leap year travel with jane
Wanderlust

Make 2016 the year where you follow your heart’s travel desires

28 February 2016

29 February marks a leap year, when women traditionally get the OK to ‘pop the question’. It’s an old fashioned notion, but all this talk reveals interesting views on the ‘rules’ of being a women. Which got us thinking, could the occurrence of a leap year hold another type of ‘opportunity’ for women?

Our take? This leap year, propose to go on that trip you’ve always wanted. Put yourself first, take the leap, and let travel be your muse on your personal path of discovery.

Leaving familiar surroundings pushes us out of our comfort zone, introduces us to new cultures and experiences, and allows us to view the world with a new perspective. To get you inspired, we’ve had a think about the 8 types of trips that open doors to self-discovery, and where in the world to take them.

1. THE SOLO TRIP INTO THE UNKNOWN, ANYWHERE

Solo trips into the unknown may seem daunting but it’s exactly these sorts of challenges that speed up our personal development – something everyone wants these days, and rightly so. The unknown doesn’t need to be the Atacama Desert or anything, it just needs to be somewhere new and unknown for you. Anytime you feel like you’re either stuck in a rut, or at a cross-roads and not sure which way to go, a solo trip is going to force you to focus on something new, which in turn takes your burning focus off the crippling issues at home. With a little breathing space, you make room for perspective, helping you to answer the big questions, and move your life in the right direction.

WHERE: ANYWHERE, ALONE

A solo trip could take place literally anywhere, as long as you’re alone. The perfect woman’s solo trip destination however, marries these ingredients:

  1. A different scene or culture to what you’re used to – so if you live in Surry Hills maybe you don’t head for little Australia in the Lower East Side. Or if you’re from Byron Bay a trip to North Shore Oahu might feel to close to home. Leave the known behind.
  2. A safe place for women to travel alone. Safety has got to be your first, second, third and fourth priority. Do your research, ask mates, and use safety apps to check out regions and neighbourhoods ahead of booking.\
  3. A place where you won’t feel sad and alone, being alone. E.G not the Rio Mardi Gras, where being friendless might make you feel a little down, then again, it might be just the place to make new friends! Different strokes for different folks, but the idea here is to find a destination where you can truly find space for me-time.

2. ROAD TRIP WITH THE BFF, PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY USA

The action always has a way of escalating with your bestie, and that’s why we love this kind of trip. With your BFF in the passenger seat and the wide open road before you, you don’t need much planning to have a dead set amazing adventure. While road trips are commonplace in our student days, they become harder to make time for as we tackle lifes curveballs. Making time is always worth it though, so rope in an overseas element to motivate you both to book time off from work and/or kids, and hit the road for a life-affirming escape with your partner in crime.

WHERE: WEST COAST USA

Off all the roads to hit, few offer the scope for activities, variety of scenery, and easy passage, of America’s famed Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching from Seattle up north down to San Diego near the Mexican border, you can play this trip however you want. For the easiest option, get into LAX from Australia and take the road north through California via Malibu, then Santa Barbara to San Francisco, where a flight home is a synch with Qantas. Or, for the full 2,478 km monty, from LAX, connect to Seattle and take the trip south, following the Washington coastline to Portland, and Oregon’s redwood highway (through an ancient redwood tree) to southern California. Which ever way you slice it, do invest in your safety by going with a reputable car rental company, one that offers road side assist. Car hire in USA is not a place to skimp – so keep moving past the likes of Fox and Dollar Rent-a-Car (trust me, when you break down in the Mohave desert you want a rental company that can come out and help you, not make you call 911 and wait several hours before being pushed by a cop car all the way to the next town – true story)

3. OFF BEAT EUROPE, CROATIA

Europe holds a certain magnetism for Aussies. For many, it’s a place of ancestral roots. For others, the magic lies in its ‘known unknowns’. We ‘know’ so much about European culture…pizza, vino…yet our keywords and assumptions barely scratch the surface. A kangaroo hop to Europe is a chance to solve many mysteries.

You’ve possibly already ‘done’ London. Which means you’ve probably also ticked the Paris, Rome and Barcelona boxes. Fortunately Europe holds so much more than these tourist-magnets.

WHERE: DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

For an offbeat trip to Europe, our heads are leaning towards a city Game of Thrones devotees will know simply as ‘King’s Landing’. That tells you that this Adriatic seaport city is beautiful, and ye-olde. And indeed it is. We’re talking about Dubrovnik in Croatia, home to some of the best-preserved city walls in Europe, dating back to the Middle Ages. And what’s behind them is equally enchanting. History geeks will love the medieval Franciscan Monastery and Museum, as well as architectural gem, Rector’s Palace.

Your European yearnings will call you mostly likely in June through to August, but book as far out as you can, and aim for the fringe of summer, for cheaper rates at hotels, and fewer tourists to contend with. (You’re not a tourist though of course!)

4. THE HENS HOLIDAY, ULUWATU

Image Airbnb

What could be better than celebrating the last fling before the ring with a gang of girls than taking the whole affair to Bali or somewhere equally warm and exotic? The great thing about this trip is it creates solidarity among the pack. With the bride’s happiness a shared goal, the mission becomes a lot easier. Hens who very well have differing travel styles, are united by love for their bride, or perhaps fear of bridezilla’s ˚wrath should they not deliver. Either way, decision making should be easier, especially if the bride your Queen has assigned a maid of honour, to rule the roost.

WHERE: NON-TOURISTY BALI

If your bride requires an OS bachelorette festival, then Bali is a no-brainer. Of course there’s always Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji to consider for a short flight somewhere exotic, but Bali is best equipped. For one, there are options, and for Bali-pros, these options extend well out of Ubud, Kuta and Seminyak. Go a little further afield and stay in a glorious villa where you can order in your massages and spa treatments. Think Uluwatu, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida. Or, for a hen’s trip to Bali with a more debaucherous edge, book into a bigger resort, one with a bar and restaurant on site, for easy party-access.

If you are heading out into the streets, just keep the phallic inflatables and straws to a minimum, the Balinese might not share your enthusiasm (although they’d never say as much.)

5. FLOP AND DROP, BORACAY ISLAND

Feeling the burn at work? Vaguely remember what happiness felt like? Vitamin D a foreign concept? When the frazzle or freeze is getting to you, run to the sun. Beach holidays don’t need much explaining. They’re simply amazing, and that is that. Add in the ‘flop and drop’ philosophy of having no plans and doing absolutely nothing, and you have a holiday that lets you rest and relax to maximum effect. But, there’s a first world problem to get over first. High achieving travel pros will know that committing to a beach or resort holiday takes courage. You’ll need to silence the demanding sightseer and box-ticker within and be OK with doing zero. It’s not an easy task to take it easy and chill – isn’t that funny!

WHERE: BORACAY PHILLIPINES

Move over Phuket, Boracay is the Southeast Asian island for budget-friendly fun in the sun. White sandy beaches that stretch on forever, crystal clear waters, and memorable sunsets are the obvious perks that come with your visit to the “Best Island on Earth” by Travel + Leisure in 2012. Add in the tranquil pace of this place, and you have the ingredients of the perfect flop and drop vacay.

6.THE FIRST LONGHAUL FLIGHT WITH YOUR BEY

Nothing tests a new relationship like a long haul flight and stint OS. A couple’s first holiday is a frenzy of excitement and romantic prospects, but also gives you a chance to get to know one another better and strengthen bonds. Just be warned, as travelling offers its fair share of stress, you’re going to see the ‘real’ deal on this voyage of discover. After all, one can’t put the same best foot forward — continuously — for a whole trip?

Whether you and your lover prefer to shack up in a luxury hotel with gourmet room service or trek through the mountains of Tibet, remember to take it easy on each other when tensions start to flare. You’re out of your comfort zone after all.

WHERE: OAHU, HAWAII USA

In Oahu, Hawaii, happiness is almost a given: It’s sunny nearly every day, there are beaches to lay on, mountains to climb, and tiki drinks at every turn — what more could you want? Island amazingness aside, Oahu makes for a great relationship-building romantic escape as it’s not too far from home – so you’re not making multiple nerve-busting connections –  and flight fares from Aus are within reach thanks to Jetstar.
The island also has a lot more to offer than Waikiki – however, for newer couples, the activities and novelty of Waikiki will take the focus off decision making and intensive trip planning, and allow you to just go with the flow and enjoy yourselves.

7. INDULGING A PASSION

Travel with Jane SUP Yoga Bali

Image Janeewest

One of the more functional holiday types on the list, taking time out to indulge a passion or master a skill has to be one of the best ways to give back to yourself while recharging. We all have goals on our bucket lists that require a pilgrimage somewhere, and there are few things more exhilarating than mastering a new skill in a new place. What about Bali for yoga teacher training? Sri Lanka to learn to surf? Paris to improve your French? Scuba Dive in Mozambique? Italian cooking in Tuscany? Organic Wine farming in South Africa? The world is your educational oyster, just take a bite.

When you take a flying leap out of your comfort zone to learn something new, you’ll also learn a lot about yourself.

8. GIVE BACK HOLIDAY

Saved 2 to 4 weeks of leave? Hankering to leave it all behind and immerse yourself in a new culture and worthy mission? Want to get more out of your travel experiences than just backpacking through a place? Then you are due for a ‘voluntourism’ holiday my friend.

Working with elephant calves in Zimbabwe; building homes for disadvantaged families in Cambodia; constructing a school in Sri Lanka; teaching English in Myanmar; helping the Arnhem Land Marine Rescue Project – there are literally thousands of organisations that rely on volunteers to help treat orphaned animals, protect endangered ones, or uplift disadvantaged communities.

There are just as many organisation ready to make it happen, with tour groups such as G Adventures, World Expeditions, i-to-i, and Conservation Volunteers Australia offering holidays that mix worthwhile effort with feel-good fuzzies.

For a volunturism holiday with added adventure, Southern Africa offers ample opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life, as well as your own. Flights into Johannesburg are a dime a dozen from Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, with budget-friendly options via Singapore, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Volunteer holiday booking group African Impact are a reputable go-to for travellers seeking projects in Africa. They offer the full gamut, like the Girl Empowerment project in Cape Town, where volunteers join a township mentoring program for underprivileged girls. Or, the Dolphin Research and Marine Conservation program in Zanzibar, where volunteers contribute to small fishing villages’ sustainable use of marine resources, while researching dolphin tourism and monitoring human-dolphin interaction.

Travel brings massive rewards that far outlive fading holiday memories. Use your next trip to put yourself first, learn a new skill, help those in need, or develop important relationships. Just remember to make safety a priority, wear sunscreen, and bring a friendly travel insurer along for the ride.

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