Accommodation · Travel · Travel Tips · Worldwide

Hotels, Motels, Hostels, and Airbnb

Good trips are, well, good. Once you’ve booked your flights the second decision you have to make is accommodation. There are so many options and so many questions. Is it worth it to blow your budget on a fancy hotel? Will I get killed in a hostel? Is Airbnb ethical?

Just a heads up, all the places I mention in this post are places I’ve stayed and recommend. A lot of the links are from trvl.com which is a site that searches lots of different platforms and is somewhere I’ve always found an awesome deal. The links I’ve provided are my agent link, so prices will be the same for you but I’ll get a commission. For more about how and why I use things like commission and affiliate links check out my affiliate link and sponsorship disclaimer.

Sparkling hill
Sparkling Hill, from trvl.com

Hotels

There’s a reason hotels are the standard. They’re basically big buildings with varying levels of nice rooms. Some of them are destinations themselves. One of my favourites is Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, B.C. The resort that’s just as obsessed with Swarovski crystals as I am. There’s an amazing spa, as well as free pools and little aromatherapy rooms that you can walk through. Another hotel destination category is all-inclusive. These are super common in the Caribbean and parts of Australia and they get a bit of a bad rap among “serious” travellers. If you’re trying to get down and dirty into a city then they probably won’t be the best option for you. But, if you want to lie on a beach and maybe go on a few tours then I really don’t think there’s anything more relaxing than a good, pre-paid vacation.

Motels

These are basically hotels where you park outside the room. They’re a road trip and a horror film classic. While some of them give off a hardcore sketch vibe I’ve been surprised by a good few motels in my life. Most recently the Sun Plaza Motel in Mackay, QLD where our small room (that the owner apologized for the size of multiple times) was roughly the same size as our apartment in Dublin. It also led us to the South Mackay Bowls Club where I promised a very entertaining old man that I’d let the world know it’s the cheapest drinks in town. I’ve even been surprised by well maintained private beaches and pools that are almost never crowded.

Shuswap
Me, relaxing at HI-Shuswap after eating so many pancakes. Seriously, don’t sleep on the pancakes.

Hostels

I’m a big fan of hostels. While the reputation for being cheap, rowdy, and the connection with a very unflattering movie- which trust me, you DO NOT want to watch in a dark room in Český Krumlov where it was filmed- I’ve only been in one that worked to that description. Most are pretty bare bones like St. Christopher’s in Bruges which has bunks, bathrooms, a fantastic bar and a common room though some are fancy and amazing like Gogol’Ostello in Milan which deserves a post to itself because wow. I’ve seen amazing rooftop pools, swings, a koala reserve, restaurant-style kitchens, and drink specials like you wouldn’t believe. Sometimes. like a hotel, a hostel is a destination in itself. I used to do yearly trips to the HI-Shuswap where you can semi-camp in an old caboose and eat the best pancakes in the world.

Airbnb

I think Airbnb can be great for country houses like Leap Farm Lodge, aka the most relaxing place on the planet. At its core the idea of Airbnb isn’t bad- you have a spare room that you let out, or you’re on vacation and want to make a bit of cash. The problem comes with city apartments being dedicated full-time to Airbnb. For unique experiences in places that there’s no housing crisis it’s a great thing… but in a city, I like to vacation guilt free in a hostel or hotel.

When it comes to planning a trip, accommodation is a big deal. It’s probably the second biggest part of your budget and is worth a tonne of consideration. Personally, when I travelled solo I would book dorms in hostels with a hotel room every two-ish weeks. When I travel with Adam we veer towards private rooms in hostels, though we opt for shared bathrooms as it’s cheaper and it means we can get ready at the same time and hit the ground running faster.

 

Etiquette

The Three Nice Things Rule

Recently I’ve been working on a project with people that… it’s like I finally understand what high school group projects were trying to prepare me for.

I know that there’s a possibility that I might get asked my opinion on the people I’m working with and I don’t want to be sitting on the spot trying to come up with something that won’t ruffle feathers.

I think being honest is important, but I’m definitely not a fan of the “brutal honesty” trend the world seems to be into. Tact is important, and sometimes your Mom was right- if you don’t have something nice to say it’s better to say nothing at all.

Situations like this come up all the time so I try to find three nice things to say about anybody. Whether it be their grammar- “they never mix up they’re, their, and there!” Their physical appearance- “they’re always wearing really cool lipstick colours!” Or even a hobby- “I like how dedicated they are to finding new music!”

Sometimes you have to work with people you just plain don’t gel with and when it’s a matter as simple as that all you can do is hope you finish up the project without any major altercations. It’s best to remember that you don’t have to be best friends with everyone but being polite costs nothing.

Personal Essays

Why I’ve Stopped Playing the “My Life is Worse” Game

As I watched reports of the fire at Notre Dame last night my heart broke.

I’ve been blessed to spend a bit of time in Paris. The first time I was eighteen and the Notre Dame was the first big European cathedral I had been to. When I was twenty I went back as a part of my field school semester abroad. A lot of the people on that trip weren’t the kindest to me and when I went into the church it felt very comforting to know that no matter where and no matter what language at least there was somewhere I could understand what was going on. Watching a place that meant a lot to me, a place I had always considered a weird sort of beautiful safety net go up in flames was awful.

I think a lot of people felt the same.

notre dame

When I looked through Instagram stories this morning I saw a post that said something along the lines of “A Catholic church burns and people cry but three black churches got burned in Louisiana and no one cares.”

It rubbed me the wrong way.

I’ve never been to Louisiana but I don’t need to have been. I’m appalled that someone would intentionally set fire to, well anything really, anywhere. Be it a church, a business, someone’s home- no one deserves to have a building burnt down. It is absolutely, completely terrible that people have had their place of worship intentionally burned down.

I absolutely think that such a terrible attack should have gotten international media attention. It’s easy to think things are okay around the world and it’s important to remember that even in countries that claim to be progressive this kind of thing is happening.

What really tugged at my annoyance strings is the way that the post was worded. It reminded me a lot of a sort of game people play that I’ve dubbed, “my life sucks more.” It goes like this: someone tells you they can’t afford to go to an event. You say, “oh yeah, well I’m having trouble making rent this month.” then the conversation morphs into this spiral of who has a worse time, eventually someone “wins”, it’s awkward and no one feels better about anything.

I don’t think holding in struggles is great, talking and reaching out for help to the right people is super important. I just don’t think that the comparison is healthy. Just like there’s enough joy to go around when good things happen, there’s enough sadness in the world, enough love and empathy to go around during tragic times. The fact that the fire in Notre Dame is being treated as accidental and the fires in Lousiana were intentional arson make them completely different things.

So, in the same way I’ve decided to try to stop playing my life sucks more- sadly it’s become a bit of a destructive habit that’s hard to break- I’ve also decided to not compare tragedies. Personally, I can be sad about the Notre Dame and hope that the person who set the fires in Louisiana gets punished adequately at the same time. Most of all, I can hope that all the people affected by every tragedy have the strength and spirit to rebuild.

Friday Diary

Friday, April 12th

It’s been a weird week. We had a friend come to stay with us last Friday and it was so amazing getting to be social and have a good time without the “make a friend” pressure I’ve been feeling. Kinsale is super touristy and things are starting to pick up. I’m happy in one way- it means that I’ll have the possibility of getting back that travel spark I love- people on vacation tend to be really open to chatting and having a good time, but sadly those relationships are… well, that’s how I met my husband and a LOT of my best friends so I don’t want to say fleeting. I’m trying to be positive but I know that at the end of the summer it might be just as, well, lonely as this winter was.

We’ve been gearing up for Australia. Sometimes I forget the seasons are reversed and got super excited about swimming in the ocean for a minute… then I realized you don’t want to swim in water coming off Antartica on the cusp of winter. I’m debating doing a polar bear situation around here one day. Is it a polar bear swim if you do it in Spring?

This week I’ll just be doing my normal weird stuff. Trying to clean out the freezer before we leave, attempting to relearn to walk in heels, and seeing if free legging ads are a scam.

But right now? It’s pasta making time.

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Beauty · Hair

Haircare For Box Dye Addicts

I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair until I graduated high school with the caveat that I had to pay for it.

I give my mom some thanks for this- I have fine hair, but it’s always been extremely healthy. Also, my high school years were right in the prime of the emo era, so while I still have probably more than the required amount of embarrassing high school photos, at least they were somewhat subdued.

embarrasing high school picture
Yes, that is a tie that I sewed into a bracelet. 2008 was wild.

I did a lot of Lush hennas– which, if you don’t want to dye your hair chemically I 100% recommend. The upside is that you essentially sit your hair in cocoa butter for hours. It also gives you a great excuse to do nothing all day. The downside- or another upside if, like me, your life’s quest is to be Anne Shirley- is that everything has a very red tint. The one I had done in that pic was the noir henna (back then called caca noir which was a special treat for some language speakers) with added coffee to tone down the red a bit. Also, if you henna your hair you have to grow it out before you chemical dye it.

My first hair dye was a $3 black box dye that I bought at the late night pharmacy on the way home from a night out. There is one surviving picture that I do not have hold of. It was not good. I promptly got it lifted out and I got my hair redyed by a stylist who I’d been going to for four years. She was baffled but not surprised by my decision.

Seven years later I’ve become a bit better at dyeing my hair. I know box dye isn’t the best thing to put in your hair, but professional salons are quite expensive and honestly, it’s weirdly fun to put the stuff in your hair and have it come out. It’s almost soothing.

I’ve learned a few things in my box dye adventures…

Like henna, everything has an undertint of red.

I don’t know if this is because my hair is naturally auburn or if it’s just the way the dye is. Black and dark brown shine red in the sun. Any light or medium brown shines auburn. I’ve decided to steer into it and keep my hair about a shade redder than my natural auburn. I’m tempted to grow it out and see what happens, but I’m terrified I might find some grey and quash my “I’m still young!” delusion.

Wait 1-2 days between a hair wash and a dye

I started dyeing my hair by thinking that oilier I could get it the better. I mean, hair’s natural oils would protect it and keep it from drying out, right?

No. No baby Sandy, no.

Companies make the product knowing full well you have no idea what you’re doing. You could probably dye straight after a shampoo- you shouldn’t, but I’m sure there’s enough stuff in there it wouldn’t be completely tragic.

I like to wait for a day or two after my last shampoo. Short enough that I haven’t put extra stuff like dry shampoo in my hair, but long enough that my hair does have a bit of protection. The conditioners they include in the boxes tend to be pretty full on, so adding that on top of four days of hair grease is going to result in some grossness. It’s better to wait to shampoo after your colour to help prevent fading.

Condition, Condition, Condition

I always use the included conditioner after I dye, but they’re so intense. I’ll use it every so often, but definitely far short of the once a week recommendation. Instead, I love a good conditioning treatment- Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle is my fave. I like the nourishing and moisturizing as I found the reconstructor way too much- though it works fabulously on Adam’s beard, so hair type.

Look, box dye will never be the best thing you can put in your hair, but if you try your best to offset the consequences with basic hair care and a balanced diet, it’s not the worst.

And it’s certainly the most fun.

Health · Nutrition

Why I’m Not Sold On Supplements

I’ve been known to fall hard into the supplement trap. Weight loss pills? I’ve tried them all. Probiotics? Every morning. If there was something you could put in pill form I would spend a ridiculous amount of money on it and swear by it.

Keep in mind the only supplement that was recommended to me by a medical professional was melatonin and it came with the caveat that it wasn’t an every night thing.

I haven’t taken a supplement in over a year and I’ve been doing better if anything. I’ve dropped dress sizes with minimal effort, my nails have been strong, my hair’s been shiny.

We all know supplements are unregulated. They can say whatever they want and list whatever ingredients may or may not be in there. I think there are some companies that get into with the right intentions, but most of the time the supplement business is all about the money.

Sometimes supplements are necessary, but those recommendations come from doctors, not magazines or celebrity endorsements.

 

Uncategorized

In Defense of Being Uptight

Recently I was discussing some grave breaches of etiquette I’ve been exposed to and was called uptight as a result.

Of course, I found it a bit offensive- we live in a world where people are supposed to be loosey-goosey go with the flow, low stress, all that. It’s seen as weird and control-freak-esque to care and try.

The thing is I used to be very “why make a plan?” In some respects, I still can be. If I’m going on a trip for longer than a month I tend to only plan a week or so in advance. I’m super into walking around and picking a restaurant based on what looks good. Sometimes freedom is good. There’s a bit of a thrill in not knowing what might happen.

There’s also a lot of disappointment in not being able to stay in a town you had your heart set on because all the hotels and hostels are booked out. Or in having to go home and cook a frozen pizza because all the restaurants are fully reserved.

I was always worried I would get left out and not be invited to things so I became the planner in my group. We were all broke students so I found ways to game the system. If I started looking at St. Patrick’s Day events on January 2nd, we could get early bird tickets for $15 instead of $50. Canada Day event scouting started on March 18th. Halloween? July 2nd. New Years Eve? Honestly, September. New Year’s can be a bit of a circus. I got a lot of, “seriously? You’re starting this now?!” followed by the same people going, “man, tickets are so expensive!” after waiting until the week before the event.

One of my friends tried to take over the planning and promptly asked how I haven’t gone insane yet.

Well, it might be because, yeah, I’m uptight. I’m aggressively helpful. I like to have a plan.

I also work for myself, have been on multiple solo trips, moved to a new country, and have the drive, motivation and follow through to learn multiple crafts, languages, and read books that some people find intimidating. I look at a Julia Child’s recipe and know it won’t be a problem. My meal planning means my food waste is super minimal.

Maybe it’s not so bad to be uptight…

 

Cooking · Gourmet · Health · Nutrition · Uncategorized

Superfood Swaps

I love the idea of a superfood. We’re all trying to be healthier and being able to do it by eating this one thing sounds like a really good deal. The problem is these “superfoods” tend to be tropical, expensive and super hard to get out of season. If you’re in a place where they’re native or you can grow them yourself then enjoy your geographic luck! For the rest of us, here’s a couple of swaps.

Avocado

To be fair, I have a bee in my bonnet about avocado because my body does not like it. I can have a very tiny bit but anything more and my digestive system goes to war. Avocados are also expensive, and our modern lust for them has taken a bit of a toll on the environment. Olive oil is a great substitute when you’re looking to add monounsaturated fat to salads or soups. If you’re looking for a hit of potassium, as well as a toast aesthetic think mashed banana. Nut butter also works for a sweet toast or pesto for savoury. You can make pesto yourself with any “cookable” green- I like the classic basil, spinach, or arugula, nuts- which tend to be monounsaturated fat powerhouses, and oil. You can add in garlic, lemon, or parmesan cheese. Just whiz it all in a food processor, or my preferred method of a mortar and pestle and some demons that need smashing out and you’re in budget business.

Goji Berries

I used to work at a tourist attraction that wanted to try to health themselves up so they brought in packs of dried goji berries for staff to try. Sadly they didn’t find them financially viable, but for one blissful summer, they almost completely replaced my candy habit. They’re sadly hard to find and a bit expensive in Ireland, so it’s tough to consider these more than an occasional treat. The best substitution? Literally any berry. Dried cranberries are closest in texture and flavour to a dried goji. As for fresh, I don’t think freezer berries get the credit they deserve. They’re picked at peak freshness so they’ve still got a tonne of nutrients in them. They’re great for baking or cook them into a jam substitute with a splash of water and honey or sugar if you’re feeling cheeky. If you get a deal in the summer freezing them yourself is a great option- just spread the berries out on a cookie sheet and once they’re frozen pop them in a more permanent freezer container.

What other superfoods would you love a swap for?

 

 

Beauty · Skin and Body · Spa

Mud Masks vs. Sheet Masks: Why I Use Both

I can remember the day when masks were a bit one-note. You put goop on your face, laughed at how weird you looked, and rinsed it off 15-20 minutes later. If it had mud or clay in it you’d make sure you didn’t have to talk or move your face so you wouldn’t crack it while it dried.

Enter modern day where it’s a bit of a mask gone wild situation. The biggest turnaround has to be the introduction of Korean beauty and the sheet mask. Is it worth replacing your good old goop for the sleek, easy sheet mask?

Despite both of them being called masks they’re really not the same thing.

Wash Off Masks

These are the mud masks, clay masks, the traditional put it on your face, give it a bit and wash it off. Ingredients in a wash off mask tend to focus on being cleansing. Ingredients like mud and clay draw out impurities and leave your skin feeling awesome. Generally, you’ll notice that your pores look smaller and clearer. Even in clay and mud free ones, all ingredients and botanicals benefit from longer contact time with your skin.

I’ve always loved that green faced, cucumber-eyed, spa robe visual but mud masks are also great for when you want to look nice while still getting things done. I’m wearing one right now.

A quick note, you shouldn’t actually let a mask dry completely. If you leave it on too long it can end up being really dehydrating.

Another great thing about a wash off mask is the DIY potential. Mashed banana, honey, yoghurt… there’s so much kitchen beautician potential that you just don’t have with the sheet mask.

Sheet Masks

Sheet masks consist of, well, a sheet that’s been soaked in essence or serum. It has cutouts for your eyes and mouth and a flap for your nose. The sheet blocks ingredients from evaporating quickly so your skin has more time to soak up the goodness.

There’s something magical about the first time you use a sheet mask. You look ridiculous, but if you do it at night you wake up in the morning looking just plain amazing. While they seem a bit more convenient because you don’t need to wash them off, they can be a bit difficult to meander around in. Nothing’s worse than tilting your head at the wrong angle and having your sheet mask fall into your lap five minutes in.

I do love a sheet mask on a long haul flight. You may get some weird looks but when you hit baggage claim looking well rested and amazing none of that matters anymore.

So, which is better?

I have aggressively normal skin so I stick with a hard both. You can get both mud masks and sheet masks for any skincare concern. The main thing is not putting something made for oily skin on your dry skin (or any other combo of skin types) no matter what the product. I like one of each once a week, though if you want to do more stick to sheet masks as clay and mud can be drying if you overuse them.

The cost is probably the biggest factor. While I found sheet masks to be super affordable in Canada- shout out to The Face Shops buy ten get five free deals– they’re super expensive in Ireland. Finding one for under €3 is a struggle.

While I’d love to use a sheet mask every night I also worry about the environmental impact. I love individually wrapped stuff but it does create a lot of waste. Mud masks tend to be available in bulk, but the DIY route is also great. Got a banana that’s seen better days? Mash it up with some honey and oats and you’ve got an amazing, affordable mask.

Whatever mask you use, one of the greatest joys of the process is taking the time to actually care for your skin. It’s a good feeling knowing that you’ve taken time for yourself.

Beauty · Bedroom · Hair · Health · Home · Skin and Body · Sleep

Why I Love My Silk Pillowcase

I’ve always loved the idea of silk pillowcases. They seemed so needlessly luxurious. I ended up buying one on sale ages ago and… I mean, I brought it with me when I moved continents. There’s a reason- besides just feeling super fancy because you’re sleeping on silk.

Silk doesn’t conduct static the way cotton does, so your hair doesn’t frizz. There’s two types of fibre- staple and filament. Staple fibres are made up of a lot of short fibres being spun together to make one long thread. A filament fibre is much longer and smoother, so even when spun together you don’t get the fluffy halo-like appearance. Silk is one of the few filament fibres found in nature.

That filament fibre action makes it nice and slidey so that your face doesn’t get stuck on it. Less tugging on your face is always great for wrinkle prevention and overall comfort.  Silk also doesn’t pull moisture from your face- that means your nighttime skincare stays on your skin longer so it can work. Since silk doesn’t produce static hair stays much less frizzy and easier to manage.

Silk is naturally hypoallergenic and it’s not as hard to clean as it seems- just throw your pillowcase in with everything else you clean on the delicate cycle and hang to dry. I find silk to be super quick drying as long as I put my laundry in by noon my pillowcase is dry by bedtime.

The biggest downside is definitely the cost- I paid $32 for mine five years ago, and that was on sale. The good thing about any sort of linen situation is that department stores tend to run really good sales. If you’re a bit diligent about it you can snap one up for a decent enough price.

Another option is to make your own. I’m definitely going to try this the next time I find a good price on silk satin. I tend to sleep weird and would love a more envelope style as my pillows tend to slip out of their pillowcase slots.

Overall with a silk pillowcase, I sleep better, I feel fancy, and I honestly think my skin and hair is thankful for it.

If you see a silk pillowcase definitely snap it up, or hey, it’s never to early to start your Christmas list!