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Sziget Festival: A Survival Guide for 30-Somethings

April 15, 2017
Sziget Festival Survival Guide

We all know that the height of uber-cool things to do during the summer months is go to a music festival (according to my 18 year-old students). In my 20s I made it to a couple of festivals in Europe and V-Fest in the UK but have sadly never made it to the daddy of all UK festivals – Glastonbury.  At least I’ve not made it yet.

However, last summer my friend and frequent travel buddy Liz suggested we hit up Sziget Festival in Budapest – a SEVEN day extravaganza of music and artistry. She had ended up there during her travels the year before on a day ticket to see Florence & The Machine and realised this was something that needed doing properly.

The inner teenager in me enthusiastically said, “Yeah, cool, let’s do it!”  Then of course my inner monologue was hijacked by middle-aged Joanne, the woman who likes to sleep in comfy beds surrounded by silence, take daily showers, use clean loos and wash her hands afterwards. Seven days is a whole lotta festival!

I’m no travel snob, not by any means, but I couldn’t help recall my last festival camping experience where we were pitched next to some absolute (*insert choice words here*) who thought inhaling laughing gas from balloons at 4am and falling onto our tent was standard, accepted festival behaviour. We ended up leaving a night early and driving to my friend’s house in London, desperate for a hot shower, a mattress, a duvet and some peace.

So this time around, at the ages of 33 and 36, we decided to do our research and find a fuddy-duddy friendly festival plan that allowed us to remain cool and down-with-the-kids, whilst also satisfying our need for a bit of R&R.

If I do say so myself, we did an ace job, so here are my top tips for surviving Sziget in your 30s…

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Invasion Mag

1. Do not Camp at the Festival

Sziget is held on Óbudai-sziget (‘Old Buda Island’), an island in the middle of the Danube aptly dubbed ‘The Island of Freedom’ by the organisers for the week of the festival.

There are a number of reasons I could give for not camping, one of them being that you end up being kind of stuck out there away from the other amazing sights Budapest has to offer. Of course there are transport links on and off the island (which I will come to) but with everything that is going on all day and night at the festival, you’d probably end up deciding to stick around rather than exploring the city.

Had we gone straight to camp on the island, we probably would never have experienced the “beer bike”, undoubtedly one of the most unusual and fun ways I’ve ever been sight-seeing. Basically, you and up to seven others pedal power what is essentially a bar on wheels. While your driver/guide steers up at the front, you cycle away and pull your own pints at the back. We threw in some sing-along entertainment too for good measure, gaining many a round of applause from admiring pedestrians.

Another reason not to camp is very simply because it’s uncomfortable, noisy and eventually, very smelly!

As with many festivals nowadays, there are a number of accommodation options on the island that are a significant step up from camping. We considered booking the ‘Flexotel’ option for a while – little shed-like cabins containing 2 beds, linen and towels, a power supply, storage space and access to separate bathroom facilities. It all sounded perfect for a couple of 30-something revellers until we realised we could get our own apartment in the city for a fraction of the cost.

The Flexotel rooms cost 895 euros for the week and that doesn’t include your actual festival ticket. It just didn’t make sense, and the cheaper option (tents) didn’t appeal at all.  

Staying in the city apartment meant we could come and go as we pleased while also having easy access to other attractions around Budapest. By the end of the week, as we walked around the island watching the haunted, dusty, exhausted youngsters dragging their zombified selves around, catching a whiff of them or their abodes every now and again, we knew we’d made the right choice.

Like I said, seven days is a long slog to be living in a small canvas triangle.

At this point I have to give a little shout out to Georgia, our host at Red Pearl apartment who, after getting over her initial annoyance at our arriving a bit later than expected, made us very welcome and even had a bottle of wine waiting for us on arrival. She has a couple of fully furnished, self-catering apartments in the same building, situated right in the heart of the city on a street with convenience stores, bars and restaurants. They can all be found on or AirB&B.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Love Music Travel

2. Know the Public Transport Times and Routes

If you do decide to stay in the city, it is well worth checking to see how close your accommodation is to a main metro line. Using public transport is really cheap which helped make our decision to stay in town an easy one.

We stayed a very short walk away from Kalvin-Ter metro station on the blue M3 metro line and getting to Sziget was pretty easy. We took the M3 a couple of stops, transferred onto the red M2 line going to the other side of the river to Batthyany-Ter station and then jumped onto the overland train up to the festival getting off at the Filatorigat stop with the rest of the cool kids. The whole journey took about 30 minutes.

The earlier you go, the less packed the trains are and the easier it is to get over the bridge and into the festival. Queues tend to get busier the later in the afternoon it got but we never had any major problems; it’s pretty well organised with portaloo stops along the way just in case.

Trains coming back off the island were pretty regular and ran until late at night to make sure everyone who stayed for the headline act could get back.

It is worth noting however that the metros do not follow suit and the last metro tends to finish before midnight, whereas the last train back from Sziget arrives back in the city after the clock ticks over into the next day.  Make sure you plan carefully or you may end up on a bus with no idea of which way it is going (guilty) or in a taxi costing more than your whole book of public transport tickets (guilty again)!

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Global Publicity

3. Get the App

Isn’t technology brilliant?

Remember the days when we had to wait for information about events to come through the post ON PAPER, or make phone calls to find out what in the world was going on then draw up an itinerary ON PAPER?!?

Well no more my globetrotting friends!

This has probably been happening for all sorts of festivals and events for years, but for me, being able to download a tailor-made app that could tell me pretty much anything I needed to know about acts, stages, shows, artists, times and locations was a whole new 21st century experience.

The Sziget Festival app is free to download and is a great way to plan your days and nights on the island. You can save the acts you want to see in your own personal planner so you know exactly where you need to go at the touch of a button.

Mind blown.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Gap 360

4. Locate the Good Toilets (and Bring Supplies)

Anyone who is a regular to festivals knows this one is pretty important.

You want to find the kind that actually flush, as opposed to the ones that have that pump lever that you try to avoid touching with your hands by using your foot (no? Just me?). Those are the loos that are going to be pretty horrendous after seven days of use by people who have been living on a staple diet of fast food and beer.

Luckily, at Sziget, there were a number of more “luxury” options scattered around which also had proper sinks and taps outside of them too (no soap however – take your sanitiser).

The most convenient of these were located right at the back of the main stage audience area which meant we didn’t have to journey far from the big acts when nature called.

It’s also worth having a supply of tissues with you (standard festival kit) as the loo roll provided runs out pretty quickly.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Festi Leaks

5. Get your Passport Stamped

A very cool aspect of the whole Sziget experience is the passport you are issued on arrival. Not only does it serve as your guide to the festival and the venue, it has two pages just waiting to be stamped at the many different tents, stations and areas around the island, just like a real passport.

What a novel way to get people exploring the whole venue during their stay!

We obviously made it our mission to collect every one of the 23 stamps, some of which you can only get at certain times of day, which in turn led to us trying out lots of the quirky activities: Travelling Funfair, Sportzone, Cirque Du Sziget, Ability Park, I Ching Labyrinth, Museum Quarter, and 17 more funtivity filled spots.

Once festival “Szitizens” have filled their passports with stamps (which also include a photo and a few funny personal details), they can claim their prize – free merchandise!

I got myself a snazzy bandana which I rocked on the last day. Which brings me to my next snippet of advice…

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: One Backpack Blog

6. Look the Part – Wear the Merch and Learn How to Braid

Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt?

Good, because you’re not part of the gang unless you’re wearing something Sziget branded.

To be honest, I bought my hoodie because it got a bit chilly at night but I was happy that my nanna-like need for warmth and comfort also allowed me to join the ranks of the other young, cool Szitizens.

As for hairstyles, it seems braids are back. I’m more of a bun and bandana girl myself, but I made sure Liz was a member of the braidy-bunch (you can thank me later, Liz).

Needless to say, we looked awesome! No, really.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Joanne – Exploring Kiwis

7. Laybags are the New Black

Laybags/Laysacks – these things go by a number of names these days but the concept is the same and they are the new essential item to have at open field events.

As regular concert and outdoor event goers, Liz and I had ordered a laybag each months before the festival but they had failed to turn up on time so we were rendered green with envy when half the population of Sziget had these very comfy looking, inflatable couch/beds.

I’m over the days of sweaty mosh-pits at festivals; I much prefer sitting back and chilling with a beer while watching my favourite artists rock out on stage, so having a big bouncy bag of air to recline on would have been lovely (*sigh). 

Having said that, now mine has arrived I can say with confidence that inflating them is not as simple as they make it seem on the adverts. Expect many a comedy moment as you run around trying to ‘catch’ air in the bloody thing!

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Absolute Tours

Have the Best Time – You’re Only as Old as you Feel!

Other than these few tried and tested tips, I would recommend trying as many of the food-trucks as possible (the Hungarian sausage being a personal favourite), wear comfy but ‘throw-away-able’ shoes, and don’t feel bad about missing things. There is so much going on that it would be impossible to do it all.

My bottom line?

Have fun.

Safe, warm, comfortable, clean fun!

Help a 30+ out by pinning this post…

The biggest and best of music festival in all of Europe! Don't miss Sziget Festival - Budapest's amazing multi-day music fest. Need a little help surviving Sziget Festival? Budapest's music fest (one of the biggest in Europe) is amazing but a little advice will help ensure your experience is one to remember for all the right reasons.


Zena – A Brit with a Once-in-a-Lifetime Travel Dream. I Made it Happen and You Can Too!

February 12, 2017

When I was a child I used to sit on the floor with a book, almost the same size as me, open on the floor. It was my mum’s Readers Digest Wonders of the World and I would pour over those pages, each time as though it was the first time I had looked at it. I would imagine myself in the pictures, staring out at the peculiar lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna in Bolivia, exploring the sandstone formations of Zangye Danxia in China and sat mystified by the mist coming in over the strange shapes of The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. But mostly I was drawn to the photos of Antarctica. I went back to those pages again and again.

When I looked at the Antarctica photos everything seemed so alien. The ice seemed to sculpt into such peculiar shapes. The penguins looked like they spread as far as the eyes could see and in the drawn pictures it looked, to my eight-year-old eyes, as through every whale you could imagine would be flicking its tail or bearing its dorsal fin in the seas around you.

But most of all it just seemed so far away. So impossible to get to.

And so I knew, that one day, I would get there.

In 2016, I did.

Zena Exploring Kiwis Antarctica

This is me, exceptionally proud of the fact that I had climbed a mountain in my kayaking dry suit as I didn’t have time to go back to the boat and change.  There was no way on earth I was going to miss the chance to climb an Antarctic mountain! (Life jacket and all, ironically, I have never been so hot!)

Visiting Antarctica was the inevitable journey for a wandering soul; I find it very difficult to stay still. I have a constant awareness of how much there is to see and to do in this lifetime and as such I’m on a continual quest to see and do as much as I can. When Sarah from Exploring Kiwis asked me if I would like come into their fold I jumped at the chance. So here I am, introducing myself to you.

I think ultimately the best way I can do that is with every post I get to write, that way our introductions to each other will feel less forced and we can skip the usual excruciating small talk 😉

But in the meantime I can tell you a few things, which will hopefully make me seem like less of a stranger and justify my place on this blog.

I once received a phone call from a friend in the middle of the night – the next day I picked up and then carried a film camera lens all the way to Sri Lanka as it was cheaper for the film crew to fly me over with it than to have it couriered alone. It ended up shooting one of the street parade scenes in the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. 48 hours later I was back in London.

Here’s the camera on set in Colombo…

Zena Exploring Kiwis Sri Lanka

When I was little, my Dad was a Captain in the Merchant Navy, as such my Mum and I were allowed to travel with him. The other sailors – who all missed their own children, fixed a paddling pool to the foredeck and it became my own pool! I used to sit in it wearing a huge life jacket, with sailors as my own very well trained life guards.

This is me pretending to be the Captain (with a very hefty orange!)…

Zena Exploring Kiwis

I love combing beaches for curiosities and to stroll as far away from others as I possibly can to reflect on the present time I am standing in and to let my memories catch up with me. My solitude was once rewarded when I spotted a little, almost transparent, crab –  I swear when you look closely has Laurel and Hardy on its back.

Can you see Laurel and Hardy?

Zena Exploring Kiwis

I am obsessed with ice and all things cold, so I love exploring cold countries, but I also almost always only ever wear dresses. It’s not so much a point of protest; I just don’t really own any trousers. So when I travel to wintery climes I have to invest in a big coat… or be brave. I mostly favour the latter.

But I do know how to dress up warm when it counts!

OK. Enough. I hope this little insight will help us forge a friendship, as I do my best to report back what I see, when I see it, to anyone who’s interested. I look forward to being your eyes, ears, in fact all the senses on the ground wherever I find myself on this magnificent planet.

As I once accidentally ended a presentation to a crowded lecture theatre when nervously not knowing how to finish. Peace out.

Zena Birch


Hi From an Exploring Non-Kiwi! Meet Lottie…

February 8, 2017
Lottie Exploring Kiwis

Hi, I’m Lottie… an exploring non-Kiwi and the newest member of the team. I have been reading Exploring Kiwis since I first entered the blogging sphere.  In fact, Sarah was the first person to respond to my shout out for guest posts and I quickly fell in love with their adventures and stories!

I’m originally from the UK but have lived in Australia, Canada and, for the past 3 years, South Africa. I used to be a primary school teacher in London before swapping my classroom for a corporate office in Toronto. I loved life in Canada but, 3 years later, I ditched city life completely to seize an opportunity managing education projects in rural Zululand.

I consider myself lucky to have inherited the wanderlust gene from my mum who took me all over the UK when I was little and then throughout Europe as I got older.

For the past 18 months, my boyfriend and I have traveled South Africa in a caravan (in between trips to Vietnam and Europe) and have now almost completed the circumference! We have explored all the nooks and crannies from the wild Western coastline where we got stuck under a lighthouse, to the Namaqualand outback where the roads were so bumpy we lost the Landy’s sunroof as the screws undid themselves!

I don’t tend to keep count of the countries I have been to because, no matter how many new ones I cross of my list, there are still so many more I want to explore! My travel highlights include Sorrento, Rome, NYC, Hluhluwe National Park (South Africa), Byron Bay, Mukono (Uganda) and Hoi An.

Along the way, I have fallen into travel blogging (after starting my site as an online diary for my friends and family at home). They never really had any idea where we were in the caravan and I thought it would be a good way to share my journey with them! Little did I know, it would lead me to a state in which I always have a folder filled to bursting with draft posts and not enough time in the day to get them all down ‘on paper’!

My favourite thing about the blogging world is the community that you become part of and the connections you make. It’s much like traveling – apart from the sights, sounds and smells that you experience, it’s the people you meet along the way fully make the adventure.

Since we’re getting to know each other, here’s five interesting facts about me…

  • My nickname at university was Princess because my favourite colour is pink and I like sparkly things. I have however proved myself to be more barbarian than princess-like since living in the bush in a caravan!
  • I am a planner and an organiser who always has a never ending ‘to do’ list (or two).
  • I grew up as a cat person but having inherited a dog along with the boy, I have realised how awesome they are.
  • Uganda is my favourite country and one of the few ones I could go back to over and over again.
  • I learned to ride a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh city last year and then went on to ride 2500 miles to Hanoi.
  • I have a dream to road trip from one end of Africa to the other in a converted truck.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the places I (virtually) take you to and look forward to sharing our adventures with you all.


Introducing Jade: A London-Based Exploring Kiwi

February 5, 2017
Jade Love Exploring Kiwi

Hi, I’m Jade, a Kiwi living abroad who loves travel, warm weather, good food and good company.

In January 2016, my husband Mark and I sold our home, packed our bags and moved to London. We gave up what some would call ‘the dream life’ to start a new adventure in the Northern Hemisphere.

Honestly, when we show friends and colleagues where we are from, their response is always “why on earth would you move here?!”

Well, the move was a result of satisfying my 12-year longing to live in London (which seeded from a year-long stint living in a village in the UK in 2015). The desire to indulge in the extensive history, multitude of cultures and constant steam of events and possibilities that London has to offer was too great to resist… and lucky for me, Mark was up for a change. So with just enough time available to sell the house and enjoy one last summer with friends and family we applied for our visas and were on our way.

Although Australian born, both my parents are Kiwi. I am convinced this factor is the key to my travel bug. Living in Australia away from extended family I found myself on a plane to NZ two or three times before moving across at the age of six. I always get an overwhelming feeling of being ‘home’ when stepping off a plane in both Australia and New Zealand, but I claim Kiwi in all instances.

So the travel between Australia and NZ so young started my ‘bug’ and it continued to grow when I was a teenager, returning to visit Surfers Paradise, Sydney and Cairns during my teenage years on family holidays. Coming into my final years of secondary school teachers urged me to start thinking about University. And to tell you the truth, I couldn’t think of anything worse.

My passion at school had fallen to drama and with the obvious next choice of drama school not overly enthusing me, I found another way forward.

I took a gap year.

Inspired by a close friend who had gone overseas to do an exchange during school, I decided that this would be my path. I applied to the GAP program and was coincidentally placed in a performing arts boarding school about an hour out of London for a year as a helper. Voluntary visa in hand, I boarded the plane and stumbled through what turned out to be an incredible and exceptionally hard and lonely year. During holidays I travelled as much my budget would allow and learnt so much from those first travelling experiences – both good and bad. Ever since, I have been hooked.

After my GAP year I went home a changed person with a very different outlook on life to friends who had gone to university. Instead of trying to jump back into life where I left off I got a job, worked (and worked and worked), studied and gained a Bachelors majoring in Tourism Management. I became a tour guide through New Zealand for a short time. I absolutely loved guiding and treasure the unforgettable experiences I had while on the job, but finding work to fit around those sporadic trips proved difficult so the guiding stopped…

However, the travel lust never went away.

I met Mark at the end of my studies, and ever since then Mark and I have traveled whenever possible. Together we have been to Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Singapore, Japan, England, Scotland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Monaco, Iceland, Sweden and Malta. (We also stayed in Norway on an overnight train but since we slept through and saw nothing it just doesn’t count!)

What’s next for us?

Our big holidays in 2017 will be Greece (both mainland and the islands) and Croatia. I plan on sprinkling long weekends  away throughout the year to allow us to visit other destinations (the beauty of having Europe on our doorstep).

I absolutely can’t wait to tell you all about our travels so keep your eyes out for more posts to come.

XO Jade


Another New Kid on the Block (or is that Blog?)… Meet Sarah Sullivan

January 23, 2017
Sarah S Exploring Kiwis tulips

Kia Ora!

I’m Sarah, originally from New Zealand but currently residing in Abu Dhabi working as a teacher at a local school.

My passion for traveling all started with a stint working at a summer camp in America.  The exposure to meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and trying new foods, ignited a fire in me and I haven’t stopped traveling since!

Over the past nine years I have been working as a teacher and nanny in England, Austria, Germany and now the United Arab Emirates. During this time I have spent every free moment exploring and traveling the world and having travelled to over 50 countries my ‘list’ seems to be never ending – in fact every time I travel I seem to add at least 10 more places to my list (first world problems, I know!)

When away on adventures I love to fit the most into my time away, experience new food, encounter something daring or adventurous, try out the local nightlife, and if I can manage to fit in a hike that’s an added bonus!  I have experienced every type of travel and I love it all – with that said though, I won’t be rushing out to spend seven weeks living in a tent again anytime soon!

A few of my interests aside from travelling are hiking, netball, dragon boats, reading, cooking, trying new restaurants, aimlessly checking Facebook, and constantly talking (the latter two might be habits).

A common question I encounter is what is your favourite place? I find this question impossible to answer – I have loved every adventure and trip I’ve been on and I can’t wait to share these adventures with you!

Sarah Sullivan


The Wandering Brit Tags Along with the Kiwis

January 17, 2017
Joanne McLaughlin Exploring Kiwis

Marhaba, Ciao, G’day, Yiasou!

I thought it fitting to introduce myself through the languages of the countries I’ve lived and worked in (although sadly ‘hi’ is probably the only word I can remember from some of them).

I’m Joanne, a northern Brit with Greek heritage, and to be quite honest I feel like a bit of a fraud as a non-Kiwi. But surely having travelled around New Zealand and LOVED it, I can be let off as an honorary Kiwi, right?

So, why am I qualified to write travel blogs? Well, since graduating from university many moons ago, I’ve found it very hard to keep my restless feet on the ground. As a child growing up, we never really went on holidays ‘abroad’. Instead we went (and by ‘we’ I mean my parents, brothers, friends, brothers’ friends, aunties, cousins and cousins’ friends) to a caravan park on the north-east coast of England. Exotic, I know. So when the opportunity arose to work – and play – in Cyprus at the tender age of 21, I grabbed it with both hands.

From that first real footstep on foreign sands, I was hooked. I’ve been a holiday rep in Cyprus and the Greek islands, driven a trackless train tour in Sydney, served the beer in an outback pub in Queensland, all before getting ‘a real job’ and becoming a teacher. Other than the UK, teaching has taken me to Italy and Abu Dhabi so far and has opened up the doors to a whole world (literally) of travel opportunities.

My travel app tells me I have visited 37 countries, which is about 18% of the world, so I still have a lot of work to do! As all travel addicts will know, the impossible question is always, “Where do you like best?” I can honestly say I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been, but some of my favourite spots so far have been New Zealand (I’m not just saying that) for its unbelievable natural beauty, Bali for its amazing vibe and diverse landscapes, Vienna for the stunning architecture and rich European culture, and South Africa for the views, meat and ridiculously cheap yet delicious wine.

I really hope you enjoy my ramblings about the places I’ve been and have yet to visit.

Watch this space for a post coming very soon…

Adventure blogging Travel

10 Amazing Bucket-List Adventures – Better Get Planning!

January 15, 2017
Bucket List The World Pursuit

People travel for any range of reasons but for us, it is often the unique and awe-inspiring experiences that each area offers that draws us in.  We recently reached out to a bunch of our fellow travel bloggers to better understand the adventures they’ve enjoyed.

Does bucket list inspiration get any better?

Horseback Riding to the Tsaatan Reindeer Herders in Mongolia – Ze Wandering Frogs

Visiting the Tsaatan reindeer herders in Mongolia is a full-fledged adventure. It requires a 12-hour overnight bus from Ulaanbaatar to Murun, and another 12-hour Russian mini-van ride over bumpy dirt roads and fast rivers to reach Tsagaannuur by Lake Khovsgol. From there it takes anywhere from a one to three day horse ride to arrive at the nomads’ camp (depending on the season and where they camp).

Our Mongolian guide prepared our horses and the packhorses carrying our bags and food for our five-day trip. Mongolian horses are quite different than the horses one might ride in Western countries. Small, partially wild, with a mind of their own. The gear is handmade – a wooden or metal frame saddle with little cushioning, and tack made of thin torn ropes.

We got to know our horses as we rode through fantastic scenery painted with the fall colours of late September. We crossed wide open valleys and pine forests. Our horses struggled stuck knee-deep in the muddy taiga and slid on the steep and rocky trails with barely space for their hooves. I used to own my horse and am usually a confident rider, but I confess this was a challenging ride – not for the faint of heart.

The six-hour trip over these treacherous conditions left us sore all over and eager to arrive. Our guide would confess at the end of the voyage he was glad no one – human or horse – broke a limb…

A short pause as we reached a pass allowed us to stretch our legs and enjoy a panoramic view of the Khoridol Saridag mountains, with summits over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) high. Luckily the camp was only a short distance away.

We were thrilled to finally see the reindeer and their herders, the famous Tsaatan nomads. They shared their yurts with us for five night, high in the forests. We picked blueberries, I got a hand at (unsuccessfully) milking a reindeer, and we followed them as they grazed on the Ulaan (red) taiga.

The Tsaatan family allowed us to glance into their millennia-old traditions and we loved every minute of our stay. Our horses were never far, and brought us from camp to camp. My mare did not like crossing rivers – an issue when you have so many in the mountains. My husband’s horse did not like rocks and struggled on the rocky trails.

The return over the steep slippery slopes was tricky, and we had to lead our horses by hand. Many times I thought my mare was going to overrun me, or at least step on my feet. We quickly reached the valleys around Tsagaannuur and with the horses eager to return to the barn, we let the horses finished our ride at full gallop – the too-soon end of our adventure to the Tsaatan.

Adventure travellers and lovers of the outdoors, Patricia & Bruno – Ze Wandering Frogs – enjoy hiking, diving and kiteboarding, but are up for any challenge. They have over 30+ and 5 continents under their belts and are currently on a round-the-world trip. Check out where they are now on their Facebook page.

Traversing India by Auto Rickshaw – No Back Home

One of the most difficult, adventurous and life changing things I have ever done was drive an auto rickshaw across India. Yep, 4000km zig-zagging our way from the far south of India to the far north east of the country, in a 3 wheeled vehicle most wouldn’t trust on a golf course, in less than 2 weeks. 

Epic breakdowns, meltdowns, close calls and scary moments filled our 14 hour days, but as we approached the finish line, we would have done anything to keep going.

So what is this all about (and how can I do it too) you must be wondering?  Several times a year, The Adventurists, a group out of the UK, organises (I use that term loosely) a run across India in the name of charity. You sign up, pay your entrance fee, design your rickshaw and raise money for charity before putting your life on the line for one of the most amazing adventures you can imagine. The Adventurists set the start and ending points, provide the rickshaws and then leave the rest up to you.This is not a guided tour of India. There is no life support team to help you out along the way. It is up to you, your partners, the kindness of strangers, which thankfully are plentiful in India, and your own creativity to get you from point A to point B.

Wanting to make our journey more adventurous, we choose a route through the centre of the country, driving through villages that had never seen a foreigner in person before, much less one driving an auto rickshaw! Our driving conditions were less than ideal.

Making our way through chaotic streets filled with people, bullock carts, cows and motorcycles, driving on dirt roads labeled national highways or lost in rice paddy fields being given directions by drunk locals gives you some idea of what our days looked like. But don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all bad. In between constant breakdowns, massive speed humps that appeared out of no where, fuel strikes and a partner who had never driven before, our faces hurt from smiling and laughing so much. Being out on the open road, in charge of our own vehicle, charting our own path through this intoxicating, exhilarating and often overwhelming country was transformative. The astounding diversity found on this vast continent is unparalleled. From the variations in food, language, religion and natural landscapes, we took it all in, savouring every moment.

So yes, it was arduous, both mentally and physically, but it was the greatest adventure of my life and one that should be on every adventurer’s bucket list!

Karilyn is a family travel writer exploring her way through her new home city of Los Angeles with her 6 year old in tow, always planning for their next adventure abroad!  Join the fun on her Instagram account.

Exploring the Bornean Jungle by Boat – Bobo and Chichi

The one experience we will never forget would have to be our visit to Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo.

We got to enjoy floating through the river through Tanjung Puting National Park’s jungle while seeing the most beautiful and enchanting wildlife.

We saw everything from endangered wild orangutans, crocodiles, giant horn bill birds, tons of different species of monkeys including gibbons and the strange looking proboscis monkeys, and even a snake carrying a fish in it’s mouth to name a few.

Seeing wild animals is no guarantee, but the odds are in your favour that you will see many!

Not only did we get to see native wildlife of Borneo, but we got to witness more beautiful, semi-wild orangutans at all three feeding stations along the river including the famous Camp Leakey where the most important studies on orangutans to date have taken place.

Spending four days living on a boat and sleeping under the stars in the jungle has to be one of the greatest outdoor adventures to experience. It definitely was one of the most unique and memorable travel experiences we have had to date.

Together Scott and Megan are Bobo and Chichi, bloggers with a refreshing degree of honesty.  They’ve traded in their corporate jobs and are travelling the world, with occasional stops to refuel their bank accounts.  Check out their amazing hyper-lapse videos on Youtube too!

Overlanding Through Africa – The World Pursuit

I’ll never forget driving a truck across Africa with my partner Natasha. There is no doubt that it has been the most difficult journey of our travels thus far. The time, money, and effort we have placed into it have been immense. The hardships could be made into a novel whether it was border crossings, legal paperwork, or bone-rattling roads. However, it has been rewarding, to say the least.

We’ve traveled to areas far beyond the average visitor and certainly the average safari goer. We’ve hiked in wildernesses seldom traveled by anyone, and developed a much better understanding of the world we live in. Driving through a country gives you a totally new perspective. Sure, I’ve seen all of the big five safari animals, but what I’ll remember the most is climbing a muddy mountain road in Zimbabwe during the rainy season in our LandCruiser named Charlie.

It certainly has been an experience second-to-none.

Cameron and Natasha have been traveling the world together for the last three years and now document their travels on The World Pursuit. They share a love of coffee, movies, and above all else, exploring the world.  Want to see more?  Check out their Facebook page.

Visiting The Galapagos Islands – Nomadic Boys

An experience we’ll never forget is our cruise around the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, around 1,000km (600 miles) from Ecuador’s coast. The variety of unique wildlife here not only inspired Darwin back in 1835 but it completely captivated us when we visited in October 2016.

This is one of the few places in the world where you get so close to the wildlife because they are blazé to humans. You’ll be so spoilt, no other safari will be the same again.

Most island hopping cruises in the Galapagos focus on either the West islands or the East. The main difference between the two is time – the Western islands are younger and larger because they have witnessed volcanic eruptions more recently. As such they have a more volatile environment, but with stunning instagrammable landscapes. The Eastern Islands are older, so have had more time to develop vegetation, making them greener, attracting more wildlife.

Each island has something different to offer, whether it’s bird watching, volcano landscapes, sea lions, flamingos or giant tortoises. Every day involved hours of treks through each island – intense but well worth it.

Our highlight was on Española Island, where we got to hang out with the sea lions and practice a few yoga moves with them!

Together Stefan and Sebastien are travelling the world and documenting their adventures on their blog, Nomadic Boys. This couple is currently in the middle of a trip across Latin America, which to date has included Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.  Check out where they currently are on Instagram!

Swimming with the World’s Smallest Dolphins – BackpackerGuide.NZ

When organising ‘New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year’ where we challenged ourselves to tackle 365 activities in New Zealand in 365 days, we never thought that one of our most relaxing days would be our most memorable.

On a hot summer’s day in the Akaroa Harbour we hopped on a boat to explore the local marine reserve. After spotting a hangout of shags, a rookery of albatross, a ternery of terns, and even a seal colony, we spotted a pod of Hector’s dolphins. The world’s smallest dolphin species turned out to be one of the most playful. Curious about our boat and looking to play in its wake, the six dolphins started jumping and following us inviting us to join them in the water.

Not that we needed more incentive to jump into the inviting turquoise waters, we slid into our wetsuits and joined the dolphins.

The trick to play with dolphins in their natural habitat? Sing! The pod of dolphin responded almost instantly to the vibrations of our lungs in the water so we kept singing and they kept swimming by us closer and closer. We got to see them interact with each other and inspect interesting objects (ie. us). It was a truly unforgettable insight into the lives of marine life that we rarely see in the wild and let alone “hang out” with.

The Hector’s dolphins are critically endangered and our time spent in the marine reserve helped fund its protection so hopefully more adventurous travellers get to see those amazing creatures in the wild for years to come.

Robin and Laura are creating the most amazing memories as they spend a year travelling around New Zealand in an RV.  They have the most gorgeous, uniquely-Kiwi photos on their Instagram account and are giving us a massive bout of home-sickness (is that even a word?)

Hiking Across Finland – The Crowded Planet

Ever since we hiked the Camino de Santiago my husband and I fell in love with long-distance hiking. There’s something special about travelling on foot, it makes us feel closer to nature and the people we meet along the way.

Last summer we decided to cross by foot the southern part of one of our favourite countries, Finland. We started in Porvoo, a lovely little town not far from Helsinki, and walked all the way to Turku and then across the Aland Islands. The only kind of transport we took were boats to move between islands in the Finnish Archipelago.

We spent 40 days walking in total, and we had so many wonderful experiences – sleeping in hanging tents in the forest, enjoying lots of relaxing saunas, eating berries and watching the sunset at 11.30 pm. If I were to choose my favourite experience from the trip, I would say it was sleeping in a lighthouse in Bengtskar, a tiny island. This was truly a dream come true! 

Is there a better travel blogging combination than a writer and a photographer?  Together, Margherita and Nick Writer, travel the world with adventure and nature in mind.  Check their gorgeous landcape photos out on Instagram today.

The Crowded Planet Bucket List The Crowded Planet Bucket List

Go Somewhere You Probably Shouldn’t – The Day I was Accused of Being an Islamic State Spy in Lebanon – Against the Compass

One day while traveling, I decided to go south and visit the wall that separates Lebanon from Israel. Both countries had been in a continuous war for several decades. Today, this is one of the most sensitive borders in the world.

When I reached the wall, I started walking along the border with my camera. After 500 meters, I saw myself surrounded by UN soldiers and the Lebanese army. This border is not only a sensitive one, but it’s within Hezbollah territory as well. I was carrying a big camera and that’s why I was detained.

Travel tip: Never ever take pictures in Hezbollah territory!

They took me to a military base where I was interrogated and questioned for hours. They accused me of being an ISIS or Israeli spy (both of them are Hezbollah enemies). After all this questioning, they called the general of the Spanish Army in Lebanon (I’m from Spain). Then, the general called someone from the Spanish government to check if I had a suspicious background. Since they didn’t find anything, I was finally released.

The best of all was that, since they knew I was just a harmless traveler, in the end, I was allowed to take pictures of the wall. There were only two conditions: I had to be accompanied by soldier andwas  never ever to return to the area.

Joan Torres is a Spanish national with a taste for adventure.  He loved to travel off-the-beaten-track, exploring spots you’ve probably only dreamed about.  Stay up to date with Joan’s travels by following him on Twitter.

Getting Messy at La Tomatina – Foodie Flashpacker

I had read about La Tomatina years before and always thought it sounded cool. The world’s largest tomato fight taking place in a Spanish village so small it cannot accommodate the number of partiers. Drinking that begins at 7am. What’s not to like?

Catching a 6am train we arrived to the scene shortly thereafter. People were already drinking beer, wine and sangria and eating pizza when the sun was barely up!

We wandered around town, half exploring and half trying to find the best spot for when the alarm sounded, signaling the beginning of the festivities.

We watched as people took turns trying to climb a greased flagpole to reach a ham on the top. Party-goers climbed over one another before ultimately falling back down the pole. The party couldn’t start until someone reached the ham and knocked it down so we stood-by and sipped sangria, cheering the drunken athletes on. 

As soon as the ham was knocked from the pole, water cannons signaled the beginning of the food fight. Only tomatoes can be thrown during this festival and they must be squished first. Other than that, it’s an all out war!

The battle goes for exactly one hour before the cannons signal the end. Locals that had been hiding indoors then emerge with water hoses and buckets of water to help clean tomato pulp from the hair, shoes and clothes of visitors. 

Other locals quickly break out their BBQ grills and paella pans to begin preparing to sell food to everyone that is drunk, filthy and exhausted. 

As much as I loved it and it’s always nice to cross something off my bucket list for me it’s a once-and-done kind of experience, albeit one I’ll never forget and would highly recommend.

Nathan is a long-term traveller with a passion for getting to know what makes a place tick – this normally means checking out the local culinary delights.  Check out Nathan’s Instagram but be sure to do it with a full tummy – he’s got some seriously delicious-looking food snaps on there.

Checking out Ethiopia’s Lava Lake – Dante Harker

Seeing lava has been on my bucket-list (AKA my Epic Quest) for years, and I’ve tried many times to see it. Usually, when we arrive, some apologetic tour guide says ‘well it was there last week’.  And then there was that one time where my partner fell down the side of a volcano, which again didn’t end up in us seeing lava, just him having a mild concussion. 

Finally though, at the end of 2016 we stood 10ft away from a bubbling lava lake in a place the internet describes as the most inhospitable place on earth – it was pretty harsh if I’m honest. But amazing in all it’s glory.

The lava lake at Erta Ale in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia had bubbled over which meant to climb to the top we had to ease our way over partially hardened magma. A bit like walking on thin ice but with a lake of burning death underneath you rather than water. 

Thankfully, we didn’t die and did get a huge tick for the Epic Quest!

Dante runs a fantastic travel blog but don’t call him a blogger!  He’s a real jack of all trades and loves sharing his experiences in life with his readers – his travels and quest to tick off his bucket-list with his husband being a key focus on his corner of the internet.  Follow his adventures on Instagram.

Keen for another intake of bucket-list inspiration?  Stay tuned for our second instalment coming soon!

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10 Bucket List Experiences by professional travellers 


Yes, I Like to Travel – Meet Maria, the Newest Exploring Kiwi

January 15, 2017
Exploring Kiwis Maria Iceland

Why hello there – my name is Maria and as one of the newest Exploring Kiwis we thought I’d better introduce myself…

Anybody who knows me, knows that I love to make lists. So, I thought it was only fitting that I introduce myself in list format and tell you some things about myself!

I’m a Kiwi, with a Dutch passport, living in Switzerland, thinking about moving to Scotland. Very confusing, I know. I was born and bred in Auckland, New Zealand, but I was never a huge traveller when I was younger – a few trips here and there to Australia with family was about the extent of it.

Like many people, the catalyst for my travel obsession came about after a rather awful breakup. After suffering through a minor existential crisis (Who am I? What am I doing? Help!) I threw in the towel and flew to Thailand with a friend for an 8 week backpacking trip – eating, drinking and adventuring – and from that moment travel became a bit of an obsession.

I’ve lived in the Middle East and Europe. I’ve travelled extensively through more than 50 countries, sometimes on a budget, sometimes not, and almost always by myself.

Exploring Kiwis Maria Grand Canyon

My favourite countries so far are Switzerland, Turkey, Croatia, Samoa and Iceland. I still have so many more on my list to go – I’ve always thought that it is one of life’s greatest mysteries that when you travel, instead of your to-do list getting smaller it somehow keeps getting bigger and bigger…

Some things I like – beaches, surfing, cocktails, crepes, hammocks, hiking, photos of pretty sunsets, cheese and history.

Some things I dislike – people who walk too slowly, manspreaders, shellfish, snickers bars and monuments covered in scaffolding.

Exploring Kiwis Maria Iceland DC3

And that’s me in a nutshell, really. Thank you for popping over to my tiny corner of the Internet – I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

Maria x

blogging Monthly Round-Up

2016 in Review – 26 Countries This Year Whilst Working Full-Time

December 31, 2016
Exploring Kiwis 2016 Wrap-Up

2016 – what a year!  When we moved to Abu Dhabi with plans to make the most of the travel opportunities, we never dreamed we’d get to travel quite as widely as we have whilst holding down full-time jobs.  Between us, we’ve explored 26 countries since the beginning of the year, starting off in Slovakia and ending in Norway.  We feel so, so fortunate to be out seeing the world – it’s both a reminder of how lucky we are to have these opportunities and also a reality check – the world is so much bigger than any one of us.

Rather than doing the monthly round-up that I was attempting to do (I think we managed two bi-monthly ones and that was about it), I’m planning on putting an annual summary post together to look back on our highlights and the occasional lowlights.

The Countries We’ve Visited in 2016

Our Favourite Moments

From tracking gorillas in the highlands of Uganda to partying for the first time in Ibiza, there have been so many highlights this year.  We finally saw the pyramids (and were blown away by them!) and soaked up the sights of Petra.  We spent seven weeks travelling through Europe over the summer which would have been an inconceivable thought as a teacher in New Zealand and have gotten to know Abu Dhabi and Dubai better.  Finally we’ve wrapped the year up travelling Norway in an RV having just spent over a week in Iceland – my new favourite country!

In addition to all of the travel we’ve managed to squeeze in (around full-time jobs), it’s been fantastic to see Exploring Kiwis take off like it has.  I’ve long been passionate about travel and joining the travel blogging community has only served to further grow this.  We’ve gotten to know some awesome people through this community and also in meeting the fantastic people that run the many hotels, tours and activities that we’ve reviewed over the year.

We’ve developed friendships in Abu Dhabi and I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled with two of these lovely ladies.  All things considered, it’s been an awesome year!

Tracking the amazing mountain gorillas in Uganda. A once in a lifetime experience with these gentle giants

A photo posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ??✈️??? (@exploringkiwis) on

Back in Venice today, such a treat. This town’s an absolute maze in the best of ways ???

A photo posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ??✈️??? (@exploringkiwis) on

After hiking to a ‘secret spot’ that Nathan managed to track down on a blog, we were rewarded with the most spectacular private view of the lakes!

A photo posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ??✈️??? (@exploringkiwis) on

What did you get up to today? Was it as much fun as this?! Canyoning with @iris_adventures – amazing!! #Croatia #irisadventures #yallagopro

A photo posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ??✈️??? (@exploringkiwis) on

Back at school again and already dreaming of my next adventure ☺️ #Nepal #adrenalinejunkie #yallagopro #gopro #pokhara #paragliding #flying

A photo posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ??✈️??? (@exploringkiwis) on


Though there have been some incredibly memorable bucket-list-ticking moments in 2016, it hasn’t been without it’s challenges.

Living away from home, we miss our family, friends and our two cats, so, so much.  We hate missing out on watching kids grow up and on those special occasions.

Nathan managed a few trips home for work and spent some quality time with his family but I haven’t been back to New Zealand in the year and a half we’ve been in Abu Dhabi (though was fortunate to have my Mum and Stepdad visit) and the more time goes on, the more I wish I was jumping on that plane with him.  It was especially disappointing to miss out on his Mum’s wedding to her long-time partner!

April marked the first year without my Dad which was particularly challenging.  It’s times like those when you really wish you were home with family but everything’s a balancing act and right now, it’s worth going through those challenges to be here.

What a Year!

I still pinch myself when I think about some of the incredible things we’ve seen and done – we’ve worked hard to make this all happen but there’s also no doubt that we’re very fortunate.

There’s still a lot of this world to see though and I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring for us.  Hopefully another adventure or two!

What are your 2016 highlights?  What do you have planned for 2017?

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