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How to plan a longer trip step by step

As someone who obviously enjoys travelling I tend to lean more towards longer trip, which for me means 1+months. There are many ways to travel for extended periods of time, including studying abroad, volunteering or saving money and just taking time off, but I will cover that in another post. Now it is time to talk about planning!

1.Financial aspect and deciding the destination.

Most of us have to think about the financial aspect of travelling and it can impact the destination we chose to visit. So if you want to backpack South East Asia on a budget you may want to consider destinations like Thailand, Cambodgia and Laos rather than Singapore. Whenever I plan a trip I try to make a list of the main costs so I can approximate how much money I will need. (this is only an approximation and other costs will most certainly appear, so make sure you have extra money).

The list includes:

Cost of transportation (plane tickets, train form the airport to the city, public transportation, inter-city buses and trains, uber and taxis). I use SkyScanner to get the best prices for plane tickets, local sources and travel blogs for other transportation costs

Cost of accomodation (hotel, hostel, BnB). I use Booking to get an idea about what the prices are and how much I can get for my money.

Cost of food. There are so many amazing food vloggers/bloggers that can help you get familiar with the food and the check you should expect at the end of the meal.

Activities. (Museums, touristic objectives, sports, natural parks, food tours, etc). We travel because we want to learn and explore, so we have to plan our holiday taking into account possible activities and places to visit.

Shopping and going out. Vacantion is me-time, just do not forget to also consider this expenses.

2. Tickets and accomodation

To get a good deal you have to be flexible and book in advance. Sadly I tend to make impulsive decisions more often than not. For exemple I decided on a friday that I wanted to go visit Bratislava over the weekend. While I was reading about the city I found a blog that recommended Wild Elephants Hostel. The author of the blog said that it was the best hostel he stayed at, so I had to try it. As you can notice from the picture above it is a lovely party-hostel, and I had so much fun in there, but as I booked last minute I eneded up paying 35 euros for just one night in a shared room.

Also last-minute planet tickets are more expensive, so try to book your flight a month or two in advance.

3.Route

Of course on a longer trip you are more likely to try and visit more than one place. Make sure to decide the route and how much time you want to spend in each place so you can plan the local activities and book whatever you need.

4. Downloading travel apps

Make sure to download all the apps you need to get by. Download the area you are going to on google maps, download the local language on the google translate app and maybe some podcasts on Spotify. Other apps that might help are transportation apps like Uber, Grab, 12Go Asia or FlixBus, aeroport apps and airline apps are a must for discounts and mobile banking apps from your bank and Revolut.

5. Packing

The best traveling advice I can give to anyone is pack light. I learned the hard way that is not a good ideea to carry a huge suitcase weighting 20 kg on the hilly pedestrain-only streets of Jerusalem. Since the day I roamed around for 2 hours with that suitcase I decided I am going to be a backpacker. I started a bit bigger, but the 20 L backpack in the picture is what I used for a month in South East Asia. That bad boy can fit a lot of clothes if you pack the the right way ( roll them).

Another tip is to always have a fanny pack with your passport ( and/or copy), money, visa and a pen you can use for paperwork at the airport or accomodation.

If you want to buy souvenirs or just some gifts for yourself while on your trip make sure to save some space in you luggage for that.

6. Enjoy your trip!

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Travelling during Covid-19 pandemic. Local travelling tips and ideas.

Most of us were affected by this international crisis, and some of us went through drastic changes in their day to day life so travelling for most people is not a priority anymore. There are many reasons why more and more people choose to travel locally or not at all, starting from lack of money and the fact that an economic crisis could hit anytime now, to the fact that travelling could be dangerous for yourself and others. (but travelling doesn’t have to be expensive and with the right precautions you can travel safely). Personally I decided to avoid international travel this year and focus on exploring Romania, a hard change for someone that used to travel interationally around 3 months a year. But I was lucky enough to come back from Asia before the situation got worst, and even travel to Cyprus in february before any borders were closed. Also I am lucky because my country, Romania, has everything from mountains to the sea, from big cities to small traditional villages and from modern resorts to historic sites. Now that the situation is getting worst here, travelling even in Europe is harder for us, and most of the time not worth it. Anyhow, no matter what you choose to do you must respect the social distancing rules in order to save lifes and even the tourism industry, as a new lockdown will certainly destory lots of businesses. In this post I decided to recommend some affordable family owned businesses in Romania, as they need our help during this hard time while also presenting travel ideas that can be adapted to any country.

Local Travel

Romania was in lockdown from march to may, so all the hotels, restaurants and bars were closed (as in a lot of other countries), but from june they started to reopen and the „new normal” phase started. Sadly I was busy during june writing my dissertation, so travelling for me was out of the question, but after I graduated my master’s degree I was finally free to roam around. So here is my july travel itineary that will hopefuly give you some ideas for local travelling:

  1. Guest house with a pool

I am based in Cluj-Napoca, and after a few months of HORRIBLE weather when we finally had some sunny days and we decided to spend some time in nature by the pool, so a guest house in a village near our city was an obvious choice. We did not really visit anything here but just relaxed, drank some cold ones and ate good food. If you are looking for a chill weekend in the Romanian countryside, Oaza Apuseilor is a great choice.

2. History and nature

The next stop for me was another relaxing trip, this time a bit further away in Hunedoara County, more precisely the area called „Țara Hațegului”. I might be subjective about this, as I have a lot of memories in this area and had so much fun here, but for me this is one of the most beautiful places in Romania. It has a rich history and some of the most importat archaeological sites in Romania ( Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Sarmizegetusa Regia and the dacian fortresses of the Orăștie Mountains which are UNESCO world heritage sites), beautiful nature (Retezat Muntain) and amazing traditional food. We were based in Sarmizegetusa, as one of my best friends from university lives here, but we did travel around quite a bit. We did not need accomodation as we stayed at her house, but if you want to spend some time in the area I wholeheartedly recommend Pension Zamolxe, a family owned business with a huge outdoors space, where you can either camp or rent a room. Also I want to talk a bit about our intinerary as we had no time to get bored. Ofcourse our first stop was at the archaeological site, as we both worked there as part of our studies. (and we love that place).

My favourite part of this trip was for sure the sausage factory in Sălașul de Jos. In this area they make a special kind of sausage called „Virșli” made of either sheep or goat meat. There is no point in describing the taste, but you HAVE TO try it. The only thing I have to add is that you can also drink a cold beer while you try the sausages and at the factoy we visited they had two lovely Jack Russell Terries, so this might just be the happiest place on earth.

As we arrived a little early for the sausage factory we decided to also visit Mălăiești Fortress, which is a short drive from Sălașul de Jos. The fortress has 3 phases, the oldest one from the 14th century and it was abandoned in the 17th century. It only takes about half an hour to visit it, but if offers an amazing view and when we went there ( july 2020) it also had an outdoor art exhibition.

Also another activity we did was mushroom picking in the forest near Sarmizegetusa. We had an amazing time (and ate some tasty meals after) but I would not recommend going without somone that really knows which mushrooms are edible as otheriwise is a really dangerous endeavour.

As this was quite a busy trip we also went to Densuș, another beautiful village in the area. This time we did not visit the famous Saint Nicolas Church as we have all been there before, but if it is your first time there make sure you go and check it out as it is one of the oldest churches in Romania and it is made using materials from the roman capital of Dacia, all in all it is an amazing sight. Anyway, as I said we did not go there for the church but for a tasty cauldron meal made with beef and the mushrooms we picked earlier.

With this ended my trip to Țara Hațegului and it was time to visit my parents in Pitești. I was lucky enough that most of my friends from back home were also visting their parents so in no time we started planning our next adventures.

3. Going to the mountains

I think one of the safest places to travel right now is in nature and we are lucky enough to live just one and a half hours away from Iezer-Păpușa Mountains. Here you can either camp for free, or go to one of the cottages in the area. We choose the second option and went to Cuca Cottage. We hand an amazing time there, made campfires every night, cooked delicious food, listened to people playing live music and explored the area. As I was not prepared for this trip (left my boots back home) we did not attempt hiking to Păpușa peak (2391 m), but if you have appropriate gear you should defently try this 4 hour hike. Also if you come here in july you should look around for wild strawberries .

4. Camping with friends

I know camping is not for everyone, but I have to say that I love a good camping trip. Normally I go camping every summer at the sea side, but this year I decided not to go, as it is really busy and risky. Also becuase of the lockdown and the new rules we did not go to any parties in months, so we decided to also bring some speakers and dance a little. What is more fun than a few good friends camping and enjoying music in nature ? For this we choose a spot in Argeș County, just a short drive from our home town, in an area I presented before in my „Off the beaten path” series.

Right now we are all going through some tough times, and we need to take care of ourselfs and people around us while still enjoying life. So be safe, travel resposibly and if you can help small businesses in your area.

Hello world, let me introduce myself!

I guess it is only appropriate to start this new journey by talking a bit about myself and what I want to achive with this blog. Let’s start in the present and then go back to where it all started. My name is Maria, I am a 24 years old (soon to be) archaeologist, based (for now) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. But now , because of the Coronavirsu pandemic, like a lot a people around the world I am stuck in my hometown with lots of time to remember the days when „the grass was greener and the light was brighter”.

Because I had so much time to reflect on the past I started wandering where it al started. Why do I love traveling so much? What is it that makes me want to spend my last penny on a trip rather than buying something nice? Why do I have the guts to jump on a plane to the other side of the world all alone? And most of all, why do I find it strange when people seem to think it is an act of courage rather than something completely normal ?

To answer all this questions I guess we have to go backto where it all started, my first trip. Actually, my second trip. My first trip was back in 2005 (so I was 10) in Austria. And of course I loved it! Just think about it, take a child that barely left their hometown and let the roam around Vienna during Chrstimas, I was mesmerized! The lights, the colours, the food, the smells, everything was new and amazing. But I feel like the stepping stone for me was my trip to Crete, Greece. There where a lot of firsts on that trip. First time flying, first time on an island, first time traveling around by car, first time visiting ancient ruins. And looking back on it I feel that those two trips kinda shaped my trivel wishlist till this day!

Me, back in 2006, discovering the ancient city of Knossos and my love for archaeology.
Back in the day as a Romanian we used to get visas when traveling around Europe. Don’t wanna seem ungrafeul for my right of movement, but I would love some kind of memento of when and where I traveled in my passport.

Advancing a little further into my travel timeline, to my first trips outside Europe, and that is Tunisia (2007) and Egypt (2009), I can’t seem to get over the fact that I was so lucky to first discover Northern Africa as a child. Not only because it is so different from what I was used to, whitch I think led me to me a more tolerant and open minded person, but also because it is such a magical place. Traveling on the Nile, seeing the majestic temples still standing, hearing all the stories about pharaonic period, it was like living in a fairytale. I guess that was the point when I realised there is so much more to this world than I thought before.

Mother and I enjoying this amazing view over Cairo.

Now, before everyone gets bored, I feel like I have to talk about one of my favourite coutries in Europe, and the place where I grew as a person and where I learned a lot about traveling and about myself: Czech Republic. I first went to Prague in 2012, and I had the same feeling I had about Budapest, it was so beautiful that it seemed unreal. I mean I saw gothic buildings before, but Prague is something else. Still this si not the trip I want to talk about, but my second time in Czech Republic, back in 2017. So this is after finishing my second year at uni, when I decided to apply for an Erasmus Placement and luckly I got accepted, so I moved to Hradec Králové for the summer. This is the first time I realised I can be independent and do the things I really wanna do. Living in an international environment changed me as a person. Actually staying in the same building with other people form all around the world and working with some of them facilitated communication, and because of that I got to learn a lot about them, and about the places they come from, and also got to visit Poland for the first time, thanks to my polish friends, which were nice enough to host us and show us around. (Lukas and Sylvia, if you read this, I miss you guys, and thank you for the good times we had.). Another important event that summer is my first solo trip! (hurray!). I remember it like it was yesterday. I really wanted to go to Dresden one weekend but all my colleagues had planned a trip to Terezín which was a concentration camp during WWII. For some reason I was really stuck on the idea of going to Germany, but no one wanted to join me, so in the morning we were supposed to go to Terezín, I woke up, booked a hotel in Dresden, took the first train to Prague, then jumped in another one to Dresden and that was it. It was easy, it was fun and I gotta do it my way.

Enjoying a beer in the beautiful city of Wrocław with my fellow archaeologists.
Taking pictures while traveling alone is a hassle, I am still trying to perfect that craft. (Dresden, 2017)

Since my Dresden trip, I traveled solo to 10 more countries, and God knows how many cities, and I fell in love with it! A lot of people wonder why. Some assume I have no friends, or even worst, that I hate being around people, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am lucky enough to have friends all over Romania and the world, and every time I travel I get the chance to gather a few more. I love my friends, and I do enjoy traveling with them, but I also love meeting new people, which is way easier when you travel alone.

My lovely friend Sandy and I having a blast in Tel Aviv after meeting on the excavation at Tel Qedesh
My crew from back home on New Year’s Eve in Bansko.
My Erasmus buddies and I in the wrong train station, hoping that we will get home that night.
Bangkok hostel gang, a few minutes before we saw the king of Thailand.
And that time we took the boat in the wrong direction and ended up seeing a good chunk of Bangkok for just 17 bath, with two amazing humans.
My girl Viktoria and I doing our Christmas photoshoot in the craziest most amazing pool ever, with a lovely view over Kuala Lumpur.

But enough about the past, let’s talk about the future. Because I had the chance to see so many beautiful places and meet so many intresting people, I decided I had to try and tell their stories. I want to share my travel itineraries and tell you about the places I love the most. In part because I feel that at this point I have enough experience with traveling and I can give good tips and trick, but also because I don’t want to ever forget it. Also because I miss and admire the people you saw above, and a lot more I did not get to mention now, I want to start a series of interviews so you all get the chance to meet them, learn about their travels and hopefuly like them as much as I do. And last but not least, I wanna talk about food. I don’t know abut you, but whenever I get home from trip, it is not long until I start missing the local food. So I will talk about the best street food places ( sorry, I am not fancy) and how to recreate that food at home.

So guys, if you made it this far, I wanna thank you, and I hope you will enjoy future posts. And to my friends, I miss you all, and after the world gets back to normal, we need to meet again!