Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Anyone been to Malta?

Whenever I plan a major trip I always have a dilemma. I quite enjoy two uniquely different types of travel and I can’t really favor one over the other.

There is the ultimate R&R vacation in a tropical paradise… the heat, the ocean and the booze…

There is also the ultimate exploration vacation in Europe… the culture, the history, the food…

Lucky for me, an upcoming Punta Cana destination wedding in December has solidified my plans for the next trip, leaving my 2nd wedding anniversary (Spring 2015) travel slot wide open for another European adventure!

In a previous blog I mused about a possible itinerary for my next Euro trip, however after I gave it some more thought I realized that a four or five city whirlwind tour might not be how I would best experience the ‘old world’ this time around. A nine-to-fiver like myself can't commit to more than a 10 day trip either. Don’t get me wrong, jumping from Munich to Prague to Venice was a trip for the ages, but what if I could combine what I love about Europe with what I love about the tropics… and come home with both memories and rejuvenation.

My biggest gripe with past trips was the constant regional travel and lack of time to really dig into the heart of each destination. We could only really do a few things in each city before moving on to the next.  If there were any “out of town” attractions that caught our eye, they were almost certainly left by the wayside due to time constraints. (The Erdinger Brewery outside of Munich is a prime example). Moving through the continent using a variety of transportation methods can be fun, however no one wants to turn down excursions to sit in an airport or shady bus terminal.  

What if I went somewhere in Europe that was equal parts sun, relaxation, history and food? I think this place might be the tiny island nation of Malta.

Often overlooked by more well-known Mediterranean hot spots like Italy, Spain, South of France, Greece and Croatia, Malta may be the perfect European escapist destination.  

Malta doesn't mess around in the 'Epic Churches' department
The main island is less than 20km from end to end, thus 8-10 days would be perfect for exploring many of the towns and the natural beauty the country has to offer. The small islands could be visited via day trips, plus the location in the southern Mediterranean provides perfect spring time weather (that means palms and beaches!). A quick bit of research shows that the country hosts some of the planet's oldest structures. That's cool! 
A Maltese beach - as good as any
I’ll be honest and say I know very little about Malta… it’s food, it’s people or it’s culture, but the aforementioned criteria alone are enough for me to commit to checking it out.

Are you from Malta? Have you been to Malta? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments!

Mike @ Palms & Pints

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Part-Time Traveler

I started my travel blog (and related twitter account) back in January, as travel planning has been a huge passion of mine for quite some time. I was looking for a way to pass on some of my knowledge on the subject, but more so to connect with and learn from other like-minded bloggers. In just a few months in the community I have been exposed to so many whose lives revolve around travelling the globe. My first reaction was a bit of jealously. I typically go on two major trips per year. “Major” being defined as a trip of a week or longer. On top of that I may squeeze in another 2 or 3 long-weekend type getaways. The jealousy lies in the fact that many of these bloggers are spending more time on foreign soil in a month than I do in a year!  It’s seems the sentiment from many of these full-time globe-trotters is that “anyone can do it, but it’s not for everyone”, and this couldn’t be more accurate.

Venice - sadly one of only two major trips I will take this year

I love to travel, and maybe just as much, I love to plan travel. For my February ten-day Europe trip I must have spent 30+ hours over 3 months planning it, ensuring we were getting the best possible value and the most out of our brief time in each location. Same could be said for my Florida “guys trip” in April. I find myself reverting back into travel-plan mode mere days after returning from a previous trip. If holding down a full-time job means that I can only travel a few times a year, so be it, but it’s sure not going to stop me from the research!

With that said I will be the first to admit that “full time travel” might not be for me, even if the work schedule provided more flexibility. Part of what makes travel so special for me is the rarity and exclusivity of it. Little things like being at an airport, checking into a hotel or grocery shopping in another city are exciting events. I work downtown Toronto and my office is in a hotel building in the city’s tourist-filled entertainment district. Everyday going to and from work I see those arriving in the city with their luggage, grabbing breakfast in the hotel or strolling Canada’s Walk of Fame along King Street West. On one hand I’m jealous of their current travel excitement juxtaposed against my dull work-day grind, but at the same time it prompts me to think about my next adventure abroad. A friend of mine who travels more than regularly on business told me that he looks at airports like a stop-and-go highway during rush hour. Nothing but a hassle. I can’t imagine experiencing an airport like this. Airports represent your gateway to amazing new places and memories. There is just something about being on the road at 5AM en-route to a 7AM flight that screams VACATION!

Made a 3-day trek to DC last summer

From my reading, long-term travel is typically done on a modest budget, thus one would have to have the lifestyle to match. I don’t fancy myself much of a budget traveler like many of the aforementioned “digital nomads”. I enjoy certain comforts when I travel and this is twice-fold for my main travel companion, my wife. This doesn’t mean that we stay at the Four Seasons, but it means that backpacking between hostels is not necessarily our cup of tea.

Does the idea of travelling the world full-time appeal to me? Absolutely! But I don’t think it’s something I will ever do. I love my house and take great pride in its ownership. We have a pool in the backyard and settling back there on a hot and sunny day with a drink in hand is something not even a five-star hotel room overseas would ever replace. I love my car, my MacBook and my gadgets. I couldn’t sell off all of these things to fund full-time travel. I am a self-proclaimed “Trip Research Aficionado”, and this is a passion I can maintain from the homestead. There are so many destinations to learn about and hotel reviews to read through, so travel will always be a huge and on-going part of my life... and when it does eventually come time for my next adventure, I’ll be wide-eyed and well-prepared.

Nothing beats home in the summer time!

Mike @ Palms & Pints