Product Reviews

1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE – book review and giveaway!

1000 places to see before you die

Back in London, long before we set off on our journey as full-time travelers, I bought Jess the book1,000 places to see before you die. We had been together for a few years already, and one of the things we shared from the beginning was a passion for travel. Even as poor students, we would scrape some money together and explore Europe, using budget airlines and every long weekend available.

1000 places to see before you die Asian ProverbI loved looking through the pages of the book, ticking off places that we had visited and dreaming about where we would go in the future. Even though we traveled every chance we got, we just barely reached 50 places. With 950 places left, I wondered to myself how we were ever going to see all of them.

1000 places to see before you dieFast forward a few years and we have now been traveling full-time for over 800 days. Long gone are ‘vacations’ reserved for a few weeks a year as an escape from our corporate lives. Just when we are able make a much bigger dent in this tome of a checklist…of course now Patricia Schultz has gone and put out a second edition with even MORE places to see!! 🙂

There have been some definite improvements in this edition. The book is now in color, and includes some of our favorite spots we felt needed to be in there – like all of Nicaragua. By merging places that were formerly divided in single destinations, author Patricia Schultz was able to add over 200 new places, including 28 entirely new countries. Easy to navigate, 1,000 Places is clearly divided into logical geographical sections, starting with Europe. Next up is Africa, a section which includes islands in the Indian Ocean, like our personal dream destination: the Maldives.

1000 places to see before you die maldivesNext is the Middle East, a chapter filled with places we have not touched at all yet, then Asia, and on to Australia, New Zealand and the islands in the Pacific, followed by the U.S. and Canada, Latin America and finally the island paradises of the Caribbean.

You’ll find classic ‘Must-See’ destinations such as the Vatican, Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Wall, but also lesser known destinations such as Panama’s San Blas islands, Chicago’s Art Institute, the Gower Peninsula in Wales or Ottawa’s Rideau Canal (all of these lesser-knowns, except for San Blas, we have seen). There are even many places in my home country of Germany that I had never considered visiting or even heard of before owning to the book!

1,000 Places to See Before You Die is as practical as it is aspirational. If you fall in love with the idea of visiting somewhere, the logistics of actually getting there are well detailed:  how to get there, where to stay (including prices), when is the best time to visit (some destinations are recommended for certain festivals), how much a tour or excursion costs and a link to a website for up-to-date information.

1000 places to see before you dieOf course nobody is expected to visit all 1,000 places in the book (although there are some people out there who use this as their traveler’s life list and try to visit all of them). We’ve only been to 140 in total – despite traveling 365 days a year for over two years!

Seriously, though, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die offers a great overview of a region you’re planning to visit, reveals new places that weren’t even on your radar yet and gives travelers the inspiration to get up and see the world.

Patricia Schultz doesn’t only share our passion for travel, in general. She also shares our thoughts on why people should travel:

I think travel makes you a better person and a more aware global citizen. I know that I cherish it as a privilege and a gift – it lifts me up, lightens me, expands me. Most important, and most simply, travel brings us joy.

1000 places to see before you die If you are looking to start your own bucket list of places to see before you die, we are offering three copies of the book to our readers which could serve as a source of inspiration!

Win a copy of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die!

We are holding the contest via Rafflecopter which will randomly select three winners who will get their own copy of the book. Increase your chances of winning with multiple entries:

– Leave a comment on this post with THE ONE place you have to see before you die (mandatory)

– Join the discussion on our Facebook Page about your number one dream destination (optional)

– Spreading the word about the contest by sharing it on Twitter (optional)

– Liking our Globetrottergirls Facebook Page (optional)

– Liking this post on Facebook (optional)

The contest will run until 31 July and we will notify the winners via email.

We are ending with another great quote from the book, another one that we couldn’t agree more with:

If you’re waiting for a special occasion to make your next trip happen, then consider this the day you get off the couch and head for the airport, that’s the special occasion.

Share your #1 place to see before you die in the comments for a chance to win one copy of the latest edition of ‘1,000 places to see before you die’!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 ***This competition is now closed***

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My most valuable travel gear: pickpocket-proof clothes

the clever travel companion

You might remember that I’ve raved about my Clever Travel Companion pickpocket-proof underwear before, but to refresh your memory: I’ve traveled with my pick-pthe clever travel companionocket proof tank top and my boy short style boxers for over two years now and they’re still holding up strong! The boxers have two little pockets in the front, each of which got a credit card or two and cash. The hidden pocket in the tank top even fits my passport. When do I wear them? Usually when I travel on night buses or know that I’ll be arriving somewhere really late. Where in the world? That doesn’t matter.

The first thing I was told when I arrived in Berlin in August was that people are not only pick-pocketed anymore, but also held at knife point until they give up their bags. Particularly in the Warschauer Strasse area in Friedrichshain, where a lot of hostels are.

clever travel companion tshirtAs for night buses: I tend to use them more often in Asia or South America, but I was happy to have my underwear on a night bus from Germany to Copenhagen earlier this year. Pickpockets are everywhere, not just in third world countries. All of Europe has become somewhat of a pickpocket hotspot in recent years, no matter if it’s Paris (be vigilant around the Eiffel Tower especially!), Lisbon, Rome and on trains – so if you’re like me doing an interrail trip around Europe, make sure you have an eye on your belongings.

The latest additions to Clever Travel Companions clothing line, a T-shirt and leggings (they’re about to launch in a few weeks, I can’t wait to get a pair!) are perfect for my train trip, for example: i might need access to some of the valuables I store in the hidden pockets, but wearing the tank top underneath a shirt (otherwise the rather large pocket is visible) and the boxers underneath my pants, it would be pretty difficult to get to them.clever travel companion tshirtThis is why the T-shirt with the pretty big pocket on the side (instead of the front, where it is placed in my tank top) is perfect for train trips. The pocket is big enough to hold a small wallet or credit cards and cash and is truly hard to spot – I’d almost go as far as saying it is invisible to those who don’t know that it’s there.

Like I said, I’ve owned my underwear for over two years now and not only am I still using them, but they are also still in a very good condition, considering that I, as a full-time traverse, most likely use them more often than the average traveler.clever travel companion tshirt

At between $24.90 and $34.90 per item, I find the clothes absolutely fair priced, considering the durable quality of the products.

The Clever Travel Companion accompanies me on all of my trips and gets the Globetrottergirls stamp of approval!

Check out

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iPad envy? Not yet.

Dani with her Asus Netbook

On the top of our priority list for before setting off on our round the world trip was the purchase of a top-notch netbook. At the time of our purchase, the choice of netbook over laptop was clear. That was before the iPad landed.

However, despite a few geeky twinges of initial iPad envy, there is no question that the netbook is by far the best choice for a Globetrotter Girl.

We chose the ASUS Eee PC 10.1-Inch Netbooks due to the right balance of price ($278 each), weight (2.9lbs, 1.4 in thin) and battery life (9.5 hours).

asus netbook

Advantages of a netbook over a laptop or iPad tablet

  • The weight

For backpackers and business travellers alike, every extra ounce of weight counts. The netbook is lightweight (2.9lbs) and small (1.4 inches). The iPad is only 1.5 lbs, but extra keyboard is required (see point 7).

  • The price

We bought 2 Asus netbooks from Best Buy for less than $700. including taxes and Geek Squad insurance, which includes one new battery each within 2 years. An iPad starts at $500, and can hit $800-$900 for a 64GB device. The extra games and goodies tend to cost as well – from iTunes to eBooks, making the actual price of the iPad much higher.

  • Battery life

This is where Asus was the clear winner over all other netbooks. The 9.5 hour battery life (compared to Dell’s 4 hours) is no joke. As long as it’s fully charged, we can spend an entire afternoon at a café and not worry about plugging in. This is especially relevant for travel in lesser developed areas who will not have built their cafes around the needs of the hi-tech nomadic types. The iPad also boasts a 10 hour battery life, an absolute advantage over some other netbook brands out there.

  • Space + Ports

The Asus Eee PC has 160 GB, almost 3x the iPad’s 64GB. The iPad also does not have USB ports, meaning that all new content needs to be downloaded from the web or through a cable connected to your ‘real’ computer. Essentially, without USB ports to easily transfer documents, music and video, the iPad remains a secondary device rather than a stand-alone travel companion. With the iPad we would have no real way of transferring video from our Kodak zi8 HD camcorder onto our devices and eventually onto Youtube, for example.

Asus netbook

  • Multi-tasking

Asus makes the motherboards for all Apple and Sony Vaio products. This means that iPad (and iPhone) users are getting Asus hardware with an Apple operating system.  Oddly enough, while the iPhone 4 allows multitasking, the brand new shiny iPad is using the older operating system, which makes the iPad a one-task-at-a-time device.

With the netbook, we have multiple web-browsers open with several tabs, plus text documents and image editing software, just like on any laptop (though open too many and the netbook slows down considerably due to limited RAM and memory). I can’t imagine writing a blog post in a document and having to exit out to go online to find a website to hyperlink.

However, when working on too many images or with Word, Firefox, Excel, Photoshop and Skype running all at once, the netbook is definitely slower than a laptop.

  • The keyboard

This makes the choice of a netbook over an iPad a simple one. Netbooks have keyboards, the iPad doesn’t. For someone who writes thousands of words a day for Globetrottergirls posts and travel articles, doing without a keyboard is not an option, especially when considering how many mistakes I still make with my iPhone when texting. The iPad has a $70 keyboard, but now you are lugging around a 1.5lb tablet and a keyboard. No thanks.

  • The netbook closes

There is something poignant about finishing an article or a post, hitting save, and closing the laptop. True, maybe I’ve watched a little too much of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, but also, the iPad screen is constantly at risk for damage, even when the tablet is not in use. Globetrotters need a device that can handle the occasional drop, knock, or spill. Plus, the greasy fingerprints are apparently also still a major issue on the iPad.

Dani blogging @ airport

Disadvantages of the Asus Eee PC netbook

The netbooks we have are by no means perfect, and there are still plenty of improvements that can be made.

  • Image+Video Editing

Both image and video editing would be so much easier on a Mac. With the limited RAM and processing power, running a video editing software is neigh on impossible.

  • Screen resolution

A major disadvantage to the netbook is the small screen. The Asus has a 10.1in screen. Reading longer posts or articles requires a lot of scrolling.

  • Entertainment

The iPad is essentially part-ebook reader, and it is possible to download thousands of books without taking up any space in the backpack. This includes guidebooks for the entire world. However, imagine standing on the streets of Delhi or San Salvador and getting out your iPad to see what Lonely Planet suggests to see and do. Sometimes a good old fashioned guidebook is much more functional.

For the ‘app’ addicts out there, yes iPhone / iPad apps are awesome. There are some really great apps out there for traveling bloggers which would only look even better on a bigger screen (and after all, the iPad is just a larger version of the iPhone in so many respects). If you are already traveling with an iPhone, however, then this last point is also moot.

Conclusion: The ASUS Netbook

The netbook is a slimmed down, fitter version of the laptop, and is 15 years in the  making, with everything you need, but no frills.  The all-frills iPad is the first generation of user-friendly tablets, and like its cousin the iPhone, the next gen iPad will be better than the first, and the 4th will be better than that.

The fact is, the Globetrottergirls are not ‘a Mac’ or ‘a PC’. Brand loyalty is of no importance. We are simply globetrotters, looking for a dependable, lightweight device fast enough for our amateur techie requirements of fast speeds and easy blogging. So, do we have iPad envy? Not yet, but maybe next year, or the year after that.

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From Europe to the U.S. on a Budget Airline: My Experience with Norwegian Air’s 787 Dreamliner

norwegian air window 787 boeing dreamliner

I have to admit that when I agreed to fly Norwegian Air on their new Dreamliner, I was a bit skeptical. A budget airline that offers transatlantic flights? What were these flights going to be like? Memories of budget flights I had taken within Europe with a certain Irish budget airline (whose crazy CEO had suggested standing room on flights a while back) popped into my head.

Memories that included throwing a fit over a fee for not having printed my boarding pass (a fee that was more expensive than the ticket itself). Memories of radio commercials for said airline playing so loud from the speakers on the plane that you were barely able to hear your own voice. The list could go on, but let’s not go there.norwegian air dreamliner 787Of course I have not only had horrible experiences with budget airlines. I still treasure the memories of countless AirAsia flights which were all smooth and painless, and I was curious to see how Norwegian would compare. Plus, I was highly impressed that an airline was finally offering flights from Europe to the U.S. at an affordable rate. You can fly Norwegian Air from Stockholm to San Francisco for as little as $187, and flights from London to New York start at $249 (Note: London – NYC seems downright expensive compared to the Stockholm – San Francisco route, but that is because the airport fees in both London Gatwick and New York JFK are among the highest in the world. Stockholm – NYC flights start at $158, Oslo – NYC at $167). Not all seats are sold at these rates, but if you are planning a trip well in advance, it is possible to snag one of these amazingly cheap tickets.norwegian airlines top dealsI am familiar with this concept thanks to train, bus and air travel in Europe: the earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets are. With Norwegian though, I was surprised to see that less than a week prior to my flight from Berlin to London, from where Norwegian runs its transatlantic flights (in addition to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo), Norwegian didn’t only come up as the cheapest option in my flight search, but still offered flights for 29 Euros, as I had seen advertised in some magazines and at the airport in Berlin from where I’d flown to Israel the month before. I was happy to see that I didn’t necessarily have to plan my trip months in advance to get a great deal like this, but could still spontaneously book a flight at that cheap rate five days prior to my departure.norwegian air window 787 boeing dreamlinerMy next moment of joy was when I discovered that I didn’t need to print a boarding pass, and that I wouldn’t have to fear a fine for not having a physical print-out, instead, I didn’t even need to present my booking confirmation on my smartphone – my passport was enough.

Before I got on the plane, I was a bit worried that the planes would have rows as narrow as Ryanair’s, where the pockets on the back of the seats (to store your magazines and other stuff) are missing, just so they could fit in another row of seats or two. I can tolerate no leg room (I am 5.7′ and have long legs) for a two hour flight, but not for seven or eight hours. I also wasn’t sure what to expect entertainment-wise, knowing that most other low cost carriers don’t even have monitors. 

I had read though that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was one of the most modern planes out there – if not the most modern one. From extra large windows for better views, plus a button to darken the window should the sun disturb you (instead of window shades), an automatic dimming light system that changes according to the time of day or night, better (ie. lower) cabin air pressure which is supposed to reduce jet lag, power outlets and a USB charger. And the environmentalist in me was happy to find out that the Boeing 787 is the most fuel efficient airplane on the market. The Dreamliner itself sounds amazing!fly Norwegian AirAnd it turned out, the plane lived up to my expectations and all of my worries were unfounded: Legroom in the plane was spacious, there was room to store a book in the backseat pocket, and each seat has its own TV screen. In fact, the thing that impressed me most was the entertainment selection on my flight. Even the music selection, which I usually ignore, had plenty of albums that I wanted to listen to, and ranged from billboard chart topping hits, to classics, to a whole bunch of jazz and classical music. My flight wasn’t even long enough to listen to all the albums that sparked my interest, and I hadn’t even checked out the movies and TV shows yet. If you are planning to take the eleven hour direct flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles, do not fear: there are enough Hollywood Blockbusters and Classics to keep you entertained for the entire length of the flight (and back!). Flying Norwegian Air isn’t any different from flying any other commercial airline.

The snack bar, also accessible via the 9′ high-tech touch-screen monitor, allows you to order food simply by clicking on the item you desire, and it will then be brought to you shortly after. Prices aren’t cheap – $11 for a sandwich, $4 for a chocolate bar – but that is to be expected. You can, however, order a full hot meal when booking your flight (more on that below).norwegian air dreamliner screenThe other thing that I absolutely loved was that I didn’t only have a USB charger (most planes have them these days), but also a power outlet on the side of my seat to charge my laptop. I made use of both of them a lot and being able to work on my laptop without it running out of battery was a huge plus for me.

You’re also able to purchase accessories like a blanket ($5) or a headset ($3) – for some people it might be annoying having to pay for these things but let’s not forget that Norwegian has to cut its costs somewhere to be able to offer their incredibly low fares, and I for example used my own headphones. If you book premium economy, these add-ons are already included, as are the Norwegian AirSpeaking of meals: This is the only aspect of the flight where I see room for improvement. Even the flight attendant looked apologetic when she handed me my pre-paid vegetarian meal, offering me to add some fish, because it looked quite meager. Considering that the extra cost for a meal isn’t insignificant, I’d expect a little more here. Other than that, I didn’t find anything to complain about during the flight – like I said, the Dreamliner itself and the service on board were faultless.

Norwegian Air being a budget airline, I was curious to see how much the extra charges, or ‘hidden fees’ would add up to. The first time you come across potential additional charges is when you choose your fare and start the reservation process. Here it actually pays off to read the fine print: Norwegian gives you the chance to pay an additional $60 to the basic fare (LowFare), but for that, you’ll get a seat reservation, one piece of luggage and a meal included in your ticket automatically.norwegian upgrade offerI chose to stick to the Lowfare to see how much extras would add up to. Checked luggage is charged at $42, and if I’d like to reserve a window seat (or any seat, but why would I want to reserve a middle seat?), that would be another $42. Now my total was already at $382.20 which, in a way, already contradicts the ‘budget’ aspect. However: Let’s not forget that I was looking at a flight two weeks from now.

With an added vegetarian meal though, the price comes to $417.20, which is pretty steep. Remember though that Norwegian had given me the option to choose a better fare option, the Low Fare +, which includes all these add-ons and is $357.20.norwegian airlines payment on low fareThe last step to confirm my reservation: Making the payment. If you’ve ever taken a budget airline, you know that they charge an extra fee for payments made with a credit card. Norwegian is no different, but at least it is possible to avoid the $7.30 fee if you decide to pay with a debit card. Since I don’t own a credit card that doesn’t have to be paid off entirely the next month anyway, I am fine with putting the payment on my debit card, but I know that most people prefer credit card payments. However, a 1.99% credit card surcharge is not outrageous.norwegian credit card feesIf you were to pay your ticket with a credit card and you opted for the Low Fare+, this would come to $364.20. So if you are one of these travel types I admire who travel only with carry-on only, don’t care about a seat reservation and survive on a New York bagel bought before boarding the plane in NYC, you can get away with the Low Fare ticket, which comes to $304.30 with the credit card surcharge.norwegian food pricesWhat I discovered when I was going to finish my reservation was the little box saying ‘Need More Time?’, offering me a 4-hour money back guarantee should I decide to cancel my ticket within the next four hours. That way, travelers can reserve a ticket at the lowest price but should they find a cheaper fare or change their minds for whatever reason, they can still cancel without being charged.norwegian credit card feesWhile the NYC-London deal is good (thanks to the large amount of daily connections on this route it is possible to find similar deals on regular airlines), I think what makes Norwegian really stand out are the fares offered from the West Coast to Europe. $187 incl. taxes from San Francisco (Oakland) to Stockholm? Los Angeles to London for $249? Yes, please! And remember that if you decide to fly to Stockholm or London on this low fare, you can transfer within Europe on the cheap by taking another inexpensive Norwegian flight, say to Rome or Madrid, or like I did to Berlin.Norwegian Air San Francisco to StockholmDuring a quick search, I found return flights from L.A. to Copenhagen for $465 which is a steal. If you accept the no-frills policy and the fact that extra fees for meals and baggage are part of the concept of a budget airline and your priority is flying on a low fare, you can’t go wrong with them. Flying Norwegian was nothing but pleasant for me, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a transatlantic flight with Norwegian Air. Just be aware that if you fly Norwegian, you will have to pay for everything extra unless you buy it before the Norwegian AirBy the way: You can also fly Norwegian long-haul between Europe and Bangkok, starting at $204!

Check out my short video: What’s it like to fly Norwegian Air?
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Introducing my favorite new travel planning tool: Trover

trover lead

I have to make a confession: I am slowly but surely starting to ditch my guidebooks! I used to always travel with a guidebook, no matter if it was a 3-day weekend getaway or a yearlong backpacking trip (which turned into a somewhat indefinite journey, since what I thought would be a one-year trip is still ongoing, nearly five years later, with no plans to stop anytime soon).Eyewitness travel guidesI’ve traveled with RoughGuides, Lonely Planets, DK Eyewitness books, and many more, but in recent years, I’ve found them to be increasingly outdated, and often cookie-cutter boring instead of filled with true insider tips or even just some lesser known sights. That said, I still bought the latest edition of Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia On A Shoestring for my current trip to Asia, but mainly because of the maps and the practical information on how to get from A to B. For actual travel information and inspiration for what to see and where to go, I’ve been turning to the internet instead. First of all, the information is much more up-to-date, but also visually more appealing. When I announce travel plans to a new destination (like now, the Philippines) I usually get recommendations for places to see from fellow travelers, but also from you guys, my dear readers – and when somebody mentions a place unknown to me, the first thing I do is a Google Image search. If the place looks interesting, I add it to my ‘must see’ list for the destination I’m traveling to.

I am a visual person, and if I see a picture of a place, it’s much easier for me to decide if I would like to go there. Last month in Sri Lanka for example, Lonely Planet mentioned a Hindu temple in Jaffna, but there was no photo. Would it be really worth it to make my way there? A quick Google search later I had seen an image and YES – there was no question that I had to visit that temple. Purely because of the image I had seen. Because I rely so often on recommendations by other travelers, I am also a huge fan of Foursquare, an app where people leave tips for places they visit and virtually ‘check in’ at and that lets you find nearby sights, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. using the GPS in your phone, but I have to admit that while I used to love Foursquare (and used it obsessively), I’ve barely left any tips since the app required me to use Swarm (another app!) to check into a place, complicating the tip leaving part, which used to be super easy.JaffnaLucky for me, it looks like there is a new app that has managed to replace my Foursquare addiction: Trover! In short, Trover a visual crowd sourced travel guide. And it combines three of the things I love most: travel, photography and social media. It is basically a social network for people who love to travel as much as I do and who love to talk about their favorite places, sharing tips and recommendations with other travelers. If that’s not what I do all the time, then I don’t know.. Thus, it seems like Trover and I are a match made in heaven.

Users from around the world can add a photo of something cool in the place they’re in, which is then automatically geotagged, so that other people can see exactly where this place (called ‘discovery’ on Trover) is located. Trover users are adding new discoveries on a daily basis, and travelers in search for a cool thing to do simply open the app and can choose to look at ‘Nearby Discoveries’, and then go check them out if they like them. You can filter the discoveries and look specifically for sights, but also for food, bars, or new (ie. recently added) discoveries. When you click on the photo of a discovery you think looks cool, you can click on ‘map’ to see where it exactly it is, and open directions to that place in GoogleMaps or iMaps.

I downloaded the app only a couple of weeks ago and have already used it like crazy since then – both as a sharer of my own discoveries as well as using other people’s tips. When you sign up for Trover, you can start to get travel inspiration by looking at the ‘Top Trovers’ or ‘What’s New’ section on Trover’s home page, but I recommend following people to get even better travel tips. That’s where the social aspect of Trover kicks in. I’ve already found a number of fellow bloggers on there whose travel recommendations I trust, so of course I followed them on Trover, too, and now see their latest discoveries every time I log into my Trover account (or open the app on my phone):Trover NewsfeedIf the look reminds you of Pinterest, I have to agree – and I love the clean layout of the pictures – but let me assure you: this is so much better than Pinterest! While on Pinterest many photos you come across are simply sourced from a Google Image search, added on a ‘Dream Destinations’ board with no further information on the place (it might just be the prettiest beach – but where is it?!), Trover is an actual useful travel guide. Here, people are encouraged to add a short description to their discovery when they upload a photo. In my case, this might look like this:trover badeschiffAnd if the description isn’t sufficient for you, you can leave a comment with an additional question, and you can expect to get an answer from the person who posted the discovery.

I still felt that Trover’s travel tip leaving aspect was similar to Foursquare which is similar with its crowd-sourced recommendations, even though they’re more specific (if you check into a restaurant on Foursquare, for example, people will usually recommend their favorite dish there or which dish to avoid). When I put both apps to test in Helsinki last week, I realized, however, how much better Trover is. Let’s have a look at Foursquare:

Foursquare Tips
Foursquare Tips for popular sights in Helsinki

And Trover:

Trover Picks
Don’t you love the look of it?
Trover Picks Helsinki
Trover even gives you the exact distance from your location to each sight!

Not only does Trover have way more sights listed (Foursquare had only 7!) but it is also so much more attractive with the large picture layout (it looks even better on a laptop or a tablet) and I saw some sights on there right away that sparked my interest, like this cool organ sculpture or the love locks bridge (who knew that Helsinki had one of those!?):

Helsinki Tips
Cool Trover discoveries in Helsinki

Sharing travel discoveries on Trover

But the thing I personally am most excited about is that with Trover, I’ve found a new way to share my travel tips – in an easy and very visual way (showcasing my favorite photos at the same time). I can leave tips about cool finds either right away or upload a photo later onto the website. That way I was able to add a complete list with my top ten Sri Lanka highlights, each one with a photo and a short description. The map that goes with the list also shows you right away where all the places I shared tips for are located.trover sri lanka highlightsIf you follow me on Trover, you’ll see all my existing lists and you can decide which ones to follow. My Berlin list is a work in progress for example (I am in the process of adding the dozens of places I included in four comprehensive Berlin guides into one list on Trover – which will make it much easier for you to locate the places I recommend, if you travel to a destination and want to check out one of my recommendations). I’ve already started lists for other countries, such as my Favorite Places In Chile or My Israel Highlights, and there are many more to come.trover berlin discoveryAnd Trover’s user-friendly interface makes it extremely easy to share a photo and leave a tip: you simply click ‘add photo’, select the picture you’d like to add from your files, add the place (and I’ve found that Trover already has most places – restaurants, sights, shops). If the place isn’t listed you can just move the cursor to the exact location and add it, and if you add a photo via the app on your phone, it’s even easier, thanks to geotagging. When I added older photos from my phone, it always knew right away where they were taken (I am still amazed by the technology behind this!). Next, you add your description and you’re done. You can then add it your discovery to a list.

trover discovery
I couldn’t help but creating a list with my favorite coffee shops around the world. It’s still a work in progress!

I know that many of you follow me specifically for travel tips, which is why I am so excited that I have another outlet to share my tips on.

Room for improvement

As a crowd sourced travel guide, Trover is dependent on its users, which means it doesn’t have any influence on the quality of the tips. I’ve already come across some photos during my Hong Kong research that didn’t include any description whatsoever. There is also the problem that popular places like Paris and New York have a myriad of travel tips while destinations like the Philippines, that are a bit more off-the-beaten path, have way less tips – and which is why I won’t ditch my guidebook completely just yet.

Helsinki Tips on Trover
Great travel tips for Helsinki!

Trover also has come up with a creative incentive how to guarantee a high standard of the tips left on the app: by giving away money! They hold monthly changing contests in which they reward the most active users with the best travel tip for a specific topic – for example ‘best local gem’, ‘best food find’, ‘discovery of the year’, or right now the ‘best beach photo’ contest, which I of course entered. (And if you have a great beach photo that you’d like to share, you should enter too – The best photo wins $1,500!)Trover ContestAre you using Trover? Feel free to leave a link to your Trover profile in the comments below so that I can follow you!

This branded post is brought to you in partnership with Trover. All opinions are my own.
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Review: The ENO Doublenest Hammock

dani and jess in the eno hammock

Neither of us are exactly the outdoorsy type – we’ll kayak or canoe, but only on occasion and not for more than an afternoon. We hike but we don’t camp. But we love moving our ‘office’ out of doors and as we say on Twitter – we work as often as possible from a hammock.  So when we had the opportunity to test out the ENO Doublenest hammock, we couldn’t resist.

Founded by brothers Peter and Paul Pinholster, ENO Hammocks are based in one of our favorite cities, Asheville, North Carolina. The brothers quit the cubicle and became career-breakers in 1999, selling hammocks at festivals across the country out of the back of their van until dedicating themselves to creating Eagles Nest Outfitters hammocks on a larger scale to people after their own hearts. How could we turn down the chance to test out a product from guys right after our own hearts.

The thing is, we are never the ones responsible for hanging the hammocks. That is the job of the restaurant, the bar, the hotel. Now suddenly we would have our own. I pictured Dani hanging upside down and backwards by one leg or me crashing down onto my tailbone. What happened was quite the opposite.globetrottergirls setting up the eno doublenest hammock

Five minutes flat. That’s how long it takes us to get our ENO Doublenest Hammock up, as long as we’ve got two poles or trees to wrap the cords around. Our first attempt, stringing it up around two palm trees in Mexico, took fifteen minutes, but that included careful reading of instructions and at least one Tecate beer each.

Now we’ve got it down to a science and have it hanging by the pool at our housesit in Costa Rica. Here’s what we love about it.

The hammock and the straps fold up into a small bag, and take up no more room than my rain jacket. That whole process takes a couple of minutes. The material, which feels like being wrapped up in a parachute, is super comfortable (and dries quickly). The ENO Doublenest is meant for two people. Dani and I did fit side by side, but truthfully it was a squeeze. The positive side of that is it is incredibly roomy for one person. Wrapped up inside the ENO is the first time I’ve ever even considered sleeping outside at night, knowing I could just wrap myself and even my entire backpack up into the hammock and end up sleeping like a baby.

What makes it so easy to hang are the straps. Called Slapstraps Pro, you just put one end through a loop at the other around the tree and pull tight. there are notches along the strap to hook into with a metal belay clip which sets the height of the hammock. This means no knots to tie and possibly mess up – bonus!

eno doublenest hammock reviewThe straps seem so…thin…too thin to hold our weight, we thought. In reality, it feels perfectly sturdy as I toss and turn inside my ‘nest’, and it should, considering it does have a 400lb weight limit.

There are a few features missing from the hammock to make it absolutely perfect. First, we’d like to see a zipper on either side of the hammock. For single sleepers, there is so much room inside here, if you could just zip yourself in with a little screen for breathing, I can imagine camping to be a breeze.

You can pick up an ENO Double Nest Hammock  on Amazon, REI or directly on the ENO website.

eno doublenest hammock review

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The Happiness Of Pursuit, My Search For A Quest, And A Book Giveaway!

the happiness of pursuit


There’s a quest waiting for you to find, claim or create.

After reading Chris Guillebau’s latest book, The Happiness Of Pursuit, this sentence stuck with me. I wasn’t even twenty pages into the book when I decided that it’s time to find – and pursue – a quest of my own.

The author himself undertook to huge quest of visiting every country in the world before turning 35. And even though he was successful, he had to overcome countless hurdles, setbacks and other issues, but he never gave up. In the book he doesn’t only talk about his very own quest, but he looks at all kinds of other quests, pursued by people who he got to know while in the process of reaching his own goal. The things people were challenging themselves with were not always travel-related, but included self-discovery quests, academic quests, athletic quests and creative quests (to name just a few).

He shows examples of people who successfully pursued their quests or are still in the process of doing so, on track to reach their goal soon. He explains why the people he interviewed for the book decided to pursue their respective quests, how they overcame roadblocks and blocked out naysayers, and what exactly defines as a quest.

The happiness of pursuit book reviewWhat exactly defines as a quest?

Many people set goals, like getting in better shape for example, or run a marathon, travel to fifty countries or improve their photography, but a quest is actually much bigger than that.

Chris Guillebeau defines a quest as an undertaking with a specific goal and end point, a challenging pursuit, something that requires a sacrifice of some sort and is driven by an internal motivation that can border on obsession. To reach the end goal, incremental progress is made, step by step. Quests that he talks about in the book that I thought were remarkable included Laura Dekker, who set off to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone in a sailboat at the age of 16, Martin Powell who ran 250 marathons in one year and Thomas Hawk, who challenged himself to take, edit and publish one million photos. As you can see, no quest is like the other.

I am longing for a challenge

Maybe the book resonated so much with me because I am at a point where I am simply ready to take on a challenge. The author asks the reader in the book: What’s the next chapter of your story? And after the big changes and hurdles I’ve dealt with this year, I have actually asked myself this question several times in the past few weeks.

I’ve already made the decision to undertake a quest of my own, but I am not ready yet to announce what I am going for. I have to admit that it’s not likely to be a travel-related quest, just because I don’t feel anything in travel would really challenge me. While for many people walking the Camino is a quest, I never doubted my physical ability to finish it, even though it will be challenging. A quest to visit all the UNESCO World Heritage sites around the globe is just not special anymore. Cycling overland from Europe to China or walk across Africa? Visiting all 50 US states or National Parks? It’s all been done. And, even though I have seemingly a million places I’d like to see on my travel wish list, I don’t have the desire to visit every country in the world, that’s just not my quest.

To challenge myself, I know it has to be a physical goal, something that pushes my body to the limit. That is all I am going to say about my own quest for now 🙂

the happiness of pursuit book reviewAre you ready to pursue a quest?

If you are like me, looking for something to challenge yourself with and to work towards to, want to get some more inspiration to find your own quest, and how to successfully pursue it, this book is definitely for you. I found myself taking notes the entire time I read The Happiness Of Pursuit, and I don’t remember the last time I actually marked paragraphs and sentences while reading a book!

To find out if you are ready to undertake a quest, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you long for a challenge?
  • Do you enjoy setting goals?
  • Does making progress toward a goal motivate you?
  • Do you have a hobby or passion or something you might be almost obsessed with?
  • Are you ready to follow your passion?
  • Do you have ideas you can’t stop thinking about?
  • Is there more to life than this?
  • Are you ready to break out of the traditional life path?

If you can answer most of these questions with YES, you are probably ready to pursue your very own quest.

finding your quest
Finding your quest is not always easy.. but pursuing it is even harder.

You can order the book from Amazon or find it in your local book store – or enter the giveaway!

Win a copy of the book!

I am giving away one copy of The Happiness Of Pursuit to one lucky reader – so if this sounds interesting to you, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy! I’d like to know if you’ve ever pursued a quest, and if so, were you successful? What kind of quest was it? If you are planning to pursue a quest: what kind of quest would be for you? A physical challenge, a travel quest, self-improvement or educational? I am looking forward to your comments!

To find out more about the author, visit To find out more about the book, visit

Disclaimer: This review of The Happiness of Pursuit including the book giveaway is sponsored by Random House. The winner of the giveaway will be chosen via The giveaway will close on 22 September.
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A GPS-powered Travel Encyclopedia + Giveaway


Most of us spend quite some time reading about our next destination. We have to read through tons of articles before we find the right information. Then you finally discover some great tips and exciting suggestions, only to end up totally blanking out when you reach your destination. Don’t you wish you had your favorite articles or blog posts along? You can, of course, bookmark them, but what if you can’t find even the faintest bar of wifi anywhere in range? What if your mobile connection comes with a pocket draining data plan or, worse yet, you have no roaming at all? Sometimes you can afford to spend hours or days doing your homework, printing out your articles or blog posts and maps. When you finally get there, you realize finding your way is still too hard and time-consuming. Don’t you wish there were a simple solution to your problem? Well, there is one! It’s called GPSmyCity.

What is GPSmyCity, you ask? It is a travel encyclopedia app that offers not just a huge amount of travel information, but also GPS navigation. The travel articles available through the GPSmyCity app have been transformed to include the coordinates of the attractions mentioned by the authors, offline digital maps, and GPS navigation. So, if you want to visit a hidden gem mentioned in a travel article, by simply tapping a button, you get the detailed travel route from where you are to the destination plotted on an offline map.GPS My City AppThe GPSmyCity app comes with thousands of articles written by travel writers and bloggers from all over the world. They cover just about any travel related topic you can imagine, plus some you never knew existed. Whether you’re a culture vulture looking for the best museums and theaters or a party animal on a prowl for the hottest nightlife spots in town, the broad range of GPSmyCity articles have got you covered. Businessmen, young parents, artists, hippies, foodies, and adventure junkies will all find something interesting. On top of that, one can find information about transportation, safety recommendations, money-saving tips, and other practical advice.

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Any of the thousands of articles available can be downloaded as a mobile app, so that you can read it offline – at the airport, during your flight or on a bus. For an extra small fee, you can get the premium version of the article, which comes with an offline map and a navigation system. It will help you identify your current location and the precise location of your chosen destination using your smartphone’s in-built GPS even when you are not connected to internet. A light touchscreen tap is all it takes to get your route plotted on the map. Go ahead and try it yourself! GPSmyCity offers a free upgrade for a travel article to all the readers of our blog until February 15th. Drop a message to [email protected] saying which article you’d like an upgrade for and mention that you’re coming from the Globetrottergirls blog!

GPSmyCity has just launched a crowdfunding campaign, so that it can double the destination coverage from 750 to 1500 cities and make the GPSmyCity app also available on Android. The crowdfunding campaign offers an exclusive reward to the backers. Purchasing all the city walks and articles available at GPSmyCity one by one would currently cost more than $6,000. However, by backing the crowdfunding campaign, you can get lifetime membership, which will grant full access to all that for only $60 (less than 1% of the current market price). Moreover, the value of your investment is bound to multiply, as new articles are added and the number of available cities grows every day. If you don’t want to miss this limited offer, please follow the link below:


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The PostSnap App: Sending Postcards And Greeting Cards Made Easy


writing postcardsI always used to very good about sending postcards. And I still am – I try to pick up a few postcards in each place I visit, but I have found it increasingly difficult to find postcards everywhere I go. I visited five towns in Mexico last month, and only one of them had a few souvenir shops with postcards. The other four didn’t have any! The other problem I’ve encountered quite a few times recently? Finding a post office. And if I find one, making sure that I get there on a day and time when it is open. That’s how I ended up carrying all my postcards from Italy to the U.S. instead of sending them from Rome.

Sending postcards ended up becoming more frustrating than it was fun. But a few weeks ago, that changed – that’s when I discovered the Postsnap app.

Postsnap is an app that specializes in personalized postcards and greeting cards and lets you send a postcard straight from your phone within minutes, without the stress of finding a decent postcard or a post office!Postsnap card options

I love that I can use my own photos to create a postcard, which makes sending a postcard so much more personal. And let’s be honest: who doesn’t like to see a photograph they took on the front of a postcard?

The app itself is very easy to use. You select what kind of card you’d like to send: a greeting card, a postcard, or a special card like an invitation or an announcement.

In the next step, you select the photos you’d like to put on the postcard, and choose a layout. On postcards for example, you can choose between different mosaic forms and select up to five or your photos, or simply choose one picture that covers the entire front. You can select photos from your camera roll, Facebook or Instagram, which I love, since my Instagram photos are edited and look a little better than the original version. However, you can also add a filter right in the PostSnap app.postsnap process

Then it is time to add text – if you want to. I love that the app lets me personalize the postcard with a font I can choose, where I place the text, and how big I want it to be. The selection of fonts is fantastic – ranging from playful ones to handwriting to print letters, all of which you have several options.

postsnap postcard22

When you’re done with the front, it is time to write your postcard. You simply ‘flip over’ the card with a tap on your screen, add your personal message, once again select a font, the font size and font color, sign the app, and you’re almost ready to send it.

Adding an address is made easy: you can choose to add an address straight from your phone contacts, or add it manually. Once you’ve sent a postcard to someone, that person’s address remains in your Postsnap account, making it even easier to send them a postcard again.

After adding the address, you simply upload it, choose a size for the postcard, and pay – which is also made very easy by giving you the option of buying prepaid credit, so that you don’t have to charge your credit card or Paypal account each time you use the app. You’ll receive a confirmation email shortly after placing your order.

Shipment is free to North America if you are using the US version of the app or to the UK if you download it from the UK apps store, but I’ve only paid $0.20 extra to send a postcard to Germany and $0.50 extra to send it to other parts of the world, which I find very reasonable.postsnap postcard mexico1Right now, I am using Postsnap to send all my Christmas greeting cards – I can simply do it while I’m on the subway or, as I did earlier today, while in transit at the airport. I don’t need anything other than my phone which simplifies the usually very time-consuming process of designing and writing greeting cards so much. If you are feeling super lazy, you can even duplicate your cards and send the same ones to various recipients.

Download Postsnap & Get A Discount

You can download Postsnap for both iOS and Android here


If you use the promo code GLOBETROTTER, you’ll get 20% off your first card!
postsnap postcard

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The Revival Of The Postcard

postcards to oma

Ever since I first started traveling, I have loved postcards. And I mean my very first trip, all the way back when I was a teenager and I went to Rome. I loved sitting down to write postcards, writing as small as possible to fit as much as I could on the card. Writing out every tidbit about the trip that I felt I needed to share.

And to this day, this hasn’t changed. No matter where I go, I always pick up a bunch of postcards to send to family and friends.

I personally love it when I go to the mailbox to get my mail and a colorful postcard peeks out between a pile of white envelopes, usually holding boring stuff like bills or bank statements. And I hope that the recipients of the postcards I send feel the same way about them.writing postcards

Why is nobody sending me postcards anymore?

The whole concept of sending postcards has changed quite a bit since I sent those first postcards back in 1993 though – especially in recent years. It’s become rarer and rarer that I receive postcards. It seems like since people started traveling with smartphones it has become much more common to send a quick WhatsApp or text message instead of investing in an actual paper postcard, making the effort to go and buy a stamp, and to find a letter box to send it (which, let me tell you, isn’t always easy, as I learned last month when I walked through rural Spain and tried to post some postcards in smaller towns).

I get it. A quick message with a picture snapped on your phone is much more convenient. It’s easy. You can even do it from your sun chair by the pool, instead of having to deal with the hassle of going to find a post office.

postcards 2017
The sad state of postcards in 2017: Gone yellow and bent out of shape

But it’s definitely not the same as getting a postcard, which you can hold in your hand, reading it with a smile on your face. A vacation SMS is just that: anther text message. And we all get plenty of those.

A while back, however, I saw something interesting on my sister’s pin board. My sister-in-law had sent a postcard that she had created herself, featuring my nieces, showing how they were enjoying their vacation. And she did it all in a postcard app, which is easy and intuitive to use.

I loved the concept instantly. What’s better than receiving a postcard? Receiving a personalized postcard!personalized postcard

Where have all the postcards gone?

Another reason why I thought this was genius was the fact that in recent years, I’ve noticed a steep decline in places selling eye catching postcards. I remember how last year in Colombia, I couldn’t find any decent postcards outside of Cartagena. In Ecuador it was similar – other than in the Galápagos Islands, I hardly came by any postcards.

But even tourist hot spots don’t always offer postcards that I would want to spend money on. When I visited Rome last year, I was amazed to see that most of the postcards on offer were still the exact same ones I sent from there on my first visit, over twenty years ago! New York City is also really slow in adding new postcards to the ones already circulating, and most of them are super cheesy.

And this is why I think sending postcards will become more and more an app-based affair. We all take pictures with our cell phones already, and with those, we can create a much more personalized postcard than a store bought one that anyone could replicate.

I found this to be especially true when I walked the Camino de Santiago last month. As usual, I picked up a bunch of postcards along the way to send to friends around the world. But when I took them out in a cafe one day to write them, I saw that most of them didn’t really represent my own experience of walking The Way.POSTCARDSBright red Poppy flowers in bloom? I walked the Camino in the late summer. Green meadows in the central plateau? When I walked through that region, after a hot and dry summer, the area was the color of sand. My Camino experience looked quite different than the pictures shown on the postcards I had bought.

Introducing MyPostcard

Call it serendipity, but I learned about the MyPostcard app just as I was walking the Camino, a trip that couldn’t have been more perfect to send personalized postcards from.postcard dani camino de santiagoThe app is very easy to use – you click on ‘Send a postcard’ or ‘Send a greeting card’, and then you choose from the available styles what you want your postcard to look like. Do you just want to use one single photo for the postcard, or do you want to feature several photos? You can choose up to six photos for your postcard (depending on the style), and then simply add the photo(s) in the frame. After adding the photo(s), you can edit the postcard, by either adjusting things like exposure, contrast and saturation, or by giving the postcard a specific look by adding a filter. You can draw on the image, or add text.postcard styles

The finished product won’t be like any of the postcards in the souvenir shops. This postcard is exactly how you want it to look.

You can even upload your photos straight from Instagram, which is perfect for the postcards that feature square-spaced images.

Once you’re done adding and editing your photo(s), you can add text on the front of the card – for example the name of the town or country you’re sending it from.MyPostcard Photo Editor

The last thing to add is a frame you can choose (but don’t have to), and the color of the frame: black or white. After that, the postcard looks just like any postcard that you can buy in a store – only that you’re using a photo that you yourself took.

After writing the text on the front of the postcard, you can now add the text on the back, just as you would on a regular postcard. What I love is that MyPostcard offers different fonts, which all resemble handwriting rather than regular print fonts, which gives it a more personal touch. And giving me various fonts made it easy for me to choose one that I felt came closest to my real handwriting.MyPostcard finish

All that’s left to do is to add the recipient’s address, and then send it.

Two features I loved about the app when I got to the address part were:

1) Any address you use is automatically saved into your address book, making it easy to use it again the next time you’re sending postcards or greeting cards.

2) If you don’t know an address, the app automatically gives you the option to request someone’s address via text message or email. It couldn’t be any easier.

When you’re done with everything and ready to send your postcard, you’ll have the option to send it as a regular postcard or to send it in an envelope.

mypostcard select photo

Other Functions of the MyPostcard App

The postcard sending option is without a doubt my favorite aspect of the MyPostcard app, but there are a couple of other features that I feel are worth mentioning, and I have used both of them myself:

Greeting Cards

I thought it was worth mentioning the Greeting Cards feature since the Holidays aren’t far away. Every year, I send a bunch of store-bought Christmas cards, but after looking through the Greeting Cards options in the app, I think I will make my own from now on.

And not just for Christmas either. Birthdays, Graduation, Friendship, I Love You – there are lots of options in the Greeting Cards App. Yes, there are nice cards in stationary stores too, but what they are all missing is the personal factor.

It was so heartwarming to get a teary-voiced text message after my friend received a personalized greeting card from me – if you are like me and love to gift thoughtful gifts to other people, you will appreciate this as much as I do. And the recipient of the card? You can bet that they’ll be above the moon when they get the card you made for them!mypostcard greeting card

Order Prints

Remember the times when we used to print all our photos, instead of just storing them online? Yeah, me neither. But when I visited my family in Germany last month, I realized how nice it is to have actual print-outs. First of all, not everyone has a smartphone – my brother-in-law’s grandparents came to visit us for a birthday party and they were beyond excited to look through a pile of photos of their great grand kids I had just printed.

But I myself also had moments of joy when I visited my mom, and reminisced about the past by looking through some of the photo albums I store at her house. Yes, you can show some photos of your last trip on your iPhone, but it’s just not the same as looking through a bunch of actual photos instead of swiping through digital images.

The prints come in a beautiful box, and you can choose if you want to have the photos printed in instant format, square format, or in regular format (10×15). At $12.99 for 30 photos, including taxes and worldwide shipping, I find the prints very reasonably priced.

MyPostcard products

Send FREE postcards: I’m giving you $10 credit!

Have I made you curious about the MyPostcard app? Why don’t you give it a try – and send the first postcard for free! You can download the app here:

For Android | For iOS

When you sign up, use the credit code GLOBETROTTERGIRL for a $10 credit. You just have to sign up and redeem the credit in the account section. You can use the $10 to send a handful of postcards or to get some prints, or to send some Christmas cards!

***Small pint***

Only new customers can redeem this credit code.

Only 100 coupon codes are available – it’s first come, first serve.
Camino De Santiago Postcards

This post was written in collaboration with the MyPostcard app. All postcards were created and written by me, and the opinions expressed in this post are all my own.


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