We sisters have always loved to travel. By the time we each turned 20 we’d been to at least a dozen countries. Since then we’ve enjoyed adding new destinations to our passport and also revisiting our favourites. But now that we're adults with greater financial responsibilities it's harder to justify lavish vacations and our eco-awareness has grown which means that certain kinds of trips don't reflect our values. Furthermore, while we love sampling new cuisines, we’ve become much more health conscious, which has made travel challenging at times. So in the last few years we’ve made some modifications to our approach to travel. We thought we’d share them with you in case you’re having similar challenges integrating your travel desires with your budget and values.
We discovered Air BNB about five years ago and since then we’ve used it for accommodation on nearly every trip we’ve taken. If you’re not familiar with it, AirBNB is an online service that pairs people wanting to rent out their homes for short-term stays with people who want an affordable and more home-like experience when they’re travelling. Rentals range from a room in a home (similar to a more traditional B and B) to entire houses, condos, and even treehouses! From a budget perspective we love the affordability, from an eco perspective we love that it uses available spaces that might otherwise be wasted, and from a health perspective we love that it enables you to make a lot of your own food, thereby maintaining more control over your diet and further enabling you to save money. One additional bonus that we particularly appreciate is that you get a better sense of the culture of a place by living where the locals live (rather than in an hotel in a touristy area or out by an airport). AirBNB has established a great approach to quality assurance by providing a way for both the hosts and the guests to rate each other. Check out some of the places we’ve stayed by clicking here to see our Pinterest board. If you’d like to join Air BNB and give it a try, use this link to get $32 off your first booking.
Make Your Own Breakfast and Lunch
Another money saving and health promoting habit we have gotten into is finding a grocery store as soon as we check into a new destination. This enables us to stock up on groceries. If you’re staying at a place that has a fridge and cooking supplies (like an AirBNB above) then you can easily prepare and cook all three meals. If you’re staying in a more traditional hotel with no cooking equipment, you can still save money (and your health) by preparing some foods yourself. For example you can make a smoothie out of protein powder, water and some fruit. All you need to do is bring a small handblender with you. If you want to be really hard core, you can pack your favourite high-powered blender (like our beloved BlendTec). You can also purchase nuts, seeds and dried fruit to keep in your room. This will provide you with energy for all your travel activities while preventing expensive late-night calls for room service, or purchasing food from the mini-bar.
Free Walking Tours
Neither of us are big museum people (there’s something about all those dark rooms with recycled air that puts us right to sleep) but we do like to get a sense of the history of the place we’re visiting which is why we’re big fans of walking tours. We find them a lot more engaging, especially when you luck out and get an awesome tour guide. If you’re looking for a tour that’s a little more off the beaten track, we’d suggest checking out a “free walking tour.” Local university students who are passionate about their city and looking to make a little extra cash generally lead them, and because there’s no set price (you tip at the end) the guides have an added incentive to provide good value and include interesting, unique anecdotes. Kim took one when she was in Budapest last September and Amy did one early into her time living in Oxford last year. Kim’s was run by United Europe Free Tours but there are similar organizations around the world that offer them.
Lonely Planet Restaurant Recommendations
We’ll never forget carting around our well-loved Lonely Planet books when we backpacked through Europe. That was more than 10 years ago (almost 20 for Amy) so times have certainly changed. Nowadays there are no shortage of foodie apps like Yelp, but Lonely Planet is still our go-to resource when we’re planning our holidays. Personally we find too much choice overwhelming, so we appreciate that unlike some sites that include every restaurant, Lonely Planet offers us a few excellent options in each budget category. Whether we’re looking to splurge on a fancy four-course meal or grab a quick bite on the go, they’ve never led us astray. Lonely Planet has an excellent website so you can do your research online or you can find e-book copies of specific guides through the Toronto Library.
Bookstores & Artisan Craft Shops
We come from a very literary family – our grandmother was a librarian, our grandfather worked for a magazine, and our father has worked or taught in the publishing industry for his entire career – and there’s no doubt we inherited their love of literature. One of our absolute favourite things to do is browse bookstores so we usually scope out one or two when we visit a new city. Part of the reason for this tradition is that indie bookstores are often the key to discovering interesting neighbourhoods. Furthermore, local independent bookstores frequently carry interesting books about the area and also small run publications by local authors which make for lovely and inexpensive souvenirs. Similarly, we love checking out local artisan craft shops. This is another interesting way of getting a handle on the culture of a place, and sometimes you can pick up inexpensive pieces (like a mug made by a local potter) that makes for a nice functional reminder of your travels. These purchases also have the extra feel-good benefit of knowing you supported a local artist, rather than a factory thousands of miles away that makes and ships tacky magnets and keychains. ;)
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Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.