6 Bucketlist Views From Around The World

Not all views are equal. Some hit you so hard they take your breath away and stay with you forever. Some are easy to come by and some you appreciate all the more for the hard work that went into finding them. Here are six natural sights that couldn’t be more different, but should all be on your bucket list:

1. Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

I can’t go passed the pure joy I felt looking out onto the South African desert in Madikwe Game Reserve. Sure there’s no hiking here (those are real lions out there guys), but I’ve never felt more of a rush then gazing upon scenes right out of a David Attenborough documentary. Sure it’s smaller than the more popular Kruger, but that means there’s more chance of spotting the animals, plus safari leaders do an amazing job of not overcrowding the animals which is better for the animal and for your view of it.

4. Stop anywhere that sounds interesting, even if it turns out not to be. You never know unless you go!

Read the rest here.

17 facts you never knew about Colombia

Tourism in Colombia has really picked up over the last 10 years, but even still most visitors are other South Americans. So why is the rest of the world so slow to catch on? If you’re still caught in the Narcos stereotype you need to read these 17 facts about Colombia; they might just surprise you.

Just in case you missed it, this last minute sign points to Ojo de Agua beach, Cabo de la Vela
Just in case you missed it, this last minute sign points to Ojo de Agua beach, Cabo de la Vela

On tourism:

1. Colombia is safe. Honestly. As a solo female traveller making my way around the country, with just a bit of commonsense, I didn’t once feel unsafe.

2. Colombians actually love to see a tourist, it’s a very visible sign of the change in their country

If you stop at the salt fields in Manaure, you will be swamped  by young's kids
If you stop at the salt fields in Manaure, you will be swamped by young’s kids

3. If you’re not Colombian, you’re a Gringo. If you hear a Colombian talking about a Gringo, they’re talking about you.

4. The more than 87 indigenous groups in Colombia only speak Spanish as a second language. Together they have 64 native languages.

5. Whatever type of landscape you can think of, Colombia has it. Desert, beaches, mountains, jungle: every corner is like stepping into a brand new country.

If you need me, I'll be here in Ranchería Utta's hammocks on the beach!
If you need me, I’ll be here in Ranchería Utta’s hammocks on the beach!

On the amenities:

6. Hot water is very rare

7. So are showerheads

8. Most of the time, you’ll be putting your used toilet paper in a bin beside the toilet, thanks to an easily blocked sewage system

9. Buses stop anywhere, as long as you know how to ask

Almost there!
Almost there!

On the people:

10. English speakers are hard to come by, but this one shouldn’t be a surprise. The government has just started working on improving access to English classes for all citizens

11. The people are overwhelmingly kind and helpful.

Folk musicians entertain their fans in Medellin's Parque Berrio
Folk musicians entertain their fans in Medellin’s Parque Berrio

12. Even when you say ‘no gracias’ to a vendor trying to sell you taxi rides/ food/ random touristy souvenir items you really don’t need, they’ll give you honest and helpful information to get you where you’re going. That’s a lot more then you can expect from other countries

13. Even the elderly will kick your arse at all night salsa parties

14. But they’ll also try really hard to teach your hopeless butt before they kick it

On love:

15. Colombian wedding tradition dictates that the Groom’s family must turn up at the Bride’s house the night before the wedding to serenade her. If they’re not good enough, she’s allowed to call of the wedding…no pressure!

Today, this section of the fortifications serves as a refuge for friends and lovers
Today, this section of the fortifications serves as a refuge for friends and lovers

16. If the Bride decides to go with the wedding, you can expect the reception to include Colombia’s traditional ‘Crazy hour’. Sure, Colombians take to a dance floor like fish to water, but come crazy hour things are kicked up a notch. The band picks up the pace, beads, masks, wigs and trumpets are handed out, no man is left on the side of the dancefloor.

17. Before they get to any of that, Colombian men are very forward. English or no, if they think you’re cute they’re going to let you know about it.

Love Colombian cities built up into the hills!
Love Colombian cities built up into the hills like Medellin!

4 steps to salsa

I’m not much of a dancer. Don’t get me wrong, I do it enthusiastically and often. I’m also in time with the beat. It’s just that mostly my dancing looks like flying limbs…in time with the beat. So I faced a serious challenge on my month-long trip to Colombia: learn salsa or bust.

I was lucky enough to enlist some expert help: the entire extended family of my now cousin-in-law (I’m sure that’s a thing, right?). For the other salsa-challenged folks out there, I’ve attempted to narrow down their lessons to 4 basic steps.

1.Stick to 1, 2, 3

Forget about that fancy little step in the middle and stick to a basic 1, 2, 3 movement, at least until you’ve got the basics down.

2. Shoulder shimmy

A subtle shoulder shimmy is part of the salsa anyway. I found by making it slightly less subtle, it can help to distract from your failing footwork. Just don’t go too far overboard or you’ll start looking like you’re having a fit.

3. Find a partner to do the work for you

Ok this one’s just from me, not an expert. And it’s technically a cheat, but desperate times and all that. Young and old, man or woman, Colombians are better salsa dancers than you. It’s a fact. Use it to your advantage by pairing up with the most flamboyant dancer in the room, they’ll make you look good by association.

4. Have fun

More than anything, salsa is about passion and having fun. So, in theory, if you’re putting in a good effort and enjoying yourself, you’re already halfway there.

WIN a self-guided City Walks App to salsa around South America

Have you ever dreamed of salsa-ing your way around South America? I’m giving away a full version of the popular City Walking App from GPSmycity to help you find your way to the best salsa bars with one of these apps for iOS or Android! Entry details below.

I’m not much of a dancer. Don’t get me wrong, I do it enthusiastically and often. I’m also in time with the beat. It’s just that mostly my dancing looks like flying limbs…in time to the music. So I faced a serious challenge on my month-long trip to Colombia: learn salsa or bust.

I was lucky enough to enlist some expert help: the entire extended family of my now cousin-in-law (I’m sure that’s a thing, right?). For the other salsa-challenged folks out there, I’ve attempted to narrow down their lessons to 4 basic steps.

1.Stick to 1, 2, 3

Forget about that fancy little step in the middle and stick to a basic 1, 2, 3 movement, at least until you’ve got the basics down.

2. Shoulder shimmy

A subtle shoulder shimmy is part of the salsa anyway. I found by making it slightly less subtle, it can help to distract from your failing footwork. Just don’t go too far overboard or you’ll start looking like you’re having a fit.

3. Find a partner to do the work for you

Ok this one’s just from me, not an expert. And it’s technically a cheat, but desperate times and all that. Young and old, man or woman, Colombians are better salsa dancers than you. It’s a fact. Use it to your advantage by pairing up with the most flamboyant dancer in the room, they’ll make you look good by association.

4. Have fun

More than anything, salsa is about passion and having fun. So, in theory, if you’re putting in a good effort and enjoying yourself, you’re already halfway there.

Comment below and tell me which city you would love to learn salsa in for a chance to WIN a self-guided City Walks App (iOS and Android, usually $4.99)!

An ode to stop-travel days

I’m currently writing in a vegetarian cafe, fresh fruit smoothie in one hand, food menu open, using their free wifi. Earlier today, I was sitting with a book in my hostel pool. This day could be anywhere in the world, but today it happens to be in Santa Marta, Colombia.

I’ve previously written about not being a bad traveller: about getting out into culture, food and surroundings of a new place. And 99% of the time, I agree with me 100%. However, once in awhile during long-term travel, you might find yourself needing a break.

As a travel writer, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but after three weeks of non-stop travel and being social, I needed alone time in a cafe with an English menu that doesn’t require me asking for special vegetariano options.

Tomorrow I’m off to couchsurf in Medellin and find more adventure. Yesterday I returned from a 4-day hike through the Sierra Nevada to see Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) with a group of about 10 amazing people. In the weeks before that I’ve followed friends and family to salt mines, desert beaches, churches 3,152 metres above sea level and had numerous Colombians attempt to teach me salsa.

But today, trying to communicate in a Spanish country with little to no grasp of Spanish, navigating public transport and meeting fellow travellers is beyond me. And that’s ok. In fact, giving myself permission to be lazy for a day already has me feeling rejuvenated.

I finally caught up on sleep, was able to plan for the next chapter of travel, and get some work done. But most of all, I owe my current peaceful mood to a short, friendly conversation with Brian, a local of Santa Marta. He spoke very little English, I have only a couple of words I’ve picked up of Spanish, but for the short five minutes we happened to be walking next to each other along the road, we managed to have a conversation about nothing in particular.

Language doesn’t have to be a barrier, I’m ready for more of the unexpectedly delicious bean/banana/egg traditional food combos, and I can’t wait to see who I’ll meet next.

Oh stop-travel day, how I love thee.