Unique Travel Journal Prompts

By Laura Jemetta

I take a travel journal with me on every trip I take – it’s just about the first thing that goes in my carry-on backpack. When I journal, I really enjoy to mix up free-writing with answering some structured prompts, so I’ve come up with a list of prompts for travel-journalling.

You can use them in conjunction with free-writing if you like, or if you prefer to simply have some prompts to work with, you can use them by themselves. I find them thought provoking to use, and they really make me think about my travel in a thoughtful and grateful way.

Pre-Trip: (While you’re on the plane)

  • What am I most excited about for this trip?
  • In what ways am I grateful for this trip? Make a list.
  • In what ways did I need to be brave in order to take this trip?
  • Why am I going to this city/country/region? Why did I choose this destination.
  • What are my hopes for this trip?

During the trip: (Every day)

  • What was the best thing about today?
  • What am I grateful for today? List at least three things.
  • What was the nicest thing I ate today?
  • What was the most interesting thing I saw or experienced today?
  • In what ways did I get out of my comfort zone today?
  • How did I go with budgeting today?
  • What are my hopes for tomorrow?

Post Trip: (on the plane home)

  • What was the absolute highlight of my trip? (Try and choose just one for now)
  • What are all the things I loved about this trip? List everything, until you have a great big list!
  • In what ways am I grateful for this trip – make a list.
  • What exactly did I love about the city/country/region I travelled to.
  • In what ways am I a different person now? How have I grown during this trip?
  • List the ways I am grateful, ,(instead of sad), to be going home.

Let me know if you plan to use any of these prompts the next time you go away. I’d love to hear!

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Xen is looking for Guest Posters!

That’s right! We want to work with YOU.

Do you have a fantastic travel story, or a must-read travel tip that you want to share? Do you want to give us an insight into your hometown? Or have you traveled somewhere we haven’t featured on the blog yet?

Well, we would love to feature your work on Xen! Shoot us an email (find this in our FAQ section), or contact us on our Instagram or Facebook, and let us know how you would like to contribute to Xen. Whether you’re an emerging or seasoned writer; planning your very first trip or a veritable nomad, we want to hear from you.

Submissions of all lengths will be considered, and those that fit with the tone and style of Xen will be highly regarded. Take a look at some of our posts to get a good idea of what we’re all about, and then let your writing do the talking.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

-Laura and Kate, The Xen Team

My Travel Goals for 2019

By Laura Jemetta

It’s New Years Eve today, and I’m already thinking and planning all the travel I’m hoping to do in 2019. In reality, I’ve been thinking about it since my last trip to Hawaii earlier this year, but now I thought it would be fun to share these goals with you!

  1. Go to New York. Twice – That’s right. I’m planning on visiting New  York twice this year. Once will be with Kate in August, it’s looking like the second time will be during Christmas time with my family. It’s one of my favourite places in the world, and I would probably visit 10 times a year if I could afford it! Most of my plans for visiting New York again involve seeing shows, (which you will find out about below), but I’m also excited to have some other uniquely New York experiences.
  2. Take my first solo flight – I won’t technically be taking a solo trip in 2019 (as far as I know), but I will be taking my first solo flight and meeting Kate in the US next year. I’m looking forward to the new experience, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to handle everything airplane travel brings, by myself.
  3. See London – 2019 is going to be the year that I finally visit England. My Dad was born in London, but I haven’t managed to make it over there yet. I’m excited to visit and do all the touristy things (read: see more shows). I think I’m most excited to do the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour, which has it’s own entry in this list!
  4. Visit Family in England – We have lots of family in the UK, so I’m excited to travel to London and Manchester to visit them. Some of them I’ve not met, and some of them have visited us in Australia, so it will be nice to see them in their own hometown.
  5. Go to Sara Beth’s for Brunch – I know there is so much wonderful food to be found in New York, but I’ve always had this thing about having brunch at Sara Beth’s. Now, I’m not sure if it really is going to be the best brunch ever, or if it’s one of those touristy things, but next year, I’m just going to try it!
  6. Drink Hot Chocolate in Central Park – When I was in New York last year, there was a strange heat wave going on, even though it was late September. So since then, I’ve been dreaming of being in New York in the cooler weather, and I can’t think of anything better than wandering Central Park, rugged up in a coat, with a hot drink in hand.
  7. See Hamilton on Broadway – As much as I love Hamilton, (and I do. A lot.), I was really late to the party. Kate tried to get me to listen to it for a couple of years, before I actually did, and now that I have, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it earlier, because I could have seen it when I was in New York last year. So: seeing Hamilton on Broadway is pretty much top of my list for New York next year.
  8. See Frozen on Broadway – Okay, if you don’t know by now, I love musicals. And the plan for next year is to see as many shows as possible in New York. I really want to see Frozen the Musical – I actually re-watched Frozen last night, and all I was thinking about was how amazing it will be to see it on stage!
  9. Do the Warner Bro’s Studio Tour in London – So this is probably the top of my list if things to do in London. You probably know by now how much we love Harry Potter here at Xen, so I’m so excited to experience the next best thing to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, when I’m in London.
  10. See the Rockerfeller Center Christmas Tree – To me, there’s nothing more iconic about Christmas in New York than the Christmas Tree at the Rockerfeller Center. There’s something so magical about it, and I really hope our Christmas plans work out, so that I can see it in person in 2019.

Let me know some of your travel goals for 2019 in the comments below – I’d love to hear! Don’t forget to check out my posts about my adventures in New York in 2017 – like my tips on free things to do in New York City, and my guide to the Subway system in NYC!

Stay tuned for lots of exciting posts in the New Year about Kate’s trip to Peru, and my travels to the US and UK!

What I Wear on Long Haul Flights





I only have one rule for clothes when I travel: Comfort. Comfort. Comfort. That’s right – I don’t really consider anything else, except maybe looking halfway like an adult that can dress themselves. Aside from that, I just want to be comfortable.



Now, like I mentioned (in depth if I’m honest) in my post about getting through long haul flights, I’m not the greatest flyer. I do it as often as I do because it gets me where I want to go, but flying isn’t really any fun for me. As grateful as I am to be able to travel, I just want to get where I’m going, and be as comfortable as possible while doing it.



When flying, there aren’t many things that are actually in your control, so I make it a point to control what I can – (do I have an issue with control? I’d say it’s likely) – and one of those things is what I wear.


Here we go:



Tracksuit Pants



Is this obvious? I don’t know. I’ve seen people board a 15 hour flight wearing jeans, and if that’s not insane, I don’t know what is. I always, always, always wear tracksuit pants on long haul flights. I have a specific style that I always wear – they’re super comfortable, lightweight and soft. It literally makes me feel like I’m wearing pajama bottoms on the plane, which makes it a tiny bit easier for me to try and fall asleep.


T-Shirt


I follow up the tracksuit pants with a loose t-shirt. This ones pretty much a no-brainer. If I’m headed somewhere warm, the t-shirt comes in handy for my arrival, and if I’m leaving somewhere cold or headed somewhere cold, I layer.


Warmth


Ah, the aforementioned layers. This consists of two items of clothing. First is my trusty denim jacket – it’s been on all my trips with me, so it’s well loved and nice and comfy. For some reason, I find airports and airplanes seriously cold, so I have this on until at least after take off. Secondly, I always pack a sweatshirt in my carry-on backpack with me to put on during the flight. Sometimes my jacket can be too bulky, so I usually swap to this jumper when I’m going to try and get some sleep. This saves me huddling under the airplane blanket for warmth, and also adds to the pajama feeling.


Footwear


When I fly, I always prefer to wear shoes that I can just slide on and off at security. I slightly panic when I go through security, even when I know I don’t have anything in my bag I’m not supposed to! So to not add to that, I usually avoid lace-up shoes. Instead, I wear my tried and true ‘Birkenstocks’, (read: imitation Birkenstocks), so that the process is as quick and painless as it can be. Once I’m on the plane and going to try and sleep, I also put on a pair of comfy socks, so that I can curl up on my seat without cold feet.



There you have it – what I wear on long haul flights. Let me know in the comments if you have a different ‘flight uniform’, or if you’re going on a long haul flight soon!

It’s Christmas Eve!

That’s right, it’s Christmas Eve, so we are wishing you a very Merry Christmas – from the Xen family to yours!

Unfortunately due to the business of the season and our work committments, we had to leave our 12 Days of Christmas at Day 10, but we will be back to our regular posting schedule after Christmas!

We are so proud to have started Xen this year, and we hope you will join us for all the exciting travels we have planned for 2019!

Merry Christmas and we hope you enjoy the holiday season!

From Laura and Kate – the Xen Team.

My Travel Goals for 2019

By Kate Arnold

The New Year is just around the corner and this is the time of the year that I like to think about my goals and resolutions for the coming year. I’m all about Here are some of my travel related goals for 2019.

  1. Visit Machu Picchu – when in Peru, right? I can’t go there and not see these amazing Incan ruins, at the moment this looks like it’s happening in April but nothing is set in stone yet yet
  2. See Hamilton on Broadway – I was lucky enough to see Hamilton in Chicago last year but I’d still love to see it ‘in the greatest city in the world’ (check out my Guide to New York for the Hamilton-lover)
  3. See Mean Girls on Broadway – I love the movie of Mean Girls, it has become such a classic and I love the music in the musical (fingers crossed Barrett Wilbert Weed is still in the show at that time, I’m a huge fan of hers)
  4. See Frozen on Broadway – I’m dying to see the show, particularly ‘Let It Go’ and that quick change (check out all the ways you can save money on Broadway tickets, I’ll be revisiting this article before I go back to New York)
  5. Live like a local in Peru – I’ve never travelled somewhere and stayed for such an extended period so I’m looking forward to living in Peru rather than just visiting (learn more about my upcoming trip to Peru here)
  6. Travel to one other country in South America – while I’m teaching I’ll have time to go on little adventures on the weekend and I’m hoping to spend one of those weekends in Brazil or Chile or maybe Bolivia
  7. Teach English overseas – so I know that this is definitely going to happen, it’s the whole reason I’m going over there in the first place but this has been a person goal of mine for years and I’m so excited to finally be ticking it off the list
  8. Invest $5000 to my travel fund – I’m currently investing into mutual fund with the goal of building up a yearly passive income of $5000 that will finance my travelling in the future (let me know in the comments if this is something you would like me to write about in more depth)
  9. Get freelance work while I travel – I’ve just begun my journey as a freelance writer and I want to make sure I keep momentum up while I travel as well as bring in some extra money while I’m away
  10. Visit family in Queensland – the plan was to go this year but with one thing and another I never made it up north to see my family in Queensland, when I get back from Peru and have a bit of money saved I’m thinking about making a road trip out of it, maybe stopping in Sydney on the way

Tell me about some of your goals and resolutions for the New Year in the comment section, whether travel related or not. Don’t forget to check out some of our other 12 Days of Christmas articles like Laura’s Gift Guide for Travel Lovers or my insights into going to Vision Australia’s Carols By Candlelight concert in Melbourne.

Happy Holidays!

Santa Claus Around the World

By Laura Jemetta

For Day 10 of Xen’s 12 Days of Christmas I thought it would be fun to take a look at what Santa Claus looks like in different countries around the world. Check out this post where I got my information about Santa from.

France: Pere Noel

In France, Pere Noel – which translates to Father Christmas – wears a long red cloak and fills children’s shoes with gifts after Christmas Eve mass. Traditionally, he also travels with Pere Fouettard – which translates to the ‘whipping father”.

Spain: Los Reyes Magos

In Spain, children are actually visited by three jolly figures on El Dia De Reyes – which is the day that the three wise men reached the baby Jesus. In the days leading up to El Dia De Reyes, the children in Spain write letters to their favourite Magos, asking for gifts. Then, they leave sweets out for the Magi, and hay for the camels they ride on, and the next morning, the shoes that they leave out are replaced by presents.

Russia and Ukraine: Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (Father Frost and Snow Maiden)

Traditionally, Father Frost would punish misbehaving children by kidnapping them, but this story has softened over the years so that he travels all over the Slavic Region on New Years Eve, bringing gifts to kids with his happy companion the Snow Maiden.

Iceland: Yule Lads

The Yule Lads are 13 mischievous elves who play tricks on Icelandic children. During the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, children leave their shoes by the windowsill, in the hopes that the Yule Lads will leave them goodies. Children who misbehave receive rotten potatoes in their shoes instead!

Finland: Joulupukki or Yule Goat

Nicknamed the Finnish Santa, the Yule Goat was initially a malevolent spirit associated with Norse Mythology. Nowadays, Joulupukki goes around the each house and asks ‘are there any well behaved children here?’ He travels around in a non-flying sleigh pulled by reindeer and delivers gifts.

Italy: La Befana

La Befana has been part of Italian folklore since the 8th Century, and she is a cheerful witch who flies over Italy on her broomstick. According to the folklore, the three wise men actually came across La Befana’s house on Christmas Eve, and after she invited them in, they invited her to go and see the baby Jesus with them. Nowadays, the story goes that she flies over Italy on the Eve of the Epiphany, and leaves toys and candy for the children.

There you have it – a few Santa Claus traditions from around the world. Please tell me in the comments the folklore or traditions in your country! I’d love to hear!

My Christmas Wishlist: Things I Need for my Trip to Peru

By Kate Arnold

As you may know, I’m going on a big trip next year. Firstly I’m going to Peru, where I’ll be staying for five months and teaching English for a good portion of that time. Then I’m going over to the States to re-visit New York and see a bunch of shows on Broadway and then to LA where I’ll hopefully spend a magical day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before going home.

Trips like these require supplies and here are some things on my to-buy list that I still need to pick up before I leave in March. Maybe, if you know someone who is doing a big trip like me, it will help you find something to put in their stocking this year.

  1. An electrical adaptor – pretty standard, Peru (as far as I can tell) uses two different types of electrical plugs, one is the same as the US, the other one… why is this information so hard to find online?
  2. A surge protector – these are weirdly difficult to find and I do not want to fry my phone or my laptop
  3. A strong mosquito repellent – maybe this is a weird one but Dengue, Zika and Malaria are a risk in Peru
  4. Malaria pills – see above
  5. Hiking boots – Machu Picchu, here I come
  6. A portable phone charger – so far I’ve travelled without one but this is the trip I cave and get one for
  7. A travel document wallet – I’ve never travelled with one of these either but this time I’m going to have so many more documents and flights and accommodation bookings that I need to make sure I can keep it all in order
  8. Locks – for nights that I stay in hostels and need to lock my valuables in lockers
  9. Luggage tags – not because I want aesthetic luggage tags that match my passport holder and document wallet but because I bought a brand new suitcase to take on this trip and I still don’t have any luggage tags for it
  10. RFID passport cover – these passport covers protect your information from being lifted when it is getting scanned, when I think about all the personal information I had to give to get my passport, as well as how easy it is these days to be hacked or have your identity stolen, this is crucial
  11. Socks and underwear – I don’t have to explain this one, do I?

If you are still in need of gift ideas for the travel-lovers in your life make sure to check out Laura’s article. And don’t miss our other articles in our 12 Days of Christmas series like Laura’s and My Top Christmas Holiday Destinations as well as Laura’s Guide to Melbourne at Christmas and My Experience at Carols By Candlelight.

Have I left anything out? What else do I need for this trip that I’m forgetting? Let me know in the comment section and let me know it you’re going to get anything on this list for any travellers you know.

Laura’s Top Five: Christmas Holiday Destinations

Today is Day Eight of Xen’s 12 Days of Christmas! Today I’m sharing my wishlist of destinations I would love to see at Christmas time. I’ve never been in a different city during the Christmas season, but I’d leave Melbourne for a Christmas in any of these five places. 

1. New York

I already love New York – the bustling, frenetic energy, the sprawling city-scape, the melting pot of art, culture, history and entertainment; I love it all. And I think the only thing that could make me love NYC any more is combining New York and Christmas. I’m thinking, Going to the Winter Village in Bryant Park, seeing the Rockerfeller Center Christmas Tree, and walking through Central Park with a hot chocolate. You can also check out my post about 5 free things to do in New York, and my Budget Friendly Tips for New York Accommodation, if you’re going to be in New York over Christmas. 

2. Manchester

My Dad grew up in Manchester, and I haven’t been there yet! I would love to see Manchester at Christmas, and to meet the English family that I’ve not met yet. I think it would be really lovely to be in England at Christmas time, and to celebrate a proper White Christmas with the family that I’ve spoken to on the phone and heard so much about. 

3. London

I also have lots of family in London, and there’s so much I want to do and see in London, so I think it would be the perfect Christmas destination. I’d love to see the lights and decorations at Harrods, and to do Christmas shopping on Oxford Street, and of course, to see a couple of shows! Perhaps at the top of my list is the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour – which I hear gets a special Christmas makeover this time of year. It sounds like the Harry Potter tour would be even more magical in December – though I’m wondering if that’s even possible considering how much I love Harry Potter! If you’re going to be in London around Christmas, don’t forget to check out Kate’s guide to the London Underground

4. Berlin

I have an idea of a perfect Christmas in my mind: it involves a snowy European city like Berlin, with me rugged up to the max (gloves needed!), and perusing a Christmas market sparkling with fairy lights. We don’t really have anything like the Christmas Markets of Europe here in Australia, and I would love just once to experience one. Combine that with Berlin being almost top of my European to-do list, and you have once of my ideal Christmas destinations. 

5. Honolulu

If you’ve been reading since Xen started, you’ll know that I love Hawaii. I’ve been twice, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful and atmospheric places in the world. The people are absolutely lovely, and the spirit of Hawaii is warm and bright. With that in mind, I know I would love a Hawaiian Christmas – one that is ‘green and bright’ like here in Australia. I imagine a Hawaiian Christmas would be slow and relaxing, spent soaking up the beautiful weather, probably with a trip down to the beach, and in the midst of a stunning landscape. It sounds perfect to me! If you’re thinking about a Hawaiian Christmas, check out my post about 5 Ways to See Oahu, to get some ideas on unique ways to experience beautiful Hawaii. 

There you have it, my Top Five Christmas Holiday Destinations. Tell me in the comments where in the world you would love to spend Christmas, and don’t forget to check out Kate’s Top Five here

Buying Gifts for Your Friends and Family Back Home

By Kate Arnold

Whether it’s Christmastime or not, when I’m travelling I always want to buy some small gifts for my family and friends back home. 

Don’t Get Souvenirs 

In general I think that souvenirs are a waste of money, even for people who visit the attraction. Your friends and family who haven’t been to see the Eiffel Tower probably don’t want a tiny statue of it. Fridge magnets of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building won’t be that appealing to people who haven’t experienced those attractions. 

Get Something They Can Use

I think the best gifts are something that can be used. I bought my sister a Frida Kahlo keyring from The Strand in New York because she was just about to move and she loves Frida Kahlo. She uses it every single day and always tells me how much she loves it. My friend collects mugs so I bought her one that I found a shop in London and it’s something that she can use and enjoy.

Don’t Get Something Too Big or Heavy

Either you have to ship it home or take it back with you and either way you don’t want something too big or heavy weighing down your bags or jacking up the shipping price. 

Think About Customs

You don’t want to spend heaps of money on a gift only to have it confiscated by customs when you get home. I’ve bought home Dutch cheeses for family members and haven’t had a problem but make sure you consider customs when you’re buying foods, wooden objects or large quantities of alcohol. Check with your country’s customs policies, some of them may surprise you. For example: Australia does not allow fake designer goods or pirated CDs or DVDs across its borders. You can bring in up to 2.25 litres of alcohol, duty free. You can bring back wooden and woven goods as long as they are not contaminated and they must be declared. You cannot bring any meat products into Australia but cheeses and other dairy products are okay as long as they are in sealed packaging. Lighters are okay, fireworks aren’t. You get it.

Good Gifts

  • Tote bags – so practical, useful and super lightweight so you can pack it easily
  • Mugs – useful, not too big and heavy, just make sure it’s well wrapped so that it doesn’t break in your suitcase
  • Pin badges – these are great because they are so small and you can tailor it to their interest
  • Jewellery – a small but meaningful gift and you it can be as inexpensive or expensive as you like 
  • Art – prints from museums you visit make great gifts and are super lightweight, just make sure it have stay flat in your suitcase
  • Food – as long as it’s properly seal and you know that you can get it through customs, food from the place that you’ve visited is a great gift like Italian parmesan cheese or Dutch Stroopwafel or British Marmite 
  • Alcohol – like with food, alcohol from the place you’ve visited would be a great gift for your family and friends of legal drinking age. Consumable gifts are totally underrated

Check out some of out other 12 Days of Christmas articles like Laura’s Guide to Melbourne at Christmas and my Top 5 Christmas Holiday Destinations.

What gifts do you buy for your friends and family when you go on holiday? Or what’s the worst gift you’ve received from someone who went overseas? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Holidays!