My flight to Peru was booked, and my dream of hiking the Inca Trail and walking through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu was finally becoming a reality! But then the reality hit me: I had never done an overnight hike before! What did I pack? How did I get in shape? Was it safe? Should I go alone or with a group?

As excited as I was, I realized I had a lot of planning ahead of me—but every moment of preparation (and, sometimes, extreme anxiety) was all worth it. Here are a few tips and tricks that helped me not only survive the Inca Trail but have the trip of a lifetime!

 

  1. Find an Incredible Tour Group

Before booking my trip, I wasn’t sure how I felt about going with a tour group. I was worried that traveling with a group of strangers would take away from the trip. However, after plenty of research, I decided to go with Active Adventures on the Ultimate Peru Adventure.

Along the trek, our trip leader was incredibly helpful, offering plenty of local tips, and he told us tons of interesting information about the surrounding area. He made us all feel comfortable and safe, even those of us who weren’t used to trekking. I became close friends with my small tour group of ten people and still keep in touch with them.

Picking a quality tour group not only helped take the stress out of planning the travel logistics, but is truly what made my trip such a fabulous experience. (And for all the foodies out there, our chefs along the trek were incredible!)

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Image courtesy of Martin St-Amant under CC BY-SA 3.0

 

  1. Get Fit

On the Inca Trail, we had people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels. However, I highly recommend preparing your body a little and familiarizing yourself with how your body reacts to high altitude. But don’t worry; you don’t need to do an extreme amount of training. To prepare, I went on one or two hikes a week and did plenty of dog walking. My hikes (on average) ranged from 3 to 7 miles.

But no matter how fit you are back home, it’s important to remember that everybody reacts differently to altitude! If you can, try to find a hike in your area that has somewhat of a higher altitude. I only had the opportunity to do one higher altitude hike, and although it wasn’t as high as the Inca Trail, it still gave me an idea of how my body would feel in high altitude.

But don’t stress too much; your guide has helped many people hike the trail and will be there to help you if you start to feel sick (or even if you simply need a little extra motivation!).

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Image courtesy of World Wide Gifts under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

  1. Technology Tools

I am a firm believer in digital detoxing when traveling, but when hiking in the wilderness, it’s comforting to know that I have a few helpful resources at my fingertips if I ever need them. When hiking (or traveling in general), there are always a few resources and apps I like to have on my smartphone to stay safe.

For my Inca Trail trek, I downloaded the MotionX GPS app, which allows GPS navigation minus the need for cell service. Thankfully our guides kept us on track, but it was comforting to know that if anything happened, I had my phone for backup navigation.

 

  1. Visit Your Doctor

Whenever you’re traveling anywhere, it’s important to check in with your doctor first. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to get certain vaccinations or medication. Before visiting your doctor, it’s helpful to do a little bit of your own research, since your doctor may not always be aware of what medications or vaccinations are required for the places you plan to visit. You should definitely make sure to mention to your doctor if you plan to visit the Peruvian Amazon or anywhere at high altitude.

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Image courtesy of Alexandre Buisse under or CC BY-SA 3.0

 

  1. Pack Light

The hardest part of my trip (aside from trekking up the stairs of the Inca Trail) was packing! There are several limitations on how much you pack on the Inca Trail, including both size and weight limitations.

Each porter is limited to carrying 20kg, which includes all blankets, clothes and personal belongings. Talk to your tour company and/or guide before your trip to get up-to-date information about what you’re allowed to pack.

 

  1. Enjoy Yourself!

Last but not least, be ready to have spectacular experiences and create memories that will last a lifetime. When I booked my trip to Peru and the Inca Trail, I had certain expectations and ideas of what the trip would be like. I was really looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu, but I found that the journey and all of its unexpected surprises was also an incredibly special part!

Nightlife, Beaches and Culture on the Greek Islands

Boasting 227 inhabited islands that are surrounded by clear blue waters and glorious beaches, it’s not hard to see why Greece is such a popular tourist destination. In fact, some of these islands have become so popular that their entire economy is now centered around the tourism trade. But with so many great destinations on offer, choosing the best island for your holiday in Greece can be tricky. Luckily, our guide to some of the best Greek islands is here to help. Whether you want to relax on the beach, soak up some of that famous Greek culture or party until the sun goes down, there’s an island for just about everyone!

Thira, Santorina at night

 

 Best for Nightlife: Mykonos

Greece’s answer to Ibiza is known for housing some of the country’s  very best beaches, but it’s the incredible nightlife that attracts most  of the island’s holidaymakers. Every summer the island comes alive  with sun seekers and celebrities who spend their days sunbathing  and their nights moving between its myriad of bars and clubs.

The only real downside of Mykonos is how expensive it is, so you might want to save your pennies while before you leave. Also, think about how you’re going to cut down expenses whilst you’re floating from club to club on the thumping sounds of the lastest dance anthems. There are plenty of affordable hostels available, the local food is cheap and great, pick up a local sim card (make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave), and spend time admiring the natural beauty on your own rather than indulging in expesive tours.

 

Best for Sightseeing: Rhodes

Though there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy sunbathing and nightlife in Rhodes, there’s also plenty of culture to take in too, and the island was once home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the ‘Colossus’.  One of Greece’s earliest holiday destinations, Rhodes’ medieval Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are plenty of museums dotted around to punctuate those days lounging on the beach and nights spent discovering the vibrant nightlife.

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 Best for Architecture: Hydra

Hydra is one of the prettiest Greek islands, and thanks to a strict development  policy there’s a whole host of beautiful architecture there that has been  wonderfully preserved. The large houses dominating the hills and the pretty  harbour are real highlights! The island is also home to some basic nightlife and  wonderful beaches.

 

Best for Scenery: Santorini

Many people claim that if you’re only going to visit one Greek island you should make it Santorini, and it’s not hard to see why. As well as breath-taking views and its distinctive white and blue architecture, this volcanic island is also home to one of the most stunning sunsets in the world. While the black and red sand of the volcanic beaches might not appeal to everyone, Santorini offers the perfect mix of tranquil romance for couples and vibrant nightlife for younger holidaymakers.

 

Best All Rounder: Crete

As the largest of the Greek islands, Crete really does have it all and it’s the perfect all-rounder destination that will suit just about every kind of holidaymaker. From a distinctive local culture and old towns such as Chania and Rethymno to deserted beaches, unspoiled mountain villages and the best food of any Greek island, there’s so much on offer in Crete that you won’t be able to experience it in just one trip and there will always be something new to discover no matter how many times you return.

 

globodave

This was written by Dave Holcroft of www.globocation.com a website dedicated to independent  travel and all things backpackerish! He’s seen a bit of the world on a shoestring shorter than you  can care to imagine. He also enjoys writing in the 3rd person…

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I’ll be making a post or two about my paranormal experiences in the states, but this is one that happened internationally for me and my friend, Dan. This one comes from a Malaysian urban legend called “The Fetus Ghost” and apparently what you can do to abolish this little demon thing. When I think of a demon fetus, I think of the dancing baby from the 90’s. Now that was creepy.

Malaysia has some pretty weird urban legends including demon vaginas, evil babies and big boobs. Sounds like a party, right? The toyol, also known as a dead baby, is apparently resurrected by an evil demon to enter resident’s homes and then the baby robs whatever it can take. Because, why wouldn’t you just rob it yourself or get a job when you can resurrect a baby using demon forces?

Malaysians are terrified of this demon baby. Because of this, they keep their money and other prized possessions near mirrors and needles, because apparently that’s a demon baby’s kryptonite. But if you leave toys out like marbles, rocks and whatnot, it will forget the master’s orders and play with these toys.

But when I had visited Malaysia to do some volunteer work, I actually came into a situation where I had indirectly met this hell-drenched fetus.

My friends and I woke up one morning, and it must have been around noontime. We had stayed up rather late because of the time change. My friend Dan was missing $20 (converted) from his wallet. He thought he might have dropped it somewhere on the train. Nope.

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A neighbor knocked on the door of the person who was housing us for the night. In his native tongue, Malay, he asked the host if we had been missing anything, and his locket was not where he had put it the night before when he went to bed. Of course, this was translated to us. Our house host, a longtime friend that moved to the area from the states, asked us if we were missing anything and that the neighbor also ran into someone else that had the same problem.

Dan spoke up about his $20 being missing and the neighbor started having some sort of a panic attack and came in. He was still speaking in his native tongue so we had no idea what he was saying. Then our host (his name was Lennox), told us about the urban legend.

But it didn’t stop there. When we heard something drop upstairs, we all looked at each other and Lennox ran upstairs. The neighbor stayed downstairs and refused to go explore. So naturally, Dan and I’s curiosity ran up with Lennox. When they got upstairs, everything on his nightstand was pushed off, like the jewelry boxes, but they were empty except for some broken pieces. Then the rickety closet doors started shaking.

When Lennox opened the closet doors, a shadow ran into the dark corner of the closet. I of course, booked it because I’m a scared ass. Lennox then screamed and I ran back up, but not into the room.

Lennox came back out and the others had followed me. In a pant, he said, “I saw a child, like, a baby! And then it was gone.” The neighbor yelled something in his foreign tongue and ran out back towards his house. Lennox said, “The toyol!” I then said, “The what?” Lennox educated us on what the hell a toyol was and what they did. Dan and I thought it was a prank because we were knew to the area and were only staying a short time. We thought we were getting our “moneys worth”.

Lennox still acted weird afterwards, but we didn’t believe him until two nights after when my bracelet was missing from my guest bed after I got out of the shower…