Goats of Crete: the Furry Companions of My Solo Hike

I spent some three weeks on Crete this winter. I am pretty sure I'd seen a few times more goats and sheep than humans.  There were many days that the only companions I had were goats - no humans anywhere. I absolutely loved it.

When I came back home and went through my photos I've realized I had so many pics of goats and sheep, I just had to make a post dedicated just those adorable creatures. The fabulous landscape was the perfect background for our lovely models. 

Female & Solo Hiking on Crete. Days 3-5: Kampos - Elafonisi - Paleochora

Whenever I have to make up my mind, I spend way too much time agonizing over my options and possible consequences of each decision. But this time there was no problem.

The night before I got picked up in Kefali by the wonderful owner of a rental in Kampos. If I went by the E-4 trail, I would have to retract the exact route from the day before. Some 12 km over a paved road, mostly uphill to Kefali and then an extra 10 km to get to Moni Chrissoskalitissis. After a second-long consideration, I came to a conclusion of a big “NOPE”.

Female & Solo Hiking on Crete. Days 1&2: Kissamos - Sirikari Gorge - Kefali

The first two days of my Cretan adventure were filled with history, sunshine, Nature, olive groves, goats, some bushwhacking… and a lot of road walking. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Finding the trail

When I was planning my hiking trip to Crete, my main plan was to follow the E-4 trail. It’s one of the long European trails that span for hundreds of miles across Europe.

The Big Drama of Winter in Chania, Crete.

I arrived in Crete very early in the day, aboard a ferry from Piraeus. It was dark and cold, I was tired and cranky. The first thing I realized was that I didn’t actually arrive in Chania. The ferry arrives in a small town of Souda, some 12 km away from Chania center.

I am really glad there is a nice, warm café pretty close to the port. I could get a coffee, wi-fi and figure out how to get to the center. I had plenty of time – it was just after 6 am. Soon after I sat down a horrendous storm blasted over the town. Now I had even more time. After two hours the rain and gale strength wind quiet down a bit, enough for me to make the short walk to a bus stop. There is a ticket machine so no problem with buying one.

A Woman Afoot... Hiking Solo on Crete!

On Friday I'm boarding a plane to Athens. For about three weeks I will try to walk its biggest island - Crete - from West to East. 

Last year, I went hiking in Catalonia during my winter break, this year it's Greece. I tried to find a place where there is a big chance of many days above 10*C to enjoy hiking and camping. There is plenty of nice, warm days along the shore of Crete - but not so much deep into its mountainous spine. 

I chose the E-4 trail because I like to have a longer trail to stick to - it makes it so much easier to hike in a new country than jumping between many short ones. 

The Scenic Route to Weight Loss: Hiking as a Weight Control Tool

I am a big fan of the “Healthy at Every Size” movement and support women of all sizes and fitness levels in the Outdoors. No weight loss is necessary before enjoying the wonderful benefits of hiking and camping.

But I know a lot of women do want to lose some weight and get in better shape. Myself included. I put some fat on and although I don’t think there's anything wrong with it, I would like to get back to my size from about a year ago – if only to fit my old clothes.

So if there are women out there who would like to get into a bit more athletic shape, let’s find the best, the most healthy and safe way to do it, right?

My 5 Luxury Hiking Items I Never Hike Without

Each time we pack we have to carefully think about each and every piece of gear. The lighter we want to go, the stricter we need to be about each item.

Personally, I don’t go ultra-light. I try to find balance between lightweight hiking, necessary for safety and comfort, and not going crazy with fighting for each ounce.

From all the pieces of gear that are not necessary to survive, I have five that I never hike without. They are the items that are useful, add comfort or safety. I could go and hike without them but I choose to pack them into my backpack. I guess you could call them my luxury items :)

How to Choose Your Camping Shelter: Tents, Tarps, Bivies and Hammocks

If you are looking for a tent to buy you might get pretty confused by all the choices you have on the market. There are dozens upon dozens of companies producing a variety of shelters. How can you choose one that would fit your needs? I prepared a handy guide that will make the decision making easier.

It might be that you are looking for your very first tent or maybe you need to retire you old family tent serving you for the past few decades. The most important thing is to realize your needs in order to narrow down your choices.

Below I gathered some questions and things to think about to help you figure it all out easier. Just a fair disclaimer - I'm a bit biased as a big fan of tents over other camping shelters. But I hope I can fairly present you with all the options you have.

What NOT to Pack Hiking: 9 Things to Leave Behind

Gear is obviously on our mind when we are getting ready for a longer hike. We don’t want to carry too much but also don’t want to miss something essential. From every side, we are bombarded with tips and gear lists but also ads and store’s suggestions of “necessities”.

If you are anything like me, you try to lighten up your load to make you hiking easier and safer. If you don't - you either are lucky to start already with a pretty low load or you just don't know how much better your hiking will get once you cut a few pounds off your backpack.

But how can you determine which pieces of gear are really needed and which ones you can safely leave at home (or better yet – at the store)? Well, I have nine things you really don’t have to take with you to ease your load and help your wallet.

The Vatican: Beauty, Crowds, and the Dark History

Visiting the Vatican is a must-do thingon most Rome visitors' itineraries, and so it was on ours..

A few weeks ago I went with my Mom to Rome for our first ever visit. We were mostly trying to see the most famous structures and places… To me, it was mostly trying to rein in my anxiety over the constant flood of the human form whenever we went.

Beyond the looks: the Vatican's heavy history

But the Vatican was high also on my list. Not only for the pure visual artistry have I known I would find there. I wanted to go and see with my own eyes the place that has been the most important source of pain, terror and progress inhibition in the history of the Western World

How to Set Up a Tent in High Winds

Strong winds in the forecast? Don’t cancel your camping trip just yet!

It’s pretty obvious that when we dream of a nice camping trip in the Great Outdoors, we envision beautiful weather and no nasty surprises. But as we know, Nature does not always cooperate or listens to our dreams. Sometimes the rains are testing our determination and at other times – it’s the winds.

The good thing is, most of the times we can still enjoy our camping trip as long as we follow a few guidelines.

7 Tips for Your First Solo Hike

As many of you know already, I love hiking solo.

I find it tremendously rewarding on many levels. It helps with my anxiety, brings relaxation and simple happiness. Hiking solo gives me also a great boost to my confidence and pride of own accomplishments.

A lot of people find trekking solo as equally rewarding – although it’s different for each person. But even extroverts find the experience worth the effort.

In our times, when we are surrounded by people almost all the time it is good to be one-on-one with Nature and listen only to the sounds of wind, birds, and waterfalls.

Should you then hit the trail right away?

Gear Review: Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket for Women

For the past few seasons of hiking, Marmot PreCip jacket was my constant companion. Downpours over the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye drizzles along the West Highland Way, occasional rains in Catalonia or the I-can't-believe-it's-summer thing in Iceland. No matter what the weather threw at me - I was fine with my hot-pink Marmot. 

Colosseum: Up Close & Personal with the Ancient Giant

Colosseum is the obvious stop on any trip to Rome. And so it was on ours.

I do not feel guilty for the lack of originality – when you go to a place for the first time, it’s natural to first go and see the big things, later on you might try to be a bit more adventurous.

Anyway, I really wanted to see it. To confirm with my own eyes it was real. Touch it even, if possible.

It’s one of those things you see in movies as the must-be symbol of a city. If an American movie takes place in Rome, there must be at least one scene with car chase going close by the Colosseum.

Pantheon: the Marvel of Ancient Roman Architecture

No matter how long your trip to Rome is, there are a few places you just have to see: the Colosseum, the Forum Romanum, and the Pantheon. If you have more time, I am sure you would also want to see the famous Spanish stairs or the Trevi Fountain. Visit to the Vatican is also high on most tourists’ lists.

Long weekend in Rome

Recently, I took my Mom for a long weekend to Rome. It was a first time for both of us and we had just a bit more than two days, so there was not much time. We chose to go with the typical tourist must-sees.

The Quest to Lighten Up my Gear Continues!

A few months ago I wrote a guide to gradual upgrading your gear to lighten up the load. I have realized that instead of writing another “edit” in that post, I should just write a post describing where I’m at on this quest to shed weight off my back.

I needed to start with the big items – that’s where you see big differences. If I can shed 1 kg of weight with a different tent, there is really no sense obsessing over a 10g lighter spoon, right?

Battling Crowds during a Mother-Daughter Long Weekend in Rome

Back in August, when I just came back from my fabulous travels to Quebec in Iceland, I was telling my Mom about the great time I had.

She listened and then told me, You go, my dear daughter, go and travel – for me, it’s too late, but you go!

That shocked me.

What did she mean it was too late for her? Did she really think there would be nothing of that kind in her life ever anymore?

The Dohany Great Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary. Simply Marvelous!

I am really happy that sometimes my full-time job sends me to awesome places. A while ago I took part in a conference for teachers run by Centropa. It took place in Budapest where I had never been before. Together with my fellow colleague sharing the trip, we went a day early to wander through the fascinating streets of Hungary’s capital. I was in awe of the architectural beauty of the city. But the best came from the guided tour of the Jewish district. The main point of this tour was a visit to the Dohany Great Synagogue – the biggest synagogue in Europe and second biggest in the world.

Now, I’ve seen many synagogues in my life. I’ve been to old and new ones, prayed in some tiny shuls and huge American temples. But this one… this one is something else! Its uniqueness lies not only in its size but some unprecedented architectural choices. You can learn a lot about the local Jewish community by observing its praying houses – you can see their wealth (or lack thereof), affiliation, praying styles or influences of the local culture.

All You Need to Know about Hiking the West Highland Way

Do you plan on hiking the West Highland Way? Do you wonder how to prepare for it? You are in the right place! I walked the West Highland Way trail over a year ago and it was truly life-changing. I had a lovely time but I’ve made some mistakes, too. I would love to share some ideas, tips, and advice so your time on the most popular Scottish trail is only positive.

Why hiking the West Highland Way?

West Highland Way is probably the most famous trail in Scotland. It takes you from Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow all the way to Fort William, 154 km (or 96 miles) to the North. It was officially opened in 1980 and became the first officially designated long distance footpath in Scotland. Thousands of people walk the WHW each year, and for a good reason – it takes you through a wonderful variety of terrain and breath-taking views.