After 6 months without an address or a home base, 6 months of traveling to 14 different countries, 6 months of never staying in one room for more than 3 weeks (but mostly more like 4 days) and a year of moving every two or three months, we have finally moved in to our new apartment in Cape Town for the next year. Opening up the vacuum seals and packing out our bags required a momentous mental shift; the idea that if I packed something out and it would still be in that same place by the end of the year seemed almost excessive. It is a giant relief.
So in celebration of having a home again, I am remembering all the best temporary homes we’ve had this year.
Sometimes it doesn’t all go according to plan. Sometimes you can’t find a spot to pitch your tent in the middle of Oman and you forego pitching it in the village playground like a local stranger suggested and you end up sleeping in a dirty and hairy room, stiffly on top of the blanket falling asleep praying that there isn’t lice or bed bugs. But most of the time, if you’re able to lean into it, the world and its friends and strangers treat you well. Sometimes exceptionally well. This is a list of the latter – our best beds of 2018:
CAPE AGULHAS, SOUTH AFRICA
We kicked off 2018 with a bang, bed-wise: we booked a night in Agulhas, the little South African town perched right at the edge of the continent. But we didn’t just book any old place; we found a very adorable little ocean-side cottage, which we soon found out to be the very first house ever built in the town, and also the southernmost house ever built on the African continent. We went to sleep with nothing between us and Antartica but the wild, raging southern Atlantic ocean.
This B&B immediately lands our list of best 2018 accommodations based on its absolutely unique location. But besides that, Southermost B&B is homy and cozy, with a rustic Greek-style courtyard, and one of the warmest Airbnb hosts we’ve ever had.
BEFORE YOU BOOK
This is not for you if you want luxury and wifi (there is none). The house hasn’t been changed since it was built, so the toilet and shower are both respectively across the courtyard. But the beating light of Africa’s southernmost lighthouse will light the way for you if you need to go in the middle of the night – so that’s a whole experience right there.
Find it here on Airbnb.
OR, A 6TH-CENTURY WINERY CARVED INTO A CAVE
Imagine about 100 hot air balloons rising to the sky right outside your front door;
horses galloping in and out of the wild valley as seen from your porch;
your cosy bed inside of a cave-winery that was carved from the alien-like rock structures back in the 6th-century;
an old man roasting you chestnuts and playing Turkish love songs on the sitar;
kittens running back and forth.
It’s called Natureland Cave Hotel, and it might look a bit like a messy Turkish hobbit-house from the outside, but it is more like magic and there’s no other place to stay when you’re going to Cappadocia.
BEFORE YOU BOOK
This is the ultimate guide you’ll need to read before you go to Cappadocia.
SLEEPING IN A BASEBALL STADIUM
Joel had to be in Toronto for work, and we had absolutely no idea that the Marriott City Centre was actually built into the Rogers Centre, aka the Blue Jays Stadium, aka a baseball field, so you can imagine our surprise when we walked into our two-story suite and found this view:
Now, even someone with next to no appreciation for American team sports, whose entire bank of baseball knowledge comes from one or two viewings of the Jimmy Fallon classic Perfect Pitch, can recognise the epicness of a view like that.
Plus, a super nice suite that we didn’t have to pay for? Yes, please.
BEFORE YOU BOOK:
Having your window open up to a field view of an enclosed baseball stadium is kind of weird, because you can never tell what time of day it is. Also, it’s wildly expensive on game days.
We got to stay in The Pub on the first night of the best Californian road trip ever, which featured three nights of three amazing accommodations, that all made this list. It’s just a little man cave made to look like a classic British pub tucked in the garden next to Amy’s house in Cambria.
A little wooden fireplace, stacks of books, a cosy bed tucked in the bed, and bagels and coffee in the morning.
Find it on Airbnb, along with over a thousand 5-star reviews.
BEFORE YOU BOOK:
There’s no toilet inside the shack, but Amy is so warm and welcoming you will have no problem going in and out of the main house.
LOS ALAMOS, CALIFORNIA
THE BEST MOTEL YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
The Alamo Motel is retro Western ultra cool. Understated cool with bare claw tubs and cow skin rugs and skulls outside with berry and flower crowns. It’s the epitome of the one-street town it lives in – an authentic creativity abounds.
We wanted to book another night almost as soon as we woke up the next morning, but they were regrettably booked out.
Find it here on booking.com
BEFORE YOU BOOK:
This is the only Central Californian road trip guide you’ll ever need.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA
A COWBOY BARBIE DOLLHOUSE
Madonna Inn is a landmark Californian hotel, unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. It’s kitchy and extra and pink and gold, and each of the 110 rooms has a separate theme. We played tennis on a hot pink court before breakfast and spent hours in the pool sipping pink drinks. What more could you possibly want in life?
BEFORE YOU BOOK:
Some rooms are super extravagant with towers and waterfall rock showers and are super expensive, other are more plain old grandma kitsch and these are the affordable rooms, about $70 or $80 for a 2-bed suite.
Find it here on booking.com.
THE DOLOMITES, ITALY
THE ITALIAN MOUNTAIN STONE COTTAGE
Tucked away outside the teeny tiny Italian village of Pialdier stood the stone cottage, in the shadow of the Belluno Dolomites, with a stereotypically sweet Italian lady who welcomed us with Italian espresso and tea. We managed to bridge the language gap by her sweetness alone. This is where we stayed for the weekend, and it makes our list due to its location and quaintness. We woke up to the fresh mountain air, we ate takeaway gelato in the fields, we tried to communicate with a door-to-door Italian vacuum-salesman (really), we entertained an adorable little dachshund, and spent whatever time we had left exploring the nearest reaches of the Dolomites.
Also, we followed our host and strolled through the grounds of an abandoned villa, because she insisted we see it before we left.
THE FAMILY MANSION
We wanted to spend one night in Salzburg on our Germanic road trip with our family who was visiting us from California, but the accommodations in the city was just too expensive to justify. Plus, we were all piled into a huge van and we all know how fun it is driving and parking big old vehicles in centuries-old European cities (it’s not).
So instead we landed a huge and gorgeous country-side house in a little town called Oberalm, about 30 minutes from Salzburg, and it was perfect. Queue quiet morning walks, family photo contests, a rowdy Italian dinner, mixed feelings about a stuffed toy couch, and this golden dog called Fox:
PRIVATE POOL VILLA
After spending hours looking for the best places to stay in Ubud for a week, I finally decided to book it, despite the fact that it had poorly cropped photos and only three reviews on Airbnb. But then our jaws dropped when Tria, another one of Airbnb’s most incredible hosts, opened the beautiful Balinese double doors to our little abode. A small one-bedroom villa with a tiny little private pool and a sun bed overlooking a local rice field was our quintessential Bali villa. And then Tria’s dad brought us two giant coconuts with a seemingly never ending supply of coconut water. Also, it wasn’t long before their two cats came seeking snuggles at night. We wished we could stay longer; we wished we could stay forever.
We tried to book it again for a couple of nights. It was already booked, so Tria put us up in another one of their family villas. Except this time the villa was twice as big and twice as wonderful.
If this list were ordered in ranking, the Ubud villas would place first, without a doubt.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
A FAMILY REST STOP ON THE 40-SOMETHING’TH FLOOR
A week in Malaysia, being take care of by family, in between zipping all over Bali and roughing it in the Philippines, was like food for the soul for two weary travellers. When we weren’t shown around the city by my cousin (aka the best tour guide in KL), we were just relaxing with the family, watching Terrace House, getting some exercise in the infinity lap pool, watching the city sunset through the windows, feeling right at home.
WILD CAMPING UNDER THE STARS
This year we spent a month in Oman, where there are no rules about camping. You just drive your car along a wild landscape where the desert meets the Omani sea, and pitch your tent wherever you fancy. Then you watch the sky light up with the Milky Way with your feet in the sand – and no one around for miles.
If we’re talking about comfort, this ‘bed’ falls far off the list. It was not comfortable (we didn’t have mattresses) but it was so extraordinary.
I woke up the morning after our first night, with dawn glistening over the sea, noticing some brown things popping up out of the water every now and then. It took of couple of minutes squinting and cleaning my glasses to realise what they were: Turtles. Lots and lots of turtles silently coming up for air in our backyard. Good morning, Oman.
You don’t need a month in Oman. Check out this 4-day road trip itinerary.
A FRIENDSHIP COMPOUND ON VOLCANOES
It only took us two years to make good on our threats to our favourite Guatemalan-American couple, Angelo and Emily, but we finally made it to Guatemala to spend what would become our favourite New Years Eve ever.
We met up with old and new friends and took the winding road through a gorgeous lush Guatemala from the City to Lake Atitlan. And then we checked in to our Airbnb and all our Guatemalan dreams came true: A little tiered compound, 3 cottages for 6 friends, each with its own spectacular sunset view over lake Atitlan and the volcanoes that it’s cradled in.
Well booked, Angelo; well played, Guatemala.
VERY NB NOTE:
Guatemala is wildly underrated.