Author: Jenn

Tahiti: Is paradise all it’s cracked up to be?

Truth be told, I never really expected to find myself travelling Tahiti. Of course I’ve dreamed of Tahiti – who hasn’t?! – it’s just that when the travel bug bites, Greg and I prefer to visit more far-flung, less developed countries while we’re “young”. You know, chickens-on-the-roof-of-the-bus type places. Not coincidentally, these destinations also tend to be easier on the wallet. (See what we did there?) It just makes sense that we’ll travel spendy countries with better infrastructure (Europe, Oceania, USA) when we have kids (hey Hank!), fatter bank accounts or in our golden years. Tahiti isn’t traditionally backpacker-friendly nor thrifty to travel, so it never floated to the top of our bucket list. (Revelation: you can travel Tahiti with a Champagne-on-a-beer budget – I reveal how here.) But when the invitation to visit French Polynesia crossed my desk, of course I jumped all over it; no one says “no” to Tahiti. French Polynesia is widely considered a dream trip for many: turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, lush jungle and overwater bungalows are the stuff of fantasies. Yet …

Tahiti: for the Champagne-on-a-beer-budget traveller

This article was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Canadian Traveller. Click here to subscribe.   In the heart of the South Pacific lies a collection of islands where beauty and spirituality intersect. Pristine nature, French cuisine, Polynesian hospitality, and captivating creation legends lie in wait. Spoiled for beauty, French Polynesia also has the reputation as a playground for the jetset. JENNIFER HUBBERT travels to idyllic Tahiti bent on proving that there is a place in paradise for the budget-minded traveller.   I’M WAITING TO TAKE MY SEAT ON AIR TAHITI Nui fight TN1, boarding pass in hand. Papeete is listed as the final destination but it might as well be the moon. Tahiti: vacation Valhalla; subject of numerous screen savers and wall calendars – the textbook definition of paradise. Truth be told, Tahiti was one of those bucket list items I wasn’t confident I’d realize, fled somewhere between Antarctica and learning to speak Italian. It wasn’t for a lack of wanderlust, either. That corner of the globe seemed oh-so-far-away. How many weary …

Taj Mahal: The World’s Best Reason to Travel

  In the early 2000s the world set out to determine the New7Wonders of the World. Of 200 monuments, the seven finalists were determined as follows: Chichen Itza, Christ the Redeemer, Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Petra, Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum. I’ve had the great fortune to visit a handful of these new world wonders – the Colosseum (2007), Great Wall of China (2012), Machu Picchu (2016) and the Taj Mahal last March. And if you’re asking me, when it comes to monuments and attractions, the Taj Mahal is the world’s best reason to travel. Put otherwise, if you’re going to plan a trip around a bucket list-worthy place, this is it. What makes the Taj Mahal so remarkable? It’s hard to grasp that a building could be described as beautiful. Architecture can be handsome, inspiring or jaw-dropping but somehow the Taj Mahal is delicate, intricate, soft, feminine.  What you can not appreciate until you visit in-person, is the way the marble changes colour depending on the position of the sun, the delicacy of …

Lido Marina Village: Newport Beach’s Pinterest-Perfect Shopping Plaza

Before I visited Orange County last month, all I knew about the area came courtesy of pop culture: Disneyland, The Real Housewives of… franchise, Lauren Conrad and of course, the fictional teen drama The O.C. I spent the duration of my Orange County visit based in Newport Beach, famous for Balboa Island millionaires and nautical vibes. I was a bit worried whether Newport Beach would resonate with me. It seemed decidedly jetset – much too spendy to be gypset. What’s more, I’m not much of a beach-going sunseeker. What would this coastal community hold for me? And then I stumbled upon the epicentre of Newport style… Lido Marina Village Take a walk with me. Strolling its white-washed streets, this shopping plaza evokes a starched nautical crispness. I’m swooning. Local boutiques curate niche goods, from baubles to hand-mixed perfumes to bespoke monogram stationary. I want to buy into each shop’s lifestyle – except my wallet is stuffed with paltry Canadian dollars. For now, I window shop. How to pass an afternoon in Lido Marina Village It’s in Lido Marina that I pick up on a new …

I Spent One Night in an Overwater Bungalow That Cost More Than My Mortgage (PHOTOS)

I’m going to take the most wastefully indulgent shower; the kind of shower you’d be scolded for back home.  I’ve only got 90 minutes left on the clock before check-out, and I’m going to squeeze’em because this isn’t just any room. It’s the most lavish lodging I’ve ever spent the night in. … Did you ever think you could get sunburnt in the shower? I let a luscious cascade of water stream over me while seated in a sunbeam. If I stand, I can see the ocean over a teak privacy wall. I coax Hermes shower gel into a foamy lather and wash away all traces of the flashpacker traveller I was just yesterday. In this bungalow, in this shower, on this stool, in a sunbeam, I am seated in the lap of luxury. And I’m a total fraud. In the real world, staying in this villa would cost me more than my mortgage payment. For one night. I’m here by pure happenstance; an apology of sorts from my trip host. Long story short, my work laptop will …

How Much Does It Cost to Travel Rajasthan, India? (Budget Breakdown)

India had been on my radar for a while, so when a YVRDeals alert popped up that was too good to resist, we jumped on it. How much does it cost to fly from Vancouver to India? Our fare was $1,516.48 for two round-trip tickets from Vancouver to New Delhi. With some processing fees the final total was $1,671.71 CAD*. We would travel China Southern with a layover in Guangzhou. Total flight time each way: 20 hours there and 16 hours back. Days spent in India, excluding international travel days: two weeks. China Southern’s rates seem to be holding consistent at the $800 price point. Flying the larger carriers, like Air Canada or Air India, will push your fare upwards of $1,200. *All prices in this budget breakdown are in Canadian dollars. Tour or independently travel Rajasthan, India? Tickets in hand, so to speak, Greg and I had every intention of booking a guided trip. (That’s tourism speak for “tour”.) We had always assumed we’d opt for a tour because I was a) intimidated by planning the …

Hiking Al’s Habrich Trail in Squamish, British Columbia (PHOTOS)

Location: Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish Distance: 4.2 km one-way; 8.4 round-trip Trail type: Out-and-back Difficulty: Moderate Elevation gain: 354 m If this summer had a theme, it’d be “Sea to Sky”. Greg and I have spent a few weekends now, tracing the trails through the Pemberton Valley and Coast Mountains. Al’s Habrich Trail has been on my radar for a while. I had attempted it with a friend last September, though we arrived atop the gondola a little late in the day. Unsure, and apprehensive about the 5-hour duration and “challenging” designation, we opted to stick to the trails skirting Summit Lodge. What a disappointment. You could push a shopping cart along these tourist-laden pathways. Chatting with the lift attendant on the way down, he admitted that the conservative signage is warranted because the site is promoted as a cruise ship excursion. Damn. Al’s Habrich Trail This half-day excursion begins with a scenic 10-12 minute gondola ride. Exiting the lodge, hikers walk past the “dog parking area”, down a hill, past some mechanical equipment and a …

I Really Wanted to Love the Hippie Outpost of Pushkar, But This…

From everything I had read, Pushkar sounded like my kind of place. A placid lake in a small desert outpost? Yes please. It was just the relief one needed from the mania of New Delhi and the traffic-choked streets of Jaipur. But what had me seriously travel-stoked on Pushkar was that it supposedly enjoyed some seriously boho vibes. My guidebook wrote: “Pushkar’s spiritual energy also attracted the hippy overlanders of the 1960s, and the budget hotels and cafes set up to cater for them have kept it firmly on the backpacker trail.” Complicit in this description was this travel blogger’s swoon-worthy review: 6 Reasons to Put Pushkar on Your Bucket List Perfect! I thought. Just my brand of gypset travel.   Except that it wasn’t, which I realized when my expectations confronted reality. You see, I had anticipated more of this…   but found more of this:   Err…that is not my brand of boho. Allow me to recount our visit. We arrived in Pushkar just before the golden hour, some 90 minutes before sunset. Sadly, our …

Are Photo Shoots Becoming Our New Travel Souvenir?

I’ll be the first to admit, photo shoots aren’t commonplace among travelling flashpackers. So how in the hell did I end up dressed in a lengha, spinning in the courtyard of the Fairmont Jaipur? It all started pretty innocently… Have you ever heard of Flytographer? Basically it’s the Airbnb of photographers. Most people are using the service to capture marriage proposals in Paris or European holiday candids. Since Greg and I loved the wedding photos we had taken in Havana, we figured, why not do the same in India? A month before we left, I did a quick search to see if there were any Flytographers listed in Rajasthan. Search result: zero. Long story short, I linked up with Navin Varma, a Mumbai-based photographer who was up for a collaboration; one that meant he’d need to catch two planes (each way, no less) to get to Jaipur. Through my work contacts, I managed to connect with Fairmont Jaipur, which kindly let us shoot on their jaw-dropping property. (And then fed us breakfast!) Now, I will say that my original vision …

There is a MASSIVE Swastika Painted on the Banks of the Ganges River in India

Walking the banks of Varanasi’s Ganga is an exercise in sensory overload. Between open-air cremations, bathing men, errant cows and women doing laundry, you can understand how I almost missed a giant swastika painted on the sloped riverbank. If it weren’t for Greg, I may have sailed right by it, blissfully unaware. “Wow, stop, check this out. There is a massive swastika painted on that ghat.” Taking a few steps back and craning my neck, yep there it was: a fifty-foot plus swastika sitting at the foot of Jain Ghat. It’s so big that you can actually see it on Google Earth: So, what’s with Varanasi’s giant swastika, you ask? In Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune. The word swastika has Sanskrit origins, meaning ‘luck’ and ‘well being’.  And while you’ll garner some cold side-eye for drawing them in the West, swastikas are fairly commonplace in India. They adorn homes and vehicles, feature in the names of stores, and appear in ritual and traditions. You can read more about …