Urban Photographer’s Guide to Stockholm’s Metro Stations - Complete Guide to Planning Your Own Self-Guided Tour

Stockholm’s metro is affordable, efficient, and easily the best way to get around the city. If you’re a fan of urban photography, I would also be willing to bet that it’s already at the top of your list of must-sees while in Sweden’s capital city.

Since the 1950’s, over 150 artists from around the world have transformed Stockholm’s metro stations into the world’s longest art gallery. The underground art is sure to brighten your day, and makes what could be a boring metro commute a lot less dull. The installations also leaves snap happy photographers waiting for the next train… and then the next train… as they try to capture new angles of the city’s beautiful metro stations.

On our last day in Stockholm, the weather was subpar at best… which actually perfect since we’d planned on spending most of the day underground anyway.

More than 90 of the 100 stations are covered in murals, sculptures, and other art installations, so you probably won’t get to all of them in one go. Some stations are definitely more elaborate than others, so, if you only have a limited amount of time in Stockholm, you should check out the photo hot spots first.

Here are the most impressive stations we saw this time around, a few we plan on going back for… plus a free map to help you plan your own self-guided tour!



Morby Centrum

We began our underground art adventure at T-Centralen, and headed to Morby Centurum, the furthest station on our list, and the terminus of the red line.

The station looks a bit like it’s covered in cotton candy clouds, and just before you reach the escalator, there’s a super cute pastel color-block wall that it’d be silly to not snap a few photos in front of.

Snap a few quick photos and get back on the train before it heads towards Centralen again, or stick around and wait for the next one.

The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

Stadion

Our next stop was Stadion - which was arguably my favorite of all the metro stations we covered.

Stadion has bright blue walls, and a massive, vibrant rainbow that stretches across the platform between the tracks.

The colorful art around this station is an ode to the Olympic Stadium that is just upstairs.

There were a few other people here taking photos, too… so we had to wait a bit to get the shots pictured below. Only a few minutes though… which we would have had to wait anyway before the next train came.

The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

Story Time!

After visiting Stadion, our original plan was to head back to Central Station and transfer over to the blue line… but neither of us were paying attention and we missed our stop. To be fair, the metro commutes are SUPER quick in comparison to what I got used to in Seoul (where you can literally be on the train for an hour or more before getting where ya need to go).

Turns out, they don’t call Stockholm the world’s smallest big city for nothin’ - (so when you’re on the train pay attention)!

Anyway, when we arrived to the next station, Gamla Stan, we realized it connected with the green line, and made a split second decision to transfer over to that one instead. We were already planning to check out a rooftop bar a couple of stops away, so we headed there for a beer before continuing to Odenplan, the next station on our underground art adventure.

Unfortunately, when we got to Odenplan, we couldn’t even find any of the installations… and didn’t have the time to do much searching… BUT our little detour down the green line wasn’t in vain. It was really nice to grab a drink and slow down for a minute at Himlen.

Located near Medborgarplatsen Station, this restaurant and sky bar is a great place to get an epic view of Stockholm… just don’t come on Sunday… because they aren’t open (as we found out the hard way).

Was it worth making a second trip? I say yes… because CHECK OUT THIS VIEW!

The Best View of Stockholm | Himlen in the Fall by Kirstie Hall HallAroundtheWorld

K… now back to your regularly scheduled underground art!


Solna Centrum

After our beer… (and our Odenplan failure), we went straight to hell. Lol.

No, seriously… Solna Centrum is often called the “Gates of Hell.”

With its bold red and black walls, it’s definitely one of the more sinister looking stations… even a little post-apocalyptic… but not entirely.

While the walls surrounding the escalator are entirely red and black, the rest of the station is also bright green with trees. The reason behind the stark contrast is actually political.

Originally, the artists behind this station’s transformation painted the walls red and green to depict a sunset over the forest, however, as they continued, the art took a darker turn to illustrate the societal issues of Sweden in the 70’s - the environment and over logging… (which sadly remain unresolved globally decades later).

This highly political station is one of the most popular among many photographers.

The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

 

Kungsträdgården

From Solna Centrum, we headed all the way to the end of the blue line to check out Kungsträdgården station, (though we should have made a stop at Rådhuset first).

Swedish artist Ulrik Samuelson transformed this station to bring to mind a garden… which makes sense given that Stockholm’s popular King’s Garden is just above ground.

With the greens and reds, checkerboard floor, underground fountains, and funky ceiling art, Kungsträdgården also gave off some serious Alice in Wonderland vibes.

Photos here are tough because it’s super dark in the tunnel and the main photo spot is just below the escalator… but we gave it our best shot.

The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

Central Station

Last (but certainly not least) we returned back down the blue line to Central Station… and by some miracle were able to get people-less photos at this incredibly busy metro stop (and incredibly popular photo spot).

All of the city’s metro lines meet here, so, no matter what time of day you come, you can expect that you probably won’t be the only one here. Still, if you’re patient enough, you can still capture nice (seemingly vacant) shots.

The striking blue and white walls pictured below can be found all the way downstairs at the station’s blue line.

The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

And that’s a wrap - For now...

Unfortunately, we had a train to catch back to Malmo… so these stops were all we had time for this time around. There is loads more to explore throughout Stockholm’s metro stations - Odenplan (which we went to, but couldn’t find the light installation), Rådhuset, and Thorildsplan are a few more that are at the top of my list for next time!

Even if you prefer to do your commuting and photo taking above ground, you should still set aside at least an hour or two to explore Stockholm’s notoriously colorful (and very insta-worthy) metro stations. If you love urban photography and cool murals like I do, this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the city - (especially if it’s a rainy afternoon)

 

Maps + Other Practical Info

First things first… you might be wondering when we went to these stations to get such vacant looking photos. Believe it or not, we actually did our underground art tour in the middle of the day… and no, I didn’t photoshop any people out of the photos.

Unless you’re willing to get up first thing in the morning, or stay up super late at night, weekdays in the middle of the day is actually a pretty good time for metro photos. Lots of people are already at work, so it shouldn’t be too busy.

TicketS

To be completely honest, I never saw anyone checking tickets.

That being said, you always have to boop yourself through… and there are usually guards watching at the busier stations. Don’t try to be sneaky and share a card or sneak through with a friend…because if ya DO get caught, you’ll be stuck with a hefty penalty fee of 1500 SEK. That’s about US$154 for all my American friends… and that’s just not worth the risk, ya feel me?

Tickets are always cheaper if you buy them in advance on the SL public transport app, but, unfortunately for those non-Swedes without a personal number, you don’t have this option.

You can purchase tickets from the terminals at each station, or at the information desk.

A single ticket is valid for 75 minutes, which wasn’t quite enough time for us so we got the 24 hour pass instead. I’d recommend this, or maybe even something longer depending on how long you are in the city for. Stockholm is really walkable, but its still convenient to have the metro as an option, too.

Students - don’t forget your ID card because you can get a discount! - (Actually, I take that back… Even if you don’t have an ID card/aren’t a student, still take your chances and ask for a student ticket if you think you can get away with it. They didn’t even ask for ID).

Metro Hours

From Monday to Friday, trains run from 5:00 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, as well as holidays, trains operate from 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m

Need more help planning your trip? All the metro stations we visited (and the few I’m saving for next time) are pinned in the metro guide and the interactive google map below!

The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

Want to see Stockholm’s best underground art for yourself?

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The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Underground Art in Stockholm's Metro Stations + a FREE Map | by HallAroundtheWorld

Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route

Last month, when I received a message about housesitting in Mallorca, I pretty much immediately said yes. I had just visited Spain for the first time a few weeks before, and was already dying to go back. After checking flights and seeing that it was doable, I confirmed the sit… and, about a week later, I was en route to Palma.

I didn’t know until after I returned to Malmö, but apparently this is a really popular destination for Swedish people. It was described to me by a friend as being to Swedes “what Cancun is to North Americans” - their yearly holiday spot… overrated and overrun by resorts.

I’ve personally never been to Cancun, so I’m not sure how well this comparison measures up… but I can say that the Mallorca I experienced was definitely not just an overrated, resort-filled island. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see a single gaudy resort the entire week I was there. I did, however, see lots of olive trees, dusty roads, mountains, and breathtaking coastlines… all while doing what might be the best thing I’ve done all summer - Trekking from Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca’s GR221 Dry Stone Route.

This old trading route runs along the west coast through the Tramuntana mountains from Port d'Andratx to Pollença. I only had time to cover a small portion of the GR221, but what I saw of the coastal hiking trail was absolutely breathtaking.

Don’t believe me? Scroll down… Though, I must warn you… you might end up hopping on SkyScanner and booking a flight to Palma to go see this beautiful island for yourself.

Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld

Ahh, I get all swoony heart eyed just looking at these photos and reliving this day - and MOST of them are straight off the camera… because you don’t need to put a filter on places as magical as this one.

If you’re planning a trip to Mallorca, you should definitely take a day to do this trek, or one of the other sections along the route. It was challenging, but SO beautiful… and incredibly rewarding in the end.

Want more information about the GR221 trek from Deià to Port de Sóller?

Stay tuned for the full guide coming soon!

…But for now, I leave you with this polaroid drone shot gif.


Heading to Mallorca?

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Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
Photo Diary: Deià to Port de Sóller on Mallorca's GR221 Dry Stone Route by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld

Fall in Skåne - All Apple Everything at the Kivik Apple Market Festival

Fall used to be my favorite season…

…I say used to because, now that I live in Sweden, summer easily snags the title.

Fall in Sweden is a little different than what I’m used to… and by that I mean that my winter jacket is usually still buried deep in my closet.

Back home in North Carolina, TYPICALLY speaking, fall means perfect weather, football games, eating your way through the state fair, apple picking, pumpkin carving/(pumpkin beer/pumpkin spice lattes), and mountain weekend getaways. You can pair sweaters with shorts, wear cute layers, go outside without sweating your ass off, and force your significant other to participate in a variety of seasonal photo ops. It’s such a beautiful (and still warm) time of year (though, this year summer seems to be havin’ a bit of a hard time letting go).

I haven’t been back home for fall since I first moved overseas four years ago, and I’ve seriously been missing all those classic autumn activities (and outfits), so I was pretty excited to go to Kivik for the annual Apple Market Festival after having it on my radar since this time last year.

The weather wasn’t great… and it was definitely no NC State Fair… but this quirky little fruit festival was still just what this Carolina girl’s fall dreams are made of - Here’s why!

About Kivik

Kivik (pronounced “shivik”…shiv like the weapon + ick like gross…Swedish is weird) is a cute little seaside fishing village located in the heart of Österlen… Emphasis on the little. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

This apple producing region is known for its famous Äppelmarnkanden (Apple Market) which takes place each year in late September. Since 1987, the whole town has come together at this festival in celebration of the end of the harvest season.

Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld

What to do at the Äppelmarnkanden

Well, in short, all apple everything…

The most noteworthy thing at the market is the apple art displays, particularly the massive “apple board” by artist Emma Carp Lundström. This giant mural is supposedly the largest in Sweden… and likely the biggest display of apples that I’ll ever see again.

Though the displays were really cool and impressive, I couldn’t help but to also find them to be justttt a bit wasteful (and would be curious to know what happens to these apples once the market is over).

There was live entertainment from local high school students, the Österlen Folk Dance Society, and other musical performances. There were also over 100 stands around the festival grounds where local artisans were selling jewelry, clothes, gifts, and other apple related items.

My personal favorite part of the festival was (unsurprisingly) the food. There were lots of unique apple dishes, and even local apple products you could purchase to take home with you.

We didn’t buy any apple things to bring home, but we did get a delicious honey made from Raps, the plant responsible for the beautiful yellow fields that cover Skåne from late spring to early summer. I knew raps made for some pretty fields (and lots of sneezing after frolicking through them)… but I had no idea a HONEY made from the plant could be so dang good.

Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld
Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld

We also tried a dark chocolate covered apple (delicious), sausages with apple chili (surprisingly tasty), and, for 90sek per person, had a cheeky little midday cider tasting. It was also around this time that it started to POUR down rain… so “heading for cover” was a great way to coax Andrew over to the bar.

To be honest, I was surprised by how great of a deal the tasting was. We had the chance to taste a few different boozy apple beverages from around the region, and to learn a bit about them, too.

My favorite hands down was a sparkling apple wine from Bedstekilde.

In 2018, this small company located near Kivik won the Swedish Wine Maker of the Year Award with this dry sparkling wine in a blind taste test among other grape wines… so it was tough one to top in our tasting. My second favorite was a cider by Pomologik, another local craft cider company. It was much, much sweeter than Bedstekilde’s sparking apple wine… but it tasted like fall, so I was a fan. I imagine it would have been even more delicious as a hot cider… with some cinnamon sticks for extra flavor.

Between the two of us, we could have tried six different things during in our tasting… but Bedstekilde’s famous sparkling apple wine was so delicious that we both decided to use our final tickets for another glass… No regrets!

Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld
Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld
Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld

Miss the festival?

Don’t worry! There’s still time to get in on all the apple action!

This year, from September 28 to October 13, Kivik is hosting an Apple “Aftermarket.”

Learn more: View the Full Aftermarket Program

If you can’t make it to the Aftermarket, head to Kivik’s Musteri for a cider tasting!

There are only three more available dates for tastings in 2019 (Nov 8, Nov 23, and Dec 6), so be sure to get your tickets before they’re gone here!

The two hour tasting costs 675sek per person, and includes small Scania dishes, coffee, and dessert from restaurant Kärnhuset, plus a tour of the grounds, wine house, and cider cellar. This is prettyyyy high on my autumn to do list… soooo, don’t be surprised if you see me there!

…And if you somehow missed ALL of this year’s apple events, you can always head to Systembolaget to get some ciders to try at home instead… which is cheaper… but not as fun.

Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld

Spending Fall in Sweden?

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Kivik Apple Market - What to Do in Fall in Skåne  | HallAroundtheWorld

Need more inspo + ideas for fall in sweden?

What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips

If there’s one thing I learned from my first winter in Malmö, it’s that I am not a fan of winter.

AT. ALL.Though I do like mulled wine…

Whether I like it or not (which I very much don’t), it’s about that time again... WINTER. IS. COMING! Right after a crisp, sweet, (and hopefully not so short) fall.

If it’s your first time in Sweden during the fall, take my advice. You HAVE to get outside and enjoy ALL of the outdoor activities (and daylight hours) while you still can. All of them… Seriously! - You’ll thank me in the dead of winter when the sun sets by four and you’re all but hibernating.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of unique things to do in Skåne in the fall, though I unfortunately missed out on a lot of them last year, (hence the lack of photos in this post)! Now that I’m a year older, wiser, and a bit more familiar, I did my research ahead of time and put together this handy dandy little guide to help you (and me) make the most of fall in Malmö this year!

First things first - Get out your calendar

Here are the events happening around town this fall that you won’t want to miss!

 


September 28-29

KIVIK APPLE MARKET FESTIVAL

Nothing says fall more than apple picking… okay, and also pumpkins.

Now, I haven’t heard about any pumpkin festivals happening around town (unless you count Tivoli’s elaborate Halloween get-up… more on that in a sec), but I DO KNOW that you can get your autumn apple fix in Kivik.

Celebrate the fruit harvest by sampling different kinds of apples and ciders from the region, listening to live music, and, of course, snapping photos at the Apple Market Festival’s very IG-worthy apple wall!

Visit their website to book your ticket in advance. Entrance is 120 SEK and free for kids under 15.

When: Saturday: 10am - 5pm, Sunday: 10am - 4pm.

Where: Kivik… literally… that’s the only location I’ve got for ya. Apparently you can’t miss it!

What to Do in Malmo this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities, and Day Trips by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld
What to Do in Malmo this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities, and Day Trips by Kirstie Hall | HallAroundtheWorld

Miss the festival? I would say hard luck, but turns out that’s not the case!

This year, you can take advantage of the Kivik Apple “Aftermarket” from September 28 to October 13 (view full program) or stop by Kivik’s Musteri while you’re in the area!

 


October 12

VINOKILO VINTAGE SALE

Give your fall wardrobe an eco-friendly upgrade! Germany’s biggest pop-up event for second hand clothes is coming back to Malmö this fall!

VINOKILO is a social enterprise inspiring more people to shop sustainably, and aims to become Europe’s largest touchpoint for reusing second hand clothing. Their items are hand-picked from clothing waste containers, curated, cleaned, revamped, and then sold at events throughout Germany, the Netherlands, and the Nordics.

At this fall’s event in Malmö, you can expect to find food, wine, good music, and, of course, high-quality vintage clothes and accessories for 500sek per kilogram!

Tickets are 40sek at the door!

Where: Moriska Paviljongen

When: 11am – 6pm


The Danish Giant Pumpkin Championship

Not in the mood for shopping? Get in the Halloween spirit at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen instead.

…I know, I know…technically speaking, this isn’t actually in Skane. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even in Sweden. And THAT, my friends, is one of the beautiful things about living in Malmö. Copenhagen is just a half hour train ride away!

Each fall, this theme park is filled with ghosts, scarecrows, over 20,000 pumpkins, countless Halloween photo-ops, and even hosts a Giant Pumpkin Championship! Will this year’s pumpkin beat last year's record of 589.4 kilograms? Head across the bridge to Denmark and see for yourself on October 12!

Click here to purchase your entrance ticket ahead of time!

Where: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

When: 11:30am

What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips


October 22-26

Malmö INTERNATIONAL FOOD FESTIVAL

At the end of October, make your way to Malmö’s Big Square for the International Food Festival.

At this popular bi-yearly food festival, you can try foods from more than fifteen countries around the world, and even take some home with ya. There’s a magical olive stand that I FULLY expect I will be returning to this year… right by the macaroons.

Where: Gustav Adolfs Torg, Malmö

When: Tuesday: 10am - 4pm, Wednesday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm




October 26

GREAT SWEDISH BEER FESTIVAL

There’s another festival in town on October 26!

Get your fill of international flavors at the food festival, then head over to the Great Swedish Beer Festival to wash it all down with some local brews.

This is the biggest beer event focused solely on independent craft beer companies in Sweden, so it’s a must for all you craft beer lovers! Regular tickets are 320sek, or go all in for the Beer Lover After party package for 530sek.

View the full list of breweries and purchase your tickets at www.greatswedishbeerfestival.se.

Where: Slagthuset - Malmö, Sweden

When: 11am – 9pm (Yellow Session: 11am – 3/Blue Session: 5pm – 9pm)

↯ticket UPDATE↯

Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 2.00.03 PM.png

 

MONSTER’S NIGHT OUT parade

The 26th is a busy day in October, and, according to the folks over at Tivoli, it’ll also be the spookiest day of Autumn. Head back over the bridge to Copenhagen for Monster’s Night Out, a parade of zombies, ghosts and other terrifying (impressively made-up) creatures.

Where: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

When: 6pm

If you miss the parade and the great pumpkin festival, you can still visit Tivoli to get in the Halloween spirit from October 11 to November 3.

What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips

Need more fall ideas and inspo?

Don’t you worry - I got you

Here’s where you you can find me/what I’ll be getting up to for the next couple of months!


TAKin’ A WALK WITH AN ALPACA

Maybe it’s just me, but this is prettyyyy high on my to-do list for this fall.

If you’re thinking… “Y tho?” I hear ya.

Well, for one, because alpacas are adorable… and also because WHY NOT!?

Surprisingly, there are a few of places nearby where you can take part in this quirky little alpaca experiences, like the Alpaca and Elk Eco Farm near Hässleholm and Kungshaga Gård in Höllviken.

You can expect some pic updates on this one real soon… Promise…

PICNICin’ AT THE PARK

This is obviously more of a summer activity than anything… buttttt in the name of encouraging you (quite persistently) to enjoy as many sunny, warm-ish days as you can before winter closes in, I had to put it on the fall list, too.

The parks around town are beautiful when the leaves changes colors this time of year, especially Malmö’s Kungsparken and Pildammsparken!

What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips
What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips
What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips
What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips

  

SÖDERÅSEN NATIONAL PARK

Covering over sixteen square kilometers, Söderåsen National Park is the largest unbroken area of protected woodland in Northern Europe. It’s only about half an hour away from Malmö, and a great place to go for a breath of fresh air.

You can also enjoy outdoor activities like biking, canoeing, horseback riding, and hiking! For the best fall foliage views, hike up to Kopparhatten - the park’s highest point and most popular viewpoint.

Måkläppen Nature Reserve

For a nature escape by the sea, head south to Falsterbo.

At the Southernmost point of the peninsula, about 30km from Malmö you’ll find Måkläppen. This wildlife sanctuary is Sweden’s oldest nature reserve and an important breeding ground for shorebirds and seals.

It is only open for visitors for 12 weeks every year from November through January. Come in early November (before it gets too cold) to enjoy the beach and see seals in their natural habitat!

…And other unique Getaways

To be honest, I’ve still yet to explore much of Sweden outside of Skåne.

While researching things to do and places to go in the fall, I came across some dope little hideaways… and they look to me like the PERFECT spaces to spend some cozy autumn weekends. I’m talkin’ cozy tents, quirky eco-lodges, and dreamy tree-houses… which I (fingers-crossed) fully plan on experiencing for myself… ASAP!

Stay tuned, and I’ll let ya know how it all went not so ASAP… aka probably this winter when I enter full on hibernation/indoor activities mode!


Need help getting around?

You’ll find the events and fall hotspots mentioned in this article pinned in the map below!

Happy fall, y’all!


Heading to Sweden in the fall?

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What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips
What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips
What to Do in Malmö this Fall - 10 Unique Events, Activities + Day Trips

HouseSitting Around the World with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How to Get Started

I haven’t crunched all of the numbers… but, in the past five years, it’s safe to assume I have spent more money on travel than just about anything else.

…It’s a pretty essential part of being a travel writer (with an incurable case of wanderlust)… but, the way my bank account is set up, it definitely isn’t my most affordable vice.

One of the biggest expenses associated with all of that travelling has been paying for accommodations. As a matter of fact, lodging is probably THE biggest expense eating up traveller’s holiday funds. Even the most experienced, penny-pinching wanderers still wind up spending huge chunks of their travel budget on a place to lay their head… but, guess what? This doesn’t HAVE to be the case.

Can I let you in on a little secret?

What if I told you there is a way to avoid paying for accommodation all together? …And, no, you don’t need to be an “influencer,” “travel blogger,” or a full-time “digital-nomad” – Literally ANYONE (with the exception of people under the age of 21… and most likely convicted convicts) can use this method to start getting free accommodation all around the world.

This budget travel hack is a game changer, and, in just ONE month, it has saved me about $2.4k in travel expenses (according to the average nightly hotel rates in each of these destinations). I’ve stayed in a Madrid high-rise with killer city views, a spacious flat in Berlin’s trendiest neighborhood, and, am now writing this article from a chic patio hammock on the beautiful island of Mallorca… all free of charge, and all thanks to one GENIUS platform – TrustedHousesitters.

How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld

 

About TrustedHousesitters

TrustedHousesitters is an online community connecting homeowners with verified sitters around the world. They offer members help and support through their Membership Services and Vet Advice lines 24 hours a day/7 days a week, and cover all sits with an Insurance Backed Guarantee.

When I discovered TrustedHousesitters last November, (and the holiday membership discounts they were running at the time), I pretty much immediately whipped out my credit card and signed up… anddddd then, I (also pretty much immediately) forgot all about it (shameful, I know!) – That is, until this summer.

Right around mid-June, the travel bug bit me HARD… but my bank account just wasn’t having it. It was then that I finally stopped sleeping on the TrustedHousesitters membership I’d paid for 8-ish months ago, and, thankfully, I’ve managed to get more than my money’s worth out of it since.

Here are a few reasons why becoming an international housesitter is one of the best ways to travel on the cheap… and some things to think about before signing up!

 

⁕ Save Money

This one is a no brainer.

One of the biggest perks of housesitting with TrustedHousesitters is to save money while travelling! Investing in a membership will cost about as much as a single night in a hotel… and is good for unlimited housesits throughout the year. Though the initial fee might seem steep, if you land just one housesit through the platform, it will have paid for itself.

There are lots of other money-saving perks that come from staying in someone’s home, too, including having a quiet space to work and strong Wi-Fi (both necessary for teaching online), and access to free laundry facilities (crucial for long-term travel) and a full kitchen (to cook your own meals).

Saving money on food and accommodations (and being able to work and make money on the go) means you’ll be able to stretch your budget further and travel longer. It also means you’ll have more money for the important things… (like activities, wine, and more flights).

⁕ Make New Four-Legged Friends

These days, my social media is filled with people my age posting sonograms, gender-reveals, and their kid’s back-to-school comparison photos. Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to curb my puppy fever… and pet-sitting has been the perfect solution.

I can meet (and cuddle) cute, furry friends, get my puppy love fix, and experience what it’s like to be a pet owner first-hand. This experience has made me realize there is NO way I’m ready to have fur babies of my own right now… (but I’ve still got all of their names picked out for whenever that day comes).

On TrustedHousesitters, you’ll find homeowners seeking sitters for a variety of animals including dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, fish and even ants… (yes, ants)!

If Thailand weren’t so far, I totally would have applied just so I could add “Queen ant-sitter” to my resume.

How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld
How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld

⁕ And Two-Legged Friends, Too

Housesitting is also a great way to make connections with new, interesting people - the animals’ humans (aka homeowners)… though you won’t spend nearly as much time with them as you do with their pets!

Before each housesit begins, you’ll meet the homeowner in a “hand-off” period. You may even be invited to stay an extra night beforehand to get situated and acquainted with the pets… (and sometimes after if they’re really hospitable).

Funnily enough, during my first few sits in Spain and Germany, I didn’t meet any Spanish or German homeowners, but I did meet like-minded travel lovers from Israel, the UK, and Virginia.

It was really interesting to hear their stories, and a great opportunity to learn through cultural exchange. They answered all of my questions about their homes, pets, and neighborhoods… and taught me some other interesting things, too… like Spanish and Hebrew dog commands.

 

⁕ See New Places… From a new Perspective

Chances are, you won’t be house-sitting smack-dab in the city center in the midst of all the tourist attractions. You WILL, however, be staying in a real home (not a done-up AirBnb), in a real, local (considerably more quiet) neighborhood, and you will no doubt experience what life there is REALLY like.

Sometimes, you’ll land a housesit in a home or neighborhood that is SO nice, you won’t want to leave!

While housesitting in Berlin, I stayed in a part of the city I had never been to before… and spent most of my time wandering the area. I enjoyed being off the well-beaten tourist track so much that I didn’t make it to a single “top rated” attraction all week.

House-sitting for locals (and picking their brains about their favorite things to see and do in the neighborhood) means you’ll get the full, inside scoop… and other recommendations you didn’t even know you needed like the best underground bars, cozy coffee shops, and local market sushi stands.

How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld
How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld

Sold on BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL house-sittER?

Not so fast! - HOLD ON A SEC!

There are a lot of benefits to becoming a house-sitter, but, before taking the leap, there are some important things to consider first. I won’t call them “downsides,” just things that come with the territory… though, for some, they might be a deal breaker.

⁕ It isn’t really “free”

For one, you have to pay a membership fee… but that’s not what I’m talking about when I say house-sitting isn’t really free. Wanna hear another shocking secret? – Nothing is!

For example, when bloggers and influencers receive comped hotel stays, tours, or “gifted” products, that stuff isn’t free either. In exchange, they’re delivering a service.

Whether it’s a blog post, photos, or a mention on Instagram, these “freebies” involve some behind the scenes work… and housesitting is no different.

You do save yourself paying hefty room and board expenses, but it’ll cost you your time.

…more on that in the next section.

⁕ It’s a huge responsibility

TrustedPetsitters would be a more appropriate name for this platform.

On rare occasions, homeowners on TrustedHousesitters are just looking for someone to come water the plants and mind the homestead while they’re away, but, more often than not, they’re are looking for someone to look after their pets, too.

It IS great for animal-loving travellers, but it also requires sacrificing your time (and freedom)… because you’re not on your own schedule when you’ve got an animal depending on you.

For me, this has meant early morning wake up calls, long walks in the rain (when I’d rather not), and typing with one hand while belly rubs or tug of war is demanded by the other.

It has even meant switching up my travel style… because my usual “leave bright early in the morning with no set plans and wander til’ my feet are sore” itinerary just isn’t possible when pet-sitting. Instead, I have had to plan my days around meals, walks, medications, playtime, and whatever other responsibilities the housesit entails… and some sits (and pets) are MUCH easier than others.

I’d imagine cats (and also ants) require much less time and attention… but cats make me sneeze, and, as you’d imagine, ant sits are rare.

For now, I’ll stick with puppy-sitting. Even though it’s a big responsibility, and requires more of a time commitment, for me, this isn’t a deal breaker… (probably because of my puppy fever).

How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld


⁕ Landing your first sit can be tough

...because, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of trust involved when you’re homeowner choosing a stranger from the internet to come stay at your house and take care of your pets.

I can’t tell you how many times my applications were ignored or straight up rejected due to my age and lack of experience on the platform.

Some homeowners prefer applicants who are retired or travelling as a couple, (with a heavy priority given to retired couples)… and they’re usually very open about it. These homeowners also usually have the sweetest houses in the coolest locations, sooo even when their listings clearly indicate their preference towards retirees (which I most definitely am not), I apply anyway, cause ya never know til ya try!

I guess I kinda get where they’re coming from. In most cases, I’m sure retirees are more mature, responsible, and trustworthy than a 20-something travel writer… but we’re not ALL party animals. What these homeowners don’t know is that the wildest thing that’ll happen at their house during my sit is a few wine nights, some solo dance parties in the kitchen, and me crashing out on the couch with their pup by midnight.

As discouraging as it is to be denied based on your age (or lack of “verified” reviews confirming important things like your character, experience, and overall cleanliness), when you’re just starting out, keep an open mind, be flexible, and keep at it!

Search and apply for sits close to home, and in cities that may not necessarily be the “most popular” destinations. Verify your account, spruce up your profile, reach out to family and friends to provide references, and, most importantly, send more thoughtful application letters!

After doing these things, I landed three awesome sits in my first month of actively using the platform. I now have verified reviews on my profile which will significantly improve my chances of getting more housesitting opportunities in dreamy homes like this… (and perhaps, one day, in convincing someone set on a retired couple to take a chance on a travel writing house-sitter in her 20’s).

How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld

Travel is my biggest expense

…but that doesn’t mean it’s “expensive.”

At least, it doesn’t have to be. Not if you’re smart about it… and willing to get a little creative.

Thanks to TrustedHousesitters, I’ve not only found a solution to my fur baby fever… I’ve also been able to meet cute pups, cool people, and to travel to destinations I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity (or the money) to go to otherwise.

As an animal-less pet-lover (and a travel writer on a budget), I really couldn’t recommend it more.

Nowwww, if your housesitting plans involve throwing the biggest Project-X style party the neighborhood has ever seen, do me a favor… and don’t. We “lazy, entitled millennials” have a bad enough rep, (and a hard enough time starting out) as is! On the other hand, if you’re in search of a way to travel further, longer (while spending less), this is the PERFECT opportunity for you, and you’ve got my support – 1000%!


Interested in getting started

…(and not planning to throw any ragers)?

Click here to learn more or to sign up now! ↓

Then keep in touch! I’d love to hear about your TrustedHousesitters experience!

Share your story in the comments below

and Happy Housesitting!

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!)


Interested in becoming an International House-Sitter?

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How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld
How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld
How I Saved $2.4K on Travel Expenses by HouseSitting with TrustedHouseSitters: The Pros and Cons + How To Get Started | HallAroundtheWorld

Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography

Ahhh España - land of vino, tapas, and siestas…

…While visiting Spain’s capital city, I also quickly learned that it’s a photographer’s playground. From the trendy barrio of Malasaña to lush Retiro park, Madrid is practically begging to have it’s photo taken…and I happily obliged.

My camera and I hit the streets to soak up the sun and sights, snapping photos all the way. There was just one problem… I was travelling solo. I was taking a lot of pictures of pretty things and pretty places, but I wasn’t really in any of them… and I just wasn’t gonna stand for that on my first trip to Spain.

Thankfully, I found a solution… and, even though it involved stepping out of my comfort zone a bit, I’m pretty happy with how things played out.

No, I didn’t ask strangers on the street to snap pics for me, and I also didn’t tote around a tripod. This time around, I did something I’ve never done before - I went on a photo tour with a professional local photographer.

I know, I know… hiring a local photographer might seem like a big, bougie (unnecessary) expense, but, all things considered, it’s a great way to kill multiple birds with one (investment) stone. I mean, just look how the pics turned out!

I call this one, “Kirst gets bummed.”

photo.jpg

Jk, jk… there really were some great ones - this shot just TRULY captures my awkward essence and makes me laugh every time, sooo I had to include it. (FYI… taking photos in Sol is HARD).

There are a number of great reasons to hire a local photographer when travelling… even if you (like me) consider yourself to be an independent photo takin’ woman who don’t need no (camera)man.

Why It’s Worth It

Capture Quality photos (That you’re Actually in)

For one… getting solid vacation photos where you’re in the frame is a common problem amongst solo travellers and even couples, families, or friends who want decent shots together while on holiday. I’m sure you’ve been there.

At some point, we all eventually break down and experience that dreaded moment… That moment when you’re scanning the scene and carefully scoping out the people around you to try and spot the friendliest and most capable looking stranger who might agree to take a (hopefully decent) photo of you.

Most of the time you get lucky, and, turns out, they were looking for someone to snap their photo, too, but rarely do you find a stand-in camera(wo)man who knows exactly what they’re doing.

Once in a blue moon you come across a heavenly photo snapper. I’m talkin’ someone who knows all the right angles, takes multiple shots, and masters the candid. Unfortunately, most of the time this isn’t the case… or perhaps I’ve just been unlucky.

I tend to get the “snap one and done” guy who takes a single photo that either a) I’m not ready for, b) is out of focus, or c) has a finger covering the lens. They usually always quickly pass my phone or camera back and ask, “Is it good?!” and I never have the heart to say no and give it another go. Maybe I’m just a massive chicken, but these awkward shots still haunt me… but have deterred me from ever wanting to ask a random stranger for a photo ever again - lol.

By hiring a photographer, you avoid those awkward moments (and horrible photos)… and come home with great shots from your holiday… sans fingers covering half the lens, avec YOU!

Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld

See ( + Learn about ) the city from a local perspective

Professional photographers KNOW the best photo spots in their cities. They also know how to find quiet corners and work different angles to capture quality shots at even the most crowded tourist attractions.

By taking a photo tour with a local, you’ll see a lot of the sights you were planning to hit anyway… and likely some that you didn’t even know existed.

On my photo tour in Madrid, I didn’t just see pretty places and pose for photos. I also learned a lot about the sites and became more familiar with the city.

SAVE TIME & MONEY ( + Space in your carry on )

Thanks to smart phones, just about anyone can capture nice enough travel photos… or you can splurge a bit on a digital camera to bring along on your travels.

Even with a fancy smartphone or DSLR, if you want nice photos with you (or you and your travel companions) in them, you’re still gonna have to pull the whole “ask a stranger” card… or you’ll have a tripod around. I’ve been there, too, and it’s not ideal… especially when you’re walking miles around a city in the heat of the day… or when particularly cranky airport officers tells your tripod is too big to carry on (or, my personal favorite, a “weapon”) before taking it off you at the security screening table

By hiring a photographer, you’re paying a professional who already has all the necessary equipment and skills to capture high quality memories of you on holiday. This means you’ll save yourself money on camera (and multiple tripod) purchases, and you’ll save yourself the time it takes learning how to properly use it… (not to mention the peace of mind that comes with not carrying expensive equipment around a busy city all day)!

On top of all that, you also don’t have to worry about photo editing (which is a VERY time consuming process - if you know, you know). Joel sent me all of the best photos from our tour, already perfectly edited, just a few days later!

Sooo, though it may seem like a big, additional travel expense, by taking a photo tour with a local photographer, you’re actually saving yourself a lot of money and time in the long run.

Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld
Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld
Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld

My Photo Tour Experience

I had my Madrid photo tour with Joel Potter of Joel Potter Photography.

FULL disclosure - Joel, a fellow NC native, actually went to the same university as me. Though we were never particularly close at the time, we did have several mutual friends and ended up at a lot of the same “get togethers.”

After moving to Europe around the same time last year, I reconnected with Joel and his girlfriend Natalie via Instagram over our mutual Europe adventures. When we all linked up in Madrid last month, I hadn’t seen either of them for 7ish years… maybe more - (who knows… time flies post bachelor’s degree).

Natalie was kind enough to let me borrow Joel’s insta-boyfriend skills for the day, (and to hold my bag + turn the other way while he snapped photos… and I tried to sort out what to do with my hands/feet/awkward body). It wasn’t quite the same as meeting a photographer for the first time and jumping in front of a camera… but still a little awkward at first.

We did a quick run through some of Madrid’s top spots on a tour he recently started giving through AirBnb Experiences, and I’m so happy with the results!

Even though being in front of the camera is something that is still pretty out of my comfort zone, Joel was patient and gave me suggestions on how to pose/where to look, which resulted in some pretty great (not completely awkward) photos.

If you’re looking for an affordable solution to your vacay photo dilemma, and want to hit all the best photo spots while visiting Madrid, I’d definitely recommend booking a photo tour with Joel.

Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld
Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld
Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld

Booking

For more information about Joel and to view his photo portfolio, head to his website.

To find out more about the photo tour and available dates, visit AirBnb Experiences.


Planning a trip to Madrid?

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Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld
Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld
Touring Madrid's Best Photo Spots with Joel Potter Photography | HallAroundtheWorld

PalFish Props + Other Travel Friendly Essentials for Online English Teachers

Last November, I started teaching English online for a company called PalFish.

Working remotely has totally changed my life, but, in the beginning, I was a bitttt unprepared… (more on that in just a sec)…

In an effort to help YOU learn from my mistakes, here are all of the travel friendly props and other online teaching essentials that (now!) I don’t leave home without!

So why was I unprepared?

Other than just because of who I am as a person…

Well, long story short - When I first heard about PalFish, I’d been living in Sweden for about six weeks.

I hadn’t had much luck on my job search since moving here, and, to be honest, I hadn’t really been looking that hard. I didn’t want to get just ANY job. If I was going to get a job, I wanted it to be something I enjoyed… something flexible that would allow me the free time to keep travelling and working on my passion projects.

PalFish ticked all of those boxes… so I applied immediately!

I completed my interview just before leaving Sweden for a month long trip around the Christmas markets of Europe. It was my first BIG gig as a freelancer, and I was pumped! Two days into the trip, I woke up to the news that I had been accepted to PalFish… and also EIGHT trial class bookings!

I hadn’t expected to start teaching until I got back to Sweden… annnnnd, therefore, was 100% unprepared. I didn’t want to cancel so many classes right off the bat, so I improvised as best I could.

I taught my first classes on PalFish from a hotel room in Vienna… an AirBnb in Poland… a hostel in Budapest… my aunt’s house in Ireland… and various other random rooms in random places. It was amazing! Having the flexibility and freedom to work on the road like that was everything I’d hoped for in a job… buttttt, I still wish I’d had (and known) then what I do now.


// flashcards //

The one thing I MOST regret not having when I started is flashcards.

In your first few weeks as a PalFish teacher, you will generally only get trial class bookings. Trial classes are exactly as the name suggests. Students are trying out the learning platform for the first time, and, depending on how the lesson goes, may or may not decide to sign up for the course.

Using flashcards in these trials is really important, especially with beginner students. They enhance your teaching and make lessons more fun and engaging… for both you and your students! Using these props also shows the sales team (and parents) that you take the job seriously… This leads to trial sales ($), more bookings ($$), and helps you build regular students ($$$)!

In the PalFish app’s training section, you can preview ALL of the trail lessons. I highly recommend going through these lessons and preparing flashcards for the key terms and concepts in each level. It might seem like a lot of work, but, it’s a ONE time investment of your time that will really pay off in the long run.

I prepared flashcards for the first six trial levels, which I store in the makeshift, index card mini-folder pictured below. It’s small, travel friendly, and contains everything I need for justttt about any trial lesson. (I didn’t bother with level 4 or 5, because I’ve taught them ONCE in my nine months on PalFish).

It’s a good idea to create flashcards for as many trials as possible, so if you ever have an unexpected booking or a student who needs to go up or down a level, you will already prepared!

Speaking of being prepared, I should probablyyy go ahead and make flashcards for levels 4 and 5, too… just in case I’ve jinxed myself.

Pro tip: Use flashcards in your demo lesson… because teaching to no-one is super awkward. Using flashcards will show that you’re prepared, (and it’ll give you something to do with your hands).

Shop: PalFish Trial Survival Kit - Digital Download: Everything You Need for Pre-K to Level 3 Trials

Travel Friendly PalFish Props + Other Essentials for Online English Teachers | HallAroundtheWorld

// work t-shirt //

As you can imagine, teaching online is much more informal and laid back than teaching in a traditional classroom setting. When I’m at home in Sweden, I teach make-up free in shorts or sweatpants from the corner of my kitchen… and it’s great.

One of the only requirements for many online teaching companies is that teachers wear a certain color shirt during lessons. For PalFish it’s blue, though this isn’t strictly enforced… (at least it wasn’t when I was on my Christmas market trip without a SINGLE blue article of clothing in my backpack).

Even if it isn’t a requirement, you should still invest in your teaching “uniform.”

Whether it’s a solid colored tee or something with your company’s logo or branding, wearing a work shirt will help you look and feel more professional on the job.

Shop: Hello PalFish T-Shirt


// stuffed animals //

Monkey and Tim the Elephant are my in-class stuffed animal friends.

I use them in my Hello Monkey trial classes and all of the other lessons about animals… which is a lot.

Having toys in your classroom isn’t technically required, but they are a great way to keep younger students entertained and engaged. They can even be useful in more advanced lessons when teaching things like animal habitats, body parts, and how to describe something’s appearance.

Unfortunately, these two aren’t exactly “travel friendly,” so when I’m on the go, they stay at home.


// white board //

You would be surprised by the number of things you can use a white board for in an online classroom.

I’ve taught everything from writing letters and numbers, to grammar and colors, and drawing shapes… plus drawing other things (namely horrible stick-figures).

I also use a whiteboard for my in-class reward system! I printed out a background, taped it to the whiteboard… then attach bananas, stars, foods (or whatever else) to magnets. This reward system can easily be used again and again… and is much less wasteful than paper sticker charts.

The PalFish classroom has a whiteboard slide, but it’s still nice to have one of your own!

It’s such a useful tool! Invest in one… I guarantee you’ll need it!

Pro tip: Use a whiteboard for your interview! Before teaching the demo lesson, you have to describe how you’ll show students how to “circle” on the screen. Using a whiteboard is a great way to accomplish this!

// Reward System //

The PalFish platform has an integrated reward system, but it’s a good idea to have an additional way to celebrate your student each time you give them a star during class.

Your reward system doesn’t have to be super elaborate.

It can be something you add onto your teaching background (like the star chart pictured on the background below) or you can use a white board (like I did in the monkey banana chart pictured above)!

Shop Now: Online Teaching Reward System

// Classroom Background //

My “classroom” used to be VERY minimal… too minimal. I had a few barely legible ABC, 123 printouts taped to the wall, a teeny colorful banner, and a picture of Freddy the PalFish.

Making anything more elaborate seemed unnecessary, but it ended up making a huge difference.

After replacing the random pictures taped to my wall with a classroom background like the one below, I saw a visible increase in my bookings.

Maybe it’s because someone on the sales team saw the effort I was putting into my classroom and decided to send more students my way… or perhaps it’s because more parents started requesting lessons with me. Either way, I saw a massive spike in class bookings (and pop-ups) once I started using a more fun, colorful teaching background.

The BEST part about this background is that (aside from the warm-up charts and character logo), it’s made entirely of felt. I can take it down, fold it up, and back it in my backpack when I travel, so, no matter where I am in the world… it always looks like I’m in the same place.

Consistency in the classroom is really important, especially for online learners, and the classroom environment you create with your teaching background plays a big part in that!

Shop Now: Online Teaching Backgrounds

And that’s the tea!

Those are all of my (mostly) travel friendly props and online teaching essentials!

It might seem like “a lot,” but preparing these things really only requires a ONE time money/time investment (that is an investment in both your job AND yourself). Once you have them, you’re set!

To be honest, crafting (and laminating things) is something I actually really enjoy (and, surprisingly, kinda missed)… But some people don’t like doing crafts… or they just don’t have time… and I totally get that!

That’s why I created my Etsy Shop!

If you want to up your classroom game, but feel like you don’t have the time to do it, this is the perfect solution for you! The shop is filled with ALMOST all of the props and essentials listed in this article! There are digital downloads of rewards systems and flashcards (including my PalFish Trial Survival Kit), teaching t-shirts, and even customizable classroom backgrounds - all at an affordable price!

I’m always working to create new, useful props and products to help teachers save time, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the shop, let me know! I’d be happy to discuss creating a digital download, background, or shirt that suits your specific classroom needs!

Here’s a look at what’s in store now!

TOP LISTINGS

PALFISH TRIAL SURVIVAL KIT

The Trial Survival Kit contains everything PalFish Teachers need for their demo interview, Pre-K, Kindergarten, Level 1, 2, and 3 trial classes.
It includes 46 ready to print vocabulary flashcards and a free "Feed the Monkey" Reward System.

SHORT SLEEVE PALFISH T-SHIRT

CUSTOMIZABLE BACKGROUND

This handmade classroom background is very travel friendly. It can be folded and packed as easily as a t-shirt!
Suitable for PalFish OKC Teachers. (Also available for VIPKID and can be customized to suit other companies on request).

Working for PalFish really has changed my life.

Not only has it given me the opportunity to spend more time pursuing my passions in writing, film, and photography (while still making enough to cover my student loan payments), I’m also able to be a teacher again, which is a job that I truly love… But, this isn’t just any teaching gig - it’s the PERFECT teaching job for me and my travel bug. I am able to make my own schedule and have the freedom to work on the go!

That being said, teaching online IS NOT for everyone… just like teaching isn’t for everyone.

Pro tip: If you don’t like kids in real life, chances are you won’t like them online either.

You should only teach online if you 1. like kids and 2. are genuinely dedicated to BEING a teacher…

Being a teacher doesn’t just mean showing up for your lessons and prompting students to “Repeat after me!” It means investing time and money into your classroom to make it a more engaging and enjoyable learning environment.

Utilizing these props and essentials in my classroom has helped me create that fun, effective learning environment… and it’s made me a more effective teacher. Plus, I’ve been getting a lot more trial sales and regular students!

Ya know what more trial sales and regular bookings means!? Well… a couple things:

  1. Happy students, happy parents, happy sales team, happy PalFish. Andddd

  2. Bigger paychecks + more travelling… which equals (you guessed it) one very happy Kirst!

Interested in teaching with PalFish?

Check out this article to learn more!

Read More: Teaching English Online with PalFish: What’s Required + Getting Started


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Travel Friendly PalFish Props + Other Essentials for Online English Teachers | HallAroundtheWorld
Travel Friendly PalFish Props + Other Essentials for Online English Teachers | HallAroundtheWorld
Travel Friendly PalFish Props + Other Essentials for Online English Teachers | HallAroundtheWorld

Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do

A few months ago, I saw a beautiful photo on Instagram of a little yellow bicycle stood in front of a vast, never-ending wheat field. After clicking on the location, I was surprised to find that the photo was shot on an island… in Sweden!… and that it wasn’t too far away!

I talked about it relentlessly ever since… and last week, we FINALLY took a day trip the island of Ven.

This teeny, tiny little island is located in the Öresund Sound, just a short trip away from Malmö. The whole island of Ven is a nature reserve making it a haven for cyclists, or anyone just wanting a quiet, relaxing escape from the city.

Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld

Getting There

This island escape is easy to get to from Malmö, and if you time it properly, the trip should only take you about an hour and a half. We (naturally) didn’t check all of the transport times in advance, soooo it took us a little bit longer (but still a very reasonable amount of time).

  • Take the train to Landskrona Station

  • Walk straight out of the station to the bus stop, and take bus 3 to Landskrona Skeppsbron.

  • Take the ferry to Ven Bäckviken - This journey takes about half and hour. Tickets cost 90sek each way and can be purchased in advanced online or in person at Ven Trafiken’s office.

    For timetables and prices, visit their website.

Getting Around

Hands down the best way to get around is by bike!

There are hardly any cars on the island, so, whether you’re on the road or bike path, you can cycle safely

The island has two cycling routes - the small island tour and the big island tour. They take about 50 minutes and 90 minutes by bicycle respectively… plus time for stopping to snap photos.

To get to the bike rental shop from the harbor, walk up the hill to your left. When you reach the top, you’ll see rows and rows of yellow bikes on your right… (and probably lots of people).

Don’t let the crowds fool you! I was worried that our plans for a calm, quiet cycle around the island were done for, but once we got going, we didn’t even see too many other people on the bike trail!

For a standard bike, the rental fee is 100sek/day, (and an additional 10sek if you want a basket).

We rented one standard bike and one with a small luggage trailer which made it really easy to carry all of our things throughout the day.

To view all rental options and rates, visit Vens Cykeluthyrning’s website.

Keep in mind that the cycling shop doesn’t rent helmets, so you’ll have to bring your own if you wish to wear one. You can also bring your own bike over on the ferry for an additional fee… but then you’ll miss out on going for a spin on one of these iconic yellow bicycles!

Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld

What to See + Do

To be honest, there isn’t too much to see in Ven… unless you count the vast fields of wheat and wildflowers that cover the island and beautiful sea views.

Okay, I take it back… technically speaking there’s a lot to see!

Unlike in some places, you won’t find yourself racing from one location to another to find a beautiful view… because the whole island is beautiful. It is the perfect place to come and just be (and to cycle)… So that’s what we did.

We arrived at about 3pm, which was a bit later than we’d planned on getting there… but we still had plenty of time to explore the island.

We spent the afternoon day picnic-ing on the beach, alpaca spotting, and romping around the island on our cute yellow bicycles. After returning our bikes, we went for a dip in the sea and sat by the harbor before (reluctantly) returning to Landskrona on the last ferry of the day.

It was the perfect, most leisurely day of not doing much of anything.

The island is home to some other interesting attractions, like an alpaca farm (where you can take the alpacas out for a stroll), a whiskey distillery (which is also a hotel with a delicious farm to table restaurant), and it is the site of the first modern observatory.

If we had more time, I would have loved to check these things out… particularly the whiskey distillery… and alpaca walking (which, according to the website, has to be booked in advance).

If there is one thing you MUST do while on Ven it’s obviously cycling. Other than that, I’d recommend going with no agenda and just enjoying some quiet time in nature.

Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld


Where to Stay

Our ONLY regret about our day trip to Ven is that we didn’t make it an overnight trip to Ven!

Given that the island is only about 7.5 square km (and home to less than 400 inhabitants), there aren’t TOO many options when it comes to accommodation.

There is one hotel, a handful of guest houses, cabins, and a few campsites around the island. Depending on the season, you should consider booking ahead of time if you plan to stay overnight… or bringing your own camping equipment.

In Sweden, you can legally camp anywhere that isn’t private property. The next time we go to Ven, if it’s still warm enough, we’ll be bringing our tent and finding a quiet, secluded spot to sleep on the beach… (and if it isn’t warm enough, I wouldn’t be opposed to checking in at the whiskey distillery).

Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld

We had the best time on our day trip to Ven!

The island is easy to get to, making it the perfect little escape from the city. We left feeling mentally refreshed (and physically exhausted)… which, in my opinion, is a sure sign of a day well spent.

Turns out, the photo I saw on instagram didn’t do this place justice at all… (and the ones in this article definitely don’t either, so you’ll just have to come see for yourself)!

If you’re in Sweden (or Denmark), the breathtaking island of Ven is one place you won’t want to miss!


Planning a visit to the Island of Ven?

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Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld
Day Trip to the Island of Ven - How to Get There + What to Do | HallAroundtheWorld

Brussels Recap | The Unexpected Lesson I Learned at Faces2Hearts Training + What's Next

I know what you’re thinking… TWO POSTS IN TWO WEEKS!? Who even are you?

Don’t worry. It’s still me, guys! - your favorite lazy blogger… though, lately, I’ve been feeling far from lazy.

I still haven’t been too active here on the blog, but I’ve been feeling super inspired, and motivated, and I am working hard behind the scenes to bring some pretty big plans to life.

As excited as I am for everything that’s coming up in the rest of this year, I figure it’s well past time to bring you up to speed on what’s been going on lately.

If you read my last post, then you know I was recently selected to be one of 20 vloggers on this year’s Faces2Hearts team - a project sponsored by the European Union which will take me to SIERRA LEONE for a month next year - (more on that here)!

Less than two weeks after the ambassadors were announced, we were off to Brussels for a week of training… and WHAT AN AWESOME, HECTIC, TRANSFORMATIVE WEEK it was.

Here are some of the highlights, the unexpected lesson I learned, and what’s next.

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The metaphorical first day of school

Arriving in Brussels for training felt a bit like showing up to the first day at a new school.

I was filled with an unsettling combination of excitement, nervousness, and anxiety… which I guess makes sense given the circumstances.

It hasn’t felt like the first day of school in a LONG time! It has been a long time since I travelled solo… since I met this many new people at once… and a longggg, LONG time since I had the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.

Plus, when I arrived in Brussels, (at the tail end of Ireland wedding festivities and a short but sweet sister visit in Malmo) it had also been a very long time since I had a solid night’s sleep… So, that was the first order of business. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, (at about 3 in the afternoon) it was LIGHTS OUT.

I woke up a few hours later to my phone buzzing with messages from the other ambassadors. They were making plans to meet up for pre-training drinks that evening.

I wanted to go and knew that I should… but I almost didn’t because I was THAT damn nervous.

After nearly letting anxiety get the best of me, I got up, put on some pants, and went out to get the “first day of school” out of the way… and I’m so glad I did.

We met for drinks and chats and what ended up literally being a FIRE sunset.

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If I had to describe my first impressions using a single emoji, it’d be the shocked, bug-eyed, speechless one… Because I was like, “HOLY COW THESE PEOPLE ARE AMAZING HOW IN THE WORLD DID I GET HERE!?" And, “How cool is it to be sitting in a group THIS size… and no two people are from the same place!?” And also, “We are casually chatting about our upcoming trips with the EUROPEAN UNION to Pakistan and Bhutan and SIERRA LEONE! WHAT IS THIS LIFE!?”

I have never felt more out of my league in my entire life… In a good way.

Turns out, sometimes it takes being out of your league to be in the right place.


A BATTLE WITH IMPOSTER SYNDROME

One of my favorite Confucius quotes says, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room,” and this has never been more relevant.

I can confirm with full confidence that I was not the smartest person in a single one of the training rooms or conference halls I found myself in while in Brussels. I did, however, FINALLY feel like I was in the RIGHT room… and heading in the right direction.

…but brains are complicated.

As happy as I was to be IN the (at this point, metaphorical) room, I was also seriously questioning my place in it. Anytime it was my turn to talk or introduce myself, my heart rate quickened and my palms grew sweaty (knees weak arms are heavy). I had a MASSIVE case of imposter syndrome.

Research shows that 70% of people experience these feelings of self-doubt at some point in their lives… even the most successful, powerful, and seemingly confident.

It’s wild isn’t it? How we can want something with all of our hearts, work towards it tirelessly… then feel like we don’t deserve it once we’re finally there.

I’d love to say the imposter syndrome went away… but it didn’t. I struggled with it (and was low-key defeated by it) for the greater part of the week. I was also being defeated by some wicked allergies, which made for one heck of a double whammy.

Truth is, I was so nervous and in my head about whether or not I belonged there, that, in the beginning, I was hardly showing up as myself.

That’s the funny thing about imposter syndrome… when you give in to it, you BECOME an imposter.


European Development Days Conference

A few days into training, it was time for the European Development Days Conference, and, yes, my imposter syndrome was THRIVINGGGG.

This is the first conference I have ever attended, and what a place to start! - Rubbing elbows with presidents, diplomats, and young leaders from around the world… Oh, and a queen! Super casual.

Day one was overwhelming, surreal, and I again felt way out of my league.

My lack of sleep was finally catching up with me, and the exhaustion had joined forces with my seasonal allergies. I wasn’t looking OR feeling hot, but there was no time for self doubt or being under the weather. As luck would have it, we had our photoshoot that morning. It was time for pics! And time to vlog!

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Our on camera presence, interview skills, and ability to produce under pressure was put to the test… and, in just two days, we produced our first two videos as duos.

It was intense to say the least, but with only a week to train and practice working in pairs, it was necessary to be in “GO” mode at all times.

While producing our video, we didn’t have much time to attend talks at the conference, but we DID explore some of the 100+ stands in the Global Village. Each one showcased successful projects and ground-breaking reports from around the world, but one in particular caught my eye… A stand serving up a next generation, gender-sensitive cup of coffee (which is something I seriously needed and was intrigued to find out more about).

Thankfully, two of the stand’s representatives from Trias and Tropix Barista were kind enough to fill me up with coffee and agree to being interviewed for our video.

Something about diving into this video project brought me back to myself a bit. I still had my doubts about my own abilities and our ability to work together as a team, but I was reminded why the heck I was here in the first place.

We took our final shots of the coffee stand, and one of our interviewees asked me, “So how long have you two known each other?”

She was shocked to discover that we met a few days prior and commented on how well we worked together. I’m SO thankful for her very unexpected compliment. The little vote of confidence was just what I needed to stop stressing and overthinking things.

On day two of the conference, as we finished up our final video edits, my imposter syndrome started packing its bags and slowly vacating my brain space. Perhaps it was the creative juices, or maybe it was just a caffeine rush from all the coffee… but I was feeling reassured… more like myself… and more like I was right where I was supposed to be.

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In the midst of all the EDD madness, we had an impromptu Q&A session with the 1-minute video legend, Nas Daily.

He was asked to do a video takeover for EuropeAid’s InstaStory, and, just before the recording started, said a bit nervously, “I’m shy on other people’s cameras.” I thought to myself, “Noooo. Way. How does this confident, outgoing guy who makes videos EVERY DAY expect me to believe he’s even a little bit shy!?”

…Turns out, he was kind of reserved in person, and shy when put on the spot… which made me realize that THIS IS NORMAL (and then I felt a bit better about having been a shy little chicken for the greater part of the previous few days).

Nas may have pronounced North Carolina towns incorrectly, but he gave us a lot of inspiring advice about creating, finding your passion, and wholly devoting yourself to pursuing whatever that is.

One thing he said that really hit home was, “The act of creating is the sexiest thing in the world,” and I felt that to my core… it’s about to get real sexy over here because the creative juices are flowing strong.

I’m already looking forward to going back for the 2020 EDDs, and seeing all the video magic each team creates between now and then.


Vlogging… Lots of vlogging

I know I literally JUST talked about how much video making we did during training, (something I probably should have expected given the whole project is centered ENTIRELY around video)… but I’ll say it again because it was easily the biggest challenge I faced all week.

Ironically enough, even though this edition of Faces2Hearts is technically a vlogging project, most of the ambassadors don’t consider themselves to be “vloggers,” myself included.

Being in front of the camera is actually still WAY out of my comfort zone. Building my confidence and learning to not take myself so seriously is going to be a challenge… but it won’t be the only one.

Turns out, working in pairs to make a video is NO WALK IN THE PARK.

There is a 100% that each team had some issues, and there’s a 100% chance we’ll all have issues again.

The whole thing is going to be a huge challenge… but it’s also an awesome opportunity for learning and collaboration that I highly doubt I’ll ever get again. I for one am fully prepared to get off my high horse, step out of my creative box, and open myself up to learning, growing, and doing things differently.

By the time training in Brussels came to an end, my camera was out of auto mode and I had finally started learning my way around shooting manual. I also gave Spanish Premiere Pro on my partner’s computer my best effort… butttt that didn’t go quite as well. It’s hard enough in English, ya feel me!?

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Exploring Brussels

As hectic as the week was, we somehow had time to explore the city, too!

This was my first time in Brussels… but it definitely won’t be the last.

I indulged in quite a few Belgian beers (obviously)… more than my fair share of waffles (I now understand what all the hype is about), and, of course, Belgian fries… (which, if I’m being honest, were just okay, but this was 100% made up for by the Andalouse sauce on the side)!

Maybe it’s because we had a few F2H locals showing us around, but, I found Brussels to be pretty underrated. Mannaken de Pis on the other hand is not underrated. I’m not sure what makes this baby statue peeing into a fountain so special… but it still manages to draw a very large, inevitably let down, crowd on the daily.

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One place in Brussels that should get MORE hype is the Parlamentarium… No, seriously…

I’m not usually a museum person, but this interactive exhibition was really interesting. It put things into context in a clear, comprehensive way, and I left with a much greater understanding of how the European Union came to be and how it works today.

More importantly, after taking a little walk through history, I was reminded that World War II really wasn’t THAT long ago… and that peace and stability in Europe is a pretty recent thing… a thing many of us so often take for granted… (lookin’ at you, Brexiters).

The exhibition, which can be experienced in 24 languages, is open to the public seven days a week… and, here’s the best part - it’s completely free… making it a must visit if you like free things or just want to learn more about what the heck the EU actually is and does.

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Surprise FAMILY VISITS

Of all the training week experiences I’m thankful for, I think this one takes the cake.

Originally, my family was going to come to Sweden after Rachel’s wedding in Ireland. It would have been the first time they’ve visited me abroad since I left home in 2015, so I was pumped!

Then I got the F2H news (which I was obviously still pumped about)… but, being selected meant I would be in Brussels instead of Sweden when they planned to come visit. Ya win some, you lose some, eh?

We enjoyed the family time we had together in Ireland, Rachel came to Malmo for a visit (that I was here for likeeee 12 hours of), and then we said our goodbyes… the inevitable part of living away from home that has yet to get any easier.

It wasn’t until after I’d arrived in Belgium that my little sister told me she and her boyfriend had booked a trip to Brussels for a few days! Before Ireland, I hadn’t seen Bethany or the rest of my immediate family in nine months… so it was so nice (and a bit surreal) to see her again in Belgium of all places.

When I wasn’t busy with training or out with the other ambassadors… I was soaking up some very unexpected quality time with these cuties!

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The unexpected lesson I learned at training

Training week was eye-opening (big, bug-eyed emoji style).

It was refreshing to be among so many people who, despite our different countries, backgrounds, and cultures still have so much in common. They are some of the most talented, inspiring, photo-loving humans I have ever met… and I’m so thankful to be among them.

The biggest lesson I learned at training didn’t come from a seminar, a museum, or a panel of experts. It was a sense of clarity and direction that evolved thanks to them…

I am amazed by their backstories, their experience, their video skills… and their ability to seamlessly switch back and forth from one language to another.

Many of them are already doing the things that I’ve been talking about WANTING to do for ages - having their work published, producing professional videos, working with NGOs around the world, and using their creative skills for things that actually matters.

I AM out of my league here… and it’s time to level up.

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Sooo, What’s next?

Well, among other things, language learning!

I’m runnin’ a sweet 29 day DuoLingo streak and am more committed than ever to learning Spanish, Swedish, French and whatever other lingos I can fit into my brain. I’m trying to challenge myself and start using my brain to its full capacity… because I definitely hadn’t been. (Plus, I really want to take another crack at Spanish Premiere Pro).

In terms of HallAroundtheWorld, I’m going to keep writing… but I want to focus a lot more on film and producing content that will actually make a difference.

When I started this website, I had no intentions of being a “travel blogger.” Lately, the whole genre has become so oversaturated, superficial, over-copied (sometimes word for word)… and I am kinda over it.

Training in Brussels was hectic, but it gave me sense of clarity about my “what” and “why” that I haven’t had in a longggg time. I’m still working on the how… but I guess the secret in getting where you want to be is to just BEGIN somewhere.

My journey to Sierra Leone is a long way off, and, in the meantime, I don’t want to lose this sense of direction. Soooo, I’m going to start walking the walk… to go for it and keep going for it until I figure out exactly what “IT” even is.

WHEW! That was a long post! Thank you for listening to my TED Talk…

Nowwww, if anyone needs me, I’ll be escaping the cold, dark Swedish winter in my happy places… and working on video and writing projects that actually matter… even if it means going for broke for a bit.

A Little Bit of Lately + Some Pretty Big News

Up until a couple of weeks ago, it had been a longgg time since I published a new post… and it has been even longer since I gave any kind of update on what the heck has been going on in my non-travel related life lately. Lemme tell ya, it’s A LOT… which I guess is why I’ve been a bit absent around here.

Soooo, first things first…

I’VE GOT SOME PRETTY BIG NEWS.

Remember this? - This video was my application submission for a project called Faces2Hearts… andddd GUESS WHAT!? - I GOT IT!

WHAT IS FACES2HEARTS?

Faces2Hearts is a project organized by the European Commission Department for International Cooperation and Development (or EuropeAid for short). The first edition of this project focused primarily on writing, whereas this year’s edition shifts the focus to film.

20 vloggers from around the world were selected and paired up to travel to one of 10 countries. This year’s destinations include Argentina, Bhutan, Cape Verde, Jamaica, Myanmar, Namibia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

For one month, the duos will visit EU sponsored projects throughout the country, and document and share how these projects are impacting local communities and changing people’s lives for the better.

Soooo yeah… pretty freakin’ huge news!

I feel so happy and humbled (and still kinda in a state of disbelief) to be a part of this year’s team and this life-changing adventure…

…and I can’t believe it’s one that I ALMOST missed out on.

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STORY TIME!

As you can imagine, the voting/waiting/selection period was an emotional rollercoaster in and of itself.

On May 31st, bright and early in the morning, an Instagram post on EuropeAid’s account announced that the shortlist had been published and the public voting period had begun. I immediately headed to their website where I then scrolled, and scrolled, and scrolled through dozens of candidates.

The further I scrolled the more my stomach dropped, and each time I pressed “see more,” I felt a teensy glimmer of hope… followed by more scrolling and more queasy stomach action.

Anyway, after pressing that little button THREE (aka way too many times), I FINALLY saw my picture and realized I had made the cut. I had been chosen to represent Sweden! Even now, I can recall the feeling so vividly - a mixture of relief, excitement, and sheer JOY. I was BUZZING in every sense of the word. But the emotional rollercoaster didn’t end there… cause, where’s the fun in that!?

Later that day, (courtesy of someone who shall remain nameless) an accusation surfaced suggesting I’d lied about my nationality on my application.

Fair enough… Yes, I am representing Sweden, but… no, I’m definitely not Swedish.

In the name of transparency, (and to clear things up for anyone else who might question my moral integrity/eligibility)…here’s the deal - I was born and raised in North Carolina, I’m a British/American dual citizen, and, currently, a resident of Sweden. I know, I know… it’s a lot (not to mention a freakin’ mouthful). Sometimes I feel like a female Jason Bourne or something.

In the end, turns out the accusation didn’t matter, but, at the time, it definitely made an already intense emotional rollercoaster feel even more dramatic. Among my many emotions was a feeling of sheer annoyance that someone would deliberately go out of their way to try to sabotage such a major opportunity… but the annoyance was greatly outweighed by happy, excited feels, and overshadowed by an insane out-pouring of love and support from my humans.

During the 24 hour voting period, family, friends, ex coworkers and teachers, and even people I've never met cast votes in my favor, shared posts, and sent their well wishes.

In the end, I received a total of 336 votes… and if that’s not the most ironic thing in the world then I don’t know what it is.

336 is Greensboro’s area code - a place filled with wonderful people that showed up for me in a big, beautiful way, and a town I’m proud to call home. I am so thankful to be a part of such a loving, supportive network, and am grateful for the reminder that you all have my back… (causeeee, when you’re doing life in a city where only a handful of people know your name, sometimes it’s easy to forget).

Sooo, after an intense few days of waiting, the ambassadors were finally announced… and I’m one of them!

After excitedly skimming the email and heading straight to the destination assignments, I discovered I would be travelling to Sierra Leone in 2020 with Esteban Novillo, a videographer from Spain… but first, the whole team would be meeting in Brussels for the European Development Days conference and a week of training that was only 10 days away - (more on all of that in my next post)!

Esteban and I won’t be heading to Sierra Leone until next March, but, for the Namibia team, the journey has already begun… As a matter of fact, it’s somehow halfway over!

Konrad and Sibongile have done an incredible job of taking things in stride as the first duo to hit the road. This is my favorite video they’ve produced so far!

To follow all of the adventures, subscribe to the Faces2Hearts on YouTube or visit their website.


So The moral of This story is…

Remember just before story time when I said I almost missed out on this opportunity? Well, it’s not because of an accusation or because of a number of votes… It’s because I almost didn’t apply.

I first heard about Faces2Hearts thanks to a Facebook Ad of all things… and after scrolling past the call for “Adventure Loving Storytellers” several times, I finally clicked the link to see what it was all about.

I swear I was SURE this thing was made for me. It is literally all of my interests and hobbies and passions rolled in to one amazing ambassador program.

There was just oneeee little problem. The application deadline was THE. NEXT. DAY.

…And just like that, the devil on my shoulder (megaphone in hand) was screaming sweet-nothings in my ear like, “PSHHHH one day to make a video!? And write a captivating shpeel about the importance of storytelling!? Fahgettaboudit, sister!!”

I don’t why the devil on my shoulder is a mob boss with a thick New York accent… but I do know that, for a second there, I almost did just “fahgettaboudit.”

I was FILLED - and I mean FILLEDDDD - with self-doubt. I thought there was no way I would actually be chosen for something like this… not with less than a day to put together a solid application.

But then… next thing ya know… there I was drop-kicking my shoulder devil back to Brooklyn, cancelling my classes for the following day, and resolving to spend the next 24 hours making the best freakin’ video of my life, “because I might not get it… but I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try.”

The next day, I went to the website to start filling in my application, and, by some miracle, the deadline HAD. BEEN. EXTENDED… So I did a little victory dance and proceeded to comb through countless memory cards, video files, and editing tutorials to cook up what is easily my favorite video to date.

If you’ve made it to the end of this story, let it serve as a friendly little reminder… to believe in yourself… to take chances and risks… to go for that dream job or school or guy… even if whatever it is feels totally out of reach (or if the deadline is only a day away).…*cue Annie soundtrack.*

DON’T WRITE YOURSELF OFF, KID.

That’s the moral. Never write yourself off…

…Not even when you find yourself sat in a Brussels conference room at THE European Commission feeling wayyyy out of your league… but I’ll tell ya all about training and the big ole case of imposter syndrome I fought off there in my next post.

The Best Way to Experience Malmö - Canal Cruising with BookABoat

Well, hey there!

Long time no see!

I’ve never been the most consistent person when it comes to blogging, but this time it’s been over a MONTH since I published anything new - (Shameful, I know)!

In my defense, I got some pretty life changing news at the end of May (more on that soon), and the entire month that followed was an unexpectedly hectic, insanely incredible, and truly transformative June.

One of the many highlights of the month was my sister’s wedding in Ireland.

This seaside celebration of family, friends, love, and life deserves a post of its own… so I’ll save that for later, (promise it won’t take another month). For now, I’ll leave you with this shot by the NC legend - Ellie McKinney Photography.

Ellie McKinney Photography - Destination Wedding Photographer | HallAroundtheWorld

Anyway… after the wedding, my family had planned on coming to visit Andrew and I in Malmö.

I was SO excited to have them here. It would have been the first time anyone has visited me since I moved abroad in 2015… buttttt, my end of May, life-changing news changed these plans just a bit… and by a bit, I meannn… I wasn’t even going to be here on the days they were coming to visit.

Rachel and her husband Najib had already booked their flights to Malmö for a quick post-Ireland wedding, pre Turkey-honeymoon visit, and, by some miracle, there was a 24-hour overlap when I’d still be in town.

Instead of cancelling the visit, we took advantage of the small window of time and ended up having what may be my most cherished evening in Malmö to date.

The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld

Malmö is known for its bikes, falafel, and the canals surrounding the city center.

Originally a part of the city’s defense system, they now mainly add to the maritime aesthetic. They also offered up the perfect last minute solution to my “Where in the world should we take Rachel and Najib for dinner?” conundrum.

In the middle of my “packing/cleaning/trying to figure out how to show my sister the best of Malmö in less than 24 hours” frenzy I came across BookABoat.

Launched in 2015 by owners René Nordstrand Heunen and Gustav Widerström, BookABoat is the first self-serviced electrical boat rental company in the Nordics.

Our idea is to help people to hang out and enjoy life for a moment. We do that by providing splendid and self-serviced electrical boats in the canals of Malmö. Easy, flexible, spontaneous. It is our wish that this service is available for as many as possible, and give everyone the opportunity to create their own new lovely memories.

These green boats are 100% electric and the booking and boating process was unbelievably easy.

Turns out the newly weds had just been saying to each other that they wanted to get on a boat at some point during their Europe trip, so it really couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

After our booking was confirmed, we were sent an email with everything we needed to know for the trip. It included an interactive map of the canals, a code to unlock the cabinets at the dock (where we got our lifejackets and seat cushions), and a link with directions to start the boat.

Once we began our trip, we were be able to reference the mobile link to see how much time we had left, (and to add more time if necessary).

On board the boat there were a couple other essentials - Nautical hats!

Rachel popped the champagne in the sailors hat while Andrew called dibs on the pirates cap… and steering the boat… all the while proudly exclaiming, “I’m the captain now!”

The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld

We cruised around the canals enjoying the views, the drinks, our last minute picnic, and the company. Believe it or not, though I’ve been living in Malmö for the past 8 months, this is the first time I’ve gotten on the water. I wish I’d done it sooner but am also really glad I waited to share this experience on such a special occasion.

Whether you’re a local or just passing through, I couldn’t recommend this activity or this company more. The guys at BookABoat were so responsive and accommodating in helping us put this whole thing together very last minute. (THANK YOU AGAIN!!)

I don’t think we could have found a better way to spend our one (and only) evening together here, and can’t wait to get out on the canals again before summer in Sweden comes to an end.

To book your trip with BookABoat, visit their website, BookABoat.se.

…and remember, canal rules are just like road rules!

Booze and cruise responsibly… and always drive on the right!

Note: This canal cruise was sponsored by BookaBoat, but all opinions shared here are my own.


Planning a trip to Malmö?

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The Best Way to Experience Malmo - Sunset Canal Cruise with BookABoat | HallAroundtheWorld
 

Pass The Mic: Local Perspectives on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores

In the North Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 kilometers west and less than a three hour flight from Lisbon, you’ll find the Azores archipelago. This autonomous Portuguese region consists of nine volcanic islands, each with its own colorful and uniquely jaw-dropping landscapes.

In 2015, air-space liberalization in the Azores began and low cost flights with carriers like EasyJet and RyanAir began operating to and from the archipelago.

Since then, the number of tourists travelling to the Azores has spiked significantly, particularly in São Miguel, the largest of the islands.

This has been great for the local economy and job creation, however, it also poses a serious threat to the very thing the island is known for - its pristine, natural beauty.

Though there are many positive impacts of tourism in the Azores, even local tourism companies agree that they don’t want to see the islands become a mass tour destination.

While visiting the Azores, I connected with three São Miguel natives - all currently studying or working in the tourism industry. I asked each of them for their personal perspectives on the increase of tourism in their home. Here’s what they had to say.

Read more: What to Do In São Miguel

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Joana Damião Melo

Joana was our AirBnb host in Ponta Delgada. Born in São Miguel, she lived on the island for 18 years before moving to Lisbon to study Hotel Management at Estoril Tourism University.

After her studies, she moved to Madrid where she began working in a hotel as an intern, a receptionist, a guest relations agent, and finally a sales executive at the company’s global sales office. Joana says this hotel was her real school.

Four years later, she moved back to Portugal where she worked on several major hotel renovations and property openings, including a position at the Ritz-Carlton in Sintra as the Director of Sales and Marketing. While here, Joana won the price for the Best Director of Sales and Marketing in Europe and the Middle East.

In 2015, she decided to return to São Miguel to relax and have her baby, and, after her son was born, she realized that there is no better place to raise a child.

Joana now has her hands quite full. She runs the beautiful Mirante Loft AirBnb and works for several villas on the island, including the Santa Bárbara Eco-Beach Resort where she works as a Sales Consultant.

She is also currently working on her own hotel project - Senhora da Rosa, Tradition & Nature Hotel which we should open at the end of this year or early next year.

What is your favorite thing about the Azores?

The Azores are one of the most beautiful destinations in the world for me! I've traveled several places and there is nothing like the Azores!

Every time I visit, even the most touristy sites, such as Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Furnas, or Lagoa do Fogo, I always feel passionate about my land!

I do not tire of this beauty, which is unique!!

I feel blessed to have been born here and to have returned to my land, and I want to contribute to its sustainable development as a tourist destination.

Could you tell me more about your property’s history and the upcoming hotel’s nature and tradition concept?

My parents built the property in 1994, but tourism was not like it is today. Flying over was extremely expensive and infrastructure in terms of hotels restaurants, and other activities was very poor. 

With great service and food, it was considered one of the best hotels in the Azores, but there was no focus on sales, promotion, or revenue management. Debts started to raise, bankruptcy was declared, and in 2011 the bank took over the property.

Many potential investors visited, but none of them bought it. All the while, I was looking for solutions to re-buy the property.

The whole property, including my house, the Airbnb unit where you stayed, my parents house, my uncle’s house, and all the gardens and plantations around us have been a part of my family for more than 200 years. It’s a place with a lot of history.

Read more about our stay at Joana’s AirBnb: Unique AirBnb in Ponta Delgada

In the 18th century, we started producing oranges. We built the tower where the Airbnb apartment is to see the ships entering the port of Ponta Delgada and to send the oranges there to be exported. 

After the plague, we had to switch to pineapple production.

My project is to renovate the existing building. It will have 33 rooms including two Suites, a restaurant, bar, two event rooms, and a rooftop bar. We will also create two new wooden houses in the middle of the banana trees. These small units will recreate the old "Cafuões" (small wooden houses where we used to store cereals) which were very common in the region.

We will keep all the gardens, reactivate the pineapple plantations, introduce a small hot tub inside one of them, and have a small spa using only natural products made from raw materials from the farm.

The concept of the new Senhora da Rosa is all about tradition and nature. We want to involve guests and invite them to explore the surrounding green area.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

What are your thoughts on rising tourism in the Azores? Is it positive, negative… or a bit of both? 

It is positive but we are in a critical moment when the entities involved must ensure that our greatest heritage - Nature - is maintained and protected.

The Azores is a destination that should limit visitors in a natural way - by positioning and selling the destination to the right markets.

Have you personally seen changes in the island since tourism began to increase? 

Yes, of course. We see tourist all year round, which is great. Between May and September in particular, we have many more people visiting than before.

On one side, this is great and very good for the economy. On the other side, we locals feel that it´s too crowed - (but it´s really not)! :)

What is being done to protect and preserve the land?

The local government has been doing a lot to protect and preserve and but there is always more to do.

After the tourism boom in 2015 and 2016, the local Government put in place several restrictions to the opening of new hotels and Airbnb as well.

They are in the process of certifying the Azores as one of the World’s Sustainable Tourism Destinations.

What do you think the overall local perspective is on tourism?

We need to grow on quality and not on quantity 

What should tourists know before visiting? 

That they can get 4 seasons in one day :)  


Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Jorge Valério

My second interviewee is Jorge. Jorge has lived on the São Miguel island all his life, and has been working in tourism since age 14. He received a tourism degree from Azores University in Tourism Management and a Masters in Volcanology and Geological Risk.

Whether it’s as a skipper driving a boat or tour guide in a van, Jorge says his passion is connecting with people and helping their inner being feel in contact with nature.

This is why he and his partner Lisa started their company Holistika.

Launched in 2014, Holistika is a sustainably operated company that specializes in wellness tourism in the Azores. The company’s slogan “Meet Your Own Nature” alligns directly with their overall goal - to create real connections between their guests and nature.

Jorge knows his stuff about the Azores. He loves his home island and is committed to showing guests the REAL São Miguel.

I never got the chance to do one of Holistika’s activities, (though it’s at the top of my list for next time), but Jorge was still kind enough to give me his take on the Azores’ tourism boom.

What is your favorite thing about the Azores?

The water and the air! It's simply amazing, and super important to have a healthy life.

Though you show people the REAL Sao Miguel, do you still keep some secrets for yourself?

That's a fun question - but, yes! I have places that nobody will find!

What are your thoughts on the rise of tourism in the Azores?

Tourism is good for the economy and local evolution (in the mind and the way we see our world), however, rising tourism in the Azores can also be negative.

I think evolution is important, but we should be careful and not commit the same mistakes that other destinations have made before like building big hotels, having too many cars on the road, or simply losing our real identity!

Have you seen changes in the island since tourism began to increase?

Yes! Especially the number of cars around the island!

In a way, I think local tourism and low-cost flights are amazing, but it also brings a lot of pressure to our environment.

I believe that, soon, local people will lose the capacity to afford normal life the we always have. The houses and rent will be more expensive, and being in our nature without having people everywhere will be more difficult.

I feel that tourists are responsible with our nature, but I think the numbers are high enough.

If we keep having more people here, I don't feel it will be a good thing.

What is being done to protect and preserve the land?

Our government has created protected areas and laws that control construction and limit the number of licenses to do whale watching.

There are some projects that should not go on, like building big hotels and other structures.

I think that money moves money but we should not sell our nature with the objective only produce more money.

We don't have massive tourism now, and I hope we never do.


What should tourists know before visiting?

The Internet exposes a lot our places, which will lead to even more people travelling to the Azores. I advise people to come in the winter!

They should come with no expectations and just simply enjoy what this island offers… And please stop with the phones! - Relax, breathe and look through your eyes, not on Instagram.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Miriam Vasconcelos

Last, (but most certainly not least), I spoke with Miriam.

Also a São Miguel native, she is currently living in London and finishing an International Tourism Degree with majors in travel and marketing. A traveller herself, Miriam says, “It is my passion to promote destinations and explore them as well.”

Once she has completed her studies, she hopes to pursue a career in travel and marketing. Her dream job is to be the Manager of a major Destination Management Organization, such as VisitBritain or VisitPortugal.

In the midst of her finals, Miriam was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions about the increase of tourism in her home islands. (THANK YOU, MIRIAM)!

Her comprehensive and thoughtful responses illuminate a young professional’s perspective on both the positive and negative impacts of tourism (particularly in São Miguel), and what can be done to avoid the latter.

What is your favorite thing about the Azores?

My absolute favorite thing about the Azores is the colors and the smells… (even when it smells like cow poo). I love to see the green from the mountains meeting the blue from the sea.

I also love that nature is mostly untouched, or has been changed minimally by humans.

What are your thoughts on rising tourism in the Azores? positive, negative, or a bit of both?

The Azores have been in the spotlight for some time now, but I only recently started to notice new articles about it. I have seen it called the “Hawaii of Europe” or a “Better Iceland,” and who wouldn’t love to go to any of these places and pay £0.60 for a coffee?

Portugal is relatively cheap… but the islands are ridiculously cheap. You can find a good Airbnb for around £40p/night for a 2/3 bedroom place (and this is on São Miguel, the main island).

Due to the rise of tourism, especially in São Miguel, locals have started to be charged for things that belong to the land and that used to always be free, (for example, Poca da Dona beija, Furnas, Ferraria, and others). Other services and products have become more expensive (e.g. Whale watching, renting a car, boat trips, scuba diving, and hotels).

The rise in tourism has had positive impacts as well.

The Azores are rural islands. We live from selling milk from cows, growing fruit, and not much more. The tourism industry provides new, quicker opportunities to contribute to the archipelago’s GDP. We need it. The Azores are too small to just export - We need people coming and buying the milk from our cows, the mini pineapples that we grow, our fish, and so on. We need tourists.

Despite these positive economic impacts, it is vital to consider ways in which the islands can suffer from tourism.

It is known that our attitudes as tourists differ from our behaviours when at home in our day-to-day life. When we are on holiday we don’t care as much for things. We are relaxed. Extinguishing a cigarette on the floor is normal. Ice cream papers get dropped on the beach. This is a little thing, but when everyone does it, it is a big problem, and on a small island, it is ten times more visible than in a big city.

Another issue is transportation and pollution. More people equals more connectivity of flights, more air transport, buses running more frequently, and more pollution. The airport will probably have to be expanded and more airports created in other islands… All this to accommodate more tourists.

Pollution will impact the happiness of the locals, which will affect the satisfaction of the tourists. All tourists want to feel welcome in a destination. If the locals don’t want you there, would you come back? Would rate it? Would you suggest it? You would probably not even visit other places in the country.

What is being done (or should be done) to protect and preserve the islands?

Although, it is possible to manage this ascending issue, we must do so by studying and practicing sustainable tourism and bearing in mind every single party that is involved in the destination… including Nature.

I believe this should start with marketing.

Marketing to islands like the Azores should take into consideration more than the immediate outcome – Money. It is beneficial to have a lot now, but if the reason for the money is also the cause of the island’s destruction, then we are losing in the long run, right?

The Azores currently have several projects to balance the sustainability of Nature with tourism and the modern days. For instance, they have granted part of the green project, and they have an ecological school where you are taught how to grow vegetables, how to take care of the island, and so on.

Another strategy that the government has implemented is renewed energy houses, so, solar panels are used a lot nowadays

I hope you enjoy reading my little thoughts about my island. Please note that this is my opinion with a bit of background of marketing and tourism but it is not linked with any literature I studied. This is purely my thoughts about what I have been experiencing with my islands.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

Why is Sustainable Tourism Important?

Joana, Jorge, and Miriam each have unique perspectives regarding tourism in the Azores, but one common idea stands out - Tourism in the Azores must be developed sustainably.

Sustainable Tourism is important because SUSTAINABILITY is important.

In recent years, we have seen once pristine beaches become covered in plastic and several animal species now face the threat of extinction. These drastic consequences have (finally) made us more conscious and aware of the crisis facing our planet - what we have done to contribute to it and how we need to do better.

Now is the time to make policy changes which will protect and preserve our environment and the species in it, particularly within the tourism sector.

People in the Azores have recognized the potential negative impacts of rising tourism and are responding by making responsible and sustainable decisions in this developing sector.

The last thing locals want is for their home to turn into the next tourist hotspot like Iceland, or worse, like Thailand’s Maya Bay - (Made famous by the film The Beach, Maya Bay received over 5,000 visitors per day at the peak of its popularity. This inevitably resulted in the destruction of 80% of the reefs surrounding the bay, and its indefinite closure last October).

The government has made steps in the right direction by creating protected areas and placing a cap on the number of hotels that can be constructed across the nine islands.

Local business owners such as Joana and Jorge are also playing their part by creating innovative, sustainable alternatives to traditional hotels and tour companies. Still, like Joana said above, there is always more that can be done.

São Miguel is easily one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever been, and it is a place that all nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy. That being said, tourists visiting the island should be conscious and respectful (of the land and the locals), and do their part to practice and support sustainable tourism, too.

Pass The Mic: A Local's Perspective on the Rise of Tourism in the Azores | HallAroundtheWorld

What are your thoughts on over-tourism?

Let me know in the comments below!

A Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island

São Miguel is the largest of 9 volcanic islands in the Azores Archipelago. This autonomous region of Portugal is located in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,500km off the coast of Lisbon and 3,900km from the east coast of North America.

The Azores aren’t the most accessible holiday destination, however this has changed in recent years. In 2015, low cost, direct flights to the islands were introduced, and for better or for worse, this has led to a rise in tourism. More on this later.

We were in São Miguel for about a week, and, even though we did a lot, I know we barely scratched the surface of this pretty, (and unbelievably green) little island. Seriously… it’s the greenest and most beautiful place I’ve ever been… even over Ireland.

To prove it, I haven’t edited any of the photos in this article… yes, it’s REALLY that green!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

When to Visit

Peak season in São Miguel is from July to August… so (as you might expect) this is the one time I would NOT suggest for you to go. Sure, the weather is nice, but you’ll also be experiencing the island at its busiest.

Keep in mind that the word “busy” is pretty relative here. Peak season in the Azores is still far more calm than “peak season” in other unbearably busy travel hotspots.

We visited in early April and experienced some pretty hectic weather conditions. It was sunny one second and blazing hot… then we’d get a torrential downpour and the temperature dropped.

We also had a whole lot of peace and quiet. In most cases, we were the only ones at the view points, lakes, and other places we visited.

According to locals, it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a day here. No matter when you visit, the weather will be unpredictable, so pack accordingly!


What to Do

Visit Sete Cidades

The lakes themselves are obviously the highlight in this district… but lots of people who “visit them” make the mistake of only experiencing them from the viewpoints. If you come all this way, be sure to head down to explore the trails and villages surrounding the lakes, too.

Weather permitting, you can do lots of activities here.

Our plan was to spend a day kayaking, SUP boarding, and biking, but mother nature had other plans. It was insanely windy, so we were only able to bike… which is probably a good thing given that it was also pretty cold and water activities might have led to pneumonia.

We spent a full three hours biking and taking in epic, moody views of the lake.

There are also lots of hiking and walking trials around the lakes, but, even with a mountain bike, you can only get so far. Ditch your bike and explore a bit!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Attempt a water activity (or Explore Ponta Delgada)

Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores. The city’s main harbor is located here, and so are lots of companies offering water sports rentals and other water activities.

We were planning to go swimming with dolphins… and were willing to brave the freezing water to do so… but (once again) mother nature said, “NOT TODAY, FELICIA!”

We were put on a whale watching tour instead, but, sadly, this didn’t pan out either…

We boarded our boat, had a quick safety briefing, and then, while attempting to leave the harbor, were informed that one of the boat’s engines wasn’t working properly… which is why we had been driving in circles since leaving the dock.

We didn’t see any whales that day, but we did get a nice 360 view of the harbor as the boat captains fought against the faulty engines to get us back to land.

It was a big bummer that we weren’t able to experience the abundance of wildlife the Azores are known for, but it was also the first of many lessons in going with the flow on this trip.

Instead of freezing our butts off on/in the water, we spent the day walking around Ponta Delgada, along the coast, and enjoying the surprisingly sunny weather.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Visit the Gorreana Tea Factory

Family owned and operated since 1883, the Gorreana Tea Factory is the oldest in Europe and, currently, the only remaining tea plantation on the continent. Located on the northern coast of the island, it covers an impressive 32 acres and produces about 33 tons of tea each year.

It was really cool to see workers in the fields processing the tea, (which, according to the guys, looked like they were “just trimming the hedges”).

There is also an on-site museum you can walk through to learn more about the tea making process, to have a cup of tea, or buy some souvenirs to take home! I unintentionally bought a box of Gorreana’s green tea at one of the supermarkets before visiting the plantation, and can confirm that it is in fact really good.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Take a hike

…and I mean this in the nicest way possible!

On nice days, this particular viewpoint boasts unbeatable panoramic views of the island and crater lakes below. I know this because it was a photo of this hike in particular that immediately sold us on coming here.

Unfortunately, we had no such luck when visiting Miradouro da Boca do Inferno…

…As a matter of fact, it was a real instagram versus reality situation - (and if you don’t believe me, just google what it looks like on a clear day to see for yourself).

As you can see, we couldn’t really see much of anything… but it was cool having our heads up in the clouds for a bit!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Take a detour through the Valley of Lombadas

The drive through the valley was incredible!

The best part - we didn’t pass a single car or see another person the entire time.

Once you reach the bottom, you’ll see some walking trails and an abandoned crumbling building which we all eventually climbed up on - Lindsey, Laura and I to snap some photos… and Andrew to perform his rendition of Cher’s smash hit, “Believe.”

Said a performance will now live on ‘til the end of time in (shaky because I was laughing so hard) GIPH form. You’re welcome.

If you make the drive to the valley WEAR GOOD (OLD) SHOES so you can explore.

Also, keep an eye out for the waterfall along the way!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

take a dip in furnas’ Hot springs

We visited Poça da Dona Beija, and it was one of the only places we went on the island where we saw more than half a dozen other people.

Though it was a bit busy (and raining) we still really enjoyed it. The rain was actually quite refreshing while sitting in the steaming pools.

There are also natural hot springs at the Caldeira Velha Nature Reserve.

I totally did not even know this was a thing due to poor planning (and an overall lack of research) beforehand… which was a pretty common theme throughout the whole trip.

I can’t confirm whether it’s actually a good spot to go, but it looks cool enough to tempt me back in to a second visit… as if I really need tempting…

Pro tip: Most of the hot springs charge guests a small entrance fee (and an additional fee for extras like lockers and towels). Save some money and bring your own towel if you can!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

GET LOST

Again… I mean this in the nicest way possible.

It’s an island, so, it’s kind of impossible to really get lost… but you can try.

Get off the main roads. Get off your bike.

Take the path less travelled and go until the path runs out.

Perhaps you’ll find nothing… you’ll definitely find some graving cows… or you might just find another incredible view.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Unique Eats + Drinks

eat Cozida Das Furnas

While visiting Furnas, make sure to try Cozida das Furnas, or volcanic stew. This traditional stew is cooked underground with volcanic heat… and tastes super delicious!

Lots of restaurants in the area serve up this unique dish, but if you want to actually see it being taken out of the ground, you’ll have to get here early.

Around noon, workers head to the “cooking holes” locally known as Fumarolas to remove the cooking pots from the ground and transport them to the restaurants around the region.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

drink Purple tea

While visiting Furnas, head to the Chalet da Tia Mercês for a quirky cup of tea. Water from the nearby mineral rich hot springs causes this green tea to turn purple!

Unfortunately, we made the mistake of leaving this stop til our last day on the island.

Turns out, the tea house was closing early for a private event, when we arrived they told us they had just served their last customer for the day! I considered begging and pleading and telling them it was our last day, but decided I’d suck it up, take the high road and plan a purple tea return trip instead!

No purple tea shots this time around, but here’s a cool photo from their outdoor patio overlooking some steaming geothermal holes… (and it was then that I truly realized we were on holiday on an active volcano)… no big deal!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Getting Around

So, this was the one tricky part about our trip to São Miguel…

Andrew and I arrived a couple of days ahead of our friends, so we just got around Ponta Delgada on foot. I don’t know that I’d recommend this, especially after dark… because the cars drove extremely fast and the sidewalks were just about non-existent.

Walking/hitch-hiking can for sure be done… but it isn’t necessarily the safest option.

Buses and taxis are also an option for getting around the island, but they can both be a bit expensive depending on where you’re going. Plus, the buses aren’t the most convenient choice as they run pretty infrequently throughout the day.

If you plan on exploring a lot of the island, your best bet is to rent a car.

I would recommend this if you are travelling as a group and can split the cost, though, even if you’re travelling solo and doing a lot of bouncing around, it would likely work out cheaper to just pay the daily fee for a rental car.

For example, a taxi from Ponta Delgada to Furnas would have cost us anywhere from 40-50Euros…and that’s just one way. It’s much more cost efficient to just rent a car. Plus, this will give you the added convenience of exploring the island at your leisure.

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Where We Stayed

Ponta Delgada

When Andrew and I arrived in São Miguel, we spent two nights in Ponta Delgada.

This was a good starting point for us because of its proximity to the airport (and to the harbor where we were supposed to meet for the dolphin swimming excursion the following morning), but it is farther from’s the islands other hot spots like Sete Cidades and the hot springs in Furnas (no pun intended).

We were tired from our journey, so it was nice to have only have a short cab ride between the airport and our cozy home away from home.

Both places we stayed were nice, but we hit the AirBnb jackpot with this first property.

The beautiful glass loft was covered in greenery on the outside and tastefully decorated on the inside. We had a fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, an outdoor patio, plus, an amazing panoramic view of the ocean, mountains, and the pineapple farm next door.

View the listing: Mirante Loft

The host Joana will also be reopening an eco-hotel on the property next year.

Read more: Unique AirBnb in Ponta Delgada

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Vila Franca Do Campo

Our second AirBnb in Vila Franca Do Campo was a bit more centrally located.

The three bedroom house was right by the ocean and had all of the amenities we needed!

View the listing: Three Bedroom House with Ocean View

From here, we could get just about anywhere on the island within 30-40 minutes by car (with obvious photo pit stops along the way). It was a lot quieter than Ponta Delgada, (which was nice and peaceful), but also meant we had a lot fewer options for dining out.

We took advantage of the fully equipped kitchen, and saved money on food by cooking most of our meals at home.

Overall, both AirBnbs were incredible with very helpful and responsive hosts.

New to Airbnb? Click here to sign up and get a discount on your first booking!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

Know Before You Go

First and foremost, this is not a party destination.

Sure, the wine is cheap… but you won’t find a buzzing “nightlife scene” here. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re better off going elsewhere.

Secondly, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Azores have become an increasingly popular destination among tourists in recent years. Since São Miguel is the easiest to reach, the rise in the number of tourists visiting each year has been more drastic here.

This is great for the economy, but, for obvious reasons, also poses a serious negative threat to the very thing the islands are famous for - their raw and natural beauty.

Sustainable tourism is a hot topic everywhere, and the Azores are no exception.

If you’re planning a trip here, BE MINDFUL. Respect the locals, the land, and leave each place as beautiful as you find it.

Thirdly… (is this a word? third of all? idk?)…

…if you’ve been considering a trip to these beautiful islands, NOW is the time.

Map

Need some help getting around? I’ve pinned all of the places we visited, (and the spots that are on my list for next time) in the interactive map below!


Planning a trip to São Miguel?

PIN THIS POST TO SAVE IT FOR LATER!

How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld
How to Spend a Week in São Miguel: The Ultimate Guide to the Azores’ Largest Island | HallAroundtheWorld

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28)

Lisbon is the second oldest and one of the least expensive capital cities in Europe… that is, if you manage to steer clear of tuk-tuks, tourist traps, and pick pockets.

If it’s your first time visiting, you’re in for a treat! - The city is as modern and colorful as it is rich in culture and history… and one week here just was not long enough.

Keep reading for some tips on what to know before you go, the best times to visit, and unique things to do… that aren’t riding tram 28.


What To Do

There is SO much to do in Lisbon… and, consequently, so much that I haven’t done yet.

This list contains mostly things I did do and see, (as I don’t really find it ethical to write about things I’ve never experienced for myself), however, I did include some of the things I’ll definitely be going back for.

Some of them were missed due to lack of time, poor weather, or, in some cases, sheer ignorance of their existence, soooo, in an effort to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did (ie. not researching properly ahead of time) here are, in no particular order, the best things we did in Lisbon… and a few that are still on my list!

First and foremost…


eat your weight in Pastéis da nata

If you eat ANYTHING in Lisbon, let it be these… and lots of em.

As the story goes, these sweet, crumbly, delicious egg tarts, otherwise known as pastel de nata, originated at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém.

The nuns and monks at the time used high quantities of egg whites to starch their clothing… and then used the leftover yolks in desserts. Thus, the birth of this heavenly treat - (pun slightly intended)!

The monks began selling these pastéis de nata to raise money for the Monastery, and did so until 1834 when it closed. The secret recipe was sold to the owners of the local sugar refinery, who then opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837.

Today, you can get pastel de natas pretty much anywhere in Lisbon, but, supposedly, those served up by Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém are the best. They may be the best, but they also win the award for the longest lines… and we tended to steer clear of those on this trip.

Wherever you go for this yummy treat, get one for each hand… and add some cinnamon or sugar for good measure!

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

Visit the lx factory

In 2008, an abandoned industrial complex by the river got a serious makeover, and Ta-Dahhh!… the LX Factory was born.

Today, the historical complex is home to several cafes, restaurants, shops, a super cool bookstore, bars… and, my personal favorite, art! Lots of art - including an amazing trash, bumblebee sculpture by Portuguese street artist, Bordalo II.

If you’re a fan of urban art, you won’t want to miss this colorful and buzzing area.

There is also a flea market here on Sundays… something I wish I had known about earlier. If the timing is right, you should definitely check that out… and then let me know how it is! ;)

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

hunt for street art

The LX Factory isn’t the only place where you’ll find cool street art. As a matter of fact, Lisbon has, on more than one occasion, been called an “open air art exhibit.”

As if the tiled facades and terracotta roofs aren’t swoon-worthy enough, massive murals tastefully bring back life and color to once drab and deteriorating walls all around the city.

Street art isn’t entirely legal, but it is supported by Lisbon’s city council. Artists present them with their ideas and the council decides if the project will be allowed.

Whether or not this goes against the rebellious sentiments underlying urban art is still up for debate. Regardless, it’s pretty cool that Lisbon’s street art is mostly legal, supported by the government… and literally everywhere.

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld


Visit the MAAT

The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, located just beside the Tagus river (and not far from the LX factory) is not your average Portuguese building.

We decided to just enjoy the MAAT from the outside, but if you’re a big archi buff you might want to actually go IN the museum, too.

The steps in front are a nice place to people watch and soak up the sun… or you can walk up onto the roof for a great view of the river and the 25 de Abril bridge.

After visiting the MAAT, we walked over to the LX Factory, and found a pretty insta-worthy swing along the way.

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

Get your culture on at Lisbon’s Unesco sites

If you make it all the way out the the MAAT, you might as well swing over to the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, too.

They are about a 25-30 minute walk away from the MAAT, so, no, not superrrr close, but definitely much closer than sayyy Alfama, (which would take you about two hours by foot).

The Belém Tower was built on the shores of the Tagus river in the 1500’s to defend the city, and, the Monastery, as previously mentioned, is the home of THE pastel de nata! Both are now UNESCO World Heritage sites and two of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments.

We sadly didn’t make it to either due to poor planning, dicey weather conditions (and, if I’m being totally honest, HUNGER!), but definitely plan on making the trip next time!

Keep in mind that there is a small admission fee for both of these sites.

go on a free walking tour

If I’m being totally honest with you, I’ve never been a big fan of big group tours.

I typically prefer to explore new places solo and at my own pace… however, I’ll admit, after going on several Christmas Market tours last winter, I realized that I’ve been seriously missing out on a gold mine of information.

Instead of just going around “seeing” a bunch of things, walking tours allow you to learn about what you’re seeing - the history and meaning behind a city’s architecture, foods, and traditions. They’re also a great way to meet people if you’re travelling solo… (and to get your steps in)!

Unfortunately, the timing and weather conditions didn’t work out in our favor… but NEXT TIME a Lisbon walking tour is at the top of our list… (right after a day trip to Sintra).

The tour we planned to do was run through a company called Civitatis, an online travel company that operates in over 770 destinations and offers over 17,000 activities.

They have four free walking tours in Lisbon (as well as some other pretty cool activities and Lisbon must haves):

  • Walking Tour of Lisbon takes place everyday at 10am, 11am, 2pm, and 4pm. This tour visits some of the cities most emblematic locations like the São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint and Santa Justa Elevator.

  • Walking Tour of Alfama typically takes place daily at 10:30am and 11am. It explores Lisbon’s oldest district and includes stops at the Lisbon Cathedral and Portas do Sol viewpoint.

  • Walking Tour of Mouraria typically begins daily at 11am. On this tour, you’ll visit the Medieval Moorish Quarter, the birth place of fado and the neighborhood of Graça, an area known for its miradouros and panoramic views.

  • Walking Tour of Bairro Alto & Chiado takes place daily at 3pm. On this tour you’ll explore the most bohemian areas in Lisbon, visit the areas oldest coffeehouse, and follow the route of the emblematic (and instaworthy) yellow Elevador da Bica.

Each tour takes about 2.5-3 hours and is (almost) totally free!

Here’s the catch - Though booking the tour itself won’t cost you anything, it is customary to give your guide a tip at the end. Most guides work exclusively on tips, so keep that in mind when deciding how much you will give.

Book your spot ahead of time by visiting Civitatis.com or clicking any of the tour links above!

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

Visit rossio lisbon square

This lively square is literally in the heart of the city.

It was renamed Pedro IV Square in 1874 when the statue of Dom Pedro the IV was put up, but most residents still refer to it as Rossio.

Like most city squares, this is where life happens.

When we visited, there was a market going on with loads of stalls selling flowers, food (and also giving samples), drinks (mulled wine), jewelry, tiles (of course), products made of cork, and other handicrafts.

Fun fact: Did you know that Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world? So don’t be surprised when you see (tourist) shops filled with cork bags, wallets, bracelets, and other knickknacks you didn’t know existed in cork form.

The second time we visited the square, we witnessed a big group of med students utilizing what was hands down the most effective fundraising method I’ve ever seen.

First year students in yellow t-shirts sat on the ground, while older students in black cloaks stood behind them. They sang song after song and were dancing and clapping… and before long the music and energy had drawn a big crowd.

One of the students walked around to on-lookers explaining who they were, why they were singing, and what they were raising money for. He told us, “if you make a donation, we throw you a big party.” So of course we did.

For each donation, there was lots of clapping and cheering… always followed by another song.

GENIUS!

Street performances by cloaked student troubadours, or tunas are pretty common around Portugal… and in this square in particular. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll catch one yourself!

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

watch a fado performance

If you skim the web for things to do in Lisbon, I guarantee you that “Fado + Dinner Show” will come up. Fado is traditional Portuguese music that is very melancholy and sad, which, for whatever reason, seems to pair best with dinner and drinks.

These dinner and a show combos are super popular among visitors to Portugal and, thus, a pretty common way for tourists to get ripped off… which is what almost happened to us…

More on that here: Travel Tales - Fado Problems and Hair Flips Solutions

Long story short… We decided late in the afternoon on Andrew’s last day in Lisbon that we would go for dinner and a fado show to celebrate his birthday that night. We did very little (ie zero) research on where to go or how to avoid getting scammed, soooo, basically… we nearly fell into one of the aforementioned tourist traps.

Side note: Are you noticing a theme here? I literally did not plan annnything prior to this trip!

Thankfully, after a little hair flip action and some Oscar worthy acting from Lindsey and Andrew, we got our money back and left to find a more affordable spot to get our fado fix.

We soon found a buzzing little hole in the wall restaurant. There was a bit of a wait, and they were still charging a per person cover at the door to reserve tables, however, 100% of this money went towards our bill at the end.

Our experience here was much more intimate and cozy… and budget friendly.

The fado singer found out it was Andrew’s birthday and gave him his own little encore. I wish I had photos of this because a picture is worth a thousand words, but I don’t… so HERE’S A GIPH INSTEAD… which has to be worth at least a million.

Despite the little mishaps along the way, our dinner + fado evening ended up being one of my favorite nights of the whole trip, and proof that you CAN get a good meal and a fado experience without spending an arm and a leg.

eat your heart out at the time out market

The Time Out Market is a fairly new concept that got it’s start in Lisbon in 2014.

On one side, there are shops and bars, a music venue, and you can get a taste of the best restaurants in the city. The other side is home to the city’s most well known (and according to Time Out), longest-running vendors of meat, fish, fruit, and flowers.

As the Time Out Market has increased in popularity, so have the prices, but, in my opinion, it’s still well worth a visit… that is, if you go early and can actually find a spot to sit.

There are so many delicious food options, and we had a lot of them… but my FAVORITE dish by far was the tuna tataki from Confraria - it was TA DIE FOR!

Side note… and a pro tip for my fellow females with small bladders: If you so happen to need to use the toilet while you’re here (which you probably will if you, like me, eat your heart out AND split a bottle of wine with your girlfriends) go to the bathroom upstairs!

When the market gets busy, the line for the women’s bathroom on the first floor gets atrociously long… so long that I felt it imperative to give you fair warning in this article!! I didn’t realize the upstairs bathroom was a thing until I went back to the market a second time… so, yeah. Sharing is caring.

This is currently the only Time Out Market, however, the publishing company is opening another one in Miami in two days! (May 9, 2019).

Several other Time Out Markets are due to open in the next couple of years in major cities around the world (including London, Prague, New York, Montreal, Boston, and Chicago)!

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

WATCH THE SUNSET AT A rooftop bar

There are loads of popular rooftop bars around the city, like Rio Maravilha (located at the LX Factory), Park, SkyBar, TOPO… the list goes on.

We went to Park around sunset, and, as you can imagine, it was packeddd.

If you look carefully in the picture below, you’ll see the partial heads of all the people in front of me taking the same photo.

Good view: yes

Pricey drinks: also yes

Best thing I experienced in Lisbon: not quite

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

get a free view at a miradouro

Want to save yourself a few bucks? Skip the bars, grab a bottle of wine, and head to one of Lisbon’s many Miradouros instead!

These viewpoints offer stunning (free!) views of the city, and are a great place to watch the sunset, or to just stop and chill after a day of exploring. Street performers often play music in these areas, too… making them an even more appealing alternative to overcrowded (and often overpriced) rooftop bars.

Miradouro de Santa Luzia is one of the most popular viewpoints (and is located conveniently on the way to my favorite wine bar in the city, Alfama Gourmet).

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

Try the local wine

Okay… let’s be honest - Trying Portuguese wine probably should have been right up top with eating your weight in pastel de natas… but now it’s coming in at the "LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST” spot on the list.

Portuguese wines, like ports and vinho verde (or green wine), are made from varieties of grapes that aren’t really found anywhere else in the world. It’s also unlikely that you’ll find these wines being sold anywhere else in the world at such bargain prices… so get your fill of it while you can… and while you’re at it, get yourself a cheese plate, too!

Pro tip: The best wine bar we visited in Lisbon was Alfama Gourmet.

We were able to try and learn about so many different Portuguese wines and had great chats with the owner Nuno… all while watching Tram 28 occasionally breeze by the window. We also tried Ginjinha shots here, a traditional Portuguese liquor served up in a tasty little chocolate “shot glass.”

Read more: The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

So what’s the deal with Tram 28?

OKAY, I’ll admit it! We DID take the tram! ONCE!

We were actually on our way to visit Alfama for oneee last wine date, and didn’t want to brave the neighborhood’s steep hills after several days of walking around the free of charge stair master that is Lisbon.

We saw the tram pulling up to the stop just ahead, so we thought, “Eh, why not!? When in Lisbon!”

It was fun and exciting for the first couple minutes, and, after that… it was a tram… a super bumpy tram. To be honest, I don’t see what all the hype is about. I much preferred the view OF the passing tram… from the wine bar… with a cheese plate…

Not pictured: me nearly falling over while trying to record this time-lapse.

Pro tip: If you DO have a “When in Lisbon” moment and decide to take the tram, for the love of green wine, please don’t do it in the middle of the day… and if you DO decide to take it in the middle of the day, don’t get on in the city center when it’s already packed with people (and possibly pick pockets) - I personally never had an issue with this, but, according to the interwebs… and the locals who told me to wear my backpack on my chest, it is in fact a thing.

When To Go

Peak season in Lisbon is from June to August, so this, in my opinion, is when you most definitely should not go.

The weather may be nice during this time, but the cues and crowds are not. For a more enjoyable experience, go just before or after this period - from March to June or September to October. The weather will still be warm and the city will be much less busy.

Getting Around

The best way to explore Lisbon is definitely by foot. You get to explore all of the random side streets and alleyways, pop in to random shops and restaurants at a moments notice, and get a gnarly uphill workout free of charge.

On that note - Bring good shoes!!

Uber is also a great option when you have a bit further to go to reach your destination (or when the weather isn’t great).

We opted for getting an Uber from the airport and when going from our AirBnb in Alfama to the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) - (solely because it was raining, all the way on the other side of town, and it would have taken us an hour to get there by foot)… otherwise we pretty much always walked.

Heading to another city in Portugal?

After visiting Lisbon, we headed to Porto by bus, and (once we found the bus stop and figured out how to print our tickets) found it to be pretty straight forward.

We were there within 3.5 hours and then had a 5 minute ride from the bus station to our AirBnb once we arrived. Tickets cost 17 Euros one way (34euro RT) and can be booked on Rede Expressos website.

Another option is flying or taking the train.

Flights between these cities may be cheap, but when you factor in the extra baggage fees, time spent getting to the airport, the hassle of going through security, and then repeating that whole process again on the other end, you might as well just take a bus.

Taking a train is the fastest option (though not by very much - 3 hours as opposed to 3.5 by bus). It’s also the most expensive. The cheapest regular tickets are 25Euros one way, but can sometimes be purchased for a discounted rate. Visit Comboios De Portugal for more information regarding specific train times and ticket prices.

Story time/Pro tips for taking the bus:

When you get to the bus station at Lisboa Oriente, don’t make the mistake of going to the train station side… you’ll miss your bus and end up waiting another hour til the next one.

I realize I may not be selling this right now… We did have a pretty rough start, but I promise the bus is the most cost and time effective means of getting to Porto.

We were running late, the signage at the station was really poor, so when we got there, we had no clue where to go. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes!

If you walk allllll the way to the far side of the parking lot (where all of the buses are), you’ll find another smaller building - This is where the information desk for the bus station is located, and possibly the same snarky information desk lady we never got answers from.

In this building, there’s also a red machine. The red machine is your friend.

If you booked your tickets online, go STRAIGHT to the ancient red machine and enter your booking number. Then your tickets will print and you might actually get some help from someone in terms of which bus stop platform you should go to.

We had to have the printed ticket for our bus from Lisbon to Porto, but, for whatever reason, on our way back to Lisbon, showing the tickets on our phone was fine - (The Porto station signage was also much better… in that there actually WERE signs).

Play it safe and always at least try to print the tickets from the red machine if you can!

Also, BYOS… in which case, the S obviously stands for snacks!

The bus does make a few pit stops along the route, but none of them are very long.


Useful Phrases

The official language spoken in Portugal, which may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who think they can get by with Spanish here because of the proximity to Spain. Not the case. Here’s a quick little Portuguese lesson before you go.

Hello – Olá (oh-LAH)

Goodbye – Adeus (ah-DEH-oosh)

Please – Por favor (poor fah-VOHR)

Thank you (male) – Obrigado (oh-bree-GAH-doh)

Thank you (female) – Obrigada (oh-bree-GAH-dah)

It took me much longer than I would like to admit to figure out the meaning behind this pronunciation difference.


City Map

You didn’t think I’d give you all that info without some handy dandy directions did ya? Here’s an interactive map to help you get around while you’re in Lisbon.

If you have questions about what we did, where we stayed, or just want more Lisbon tips, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly!

Enjoy your time in Lisbon!


Planning a trip to Lisbon?

PIN THIS POST TO SAVE IT FOR LATER!

The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld
The Ultimate Lisbon Guide - What to Know, When to Go, and 12+ Unique Things to Do (That Aren't Riding Tram 28) FREE MAP! | HallAroundTheWorld

Travel Tales: Fado Problems and Hair Flip Solutions

If you read any guide on what to do in Lisbon, chances are you’ll come across fado.

This traditional Portuguese music is moody and sad, and, for whatever reason, seems to be best paired with dinner and drinks.

Dinner with a fado show is a super popular activity for people visiting Lisbon (and Portugal in general), so, as it goes… it’s also a pretty common way for tourists to get ripped off… which is what almost happened to us.

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We decided late in the afternoon on Andrew’s last day in Lisbon that we would go for dinner and a fado show to celebrate his birthday that night. We did very little (ie zero) research on where to go or how to avoid getting scammed, soooo, basically… we nearly fell into one of the aforementioned tourist traps.

(Side note: are you noticing a theme here? I literally did not plan annnything prior to this trip)!

Long story short… shortly after deciding on our fado dinner plans… like literally less than two minutes later, we walked by a cute restaurant with a big sign out front that said “FADO SHOW TONIGHT!”

…and then we went inside and booked a table for the four of us that evening!

Perfect, right?! It’s like the universe had been listening to our chat!

Well, not quite…

First mistake: Going into the first place we saw.

Turns out, there was a cover charge of 10 Euros a head… something the hostess didn’t tell us until after we had given her our name and contact information.

This was a bit of a red flag. In hindsight, we probably should have backed out then, but I hadn’t done any research to know any better, so I thought, “Well, technically we’re seeing a show. I guess paying a cover is normal,”

…and then, in our excited fado frenzy, we forked over 40 Euros.

Second and third mistake: Paying 40 Euros cover. Not looking at the menu.

As we continued on our walk back to our AirBnb, we started seeing (ie noticing for the first time) loads of restaurants with signs advertising fado shows that evening… many of which also had another one of my favorite words - “FREE!”

Still, we had already paid… so we decided to give the first spot a chance.

When we came back that night we quickly realized that this restaurant was a weeeee bit out of our “Nearing the End of a Two Week Holiday” price range

…and then (even more quickly) began concocting a “Let’s Get Our Money Back” and go somewhere else plan.

After a little hair flip action and some Oscar worthy acting from Lindsey and Andrew, we got our money back and began the hunt for a more affordable place to get our fado fix.

We found a buzzing restaurant with a bit of a wait, and though they still charged a per person cover at the door to reserve a table, 100% of this money went towards our bill at the end.

Our experience here was much more intimate and cozy… not to mention a whole lot easier on our bank accounts.

The fado singer found out it was Andrew’s birthday (because she was basically standing right beside our table the entire time) and gave him his own little encore.

I wish I had photos of this because a picture is worth a thousand words… but I don’t… so HERE’S A GIPH INSTEAD. That’s gotta be worth at least a million, right!? Just look at those birthday boy dance moves!

Despite the little mishaps along the way, our dinner + fado evening ended up being one of my favorite nights of the whole trip, and proof that it IS possible to get a great meal and a fun fado experience without paying an arm and a leg.

The moral of this story isn’t to do your research… because going with the flow actually turned out pretty well for us in the end.

The moral of this story is that even the most seasoned travellers make mistakes… and that there’s no problem a sassy little hair flip can’t solve.


Have you been to a fado show?

Was your experience as cool as Andrew’s? ;)

Let me know in the comments below!

The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal

Sometimes, when I prepare for a trip, I map out the entire city beforehand.

I (over)ambitiously pin all of the restaurants, cafes, bars, and photo spots I want to hit. Then, when the time comes, I race around trying to make it to as many points on the map as I can.

This is all well and good, especially when you’re on a job, putting together a city guide, or shooting a video… but it is hardly a holiday. It’s another to do list.

I spent a solid four weeks travelling like this over the holidays last year - Bouncing from one Christmas market city to the next every couple of days, and running around like a mad woman trying to see and do everything in the meantime.

It was fun. A lot of fun… but it was also exhausting. So hectic that, when I got home, it hardly felt like I’d taken a break.

This was 10,000% NOT the case for my trip to Portugal.

All the plans I thought I had fell through, and I learned a big lesson in the art of sucking it up and going with the flow.

The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld

After spending a week in the Azores, we arrived in Lisbon with a minimal agenda and headed to the accommodation we’d booked a day prior… (after a cheeky little stop at the Time Out Market for some food... Okay, and wine).

We couldn’t check in to our AirBnb yet, so we decided to get out and explore Alfama instead.

Within minutes, we came across a hole in the wall wine bar.

Our passing, “Oooooh that place is cute” changed to “TWO euro wine!? Shall we?” once we saw the menu… And then we did.

The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld

It wasn’t a place I ever expected to find…

Even if I had actually planned out what I wanted to do in Lisbon, it’s unlikely that this little wine bar would have been on my radar. Regardless, Alfama Gourmet quickly became one of my favorite spots in Lisbon.

Maybe it was the 2 Euro wine… or maybe it was the owner Nuno.

Though his opening line, “Have you tried green wine?” might be something he uses on all the tourists, it was his warm, welcoming smile and the conversation that followed that kept us coming back.

Nuno shared his knowledge of Portuguese wines and the various wine regions, what to do around Lisbon, and even gave us tips for Porto - the next stop on our trip.

The afternoons spent chatting around the barrels, sipping wine, and watching trams go by will forever be some of my favorite memories - the perfect reward for climbing the hills of Lisbon.

If you find yourself in the Alfama area, this is one spot you won’t want to miss.

The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld

Hours + Directions

Alfama Gourmet is opened from 10am - 9pm daily.

Need help getting there? Check out the map below.


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The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld
The Best Wine Bar in Lisbon, Portugal | HallAroundtheWorld

Photo Diary: 45 Unedited Photos to Convince You to Visit the Azores

I never imagined I’d be visiting a volcanic island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean…

…In fact, I didn’t even know such a place existed until a few months ago when a friend and I began toying around with the idea of a little Portugal vacation.

Basically, the whole thing started when my friend Lindsey posted an instagram story saying something along the lines of “Portugal in April? Anyone want to meet me there?” To which I of course said, “Abso-freakin-lutley. Don’t tempt me with a good time.”

She sent me a photo of a hike in the Azores - One photo... Anddd that was all it took to turn my “Abso-freakin-lutely” into a “Take my money, Skyscanner.”

Plans were made, our group grew from 2 people to 5, and, in early April, we all travelled from our current homes (Malmo, Abu Dhabi, and Bangkok) to São Miguel, the largest of the nine islands in the Azores Archipelago.

It was the start of a what was an epic Portugal vacation.

If you browse photos of São Miguel Island online, you may find yourself seriously questioning the saturation levels of each shot… because there’s NO WAY a place could possibly be that green, right? Wrong. São Miguel is hands down THE GREENEST, most beautiful place I have ever been - (yes, even over Ireland).

I started to edit some of my photos from the trip, and then thought to myself… “This is pretty pointless. These photos don’t need editing at all.”

In honor of today being Earth Day, (and me proving to you just how naturally beautiful (and insanely green) this island really is), I wanted to share some of my favorite, unedited, straight off the camera shots with you.

If you’re anything like me, go ahead and get SkyScanner, Kiwi, or whatever flight search engine you use ready. It only took one picture to convince me to visit the Azores, and these 45 photos are definitely about to have you planning a trip there, too.