you do so in the morning, afternoon and eveningit has a different feel each time. And just before sunset, head up the path to the Castle Of San Giovanni to really get an idea of your surroundings. It’s worth the hike. (For food, go to the inexpensive waterfront Konoba Akustik for an excellent meal and try to find the very local Fortuna Food for a quick, dirt-cheap and very delicious lunch.


CROATIA

Oh dear Croatia. This was my third time to Croatia and second visit to Dubrovnik. And once again, I struggled. It’s a pretty place, without a doubt. The old town is indeed interesting and pleasing to the eye. But just like my previous visits, I just don’t get what all the fuss is about that brings so many people to this town. I must be a weirdo, that’s the only conclusion I can reach.

Countries in Europe - Dubrovnik, Croatia

Highlights (Dubrovnik) Watching the sunset every evening from the balcony of our Airbnb. And taking the ferry along the coast to the village of Cavtat was pleasant, too. Apart from that though, I’m not sure what else to list.


ITALY

On the other handI love Italy. How can you go wrong here, at least as a tourist? With that said, there were only 2 reasons that we came to Italy on this occasion. The first was to hang out with some friends and second was to go with those friends to the Guns N Roses concert in the town of Imola. The friends lived in Pisa, so that’s where we spent our first 4 days and then we went to the concert and spent two nights in Bologna after that.

Countries in Europe - Italy

Highlights The Guns N Roses concert!! Apart from getting there super early and standing in the sun for 8 hours before they came on stage, it was excellent and well worth traveling to Italy for. And of course, I also had a great time meeting my girlfriend’s friends, eating real Italian food (awesome pizza at In Provincia di Pizza just outside of Pisa) and just being in Pisa itself, away from the leaning tower and crowds, soaking up the atmosphere of the regular neighborhoods with someone who had actually lived there.


GERMANY

The trip to Germany was to visit another friend of mine in Berlin. The idea was to spend all of our time in that one city and that’s exactly what we ended up doing. The days were spent working, wandering around different areas, hanging out with my friend, eating good, cheap food and shopping for warm clothes as the autumn winds and low temperatures hit us quite unexpectedly.

Highlights (Berlin) The food market on Thursday nights in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, the Kreuzberg neighborhood itself with all its local eateries, cafes, parks and inspiring vibe and a vegan Vietnamese restaurant we found called Soy. Vegan or not, it’s mighty good. We went three times. One of the best restaurants I’ve found all year actually, and cheap.

Accommodation Leonardo Royal Hotel Alexanderplatz We went for a little splurge here and it was a solid choice. Very comfortable rooms in the city center, close to public transportation and within walking distance to Alexanderplatz and all kinds of restaurants, cafes, nightlife and activities.


SWEDEN

The time had come for the Midsummer Festival! And to meet up with some more of my girlfriend’s family and friends. It was a great combination for a trip to this beautiful country, my first visit back here in many years. Our destination was not Stockholm though. We were in the far, far, far lesser known towns ofSkovde and Lidkoping. Much to do in these places? Nope. But any slice of Sweden seems to come with that uniquely enchanting, calming ambience that is quite appealing at all times and which only a handful of countries in Europe can offer.

Countries in Europe - Sweden

Highlights Beautiful nature everywhere. We were in places that nobody has ever heard of but it doesn’t matter. All you need to do in Sweden is go for a walk. Find a trail near a lake, head off into the middle of some fields, find a forest patheven the 10 minute walk from where we were staying in Skovde to the supermarket was filled with enough beautiful nature to instantly turn a bad mood into a good one.


ROMANIA

At this point, it was time for me to lead my Wandering Earl Wander Across Romania Tour and so I flew to Bucharest. I arrived a couple of days before the tour began and then for two weeks I traveled around with my group. We visited Brasov, Sighisoara, Corund, Cluj-Napoca, Hunedoara, Sibiu and the Transfagarasan and no matter how many times I travel around this country, I simply can’t get enough of it. Trust me when I say that Romania is going to be on everyone’s travel radar very soon!

Countries in Europe - Romania

Highlights The region of Corund. This was the first time I took my group to this region and it won’t be the last. I’m talking about real, traditional life out here, nothing touristy whatsoever. We ate with locals in their homes, visited their local workshops (not operating for tourists), met so many local people, tasted their homemade drinks, roamed around beautiful, remote plateaus, visited a straw hat museum (sounds corny but it’s pretty damn cool) and more. My 2018 Romania tours will also include this region as it’s perhaps the most local and authentic place I’ve ever visited in Europe.

Accommodation Casa Lia in Sighisoara This one is my favorite. Run by a sweet couple, it’s a chance to have a real homestay in the heart of this medieval village. Comfy, low-cost rooms with hospitality like you won’t believe. It’s not just accommodation, it’s a complete and wonderful travel experience.


HUNGARY

Second time in Budapest. And sort of like with Dubrovnik, I’ve still yet to join the masses and become a huge fan. It certainly has nice buildings but I just didn’t connect with the place again. Maybe it was because I had arrived from Romania, one of my favorite countries in Europe. No idea.

Countries in Europe - Budapest, Hungary

Highlights (Budapest) Our nightly walks along the Danube River, past the famous Parliament building, across the Szchenyi Chain Bridge and around the area of the Buda Castle. The Central Market Hall was good to visit as well, but compared to the last time I was there, it seems to have become specifically a tourist destination.


ROMANIA (again)

Back to Romaniathis time to visit my girlfriend’s aunt in the small village of Pesac. We went from city to city for much of our European travels and then suddenly, there we were, in the quiet countryside. Surrounded by dirt roads with well-maintained country homes, forests and fields, large family gardens, horse-drawn carts, cows and goats and dogs roaming around and a complete lack of noise, pollution, traffic or any worry whatsoever, it was the most serene experience I’ve had this year. Throw in some home-cooked food, much of which was made from locally grown products, some local home-made wine, evenings outside walking and chatting in the warm air and some wonderfully kind peopleand I quickly realized how unnecessarily complicated we human beings have made our lives.

Countries in Europe - Romania countryside

Highlights Every single meal (such good food!!), the evening walks through the village and letting go of that idea that I need to constantly be running around doing something ‘exciting’. Just being around good people and good food, while breathing in good air, brings far more joy and excitement than we tend to realize.


SERBIA

When you’re only 30 minutes from the border with Serbia, it’s worth going across for a weekend trip. And so off we went, spending a couple of nights in Belgrade. I enjoy visiting Belgrade. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is that I like but the big city has a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere along with nice markets, decent food, parks and quaint neighborhoods, great nightlife and a very livable feel. Again, it’s hard for me to give specifics but I’ve just had an overall positive experience during my two visits to this city.

Highlights (Belgrade) The long walk that leads from the Belgrade Fortress at the edge of the Danube and Sava Rivers, up the bustling Knez Mihailova pedestrian street, through the Skadarlija neighborhood with it’s old-style restaurants, cafes and bars and then twisting through the residential streets heading east until you reach the Pijaca Kalenic Farmer’s Market. There’s lots of historical sights along the way and the Nikola Tesla Museum as well.

Accommodation (Belgrade) Centar Guesthouse We thought this was a joke when we found it online. It seemed way too cheap for the extremely central location and seemingly good rooms. Turned out to be real. Simple, clean rooms with everything you need, modern bathrooms and less than 20 seconds walk from the main Republic Square, all for 35 Euros.


CZECH REPUBLIC

Our original plan was to spend 6 weeks in Prague but after getting a late start on our apartment search, there wasn’t much left for a good price and location. So we decided to simply stop here for 5 days en route to the Canary Islands instead. Anyway, Prague is popular, it’s beautiful, it’s one of those cities that definitely needs to be seen. Of course, we spent some time checking out the major sights the castle, the cathedrals, the old town, Wenceslas Square and so on but it turned out to be the time we spent away from those places that really stuck in our minds.

Countries in Europe - Czech Republic

Highlights (Prague) An evening out with friends in the vibrant Vinohrady neighborhood and our afternoon wander to Vyehrad, an old fortress in the south part of the city along the Vltava River. While it might not be as well-known as other landmarks in the city, it makes for a great afternoon excursion. Walking all over the hilltop site allows you to escape from the massive crowds of tourists and the noise of the old town, while still soaking up some interesting history (check out The Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul) and great views over the city.


SPAIN

That brings me to Spain. Technically, I’m in Spain, although, not on the mainland. I’m in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. And since Prague didn’t work out as a long-term destination, Gran Canaria took that role instead. So far, I’d say this was definitely the right decision. Not only is Gran Canaria full of really awesome things to do and see mountains, villages, beaches, sand dunes, hiking trails, remote national parks, surfing and more but Las Palmas is one of the most livable cities I’ve ever been to. For a fraction of what it costs to live in most countries in Europe, you get perfect weather, a laid-back island lifestyle, excellent Spanish food, a large international community of travelers, digital nomads and expats and no shortage of activities and events to join. With two weeks left of our stay here, we already understand why so many people claim this island to be one of the most ideal places to hang out in Europe!

Countries in Europe - Gran Canaria, Spain

Highlights The ridiculously gorgeous drive we did the other day. We went from Las Palmas to the Point of Galdar, over to the picturesque towns of Agaete and Puerto de las Nieves, and then way up into the mountains. We drove along narrow, cliffside roads that took us on a several hour, remote adventure that, apart from being a death-defying experience, offered some of the most impressive scenery I’ve seen in a long, long time. I genuinely can’t wait to explore some more.

So, thank you Europe. It’s been a most rewarding year and I look forward to visiting more of you in 2018. Countries such as Poland, Denmark and Belarus are high up on the list!

Did you visit Europe this year? Are you planning a trip to any countries in Europe, maybe next year? Any questions?


5 Weeks in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (A New Experiment)

Wandering Earl

5 Weeks in Las Palmas - hillside view

On the wall is some graffiti that I can’t make much sense of. I think there are small round robots buzzing about, working on computers and talking on the phone. The table where I sit is long and white. There are four of us sitting here, laptops open, yet eight seats still remain empty. Inside this space it feels modern and industrial, yet welcoming enough, with wires hanging form the ceiling, a minimalist design and a front door that opens with the use of an app.

Outside plastered on the wall across the street is an advertisement for rum, next to a brown door that leads to a currently closed nightclub. In front of the wall and the door stands a tall green parking meter on the sidewalk.

How did I end up here in the Canary Islands? I hear a coffee machine rumble in the back of the room. There is a small yellow wooden duck on wheels only inches from my laptop, its black dot of an eye staring me down since I got here. It is the duck that won’t stop asking me how I ended up here. A middle-aged man with a worn out backpack, holding in his hand a salad in a plastic container, straight from the supermarket, just walked in to the room and sat down across from me.

I need to pee.

It reminds me of high school. Not the duck or the salad or the robots. The need to pee. Too often would I be at a high school party or a gathering at a friend’s house and despite the need to use the bathroom, I would just remain seated on a sofa or chair, for minutes, hours actually. My fear was that I would stand up, walk across the room and trip over my own two feet. And people would laugh. So I wouldn’t get up.

I’m more confident now of course. If I need to go, I go.

Sometimes the thought crosses my mind at the most random of moments, the thought that I’ve been traveling for 18 years. The funny thing is that no matter how long that thought stays in my head, a half a second or ten minutes, it always leaves my eyes ever so slightly covered in moisture. They are not tears though. It’s an impossibly thin layer of wetness that appears and then dries up almost immediately afterwards.

Is it a quick wash of these old dusty eyes? I like to believe it is the flash of a transparent curtain that marks yet another scene in this never-ending adventure.

Scene #4281: 5 Weeks in Las Palmas

Yes, this current scene takes place in the Canary Islands. I’m hunkered down in the town of Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria. We’ve rented a large apartment near the ocean, for five weeks, five whole weeks in Las Palmas, rented on Airbnb for 1000 Euros. A routine, a closet for my clothes, a renewed dedication to my push-up regimen, a sea breeze as soon as I walk out the door and two extremely chill pugs sitting on the street corner that I look forward to seeing every day.

Our apartment is far from being homey though. A couple of hallways and empty spaces too many, cold areas that seem to serve no purpose. But my stuff is scattered around nonetheless and this apartment is slowly becoming that place I return to and which I recognize. How odd indeed.

Only two small blocks from our pad on Calle Fernando Guanarteme is where you’ll find Playa de las Canteras. Sometimes I think I need the beach to be happy. It’s a golden black beach here, far from the white sands we dream of, yet it’s still an ideal location for an hour or two sprawled out on my cheap beach towel, Kindle in hand. Low constant waves, cool and lightly tinted turquoise water, topless sunbathers, flocks of surfers, views of the town and distant mountains whenever I sit up and look around.

Behind the beach sits the long boardwalk, the Paseo Las Canteras, that stretches perhaps two miles from the funky-looking Auditorio Alfredo Kraus in the south to Calle Prudencio Morales in the north. We walk much of this boardwalk every day. It’s alive with tourists, locals, cafes and bars, the occasional street performer, runners and groups of friends. I like the energy in the evening, the low lighting, the chatter, the boom of the waves.

5 Weeks in Las Palmas - La Playa de las Canteras

The boardwalk is our real base. It’s the foundation of our stay here so far and unlikely to change over these five weeks in Las Palmas. There won’t be a day that we do not stroll upon it, at least once.

Fresh seafood, tapas of all sorts and home-cooked delights are found on every corner in Las Palmas, along the water, in the small, still lanes, on the main avenidas. A table on the boardwalk, a bottle of local wine, paella for two. 20 Euros. Potatoes arrugadas con mojo with grilled octopus, some grouper and a plate of fried cheese. 20 Euros. And satisfying. La Taperia, a cozy restaurant that we blindly entered on our first night, has proven to be a favorite. La Tosca Lonja around the corner served up Spanish seafood in divine form. That alluring Spanish flair helps of course, from the surrounding architecture to the bustling about of the dedicated waitstaff to the loud conversations that hum like meditative chants.

On Saturday we went for a long afternoon walk. One and a half hours each way. Through the commercial center of Las Palmas and along the other coast, the more residential and affluent section, with its streets loaded up on villas, private schools and language institutes. Twenty minutes later and things shifted. A bit darker, a bit more rundown, with people just sitting on the curb smoking their cigarettes and giving us a quick, grumpy ‘what’s your deal?’ kind of glance. And then another street crossed and we found ourselves in the most quaint and atmospheric neighborhood yet, and we cut straight through it along the overly pleasant pedestrian lane of Calle Perez Galdos, with its sense of art, active residents, attractive eateries and charming street lamps.

Las Palmas has it all.

5 Weeks in Las Palmas - street view

After some time lost in conversation and smiles, we came upon an old, blue, mint condition palace. It’s now a music conservatory. We passed a small park with a colorful playground. And then a Burger King and the Catedral de Santa Ana before we landed on the steps of the Casa de Colon, right among the weathered, empty structures and narrow passageways of Vegueta.

We spent an hour wandering this museum, sprawled among four historic, connected Canarian homes, all while learning about Cristobal Colon, or Christopher Columbus. We also battled two giant parrots that fiercely guarded a courtyard leading towards the exit. Columbus visited the Canary Islands on several occasions. The first time in 1492 in order to stock up his fleet and fix a rudder on the Pinta before heading off towards the unknown. It appers he spent several weeks in Las Palmas too.

Columbus seemed unable to sit still. Each time he returned home from a voyage, he soon set off for yet another.

I also have trouble sitting still. Maybe that’s why I worked on cruise ships at one point. The constant journeys to New Worlds. New Worlds to me at least.

When I stay in one place, I do get anxious. It’s as if my body and mind still think we are constantly on the go. They get confused by the closet with my clothes inside, by the sight of the same bed for more than a few nights, by the lack of urgency to explore. As I attempt to sit quietly, they instead shout, Do this, do that. We must do and see everything there is to do and see here by this Friday.

Not this time. We will visit the neighboring island of Tenerife in due time. We will drive around Gran Canaria, climb mountains, visit villages and get lost, oh yes, in due time. We have plenty of that now. Time. And my body and mind will have to learn to live with it.

Last night on a stroll through the lively Parque de Santa Catalina I actually saw two cruise ships docked in port. As always, I was nostalgic for a few moments as I recalled my old teammates from around the world and those quiet times when I just stood on the open deck watching the flying fish and wondering what lay beyond the horizon.

But these two mighty vessels I saw yesterday, and all their passengers, would of course be gone by morning, without me. As would the flights and buses and trains of the world.

Now I shall stay put. An exchange of New Worlds for New Experiments.

And what better place to give this a shot than Las Palmas. Life is easy here. You can enjoy your surroundings within minutes of arrival and there really isn’t much to worry about. Food, people, atmosphere. Easy.

My eyes have watered again. 18 years. I feel hungry right now as I sit here at the Coworking Canary Islands location in Las Palmas. The one with the robots on the walls and the long white table. And the duck staring me down.

I start to think of volcanoes and ferries. But then I think of making a salad in my kitchen.

This is me trying to make sense of being a traveler in one place for some time.

I think I can handle five weeks in Las Palmas. I’m excited to find out.

Thoughts on slow travel? Have you been to the Canary Islands?


A California Road Trip with Lost Campers

Wandering Earl

California road trip - Perfect spot

I shall introduce you to Caitlin. Now I don’t know the story behind the name but that was the mini-campervan my girlfriend and I were given for our California road trip when we went to pick up our rental from Lost Campers USA in Los Angeles.

Clean and ready when we arrived, we were given a ‘tour’ of the vehicle, signed some paperwork and within minutes the Lost Campers staff had us on our way. Caitlin would now be our home for the following 6 days.

With a comfy mattress, an interior table and sink and everything from an awning to outdoor chairs and tables, a cooler, a propane stove, cooking equipment and storage compartments, we had everything we could possibly need for our adventure. We were excited to get started and as we turned out of the parking lot near LAX and onto Aviation Boulevard, we knew that traveling in such a van was a wise decision for a budget California road trip.

California road trip - Lost Campers USA

California road trip - Lost Campers Staff

And this is what happened once that California road trip began

Day 1: Los Angeles to Morro Bay

It wasn’t long into our adventure, about eight minutes to be precise, when we agreed to have a coffee stop. And you know how it goes, with all the traffic in LA and difficulty finding a parking spot, this turned into a much longer break than expected.

Eventually though, with coffee in hand, we got back out on the road, meandered through the streets of Santa Monica and onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

We were feeling good. We were feeling clean (this would change quickly). And we were feeling energized. We rolled along, passing Malibu and Ventura, until we reached the town of Santa Barbara in time for lunch. We ate at the Santa Barbara Public Market, an indoor food hall on the corner of West Victoria and Chapala Streets that was a great spot for a fresh meal (we went with poke bowls, highly recommended), before stretching our legs on a long walk down State Street. And then, like true campervan novices, we spent an hour in the Ralph’s supermarket trying to figure out what kind of supplies we should buy.

Bananas, wine, granola bars, water, tea and mandarins seemed like all we needed in the end.

In the early evening we pulled into Pismo Beach and went for a walk through the historic, yet tiny, downtown and beachfront, not quite attracted by the shops and restaurants enough to stick around longer but satisfied with our first glimpse of the beach.

We continued north and upon arrival in Morro Bay, decided to pull into a campground for the night. The only problem was that all of the campgrounds were completely full, leaving us no choice but to try and find a quiet spot to park, and hide, our van for the night.

Twenty minutes later we found that spot.

California road trip - Morro Bay

I backed the van up into a corner at the very end of a quiet road along the beach, where we were hidden by a huge pickup truck parked in front of us. And from this location we enjoyed dinner and a bottle of wine in front of the ocean before falling asleep, and eventually waking up to, the sound of the waves, all from the comfort of our campervan’s bed.

Day 2: Seals, Hearst Castle and Big Sur

Awake and ready to go by 8:00am, we stopped for coffee and breakfast at the Luna Coffee Bar in the quiet village of Cayucos before continuing along the coast. After 30 minutes we reached a turnoff that lead to an ‘elephant seal viewing point‘.

And then we almost missed seeing the elephant seals. I made the brilliant suggestion to walk along a quiet path to the left, from where we soon saw 3 small seals lying on the sand off in the distance. Luckily, when we returned to the van, my girlfriend suggested that we walk the other way for a moment and sure enough, that’s when we came upon the dozens of massive elephant seals that this area is known for.

California road trip - elephant seals

It wasn’t even 9:30am when we reached our second stop of the day the Hearst Castle.

For years I’ve wanted to visit this bizarre mansion built in the early 20th century by newspaper magnate Willian Hearst and now that I have visited, I would recommend it to anyone on a California road trip in this area. We took the one hour Upper Rooms tour with one of the best tour guides we’ve ever encountered and we then spent some time on our own wandering around the expansive gardens and surreal indoor pool.

The ‘castle’ is too crazy and everything from the hilltop location to the zebras (yes, zebras) to the architecture to the ancient artifacts to the interior design to the stories behind every room simply cannot be imagined without being there. Awesome place.

California road trip - Hearst Castle view

California road trip - Hearst Castle guest room

California road trip - Hearst Castle pool

Next up was a subpar Sunday lunch in the nearby town of Cambria. And then

First, let me state that despite not having a real plan for our road trip, there was actually one place that we really didn’t want to miss the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. My girlfriend is a huge fan of his writing and I’m slowly learning more and more about him and his works.

While located only 30 miles up the road from Cambria, due to the landslides earlier this year that knocked out a couple of bridges along the coast, a long 100+ mile detour was now required to get in and out of Big Sur. We still planned to make the trip though.

So, after our lunch, while sitting in the campervan browsing the internet for a few minutes, I suddenly discovered that the Henry Miller Memorial Library had revised their opening hours because of the drop in tourism after the landslides. They were now only open Thursday to Sunday, 11am 6pm.

It was Sunday. It was 3:01pm. According to Google Maps, we were 2.5 hours away with the detour.

And off we wentRoute 46 over to Route 101 and up to the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road which then took us on a 60 mile adventure through wine country, an eerily quiet stretch of US Army-owned land, the alluring depths of the Los Padres National Forest and the towering Santa Lucia Mountain Range, with its dozens of dangerous turns and lack of barriers protecting you from a long fall of a cliff.

It was a wild detour, gorgeous and energizing, yet slightly nauseating, especially given our time constraints.

We pulled into the Henry Miller Library at 5:35pm.

I’m not sure what was more exciting, being at the library or the journey to get there but we thoroughly enjoyed the 25 minutes we spent wandering around the building, speaking with staff, flipping through books and soaking up the atmosphere.

And then we left.

Our dinner that night consisted of sandwiches bought from the only open shop in the area, the Big Sur Deli, which we ate at the best view point we could possibly find.

California road trip - Big Sur dinner

After dinner, we pulled into the corner of a small parking lot back near the Big Sur Deli, where we promptly passed out on the bed in our van, quite satisfied with the happenings of this lengthy day.

Day 3: Big Sur and the Middle of Nowhere

The second landslide was just north of where we slept and so on this day, we had no choice but to head back south. We took our time, stopping at several view points along the way until we reached the tiny community of Plaskett. And wherever we stopped, we always had the spot to ourselves, something I never imagined possible along this famous route.

California road trip - Big Sur

After a lunch overlooking the coast (doesn’t get old!) and a drive up to a mountaintop hermitage that turned out to be closed, we turned back onto that Nacimiento-Fergusson Road from the day before, also the only route out of Big Sur.

But this time, we would do things a little differently. Once at the top of the mountains, we decided to get off the paved road and head onto a dirt track called the Coast Ridge Trail. We were’t exactly sure but looking at Google maps, this route appeared to offer a nice loop that would end up right where we wanted to be later in the day.

Here’s how that went:

  1. We entered extremely remote territory, with not a person, house or sign of civilization to be found.
  1. The dirt road was stunning, cutting into the sides of mountains and along impossibly narrow ridges while offering far-reaching and spectacular views in all directions.
  1. To complete the loop, we had to turn onto a second dirt road.
  1. This second road was insane. Even narrower and with extremely steep inclines and declines, soft dirt patches that were tough to drive through and sheer drop-offs at all times.
  1. It was also insanely beautiful (as you can see in this video!).
  1. Just before arriving at the main road we were aiming for, we came upon a closed steel gate that blocked our track and forced us to turn around and completely retrace our route for 1.5 hours. (We were not happy about that.)
  1. After thinking we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere while trying to get the van out of some soft sand for the sixth time, we eventually reached the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road once again and continued our journey away from the coast.

After this long day, we decided to spend the night at an RV camp in the small town of Greenfield, right on Route 101, partly because we couldn’t find anything else and weren’t in the mood to keep on searching. Among the huge RVs and massive trailers, we backed up our little minivan into its spot and had a quiet night, and our first shower that didn’t involve splashing water onto our bodies from a sink faucet in a rustic outhouse or bathing in a cold creek (which was actually quite nice).

Day 4: Monterey

After breakfast at the Denny’s in the town of Soledad (what would a US road trip be without one breakfast at Denny’s?), we decided to drive into Salinas, the hometown of John Steinbeck, for a wander through its quaint downtown area.

From here we continued to the coast until we reached Monterey, where we had decided to meet up with my friend Jerry.

I had actually only met Jerry once before (he’s a good friend of one of my good friends), and while I knew he was a stellar guy, I certainly wasn’t expecting the welcome we received from him and his wife. Jerry gave us

  • the keys to his classic Saab convertible so that we could buzz around Monterey for the afternoon
  • a delicious home-cooked seafood dinner that we all ate while looking out over Monterey Bay from the window of his living room
  • a great room to sleep in (the waves outside lulled us to sleep!) and an invitation to make ourselves completely at home

And most importantly, awesome company. Over a couple of bottles of wine, we all spent a few hours that night talking and laughing about Monterey, about authors and books, politics, our jobs and our other interests. It was simply a great night.

Day 5: A Redwood Forest and Our Final Night

After brunch with Jerry at the excellent Wild Plum Cafe in town, it was time for us to hop back into our van. Our stay in Monterey, which also included time wandering Cannery Row, downtown and the beach, was short but perfect and as a result, we didn’t feel the need to visit any other towns. We drove right through Santa Cruz and onto Route 9 until we reached the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park instead.

It was our first encounter with the redwoods and this little park was an ideal location to get out into nature and be among these massive, mesmerizing trees.

California road trip - Redwood forest

Then, before we knew it, the time had come to find a place where we could enjoy our final evening with the campervan. We continued into San Mateo county along small roads for about an hour and a half, randomly turning right and left several times, until we came upon a one lane, cracked pavement path that seemed worth checking out. We followed it for about 2 miles and it eventually led us into the Pescadero Creek Park, a park that seemed to be long forgotten given the condition of its gate and entry way and the complete lack of even a trace of visitors.

As a result, we were thrilled and we soon found a small clearing right up on a mountain ridge. This would prove to be the idyllic location we had hoped for.

California road trip - Pescadero Creek Park

We pulled out the chairs from the van just in time for sunset, poured some wine, put on some music and, despite having forgotten to buy dinner and with only granola bars to eat as a result, we dug in for one final night among the beautiful California nature.

Day 6: San Francisco

Waking up early in the midst of some heavy, wet fog, we did some work (despite the remote location we had great 4G coverage!), organized all of our stuff and then quietly began the last leg of our California road trip. Two hours later we pulled into the Lost Campers parking lot in San Francisco, climbed out one last time and just like that, dropped off our trusty campervan.

California road trip - Golden Gate Bridge

A California Road Trip in a Mini-Campervan?

Is a mini-campervan right for you? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

After our experience, we realized that the main downside of such travel is that it can be a little cramped as there isn’t a huge amount of space inside the minivan.

Apart from that though, it’s definitely an ideal option for travelers that simply need a place to sleep and the basic amenities for their road trip. For one or two people, it works out very well as the small van allows you to travel on any road and you always have a bed to lie on. If you use campgrounds, the real mattress inside the van is far more comfortable than sleeping in a tent and you’ll also have all the equipment you need to prepare your meals.

And when split among a couple of travelers, the price is more than reasonable since you get both transportation and accommodation in one.

As for Lost Campers themselves, the staff are extremely helpful and the company’s culture seems to truly revolve around making their travelers happy. I know a couple of readers wrote to me after my last post to say they had an awesome experience with this company too. The vans and equipment are in good condition, the rental process is hassle-free and they have three convenient locations as well (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Salt Lake City).

If this is your travel style, Lost Campers USA is well worth checking out for a California road trip, or any road trip in the western USA!

Would you travel in a mini-campervan? Any questions about the road trip or the campervan itself? Let me know!

Road Trips Make Me Lose My Mind (in a good way)

Wandering Earl

Road trips make me lose my mind

Road trips. There’s something about the idea of a road trip that makes many people, including myself, go nuts from intense excitement.

Just the thought of a road trip triggers such giddiness and ecstasy that I immediately start dreaming of all kinds of magical road trip scenarios. And I can get lost in such thought for hours.

Usually, what makes me so enthusiastic about a road trip has nothing to do with the region where it might take place or the vehicle I’ll drive or the route I’ll take.

It’s the absolute freedom that gets me, and perhaps you, going. The freedom to go wherever we please, to stop whenever we want, to be in complete control of our travel experience. Our brains find this idea so unbelievably appealing it seems. Try saying ‘road trips’ without getting genuinely excited, even if you don’t have any plans to take one.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to embark on several road trips. Australia, Thailand, Romania, Mexico and the USA are just a few of the countries where I’ve been able to enjoy that freedom.

And today I write to you from Los Angeles, California, the city where my next road trip shall begin in 2 days.

My California Road Trip

My girlfriend and I flew out to LA last night from Florida. The main reason for this visit out west is for a family event taking place in beautiful Mendocino Country, way up in northern California, in about 10 days from now.

About a month ago, after confirming we would attend the family event, we came upon the idea of not only adding a road trip to our visit, but renting a camper van to do it with. This would be a first for both of us.

So I did a little research and quickly discovered Lost Campers USA. I sent them an email and received an immediate response. After communicating with them for a week or so, it was obvious that this was the camper van company to use out in the western part of the USA. If you look at the Lost Campers website or Facebook page, you’ll see why I quickly became hooked on their laid-back, family-owned style and their very clear dedication to making road trips affordable for travelers on any budget.

And with thousands of overwhelmingly positive reviews from other travelers, it an easy decision and we went for it.

We won’t be traveling in a huge RV. Lost Campers rents small camper vans, like converted minivans, complete with everything you would need for a road trip comfy bed (with so many positive reviews about their beds, I’m curious to try it out), sink, storage, a table, awning, cooling chest and more. Their rates start at around $37.99 USD per day, which is remarkably inexpensive for both transportation and a bed!

Starting on Saturday, this will be our Sierra Class camper van:

Road trips

Once we get set up with our van, we’ll just start driving.

We only have 6 days for this road trip and we need to head north to end up in San Francisco. However, we don’t have much of a plan. We have no idea where we’ll spend our nights and we only have a vague idea of the route we’ll take. Some possible stops include beaches, the Hearst Castle, a winery, the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, a seldom traveled dirt road through the mountains (looks like an awesome recommendation from the team at Lost Campers!), Monterey and a National and/or State Park or two.

If we make it to all of that, great. If not, that’s perfectly fine too.

Wherever we end up, if we get lost, we don’t care at all. Our brains are already buzzing from the freedom that awaits us in a couple of days, the freedom that can only derive from that awesome, awesome form of travel

road trips!

(I’ll be posting updates on the blog and the Wandering Earl Facebook from the road starting Saturday.)

Let’s hear itwhat’s your most epic road trip experience? If you’ve yet to take one, where would you love to do a road trip?