live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Friday, June 28, 2013

An Introduction To Traveling Scotland

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Ferry ride from Ullapool to Stornoway (Isle of Lewis)

I love planning trips. I would even go as far as to say that planning is my favorite part of traveling. I just get a kick out of researching accommodation, surfing Tripadvisor to find the best restaurants and reading guide books without an end to get an idea of the myriad of awesome things to do somewhere. However, I know that not everybody shares this sentiment and this is where this guide comes in – to help you plan your travels through Scotland!

This will be a three-part series during which I plan to share as much as possible of what I learned planning my own trip to Scotland last year. I’m obviously not a Scotland expert by any means, but this is really just about relaying my own experiences to help you out! This guide is written from the perspective of a budget traveler, but I hope you can take something from this even if you prefer to travel in luxury. Budget doesn’t mean sleeping on floors and only eating chocolate bars, though: It simply means getting the most for your buck while still traveling comfortably and that always sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

Scotland – a budget destination?

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View from Glencoe

First of all: Scotland is not a cheap destination. If you’re aspiring to travel for $25 a day, you’re probably going to have a hard time to get by in Scotland. It is possible to travel Scotland if you’re on a budget as long as you’re somewhat careful with your spending and plan ahead if possible.

If you’re scared of the cost of a Scotland vacation, then don’t be. Price levels may be slightly higher than in most of Continental Europe, but it won’t set you back much further than a trip to Paris. I spend about 70€ a day – this may sound like a lot at first, but it includes my flight, going out to restaurants every once in a while and staying in nice accommodation. You could certainly get by for less!

The cost of your trip will also depend on the type of activities you want to do. Entrance to castles can be very high, but visiting a Whiskey Distillery only costs a small fee - and sometimes even nothing at all. On top of that, exploring the stunning nature of Scotland is pretty much free! We traveled around a lot, so aside from Accommodation and Food we spent most of our money on Public Transportation, but that can obviously be avoided if you don’t stay in as many different towns.

When to go to Scotland

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The Beach of Aberdeen

The main travel season in Scotland are the summer months. During this time you’ll likely have the best weather, however prices for accommodation will also be the highest. We traveled at the end of August/beginning of September which was slightly off-season, but came with the advantage of being a bit cheaper.

We couldn’t soak in the sun every single day (which is probably also the case in the summer months), but the weather was still good enough for us to do everything we had planned on doing. Just have a good rain jacket handy and check the weather forecast every morning and you’ll probably be fine during this time. The most famous sights will still be pretty crowded, but it’s probably not as bad as during high season.

Where to go in Scotland

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Glen Grant Whisky Distillery

Scotland is an incredibly varied country and just as you can expect almost any kind of weather, you can also expect almost any kind of scenery. There are so many different things you can experience depending on where you go!

If you fancy the traditional Highlands, then explore the area between Loch Lomond and Inverness and visit Loch Ness and Glen Coe. If seclusion is your thing, then the Outer Hebrides are an amazing destination. And if you love wild mountain ranges, then the Cairngorm Mountains are going to make your heart beat faster. And let’s not forget about the bustling cities in Central Scotland! I’ve written tons of posts on the places we visited last year, so give them a go if you’re looking for inspiration!

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Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

On our trip, we tried to see as many different sides of Scotland as possible. It made for some exhausting travel (our schedule was crazy!), but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If you want to experience the Highlands, visit at least one of the cities and travel to the more remote places (think Outer Hebrides and the far north of Scotland), I would recommend at least two weeks of travel. If you have less time, then limit yourself to only a few regions and explore those in depth.

In the end, as cheesy as it sounds, let your heart be your guide. Do you want to explore one region in depth or get an overview over as many places as possible? We chose the latter, but the next time I travel to Scotland I definitely want to reduce the number of places and experience them more extensively. However, I am super happy that I got to experience all the beautiful things that we did on our crazy journey! You know yourself best: Why kind of travel is your favorite kind of travel?

 

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Next Chapter: Norway

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Today, I have something very special to share. I’ve known about this for a while now, but didn’t want to talk about it until it was completely set into stone:

I am moving to Norway this summer!

And I couldn’t be more excited about this new chapter of my life. I will be studying abroad in Bergen for a year and I plan to make this year nothing short of fabulous. It’s been five years since I was a Foreign Exchange Student in Canada during High School and I’ve been itching to live abroad again. Not that I mind living in Germany, but it’s nice to get a change of scenery every once in a while.

I still have a couple of more weeks left in Germany and there’s still so much to do before I leave – I honestly underestimated just how many things there were to do before moving to a different country! I’m optimistic, though, and am working towards completing all those things. Besides, I’m way too excited about this move to feel bad for too long!

Despite this excitement, there’s also some nervousness inside me. I’m not nervous about being farther away from home or about living in a different country. What I’m nervous about is the prospect of being in a long-distance relationship.

My boyfriend will be studying abroad as well – not in Norway, though, but in London. I am really happy for him because it really is a once-in-a-lifetime chance that he worked so hard for. But at the same time, it’s hard to imagine being apart from him – even if it’s just temporary. I look at it with a positive attitude, though: We now get to travel not only one country, but two! And I have plenty of excuses to go visit London.

I am confident that we will be able to go through this and come out as an even stronger couple, but if you have any tips for long-distance relationships I’d be more than happy to hear them!

But let’s not dwell on the negative for too long – as I said, I plan on making this year an amazing experience and I already have so many things planned out in my head that make me giddy with excitement. I’ll be sharing more of those plans with you soon, but I can already tell you that the photographer in me is having a field day just thinking about it!

Do you have any tips on living/studying abroad and making the most out of the experience?

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekly Wishes #1: Embracing Writing

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Today I am participating at Melyssa’s Weekly Wishes Roundup. The rules are easy: Just share your goals for the week, month or year! It’s about motivating yourself and other people to set your mind to achieving things – no matter how small or how big your goals may be.

My goal for this week (and this month) is pretty simple, but its this simplicity that the difficulty lies in. At the moment, my blog is very photography heavy. That’s not a bad thing, but it fails to convey one crucial part of my personality: That I am a writer by heart and a writer before a photographer.

I only discovered photography a short while ago and while I thoroughly enjoy getting to know my camera and discovering the world through its lens, it sometimes just isn’t enough. I originally started my blog as a way to put my love for writing to a practical use and also share my travel adventures with the world and now I want to challenge myself to go back to those roots.

Another goal that goes along with my goal to have more substantial writing on my blog is to share more of my personality through my posts. I love all the posts I have been putting out over the last few months, but sometimes I can’t help, but notice that they seem a bit impersonal to me. One thing that I have learned in my years of reading blogs is that my favorite bloggers are those that I have made a personal connection with. I constantly challenge myself to make my blog better and this is something I definitely want to get a grip on.

I struggle with bringing my personality into my blog. I fear that I will seem like an egotistical narcissist if I get more personal – and while I objectively know that this fear is silly, it does keep me from reaching my full potential as a blogger. I know that by writing more, I will probably also be more personal in posts, but I still wanted to list this as a separate goal to have a reminder.

As for practical matters: While I want to have more substantial writing on my blog, I also have a busy week in front of me. I know that blogging every day or even every other day will be a huge undertaking, if not to say impossible. I don’t just want to write long texts – I want to write texts that I as a writer can be proud of and that other people can take something from. To ensure quality, I therefore aim to publish two well-written and –thought-out posts until next Monday.

So there you have it. My goals are to write more and better and to be more personal.

What are your goals for this week?

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Scotland: Snapshots from Edinburgh

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We spent the last two days of our trip to Scotland in Edinburgh, an absolutely beautiful and inspiring city. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything bad about this place and it’s easy to see why: There’s beauty everywhere you look. Edinburgh is a city that I can definitely see myself living in and I envy those who do.

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures and I am kicking myself because of it now, but I really just wanted to savor our last days in Scotland. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Edinburgh then please do, it’s a city that has a lot to offer, but doesn’t feel hectic or stressful.

The Sights

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Edinburgh is often referred to as the Athens of the North, because of the National Monument on Calton Hill that resembles the Acropolis in Greece. It’s obviously not as old and not a ruin, however it was never finished because the city ran out of money to finance the construction. I’ve heard that Glasgow offered to pay for the completion, which Edinburgh refused because it was just too proud to accept money from its concurrent.

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Edinburgh’s most famous sight is the Edinburgh Castle. The entry fee is very high (16 Pounds per Person when we visited), but if you’re also planning to visit Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle you can save some money by purchasing a combination ticket. The area is pretty big and contains a couple of museums, a lot of monuments and a stunning view over the city. It’s full of people, though, which can be quite a shock if you’re just returning from the secluded Highlands.

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Edinburgh is divided into the New Town and the Old Town. The Old Town is the medieval centre of the city and houses the University of Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s home when she’s in town) and the new Scottish Parliament. Its heart is the Royal Mile, a street that goes from the Castle to Parliament and portrays everything you imagine Scotland to be.

The New Town isn’t really new (surprise), but the result of some major urban planning in the 18th century. The architecture is neo-classical and I’ve seen some of the most beautiful townhouses you could imagine. There are tons of shops and tons of restaurants and it feels much less touristy than in the Old Town.

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Recommendations

See

+ The Old Town & Royal Mile

+ The Beautiful Buildings in the New Town

Visit

+ Edinburgh Castle

+ National Gallery of Scotland: A small art museum – nothing terribly exciting, but the building is beautiful and it has just the right size to actually see all the pieces. It’s free of charge.

+ National Museum of Scotland: I wish I could have spend more time here! The museum is not just devoted to one kind of exhibition – there’s a bit of everything. From science to Scottish history to technology and cultural anthropology, it’s got it all and it does it very well. If you like museums, you’re going to love this one and if you don’t like them, this one may make you reconsider. Did I mention it’s free of charge?

Eat

+ Jamie’s Italian: I’m a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and I knew I just had to visit one of his restaurants while I’m the UK. It’s a bit more expensive than an average restaurant, but the prices were adequate and reasonable if you’re looking for a bit of a treat.

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This is my last day-to-day travel recollection of Scotland, but it won’t stay my last post on this wonderful country. I’m already working on a Travel tips for Scotland post that I hope to post soon. Scotland was a country that really touched me deeply. I love the nature, I love the people, I love the diversity. It was my first bigger trip since moving away to university and made me realize that I truly love travel and everything that goes with it. I hope I will be able to share many more journeys with you in the future!

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