They Don’t Need More Stuff. Give Adventure Instead.

Posts on My Adventure Bucket may contain affiliate links. Using these links costs you nothing but helps support the maintenance of this site and my weekly pedicure habit.

It’s that time of year again- “holiday gift guide” posts are popping up on all of your favorite websites. They promise to help you find that perfect gift for everyone on your list. The only problem is, no one you know needs more stuff. You might think they do. They might think they do. But I promise- stuff is a prison. Give an experience instead. (Everyone needs more adventure!)

Almost a year ago, I got rid of 95% of my belongings so I could adventure around the world unencumbered. I was apprehensive at first, but once it was all gone, it was the most freeing feeling imaginable. I know I had way too much stuff. I know you do, too. Because everyone does. Source: 15 years as a Funeral Director, listening to thousands of families discussing what on earth to do with all of Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa’s stuff now that they’re gone. 

The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

Several years ago, I dated a man who was a phenomenal gift giver. One Christmas morning I unwrapped an envelope containing a description of my gift: a trip to Minnesota to drive a tank and crush a car with it. Not only was it the most badass gift imaginable, it also got me a mention on CNN Money because I did the tank drive in a floor-length camouflage skirt and flip flops. (Woo, fame!) I can’t recommend the experience enough, so if you think this is something someone in your life needs, check them out at DriveATank.com. 

www.myadventurebucket.com
Surveying my destruction. Yes, this was every bit as fun as it looks.

 

The Best Gift I’ve Ever Given

A year of adventure. Not going to lie, I think I really hit it out of the park with this one. I purchased a tabletop globe in a wooden stand and cut it in half. (This is way harder than it looks, FYI, and should not be attempted on Christmas Eve while marginally tipsy. Or so I’ve heard.) I found 12 envelopes lined with an antique map print and labeled them with the months of the year. In each envelope I inserted a card with a description of that month’s adventure. In January, we visited an ethnic restaurant we’d never tried before (I enjoyed Ethiopian food, he didn’t, but we both had a blast!). In February I sent him on a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt that ended with a fancy dinner at my house. In March we did a weekend-long tour of Florida’s best craft breweries. Etc., etc.

Just a smidge better than a new video game, right?

It only takes a little bit of creativity to come up with a fun and meaningful adventure gift that your recipient will love. Here are a few ideas to get you started. (Bonus: most of them can be sorted just as easily as you would order any other gift online. So even if you do all of your shopping on Amazon, you’re still covered.)

Gift ideas that aren’t stuff:

  • Spa day
  • Tinggly gift certificate or other experience gift cards
  • Dinner out
  • Restaurant gift card & an offer to babysit
  • Plan a trip! Anything from camping in the county park or splashing out on a flight & hotel or something in between. Even a small adventure is better than none at all. And I might be biased, but I happen to think helping someone check something off their bucket list is just about the coolest gift you can give. 
  • “Upgrade” an upcoming trip the recipient already has planned. She’s going on a cruise? Pay for a shore excursion. He’s going to Europe? Book him a city tour with a company like Intrepid Travel. They’re planning a tropical getaway for spring break? Pay for their SCUBA certifications to help them have an even more amazing time.
  • Sign the recipient up for a class at a local community center or adult education program. Bonus points if you take the class together.
  • Indoor skydiving, ziplining, etc.
  • Wine or beer tasting
  • Cooking lessons, surfing lessons, etc.
They don't need more stuff. Give adventure instead. www.myadventurebucket.com
This is, like, way more fun than socks.
  • If you live near a body of water, check for day sails, sightseeing boats, etc. I’ve taken boatloads (ha!) of friends on a Schooner Freedom sail in St. Augustine, Florida. Everyone always has an amazing time.
  • Book a family photo shoot.
  • An annual membership to a local museum/science center/planetarium/theme park, etc.
  • A plane ticket for a far-flung friend or family member to visit you.
  • Tickets to a sporting event.
  • Horseback riding lessons or a trail ride.
  • A ride in a train, or a hot air balloon, or a horse-drawn carriage.
  • Enroll the two of you in a mud run, color run, or obstacle course.
  • A gift certificate to an airline, hotel, or travel agent.
  • Pay for a young (or not-so-young) relative to get their first passport.
  • A visit to an ethical wild animal sanctuary.
  • Many zoos, museums, and other attractions have “behind the scenes” tours that you can find on their website. I’ve gifted behind the scenes tours to an aquarium and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, and both were extremely well received. Everyone likes to feel like a VIP!

Bonus tip: Every single woman you know who has young children wants an overnight stay, alone, in a nice, quiet hotel. Trust me on this.

They don't need more stuff. Give adventure instead. www.myadventurebucket.com
Does she even wear those earrings you gave her last year? Probably not.


OK, cool, but I’m like totally broke. Now what?

No worries. There are still plenty of super cool experiences you can give.

  • Recipient hates to cook? Offer to come over and make a homemade dinner & clean up afterward.
  • Scan the local events calendar for your city & make plans to take them on a free city tour, holiday open house, etc.
  • If you live in or near New York, score tickets to a TV show taping.
  • Schedule a brewery or distillery tour; these are usually free and provide samples at the end.
  • Sign the recipient and yourself up for a day of volunteer work at a local soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity build, etc. Bonus warm fuzzies, no charge.

These are great, but I need more inspiration. Where can I find more ideas?

  • Groupon! This is a treasure trove of awesome gift ideas. Looking at my local area deals, I see flight lessons, photography classes, driving experiences, and hundreds of other things that would make great gifts. I may or may not have also bought a car detailing for myself. (Try to have a little more self control than I do.)
  • Airbnb Experiences. Not just for booking someone’s guest room anymore, Airbnb now has an “experiences” tab where you can book photo shoots, local tours, cooking classes, and all sorts of cool things in a neighborhood near you.
  • The local newspaper events calendar. Find gallery openings, festivals, shows, musical performances, etc.
  • A local community college. The ones closest to me offer art and STEM summer camps for teens, 50+ learning, and classes in finance, creative arts, and languages.
  • Travel deals websites like Travelzoo. In addition to flights and hotels, they usually have deals on sports and event tickets, restaurant discounts, and other creative gift ideas.


No doubt your mom loved that sweater you gave her last year (which looked a lot like the one you gave her the year before, if we’re being honest) but I’m going to be real here: you can do better. Also, your dad doesn’t want another insulated coffee mug. He wants to drive a race car.

Are you giving any experience gifts this year, or do you have fond memories of one you gave or received in the past? Tell me about it in the comments!

They don't need more stuff. Give adventure instead. www.myadventurebucket.com

 

Like this? Pin it!

Dear Galle…a Love Letter

Have you ever visited a place that was too special to be summed up in an ordinary way? The minute I arrived in this southern Sri Lankan city, I fell in love. I know I’m not the only one; huge numbers of Galle’s fantastic old houses are being bought up by expats, which lends to the fort’s multicultural air. I originally only planned two nights in Galle before moving on to points east, but felt such homesickness the day after I left that I impulsively hailed a cab to go back and stayed for three weeks. I completely derailed my itinerary, but I don’t regret it for a minute. 

To my beloved Galle,

It has now been four months since I left your rocky walls and boarded the train. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t imagined myself sitting on the balcony of my small guesthouse, looking out over your embankments to the crashing surf full of passing ships and migrating whales.

Dear Galle...aLove Letter www.MyAdventureBucket.com

Though we only had a few short weeks together, we made so many memories, and they will stay with me forever.

I could have gladly spent the rest of my life wandering your hidden alleyways and walking your fort walls at sunset, gelato in hand. 

Dear Galle...aLove Letter www.MyAdventureBucket.com
Every evening the citizens of Galle converge on the fort ramparts to fly kites, stroll hand in hand, and take in the spectacle of the sun setting among the waves.

 

I miss so many things about you. Your street dogs who stole and broke my heart in equal measure. Your Dutch scrolls reaching into the tropical skies, whitewashed walls keeping the secret of mystical blooming courtyards. Grey bricked streets ending in ancient beachfront steps cracked with bougainvillea roots. I loved it all.

Dear Galle...a Love Letter www.myadventurebucket.com

You are glittering jewels and white plumeria, salt air and swaying palms, ornate history and softly crumbling magic. Nowhere have I ever felt so instantly at home.

Dear Galle...a Love Letter www.myadventurebucket.com

 

I have danced in the falling snow in Athens and sailed over the fairy tale landscapes of Bagan, climbed through misty mountaintop jungles in Africa and floated through the Balinese surf. And still you are the most beguiling place I have ever seen. Equal parts tropical island and walled medieval kingdom, you are as singular as you are lovely.

Dear Galle...a Love Letter www.myadventurebucket.com

Until we meet again…

Dear Galle...a Love Letter www.MyAdventureBucket.com
Can’t you just smell the salty air?

All my love,

Leslie

No matter how much I travel, some places just capture my heart in unexpected ways. Usually it’s the places I never expected to love; the runners-up, the “if I have room in the itinerary I’ll squeeze this place in” spots. If you ever find yourself in my beloved Galle, take some time to stroll the fort walls at sunset, and please- give her my love. 

Dear Galle...a Love Letter www.MyAdventureBucket.com

Want to read more of my Sri Lankan adventures? Start here.

Want to visit? Galle is located in southern Sri Lanka, a short drive or train ride from the capital Colombo.

Like this? Pin it!

Dear Galle...a Love Letter www.myadventurebucket.com

The “Monthly” Bucket- August/September 2017

Uhh…what happened? I landed back in the US, got hit with some killer jet lag, blinked, and then suddenly it was the end of September. Oops. Sorry about that. I’ve gotten up to some really neat stuff, though!

www.myadventurebucket.com August September

Where in the world am I? Settling into my new home in North Carolina after being a nomad for almost 6 months. From two weeks in India to three months in Sri Lanka to six weeks of road-tripping the US with my faithful adventure dog, it feels really good to sit still for a few minutes.  

Items checked off the bucket list this month:

#367- Pizza at Lombardi’s in NYC

#169- Drive the entire length of Interstate 80 from New York’s George Washington Bridge to the Bay Bridge in San Francisco

#382- Attend the Iowa State Fair

#221- Browse through Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley, California (the 100th thing I’ve checked off my list!)

#337- Visit Half Moon Bay on the California Coast

#588- Visit Sedona, Arizona

See? I told you I’ve been busy!

Highlight of the month: Picking up my best girl from summer camp! If you’re a dog person, you’ll understand- being separated from your best friend for four months is the absolute worst! She had a great time at summer camp, though, and I know she was well taken care of while I was off poking around ancient temples in Sri Lanka. I sure do sleep a lot better with her sprawled out across most of the bed, though. We immediately made up for lost time by setting off on a 6 week road trip around the US!

www.myadventurebucket.com
Touring the desert in Sedona, Arizona by Hummer

 

Lowlight of the month: Having to cancel my month-long trip to Brazil due to Hurricane Irma. I should have been celebrating my birthday on September 24th by heading to the airport in Fort Lauderdale, but apparently Mother Nature had other plans. 

Best meal: Duck fat cheese fries at Village Whiskey in Philadelphia.

www.myadventurebucket.com
That’s my friend Matt getting the perfect instagram shot of his duck fat cheese fries. Say hi, Matt!

Super close second: Carne Asada Waffle Fries at Loco Patron in Scottsdale, Arizona- one of my favorite cities on the whole entire planet.

www.myadventurebucket.com
I know you just licked your screen.

 

New blog posts published:

July Monthly Bucket

I look like a great big slacker, don’t I? Oops. Sorry about that! In my defense, I’ve been working on some other projects, too. Like this article for the Gay & Lesbian Review:  Pride in Sri Lanka: Still an Act of Rebellion

What I learned:

  • Always get the travel insurance! I would be out a huge chunk of money from my canceled Brazil plans if it wasn’t for my World Nomads travel insurance policy. I used to travel without insurance all the time, and I’m really lucky that something like this never happened to me before. World Nomads policies are really inexpensive, and you need to have one when you travel, period. (If you use my affiliate link to sign up for your policy, it won’t cost you anything, but I’ll receive a small commission to help with the running of this site and my weekly pedicure habit.)
  • It is pretty much impossible to lick the butter cow at the Iowa State Fair because they keep it behind glass.
  • The Residence Inn by Marriott Austin South takes a Polaroid of every dog who stays there. How cute is this??

www.myadventurebucket.com

  • Restaurants all over Scottsdale have started offering doggie menus. Murphy Ann really likes Dog Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast.
  • The Grand Canyon is a really nice hole in the ground, but it gets unbelievably hot during the summer. (And September is still summer in Arizona!) Bring tons of water, especially if you’re visiting with a four-legged friend.

www.myadventurebucket.com

  • Prickly pear margaritas are amazing.
  • When in Sedona, get up before sunrise at least once and do a hike through the desert while watching hot air balloons glide overhead.

www.myadventurebucket.com

  • Everything you’ve ever heard about California traffic is true, and then some.
  • Watermelon beer is amazing (I’m looking at you, 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon)
  • Utah is gorgeous.
www.myadventurebucket.com
Like, seriously gorgeous.
  • Lincoln, Nebraska is super dog friendly and adorable. Who knew?
  • The Iowa State Fair sells hot beef sundaes and they’re exactly as amazing as you’re imagining.

www.myadventurebucket.com

  • Cleveland is also super dog friendly and adorable. Who knew??

 

What I read:

What’s next? I had to rewrite this section because I was supposed to be on a plane to Rio de Janeiro on September 25th for a month of picking coffee beans, lounging on gorgeous South American beaches, and trying to look cool in Brazilian cocktail bars. Then Hurricane Irma happened, the Brazilian consulate in Miami had to close unexpectedly, and I wasn’t able to get my visa in time. I’m really, really bummed, but I also know how lucky I am that this devastating storm only caused me a relatively minor travel interruption. Considering how many people lost their lives and homes and businesses, I’m only going to thank my lucky stars that some travel issues were my only problem. Instead of Brazil, I’ll be writing about my new home in North Carolina and throwing myself into the planning of my next big bucket list adventure, driving Australia’s Great Ocean Road.

Did you get up to any cool adventures in August and September? Got any good travel tips for Australia? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Monthly Bucket- July 2017

Hey adventurers! I hope everyone had a fantastic July. Mine was certainly eventful- here’s what I got up to this month.

Where in the world am I? I just landed back in the USA at the end of July after nearly four months in India and Sri Lanka. I am currently gorging myself on all the American fast food I’ve missed (I love you, Steak N Shake) and gearing up for two months of road tripping around the country.  

Items checked off the bucket list this month: #542- explore ancient temples in Sri Lanka. This was a three month project! Check out some of the amazing temples I’ve been exploring:

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic Kandy Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy
Dambulla Cave Temples Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com
Dambulla Cave Temples
Nallur Kandaswamy Hindu Temple Jaffna Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com
Nallur Kandaswamy Temple, Jaffna

#365- Deep fried hot dogs at Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey

Deep fried hot dogs Rutts Hut Clifton New Jersey MyAdventureBucket.com
Yes, deep fried hot dogs. Dog bless America.

 

Highlight of the month: Climbing the ancient rock monastery of Sigiriya! I was really nervous about this, guys. I’m not in the best shape and my health has been kind of sketchy on this trip as you know. But I made it to the top! And not without considerable effort. Apart from the sheer physical exhaustion, I was also contending with potential swarms of wasps and huge wind gusts that could easily blow a person (or at least their camera) off the rock. At one point I was down on my hands and knees crawling up some steps because the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t stand up. But the important thing is, I made it! Even if coming down did take twice as long because my knees were absolute Jell-O.

Sigiriya Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com

Did you accomplish something awesome in July? Comment below and let me know so I can celebrate with you!

Lowlight of the month: Getting stuck with the absolute worst driver on the planet while moving from Kandy to Habarana, Sri Lanka. Proof that, even when you do your research and use a reputable tour company, you can still be stuck with a complete nincompoop. Read all about it here.

Best meal: Pan fried dumplings at Momo’s by Ruvi in Colombo. These things were amazing. If you’ve never had a momo, you should go get some immediately. Actually just get on a plane and come to Sri Lanka because I have to assume these are the best on the planet.

Momos by Ruvi MyAdventureBucket.com

New blog posts published:

Hotel Review: Bar Reef Resort

Hotel Review: Dolphin Beach Resort

June Monthly Bucket

Solo Female Traveler Interview: Cali

Dambulla Cave Temples & the Worst Driver EVER

Hotel Review: Ceylon Tea Bungalows

Hotel Review: Villa Rosa, Kandy

Highlights of Kandy, Sri Lanka

Hotel Review: The Other Corner

Solo Female Traveler Interview: Charlotte

Spa Review: Amber Spa, Colombo Courtyard

So Long, Sri Lanka! What’s Next?

What I learned:

  • Fish pedicures: actually the best thing ever.
  • Sri Lankan road construction crews have no problem whatsoever using a jackhammer at 3 a.m. Never travel without earplugs.
  • The train is never on time. Like, ever.
  • Jaffna, Sri Lanka is home to some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen…and they’re rapidly crumbling into ruin. Can someone please do something about this?
  • Arrack (the local coconut flower liquor) and ginger beer is amazing.
  • Sri Lankan desserts are so sweet they’ll make your teeth hurt. Proceed with caution.
  • There are spas in Europe where you soak in a tub full of beer. This right here is why Europe is always going to lead the rest of the world into the future.
  • There’s a donut shop in Los Angeles selling donuts filled with ice cream. Maybe Europe has a little competition.
  • Upgrading to Emirates business class is worth every penny.
  • The sprayer hose next to all of the toilets here makes for a handy weapon if you encounter a large insect while getting into the shower. Welcome to the tropics.

 

What I read:

A Man Called Ove  by Fredrick Backman- this book tore my heart out, flattened it, folded it into an origami swan, and then set it on fire. But it also made me laugh, hard. I only read it because someone recommended it to me, and I’m so glad they did. Put this one way, way at the top of your reading list.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai- yes, I’m way behind in reading this book, but I’m so glad I finally did. I love to surround myself with positive people and inspirational stories (because who needs more negative crap, seriously?) and this book gave me wings.

What’s next? I’m spending the month of August driving the entire length of I-80 from New York City to San Francisco, and seeing lots of cool stuff along the way. Including a giant butter cow at the Iowa State Fair. Tune in next month to find out if I was able to get close enough to lick it.

Posts on My Adventure Bucket may contain affiliate links. Using these links costs you nothing but helps support the upkeep of this site and my daily cheeseburger habit. 

So Long, Sri Lanka! What’s Next?

Wait, didn’t I just get here? How can it possibly be time to leave Sri Lanka already?

I’m killing an afternoon in a Colombo coffee shop until my taxi arrives to take me to the airport. I’d love to take another stroll around the neighborhood, but as I’m going to be stuck in these clothes for about 45 hours, I’m trying to stay as sweat-free as possible. You’re welcome, fellow passengers.

The last three months have been a fantastic adventure, and I’ve made some memories that will last forever. Like being the only visitor to sit and watch a family of elephants just after sunrise in Udawalawe National Park. Or being run out of a guesthouse on suspicion of being a witch.

I have left pieces of my heart all over this gorgeous little island- mostly with the hundreds of sad-eyed street dogs who trusted me enough to approach me for a bit of food, and love.

So Long Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com

When I first told friends and coworkers that I was quitting my job to travel full time, starting with a brief stint in India and three months in Sri Lanka, many of them said I was crazy. Well, obviously. But who wants to be normal? Normal is boring, and no one is handing out prizes for being a martyr and giving up on your dreams.

If what I’m doing is crazy, the way I’m doing it is downright insane. Who lets a random computer algorithm determine where they go and how they spend their life? Well, I do, and it’s a terrific amount of fun, actually.

I’m only in Sri Lanka today because my Random Bucket List Picker chose it from my massive list after I completed a train ride across Canada. I was only on that train because the RBLP decided that’s where I should go after visiting the Scottish highlands, after exploring ancient Buddhist temples in Indonesia, etc., etc.

I wonder how normal people do things.

The last three months have flown by in an absolute blur of ancient temples, gorgeous beaches, breathtaking train rides, amazing food, and approximately 175 gallons of Lion beer. You have to admit, there are worse ways to spend a summer. I will miss this quirky little island paradise (and street cart samosas) but the next adventure awaits.

So Long Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com

As always, the next adventure has been randomly chosen for me by the Random Bucket List Picker: driving the entire length of Interstate 80 from New York to California. With my favorite canine copilot by my side, naturally.

So Long Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com
She’s cute, but she’s absolutely useless with directions.

As a bonus, there are quite a few other bucket list entries I’ll be able to cross off along the way. No, I’m not going to tell you ahead of time what they are- what fun would that be? I have to make sure you keep checking back for more stories.

I have set aside six weeks for this adventure, which should be plenty of time to get myself into all kinds of predicaments. I hope you will follow along with me!

Don’t miss any of the adventure- follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, too.

Like this? Pin it!

Spa Review: Amber Spa, Colombo Courtyard

Leslie’s Rules for Traveling, Part One: always begin and end every trip with a spa ritual. I figured this out on my first trip to Greece and I’ve tried to stick to it as much as possible ever since. Apart from just being a big fan of pampering the heck out of myself at every opportunity, I really do think this helps to keep jet lag at bay. Not to mention that awful post-vacation “Ugh I’m so exhausted I should have just stayed home” feeling. Since my three months in Sri Lanka are drawing to a close, I decided to visit the Amber Spa at Colombo Courtyard for a relaxing massage to get me in full trip wind-down mode.

This was a very good idea. I opted for the Signature Amber Massage, which is a traditional deep tissue massage, and the therapist was outstanding. She used just the right amount of pressure (lots) and beat all of my tension into submission. (But she did ask a few times if the pressure was OK, so don’t be alarmed if you like a lighter touch.)

I have to add a note for my fellow modest girls who might not have experienced a massage in Asia before: it’s common here for the therapist to uncover you to the waist in order to massage your stomach and collarbone areas, but if you’re not comfortable with that, it’s no big deal. Just mention to your therapist that you’d like your chest to stay covered the whole time. (Or forget, like I did, and then squeal and yank the sheet back up and cause your therapist to apologize profusely. Either way.)

The spa itself is located off the pool area in the middle of Colombo Courtyard, and is accessed by walking across an elegant stone bridge over the pool. Even though the hotel is located right on busy Duplication Road in the heart of Colombo, the treatment rooms are completely serene and they manage to block out all of the traffic noise with thick walls and tranquil music.

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

Amber Spa also wins my award for the most gorgeous robes I’ve ever seen in a spa, goldenrod yellow with a beautiful floral print.

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com
I need to find one of these to take home…

The whole atmosphere of the inner courtyard and spa area is full of fountains, koi ponds, ornate lanterns, and soft seating arrangements. It has a clean, Morocco-meets-Miami Beach look. 

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

When I left the spa an hour later, all of the usual pain in my back and hips is gone, at least for a while. I also smelled like a frosted spice cake, thanks to the scented massage oil and the spice-filled pillow that covered my eyes during the second half of the treatment. The smell reminded me of some of the solid perfumes I’ve gotten from Egypt in the past, and I surreptitiously sniffed my arm several times while walking down the street. I hope no one noticed.  

Amber Spa is located inside the Colombo Courtyard Hotel. Find more information, including a full menu of spa treatments here.

Like this? See more reviews here.

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

I had the pleasure of being hosted by Amber Spa at Colombo Courtyard for the purposes of this review, and as always, all photos, words, and opinions are my own.

Pin me!

Amber Spa MyAdventureBucket.com

Solo Female Traveler Interview: Charlotte

Hey adventurers! It’s time to introduce you to the latest awesome solo female traveler in the series. Charlotte from The Global Shuffle took the time to answer my questions and give some awesome solo travel advice. Don’t tell Charlotte, but I’m super jealous of her for living in Vancouver, one of my favorite cities anywhere.

 

Where are you from, and where are you currently residing?

Sydney, Australia, but I’m living in Vancouver, Canada. 

Where is your next destination?

Next destination outside Canada is the US in October! Heading to Texas and I’ve never been to the States before and I’m so excited about it.

 How long have you been traveling?

I moved from Australia to Canada in March 2017, but I travelled intermittently before that. I’ve travel a lot around my home country because it’s just so big and there’s so much to see, and I spent five months travelling solo around Europe in 2016, and backpacked around India, Nepal and SE Asia for a few months in 2014, so travel for me is always an ongoing thing.

 What’s on your bucket list?

I would love to go to South America, specifically Argentina and Peru. Now that I’m in the Northern Hemisphere, it feels a lot more likely that I’ll go.

 What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you while traveling?

There have been a few…

My whole month driving around Iceland was a crazy trip – the sun never set and I was camping, I picked up hitchhikers, drove around with a girl I met on the internet, and battled blizzards somewhere in the fjords (read about that here).

And the time I had to accidentally hitchhiked in Bulgaria… I couldn’t speak Bulgarian or read the Cyrillic alphabet, realised I was in the wrong place when I got off the bus, and had to approach a group of guys in a pub and try and communicate using the only Bulgarian word I knew – Melnik, the name of the place I was going (you can read the whole story here).

 What’s your favorite place in the world and why is it so great?


I think Bulgaria is one of my favourite places in Europe – I never planned on going there, but I was so surprised at how much I loved it. I went there in summer, and realised it’s just a beautiful and very historic part of the world that I never really knew much about – so full of music and life, cobbled streets, flowers, wonderful people, great food, and amazing beer and wine. Plus, it’s really affordable.

 What lessons have you learned from travel?

I learnt that everyone is the same. The fears, anxieties, and self-doubts I had about travelling solo were widely shared among the greater community, and figuring that out was eye-opening, and kind of liberating. I felt as though that knowledge gave me the freedom to approach people, start conversations, and make friends because there were so many people who were really anxious about doing it as well. If I can empower people to do anything through my website, it would be to give them the courage to travel solo. Without sounding cheesy, it’s a life-altering experience and I think everyone should do it.

 How do you combat loneliness when traveling solo?

I used the ‘hangout’ feature on the Couchsurfing app, swing by traveller bars, or talk to people at my hostel – things I would never have done before my trip around Europe. I was really worried about being lonely when travelling alone because I’m pretty socially-awkward, but I’ve actually never felt less alone – when I wanted to hang out with people, they were always around, and I made some really good friends.

 What advice would you give a woman who wants to start traveling but is struggling with doubts and uncertainties?

Join female travel groups on Facebook, download the Couchsurfing app, don’t overthink it, and book a ticket. I had so many doubts before and after I booked my trip, but I really didn’t need to put so much energy into feeling that way – once I got there, it was all great. It’s difficult to let all your anxieties go, but my advice would be not to let those feelings control you – you’re a capable adult, and relying on your own sense of judgement and your ability to look after yourself on the road gives you a sense of independence I’m not sure you get doing anything else.

Charlotte MyAdventureBucket.com

So there you have it! Isn’t she awesome? How many of you want to book a ticket to Bulgaria now? (Me!!)

Thanks, Charlotte! Have a fantastic time in Texas!

Here’s all the places you can follow Charlotte and her adventures:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theglobalshuffleblog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theglobalshuffleblog/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/globalshuffle/boards/

Website: http://theglobalshuffle.com

Like this? Check out another awesome solo female traveler here.

Feeling inspired? Share with your friends!

Charlotte MyAdventureBucket.com

Hotel Review: The Other Corner

After my disastrous/awesome adventure to the Dambulla cave temples, I checked into The Other Corner to recuperate, and I’m so glad I did. You can tell as soon as you arrive that this is not going to be like any other hotel, unless you’re accustomed to having to cross a swinging rope bridge to get to your accommodation.

The Other Corner MyAdventureBucket.com

Most writers live in their own heads, you know? We spend so much time sequestered in our own thoughts, spinning words and worlds out of the ether, that it’s no surprise most of us feel more at home there than in the “real” world. I’m no different, and I instantly fall in love with any place that lets me live in my imagination instead of being confronted with a dreary reality full of other people and traffic and blaring televisions, and…did I mention other people? Nothing against other humans in general, but there are so many of you, and sometimes you pack together in large groups and make excessive amounts of noise and it’s just sort of the worst. It’s not your fault, of course, but it’s really hard to imagine that I’m Indiana Jones or a fierce fighter pilot or (my personal favorite) an animal-whispering fairy princess when I’m breathing in clouds of exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke and listening to your baby scream while you play YouTube videos on your phone without headphones.

I only mention all of that because I’m sort of in paradise right now. I’m working on my laptop by the pool, and it is exactly the kind of blissfully secluded dream world that makes me feel at home. The resort is completely empty today, so I have the pool to myself. This greatly helps me to imagine that the resort is my private jungle palace, obviously. There’s a gnarled, vine-choked tree dominating the pool area, and it’s covered with great clouds of butterflies like something out of a Disney movie. There’s also a small brass bell hanging from the tree, with a room service menu. In case you get so worn out from swimming and sunning yourself that you need to be revived with a beer and a cheeseburger, obviously. (I did say it was paradise, didn’t I?)

The Other Corner MyAdventureBucket.com

The only sounds are the wind rustling the leaves of the surrounding trees, the songs of dozens of exotic birds, and the bubbling water from the spa behind me. (I later get my very first fish pedicure in that spa, and laugh-squeal loud enough to startle several passing monkeys. You should definitely try this if you get the chance.)

The silence is briefly broken by a small family of monkeys who swing down and take a quick drink out of the pool before scampering back up to the treetops and continuing on their way. Once they’ve gone, two gorgeous bright red dragonflies swoop down and skim across the surface of the pool. A pair of jewel-colored birds alight on a branch above my head for a just a moment, before the distant trumpeting of an elephant startles them away.

An hour or so later, drama erupts as a gang of monkeys descends on a nearby mango tree and makes off with fistfuls of fruit before a groundskeeper chases them away with a rake. They are gleefully unrepentant as they huddle together near the spa and enjoy their stolen treat. (Monkeys are such jerks, aren’t they?)

I spent three nights at The Other Corner, and it was the perfect spot for lounging by the pool as well as an amazing base for climbing the famous rock monastery of Sigiriya. I’ll write about that awesome experience in another post, but for now, just know that you should 100% visit Sigiriya if you’re in the neighborhood. The Other Corner can also arrange tours to Minneriya National Park, the Dambulla cave temples, Ritigala Forest Monastery, and all the other cool stuff there is to do here in the Cultural Triangle area.

I also took a nature walk with the resident naturalist, and he was an absolute fountain of local knowledge. If you go, ask him to do some of his amazing bird calls for you. The area around the resort is absolutely gorgeous, and you can even see Sigiriya if you walk along the lake bordering the property. 

The Other Corner www.MyAdventureBucket.com

The three nights I spent at The Other Corner were like being at summer camp for grownups. You stay in a really adorable cabin and there’s nature hikes and tree houses… but there’s also a nice beer and wine selection. I suppose you can bring the kids, if you want to share the tree houses. 

The Other Corner www.MyAdventureBucket.com

The Other Corner MyAdventureBucket.com

As you explore the grounds, you’ll see a sign pointing to the hotel’s organic garden. One of the best things about staying at an eco resort is knowing that all the produce in your meals was grown right there on the property.

The Other Corner MyAdventureBucket.com

You might also see some of the other local residents lounging about:

The Other Corner www.MyAdventureBucket.com

The Other Corner is located in Laksirigama, Habarana, Sri Lanka, right on the edge of Habarana Lake. Find more information or book your own stay here.

Like this? Pin it!

Other Corner MyAdventureBucket.com

 

 

This has been a sponsored conversation with The Other Corner, and as always, all words, photos, and opinions are mine.

Highlights of Kandy, Sri Lanka

I don’t think anyone comes to Sri Lanka without a stop in Kandy, and for good reason. This busy hill country town is known as the country’s cultural capital, and has plenty to keep you occupied for several days- longer if you make it your base for exploring the area. And explore it you should; the hill country was one of my absolute favorite parts of my 3 months here in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

If you don’t think Sri Lanka is the vacation destination for you because you’re not a fan of beaches and tropical climates, this is why you should come. Misty mountains, cool air, fantastic hiking, and Buddhist history like you’ve never seen anywhere else.

Here are some of my Kandy highlights:

 

Attractions

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

You can’t skip this; this temple is the main reason people visit Kandy. It’s also one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples I’ve ever visited, and that’s saying rather a lot. The holiest site in Sri Lankan Buddhism, this temple houses a tooth reportedly taken from the Buddha’s funeral pyre. It’s kind of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Mecca; everyone is supposed to make at least one pilgrimage here in their lifetime. It’s so revered, you even see rowdy groups of teenage boys stopping on the sidewalk across the street to bow in prayer before walking on. Worshipers inside are frequently overcome with emotion, so if you’re visiting as a tourist, please be respectful and unobtrusive. As with all temples, you’ll have to cover up- no exposed knees or shoulders.

One of the most popular attractions on the temple grounds is Rajah the Tusker, a moldering old taxidermy elephant with crumbling ears. This small building is always packed with loud children and selfie-stick-wielding tourists, inexplicably needing a photo of themselves with the remains of this poor creature behind a wall of smudged glass. Suffice to say I think you can skip this spectacle.

Other tips for visiting:

  • Wear slip-on shoes as you’ll have to leave them at the shoe minder’s counter next to where you pay the admission fee. There’s no charge for leaving your shoes, but they’ll ask for a tip when you pick them up.
  • The entry fee for foreigners is 1500 rupees ($10 USD). Do try to have exact change as they’re loathe to break 5000 rupee notes and may tell you that they can’t give you all of your change back. Don’t fall for this; someone is just trying to get a 500 rupee tip.
  • Never pose with a Buddha statue for a photo or selfie. This is basically the most offensive thing you could possibly do.
  • Go as early as you can. The place is overrun with schoolkids by midday.

Kandy Sri Lanka myadventurebucket.com

 

World Buddhist Museum

This was my favorite museum in all of Sri Lanka, and it’s conveniently located on the same property as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. They charge 500 rupees ($3.25 USD) for foreigners, which is a steal. The museum walks you through the spread of Buddhism throughout the world, and it’s fascinating to see how the story of the Buddha is interpreted country by country. I had a great time reminiscing over some of the other famous Buddhist sites I’ve visited, like Shwedagon Paya in Burma and Borobudur in Indonesia. The lighting and signage in this museum is good…by Sri Lankan standards. It’s not the Smithsonian, but nothing here is. I was really bummed that you can’t take photos inside, because there are some really lovely exhibits. There’s a small gift shop to the left of the staircase down which you exit.

 

Kandy Garrison Cemetery

When you’re done with the World Buddhist Museum, exit left and head up the little hill past the National Museum (toward the public restrooms, incidentally, if you need to stop.) There are signs at the bottom of the hill pointing the way to the cemetery. Once you get to the top of the hill behind the public facilities you might think you’re actually on someone’s driveway, but keep going. There will be a small maintenance shed on the left and then you’ll round the corner to the cemetery. It’s small, and many of the inscriptions are worn, but it’s a really neat piece of Kandy history. The young caretaker is an absolute fountain of knowledge; he knows every name, inscription, and cause of death by heart. Let him tell you all about the extremely large man who died of sunstroke while running from an elephant or the baby who died of a snakebite despite the best efforts of the village medicine man.

Kandy Sri Lanka myadventurebucket.com

St. Paul’s Church

This red brick church dates to the 1840s and is currently undergoing renovations, but is well worth poking around for a few minutes. There are some neat funerary markers for deceased parishioners lining the walls and a gorgeous stained glass window behind the altar. Watch for frolicking monkeys outside. 

Kandy Sri Lanka myadventurebucket.com

Royal Botanic Gardens

This 147 acre park on the outskirts of Kandy is a really great place to escape the noise and pollution of the city for a few hours. There’s a gorgeous orchid house and some really nice walking trails through the wooded areas. If you’re a botany nerd, welcome to paradise. There are more than 4000 plant species here, and they’ve done a really nice job with signage.

Other tips for visiting:

  • Go on a weekday! 2.2 million people visit the gardens annually and every single one of them showed up on the same Saturday morning I visited. Weekdays are much quieter.
  • Look up! Thousands of huge flying foxes roost in the trees and fly around during the day. If you take the path to the right of Royal Palm Avenue you’ll most likely have it to yourself to appreciate these beauties. (And, if you’re me, imagine that you’re in Jurassic Park and they’re actually huge screeching pterodactyls. Don’t judge.)

Kandy Sri Lanka myadventurebucket.com

Accommodation

Villa Rosa

I partnered with this gorgeous hilltop hotel for a review, and absolutely loved it. My only minor quibble was the somewhat unreliable Wi-Fi, but the views and the amazing chicken curry more than made up for my inability to upload all of my photos. Wi-Fi was a bit of an issue throughout the hill country for me, so plan your Internet needs accordingly. If you just want to check email and Facebook a few times a day you’ll be fine, but business travelers might have difficulties.

Kandy Sri Lanka myadventurebucket.com

Transportation

Far and away the best mode of transportation anywhere in the hill country is the train. These creaky, lumbering old locomotives trundle through some of the most beautiful scenery on the island, and nothing beats leaning out the open doors for a blast of cool mountain air in your face. And train travel in Sri Lanka is CHEAP. Check the timetables here and try to coordinate your schedule for a ride in one of the first class observation cars. It won’t cost more than $8 US even for the longest, all-day journeys. There are tour companies who will reserve your tickets for you (for two to three times the going rate) but as I traveled in the off season I never bothered. Turning up at the station an hour before the train was scheduled to depart was always plenty of time to get a first class ticket. Pack some snacks or wait for a man with a big plastic tub of fresh samosas to make his way through the train.

Kandy Sri Lanka myadventurebucket.com
Scenes from the train on my way from Bandarawela to Kandy, in a $6 first class seat.

So there you have it! Some of my favorite parts of my visit to Kandy. Have you been? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know if I missed any of your favorites.

Kandy Sri Lanka www.myadventurebucket.com
Sunset over Kandy’s hills like a ball of fire in the sky.

Pin this!

Kandy Sri Lanka MyAdventureBucket.com

Hotel Review: Villa Rosa, Kandy

The first thing that hits me when I check into Villa Rosa and start exploring is that this is the perfect location for a romantic retreat.

Between the candlelit dinners, the breathtaking mountain views, and the secluded hilltop setting, I’m really wishing I hadn’t come to Villa Rosa solo. This ridiculously photogenic villa just screams romantic rendezvous. The canoodling couple having dinner two tables away from me would likely agree; they’re currently holding hands and staring out at the river. I can’t say that I blame them- this view belongs on a postcard, or maybe your desktop wallpaper.

This is no business traveler’s hotel- the information binder in my room informs me that the Wi-Fi will be turned off at 10pm and when it’s on it can’t handle streaming a video conference. You might not notice- the cozy second floor library will pull your attention away from work with its large collection of reading material and panoramic views of the river and the mountains.

Villa Rosa Kandy MyAdventureBucket.com

Back to dinner, though. Villa Rosa is a foodie’s paradise, and they win my award for the absolute best rice and curry I’ve had during my three months in Sri Lanka. That’s a pretty big deal- *everyone* makes rice and curry here, and it’s almost always fantastic. Villa Rosa goes the extra mile, though. The chef visits the local market every morning, and guests are welcome to tag along and see how he chooses the freshest spices and produce. If you’re really keen, you can join him and his team in the kitchen to prepare your own meal while having a lesson in authentic Sri Lankan cooking.

Villa Rosa Kandy MyAdventureBucket.com

On the off chance that you want to do more than smooch your travel partner all day, Villa Rosa is perfectly positioned for exploring Kandy and the surrounding area. The extremely accommodating staff will happily drop you off in town at no charge, or arrange transportation for more far-flung adventures. While I was here, I explored the impressive botanical gardens, the city of Kandy, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (don’t miss this! Easily the most beautiful Buddhist temple I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen rather a lot) and the Kandy Garrison Cemetery.

The river that you’ll find yourself continually staring out over is the Mahaweli, the longest river in Sri Lanka. Every time I settled down to read or write or work on my laptop, I only lasted a few minutes before I found myself picking up my camera and wandering over to the edge of the property to snap just a few more photos. Sri Lanka is outrageously beautiful in general, but the view here is absolutely mesmerizing. Try to get back from your day of adventuring in Kandy before sunset if you can. There is no better way to start your evening than with a cold beer on the open air balcony while watching the sky go all pink and purple and orange while the flying foxes venture out to their nightly hunt and the chanting of the monks from the city temples down below drifts up on the breeze.

Villa Rosa Kandy MyAdventureBucket.com
The view from my dinner table. Are you kidding me??

Art lover alert: The owners of Villa Rosa are connoisseurs of fine art, and have decorated the villa in impeccable style. Make sure you take a wander around the entire property to have a look at some of the fabulous pieces in their collection.

Villa Rosa Kandy MyAdventureBucket.com

Villa Rosa is located at 71/18, Dodanwela Passage, Asgiriya, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Visit Villa Rosa here for more information or to book your own romantic rendezvous.

Villa Rosa Kandy MyAdventureBucket.com
Wouldn’t you like to wake up to this breakfast table view?

This has been a sponsored conversation with Villa Rosa. I had the pleasure of being hosted at their beautiful property for the purposes of this review, and as always, all words, photos, and opinions are my own.

Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image to your favorite travel board!

Villa Rosa Kandy MyAdventureBucket.com

Like this? Check out more of my amazing hotel partners here.