Tips on how to pick a wine

Let’s be honest, choosing a good wine when you’re walking down the supermarket aisle is never easy. There’s so much choice and so many different varieties of wine which makes a simple shopping trip become a tad bit more stressful!

Well there are 3 easy ways to make sure that you choose a great bottle of wine. With a world of information at our fingertips there really is no excuse not to be doing a little bit of research online before you choose your bottle. Within a few minutes you’ll be able to browse over several different wines until you find the one that you want to be sipping tonight.


I am no wine connoisseur but after following 3 simple steps I have certainly found some new favourites that I always keep in the rack or chilling in the fridge. So how do you find that bottle of wine? How can you choose one over the other? Here’s how I do it. If you follow these simple steps you won’t be just judging which bottle has the nicest label in the aisle next time.

What do people say?

Always check out reviews from other people. Usually popular sites will have a star rating and a whole list of reviews from people just like you and I. Read the reviews because they are usually very honest and written in a language we can all understand.

Does it sound appealing?

After you’ve finished the reviews you should read the description of the wine to check that it is to your liking. You must remember that some reviewers will have left reviews for wine that is no their favourite – do take note of these reviews because what one reviewer doesn’t like you might love. Checkout the description to see if your choice sounds even more appealing to you.

Is it affordable?

Price is always an issue with whatever we buy. There’s no need to spend an arm and a leg on a bottle, so make sure that the price suits your budget. If you’re really savy then you will keep an eye out to see if you can get a cheap deal using groupon. It’s always great sipping a nice glass of wine which you got at a bargain price!

Quiet Retreats for Artists

Many artists are at their most productive in quiet, distraction-free settings. When they have beautiful, natural surroundings to inspire them and provide subject material, the benefits can be even greater. As such, a quiet retreat can give you a chance to get more deeply involved with art and to get fresh ideas that will continue to feed positively into your future work.

A number of locations around the world can be ideal for artists. They provide the combination of quiet seclusion and beautiful, inspirational surroundings that can be beneficial for so many artists. A break to any of these locations can give you the perfect chance to practice your craft, whether you are a professional or a talented and dedicated hobbyist.

Getting Ready for Your Retreat

When getting ready for your retreat, it is usually best to make sure you have a good supply of all the art materials you are likely to need. A quiet retreat in inspirational surroundings can help artists be incredibly productive, so it is important to ensure you will not run out of anything vital. If you do, the seclusion of the location could make it difficult to buy any more supplies.

Supplies are often best bought online. This allows you the chance to conveniently browse an extensive range, and have them delivered straight to your door. Online shops are often also able to offer better prices, as online businesses have fewer overheads than traditional shops. A site such as can be the ideal way to stock up before you leave.

Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

Sidi Bou Said is a small yet relatively famous coastal village in Tunisia. Buildings follow an attractive, distinctive blue-and-white colour scheme. Around it, the sea stretches in one direction and scenic hills in another, providing plenty of visual material for art. The village is known as one of the country’s top photo opportunities on account of being charmingly picturesque. For the same reason, it has also long been a popular spot with artists.

Sidi Bou Said has an excellent atmosphere for artists. Delightful cafes and old-fashioned cobbled streets create a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere that is good for creativity. Many artists live in and visit the village, meaning there will be other enthusiasts to share your passion with and a number of studios and galleries to enjoy. It is not hard to find art for sale in the village either.

The Lake District, England

The Lake District is one of England’s most popular quiet spots, and is also known as one of the most scenic areas in the UK. For this reason, it has long been a popular spot with artists and other creative such as writers who wish to practice their craft in a quiet place with no distractions.

The beautiful scenery of the Lake District has always inspired artists, and it looks likely that it always will. Incredible views which are perfect for capturing with paint or pencils about, but there is little else to distract you from your craft except for pleasant cafes and small, charming buildings.

Mount Fuji, Japan

Mount Fuji and many of the other mountains in the range provide artists with an attractive opportunity for a quiet retreat. They provide beautiful scenery that is unlike anything else in the world. Where most mountains offer rugged scenery, many Japanese mountains are known for offering landscapes that seem more quiet, gentle and mystical. This scenery will provide a unique source of inspiration for artists of every kind.

As well as unique scenery, the mountains of Japan offer quiet and seclusion that is ideal for focussing on art and avoiding distractions. On top of this, they provide the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique culture of Japan, which will also help to provide inspiration and bring new ideas and influences into your artwork.



Image attributed to:


Turkey: A food lover’s paradise

Of all the countries that I have been lucky enough to visit on my travels, I can safely tell you that the food I had in Turkey is amongst some of the best in the world. It just never once let me down when I was on holiday there, you can get the most amazing kebabs on pretty mush every street corner or restaurant that you visit. The best thing is that it is cheap and so tasty! When travelling one of the biggest things that you have to get used to is the food, in Turkey it takes no time at all to adapt to the local cuisine. I mean seriously, who doesn’t love a great kebab? It doesn’t matter if you are a vegetarian because the flavours are so good in all of the dishes that taking away the meat and adding more vegetables makes no difference to the taste at all.

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If you go on your holidays to Turkey then you should try as much food as you possibly can. The great thing about Turkish food is that it is not too unhealthy for you. It is a myth that kebabs are fattening and unhealthy. If you break it down, you have a wrap, meat and salad all of these ingredients are healthy for you and contain most of the things we need to have in our diet. I advise you to not even think about how healthy each dish is when you are ordering your food in Turkey because you should indulge in everything that you see, you will regret not trying everything when you get home.

Remember all of those kebabs you have had back home in the UK, I’m sure some of them have been in the early hours of the morning. Some of them I know will  not have been very tasty but still kebabs in the UK are of quite a good standard. Well, I know that when you get home you will not want to eat another kebab, that’s because the kebabs in Turkey are absolutely amazing! It doesn’t matter if you are splashing out on an expensive meal or eating from a makeshift street stall, your taste buds will be overjoyed with the kebabs that you are served.

Breakfast time in Turkey is also brilliant, it’s a very simple affair but still very tasty. You will usually web presented with a buffet that includes; fresh bread, a huge number of spreads, selection of cheeses, cold meats, olives, eggs and tomatoes. You may be lucky enough to get served fresh Turkish coffer as well, it’s the best way to get your day started before you go and explore the sites.

Top 6 Travel Tips

Travelling is a passion for one and many. Be it on pocket string budgets or an extravagant vacation off with family, it is advisable to read up for helpful tips at the onset of your journey to make it an unforgettable experience. Here are a few tips on the do’s and don’ts when you are literally on your toes !!!

A well planned itinerary is a must. If you are a solo traveller, you can wander off on your own and take impromptu decisions. But a vacation with your spouse and kids or friends becomes a memorable experience if you pay attention to detail. Equally important is knowing a bit more about the places you wish to see. Carrying a travel guide is a good way to familiarise yourself with a totally new environment. Just makes your travel more interesting and a fond memory to narrate.

Another ‘mantra’ often followed is travelling light. There is nothing worse than heaving and grunting under excess weight. Lifting bulky luggage from the airport baggage carousel or onto and off public transport can be quite a dampener. If you wish to explore on foot, the lighter the bags, the lesser the hassle.

If you are going to take time off family or you are on a business trip, you will need to make international calls either by using calling cards or from phone booths. You could even rent a mobile phone or a SIM card, or use VoIP applications on your laptop. With cheap international calling rates, staying in touch whilst travelling is easily manageable these days.

Protecting your documentation is very important. You would not want to spoil your travel plans by misplacing your identification papers and then having to visit the nearest Consulate/Embassy to procure the same. Not only is the process stalling but could even prove scarily expensive. Carrying your passport and other travel documents like Insurance on you all the time is on way to avoid such a situation. This is important as the brisk market for stolen travel documents makes it difficult for you to explain how your identification became involved in the commitment of some fraud on foreign soil.

Vis-a-vis the currency, it is economical to arrive with some walking around money rather than exchanging for local currency before you begin your journey.  Large financial institutions get a better exchange rate than an individual can secure.

And last but not the least, respect the culture of the place you are visiting. Travelling with an open mind and a clear understanding of the differences in people’s way of thinking and lifestyles not only helps you in exploring of new ways of life but also helps you in showcasing the uniqueness of your own culture. Keep your prejudices, preferences and tastes at home and have an experience truly enriching!

Google search terms: round 3

Every once in a while, just for fun, I look to see how people in the big, wide world are finding my blog. Sure, I have my few devoted fans who come specifically to my site to see what I’ve been up to, but the rest of my visitors? Yes. The rest of my visitors are not loyal fans tattooing themselves with outlines of Africa and hearts dedicated to the Backpacking Chica. No, they’re just regular folk, playing around on Google. Here are the internet breadcrumbs these little Hansel and Gretels leave behind:

Why you would not take a job in Africa: yes, this was a search string that elicited my blog. Yes, the very same blog that lauded Africa and international travel and inspired one or two people to think about leaving America for the dark continent, was deemed by Google to be the answer to this person’s question (just once, it seems).

“I hate inspirational quotes”: I shit you not, this search term has been use 22 times in the last quarter as a portal to my blog. TWENTY-TWO TIMES! What is wrong with people?

Madagasca mostquitos: I promise, I left all the spelling errors in that one.

Worst time to travel to rome: what’s with all the negativity people? Is there really a bad time to travel to Rome? That’s like saying that there’s a bad time to travel to Paris. Pshhh. Drink two bottles of good French wine and the cold will be nothing but a bad memory.

Boat on rocky waves: Oh yes. I know exactly which post this pulled up. Man, that day was…peachy.

Backpacking blogg: Well, I’m not important enough to get into google search results when people spell the word “blog” write, but I guess everyone’s gotta start somewhere!

Sweaty face: WHYYY? Pourquoi? Warum?

For a look at past “google” inspired posts check out this and this post.

Review: How to Take a Career Break to Travel by Alexis Grant

Hello Everyone!

I’m back and blogging at a horribly early hour, because I wanted to tell you about a rather good book I was asked to review that launches TODAY and can be purchased at a 25% discount this week only!

The book (if the blog title wasn’t obvious enough!) is called “How to Take a  Career Break” and it’s written by the lovely Alexis Grant. As I’ve mentioned before, I hardly ever review books, mostly because it takes a lot of time and sometimes because the books actually turn out to be complete crap. I’m happy to report that isn’t the case with Ms. Grant’s guide, and while I didn’t agree with everything she wrote (more on that later), I will say that I wholeheartedly wish a guide like this had existed before I went on my trip. It’s not groundbreaking or choc-a-bloc full of unknown travel secrets, BUT it is written from the realistic perspective of someone who’s been there and done that.

Alexis in Madagascar

I should be honest and say that as I was perusing the table of contents and looking for something to critique (I know, I’m a mean person before I’ve had my coffee), I zeroed in on the section entitled “Blogging While Traveling” and almost winced at how easy it would be to tear the chapter apart. Why? Because every travel book in world (it seems), has a vague and completely incorrect section which praises the benefits of travel blogging and how it will rain down riches upon those who are so intelligent as to think of it as an income idea.

Surprisingly, and to Alexis’ credit – her book is different. I swear to you, I almost dropped my cereal spoon when I saw that she espoused the benefit of travel blogging as platform for oneself and as a way to meet peers. True, she did mention that a few, select, lucky, and ueber talented individuals can make money on blogging but this admission is reasonable, and her perspective was so accurate, I found myself flipping through the rest of the book – reading bits and pieces and nodding quite often in agreeance.

For most of the book, she is spot on: she claims that traveling can help you build skills and test out a new career, and I’m a testament to that. Because of my travel blog, I was hired as a speechwriter for a politician last spring, and now I’ve successfully launched a conservation research career in Africa thanks to my connections and newly international CV.

She articulates the cost, planning, and choices required for traveling well; she articulates the difference between scheming and planning, and the address label ides she has is genius. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop dilly dallying and just buy the book already!

My biggest critique (if you can call it that)? In the book she  claims to be a backpack-user, while making concessions for those travelers who need actual luggage pieces. As I experienced horrid flashbacks to my 30-day trip around Europe using a rolling suitcase, I realized that I completely and totally disagree. No one person needs real luggage! The moral of the story is: DO NOT USE SUITCASES TO TRAVEL!

Moving on and stepping off my soapbox: this is a great book. From someone who has done the gap year/travel break/career switch/expat life, I can tell you that Alexis’ book will help you feel empowered when you probably need it the most: while you’re scheming your fantastic adventure abroad.

For more information  on Alexis Grant, click here! If you’re sold on the book, you can purchase it online here!

Packing for a Gap Year in Three Easy Steps

You booked your round the world tickets and thought the hard part was over. Think again… there’s still the packing to be done after all.

A year is a long time and thinking about how to fit your entire life into a tiny little rucksack is daunting. Where do you even begin? Luckily, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you through:


Is your reaction to packing – “pack everything! How much can I cram in? What’s your largest backpack size?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It even has a technical term – it’s called ‘panicking’. Don’t do it.

Sit down, breathe, and relax. Start a diary….

This may seem like an odd suggestion, but if you note down everything you use in the space of 7 days then you will have a clear, logical picture, of what you can and can’t live without.

Another great tip, which really helps you understand ‘how much is too much’, is to lay everything you want to take out on your bed. Then, halve it – that’s probably how much you should be packing. You’ll thank me when you’re running for the bus with two stone on your shoulders, instead of four.

2. Location, location, location…

You can’t live without Eczema cream, but you’re also going to Australia – and can probably just pick some up while you’re there. If you’re going to Ghana though, it might become more of a problem.

Researching your destination is an essential part of travel. Hopefully you won’t have just stuck a pin in a map and prayed for the best – you will have read about it first. Spontaneity is great, but when it comes to packing, it always helps to plan meticulously. Make sure you pack those really important medical things you won’t be able to get easily abroad, like the contraceptive pill.

It’s really important to research airport restrictions too. Please don’t try to take Ribena to Australia -customs will have a fit. The same with muddy shoes. Instead, if you’re packing something that you aren’t sure about, always declare it.

Style vs Substance

Usually the answer to this question would be ‘substance’. It’s only when you’ve spent the entire day walking around with your home on your back, that the true beauty of practical, comfy shoes, is realized.

But don’t underestimate the power of your favorite piece of clothing either. Having a few special stylish items will really lift your spirits when you’re tired, dirty and you’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for a month.

However, straighteners will never have a rightful place in a backpack. I don’t care how frizzy your hair is. After 30 days you will literally have forgotten what your own face looks like, let alone anything else (which is much more pleasant than it sounds!).

And remember, in the words of Douglas Adams… never, EVER, go anywhere without a towel!

Amy Heritage writes about gapyear travel for She is based in London and has travelled in Europe, Australia, America and China, as well as living and working for a year in New Zealand.

How to get a job working in Africa.

Hello my dearest friends!

Yes, it’s been a fabulously long time since you heard from me personally, but here I am, fresh faced and ready to dispense some sage advice to anyone who has ever considered, is considering, or might ever, possibly, probably, maybe consider working in Africa in the near future.

Who am I to give advice? I spent almost nine months working in Africa as a conservation biologist. Post-Africa, I’ve founded an exponentially growing and successful charitable organization that works to advance education and healthcare across the dark continent.

And…who are you to take advice? YOU are probably a bright-eyed, college-educated young sprite of a thing. YOU are rearing to change the world. YOU need some guidance, as you probably found your way to this blog post by googling the big question: “How can I get a job working in Africa?”

Working in Africa is bloody difficult. Therefore, getting a job to work in Africa (truly work, I might add) is also bloody difficult.

Why? Well, let me dispel some myths for you right off the bat:

1) Nonprofits will NOT pay for you to traipse over to Africa just because you have a big heart and an even bigger drive. Most of the time, you will make no money or will even have to pay for the first work experience, simply because no one in their right mind will ever hire someone who hasn’t had to literally walk through shit-covered roads in a developing country.

2) You will NOT get a paying job if you do not have experience working in Africa. Yes, I understand I just repeated myself, but if you’re anything like me, you read the first piece of advice and promptly moved on after telling yourself, “yes, but I’m different.” I hate to break it to you: No, you are not different. Why? Because nonprofits in Africa need every penny they can get their hands on, and no amount of resume action words will make a cash-strapped organization take unnecessary risk. For example, I once worked for a conservation group which had hired on eight interns at once. Four hated living in Africa so much that they actually quit before their contracts came to an end. In sum, the organization wasted thousands upon thousands of dollars in training costs and flights on people who left after a few months.

3) You are now thinking to yourself: “Yes, but I don’t want to work for a nonprofit! Surely a business will hire me!”
You’re slightly correct. There are, indeed, corporations who will hire expats to work in Africa without prior international experience . However, these positions are often highly technical and require a great deal of investment and education. For example, oil companies often send engineers on rotating shifts to work on their oil compounds. Or, large companies will hire you IF you have a highly sought after skill set, such as a fluency in three languages and an expert knowledge of GIS systems. Yes, my friends, IF you fall into this category, you probably should just stop reading right now and go and apply for a job, as the only advice you will need, is how to best negotiate your benefits.

However, if you don’t fall into this group of highly trained professionals, do not despair: there is still hope.

Jobs in Africa positively abound. In fact, after just eight months of work experience, I was offered two full-time positions, one of which was for the position of Program Director. How did I get there?

1) I got experience. This is done by either paying the cost for a legitimate organization to take you in and train you and/or to offer your services for free. My first job, only a three month stint, actually only cost me my plane ticket to the country. The rest of my in-country expenses? Paid!

You might be asking yourself where you can find these opportunities. Look no further than the following websites: – A clearing house for non-profit jobs. – A great non-profit and environment-focused job board. – Jobs posted by research groups looking for short-term assistants.

There are dozens of other directories out there, but if you want my honest opinion: don’t look at them.

The jobs listed at the above websites are vetted (to a certain degree) and you will likely avoid scams or annoyingly overpriced short-term volunteer vacation package.

One more word of advice: use your brain! If the internship is asking for $4000 a month, it’s probably a for-profit business making money on getting you a placement. If that’s the kind of security you’d like, go for it. However, just know that you don’t have to pay so much money. There are tons of nonprofits who would happily train you at cost (no more than $1500 per month, depending on the location/city…and can even be as cheap as $500 a month) – this means, that the organization will help you organize local accommodation and food for a small fee, make no money out of your presence, and be paid in kind by your service to their cause.

2) I impressed my African-based boss. As an intern (paying or not) in Africa, your skills will be utilized. If you ever find an organization that doesn’t have anything for you to do, you were either hired as a money maker OR the nonprofit simply isn’t running very efficiently. That being said, this is the rare scenario and 9 out of 10 times, you will find that not only is there enough work for you to do…there’s TOO much work!

However, instead of whining, realize that this is exactly the kind of situation you want to be in. Use the opportunity to impress your bosses! When you’re stranded in the middle of the work day in a rural village because your taxi driver abandoned you? Keep your cool! When your entire project crumbles down on itself because the school you were supposed to be teaching in, suddenly closes for summer vacation? Innovate a new outreach program!

Yes, all of these things happened to me, and instead of hating the work I was doing (even if it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea)…I worked to be the best employee I could be.

3) I networked!

There are a ridiculous number of job positions just waiting to be filled in Africa…but you have to be THERE to find them. For example, while living in Madagascar, I visited the local university and was offered a teaching position on the spot because of my English speaking skills. This position, never advertised online, will only become available to you if you are in the right place at the right time. Obviously the “right place” is not your faux leather couch in South-West Florida.

So, to re-cap:

1) When an organization asks that you pay your costs, they are not scamming you and you should be respectful of the fact that it is very difficult to spare the money to bring on extra staff, especially if they are untrained.

2) Work hard to get your job placement. Due to the distance, you may have to spend hours upon hours searching for openings and applying. When people ask me how I got my positions? The only answer I can give them is: Time and effort.

3) If you can’t put in the effort to find the job, you probably will not be able to survive long in Africa. I repeat: working in Africa is very hard.

4) If you’ve read all of this, and you’re still super excited to work overseas…that’s fantastic! I wish you all the best, and have full faith that you will go far. If you can read the “harsh” truth of this post, you will have no problem working and living overseas!

Questions? Email me ([email protected]) – I’m always happy to help guide people looking for a way to get to Africa and start working to make a difference.

Inspirational travel videos!

Hey Guys!

I was just sitting here and procrastinating on twitter and came across these fantastic videos. Right off the bat, I’ll just come out and say that my artistic talents are so horrible that I couldn’t even pretend to take credit for these videos if I wanted to. In any case, here is my big disclaimer: I did not make these videos and they are not “mine”. In fact, they seem to belong to a group of three men who make us all want to pack our bags and travel the world again.


MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

First-time Backpacker: A refreshing how-to guide for the world’s travel junkies.

Alright guys, I’m here with a book review and I’m going to start out with a BIG disclaimer: I did not get paid to write this evaluation. I’m not even friends with the author, but he seemed like a cool dude and as he harks from England, I couldn’t leave a co-UK citizen hanging…so there you have it!

Basically, Shaun Rafferty’s back story is your stereotypical lost soul, young dude, adventure seeking plotline, and this book is basically a culmination of his vast backpacking experience packaged into a how-to guide (of sorts) on how you too can become a world traveler.

Right off the bat, I’ll give First-time Backpacker 3 ½ out of 5 stars. Admittedly, I didn’t read the whole thing, BUT I did read sections of the book I felt would set it apart from others. In my defense, I see it as a reference guide, to be consulted in times of trouble or at specific times during the travel planning process. But, of course, if you want to read the whole thing, be my guest!

I know, you’re probably thinking, “geez, do we really need another how-to travel guide out there? Don’t we all know how to pull out our credit cards and book the trip of a lifetime?”

The answer, unequivocally, is yes, we DO need another travel guide. We DO need a book that focuses specifically on those of us who make a lifestyle choice to put adventure first; those of us who value an experiential existence over one that values materialism, for instance.

Yes, those of us, who really DO want to live with only a few bags of belongings and yearn to jump overseas, have long been left to troll internet websites looking for like-minded souls. Well, look no further; I can assert that this book will speak to you and tell you not only everything you already know, but everything you need to know.

Granted, a lot of the book has been said elsewhere, BUT given that it targets first-time rookies, I think there is no harm in hashing out the age-old debate of suitcase vs. backpack, even if it’s been discussed to no end online.

The REAL goldmine? The candor, the spirit, the practicality that high-nose, so-called “backpacking guides” mostly ignore (such as unpleasant bowel complications or a frank discussion on whether or not to bring condoms on your worldwide adventure).

Yep, this book is not made for those of you who can afford a $5000 private tour through Italy…but that’s OK, because people with that sort of dispensable income are already satisfied with their Frommer’s guides.

Until now, the best books I’ve ever found for backpacking have either been too targeted, geographically, or not well written. In addition, they always seem to pander to more expensive types of travel, and they lack Shaun’s personal touch. Like it or not, the guy has some serious travel experience under his belt, and he’s written it out in 272 pages for you to read.

Rafferty, while often not the most loquacious of authors,  has created a product that rivals other books on the market and is without a doubt, a must-read for all aspiring backpackers. In truth, (and I say this honestly) I wish the book had come out before I embarked on my massive trip – I could have learned a thing or two. Such as how to pack a first aid kit, or the type of backpack to buy, or even the small and extremely significant fact that certain hygiene-related items are impossible to buy overseas.

In fact, aside from the weird British spelling (long abandoned by yours truly), all that’s left is for Rafferty to expand his geographic descriptions to include Africa. In fact, if Mr. Rafferty’s agent (if you are reading this), requires a warm body to fly over to Africa and get some on-the-ground facts, I’d be more than happy to sacrifice myself for the greater good of the backpacking community.

And so, I close this review with a whopping conclusion: buy this book. What it lacks in good writing it makes up for in fantastic tips for backpacking and traveling around the world. And really, what more could you ask for?

First-time Backpacker by Shaun Rafferty can be purchased on Amazon (Publisher: Authorhouse). More information can be found at: