Queenstown Highlights Video

How much can you cram into a 4 day weekend in Queenstown? Well, quite a lot it turns out! 

Check out my Queenstown highlights video for an idea of all the adventures you can have in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and this isn't even half of what I would like to do down there! Four days crammed into a 6 minute video, it was hard cutting it all down. If you want a bit more info, you can read the full post about my 4 days in Queenstown here

Travel to Colombia

There are definitely a few particular things that come to mind when you mention Colombia, and not all of them are positive, particularly thanks to the popularity of Narcos and the extensive guerrilla warfare which plagued the nation for so long. But the more I read about it, the more I've discovered that the Colombian people are looking to put that all behind them and welcome the world to their beautiful country. 

Sunset in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

Sunset in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

Carly from Curly Bird Travel has written a lovely article about why Colombia is becoming more popular with tourists, which is a pretty good place to start! She's also found some really fascinating videos about Colombia and the changes it has been going through in the last few decades. 

Carly in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Curly Bird Travel

Carly in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Curly Bird Travel

I'm a bit of a sucker for architecture, especially when it's so bright and cheerful! I'm kinda in love with the amazing buildings in Guatapè. travelsandmore has a great post by Bryony about the town which was once a regular holiday spot for the infamous Pablo Escobar but is now a big hit with backpackers and tourists, as well as Colombian families. She also has a helpful posts about flying in Colombia, which apparently can be about the same price as a bus ride which takes about 10x longer! 

The colourful buildings of Guatape, Colombia. Photo: travelsandmore

The colourful buildings of Guatape, Colombia. Photo: travelsandmore

When you've been aptly inspired and are ready to start booking, definitely check out Lia's post about where to stay on Practical Wanderlust! The name says it all, but her practical article about hostels in Colombia is really detailed and some of the places look awesome. There's also a good read about the food in Colombia; I had no idea what it was like so found this really interesting to read. The fruit looks to die for! 

Eco Hostel Yuluka, Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust.

Eco Hostel Yuluka, Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust.

Street food in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

Street food in Colombia. Photo: Practical Wanderlust

If you like practical help, also check out Claire's Colombia posts on Tales of a backpacker, she has heaps on informative posts like this practical, yet inspiring, post on Tayrona National Park, or this helpful one about what to pack if you do the Lost City Trek to Ciudad Perdida.

Hammocks with the best view, Tayrona National Park, Colombia. Photo: Tales of a backpacker.

Hammocks with the best view, Tayrona National Park, Colombia. Photo: Tales of a backpacker.

One of my absolute favourite things is chasing waterfalls [insert TLC joke here]. So of course, I love this post by Girl Astray's Karin on waterfalls in Putumayo, Colombia. In such a lush country it would be amazing to adventure through the jungle and find some beautiful falls. She also has a really interesting read about how to avoid Dengue Fever, which you may be at risk of if you're chasing waterfalls in the Colombian jungle. Always be prepared! 

Hornoyaco Waterfall, Colombia. Photo: Girl Astray.

Hornoyaco Waterfall, Colombia. Photo: Girl Astray.

So, Colombia might seem scary, but after doing some more research and reading about all it has to offer, it sounds like a really fascinating place with a colourful past but bright future. I will definitely not let urban legends and fear mongers stop me from going there one day! 

 

4 days in Queenstown

4 Days In Queenstown

When I saw a great deal on flights to Queenstown late last year I knew I had to buy them, 24 years old and I'd never visited the "adventure capital of the world"! 

Queenstown 1

I feel like I did my first trip really well, I managed to get spectacular weather, saw a lot of the highlights of Queenstown and the surrounding areas and did some adventure things too. I will admit right here and now that I didn't do one of the infamous bungy jumps; I've done one in my life which was huge for someone with a fear of heights, so I've decided that's it for me!

Anyway, here's what my 4 days looked like. I've also put some other ideas at the bottom for you, including some of the things on my to-do list for next time that I missed out on. 

Day 1

Queenstown 2

Arrived and picked up my rental car from Ace at the airport, they were the cheapest I could find. Always looking for a bargain! I think it was about $50NZ for 4 days, not including petrol. 

Drove to Queenstown and after a recommendation from the lady at Ace, had a late breakfast at Vudu, which was amazing! It had a really similar vibe to little and friday, but healthier. After that I wandered around town then headed to Skyline for some fun. The special of the day was $59NZ for a gondola pass and 6 luge rides which was only a few more than the regular 3 ride pass. The gondola is about a 5 minute ride up the mountain, with spectacular views of Queenstown, passing the bungy on the way up. 

It was a mild day, with a solid cover of cloud hanging over Queenstown, creating a strange effect. It almost looked like a border on my photos! 

Queenstown 5

The luge was lots of fun, though a bit short, and there is a beginners and fast track. There's a chairlift to the start of the track, which is also located near the start of the Ben Lomond walk, and the takeoff spot for the paragliders. It was a really cool place, you could watch the paragliders launch off the side of the mountain and soar down towards Queenstown. 

Dinner was pizza at The London, cheap and cheerful! Also good for breakfast the next day (I never said I was on a diet OK!!). I went to the Queenstown Gardens and just so happened to be there at the same time as the LUMA festival! It was a lovely festival of interactive light displays, but I couldn't capture them very well unfortunately.

Queenstown LUMA

Day 2

The High Country Horses Rees River Trail half day ride was definitely the highlight of my trip! The morning was brisk but there were few clouds in the sky, and the drive out to Glenorchy was stunning in the early hours of the day. 

Queenstown 6

The horse ride itself cost $138 and it was well worth it for half a day of riding through some of the most spectacular scenery. We were nearly entirely surrounded by mountains and crossed over the Rees River in several places. The riverbed is covered in lupin plants, which looked quite ugly and lifeless in the cold, but in spring and summer are famous for their beautiful purple flowers. I would love to go back and see them in the warmer weather.

Queenstown 3

My horses name was Snoopy, and although he was one of the more handsome horses, he was a bit of a lazy boy, reluctant to trot and constantly eating. I actually felt like he was a kindred spirit. 

Day 3

My day started off great; a burger for breakfast. A Fergburger burger to be precise! Even though I ordered the wrong one (Cockadoodle Doo not Cockadoodle Oink), it was still delicious, and a very filling breakfast. By going in the morning I beat the crowds, but later found out you can just call up and order which is just as efficient. 

I wandered around for a bit then headed to Arrowtown, where I met a school friend who is living nearby, for lunch. I had a look around the place a bit first, venturing down to the river where they have some of the remnants from the gold mining days. There were parts of the town that were still covered in frost, as the midday sun was yet to reach them. 

Queenstown Arrowtown

For lunch we went to a little French cafe and had crepes (I thought I should have something healthy for lunch to follow the great breakfast I had ;) ) and afterwards she showed me around. We went into a couple of the famous sweet stores, including Patagonia, which is famous for its fudge and chocolates, and Remarkables Sweet Store, which had all sorts of treats. They weren't cheap though, and I only bought a little 6 pack of fudge to share with the family. 

That afternoon I thought I would walk up the Ben Lomond track, apparently it's only a few hours to the saddle, which isn't too bad. But I got to the Mid-way Clearing where a bunch of paths and mountain bike trails met, and it was already dark at 3pm and a local lady warned me not to do it in the dark by myself. Reluctantly I went back down and checked into my hostel. 

Queenstown 6

When I was there I met a nice Aussie girl who wanted to come out with me so we wandered around trying to find good spots to take photos of the sunset. It wasn't the best but it was nice just chilling out and meeting someone new. We had curry for dinner then talked to some people in the hostel for a while then it was bed time. 

Queenstown 7

Day 4

Queenstown is not cheap, but I figured I might as well make the most of it while I was down there, so on Tuesday morning I went on the Thunder Jet. I got a deal from one of the adventure resellers in town for $110 which is why I chose Thunder over my preference which was the Skippers Canyon jet, recommended to me by my parents. It was really fun but sooooo cold. Seriously cold! I met an American girl and we got hot drinks afterwards to get the feeling back in our fingers again then went to Fergbaker to have lunch. I had a great steak and cheese pie, it was quite pricey at $7 but it was definitely worth it.

Queenstown Thunder jet

Then I had a bit of time to kill before my flight (which had been delayed by an hour) so I decided to drive out to the Kawarau Bridge to watch the bungy jumpers. I nailed the timing, there was a big Contiki tour group there so I got to see several jumpers; I'm not sure what it's normally like but it was very busy when I was there. 

Queenstown Bungy jump

After that it was bon voyage to Queenstown! 

Next time I go I will definitely do the Ben Lomond walk properly, I'd also like to do the walk up to Roy's Peak which is in Wanaka. I'll definitely be going to Milford Sound next time and maybe do one of the walks around there. I was really gutted to miss out on going to Onsen and having a nice relaxing spa day, so I'll definitely be booking that the minute I have flights sorted! 

Have you been to Queenstown? What were your highlights? 

How I plan my travels

The best and worst part of travelling is the planning. I'm not an overly organised person, and the whole theme of my blog is to get lost, but when you're only travelling somewhere for a few days or a couple of weeks you have to be realistic and plan ahead. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing out on stuff you really want to see, or not making the most of your holiday.

Here are some of the tools and sites I use when planning my travels:

Instagram

Yes, I have a whole album on Instagram of waterfall shots ;)

Yes, I have a whole album on Instagram of waterfall shots ;)

Instagram is the biggest one at the moment. I am soooooo grateful for the new feature which allows you to store up a bunch of photos that you really like. So whenever I'm scrolling through my feed and see something I like, I just save it. Then it's really easy to check the location later on and scope out other peoples' photos of the place and get a feel for it. 

Google Drive

Without sounding like a complete nerd, I seriously love Google Drive and Sheets. As I said, I'm not really a planner, but as a full time worker I only get 4 weeks a year, and I'm not one to spend half that time lounging poolside (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

I'm currently planning my trip to Myanmar and Bangkok, and I'll be meeting up with my partner when I get there. We currently have a Drive set up where we save our itineraries etc, and keep the planning Sheet. This sheet has several tabs; timetable, activities, accommodation and expenses. 

How I plan my travels - itinerary

It's cool to see it all laid out like this, to know what time slots need to be filled and when we're in one place too long etc. Because I'm really visual I added colours to the chart, then had a good laugh because my partner is colour blind and won't be able to appreciate it! 

Skyscanner

How I plan my travels - Skyscanner

I really like Skyscanner for it's visual approach. I like to travel on a budget so I'm often looking for the cheapest options, trying to squeeze a holiday around a long weekend or something similar. I really like using the map function, although it only does return flights, which can be a bit niggly, it's still really handy to see when is a good time to book somewhere, and who the cheap providers are. I haven't come across any other sites offering a similar function either, but I wonder if they will in the near future. 

TripAdvisor

Although I find TripAdvisor quite clunky and dated, it's still a really good tool for travel advise. I read a lot of reviews on it, though I take a lot of them with a grain of salt, and feel it's important to leave reviews in return (although I've been pretty slack at it). 

Other blogs

A stunning shot of bagan at sunset from the traveling honeybird

A stunning shot of bagan at sunset from the traveling honeybird

Of course, you can't have a travel blog and not get inspiration from other travel bloggers! It goes hand-in-hand with Instagram as I find a lot of great bloggers through that channel, but when I want a little more information I take to the blogging world. I have been lucky to have had the help of the wonderful Jean from The Traveling Honeybird, who has several great reads about Myanmar, where I'm heading next. Through Instagram I met Kiara from Galloping Around The Globe who has a great article about exploring the temples of Bagan, which was number 2 on my Myanmar bucketlist. There are heaps of blogs out there, so it's a great way to research a destination for future travels! 

HowIPlanMyTravels-thumb

 

What tools do you like to use when you plan your travels? Do you enjoy that side of it or do you prefer to wing it? 

Family holiday in the States

A throwback post

Don't worry, I'm not turning into a mummy blogger (not that there's anything wrong with that!), but I was looking through an old family photo album and thought I'd put together a throwback post about an awesome family holiday we took to the States.

Family trip States 1

Growing up, we only went on holiday within New Zealand, until our early teens when our parents took us to the Gold Coast. Those photos do not need to see the light of day ever again so I won't be writing about that experience! These photos of photos aren't great either, to be fair. Anyway, following that, our only other International trip all together as a family was to the West Coast of the United States. 

Family trip States 2

We traveled to 3 States; California, Nevada, and Arizona on accident. We hired a car and hit all the tourist spots along the way; Hollywood, San Diego Zoo, Santa Monica Boulevard, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, and of course, Disneyland.

It was an awesome family holiday because there wasn't the stress of a language barrier, the people were very friendly and kind, we always felt safe and the food was very similar to what we have in New Zealand. As a parent I can imagine this would all help make travelling with kids a lot less stressful, and as a kid I can testify that there were no food-related tantrums. Expect when we struggled to find a breakfast joint in Las Vegas, because apparently nobody there is up at breakfast time. I get hangry OK... a girl's gotta eat! 

Highlights of the trip:

  • Watching the night light show at Disneyland
  • Also watching the fountain show outside the Bellagio
  • Seeing pandas at San Diego Zoo
  • Standing next to a Bugati on Rodeo Drive, which would've cost more than I'll earn in this lifetime
  • Spotting Jamie Oliver on the street, though it was kind of sad that he was the only celeb we spotted, and he's not even American
  • Witnessing an entire military base stand with their hands on their hearts, deathly silent, as they stood for the national anthem
  • Watching the Shamu show, which I now know I shouldn't have done, but it was incredible to see such majestic creatures showing off their acrobatic skills
  • Eating food of epic proportions
  • Tootsie rolls every day :)
  • Standing on the border between Nevada and Arizona, being in 2 timezones and 2 states at once

All in all it was a really fun trip and I'm still incredibly grateful to my parents for taking us. 

Have you been to the States? Where would you recommend visiting?

 

How to start a blog

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to start a blog, I'd have about $3. But if I had a dollar for every time someone asked Google how to start a blog, I'd be a millionaire. Literally!

So, after those three people asked me how to start a blog, I got to thinking; surely this would make a good blog post! I'm so passionate about blogging, why not share the love with others who are looking at getting into it too?! 

I have years of blogging experience, from starting and running a blog to working for a blogging agency and several companies who have worked with bloggers. I have also done countless hours of my research on it for my own purpose, and I want to share what I have learnt with others who are keen.

If you're looking for tips on how to start a blog, right from scratch, then this is a good place to start. If you already have a blog, stay tuned for further advice :)

Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started:

1. Pick a name

For me this was one of the hardest steps, and probably why it took me weeks to start my blog in the first place. There was more than one occasion I gave those "random name generators" a go, I'm ashamed to admit. You kinda need to do this first so you can sort out your URL, but you can always change it later on. 

You're not stuck with your blog name, but try and pick one that you're really happy with as it can be a hassle to change later on, and you want your audience to be able to remember you and find you easily. 

When choosing a blog name, keep in mind that you want people to remember it easily and be able to find it on social etc, but you also may want to make it obvious what your blog is about. My friend is beautylust.co.nz, it's pretty clear that her blog is going to be about beauty, and because she bought a local domain (.co.nz), it's easy for other New Zealanders to identify that her content will be relevant to them. Mine, on the other hand, is perhaps less obvious than many other names, but I think it has a certain ring to it. Plus, I hate alliteration. 

There's no hard and fast rule around names, so it's up to you whether you want to choose one that's memorable, unique, quirky or whatever else. If you're uncertain, think on it for a week and see if you still like it.

2. Choose a platform

If you just want to try this blogging thing on for size, start with a free site on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. These allow you to get up and running with the basics, but your URL will be www. your name .wordpress.com or www. your name .blogspot.com. It's not too hard to move up later on, but I'm incredibly lazy so just went straight in and bought a Squarespace site after my old blog with Wordpress fell through.

If you want to commit to a blog for the long run, I would suggest you get a site with Wordpress.org or Squarespace.com. With Wordpress, you are able to do heaps of customisation and there a plenty of things called plug-ins and widgets which help you improve your site. The downside I found, is that it takes a fair bit of research into all these different things, and then you have to find a good host for your site (the easiest way I found to think about hosting is to imagine that they're your landlord, but for the internet instead of a house) and you will have to buy your domain name yourself. Squarespace also gives you heaps of freedom but those last two things are done for you once you've signed up and started paying. 

3. Find your style

I personally find this one really important, trying to decide the look and feel of your blog. When I worked for a blogging agency I would wince every time I came across an ugly blog. Maybe that sounds superficial, but people have short attention spans these days and you want to give a potential reader every incentive to stick around and read your content.

As in so many situations in life, your first impression is very important. 

Wordpress have heaps of options for free "themes" that you can choose for your blog, or you have the choice to pay for better ones when you want a bit more flexibility and options. Squarespace give you access to all its "templates" which I think are stunning and give you heaps of flexibility to edit. Wordpress also have nice ones too but the free ones aren't as good and there are literally hundreds to choose from, which can be draining! 

3. Decide which social media channels will work for you and get your handles ASAP

How to start a blog Instagram

I will do another post about how to choose the channels that are best for you, but consider what you think you can keep up with and what will benefit your blog and brand. Sometimes less is more, especially if you don't have time to dedicate to running them. My main ones are Facebook and Instagram, but I focus mostly on my Instagram as I'm quite visual and I love the simplicity of it. 

Social media is a great way to get eyeballs on your site. There's also SEO which is paramount to your site's visibility with search engines, but baby steps for now. Social media is a good place to start as most people are already pretty fluent in it, or at least proficient enough to get their friends and family to notice them. 

Once you have your blog name it's a good idea to lock in your social accounts to ensure you get the handles you want. 

4. Think about who you are and who you are talking to

This will also get you thinking about what you want to achieve with your blog. Are you writing to fellow travellers to inspire their journeys? Are you creating a blog to house extra information about makeup, that you think would compliment your beauty vlogging? Do you want to provide other parents with helpful reviews of baby food?

I used to have a blog that I classed as "fashion, beauty and lifestyle", because I worked for a fashion event in New Zealand, but I actually don't love fashion that much, and I certainly don't have the best sense of style around. I didn't particularly enjoy it, and I had no idea who I was creating content for; if I didn't love my content, why would anyone else? So, it was no surprise when I lost interest and it fizzled out. I still cringe when I think about it! 

Don't forget to get a clear idea of yourself and why you are blogging. There are thousands of blogs out there, so what makes your one unique and valuable to a potential reader?  

5. Start writing

Once you've got your blog up and running, you could spend hours stressing over little details and getting everything perfect, but don't let that distract you from what you're really here for. Just start writing. There's no point having a fancy new website to show your friends if there's nothing on it!

Spend a good few hours coming up with headlines and potential topics that will get you going, and then work from there. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. 

You started this blog for a reason, time to let the world know what that is! 

Images: Unsplash

Fiji & Springbreak highlights video

Yeah, I know it has been a wee while since I was in Fiji (OK, maybe a long while), but after tossing up whether or not to post my video, I've decided I will. Bit of a waste to take so much footage and not use it! So, here goes:

Check out my full blog post on the experience here.

Fiji video