Today is Blue Monday. For those who don't know what Blue Monday is, it's the third Monday in January after the holidays; or the most depressing day of the year. It's the day when all the Christmas baking runs out, all the presents start gathering dust, all the lights have been taken down and you come to the revelation that you are in the same unhappy situation you were one month ago, only this time there's no Santa Claus at the end of the month.
I was hit with the Blue Monday blues once too, a few years ago. I had been fired from one job I really enjoyed, and started working for somebody else who I just wasn't compatible with. There was a mounting personality conflict between me and my employer and after one Friday night phone call telling me I had to come back to the office and do more work, I decided I had had enough. I finished my project, filed my reports and left a note on my employer's desk that simply said "I quit". The following Monday I changed my phone number, blocked him on social media and walked away from that situation forever. A week later I had a new job at a place I liked, and life carried on.
So, when I say Blue Monday sucks, I mean it.
A lot of travel bloggers will tell you to quit your job and travel the world, and although that's a wonderful idea, it is best to do it after some legitimate planning and saving, not just commit a Blue Monday Rage like me. Instead, look at your saved holidays, look at your finances and then quit your job. The day after you walk out, there's going to be some major fallout, so why not just leave the country for a few months and go on one of these incredible G Adventures tours? Let the people you used to work with deal with the fallout; you have a life to live, so don't make it one full of regrets.
The Great South American Journey - Quito to Fortaleza
Duration: 73 Days
Cost: $10,439 ($7,192.510 USD)
This is the longest tour G Adventures has, and if you leave right now, you will get back on March 31st, assuming you'll want to come back. Your tour starts in Quito, Ecuador, not far from the beautifully mysterious Amazon rainforest. The next day you travel into the forest to the "jungle city of Tena" by truck. Your journey will take you to seven countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay) and you will visit the incredible Inca Trail and the legendary Machu Picchu. In fact, you'll see Machu Picchu on Day 29, which is just under half way through the trip.
On this trip you will go hiking, paragliding, horseback riding, surfing, camping, beaching, wine drinking, local food tasting, bicycling, dinosaur track exploring, 4x4ing, sandboarding, mountain biking, tango dancing and well... 23 days more worth of stuff to do!
You will also be visiting Valley of the Moon, the Witches' Market, Tiahuanaco Ruins, Warmiwañusca, (better known as Dead Woman's Pass) and the ruins of Phuyupatamarca, "the town above the clouds", where you have the option of spending the night.
You can look at the whole itinerary if you'd like, but it's a lot to take in! 73 days is a long time after all!
Ultimate Africa - Cape Town to Nairobi
Duration: 54 Days
Cost: $7,999 ($5,508.86 USD)
Worried about the jungle and those mysterious insects and some untouched tribes? Swap out the greenery for sand ... and realize that that's not true at all because Africa is actually really green! On this trip you'll be visiting eight countries (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) which range from deserts to lush forest communities. You'll start your trip in Cape Town, and the next day head up to Cederberg (if you like mountains, you'll love this place!) where you will be camping on a farm. The next day you'll drive past miles of tea plantations and go on a canoe trip down the scenic Orange River. You'll see Dune 45 – a sand dune so impressive it has a name, get survival skills from the Bushman of Kalahari Desert, take a flight over the stunning Okavango, camp under ancient baobab trees, travel to the "Lake of Stars," Lake Malawi... oh, and you'll get to see Mt. Kilimanjaro!
This tour includes activities such as hiking, diving, snorkelling, white water rafting, birding (that's bird watching), and 43 nights of camping! You'll also be spending time with hippos, chimpanzees and gorillas near the end of the trip (kind of like those people you used to work with back home, in case you missed them)!
You will also be visiting the Damaraland Living Museum to learn more about the lost culture of the Damara people, and you'll climbing down the edge of a crater!
The whole itinerary is online, but if you want less traveling time and more time in Zanzibar, G recommends booking their 'Zanzibar Express' upgrade which includes a flight and an extra night in Zanzibar.
Indian Odyssey by Rail – Delhi to Delhi
Duration: 54 Days
Cost: $5,699 ($3,924.86 USD)
Before you read any further, I want you to look back at that price. $5,699 for 54 days! That's $105 Canadian, or $72.70 American, a day! That's unbelievable!
Are you a lover of history, culture and a variety of rich religious traditions? This is the trip for you! Your trip starts in Delhi, the capitol of India, which is a five thousand years old! To help wrap your head around this, Delhi is twice as old as Rome, give or take a couple hundred years.
Your first few days will take you north of Delhi to the border of Pakistan where you can witness the India-Pakistan Wagah border ceremony, a friendly military rivalry ceremony between the two countries. Return to Delhi a few days later and begin your cross India journey that will take you to Jewish synagogues, McLeod Ganj (the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, and home to the Dalai Lama), the Taj Mahal (and, if time permits, Baby Taj) and Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds. You'll also visit Mumbai, home to 20 million people.
Unlike the previous tours, this tour has no camping. Instead most of your nights will be spent in hotels, with the remainders being spent on the train. This is also a lot less physically demanding tour as it is more sightseeing and relaxing, not hiking, climbing, diving and swimming, but you will still be doing a lot of walking. (Why not challenge your ex coworkers to a Fitbit Challenge while on this trip and destroy them? It'll feel awesome, trust me!)
You will also be visiting cactus nurseries, coffee plantations and what seems like a beach every other day. What an awesome trip for those looking to see one of the oldest civilizations in the world?
Feel free to check out the itinerary. My knowledge of India isn't as good as I wish it was, so you'll probably recognize some of the places on the tour that I didn't!
London to Tehran by Rail – London to Tehran
Duration: 40 Days
Cost: $6,999 ($4,816.10 USD)
With supercheap flights from Canada and the US to Europe (we're talking $159 - $360 flights here, guys!), this trip is very possible for you right now. This trip takes you to 10 different countries (Austria, Bulgaria, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Romania, Switzerland, and Turkey), making it the most countries you'll visit on any of the tours I listed here!
Your trip starts in London, where you hop on the world famous Eurostar and travel under the English Channel to Paris for a few days. From there you'll head to Lausanne, a small Swiss town where you'll spend the night on your way to Zermatt, a mountain village. The next day you'll be trekking through the Alps on the Glacier Express where you will see meadows, rushing streams, bridges, villages and massive mountains. Your time in Europe will cover a half dozen castles, many small European villages, Sofia's electric Ladies' Market and Theatre of Ancient Philippopolis, to name just some of the gorgeous locations. Then you'll come to Istanbul (not Constantinople!), the capitol of Turkey. You'll then spend eight days in Turkey before going to the gem of this whole journey: Tehran, Iran!
With tensions between the United States and Iran finally easing off and becoming friendly, Iran is becoming one of the hottest destinations on the planet – not to mention Isfahan, one of the cities you'll be visiting, is one of the finest Islamic cities in the world!
This trip is easy for those looking for a less physical journey with the website even saying it's "not too challenging" for most people. It's a slower paced tour, spending an average of four days in each country. G says history-lovers, culture-fanatics, and people-watchers alike won't want this adventure to end.
Their literary is online, and it breaks down in much further detail what castles, gates, temples and churches you'll be seeing on this incredible trip! You'll definitely want to check it out!
Best of the USA Tour – San Francisco to San Francisco
Duration: 44 Days
Price: $5,354 ($3,684.16 USD)
When I found this tour the first time, I emailed G and asked them if they'd sponsor me to take it and help promote it. This incredible 44 day journey visits almost 20 states, spanning from California to Texas to Tennessee to New York to Wyoming. This tour is a great way to see America from coast to coast and experience the beauty that is the United States of America.
(For anybody wondering, G Adventures said no, they wouldn't let me take it for free. Oh well!)
You begin in the beautiful San Francisco. G Adventures recommends coming a few days earlier and exploring this city, as there is a lot to see and not much time here before you head out to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where you will be spending your second night. Then you head to Yosemite, Tioga Pass, Death Valley and then bustling Las Vegas! From there you will hop on the famous Route 66 and head to the Grand Canyon, where you will be spending the night (!!). You will be visiting Roswell in New Mexico, the French Quarter in New Orleans, and the musical melting pot that is Memphis, Tennessee. You'll also visit Washington DC, New York City and Yellowstone National Park.
This tour is heavily camping based, and you will also be spending a lot of times outdoors by hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking. You'll probably also be doing some gambling in Vegas, which might pay for your whole trip, if you're lucky!
Blue Monday might suck, but 2016 doesn't have to! There are a lot of tours available, and a lot of places to see. If 2015 had you in a rut, don't repeat it! Here's to Blue Monday, and the motivation to make 2016 the best year yet!
(Editor's Note: I'm not affiliated with G Adventures in any way. I just thought these were cool tours.)
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Ever since visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg last summer, I've wanted to include more about First Nations culture on my blog. Being of European descent, I often feel I am culturally blind to First Nations culture, and I noticed a severe lack of it in my writing. In fact, I feel in past articles a lot of my focus has been on European history in the New World, with only a side note regarding First Nations history. Now, I am trying for there to be more equal representation in my blog.
To finish off my #BucketlistAB series, I thought this article would be the perfect place to flip the tables, and instead focus on First Nations culture, with a European side note. Sometimes it is impossible to talk about one without the other, but I tried to focus more on the First Nations people and their story in this article. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
The following is a guest article by Sally Elbassir, the owner and food taster of Passport and Plates, originally titled "The Tapas, Taverns and History of Madrid: A Food Tour". Be sure to drop by her blog for culinary treats from around the world!
I've always been a foodie. Long before the term "foodie" ever existed, I was that kid who was always eager to try something new.
Things haven't changed much in the last couple of decades. My palate has expanded, and I discovered that my dream job does exist; it just happens to be occupied by Anthony Bourdain. Now I satisfy my foodie obsession by writing on Yelp, and on my blog... there's plenty more where that came from.