Paradise in Little Corn: Yemaya Island Hideaway Review

Allison Green lounging in a cabana in little corn island

Little Corn Island is a special place, unlike any other place I’ve been to before.

On a tiny island of fewer than 2,000 people, it doesn’t take long to start feeling at home. Nearly 50 miles from the Nicaraguan mainland, without a single car, you’ll breathe air so fresh and see water so blue the world feels like a dream you’re lucky to have.

And that dream gets taken up a notch at the most luxurious lodging on Little Corn – Yemaya Island Hideaway.

Rooms

My cabana at Yemaya was spacious and airy, with a gorgeous seafront view. The decor was peaceful yet understated – with that sea view, there’s no need for flashiness!

Each cabana has a terrace with amazing views of the blue, blue sea. I couldn’t help but spend hours relaxing there and reading eBooks each day. Any guide to the Corn Islands will mention this famous strip of beach — it’s the place to be during the day on Little Corn.

As someone who tries to travel more sustainably, I really appreciated the steps Yemaya is making to reducing waste. Hotels are often big offenders when it comes to single-use plastic waste — but not Yemaya.

Rather than offering plastic water bottles, they had reusable glass bottles of ice cold filtered water available in the mini-fridge. There were no plastic bottles for the complimentary toiletries, either – they came in refillable ceramic containers.

And we need to talk about this bathroom! The shower had the perfect water pressure and actually having reliable hot water again was a revelation. Maybe those sound like they should be a given at such a nice hotel, but after weeks of cold trickles masquerading as showers, I was in absolute heaven. The plants and the skylight streaming in natural light were lovely touches as well.

Check prices, availability, and room details here.

Grounds

Yemaya has an on-site spa offering a variety of facials, massages, and other treatments. I didn’t partake, but I’m sure it’d be a heavenly experience if your budget affords it. I did, however, take full advantage of their jungle yoga studio!

They have mats, blankets, blocks, and other yoga accessories available for free use. You can also request classes taught by certified yoga teachers if you’d rather practice with an instructor’s guidance.

The restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, and the beach bar is available for lunch. The breakfasts I ate at Yemaya were some of the best I’ve had in Nicaragua, and reasonably priced at about $8-10. They offer a much better value than the dinner, which was delicious but on the expensive side, with limited options.

The beach bar, on the other hand… now I could (and did) eat those lobster tacos every day!

Activities

Yemaya offers complimentary stand-up paddleboard rental and kayaks for rent from the beach bar, and snorkel gear is available to borrow from the reception. I tried to paddleboard for the first time, but the waves were a bit much that day so it ended up being more of a sit-down paddleboard than stand-up. Still quite fun, though!

The snorkeling, on the other hand, was much more successful. Just off the beach, there are some amazing coral reefs with colorful fish swimming everywhere!

If you’re looking for a more adventurous day out, Yemaya also offers snorkeling trips further out from the beach on their sailboat, deep sea fishing, and trips to the Pearl Keys. They can also arrange diving with one of the local dive shops.

Final Thoughts

What impressed me most of all about Yemaya was not just their beautiful grounds or the comfortable rooms, but the staff’s helpfulness and generosity.

When I spilled a drink on my laptop and it shut down completely, the staff brought me a container with what must have been ten pounds of rice to save it (and save it they did!). They also prepared me some ginger tea in advance of my boat trip back to Big Corn as I get seasick, which was a huge help.

Yemaya is definitely not a budget stay, but it offers excellent value to those who want a unique luxury experience.

In short, there’s really no place quite like Little Corn, and Yemaya’s beaches are the best on the island.

For those who’d like a taste of luxury but can’t afford the cost of renting a cabana, I highly recommend making a day trip to Yemaya and eating breakfast or lunch there to have a taste of their hospitality and their delicious food!

Click here to check out prices, availability, photos, and more details.

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Little Corn Island, Nicaragua is a Caribbean paradise, and Yemaya is by far the best place to enjoy all it has to offer.

Note: I was provided with two nights of accommodations at Yemaya Island Hideaway in order to review it. All opinions shared are honest and sincere.

13 Sustainable Travel Hacks For a Greener World

I know we all want to see the world – but in order for there to be a world to see, we have to keep thinking about our impact on the planet.

While there are some things we simply can’t avoid, like carbon emissions from air and bus travel (though you can buy carbon offsets), there are other sustainable travel choices we can make that dramatically reduce our impact on the globe.

Sustainable travel will allow you to have a world to enjoy

Fly less

Yeah, I know that EasyJet or RyanAir flight is cheap, but for the love of God’s green (for so long) earth, don’t zigzag your way through Europe by plane.

Planes are great if you have a short amount of time and need to get from point A to point B. But once you’ve flown somewhere, try to rely on ground transport as much as possible.

Check out BlaBlaCar if in Western Europe, trains and buses in Eastern Europe, and buses and minibuses in Southeast Asia, Central and South America. You’ll be helping make sustainable travel a reality and you’ll also be seeing the world the way the locals do.

Travel slower

Beyond taking fewer fights, slow travel is sustainable travel. It will help save you a bundle and save the earth some massive carbon output.

You’ll also get the benefit of knowing a place more intimately beyond just the tourist hot spots.

Slow travel can mean just taking in fewer destinations, but it can also mean taking longer to travel between destinations, such as cycle touring — when the journey becomes part of the destination.

Take a SteriPen or filtered water bottle with you

This can save tons and tons of plastic from landfill. I was carrying a Steripen, which I loved, until I left it behind in a hostel… whoops. I’ll replace it when I get back to the U.S. For now, I buy a larger water bottle (about 1 liter) and refill it at various hostels or restaurants.

I replace it about once a week to prevent bacterial growth. It’s not perfect, but it wastes way less than buying brand new bottles for the 2 to 3 liters of water I drink daily. This is one of the easiest changes you can make to make sustainable travel happen on a daily basis.

However, you can also use a water bottle with a filter like GRAYL or Lifestraw, or something with UV light like the Steripen which filters undrinkable tap water.

Take shorter, cooler showers

I’ve always been a bit of a cold water shower wuss but here in Nicaragua hot water is pretty rare and reserved for the upper echelon of travelers, namely: not me.

Since I squeal like bacon in a frying pan when the water hits me, I take short, quick showers when I only have access to cold water, and I’ve taken that lesson with me to try to take shorter showers at home, too.

While I miss luxuriating in a warm shower, remember that about 90% of energy use in all water-based appliances like showers, dishwashers, and washing machines comes from heating the water. Plus you already know that saving water is dope!

Sustainable travel will keep water sources for future generations to enjoy

Bring a small, packable tote bag or two

Keep one in each of the bags that you’re likely to use and use it whenever you’re at a grocery store or market. You may get a couple of weird looks as this isn’t exactly common worldwide yet, but it’s worth it.

Plastic grocery bags are some of the worst offenders when it comes to polluting our streets and oceans, and their impact on marine wildlife is horrible.

It’s really quite a simple sustainable travel alternative to bring a small reusable tote bag. They also make a great day bag when you want to carry around a little more stuff with you

Use your grocery bags for good

If you’ve forgotten your packable tote bag (it’s okay! It happens to me) or a stern Albanian cashier wouldn’t let you leave without a bag (it’s okay! It happens to me), you’ll end up with plastic grocery bags.

Don’t just throw them out, where they’ll likely blow into the wind and into an ocean. Use them to:

  • protect dirty shoes from the rest of your luggage
  • stash dirty clothes in until laundry day
  • keep in your bag and pick up some extra litter the next time you’re seeing somewhere you wish was a little more pristine, like a beach or a hikeEncourage sustainable travel by wasting less resources

Make the plunge (I promise this isn’t a gross pun — no wait it is) into a menstrual cup

I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now…. but in case I haven’t lost you, let me rhapsodize about how amazing the menstrual cup is for female travelers.

You basically never have to worry about leaking. If you’re the lucky owner of a uterus, I’m sure you’ve felt that moment of panic at some point or another when you wonder if your tampon isn’t about to betray you and make you have a Carrie moment.

As an added bonus, it keeps tampons and pads out of landfill. The average woman uses almost 250 tampons per year – that’s a whole hell of a lot of landfill. The impact is worse if you consider the plastic applicators that popular brands like Tampax Pearl often use.

Pack with care

Don’t pack more than you need, as trust me, you’ll likely get frustrated and throw it out when trying to Tetris-cram your backpack the morning before a bus ride. Bring less than you think you’ll need.

If you really miss something, there’s a really good chance you’ll be able to find it somewhere out there in the world. Yay globalization?

Read more on how I traveled for half a year, from summertime in the Sahara to winter in Denmark, carry-on only!

Embrace toiletries with less packaging

One of my favorite toiletries brands is LUSH because of their commitment to reducing waste and swearing off testing on animals. Their solid shampoo is a great purchase as it’s completely plastic free!

Just buy one reusable metal tin and the shampoo bar of your choice (I’m obsessed with Seanik for my fine, limp hair). Their conditioner, moisturizer, soap, and body wash all also come in packaging-free options for the sustainable traveler.

There are several reasons to go for solid toiletries – reducing plastic use, freeing up room in your liquid allotment if traveling carry-on only, and also just reducing the chances of leaks and spills along the way.

Bring a foldable Tupperware

This is great at reducing food waste, whether you eat out at restaurants or prefer to cook in the hostel.

Many restaurants use non-eco-friendly means of packaging up leftover food, such as aluminum foil, Styrofoam, or plastic containers — none of which you’ll likely ever use again.

A foldable silicone Tupperware won’t take up much space when not in use, and it’s great for saving extra food.

Bring a sustainable travel cutlery set set

Skip the plastic forks and sporks and bring your own travel cutlery set with you. I got this tip from Legal Nomads‘ advice on how to eat street food more safely, but it also has the added benefit of reducing plastic waste.

Buy secondhand or higher quality firsthand clothing

Thrift stores aren’t always easy to find overseas, but when they are and you need to replenish your wardrobe, consider perusing these stores rather than buying cheap clothing.

Everything you buy from a cheap street vendor means they’ll order a replacement, increasing the demand for crappily made mass-produced clothing that’s often made by people living in horrific conditions.

If I buy something firsthand, I usually pay a little extra for something well-made that I think will last longer.

Buy fewer souvenirs

I truly believe photos are the best souvenirs of a trip. But if you absolutely must buy souvenirs or risk the eternal disappointment of your grandmother, try to find ones made of naturally renewable, local resources.

Local ceramics and jewelry are far better choices than Made in China products. Also consider buying edible souvenirs, like chocolates or coffee!

13 simple, sustainable travel hacks to help make your travels green and eco-friendly!

The Glutton’s Guide to the 9 Best Cuisines in the World

When my friend asked me “if you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?,” I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean to send me into an existential tailspin. Buuut she did, and this is my way of recovering. I give you the result of much late-night contemplation brought on by acute psychological trauma.

So, I present you the best cuisines in the world (according to me)

KOREAN

Korean food is one of the world's best cuisines

Truth: I spent my 27th birthday at an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ in Oakland and I cried tears of joy (and smoke irritation). And while Korea is rightfully famous for its BBQ, I love it all.

From the haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) to the kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew with tofu and pork) to the endless variety of ban chan (sweet, spicy, and pickled side dishes), Korean food just may be my #1. But don’t make me commit to it unless you want to see me meltdown. If you like spicy food, Korean is a definite contender for one of the best cuisines in the world.

 

ETHIOPIAN

Another one of the best cuisines in the world - Ethiopian
Image credit to Rod Waddington

Two point for food I can eat with my hands. Ten points for being able to eat the plate. For the uninitiated, Ethiopian food is eaten with injera, a spongy fermented flatbread (I know I don’t make that sound good, but I swear it is!).

Various stews of the vegan and carnivorous varieties are ladled atop the injera, spices and flavors soaking into it. You eat using only your hands, picking up bites of the stews with bits of fresh injera on the side. Faves? Kitfo (spicy beef tartar), awaze tibs (lamb stew), doro wat (chicken and egg curry), and misr wat (spicy red lentil stew).

BURMESE

Burmese food is one of the world's best foods
Image credit Waguang, Wikimedia Commons.

Four words: fermented tea leaf salad. Actually, five words: FERMENTED TEA LEAF SALAD NOW. I had no idea it was possible to be this in love with a salad, especially since I will unabashedly admit that french fries are my favorite food, but dang. The way I feel when I look at a tea leaf salad is pretty much the way moms look at their newborn babies, #allthefeels.

Burmese food doesn’t end at just salads (though it could and I’d be happy, and I’m not normally an eating-salad-while-laughing kind of girl, probably because I’m not a stock photography model). Their curries are also excellent, though they tend to be on the oily side, and Shan noodles are ridiculously amazing as well. Ah, to be back in Burma!

SICHUAN

Sichuan is one of the worlds best cuisines
Image credit to Alpha, Flickr.

Sichuan food is easily a contender for the top best cuisine in the world — but I’m obsessed with spicy food. A peppercorn that literally numbs your mouth so you can eat spicier food than you normally would? Yes, yes, yes. I take it back, French fries — la zi ji, aka Chongqing chicken is my favorite food on Earth. GAUNTLET THROWN.

Picking through an almost-literal minefield of chilis to excavate pepper-coated nuggets of deep-fried chickeny goodness? Let me stop before this gets sexual. Dan dan mien (spicy noodles topped with rice vinegar, peppercorns, and ground pork), mapo tofu (soft tofu with a spicy sauce and minced pork), hui guo rou (spicy smoky pork belly and leeks)…. okay, this definitely got sexual.

VIETNAMESE

 

Image credit to Rex Roof, Flickr

I’ve considering writing down pho as my primary care doctor because I see it basically every time anything in my body goes wrong. But when I went to Vietnam in 2015, I learned that there was so much more to Vietnamese food than pho. Bun bo hue is pho’s bigger, more badass cousin. Like, if soup could ride a motorcycle while wearing Wayfarers, that’d basically be bun bo hue: spicy beef broth, brisket, pork, vermicelli, all the herbs, and (if you don’t look too white), a congealed blood cake.

I did a street food tour in Hanoi and it was the best $20 I’ve ever spent. Unfortunately, I stuffed my face too fast and had no premonitions of my future career as a travel blogger so I didn’t photograph any of it, but my buddy Janet took the same street food tour and was far more diligent! Oh man, do I love Vietnamese street snacks, like banh cuon (steamed rice paper filled with pork and mushrooms), banh xeo (a turmeric-colored rice crepe stuffed with bean sprouts and pork and served with all the herbs and a dipping sauce), cha gio (spring rolls)…. Vietnam, take me back!

JAPANESE

best cuisines in the world - japanese is up there!

Yes, sushi is incredible, and in Japan you can have the most melt-in-your-mouth sushi cut to perfection for 100 yen apiece (86 cents). Sorry, I’ll wait until you get back from booking your ticket…… Ok, cool, welcome back. As ridiculously fresh and delicious as Japanese sushi is, there’s so much more to Japanese cuisine than just that. The Japanese take doing things to perfection so seriously that there’s actually a word for it, shokunin. We translate it to mean “master” or “artisan,” but in reality, it’s more complex:

The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people.  This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.” -Tasio Odate

The foodie result of this is that even the simplest dishes, like zaru soba (cold soba noodles with a simple dashi broth) are revelatory. Other favorites include curry tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet with curry and rice), snack food in Osaka like okonomiyaki (cabbage and everything but the kitchen sink served in pancake form, then topped with enough condiments to embarrass even an American) and takoyaki (fried balls of octopus and batter topped with all the condiments and bonito flakes), shoyu ramen (you better recognize), and karaage (Japanese fried chicken).

THAI

delicious thai is one of the world's best countries for food
Image credit T.Tseng, Flickr.

Forget yellow chicken curry. I got no time for #basicbitchnonsense when it comes to Thai food. Let’s get down to the real deal, my two favorite kinds of Thai food, Northern and Isaan, both very different. Isaan Thai food may very well be the spiciest food on Earth. Som tam, a shredded green papaya salad, is so good and often so hot it makes even my tongue of steel weep.

Laab moo (spicy diced pork salad with tons of herbs) is equally unforgiving — I may or may not have been openly weeping at Somtum Der in NYC while still shoveling bites of it in my mouth — and equally delicious. Northern Thai is less spicy but no less flavorful. Khao soi (a Burmese-influenced curry soup with noodles, chicken, crunchy shallots, pickled mustard greens, and all the aromatics) and sai oua (lemongrass flavored pork sausages) are two loves. With such regional diversity, Thai food is certainly one of the world’s best cuisines!

SOUTH INDIAN

Image credit to Steve, WikiMedia Commons

Now, I’m not only saying South Indian because one of my most treasured and longest-lasting friendship hinges on it. I’m also absolutely obsessed with the cuisine, one of the world’s most delicious. Y’know how Catholics think that Jesus like, turned himself into a wafer cracker? Well, they were close: he’s actually a dosa.

A paper-thin, physics-defyingly large fermented rice crepe stuffed with masala-spiced potatoes or other goodies. South Indian food is almost exclusively vegetarian but you’ll never miss the meat with goodies like sambar (lentil stew used for dipping), idly (steamed savory rice cakes), vada (lentil fritters), uttapam (like a thicker dosa), and the ubiquitous coconut chutney.

MEXICAN

Image credit William Neuheisel, Wikimedia Commons.

I know after listing all these exotic, highly specific cuisines you may be thinking, really? The inspiration behind Chipotle, the fast food chain that seems to have the single-handed mission of spreading E. coli throughout America? But guys, Mexican food is so much more than burritos. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a burrito anywhere in Mexico.

Mexico is about tacos al pastor (pork cooked on a spit similar to gyros flavored with pineapple and achiote and smothered in cilantro and onions). Mexico is about Oaxacan mole negro, a dish so complex and flavorful that it often involves over 20 ingredients and 24 hours to make. Mexico is about cochinita pibil, possibly the greatest pork dish of all time (spoken by someone who’s eaten enough pork that I could quite possibly burst into flames if I ever stepped foot into a synagogue or mosque).

Note: All rights to photos belong to their respective owners and are used via a Creative Commons license. 

What’s your favorite cuisine of all time?

Backpacking and the Art of Losing

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; 
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster. 

When my entire life fits into a backpack, I notice everything that disappears. A phone charger left behind one hungover morning, a razor left in a hostel shower, a favorite pair of headphones tucked between the seats of a bus and forgotten in a hurry. Each loss is acutely felt. At first, I get annoyed with myself, cursing myself for another five or ten unnecessary dollars spent, thinking of how that could buy me another beachside beer or roadside dinner. Then I give in and accept the transitory nature of things. After all, the audacity of thinking we can own things is the root of all suffering.

 

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Soon, I accept the transitory nature of time, too. I get hopelessly lost and amble through a city with no street signs, backpack straps cutting into my shoulders. I wait at a bus station that I’m not sure is a bus station but I’m told is a bus station. One time I find myself on a bus stopped on a Montenegrin highway for five hours for no discernible reason. At times like these, I feel a flash of anger materialize as a red flush in my cheeks. And then I breathe out, cool and blue.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster. 

Half the names I’m told leave my mind before I’ve even had a chance to make an effort to remember them. People’s stories will run together: this one (what’s Canada’s name again?) quit their job to work on an organic farm in Thailand, or was it become a yoga teacher in India, or an English teacher in Korea? I answer the same three questions over and over again. I recite the list of places I’ve been over and over again. I have no idea where I’m going, over and over again. I’m from California, over and over again. Next. Each time, the conversation means a little less than before. But I still feel a wash of warmth come over me each time, the pleasant buzz of a temporary connection.

 

besalu girona

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or 
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

But eventually all the losing gets to me. I miss the most mundane of things: the way my own duvet feels against bare skin, how easily my stove lights, how easy it is to buy groceries in my own language. Sometimes I find myself standing outside of a KFC staring in, basking in the red glow, imagining ordering a bucket of chicken thighs. I haven’t eaten there in five or maybe ten years but it still feels so damn familiar, like a distant relative’s home.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Then there’s the gut punch feeling when you leave a place or a person you weren’t ready to leave. Even though I have no onward ticket, no external thing pushing me forward, my own feet move me forward, often in spite of myself. After all, what if the next place is better? I can always go back.

 

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture 
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

And then there’s the suspicion you begin to have that home is wherever you aren’t. There’s the paradox that even though you’re seeing more of the world than any sane person can ever hope to see, you’re still acutely aware of how much you’ll never experience. There’s the realization that even though you may tell yourself — “I can always go back” —  you can’t always do that. Because your obsession with not losing this one chance you have to live will once again draw you inexorably towards the unseen.

Note: Poem by Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”

101 Simple Ways to Save Money for Travel

I’m gonna be brutally honest: it’s like some bloggers who publish guides on how to save money for travel aren’t even trying.

They tell you to cancel your landline as if that’s even a thing these days. They say, “stop ordering $5 coffees every day!” as if that’s something everyone does on the regular and that’s the only thing holding you back from travel. “5 x 365 is almost $2,000, enough to travel for four months in Vietnam!”

They parrot some ridiculously blown-up figure at you, assuming it’s a necessary expense that every “real person” faces, when in reality, only a small percentage of people spend that amount on coffee to begin with. And, let’s be real — those people aren’t the kind of people who really need to scrimp and save money to travel to begin with.

Well, guess what? I saved up enough money to quit my job to travel the world for the next four years or so, and I didn’t give up coffee or my social life to do it. I wasn’t an investment banker. No rich relative died and left me a fortune (though I’m candid that I’ve been afforded plenty of opportunity and privilege).

Nope. I was just a public school teacher. What did I do? I tracked my income and spendings, prioritized my spendings, identified non-negotiables and things I could do without, developed alternate income streams, and was a little bit creative when it came to planning things with my friends. 

And the fact I’m most proud of? I did this all while living, traveling as much as I could, and working full-time as a teacher living in one of the most expensive cities in the world: NYC.

Not including my untapped retirement fund, I was able to save money for travel — approximately $50,000 over the course of five somewhat frugal years — while still affording to travel to 17 countries in that time alone! Here’s how:

Read more

Solo Traveling with Depression: Learning When to Say “Enough”

I have a theory that solo travel accelerates everything. Without other human constants to stabilize you, you experience everything more starkly: both more harshly and more beautifully. Your challenges are more Sisyphean; your successes, more revelatory. For someone like me, who has long battled mental illness, traveling with depression makes this even more true.

My four and a half months of constant travel – three of them solo – accelerated the pace of my life on an epic scale. I did things I’d never dreamed I’d do. I climbed the highest mountain in Montenegro, rode camels through the Sahara Desert, hitchhiked through Albania, and had conversations in six different languages with varying degrees of success.

Years ago, If you told me I'd have summitted a mountain, I'd have laughed in your face.
Years ago, if you told me I’d have summited a 8,000 foot mountain, I’d have laughed in your face.

I met people from all walks of life. From the happiest octogenarian in Trebinje, Bosnia who poured rakija after rakija for me to the lady in Berat, Albania who led me hand-in-hand up a cliff’s edge to the castle, I had so many touching moments with incredible, unforgettable people.

Even the shitty people I met along the way taught me something about myself: about my resilience and stubbornness, about my dogged belief that despite the bad apples, the world is still filled with good people, and that it’s worth fighting for.

I’ve always been a fairly resilient person, but after months of non-stop travel, my resilience began to flag as the familiar dark cloud of depression has appeared on the horizon. There were days in Rome where, after hours of motivating myself, I left the hostel only to walk around in a daze, feeling like I might fall asleep on my own two feet just while navigating the city.

I stayed up until 5 am, slept until 1, then berated myself for having wasted the day as the sun loomed low on the horizon just as I was leaving for the first time that day. I burst into tears when I accidentally skipped someone in line at an Indonesian takeaway restaurant in Amsterdam. When Trump was elected, I couldn’t even leave the Copenhagen apartment I was staying in, because I was sobbing for hours.

On my last day of my trip, I couldn't even go out and explore Copenhagen.
On my last day of my trip, I couldn’t even go out and explore this gorgeous city.

But here, to speak of my present, I need to go back to my past.

I was first put on antidepressants at age 18, after a nervous breakdown in my first year of college that nearly ended in me dropping out of NYU and moving home. I’d alternate between nights so full of anxiety it felt like my bed was full of needles and I couldn’t sleep, and depression so gripping that even getting juice from the bodega 30 meters from my apartment felt impossible.

After seeking treatment, life started to get better. Once my antidepressant began working, anxiety seemed to be my main challenge. It’s such a physical, visceral sensation: that choking feeling, the coiling stomach, the alienation you feel from your own brain.

But depression is so much harder to suss out. How many days does a bad mood need to last for it to be depression? How many times a day can I smile before I can’t quantify that as a depressed day? How many hours a day do I need to sleep restlessly to qualify as a depressed person? Anxiety is clear: the physicality obvious, painfully so. But depression is murky, questionable, to the point where even you question how much you deserve help.

Sometimes, even days when you find yourself smiling make you feel like a fake.
The most infuriating thing about depression is the way it makes you question your own lived experience.

Years later, having rebounded well from this episode, I made the decision to go off antidepressants rather abruptly and without the assistance of medical professionals, which — as anyone who knows anything will tell you — is stupid as fuck.

I remember standing on the train platform of the J train in Bushwick, Brooklyn, as I got my first brain zap. It felt as if someone opened an enormous door in the middle of a wind tunnel, opening a portal between my ears. The world — all of it — felt like it passed through my two eardrums. And I was scared. What the fuck had I been on that made me feel like this?

I redoubled my commitment to stay off of antidepressants. After all – something that makes me feel like that can’t possibly be good for me. The brain zaps gradually decreased, and for a time, I felt quite okay. When things started to go awry yet again about a year later, I placed the blame squarely on external sources. My dating life sucked. My roommate was terrible. The job I just started was incredibly stressful.

For years, I dealt with it, thinking it was part of life. For four long years, I took nothing but the occasional anti-anxiety pill when my reality felt too much to bear and the only thing I could do to calm myself was lie down, face-down, and breathe.

I thought that quitting my job and getting out of the city that I had grown to hate would fix me. I thought that what I was suffering was purely situational, that traveling would cure my anxiety and depression. So, I planned my exit strategy. I sold all my stuff, gave notice to my job, and set off to travel, like all the blogs told me I should.

For a while, I truly was living my dream. Anxiety and depression were dots on the horizon. I met every challenge with moxie and determination and improvised wildly. I chatted with every stranger, challenged myself, and threw myself into this new life. And god, was I really happy.

Traveling is what I want to be doing. Travel animates me and endlessly fascinates me. It brings me in touch with my best and truest self. Routine is what gets me down. Routine is what kills me. But the last month or so, I was stuck traveling with depression, which is barely traveling at all. It’s survival mode. I’d make deals with myself to urge myself out of the room, escaping only for a few blocks before the world felt oppressive and heavy and I’d retreat to my room or dorm. That? That wasn’t travel.

When the daily act of feeding myself - literally my favorite thing in the world - felt like a burden, I knew I needed a change.
When the daily act of feeding myself – literally my favorite thing in the world – felt like a burden, I knew I needed a change.

It’s not travel that causes depression for me. I was still suffering when I was a teacher in NYC. Except I was too busy with paperwork, with calming and trying to teach disabled kids, with the day-in-day-out bullshit of the job. When surrounded by chaos, it was so easy to forget that I was depressed – I was too busy focusing on everyone else because I had to.

Not to sound dramatic, but with the kind of kids I worked with – the kind who’d dart out of the doors and off into the city if you batted an eye the wrong way – lives were literally on the line. It was only when I’d go home and sink into bed and feel myself give in to the void – that’s when I would I remember I was suffering.

But when depression rears its head and you’re traveling solo, you have no distractions. You have time. You are your own company. You feel every feeling acutely. When you are traveling alone, your mood becomes your traveling companions. And let me tell you… anxiety and depression make terrible travel buddies.

Finally, I said – enough. I found a cheap flight back to California a month early – thank you Norwegian Air for being absurdly and improbably cheap and for having direct flights to Oakland. So now I’m back home, working with a psychiatrist to help me get my medications sorted, to get healthy routines in place so I can stay healthy and fit while I travel, and treat myself with the self-love that I always tell others to have – but often forget for myself.

Luckily I have this adorable pup at my side to get me through.
Luckily I have this adorable pup at my side to get me through.

I know that I’ll be able to beat this. I’m a phoenix. I’ve emerged from worse.

At heart, even in the throes of depression, I am filled with a deep, immense, abiding love for myself. I know I have value. I know I still have lessons to teach and even more to learn. I know that I can still bring joy to others, and that others have put smiles on my face so wide they’ve hurt. I have more stories I want to tell. These fingers are just getting started.

“I am a series of small victories and huge defeats and I am as amazed as any other that I have gotten from here to there.” – Charles Bukowski

Urbex in Bosnia: The Sarajevo Bobsled Track, the Mostar Sniper Tower, & More

Bosnia bears its battle scars. The war that ripped through the country in the 1990s is still very much present in its architecture.

In an odd way, these reminders of the war have become a tourist attraction of sorts, from the Sniper Tower in Mostar to the abandoned Olympic bobsled track in Sarajevo and everything in between.

While I don’t wish to paint Bosnia as a place only of sadness and grieving, I think it’s important to understand the history of the country and pay respects to the victims of the recent wars should you choose to visit this wonderful country.

However, that is to say that Bosnia & Herzegovina does make a fantastic destination for dark tourism, but of course, you should visit respectfully and with an open attitude to learning about the history rather than a purely macabre interest.

That said, Bosnia is more than just a war-torn country. It is a place of unrivaled natural beauty and history. It has everything from a tiny patch of coastline to incredible mountains to gorgeous rivers and waterfalls.

But as a history geek slash habitual melancholic, I feel compelled to write up this guide to understanding the modern-day ruins of Bosnia, so you can understand the challenges the country has faced and what it has to recover from.

Especially in light of the vitriol leveled towards refugees worldwide – particularly Muslim refugees – I think it’s important to remember and pay respects to the human costs of hatred, war, and violence. As the poignant graffiti outside the Mostar sniper tower reminds us: “we are all living under the same sky”.

sniper-tower-graffiti

Mostar

Mostar is a wonderful city worth spending several days in, but it’s quite small – you can easily see the highlights of Mostar in a day.

If you’re into urban exploration, here are two destinations that should be on your list.

The Sniper Tower

The Sniper Tower is a former bank in the center of Mostar. As Yugoslavia broke apart, the wounds of dormant ethnic tensions reopened, causing widespread violence between ethnic groups in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serbs and Croats used the bank as a sniper tower to shoot their Muslim neighbors, the Bosniaks, during the war, mostly in 1993-1994

sniper-tower-view

If you’re on the Muslim side of the river (same side as the bus station), you’ll need to cross the Old Bridge and walk through the Old Town. Once you get to the main road (Bulevar) you’ll turn right and follow it for about 10 minutes until you hit the Spanish Square (Spanski Trg).

mostar-sniper-tower-outside

You’ll be confronted with a menacing looking abandoned triangular building. It’s hard to believe that less than thirty years ago, it was a fully functional bank. There’s graffiti all along the outside, and it’ll look like there’s no way in.

Technically speaking, there isn’t. Walk around the back of the building, where there’s a courtyard and a lot of apartment windows. It’s a little easier to enter here by first scaling one of the smaller cement blocks then pulling yourself up and over the ledge. Be careful when dropping down onto the ground floor, as there is broken glass everywhere.

sniper-tower-mostar-silhouettesniper-tower-1

more-sniper-tower-mostar

Being inside the tower is haunting. Glass, trash, and 2-liter plastic bottles of cheap beer are everywhere. It’s clear that people have turned this building into something else entirely.

For some, it’s a home for the down and out; for others, a place to get drunk and scribble on the walls; for others, it’s a bit like rubbernecking a traffic accident.

mostar sniper tower

sniper-tower-4

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If you climb to the top (which I recommend doing, as it is a moving experience), please be incredibly careful. There are absolutely no walls anywhere near the stairs – one wrong move and you could be seriously injured or even killed.

This is really not an experience for those who are afraid of heights. I never thought I was until I got there. There’s also a small gap in the middle of the staircase that you could easily fall into and break your leg. Really, don’t be stupid and go here after one too many Sarajevsko beers or rakijas. Keep your wits about you.

sniper-tower-mostar-9

view-from-sniper-tower-mostar

Another note: please be respectful of this place. I went with a girl from my hostel and she was giggling, cursing, and taking selfies all over the building, and it made me sick to my stomach.

As we left the tower, kids from some sort of international exchange program were traipsing up their stairs, swathed in flags of their home countries, also loud and giggly. I even saw a German girl in a fucking dirndl and German flag as if it were Oktoberfest. Dude, people died here. If you visit, treat it with respect.

A Walk Down Maršala Tita

If you come into Mostar by bus, you will likely walk down Maršala Tita, the main road on the Bosniak side of the river. As you walk down the street, you’ll see bombed out buildings where life – if not human life – has begun to take root.

Tree branches tumble out of blown-out windows. Signs warn against entering the buildings. I’d listen to these warnings. The Bosnian government is almost certainly not caring for these buildings and there’s no guaranteeing the structural integrity of any of these buildings.

fullsizerender-49

As you’re walking from the bus station towards the Old Town, you’ll likely pass the old mosque and the Muslim graveyard. Note that nearly every single gravestone you’ll see was erected in 1993. Seeing this mass of gravestones with lives lost too young was one of most heartbreaking moments of my entire trip.

mostar-graveyard

Sarajevo

The abandoned Olympic bobsled track

Sarajevo hosted the winter games on behalf of Yugoslavia in 1984. Less than 10 years later, the city would be under siege on all sides by Serbian forces. The siege would last 44 months – nearly four years – and claim the lives of tens of thousands.

sarajevo olympic bobsled track

What happened in Sarajevo was a little different than Mostar. Bosniaks, Croats, and yes, Serbs, were all trapped together – everyone who refused to leave the city they loved and grew up in was stuck. As such, the city feels a little more integrated and cohesive than Mostar, a city where I felt a faint but live wire of tension coursing through.

sarajevo olympic bobsled track abandoned

sarajevo olympic bobsled track abandoned

sarajevo olympic bobsled track abandoned

It’s sad to see this place so truly abandoned. What was once a place of national pride, patriotism, hope, and celebration of human endurance is now just a mostly-forgotten chute of concrete in the middle of the forest. At the same time, I find some sort of comfort to the way the forest is reclaiming this bobsled track. Moss is growing over the cement on the sides of the track, as if saying, in time, nature will cover all the blemishes men have left behind.

To get to the Olympic bobsled, it’s best to take a cab or a tour — unless the weather is nice and you fancy a 2 or 2.5 hour hike. I took a semi-private tour (with one other traveler) of the bobsled and the Tunnel of Hope for 25 euros organized by my hostel.

Tunnel of Hope

During the siege of Sarajevo, thousands of Bosnians dug a tunnel in order to obtain necessary items: food, arms, and of course – this being Eastern Europe – cigarettes. It’s located near the Sarajevo airport, and you’ll need to take a cab or a guided tour in order to reach it. The tunnel connected the besieged city of Sarajevo with Bosnian-held territory on the other side of the airport. Thousands of tons of goods entered the city this way, and it also allowed hundreds of thousands of Bosnians to flee the city. Because the tunnel goes directly under the airport, there’s not much of it that you’re allowed to traverse. However, you can tour a portion of the original tunnel as well as see videos and other information about its construction at the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum.

tunnel-of-hope

Sarajevo Roses

A macabre art installation of sorts, Sarajevo Roses are the literal scars that the ground bears from mortar shell explosions. Artists painted these wounds blood red to symbolize and memorialize the life lost in that spot. You can see one nearby Susan Sontag Square and another at the Tunnel of Hope museum, and there are many more scattered throughout the city. On average, 330 shells exploded in Sarajevo per day over their nearly 4-year-long siege, leading to these scars all over the city. They are slowly being replaced over time. I suppose part of this is the healing process, but another part of me hopes that they keep them to honor the lives lost by people who were too proud of their beautiful city to leave it and lost their lives defending and living in the place they loved. Remembering is the least we can do.

a sarajevo rose

 A few notes to understand:

– Bosnian refers to any citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosniaks are an ethnic group within Bosnia, distinct from Serbs, Croats, and other much smaller minority groups (Romani, Albanian, and Montenegrin) who also live in Bosnia. Bosniaks are traditionally Muslim. Bosniaks were victims of genocide by Serbian forces during the wars of the early 1990s. For far more eloquent and detailed information than I can relay on this blog post, please please please go to the Gallery 11/07/95 in downtown Sarajevo to learn what happened to the victims of Srebrenica and other sites spread throughout Bosnia.

– The country is officially known as Bosnia and Herzegovina but I’ve called it Bosnia for short. Bosnia and Herzegovina are two historical regions that form one federation. There is also a separate semi-autonomous region of Bosnia, called Republika Srpska, which is majority Serb. If that wasn’t confusing enough, there are three presidents and 13 prime ministers, officially making Bosnia the most confusingly-governed nation in the world.

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From the sniper tower in Mostar to the abandoned Olympic bobsled in Sarajevo, Bosnia is full of fascinating modern day ruins.

How I Work From Anywhere and Travel Indefinitely Using Upwork

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut with limited vacation time and a bucket list a mile long, I’ve got news for you. It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are countless ways to travel and live abroad — from working holiday visas to teaching English online. For many, freelancing is the ultimate goal, as it gives you total location independence. However, one of the most difficult things about becoming a freelancer is finding work. Luckily, there are digital freelance agencies out there who will make that a little easier for you.

I personally use Upwork to find editing, proofreading, and copywriting gigs. I’ll admit, some months are better than others, but in general, this makes it possible for me to finance long-term travel around the world and only withdraw minimal savings. I worked as a teacher for five years and lived frugally, so I have money stashed away to spend as well.

There are so many cheap destinations around the world to live or travel in that are perfect for the digital nomad. It’s quite possible to live or in many parts of the world off of an average of $30 a day, or $900 a month. In some parts, especially Southeast Asia, you can live on even half of that!

RELATED: 40 Cheapest Countries to Travel to on $30 a Day or Less

So, how much do I work? On average, I work about 10 hours per week from anywhere in the world I want. I no longer seek new clients, as this is definitely a big time investment. Since I love my current clients and my workload is really manageable, I haven’t felt the need to scale up, especially since this blog still takes a lot of time.

One day, my goal is to be able to monetize this travel blog, but this keeps me covered in the meantime. I also have savings which supplement my earnings, so in the event I don’t cover all my costs through freelancing, I have a cushion.

RELATED: How I Saved $50,000 to Travel the World Full-Time

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32 of the Quirkiest, Most Colorful Cities in the World

There’s nothing I like more than traveling around colorful cities and neighborhoods teeming with bright hues. I’m usually already wide-eyed and thrilled to be traveling somewhere new. Add bursts of color in unexpected places and I suddenly find myself inspired and dare I say, even a little giddy?pin

Since I’m always adding to my ridiculously never-ending list of places I want to travel, I figured the best people to ask were travel bloggers. The enthusiastic response surprised even me – they contributed 30 different colorful cities and neighborhoods around the world, from Ireland to South Africa to the US to Argentina. Here they are below – followed by two of my personal favorites, including one that’s sure to surprise you!

Penang, Malaysia

colorful cities in the world

Ria of Life in Big Tent

Penang Island (Malaysia) and especially George Town is rich with history, colorful details, and inspiring places. It’s a place where your walk around can be turned into never-ending discovery trail. For example, this colorful buildings complex I found by accident in Jalan Kek Chuan. I was just walking around and searching for the murals (Penang is also famous for the street art projects). There is not much story behind these buildings, only that the street name was given after Lim Kek Chuan, the co-founder and first President of the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce, who owned 17 shop houses along this road in the 20th century. And the new picturesque look is a result of building restoration. Now in this place known as Kau Keng Choo, you can find cozy restaurants, coffee shops, and other stores. Inspired? Check out how to get to Penang Island.

Strasbourg, France

most colorful cities in the world

Paula McInerney of Contented Traveller

Strasbourg is in the breathtaking Alsace region of France and its ties with Germany are palpable. This city is both medieval and modern in some very interesting ways. The houses are your typical fairy tale houses of many different colors. Strasbourg is a series of twisting and turning cobble-stoned alleys with crooked half-timbered houses, with geraniums cascading from the window boxes. It is hard to go past the magnificence of the Gothic cathedral that dominates the city. Here in the Cathedral Square, The Notre Dame reins supreme, surrounded by more stunning houses and an amazing old gothic house that is now the restaurant, Maison Kammerzell. You will see street artists and performers and tourists aplenty. People come here for a reason – the city is beautiful.

Bo Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa

colorful cities around the world

Erika of Erika’s Travels

Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, the brightly colored neighborhood of Bo Kaap is home the majority of Cape Town’s Malayan population. Many of the residents of Bo Kaap are descendants of slaves from Southeast Asia, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. These slaves were brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s and have established a community that is as culturally diverse as it is colorful. The population of Bo Kaap is predominantly Muslim, which is reflected in the many minarets scattered throughout the neighborhood. 

The bright colors of Bo Kaap were introduced to the neighborhood after Apartheid in the 1990s. The vibrant hues intended to bring joy to the residents of the neighborhood during the celebration of Eid and have since evolved into a cornerstone of the area’s identity. The Bo Kaap neighborhood sits at the foot of Signal Hill. The town’s mountainous backdrop creates a dramatic backdrop to the beautiful rows of multi-colored houses.

Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa

cheapest countries around the world

Natasha of The World Pursuit

Many people see the bright buildings that make up Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, but just right down the street is another vibrant neighborhood – Woodstock! Woodstock was known for its high crime and drugs a few years back, but is now going through a bit of urban revival and gentrification. Everywhere you look there are bright buildings, street art, fantastic coffee shops, and trendy restaurants. A day tour around Woodstock should definitely not be missed while in Cape Town.

Annecy, France

cheapest countries around the world
Janet of Journalist on the Run

When planning my current trip across Europe, there was only one destination I knew I had to pass through. Annecy, a small town in France right next to the Swiss border, has always fascinated me. To be found on every European bucket list out there, this picturesque town is one of the most colorful you will ever visit. There are hanging baskets and flowers lining every street, all the buildings are painted in a variety of pastel colors, and the town’s location on the beautiful Lake Annecy simply adds to its charm.

Notting Hill, London, England

most colorful cities in the world


Natasha of World Inside My Pocket

In West London, you can find the adorable little district of Notting Hill. Notting Hill is quite a famous neighborhood, known for being the setting of the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts blockbuster and also the location of the crazy, annual Notting Hill Carnival. Notting Hill Carnival originated from race riots in the 1960s, when the district was far from the affluent area that it is now (an apartment in Notting Hill nowadays will set you back £3,246 per month on average).

In the center of Notting Hill you can find Portobello Road, home to Portobello Market, which just celebrated its 150th birthday! Portobello Road is undeniably one of the most photogenic spots in London, boasting long miles of beautiful terraced streets of pastel-colored houses. At the market, which open each and every day of the week, you can buy all sorts of things: from antique trinkets and furniture to edgy vintage clothes and accessories that will have all your friends back home jealous. I love visiting the market and buying a whole load homemade jewelry before kicking back and relaxing at one of the many old traditional London pubs that are dotted down the street. My favorite thing about Notting Hill, though, is just how damned pretty it is!

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Jon of Jon is Travelling

The historic medina of Chefchaouen, with its hashish hustlers and sea of blue lanes and houses, is unlike anywhere else in the world. This little city set among the rocky Rif Mountains has had a history almost as colorful as its buildings. Chefchaouen was founded in the 15th century as a fort designed to thwart Portuguese invaders and was also ruled over by the Spanish for half a century in the 1900s. Today it’s a popular tourist spot, largely thanks to its proximity to Tangier (and therefore Europe) as well as its unique monochromatic color scheme.

Burano, Italy

Mia of Travel with Mia

Burano, Italy is a small, charming island located in the Venetian Lagoon just 40 minutes by ferry from Venice. The houses in this colorful fishing town are almost identical on the interior, but the exteriors set them apart with their unique hues. According to legend, fishermen painted their houses in vibrant colors so they could find them in the early morning fog. However, some say it was to help the men find their way home after a drunken night at the pub! Which do you believe?

Legends withstanding or not, the color scheme in Burano is so carefully planned that if anyone wants to change the color of their home they have to ask the government for permission. Once permission is granted, the homeowner will be given a list of  acceptable colors to choose from. No matter how the colors are chosen, Burano is stunning and no trip to Venice, or Northern Italy for that matter, would be complete with popping by for a visit.

Havana, Cuba

Laura of Savored Journeys

The brightly-colored colonial architecture that can be found all over Havana, Cuba, is one of my favorite things about the city. It’s one of the things that brings out the vibrant and tropical feel of Havana, even in a time when many of Havana’s older Art Deco-style buildings are beginning to crumble.

The art deco movement was alive and well in Havana in the early 1900s when the city was flourishing, which led to many unique elements to the architecture that still remains today in Havana, including the use of bright colors, like florescent yellow, green and blue. Like other Caribbean cities, Havana’s colorful facades truly define its character.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Dean of La Vida Global

The sleepy city of Oaxaca represents everything that is amazing about Mexico. Typically colorful buildings line the streets, creating a festive spirit all year round. Cobbled and paved streets all seem to lead to magnificent Spanish churches, the town square or buzzing markets, while street vendors sell everything from fried grasshoppers to world class chocolate.

Oaxaca is the food and creative heart of Mexico, with almost all of the traditional souvenirs sold throughout the country made in the tiny surrounding villages. And any town with a whole street dedicated to chocolate is worth a visit as well!

Somewhat less colorful but equally as impressive are the Monte Alban ruins high in the mountains overlooking Oaxaca. The icing on the cake, as it were, in making Oaxaca the place that gives you the best of Mexico in one small and bright package.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Ian of Escaping Expectation

Italy is known for many iconic landmarks, but Cinque Terre is easily one of its most enchanting. Located along the Italian Riviera, it’s a collection of five (cinque) seaside fishing villages that look like they came straight from a fairy tale – each unique in its own way. The vibrant, pastel-colored houses and vineyards are built into the side of the rocky coastline.

A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cinque Terre has become a popular tourist destination. With no cars in sight, you’re able to peacefully explore the villages, appreciate the architecture, and enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery. A 12km hiking trail connects the villages and offers unrivaled views of the Riviera.

Cinque Terre has it all: beautiful beaches, traditional Italian culture, great local food (don’t forget to try the pesto!) and wine, several hiking trails, and great scenery. After a few days – it’s hard to leave!

La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Dean of La Vida Global

With a history almost as colorful as the houses and shops that make up this suburb of Buenos Aires, La Boca is like the proverbial car accident. A place that is so obviously geared toward the tourist, and yet you can’t help but keep looking.

Regarded as the home of the tango and a place that was born as a home to poor migrants, La Boca is now on the hitlist of almost everyone who visits the Argentine capital. When you get past the tour sellers, the tango dancers asking for payment for a photo and the waiters doing the hard sell to get you to eat in their restaurant, you will discover an experience that is quite hypnotic.

A kaleidoscope of color, faded in many places, beckons you to look a little deeper. Small side alleys draw you in with quirky artwork and souvenir stalls. And towering over the area like a guardian is the impressive La Bombanera, one of the world’s most famous football stadiums. Just because it is touristy should never mean it is to be avoided. Go to La Boca with the awareness of an adult but the eyes of a child, you will feel as well as see the town.

Zamosc, Poland

Karolina of Karolina Patryk

Zamosc is a small town located in eastern Poland, close to the border with Ukraine. Its old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, called the Padua of the North or the Pearl of Renaissance. It is one of the few well-preserved places like this in Europe.

We absolutely loved it! The tenement houses that surround the Town Square are colorful and picturesque. The monuments that we liked the most are Armenian Houses: green, yellow, red, and blue buildings located right next to the Town Hall.

Zamosc is a hidden gem of Europe, still not many tourists know about it. We are pretty sure it will change soon. A beautiful town like this can’t remain unpopular for too long!

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Gia of Mismatched Passports

Set in the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, Positano is a captivating cliff-side town with pastel-colored houses that cascade down the Mediterranean Sea. This postcard perfect town is not only beautiful from afar. It’s a great place to wander around with its narrow winding lanes and steep staircases that takes you along cozy cafés, charming hotels and fancy restaurants. To end the day, go all the way down by the beach or find a quiet spot uphill to watch the sunset.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Gemma of Two Scots Abroad

Jazz, Bourbon Street, Po’ Boys – there is no denying that New Orleans is a colorful city. But what really make this destination pop is the brightly colored wooden houses in likes of the Marigny neighbourhood. There is no rhyme nor reason to the colors picked to decorate what would be bland brown housing. You’ll see bright blues next to shocking pink and mellow yellows next to turquoise green.

Many of these shotgun houses are occupied by very colorful residents too! It has been suggested that the colors chosen are keeping in line with the annual explosion of color that is Mardi Gras New Orleans! Gawking at the colorful houses is just one of the cool things to do in hot New Orleans!

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

 

Bianca of The Altruistic Traveller

San Cristobal de las Casas is a quaint, colorful town located in a mountainous region of the Mexican state of Chiapas. Home to several indigenous groups who are descendants of the Mayans, the town of San Cristobal is a mix of both past and present. Its historical center consists of beautiful churches built in Spanish colonial times; however, if you walk down the small alleys you’ll find modern cafes serving tapas, chai tea and locally sourced red wine, to complement the cool climate up in the mountains. 
The town is always full of color, whether it’s the painted shopfronts, the flags that line the streets or the colorful traditional wear of the indigenous inhabitants. That color is what has attracted many people to this lovely little town, including a community of hippies, which is why you’ll find hemp clothes and vegan pizza on offer.

Rue Crémieux, Paris, France

Kerri of Beer and Croissants 

I love Paris!  It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. The buildings that are so uniquely French draw me in each time. I could look at their uniform structures with their second and fifth floor wrought iron balconies and the slate colored, flat roofed attics for hours. However, one attribute they decidedly lack is color. In keeping with tradition, all Hausmannian buildings are sandstone colored.  

This is why the wonderful little street of Rue Crémieux stands out and is known as the most colorful street in Paris. Seemingly a world away from Paris, this small cobbled street in the 12th arrondissement is home to some of the cutest houses. Glancing down the street, pastel colors of blue, green yellow and purple will immediately catch your eye. As you walk to get a closer look, the murals of trees look so real that you’d swear they were real plants climbing their way up to the roof. Or you will think you’re surrounded by cats, with both the real and painted variety featuring heavily here. A short walk from Gare de Lyon train station, this once seedy area has now been brought alive with a pop of color.

San Francisco, California

Taylor & Daniel of Travel Outlandish

While the Painted Ladies and the Golden Gate Bridge are San Francisco’s most famous colorful icons, the whole city is filled with unexpected bursts of color. You can discover entire blocks of pastel houses, mismatched garage doors, and hand painted mail boxes. You can wander street art alleys for hours and discover colorful mosaics and parks just about anywhere.

San Francisco can feel more like a cluster of eclectic neighborhoods if you do it right, so ditch the dull downtown and experience all the colorful and unique things to do in San Francisco.

Galway, Ireland

Kathleen of Squidgy Moments

Galway City, no matter the season, no matter the weather, is a charming, warm place to be. What I love most about Galway is that strolling through its cobble-stoned streets is like stepping back in time and this is all aided by its colorful shopfronts and bars.

Even on the wettest of days, Galway just has a buzz about it and I think that’s what captivates all who visit. While there, be sure to stroll among its beautiful, picturesque streets, be sure to enjoy a pint of Guinness and be sure to catch some live, traditional Irish music once the sun goes down.

Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York

Mabes A. of Le Gypsy Soul

Bushwick is one of the most colorful neighborhoods in New York City. Its gentrification started over 3 years ago, and it has changed a lot. The neighborhood has its own vibe. Streets are full of bars, small restaurants, and coffee shops. The Bushwick Collective has decorated the streets with different graffiti over the last years, giving the neighborhood its own identity. 

Girona, Spain

Emily of HappynFull

As you cross the many bridges along the River Onyar, you cannot help but notice the brightly painted facades of the houses lining up and down both sides. Girona, Spain is a must visit if you’re looking for a quaint ancient town (over 2,000 years old!) with narrow medieval alleys and cobblestone roads.

This town is also a must visit for all Game of Thrones fans as you will recognize many of the landmarks in several episodes, including the wide Catedral de Girona.

Barcelona, Spain

Gabriela of Gabriela Here and There

Barcelona is a vibrant city with colorful and unique architecture. Antoni Gaudí is the most famous architect in Barcelona and you will see his work all around the city. Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló and Palau Güell are some of the buildings designed by Gaudí. His work is a combination of vibrant colors and interesting shapes.

Park Güell is known as one of Gaudí’s most colorful works. Inside the park, you can find colorful buildings and sculptures and also admire Gaudí’s amazing tile work. An icon of the park is a colorful mosaic lizard. At the top of the park there is an area where you get an amazing view of the whole city.

Sibiu, Romania

Melanie of Melanie May

Sibiu in Transylvania was an impromptu stop on our way to Bran. The sun was shining and we had been driving for hours but it was just too nice of a day to waste on the road. A quick detour took us into a maze of golden-tinged streets lined with colorful buildings painted in a myriad of green, blue, and orange shades. The edifices were topped with weathered terra cotta colored roofs with attic windows that looked like eyes peeping out from under suspicious brows. We instantly fell for Sibiu’s charms and bathed in its warm glow as we wandered its characterful streets.

Roussillon, France

KJ of Always Travelicious 

Roussillon is a wonderful village in Provence, France. During the 19th century, Roussillon was once a mining town that mined for the ochre pigmentation found in the cliffs nearby.  The same ochre pigmentation was used to paint the village, resulting in the beautiful pinkish-brown color on the houses.

But that’s not the only color you’ll see because you’ll also discover other delightful colors such as blue, green, yellow or red that’s used to accentuate a door or a window panel. Interestingly, one of the old ochre mines known as “Les Sentier Des Ocres” can be visited, which is the best way to understand Roussillon’s history.

Willemstad, Curacao

colorful cities in the world

Carol of Travels with Carol

Willemstad–the capital of Curacao and a UNESCO World Heritage Site–features buildings painted in bright Caribbean colors.  All are constructed with coral stone, sea water, and sea sand, and they are re-painted once every year just before Christmas. 

Guatapé, Colombia

Jen of  Venturists 

If your travel plans include a visit to Medellin, Colombia, then you can’t miss a side trip to whimsical Guatapé. The town has grown into a popular day trip for locals and tourists. There, you can find people taking the zipline over the lake, enjoying food prepared on outdoor grills, or shopping one of the many lakeside hawker stands. Perhaps because it has become a local’s playground is one reason for the brightly colored building adorned with tiles depicting local themes.

The whole places seems to encourage its visitors not to take things too seriously and sit back and enjoy, perhaps with a nice cold michelada (beer mixed with fresh lime juice). But the biggest draw of the area is the unusual “Piedra del Peño” or “Rock of Peñol.” The massive rock seems to jut out of nowhere. There are two stairways installed into the crevice in the rocks center that appear to lace it together. A trip up the 659 steps to the top is well rewarded with a spectacular view of the valley.

Oranjestad, Aruba



Olivia of The Skinny Doll

The slogan for the wonderful multicultural island in the Dutch Antilles just off the coast of Venezuela is “one happy island”… Why are they so happy?! The sun shines all year long… and with the sunshine comes the joy of colur…  that cerulean sky and turquoise sea are the perfect back drop to baby pink bars, sunshine yellow churches perched high on cliffs, and crimson striped lighthouses popping off the clouds.

Natural pools, golden sandy beaches you can just stop at and paddle your toes in the balmy clear sea… but most of all it’s the people: “one happy island” full of happy happy people! I’ll be back there in March to get my happy on!

Poznan, Poland

Sianna of EO Stories

Poznan is a bit off the beaten path when it comes to the most famous Polish cities, but it is a lovely vibrant student city with never-ending energy and a hipster vibe. Located close to both Berlin and Warsaw, Poznan has the modern influence of the German capital and the authentic historic feeling that most Polish cities have. Its main square called Stary Rynek is lined up with colorful houses and is naturally the heart of the city. These buildings were once merchants’ houses and the central square was used as a market for trading.

Today the first floors of the colorful buildings are occupied by traditional restaurants, cafes and bars. They look so similar that you can easily get confused at which corner of the square you are. In the winter the Old Market hosts a Christmas bazaar with lot of people drinking mulled wine or eating the famous Polish ginger bread cookies called “pierniki.”

Hoi An, Vietnam

colorful cities

Korinna of Keza’s Hippie Place

The old town is famous for its cheerful yellow painted walls and the old style wooden doors. I especially enjoyed the sleepy atmosphere before 8am, when most of the shops were still closed and only few tourists populated the road. I recommend a visit to the Reaching Out Teahouse where speaking and hearing impaired people work. It’s a place of peace and tranquillity, which one should treat oneself to after all the rush while traveling. During the night you can delight in the brightly illuminated, colorful lanterns that hang in front of every house. If that is not enough to convince you, the city is famous for its tailored-made cheap evening dresses!

Singapore

Jasmine of Singapore N Beyond

South Bridge Road is a major road in the heart of Chinatown, close to the central region in Singapore. The road, build by convict laborers in the 18th century, links the city center to the harbor and became an important road for the thriving import and export business. Shophouses here are one of the oldest, tracing back to China where early immigrants of Singapore came from. They serve to facilitate trade activities along South Bridge Road, also near the Singapore River.

Over the years, shophouses in Singapore developed varying styles due to multicultural influences. Peranakan decorative tiles, Chinese decorative elements and Art Deco motifs were incorporated into Shanghai, Rococo, Baroque, Malay and Neoclassical styles. Many today are strictly conserved, while others have been converted to cafes, temples, dining spaces, herbal and medicinal shops, offices and even boutique hotels one can check into for a ‘vintage’ lifestyle experience.

Here are two of my personal favorites!

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is known for its candy-colored old colonial houses. Its a tiny, easily walkable center with lovely colorful houses everywhere you go. Everyone from locals to cruise ship tourists can’t help but stop and marvel at these beauties. Old San Juan was originally settled back in 1521… technically, the oldest settlement in the U.S.! Hungry for more? Check out this photo essay of Old San Juan.

Novi Sad, Serbia

When you think of riotously colorful buildings, your mind most likely doesn’t go to former Yugoslavia. Communism and bright colors typically don’t go hand in hand. Well, wrong! Novi Sad, Serbia is like an artist’s palette, filled with rainbow-hued architecture and pastel-painted storefronts. All over the Old Town, you’ll find a gorgeous array of buildings in every color, like these bars and restaurants close to Danube Park. Who knew?

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The most colorful cities in the world to add to your travel bucket list! From well-known Burano and Cape Town to lesser known towns in Translyvania and Poland, get inspired to see more of the world!