To Tuscany – Travel Live Learn won!

Do you know why it is worth entering yourself in competitions? Because sometimes you can win!

Last week I received an email to say that a travel live learn blog post on healthy holidays that I’d entered into a competition To Tuscany was running had been declared the best that they saw. Yay!

Earlier in the year, To Tuscany invited content creators to share tips on how to make a holiday healthy and happy in mind, body and spirit.

We believe we shared some pretty helpful advice and are so grateful the judges thought so too.

In April we’re flying into Pisa and will enjoy a week’s stay in the Tuscan villa La Stalla Montebuoni. We’ll visit historic Florence, where around 600 years ago political, cultural and economic forces collided, sparking the Renaissance. This period is regarded as the bridge between the middle ages and modern history, and importantly, provoked new ways of thinking, with an emphasis on art, education and the pursuit of happiness. Sounds right up my alley!

We look forward to exploring surrounding medieval towns including Siena, and of course sampling local wine and cheese.

Can. Not. Wait!

 

Susan Gardner, well-being judge, gave the following comment on the entry:

The winner has a lovely easy style which has an appealing look about it and the language used is friendly and supportive. Overall, it provides a useful guide as per the specifications of the contest, with many helpful recommendations from their personal experience which could be potentially attractive to many of the readers whether they are unfamiliar with the concept of a wellbeing/Yoga get-away/retreat or are regular attendees.

It offers a well understood range of practical tips, which I consider to be very helpful to use as a checklist of priorities and how to maximise the time whilst away. It’s realistic and relevant with a generous range of activities being suggested as something worth researching and exploring. There is a good balance of images which help to deliver the message along with useful links to further reach a wider audience.”

 

View the blog: 11 happy and healthy holiday ideas

Thanks again to the judges for choosing us.

We believe in everything we produce on this site and are passionate about sharing ideas on wellbeing, creative living and travel. Keep an eye out for our vlogs and blogs covering the region this Easter!

 

Happy and healthy holiday ideas

 

11 of the best healthy holiday ideas you’ll read this year…

One of the downsides of enjoying your work is that you tend to forget to take breaks – I’m very guilty of this, and in 2017 I intend to consciously seek healthy holiday ideas for real rest and relaxation.

Towards the end of last year I burnt myself out, became run-down and rather miserable.

The trips I took in 2016 weren’t actually holidays. While they were amazing (Stockholm for a conference and a super quick trip to Malta in the summer), I was pushed for time, over-indulged (because it seemed like a really fun option at the time), and ended up more tired than before I’d stepped on the plane in the first place.

Increasingly the pressures of modern-day life mean we’re always ‘on’, and Cooper and I are arguably becoming wiser with age, because our new world view incorporates happy, healthy holiday ideas where we want to have energy to explore, the chance to rest and the capacity to express our discoveries creatively but without overdoing our time spent online.

 

Healthy holiday ideas we now seek, mean that we’ll come back home feeling refreshed in mind, body and spirit.

 

11 of the very best happy and healthy holiday ideas

Worry-free ways on how to rejuvenate in mind, body and spirit in 2017…

Plan ahead

Whether you’re heading off on a road trip, coach tour or spending a week in a Tuscan villa, we’ve discovered the easiest healthy holiday ideas to implement include planning your meals and excursions ahead of time.

Lack of planning (or even boredom) often leads to impulse buying that spirals into unnecessary spending (and subsequent financial stress), plus food or alcohol intake that’s well beyond what was intended.

Then you feel sluggish for the duration of your holiday. Not fun.

Scheduling your time also means making the best use of it, so you can mix up hours spent exploring and being active, with time for simply chilling out and ‘being’.

In our experience, it’s easy to get tired when you’re travelling; your routine is different, you’re often on the go and that impromptu pint of beer is always an excellent idea … not!

For our recent trip to Ibiza in Spain though, I’d spent just a little bit of time planning where we could explore on foot from our accommodation, and I used the weather as a guide to determine which would be good days to be out and about (when it was sunny) and when would be better to just laze about (cloudy or rain forecast). It worked a treat!

Tip: Sign up for the local version of a deals site like Living Social or Groupon in advance of your holiday, and gather discounts on tours, dining, spa packages and local experiences before you go.

 

Shop at a supermarket

This is one of our best healthy holiday ideas that we share with everyone, and for good reason. It seems so simple, but a lot of holiday-makers fail to act on taking that quick trip into Lidl or Aldi.

By buying your own beverages, food and planning meals ahead, you’re taking control of budget as well as what you are putting into your body.

That is, you know exactly what’s going into each meal in terms of ingredients and calories; you have the choice to balance healthy snacks (e.g. fruit and nuts) with cheeky holiday indulgences (bring me corn chips, cheese and Prosecco!), and it’s much cheaper than getting to the point where you’re hungry so you pop down to the corner store for something over-priced and under-nourishing.

Local engagement

You don’t need a gym on hand to be active.

Of course, you could travel to a destination specifically to take part in a well-being retreat like yoga in Italy or Turkey. But if not, take advantage of modern technology and services like meetup.com to find running clubs, yoga classes, cycling groups or hobbyists who enjoy things you do (for example, bird watching, meditation, hiking).

Signing-up for meet-ups happening during your visit has two advantages – you can enjoy physical and mental activity while meeting locals and finding out more about the destination you’re visiting.

 

Explore on foot

City breaks, island adventures and regional escapes all have something wonderful in common – the best way to explore is on foot.

Certainly, you’ll possibly need to intersperse this activity with a local bus ride, hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing coach tour and even a bike or a boat ride, but to really see and feel a new place you’ve got to get on the ground and wander.

The other obvious benefit of this is the incidental exercise you get!

When we visited my brother and his wife in Japan we couldn’t have eaten any more food if we tried (so yummy, try a Watami restaurant for a large Izakaya menu, and Sukiya for delicious curries), but we walked so much that we went home lighter than when we arrived!

Additionally, when we visited Ibiza, nothing much was open as it was low season (winter) but that didn’t bother us because there were plenty of places to explore on foot, and even hiking was an option for those who are so inclined.

As mentioned, plan ahead to see what your options are; bring maps with you or take some from a tourist information centre or airport (be prepared in case you cannot access data on your phone when you’re out and about).

If you suffer knee or foot pain, ensure you pack appropriate footwear, support or even strapping if required, so that your adventure is safe and comfortable.

 

Walking tours

Many cities in the world offer walking tours that showcase the famous, quirky and interesting highlights of the place.

A lot of these options are either free or very inexpensive, run by locals who know their backyard and are keen to share their insider-secrets with enthusiastic travellers.

Once again, you’re enjoying incidental exercise by getting active; you have the chance to learn about a place and ask questions, thus putting the curious mind to work, and you’re saving on financial worries through this cheap tour option while also contributing to the local economy.

Win. win. win!

Before you leave for your destination, simply Google ‘walking tours in…’; research and contact your preferred operators and plan the excursion into your itinerary.

Remember to also search for niche options that interest you, which might be ‘walking ghost tours’, ‘walking history tours’, ‘quirky walking tours’, ‘insider secret walking tours’ and so on.

 

Pencil in ‘me time’

What is the one thing that you have discovered brings more light into your day?

Is it morning meditation, twenty minutes free-writing, drawing, reading or sparing some time to watch or listen to a motivating broadcast (e.g. on YouTube)?

Make time for this activity during your time away, in fact if you can, prioritise it.

Journaling is a pastime that I feel always brings benefit to my life, but I often lack the time to do it around my day job.

On our recent trip away, I made sure I took some time out each afternoon for this activity.

All you need is ten or twenty minutes a day, but making time for something that lights you up will help to invigorate your spirit in time for a return to the home and work routine.

Unleash your inner creative

A rising trend in the travel industry is that of ‘creative tourism’ which caters for the ‘creative traveller’.

This means that many of us are using holidays and travel adventures as opportunities to express ourselves creatively.

Maybe it means that you use some of your time away to work on writing your book or blogging?

I get just as much enjoyment these days out of writing and photography (and Cooper is really into producing vlogs) as I do taking the actual vacation. It’s one and the same, and we’ve both had conversations about how invigorating it is to indulge in our creative side while being inspired by different landscapes and experiences.

You don’t need to have a website or YouTube channel to delve into this though; creative art, cooking, writing, language and even fashion courses are on offer in many parts of the world now – simply research online whatever takes your fancy.

You could search by destination, or, many travellers are actually selecting destinations based on the creative experiences available to them there.

European regions including Tuscany, Costa Brava, Ibiza, Barcelona and the French Riviera are particularly leading the way on this front. Take a look at the Creative Tourism Network for more information, or contact the local tourism authority in an area you’re keen to visit to enquire about options. Elena Paschinger has also written a lovely book on the subject, The Creative Traveler’s Handbook. 

 

Switch off tech

The ultimate in healthy holiday ideas is to take a break from technology. While Cooper and I obviously need and like technology for blogging and vlogging, we schedule time for it now.

We’re aware it’s important to step away from online engagement so we actually have time to engage with each other, our friends and family!

Our big tip here is to set boundaries for when computers, phones and tablets should be put away, for example, within two hours of bedtime and/or not switched on first thing in the morning.

Mindful dining

While we are aiming for happy and healthy holiday options now, we also don’t believe in worrying about what we’re consuming. It’s all about planning ahead (as mentioned above), being sensible and mindful.

I freely admit – when I’m excited about a platter of cheese and a large glass of red being placed in front of me, I tend to guzzle without thinking about it!

I’ve recognised this pattern, so now I write myself little calendar reminders on my phone that pop up to say, ‘slow down’,  and I also ask a trusted travel companion like Cooper to remind me to mindfully enjoy my food and to savour the wine. It’s not a race, after all.

Being mindful during meal or snack times means you’ll slow down on consumption and are likely to get much more enjoyment out of the experience.

 

Make your intentions clear

If you feel in need of a healthy break away and want to make the most of your next holiday in ways I’ve discussed here, it’s important to let your travel buddies know of your intentions, or carefully choose who you travel with.

That is, try to spend time with people who have a similar mindset and who also want to take time out to reinvigorate mind, body and spirit while enjoying all the perks of a holiday.

You can all support each other in achieving this if the group’s intentions are similar and/or clear.

 

Give to receive

There’s no better way to replenish the soul than by giving, and in our case rarely are we happier than when we’re surrounded by animals (particularly dogs, though I would seek elephants and monkeys too)!

This idea might not be viable everywhere, but it’s worth looking into ethical animal experiences or volunteering options that will give you an authentic experience and one to ultimately be proud of.

Our friend Amy offers an excellent example in her blog where she tells of how she volunteered in an animal welfare centre in Thailand.

We also know that if you’re visiting Whistler village in Canada, you can offer to walk the dogs who are being taken care of in a shelter not too far away. I’d suggest there are opportunities to help in many destinations because all charitable organisations need a hand (but especially smaller ones).

If you have time, ask around where you’re staying and see if there’s a chance you can give your time (or money, if/where relevant) to support what locals are doing to make the destination you’re visiting a better place.

By giving, you will inevitably receive a beautiful experience, positive feelings associated with the helping of others, and if you believe in this as I do, good karma too.

 

Expert advice

We got so excited about this topic we decided to check-in with a couple of inspiring friends who are also wellness experts. Happy and healthy holiday ideas, they say:

You are on holiday so the most important thing is to relax. Listen to your natural breath wherever you are to calm a busy mind – this can also ease an upset tummy. Busy day sightseeing or long flight? Then lie on a bed and put your feet up the wall – this relieves tired legs and stimulates the restful part of the nervous system. And laugh – it’s good for the soul!”
Flavia Munn, health journalist and yoga teacher (and guest blogger here with a story about attending a yoga retreat in Turkey).

 

Particularly if you’re on a long holiday, it can be beneficial to try and keep up some of your home routines, though, without being too rigid and not allowing time to enjoy some decent rest and relaxation of course! I like taking a travel yoga mat with me for holidays like this. Having my mat around encourages me to make some time for my practise. It’s light and folds up small, so it’s easy to travel with. Even if I just do a couple of sun salutations or a few simple poses it helps me hold onto those positive habits or regular practise and more easily settle back into my usual rhythm when I return home again.”
Sarah McFadden, yoga teacher.

 

We’d love to hear from you with your advice, suggestions or questions about happy and healthy holiday ideas. Please drop us a line in the comments below. 

Ibiza in winter

 

This year’s winter in the UK has already been particularly long, grey and cold – worse than last year in my view. That said, I’d prefer it to sweating (southern hemisphere Christmas!), but this December it was time for a break, which is why we ended up in Ibiza for winter.

Last year we visited Copenhagen in Denmark and had some lovely family for Christmas company along for the ride. It was fantastic – a cool city and Tivoli Gardens, the world’s oldest operating amusement park, was a magical highlight.

However this year I wanted to change a couple of things with regards to an end-of-year break:

− it needed to be less expensive

− it needed to offer more of a mix of options to explore (travel), as well as options to rest

− it needed to be warmer!

 

Recalling that the Mediterranean seemed to be at least sunny when we cruised through back in January 2013, my research began …. And it started in August because previously I’ve left plans really late by which time flights everywhere are expensive.

Long story short, I found a good deal through British Airways holidays which included flights from London City airport (tick, that’s our closest); to Ibiza in Spain (double tick, always wanted to go!); staying at a central resort by the beach with American half board (so breakfast and dinners, including seven courses for our special Christmas meal were included in the package).

Yes, yes and yes.

old-town-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

But like many of even the world’s biggest destinations, much is shut over Christmas, and in Ibiza even more so outside of its popular summer season.

Ibiza’s small local population swells about five times in summer, with the island boasting the usual beautiful delights of this part of Europe as well as allegedly ‘the best clubs in the universe’ (Ibiza is known as the home of dance music).

 

What to do in Ibiza in winter then? We suggest:

Walking or hiking

We were based along Figueretas beach which is situated about 15 to 20 minutes (easy) walk from the main island ‘city centre’, cruise marina, shopping strips and the ‘old town’.

Cooper and I enjoy being able to walk everywhere in a town, and it is an activity that is free, can be done in most weather conditions (although we got lucky with sunny days), and regardless of what’s open.

In Ibiza the walking or hiking options are endless, with beachfront, villages, cliffs and green hills to explore.

Only thing to be mindful of in our experience, is while it was warm throughout the day, temperatures dropped quickly around 4pm which could be a problem if you are far from home and all of a sudden not dressed appropriately.

ocean-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Creative exploration

It’s not a big stretch to imagine that a sun drenched Spanish island is pretty, and Ibiza certainly is.

From ocean to mountains, vineyards, cool street art, contemporary and old architecture blending as one, it’s a great destination for the modern content creator.

Photographers, videographers, writers and artists will find much inspiration, particularly as the light changes across the course of a day.

wall-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Boat rides and beaches

Unfortunately we just missed this option because of much being closed over Christmas, but there’s a number of day trips you can enjoy around Ibiza even in the winter (that said, try to book in advance online as there is far less operating than between April and October).

A ferry to Formentera (the smallest of Spain’s Balearic islands in the Mediterranean Sea) for a chilled out day by the crystal clear blue is something that was recommended and I’ll make it happen next time!

marina-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Sant Antoni is the main clubbing area and includes the famous sunset strip where summertime ravers enjoy shows by the world’s coolest DJs as the sun sets over the Med.

Pretty much everything is closed in winter with only a few cafes and restaurants operating to cater for the boating crowd. But for the curious (like me), for €2 bus no. 3 from Avenue d’Isidor Macabich (a main street in Eivissa’s city centre) will get you to where all the action takes place.

In about 25 minutes you’ll be on the other side of the island and can spot locations of some of the famous dance music fun-hubs like Cafe del Mar and Cafe Mambo.

Further reading: Ibiza’s best beaches and some of the island’s secret beaches via The Guardian travel.

 

The long lazy lunch

While most up this way in the world are rugged-up at Christmastime, we enjoyed still, warm and sunny 18 degree days. Best to make the most of it then!

We thought the Chinese cuisine was delicious and well priced at Restaurant Taiwan along Figueretas beachfront. Just up a bit from there is Oferta, a little family-run hole-in-the-wall (almost) business that was actually open when nothing else was. Their food was good, but don’t accidentally order the cheap local beer that turns out to be non-alcoholic – oops.

Next door to Oferta is a larger pub-like establishment, Bistro Magnus; and for a classy meal and cocktail with a view look up Cotton lounge bar, also positioned on the Figueretas waterfront.

Bondi at Sant Antoni is a cafe/bar/restaurant opposite the port, not too far from the bus station where we got off the no. 3 from the city centre. The food was delicious with many nice vege options on the menu. Friendly service too. Finally, back over on the Sant Antoni side is a beachfront restaurant called Hostal la Torre – sadly we didn’t get to it but it was recommended for sunset gatherings and if it’s as pretty as its pictures it wouldn’t disappoint.

We also frequently bought some nice cheese, salami and inexpensive wine from local Spar supermarkets for beach picnics. Along the main road Av D’Espanya there’s a few lovely bakeries where you can buy fresh baguettes and coffee to complete your DIY lazy long lunch experience.

sunset-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Just breathe

Meditation, yoga, mindfulness under the sun or even sun bathing – it’s all possible here in winter.

During the day when there’s no breeze it’s really warm; perfect conditions to ‘just be’.

In fact, along the promenade where we were staying I noticed many individuals happily spending quiet time bathed in sunlight; no phones, relaxing, tuning into the sound of the waves, no distractions (except for the odd dog, but even they seemed blissfully content).

hotel-ibiza in winter -travellivelearn-sarah-blinco

 

Next time

When a little more is operating (April to October), I’d like to:

  • Visit the hip and happy Hippy market
  • Book a four hour party boat ferry that cruises around the island
  • Indulge in a winery tour
  • Hike over to the mystical rocky island of Es Vedra in the north west, reputedly the island’s most magnetic point and with an energy similar to that of the Pyramids. I’m actually sure I spotted this when we were flying out at the end of our trip, but we’ll be back…
  • Explore Sant Josep some more – I wanted to make my way over to a little village called Es Cubells which promises a quaint church on a cliff top and a couple of authentic local bars, but the bus wasn’t heading there during our festive stay.


Getting around Ibiza

Organise hire of a bike, car or moped for an easier and independent look around the island’s main regions of Eivissa (central), Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Sant Antoni de Portmany, Sant Joan de Labritja and Santa Eularia des Riu.

Here’s a link to a downloadable PDF island guide and map we found helpful

There is an inexpensive bus service which you’ll need to study the map and website to navigate, and you need change to buy a ticket when boarding, but the service is clean and efficient. The no. 10 gets you to and from the airport to the city centre for €3.50 (single), otherwise a cab is about €15. There are many airport shuttle and pick-up services advertised online but they are totally overpriced so be careful not to be ripped off.

 

Other useful online Ibiza resources:

Ibiza Spotlight features lots of stories and tips for first time visitors on where to eat, travel, club, stay and spend your money.

Ibiza bus includes maps and timetables for the local service around the island.

Ibiza Tourism – official website.

 

More of Ibiza – view our Flickr gallery:

Spain, the islands