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Pacific island nations are a common blind-spot on the holiday destination radar for Europeans. Until recently that part of the world has been prohibitively distant and/or expensive to journey to for many of us who've yet to emigrate to Australia (and some who have). Well, the times, they are a-changin'. Budget air carriers springing up between Europe and South-East Asia (like Scoot and Finnair) have slashed the cost of a hop over to the Pacific vicinity threefold over the past two-to-three years. With that said, the next time there's a week to spare, check out Vanuatu. An archipelago of 83 islands stretched over about 1,300 kilometers and home to roughly 250,000 permanent inhabitants, Vanuatu's capital Port Vila on Efeta island is a mere 3.5 hours flight northeast of Sydney and merits every second of the trip. Tourism comprises a comparatively huge chunk of its economy, yet Vanuatu remains so undiscovered…
Saturday, 01 September 2018

Madrid: The Literary City of Amor

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“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.” – Pico Iyer Due to the heat wave that has come from North Africa, I feel sweat running down my spine as I walk to my poetry class in Madrid. 1.6 kilometers each way exactly. And every day when I get back to my dorm room, I must change my sweat-drenched shirt. This becomes a cycle. My heat-based study-abroad cycle that doesn’t allow me to experience the city like I want to. 35 degrees Celsius. This is the temperature almost every day. The heat keeps me indoors as much as possible. Like the rest of my peers, I have a routine. Breakfast: toast with a crushed tomato spread and olive oil, a typical Spanish breakfast. After breakfast,…
Through my life I have had two passions, motorcycles and traveling. After an extremely gray depressing winter in Seattle in 2017 I decided to see if I could build a high-level plan to combine the two while maintaining a successful career. I am fortunate enough to work remotely so my mindset was: I can give this a try and worst case I have to return to Seattle after I fail miserably. Best case, I succeed and open up a new dimension to my life that many not only cannot imagine but would never dare to attempt. Preparation: Although my introduction sounds like I just packed up and left - it took over two months of planning until I was comfortable enough to attempt using Montana as my beta state. It was a month of preparing finances and defining a high level view of what I wanted to accomplish with this…
My husband and I grew up on the Northeast Coast. We crave cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, experience the energy of Broadway shows in NYC, and stroll the Jersey shore beaches. When we decided to investigate how our neighbors on the Northwest Coast live, we weren’t disappointed. The two of us enjoyed everything from wandering through Portland’s Japanese and Rose Test Gardens in Washington Park, snacking on local mussels and cockle clams in Seattle’s Fish Market, to exploring Vancouver’s west coast rainforest and artistic totem poles in Stanley Park. First Up, Portland After a flight from New Jersey to Portland, Oregon, we rented a car and began our 11 day northwest road trip. If you’re a bookaholic, don’t miss Powell’s City of Books – the world’s largest new and used bookstore. Stocked with over one million books, Powell’s Books occupies an entire city block in the Pearl District. Powell’s helps you navigate…
The emerald green jungle sailed past at 150 miles per hour with nothing between me and the cliff walls but air. My helicopter tour of the island of Kauai was going to be an adrenaline charged adventure to capture the beauty of this most inaccessible pearl of the Hawaiian Islands. I got the best spot on the Hughes 500, a 5 seat helicopter, in the right rear seat. This chopper was going to fly with no doors on the bird. The only thing between you and a thousand foot drop onto the jungle below was a 4 point harness. I hoped to get great photographs without the Aluminum and Plexiglas door between my camera lens and the beauty of the Garden Isle. Kauai is the farthest west of the six main Hawaiian Islands. Over 90% of the island is inaccessible by road. It has been the site of many movies…
Monday, 01 January 2018

Playing in Prague

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Part Three of The Bearable Lightness of Being in Czech Republic Crossing Charles Bridge Connecting Old Town with the Little Quarter is perhaps one of the world’s most famous pedestrian bridges: Charles Bridge. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Prague—its most recognizable monument—and it has a Bohemian vibe as we step out of Old Town’s Knights of the Cross Square, pass the Old Town Bridge Tower, and walk onto the stone bridge for the first time. As you walk over the Vltava River which crosses through Prague’s middle (and was the reason a settlement became a city here in the first place) it’s hard to believe that this stone bridge has been here since the mid-1300s. It feels as sturdy as it looks, constructed of massive sandstone that was supposedly strengthened by adding eggs to the mortar. Charles IV commissioned it in 1357. Until 1741, it was…
Wednesday, 01 November 2017

Exploring the Area around Prague

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Part Two of The Bearable Lightness of Being in Czech Republic There is so much to see in Prague. But there’s a lot to see just a short train ride from Prague as well. We set our scopes on three places in particular. Kutna Hora Nataliya, Brian and I take a train about 45 miles east of Prague for an excursion to Kutna Hora. This was once the second most important town in Bohemia, due mostly to the enormous amount of silver here. In the second half of the 13th century, rich deposits of silver were found, making the king the richest ruler in central Europe. The silver mined from Kutna Hora and minted into coins (the Prague Groschen) circulated across Europe. This, the largest silver mine in Europe, made Bohemia the richest area of the world in that time. One man could, with hammer and fire, pound out as…
Prague, Czech Republic. The City of a Thousand Spires. For years I have wanted to explore this eastern European treasure, this alluring gem buried behind more westernized European destinations like Paris and London, Berlin and Barcelona. I’ve heard others yearn out loud for a visit to Prague and have listened to others praise it as one of their favorite stomping grounds. I’ve watched the Czech films, read Czech literature, studied Czech guide books and history. But it’s never quite the same until you’ve been there and sensed it yourself. For nearly a decade now I’ve been looking for the right time to make the pilgrimage to Prague. The time is now. Watching Time The time has come, quite literally, in fact. We are staring at a clock, watching it’s shimmering face in the late afternoon sun, waiting for the minute hand to make one more movement and for the show…
Saturday, 01 July 2017

Slovakia: Mountains, Lakes & Caves

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In my pursuit of unexplored destinations, I chanced upon the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. The Tatra Mountains form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They are the highest mountain range in the Carpathians and second in Europe, only outdone by the Alps.Though fairly unheard of, these majestic mountains have a dramatic black rugged topography to excite any hiker or photographer. I started my journey from Krakow, Poland with a pleasant 2.5 hour drive cutting across the border into Slovakia. The place I chose to stay was Štrbské Pleso; its large glacial lake is a favorite ski, tourist, and health resort. Because its a stop on the Tatra trolley and rack railway, its a starting point for a host of popular hikes including to Kriváň and Rysy. As soon as I had entered the Tatra region, I starting passing through many small mountain villages. I decided to make a quick…
Monday, 01 May 2017

Ten Things to Do In Guilin

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The fantastic Li River karst scenery of south China, a major subject of Chinese landscape painting, draws millions of visitors each year. They may come for the scenery but history buffs like me also discover plenty to intrigue them as Guilin's position as an historic highway between the central plains and the south has left a tangible Guilin is also a paradise for outdoor activities enthusiasts, with the Yulong River valley near Yangshuo a sublime spot for cycling, hiking and boating. Here are some of our Guilin highlights: 1. Boat the Li River The Li River is iconic Guilin, synonymous with the almost surreal karst scenery it has both sculpted and fed for eons. The outer-skin of the limestone peaks has been washed away through millennia of water erosion leaving a fairytale landscape. The combined length of the Li and Gui Rivers is 437km but the most acclaimed scenery is…

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