"What's Lisbon like?", I asked my Portuguese father in law. "Is it like Porto?"

"It's different," he said with a mysterious smile. "You'll see."

I took his answer as something of a gift, waiting to be unwrapped at the right time.

It took us almost an entire year to finally find the time to go to Lisbon from where we are based, close to Porto in northern Portugal. We decided to head down south slowly and deliberately with only a few bags, a couple of wetsuits, a surf board, and a map. Our journey took us a week, with many stops across hidden towns, famous surf breaks and endless coastal villages. (Interestingly, it's only a 5 hour drive from Porto to Lisbon nonstop!)

Instead of booking with an impersonal hotel, I really wanted to make our first trip to Lisbon as a family very special. I was looking for a place that reflected this city which it's deep connection to its past and at the same time celebrating its youthfulness.

We were lucky enough to find such a place in the heart of the city at Lisbon Dreams Guest House.

Travel Tip: Lisbon can very busy during the summer months between June-August. So it's best to plan your trip outside of those months. We arrived during off season in early November which meant better rates for mostly everything from accommodations, tours, and transportation. And the weather is still gloriously sunny at that time, possibly the warmest in all of Europe for this period.

We were welcomed at the entrance by the smell of roses, and a sweet surprise, the managing partner herself, Cleelia who is as warm in person as she is in her emails. She had sent me a PDF file containing a lot of information about how to find the guest house, where to park the car and all those little details that just makes a traveler's life much easier.

She welcomed us into the charming, old building which seemed to me like a mansion that was converted into rooms for guests. Once inside, I couldn't help but applaud their team for the tasteful interior design which was minimalist with a personal touch. There were little notes everywhere inviting us to sample some candy, try some local drinks or share a few things about place.

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Loving the colors of our room

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Lots of natural light

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They even put a crib with stuffed animals

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How thoughtful of them

When we got into our room, it felt like coming home. The bed was extremely comfortable, and they laid out some slippers, robes and goodies to greet us. I loved the signature green apples on top of the pile, and my daughter agreed. She grabbed one immediately and started to devour it. They were so thoughtful that they even assembled a crib with some stuffed animals without me asking for it.

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The trademark green apple

Into the Heart of Lisbon

I opened one of the 2 large windows from our room and was welcomed by a piece of Lisbon basking in the sunlight. I couldn't believe how central our location was! It's only a short walk to Avenida de Liberdade, Lisbon's main thoroughfare. So it's easily accessible to many metro stations. We decided to park our car at a nearby garage and explore the city on foot the next day- like locals.

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View from our room


Breakfast, The Most Important Meal

One of the best parts of being on vacation is not having to worry about cooking. And in this place, breakfast is the most important meal of all! I arrived early at the breakfast hall and saw a beautiful spread already laid out. The mini croissants were just popped into the oven. The orange juice was freshly pressed. The buffet table was already filled with fruits, jams, yogurt, breads, and an assortment of local meats. The strong smell of coffee filled the room.

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What would you like for breakfast?

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The staff were super friendly and cheerful

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The little details that make a difference

And it wasn't just the food. The ambience was just very laid back and calm. There were private nooks and even an outdoor terrace. They also decorated a wall with lovely kitchen accessories in soft pastels. I could feel myself getting happier the longer we stayed here.

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Breakfast nook in lovely pastel colours


After a heavy breakfast, it was a good decision to walk around the city aimlessly. We quickly got seduced into this city's charming old streets. pastel colored buildings and street art.

Travel Tip: When exploring the streets of Lisbon, it's best to go on foot and travel light. Wear comfortable clothes and footwear because you will definitely do a lot of walking, whether you like it or not. And you must bring a camera. This place is too photogenic to merely keep in your memory.

The Famous Tram 28

At first, we tried to explore on our own, just going where our feet would lead us. We took the famous Tram 28 which is the longest route in Lisbon, looping through the east of Baixa, Graça and Alfama before heading west to Estrela and Campo de Ourique.

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Signature yellow tram


Travel Tip: If you're short on budget and time, Tram 28 is the best way to explore the city. Not only do you get to see a lot of places, take many beautiful shots along the way, you also save yourself from the steep hill from Baixa to Alfama and the castle. It's also very inexpensive at less than 3 EUR one way. If you plan to take more than 1 tram for the day, the best option is to buy an unlimited 24 hour pass, which includes metro, tram and bus services. They cost 6 EUR and can be bought from metro stations, but not on the tram. Avoid taking this tram in the afternoon during the summer tourist season as it's always packed. But if you manage to take it at the first stop at Praça do Martim Moniz, quickly grab a window seat to get the best photos!

Finding Saramago

We ended up at the nondescript Campo de Ourique station and decided to just keep walking. While we deliberately got lost in some forgotten cobblestone street, I glimpsed the familiar image of my favorite Portuguese writer, José Saramago. I wanted to visit the Fundação José Saramago But I knew we didn't have even an hour to spend inside. And why stay in when the there was so much more of the city to discover in this beautiful light? So I took a few pictures outside while my husband was drawn by a strong and authoritative voice that told us a lot of interesting things about the fundacion. Okay, we were eavesdropping at a tour group. We were amazed to find out the Saramago's ashes were buried underneath a hundred year old olive tree where my husband was casually resting his tired shoulder.

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The hundred year old olive tree where Saramago's ashes were buried

Serendipitous Tour

The voice was so engaging that we decided to join the tour. It belonged to Doron Klemer, a tour guide in Lisbon who originally came from the United Kingdom. We followed him through the maze of the city's streets and were delighted to discover little pieces of history, street art, artisanal shops- odds and ends that we never would have stumbled upon on our own.

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Our very engaging tour guide Doron


Our tour ended in Alfama. Consider it a short penitence to walk up and down the steep, narrow, and cobblestoned streets. But it was worth it to catch a glimpse of the more authentic side of Lisbon, the rough parts, where there were hardly any tourists (save for us of course).

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A famous wall mural in Alfama about the origins of Fado

We celebrated the day with a dose of Fado and a shot of Ginjinha which is a portuguese liqueur made by infusing sour cherries in alcohol and adding sugar with some spices. We drank to this amazing city and for finding ourselves here.

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Fado street singer

We arrived back at the guest house with our hearts and memory cards full and our feet sore from all that walking. Our daughter had literally crawled her way through this city. We were welcomed back by Cleelia and I was able to chat with her a bit.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into this business.

I was born in Tallinn, Estonia. I came to Lisbon 10 years ago because of a personal relationship and the will to study abroad. I studied for my Masters in International Management and at the end of the first year, I got a job in a hostel. I worked for 2 and a half years in the hostel. I started as a receptionist and later on got promoted as a manager. I truly loved the experience and I am forever grateful to my former boss for giving me the opportunity. I left the hostel with the aim to pursue a more corporate career, which was what I thought I should and wanted to do. Luckily things did not work out, as the economic crises interfered. Little did I know at the time that I will return back to tourism and hospitality.

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Cleelia during her travels


How did you arrive at the idea of opening a guest house?

I was desperately trying to figure out what to do with my professional life. And then, almost out of nowhere, me and my husband (still a boyfriend at the time) came up with the idea to open a hospitality business. Being a cross-cultural couple passionate about travel, it somehow felt natural. I happened to have some experience as well as the business knowledge from my previous work as an accountant back home. My husband was already an entrepreneur, so things just happened organically. Two months after we conceived the idea, we had the opening day.

Lisbon Dreams is certainly more luxurious than a hostel. How does it stand out from the usual accommodations?

I did not want to open a hostel. I wanted something calmer, something that could also correspond to the phase of life I was heading to. So the idea of a guest house was born. A place with private rooms, but with shared facilities. I have always been a bit of a dreamer and believer in magic, so developing the concept a bit further resulted in an "affordable luxury" concept. A good quality bed linen (100% cotton), fluffy bathrobes and shower towels, green apples were just few details we came up with at the time. Over 6 years ago, this concept made a lot of sense since the "budget" accommodation market in Lisbon was still in its infancy. There were only few hostels, a couple of guest houses and a row of old dodgy "residencials". During these last years the market has developed so much and so many wonderful new places have suddenly appeared. I am excited about this development, because I know that we were among the first ones out there, hopefully inspiring others.

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Cleelia's 2 daughters

How has your adventure with Lisbon Dreams been so far?

Our guest house has been filled with people since day 1. These years have been a wonderful journey of meeting many people, facing many challenges and dreaming about the future. I am very grateful to my entire team, the people who already have worked with me and the ones who are there today - without them it would not have been possible to maintain such stable level of service and experience throughout the years. These years have been a lot of fun and challenges for me, since the guest house has been strongly interrelated with my own life. I got married five years ago and I also became mom twice during this time (my daughters are now 2 and 4). I like to say that the guest house is like my oldest child, which is quite close to the truth.

How do you make sure that every guest has an unforgettable experience?

Our guest house is happily receiving all types of people - we have a lot of couples, friends, families but also solo travellers from all over the world. We try to provide the guests with the best possible service. We try to notice people. We try to celebrate their special dates and anniversaries. We try to take into concern all the special requests if possible. And most of all, we try to share with guests our knowledge and passion for our city. Do we fail? Yes of course sometimes we do, but we try to get on our feet and improve and do better the next day. Last but not least, we are really grateful for all the guests who choose to stay with us. And when they leave happy, we know we have done a good job.

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A sense of saudade

Homeward Bound

After our weekend in Lisbon, we said goodbye to Cleelia and her team and headed home. My head was still spinning from the magic of Lisbon, how Cleelia's dream had become a reality, and how this trip had transformed me. It's as if something in me had unfurled and opened and I knew I would bring back a part of this magic whereever I go.

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Author's Note: Our gratitude goes to Cleelia and the Lisbon Dreams Guest House team for accommodating us in Lisbon. All opinion are my own.

Still dreaming of Lisbon,
Sole Sister Lois


Lisbon Dreams Guest House
Fax/Tel: +351213872393
Mobile: +351918670113
Rua Rodrigo Fonseca 29 1º
Lisbon 1250-189, Portugal
www.lisbondreamsguesthouse.com
http://www.facebook.com/lisbondreams
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The Rifle Paper Co.'s 17-month planner is up for grabs!

Do your new year resolutions include going on more adventures? We sure hope so - and to help you with your planning, in collaboration with One for the Road, we’ve prepared a blog giveaway that’s perfect for our readers to kickstart 2016’s year of travel!

One for the Road was founded as a sole proprietorship by beach-loving Alexandra Lau from the Philippines. She began with one product: a lightweight, compact, and waterproof travel mat. “I go to the beach a lot so I found it necessary and convenient to bring a mat handy for traveling,” she says. “I created one that hardly took up space in my backpack and weighed nothing.”

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Alexandra in the extraordinary Bena Village in Ngada, Flores, Indonesia


Eventually, Alex decided to expand and source travel-related goods from around the world and bring them in locally.

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Scratch Night View Las Vegas


“I just started mid-2015,” says Alex. “I pretty much do everything - from sourcing and purchasing to marketing and accounting!” She says the idea was born out of a love for travel and shopping for unique stuff.

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Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest


“I make it a point to set aside a day or two during my trips abroad to check out local markets and shops... if there's anything that catches my eye, I consider bringing it in.”

Q&A with Alexandra Lau, founder of One for the Road


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Finally made it to the tri-colored crater lakes of Mt. Kelimutu in Flores, Indonesia 

Where do you source your products?

A lot of our stuff come from different parts of the States. There are also products from the U.K., South Korea, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands. I try my best to price the stuff as low as I can and still make an acceptable profit (I pay my taxes hehe!).

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Luggage Tag Circle


What are your go-to markets when travelling?

A favorite for me would be Chatuchak in Bangkok. As for others, I really just look for local pop-ups, markets, shopping areas in the countries I visit.

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Cocktails on the plane, anyone?

What's on your travel list this 2016?

So far for 2016, I will be going back to Thailand and Japan, Tubbataha Reef for some great diving, New Zealand around the end of the year, and some trips around the Philippines.

How do you like being a female entrepreneur?

So far it's been pretty good. I always love hearing great comments from customers, especially during bazaars I joined during the 2015 holiday season. The business started mid-2015 so it's still pretty new and I'm still getting the hang of managing everything. It's a learning experience everyday, definitely. But it's really important for me that my customers are happy. I know how stressful and disappointing it is when you don't experience good customer service.

The Prize: The Rifle Paper Co.'s Birch planner


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Aside from the absolutely gorgeous cover, metallic gold accents, and covered spiral binding (making it a lot easier to write in), it features various sections that are tabbed within the planner: 2016 - 2017 year planners, important dates, notes, monthly planner pages, weekly planner pages and contacts. It's perfect for planning your upcoming trips!

JOIN THE GIVEAWAY:

Option 1: Facebook

1 Like We Are Sole Sisters and One For The Road PH

2 Share this post on your wall (and tag us so we can see!) -- http://bit.ly/onefortheroadgiveaway

3 Only 1 share per user will be counted as an entry

Option 2: Instagram

1 Follow @WeAreSoleSisters and @onefortheroadph on Instagram

2 Regram our contest photo and tag us

3 Only 1 share per user will be counted as an entry

Visibility: We will only be able to consider entries made with public accounts.

Eligibility: This promo is open for everyone, regardless of location. However, we will only be able to ship it for free within the Philippines. If the winner is located outside of the Philippines, he/she will have to cover the shipping expense.

Deadline: This giveaway starts January 31, 2016 and ends Feb 7, 2016. The winner will be announced on February 8, 2016 on our Facebook page - stay tuned!

Update: We have a winner! Congratulations Camille Quiambao! Please send us an email or facebook message. This contest is now closed.



One for the Road focuses on curating fun, creative, and attractive travel- and travel-related souvenirs from around the world. 
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She began her nomadic life as a solo woman traveller, saving up for the big trip by teaching in Boracay for three years. Today, Anna Faustino is the female force (Founder, Chief Editor and Designer) of Adventure in You – a blog of travel tips, stories and inspiration.

I found Anna's blog while feeling a bit homesick and looking for some articles about the Philippines. Although this girl is well traveled and has been on many adventures all over the world, the Philippines holds a special place in her heart. It's evident in many of the fantastic pictures all over the country that she shares on her blog Adventure in You. I had to know more about this empowered Filipina and I caught up with her in this interview:

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Snorkeling in Koh Tao, Thailand

How did you begin your nomadic lifestyle?

I guess I first began this lifestyle when I took the big leap of leaving the comforts of home to move to Boracay Island. I got a job there teaching at the International School which allowed me to gain the independence and courage that I needed to pursue what I’ve always wanted to do. When I started working, I set up a travel fund, which I kept building because I knew that one day, I would like to see the world. I worked in Boracay for 3 more years until I finally built up the courage to quit my job, pack up and sell everything I owned to go backpacking for a year.

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Skydiving on my birthday in California, USA

How did you gather the courage to take that big leap?

To be honest, I just woke up one day, tired of living my life based on a routine. I knew I wanted change and I couldn’t let fear stop me from pursuing my dreams. I wasn’t rich but I knew that if I didn’t do anything about my circumstances, nothing would change. On the day that I quit my job, I also bought a one-way ticket to Spain.

It was the best decision that I ever made and have never regretted it since!

How did you prepare for that solo backpacking trip?

Although I didn’t plan my trip to a tee, due to the limited amount of time I had on my Schengen visa, I had a list of places I wanted to see. Apart from that, I pretty much winged it. I would stay in a place depending on how much I loved it, who I met, and what I wanted to do. I loved the feeling of waking up and deciding to hop on a train to the next destination. After Europe, I went to the US and traveled around visiting family and friends. I stayed mostly around California but also squeezed in a trip to New York. I finished the rest of my trip in Southeast Asia where I backpacked in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. During that trip, I learned loads of valuable lessons about myself and the world around me. Here are 5 things I have learned from traveling.

Can you share three of your best moments from your year of travelling solo?

Ahh what a difficult question as each experience was unique in its own little way. If I were to choose though it would be, hiking through the mountains in Meteora, Greece. I was traveling with a Spanish friend whom I met on one of the Greek islands and from Athens, we decided to head there the night before to see the stunning monasteries built on high cliffs.

Next would be the time when I rented an ATV and drove all around Santorini, Greece. I went to this lighthouse where I climbed down to this cliff where I had the best view of the ocean and the calderas. I think that was one of the first moments when I realized how much more of the world there was to see.

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Elephant bath time in the Mekong River


The last one would be when I became an elephant mahout for a day in Laos. I spent the day with them in the jungle and finally ended it by giving my elephant a bath in the Mekong river. Although I must admit, I felt that he was giving me a bath and not the other way around!

Do you still keep a home base? Or are you traveling long term?

After my yearlong travel hiatus, I had to go back to Manila to work and get a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. By that time, I was lucky enough to have a partner whom I met while traveling, who was willing to relocate to the Philippines to wait for me. We had to be based in Manila for a year so I could finish my masters. We managed to make the most out of that year because we were constantly traveling around the Philippines. Ultimately, I think he fell in love with the people and the beauty of the Philippines that the idea of “waiting” wasn’t too bad.

Just recently, Tom and I decided to set off again to travel. We both quit our jobs and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia. Our plan was to become digital nomads and shift our income online, both through our respective skills and through our blog. A few months into our trip, we've traveled through Europe and now we're headed to Ecuador!

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Photo in one of my dream destinations, Cinque Terrer, Italy

How do you fund your travel lifestyle?

During the first time I went backpacking, I was living off whatever money I saved. I was very careful with how I spent my money and found loads of ingenious ways to stretch my funds, especially since Europe was so expensive. Instead of going to a restaurant, I would shop in groceries and would have picnics in parks. I would also eat packed sandwiches from my hostel breakfasts, and even hitchhiked and couch surfed to save on accommodation and transportation costs.

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Eating my packed meal in front of the Eiffel Tower

This time around, we are both working on the go as we document our many (mis)adventures on our blog. I am also doing freelance writing and graphic design while Tom does freelance business consultancy and website development. On the road, we would gladly exchange our services for lodging at hostels, meals, and more currently, adventure reviews (hugs and chocolates would work too!)

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Snowboarding in Lake Tahoe

Now that you are traveling with your partner Tom, what are the pros and cons and traveling with someone?

Although I loved traveling by myself, I prefer traveling with Tom. We work really well together and he just makes everything so much more fun! It’s like traveling with your best friend because all we do is laugh – even in the worst possible situations. When you see or experience things while on the road, sometimes you wish you had someone to share that moment with.

Of course traveling with a partner has its ups and its downs. When you are on the road, you are constantly placed in situations that test your limits. There was a time that we were traveling for almost 30 hours straight without a bed. You see each other at your highest and lowest points (admittedly, my low points often come when I am hungry!)

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Camping on a secluded island in Gigantes Island, Philippines

How did you realize that Tom is the perfect travel partner and what are your tips for others who want to travel as a couple too?

You have to make sure that you have similar interests and want to do the same things. In our article, “how to find the perfect travel partner”, we outlined different things which couples must consider before they decide to travel together. By talking about these things and deciding about them beforehand, you will save yourself the pain of arguing while on the road. Apart from that, I think giving each other space is very important. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing once in a while. The space is good for you – especially since you guys are together 24/7.

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Autumn in Prague, Czech Republic

What passion projects are you currently working on?

Tom and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to travel and see the world. From our travels, we have met people from different walks of life, and at the same time, have seen people living in extreme poverty. This inspired us to give back in our own little way. We thought of the word wanderlust and decided to call ours “The Wandergive Project” which is all about a desire to give back while traveling. Our goal is to find communities and fully immerse ourselves with them then create fundraisers to help that community meet a need. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be as something as simple as purchasing flip-flops or toothbrushes for a small village. We’ve found out that when traveling, so many backpackers want to give back in their own little way but don’t know how.

You write a lot about the Philippines – what are your top 3 recommendations for people who are visiting for the first time?

The Philippines is such a beautiful country – and I don’t just say that because I am from there! Our islands, the people, and the diverse sceneries that we have make this place an ideal country to explore. Although choosing our favorites is pretty difficult, I would say Palawan for its many stunning islands and lagoons; Cebu and Dumaguete for a laid back atmosphere and many hidden natural landscapes; and finally, head up North to Sagada and Banaue to experience cave spelunking and see firsthand the beauty of the rice terraces.

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Jump shot after hiking Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines

What's your advice for people who think that they can't travel for any given reason?

As cliché as it sounds, if you really want it, there is always a will and a way! Often times, the lack of money or my Filipino passport were easy crutches to use as an excuse for not traveling. Stop making excuses just because you are too afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. I have managed to travel by myself, even going to countries that were difficult to get a visa for. All I did was make a decision to travel, then made lifestyle changes in order to help me reach my dreams. Both Tom and I traded financial security to pursue a life of travel and one of our favorite quotes sums it up perfectly: “The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

Anna Faustino is ½ of the travel blog, Adventure in You. She and her partner Tom met one fateful day in Vietnam and they have been together ever since. Brought together by their love for silly dance moves, good food, and discovering new cultures, they are on a mission to go on as many adventures around the Philippines, and the world, as they possibly can. Follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as they inspire and unleash the Adventure in You.

Want to read more about women empowering women to travel? Check out more at Sole Sister Spotlight.

Do you know of travelers who conquer the world one country at a time? We would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send us an email at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail.com. We look forward to your suggestions!
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Sole Sister Sarah returns from her solo travels through Lijiang and Tibet with a couple of anecdotes and photos to remember it by…
This year I’ve been so lucky to travel to a new country every month. Completely unexpectedly, my trip to Lijiang and Tibet was by far my favourite trip. It was another solo trip. I am all too used to this. However, the locals seemed quite perplexed that I was alone.

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A prominent moment on this trip, and in my entire travels so far, was when a waiter in a restaurant said he would “wait for Mr. Richard before he served lunch.” Of course there was no Mr. Richard, and he would be waiting a long time if he wasn’t to bring out lunch until then.


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It made me chuckle, but it also made me realise that there are so many different cultures around us. For me, and maybe for you reading this, we would never bat an eyelid at a young solo traveller. But Tibetans find this strange. The waiter and I later had a conversation together, and he explained he had never met a woman my age (27) who wasn’t married. I felt strangely proud of this.

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Maybe this was the reason I loved Tibet so much… or maybe it was the breathtaking beauty, the religion, or the heartwarming culture. Whatever it was, I well and truly fell for Tibet.

Dirt Biking through Tibet


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Tibet - Monk at work


Tibetan Prayer Flags

I stayed at the Banyan Tree Ringa Resort­ newly opened this year. Just on the border of China and Tibet, the nearest town to it is Shangri-­la. It’s cold that high up most of the year, but the sun is still present and teases you through the day.

Tibet Tiger Leaping Gorge


Tibet Wild Yak

Check your local government website about obtaining a visa from Tibet and China, as some countries have strict rules on entering this part of the world.

Sarah of Coffee with A Slice of Life is a 26 year old professional world wanderer who has been travelling the globe for the last 4 years, one cup of coffee a time. She is in love with the open road, and writing about it, and will do almost anything to keep living her dream... Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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