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Hotel Alternatives

Travelling is such a wonderful retreat. Whether we love adventure or just a quiet time away, we love getting on a plane, a bus, in a car and just going.  These days, in this economy, we want the most out of our money without it costing an arm and a leg. We want the Taj Mahal at a hostel price–well you know what I mean.

The truth of the matter is, hotels can be crazy expensive.

Sometimes you book your hotel and it cost more than your flight and you think, wow, I just cranked out three grand for a place to stay for three days, paid close to two grand for the flight here and to go home and now I have to find money for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

What gives?

Okay, so this article is to give you a few alternatives to the expense of a hotel.  Hostels will not be included (for now) in this article because that requires more research on my end.

The most obvious alternative is Camping. If you are the outdoor type and you like sleeping in a tent etc, then try this alternative. No, you can’t just set up a tent in the middle of nowhere or anywhere you wish and just go to sleep. You have to find reputable camp sites. I’m not much of a camper myself but you can try this site for information or try the Ontario Camp Site website.

If you are travelling within Ontario, try a bed and breakfast, especially if you’re just staying for a night then hitting the road again the next day. B and B Canada is a good resource to find a bed and breakfast that is licensed.  Personally, I’ve used this website twice, once for my birthday weekend away in June of 2012 with a couple of friends and my sister and once again for my road trip in August with my friend. So far I have yet to be disappointed.

The Bed and Breakfast alternative is inexpensive and they not only give you a bed, but they give you breakfast in the morning and cut down on expenses in that respect.  Try not to stay at one in the centre of town (if you have a car) since those cost more. And as usual, Research the B and B before you book your room(s).

Today, many people have investment properties. Rather than left the property sit and turn to dust or lease the property out, many have the idea to use it as a rental home for vacationers. It’s only a bit cheaper than a hotel and some allows you to cook your own food. I have been doing some research on this alternative and so far I’ve found two really good websites Airnub and Home Away  I have yet to use these sites for my accommodations, but go and look around and make your own decisions.

Kadian

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Cuba – Pt. 2

After weeks of orientations, Spanish Classes, ripping my hair out and doing my exams early, it was onward to Cuba. My mom helped me with packing, my father helped me with reminding me about the simple things like: If you go out with friends and leave your drinks at the table, do not drink it.  Do not get into a strange car (which makes only some sense since all cars in Cuba are strange cars), do not break any laws – Cuba is a communist country and I would NOT survive their prison and the big one was, do not talk anything political–that is not why you’re there.

The flight down was your typical flight only there was a different kind of excitement in me. It wasn’t the happy I got when I was going to Jamaica. It was the kind of happy that made me want to flail, scream, run along the aisle of the plane (which since 9-11 you must never do) but I sat still and freaked out about the queasiness in my head as the plane rose and dropped altitude. Finally, we landed in Cuba. Going through customs wasn’t a pain like it is in other places. We joined a line behind a red line and waited our turn. Then we entered this little area, stood back and handed over our passport.

YAY! Survived flight! Kadian, in Cuba, 2012.

They asked us a couple of questions, read our passport, handed us this piece of paper. Once that was done, they welcomed us to Cuba, in amazing English, and told us to go through the other door. We waited a couple of minutes for our bags but that wasn’t any big deal. The first issue arose for me when I used the bathroom and there was no toilet paper. *gasp*

*shrugs* Big deal. I used the bathroom, stayed there a little longer than normal, and then washed my hands and exited to join the rest of the group.  Before I go any further I must speak with you about our amazing, fantabulous, overly awesome guy, Ron from the Urban Farmer. This man worked so hard for us. He translated everything because even though I speak Spanish, when the Cubans are ready to really speak–they are like a The Flash. He ensured we had a place to stay, all our food was made, laundry got done, our ride around the country was set up, meeting all the farmers, going to a baseball game, finding the mall–he was invaluable to us.  I wanted to take him home but someone explained to me there were laws against that *sigh* So alas, I had to go home without the Urban Farmer.

Back on track.

The water along the road from the Airport to Varedero

Our ride from the airport into Varedero was a mgic school bus.  Yes my friends, we were rollin’ down the street, takin’ pictures, sipping on water and juice – with our minds on our Cuba and Cuba on our minds in a yellow school bus. Why is this bus important? It is called the Peace Bus and was donated to the centre we were working with by American and Canadian entities.

You could not believe how happy I was. In my mind all I kept thinking was “OMG! I’m in Cuba!” While snapping pictures of everything.

I took videos and pictures but most importantly I was just trying desperately to soak it all in.  Our driver, for the life of me I cannot remember his name, but he was amazing. He refitted the magic school bus with amazing novelty horns. But most importantly, he had amazing music playing like Barry White and John Lennon and we didn’t care but we burst out singing, at the top of our lungs. Our bus even got mooned by a half drunk groom to be from their bus speeding by ours toward Varedero….Oh, good times that — Not!

Colourful homes lined part of the way, followed by fields and part of the way the ocean. The wind was

Casa Del Carino – Our house in Cuba

blowing over my face and through my hair and I couldn’t remember being happier. I was in a communist country, six hours away from my home and I was over the moon. I had this smile on my face others probably thought made me nuts but I didn’t care.

We didn’t stay at a resourt. We stayed at CERESE or what the locals lovingly called it Casa De Carino. You would NOT believe this place. The beach was right across the road. Around the property were markets that you can buy little knick-knacks for friends to take home and the mall was a little five minute walk away. This place is in the perfect location that gave us the best of all the world around us.  The women and men working here treated us with the utmost respect and always had a smile that did something to me.  Each morning I woke up and got dressed for breakfast I was looking forward to see them. These were strangers and I couldn’t wait to see them again. Breakfast was lovely. The food was better than food I’d ever had in a foreign country. Everything was freshly made from the juice to the bread.  I didn’t have soda the whole time I was there and I didn’t miss it at all.

Our table set up partially for breakfast

Every morning we woke up, I would fill my water bottle for the day because newsflash, CUBA IS HOT! lol.  I would stop to take pictures of the table. I took pictures of every meal I had before I start eating and after I finish eating. Strange–yes I know–but I love to see how much food I ate… especially when the food is yummy.

Note – Food is always a touchy subject. For example people are picky eaters, allergic to stuff, just don’t like other things or couldn’t be caught dead eating other things.

If you are an overly picky eater, Cuba may not be the place for you. Or if it is, you may want to stay at a resort. A Casa De Particular (as they call them) is not for you. Resorts ensure you have food you know and are used to. If you are not adventurous with your food, stay on a resort. With where we stayed, we were eating everything. One night we had fish. It was a LARGE salmon caught that day, backed with herbs and spices along with rice and black beans with soup, fresh fruit juice, plantains and a kind of root that they fried with a sprinkling of salt.

Very very yummy!

Kadian

**Please note, all pictures contained in this post was taken by me.

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Accommodations

Not all of us can afford the Burj Al Arab hotel. But we all want to stay in a place we can be proud of and take pictures of to show off on facebook. Most of the times we don’t put that much thought in a place to stay when we travel for we believe as long as we have a place to lay our head, everything should be fine. We often assume when we show up it is going to be some grand palace with everything being perfect.

This is not always the case. This is where your research comes in handy.

In today’s day and age where the internet is such a large part of our life, we fail to use it when it counts the most. Travelling is such a big deal and it is often times so expensive that we really should take great care we are getting what we paid for and that we are satisfied with it all.

Your accommodations becomes your home away from home. You have to be comfortable in it. You do not want roaches running around, doors falling off, windows creaking at night in the wind. You especially do not want horrible food – if you chose to go all inclusive.

© Yanik Chauvin | Dreamstime.com

Research your accommodation on the internet.  Find out what people are saying. If there are just one or two reviews, find somewhere else. Read through all the reviews carefully and see what other visitors are saying. Sometimes they are being mean but other times it is the truth. If a place has one too many horrid reviews, stay clear of it. So many people couldn’t be incorrect or malicious. Find a place that has a great deal of detailed reviews. People who are serious about reviewing take time to properly write them. Read through as many of them as you can (if not all of them) and pick sense from the nonsense.

Visit the accommodation’s website and poke around. Spend the few dollars it takes to call these places and speak with people.  This will be worth it in the long run.

If you chose a bed and breakfast and you live in Canada, check out Bed and Breakfast Canada this website has a few criterias that I like. One being in order for the B and B to be listed on the site it has to

  • Licensed by municipal or provincial government where applicable

So find out if your province or municipality and there’s require licensing. (I recommend going to a place where their B and B require licensing). This website has maps and tons of information on where you want to go. I would not recommend using a bed and breakfast in another country as their laws and requirements are so different than our own.

Renting Condos seems to be the newest fad and I will be writing on that at some point but please, again, research. There are plenty of people all over the world offering condos for rent for vacation stays. There are also plenty of people out there ripping others off. Be extremely careful. If they ask you to send them a deposit be sure its in a manner easily traceable. One website that helps you find a place to stay is Home Away.  Though I’ve been bumming around this side for about a year now, I have yet to use this website to find a vacation home so I cannot recommend or not recommend. I say go through it, look around and make an educated decision. Do not send cash or your credit card number and pin to anyone if they ask.

Kadian

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Cuba – Pt 1. The Dream!

When I graduated college for the first time, I was ready to work. But before that I was gushing because I was planning on going to Cuba with my then best friend. Now, the thought of getting on a plane and going to a country that hablan Espanol was amazing to me because it had been years since I’ve used my Spanish and I was losing the ability to do so.  Then wouldn’t you know it, she backed out at the last minute on me!

I was furious!

Photography – Google Images

You have to understand–I was going to college a good nine hour by Greyhound away from my home, family, friends and one of the only things that got me through being in this small, cold town was the thought I was going to be going to Cuba once I survived it. Sure I was being a tad dramatic but come on! I had a perfect GPA for four semesters! I graduated with honours! I deserved Cuba!

Needless to say we didn’t end up going. She flaked on me three more times after that until in 2012 I was hell bent on going with someone or alone. Of course my parents didn’t want me picking up and going to a communist country by myself, but I was tired of depending on people.

Wait, let’s stop right here and adress something. Try not to travel alone or with friends who constantly drink too much to know which way is up – Why? With these friends you’re liable to end up in a jail cell in –let’s say–Singapore facing a sentence of life or 90 lashes.

Anyways, so I practically gave up on Cuba until I graduated University with a B.A and started working a job that had nothing to do with my field.  After a year of wanting to pull my hair out I decided enough was enough–one more kick at the post secondary education can. The new college I started has this thing about international learning. They believe you not only learn about/and how to protect your country and your community but you have to learn about/protect the world–the Global Village.

I stopped and read the posters and my eyes bulged! Right there in big blue letters it said it – CUBA! I couldn’t believe my luck.  I applied and the wait began.

The first wait was for them to reply telling me if they recieved the application. The second wait was for them to tell me I was being considered. The third wait was for them to short list me for an interview and the fourth wait came for them to tell me if I made it onto the list to go to Cuba.

Think about it! After years of wanting to go to Cuba, willing to pay for it, here I was being offered a chance to go and not have to pay anything! I waited, checking my email almost a hundred times daily. Whenever my phone rang my heart would do this crazy, leap, twist-ie thing that drove me nuts.

Then one day, I was at the gym jamming out to Big Bang and speed walking the threadmill. The girl on the machine beside me poked me with a lovely smile and told me my phone was ringning. I missed the call and called them back. To my shock, it went to the main line and I was freaking out.  The moment I got off, my phone beeped the Go Go Power Ranger sound (because I was a huge nerd back in the day–still am.) and told me I had a message. It was my school –telling me congratulations because they are proud to inform me that I was going to Cuba.

……..*blinks*……

What?

I hung up. Breathed. Dailled my voicemail again.

They were telling me congratulations and that I was going to Cuba.

I screamed.

Think about it. I was in a crowded gym, with a bunch of people and screaming. After the scream came flailing. I was 28 years old and flailing like a moron trying not to scream again.  When everyone went back to what they were doing while eyeing me with expressions that said “OooooK, crazy person” I took a breath, got back on my machine and called mom.

Kadian

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Road Trip – Ariba!

Twenty Dollar Bill – Photograph by Foxy Girl – Dreamstime.com

Perhaps its a girl’s right of passage or something equally as nerdy, but at a certain age, every girl has this urge to get a girlfriend, or two, get enough junk food to feed a small nation, get in a car, gas it up and burn rubber to nowhere in particular. Maybe you did plan this trip or maybe it was just a whim but either way you have your best girl power tunes (including Cyndi Lauper’s Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun – of course) blaring, sunglass blinging, windows down with the wind blowing through your hair.

But there are so many things to consider before you can speed off down the road, honking the horn while holding your hat out the window screaming, “Aribaaaaa!”

First, everything we do in this world cost money. It’s sad but it’s true. Everything we do, even when we think it’s free. So the first thing you need is a little money for the necessities–food, place to stay, gas, etc.

You have to figure out where you want to go. After all, just getting in your car and driving isn’t necessarily the right way to go especially if you just got your license and every time you take the keys your parents have a small stroke.

Think of where you will be staying once you get there. When my friend and I went on a lovely road trip to Southern Ontario (Port Rowan, Turkey Point, Port Dover etc) there was an outbreak of Tick – so camping was so out off the list. I guess what I’m trying to say is, do your research.

With the internet these days you can basically see what the city/town you’re going to look like with google earth.  Plug in the address etc and see what’s around your accommodation. Don’t just take their word for it. Find out where you can eat, go dancing, go to a library, see a tourist attraction, walk along a beach, go to a festival…see how close or how far these things are from where you’re staying.

Photography by Dainis Deric – Dreamstime.com

Oh and just because a website say there’s a Bed and Breakfast on Timbuktu Road in some random small town you’ve never heard of – doesn’t mean there’s a bed and breakfast on Timbuktu road in the middle of the random town you’ve never heard of. Look it up. Call them. Make sure it is what it is.

Consider where you wish to go, I repeat, and how long it will take to get there.  So get a piece of paper and begin writing. You’ve decided you want to go to X place and it will take Y time to get there. Now, which of your friends can you spend time with in your car for Y amount of time without wanting to strangle them?

Might I suggest taking someone who like the same music you do. Why do I say that? Think about it. If you like listening to Metallica and the person you chose loves listening to Enya? Or if you like South Korean Pop and they like English Rap?  You’re in for a world of drama.

Why music? Because there is only so much talking a few people can do before they want to head a desk in bored frustration.

What vehicle are you taking? If you’re leasing your car you don’t want to drag it on the highway on a road trip. So maybe you have to rent one. Do you have at least a G2 (in Ontario) with a clean driving record and a credit card? There are many things you have to consider. Perhaps one of your friends have a diesel car and is willing to drive providing you chip in for gas (my friend has a diesel car. Didn’t know what that meant until she told me lol–very VERY good on gas).  Which ever you chose, chose wisely my friend, because the vehicle could make or break the trip.

Make sure you have a map or a reliable GPS (a recently updated GPS). Again, example from my road trip, our GPS was pretty good except when it took us through some backwoods, dirt road, in the middle of a forest. I am not exaggerating here. We turned off onto this road and it was dirt. We looked at each other just before I freaked and pulled out my camcorder just in case the trip turned into the horridly made Blair Witch Project. I was not impressed.

But we slowly made it through the path and ended up on an actual road that had an amazing view of Lake Eerie. Looking behind us we realized the GPS gave us a horrible short cut because if we’d continued along the road we were on, we could have cut out the heart-attack and just gone the long way around. But I digress.

Even if you don’t know how to read a map, you should be able to caliberate a GPS to take you where you want to go.

So now you have your destination, a little money, a car, music and a readily available GPS all you need now is the right junk food. Make sure you pack water –not only juice. I mean juice is yummy but an overload on sugar can put you to sleep. You want to be awake and alert for the ride. Toss in some grapes, strawberries, trail mix – things you can just dip your hand in and shove into your mouth. You don’t want complicated food to distract you.

There are so many more pointers I could give you–like make frequent stops. Because you’re driving doesn’t mean you’re superman(woman) so you need breaks.

Take a shower before you get in the car. You’re going to be in a confined space with other people, B.O is not a good thing.

Leave early enough to avoid mad traffic. Have you ever been stuck on the 401 at 8 in the morning? Not pretty.

Don’t break the speed limit. Take your time, adhere to all laws. We don’t want you and your friends to wind up in the same scenario as the cast of Sienfeld in the final episode. And you don’t want to end your trip with any added expense of tickets or fines.

Be calm along the ride. Rock out to your amazing beats – because chances are the long ride and people cutting you off are going to drive you batty.

So breathe.

Mastering the art of the Road Trip is not something you can do over night. No no, it takes lots and lots of practise. But have fun doing it.

Kadian

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Hello world!

Lao Tzu says…A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. So, welcome to my single step.

Photography by Arnon Ayal – Dreamstime.com

My name is Kadian and I dream of travelling. That’s how everything starts, right? Someone has a dream or a kick of inspiration. My mother calls it “bitten by the travel bug.”

My reason for this urgent need to travel? I adore culture. I am such a nerd, I would sit in the library reading books on China. I know obscure details about some cultures that make people look at me as if I lost my mind. But while they laugh at me in my nerd-dom, I am perfectly fine and dandy.

I love knowing things. I love knowing the Great Wall of China was built to keep out the Mongols. I love knowing that Emperor Nero was a few screws short of a toolbox and tried to burn Rome down, I love knowing that Guy Faux was some dude who tried to blow up British Parlaiment. I love knowing what Holi is. What about the Chinese Dragons?

Sure, I can read a book. I love reading books! But I want to see where these things are or took place. I want to walk amongst the people, smell the air, see smiles or confusion as to why there’s a Jamaican walking down the street in some remote village in Botswana!

Anyways, I don’t want to get carried away. I am hoping you will enjoy this blog as much as I hope I will enjoy writing. Please come back again soon.

Hugs,
Kadian