Swing/Lindy/Disco, line dancing, and hakken all in one party?! A party until 4am?! Belgians may be my people! And I can almost speak both their languages…

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Dream Trips

Everyone has their dream trip.  Call it a Bucket List, last place to see before you die, etc.  I have a lot of Bucket List items, ranging from the smallest simple things like planting a vegetable garden, to huge lifelong goals.  It has been my experience as well, that the people you meet make the trip, not so much the destination.  A year ago, I spent six weeks in Nepal, which has, so far, been my “Trip of a Lifetime”.  But, if I had to pick three trips to be the only ones I did for the rest of my life, I think these would be the three…

3. Driving the Ring Road in Iceland.  Possibly the smallest/shortest and longest-running trip on this list, but Iceland is expensive.  I want to see the Geysers, and Volcanoes, and snorkel between the tectonic plates.  O, and swim in all the local pools.  Scandinavian public swimming pools are an attraction in and of themselves.  Ideally this trip would be done over 2-4 weeks, possibly in shoulder season to catch some Northern Lights, with one to three other people, to maximize cost sharing and adventure opportunities!

2. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  This is also not cheap as they don’t let you do it by yourself (and I’m kind of okay with that).  It’s slightly higher than I climbed in Nepal, and slightly more rustic, but I think I cold handle it.  And, while I’m down there I might as well pop on over to Victoria Falls and down to South Africa to visit my friends there and wine country!  This trip would probably be done over 2-3 months with maybe one other person or just a series of group travel opportunities.

1. Drive the Pan-American Highway.  I know it’s been done before, but not by me. Having been close to both ends in the past couple years, it gives me quite an itch.  I love the idea of a central theme to connect travel to a bunch a different places (that is how this blog started, after all!) and the highway would give me that.  I would love to travel it, stopping all along the way to visit people or maybe volunteer for a bit in communities along the way.  I wouldn’t intend for this to be a quick trip, I would plan for it to take at least a year – starting during the Alaskan Summer and ending during the Patagonian Summer.  If I could sustain an income, I’d stretch it over two years maybe.  The goal is not to be the fastest to travel it, but to do something with my life. Ideally it would be traveled in a small RV or minibus, but I’m not opposed to using a series of buses, mopeds and hitchhiking either.  I’d love to do this with a partner, especially if any of you have seen my driving…. 😉  Now taking applications!  Haha.

panamericanhwy

 

This doesn’t mean I don’t still want to visit a million other places – including New Zealand, Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and Indonesia – but these are the three trips I could really see happening – hopefully, eventually.

What are some of your dream trips?  Share in the comments below!

Cruising for the Clueless

After five years of working on-board a cruise ship, and another five months of working logistics for multiple cruise lines, I think I can finally pin point some of the most common mistakes or oversights people make when travelling by cruise ship.

Planning A Cruise

Why Cruise? – There are three reasons I can justify travel by cruise: 1) It’s a place that is only or more easily accessible by sea, 2) the ship is your destination (a city in its own right), or 3) it’s a place that you would be extremely nervous to travel alone, and you want to sample it before travelling there for real.  The latter reason could be interchanged with guided land tours as well though.

Where to cruise? – Using the above reasons, I recommend places that are groups of islands (such as the South Pacific, Japan or the Caribbean – though try to avoid the tourist trap islands and head a bit more south), remote areas like the Arctic and Antarctic, crossings of oceans or canals (like Panama and Suez), Mediterranean (which you could also drive, but cruising is pretty nice as well), Norway or Bermuda (a cruise is cheaper than a hotel there), or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go but are a bit scared to – I felt this way before I cruised to South East Asia.  If you only want to go once particular place, I recommend just flying there – there is always the chance that a ship will miss a port due to weather or other uncontrollable factors – don’t let it be yours!

Which cruise? – This is especially important if the ship is your destination.  Do you like big cities, medium suburbs, or tiny villages.  Do you want adventure sports, parties every night, or a relaxing spa-like atmosphere?  So many people book a cruise full of “old people” and are disappointed.  Do your research on various lines and ships for the amenities you desire.  CruiseCritic.com is a great resource for this.  For a bit more adventure, consider an expedition style cruise or cruising on a line where the main language is not your own!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Going on A Cruise

Packing – The beauty of a cruise is you only have to unpack once!  Go crazy, pack that overweight suitcase.  But, please please please, pack a few items in your carry on.  With a cruise, you risk the chance of both the airline and  the cruise line misplacing your luggage.  At the very least, pack a change of underwear, you’ll thank me.  A few extra items that can be dressed up/down aren’t a bad idea either though.  Also remember, if you are going to a cold region, the ship will likely be warm and heated and if you are going to a warm region, the ship will likely be airconditioned to the max – bring layers either way!  Don’t assume the ship has everything – if you need a specific medication, or piece of equipment, bring it with you or at least write to the cruise line in advance and inquire about it.

Communication – It’s best to assume you will have none most of the time.  WiFi on ships is slow and expensive, and spotty at best depending where you sail and how satellites align (there are no cell towers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or in Antarctica!) Before you leave, notify friends and family that you will be out of touch.  It’s also never a bad idea to print hard copies of your itinerary just in case you can’t get internet or lose your device entirely (trust me, I’m an expert in that).  Keep your cell phone in airplane mode while sailing.  Cell phone’s run on the ship’s satellite once you are 12 nautical miles from shore – when docked, you are using whatever local cellular network might be available.

Health – Book travel insurance!!!!  Even if you are going to somewhere mostly in America (i.e. Alaska) it can be VERY expensive to medivac you from the ship.  An ambulance costs around $600-900, an AIR ambulance costs thousands.  Book travel insurance.  If you have recurring health issues, consider booking an insurance plan that allows you to cancel if you become ill before the trip.  If you fall ill with the flu or a virus, please follow the instructions of the ship’s medical staff and isolate yourself.  You might not want to miss your vacation, but if you infect the rest of the ship, they can actually be denied docking in a port – meaning you’d ruin it for everyone.  My best preventative tips?  I use Emergen-C packets, one every morning, and hot beverages.  Drink lots of water as the ship air while dry you out, and WASH YOUR HANDS.  This Public Service Announcement is brought to you by the people who can’t believe how gross some people are.

So if I haven’t scared you entirely, and you’ve done your research on your destination and your cruise line, happy sailing!

 

 

“Hawai’i has often been called a melting pot, but I think of it more as a ‘mixed plate’—a scoop of rice with gravy, a scoop of macaroni salad, a piece of mahi-mahi, and a side of kimchi. Many different tastes share the plate, but none of them lose their individual flavor, and together they make up a uniquely ‘local’ cuisine. This is also, I believe, what America is at its best—a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.”
Honolulu by Alan Brennert

The Shape of International Cuisine

Chefs will always tell you, “Presentation is everything.”  Well I’ve noticed that in a few types of international cuisine, it really is!  

In Argentina the popular snack food empanadas are shaped based on their fillings.  A traditional meat, or “carne”, empanada will look like a half circle with a frilly edge, but a cheese and onion one might look more like a full circle or a pot pie.  Study up so you’ll be able to choose your flavors like a pro!

Empanada Shapes

 

In Tibet and Nepal, they have “MoMo’s”, a type of dumpling.  These too are often shaped based on their filling (though it doesn’t seem to be very consistent).  A vegetable MoMo will look like a little purse or pouch, where as a meat one will resemble a crescent.

MoMos

 

Just some interesting Food for Thought!  

Travel Tips #3: Pack from your Kitchen

You may or may not have heard this, but there are some wonderful travel products right in your own kitchen!

The first is a tried and true traveller’s tool: Baking Soda (aka Sodium Bicarbonate).  It can be used for:

  • brushing teeth
  • washing your face (yay exfoliant!)
  • washing your hair (be careful though, it dries it out)
  • washing dishes or laundry or vegetables if you are camping
  • deodorant (under your arms or in your shoes!)
  • dry shampoo (be sure to brush it out else you look gray!)

It’s unscented, safe, kid and animal friendly, bio-degradeable, cheap, and easy to obtain anywhere in the world.  Best of all, it’s not a liquid and therefore totally carry-on friendly.  And powders weigh less than liquids in general as they are more condensed.  If you can’t get behind this trick, or prefer something with a scent, checkout solid shampoo/body bars.  There’s some great ones by LUSH and they too are fairly multipurpose (except brushing your teeth maybe).

Another item you may have in your kitchen is Coconut Oil.  Many people have already raved about this, but here are some of the many uses to travellers:

  • hair conditioner (especially if you wash it with baking soda)
  • health supplement (a teaspoon a day!)
  • body moisturizer (especially in extreme cold or after a lot of time in the sun)
  • light scent (most people enjoy the scent of coconut, I am not one of them)
  • cuticle cream (keep that mani-pedi fresh after hours of sightseeing!)
  • makeup remover (works like cold cream)

And, like baking soda, it too is relatively cheap, easy to find most places, natural, safe (unless you’re allergic to coconut), biodegradable, and not a liquid (it is solid at room temperature).  Plus a little goes a long way, so you needn’t carry huge bottles of lotions around on your travels!

The last useful thing you might find in your kitchen is ziplock (plastic) baggies.  Small ones can be used for separating different toiletries or protecting valuables in a moist environment.  Larger ones can act similar to packing cubes (though if you travel a lot, I really recommend investing in a set of proper packing cubes, you and your dorm mates will thank me!)