England | Bath & Wiltshire Photo Essay


Last month I visited the beautiful city of Bath. It’s full of Roman and Georgian history and architecture. I was in awe of the Roman Baths and I fell in love with Jane Austen’s writing after visiting the Jane Austen Centre. The city isn’t far from magical Stonehenge and I took a day trip there with Mad Max Tours, which also included a visit the quaint villages of Laycock, Avebury, and Castle Combe. The English countryside is spectacular and I just had to share it with you.

Have you been to Bath and the Wiltshire countryside? Let me know what you thought of it if you have.

Marteen x

Have you been to the city of Bath and the Wiltshire countryside? Let me take you there with my photo essay!

From Ireland With Love | What Not To Say To An Irish Person On St. Patrick’s Day

Ah St. Patrick’s Day, that annual worldwide céilí celebrating all things Irish. Everyone becomes Irish and everything turns green on this one day each year. It’s a day full of shenanigans and shillelaghs. And of course we can’t forget the man of the hour, St. Patrick himself, rocking a blue (surprisingly St. Patrick never wore green) robe while spreading the Christian faith with a shamrock and banishing the snakes from this country. With all the festivities however, there are some things I hear around this time of year that make me think, “what? serioulsy?!” Here’s a tongue in cheek take on what not to say to an Irish person on St. Patrick’s Day (or maybe any day of the year really 😛).

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Who’s Patty? Did St. Patrick have a sex change while I wasn’t looking and is now known as Patricia? Maybe it’s our fault with our accents that Paddy sounds like Patty. So for future reference it’s Paddy’s Day, not Patty’s Day.

Top of the morning to ya!

What century is this? We don’t greet each other or talk to each other like this. Although this one could be our fault also. Sometimes we like to play up to the Irish stereotype. But don’t, just don’t go there 😛

Every St. Patrick’s Day I eat corned beef and cabbage.

I’ve recently learned where this comes from but corned beef and cabbage is not an authentic Irish dish. We have never eaten corned beef and cabbage. The proper dish is bacon and cabbage. Seemingly corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish-Americans during the nineteenth century.

So where do the leprechauns live?

I’m beginning to see a pattern here. This one is probably our fault too. We like to tell stories of myths and legends and some people can’t seem to take in that it’s made up.

I recall giving a tour two years ago and telling my group about a local cave known as the Leprechaun Mill. The story goes that farmers used to bring their corn there to be ground and they would collect it the following morning. Unfortunately the leprechauns aren’t doing much business now and they’re only grinding corn for their own kind. Legend has it that you can still hear the rumblings of the mill but not believers maintain that it’s just the sound of the water passing underground by the cave.

After the tour one of the people in my group asked me what do these leprechauns look like. I explained how they’re small people with red hair and beards and they wear a green coat, trousers and top hat, but they don’t exist. She looked a little confused and said that I just told her that they lived at the Leprechaun Mill. I said yes but it’s just a myth, a legend. I thought she might be joking with with but no, she was deadly serious.

It would be interesting if these little creatures did exist. There would be a lot more people chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But just to reiterate, leprechauns do not exist!


This last one I’ll give over to you. I want you to tell me if anyone has ever said anything to you about being Irish that slightly annoyed you or if you’ve ever said anything to an Irish person about Irish stereotypes. Spill the beans, you know you want to 😉

Do you enjoy St. Patrick’s Day? Have you ever celebrated it in Ireland? Have you ever said any of these to an Irish person? If you’re Irish have you ever had any of these said to you? Do you have any Irish ancestry? Happy St. Patrick’s Day wherever you are in the world!

St. Patrick's Day, the one day a year where everyone wants to be Irish. Here's a tongue in cheek take on what not to say to an Irish person on St. Patrick's Day.

Scotland | Edinburgh Photo Essay

Edinburgh stole my heart over a few bitterly cold days in mid January. I fell in love with the architecture, history, culture, heritage and the people. Everywhere you turn there’s great pride in the city’s heritage. Even though I was there for five days I still didn’t get a chance to see everything I wanted to. It’s a great to excuse to return and return I will. I’m even thinking about studying my Masters in Edinburgh once I receive my Honours degree.

Have you been to Edinburgh? What did you think of the city? What’s your favourite thing about Edinburgh?

Marteen x

Join me on a tour of the beautiful city of Edinburgh with my photo essay.

It’s A Travelful Life’s Plans For 2017

Happy New Year!!! I love the beginning of a new year. 2016 was a very mixed year. It left my heart broken for this planet and mankind. It was a confusing year and it got me thinking about my place in the world and if there’s anything I can do to make it a better place. The highlights of 2016 for me were starting this website, moving to Canada (despite returning home), graduating with a BA in Heritage Studies, and publishing a guidebook for the west of Ireland.

So what’s instore for It’s A Travelful Life in 2017? Now more than ever I want to work in the heritage sector. And okay yeah I’m already working in it as such being a tour guide but I want to help people preserve their heritage and educate people how they can do that, all in a responsible way. I believe that experiencing cultural heritage responsibly and expressing your own culture is a human right. Maybe it’s a lofty dream. However, the next step is to return to college in September and receive my Honours Degree in Heritage Studies.

I kept in touch with my bosses from The Quiet Man Museum while in Canada and over Christmas they asked to meet up in the New Year to discuss the possibility of me returning when the season starts. Before I left for Canada they did say to me not to be afraid to return and if they could they’d fit me in somewhere in the museum. However, people say a lot things and I didn’t want to raise my hopes that they would ask me back. I’m extremely lucky that they’re considering taking me back.

I’ve signed up to the Travel Bloggers Success membership and their Bloggers to Bylines freelancing course, so I’ll be upping the ante on here and hopefully spread out into freelance work, using this space as my portfolio. Which will probably mean less posts, ie. once a month. Of course 2017 isn’t complete without some travelling. I have a trip to Edinburgh next week, London next month and Bath in March. When I’m back at work and college I’ll be exploring more of my country, and bringing you more narrative type posts full of history, the arts, folklore, archaeology, built environment and natural environment.

So all that’s left to do is to wish you all health, happiness and lots of travel for 2017. What are your travel plans for the new year?

Marteen x

Find out my plans for It's A Travelful Life and where I'm travelling to in 2017.

Christmas Around The World

Welcome to part two of Christmas Around The World series. If you missed part one, check it out here. It’s been another fun week learning about the different traditions and customs from around the world associated with this time of year.

England – Julianna from The Discoveries Of

Follow Julianna on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Christmas in England is a big deal. Every year, the lights go on all around the country (including the spectacular ones in Oxford Street), we crack out the mulled wine, and start feeling festive. Generally, Christmas Day is all about the two Fs: family and food. All of a sudden, it’s OK to eat Celebrations chocolates all day and squabble with your siblings with over what to watch after the big meal.

The traditional Christmas dinner is a turkey with all the trimmings – brussels sprouts (mandatory, whether you love them or hate them), roast potatoes, pigs in blankets (cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon) and lots of gravy of course. Turkey became a popular Christmas dinner in the Victorian times as it was pretty much the only bird big enough to feed their large families and we’ve kept with it ever since. It’s also traditional to have Christmas Pudding with brandy butter for dessert, and mince pies (these are made with mincemeat, which is sweet and not meat at all).

The great thing about Christmas in England though, is it really is about your personal traditions – the ones that your family have been doing for years. In my family we never have a turkey for the big dinner and always have loads of cheese as well as dessert. After exhausting ourselves eating and drinking on Christmas Day, you can kick back, watch bad films and maybe head for a long walk on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas).


Mexico – Jaime from Mexatia

Follow Jaime on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Christmas in Mexico is, like any other celebration, all about the family. Since it is a huge country, the traditions vary from state to state. My family comes from Oaxaca, the state in the south of Mexico, where we start to put the Christmas decorations on December 1, as well as the Christmas tree. In the period from 16 to 24 of December we prepare traditional parties called “Las Posadas” where the families get together and perform the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, singing Christmas songs around the block and asking for a shelter (in Spanish posada means inn) from the host family. The celebration continues with breaking a piñata and serving traditional dishes like tostadas, atole, buñuelos.

In Oaxaca de Juarez, every December 23 there is a special event, a content in carving the radishes, called Noche de Rábanos. The craftsmen make amazing figures and historic scenes from the radish, while locals and tourists come to admire their work.

Christmas Eve is full of the preparations for the festive Christmas dinner. The whole family gets together, performs one last posada and sings a lullaby to baby Jesus. We serve dishes like turkey, lamb, cod, salads and other. My family does not do Santa Claus so we give the presents to each other after the dinner.

New Year is celebrated in the circle of the family as well. At midnight, or better said 12 seconds before the midnight, we eat one grape each second and make a promise or a wish for each. Each grape represents one month of the coming year. Just like in other parts of the world, we often wish to lose weight or get a better job.

Holiday season ends with January 6, Dia de los Reyes Magos, when kids receive presents from three kings. In the evening we eat Rosca de Reyes, traditional sweet bread with a figure of Jesus hidden inside. If you are lucky to get a toy in your piece, you must make tamales and atole for your family on February 2, el Dia de la Candelaria.



Finland – Evan from Pretty Wild World

Follow Evan on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Ah, Christmas! A worldwide holiday which almost everyone celebrates. However, do you know that the iconic man who we call Father Christmas or Santa Claus was actually from Finland? That’s a fact, not a lot know! In Finland, Santa Claus is known as Joulupukki, and he is a man with a sack filled with gifts, and he knocks on your door and hands presents to you on Christmas. Of course, nowadays that’d be creepy if a stranger knocks on your door and hands you something, but it is an ongoing tradition in Finland that one man of the family (normally the father) puts on a Santa Claus suit and disguise himself as Joulupukki. This is normally something every Finnish child waits every Christmas!  To this day, that tradition lives on.


Japan – Cory from You Could Travel

You can follow Cory on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

I was fortunate enough to spend last Christmas in Tokyo. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever seen and the Japanese have a few rather bizarre ways of celebrating the winter holidays. You won’t be seeing many evergreens full of decorations, but you will have a festive feeling as most streets are dotted with fairy lights. The weird part? On Christmas day, the Japanese queue in front of a KFC to grab their celebratory meal (chicken wings on Dec the 25th anyone?!). Apparently, this came about because many foreigners bought some chicken or turkey-related items in KFC to recreate a meal Christmas meal from back home. The Japanese seemed to have picked this up and drop the ramen for a less healthy option.


Austria – Helene from Masala Herb

Follow Helene on Facebook | Twitter | StumbleUpon | Pinterest

I am from a village in the alps in the mountains. We experienced Christmas when we were small in Austria with a lot of snow. During advent, the 4 Sundays in November/December, we would come back from school and play the whole afternoon in the snow outside. Nowadays snow is rare and you don’t see kids playing outside anymore. Snow is essential for Christmas or so it would be. 🙂

We would have a Advent calendar with 24 small doors and behind each door would be a little surprise like chocolates and sweets. At school we would have a hanging one with little bags and each day one child would get one to open. In school we would prepare for Christmas by resitting Holy night and other popular songs. The song Holy night originated in the region of Salzburg, so it’s the song in Austria during Christmas time. We would have a shadow theater or create a living crip and on the 24th afternoon we would be the stars in church. Austrians are catholic so this reflects as well during Christmas time. On the 5th of December we have something called, Krampus day. It’s basically a day which shows that the pre-Christian beliefs still hold strong on these regions as well. Krampus are demons from the mountains, who come to take the naughty children. So boys from the village have their clubs and each boy above 14 years of age, wears animal furs covering the whole body and wears a wooden ugly looking mask and they would take a run through town on the 5th. Locals and tourists come for this and the naughty kids would get beaten up. ^.^ 

On the 6th of December is St. Nicolaus day. The day when Nicolaus (Santa Claus) comes and brings oranges and chocolates to the good kids. We do a lot of Christmas baking during Advent time. We bake popular cookies such as Lebkuchen, Vanillekipferl, cinnamon stars, Linzer cookies, macarons, meringue and so on. The cookies are then gifted to family and friends. On weekends we go to Christmas markets. The most popular Christmas markets are in the cities such as Salzburg, Innsbruck and Vienna. However, each smaller city or town has a market these days as well and those are kind of trendy these days. Locals like to meet family and friends on Friday evening in the Christmas market and you will have mulled wine, cakes and goodies sold at the market while children are playing music. Christmas is celebrated in Austria on the 24th and in the past 40 years children have been getting gifts too but not from Santa Claus (because Nikolaus comes on the 6th), but from the Christkind which is the Christ child.





Thank you so much to all of the writers who contributed to part two of my Christmas Around The World series. I hope you enjoyed reading the different traditions and customs from around the world. Do you celebrate Christmas or an equivalent? What is it called? How do you celebrate?

Marteen x

Part Two of Christmas Around The World. Discover the traditions and customs of Christmas from different countries around the world.

Christmas Around The World

Tis the season to be jolly falalalalalalalala…I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of year. I find the origins of this holiday fascinating, and I love learning about each country’s traditions and customs and how Christmas has developed. I thought it would be fun to do a series on Christmas around the world and share with you what Christmas is like in other countries, starting with part one…

Germany – Norman from Années De Pèlerinage

Follow Norman at Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Christmas might just be the best time to visit Germany. Plenty of snow, fairy tale castles and Christmas markets around every corner create a truly magical experience. Unlike in the Anglo-Saxon countries, we celebrate on December the 24th. But there is so much more to Weihnachten, as we call it, than just the Christmas tree, the holly mass and lots of presents. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is called “Nicolaus”. On December the 6th, we remember the death of the Saint Nicholas. Children will line up their shoes in front of the door and Saint Nicolaus will stuff them with treats overnight.

In some areas of Germany Saint Nicolaus will come to visit the houses of all children and bring the presents himself. But beware! He is not coming alone. He will usually bring a couple of devilish helpers along. These are called Krampus and are truly frightening to behold. Imagine animal furs, horns, iron chains and a nightmarish mask. So, when he asks the children about their good deeds and their piety, better not lie, because you might be in for a little, playful beating.

historic-christmas-market-munich christmas-market-munich-germany


U.S.A. – Emily from Happynfull

Folow Emily at Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Christmas in the United States is very festive! Starting the last week of
November, after Thanksgiving, you will generally start hearing Christmas
tunes, seeing Starbucks’ red holiday cups, and admiring Christmas trees
and lights in every neighborhood and shop. There are a lot of traditions and the common theme is to spend time time with loved ones. For the religious, they will often go to a church service on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. On this Christmas Day, many families will have dinner together, with ham as
the main course. Gifts under the Christmas tree are often exchanged. It is
the one time out of the year that Egg Nog (with brandy or rum) is served!

While every family has varying traditions, one of my favorites is a game
called White Elephant. This is a great idea if you want everyone to
receive a gift, and you have too many people to buy gifts for. It has
become popular in the workplace and in large families. The idea is
everyone participating has to buy a gift (usually a set dollar amount is
given). The gift is wrapped and placed in the center with all of the other
wrapped mystery gifts. Everyone draws a number and grabs a gift in order.
The next person can opt to ‘steal’ a person’s gift or grab a new one. If a
person’s gift is stolen, they can choose to ‘steal’ another person’s gift
or grab a new one. In the end, everyone has a gift but it’s very funny to
see who ends up with what and what gift is the most popular!

Another great gift game is Secret Santa. In Secret Santa, everyone
participating draws a name of another participant in the hat. The
selections are secret and no one knows who has whom. On the gift exchange
day, the wrapped gift is given to the recipient and the person remains
‘Secret Santa’ as they do not know who it came from. While Christmas has become quite commercialized in the United States, there are still a lot of wonderful traditions and beautiful lights that make this holiday my favorite.



Australia – Melissa from Thrifty Family Travel

Follow Melissa at Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Whilst Hollywood would have you all dreaming about white Christmas, this couldn’t be further from reality for Christmas in Australia!  With temperatures averaging anywhere from the high 20sC (70sF) to the high 30sC (86sF) you will find the average Australian family in their swimmers (“togs” as the aussies say) by the pool or at the beach cooling off as opposed to being around the fire place watching snowflakes float to the ground. Australians love getting into the Christmas spirit well before the big day.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas day all Australian families put up lavish Christmas trees complete with beautifully decorated ornaments.  Many Australian love to go crazy with outdoor lights and Christmas displays encouraging children from all over town to come and ohhhh and ahhh at their over the top displays.


On the night of Christmas Eve, families prepare for the big day by putting out a plate of biscuits and a cold beer for Santa, whilst Rudolph is left a carrot and water.  Stocking are put out in hope of being filled to the brim by the morning. On Christmas Day, Mums and Dads are usually woken up far too early by children excited at all the presents Santa has left for them the night before.  Usually after breakfast families pack up their cars and meet with their extended families including Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins for huge lunches which include seafood buffets or cold roast meats, salads and desserts.  Usually the location for Christmas lunch is chosen based on which family member has a pool, or a large living area with air-conditioning so everyone can keep cool.  The day is spent eating far too much food, talking and laughing, spending quality time with family members not seen often enough throughout the year.  After lunch families return to their respective homes, with children usually asleep in the back of the car after such a long day.

Soon after Christmas Day, many Australian families go on family holidays, with a popular choice being camping on one of Australia’s gorgeous beaches.  Families spend their Christmas holidays catching up with families, drinking beer, having barbeques, watching cricket and keeping cool. An Australian Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family and see little children’s eye light up with joy as they experience the magic of Christmas.



Russia – Liza from Tripsget

You can follow Liza at Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Christmas in Russia is unique and pretty much strange (for all another Christian world). First of all, it’s celebrated on the 7th of January (2 weeks after the “normal” Christmas). Secondly, all the religious people either go to church – there’s usually a holy mass lasting all night long and the most religious people stand there all night (because it’s not common to sit in churches in Russia) or watch the ceremony on TV. It’s not really common to give presents on Christmas or to stay at home with your family at all, and even though Christmas is an official day off for everybody most of the shops, restaurants, services still work on Christmas.

So well, Christmas is not as important for Russians as… the New Year. Yes, New Year! It’s when Santa comes and brings presents to the kids and leaves them under the New Year’s tree (read Christmas tree), it’s the holiday that you celebrate either with your family or friends and when you give presents to everyone. Sounds strange, but that has a reason: Russia (as part of the USSA) was a socialist country, where religion doesn’t play any important role. Thus, most of the Cathedrals were transformed into museums and most of the religious holidays were either forgotten or stayed in the calendar for the sake of appearing.

So now Russia is trying to return to the roots and give a big importance to Christmas once again, but most of the people were raised as atheists, so the attempts were quite unsuccessful so far.


Croatia – Maja from Mexatia

You can follow Maja at Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

December is here again! The cities in Croatia are full of Christmas markets where you can buy traditional licitar hearts for your tree or heat up yourself with tasty mulled wine, grilled sausages and fritule (kind of fritters). After strolling around the city for a while, on December 13 we plant Christmas wheat. It symbolizes how successful will be the following year and we put it next to the decorated tree.

As the Christmas comes closer, we start to bake traditional cakes and cookies like makovnjača, orahnjača, kuglof, vanilin kiflice and many others. As a nation, we are known for preparing too much food in any occasion ☺ but nothing says better Christmas is coming than the warm cookie scent spreading from the kitchen, right?

During the holidays, we give lots of attention to the food. On a Christmas Eve day we usually serve a fish (often cod) and the day after roasted turkey with mlinci (kind of pasta). Most of the families still buy the real Christmas tree and decorate it on December 24, together with their family members. Presents are brought during the night by Santa Claus (Djed mraz ili Djed božićnjak), wrapped and placed under the tree. In the morning we wish all the best to each other and have fun opening the presents. Croatia is a Catholic country, but Christmas holidays today are mix of traditional and modern. Still, the days between Christmas and New Year are well spent with family, enjoying each other’s company and tasty food. If we are lucky enough, we get some snow too.




I hope you enjoyed part one of Christmas Around The World and thank you Maja, Liz, Emily, Melissa and Norman for contributing. Check back next week for part two!

Marteen x

Part 1 of Christmas Around The World. Discover the traditions and customs of Christmas from different countries around the world.

Coming Home

This post will be short and sweet as I just want to check in with you all and give you an update on how life is. On August 26th I hopped on a plane to Canada. It was my first solo trip abroad and my first time living in a different country. It was my big adventure. This week I returned home. I won’t delve into the ins and outs of why I returned home but I will say this, Victoria is one the most beautiful cities I have ever been to and yes it’s true Canadians are just the friendliest people. I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts here and my pictures on Instagram of Victoria. Does this mean that my adventures are over? Not a chance! It just means that my priorities have changed and how I want to travel…for now. I’ve always said that there is no right or wrong way to travel and if you don’t want to travel that’s fine too. It’s about doing what’s right for you. Looking to the future, there’s a guide book for a seven day itinerary in the west of Ireland in the works, I’m finally graduating next week with a BA in Heritage Studies after a five year hiatus, and I have flights booked to Edinburgh, London and Bath for the beginning of next year. There’s a lot to be getting on with. I can’t wait to share with you my travel plans for next year in due course. I can say that I will definitely be returning to Canada someday to explore more of the beautiful country but for now it’s good to be home.

Marteen x

Reflecting on my return from Canada and my decision to come home.