Far from the Maddening Crowd – 10 Alternative Vacation Spots this Summer

We love summer holidays, and we think it is the perfect time to explore new places and alternative vacation spots that are less known and less crowded. Get away from the crowds of sunburnt tourists and over-crowded campsites with our list of 10 alternative vacation spots for the summer holidays.

  1. Budapest, Hungary

With a rich history, beautiful architecture, lively nightlife, incredible food and an abundance of thermal baths to relax and recover in, Budapest is a quirky alternative summer holiday destination. Visit for the breath-taking views and sacred wonders combined with lively terraces, beautiful parks and lavish spas this city has to offer. Being bored is definitely not an option in this lively Hungarian city that needs to be on your summer holiday list.

 

  1. Segovia, Spain

Segovia, Spain is a place of romance and history. The ancient Roman aqueduct, fairy-tale castle, awe-inspiring cathedral, exquisite Romanesque churches, and mystical monasteries make this a perfect alternative to a crowded beach this summer. Read more about why we think this is a great place to visit in our blog post about visiting Segovia.

  1. Sylt, Germany

High up in the north of Germany, right on the border with Denmark, lies the remote North Sea island of Sylt. With high sand dunes, lush wide beaches and an abundance of wildlife, Sylt is a premier vacation spot that no one seems to have heard of. What were once ancient whaling villages, have now been turned into seaside resorts along the island’s pristine, sandy beach, that stretches for more than 40 km. Hire an old-fashioned canopied beach chair made of hardwood and wicker, and lined with blue and white striped cloth and sit back and relax in this remote location this summer.

  1. Lisbon, Portugal

One of our favourite destinations, Lisbon is a lively and picturesque city filled with reminders of an incredible history. Castles, open-air markets, fantastic traditional foods and live music, this harbour side city will have you coming back for more. Read more about this fabulous city in our post 48 Hours in Lisbon

  1. Kyoto, Japan

Ancient temples, tea ceremonies, centuries-old craftsmanship, kimono-clad Geisha, and Zen gardens; Kyoto is the perfect polar opposite to a crowded beach holiday. Stay in a traditional Ryokan inn and experience the exceptional food, culture and flawless hospitality that Japan is so well known for.

  1. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Get up early to watch the sunrise above the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap then spend your days exploring this 12th century royal city complex. Cambodia is the perfect holiday destination for history buffs, foodies and adventurers, and Siem Reap is the cultural centre. Be amazed by the rich history of this region, while enjoying sumptuous spas, world-class dining and a unique cultural scene. This is one summer holiday you will never forget.

  1. New Zealand

If you really want to escape the summer crowds, why not take a skiing holiday on the other side of the world. Beautiful in any season, New Zealand is guaranteed to make you feel far from the maddening crowd. From skiing on picturesque snowy peaks, soaking in thermal hot pools, to visiting awe-inspiring glaciers, this country is packed with fantastic experiences around every corner. We spent a weekend in Wellington, New Zealand and declared it one of the world’s coolest little cities, read about it here.

  1. Fiji

This South Pacific paradise is the perfect getaway this summer. Made up of over 300 small islands, Fiji is the place to relax on beaches with the most perfect views this beautiful planet has to offer. Read more about escaping to paradise in our blog post here.

  1. Costa Rica

If you are looking for an eco-tourism destination this summer, our pick is Costa Rica. Home to the largest protected areas in the world this is the place to enjoy exotic wildlife, pristine beaches, rainforests and volcanoes. With 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, more than 1200 km of coastline and plenty of eco-conscious boutique hotels, Costa Rica is the perfect green choice for your summer holiday.

  1. Meno, Botswana

Forget camping in your usual holiday spot this year. Instead, enjoy a safari room in the Meno a Kwena Bush Camp in Botswana. Watch wildebeest, elephants and zebras wander by while you relax with a cocktail outside your tent. Follow the San Bushmen out on a guided walk or take a wildlife watching boat trip down the Boteti River. With only nine tents in this luxury safari camp, you don’t need to worry about crowds on this safari holiday!

Our planet offers so many incredible locations that are just waiting to be explored. Picking just one place to visit this summer is the hardest part. Where will you go first?

15 Ways to Green Your Morning Routine and Start Saving the Planet Before Lunchtime

By changing up just a few of our morning habits to environmentally friendly alternatives we can, collectively, make a difference for our planet. We have taken an honest look at some of our morning habits and found 15 relatively painless ways to adopt greener habits that you can implement today and reduce your ecological footprint before lunchtime.

  1. Wake up with a bright new start

Start your morning greener by checking the light bulbs in your kitchen and bathroom. Consider changing any old bulbs for energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. They are brighter, last longer and use much less energy.

  1. Stem the water waste

With the convenience of running water the norm in our societies, we forget that there are many around the world struggling to quench their thirst with a cup of clean water. To reduce the amount of clean water going down the drain think about taking a shorter shower this morning. This small habit change uses less water as well as less energy for heating.

  1. Eat Breakfast and change the world

Get in the habit of having a good breakfast each morning, rather than rushing out the door and grabbing something on the way to work. Eating breakfast at home reduces the amount of wasteful food wrappings you will be adding to the trash each day.

  1. Get Fruity and Veggie

For an even better start to your day, add some local fruit or vegetables to your breakfast. By eating locally produced food we can reduce the number of miles the food has had to travel to get to your plate. Not only will it be fresher and last longer, it has used far less energy to get to you.

  1. Plan A Change

While you are in the kitchen, why not plan a meat-free meal for dinner tonight. One pound of beef requires hundreds of gallons of water to produce. So, by eating a vegetarian meal at least once a week you will be greatly reducing your environmental impact.

  1. Switch up your Java.

If you are using the single-serving coffee pods for your morning coffee fix, consider switching to refillable pods or good old-fashioned brewed coffee. The pods are simply not recyclable and only add to the pile of trash we all produce daily.

  1. Pack a lunch.

Take lunch from home each day. You can wrap your lunch in reusable waxed cotton wraps or sandwich bags. Thus again reducing the number of wasteful food wrappers we throw away when buying lunch on the run. Bonus points if you also make lunch for your kids!

  1. Take your favourite cup to work

Bring your own coffee cup to work instead of using disposable cups. If you buy takeaway coffee also take your own cup. Many coffee shops will even give you a small discount for using your own cup.

  1. Save while you brush

Turn off the tap when brushing teeth. Simply by turning the tap off while we are brushing our teeth, we can all save around 20 litres of water per person per day.

  1. Skip the hot wash

Put your clothes on a cold wash cycle. Not only is washing your clothes with cold water good for preserving the quality of delicate fabrics and colours, it also saves energy!

  1. Hang them out to dry

When the washing is done, hang it all out to dry while you are at work. By drying your clothes naturally rather than in a spin drier your can save a lot of wasteful energy and reduce your energy bill as well.

  1. Don’t forget the trash

Before you head out the door for work, take out the trash but don’t forget to separate out any glass, plastic, electronics, clothing or paper. These can all go to be recycled. Make a point of finding out which days of the week recycled goods are collected or where the local drop-off points are.

  1. Bring your own bag everywhere

As you grab your bag to head out the door, also grab a reusable bag in case you drop by the supermarket on your way home. By bringing your own bag, you can avoid using single-use plastic shopping bags that are notorious for clogging our oceans and landfills.

  1. Lights are out when no one is home

Make sure you turn off all lights and electrical equipment when you leave the house. This includes any devices that might be on sleep mode – your computer, your TV and anything sitting on a charger. Put your home heating on a timer to only heat when you are at home. By turning everything off you can dramatically reduce the energy use of your home during the day.

  1. Energy saving commute

Last but not least, don’t overlook the opportunity to switch your daily commute to a greener alternative. Consider biking to work, car-pooling with others or taking public transport. All ways we can reduce the number of single occupant cars guzzling energy and clogging our highways every morning and evening.

The best thing about greening our morning routines is that we can begin each day in a more positive way for our planet! What a great incentive to get out of bed, so why not start this morning?

 

Addressing Biases and Creating a Culture of Compassion

We all know the world needs more compassion and kindness. We can all agree with the basic belief that everyone deserves to be accepted and loved for who they are inside. Kindness is not something that should be based on a colour, gender or sexual orientation. But sometimes our own biases can stand in the way of this becoming a reality.

One group of people who experience bias and prejudice are the LGBTQ* community. There has been a significant rise in the level of personal attacks the members of this community have had to endure recently. We think this is wrong, and we started to wonder what we could be doing about this growing level of discrimination towards people based on their sexual orientation. Like most changes, we know the change has to start with us.

Why are we so biased?

No one is born prejudiced or with a bias towards one group or another. Instead, these are patterns we are taught from a young age. From birth, we are inundated with messages about different types of people. We learn stereotypes and bias without even realising it. The LGBTQ community experience these subtle biases everywhere – anti-gay jokes, biased language and homophobic slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke”. They also experience outright discrimination – calling someone a derogatory name based on their sexual orientation, harassment and even physical assault.

These biases, subtle and overt, have the power to hurt and isolate people. Therefore we believe it is essential to identify any biases we are holding and challenge them. A compassionate, kind and inclusive world is one we need to build without bias.

Identifying our Biases

The following questions were created to highlight subtle biases that may exist in our thinking, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community. See if you can identify any surprising biases you hold.

  1. If someone were to come out to you as LGBTQ, what would your first thought be?
  1. How would you feel if your child came out to you as LGBTQ? How would you feel if your mother, father or sibling came out to you as LGBTQ?
  1. Would you go to a physician whom you thought was LGBTQ if they were of a different gender than you? What if they were the same gender as you?
  1. Have you ever been to an LGBTQ event? Why or why not?
  1. Have you ever laughed at or made a joke at the expense of LGBTQ people?
  1. Have you ever stood up for an LGBTQ person being harassed? Why or why not?
  1. If you do not identify as LGBTQ, how would you feel if people thought you were LGBTQ?

(questions sourced from Glsen.org)

Changing our Biases

The first step in change is recognizing the need to change. Likewise, in identifying biases we have held, we can see how these might have influenced our actions towards others. The more aware we are, the easier it is to ensure bias is not undermining the kindness we want to show, to everyone.

Kindness, inclusion and compassion are the keys to changing the world. And, remember even the smallest act of caring and compassion can send out ripples that reverberate through our communities. What will your act of kindness be today?

* LGBT or LGBTQ: An umbrella term referring to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. Sometimes the acronym is written as LGBTQ, with the “Q” referring to those who identify as queer and/or questioning. The acronym can also include additional letters, in reference to other identities that do not conform to dominant societal norms around sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

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36 Hours in Segovia – One of Spain’s Best-kept Secrets

The Telegraph recently published their 2018 travel destination list of Europe’s best-kept secrets to visit. Segovia, Spain was one of the places featured on this list, and so, we decided to find out for ourselves what makes this city so special.

This sleepy Castilian town dates back to the 2nd Century when the Romans made it a major outpost and built a towering aqueduct that still stands today. Segovia is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and has the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in Europe. Even more enticing, are the strange connections this city has to Christopher Columbus and Cinderella.

Stay in an old Convento

We suggest staying right in the heart of this beautiful little city and our pick is the Convento Capuchinos. A large 400-year-old estate right in the centre of the historical quarter, this hotel started life as a convent. Now considered one of Castilla’s most unique 5 –star hotels it is more about luxury than the austerity of its religious past. The rooms are elegant and spacious, and the service is impeccable.

Visit the Cinderella Castle with links to Christopher Columbus.

The Alcázar de Segovia stands in the centre of the city and is a royal palace built sometime around the 11th century. It was from this castle that Queen Isabel agreed to fully fund Christopher Columbus’ exploration of the New World. The castle is also renowned for being Walt Disney’s inspiration for his Cinderella’s Castle. This unique fairy tale-like palace is now one of the most photographed castles in the world.

Little Known Lunch Spot

When you are ready to stop for lunch, a short distance from the castle is a small hidden gem called La Almuzare. This little lunch spot is a dedicated vegetarian restaurant that offers more than 17 innovative salads along with pizza and pasta. It is a cosy and artistic spot that is perfect for lunch before heading on for more exploring. This little-known lunch place has no website, but it is open daily and you can find it at Calle Marqués del Arco 3

Get Up Close To Roman History

The Roman aqueduct slicing through the city is the main reason most people come to visit this town. An incredible feat of Roman engineering and the aqueduct travels for 894m with an impressive 160 arches. Built around 50 AD, it is a testament to the talent of Roman architects. As you walk along this extraordinary structure you will see for yourself the skill that went into building something that still stands almost 2000 years later. For the best views and photo opportunities, we suggest standing at the top of the Postigo steps next to the visitor centre.

Drinks, Tapas and Winding Down in Style

After a full day exploring the city, we suggest heading towards the Plaza Mayor where you can unwind on a terrace with the spectacular backdrop of the illuminated aqueduct. In the Plaza and streets surrounding you will have no shortage of options for trying some of the typical Segovian tapas. Be sure to also try the specialty wild mushrooms.

As the night progresses live music can be heard spilling out from the many lively bars and restaurants in the area. Calle de la Infanta Isabel is one of those Spanish streets that you’ll definitely hear before you see; locals call it ‘Calle de los Bares’ (Street of the Bars). Walking back to your hotel you can find plenty of places for a last drink of the evening as you enjoy the scenic city at night with all of its monuments lit up in lights. Magical.

Spend the morning soaring over the city

Get up early the next morning to watch the sun rise over this historic city from a unique vantage point in a hot air balloon. Flying above the aqueduct in a colourful balloon and seeing the panoramic views makes the early morning start well worth the effort. Hear about the city’s history from your pilot and have your camera ready to capture photos of the Alcázar and aqueduct as you drift slowly across the city for an hour. Return to the ground to a prepared Spanish brunch and glass of cava.

One Last Shop Before You Leave

Before driving back to Madrid, make some time to call in to the Singular Olivia store. A beautiful little shop filled with natural soaps, candles and good oils created by a self-titled ‘slightly crazy chemist’ who was sick of industrial products. All items in the store are eco –friendly and made from organic raw materials. Even the wrapping paper is recycled and coloured with natural inks. Pop in and check out their wonderful cosmetic selection or pick up a unique gift to bring back home.

After 36 hours in this beautiful city, we think you will become a fan of finding more of the world’s best-kept secrets. We certainly are!