After flying across three continents, two oceans, and exploring much of Eastern Europe in just a month, it seemed fitting that my Ultimate Triptrotting Adventure end where it started just a few short months before: in LA. City of angels, of beaches, of aspiring actors and actresses from around the globe. Far more relevant to my time there, however, was LA as base for the Triptrotting office! This is where it had all began, the idea for the contest, the launch, the votes, the decision to send me abroad as am ambassador-of-sorts for the company. Here is where the founders live, work, and lay the foundations for travelers around the world to connect and to gain the ‘local’ experience. How truly symbolic that my ‘local’ experience in LA happened to be with the very people who inspired it all!
And boy did they hook me up! From staying in a typical LA apartment, complete with pool and access to shopping and celebrities at the nearby Grove, to invites to excusive guest-listed clubs and afterparties, to wine-tasting of some fabulous California wine, to night time drives up the hills to see LA spread out below, and beyond. I’m talking Michael Jackson tributes, the grand opening of an ice-cream parlour, Mexican restaurant hopping, Korean BBqs, lounging on Santa Monica Beach, partying with some of LA’s finest at the exclusive birthday party of a well-known event planner, and a day spent at Walt Disney studios (normally off limits to members of the public). Not to mention tours of the Triptrotting office, where so much magic happens! Photo shoots with the team, time spent giving interviews in the studio, the chance to see an album being recorded by an up-and-coming Seattle hip-hop duo Striking Back. Oh, and in case you’re not convinced that my time in LA was suitably awesome, Triptrotting also invited me to the very first TRIPup event in LA. There, I had the chance to meet up with other locals and travelers at the beautiful W Hotel in Hollywood. All-in-all, not a bad introduction to the city of LA!
You don’t wanna hear it from me though, check out video evidence on Triptrotting TV instead!
Viator introduce their website by stating that their goal is wanting each customer to “have an unforgettable experience” every time they travel. This certainly applied to me!
Viator is a company that generously agreed to sponsor the Ultimate Triptrotting adventures, meaning that I was able to choose a Viator tour in each city that I traveled where they were available. The toughest part was narrowing it down to one tour in each city. After that all I had to do was enjoy! (In fact, sometimes they even picked me up and dropped me off after the tours!)
It’s hard to choose highlights from my Viator tours. All of them taught me something new and showed me ways to have fun in the cities I visited. I started out by segwaying in Budapest (a bit silly but actually heaps of fun!). In Prague when torrential rain forced the cancellation of my bike tour, the tour guide came with me to an art exhibit and picnic instead. My Belgrade tour was meant to last just four hours, but turned into a 16 hour extravaganza wherein we crisscrossed the important historical and cultural parts of the city and delved deep into the underground café and bar scene. Through Jelena (my guide aboce), I discovered some of my favourite spaces to date! Sofia, in Belgrade, was an entirely different sort of tour. A lot of focus was put on the Eastern Orthodox religion—we visited numerous iconic churches as well as a 13th century chapel with some of the world’s best-preserved frescoes! Finally, my tours in Istanbul and Athens were a bit more light-hearted—in Istanbul I was treated to a five course meal and a display of typical Turkish dancing, and in Athens I went on a cruise of three islands. They even let me wear the captain’s hat and steer the ship on the way back! (Pity the other passengers when I was in control).
All in all, I had an absolutely fabulous time with Viator! Definitely a great addition to my Triptrotting adventures.
Do you ever feel like sometimes you travel around the world and end up somewhere that feels like home? Greece had that effect on me, and it wasn’t because they had the same language, lifestyle, food, or any other indicator of familiarity. Instead, it was ‘just a feeling’ (as cliché as that can possibly be)… a sense of belonging and of identification with the way the Greeks live and think.
It probably helped that a dear Greek friend of mine and Triptrotter, Sofia, hosted me in Athens. Thanks to her I got the true ‘Triptrotting’ experience, being able to live life as the Greeks do. I stayed with her and her family in their house in the suburbs, which was a great base both to explore the city and to get to know a Greek family. They even invited me to a family lunch and swim at their grandparent’s house in the country, complete with Greek salad and octopus!
Through Sofia I experienced Greek hospitality, friendliness, and open-mindedness. Her and her friends took me gallivanting about the city, educated me about the recent riots, showed me the best place to get a piercing, explored art exhibits and funky courtyard bars, even visited some of the hostels to meet up with other travelers (by the way, I’d totally recommend Student Universe to find hostels in Athens).
Together we convinced sailors to let us on a cruise, talked our way into the captain’s control room, and even into wearing his hat! We took road trips down the coast, traipsed around tiny Greek towns, discovered secluded beaches. We visited her friend’s island summer retreat, went on boat rides with them, saw horses swimming in the water and a man who was Jesus reincarnate in bathing trunks. We ate and ate and ate, from traditional souvlaki to picnics by temples to fresh market produce and restaurants in public squares. We enjoyed an awesome Urban Adventures tour of the Markets and Ruins in Ancient Athens. They took me to graffiti-lined alleyways, activists squatting in a park-turned-vegetable garden, on walks around the Parthenon. They even taught me that water-bottle prices were regulated by the government, so that hot, thirsty Greeks always had access to hydration. (Clever, n’est-ce pas? But I wonder what the IMF has to say about it!)
All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful three days in Greece. In many ways, Athens felt like a secret Montreal/Brooklyn/Melbourne, just with fresher food, friendlier people, and fantastic weather (sunshine!). I could not recommend it more highly, and hope that no one is dissuaded by sensationalist media reports of riots and random violence…I know that I’ll be back!
Check out more of my Ultimate Adventures through Europe on Triptrotting TV!
I’m in Istanbul, which means that my long journey by Interrail has come to an end. I’ve travelled from Budapest through Bratislava and Krakow to Warsaw and Prague, Belgrade, Sofia, and finally, Istanbul. Thousands of kilometres, hundreds of villages, and many new friendships later, it seems fitting that the end of my journey be in the same city in which the Orient Express ends. It serves as a reminder of the magic associated with riding on a train; while cheaper tickets and modern conveniences may have removed some of the glamour and mystery from trains, they will never remove the allure.
My 22 day Interrail pass allowed me the freedom to travel throughout Europe and to experience all the best that traveling by train has to offer. I became addicted, not just to watching the countryside flash by, but also to waking up in the morning to a completely different landscape. Trains give you a far more scenic trip than planes and a far more intimate trip than a drive down a highway. Instead, they wind and carve through farmland, over rivers, through the centers of towns. From the train window I saw rainbows, peasants, fields of sunflowers, small countryside villages and more.
And inside, I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. Sharing a compartment with other travelers naturally fosters new friendships. I shared tea with my Turkish train conductor, found out about a Serbian festival from an old German man, explored Istanbul with a newfound Portuguese friend, and met a 17 year old Serbian graphic designer who invited me back to his small hamlet to experience life in rural Serbia:
Frankly, for backpackers, it is also the most practical way of travel. Not only do you save time by traveling overnight, but booking a bed is cheaper than in a hostel. That, and you have the clickety-clack of the tracks and the rocking of the train to lull you to sleep (and the ocassional snorer, but nothing you wouldn’t get in a hostel right?). In Europe you could use Eurail or Interrail (if you are European citizen) passes to get around. Usually its pretty cheap!
All in all, a fantastic experience which has left me eager for more train action! Trans-Siberian anyone?
See more Ultimate Adventures of Yolanda on Triptrotting TV.
By: Madeline Reddington
For most of us who have done so, studying abroad was one of the best experiences we had in college—but finding someone to take over our rooms for an awkward four or five-month period isn’t nearly as fun. Luckily, for those of us who are worried about coming home to find our things trashed by an unruly sub-letter or biting the bullet and paying rent for an empty room, there are more options. Meet Niels van Deuren, Triptrotter and founder of HousingAnywhere.com.
What made you start HousingAnywhere?
When I went abroad for my Bachelor exchange to Singapore, I wanted to sublet my room. Unfortunately, it was quite hard to find someone who wanted to rent for just five months. However, at the same time I heard that the International Office of my current university was desperately looking for rooms that were available for a short time period. There I saw the gap: there was a supply of short-term rooms, and demand. I simply created a platform to bridge these two parties.
How is HousingAnywhere different from other exchange-based hospitality networks?
Only students can use this platform. And above all: it’s totally for free to advertise your room or respond to an advertisement on the platform. Students at a few top schools already use it, like ESADE Barcelona, SSE in Sweden, WU in Vienna, USP in Brazil, and more.
What are the best and worst parts of being an entrepreneur?
I would like to summarize it as: “Whoa, opportunities everywhere, but a day has only 24 hours!”
What else are you doing these days?
I am studying International Business Administration—taking a Masters in CEMS International Management.
How many countries have you been to?
Ai, many! South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia, New Zealand, Thailand, and basically all of Europe. I am still missing the USA on my list though!
What’s a crazy experience you had traveling/studying abroad that you can share with the Triptrotting community?
Living in Lisbon for a few months. What a time! What a nice vibrant city that is!
What’s next for HousingAnywhere and yourself?
Well, we recently launched our platform in Peru (Lima, Esan University) as well. So the road is: expanding our platform to more countries and cities!
If you had all the money in the world, would you quit and move to an island or invest it all in your business?
Move to that island and continue the business from there! The nicest thing in this digital world is that companies are not limited to operating in one specific place.
By: Triptrotting Team
Triptrotting is making a connection with people all over the world. We caught up with another one of our Ultimate Triptrotter contest judges, MTV VJ, Host of Brazil’s Got Talent, André Vasco, to get an exclusive interview of what traveling and culture means to him. Don’t worry, we also got him to tell us what he is looking for in the Ultimate Triptrotter!
What’s your background?
I graduated with a marketing degree and have worked in an advertising agency, done video producing and worked at Nestlé. I played the violin in a youth orchestra and I have been a VJ at MTV Brazil with experiences in front and behind the camera.
What is your job and what do you like about it?
Currently, I am the host of a program similar to “America’s Got Talent” in Brazil. I absolutely love what I do. I do a lot of research about other cultures and always try to incorporate it into my work. I enjoy talking with people, teach, entertain, thrill…
How many countries have you been to?
I’ve been in Mexico, Cuba, Panamá and a few times in the United States. Travel is the best way to experience the real culture. It will change your life! I think its great what Triptrotting is doing! The world as a whole is borderless and people must unite. As soon as you learn more about other cultures, you’ll realize there’s more to love.
Anyone that inspires you to continue what you do?
My mother. She’s always with me and supports me in my choices and paths.
Any advice for those who want to do what you do?
Believe in yourself. Battle, fight, and do not give up. Be Rocky Balboa!
Any advice for Triptrotters?
Go see other cultures and be open and willing to learn. Each culture is individually unique and be accepting of the differences. That’s how you’ll discover new things. Your personal growth is super related to your professional life so combining them is the best way. One will help the other!
So the big question – What are you looking for in the Ultimate Triptrotter?
I’m looking for someone who is eager to connect with others and eager to exchange information and share different knowledge. It’s what Triptrotting is all about!
See more of André in action!
Be a fan on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter @andrevasco