It’s not just any keychain. The Traveller Collective keychain is composed of a clip with “spacers” that represent each individual country you’ve ever travelled to. Each county has its initials engraved onto each little spacer. Cool, huh? It’s a pretty unique way to track all the different places and adventures you’ve had while travelling! Mine has 55 currently and hoping to add more soon!
Forget the debate about the number of countries you’ve been to and how you shouldn’t “count countries”, it’s not about that. It’s more of a symbol that each spacer on your keychain represents an amazing place you’ve been, a constant reminder of your footprint left on the world.
I sometimes find myself flipping through the spacers while on a long train ride or a flight. First, I try to guess which country it is based on the initials. Then it triggers memories from that particular place:
The time we had our own private little island to ourselves in Belize.
The time I went on a safari in South Africa.
The time I went on a one week sail trip in Croatia that changed my life.
That time I got left behind from our cruise ship on the shores of Barcelona, got heat stroke, and spent the day in the hospital (hey, I never said all memories were good ones haha!).
That time I scuba dived for the first time in the Red Sea.
That little reminder sparks a whole lot of emotion and takes me right back to the moment.
How Will You Leave Your Mark on the World?
Although the keychain is super unique, I like to focus on the concept behind the actual material product. The idea of a close community of travellers, leaving our marks on the world (represented as the spacers), as well as what should be most important to us…giving back to those less fortunate.
We are lucky enough to have a platform to reach many people, and we need to take advantage of that and use that to promote a positive message.
Travelling has taught me so much, and we often forget what a PRIVILEGE it is. So it’s reallyimportant to take some time to give back to the world we are constantly taking from.
Being creepy in Italy with my Traveller Collective Keychain
Making a Difference
What’s really special about this souvenir is that the Traveller Collective company cares about making a difference (and you can too!). So much so that 20% of the profits goes to helping underprivileged communities.
Traveller Collective has partnered up with Imagine1Day on some really great community projects in Ethiopia.
They have previously raised $10,000 to build a sustainable, clean and safe drinking water source in Northern Ethiopia.
Currently, Traveller Collective is aiming to raise $10,000 to help build a school along with providing educational materials for the children of Dum, Ethiopia.
So when you buy a keychain, you’re directly helping make a difference for these less fortunate communities. It’s a win-win if you ask me! ♥
Disclaimer: this post was written in collaboration with Traveller Collective. However, I have my own keychain and I LOVE it! Not only the look, but the important message behind it. It’s something I wholeheartedly support! I would never recommend something I truly didn’t love!♥
I had avoided Norway for so long because it is the most expensive country in Europe. Understandable. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to finally be going to Bergen after dreaming about it for what seemed like forever. I was almost equally excited about staying at Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana Bergen after obsessing over this beautiful hotel online for weeks beforehand.
I won’t bore you by describing every little thing inside the hotel room. “The room had a desk, a chair, a bed, a window…”. How boring does that sounds? If you want the little details you can check on the hotel’s website. What I am going to tell you are the top 5 things I loved about Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana Bergen!
1. Amazing Ambiance/Decore
Spent way more time than one should in a hotel lobby sitting on that comfy couch
The first thing I noticed when I opened the door and stepped into the hotel was the incredible ambiance. Dim lighting, colourful and funky furniture, and an elegantand romantic atmosphere. I definitely felt underdressed arriving in my typical flight outfit of gym attire. Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana has a sophisticated flare about it, one that would normally make me feel uncomfortable. You know that super ritzy house of your rich friend that is so impeccably fancy that you feel like you don’t even want to sit down or touch anything because you might break it? This was the complete opposite. The seating area of the lobby was very warm and inviting with a big comfy couch centered right in front of the big screen TV. Throughout my stay, I spent way more time than anyone should spend in a hotel lobby because of that darn turquoise couch!
2. Ideal Location
Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana is only 3-4 minutes from the bus station!
The hotel could not have been in a better location! Right smack in the center of town situated along a cute cobblestone street. I took the Flybussen bus from the airport to the first stop after the central station called Festplassen. The journey took about 22 minutes and a roundtrip ticket cost 185 NOK (approximately $22). Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana was about a 3-4 minute walk from the bus stop. It was also about a 6-7 minute walk from the famous UNESCO Bryggen area, and a 7-8 minute walk from the I h, 2 of the city’s top attractions.
When I arrived, I was a little worried that it might be a little loud at night (as most city center hotels are). But that was not the case at all. The only cars on the cobblestone street were taxis to pick up guests in the nearby hotels. There was absolutely no street noise or commotion outside of the hotel. I’m a super light sleeper, so this was a definite plus for me!
3. Complimentary Food
This might be the absolute best part about Hotel Oleana. Why? Because in the few days that I was in Bergen, I DID NOT SPEND ONE CENT ON FOOD! Norway is the most expensive country in Europe, and I didn’t have to buy food once. Score! Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana provides 3 meals a day on the house. Breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, cereal, a variety of meat and cheeses, fruit, juices, and coffee. I was happy that I got way more than the typical European breakfast tends to offer. The mid-day snack consisted of waffles, various fruits, and coffee. Dinner was different every night and usually consisted of pasta, chicken, potatoes, meats and cheeses, and bread.
What I particularly liked about the food choice is that all the food allergens were listed next to the items. This was particularly helpful for me due to my dreadful gluten allergy. I was very pleased with the food choices and quality overall.
4. Extremely Accommodating Staff
The beautiful and inviting entrance to the hotel. Can I stay forever?
People can really make or break your experience in a new place. But let me tell you from the very beginning that the staff went above and beyond what I expected. They were extremely friendly and responded quickly to any of my needs. What particularly surprised me is that one night they didn’t have any gluten-free options available for dinner except for salad. For those of you that know me, Im not a salad girl. I need my meat! As I was chomping away like a rabbit on my lettuce, the chef who had remembered my allergy came to the table and asked if I would like for her to make something special for me. About 10 minutes later, she came out with a lovely gluten-free pasta dish made just for me! I thought that was very thoughtful and I was basking in the wonderful hospitality.
They also printed out the bus schedule and helped me get to the bus station at 4am! All with a smile on their faces.
5. That Shower Though!
The sexiest shower I ever did see. Right inside the room!
Ok I lied, this was my favorite thing about the hotel! I might have gotten the room with the world’s coolest shower ever! That was the first thing I noticed when walking into the room. The shower was inside the room, literally! What an extremely cool design concept. The mix of the purple velvet room decor, the abstract wall paintings in the bathroom, the dimly lit bedroom, and the sexy semi-private (but not really private) shower, was a recipe for romance if I ever did see one! I was traveling alone, but it would have been very nice to share with my other half!
Other things I really enjoyed about the hotel?
~the lovely view overlooking the colourful rooftops
~the large flatscreen TV with English channels
~the blackout drapes
~the queen chair in my room
~the most powerful hotel hairdryer I ever experienced
~extremely comfortable mattress and down comforter
~6 outlets in the room (most European hotels have only one or two)
~ incredible rain shower head
What I didn’t like about the hotel?
~small sink area for toiletry items (not a huge deal)
~not enough bright lights in the room (payoff for the sensual atmosphere)
Ok, this is the part you I know really want to know about. How much would a hotel like this cost in the centre of town in the most expensive country in Europe with all meals included? Around $150 USD! Eating out in Bergen 3 meal a day alone would easily set you back $75+ a day. Keep in mind that I traveled in January (complete off-season) so prices were on the low end during this time. Expect to pay more in the peak summer months.
Final Verdict of Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana: A+
I had a wonderful time at Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana and I was pleasantly surprised at the highly quality of accommodation for the price. If you’re looking for a cute hotel with a great location, quiet, modern and romantic atmosphere, with a friendly staff, as well as 3 daily meals included, this is the hotel for you! I would definitely recommend this hotel to my closest family and friends. I cannot say enough good things about it. I will be back, Bergen. I will be back!
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Note: a special thanks to Clarion Collection Hotel Oleana for hosting me. My opinions, however, are entirely my own. If I don’t like something, I will definitely speak my mind!
Have you had a superb hotel experience that really left an impression on you? Conversely, have you had a nightmare experience? I want to hear from you!
Prague, the City of a Hundred Spires, home to the infamous Charles Bridge, endless beer gardens, colourful buildings, and the UNESCO historical old town center. It’s a fairytale destination that will surely leave you planning your next return if you ever get the pleasure to visit. Prague feels a little like a different world, somewhere where gothic and medieval structures are the norm and serve as a staple to the city’s impressive architecture. I like to call Prague the Gotham City of Europe, and quite frankly, I think it’s one of the most beautiful capital cities in all of Europe.
I had always wanted to do a dinner cruise on the river, ever since the first time I stepped foot in Prague and noticed how the city is perfectly positioned along the Vltava river. I soon realized that it’s a very popular tourist attraction, as the river is virtually filled with these small cruise ships on any given night. The thought of a dinner cruise was very inviting. To stuff my face, sip on wine, and take in all the marvelous sites in Prague. That sounded like a fabulous evening in my book.
I gave in and bit the bullet. Sure, it might be a little touristy, but I really wanted to do it. I invited my friend Carey as my hot date for the evening. As we picked up our tickets at the box office before boarding, we realized the return time, 3 hours later! Wow, that’s kind of a long time to be on a boat, but it should be fun.
View of Prague from the Vltava River-Notice the infamous Dancing House on the left
Onboard the Cruise
A small buffet was offered onboard, offering an assortment of grilled chicken, pork, rice, pasta, vegetables, fruit, salad, cured meats, traditional Czech dumplings, and a few desserts. As someone who suffers from a Gluten allergy, my options were limited and could only try the grilled chicken, vegetables, and salad. The staff were great in letting me know the ingredients of each dish to make sure it was safe for me to eat. The food was flavorful and was good for buffet food, but not great. To this day, I have yet to experience excellent buffet food.
There were about 25-28 passengers onboard the 2 story small cruise ship, mostly age 30 and up, and consisting of mainly couples. Also onboard was an instrument player, who would entertain us throughout the evening with soothing melodies. There is something about live music that is just so calming and stress relieving.
Prague Dinner Cruise, Top Deck
~The Top deck~
After dinner, we quickly darted to the top deck where we could admire the sites and take a few photos. This was the place you wanted to be with drink in hand. The top deck offered the best unobstructed view of all the sites, and was the perfect spot to catch the sunset with the medieval architecture beautifully framed in the backdrop. After dark, it was also great to view the spectacularly lit-up Charles bridge in all its glory as the cruise slides right underneath of it, giving you an in-your-face view. It really is a breathtaking structure, and a key architectural symbol of this unique city.
Spectacular Prague by night, photo courtesy of Tinggly
Good to know before you board
Drinks, including water, are NOT included in the cruise ticket.
They only accept cash onboard the cruise so that caused a little problem because, ironically, neither me nor Carey had any cash on us at the time. During dinner we were parched and just wanted some water. When we were told they didn’t accept cards we were slightly panicked. After we expressed our concerns to the waitress, she appeared empathetic and went to ask what could be done. Upon returning, she informed us that when we finally dock, they could borrow a credit card machine from another boat and we could pay with our cards. Now that is some good customer service, something that is extremely rare in the Czech Republic.
Views of Vyšehrad from the Top Deck
Very friendly and accommodating staff
Relaxing atmosphere with live music
Top deck with excellent views of the sites, especially the Charles Bridge at night
Romantical (I know that’s technically not a word, but it should be in my opinion)
Way too long. Could have been perfect at 1.5-2 hours max
Drinks not included and slightly pricy
Would I recommend this dinner cruise?
For someone who does not have a long attention span, 3 hours was extremely long to be stuck on a boat with no escape. Honestly, the last hour I was just itching to get off. Otherwise, I would say yes. But in this case, I would recommend one of the shorter cruises they offer.
Go on this dinner cruise if you:
Have patience and don’t mind being stuck on a boat for long periods of time
Are very hungry, as 2nd (or 3rds) are not frowned upon
Want to see the sites from a different perspective
Want a romantic evening with the Mr. or Mrs.
Are traveling with your parents and want to show them the city in a relaxing environment
As a guest on this dinner cruise, It’s tempting (as you might feel obligated) to want to report that it was the most amazing experience ever. But, I also need to be real and give my honest opinion. That being said, I have been on a few dinner cruises before, some in the USA and one in Egypt. They were all pretty much the same, one not better than the other. The purpose of a dinner cruise is to have a nice dinner, relax, and take in the surrounding sites in a calming atmosphere, and it accomplished just that. And for that, I am grateful I was able to experience it.
Note: A special thanks to Tinggly for hosting my experience. My opinions, however, are completely my own.
Throughout all of my travels, smaller towns have really seemed to capture my heart. That is not to say that Rome, Paris, and Istanbul are not amazing cities. There is just something so special about these tiny, quaint little cities that are so charming and unique that they really leave an everlasting impact on you.
Fun fact: the one thing all 4 of these towns have in common? They are all car-less!
1. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov is a car-free town located in the South Bohemian Region. The Old Town, surrounded by the Vltava River, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is what makes this tiny city so unique, and can be described as a blend of Renaissance, Baroque, Medieval, and Gothic. You will instantly feel as if you’re stepping back in time.
Must-See: Cesky Krumlov Castle will give you an amazing view of the town and the surrounding land. Not to mention, it’s one of the well-preserved castles I’ve ever been to.
How to Get There: A 3-hour bus ride from Prague and costs about $18 roundtrip on Student Agency Bus. Busses run every 2 hours.
Time Needed for Visit: You can do the trip in one day. It’s a small city so a day trip from Prague is all you need.
Bonus: In the summer, you can raft/tube down the river running through the city 🙂
2. Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt is the quintessential fairytale town. Nestled between the salt-topped mountains and a beautiful lake, it is so unbelievable picture-perfect that it looks like it’s photoshopped. Unsurprisingly, there has even been a real-life replica of the town built in Luoyang, China. Fairly unknown to most, this makes this town refreshingly untouched by mass tourism (at least in the winter).
Must-See: Everything!!! Just walk around the village for numerous photo-ops, you really can’t go wrong.
How to Get There: A little tricky to get to, but it’s well-worth it. It takes about 3 hours total by bus from Salzburg, and you must switch busses twice. The total cost is about $18 each way. (Bus 150 from Salsburg Hbf, then switch to Bus 542, then 543). It’s a lot smoother than it sounds. Don’t let it overwhelm you! Another option is to take a ferry across the lake.
Time Needed for Visit: The village is extremely small so a day trip is all you need.
3. Positano, Italy
Probably the most well-known on this list, but it doesn’t take away from the beauty and magic of this place. The colourful houses nudged into the mountainside, the breeze from the ocean, and the heir of romance make this place so magical and unforgettable. Positano is far from cheap, but it’s one of those places you must visit once in your lifetime.
What to do: Take a private boat tour to the island of Capri for the day, explore the tiny streets and many steep steps of the city, sunbathe on the beach with a breathtaking backdrop of the city behind you, enjoy the fabulous food in one of the seaside restaurants, admire the artists painting live images of the town right in front of your eyes.
Where to eat: Chez Black Restaurant for authentic homemade pasta, seafood, and wine.
Splurge on: Reserve a spot on the balcony of La Sirenuse Hotel restaurant for a spectacular view of the city and a magnificent sunset. Cocktails run about $18, but the view is well worth it.
How to Get There: A 2.5-hour bus or train ride from Naples will run you about $20.
4. Zermatt, Switzerland
I had never heard about Zermatt until my travel partner suggested we visit there on our trip to Switzerland, and man was I blown away! Think of the most beautiful, cozy, make-believe ski town you could ever imagine, and there you will find Zermatt! Home to the infamous Matterhorn Mountain, you will not be disappointed at the endless picture-perfect viewpoints at each and every corner. On top of the shear beauty of this place, everyone is extremely nice, helpful, and happy, something very refreshing to see in a place that is so ritzy and glamorous.
Must-See: To say Switzerland is expensive is an understatement, so if you would like to splurge on the cable car to the top of the mountain (about $85) or paragliding over the alps ($200+), go for it! However, I chose to forgo these expenses and just enjoyed strolling around this visually stunning city while snapping pictures along the way.
How to Get There: Located in the far Southeast of Switzerland, a train ride from Geneva, Zurich, or Basel will take you anywhere from 3.5 to 4 hours.
Time Needed for Visit: Due to the extremely high prices, this city can be done in one entire day.
What are some other small fairytale towns you recommend? I’d love to add some more to my list!
Am I rich? Do I have a sugar daddy? Are my parents funding my trips? These are all questions I have to deal with due to all the traveling I have done over the past few years. But the truth is, I work hard between two jobs, I save, and I make traveling my number one priority. If I can do it, anyone can! Here are the top 3 ways I am able to travel as much as I do:
1. SACRIFICE The number one thing I learned is that if travel is your number one priority, there are everyday sacrifices that need to be made. There are little changes that you can make that go a long way. Do you like going out to eat with friends twice a week? Cut it back to once. Do you really need a mani/pedi every 2 weeks? Do it yourself in between and go once every 4-6 weeks. Do you need Starbucks 5 days a week? Cut it in half and you’ll be surprised how much you save just on coffee! Do you have a weakness for shoes or purses? I tend to think of every purchase in terms of travel. Do I really need a $350 purse? That’s like a round trip plane ticket to NYC! Since I stepped out of my comfort zone and started exploring this beautiful world, material things became less and less appealing to me. Five years from now, am I going to remember that amazing trip to Italy or a that new iPad I wanted? When I think of things in terms of making life-long memories, it’s much easier to resist the temptation to spend (waste) money.
2. TRAVEL SAVINGS ACCOUNT This might sound simple, but it really works! Many years ago, I started a travel savings account. I try to put about 15-20% of every paycheck into that account every month. And the key is, DO NOT TOUCH that account unless it’s an emergency. Unless I’m on my death bed and need money for a kidney, I’m not taking a cent out of that account! It’s incredible how easy it is to save when you decide to make a travel account.
3. TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS I left this one for last because it is by far the number one way I’m allowed to travel as much as I do. Getting a travel credit card was the best decision I ever made! I usually get one free plane ticket to Europe each year due to rewards points attained in combination from airline miles programs and travel credit cards. I mainly use the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase United Explorer Card. The United Explorer card is directly connected to United Airlines and all of their Star Alliance partners. So every time I fly with one of their airlines, I get points. I also get points every time I use my card for purchases. Although I really dislike United, I think they have one of the best reward systems of any other airline. It’s so easy to earn points and they have no black out dates for the reward tickets. With this card, you also get your first checked bag free for you and your travel companion, as well as 2 annual passes to the united club lounge at airports. What I really like about this card is that they offer a 10,000 point bonus if you spend $25,000 a year on purchases, which is beneficial if you spend a lot. The Chase Sapphire is great too as they offer 2 points per every dollar spent on travel and dining. You can also use your reward points on any airline, which provides more versatility. Both cards also offer no international transaction fees, which really comes in handy when you travel overseas and would like to avoid those pesty international conversion fees with every purchase. They can really add up, trust me. In summary, both cards are beneficial and have their strengths, you just need to decide which one would be better for you depending on what you spend your money on and what airlines you tend to fly. The key to maximizing the benefits to either of these cards…pay off the balance each month because the interest rates tend to be high!!!