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Why your next vacation should include a cycling tour

Can you imagine yourself biking along a field of wildflowers, herds of cows, or even up brisk mountains or along the coast of the ocean? The wind is rushing through your hair and the smell of the salty breeze hitting your cheek. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

When most people decide to travel as part of a tour, the first thing they search for is the form of transportation — will I be riding on a bus with 40 other people, will I use a cruise ship to get from one destination to another, or will the group be transported by train to each city? What most travellers overlook is the sustainable option of cycling.

I know exactly what you are thinking: that seems like a lot of work for a vacation. I considered a cycling tour a few years ago when I was looking to travel through Europe. I had just started to bike over the summer and thought it would be a great way to see the countryside of Italy — however, the more I read about it, the more the thought of riding 70 to  80 kilometres a day terrified me. I didn’t want to be that person who had to call a cab in the middle of nowhere and spend a mini-fortune getting back to the hotel.

But, there are a variety of cycling tours available for people of different fitness capabilities. After doing more research, I found quite a few tours that range between 30 and 60 kilometres per day, and that as long as you understand the hill gradients involved in the routes, it’s not as physically exhausting as it may seem.

The advantage of going on a cycling tour is the ability to move at your own pace. Most are self-guided, so while you travel with a group of people, what you do and see is entirely up to you. Feel free to stop at a small village for a glass of wine, wonder a few shops, hike through some ruins, or sit by a stream and relax those muscles. It’s a much more natural way of seeing a country. Instead of spending your time lining up for tourist attractions that are more than often overrated, you will actually get the opportunity to experience the culture of a place. A cycling tour is the perfect option for an explorer, someone who has an intense passion to learn and see more than what is often printed in a list of “top must-see places”.

And then there is the fitness aspect. Eat cake, drink wine, and enjoy delicacies from around the world, because you will most likely burn off all those calories when you hop back on that bike! Your bags are typically sent along to each hotel in a support vehicle, which means you don’t have to worry about travelling with all your luggage.

The final benefit is that cycling tours are often well-priced, as the costs only include accommodations (which are usually quite luxurious), and a few meals. The transportation is all up to you!

Here are a four tours to explore:

Cycle through Tuscany: This guided tour is incredibly intimate, which means you are bound to meet some great friends while enjoying the sights of Italy. The daily bike ride is relatively short, with the longest route being 55 kilometres; however, Tuscany is naturally hilly. This tour offers a few meals and complimentary wine after your bike ride. Travellers will be staying at a mix of hotels and apartments.

Cycle through Spain: For those looking to bike a daily 30 to 60 kilometres a day, this tour through Spain is for you. Travellers will spend two days in each city exploring the various cycling routes and getting to know each village. Discover seaside resorts, dormant volcanoes, and fishing villages. All breakfasts and one dinner are included.

Cycle through Peru: This tour is recommended for active travellers who enjoy hiking, cycling, and kayaking. Instead of biking to each destination, this tour is comprised of shorter local bike tours, which means beginners may be more drawn to it. A number of cultural destinations are included, along with guides to explain the history. The accommodations are a mix of hotels and campgrounds, so this tour is for those who truly love the outdoors and aren’t afraid to rough it.

Cycle through Croatia: Vineyards, forests, and the Adriatic Sea — what else would you need for a cycling tour? Explore the coast while cycling through local villages and tasting homemade wines and fresh fruits. Similarly to the tour through Tuscany, the longest ride is about 50 kilometres, but there are a few steep climbs. Most of the villages have deep historical significance, so history buffs rejoice!

When choosing a cycling tour, make sure to note which ones include rented bikes and helmets. Some tours may require you to bring your own bicycles while others will provide them for you.

Happy trailin’!

How to travel solo like a local

It takes a lot for some people to become comfortable with themselves, much less travel alone. It’s a task that few can handle, but it is becoming increasingly convenient and popular for solo- travellers to find special deals on vacations. Some brands like Norwegian Cruise Lines offer top-class studio styled suites for their guests at a lower price. The ship designs the studios to have exclusive key card access and a studio complex lounge to mingle with other solo travellers, so you will never feel alone, unless you want to be. Here are some tips from Women’s Post on solo- travel and how to act like a local.

Be prepared

If you’re not in the mood to stand out as a tourist while on vacation, do your research and explore the country/countries you are visiting as a local. Try going to the popular bar around town or even make friends with a local and ask for tips on the area where you plan to explore. Most residents will have a list of places you should visit that may not be on a map.

Skip the tourist traps

Bus tours, boat tours, guided tours, pfft those are for amateurs. The best way to get to know the local streets is to walk around and take note of your own landmarks. There is no harm in renting a mode of transportation to make your way around town as well, A car can get you there faster and save you a lot of unnecessary tourist expenses and cheap souvenirs. Use your phone as your trusted GPS or simply make use of public transportation — most train and bus operators will be able to help you reach your destination.

Stay at a boutique hotel

Boutique hotels are so much fun compared to the big chain and brand named places that you’re used to . Staying at a boutique hotel may be more intimate and gives you a chance to interact with locals and the staff on site. As another option, you can also choose to stay at a local Air BnB or hostel.

Pick the right time to travel

Solo- travel can be overwhelming if you’re not ready for it, but one way to avoid the rush of the season is to travel…well, off-season. Don’t go for spring break or summer vacation. Instead, use your vacation days at a less peak time (like October-November, or April-May) and you will avoid so many lines and you get insight into the way locals live year round.

No schedules here

Don’t tie yourself down to a full schedule like you would on any regular vacation. The agenda is yours to fill with the memories of your choosing, It’s your own personal journey with no expectations or limitations. You can still see all the places and famous landmarks you want to see, but just on your own terms.

Know the lingo

If you are going to a country with a language that you are unfamiliar with, it may be time to dust off the old phrase book and use it while exploring your new temporary home. Eventually you will also find yourself picking up a few terms from the locals you interact with. I’m not saying enrol in language classes, but just make yourself aware of basic greetings and manners.

Enjoy these tips on traveling solo and blending in or check out Like a Local Guide, which offers insider tips and tours by real locals for hundreds of cities around the world.

Happy Journeys and let us know your travel tips and plans below !

Vanessa ‘Van’ Piunno shares her passion for music and healthy lifestyle

Eighteen-year-old Montreal pop singer Vanessa Piunno is an up and coming Canadian artist who was recently named iHeart Radio Future Star for 2017.Known simply as ‘Van’ while growing up in Quebec’s largest city, she talks about how her passion for music began at age five and reveals tips on how to stay healthy on the road.

Q: Tell us about the music scene while growing up in Quebec?

A: The music scene has always been so vibrant here with a mix of French and English culture. So many bands and shows every weekend in the summer months. Great memories of me and my dad going to the local parks near my house and catching as many shows as we possibly could, which was always so cool. [It] really gave me a sense of the festive culture around us and it was the seed for me falling in love with music at such a young age. My dad was a musician and this was something we loved doing together, [it was] our thing.

Do have a favourite Quebec dish?

I absolutely love poutine. I think I crave it almost every day, is that bad?

Does being fluently bilingual give you an edge in the music world?

I hope so. Growing up I’d do a lot of shows in both English and French and in doing so, it definitely made me more comfortable on stage.

Tell us about your fans and how do you enjoy being on tour?

I have to say that I would rather use the word “supporters” than fans. I don’t know why, but that word fan always makes me feel a little weird! It’s so heartwarming to know that people love the material I put out, and seeing that people listen to my music or post about it and take the time to message me just gets to me every time. I always personally answer every message I get from my supporters. It’s the least I can do. As for being on tour, it’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl. It still feels like I’m in a dream, weirdly enough. I’m doing things that I always hoped I’d be doing, seeing places that I never thought I’d be seeing and it’s incredible. I’m thankful every single day.

How do you follow a healthy lifestyle while travelling?

Most hotels we stay at have private gyms and so I usually work out for a few hours if I’m not doing any interviews. It’s a great stress reliever. As for food, when we are driving from place to place it can be hard to choose healthy options when we stop for a quick bite, so my tip is to grab nuts or a protein bar. It’s better for you and keeps you energized. I never eat anything sugary when I’m traveling because sugar is bad for your vocals.

What do you like most about performing?

I can just forget about everything. It’s like when I start singing, every worry or problem or just anything going on in my life just disappears. It feels so good to know that I always have this opportunity to be on stage and that’s how I know that singing is my true passion.

What is next for you?

I’m getting ready to hit the road with my band. We have a great band and it’s all so exciting and new for me. I’m still touring in Canada and visiting a bunch of new cities and places, which is always so exciting for me.

Do you write your own music?

Tino Izzo, who has written and produced for Céline Dion and many other amazing Canadian artists, is the main writer and producer for my upcoming album. For each of my songs we always make sure to work together to find the right elements that suit my style and something I can relate to. It’s always a blast when we’re in studio – we take the time to work on some cool new material. His two sons Max and Alex join me for acoustic live performances while doing radio tours across Canada and also co-produced a few of my songs. I can’t wait to release my first album in 2018.

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