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Greece in the Off Season

If you haven’t realized it yet by reading my blog, I am a pretty huge fan of off-peak travel. In fact, I often prefer it for many reasons (which you can read about below). One of my goals for 2020 is to be an even more conscious traveller… Which includes travelling as often as possible during off-peak times.

And I want to challenge you to make this part of your yearly travel goal too! That’s why, I’ve rounded up some of the best off-peak travel destinations to visit to during every season of the year.

But first...

What is Off-Peak Travel?

Off-peak travel largely refers to travels to certain cities or destinations at the times when others are unlikely to visit. For example, opting for Europe’s most popular destinations outside of the summer season; or travelling to popular winter destinations during the warmer months. 

Why am I over here advocating for off-peak travel?

While I truly hate crowds. And I mean hate. There is so many other (important) reasons to flock to cities during the off-season. 

#1. You get a more local perspective.

Many of my favourite travel experiences have happened during the off-season. This is because the locals are less busy. They have more time to spend with you, more patience, and are able to provide more time to give recommendations or help you arrange your trip. This has led to the most special local bonding moments for me during my travels, and some of my all-time-best travel memories.

#2. It’s good for the environment.

The environmental impact of over-tourism is insurmountable. On a local level, it impacts the infrastructure, damages nature, and create pollution. All these environmental impacts have also compounded to push locals out of their homes, alienating them from their culture. The long-term effects of over-tourism in some of the worlds most popular cities will evidently destroy them (sounds harsh… but it’s the truth). By opting to visit during the over-peak season, the impact can be mitigated with more even traffic flows through the city year round.

#3. It stimulates the local economy year-round. 

Seasonal revenue fluctuations for locals are a side effect of seasonal travel. When I recently visited Montenegro last summer, many locals pointed out the burden that the seasonal tourism had on their families. While they were thankful for higher tourism-related revenue during the summer months, during the rest of the year they were often laid off or seasonally unemployed, which put a large amount of stress on them and their families financially.

Can you imagine only getting paid for three or fourth months a year, and having to make it last until the following high season? Additionally, this tourism fluctuation means that many locals will be over-worked, in order to make as much money as possible to last through the off-season (in many countries without labour laws, this could mean working 16+ hours a day, 7 days a week). This is seriously detrimental for their personal health.

Continuous economic stimulation translates into a higher quality of life for locals. Think of it as a way of giving back!

#4. You don’t have to plan far in advance.

Want to take a certain tour? Make a dinner reservation? Or book tickets to a cultural experience? You are much less likely to have to plan way ahead for these things during the off-season (or risk being upset because you weren’t able to book it).

Europe's Best off-Peak Travel Destinations

wINTER: sCANDINAVIAN cAPITALS

Summer in Scandinavia is beautiful, there’s no doubt. But winter in the Scandinavian capitals is still a great time to travel. Home to “hygge” and “fika,” Scandinavian culture is practically synonymous with coffee, fireplaces and coziness. And while many travelers flock to the Scandinavian north to see the northern lights, or head to the slopes to go skiing, the region’s biggest cities are also made more winter fun.

Copenhagen Nyhavn in the Winter
Winter: Eastern Europe

There are so many hidden – and not so hidden – gems scattered across Eastern Europe. And if you’re in the mood for a little winter road trip (or train or bus trip), Eastern Europe is a great spot to do it.

Venture from Poland, through the Czech Republic down to Hungary. The snow-covered rooftops in these fairytale-like spots will surely look magical. Recommended itinerary: Warsaw – Krakow – Prague – Budapest. These are all cities that are busy in the summer, but are just as beautiful in the winter.

Spring: Athens & The Greek Islands

Greece is arguably my favourite country in Europe. The food, the locals, and the diverse landscapes. I would live there if I could. However, popular destinations like Santorini and Mykonos are busy. In fact, there have been conscious efforts made in recent years to combat over-tourism in these popular islands.

Still want to see the famous calderas of Santorini? Head there in the spring. While it is still busy, the crowds are manageable. And while you’re there, you can hop over to some of my other favourite Cycladic islands, like Naxos and Milos (where there is sure to be very few tourists).

And while you’re in Greece, don’t make a very common mistake and skip Athens. It is filled with history, and culture – and some fantastic restaurants. And the spring is a great time to visit! You can walk around all day long without having to worry about the heat.

Spring: Portugal

Speaking of avoiding the heat…

Portugal is very popular – and very warm – in the summer months. Avoid the crowds and the heat by visiting in the springtime. April was the perfect time for us to spend two weeks exploring this incredible country. Temperatures were mild, and we were able to eat at the best restaurants (and there are a lot of them), wander the streets, and explore the sights without worrying about crowds.

Sintra Portugal in April
Autumn: Amsterdam

Ahhhh, Amsterdam. I love this city.

But, Amsterdam is also one of the biggest victims of over-tourism in Europe. And I can attest to this, because the first time I went to Amsterdam, it was August. It was warm, crowded – but somehow, I still fell in love with it and I was keen on returning.

A few years later, I opted to go back to Amsterdam in November. The leaves were changing colours on the trees, the number of tourists was controlled, and I was able to truly enjoy the crisp fall temperatures while walking the canals without having to worry about getting hit in the head by a selfie stick (or by a tourist on bike who doesn’t understand the rules of the two-wheel road).

The city has began to crack down and have plans in place to counter this problem, such as removing the famous iAmsterdam signs and regulating Airbnb properties. However, you can do your part by heading there during the off-season.

Any-Season-But-The-Summer-Season: This applies it ANY of Europe’s most popular destinations.

I’m talking most of Italy and France, Spain, Croatia… The list really could go on and on, but I think you get the point. If you’re schedule only allows you to travel during the summer, consider an alternative, less-visited destination.

Montenegro is a great alternative to Croatia, with some of the most breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. The Douro Valley in Portugal, home to port wine, is a good Tuscany alternative. And if you’re inclined to head to the Greek Islands during the summer, consider a less-busy island, such as Naxos instead of Santorini and Mykonos.

Some of my other favourite summer destinations where I’ve (for the most part) been able to avoid severe over-tourism: Southern Germany (including Munich, Nuremburg and surrounding Bavarian towns of Bamberg or Rothenberg); Salzburg, Austria; and Belgium (Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, and Bruges).

And, if you can (again, only if you’re able to… I want to stress that this isn’t an article about passing judgement) – avoid August. This is when most Europeans are travelling. And is by far the busiest month of the year.

What do you think are the best off-peak travel destinations?

There are so many amazing destinations across this globe, and I am by no means trying to discourage others from seeing some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. But by considering to travel during the off-peak season, you are making a conscious decision to improve not only your own personal travel experience, but also the experiences of those employed by the tourism industry – all while contributing to the sustainable travel movement.

Don’t forget to share your favourite off-peak travel destinations in the comments below!

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And while you’re at it, check out my Top 10 Places to Visit in 2020.
The best off-peak travel destinations
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Skane rapeseed fields

If you’re anything like me, you’ve already been dreaming about the places you’re going to visit in 2020 for months now. Or maybe more you’re more of the last minute planner. I’m personally a bit of a mix of both. I’ve got my “big trips” planned (Vietnam, Italy, and Russia/The Baltics), but I like to be a bit more spontaneous with weekend getaways. Even still, everything always seems tentative until the flight is booked. And I’m constantly turning to other bloggers and travel writers for inspiration. 

The world is a BIG place. And our modern travel culture is making it bigger and more accessible than ever before. If your bucket list if forever growing like mine, I’m hoping this list can help you narrow it down or inspire you to visit somewhere you hadn’t considered before.

With that being said, I can’t stress enough that this 10 places to visit in 2020 list is not designed to be a literal checklist, and likewise, travel should not be about simply just crossing off locations. I’m personally not a fan of the concept of country-counting. This list is designed to inspire you to think long and hard about which destinations resonate with you. Which fill your travel aspirations. Or inspire you. And choose to really VISIT them. To immerse yourself in the culture. And travel as slowly as your schedule allows. Because this… this is when you’ll experience the magic of these spots.

10 places To Visit in 2020

Detroit, Michigan

I know what you’re thinking… Really, Detroit? You choose ONE American city to add to this list and it’s DETROIT?!

Yes, Detroit. If it isn’t on your radar, it should be. The city has been reborn and in the coolest way possible. It’s a city fill of innovators, thinkers, and doers. Of people who are obsessed with their home and are eager to welcome travellers. The city has endless things to do – sports, music, cultural events, and a killer, world-class restaurant and bar scene. And a unique vibe that pulsates through the city that you can only truly understand by visiting. If you are adding one new American city to your travel list 2020, Detroit should be it.

I’ve written all about Detroit here. Give it a read.

Belt, Detroit

Porto, Portugal

Portugal has become a hot travel destination in recent years… and I’m not just talking about temperatures. While I see others more commonly flocking to the south – to Lisbon and the Algarve – northern Portugal seems to be missing from many agendas. 

Well, in my opinion, this is a mistake. Sure, Porto is a bit more “rustic” than its bigger sister Lisbon. But it is full of beautiful views, culture, and things to do. Here, you’ll spend your days sipping port wine along the waterfront, searching for tile-clad facades around the city, and eating LOTS of good food. To me, Porto seems more local. And in ways, more authentic, then Lisbon (although I realize this is a potentially controversial statement). Plus, it is the gateway to the Douro Valley – Portugal’s wine country.

You can read more about Porto here. 

Bavaria, Germany

What do you think of when you think of quintessential Germany? For me, it’s dirndls, lederhosen, and drinking the biggest steins of beer in massive beer halls. Sure, Berlin is super cool and trendy. But have you spent time in Munich and southern Germany? This is where German culture comes alive (and you don’t have to visit during Oktoberfest to experience it).

Roaming around southern Germany in 2015 still remains one of my favourite trips ever. From the small towns of Bamberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, to the busy streets of Munich, the history of Nuremberg, and the beautiful landscapes of the Bavarian alps – southern Germany has it all and I frequently talk about returning there one day.

Milos, Greece

What’s your favourite Greek island? When you ask this question to most people, you’re bound to hear Santorini or Mykonos. For me, the answer is easy: Milos. 

Milos was one of the best kept secrets of the Cyclades until Vogue named it one of the top five destinations to visit in 2017. Since then, I’ve seen it pop up everywhere. I even recently read a Travel & Leisure article that suggested it was the best island in all of Europe. So, I guess the secrets out?

Even still, you MUST go. Because I too think this has to be the best island in Europe (or at least in the top three). It has diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. You’ll truly think you were transported to paradise.

Read more about Milos here.

Toronto, Canada

What do you picture when you think of Canada? Mountains? Lakes? Nature?

Well, Toronto doesn’t have much of that… but it still has SO much to offer. A booming culinary scene. Museums. Art. Culture. Sports. If you’re looking for a city escape in 2020, Toronto is a great choice. From the hip Queen Street West neighbourhood, to the bustling Entertainment District, Toronto is almost like a mini-NYC (although not that mini… it is home to almost 3 million people and rapidly growing).

And, bonus! The Canadian dollar is weak right now, which means it’s a fairly cheap getaway for all my American and EU readers. 

The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Looking for the perfect summer getaway? A spot that looks just like Croatia but without the crowds? Well, Montenegro is your spot.

Easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro has all the ingredients for a perfect summer getaway. Turquoise waters, mountains, historic cities – and very few crowds, even in the summer months. Montenegro is pretty new to the tourism game, but I can’t imagine it will stay this way for long. Which is why 2020 is the perfect time to pay a visit to this stunning coastal country.

Thinking of visiting Montenegro? You can read more about it here.

Perast Montenegro

Copenhagen, Denmark

I love Copenhagen. But, if you’ve been following me for awhile, that shouldn’t be a secret. To me, Copenhagen isn’t like most other European cities. It emulates this special coziness that is so classicly Danish. The city makes you feel at ease, and at home within seconds. It’s not too big, yet big enough to offer lots of things to do. And let’s not forget the food scene. If you’re looking for a capital city that is unique to many others in Europe, Copenhagen is your perfect match.

Just a word of caution: You might leave wishing you were Danish (because I know I do every single time).

You can find more on Copenhagen here.

Kraków, Poland

Kraków is a city that truly surprised me in 2019. I knew the city had a lot of history, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. With endless WWII history tours and exhibits, an innovative culinary scene (I’m a huge advocate of the pierogi-only diet while visiting Poland), and beautiful sights, you could spend several days in Kraków and have endless things to do.

As a bonus, it is by far the cheapest destination I went to this year. So if you’re looking for a money-saving destination, this is your spot.

Read all about Kraków here.

Ghent, Belgium

Talk to most travellers and Belgium isn’t typically on their list. Or, if it is, there’s a good chance they are headed to the fairytale town of Bruges. And while Bruges is truly beautiful (and I loved it there) – Ghent is also beautiful. And cool. And wildly underrated.

A largely university town, Ghent is as quaint as they come. With historic buildings lining the old town, dozens of shops to pop in-and-out of, and a fun nightlife, Ghent embodies Belgian charm. If you’re looking for a smaller town to explore in 2020, this is the perfect destination to add to your list.

Read about Ghent here.

Cuberdon in Ghent
How to spend 24 hours in Ghent

Skåne County, Sweden

You didn’t think you’d get through this list without listing my new hometown in southern Sweden, did you? While some may say I am a bit biased, I have truly been blown away by southern Sweden. While most people flock up to Stockholm, I am making it my personal mission to encourage people to visit Skåne (the county that Malmö resides in).

It is full of small historic towns (read about those here), the beautiful university town of Lund, Malmö (Sweden’s third-largest harbor city), and the most beautiful beaches. If you’re looking to do something a little bit different in 2020, you should absolutely visit southern Sweden.

All kinds of Sweden content can be found here.

Pretty streets in Gamla staden, Malmö
Simrishamn Beach in October

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I’d also love to hear your list of 10 places to visit in 2020. Add it in the comments below!

10 Places to Visit in 2020
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Douro Valley, Portugal

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the 2010s are almost over. THIS DECADE is almost over. Which, as a baby born in 1990, that also means that I’ll be saying goodbye to my twenties this year. 

This decade has been filled with growth. With huge changes. With tough lessons. Heartbreak. And so many happy memories. I’ve always loved to travel, but I feel like it has become such a huge part of who I am in this past decade. These experiences have contributed in massive ways to who I identify as an individual. And for that reason, I am so grateful for the opportunity to choose this life path, and for all the people who I’ve crossed paths with along the way who have made these memories that much more special.

I began this as a “Top 10” list – and quickly realized it was impossible to narrow the past ten years of travel to just ten memories. So bare with me, because this list has gotten a bit long (and is in no particular order).

I hope you enjoy taking this (super nostalgic) walk down memory lane with me...

It's Been FUn.

Channeling my Inner Maria von Trapp in Salzburg

In 2015, my sister and I visited Salzburg, Austria and were able to live out our mutual childhood fantasy of pretending we were part of the Von Trapp family. The Sound of Music was our favourite movie as kids (we were completely obsessed), so the fact that we were able to experience this together was so special. Stories from the three days we spent in Austria frequently get brought up in conversation when we’re together, which just reaffirms the fact that this was a major highlight of our decade.

Trip Highlights: Going on a bike tour through the Austrian alps to all The Sound of Music filming locations with Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour. This is an absolute bucket list MUST for any movie fanatics. We also watched a Sound of Music marionette show at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre which was so incredibly impressive, and a must-do. 

Cruising Around Milos, Greece by Boat with Oneiro

Cruising around Milos by boat with Oneiro was EASILY my favourite day in Greece. It was one of those very special “pinch me” type of moments that are a reminder of why I travel. 

The day was filled with sailing around to beaches only accessible by water, eating tons of Greek food onboard (with lots of homemade wine and ouzo), snorkelling in caves, and dancing around the bow of the boat to Greek music with the owners, Elias and Vassilis.

I wrote all about this experience in my 4-Day Guide to Milos. And you can also check out some of the highlights in the Instagram post below.

Bachelorette in The Music CitY

Nashville is forever reserved as one of my favourite girls trips – ever. It was just one of those best friend trips that resulted in stories that we will continue to reminisce about for the rest of our lives. We may live in different parts of the world, but every time this group is together, Nashville memories always make their way into the conversation.

From dancing at rooftop bars to country music into the early hours of the morning, to having pool parties at our AirBnb, and pedalling around the city belting our favourite songs, this weekend was one of the best of the decade. And is a trip every group of girlfriends needs to take in their lifetime.

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you can't spin with us 🙅🏻#kizistomrs

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Visiting Normandy on the ANniversary of D-Day

Visiting the beaches and Normandy region on the 72nd anniversary with my brother was a surreal experience. We did a full-day “Canada” tour with Normandy Sightseeing Tours and learned so much about this historical battle. 

Doing this tour at any time of the year is super special, but there was something just a little bit extra special about joining on this particular day. Throughout the day, we encountered WWII war veterans that fought at Normandy, and came back every year to visit the memorial sites of their friends. We even chatted with one gentleman who looked at us and said: “See that spot over there? That’s where my parachute landed when I jumped from the plane.” INSTANT GOOSEBUMPS.

Another surreal memory of this day was visiting the “La Maison des Canadiens” which overlooked Juno Beach and was liberated by the Canadian troops. While we stood in front of the house, our guide explaining the significance, the owners of the home invited us in for a visit. The home has stayed within the family since WWII, and they explained that they gathered there every year to host a small celebration. My guide, a true Normandy historian fanatic, was giddy when they invited us in and exclaimed “This has never happened before!” 

Spending Christmas in Aruba with my Family

This Christmas tradition is something that started when I was VERY young. In fact, I first visited Aruba when I was three years old and have often considered it my “home away from home.”

While I have visited more than once this past decade, and there isn’t one particular memory that sticks out, I felt like it deserved a spot on this list, because our Aruba Christmas tradition is one of my favourite family traditions. And even though the fact that we’re now living in different cities, and have different schedules, has prevented us from all heading “home” to Aruba for the holidays these past few years, this perfect Caribbean island has such a special place in my heart.

Living Like a Local in Amsterdam

I first spent three days in Amsterdam in 2015 and it wasn’t enough. I knew I would be back. That’s why when Sebastian had the opportunity to work in The Netherlands in 2018, I jumped on the opportunity to spent a week in a more “local” Amsterdam suburb.

While he worked, I treated myself to solo brunches, sipped coffee in cozy coffeeshops, and wandered around Amsterdam’s more “local” neighbourhoods. 

Highlight of the Week: My food tour with Hungry Birds. I have done a lot of food tours, and this was EASILY my favourite ever. If you’re wandering solo like me, looking for some guidance to exploring Amsterdam’s amazing food scene, and interested in making new friends, this was easily a highlight of the decade for me.

See Also: A Complete Amsterdam Itinerary: What to See, Eat, and Do in Amsterdam.

Taking an Ice Cold Dip in the Baltic Sea

My first visit to Scandinavia in December 2017 was a special one. It was my first time seeing Sebastian’s home, meeting his family, and getting a taste of Swedish traditions. Which, naturally, meant visiting a Scandinavian spa. We spent a night at Ystad Saltsjöbad and it was MAGICAL. The highlight of my trip was taking a dip in the freezing cold Baltic sea (in ture Nordic fashion).

I loved this experience so much, it seemed only fitting that Sebastian propose at another Scandinavia spa earlier this year, almost two years later.

Exploring Prague at Christmas

Prague is city that looks like it could be the set of a fairytale movie. Which means it is the perfect place to explore at Christmastime. The city quite literally lights up, the streets filled with markets, and holiday music playing around the clock. This also means that Prague is very busy at Christmas, which is exactly why we were determined to start our days early. 

My favourite Prague memory: Getting up early and heading to the iconic Charles Bridge for sunrise. During the day, this beautiful bridge is packed with tourists and merchants. At sunrise, it was a much different picture and we got to experience sunrise overlooking one of the most beautiful city skylines I’ve ever seen.

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle

During 2015 and 2016, my little brother spent a year and a half living in Nuremberg, Germany. So, my sister and I set out on a little backpacking adventure to meet up with him and explore his new home. This led to some amazing memories: beer-hall-hopping in Munich, exploring the historical streets of small towns like Bamberg, and my favourite: visiting Neuschwanstein Castle.

We spent a night in Füssen so that we could be up bright and early to get a glimpse of this iconic castle and it was just that – iconic. Sure, this place is touristy, but it is so worth visiting. Also, make sure you take the tour inside to hear the stories of the famed King Ludwig II and see the marvellous interior (that was never actually finished).

Funny Side Story/Memory: We had also booked a paragliding trip, where you paraglide off the side of the alps and hover over the castle. Well, my brother forgot to bring sneakers and showed up only with Birkenstock sandals. He attempted to fasten them to his feet, convinced he would be fine to jump off the mountainside with sandals. Unfortunately (and thankfully for my mom who surely would have had a panic attack over the thought of three of her kids jumping off the side of a mountain), we were never able to test it out because it was too windy to paraglide that day. So, all we’re left with is this funny little travel memory.

Riding on the World's Most Scenic Train Ride

The Flam Railway in Norway has been coined the world’s most scenic train ride – and it lives up to the hype. 

My parents came to visit us in Sweden this last summer, and we took a little four day adventure up to Norway where we swam in fjords, hiked in the beautiful mountains, sailed through the narrowest fjord in the world, and rode the Flam Railway.

If you’re a nature-lover, visiting Norway in a must. You’re guaranteed to see some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see in your life. You can read my full Norway guide here.

Stumbling Upon Greek MOuntain Villages

Naxos in an island that is often forgotten amongst some of its more popular Cyclades family members. But, it is such an amazing island that should be added to every Greek island itinerary.

During my favourite day on Naxos, we rented a car and ventured out on the winding cliff-side roads to explore the tiniest mountain villages on the island. We were greeted by the friendliest locals by being invited in for fresh orange juice in the morning (even though the restaurant was closed), were served the best local Greek food (the Naxos potatoes!!! and local cheese), and stumbled upon some of the prettiest sights. This more “authentic” Greek island experience is something you would have a hard time finding on touristy islands like Santorini, and it a day that I’m reminded of frequently as being so darn special.

See Also: My complete guide to Naxos, Greece.

A Family Long Weekend at Walt Disney World

You’re never too old to go to Disney… That’s what they say, right? Well, I can attest to this! 

When my little brother finished elementary school in 2014, my parents wanted to bring their “baby” to Walt Disney World one last time. I made a last minute decision to tag along and had a BLAST. Spending a long weekend exploring the parks that I enjoyed as a kid, with a unique perspective, was so much fun. And has left me with some pretty special family memories.

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The most magical place on earth! #disney

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Driving on the World's best Road

I visited the Douro Valley for the wine, but getting there was truly half the fun – and one of the most memorable parts of our time in the region. The N-222 road from Peso de Regua to Pinhao in Portugal has been coined the world’s best road, and it was super cool to take the drive. The views from the winding roads were stunning, with mountains on one side and water on the other. We made countless stops along the way to snap beautiful photos of the mountain-side villages and wineries scattered throughout the region. 

See Also: If you’re planning to make a visit to this region, I wrote all about the Douro Valley in this post. 

My First Nordic Dinner Experience

On my first trip to Copenhagen in December 2017, during my first time visiting Sebastian in Scandinavia, he booked a dinner reservation at one of Copenhagen’s most popular restaurants: 108.

In an effort to impress me, he said “we’ll take the full tasting menu” and we indulged in an authentic Nordic farm-to-table dinner experience. The three hour ten (ish?) course meal with wine pairing was easily the fanciest dinner I have ever had… and maybe ever will have. Because in that very effort to impress me, he neglected to look at the menu prices. Needless to say, the price tag was a bit shocking. But arguably worth it for an experience we’ll both never forget.

See Also: My complete guide to visiting Copenhagen.

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keeping it cozy in copenhagen 🇩🇰

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Meeting Sebastian in New Orleans

Last but CERTAINLY not least. In fact, it is my most significant travel memory of the last decade because it has completely changed my life in the best way.

Sebastian and I met while I was visiting New Orleans on a bachelorette party. We met in a bar on Frenchman Street, and instantly connected. For obvious reasons, that night and the subsequent day remain SO special to me. 

If you’re interested in reading the full story, I’ve wrote all about it in this blog post.

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Can we just go 🔙 to the weekend, please?

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AND SO many more memories...

I could seriously keep writing and writing… because this highlight reel really doesn’t do the past ten years justice (and only scratches the surface of all the trips I’ve taken). Nevertheless, it’s been super fun taking this trip down memory lane… and seeing how much my photography/editing skills have improved. I hope I’ve maybe inspired you you to take a leap, book a trip, or add a bit more adventure to your life.

And if you’re interested in seeing what I get up to in 2020, and over the next decade, don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list and follow me on Instagram.

cheers to the next ten years!
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Simrishamn Beach in October

WOW. Nine months. I’ve officially spent nine months living in Sweden. But seriously… where has the time gone?

Before we dive into this I want to start by saying that I love Canada with all my heart. I am
forever grateful for the ultimate lottery of being born in one of the world’s
best countries. And for the endless opportunities growing up in Canada, and
being a Canadian, has provided me.

But, even though Canada is great (and still #1 in my heart)…

I’m convinced that other countries could learn a thing or
two from the Swedes. Life in Sweden is a bit slower, a bit more balanced, a bit
more “lagom” (if you’re like whaaaat is that?… I explain it a bit more about
it below).

And after living in Sweden, I have some takeaways. Here are the best things about living in Sweden.


1. LAGOM

You probably have heard the Danish concept of “hygge,” which has become synonymous with Danish lifestyle, and is being emulated around the world. Similarly, the Swedish concept of “lagom” is something that has been hyped internationally (I mean, even Vogue was talking about it). However, I had a difficult time actually understanding this concept until I began to immerse myself in Swedish culture.

Lagom |là:gom|: Neither too little, or too much; just right. Doing, being, and having just enough.

This principle is truly indicative of the Swedish lifestyle.
Simple, balanced, and, above all else, contentment. It is about living life in
moderation, and appreciating what you have in that very moment.

I think the outside world has this view of hygge or lagom as a bunch of Scandinavian’s sitting around cozy fireplaces eating kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) – this isn’t true. It is a principle that is ingrained in the culture of the locals, and not something that, in my opinion, can easily be mimicked.

However, I still think that many other countries can learn a bit from the Swedish lagom principle about being content with what you have, and being a little more selfless. Because, ultimately, the reason Sweden has been coined such a great place to live is because they focus on the common good, where hierarchy and status is not important, and everyone is living their own definition of “lagom.”


2. FIKA

Surely you’ve heard of the Swedish concept of fika. It is easily one of the most famous Swedish concepts. But what does it really mean?

Fika |fi:ka|: a Swedish concept meaning “to have coffee” or “coffee with friends,” is typically coffee accompanied by a sweet treat, and is a moment to slow down, and appreciate the good things in life.

Before I moved here, I was aware of the concept. But I was
certain it was just a fun gimmick. Boy, was a wrong.

Fika is a way of life in Sweden. We have “Fredagskaka” or “Friday cake” at work. We get together with friends and family for afternoon fika on the weekend (or even after work). It is a concept dating back to the 19th century and is an integral part of Swedish culture.

And while I love a good cup of coffee and a sweet treat, fika is so much more than that. It is an opportunity to take a break from the nuances of your day to just be with the people closest with you. To catch up. To bond. To tell stories… and laugh. And I mean, how special is that?

See Also: My favourite spots in Malmö for fika.


3. SOMMARSEMESTER

Or, in English, summer holidays.

Taking time for yourself – and enjoying time with your families – is important. That’s why 5-6 weeks of paid vacation is standard in Sweden.

And to add to that, Swedes believe that vacation should be enjoyed for longer than one or two weeks at a time. In fact, in Sweden it is normal to take up to four or five weeks of vacation straight, especially during the summer.

After working at a global Swedish-owned company, I can confirm that Swedes live by the principle that work is important – but that in order to be the best employee, you need take care of yourself (and your family). And that means taking time off without questions or feelings of judgement, whether it be to take a mental break, spend time with family and friends, or see the world. And this is something that I think that countries around the world could learn from.


4. “DET FINNS INGET DÅLIGT VÄDER, BADA DÅLIGA KLÄDER”

Translation: There is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes.

This is easily one of my favourite Swedish sayings. Despite living in the north, Swede’s love to be outside.

In Sweden, the number of summer days a year is limited. Most
days hover around 20 degrees, however it is not unusual for it to be 15 degrees
and rainy in July. And let’s not even get started on the cold, dark winters.

What does this mean for the locals? They make the most of every single sunny day – and spend lots of time outside, even if it’s a bit chilly (or rainy… and it can be very rainy in Malmö). During the summer, it is not unusual, or frowned upon to leave the office early just because it is nice outside. The reason why: nice days are limited, and should be enjoyed. Especially when it is light out until 10:30 pm. As far as Swede’s are concerned, they can make up for it at the office during the cold, dark winter.

However, that doesn’t mean Swedes don’t make the most out of every day. It is not unusual to see Swedes bundled up on a sunny day in March, outside on a patio, having fika with friends (likely with a baby bundled up in a stroller next to them – because yes, the stereotypes are reeeeal. And on that note, the stereotype of fathers on a solo stroller walks with their babies are true too).

See Also: A photo diary of autumn in Skåne, Sweden.


5. SWEDE’S ARE MULTI-LINGUAL

Jag talar Svenska (“I speak Swedish”).

Okay, no I don’t. But I swear I’m working on it. However, learning Swedish is proving to be quite the challenge, because in order to live in Sweden, you really don’t have to speak Swedish.

Did you know that Scandinavian countries are home to some of the best English-as-a-second-language speakers in the world? I mean, after years of cheering on the Detroit Red Wings and their Swedish roster with perfect English, I already knew this. But I didn’t realize that there is some crazy statistic like more than 95% of the population is fluent in English.

This makes it very difficult for an expat like me to learn to speak Swedish – because locals love to practice their English with native speakers.

With that being said, many of the Swedes I’ve met speak more than two languages. They are taught English in school and movies and TV shows are not dubbed (which means they are also expert subtitle readers). Because of this, they have this inherent interest in learning new languages.

Needless to say, I’m totally inspired. And am hoping that in
due time, I can add “proficient in Swedish” to my CV (but I am not getting to
eager yet, because this learning Swedish thing is no joke).


6. YOU DON’T NEED A CAR

Living in Sweden? No car required.

Locals that live in the city almost exclusively travel by
bike. In fact, Malmö is littered with bike lanes and is often considered one of
the most bike-friendly cities in the world.

Alternatively, you can take public transit. You can get virtually anywhere you need to go by bus and/or train – even rural villages. And the public transit operates at nearly all hours of the day, which means you always have an option to get where you need to be.

After living for most of my life in a city where you need a car, never could I have imagined have a 30 minute walk/bus ride to work everyday. But, truthfully, I love my commute. It is a time to get fresh air and listen to my favourite podcasts – all while helping reduce the carbon footprint. Which brings me to my next point…


7. ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY

Surely, at this point, everyone in the world has heard of Greta Thunberg (but in case you’ve been living under a rock, she’s the Swedish teenage environmental activist who has been actively advocating around the world for climate change).

However, after living in Sweden, it doesn’t surprise me that this young environmental trailblazer is a Swedish native – because Swedes are very conscious of the environment.

As I mentioned before, it is not unusual for locals to rely on bikes and public transportation (especially with the price of gas). Additionally, simple initiatives like recycling and composting are made very easy. And don’t even think about buying a disposable water bottle, or using a plastic bag, because you’ll surely be judged. And besides, Swedish drinking water is some of the cleanest (and tastiest) in the world!


8. HIGH TAXES, HIGH REWARDS

Daycare? Free. University? Free. Cleaning services? Subsidized. Healthcare? Mostly free (you’ll never pay more than 1,000 SEK or roughly 100 EUR per year). I could go on and on about all the fantastic government-incentivized programs.

And let’s not forget the parental leave. 480 work days, which is often shared by both parents (yes, you heard that right, it isn’t weird for new dads to take parental leave; in fact, 90 days are required to be used exclusively by the father). This parental leave can also be used until the child is eight years old, which means it also isn’t uncommon for parents to only work four days a week or take extended summer holidays to spend with their families.

Of course, these programs come with the stigma of being costly. And although some of that is true, my income taxes certainly aren’t any higher than they were in Canada (although, sales taxes are a hefty 25%). Despite the stereotype that the Nordic countries are expensive, I don’t feel like my cost of living is higher here than it would be in Canada.

With many basic everyday bills, like cellphones, internet, and education being very affordable, the only thing that is expensive are the “luxuries” like entertainment (going out to eat, or going to the movies), cars, and gas. And really, I’m happy to reallocate that 90% savings on my monthly cellphone bill to a night out with friends, anyways.

See Also: You can read more about my favourite spots for a night out in Malmo here.


9. JANTELAGEN

I know, another word you likely can’t pronounce. This is a
Scandinavian principle that guides how Swedes choose to act, particularly in
the workplace.

Jantelagen |jantɛˌlɑːɡɛn|: You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than anyone else.

Don’t boast. Don’t brag. Stay humble and grounded. Never
make anyone else feel inferior to you. No one needs to know about your rank in
the hierarchy of your company. Or your new, expensive car.

That, in a nutshell, is Jantelagen.


10. PROXIMITY TO THE REST OF EUROPE

For a travel bug like me, this is easily one of the best things about living in Sweden. I can travel, door-to-door, to Copenhagen Airport in 30 minutes. And Malmö Airport, also nearby, offers budget connections to many European cities for cheap weekend getaways.

Not to mention, there are so many cities accessible by train, including some incredible cities within Sweden (for example, you can get from Malmö to Stockholm in four hours by train, or 50 minutes by flights … which I’ll be doing in a few weeks, so stay tuned for that story!).


And those are, in my opinion at least, the absolute best things about living in Sweden.

Is there anything I missed? If so, add it to the comments below! And if you’re considering moving to Sweden, I’ve wrote all about the Swedish visa process here. You can also read more about expat life in Sweden here.


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Roaming the Streets in Malmö, Sweden

I’ve officially spent 3 weeks in Malmö. In some ways, it feels like I just got here. In other ways, it feels like I’ve been here forever. I’ve settled right in and I’m starting to feel like a local in this city. We’ve done so much in three weeks, including furnishing an entire apartment, a day trip to Copenhagen, spending time with friends and family, and the list goes on.

You’ve asked for a life update. So, here it is.

Here’s some of the things I’ve been up to during my first 3 weeks in Malmö.

Furnished Our Apartment

I have spent more time at Ikea in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life. With that being said, we officially have all the essentials. We still need to put some pictures on the walls, but the place is coming along. Here’s a few sneak peaks our our little hygge-infused Nordic oasis.

Spent a Day in Copenhagen

Last Saturday, we took the train over to Copenhagen to spend the day exploring the city. We walked 28,000 steps all around the city, checking out new neighbourhoods, have patio coffees/drinks, and indulging in some Nordic cuisine. It was 12 degrees Celsius and sunny, which made it the absolute perfect day to just roam. I can’t wait to spend more time here once the weather gets nicer and the days get longer. I am so obsessed with everything about this city.

In case you missed it, I wrote about ‘The Most Instagrammable Places in Copenhagen’ – you can read all about it here.

Explored my Own Backyard

I’ve spent a lot of time getting acquainted with my new city, especially during the day while Sebastian is at work [in between hunting for jobs of course!]. I finally feel like I’m able to get around without relying exclusively on Google Maps. And I’m starting to find all my favourite restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. I’ve had fika dates with new friends, found a yoga community I truly love, and am feeling more and more like a local every single day.

Spent Time with Friends & Family

We’ve been spending lots of time with friends since I arrived, catching up with so many of Sebastian’s friends that I haven’t seen in over a year. Last night, we hosted a small house-warming get together with friends, enjoyed drinks, lots of laughs, and I introduced the group to the game Werewolf [if you don’t know about this game, you NEED to].

I’m so grateful for the friends and family who have welcomed me with open arms, accommodated my lack of Swedish-speaking skills, and made this transition as easy as possible.

Flowers in Malmö Sweden

That’s It for Now!

Stay tuned for more updates and blog posts coming soon. I can’t wait to share more of my adventures with you!

xx,

Madeline

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Snow in Lake Louise Alberta

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to do something a bit different. Instead of boasting about how great my guy is [even though he really, truly is GREAT], I’ve decided to share the story of how we met with all my readers. This is our real life ‘Before Sunrise’ story.

In case you weren’t aware yet my boyfriend is Swedish

When I first tell people that Sebastian is Swedish, they immediately ask how we met. When I explain that we met doing the thing we both love most – travelling – most people are incredibly supportive. Although, I have admittedly run into my fair share of non-believers who doubt we can make it work.

I’ve told this story what feels like a million times, but I’m so excited to have it ALL down in writing to share with you. I promise it’s a good one.

So here it is!

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Where We Met: New Orleans, Louisiana

In June 2017, I went to New Orleans with a large group of girls for a bachelorette party – certainly the last place that I ever expected to meet anyone. After a stint of dating the wrong people and quite frankly settling in relationships, the last thing I was looking for was to meet someone on vacation.

Sebastian was on the tail end of a busy few months from work, and was essentially being forced to take vacation after working around the clock. On a whim, he bought a plane ticket and took a solo trip to the US. One of the cities he chose to visit New Orleans based on his love for classic Blues and Jazz music.


The Night We Met

It was my third and last night in New Orleans. After a couple of late nights out, most of the girls that I was travelling with decided to go to bed early. Refusing to call it a night, myself and two other girls decided to head to Frenchman Street to check out the art market and listen to some live music.

We walked into one of the bars, and noticed that a local that we had met the night before singing on stage. We watched his performance, and proceeded to congratulate him on an great performance. He insisted we join him at “the best bar on Frenchman Street” and we followed him there – and thank goodness we did!

Meanwhile, Sebastian had run into a man that he had met the night prior who invited him to go to the same bar. He didn’t really want to go, but in the spirit of being nice agreed to join him and ended up staying there all night because the band was so fantastic.

It was this in this hole-in-the-wall bar on Frenchman Street that our stars aligned. 

It still isn’t clear who said hi to who first – we both claim it was the other person. All I know is that the conversation was flowing and it was the most effortlessly natural connection I had ever experienced. He stayed out until 5am with my friends and I, while we listened to music and got to know each other.

He walked me home and asked if he could take me for breakfast in the morning before my evening flight. I agreed.


The Next Day

I remember waking up the morning after I met Sebastian and thinking I was crazy. Why was I going to meet a guy for breakfast that I almost certainly was never going to see again?

But something was telling me to go. I felt it. And I am so happy that I trusted my gut.

We spent the next five or so hours trying to avoid intermittent thunderstorms, getting brunch [at a restaurant that ended up flooding because of said thunderstorms], grabbing drinks, laughing, getting to know everything about each other, and walking around New Orleans. It was so easy and natural.


Goodbye … For Now

We said our goodbyes, I left for the airport, and was almost certain that we would never see each other again. However, we kept texting. And the text messaging turned into several hours of FaceTime. It was the most amazing way to get to know someone better, because all we had was conversation.

The FaceTime sessions eventually turned into Sebastian coming to visit me in Canada. Which turned into seven cross-Atlantic trips and eight countries visited in just over a year.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

A Real Life ‘Before Sunrise’ Experience

Over those roughly 10 hours we had together from the first moment we met until I left for the airport, Sebastian kept referring to the movie “Before Sunrise,” saying that this day had been just like the movie. Before I left for the airport, he made me promise to go home and watch the movie. So I did. And he was right – I don’t think I have ever related to a movie character more than I did to Céline.


I Guess The Old Saying is True…

Love Manifests in Crazy Ways

If someone told me that this would be the way I was going to meet my person, I would have told them they were crazy. But it really is true that it takes one split second for your life to change forever.

When I reflect back on all the people that I love in my life, this statement holds true. These people have all been brought into my life one way or another, and had a tremendous impact.

I’m sending love to everyone in my life today, and everyday – near and far. Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic relationships; it is about celebrating all of the LOVE in our lives.

Enjoy celebrating this day of love with your nearests and dearests. And don’t forget to tell the people that you love how much you care about them.

My Sister's Wedding in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
My Sister’s Wedding in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
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