July 23, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: The Penguins of Phillip Island

Cost/day
If you want to really enjoy Phillip Island then be prepared to spend $150 or more a day. It’s a tourist hotspot, you can expect busy bars and great eateries. Street side camping is a no go, you can expect to be moved on. Big4 is Australia’s leading campsite franchise so we found one on the island. We found them very clean and friendly – expect to pay $35 for a pitch for the night.

Describe a typical day

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Our visit to Phillip Island was more than a sightseeing expedition, I had decided to put myself through Tough Mudder. This gruelling obstacle course was far from a holiday! The Phillip Island Circuit had been converted into a ceremony of fitness, endurance and a pinch of stupidity. After a morning of being zapped by electricity, diving into ice baths, crawling through muddy ditches of water, cramping calf muscles and covering ourselves head to toe in mud, we ventured to the local Koala sanctuary.

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I dare anyone not to fall in love with Koalas. The cutest, walking, eating, pooping teddy bears that climb trees and just sleep and eat. This sanctuary takes you through a small exhibition that insights you with the simple facts about Koalas. It all seemed to be very child friendly and easy to understand. After a quick walk around we made our way to the conservation area.

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Boardwalks raise you above the foliage of the ground below. Jetties stretch out to the abundant eucalyptus trees. We took to standing out on the observation decks Koala spotting. We needed a keen eye but we got our fix of Australia’s cutest national animal.

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During the afternoon we took the van for a spin around the island, sightseeing and picture taking. When the stomach was rumbling we stopped at BEANd (yes the D is supposed to be small) a small franchise coffee house. The cappuccino here is beautiful and the blueberry muffin melts in your mouth. The comfort and service make you feel homely and entices you to put your feet up and relax.

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After lunch we took to checking out more of the island; we were biding our time until the Penguin Parade. Here on the island for as long as the locals know, come sundown, hoards of Penguins swim to the island’s shore and make their way home for the night. A permanent auditorium was built for tourists to spectate this amazing event. We sat as the sun fell over the sea.

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Before long several Penguins could be seen riding the surf to the sand and within time the small black and white creatures were hitting the beach several at a time. It was a fantastic experience, these Penguins were oblivious to the hundreds of eyes watching them go about their buisness. Many watched as they waddled their way home. We walked along the raised walkways, mesmerised by these beautiful birds strutting into the night. We took the tour through the gift shop and moved off to find a restaurant for an evening meal.

We stumbled on Pino’s on Phillip Island’s main strip. A flamboyant Italian restaurant with a running theme of motor cross – plenty of helmets and leather jackets were displayed across the walls. We opted for Gnocchi and Pizza. It was a carb overload but well deserved. You may pay a little more here than from competing restaurants up and down the high street but you pay for the quality and service (which was outstanding).

Filled up and worn out, we jumped into the van and headed back to the campsite. We reminisced on our day and made our plans for the drive to Melbourne the following day. I slept well that night!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Our heart strings were pulled as we watched one Penguin stumble, he seemed either old or unwell, struggling to walk the distance. He stopped at the foot of a rock as all the other penguins walked on. It was sad seeing him left lonely as the healthy many left him behind. We wanted to climb down and help him on his way but we had to let nature take its course. We would like to believe he was just resting but sadly I don’t think he made it home that night.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I suppose a minor dislike is that Phillip Island is beautiful and busy but could be anywhere in the world. It fails to have a distinct character. Also the Koala Sanctuary could be missed. These adorable creatures are abundant along the coast, you will find them amongst the Eucalyptus trees in natural habitats. So much so you could get bored of stopping for photos. The Sanctuary exhibition didn’t bring anything to the table that a quick Wikipedia search couldn’t offer.

On the flip side the Penguins are an absolute must, it is such a beautiful and natural wonder and Penguins won’t fail to melt the heart. The experts on site have a wealth of knowledge and their input adds to the experience.

Where next?
The Great Ocean Road!!!!

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Category: General

July 20, 2014

My top beaches around the world

Since it’s summer and the beach is on my mind, I thought I would do a recap of my favorite beaches I’ve visited over the years. I’m not really one for the crowded party beaches, or cold weather beaches, both of those seem to have made my list because of how beautiful they are. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that there’s nothing much better than walking a quite beach at sunset, reading a good book in the shade, or enjoying a tropical drink with the ocean in view. Most of these beaches took a bit of traveling to get to but they were worth it.

We’ll start with Italy, specifically the Amalfi Coast.

A friend and I made the trip here a few years ago and I was amazed at how picturesque it was. We rented a car and had to drive up along the coastal cliffs, which for me was a bit nerve-wrecking. The roads were narrow and windy and people drive insanely fast. In September we were able to find a last minute hotel for around $40 a night, with a beautiful ocean view. To get to the beach you had to follow steep switchback stairs for about half an hour through charming coastal neighborhoods. Some parts of the beach are crowded, others very secluded.

Beach number two, Gili Meno, a small island in Indonesia.

Getting here required a flight to Bali, then a flight to the island of Lombok, then a taxi to the harbor, and then a long boat to the second island in the Gili chain. My friend and I were dropped off on the beach after sunset with no hotel reservations and no plan, but as we walked the coast we easily found a hotel with friend staff right on the beach (as are all of the hotels there). You can walk the perimeter of the entire island in one hour, and the sunsets are supposedly world famous.

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Category: General, Images from the road, On The Road

July 18, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Denise Diamond

Denise Diamond

kids

adiamondabroad.com

Age: 36

Hometown: Texas

Quote: Be more awesome and do the things you’ve only been talking about doing until now. (more…)

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 17, 2014

Locked in or locked out- when switching it up means going home

I have this theory that I’d like to share. It’s somewhat personal, but I wonder if it’s something others will be able to relate to…

dogfromchile

Have you ever seen a dog pacing inside the confines of a small space, restless to escape?

Sometimes I feel like that.

But…have you ever seen a dog returning from its play outside, waiting for someone to open the door for it so it can come back inside?

Sometimes I feel like that too.

There are times I’ve tried to live the stationary life and after awhile, I feel locked in by the routine. Trapped by a 9 to 5 job or trapped by the feeling of monotony. But likewise there are times in my nomadic life that I feel locked out, a day’s worth of transit away from my parents or my friends. Locked into a timezone difference that keeps me from feeling like home is accessible, even in the form of a phone call.

I talked to a friend the other day who is in the middle of a hitchhike project, interviewing everyone who picks him up as he hitchhikes around the country playing music. (You can check out his fascinating hitchhike interviews here.) He was taking a break in his hometown for awhile when I asked him how it felt to be back. He responded saying he missed movement. And I knew exactly what he meant, but from the opposite application. He missed the movement of being on the road and I was beginning to feel as though the road was monotonous.

You see, we are growing, changing, evolving creatures. We adapt and adjust and we are satisfied by the mental activity that change requires, whether we realize it or not. We move. We need movement even if it’s not literal movement. We need things to change now and then.

In my case we had been on the road so long that it became sedentary-feeling. Our were constantly moving and we were constantly packing and unpacking from one hotel to the next, but the routine was so ordinary that it was not engaging us as movement anymore. We checked out of hotels. We checked into hotels. We checked out. We checked in. And that is when I knew it was time to fly home. (Where “home” is could be a whole blog post of its own). Because at that moment, sitting in the old coffee shops I used to frequent and chatting with old friends would be movement- it would be new again.

Until it becomes sedentary…then I’ll move on..

It sounds endless, doesn’t it?

So when does it end? Does it end?

Tell me what you think. Do you feel locked in? Do you feel locked out?

 

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Category: General

July 12, 2014

How to be a traveler in the everyday

Flying in anti-gravity yoga in Long Beach, NYFrom the very first time I ever went on a trip, I never wanted to leave. Friends used to tell me they thought I feared reality and wanted to live in a permanent state of holiday. ‘What’s so wrong with that’, I’d reply. It has only gotten worse with age, I’m afraid. I used to think it was because I didn’t have to handle any chores at that time. Since then I’ve gotten sick while traveling, have had to pay bills while on the road and deal with other disheartening realities, but, even to this day, I never want it to end. How do I transfer those travel feelings to the everyday?

Free. Unencumbered. Happy. At Ease. These are just a few of the terms that travelers often use to describe how they feel when in their happy place. On the road we can be ourselves, be the person we always want to be and not feel as if we have to fit into any specific boxes or deal with any expectations. We can change direction with the wind, be spontaneous or try new things that we’d rarely do in our ‘normal’ setting. Go to the beach on a weekday, hike that mountain you were once afraid of or eat ice cream twice a day-all of these special things take place when we leave the nest. Things are only part of it, but more significant are the changes within that we discover. A different perspective arises, new hobbies take shape, varied taste buds develop and a whole new world opens up that perhaps we never knew-how do we harness those feelings and bring them back ‘to reality’?

There’s not always time or money to go on that much desired adventure. If we can find a way to bring the happiness found in travel to the daily routines of life-the everyday can sometimes feel like a holiday! Happy travels.

For more of Stacey’s writings visit her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.

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Category: General, Notes from the collective travel mind

July 8, 2014

How to make the most of your Australian Working Holiday Visa

For many graduates, myself included, a year out to travel the world is seen as a stepping stone on the path to adulthood. Post degree but prior to entering into the working world, a year abroad can provide a few life lessons that are seldom taught within the curriculum of modern education.

The ability to adapt to new circumstances, overcome challenges and stride out forging your own path in life, travel educates in a way that not even the most accomplished and engaging teacher can.

One of the most popular opportunities for graduates seeking the chance to travel is a twelve month Australian Working Holiday Visa. Available to residents of over twenty five countries this visa provides the chance to live and work abroad, explore one of the most diverse continents on the planet and take a class in life that forces you to leap outside your comfort zone.

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The Milky Way seen from the Nullarbor Plain by Benjamin Jones

Planning twelve months in Australia

One year sounds like ample time to explore one country. However thanks to the sheer scale of the Australian continent and the wealth of landscapes to explore, twelve months will fly past in the blink of an eye when you’re Down Under.

If you’re considering taking the opportunity to sample life in Australia then I highly recommend you take the time to consider exactly what you hope to get out of your stay.

Do you intend to base yourself in one place and seek employment in the field in which you studied while at University? Fly by the seat of your pants and take cash in hand work as you travel across all six states? Perhaps there are certain parts of the country you’re desperate to see and so want to plan an epic road trip?

Whatever you want to do while you’re Down Under here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your twelve month stay.

Enhance your CV with foreign employment in your field

A working holiday visa is not something every country offers foreign nationals visiting its shores, so consider making the most of the chance to gain employment abroad. If you’re considering immigrating to Australia making connections within the industry you intend to work is invaluable.

A few months prior to your arrival research employers in your sector and reach out to them with your CV detailing your skills and qualifications, and inspiring them to hire you during your stay.

Check online job listings regularly and apply before you arrive. Don’t limit yourself to one location, search countrywide for the greatest chance of success.

Note that under the terms of the visa you are only eligible to work for any one employer for a maximum of six months.

Useful links;

http://www.gumtree.com.au/

http://www.simplyhired.com.au/

http://www.jobsearch.gov.au/

http://www.seek.com.au/

Take an epic road trip across all six states

If you’ve managed to save a few dollars prior to your arrival in Australia then a road trip of epic proportions is one way to maximize your time on the red continent. While the adventure itself will offer an education of unimaginable significance, the experience will help to shape the person you are as you stride out into the big bad world.

Take to the highway and immerse yourself in the heritage of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, head Ouback and explore the barren red center, explore shipwrecks off the Queensland coast and swim with Dolphins in Western Australia.

Consult the Vagablogging guides to buying a campervan in Australia and selling a vehicle at the end of your stay to ensure you invest wisely, have a hassle free trip and potentially earn a small profit when your adventure is over. Don’t forget you could also earn a few bucks towards your fuel costs by providing a cost effective transport service to other travelers heading the same way as you!

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Winifred the Winnebago by Benjamin Jones

Live rent free and see Australia by House Sitting

The concept of house sitting is fast becoming recognized as a tool that can subsidize the cost of accommodation when travelling. In short it offers house and pet owners a low cost option for property and pet care, while providing rent free accommodation for travelers.

If you want to see numerous parts of Australia but don’t have the desire to be on the move for your entire stay, then house and pet sitting is something you should consider. With the chance to live like a local on a reduced daily budget, a house sitting assignment could provide respite from periods of travel and employment.

It’s important to note that some assignments are unsuitable for sitters who are not financially self-sufficient for the duration of their stay, so if you intend to seek employment while house sitting you must mention this in your application. Consider also the logistics of travelling to and from assignments, as well as your transport needs during your stay.

Volunteer for unforgettable experiences

Volunteering is something many associate with charity work but there are a range of volunteer options for those who visit Australia on a working holiday visa. Those travelling on a reduced budget should consider the benefits of an exchange arrangement whereby you donate your time in exchange for room and board.

Australia is well known for its seasonal work and backpackers are often recruited to pick fruit, tend to livestock and assist on rural properties. HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farm stays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats willing to offer backpackers free lodging in exchange for their help.

Further useful links;

http://govolunteer.com.au/

http://www.conservationvolunteers.com.au/

http://www.wwoof.com.au/

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Fossicking in the Queensland Outback by Benjamin Jones

Have you spent twelve months or more in Australia? How would you recommend those on a Working Holiday Visa maximize their stay in the country?

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Category: General, Oceania

June 30, 2014

Two ways to live

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

-Einstein

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Category: General

June 27, 2014

Enjoy the ride

 

Chris Plough - Guadalupe Mountains - 2014

(Riding past the Guadalupe Mountains)

I was planning to write about learning to throw axes during my last trip to Toronto. About how it reminded me to get out of my head and flow in the moment. That the moment I started laughing, that’s exactly what would happen and my throws became more accurate. I’ll write about it another time, though, because today I learned that my grandfather has passed away.

He had an incredible impact on my life and is a large part of why I’ve become the man I am. Though he was a great man, I’m not going to write about him either. First – it’s much to fresh and I don’t have perspective yet. Second – this blog is about us, learning about how travel has made our lives better.

Instead, I’m going to write about why I’m grateful that I’m able to ride my motorcycle across three thousand miles of this beautiful country. Right now – I can’t imagine anything better than cruising through the incredible landscapes of the Southwestern United States, then up the Pacific Coast Highway.

I don’t know about you – but for some reason, I’ve always found driving and riding to be almost meditative. After a few hours on the road, it always seems that the gates to my subconscious pry open and I’m flooded with thoughts, ideas… emotions. All those things that we seem to seem to suppress during our minor-crisis and Facebook filled days.

How about you? When do you find that moment? I know some people who find it when running; others when meditating; and more than a few after a judicious portion of psychedelic drugs.

This is one of the main reasons that I love traveling. I mean, aside from meeting interesting people and seeing/smelling/hearing/feeling a new place. The act of traveling – of being on the road – brings me a sense of contentment. Of course, even that has its limits. After 14 hours in a truck, I’m usually beat and need to pull over for a nap. On a bike, anything over 7 hours makes my butt ache – a lot.

Again – how about you? Do you seek the destination or the journey? Both? Think back on your last few trips – which memories burn the brightest? Were they from the destination — or from somewhere along the way?

All I know is that I’m grateful that I get to spend the next couple of weeks in the saddle, flying across long stretches of highway. Right now it’s about the journey.

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.

 

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Category: General, North America, On The Road, Solo Travel, Vagabonding Life

June 25, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Jervis Bay and Huskisson: Grey nomads and toe licking possums.

Cost/day
Green Patch camp in Jervis bays Booderee National Park is cheap as Chips, there is nothing here that asks you to spend money, only the camping pitch which is around $30 to $40 a night. This is money well spent for a beautiful haven of wildlife, woodland and beaches. If you have yourself a supply of food, you won’t find yourself spending a cent more. Barbecue areas exist but may need a good hose down before cooking!

Huskisson however is a small fishing town with various Whale Watching and Dolphin tours around the area. Various restaurants and shops line the Main Street. So you might find yourself spending a little more enjoying the area.

Describe a typical day
Jervis Bay is not a roller coaster of excitement which is the beauty of the National Park. It is a calm, tranquil, secluded piece of New South Wales.

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From our camper we cooked ourselves some bacon and eggs and sat at our camping table and submersed ourselves in our surroundings. Wallabies bumble about undisturbed by your presence. Various parrots and other colourful birds swoop around the green canvas of the trees that make up the woodlands. We entertained ourselves for a while before grabbing a towel and heading for the beach.

Jervis Bay has many walking trails around the different sections of the National Park. We wandered for a good hour taking in the fresh air and luscious greenery and calm before settling on the beach.

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We were told that it was the whitest sand beach in the world (although I’m sure many other beaches may say the same) and it was certainly the whitest sand we had ever seen. It seemed so pure and clean, untouched by any other elements. The sand crunched under our feet, reminiscent of fresh snow fall under boots. The beach stretched across the cove from the rocky edges that held several fisherman to the merging edge of the woodlands. The beach was almost deserted and blissfully quiet. So we sat watching the waters lap the white sands, we let the sun beat down and read our books.

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Later that day we had booked ourselves on a trip out into the waters with the promise of some Humpback Whale Watching, so we took our camper for a quick drive to Huskisson. A large speed boat waited for us and we climbed aboard and set off out to sea. The rough nature of the waters made for a great deal of fun on our search for sea life.

A very knowledgable tour guide talked us though the story of the bay – yet another discovery of Captain Cook. For a while it seemed we had paid for nothing more that a boat ride. Everyone’s eyes were peeled and eager to spot something but to no avail. The odd wave gave a little excitement of a possible whale spot here and there. Then after a long wait and from out of the blue a large juvenile male whale wanted to give us a show. For almost twenty minutes we watched from almost 50 feet away this beautiful creature diving from the waters and blowing water to our amazement. Many of the tourists clambered over each other for a good picture.

Before long the whale had grown tired and moved on as did we. We were on our way to a small rock that was home to a large family of seals which again we were excited to see. At about five minutes into our journey a small asian lady spotted some unexpected sea life, from each side was the fantastic sight of a pod of dolphins as they followed the boat at great speeds. They threw themselves from the water in synchronised acrobatics. We watched for a good ten minutes before another magnificent show was over. The trip was turning out to be more than we had expected!

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To end the tour we approached the seal rock where we found many seals sunbathing, unaffected by us being there. We watched as they went about there buisness; it was great to observe them as they dived into the sea and swim happily. We listened to their playful calls and snapped many photos. Before long It was time to head back to shore.
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Back on land we had ourselves a fish and chips by the sea and bought some meat for our evening barbecue.

On our return to Jervis Bay,
we settled for the night and enjoyed a beautiful unblemished sunset. We sparked up a barbecue and enjoyed the company of an elderly Australian couple that had pitched next to us. After a long day we retired to bed.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

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The local wildlife here has to be the tamest I have seen in Oz, or anywhere for that matter! The local parrots were very fond of our bananas and would gather in the trees around our camp. At any given opportunity they would swoop in numbers and attack our food bags. Watching a brightly coloured bird try and fly off with a banana is amusing in itself. However even after sundown there was no escaping the hungry undeterred wildlife. As I sat tucking into a burger I couldn’t help ponder what the sensation was around my toes. With a torch in hand I had a startling moment when I noticed a possum happily licking my big toe! To say I was quick to leap up from my chair was an understatement! Although as quick as I was to jump up, so were the surrounding gang of possums just as quick stealing a loose sausage from our plate and running off for a late night snack. They were just as cute and amusing as they were devious rascals so we had a good laugh with them.

Describe an interesting conversation you had:
We were very fortunate to have been pitched next to a lovely elderly couple Steve and Leslie. You couldn’t have found a happier pair of folks. We spoke for sometime about our travels, England and other general chit-chat.

What was interesting was they described themselves as the “Grey Nomads” part of a generation of retirees who, in their own words, wanted to “spend our children’s inheritance on ourselves”. They had quite simply sold their house, bought a camper and hit the road.

They had more knowledge than we could take in. They gave us great places to visit, taught us some great amusing Aussie lingo and they shared many stories and made us chuckle all night. The beauty of meeting this great couple was their firm idea of choosing not to live out retirement as a pensioner with nothing more to contribute to the world. They made sure every penny and every piece of hard work and graft in their nearly 70 years paid off. They made sure they had earned the right to be happy and enjoy their freedom.

This really opened my eyes to the Australian culture. On reflection it seems that the English culture seems to be that you work your entire life, grow old and die (not all English OAP’s live like this but a large percentage) and hitting retirement means you hang up your hat and become useless and boring.

The Grey Nomads of Australia are abundant and it seems to be the best years of many of their lives. Steve and Leslie were full of life, happy and above all seemed unburdened by getting old. I wish them many more happy years. A truly inspiring couple.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
It was peaceful, calm and full of amazing wildlife. Our trip to Huskisson was an amazing day out and shouldn’t be missed by any travellers to the area.
The only dislike is the lack of clean BBQ areas.

What new lesson did you learn?
That getting old is inevitable but life is to be enjoyed how ever many years you’ve seen. Steve and Leslie really opened my eyes to the idea that even in my golden years there shouldn’t be a reason I can’t still be living the life I’m leading now. Just be happy and enjoy the fact your still breathing.

Where next?
Phillip Island!!!

Follow me on Instagram: Evolvedsky

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 22, 2014

Roadtrip: Czech Republic to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and back

I recently had the experience to travel by car from Czech Republic to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and back. I was in the company of my fiance and his mother, the latter speaking only Czech, while I speak almost only English. Our situation had an interesting dynamic, but we had a lovely week camping, walking around cities, passing time in the car, and trying out local food. Unfortunately the weather was colder and rainier that we had hoped for, and camping in thunderstorms and snow was quite an unexpected adventure.

We started in Prague, and headed south to Austria. We didn’t have much of a plan, just a week to spare for traveling, and our first night we wound up camping on the side of the road. We cooked a small meal and went to bed somewhat early to get a quick start the next day.

We stopped briefly in Mariazell, Austria, but other than that we were in a rush to get to Slovenia. We found a campsite in near Lake Bled that was really really nice. They had showers, a pub/restaurant, free wifi, and the grounds were well kept and clean. A few miles walk through the woods and along the road would lead you to Lake Bled. The weather was perfect.

Lake Bled was probably one of the most picturesque places I’ve been. There are swans, castles, a thick forest, and the sunset over the lake was perfect. The campsite near by was fun, but I can imagine that staying in a hotel right on the lake would be a very nice experience as well.

After a couple of days in Slovenia, we headed to Croatia. Our first stop was at the waterfalls in Plitvice. The entrance fee was around $30, but the views were worth it. We only had a couple of hours because we got there later in the day, but again, worth it. We camped in Plitvice for the night, where it stormed non-stop.
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Category: Europe, General
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