Travel Book Reviews

The best books to get you through a long layover or bumpy bus ride.

GUEST POST by Emily Nielson @justafirstdraft

When traveling, you want more than a lightweight paperback in your backpack, you want a fast-paced and fun novel that will keep your attention through plane rides and long waits. Today, I’ve compiled my top three novels for any trip.

Painting Sky by Rita Branches

book3If you like romance novels– or even if you don’t– this is the book to grab. It follows Jane, a high school freshman and art major, in her sitcom worthy life (living with her brother, her boyfriend, and his brother in a house by the forest). Even as a talented artist, Jane can’t seem to earn any praise from her professor and to make matters worse, her boyfriend is NEVER home. So she turns to the ever- so mysterious Keith for art help, though their relationship ends up become a little more than that.

Painting Sky meets every requirement. It’s a quick read and it’s compelling. The characters are relatable and the romance is adorable and enjoyable.



Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl is one of my all time favorite books. It’s about Cath, an introvert and twin, trying
to navigate college after her twin sister has distanced herself from her. Cath struggles to find her groove and to balance the real world with the fantasy world from her favorite novel. As she meets people who push her out of comfort zone and onto campus, chaos and beauty ensues. Sometimes at the same time.

Rainbow Rowell writes beautifully and the novel’s pacing is perfect– you can spread the reading out over a few weeks or devour it in a day and love it either way. Plus, Cath is so relatable to anyone who’s ever been in a fandom (especially anyone who writes or reads fanfiction).

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

book-1Maddie has never actually left the house. She’s allergic to the entire world and spends her days reading and her nights playing scrabble with her mom. When a boy moves in next door, a relationship that never seemed possible develops. Maddie wants love so badly, but it’s impossible, right?

I love Everything Everything because it’s a multimedia love story. Open to any page and you’ll probably find a nurse’s pad, a homework assignment, or an email exchange. This makes the read fast and you’ll always be amused.


Next time you embark on a fun adventure, be sure to slip a good book into your bag. These are just a few ideas but there are so many more waiting to be read.

For more book reviews and posts about writing and life, head to my blog

Do you have a great idea for a guest post and want to be featured on my blog? Shoot me an email at!

Happy adventuring 🙂

Travel Stories from Around the World

I set out to ask some of the most experienced, knowledgable travel bloggers a few questions about their experiences. I asked where they’ve been, to share their favorite experience, a funny disaster story, and lastly one piece of advice for all of you newbie/ aspiring globe trotters. From their answers, I hope you can learn more about what to expect, know, and love about traveling (I know I did)!

Where have you traveled?

“I have so far traveled to 3 continents and over 20 countries. Some of the countries I have been to are: USA, Thailand, Amsterdam, France, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Jamaica and Tenerife.”


“India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Borneo, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, United, States, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Morocco and of course England, Scotland and Wales.”

@ FindingBeyond

“So far only Europe. I’ve interrailed across Eastern Europe, driven around Iceland & Norway, been to Lapland 8 times and seen a total of 23 countries. I aim to double that in the next 5 years. “


What is your favorite memory?

“Whenever I travel, if I am not in a place long enough to immerse myself completely in the culture, I always try to have what I like to call ‘live like a local day.’ My favorite LLL day would have to be my trip to Florence. I rented a moped with a friend of mine and we drove through the cobble-stoned streets of Italy. We even got chased down by Italian foot cops for driving through a pedestrian only street! We had no idea. Although we only had the bike for an hour, I have never felt so free in my life. That feeling is something I will always cherish and I will forever think fondly of my Italian ‘live like a local day.'”


“Reaching the top of Preikestolen, Norway, with 600m drops on all sides of this amazing rock pointing out into the Lysefjord…it really is a spectacular place with incredible views! Sat here it is so easy to imagine Viking long ships sailing past returning with their plunder from from foreign lands…it is a place where time really stands still.”


“It’s a bit cheesy but when we got engaged in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The city is so beautiful and one of the most romantic locations we have ever visited. Darren proposed on top of the St Lawrence Fortress which overlooks the old city. He couldn’t have chosen a better spot.”


Everyone’s had something go wrong while traveling, what’s a funny story where something did not go as planned?

“Through my travels, I have had many, many experiences where things have gotten a little crazy. The time that most sticks out in my mind was my trip to Monaco. A large group of us went to the Monte Carlo Casino. It was a big night out where we all got dressed up and has a lot of fun. On the ride back, I fell asleep on the bus and since I was in the back row with only one other person (who was also sleeping), nobody noticed us or thought to wake us up. Next thing you know, I wake up to hear the bus driver locking the door! We had missed all the bus stops and the bus was back in the yard for the night 20 minutes away from the hotel. When I approached the driver, he was so startled, saying “this has never happened before! I have never had anybody be left on the bus.” Lucky for me, he was very nice and had his friend (who didn’t speak a lick of English) drive me home. Then to top it all off, when I got back to our hotel, the gate was locked for the night so I had to hop the fence in my fancy dress and five inch heels! Looking back, I was very fortunate to have run in to the right people. Things could have gone very differently if not for their kindness. But, nonetheless, it is a night I will always remember!”


“It was my first time abroad at the age of 17. Me and my best friend went to Brighton (UK), and we were staying with a host family we met back home. As soon as we enter the house, their over-friendly dog comes to greet me and completely rips off my shirt. I am left standing there in my underwear feeling like I am about to die with shame.”


“I was in Key Largo with my friends because we had bought a Groupon for a one hour Jet Ski and all day kayak. First of all, the service from the people that worked there was rude. So it started off a little shaky. lol But once we were out in the open water with the Jet Skis we forgot all about it. The water is so amazigly blue, it was unreal. After our one hour was up, we went and switched to the kayaks. I have never been kayaking before so I was all about it. If you have never been to Florida, then you don’t know how quickly weather can change.We had only been out maybe ten minutes when the clouds started rolling in. I kid you not, we saw the clouds and said maybe we should head back but some of the guys thought we had a few more minutes. WRONG! Literally within seconds it was like we were in the middle of a hurricane. The workers from the company came out to get the others that were on Jet Skis, so we thought “ok cool, there be over to grab us too.” Yeah no…they left us stranded in the middle of the ocean. I am not even exaggerating when I say the wind was outrageous as was the rain. We were paddling for our lives basically. There was a dock that we had to get around before getting back into the canal but the wind was so strong we were getting thrown under the dock. Somehow we managed to get around it but once we did the rain and wind seemed to intensify to the point where I couldn’t see anything and the rain felt like hail against my skin. As we are trying to get back through the canal, there are also boats that are trying to get through so it was a struggle for us staying out of there way. Not only that, the wind was either pushing us back or swaying us into parked boats along the canal. After what seemed like hours of an ordeal, we finally made it back to the shop. It’s safe to say, you should definitely check the weather before going out on the water.”


What’s one travel tip you’d like to share with my readers 

“Don’t book accommodation solely on website photos. We’ve lost count of the amount of rooms we’ve checked into that look nothing like they did on the website. Do a little bit more digging online. Trip Advisor’s traveller photos are always good for more up to date images.”


“As a solo female traveler, the best advice I can give is to always walk with confidence. If you give off an air of self-assurance, people will assume you know where you are going and what you are doing… even if you don’t. This could make all the difference in terms of safety. “


“Never try to overplan it. I did this for our trip around the east coast of the USA, and while it was great to be at home and know exactly where we were going and what we were doing and having paid for it all, when you get there you just want to soak it all in. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you didn’t have enough time to explore! Not to mention you don’t always feel like doing something strenuous everyday and may feel like having a day off every now and again!”


“Things will happen: planned and unplanned, but always keep an open mind. You never know: that one terrible moment in that trip you took may be something you’ll look back on fondly – or even be the catalyst for life long friendships and hilarious photos.”


Thank you to everyone that contributed! I got a lot of great responses, too many to post! So I will be featuring even MORE in a later article 🙂

Everyone showcased in this article:









UK Fashion Trends

Guest Post! Bringing you the latest in British fashion trends is fabulous beauty & fashion blogger, Kay

Guest post! Bringing you the latest in British fashion is fabulous Beauty & Fashion Blogger, Kay

Hi Everyone! I’m Kay from Meraki Army.

Seeing as I’m from the UK and Victoria is from the US, she came up with idea of me talking about the fashion here.

First things first….

Boyish behaviour.

Personally, I don’t see many women dressed too ‘girly’. Don’t get me wrong, I see people in dresses and heels but not necessarily together. In the UK if you saw someone wearing a maxi dress, they will most likely be pairing with the a cute pair of ankle boots and a leather jacket, something I love. A pair of cute heels paired with some mom jeans and a oversized t-shirt is a classic and a summer dress with a distressed denim jacket thrown on over top.

Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 7.24.34 PM.png

Layer Up.

Maybe you haven’t heard but the UK isn’t known for its amazing weather. That doesn’t stop us though, we will still be going out in dresses and shorts in autumn because of the marvellous invention of tights! It’s better to have to take off a layer than regret not putting one on. Invest in a few great jackets- especially a leather one and a blazer.  Also scarves are always a great way for keeping you warm as well as stylish. This outfit below is perfect for spring but throw on a longline blazer or duster jacket then add a pair of tights and you’re winter ready.

Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 7.23.41 PM.png

Other things we wear … A lot.

Camel coats.

Tartan scarfs.

Trench coats.

Rain Boots.


Jeans and Oversized Shirts.

Jumpers or ‘sweaters’ over shirts, the collar just peeking out the top.

Peter Pan collar coats.

Small patterned bags.  

I hope this gave you an idea of what we dress like across the pond. Be sure to visit but blog and follow me on twitter!

Thanks for reading,


Screen Shot 2016-09-17 at 7.24.48 PM.png


Touffailles, France – and Why You Need to Go There

I arrived in Touffailles from Valencia, Spain. There is a bus line, train, and airport as modes of transportation to Toulouse, which is a city near Touffailles. From Spain you can easily get there from Valencia or Barcelona. Touffailles gave me a glimpse of the quaint, historical, flourishing land of French countryside. Before, my only experience had been the bustling tourist destination of Paris. Touffailles is an entirely different world. If you enjoy rustic buildings, old architecture, slow village life, and gorgeous natural scenery (with plenty of open land) Touffailles is the spot for you. Upon arrival I ate at a café—enjoying cheap but strong coffee and yet another delectable unpronounceable chocolate pastry—in a square closed in by an 11th century abbey. After breakfast, I ventured inside the church; its foundations were built in 600 A.D. and painted walls and arched ceilings were added in the 1000’s. The inside of the church sparkled with high stained glass windows and the walls shone uniquely of hand-painted gold and red that stretched all the way to the arched ceilings. After leaving the square I resided in my B&B for the next three days (relatives!), which is settled in a small village that is surrounded by blooming green hills and colorful flowers. The old houses in this area were the real treat. Rustic and beautiful, my room over looked the village, equipped with chapels, old churches, and homes sprinkled between the hills. So far, I’m loving Touffailles.

My first night in southern France I spent at a weekly evening Marché Gourmand in a square in Lauzerte. There, I enjoyed curried sausage, a local beer mixed with lemonade, and my first ever snail! Drenched in garlic—they’re not half bad. There was live music, dancing, and local vendors selling a variety of dishes. French chips (French fries) are delicious and so are their crepes; I had a Nutella one for dessert. Around the square you can take in the views of Lauzerte below you. Many towns are atop hills like this because in the ancient world they were built up high for protection. A particularly good locally grown wine was the Château d’ Aix Rosé. This square hosts these evenings every Thursday during the months of July and August.

On the second day I enjoyed yet another beautiful view of the French southern countryside atop a hill in Tournon-d’Agenais. In this area you will find many war memorials, churches, and breath-taking scenery.

Sitting outside looking down the rolling hills on which this small village is perched, surrounded by vibrant flowers and their accompanying butterflies and bees, one cannot help but be inspired. Touffailles is an undiscovered gem of the world.


Madrid, Spain

Madrid is very much a normal city. I stayed in a business-y district, so there wasn’t a lot of cultural differences or exceptional architecture. If you go to Madrid and only Madrid, it would not be an accurate portrayal of all of Spain. However, that’s how most large cities are. My favorite part of Madrid, which was pretty awesome, was going to El Museo del Prado. This museum is home to Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, my favorite piece of artwork I saw in Europe.

My second favorite thing I saw in Madrid was the Royal Palace. I cannot explain the lavishness of these rooms… not even a picture does it justice. Each room has deeply colored walls and patterns with sparking, ornate chandeliers. The detail that blew my mind the most was the amount of gold decorated in every single room. So. Much. Gold. Each room was so decadently furnished and maintained; it was really a sight worth seeing.

Madrid is a cool city, but not my favorite place in Spain. Reflecting back I really loved the more cultural, smaller towns. Which I will divulge into! In later posts 🙂

Pisa, and the last of Italia

Let me first say, the bus ride to Pisa, Italy from Rome was the most picturesque bus ride I have ever been on in my life. Traveling through Europe made me privy to many beautiful places, but there is no countryside more naturally gorgeous than the Western Coast of Italy. I highly recommend bussing or taking a train through this during the day so you can witness the vibrant blues and greens and rolling hills and remote cottages that are too stunning to be properly captured in a picture. But anyways…

On the bus to Pisa

Pisa! We made it. The final stop before going our separate ways in Spain. After the long bus ride, we made it to the slightly isolated and quaint province of Pisa. Pisa is not a huge, booming, tourist-filled city. Besides the Leaning Tower, there isn’t much else going on. But that’s all we came to see; and frankly, a sleepy town was perfect after all of the running around in Rome. We did a lot of walking through Pisa. Transportation was fairly reliable, and we were able to use both walking and the public bus system to get around. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is cool! It’s located in a pleasantly underrated area with surprisingly just a handful of tourists. It is a huge, sparkling white tower that does look like it’s about to fall over. It costs some euros to get in and walk to the top, so we opted out of that. After taking our stereotypical Leaning Tower pics, we headed “home” for the night. Our last night in Italy, and we ate Chinese takeout! You start to get over carbs, and since the only other options in Italian food are a side salad or some meat, we needed a break from authentic cuisine. The Chines food was surprisingly delicious! This laid-back night concluded our backpacking journey and my time in Italy. It was a truly unique country that I am eager to explore again. Our hostel was walking distance form the airport, and run by an impressive German trilingual fill-in traveler just getting into the hostel-running world, who did everything he could to make us feel at home. The next morning, bright and early at 5 am, we were off to catch our planes. Mine, to Madrid, to start my Spanish adventure.