Christmas in Vienna

Christmas in Vienna

travel

11 things to do in Vienna this Christmas

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

From mid-November through Christmas day, Vienna, Austria transforms into a Christmas holiday snow globe. The city is full of quaint postcard-worthy locations just waiting to be explored. Spending Christmas in Vienna is the epitome of a holiday lovers’ travel dreams. Vienna is known as the Christmas hub in Europe (possibly the world!), in the sense that it oozes traditional holiday cheer, glittery decor and all things festive for Old Saint Nick’s celebration.

From magical Christmas markets to historic sites, and delicious treats along the way, I doubt any other city hosts a more festive Christmas season.

There are SO many posts on what is best to do in Vienna for Christmas, so along with my personal experience, I filtered through some of the bleh things to show you THE BEST things to do in Vienna this Christmas season:

Included in this post:

  • The best things to do in Vienna during the Christmas season
  • A sustainably focused christmas market!
  • Where to stay during the Christmas season in the city
  • How to get around the city
  • Travel tips for visiting Vienna during Christmas season

Top 11 things to do in Vienna, Austria this Christmas Season

(1) Explore all of their Christmas Markets

This list wouldn’t be complete without first mentioning Vienna’s Christmas markets. Imagine rows of sprightly decorated wooden covered stalls, each filled with their own unique, local fare. Some with holiday decorations, others with handmade toys, and the best ones serving a long list of mulled wine-like drinks. (Don’t worry drinking gluhwein is on this list, keep reading!)

Now, depending on how many days you plan on spending in Vienna for the holidays will depend on which Viennese Christmas markets you should check out. There are at least 5-10 Christmas markets in Vienna each season, if not more. Each one is unique with some having more food, or fewer stalls or the focus being on activities versus the vendors. The Christmas markets I would NOT miss while in Vienna would be:

  • Rathausplatz: this Christmas market is the market that you see in the majority of Vienna Christmas market pictures. The square in front of Vienna’s City Hall is completely transformed into an iconic holiday fairytale. With a mile-long market featuring an ice skating rink, a heart filled tree and ferris wheel, Rathausplatz Christmas market should be first on your list of Christmas markets to see when in Vienna.

 

  •  Stephansplatz Christmas Market: In the heart of the historic center of Vienna, the Christmas market at Stephansplatz is perfect for sharing a mug of mulled wine with strangers and enjoying roasted chestnuts. Especially if you are planning to explore the historic beauty of Vienna in between.

 

  • Karlsplatz Christmas Market: In front of the Karlskirche Church is the Karlsplatz Christmas market focused on handmade arts and crafts. This unique market has vendors who must make their items themselves and earn qualification from a jury panel in order to be a part of the market. Meaning you’ll see the most beautiful handmade items here. PLUS, this market has higher quality standards on its food and games as well. Any food or drinks sold here must be free of palm oil and organic. And it enforces strict sustainability foothold, where items like their carousel are built from used goods and runs on pedal power!

 

  • Christmas Village Maria Therisien Platz: centered between three top museums in Vienna, the Christmas Village at Maria Theresien Platz showcases a unique backdrop for visitors. It’s a beautiful traditional Christmas market with the holiday fare you’ll come to expect at these places.

*TRAVEL TIP-  the Christmas market vendors and styles can change year to year. If you are researching for your trip to Vienna during the Christmas season, be sure to reference multiple places for up to date information about the Viennese Christmas markets.

(2) Channel your Michelle Kwan persona & ice skate at Rathausplatz

The ice skating rink at Rathausplatz is not your typical American ice skating experience. Instead of an oval shaped rink, skaters are set up in a looping trail where they can skate in larger areas, but also go on an ice trail (where some areas are set on an incline for faster skating!).

This is definitely something any visitor to Vienna during Christmas should take part in. If at least to mortify yourself at how bad your are at ice skating, and watch young children zip right by you… oh wait, I’m just talking about my own experience with it.

(3) Enjoy a warm beverage & dessert at a famous Viennese cafe

If you’re a food-driven traveler like myself than you’ll be happy to know that Vienna is known for its decadent chocolate cake known as Sachertorte (cake). This cake recipe dates back to the 1830s when a 16-year-old chef apprentice had to fill in the last minute and created this delicious dessert.

Be sure to enjoy a slice (or two) while in Vienna, and hopefully at one of their historic cafes- Cafe Demel, Cafe Central or Cafe Sperl. Each of which is an opulent opposite to the ‘cafes’ we Americans are accustomed to.

However, if you would prefer a more modern cafe setting check out this list by Culture Trip.

(4) See the lights of the Belvedere Palace Christmas market at night

With some serious majestic flare, the Belvedere Palace Christmas market at night is incredibly beautiful. There are two parts to the Belvedere Palace, the Upper & Lower Palaces. The Upper Belvedere Palace has a lake in the front that reflects the Christmas market lights onto the water beautifully. This Christmas market runs through Christmas Eve so be sure to plan accordingly.

(5) Stroll along the holiday-decorated pedestrian streets on Christmas Eve nights

I can’t think of anything more ethereal or romantic than strolling along holiday decorated paths with a loved one. From the State Opera House to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and then along the Graben to the Hofburg Palace, pedestrians can enjoy magnificently decorated streets, with monumentally large holiday light fixtures and themes in each direction. This stroll is the epitome of holiday romance.

My suggestion would be book an early Christmas Eve dinner and spend the remainder of your evening wandering around the historic center of Vienna.

(6) Experience an orchestra concert inside of a Palace

Each year the Schonbrunn Palace hosts an orchestra concert inside of their Orangery (an orangery is a room at a palace where they used to keep their spring/summer fruit trees safe during winter). Classy, romantic and entertaining, this concert is a beautiful way to spend a holiday evening listening to classics alongside opera singers and ballet dancers.

Click here to grab tickets to this concert at a great low price (compared to other sites)

Want more flexibility with the date(s) of your concert experience? You can also:

(7) Soak in the sounds of Strauss and Mozart throughout the city

At the Strauss and Mozart Christmas concert at the Kursalon – fun fact, the composer Strauss himself performed here once!

You can also watch a choir recital or church concert at the infamous St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Peterskirche or the Minoritenkirche. You can find more holiday concerts here with tickets below.

(8) Spend Christmas day sipping Baileys Spiked Hot Cocoa at the Schonbrunn Palace market on Christmas day

Vienna is Austria’s Imperial capital meaning we can thank the Hapsburg for the many beautifully constructed palaces throughout the city, like the extravagant Schonbrunn Palace. And what better way to soak up holiday charm & history than at the light yellow Schonbrunn Palace’s Christmas market.

This was by far our favorite market to visit in Vienna, besides Rathausplatz, as the vendors were more unique than in other locations. In fact, we found most of our gifts to bring home at the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market. Plus you have an actual Imperial Palace as your backdrop throughout the market.

I don’t think it could emulate a European Christmas vibe any more than this place. *If you go on the weekends the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market hosts advent concerts in the afternoons and evenings. And you schedule your tickets to enter the palace – why not do it all in one day!?

(9) Witness the Vienna Ballet or an opera effortlessly perform their holiday shows

The Vienna State Opera House, or Wiener Staatsoper, is a truly grand masterpiece in Vienna. Rebuilt after World War II, visiting this venue for a classic performance is a bucket list item for anyone visiting Vienna.

(10) Drink Weihnachtspunsch and Gluhwein with strangers

Weihnachtspunsch is Christmas punch & Gluhwein is mulled wine. These beverages can be found at every Viennese Christmas market. In fact, the vendors selling gluhwein will often have a long menu of drink options. My favorite being a ginger-based one, and course hot cocoa with Baileys. There are also non-alcoholic ones!

There are belly bar tables at each market, where it’s a great place to strike up a conversation with a group of strangers. Who knows, you may end up getting drinks with them later that day!

If it’s particularly cold outside during your visit, you can warm your hands on one of the unique mugs they serve their holiday punches in. In fact, you pay a holding fee for the mug and it’s returned when you give them back the mug. With the encouragement that drinkers end up keeping their mugs as souvenirs. I try my best not to be suckered into souvenirs traps but dang it did they have some precious mugs like this heart-shaped one that is currently in my cupboards.

(11) Staying for New Years & need a once in a lifetime idea? Attend the annual Hofburg Silvester Ball!

For those willing to don ball gowns and tuxedos, this could be a once in a lifetime event to attend. Imagine your wildest Disney princess moments coming to life while the New Year’s ball drops at midnight. Find out more here.

Where to stay in Vienna during Christmas season

The majority of sights to see and holiday markets are located within historic Vienna. So, visitors will want to stay within or nearby that area. However depending on your budget, it may be difficult to find lodging during Vienna’s Christmas season in the heart of the historic district.

If that’s the case, then I would suggest staying near Wien Mitte, Vienna’s public transportation hub.

Booking.com

How to get around Vienna, Austria during the holiday season

By train: Vienna, like many other European cities, has an excellent underground public transportation system called the U-Bahn. The stations are all centrally located and easy to find for the OBB. You can purchase tickets at their kiosk machines or ticket windows. Be sure to validate your ticket at the entrance! And each train car has easy to follow labels for which stations will be stopped at next.

By tram: similar to the U-Bahn, Vienna’s tram system is great for those who want to see the city while they ride. In fact, there is a circular tram line that is great for visitors to hop onto if they want a quick tour of the city (or if they’re cold and want to sit inside something insulated… yes, we did this, and enjoyed the 20-minute break from the cold). Again, you’ll want to validate your ticket when you enter the tram for the first time

There are of course taxis and Uber/Lyft’s available in the city, but the fun of travel is to walk around to see everything. Plus using public transportation and walking are two great ways to be a more sustainably focused traveler.

If you’re coming from the Vienna airport, I would suggest using the CAT (City Airport Train). As it’s a convenient and affordable option that the city offers. You can read more about it here.

Don’t forget to pack these items:

Tips for visiting Vienna during Christmas season:

  • Book a reservation for dinner for Christmas Eve & Christmas day if you plan to eat out. Many places will require reservations or be closed. I mean it. Reserve this NOW. We had difficulty finding vegetarian friendly menus for the holidays that had availability, and we booked in early November.
  • Bring cash with you to the markets. While some may accept credit cards, it’s best to have cash on hand to make purchases. Especially if you want a mug of gluhwein.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the markets. If you’re shopping and expect to explore for the remainder of the day, do yourself a favor and pack a reusable bag to hold your new gifts

Scroll through to see more images of Vienna during Christmas!

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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How to get to Secret Beach, San Pedro

How to get to Secret Beach, San Pedro

travel

Last Updated November 12th, 2019

Detailed directions to Secret Beach San Pedro, Belize with pictures on how to get there

This post contains affiliate links to products that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

If you’re looking for a hidden paradise then look no further than Belize’s Secret Beach on San Pedro island.  An oasis tucked inland of the island, accessible by small boat or driving through barren unmarked paths via rented golf cart.

Secret Beach is one of the San Pedro locals favorite beaches and still somewhat a local secret. So, while I’m tempted to keep this haven true to its name- as a secret! -I want to help you skip over the confusion and waste less time getting lost.

This way you can enjoy even more time lapping up the stunning clear waters, fresh coconuts and sea breeze at the beautiful Secret Beach.

If you’re staying in San Pedro, find out how to travel to the island stress free

What is Secret Beach?

(and what makes it so special?)

San Pedro island Belize is known for its eatern shoreline of coral reefs, fishing, marine life and nightlife. Only 10 years ago did a developer lay down a road that stretched to the western side of the island. This made the western side accessible for the first time and it exposed a breath-taking set of beaches and waters.

How long does it take to get to from San Pedro to Secret Beach?

The drive from Secret Beach to San Pedro can take up to two hours driving one way. It depends on if you spend any time getting lost while driving there, and how fast your golf cart can go… as well as your ability to withstand the bumping up and down a golf cart on an unpaved, dirt road for over an hour.

Why should you visit Secret Beach in San Pedro?

        Many of the coastline areas of San Pedro are covered in quite a bit of seaweed. So while the sunrises are spectacular from town, the beaches are not the best for wadding into for a good swim. However, further into the Caribbean Sea are some wonderful snorkeling waters off the coast of Belize. Making Secret Beach a haven place on the island.

  • Once you arrive you’ll notice the pristine waters that are effortlessly calm, and beach goers can wade almost 200 feet out!
  • While you may need some bug spray [here is a sustainable and healthy bug spray that I would recommend], there is no seagrass or seaweed, as compared to the coastal side of San Pedro, that I mentioned above
  • During the busy season, there are multiple bars and restaurants open along the beach, plus there will be options to rent stand up paddleboards and kayaks – perfect for those novice water sport athletes since the water is so calm
  • It still feels undeveloped and like a hidden gem of a destination. Since it takes quite a drive to get to this Belizean beach, not many want to make the trek out here, so there won’t be an overcrowded site.

How to get to Secret Beach from San Pedro, Belize

  • The most convenient way to get to Secret Beach is by golf cart.

  • You will need to first rent a golf cart in San Pedro town. There are quite a few options to choose from, but fear not because if you’re staying at a hotel they will easily be able to connect you to their preferred golf cart vendor. Within 20 minutes of asking, you should have someone ready to have you set up with a golf cart

Looking for a hotel in San Pedro? Compare prices HERE

  • Now, that you have your golf cart and it’s tank is full (important! As it can take up to two hours to get there) you are ready to head out to one of the best beaches in Belize

*Note- you can physically ride a bike to Secret Beach, but I would NOT recommend doing so. The dirt path is very bumpy. Trust me, your bum will thank me later.

Secret Beach Belize Directions

  • There is only one road that can lead you to Secret Beach, with quite a few outlets leading in other directions

  • From town, if you’re facing the Caribbean Sea/ocean side of the island then turn LEFT and head towards the NORTH side of San Pedro island

  • As you begin to leave the main town area of San Pedro you will come to a small bridge. There is a $5 fee you must pay in order to cross. Once paid, you’ll be given a pink slip for your return crossing. Do NOT lose this pink slip, otherwise you will have to pay again to cross back.

  • Cross the bridge and stay on this road for as long as it goes

  • Eventually you will come to the end of the paved road and a dirt path will curve to the left. Go down that path
  • Once you’re at this curve you’ll notice that the land quickly transforms from lush, tropical greens to flat, almost desolate beige mangrove swamp like surroundings. This part of the dirt road will be fairly easy to navigate through based on the visibility of the path and the few half built homes that are spread out in this area.

    *Please note- we were told that there are alligators living in the swamps, so do not wander aimlessly through them

  • After a bit of driving down the desolate path you may start to feel concerned that you’ve gone too far, but don’t worry! You will soon see a small sign that steers to the LEFT

  • From there, there will be small signs close to the ground directing you towards the bars & restaurants at Secret Beach. You have to look down in order to see these signs (see the images on this post), otherwise you may miss them and drive the wrong direction. If you follow these signs they will lead you to Secret Beach

*What helped us was continuing to remind ourselves that Secret Beach was essentially the opposite side of the island from town. If someone you are going there with has a good sense of direction let them utilize their natural compass.

Don't Forget to Pack:

Arriving at Secret Beach, Belize

        You’ll know when you’ve arrived (or at least are very close) to the best beach in Belize as there will be other golf carts parked to the left and right of the beach entrance, and you will see the dock straight ahead.

        Once you park your golf cart, walk over to enjoy the calm and gorgeously clear and teal water. You can rent chairs on the beach if you spend money at one of the bars. We were told that we needed to spend $100  for access to the chairs. Sounds fairly pricey, yet could be managed if you go in a group.

        It was just two of us visiting, and we were comfortable placing our stuff at the end of the dock as we floated nearby there as we could see it from the water.

        Typically there is at least one person slinging the sale of fresh coconuts for coconut water, and they offer adding rum to them as well (hello dolly, this is a perfect tropical beverage combination!).

        HOWEVER, they will put a plastic straw in it. Be sure to tell them ahead of time NO to the plastic straw. I almost always bring my own reusable straw with me nowadays (I didn’t have one for this trip, womp womp) You can purchase a reusable straw here.

        It is highly suggested that you leave Secret Beach around one to two hours before the sun sets. This is so that you can safely drive back to San Pedro while the sun is still out.

        The dirt paths are not lit up at night, and driving them in the dark would be dangerous, even with the headlights on the golf carts – let’s be honest, golf cart headlights are not the brightest, plus you’ll have been driving in dirt paths so they’ll be covered in dust.

What to do at Secret Beach

In years past, visitors to Secret Beach had to bring their own water and food, but now there are multiple bars on the beach you can visit and enjoy a chilled cocktail or beer.

Blue Bayou Bar : a tropical looking bar with beautiful views

Maruba Beach Klub : more upscale bar with lots of cushioned chairs and music

Paco’s Secret Beach : one of the newer bars at Secret Beach

Pirates Not-So-Secret Beach Bar & Grill : they have ables in the water so you can enjoy the calm waters with your food & drinks

Secret Paradise Beach Bar : this bar has the largest beach area with a large bar and volleyball nets

There are are also plenty of people renting paddle boards and electric surfboards. But in my opinion, your time will be best spent drinking from a coconut while you float in the calm, clear waters.

Staying at Secret Beach:

There is only one place to stay the night at Secret Beach called Secret Beach Cabanas. They have quaint apartments cabins that allow visitors to stay to witness the stunning Belizean sunsets.

Planning a trip to San Pedro?

Check out the TOP Things to do on the island

What to pack when going to Secret Beach, Belize

  • Any of your beach essentials
    • sunscreen, hat/s, sunglasses, towels, etc

Here are three reef-safe sunscreens I would recommend using:

All Good Sport Sunscreen

Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen

Amavara Mineral Sunscreen

  • Extra phone batteries and charging ports

  • Cash for the bar

  • Your own snacks if you’re vegetarian or vegan. There didn’t seem to be many vegetarian or vegan options

Fun Fact about Secret Beach in Belize

From the water of Secret Beach you can see an island owned by Leonardo DiCaprio called Blackadore Caye. He is intending to build a complete eco-friendly resort on the island. You can read more about it here and here.

If you’re planning on visiting Secret Beach in Belize you will not be disappointed. The long and bumpy drive will be well worth it once you dip your toes into the warm and clear waters of San Pedro’s best beach (at least it’s the best in my opinion).

If you do go, pretty please let me know! I would love to hear about how much you love it… and see if these directions helped ease the confusing process of getting there.

Happy sustainable travels!

xo Laura

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Japanese Culture

Japanese Culture

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Easy to remember & good to know information about Japanese Culture if you are visiting for the first time (or need a refresher!)

Japanese culture is known around the world as a fascinating, unique and deeply historic culture. Tokyo, Japan’s capital city is where tradition meets innovation. You can be standing next to a thousand year old temple with a modern day skyscraper in front of you.  With the 2020 Olympics just around the corner, Japanese culture and traditions are being highlighted for the world to see. Yet, it was only a few hundred years ago that the country was isolated from the rest of the world.  This allowed the famous culture in Japan to become such a fascinating lifestyle to learn about and experience.

I have only spent a few days in Tokyo, Japan (it was also my first time in Asia) and continue to cherish the beautiful and serene lifestyle. If you are visiting Tokyo, Japan, here are things to know about Tokyo culture to help you feel at home and be prepared for your travels there:

[Traveling to Tokyo for the first time?  Check out my First Timers Guide to Tokyo, Japan]

Basics of Japanese Culture

Japanese Food Culture

1) Japanese food is created with pride and excitement

The Japanese take great pride and excitement in the food they prepare, with many things being made with the craftsmanship that modern day ‘hipsters’ seemingly adore (however, if we’re being honest, the Western view of local & craftsmanship has shifted away from the typically adored mass production of food in the last few years- maybe the Japanese are onto something…)

    2) The Japanese diet consists mainly of rice, fresh seafood and pickled vegetables

    This healthy diet is considered to be one of the reasons the Japanese live such long lives.

    3) Japanese food is so much more than sushi

    Sushi has become a Westernized speciality for celebratory nights out or a self indulgent treat. It is also the food that Japan has become most well known for. However, Japanese diets go beyond sushi.  While fresh seafood is a huge part of their typical diet, vegetarians (like myself) can find plenty of tofu, buckwheat noodles and seasonal vegetables to enjoy.

    4) Chopsticks are the equivalent to a fork and knife.

    And just like we have etiquette with utensils in the United States, there is etiquette for using chopsticks.

    Never point with your chopsticks

    Don’t place your chopsticks in a bowl of rice or pass food around with them

      5) Soy sauce should be used lightly

      Japanese cook with pride & dousing your rice in soy sauce translates to the chef and restaurant owner that you were served poorly made food

      6) No need to tip

      The Japanese are extremely kind (more on this below) and will provide excellent service regardless, so there is no cultural norm to tip. In fact, most will try to awkwardly give you back your tip if you leave one

      7) Don’t pour your own drinks

      Your host/ess or friend should make sure your glass is always full, and you should do the same for them- Kanpai! (cheers)

      8) Vending machines are everywhere and are filled with unique beverages

      Drinks on the go is a lifestyle here, however the use of plastic doesn’t make this a sustainable tactic

      9) Speaking of drinks, tea is the drink of choice in Japan

      Most restaurants will supply you with hot green tea, just like you would receive a glass of water in western culture. And there are many delicious teas to try besides green tea.

      Japanese People & Mannerisms

      10) Japanese people are very friendly and kind. They will notice if you are a visitor and are helpful if you become lost or confused. You will be in awe with how polite, well mannered and quiet the Japanese are

      Some say that this mentality stems from the strong history of the samurai (discipline, respect honor), which transcended through time to modern society

      11) PDA is a no-no

      It’s improper to show public displays of affection

      12) Instead of pointing with your finger, show with your hand, palm facing up

      13) Greet with a bow

      A bow is the equivalent to a handshake. You don’t need to bow to everyone who bows to you (otherwise you would bow to every restaurant employee you come across and spend your entire day bent over), you can instead do a polite head nod. However, many Japanese are becoming accustomed to shaking hands

      Bows are silent ways of saying thank you, greeting or saying farewell and for apologizing

        Overall Japanese Culture

        14) Public spaces are quite quiet. You won’t see many loud or rambunctious Japanese in public spaces, however the nightlife can be a completely different story

        15) Overall, the city of Tokyo is very safe.

        We never felt uncomfortable or that there were pickpockets

        16) Try not to stare

        I’m not sure if it’s the sales person in me, but I found myself giving direct eye contact to way too many people when visiting Japan. I noticed I was doing it because they do not do the same. I came to find out that this a cultural norm.  Which can be quite convenient since Tokyo is…

          17) The maps for public transportation can be quite confusing to a visitor.  Don’t let it frighten you, because if you look lost someone will most likely stop to help you.  At one point during our trip, a gentleman stopped on his way to work to help walk us outside of the metro station and take us to the correct station (did I mention the Japanese are some of the kindest people?)

          Great piece of advice: don’t just stop inside of a train station if you are lost or confused. Move to the side, out of the way, as there are so many people filtering through them

          I put together an awesome guide for how to use Tokyo’s Public Transportation, check it out here!

            18) The city of Tokyo is spotlessly clean

            There aren’t many public trash cans, yet the streets are all immaculate (I once saw a man shining a fire hydrant… that’s cleanliness level that Monica Gellar would be proud of). This means that the cities cleanliness is partly self maintained by its people. Respect the country and its people by not littering.

              Interesting Cultural facts about Japan

              19) There’s a difference between a shrine and temple

              A shrine is for the Shinto religion, whereas a temple is for the Buddhist religion.  You can tell the difference upon your entrance as a shrine will have water for those entering to wash their hands and mouth in order to cleanse the soul before entering, and a temple will most likely require shoes to be removed prior to entering.

              20) You will see evidence of the country’s religious heritage everywhere you look.  The Japanese are very proud of it, although for each person religion is typically a private affair

              21) In fact, many Japanese gardens are based on Buddhism, but the two religions mutually exist together

                Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                Follow Along!

                Start your own blog today!

                Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

                Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

                As with any country there are different cultural segments among the people – for Japan it would be Shinto, Buddhism, Ryukyukan and Ainu – yet the overall sense of respect and honor transcend throughout its entirety. Japan is a country where traditions that go back for thousands of years are respected, and fast paced evolution with fashion trends, architecture and technology are sought after simultaneously. There is debate among which stands to support Japan moving forward – the traditions or advancements – but that’s a discussion for another time, maybe one we can have during or after the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

                  [If you’re planning a trip to Japan, then don’t miss this Weekend Itinerary for Tokyo, Japan.  No trip to Japan is complete without experiencing this incredible city]

                  Things Japan is known for:

                  -sushi

                  -geishas

                  -samurais

                  -iekbana (flower arranging)

                  -origami

                  -kabuki (theatre)

                  -sumo wrestling

                  -anime

                  -tea ceremonies

                  -capsule hotels

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                    Review of Travelcon

                    Review of Travelcon

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                    An honest review of travel bloggings newest annual conference, Travelcon

                    Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves on Amazon. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view our disclosure page for additional details.

                    It feels like the past year (2018-2019) has been THE year for selling online courses. The amount of times I have signed up for a free webinar to gain some insight that turned into a 45 minute session describing how desperate we all must be and how wealthy we’ll all of a sudden become by spending $15,000 on this epicly life changing course… would amount to too many hours wasted.  So I get it, spending your hard earned money on a course or a conference can create a hesitating, stomach churning ‘I need to be able to pay rent this month’ effect.

                    This review of Travelcon 2018 will provide clarity from an honest, unbiased opinion from someone (me!) who attended the conference.

                    Travelcon is a travel blogger conference that is gearing up for its second run. Below are details about what the conference entailed last year, what I found to be the pros and cons, and how it could benefit travel bloggers who consider themselves beginners, intermediate or advanced at their craft. Lastly, we’ll cover what to expect for 2019’s Travelcon Conference.

                    What is Travelcon?

                            Travelcon is a travel bloggers conference put on by the well-known & successful travel blogger, Nomadic Matt (aka Matthew Kepnes). It connects travel bloggers, writers, photographers, videographers in all stages of their blogging journey from beginner to advanced with industry leaders, brands and well-established bloggers. The primary goal of Travelcon stands alone in its pursuit to help others learn how to develop a profitable & successful travel blog (because not every travel blog may be pursuing profits, success is accepted in many different forms).

                    What does Travelcon include?

                    2018: Travelcon’s flagship conference was held in 2018 in Austin, Texas. The conference was three full days of inspiring keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.

                    • Each day began & ended with an inspiring and unique keynote speaker, many of which were individuals whose books I had read and/or heard about, such as Ryan Holiday & Rolf Potts.
                    • Breakout sessions from morning through the afternoon, lasting one hour each, and varying in topic and level (beginner, intermediate & advanced), which were run by industry leaders in their niche
                    • A Blogger Marketplace: an exhibition room where PR firms, brands, tourism boards and more were set up to showcase themselves. Attendees were able to walk around & speak to each table within the blogger marketplace. It was great for networking & discovering what their qualifications are for partnering with a travel blogger
                    • Evening events: each evening there was a scheduled outing of some kind, with each one being different and located at Austin city favorites. One evening was an open bar night, the other a light buffet with a drink ticket. *Lunches were provided each day, two of which were at the hotel venue, the other a local favorite food truck
                    • Afternoon Meetup: one afternoon was sectioned off for group meetups. Attendees had the option to choose which meetup group to attend based on their niche; Superstar Bloggers, Female travel, Solo travel, etc. Each was held at a different Austin bar.
                    • Discounted travel related outings the day before the conference started. I flew in too late in the day to attend these, so I cannot speak to the quality of them but seemed like a fun option to explore the city & meet attendees prior to the conference starting.

                    Pros & Cons of Travelcon 2018

                    Pros of attending Travelcon:

                    • The entire conference was very well organized: I was very impressed with the organizational flow as it was its first year. I’ve attended work related conferences for years & always had an opinion on how it could be better organized, so this was the first time I was very happy with a conference schedule
                    • Everyone was friendly & welcoming!  With the exception of a handful of people, almost everyone I met or introduced myself to was so friendly, welcoming and warm. No matter your success level, the people in attendance were excited to be there.
                    • Networking opportunities: from the daily sessions to the evening events, it was pretty easy to network and make connections with fellow travel lovers, those already successful in the industry and outside of it
                    • Plenty of opportunities to meet the decision makers behind destination & travel brands
                    • Variety of session topics & placement levels: the variety was amazing & each session provided great insight on current best practices & trends
                    • Three FULL days where attendees can select their own schedule: this goes along with variety, but it was awesome being able to choose which sessions to attend based on what I wanted/needed to learn about
                    • Not every speaker was in the travel industry: this provided us even greater insight & allowed listeners to think outside of the box
                    • The Travelcon App: they created an app for the conference, and it was stellar. You could access the schedule and they used it to send out updates, in addition to other tools within it
                    • Not once did I feel sold to: each session was solely aiming to help educate & support us, as opposed to self promotion which I’ve experienced elsewhere. Very refreshing!
                    • Meal options were vegetarian friendly! I’ll be the first to admit I’m a picky vegetarian eater, and I was happily surprised when I found out that the lunches provided had MULTIPLE vegetarian options

                    Cons of attending Travelcon:

                    • It was difficult to reserve spaces in the writing & photography workshops as they filled up so quickly — within minutes of opening them — however they did their best to alleviate this by adding a few additional workshops, it appears that they’ve added more of these in 2019’s schedule
                    • Not every speaker was in the travel industry *yes, I’m using this in both pros & cons, so some had difficulty understanding the issues travel bloggers face when questions were asked

                    There were at least five sessions during each hour, so attendees have to choose among quite a few highly desirable sessions. The solution to this is that you can purchase a Virtual Pass, so that you can watch the sessions (for one year after the event!) in your own free time. I purchased a Virtual Pass for that reason & found value in being able to watch the sessions afterwards.

                    Get your Travelcon Virtual Pass Here!

                    Does Travelcon benefit beginner, intermediate or advanced travel bloggers?

                            In my opinion, Travelcon can benefit travel bloggers in any stage of their success. No matter how developed a travel blogger you are, attending Travelcon will leave you feeling inspired & ready to crush it, plus the networking opportunities are great if you’re up for putting yourself out there.

                    Beginners: I attended Travelcon after starting my blog only eight months prior, and really not spending much time on it. As a beginner travel blogger, attending Travelcon will open your eyes to what is available to you when you begin to succeed, as well as what skills you need to learn to get there. Don’t worry about not fitting in, or not knowing enough, or not feeling ‘ready’!

                           Intermediate: Travelcon is a wonderful place to develop your skills.  If you’ve been blogging for sometime Travelcon is a great conference to fill in any gaps and push yourself to network.

                            Advanced: The successful travel bloggers I spoke to left saying that they enjoyed Travelcon as well.  Networking feels key to an advanced blogger, and is a great place to showcase your personal brand to new people & find further inspiration

                    What to expect from Travelcon 2019:

                            This year Travelcon will be located in a different city, Boston, Massachusetts, and still focus on its main goal of educating travel bloggers. The 2019 schedule is now live and appears to be similarly set up as the 2018 schedule (yay! Because last years schedule flowed very well). Travelcons 2019 attendees can expect even more amazing keynote speakers like author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson, popular female travel blogger,  Kiersten Rich, of The Blonde Abroad and the freaking founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheelers! There appears to be more breakout sessions and registration required workshops, as well as additional panel discussions.  The schedule also sneakily added in there a surprise musical act during one of the evening parties… fingers crossed Matt has enough pull to have the Backstreet Boys perform for us travelers.

                            Understanding that the price tag of attending this conference may seem a bit high for your budget.  In comparison to my experience of others attempting to sell me online courses upwards of $8,000-$15,000, this was the most beneficial item I spent my time & money on in regards to my travel blog in 2018 (besides purchasing my domain & hosting services, haha).  If you’re still hesitant to take the leap, then I would definitely suggest you purchase a virtual pass for the conference.  You can purchase it right here.  Using this link will help Blue Eyed Compass to continue to share helpful & carefully curated content.

                    Here’s to hoping for an international Travelcon in the future!

                    Still not convinced? You can firm up your skills with one of Nomadic Matt’s travel blogger courses.  I can speak highly of the blogging & photography course. Plus if you use this link, you’ll help Blue Eyed Compass’s goals to share with others how to travel sustainably.

                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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                    Start your own blog today!

                    Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

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                    Seven Unexpected things to do in Mexico City

                    Seven Unexpected things to do in Mexico City

                    travel

                    As the most populated city in the Western Hemisphere, Mexico City is filled with so much to experience (and to eat!).  While there are sights that can’t be missed, if you have time on your side or are eager to do something out of the ordinary, then check out this list of seven unexpected things to do in Mexico City:

                    Seven Unexpected Things to do in Mexico City

                    1. Visit pyramids that aren’t in Egpyt

                    If the ruins at Zocalo aren’t enough for you, check out the Mesoamerican pyramids of Teotihuacan.  It was once one of the largest cities in the world and is preserved quite well.

                    2. Walk around their many city parks

                    I applaud the city planners of the early 19th century, for they purposefully set aside public land for greenery throughout the city.  Ranging from epicly large, like Chapultepec, to quaint and quick, parks are where the locals are resting and are a great place for people watching.

                    3. Find the most unique street art throughout the neighborhoods of La Condesa and Roma

                    Just walk around and you’ll easily be able to spot unique pieces throughout these neighborhoods.  It’s the also the area I would recommend staying too

                    [ Related: The Best Neighborhoods to stay in Mexico City ]

                    4. Ride the canals at Xochimilco

                    Experience a more party like canal ride than you would in Venice, Italy at the canals of Xochilmilco.  Enjoy floating restaurants and drinks while listening to live music in this unique place.

                    5. Explore ancient ruins

                    Similar to Rome, Italy, Mexico City has ancient ruins in the heart of their historic center.  Walk around the Zocalo to witness architecture from the Aztecs of Pre-Columbian days to Catholic churches built in the early 1600’s.

                    6. Enjoy amazingly cheap & delicious vegan food

                    Mexico City is known for their food scene.  You can find any cuisine you’d like here, but you’d be remiss to visit and not eat Mexican food.  What’s best is that there is a plethora of vegan food places that will have your mouth watering long after you’ve visited

                    Related: Check out the vegan food tour and my sister and I did together ]

                    7. Dog watch

                    Mexico City’s Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods are very dog friendly (meaning many people are now adopting dogs as pets, not necessarily that a lot of establishments allow dogs inside), so on any given weekday you can spot groups of 20+ dogs hanging with their walker or being trained in the public parks.

                    No matter what you decide to do, there are plenty of unexpected things to do in Mexico City, so be sure to arrive eager and hungry.

                    Read more to prepare for your trip to Mexico City here!

                    Mexico City Travel Guide

                    Mexico City Travel Advice

                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                    Follow Along!

                    Start your own blog today!

                    Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

                    Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

                    Follow Along