Some Of My Top Destinations

Some Of My Top Destinations

Some of My Top Destinations

Looking for inspiration? Here are some of my top destinations.  There are ideas for a weekend away, a trek or a splurge vacation. Some destinations are about the culture and mood, while others are for the experiences and activities.  Take a look and be inspired!

Seville - Plaza De Espana Some of My Top Destinations

City break – Romantic – Walkable

Seville, Spain

Seville is one of my favourite cities in the world.  It has stunning architecture, soft sunny colouring, tempting tapas and numerous iconic buildings to visit. It’s very walkable and invites you to explore both day and night.

Seville, Andalucia, South-West Spain, Europe

Sightseeing, food and drink

Visit in the Spring or Autumn

Nyhavn Harbour Copenhagen

City break – Cultural

Copenhagen, Denmark

Reputedly the happiest city in the world, Copenhagen has a lot to offer. Sightsee on canal tours, through beautiful Nyhavn harbour or cycle through the gardens to castles and palaces. There is plenty of culture to soak up too, with an opera house, theatres and museums.

Copenhagen, Denmark, Europe

Sightseeing and culture

Spring through Autumn

Some of My Top Destinations - Lacanau Ocean Beach

Beach holiday – sports

Lacanau Ocean, France

The 14km long sandy beach is a base for lots of family fun, watersports and walking. It’s one of the best surf spots in France – so a great choice for beginners through to pros.  The sandy beach leads into deep forests and nature reserves to explore on foot or by bike.  There’s lots of great locations to day trip to including St Emilion, Bordeaux or the Phare du Cordouan.

Lacanau Ocean, France, Europe

Surfing, hiking, cycling

Early Spring to Late Summer

Some of My Top Destinations - Little Gasparilla Island Boardwalk

Family – beach and relaxing

Boca Grande & Little Gasparilla Island, Florida

If you are in the need of some R&R, then Boca Grande or Little Gasparilla Island might be your spot.  BG is a village on Gasparilla Island Northwest of Fort Myers, and LGI lies a short boat ride away. Low-key beach life blends with delicious dining. Spend your days fishing off a boat, shell collecting on beach walks or perusing the BG shops and cafes.

Boca Grande & LGI, South-West Florida, USA

Relaxing beach vacation

October to March

Some of My top Destinations Trek to Petra through rocky desert

Trek – across the Jordanian desert to Petra

Dana village to Petra – Jordan

This epic trek is one of the finest in the Middle East. Through rugged and rocky terrain across the edge of the Rift Valley. There are canyons and gorges, steep inclines and breathtaking views. Wilderness Bedouin style camping under the stars end each of your trek days. The final destination is magical Petra – one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.

Dana village to Petra, Jordan, Middle East

Trek and Sightseeing

April, May, October or November

Some of my top destinations Scilly Isles from a boat

Relaxation – outdoor activities

Scilly Isles, England

The Scilly Isles might lie just off the Cornish coast; however they feel a world apart.  140 small islands lie in turquoise waters waiting to be explored by foot, boat or bike. There’s a sense of escaping to these isles as you get to explore and enjoy or equally do nothing but soak up the spectacular views. Each island has a unique feel, and there are sub-tropical gardens, beach, coastal or country walks and water activities to try out.  And did I mention great seafood? 

Scilly Isles, off Cornwall, South-West England

Walking, watersports, relaxation and dining

Spring to Autumn

Some of my top destinations

Couples or Family Beach & Activity Holiday

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Sweeping white-sand beaches are dotted with All-Inclusive hotels, small boutique hotels and restaurants galore. Riviera Maya is perfect for a care-free holiday especially suited when you have a mix of ages to cater for.  Take days out to sacred ruins and sparkling cenotes or get some adrenaline hits with zip-lining, horseriding and activity adventure parks. Quieter than Cancun, you can still seek out Mexican culture and authenticity – but you can equally sit back, relax and recharge. The choice is yours.

Riviera Maya, Caribbean Coast, Mexico

Relaxing beach holiday with activity and cultural days out.

December through to April

Some of my top destinations, Keystone Colorado mountains

Winter or Summer activities

Keystone, Colorado, USA

A fantastic ski resort in the rocky mountains of Colorado.   Mountains of fun – from skiing, sleigh rides, snow tubing and ice skating.  In the summer, take the lifts and cruze down the mountain bike runs.  There are fabulous places to stay, eat and shop too.

Keystone, Colorado, USA

Winter sports and Summer hiking, biking, fishing

January to March (Ski) May to Sept (Hike and Bike)

Rhossili Beach The Gower

Walking, Surfing and outdoor life

The Gower, Wales

It’s no wonder that The Gower was Britain’s first Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty!  There’s so much to explore and do here.  Rhossili, Three Cliffs or Whiteford Sands are the perfect place for a recharge day.  Walk the Wales Coast Path taking in saltmarsh, dramatic cliff or secluded bay views. There’s history and heritage to explore and local food and drink to try. 

The Gower, Wales, Europe

Coastal walks, watersports, history and heritage

Year round

Hammam Spa Beginner’s Guide

Hammam Spa Beginner’s Guide

Hammam Spa Beginner’s Guide

Not sure what to expect, what the steps might be or want to know any do’s and don’ts? Read my Hammam Spa Beginner’s Guide to get up to speed!

 

I’d done a bit of research about Hammam baths before our trip to Turkey.  Like most things in life, reading about something is one thing – experiencing it is another.  Let me share the reality of my first Hammam experience so you can be better prepared for yours!

Getting Ready 

As my taxi pulls up in Kemmer outside an arched cellar doorway –  the spa signs faded by time and sunlight, I wonder what I was letting myself in for.  But my Turkish Hammam was one of my best ever spa experiences.

Rika welcomes me to his ’boutique’ Turkish – gloriously dated and kitch.  Directed to the changing room I’m relieved to find that I can leave my bikini on!  However, I swap my leather flip flops for plastic ones or traditional Turkish bath clogs (Takunya). With all personal items safely in a locker, I attach the key to my wrist and move on.

Cold Plunge Pool Hammam bath
Belly stone Hammam spa (800 × 643px) (1)
Peshtemal Hammam Bath metal bowl and towels
Massage bed in Turkish Hammam spa

Step 1 – The steam room

It’s important with a Hammam to get your body nice and warm so the first step is often a steam room.  Hy host shows me to the steam room and only interupts 10 minutes in with a cool cup of water.  15 minutes and I’m ready for Step 2!

Step 2 – Cold Plunge pool

Maybe I didn’t look the type, but Rika hesitates when he suggests a dip in the cold plunge pool!  But it’s all about embracing the opportunities – so take the dip and you’ll be glad you did.

Step 3 – Sauna

I sizzle as I step in the sauna – and then take deep breaths as eucalyptus salts waft from the sauna coals. So far so good – but nothing unusual in the spa experience until…

Belly stone Hammam spa (800 × 643px) (1)

Step 4 – Laying on the belly stone

The dry bit – My lovely lady therapist now takes over and leads me to a marbled room with the central gobek tasi – or belly stone taking centre stage.  I lie down on my back on my Hammam towel (Peshtemal) and the stone starts to warm my body. 

 The wet bit – She manoeuvres a large stone basin (Kurna) under brass taps that extend out of a beautiful mosaic backsplash.  The taps turn on and hot water fills the basin. Water cascades over the edge which makes a beautiful calming background noise.  Swooping a silver bowl (Hamam tasi) into the basin of water, I’m doused in soothing hot water from top to toe.  It’s an unbelievably simple yet intoxicating experience.  

Step 5 – The scrub

Donning a slightly rough mitt (Kese), I’m scrubbed down with firm but not rough strokes.  More soothing bowls of water rinse me off, then I’m flipped over for the same treatment on the other side.  What luxury! When would I get a back scrub in my busy routine let alone have time or inclination to scrub the soles of my feet.  Another rinse and I feel squeaky clean!

Peshtemal Hammam Bath metal bowl and towels

Step 6 – Bubbles!

So many bubbles!!!  She picks up a light muslin that looks like a small pillowcase (köpük masajı) and is impregnated with soap.  The muslin plunges into the basin of hot water,  and after opening, is deftly waved back and forth. The forced air pushes bubbles to rise from the pillow shape and then they are hovered gently across my body.  It’s joyful and whimsical and it makes me feel like a child, as I let out a giggle. This process repeats until I’m submerged in small bubbles that I feel melt across my skin.  It’s total joy.

The bubbles are then rubbed into my body – she even gets my neck and behind the ears.  More bowls of water and I move to a seated marble area where again I’m doused in bowls of water until not a bubble remains. I’m gently patted down with more Hammam towels – it’s really like being a kid again.

BONUS

In some spas you can expect a hair wash and condition – so don’t be surprised if that’s the case!

Massage bed in Turkish Hammam spa

Step 7 – Clay mask

Laying in a relaxation area, covered in warm towels a clay mask is gently brushed onto my face. And there I’m left in peace and quiet, just me and a sweet cup of Turkish tea.

With my clay mask cracked and dried, it was time to rinse it off and move on.

Step 8 – Massage

This final full body massage ensured that every remaining ounce of stress was eased out of my body.

Step 9 – Return to reality

As I dress I’m feeling soft, clean and with a lingering feeling of being a marshmallow.  A morning well spent.

Where to get a Hammam Spa?

A Hammam Bath is an absolute must if you are lucky enough to visit Morocco or Turkey. There are plenty to choose from and they’re surprisingly inexpensive.  But if you are looking for the Hammam experience closer to home then Viator and Tripadvisor can help.  Treatwell.co.uk also has a useful list of UK based Hammam spas.  If you are anywhere near Harrogate in the UK,  the Turkish Baths Harrogate is a hidden gem and about as traditional as it gets.

Hammam Spa Beginner's Guide - belly stone, towel and bowl

Good to know..

  • It’s ok to leave your bikini on.  Or leave your bottoms on and wrap a hammam towel around your top if you prefer
  • They will scrub and wash you down underneath your bikini!
  • Masseuses often don’t speak English so be prepared for sign language
  • Drink lots of water
  • Despite what some might say, a Hammam is not painful
  • Don’t go to a Hammam if you have open wounds and don’t shave the day you go!

Why is travel good for you?

Why is travel good for you?

Why is travel good for you?

Let’s start with a great travel quote – “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller.

So there’s our first big reason why travel is good for us – it brings us some adventure. 

Adventure

Most of us would benefit from a little more adventure in our life.  Adding adventure breaks us free from normal life and pushes us outside our comfort zone. Being outside your comfort zone allows us to transition and grow. We allow ourselves to tap into unknown skills and resources and we try new things.  Then, when we accomplish something new or overcome a new hurdle, it breeds our self-worth and boosts our positivity.

Adventure = Growth opportunity Why is travel good for you?

Manage stress

Travel brings us a fantastic opportunity to manage stress.  Naturally we can think about stress fading away as we swing in a hammock between two palm trees.  However, it’s the exploration of new places, trying fun experiences, meeting new people and the opportunity to use your senses more fully that helps relieve stress. A study showed that 89% of people showed a significant reduction in stress after only 1 – 2 days of travel.  We gain a huge sense of achievement when we travel and this boost in our self-esteem and confidence reduces stress because we feel more able. If travel planning feels a little stressful, then use A Dash Of Adventure to help you travel plan less, and do, see and explore more!

 

Making memories

Making travel memories is one of my most favourite things.  Memories last a lifetime.  They are the moments we hold most dear and the ones that stay strongest in our mind.  Have you ever been taken straight back to a holiday destination because you smell a waft from a tropical plant you once encountered, or you taste again a once familiar holiday dish?  Maybe it’s the feel of sand between your toes or the light sea mist on your face that brings you back to happy childhood vacations. 

Often, it’s the holiday experiences that didn’t quite go as planned that become part of the funny holiday memories we love to recall.  We once had a Christmas vacation with dear friends in the Florida Keys. Our snorkel adventure day turned into half the group being stung by Portuguese Man 0′ War Jellyfish.  I recalled the quote – “If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now.” Green with seasickness, scraping stinging tentacles off each other and slathering on salt to deactivate the sting – I asked the captain to take a photo.  You know – just to capture the moment! And indeed, the jelly fish Christmas ornament our friends sent us that year sparks memories and laughs every time we put it up!

Seashells on sand - why is travel good for you?

Review your perspectives

Travel is a great opportunity to broaden your horizon and review your perspectives. New destinations, cultures, food or experiences can help us grow and appreciate both differences and similarities.  But sometimes travel can make you appreciate home. When our family returned to the UK after living overseas, we appreciated ‘home’ in a different way.  We had a new appreciation for British hedgerow greenery, narrow country lanes, castles and cozy pubs.  Explore, review, reflect and appreciate both where you travel to and what you come home to.

Invest in yourself

Travel is an important investment in yourself.  Whether it’s downtime on a beach, time with good friends or family or time for activities and pleasures you love. Travel is the opportunity to stop and refuel your tank.  It gives you room to step away from the everyday pressures and have a little room to breathe.

Enjoy the sunset - why is travel good for you?

A time to learn 

Travelling can bring so many ways to learn. Whether it’s learning a new language, trying new flavours, trying new activities or experiencing new travel methods.  

A chance for creativity

I don’t know about you but there are some clothes I love to wear on holiday, but I’d never wear at home.  It’s not just because it’s warmer / colder or the restaurant is fancy.  It’s because sometimes on holiday it’s nice to have a change, be a little different – maybe be more creative.  And when you walk past that vendor at an overflowing outdoor market, you’ll be more likely to try that new morsel – and you’ll probably like it too!  With a clearer calendar and hopefully tech free time away, you might find conversations flow easier.  Maybe ideas for home or work come more easily to mind. Use your travel time to get creative. 

Make a difference 

Making a difference to a local charity was a huge part of my charity trek to Jordan.  Raising over £100,000 as a trek group will make a huge difference to many lives for which I feel both humbled by and proud. There are so many ways to make a difference when you travel.  Seek out those little independent shops or the local producers at markets. Eat in the charity run or outreach restaurants or cafes where your custom makes a huge difference.  Visit locations and activity providers who support local causes and that look after and protect their environment.  Or take part in a beach clean the next time you go.   

Time for relationships 

Travel can be great for rebooting relationships.  With the usual daily distractions removed, you can find time to reconnect with your fellow travelers, whether family or friends. It offers the chance to finish those often started but frequently interrupted conversations.  There’s nothing like a long beach walk to deepen conversation. Psychologists believe that side by side positioning is preferred by men when engaging in conversation as it removes direct eye contact. So that makes beach walks perfect!

Engaging in a loved one’s favourite activity can also build your relationship.  Knowing someone has prioritised something that makes you happy boosts the happiness of both parties.    

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

Travel makes you more resilient 

It’s no wonder that when we travel, we often face a surprise or challenge.  After all, we are stepping into more unknowns than a usual day might entail.  Journeys, locations, people – there’s lots of opportunity to explore and sometimes some things to overcome.  When things don’t go to plan, you’ll probably find yourself being more resourceful than you ever thought possible.  When flights are delayed, you’ll strike up conversations and maybe friendships with people you’d otherwise let pass by. One island stay vacation, we had a power cut and in desperate need of coffee we made a brew on the gas BBQ!  Travel can show you how brave you can be, how good you are at adapting and how the unexpected isn’t so bad after all. 

Embrace all the good that travel has to offer – and turn ‘I wish I had’ into ‘I’m so glad I did.’

Why Choose A Charity Trek?

Why Choose A Charity Trek?

Why choose a charity trek?

Why choose a charity trek? Well, a charity trek from start to finish is a learning adventure! I learnt so much from the whole experience, from fundraising and how to train, through to dealing with the highs and lows of the physical and emotional adventure.

So, what did I learn most?

In Spring 2022 I undertook a charity trek across the Jordanian desert into the ancient city of Petra to raise funds for the Salisbury hospital charity, ‘The Stars Appeal’. We covered more than 106km over 6 days, climbing over 2700m, descending 2500m and in average daily temperatures of 38 – 40 °C. At night we camped in 2-man tents with no running water and the wild toilet was preferable to the one Portaloo. It was an adventure of a lifetime, physically brutal, but totally amazing.

There’s no one ‘right’ reason to take a charity trek

Almost everyone on our trek had a different reason for taking on the challenge. For some it was to give back to the hospital who had helped them through Cancer or other illnesses. Some worked at the hospital and knew the benefits the charity funds could bring. A few were doing it to honor a lost loved one. And for some of us, it was more about the personal challenge, and an opportunity to mark the beginning of a new chapter, like becoming an empty nest Mum!

 

Don’t let the fundraising put you off

I had to raise a certain amount of money (as well as self funding the trip) to join the trek. Honestly, I nearly let the fundraising element put me off. I didn’t like the idea of asking for donations or sponsorship. Equally I didn’t want to spend hours on end making, baking or organising events. But then I considered one thing – would I really let the fundraising total put me off this big adventure ? NO.

So get creative – ask previous trekkers or the charity for ideas, search online, think about your skill set and how you could turn that to fundraising. Can you ask for donations in lieu of payment for some extra work / jobs / produce or handmade goods? Could you ask for donations instead of birthday or Christmas presents.

Set your mind to the task in hand and just push on…

 

A charity trek really does change you

From personal experience the trek made me braver, and stronger both mentally and physically.

Each night on our trek ‘Letters from Home’ were read out. These were powerful stories written by people who had benefited from the charity’s work. Those letters help put life in perspective – instead of thinking about the blisters or heat-rash you focused on how blessed you are to be physically able to take on a challenge and to be on this adventure right now!

Become part of a team, even if you didn’t think you were a ‘group person’

I was a self admitted non-group person – I generally prefer one on one conversations to big girls groups out and a small dinner at home with friends rather than a big party. So the ‘Group’ thing was a bit of an issue for me – whilst for others the sociability was a huge plus. But something about trekking, eating, laughing and crying together, bonds you as a group on a level I have never experienced before – but hope to again. By the end of the trek, I was loving the ‘family party’ vibe and loved spending time as a big group, all together. We went as 38 individuals and we truly came back a family.

Why choose a charity trek?

The highs are high –  and the lows are low

This is a reality – You feel like a helium balloon – one minute so full of life, adventure and adrenalin and the next popped and dropping to the floor. BUT the highs and lows make you feel so alive. Then there’s the realisation in knowing you are never alone in what you feel – if you feel on a low, someone else does too. In those low moments just remember that you can be the pressure cooker lid that keeps group morale low or you can pop that lid with a joke, a deflective story or by simply pulling out the giant packet of sweets. Before you know it, the team of balloons are flying high again.

A break from normal life does you good

Initially I felt guilty going on this trek – selfish even – until my daughters asked how going on a ‘Charity Trek’ could possibly be selfish? But for me I wasn’t able to play my normal wife / mum / work / daughter role. For once I couldn’t be the usual family organiser and coordinator. Guess what? The family not only survived but in fact thrived! My husband had to be Mum and Dad – and both he and our girls loved those extra conversations, planning opportunities and quality time moments. There was even some food in the fridge when I got home! (although the laundry basket was pretty full).

A trek is an opportunity to find the real YOU in you.

It’s about the journey not the destination

At the end of the trek we spent a day at a Dead Sea Hotel and it was wonderful to sit in the shallows of a swimming pool together reminiscing. We took turns reflecting on our personal high day and low day moments. Last to speak was our doctor who said it was seeing us all crossing the Petra finish line that was his high day – and then it dawned on me…not one of us actual trekkers had said either the finish line or visiting Petra was our high day! It really was about the journey.

A break from technology does you even more good

No surprise here – it turns out that of the 100’s or 1000’s of texts, whats app chat group notifications or emails – almost none of our trek group felt they’d missed anything important!

Having no technology is liberating and it allows you to be fully present. A charity trek is an amazing opportunity to really live in the moment and the adventure of it all. 

You don’t need as much kit as you think

You can read the packing list, scan websites and discover all that Go Outdoors or REI stores have to offer – but I guarantee you will not need everything you take. So think carefully about what you buy and pack. When you have to pack and repack every day – a simple, organised bag or rucksack is going to be your best friend.

Rucksack 1080 x 608

A wild toilet experience isn’t as bad as you think

On day two the portaloo got tipped upside down (before being emptied) while moving to the next camp. After this, the portaloo was named ‘The Orange Cupboard of Doom.’ But after that first wild poo experience you realise it isn’t that bad. In fact you will find the most amazing views from toilet locations. Just be prepared that the mantra – ‘Leave nothing behind’ is a real thing – so go armed with dog poo bags or nappy sacks, toilet paper and toilet wet wipes.

Orange Portaloo

Trek lag is a real thing

It turns out that coming back to reality after such a huge adventure is really hard and quite honestly a bit dull. You don’t expect trek lag, but almost all of our group experienced it.

However here are some cures…

  • If you haven’t already – create a group chat and continue the banter and stories.
  • Find a way to share group photos – enjoy searching out those prize moments.
  • Organise an event to show family / friends/ sponsors and donors your epic adventure stories and photos – it’s a great way to say thank you for their support and a lovely way to keep the trek living on.
  • Plan something for the night you get home – my tent buddy and I organised a fish and chip and bubbly night for our two families the night we got home. It was fantastic to jointly share our trip with loved ones and the stories seemed funnier when told as a duo.
  • Plan your next adventure!

So why choose a charity trek

I hope by now you are in no doubt… a charity trek is an opportunity for you to have an adventure of a lifetime AND to make a positive difference to others all at the same time. So dig out, or go and buy those walking boots!

Hiking boots

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