Four questions to ask before moving your pets abroad

moving abroad pets
Yep. I’m pretty sure this is how we all feel after fifteen hours of traveling.

For lots of people, pets are considered part of the family. It’s just assumed that they’re coming with you on your international adventure.

Not so fast.

No one wants to leave a four-legged family member behind, but moving to a new country is a bit different than loading boxes into the back of a U-Haul. From your pet’s breed to how he handles stress, there are lots of factors to consider.

Keep reading for a list of questions to mull over when you’re deciding whether or not to move abroad with your pets.

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Europe’s top expat city? Madrid!

best cities expats

When you’re on vacation, not worrying about work and then having a bottle of wine for lunch, it’s easy to imagine how life in that particular place would be incredible. However, visiting a place and actually living there are two different things. Dinner at 9:30 pm is no big deal when you can sleep in, but not so much when you’re heading to the office at 8:00 the next morning.

All things considered, Madrid really is one of those cities that has it all. And it turns out, I’m not the only one to think so.

Each year the online expat community, Internations, surveys more than 14,000 people who are living and working outside their home countries. In the most recent study, Madrid was ranked the best European city for expat life.*

If you’ve been following NoLongerNative for a bit then you know I wasn’t exactly hounding Spain for a visa to live in their capital city. However, it slowly won me over and I couldn’t agree more with Madrid’s spot on the list.

Take a minute to check out the full survey results, then keep reading for a few things I’ve come to love about my new home.

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Three reasons to reconsider a return visit

revisit or travel somewhere new

I want to do China next. I did London last year.

Living in a touristy city and traveling to other touristy cities, I hear things like this quite a bit.

It bothers me. A lot.

In fact, my biggest pet peeve is the way some travelers use the word “do” when referring to visiting a place. My concern with the word “do” is how talking about a place in this way turns a city or country or culture into a tick box. As if, by spending a long weekend zipping through a list of can’t-miss-it attractions, all that is to encounter and experience has been taken in.

Just because you visited the best museums, saw the most significant sights, and ate in the highest rated restaurant does not mean that a place is “done.” The world isn’t static. Been there, done that does not exist.

Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to visit every country in the world. And I know that there are all kinds of things to consider when planning a trip, time and money being the biggest factors. The new, however, already gets enough attention.

Today, I’m here to make a case for going back.

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How to become a “carry-on only” traveler

carry on travel packing tips

One of the things that struck me on my first trip abroad—as I hoisted my bag up the minuscule staircase of our Italian hotel—was that all the Europeans had small suitcases. I mean tiny. I didn’t think I could even fit my lunch in one of those things. How did they do that? It must be something they’re born with, like a French woman’s je ne sais quoi or the way Colombians make salsa dancing look effortless.

Well, that’s partly true. Your culture definitely plays a part in how you pack. As an American, I’m used to the idea of having a ton of choices. And when it comes to suitcases, bigger is better, right? But there’s something to be said for giving the other side a whirl.

Because once I traveled with only a carry-on, I realized that packing light is LIBERATING.

With only a carry-on you won’t break out in a nervous sweat waiting for your bag to plop onto the carousel—you’ll be breezing through the customs line. You won’t pull a muscle lugging your behemoth suitcase up and down metro station stairs. I feel safer having my things with me at all times. Checked bag fees? Nope! And probably best of all, you’ll discover that a few well-chosen items are better than sifting through a heap of ‘meh.’

I have a little bit of personal experience when it comes to doing “carry-on only,” but don’t worry because I’ll point you toward the pros. Keep reading for tips from me as well as two experts on packing light for your next trip.
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Four reasons to visit Europe in winter

They say the best time to visit Europe is May through September, which are the exact months we lived in Spain this year. In the past, we’ve always found ourselves on European vacations in those quiet weeks between Christmas and March, so I was thrilled at the chance to sightsee in gorgeous weather.

It’s hard to beat long days and the sunshine, but we quickly realized the best time to go somewhere also means the busiest. Everywhere we went, we were shoulder to shoulder with a million other tourists, waiting in lines and being charged premium prices.

If you’re not heading to a specifically summertime-only destination, consider bumping your itinerary to the off-season. Along with cheaper prices and smaller crowds, here are a few things that I think make winter the best bet for your European getaway.

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Ciudad Perdida: The ‘Lost City’ of Teyuna, Part II

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Hammocks lined up at camp 2

Part II is dedicated to the practical side of trekking to the Lost City. But before we get to what you should wear and what to pack, let’s take a moment to discuss whether or not you should plan a visit at all.

Because, when we returned to Bogotá and were excitedly chatting about our trip and showing pictures, we were met with a few mumbles of huh, that’s it? These conversations led me to feel that a little setting of expectations is in order for anyone considering this particular trek.

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Ciudad Perdida: The ‘Lost City’ of Teyuna, Part I

from top of terraces
From the highest terrace of the ‘lost city’

Who wouldn’t want to see a recently rediscovered ancient city? Bygone civilizations, ruins, and abandoned places have always captured people’s attention—just think of ancient Rome’s obsession with the pyramids or the excavation and tourism of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-18th century. Relatively speaking Colombia’s Ciudad Perdida is a new kid on the block, which is why we found ourselves in the middle of the jungle over the long Easter weekend.

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What not to wear in Bogota

what to wear in Bogota Colombia
Don’t. Just don’t.

When planning a trip anywhere new, I inevitably do some googling about what to wear. While I know there’s no way to completely avoid looking like a tourist, my goal is always to land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the locals and those wearing fanny packs and American flag t-shirts.

Recently I’ve gotten a couple of reader questions about what to wear while visiting Bogotá, which makes me think that you all think I know what I’m talking about…at least a little bit. Part of that is true: after about two years in this city I can pick out tourists in a snap and know how to dress based on an invite’s time and location.

When you think of Colombia, Bogotá is kind of in a category of its own. For one thing, it’s location at about 8,500 feet above sea level means that it’s much cooler than the rest of the country. Temperatures don’t vary greatly and for the most part, hover around the low fifties. That said, there are afternoons when the sun can bring the temps to the low seventies, and chilly evenings where it can sink as low as the forties. December and January are the warm, dry months and  April/May and October/November are quite wet. Another way that Bogotá differs is that as the capital and center of business, dressing seems more formal and sophisticated than the rest of the country.

Keep reading for a few of my ideas of what to bring—or leave behind—on a trip to Colombia’s capital city.

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La Isla Baru: A few tips for a great trip

Isla Baru - Playa Blanca
Christmas morning off the coast of Cartagena, on Isla Baru

My mouth is saying no thanks, but my tone isn’t quite serious because this woman’s fingertips have somehow found a magic spot in my shoulder that is rendering me incapable of shooing her away.

Knowing better, I cave and ask how much.

Apparently, a half hour massage on Isla Baru will run you 150 000COP. At today’s exchange rate that’s about $45 USD,  the same price you’d pay at a fancy hotel spa—complete with ambiance and a legitimate massage oil—for an hour massage. Inwardly wagging a finger at myself, I try and negotiate a price more along the lines of those I’ve seen at the spa/salon combos lining the streets of Bogotá (around 30 000COP) before giving my no thanks more gusto and trying to untangle myself from her tranquilizing grip.

Baru is an island just off Cartagena’s coast and is touted as having some of the best beaches in the country. But—as you’ll find upon the teeniest bit of research—reports are polarizing.  I had heard it’s a must-visit in Colombia, beautiful with a stunning beach; I’d also heard that it was crowded, dirty, and filled with aggressive vendors. It would be one thing if it were just Cody and I making this decision, but we were in Cartagena for Christmas and were showing his parents a bit of Colombia outside of Bogotá.

In the end, it was street vendor Edgar Forever (yes, last name Forever) who convinced us that we should give Baru a chance. Edgar, as it turns out, was born and raised on Baru. According to him, Christmas morning is usually spent at home while the adults are recovering from the previous night’s festivities and would be a perfect time to enjoy the beaches, sans the masses.

Between the opinions of Cody (repeating suggestions from colleagues that we must visit) and myself (repeating every horror story I’d read on TripAdvisor), his poor parents were imparted with high hopes and low expectations. And so, the plan was set.

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A perfect wedding in paradise.

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As we were asked us to turn off our phones, tuck them away and simply be present in the moment, I thought oh dang—I sat up a little straighter as the light bulb flicked on and it really sunk in that I was about to witness something serious…that was immediately followed by an equal measure of wonder and gratitude that we had been included in such a special occasion.

Perhaps we weren’t the only ones marveling at our inclusion, as technically we’d spent only a handful of days with the bride and groom since having met at a language school in Antigua, Guatemala early last year. Our paths crossed again as they traveled through Bogotá a few months later, and then again when we all happened to be in San Diego last August. That was when they asked us if we’d like to come to Bali for their wedding.

The amazing thing about travel is that when you’re untethered and drifting, you’re opened up to connecting with people in ways you’d never do when you’re at home, hurrying to work with your nose buried in your iPhone. Traveling is also a kind of personality litmus test because it’s impossible not to form impressions of people based on their travel style: what kind of places they stay, if they prefer to do things on their own as opposed to tours or if they plan or fly by the seat of their pants. Sometimes you meet people that you’ll hang out with because you’re going in the same direction for a bit, and sometimes you meet people that you just click with and wished lived in your town because you know you’d be great friends. Rich and Carly are the latter.

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