All Posts By

Joshua Hagerty

Budget Travel

The Best Places to Escape the Cold Weather

The height of the cold season is here, and we’re sure that you’re looking for ways to escape the chilly winter weather so that you can make the most of this holiday season – not cooped up inside, but out where the action is. So, here’s a list of some places you can go to for some much-needed escape.

1) Sicily, Italy

Who wouldn’t want to visit this picturesque place? As one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, it is located at the southern tip of Italy and is home to Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.

This time of year, the temperature averages around 65 degrees. Daylight here also lasts 7 hours, so you can make the most of the sun’s warmth.


2) Paxos, Greece

This is one of the smallest of the Ionian islands, but do not be deceived by the size of this place; you can still get swallowed up by the laid-back vibe here.

If you’re looking to escape the party scene, this is the place for you.

Because of Paxos’ small size, one of the best things you can do is explore the beautiful nooks and crannies of this island. The temperatures here are milder, ranging from the mid-50s to the lower 60s.


3) Alicante, Spain

This is the capital of eastern Spain, Costa Blanca. It gets its name from the rolling sandy beaches in this part of the country. This city is ripe with things to do and explore.

You can explore the beautiful local architecture and history by visiting the different museums that can be found in the city, like the Archeological Museum and the Santa Bárbara Castle.

You can also laze around in the afternoon at the beautiful beaches of Saladar that can be found south of Alicante, or head north to Playa de la Albufereta.


4) Mozambique

Despite being filled with popular beaches along its coastline, this southern African nation is still not that popular among most travelers. However, this place has a lot to offer, like its beautiful turquoise water that boasts colorful sea creatures and well-preserved corals. You might also enjoy the pounding surf along the country’s southern coast.

This place also hosts beautiful colonial-style architecture and its own flavor of nightlife. However, it’s not easy to get around here; you would do well to bring a measure of patience with you, as getting to your destination often requires long bus rides.

But, for beautiful places like this, it is well worth it.


5) Morocco

This is a North African country that overlooks the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans. This country offers scenic mountain ranges and deserts as far as your eyes can see, plus ancient cities and diverse cultural influences. It is known as the gateway to Africa.

There are also beaches in this country that you might like to explore.


6) Dubai, UAE

Located at the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf, this city is the most populous and largest in the United Arab Emirates. It is known for its modern architecture, luxurious shopping, and colorful nightlife.

Some of Dubai’s top tourist attractions are the Burj Khalifa (currently the tallest building in the world), the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, and Dubai Creek. So if you’re looking for a unique (and often grand) experience during the holidays, this is the place to be.


7) Barbados

An eastern Caribbean island, this is one of the best places to escape during the winter season. It offers a host of beautiful beaches around the island, 17th-century plantation houses, botanical gardens, and the Harrison Cave formation.

The place is best known for its powdery sand beaches and festive nightlife. Barbados is the place to be if you want to experience summer during the winter.


8) Costa Rica

This Central American country features coastlines bordering both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Costa Rica is known for its rich biodiversity, beaches, and volcanoes.

Costa Rica is also a great place to get your surf on. You might also want to go and explore the peaks of the volcanoes in this area, go hiking, explore the area on a bike, or go ziplining.

You’re only limited by your imagination.


9) Phuket, Thailand

This is a mountainous island located in the Andaman Sea. It is also known for its beautiful beaches along its western shore. Phuket has old shophouses, high-end spas, and resorts and restaurants.

It also has bars, clubs, and discos that tourists often frequent when they visit this island. This is the largest island in Thailand.

So if you want to be a beach bum, do some diving, and enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle (especially in the winter), this is where you’ll want to go.


10) The Maldives

Located in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a South Asian archipelago comprising 1,000 coral islands and 26 ring-shaped atolls. It is primarily known for its blue lagoons, reefs, and beaches.

The main island offers shops, restaurants, and a fish market. You can feast on exotic food here. You’ll also enjoy the weather, because the Maldives gets plenty of sunshine, with temperatures usually stable in the 80s.


11) Kenya

Kenya is an East African country with coastlines located along the Indian Ocean. This beautiful country is not only known for its beautiful beaches, but also for its sprawling safari.

So if you want to experience less human interaction and more of the beauty that nature has to offer, Kenya is an ideal place to go to meet the big five including majestic lions, rhinos, and elephants, to name a few.

Elephants in Africa

12) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Aside from being the second most populous city in Brazil, it is also known for its Ipanema and Copacabana beaches as well as its 125-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer statue, with cable cars located at the granite peak.

This city has been frequented by tourists for decades because of its annual Carnaval festival. It’s one of the most festive and colorful places to be in the world. So if you’re looking for a warm place to escape to that’s also lively and energetic, this is one that you should include on your list.



The Charm of Charleston, South Carolina

Founded in 1670, over 100 years before the Revolutionary War, the quaint South Carolina city of Charleston is, needless to say, a rich footnote in American and pre-American colonial history.

Thanks in no small part to the city’s colorful past, as well as its traditional heritage and locals as warm as the weather, the city was rated #1 in the entire world by Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2015, cementing its status as one of the USA’s most popular tourist destinations and putting it in the spotlight with the other perennially-popular East Coast tourist hotspots like New York City and Miami.

But why all the buzz about the Holy City? What is it about Charleston that makes it one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations?

It’s Aesthetically and Historically Fascinating

Charleston Bike Ride

First of all, perhaps a bit superficially, Charleston is a very visually appealing city. However, in this case, it’s a wonderful thing! Cobblestone-lined streets and the architecture of original 18th-century colonial mansions can make visitors feel like they’re walking through a living museum or have somehow stepped back in time.

Charleston’s Role in American History

Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, having been founded only 63 years after Jamestown, the original colony. But the city’s extensive history goes deeper than buildings that have merely sat pretty for 200+ years. Any history buff knows the pivotal role Charleston played in 1861, when the first shot of the Civil War was fired from Fort Sumter. Other historical points of interest, like Drayton Hall, one of the last remaining plantations in the South, stand as a sobering reminder of slavery and other hardships in an era otherwise long gone.

Yes, Charleston proudly boasts captivating historical, cultural, and natural landmarks at every turn, each with its own story to tell. The best part is that it’s all accessible by simply walking! Enjoy a stroll through the town solo, or take a more active interest in the town’s rich history by joining one of Charleston’s many walking tours.

One of the cannons used at Fort Sumter.

It Makes You Forget the Word “Boring”

Charleston’s main draw is its historical and cultural significance, but that’s certainly not the only draw. The city elevates the often fragile contemporary vs. traditional balance into an art form, tastefully mixing in some history but preserving the old while building the new.

Visitors have the freedom to look to the past by appreciating historical landmarks, stay in the 21st century and enjoy modern amenities and activities, or switch back and forth between the two within the same day.

Some of Charleston’s contemporary attractions include sightseeing boat tours from the harbor (with the chance to see some dolphins) or getting your shopping fix at the Charleston City Market.

And while they’re not the main attraction, Charleston also offers a few water sports activities like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and surfboard rentals for those craving some Vitamin Sea.

It Takes “Good Eats” Very, Very Seriously

Charleston Fried Chicken

The variety and high quality of available dining options in Charleston have also given the city a reputation for being a top foodie destination. Charleston’s food scene can be summed up as country flair meets coastal charm, which means two things:

1) Seafood! Don’t leave town without hitting up 167 Raw, where the oyster selection and lobster rolls are a hit with the locals. The popular favorite Hyman’s Seafood attracts locals and tourists alike with its delicious fare at budget-friendly prices, but you’ll need a fair bit of patience to endure the perpetually long lines that often go out the door.

2) Southern food lovers rejoice! Two of Charleston’s hottest restaurants, Husk and Magnolia’s, serve up scrumptious Southern dishes that’ll make you nostalgic for Mama’s cookin’. If you like entertainment with your meal, country restaurant High Cotton hosts a Sunday brunch with live music from local jazz musicians.

The food options don’t stop there. Culinary tours are popular, and with good timing and a little luck, you may end up in town during one of the city’s many culinary events. Environmentally-conscious foodies will feel right at home perusing the vendors set up at Marion Square’s weekly farmers’ market, a tradition going back over 200 years.

Curb your hunger pangs at one of the many food stalls, and feel free to enjoy your al fresco dining the traditional way – on picnic-perfect grass.

It Exemplifies Natural Beauty

The figurative icing on Charleston’s cake also gives nature lovers a reason to pay the city a visit.

Visitors universally recommend making a stop at The Battery, a picturesque synergy of neighborhood and harbor lined with Southern-style mansions and no shortage of opportunities to snap a gorgeous sunset panorama.

Finally, if you have extra time in your itinerary, consider including a visit to one of Charleston’s charming beaches. Weary visitors who want a respite from city life and to-do lists can make their way south to Folly Beach to kick back, relax, and soak up some rays.

Or travel 10 miles east to find yourself on the unassuming Sullivan’s Island, where its secluded yet inviting beach town vibe and unique Revolutionary War history more than make up for its tiny 3.3 square-mile size.

These are only a few great reasons why Charleston, North Carolina ranks so highly as a tourist destination. The city is a warm, beautiful mosaic of history and modernism, culture and cuisine, and man and nature. This balance gives Charleston a universal appeal; the city truly has something to offer for everybody, and its charm is sure to leave a lasting impression on those who pay a visit.


The Best Authentically Japanese Things to Do in Tokyo

Without a doubt, Tokyo is one of the world’s most iconic cities; many a work of art or literature alludes to the dynamic, sprawling Japanese capital. Tokyo boasts a fascinating fusion of traditional and modern, authentic and foreign, and charm and whim.

The city manages to keep its over 13 million residents entertained with an array of sights, tastes, and experiences for every personality. What are some of the best ways to get a true taste of Japan while you’re in Tokyo?

Explore the city’s districts

Tokyo is divided into 23 major wards, each of which is further broken down into districts. There’s no need (and certainly no possible way) to visit all of them in one go, though.

The most popular areas to visit include Chiyoda, the heart of Tokyo and home to the Imperial Palace and Akihabara, the city’s home for electronic goods; the luxurious Ginza district, filled with high-end shops; Shibuya, home to the world’s biggest crosswalk and full of restaurants and nightlife; and the historical “traditional Japan” districts of Ueno and Asakusa, home of the famous Buddhist temple Senso-ji. You can visit accordingly based on your personal preferences.

Watch a sumo training session

Dating back over 1,500 years, this unique sport is Japan’s version of wrestling. It may look comical on TV or in the arena, but a trip to one of Tokyo’s over 40 sumo training rooms, known as stables or beya, will show you it’s actually serious business.

The city’s Ryogoku district is the best place to find sumo stables in Tokyo.

Before you go, however, call ahead of time to make sure that it’s OK to visit and that there will actually be a training session on the desired date of visit. Finally, do your research before stepping foot in one – there are important etiquette points to keep in mind regarding traditions and practices at sumo stables.

Indulge in the local cuisine

It’s downright impossible to write about the awesomeness of Tokyo without a tidbit on Japanese food. Japanese cuisine is quite popular internationally, making it on many a list of the world’s top cuisines.

Japan Wagu Beef

Tokyo offers the intrepid foodie endless dining options to choose from, including the popular conveyor belt restaurants that serve small plates of maki (traditional sushi) as well as nigiri and sashimi, shabu-shabu (hot pot) restaurants, and teppanyaki restaurants that are famous for their chefs that cook food in front of guests.

Outside of these, there are a plethora of restaurants that serve other favorites: ramen, gyoza (dumplings), teriyaki, tempura, tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet), and so many others.

Strip down for an onsen

For a foreigner, this may take some getting used to! It’s common in Japanese culture to rejuvenate oneself with a hot bath, known as an onsen. While the hot spring concept isn’t unique to Japan, the Japanese have their unique way of doing things; in this case, it means that visitors cannot enter the bath with any clothing – yep, only birthday suits are allowed – which can put some people off.

However, if you can get past the initial awkwardness, it’s a therapeutic and enjoyable experience. An onsen, however, is not for cleaning oneself – it’s designed for detoxing, healing, and relaxing.

As such, visitors must shower before they bathe as well as follow a few other guidelines for an authentic onsen experience that won’t inadvertently offend.

Go to an animal cafe

You don’t have to settle for a run-of-the-mill cafe in Tokyo. The city is famous for being among the first to sport animal-themed cafes in which patrons can interact with cute, furry, and otherwise strange animals while they enjoy a drink. Japan’s original (and most popular) animal cafes to visit are cat cafes, but Tokyo also has cafes that feature other animals like rabbits, dogs, birds, hedgehogs, and more.

Perhaps you’d fancy a coffee with a snake?

Get into the nightlife

If there’s one thing Tokyo is known for, it’s its glitzy party scene. Japan is home to karaoke, and there’s no shortage of bars (karaoke or otherwise) and clubs to cater to both locals’ and foreigners’ whims.

Be a beer connoisseur at a craft beer bar, or party until sunrise at one of Tokyo’s dynamic live music or DJ venues. Some of Tokyo’s wards and districts are more conducive to the party scene, with the aforementioned Shibuya district being a good candidate.

Other prime nightlife spots include Shinjuku, Roppongi, Ebisu, and many more.

Play at a pachinko parlor

Japan has their unique version of gambling too, known as pachinko. Pachinko is like a vertical pinball game, and the objective is to shoot steel balls through a maze and land them in a hole. Although playing pachinko for money is illegal in Japan, you will still earn winnings in the form of tokens that can be changed out for actual currency.

Even if you don’t win the big prize, you can still often trade your winnings for snacks or small trinkets. Yes, pachinko can become an addiction.

Explore the weird and wonderful

When you visit Tokyo, there’s something new at every turn. From vending machines that dispense burgers, to cafes and performances that use robots, to geishas, to an island full of rabbits, Japan’s quirks often delight or downright confuse foreigners. But it’s all part of the adventure.

Yes, certain aspects of Japanese culture may take some getting used to, but if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, you’ll have an unforgettable time in Tokyo and may discover something totally unexpected.

Tokyo may be an international city, but despite its constant influx of visitors, it flaunts its authenticity with an appealing charm. The city is so expansive and diverse that there’s no way to see it all on a short trip.

But on the flip side of the coin, that also means that Tokyo offers something for everybody, and the city offers enough phenomenal attractions and unique Japanese quirks to keep you spellbound the whole time.

Travel Health

How to Take Care of Yourself on the Road and Traveling

Travel can be an exhilarating adventure, a cathartic soul journey. But when you take away the fluff and reduce it to its simplest terms, it’s ultimately a lifestyle. Any lifestyle you choose has its own demands, and the travel lifestyle in particular can be demanding. I’d even go so far as to say that traveling can be one of the most physically and mentally challenging things you can do.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter where you go, your #1 priority must be your own self. Some tough times on the road will always be inevitable, but taking some vital steps to ensure you’re sound in body and mind will go a long way in overcoming these challenges as well as maximizing the positive moments you’ll appreciate on your travels.

What do these steps include?

Fuel and hydrate yourself.

Even in grade school, we were all taught that food is fuel for your body. Yes, food sustains you and gives you the energy needed to keep traveling, so it’s important that you keep yourself nourished at regular intervals, with the right kinds of foods. Go for vegetables, proteins, and dishes cooked in a healthy style instead of fried or fast food. Picking up fresh ingredients at the supermarket and whipping up your own meal in the AirBnb or hostel kitchen is a great way to eat healthy while saving money.

Secondly, adequate hydration is extremely important. The effects of mild dehydration are minor and can initially seem like symptoms of unrelated problems, but can gradually worsen. Skip the sugary drinks and instead keep your system running optimally with water (perhaps infused with lemon or fresh fruit), the only liquid your body truly needs.

Bring along a water bottle that you can take anywhere and refill wherever you go.

Exercise regularly.

Traveling the world doesn’t automatically make you a physically active person. If much of your trip consists of prolonged periods of sitting on public transportation, vegging out at the hostel, or lazy days at the beach, you might find those hostel bar beers showing up on your midsection.

Keep yourself fit with one of the best natural antidepressants, regular exercise. Walking can be both an effective, scenic way to explore the town and effortlessly sneak a workout in. Gyms are ubiquitous, and there are numerous stretches and exercises you can do with just your body and sufficient space. Your mind and body will thank you for keeping your flexibility, strength, and endurance up, I guarantee it.

But give yourself adequate time to unwind.

At the other end of the spectrum, moving from place to place, exploring cities, visiting attractions, and meeting new people day after day will wear you down. Your spirit may be in nonstop adventure mode, but your mind and body need TLC; travel burnout is a very real thing.

Set aside 1-2 days per week to do whatever helps you unwind, whether that means a trip to the spa or massage parlor or shutting yourself away from the world to eat Chinese takeout and binge-watch Netflix for a day.

Don’t be swayed by FOMO.

The all-too-common belief that there are certain landmarks you must see or activities you have to do in a particular city in order to have a fulfilling trip is simply ludicrous. You don’t have to see the Eiffel Tower if you’re in Paris, or the Coliseum in Rome, or the Great Wall of China.

When you travel, you can play by your own rules and see what you wish to see, so don’t feel bad for not including a particular popular sight/activity in your itinerary (or don’t burn yourself out trying to add these things to your list).

If you’re on a budget, give yourself some wiggle room.

Look, I get it: those of us who are less fortunate want to maximize our time on the road by spending less. But would you really settle for a crappy dorm bed in the city’s sketchiest hostel just to shave a few dollars off your daily expenses?

Cheap is great, but poor judgment like this can come back to haunt you; the phrase you get what you pay for is fitting for this situation. Penny wise, pound foolish also comes to mind…

Not ideal. Spending that occasional extra for some comfort or convenience, on the other hand, can lift your spirits and refresh you. Sure, there may be cheaper, lower-quality options, but splurging a little can be worth it.

Worry less about the number of dollars you might spend and instead focus on finding the best value with the money you have.

Ground yourself with routines and a sense of home.

The hectic, highly unpredictable nature of traveling can leave one feeling lost, confused, or overwhelmed.

It’s therefore crucial to establish something constant that you can call your own amidst the mayhem. Whether it’s meditation, journaling, or adult coloring books, implementing consistent habits or hobbies that you can do anywhere can help keep you grounded by establishing some familiarity in ever-changing places and situations.

Or sometimes visiting a new, foreign culture can be a shock to the system. A great way to ease into it is to look for things that remind you of your life back home, past or present, and go from there.

Travel doesn’t have to mean seeing only new things all the time – sometimes you yearn for the good old days, the familiar, and that’s an important part of it too.

The underlying theme behind all of this advice is maintaining good physical and mental health. To make your traveling as successful and fulfilling as it can be, you have to be in touch with how you feel and take the necessary measures to keep yourself firing on all cylinders.

It’s not always easy to do, especially if it means occasionally putting adventure on hold, but you’re guaranteed to make it much further traveling when you take care of yourself.

Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco

Seven Things to Do in San Francisco

San Francisco, California is a bustling, vibrant city and one often talked about on this blog. Despite its relatively small size, stretching only 7 miles end-to-end, San Francisco is rife with activities and landmarks, boasting attractions for all classes of visitors whether you’re a backpacker, traveling with the family, a foodie, outdoorsy, artistic, or something in between. What could you do on a nice day in San Francisco?

1. Pay a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge

What’s a trip to San Francisco without a stop at San Francisco’s iconic red suspension bridge? Completed in 1937, the bridge held the title of the world’s longest until 1964. One of the most photographed bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is a can’t-miss if you’re into photography; make your way to one of the many viewing points to get stunning panoramic, picturesque views of the bridge. Bonus points if you make the trip early and can see the fog draping over the famous landmark.

Now that we’ve gotten the biggest attraction out of the way, what else can we do? (Hint: there’s a lot.)

2. Ride the cable cars

Perhaps second to the Golden Gate Bridge in terms of international fame, San Francisco’s cable cars, featured in movies and depicted on postcards, are the only ones of their kind in the country. The story behind their conception starts with English immigrant Andrew Smith Hallidie, who, in the late 1800s, witnessed a horse-drawn buggy have an accident after being unable to climb one of San Francisco’s steep hills. He used his father’s invention, a patent for a wire rope, to design a transportation system that ran on these wire ropes.

Cable cars became a popular attraction and even today remain a hit with tourists from around the world. It’s recommended to hang out of the vehicle to get the most out of the experience. One-way tickets are a bit steep, at $7 per ride, so it’s recommended to pick up a one-day pass for $21 and use that to make your way around the city.

3. Check out the Muir Woods National Monument

The park that boasts the iconic redwood trees is a bit out of the way of the main city center – 16 miles north of San Fran – but worth the drive. The average age of the redwoods in the park is around 600 years old, and the tallest tree is a staggering 258 feet tall and almost 800 years old. The park is spoken about highly, with visitors reporting being awed and calling the park “beautiful and serene” as well as impressed with how well-maintained the park is.

If you drive, make sure to get there early as parking is limited; buses are also available, and they depart from Sausalito. Admission for adults is $10 and free for those under 16.

4. Stroll around the Fisherman’s Wharf

Being one of San Francisco’s more touristy spots, some visitors to the Fisherman’s Wharf may be put off by the crowds and more expensive food. But those looking to get the full experience in San Francisco can’t afford to miss one of the city’s most popular waterfront neighborhoods.

The area boasts a great variety of dining, shopping, and attraction options like the San Francisco Dungeon, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, original bakery Boudin’s, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park & Maritime Museum.

5. See and tour Alcatraz

The notorious island prison is often a major point of interest for history buffs, who might know a little about Alcatraz’s colorful past.

The compound, besides being the site of the first lighthouse on the West Coast, was at one time a military prison that held criminals from the Civil War and Spanish-American War and later held some of history’s biggest outlaws, most notably Al Capone.

Admission is free, but a $35.50 ferry ride (which also includes an audio guide) is necessary to get to the island. Tours run from 8:45am to 6:40pm, and it’s recommended to make reservations ahead of time due to Alcatraz’s popularity.

6. Enjoy quality eats at the Ferry Building Marketplace

Foodies will love sampling from the variety of delicious food stalls and vendors set up as small restaurants within this public food market. Selections include the usual fare, like burgers, Mexican food, seafood and lots of coffee, to more exotic offerings like empanada stands or a Japanese delicatessen. Visitors enjoy the amount, quality, and choice of food available.

The market is open daily, from 10am to 7pm.

7. Other sights in San Francisco

While New York’s Chinatown sees the most tourism, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a worthy contender. The area boasts souvenir shops, a fortune cookie factory, vendors selling Chinese spices and other goods, and Waverly Place, home of the Tin How Temple – the nation’s oldest Chinese temple.

While San Francisco is not known for being a beach city, Baker Beach, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, is usually noted as one of California’s best. While dangerous conditions, no lifeguards, and sometimes poor water quality mean the beach is only for on-land activities like fishing, sunbathing, strolling, and games, but remains popular with locals for its charm and views. And please note that Baker Beach is a nude beach!

Finally, the Golden Gate Park is California’s equivalent of New York’s famous Central Park. Though it sees fewer visitors, the park is actually 174 acres bigger than its New York counterpart. Its attractions include the California Academy of Sciences, which features a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum as well as the Osher Rainforest, a 90-foot-tall dome that contains 1,600 live animals; the nation’s first Japanese Tea Garden, complete with cherry trees, a pagoda, and Zen Garden; and the Conservatory of Flowers, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest conservatory.