Tips for a Camping Virgin

This month I tried out camping thing for the first time. I have camped in my back garden but have never done the whole camp site thing so I had no idea what to expect. Based on my experience I don’t understand why it isn’t more popular. If you are considering trying something new, here are a few tips that might help you prepare for it.

  1. Pick a camp site – There are hundreds of campsite all over the States, try to pick one and book your spot. Yes, that is a thing. We made the mistake of not realising you had to book, but luckily we went on an off-peak time of year so they had some availability.
  1. Facilities – Look up the place you are going and see what facilities they have, this will give you a good indication what you will and won’t need to bring. Here is a rough list of what you might want to pack, but you will need different things for different sites.

Living

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Torch
  • Towels and toiletries
  • Portable Charger
  • Chairs/ Rug
  • Baby Wipes
  • Insect repellent
  • Bin bag
  • Music Speaker

Cooking – Some campsites will have BBQs available to use. Check their website about what facilities they have before you arrive. You may need to bring a portable BBQ instead.

  • Food for BBQ
  • Plates, cups & cutlery
  • Spatula
  • Cooler box
  • Water

We had the best time and have camped a good few times on our trip because we loved it so much. It is something different and really allows you to totally disconnect from the outside world.

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Camping on Assateague Island, Maryland

I hope you have found this post helpful and maybe convinced you to try it out on your next trip away! Don’t forget to subscribe for emails.

The Girl on the Go xx

Preparing for a Road Trip

Getting ready for a road trip can be stressful. What to bring?  Where to go? Where do you even begin to start organising? Here are a few easy tips that we decided were the most important after our first few days on the road. 

1) Pick your stops – Do some research and find out where you want to stop. If there are any places, restaurants or things you want to see, write them down on a list and use for point no. 2 below.

We used the website roadtrippers.com  where we had to enter our start and end point and the website generated suggested stops and things for us to see along the journey. I would totally recommend using this website, it gave us some great ideas that we would never have found out about.

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Wellfleet Bay, Cape Cod

2) Map out a rough route – Make a route on google maps. You are able to save maps including points of interest and share them on google docs with the people you are traveling with. This map can be downloaded and used when you are outside of wifi – which will avoid you racking up your phone bill by using data roaming on the road.

3) Accommodation – We decided not to book any accommodation in advance because we plan to decide how long we want to spend in each place when we arrive. We did this because we don’t want to be stuck in places we don’t like for longer than we want. So, we plan to use Hotwire.com and Airbnb for most of our accommodation on our trip. Hotwire.com is a website that sells last minute deals on hotel rooms. We have used it before and have booked 4 star hotels the day before for less than half the price everyone paying – cool right?

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The Masthead Resort Provincetown, Cape Cod @ only $70 per night

4) Music – Put some time into creating or finding a playlist you like or maybe try downloading some podcasts. If your car can take an AUX cable, lucky you. We are going to buy a small speaker and hopefully use that in the car, but if that fails we will have to find some CDs we like – Do shops even sell CDs anymore?

5) Car charger – If you are going to be spending hours in the car you will probably be spending hours on your phone, especially if you have downloaded maps for directions. Make sure that  you get a car charger, I think you can buy them in most gas stations.

6) Snacks – It is worth investing in a cooler box and filling it with water and some snacks. It can be annoying and time consuming having to stop every time you are feeling peckish, especially if you have a lot of ground to cover.

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See you in the next one and to keep up to date with everything that I am getting up to on the road trip by entering your email below and following the instructions to confirm your subscription as well as following me on Instagram.

The Girl on the Go xx

7 ways to Pack Smarter

I have been so lucky that I have been able to travel and visit so many cool places during my study exchange in Canada, check out New York in 4 daysBoston – Top 5 things to do in Boston and Ottawa in 1 day for more information on the places I visited. I can safely say that all the little trips in the back of others people cars and on budget airlines has forced me to become an expert bag packer and to make the most of my tiny suitcase. Here are my secrets.

Tip 1: By faaaar the most important tip – Roll dont fold. You won’t believe how much more you will be able to fit in a case when your clothes are rolled.

Tip 2: Plan !!! Look up the weather and roughly plan an outfit for every day of your trip – This will help you to avoid packing things you dont need.

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Outfit planning

Tip 3: Fill any shoes you are putting in your case.

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Stuffed shoes. Check.

Tip 4: Wear the bulkiest items you are bringing.

Tip 5: Get ‘mini’ toiletries.

Tip 6: Pack the essentials in your carry on backpack. I often carry a change of clothes in my backpack incase (god forbid) my suitcase goes missing.

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Essentials. Check. (Back pack from Pennies 13 euro)

Tip 7: Carry a reusable bag for dirty laundry so don’t have to sort through them when your home

I hope these 7 simple tips will be able to help you make the most of your suitcase for your next trip away. Don’t forget to sign up for email updates on all things ‘The Girl on the Go’. See you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

Surviving a Canadian Winter

As many of you may know by now, I am currently on a study exchange in Canada. There have been a lot of things that I have had to adapt to that I am not used to back in Ireland. This post is for anyone who is planning on moving, visiting or coming on a study exchange to Canada in the Winter – basically, what I would do differently/advice I would want to know before I arrived.

1) Travel: Travel as much as you can, I am lucky where I am based (Ottawa) because there are a lot of places to visit that are relatively close by like Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, Quebec City and loads more.

Problem: Getting from one place to another is bloody expensive

Solution: Rideshares. So many people drive from city to city on a daily basis as their job, you can find drivers in kijiji.com (kind of like eBay in Canada). The two I have got have been really nice and really good value. Okay, I know. It sounds dodgy getting in a stranger’s car but they are generally completely full so you aren’t on your own with the driver. They are quite common over here and less than a quarter of the price of trains and buses.

2) Footwear: I had no idea what sort of footwear to bring/buy before I came here. I will say if there is still snow around and you think runners are a good idea, they aren’t a good idea. You are wrong.

Problem #1: There is snow everywhere and it is really slippy!

Solution #1: Get a WATERPROOF pair of boots WITH GRIP. I got two pairs, a just above the ankle leather pair of black boots that I am happy to wear both during the day and at night. The other pair I got are snow boots, they go half way up my calf and lace up the front. They are nice but honestly, I have only worn them twice on the really cold days as they are warmer but to be honest I probably didn’t need them. (NOTE: I am based in the city in Ottawa so the streets are usually cleaned, however, if you are going to be going to a ski resort or living/staying out of the cities the longer ones might be a good idea if the road clearing systems aren’t as efficient)

Problem #2: The roads are regularly salted to prevent it becoming really icy. When you are walking along the path the salt stains your boots.

 

Solution #2: Be sure to have some wet wipes handy to remove the salt marks as they leave a permanent stain your boots if you don’t

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Keeping your snow Boots clean

3) Choosing a jacket: When in Canada your jacket will be your best friend, you want to be sure that you makes the right decision when choosing one.

Problem #1: When we first arrived the main place where we were cold was our thighs, you can pile layers under your jacket but either 1) Never think to put layers under your jeans or 2) If your from abroad would never consider that you would need to put layers under your jeans so don’t buy a big enough size.

Solution #1: In fairness it has been a very mild winter while I have been here, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of days where I have needed to wear thermals under my jeans so I wouldn’t be advising you to go to the shop and spend a fortune on jeans that are too big for you. Instead, when choosing a jacket I would make sure that it at least came over your bum. Some people get ones to their mid thigh but I prefer shorter ones so a ‘bum coverer’ is ideal.

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Problem #2: You are wearing this jacket every single day, sometimes it is raining. Sometimes you get makeup on it, sometimes your jacket won’t go with everything.

Solution #2: Get a neutral coloured jacket. Black, Grey or Navy ideally. It will give you the most amount of options in terms of what it goes with. I thought it was a great idea to get a white jacket … (What was I thinking?). Although it is pretty it is easy to get dirty especially with makeup etc.

Hope you guys have found this helpful, if you have give it a like!

The Girl on the Go xx

 

 

 

Study Exchange/ Erasmus – Where to go?

If you are reading this you are probably one of the lucky few that have been given the amazing opportunity to go on a Study exchange or an Erasmus. I hope this post can help you understand how lucky you are and hopefully help you to decide where the best place for you to study might be.

I am currently on a Study Exchange in Canada, and being truly honest I didn’t want to come to Canada. Canada wasn’t one of my top preferences, but my course is quite competitive and it just so happened the people with better grades also wanted the choices I had in my top 10. So why am I here in freezing Ottawa if I wanted to be in sunny Australia?

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The Ottawa River on a Winter evening

I was initially devastated when I got the email that I had got a place in uOttawa. Not because I didn’t like the sound of it, it was more because I was so keen on going to Australia. I even considered not going. For a ‘warm weather girl’, the idea of living in a climate that averaged at -18 degrees celsius sounded like torture. That’s when I decided I needed a serious reality check! I started to realise how lucky I was to have been given this amazing opportunity. As one of the girls I have met in Canada says I’ll be ‘one experience richer’ at the end of it.

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The Ottawa River in the Spring

Since I have arrived I haven’t looked back once, I laugh at that girl who threw a little tantrum because she didn’t get her first choice. I have met the most amazing people and I am lucky enough to have some of my best friends both with me and only a short train journey away. I have so many exciting trips planned and I know if I stupidly decided not to come it would be something I would have regretted for the rest of my life. So if you are given the opportunity, DO IT!

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University of Ottawa

So if you are still in the choosing process here are some factors you might want to consider before applying:

  1. Language barrier – do you speak more than one language and would you like to improve it? For me, I tried to avoid places with a language barrier, even though my classes would have been through English I just felt it would be easier to make friends if I spoke the same language as them.
  2. Climate – The one that went against me in the end, but you should consider if would you like to explore a different climate to your home country’s climate.
  3. Culture – Would you like to experience a completely new culture to what you are used to or something similar enough?
  4. College ranking – study exchanges are not only great for experiencing new things and meeting new people, they are also a great way to get to another college name on your CV, so maybe consider where all of the different colleges are ranked and maybe pick one higher than the college you are currently in.
  5. How far from home you are comfortable being – I wouldn’t say I am a home bird, yes I will miss my family and my friends at times but I love being away and doing new things. If you are anxious about going away on a study exchange based on being home sick it might be a good idea to consider somewhere closer to home. If you fall under this category, having a smaller time difference and the potential opportunity to fly home or for people to visit you should be something you should maybe take into account.
  6. Friends – this should DEFINITELY not be a major deciding factor on where to go, but it just so happened one of my best friends got into the same college as me and some of my other best friends are in Canada as well. We all got really lucky how it worked out, and it gives me some sense of home – I know some people might say ‘that’s not a real Erasmus experience’ if I have friends close by but it’s just how it has worked out and I am really thankful for it.
  7. Budget – some places are a lot more expensive than others, do your research on the cost of living in terms of food, accommodation and activities in each place and it might help you make your decision.

Push yourself to go and you will be thankful you did, I haven’t met one person that has regretted going on a study exchange. So go and do your research and start applying!

I hope this advice helps you guys!

The Girl on the Go xx

Interrailing – What to bring?

Don’t know what to bring interrailing? No problem, that’s what I am here for! Interrailing is an extremely popular holiday choice amongst students and is a great cheap way to see a lot in a small space of time. I personally interrailed around Europe, so my advice is based on my own experience.

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Top Left: Budapest, Top Right: Lake Bled, Bottom Left: Berlin, Bottom Right: Venice

Must haves: 

Rucksack – A good Rucksack makes your whole trip a lot more enjoyable. Get one that is comfy (emphasis on the comfy part!) and that you will be able to carry yourself (you mightn’t always have help). Some of my friends brought suitcases which was a total nightmare when we got somewhere that didn’t have a lift and they have to lift them up the stairs. A rucksack with wheels would be ideal, the best of both worlds!

Locks for bags – Generally the trains were safe but I always kept my bags locked and tied them to the chair or the overhead rail, for extra security. You may look like an idiot or your friends might tell you that you are being over cautious but better than being stranded in a foreign country without even a pair of clean underwear.

Travel belt – A MUST! These little belts are the single most important item to have when you are traveling, whether its interrailing or just on a holiday. They clip around your tummy and you usually wear them under your t-shirt, in here you put your important things (again a safety measure but trust me on this one). For example, I had my interrailing pass, passport, phone, credit cards and cash. One of my friend’s ‘carry on’ bag was taken from under his feet and stuff was taken – get one, you have been warned! Available on Amazon for little or nothing.

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Plastic folder for important documents: fairly self-explanatory, but definitely best to have hostel bookings, ticket confirmations etc. all together in one place

Micro fiber towels: available in most ‘outdoorsy’ shops, these towels were like magic. They rolled up into barely anything and dried super quick (this mightn’t seem important now, but a few days in when you arrive in your second destination and realise your damp towel has wet all your clothes and made them smell you’ll wish you listened to me!)

Adaptor: I needed one as Irish plugs are different to most European countries – however, won’t be necessary for everyone.

Optional but handy

Extension lead: Most rooms only have a few plugs and when you are sharing a room with multiple people there usually isn’t enough for everyone. An extension lead is something I didn’t bring but immediately wish I did. Also, it means that you can have your phone beside your bed rather than on the other side of the room.

Little mirror: I know when I was interrailing there was normally only one small mirror per room, and maybe one in the bathroom. When 7 other girls in your room are trying to get ready to go out and putting on make up this lack of mirror space causes chaos. Bring your own little one and avoid having to book a place in front of the mirror.

Plastic bags for separate items: I didn’t do this but one of my friends did and it is genius! She categorised her clothes and put them in labeled plastic bags in her rucksack, this meant if she was looking for something in particular she didn’t have to pull everything out of her bag to find it.

Disposable camera: I am a huge fan of disposable cameras but don’t use them nearly enough, disposable cameras force you to print out your pictures, rather than just having them on a screen (until you lose your phone).

Laundry bag: always a good idea to keep clean and dirty clothes separate until you get to a place where you can wash your clothes.

These were to me the most important essentials of interrailing, however, everyone has different experiences and has different advice. I hope you can take at least one thing from this list that will help you. Enjoy yourself, it’s an amazing experience!

The Girl on the Go xx