5 Practical Gifts for Female Backpackers on Their Bon Voyage

I’m writing this from the Hong Kong International Airport and marvelling at the timing of this post. What better occasion to discuss such a subject than the day I fly overseas for my O.E.? ✈

When someone is leaving on their big adventure, it can be tempting to want to get them a farewell gift as a gesture of kindness and well wishes. However, this can easily be made difficult if that said someone is backpacking. I think I speak for most everyone when I say that I struggle to fit my belongings into a suitcase let alone backpack. Right this very moment, some poor chap is lugging my oversized luggage from one plane and onto another. So the challenge therefore becomes thinking of a gift that the traveler can take wherever they go with nothing but a backpack to live out of.

Oi Cup

“The Oi Cup is the perfect companion for the female traveler. There are three ‘criteria’ that people often try to meet when traveling: pack light, spend less, and explore the off-the-beaten track. Periods are simply incompatible with these. For one, the last thing you want to be sacrificing your precious luggage space for is cumbersome boxes of sanitary products. But at the same time, you don’t want to be budgeting to spend extra money on pads and tampons (a single pad can cost up to NZD$5.60 in some countries!). Furthermore, the last thing you want is to be caught empty-handed in the middle of nowhere with no resources to deal with your period. Trust me, I’ve been there… your underwear won’t thank you 🙈”

If you’re a long-term reader of the Ginger Passports, then you might remember the blog post I wrote on Organic Initiative’s menstrual cups.

These little beauties are a game changer when it comes to our periods. The ‘Oi Cup’ is a reusable and recyclable menstrual cup that can be used instead of tampons or pads. It’s environmentally friendly and can last up to 12 hours before needing to be changed. Let’s just say I don’t dread those long haul flights any more, and neither should your backpacker.

Couchsurfing Verification

If you don’t know what Couchsurfing is, then you’re missing out.

Couchsurfing is a website where travellers can sign up and either host, or be hosted by, people around the globe. There is no exchange of money, only of experience. As it so happens, my first Couchsurfing experience as a guest is to be tonight (updates to come!) but I have hosted before in the city of Dunedin. Two lovely German traveler stayed with me for a couple of days, and we did a variety of things together such as sharing stories, drinking wine and visiting the Butterfly Forest at the Otago Museum. It was honestly one of the highlights of the past few months, and I cannot wait to throw myself back into that environment again.

“We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.”

It’s a fantastic idea to create a verified Couchsurfing account. Verification essentially means that you go through a process (including things such as confirming your home address and paying an annual fee) which both lets other Couchsurfers know that you are a substantiated person, and also provides revenue to help keep the Couchsurfing community running.

Like anything, Couchsurfing can carry an element of risk, so here are my top tips for ensuring a safe experience:

  • Never stay with anyone who doesn’t have (positive) references
  • Go with your gut instinct; if you are messaging someone and something feels a bit dodgy, listen to that. A lot of people use Couchsurfing as they would Tinder, so take everything with a grain of salt
  • Prioritise opting for verified hosts for better piece of mind

Kindle

When you’re traveling, there will inevitably come periods of fatal boredom where you would do anything for a decent book. Whether these be those god-awful long-haul flights or just awkward transit delays, it’s never a bad thing to have Harry Potter on hand. (By the way, if you are in need of a book recommendation, I recommend you check out this publication.)

I started off with a Kindle eReader, and then eased into accessing the Kindle Cloud Reader from my smart phone. This might be the most desirable option for your backpacker if she is seriously tight for space.

Although I won’t deny the pleasure of turning the pages of a physical book, the Kindle eReader sure did grow on me. A minimalist at heart, I like the idea of being able to buy my own virtual library without having to waste paper for books that I would probably never ever read again. Plus, books are a sight lot cheaper when you’re not buying paperback. Food for thought 💸

Photograph courtesy of Unsplash

Audible

Whilst we’re on the subject of literature, allow me to introduce you to Audible.

Audible – also an Amazon company – allows you to listen to books instead of reading them. Yep, I’m talking good old audiobooks.

I first tried to develop an appreciation for audiobooks when I was around ten years old, and it just wasn’t happening for me. I found that I couldn’t concentrate or properly envisage what was actually happening without having it on a page right in front of me. Roughly a decade later, I tried again. This time, with considerably more success.

I like to think of audiobooks as a passive way of reading. I plug in my earphones if I’m tired or feeling nauseous and not up to reading off the page. They’re also fantastic to fall asleep to – although be careful what you listen to during those times, because you might be in for some very confusing dreams. All your backpacker will require is some sort of cellular device to download the app, and a pair of headphones. You might like to gift them with an annual subscription where they can download one free audiobook per month (my favourite day of each month, if I’m being honest).

Photograph courtesy of Unsplash

Handwritten Letters

Last but not least, I recommend you write your female backpacker a handwritten letter on her bon voyage.

A sheet of paper takes up no room at all. She could slip it into her wallet, or even beneath her phone case. Handwritten letters are special because, well, they can’t be bought. They’re meaningful and timeless and are one of the only things that can reliably cheer someone up when she is halfway around the world and feeling completely and utterly alone.

In this day and age, handwritten letters are unexpected. That’s what packs their real punch. Before I left, I received a number of cards that had some really beautiful thoughts jotted down inside of them. Some I received from people I didn’t think had even acknowledged that I was leaving, which just made them all the more significant for me.

So, there you have it: the most special gift I could think to receive is something that costs nothing and lasts forever. And at the sound of clichés, I’m signing off.

Photograph courtesy of Unsplash

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The Local’s Guide to Dunedin

For those of you who haven’t the pleasure of experiencing Dunedin, allow me to introduce you to this special place. Dunedin is a southern city in New Zealand characterised by its famous peninsula, Scottish roots and student vibe.

There’s plenty to do in Dunedin. Tripadvisor will tell you to visit Larnach CastleSpeight’s BreweryRoyal Albatross Colony and Baldwin Street – and you know what? Those things are great, and you will certainly enjoy “drinking like a southern man” and hiking up the world’s steepest street. But what you will be missing out on is the authentic local experience. Dunedin has a thriving tourism industry that is celebrated and embraced, but sometimes you’ve just got to detour the queues and venture off the beaten path to actually understand a place.

Lovers Leap

Perhaps the most famous point of interest for Dunedin is the stunning Otago Peninsula, which – fun fact – was named by CNN as one of the ten most romantic places in the world to propose.

Whilst the Otago Peninsula is synonymous with ‘tourist hot spot’, you can still navigate the gloriously wild terrain with a degree of solitude. Tourists tend to flock to places such as Sandfly Bay or the Pyramids, so more remote areas are yours for the taking. My personal favourite is Lovers Leap – and the neighbouring Chasm – that are part of the Sandymount Track Network. Check out the following excerpt from my blog post Postcards from Lovers Leap

“Those who embark on the trek will be treated to the stunningly resplendent views of Sandymount carpark before a short stroll through rolling farmland to reach the Chasm (keep an eye out for the sheep!). After soaking in the monumental (and arguably formidable) abyss, negotiate the sloping and rugged coastline towards the 225m crag of Lovers Leap.”

University of Otago Public Lectures

To say Dunedin is a student city would be an understatement. In my eyes, the defining feature of this place is the University of Otago. The 148-year-old campus boasts beautiful gothic architecture which makes it a joy to walk through the campus and actually attend class (because, y’know, us students need all the help we can get).

One of my favourite things about this university is their regular and free public lectures. Averaging around five a week, the topics are vast and fascinating, and offer an invaluable opportunity to learn something new. From the politics of the Middle East to the latest findings in medical research, from the relationship between academia and Buddhism to the refugee crisis, you’ll discover a passion in something you’d hardly ever thought about.

These lectures are often presented by world-class researchers and take place either on campus or at other venues around the city such as the Public Art Gallery or the Toitu Early Settlers Museum. I find this a rewarding past-time, especially as a student who often feels confined by a narrow degree subject which leaves little room for educational exploration.

Follow this link to find upcoming lecture events.

Starfish Café

I told myself that I would only include one eatery on this list, a task that was not made easier by the fact that Dunedin has a flourishing café culture. However, when it came down to it, there was only one that could ever take out the crown. And so – not for the first time – I present to you Starfish Café.

Starfish overlooks the beach in Saint Clair – fifteen minutes from the city centre – meaning it caters predominantly to the locals. This just makes it feel all the more homely and familiar, and I always smile when the staff recognise me and say hello. Check out the following excerpt from my blog post Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix.

“It’s hard to define Starfish, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. From the electric swing playing over the speakers to the David Bowie posters pouting down at you from the wall, from the vintage swan wallpaper to the Pacific Ocean right outside the front door… and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Think coconut turmeric lattes as you sit outside and enjoy the sun on a lazy Sunday morning. Think a glass of wine as you wind down to an acoustic set on a Friday evening. Think fresh seafood sourced straight from the Otago harbour. Mouth watering yet?”

Signal Hill Lookout

Now this is one city secret that I’m surprised isn’t more popular. Signal Hill is – without a shred of a doubt – the best lookout in Dunedin.

Although you’re unlikely to have it all to yourself (there’s usually small groups of people playing frisbee or eating fish and chips), you’ll be too distracted by the jaw-dropping views to notice. The lookout also hosts the city’s New Zealand Centennial Memorial, and has the ‘Big Easy’ bike trail for those questionable souls who feel like cycling 6.1km uphill.

For the best footage, watch my Dunedin vlog at the bottom of this post!

The photographs below are courtesy of  Amplifier NZ and Wikipedia (respectively).

University Book Shop

Book shops are my guilty pleasure, and none more so than the University Book Shop.

Unfortunately for my wallet, UBS is situated right next to the University of Otago, meaning that it is a daily battle for me not to enter and sacrifice the contents of my bank account. What sets UBS apart from every other book shop is that their titles extend beyond the generic bestsellers. Bibliophiles rejoice! They curate provocative publications that require good old fashioned rummaging through the shelves to find, and you could easily wile away hours inside the labyrinth of literature.

If you’re a stationery enthusiast (I mean, who isn’t?), you won’t be disappointed either; UBS sells unique gift stationery along with tea leaves, scented candles and novelty socks. UBS is also proud to be involved in Dunedin’s special UNESCO City of Literature status.

Photography courtesy of Hotel St Clair.

Be sure to also check out…

Dunedin Botanic Gardens: Through My Lens

Flight of the Butterflies: Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest

Brew-tiful: Nectar Espresso Bar & Café

The Beach Review #1: Saint Kilda

As well as my Dunedin Travel Vlog 👇

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The Pocket Guide to Kiwi Slang

“She’ll be right!”

It’ll all work out.

“Nah mate, don’t you worry… she’ll be right.”

Chur

An alternative to saying ‘thanks’ or ‘cheers’.

“Chur bro!”

“Yeah… nah.”

Another expression for ‘no’. Because us Kiwi’s like to be unnecessarily confusing sometimes.

“Oh, um, yeah… nah.”

Chocka

When something is full. Can refer to objects or your stomach.

“Blimey, I’m feeling chocka!”

Bro

Short for ‘brother’ but used (excessively) as a relatively gender-neutral term of endearment for close friends.

“Hey bro, good to see you!”

Stoked

A word that describes feeling really, really chuffed about something.

“I’m super stoked with this weather.”

Cuppa

Referring to a cup of tea of coffee.

“It’s been a long day. Time for a cuppa.”

Munted

When something is essentially f*cked.

“The car? Yeah, it’s pretty munted.”

Tiki Tour

Taking the long route to get somewhere; often used to pretend one is not lost.

“Where are we?!”

“… we’re going on a tiki tour.”

Congratulations! You just navigated the wild and treacherous landscape of Kiwi slang… now you’ve just got to understand that damn accent.

All photos courtesy of Unsplash.

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6 Things I’ve Learned in 6 Months as a Travel Blogger

It’s hard to believe that it was a whole six months ago that I launched the Ginger Passports. I feel as though it was just the other week that I was frustratingly trying to work out what hosting platforms and domain names were (*cue traumatic technological flashbacks*). Fortunately, the good times have far outweighed the bad, and I’m still here going strong 💪

To celebrate 182 days (give or take) as a travel blogger, I’ve rounded up the six most significant things I have learned along the way. Whether you use these as inspiration for starting your own blogging enterprise, or you’re simply curious, I hope everyone can take something away from this post!

I remember how when I was conducting my own research into personal experiences of blogging before I decided to take the big leap, a recurring theme connecting all bloggers was their insistence on being driven by passion rather than forces such as money. I would roll my eyes, both at the cheesiness and seeming impracticality of that advice.

Well, it just so turns out that the joke is on me, because the only thing you can rely on in this endeavour is your own enthusiasm. When you enter the blogging sphere, it’s easy to be blinded by the potential for making revenue and enjoying free perks such as sponsored products. Whilst I have certainly reaped the benefits of the latter, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that those perks make everything worth it. I have invested hours upon hours into this blog, and at the end of the day, I have relatively little to show in terms of earnings. Well… little. Well… none. But the point is, I have also loved every single minute of it, and that knowledge in itself is enough to drive me forwards.

To quote the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends”.

I may be confident creating content, but I am certainly no expert when it comes to technology. Truth be told, the reason it took me so long to actually get a blog up and running was because I couldn’t navigate the technicalities. Hosting platform? Domain name? Bitch please, I struggle to operate my TV remote.

Fortunately for me, I was approached by a good friend who studies IT, and was offered his services. We have been working together for most of 2017, and the Ginger Passports has certainly benefited from it. Without him, I would probably still be on wordpress.com with a website looking as though it were designed by a fourth grader.

Long story short, what I’m trying to communicate here is that sometimes you just need to put your pride to one side and ask for help (or accept it, in my case). Furthermore, there’s something undeniably rewarding about being part of a team. It can get awfully lonely otherwise.

When I was first developing this blog, I – being as stubborn as I am – was hell-bent that I would publish a new post three times a week regardless of circumstances. Oh, if only.

Tying back into the first point about passion, sticking to a schedule in a context such as this relies largely on motivation. If you wake up on Sunday morning, realise that you have only published two posts in the past seven days, but cannot for the life of you find a couple of hours to draft something up between all of your other commitments, then guess what? You’re not the massive failure you think you are.

I have the luxury of not being held accountable by anyone for missing my weekly goal of three posts – save perhaps myself, who is a pretty merciless judge. Unrealistic expectations aside, this luxury means I have the flexibility to roll with the punches and write when the mood takes me. Generally, my passion for blogging squeezes out at least two posts a week, but that’s not always the case. And you know what? That’s okay. If I sacrificed the joy of flexible blogging to meet my tri-weekly goal right from the outset, I would not be here six months later writing this post.

I’m talking about the two C’s here: content and collaborations.

Regarding content, there have been some subject matters I have written about that I was scared would backfire and earn a negative reception. Likewise, there were some that dealt with issues I don’t have a knowledge base in, and wasn’t entirely confident writing about. Nevertheless, I gritted my teeth and clicked ‘publish’. I figured that I have to start somewhere, and I can’t just discuss travel playlists and Balinese villas named after Ariana Grande for the rest of my blogging career.

Collaborating was also an intimidating prospect for me. Infact, it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I finally mustered the courage to start emailing brands and bloggers about the possibility of working together. Now, I’m not trying to deceive you; I estimate that approximately 90% of those that I reach out to either ignore or politely decline my offers. But the key point worthy of highlighting here is that 10% accepted. There are plenty of exciting projects in the works thanks to those 10%; you might have already read about my campaign with Organic Initiative. Not unlike creating content that exceeded my comfort zone, I took risks and they paid off.

I welcome any excuse to channel my inner Monica Gellar.

Perhaps the most important resource I use to keep my blog developing is planning. The easiest way to lose track of your goals is not to have any, but setting those goals is only half the job. The other half entails actually working out how to achieve them.

As I have mentioned numerous times over the course of this post, my goal is to publish (roughly) three posts per week. I manage to reach that goal most of the time (*cough*) by planning in advance. On the last day of each month, I set aside time to brainstorm which posts I will write, and on what days I shall publish them. On a similar note, I also track my blog statistics on this same day for the past month, compare these figures with other months, analyse what were the strengths and weaknesses and decide how I can capitalise on these in future.

Planning is not only productive, but thoroughly gratifying as well. There’s nothing like ticking off the tasks on your to do list one by one, and the sense of accomplishment you gain is yet another of those driving forces behind your motivation.

I know, I know… that sounds absolutely bonkers. That’s like saying ‘you don’t have to wear make up to be a make up blogger’.

But it’s true! The beauty of travel blogging is that a majority of your readership are not going to be from where you live. I call New Zealand home, and have received so many lovely messages from readers across the globe asking about this beautiful country. I have written so many posts about Dunedin without having to travel more than ten minutes from my front door. By viewing the city through the lens of an outsider, I have actually felt like a tourist. It was something I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to experience.

I have also enjoyed writing about things that extend beyond geographical location. Some of my favourite posts include 5 Travel Tattoos That Don’t Scream PINTEREST and the No-Bullsh*t Guide to Saving Money to Travel for Young Adults, both of which did not require me to buy a plane ticket or even sacrifice the warmth and comfort of my bed.

I have gone six months without traveling (save for a sneaky wee trip three hours west to Central Otago) and still have ideas up my sleeve for future blog posts. Travel blogging has taught me to find inspiration in everything, and that is certainly something I don’t take for granted.

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Dunedin Botanic Gardens: Through My Lens

The ‘Deats:

Name: Dunedin Botanic Gardens

Website: www.dunedinbotanicgarden.co.nz

Location: 12 Opoho Road, North Dunedin, New Zealand

Open Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Cost: Free! 💵

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