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This article is in collaboration with Luxury Retreats. Written by: Sheida

Picture via Luxury Retreats

The mysterious Great Blue Hole, the "Go Slow" lifestyle and the affordable yet oh-so-stunning Belize vacation rentals is just three of the reasons why the fairly unknown state Belize (formerly British Honduras) is high on the list of mine and Yasmin's top destinations to visit. Attention all Scandinavians: forget about Thailand, Bali or Mexico when booking your next tropical vacay and put Belize on your bucket list instead! We have listed three of the reasons why:

[✓] See one of the "most amazing places on earth": The Blue Hole of Belize

Picture via: chabilmarvillas.com

The mysterious Great Blue Hole is a submarine sinkhole located at the Lighthouse reef, east of Belize city's shoreline, and is said to be the most amazing out of all the "blue holes" in the world. It's on several "most amazing places on earth" top lists, is a UNESCO world heritage site and is without a doubt one of Belize's major attractions! Thousands of scuba divers from all around the world come to Belize for the soul purpose to dive in this 354 ft deep diving wonder! Since I'm not an expert on diving (and this clearly isn't anything for beginners!), I would much rather experience the Blue Hole from above. Helicopter tours are very expensive but I've made my research and found out that a more affordable option is to charter a flight with Tropic Air. They have an hourly rental fee around $410/hr USD (for two-three persons) and will also give you a great view of the Blue Hole. How cool

[✓] To live the "Go Slow" lifestyle

Lilian and her friend doing sunset yoga in Belize.

One of the reasons why we fell in love with Costa Rica (read our Costa Rica guide here) was because of the Pura Vida lifestyle – it was a trip focused on adventure, nature, well being and a chance to really de-stress from the hectic lifestyle back home. When I asked my friend Lilian (who backpacked in Central America a while ago) about her thoughts on Belize, she told me that Belize had a Jamaican vibe to it. Friendly, laid-back and very very chilled. The slogan of Caye Calker (the island that she visited) was actually "Go Slow" and everywhere spread across the island, signs with these words were put up to remember you about it. Lilian's Belize itinerary consisted of snorkeling and doing sunset yoga by the beach – and judging from the photos, it looked pretty amazing! We can't help but to think that if we liked Costa Rica, Belize would be a country in our taste as well.


[✓] Stay at a Luxury Villa – for the same price as your regular big city weekend hotel

Since both me and Yasmin prefer long term travelling and usually like to stay for a longer period in a city when we travel, finding a good place to rent is essential. Through the years we have become experts in finding the perfect apartments to rent that has made our travels unforgettable! Two months in Cannes with a private oasis in the middle of the city, a summer in Barcelona with a humungous roof top terrace overlooking Barrio Gótico, a dreamy studio in Marais, Paris with brick walls and the perfect adress – everything was easily fixed even before options like Airbnb were available! We Google translated our way through various Spanish and French forums where private persons rented out their homes and became skilled on finding the real treasures. We knew that the places where we stayed shaped our travels almost just as much as the people we met.
A travel trend that's just getting bigger and bigger is to rent a villa and live together with your travel company. Nowadays, people want to be able to easily arrange nice dinners, parties and pool hang-outs - preferably in privacy.


Upscale vacation rental site

Luxury Retreats is an upscale vacation rental site, which actually Airbnb just bought in February this year. Aside from creating massive wanderlust cravings through their Instagram account, this site can actually come handy when traveling in countries that still are relatively cheap for tourists to travel and live in, such as the countries in Central America. So, if you are a bunch of friends travelling together and split the cost, it actually doesn't cost more to live in these stunning retreats than the price/night at a middle class hotel in a big city like London or New York! Isn't that crazy when you think about it! Treat yourself to a few nights in luxury, it's worth it!

Example: The price for 3 nights in this dreamy beachfront oasis pictured below is $1900. When splitting between six persons it's "only" $316/person!
Caribbean Soul Villa, located in: Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America. What countries are on your bucket lists? 

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Get to know the sisters behind We are Nodes
Part 1: The big sister


Name: Yasmin Tilles
Age:
29 ("The big sister")
City: Stockholm, Sweden
Occupation: Working as PR and Marketing Manager at IT security-startup Detectify
Passions: Entrepreneurship and building businesses, digital marketing, travelling (obviously), planning (I’m a project manager-freak who plans my whole existence in various to do-lists), and drinking coffee on my balcony.


Your Best Trip?


There are SO many unforgettable trips to choose between, but here’s two trips that has left a big impression on me:

1) A work trip I made to San Francisco and New York in 2013 while I was working at IDG Sweden and Webbdagarna. I joined the IDG US event team in San Francisco for the annual Macworld/iWorld conference, a huge event targeting Apple users and partners, for a week of intensive and fun work. Later, I took the plane over to NY where I stayed with my friend Bess (who I became friends with when we both were studying Spanish in Madrid), and enjoyed another week of meetings, events and sightseeing in the city. I remember walking around downtown, jumping between inspiring meetings with NY- based startups like Holstee and other prominent web experts, looking up at the skyscrapers and feeling so alive and filled with energy.

With IDG:s awesome and legendary founder Patrick McGovern at the Macworld Conference 
Jumping between meetings in NY 
Love New York!
I was mainly working with the Speaker Lounge at MacWorld. And yes, Ashton Kutcher was one of the speakers (since he played Steve Jobs in the movie about the Apple founder), but I didn't run into him on site. 

2) Not a trip, but more a travel experience that’s very special to me is when Sheida and I moved to Barcelona in 2008, 10 years ago! Not only was it our first abroad experience together, but my GAWD how much we experienced during those months in Barcelona. We rented two rooms in an apartment close to Sagrada Familia, worked together, spent a lot of time partying, getting to know people, going on excursions (our local flatmate was always surprised by the places we explored when we were off work). Barcelona will always be special to me, especially since both me and Sheida grew up a lot during our time there.

A very old photo of Sheida and I from Barcelona, it seems we liked to match outfits back then... 

Haha love this image of my room in Barcelona that I found when writing on this blog post. The funny thing is that Sheida slept in my bed the first night, since we hadn't really decided if we trusted our flatmate yet (he turned out to be a great guy). 

Favorite travel memory?


Spending a night in the jungle in Costa Rica in 2015. Long story short; We arrived to the wrong hotel in the middle of the night and  in the middle of the jungle, but somehow we managed to convince the hotel owners to let us sleep in their open air show room. Definitely one of my travel highlights!


When my friend Linnéa and I visited Pointe des Almadies, the most western point of Africa, during our volunteer trip in Dakar, Senegal. Pointe des Almadies was the perfect way to escape the crazy and loud citylife in Dakar, and the place made us come back twice for its quiet surroundings and fresh oysters.
We visited Pointe des Almadies during a volunteer trip we did to an orphanage in Senegal.

Sheida and I have spent many months in Cannes, but one thing we never get tired of is the magical sunrises over there. I love the memories of those nights when we had a blast at the club, and then walked home while talking about the evening as the sun went up.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling with you sister?


Worst part is that we push each other’s buttons and therefore argue a lot (fortunately for us, we make up as quickly). Best part is that we are a great travel team. We enjoy spending vacations in the same way. We value the small things in life and easily fall into simple travel habits when we are away.  For example, one of our favorite parts of staying in Paris for one summer, was the very simple breakfast-picnics we had in the next door park every morning. We have so many unforgettable memories together. Travelling is truly what has made us so close.


Your best travel hacks?

  1. Do some good research, skip the regular Trip Advisor-tips and search for “city + blog” (not biased here at all hehe) for some travel blogger input, and don’t forget Instagram as a great source for travel inspiration!
  2. If possible, stay in cities for a longer period. The difference staying 4 weeks in a city instead of one is HUGE. That's how you really get to know locals and the city, and have enough time to create your own habits. A less touristy experience of a city. If you don't have so many vacation days, try asking your manager if you can work remotely. I'm a true supporter of the work and travel-concept!
  3. If you're staying in a city for a longer period and need to find somewhere to stay; try searching for apartment in less known, preferably local, sites and forums (i.e. not Airbnb). That way you could find flats/rooms for better prices. For instance, when Sheida and I were looking for a flat in Cannes to rent for two months, we used AngloInfo France (the Riviera forum). The result: We found this amazing flat with two rooms and its own patio, in the middle of Cannes, for a very good price! We kept going back to this apartment year after year!
Cannes 2012: We did our life admin, side projects and travel research in the patio...
...and drank a lot of coffee and hanged out with the cat.
Photo from our first day in Cannes that summer, the international advertising festival Cannes Lions was in town and tech giants hosted parties and mingles throughout the city.


Your favorite weekend destination?


Barcelona, New York and my latest favorite Lisbon.
Photo from a previous work trip to New York, this is me and my former colleague John with the inventor of World Wide Web, Sir Tim Bernes-Lee at the Webby Awards Afterparty. 

Lisbon

Photos from my weekend trip to Lisbon last year.


Your favorite party destination?


Cannes for sure (read our Cannes guide here). And we're not the only ones to like the city during summer...
Bob Sinclair spinning records at Gotha Club, Cannes
With DJ Nervo
Paris Hilton had some good Cannes-vibes at Le Palais
Avicii made the roof lift at Baoli Beach
Beach parties with friends (this pic is from St Tropez though, read more here)


Have you ever visited a city that didn’t live up to your expectations?


Paris is a very nice city that I really have tried to fall in love with, but it just doesn’t work. Sheida and I rented a studio in Le Marais for one summer, and I have been there several times for weekends and work trips, but Paris and I just don’t click. There plenty of fun and wonderful things to do, but it's just not my city of choice.

It’s not you, Paris, it’s me… Or is it?

​​

What are your travel plans for 2017?


So far, I’ve been in Gdansk,  Riga and Helsinki. Rest of the year will be spent with an epic road trip to Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia this summer. A traditional visit to Finland to visit relatives, and hopefully both Athens and Italy. If possible, I’d love to squeeze in Tel Aviv, it seems like cool city!
Photos from our spa trip to Riga in February 2017

That's all for now, follow me (Yasmin) on Twitter/Instagram @yasmintilles to keep up with my latest updates!

Next up, we will get to know Lil' sis a little better. Stay tuned!

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Almost a year has flown by, and as we are soon entering the last month of 2016 we thought it would be a good idea to sum up 2016 with a list of our travel highlights. Enjoy!




Favourite activity:
Champagnetasting at Moët & Chandon, Champagne.
Why?
Because in less than an hour with the direct train from Paris, you will arrive in Épernay, the capital of Champagne. It's the ultimate day trip and the perfect activity for champagne enthusiasts! The Möet & Chandon/Dom Pérignon champagne caves are over 28 km long, 30 metres deep and is likely to store over 1000.000 bottles. Pretty impressive!
img_4869img_4881img_1849img_1820Read More about our Champagne tasting at the Moët & Chandon Champagne Cellars 

Favourite restaurant experience:
KONG, Paris.
Why? 
We love everything that has a great view and a great vibe – and Kong has both! The service was excellent, the food left us satisfied and as the evening progresses, the music gets louder and the lights go darker, making Kong the perfect restaurant to wine and dine at before a night out in the city of lights.img_4794img_1670Want more Paris-tips? Read '6 Amazing Places you Must Visit in Paris'

Best Beach Hangout of 2016:
Banana Beach in surfer's paradise Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.
Why?
Santa Teresa is the place to be if you are into amazing sunsets, surfing and chill hangouts. Cool down under the palm trees while sipping on tropical drinks and watch surfers as they hit the waves. We can't wait to go back and embrace the pura vida lifestyle again!
img_4347img_1528Planning to go to Costa Rica this winter? Make sure to read our popular Costa Rica guide.

Best Beach Club:
Puro Beach, Palma.
Why?
With its excellent location on a secluded peninsula, 180°-view of the coast and a fantastic pool area, Puro Beach is without a doubt one of the best beach clubs we've been at. Just look at the pictures and you'll understand why...
img_2481-1img_2533img_2325img_2495img_2509
Read our Swedish Palma Guide that we wrote for Travellink here, or in English here.

Favorite Hotel:
Van Der Valk, Schiphol, Amsterdam.
Why?
Because of the newly built “I Am Superior” rooms, were we were the first guests to get to sleep in the super comfy new Hypnos beds (which were voted bed of the year in 2012). Of course the friendly staff was a bonus!
img_4925IMG_1956Read about our stay at Van Der Valk Schiphol here.

Best Aperitivo:
Cinc, in the artistic area Brera, Milan.
Why?
Because it was the first time after a long winter in Sweden that we were able to sit outside in the sun and enjoy an Aperol Spritz. In that moment the Italian phrase "questa è vita" (meaning: this is life) made perfect sense. Sun and friends is really all you need! 
img_2126img_2136


Best Airport Restaurant:
Pontus in the Air, Stockholm Arlanda Airport.
Why?
After years and years of really poor selections of restaurants with good and price worthy food at airports (not only in Sweden, but in general), the opening of Pontus Frithiof's restaurant Pontus in the Air probably was one of the best things that could happen. Finally a nice place to enjoy a good breakfast, lunch or dinner before a flight.
img_2224img_2207img_2193Read about our lunch with Pontus Frithiof at Pontus in the Air here.

Best Budget Restaurant:
As Zebras Do Combro, Lisbon.
Why?
We nearly walked past this "Hole in the wall"-restaurant, but changed our minds just as we passed it and went back. And boy, are we glad we did, because the dinner at As Zebras Do Combro was a true highlight during our stay in Lisbon! Delicious food and wonderful serviceminded staff - if you're ever in Lisbon, make sure to stop by this restaurant!
img_3871img_3858Read our Lisbon Restaurant Guide here.




2016 has been a great year so far, and we still have one more trip planned to Hamburg (#ChristmasInHamburg) in collaboration with TB Nordic, Hamburg Tourism and VisitHamburg in the beginning of December, so stay tuned!

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Costa Rica is ranked one of the most popular international destinations and having spent a couple of weeks there – we can clearly see why. Very few countries offer the same wide variety of activities, wilderness and scenery, and the locals’ hospitality and pura vida-attitude quickly puts a permanent smile on your face.

Santa Teresa is one of Costa Rica's most visited destinations. The village is mostly known for its magical sunsets and amazing surfing, and those two alone are worth putting Santa Teresa on your roadmap. But the city is more than a surfer's paradise. We can almost guarantee that there is something for everyone in this Central America located gem. The village is crowded of tourists during high season and the pulse is higher than in many other places in Costa Rica. Here are We are Nodes’ top 3 list of things to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica!

Banana Beach Restaurant
If Banana Beach Restaurant does not get you into vacation mode, nothing ever will. The beach club is one of the hot-spots in Santa Teresa, located next to the beach, and is perfect for both late night exotic dinners as well as chill day hangouts. Cool down under the palm trees while sipping on tropical drinks and watch surfers as they hit the waves.

Address: Villa Bonita Dr, Costa Rica
Phone: +506 2640 1117
Banana Beach Restaurant on Tripadvisor


Hotel Vista de Olas
If you are into infinity pools and extraordinary views, you need to put Hotel Vista de Olas on your list. The pool is open for both hotel guests and visitors (you pay an entrance fee of 16 dollars which can be used to purchase food and drinks). Lay back and enjoy the lounge music that gradually turns up during the day – and why not catch the sunset from this mountaintop hotel and restaurant. It's going to leave you speechless!

The easiest way to get to Vista de Olas is to take a taxi there since it is located on top of a mountain a little outside of the city centre. Even though they serve food, the hotel is best suited for drinks and snacks - save your money for any of the restaurants in the city center instead.
Address: Vista de Olas, 160 5361, Costa Rica
Phone: +506 2640 0183
Website: http://www.vistadeolas.com


The Amazing Sunsets
"After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world."
When adding Santa Teresa’s spectacular sunsets to that beach experience, you could not agree more with the quote above. The famous sunsets are even more spectacular in real life. This is by far the best part about Santa Teresa, so we urge you to breathe in the atmosphere together with other travelers, surfers and locals.

Stay tuned for more travel tips in Costa Rica!

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