Europe’s first underwater restaurant revealed

Wow – simply stunning! 

Designs for Europe¿s first underwater eatery have been revealed - and it¿s stunning

If you’ve got an appetite for dramatic, never-before-seen restaurants, look no further.

Designs for Europe’s first underwater eatery have been revealed – and it’s stunning. The concept is that of a half-sunken monolith where diners will be able to view the seabed through a 36ft-wide panoramic window.

Called ‘Under’, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly.

Called ¿Under¿, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly. Guests will have a view of the seabed through a 36ft window

It will also function as a research centre for marine life.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ‘surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water’s surface’.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ¿surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water¿s surface¿

Diners need have no fear of the walls caving in, because they’re a metre thick. And the structure, it’s hoped, will become a reef for mussels.

The restaurant has been designed to hold between 80 and 100 guests, who will be able to watch the wildlife on the seabed through a window that’s 36 feet wide and 13 feet high.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed.

Seafood is likely to be a key feature on the menu.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research.

Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals.

The design firm adds: ‘Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual.’

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research. Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals

Construction on the restaurant is scheduled to start in February 2018. Estimated completion is February/March 2019.

Snohetta is currently working on a number of projects internationally including The French Laundry Kitchen expansion and Garden Renovation in Yountville, California, the Le Monde Headquarters in Paris and the Cornell University Executive Education Center and Hotel in New York.

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The Best Places (and Time) to See the Northern Lights

As you may have read, my friend Max is going to be spending a few months up at the top of Norway – Tromsø in fact, 200 miles inside the arctic circle; and I’m looking forward to visiting him once he’s settled, to get an idea of what it’s like to spend winter in perpetual darkness and summer in perpetual light and (OF COURSE) to see the epic Northern Lights. So to whet your appetite, here’s a list of the top five places from which to experience the most remarkable natural phenomenon in the northern hemisphere.

This gorgeous auroral display over Sweden’s Abisko National Park was captured on Feb. 16, 2015 by photographer Chad Blakley (www.lightsoverlapland.com). Credit: Chad Blakley / http://www.lightsoverlapland.com

Photos don’t do the northern lights justice.

To fully appreciate the glory and grandeur of this celestial display, which is also known as the aurora borealis, you have to settle beneath the ever-changing lights and watch them curve and curl, slither and flicker.

“I was camping, just lying out in a field in a sleeping bag on a late September night and looking up at the stars,” said Terry Onsager, a physicist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. [Amazing Auroras: Stunning Northern Lights Photos]

The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. <a href="http://www.space.com/15213-northern-lights-aurora-guide-infographic.html">See how the northern lights work in this Space.com infographic</a>.

“All of a sudden, the most spectacular lights and swirls and rays just filled the sky, dancing and darting here and there,” Onsager told Space.com. “It was just unbelievable.”

Onsager had his aurora experience in northern Norway — one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. You could follow in his footsteps, or blaze your own trail somewhere along the “auroral zone” that encircles Earth’s northern reaches. But you need to know when and where to go. For example, the summer of 2017 may be a good time for a vacation, but a better time to see auroras is actually between winter and spring.

Read on to find out when and where to see the northern lights, and what powers this dazzling display.

Slicing through the Yellowknife sky.

The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field. See how the northern lights work in this Space.com infographic.

Credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com Contributor

If you’re planning an aurora-viewing trip, make sure not to schedule it in the middle of summer. You need darkness to see the northern lights, and places in the auroral zone have precious little of it during the summer months.

You also want clear skies. Winter and springtime are generally less cloudy than autumn in and around the northern auroral zone, so a trip between December and April makes sense, said Charles Deehr, a professor emeritus and aurora forecaster at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. Ideally, time your trip to coincide with the new moon, and make sure to get away from city lights when it’s time to look up, he added.

“Dress warmly, plan to watch the sky between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, although an active period can occur anytime during the dark hours,” Deehr wrote in the Geophysical Institute’s guide to aurora viewing, which has lots of great information. “Active periods are typically about 30 minutes long, and occur every two hours, if the activity is high. The aurora is a sporadic phenomenon, occurring randomly for short periods or perhaps not at all.”

You can get an idea of how active the northern lights are likely to be in your area by keeping tabs on a short-term aurora forecast, such as the one provided by the Geophysical Institute here: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast

And you can have an aurora experience without even leaving your house if you so choose. The Canadian Space Agency offers a live feed of the skies above Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/.

So where should you go? If you live in Europe, the easiest thing to do is head to the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

“In general, Scandinavia is set up,” Deehr told Space.com. “They’re in good shape for this.”

Northern Norway, especially the area around Tromso, is a particularly popular destination, he added. [Visit Tromso’s 2017 Northern Lights Info]

“There are a lot of tours, and a lot of English-speaking people who are willing to take you out,” Deehr said, adding that the scenery in the region is “fantastic.”

Or you could check out a number of other locations, such as northern Sweden’s Abisko National Park.

“Abisko has developed a reputation for being the No. 1 aurora-watching destination on the planet, due to the fact that it is located in a very special microclimate with less precipitation than any other location on Earth that is located within the aurora zone,” photographer Chad Blakley told Space.com via email. (The company Blakley co-founded, Lights Over Lapland, has been offering aurora tours in Abisko for more than five years.) [Lights Over Lapland’s 2017 Abisko Aurora Tours]

Iceland is also a good choice, Deehr said, as long as you make sure to set aside enough time to compensate for cloudy skies. (The island nation’s weather can be uncooperative.) [Iceland 2017 Northern Lights Tours]

Russia, by contrast, “is pretty much out,” Deehr said. While a decent swathe of the auroral zone lies in northern Russia, such areas are relatively hard to get to and lack the tourism infrastructure most travelers are after, he explained.

There are also plenty of options for good aurora viewing in North America. But you should probably steer clear of far eastern Canada, which tends to be quite cloudy, Deehr said.

“Between James Bay and the west coast of Alaska — anywhere along that auroral zone is a good place to be,” he said. (James Bay is the far southern portion of Canada’s huge Hudson Bay.) [Northern Tales Yukon 2017 Aurora Tours]

For example, he said, a northern lights trip could center on Yellowknife or Whitehorse, in the Canadian Yukon. Or a traveler could take a train across the auroral zone to the town of Churchill, on the western shore of Hudson Bay — an area famous for its polar bear population.

“It’s great, adventurous country,” Deehr said of the Canadian auroral region.

In Alaska, anywhere from Fairbanks north offers good viewing. In Fairbanks itself, residents see the northern lights on about eight of every 10 nights, Deehr said. [Alaska Tours’ 2017 Aurora Tours]

The northern lights result when charged particles streaming from the sun collide with molecules high up in Earth’s atmosphere, exciting these molecules and causing them to glow.

“It’s like the fluorescent lights in our offices — they’ve got current running through them that excites the atoms, and the atoms glow,” Onsager said.

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The auroras occur at high latitudes, unless a strong solar storm expands their reach. Credit: University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute / Charles Deehr

The different colors of the northern lights come from different molecules: Oxygen emits yellow, green and red light, while nitrogen is responsible for blue and purplish-red hues.

Earth’s magnetic field lines channel these solar particles toward the planet’s north and south magnetic poles, which explains why auroras — the aurora borealis and its southern counterpart, the aurora australis — are high-latitude phenomena.

Indeed, the aurora borealis is visible most nights, weather permitting, within a band several hundred miles wide that’s centered at about 66 degrees north — about the same latitude as the Arctic Circle.

This “standard” aurora is generated by the solar wind — the particles streaming constantly from the sun. But solar storms known as coronal mass ejections (CME) can ramp up the northern lights considerably and make them visible over much wider areas. Last year, for example, a CME allowed skywatchers as far south as Illinois and Ohio to get a glimpse. However, if you’re planning an aurora-viewing trip weeks or months in advance, you can’t count on any help from a solar storm and should therefore head to a destination somewhere near the northern ring. [The Sun’s Wrath: Worst Solar Storms in History]

The southern auroral ring lies above Antarctica and is very difficult for skywatchers, or anyone else, to get to. That’s why this article focuses on the northern lights — for reasons of practicality, not antipodean antipathy. (Southern Hemisphere dwellers take heart: The aurora australis can sometimes be viewed from New Zealand and Tasmania.)

Editor’s note: If you capture an amazing photo of the northern lights and would like to share it with Space.com and our news partners for a story or gallery, send images in to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

This story from CNN, originally posted in April 2016, has been updated for 2017. 

 

 

 

Seven reasons to explore Norway’s incredible second city

Somewhere I’m not too familiar with is Scandinavia.  I’ve been to Stockholm and Copenhagen for long weekends – and very nice too –  but that’s about it: I’ve not seen Oslo, Gothenberg, Tromsø, Malmo or Aarhus for example, let alone Helsinki or Reykjavik, often considered part of this northern region.  So when Max, a student friend of mine, announced that he was spending his semester abroad in the north of Norway, I decided it was time I devoted more blog space to this interesting part of the world.

So keep reading for a series of scintillating Scandi specials.                                    


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Venture off on hiking trails through the pine woods of Bergen Credit: AP

Bergen has a great deal going for it. Norway’s second city is strikingly set on a convergence of fjords, backed by steeped, forested slopes. Fascinating and picturesque quarters wait to be explored – not only Bryggen, the famous old timber wharf with Unesco World Heritage Site status, but also residential neighbourhoods with photogenic, white-painted wooden houses lining quiet cobbled streets.

If it’s raining – and given that Bergen is statistically one of the wettest cities in Europe there’s a strong chance it will be – there are plenty of good museums and art galleries deserving of your time.

Historic wooden houses lining the quiet cobbled streets of Bergen

Historic wooden houses lining the quiet cobbled streets of Bergen Credit: Getty

1. Its historic wharf

Most cruise ships moor up at the mouth of the Vågen, the central harbour, a short walk to Bryggen. (If you’re travelling with Hurtigruten, its ships dock at a separate terminal, about 15 minutes away on foot).

Translating as The Wharf, Bryggen dates from the 12th century, though over the centuries it has been ravaged by fire. The 60 ochre- and tawny-coloured wooden buildings you see today are mostly around 300 years old, reconstructed after a particularly devastating fire in 1702.

Colourful houses by the harbour at night

Colourful houses by the harbour at night Credit: ©nstanev – stock.adobe.com

Bryggen’s charm lies behind its waterfront facades, in its dimly-lit, timber-floored alleys and enclosed upper-floor corridors. Look out for still-used winches hanging from gables, and statues – an angel, a farmer, a deer – representing the different passageways. Shops sell enticing but expensive Norwegian specialities, such as hand-knitted sweaters, reindeer skins and moose leather jackets.

German merchants of the Hanseatic League lived and held sway in Bryggen from the mid-14th century for the best part of 400 years, trading in dried fish and grain. Learn more in Bryggen’s Hanseatic Museum (NOK 160/£15; schøtstuene.no), a beautifully restored house that includes the palatial offices and living areas of the merchant and the far more basic quarters for apprentices, visiting farmers and fishermen. The ticket also covers admission to the nearby Schøtstuene, a set of elegant assembly rooms where the merchants met, ate and drank in orderly Germanic fashion.

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Credit: bergen-guide.com

2. Scenic mountain views

It’s a five-minute walk from Bryggen to the base of the Fløibanen funicular. Ideally you will have bought your one-way ticket online in advance (NOK 45/£4; floyen.no), to avoid what can be a long queue for tickets purchased at the funicular. The eight-minute ride deposits you near the top of Fløyen, one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. Weather permitting, the panoramic views over the city, harbour and fjords are sensational.

The view from Mount Floyen

The view from Mount Floyen Credit: Getty

3. Picturesque walks

Time permitting, you may want to venture off on hiking trails through the pine woods: the nearest beauty spot, Skomakerdiket lake, is about 10 minutes’ stroll from the top of the funicular. Back at the funicular, take the Tippetue path. It zigzags back down the mountain, after about 30 minutes ending up in a gorgeous part of the city – of steep, cobbled streets lined with immaculate old clapboard and terracotta-roofed houses, proudly sporting Norwegian flags and with pretty handkerchief-sized gardens.

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Tall Ships Race in Bergen seen from Tippetue. Credit: smugmug.com

4. Moreish cinnamon buns

Eating out in Bergen is eye-wateringly expensive. To keep costs down, have a giant reindeer hot dog (NOK 60/£5.50) from Trekroneren kiosk at Kong Oscars gate 1, back near the waterfront. Then grab a skillingsboller, a moreish cinnamon bun for which Bergen is famous, from one of the ubiquitous 7-Eleven shops.

Alternatively, head over to Pingvinen (The Penguin) at Vaskerelven 14 (pingvinen.no), a cosy and casual backstreet café/bar serving no-nonsense, traditional local dishes that are keenly priced by Norwegian standards. A satisfying plateful of plukkfisk – mash, white fish and bacon – costs NOK 169/£15.50.

Skillingsboller, Bergen's famous cinnamon bun

Skillingsboller, Bergen’s famous cinnamon bun Credit: Fred Mawer

5. Edvard Munch’s provocative artwork

A wide-ranging and beautifully presented collection of art is displayed in the KODE galleries (kodebergen.no), in buildings along one side of the octagonal Lille Lungegårdsvann lake. In KODE 3, make a beeline for the several rooms dedicated to Norway’s most celebrated artist, Edvard Munch, where you can take in moody and thought-provoking works from his Frieze of Life project. In KODE 4, don’t miss the fun and playful takes on Norwegian landscapes by Nikolai Astrup. KODE 1, focusing chiefly on craft and design, has just reopened after renovations. One ticket covering admission to all the galleries costs NOK 100/£9.

https://www.edvardmunch.org/images/paintings/evening-on-karl-johan-street.jpg

Credit: edvardmunch.org

6. Norway’s greatest composer

Lovers of classical music should allow time to head out to Troldhaugen (griegmuseum.no; NOK 100/£9). The former home of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s greatest composer, occupies pretty grounds by a lake just south of Bergen. You can tour the late 19th-century wooden villa, furnished much as it was in when Grieg lived there until his death in 1907, and peer in to the lakeside hut where he did his composing.

To reach Troldhaugen under your own steam, take the Bergen Light Rail to Hop station (22 minutes from central Bergen), then walk (20 minutes). Or sign up for a bus tour departing from the tourist office at 11am, returning at 2.30pm: including admission and a piano recital in the turf-roofed concert hall, NOK 250/£23.

7. Bergen’s spectacular fish market

Before returning to your ship, you should definitely visit Bergen’s fish market, by the central harbour. It’s primarily pitched at tourists these days, but the displays of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat are impressive spectacles, and the stalls offer snacks and meals, with tables to eat at. Expect to pay around NOK 100/£9 for fish soup, and from NOK 130/£12 for a portion of fish and chips. The most appealing counters can be found in the covered hall, and stay open late.

Displays of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat are impressive spectacles at Bergen's fish market

Displays of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat are impressive spectacles at Bergen’s fish market Credit: Fred Mawer

Top tip

If planning on doing a lot of sightseeing, you may save by investing in the Bergen Card (en.visitbergen.com/bergen-card), which gives free or reduced-price admission to most attractions, and can be bought from the tourist office by the Fish Market. The 24-hour card costs NOK 240/£22, children 3-15 NOK 90/£8.

The Fløyen funicular railway

The Fløyen funicular railway Credit: Getty

 

Thanks to Fred Mawer at the Telegraph for this inspiration

 

 

Can you name the locations of these amazing views from plane windows?

Here’s a bit of summer fun from the Telegraph.  I got twelve – how many can you guess?  😉


Few sights are more impressive than planet Earth from a plane window. But how easily can you recognise cities, mountains and countries from the sky? We’ve devised the following quiz to put your knowledge to the test and mark what it is expected to be the busiest day in history for flights to and from UK airports (that’s July 21st).

For those that often find themselves wondering which town, lake or river they are flying over, there’s actually an app with the answers. Flyover Country provides information on points of interest below, and, so long as users input their flight path before takeoff, does not require the purchase of expensive Wi-Fi access.

Once you’re done answering our questions, you might want to try some of our other deviously difficult quizzes. We’ve looked at island outlines, the myths of air travelBritain’s seaside resortsobscure capitalscities from above, and the world’s most famous paintings, to name but a few.

(Answers at the bottom of the page!)

1.  Which Middle Eastern city, home to more than 1.3 million people, is this?

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  • Jeddah  –  Doha  –  Dubai  –  Abu Dhabi?

2.  This one’s easy – no clue required!

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  • Budapest  –  Paris  –  Prague  –  London?

3.  Which country is home to this iconic mountain?

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  • Japan  –  Ecuador  –  Chile  –  Tanzania?

4.  Which exotic destination is this?

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  • Maldives  –  Seychelles  – St Lucia  –  Fiji?

5.  This island is a little less exotic.  Can you name it?

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  • Skye  –  Isle of Man  –  Isle of Wight  –  Jersey?

6.  Which European city is this?

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  • Malaga  –  San Sebastian  –  Barcelona  –  Valencia?

7.  What country are we flying low over? 

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  • Australia  –  France  –  Morocco  –  Oman?

8.  Do you recognise this US city?

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  • Seattle  –  Houston  –  Las Vegas  –  Los Angeles?

9.  Where is this airport located?https://i2.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/6db35002-aca1-4907-a836-c416feff8d2c.jpg

  • Bali  –  Bermuda  –  Borneo  –  Barbados?

10.  Which country is this?

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  • Sweden  –  China  –  Mexico  –  Vietnam?

11.  There’s no mistaking this tourist hotspot: what is it?

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  • Cape Town  –  Shanghai  –  Venice  –  Rome?

12.  Which city is this?

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  • Miami  –  New Orleans  –  Baltimore  –  New York?

13.  Can you name this country?

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  • Russia  –  South Africa  –  Spain  –  New Zealand?

14.  Where’s this impressive bridge? https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/99a02e08-105c-48b6-8c23-1a6d29c46e1d.jpg

  • Scotland  –  San Francisco  –  Sydney  –  Hong Kong?

15.  And finally, which country is this? 

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  • Ethiopia  –  Iceland  –  Turkey  –  United States?

 

Answers

  1. Doha
  2. London
  3. Japan
  4. Maldives
  5. Isle of Wight
  6. Barcelona
  7. France
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Bermuda
  10. Vietnam
  11. Venice
  12. Miami
  13. New Zealand
  14. Hong Kong
  15. United States

 

 

 

 

THE ALLURE OF DARK TOURISM

This piece by Lilly Lampe of the New Yorker got me thinking about travel from an entirely different perspective. I went to Thailand some time after the ’04 tsunami and the devastation it had caused was still evident.  Although I took lots of pictures, it really didn’t occur to me to take any of the aftermath of the destruction, and I have to say I wonder how some people can bring themselves to be so fascinated in others’ misfortune. Guess that’s human nature for you…

The collapsed Xuankou school buildings, part of a tour of ruins from the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Sichuan, China. All photographs by Ambroise Tézenas / Courtesy Dewi Lewis Publishing

The French photographer Ambroise Tézenas was travelling in Sri Lanka when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, killing more than thirty thousand people on the island within minutes. Four years later, he came across a newspaper article explaining that a train from the disaster, still sitting where the waves had deposited it in the Sri Lankan jungle, had become a tourist attraction. Tézenas was perplexed that anyone could casually visit the remnants of the horror that he had witnessed first-hand. From this disconnect, he found inspiration: he travelled around the world to sites of historic calamity—from Rwanda and Auschwitz to Chernobyl and Dealey Plaza—to document their afterlives as destinations of so-called “dark tourism.”

Rather than take advantage of press access, Tézenas set strict rules limiting himself to the average visitor’s experience. He took paid tours, spent limited time at each location, and shot only what members of the public could see. The resulting images, which are collected in the new book “I Was Here,” are complex interrogations—of how countries reckon with their past crimes, of the commodification of tragedy, and of the human impulse to look upon death and disaster. Amid the wreckage of the Wenchuan earthquake, a tour group gathers for a photo op. In the former Soviet border zone, young people play “escape from the U.S.S.R.” spy games. At Karostas Cietums, a military prison in Latvia, children over twelve years of age can stay overnight and “live the part of a prisoner.” “At the end,” Tézenas told me, these sites “leave the individual with not much to understand history.”

Still, Tézenas’s images belie the simple moralizing that’s often wielded against disaster tourism. He said that he “couldn’t help being moved” by many of the locations he visited, and his empathy extended to his fellow-sightseers. Through his lens, they come across not as callous voyeurs but as poignant foils to the macabre memorials. In a commemorative park in the border town of Maroun al-Ras, the site of a major battle in the 2006 Lebanon war, children play on a brightly painted jungle gym. In the ghost town of Chernobyl, saplings grow.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim, Poland

Chernobyl, Ukraine

The Iranian-built park in Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon

A sculpture of Lenin in Grūtas Park, near Vilnius, Lithuania

Karostas Cietums Military Prison, Karosta, Latvia

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The remains of the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the site of a 1944 Nazi massacre

Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas

The Hezbollah-operated Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark, southern Lebanon

Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark, Mleeta, Lebanon

Genocide memorial site at Ntarama, Rwanda

Xiaoyudong Bridge, part of the Wenchuan earthquake ruins tour, Sichuan, China

 

Born in Paris, Ambroise Tézenas gained international recognition through his first book, Beijing, Theatre of the People, which won the European Publisher’s Award for Photography in 2006. Shortlisted for the Prix de Académie des Beaux-Arts and the Prix Pictet Prize, his work has been exhibited widely in Europe and features regularly in major international publications, including the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. His work is held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France public collection. Ambroise Tézenas is represented by Galerie Mélanie Rio in France.

 

The Secret Lives of Off-Season Santas

I just LOVE this feature from the HuffPost – spread a little Christmas Cheer..!   – Nedag00176_

 


Santa Claus certainly has a presents at Christmas, but what does he do the rest of the year?

This question intrigued Miami Beach-based photographer Mary Beth Koeth.

“Being a total Santa skeptic in my younger years, I wanted to capture the real stories of the men behind the fuzzy white beards and sleek velvety duds,” she told The Huffington Post.

So, Koeth set out to create a series of stunning photos that offer glimpses into the lives of off-season Santas. Here are their answers, as told to Koeth.

Santa Joe waves goodbye to frigid winters and heads to a condo in Florida.

Joe Corcoran, also known as Santa Joe, is an Irish Catholic from the Bronx and is also the New York City Bloomingdales Santa. Several years back, Corcoran and his wife bought a condo in Oriole Gardens Retirement Community in Margate, Florida. Eighty of the units in the community are filled with his family and friends from back in the Bronx. He told Koeth: We all grew up with each other and want to grow old together.”

Santa Roy works at an investigative firm and picks up the banjo.

Roy Strohacker is a retired police officer. In 1984, he was named one of the top 10 law enforcement officers in the state of Florida. He currently operates his own investigative agency and has more than 40 years in the law enforcement and investigative field. In his spare time, Strohacker plays banjo with his son and sings with the Great American Dixie Band. He also collects American political memorabilia like old flags and Japanese swords and reads and translates Japanese.

Santa Lance rocks out in a band to beat the summertime blues.

Lance Willock, 77, is a former salesman from Peoria, Illinois. Music has always been his passion. He would run home from work on Fridays, dapper up, and meet with his band to entertain at one of the many local hotspots.

“I met my wife, Rosemary, while playing in a club. She never knew it was going to end up like this … in fact, she’d probably run the other way if she thought about it,” he told Koeth. Willock and Rosemary live in a retirement community in Stuart, Florida.

Santa John runs a Mensa chapter.

John Snyder, 67, is a Vietnam vet with a purple heart and was born and raised in Queens, New York.

“When I got out of the army, I wanted to be a playboy for a while before I settled down — to sow my wild oats so to speak. Well, I met my wife, fell for her and married her right away, so I had to give that all up,” he told Koeth.

John served as the president of Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society, for several years in South Florida. Snyder and his wife Theresa are both active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and currently reside in Kendall, Florida.

Santa Gregg does woodwork ― and also reminisces about his days as a former stripper (you read that right).

Gregg Henry is a carpenter at Michael Rybovich & Sons Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

“I make big, expensive toys for very wealthy boys and girls,” he told Koeth.. His career in woodworking started 40 years ago.

“The only thing I haven’t done is coffin making. I don’t really have much interest in that,” he said. Many years ago, following a painful divorce, Henry spent two years being a male exotic dancer.

“My stage name was Grizzly Gregg because I had the beard and everything back then. I found that taking off your shoes is really hard to do when you’re standing up,” Henry said.

Santa Ernie just chills out in the summer with his partner of 23 years.

Ernie Tedrow is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. After his mother passed away, he moved to Orlando and started in the hotel business where he worked his way up to director of sales and marketing.

“One week a month I would travel. I’d fly to Chicago in the morning, pick up the client in a limousine, take them to Oprah’s restaurant for lunch, sign a half million dollar contract, take them back to the office, fly back and be home for dinner. I absolutely loved it,” he told Koeth..

Tedrow now lives in Tamarac, Florida with Everett, his partner of twenty-three years. He is a community association manager for condos and homeowner association in South Florida. “I figured, I’m fat, old, and bald … and I have a career!”

 

 

 

7 Remote Islands That REALLY Want You To Move There

Whether it’s the changing seasons, the impending election, or just itchy feet and a need to see the world, there are many reasons to harbour a dream of up and moving far away. If you have ever imagined giving island life a shot, you might be pleased to hear that Huffpost has found several isles out there where you might just make that dream a reality.

Faced with rapidly declining populations, islands around the world from the South Pacific to North Atlantic are actively recruiting people to come and settle. You could teach in Hawaii, work in New Zealand’s dairy industry, help out at a Canadian store or simply live out your Wicker Man fantasies in Scotland.

Below, discover seven islands that would love to have you (visa, of course, permitting).

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PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland The prospect of a certain narcissistic businessman entering the White house has doubtless informed more than a few Americans’ searches for new homes. A warm Irish welcome awaits those who accept the island of Inishturk’s offer of refuge to Americans who are considering leaving the country if Donald Trump is elected president. The island, which is about nine miles off the coast of County Mayo, has seen its population plummet to just 58 people. An enticing video, cannily named Make Inishturk Great Again, introduces viewers to the charms of the island.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland (continued) “I’ve heard there are quite a few people in America looking to move to Ireland and other countries if Donald Trump becomes president,” the island’s development officer, Mary Heanue, told Irish Central. “I’d like them to know that we’d love to see them consider moving over here. Although winters can be hard and it’s the kind of life that wouldn’t necessarily suit everyone, they’d find it very peaceful here and they’d soon find out there’s nowhere as nice in the world on a summer’s day than here.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland Just slightly more populated (it’s home to 70 people), the Scottish island of Easdale made its own video last year to try to encourage people to relocate. Named A Wild Community, the eight-minute film eschews politics in favor of focusing on the island’s gems: its stunning scenery, warm people, and, perhaps most charmingly, its stone-skimming championships.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland (continued) Off the west coast of Scotland, Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides. Having seen its community decline since the collapse of its slate-mining industry in the late 19th century, the island is appealing for young people looking to make a new start. Some, such as Edinburgh transplant Keren Cafferty, who spoke to The Guardian, see Easdale’s future as a self-sustaining island that offers an alternative, anti-consumerist model of life. It also has a little star quality: Florence + The Machine shot the video for “Queen Of Peace” there in 2015.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada In August of this year, a general store on a small Canadian island became inundated with thousands of applications after its owners offered two acres of land and a job to anyone willing to move there. The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market in the village of Whycocomagh on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia launched an appeal for staff, saying it could not offer “big money,” but it did have “lots of land.”

Successful applicants willing to make the move would be provided with two acres on which to live, theirs to keep if they stay working at the store for more than five years. “We are an established business in the heart of Cape Breton, rich in jobs, land, and potential, but no people,” the Facebook advertisement read.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada (continued) This is not the first time Cape Breton has taken an innovative approach to try to encourage new arrivals. Earlier this year, it launched a PR campaign encouraging Americans fearful of the possibility of a Trump presidency to move to the island.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland If you have a spare £1,950,000 ($2,490,000) you could have an entire Scottish island to yourself. That’s the hugely discounted price being asked for Tanera Mór, one of Scotland’s 17 Summer Isles, located off the northwest coast and thought to have been the inspiration behind cult movie The Wicker Man. Tanera Mór was the last inhabited island on the archipelago, but the final residents (and owners) moved to the mainland in 2013 and cut the island’s selling price by more than half a million pounds.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland (continued) With still no takers, the owners are now offering the option of dividing the 1.25-square-mile island into three lots, with the smallest going for just £430,000. Besides the movie connection, Tanera Mór is also famed as the only Scottish island to operate a year-round private postal service. The Summer Isles Post Office issues two stamps for mail leaving the island — a Tanera Mòr stamp for it to leave the isle to the mainland, and a Royal Mail one for the rest of journey. The island’s real estate listing also highlights its “coastline of approximately seven miles encompassing numerous cliffs, coves, and beaches; innumerable perfect picnic spots interspersed with fresh water lochans; and wonderful waters in which to swim, sail and fish.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific You might be surprised to hear that the tiny South Pacific island — with its beaches, palm trees, and year-round sun — is having trouble attracting people to live there. But with a dwindling population of less than 50, Pitcairn is so keen to attract new residents, it will give you your own plot of land if you move there.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific (continued) You would have to be fairly self-sufficient, however, as there are no jobs on offer, and you would also need to prove you possess some skills that would benefit the island. Pitcairn’s sole shop is open three times a week, and food from the nearest neighboring country, New Zealand — 3,000 miles away — has to be ordered three months in advance. Internet is available, though, and island representative Jacqui Christian says: “It is a special place, and it is beautiful seeing the stars without light pollution. There are the bluest waters you have ever seen.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand More money burning a hole in your pocket? Head for New Zealand’s South Island, where $165,000 will get you a plot of land in the pretty town of Kaitangata. Life is good in Kaitangata, population 800, where youth unemployment totals two.

“Not two percent — just two unemployed young people,” Clutha district Mayor Bryan Cadogan told The Guardian this summer. Nevertheless, there are jobs that the town needs to fill, specifically in the admittedly unglamorous industries of dairy processing and freezing works.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand (continued) If you think you’d be a good fit for one of the 1,000 vacant jobs (and can swing a New Zealand work visa) you can take advantage of a recruitment scheme that involves offering house and land packages for just NZ $230,000 ($165,000).The man organizing the effort is a dairy farmer named Evan Dick, who says: “This is an old-fashioned community, we don’t lock our houses, we let kids run free,” he said. “We have jobs, we have houses, but we don’t have people. We want to make this town vibrant again, we are waiting with open arms.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA Rather stay closer to home and avoid work-visa hassle? Keep an eye on Hawaii, which has been facing a teacher shortage for years and so regularly launches recruitment drives to attract qualified teachers from the mainland. Earlier this year, the state’s appeal for teachers was picked up and spread widely across the web, with some suggesting Hawaii would “pay you $60,000 to work in paradise.” That’s not quite the reality, however, and the Hawaii State Department of Education was not too pleased at being bombarded with applications from people who were unqualified to teach.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA(continued) Donalyn Dela Cruz, Hawaii State Department of Education spokesperson, told NBC News: “Following a recent drive in April, false reporting and inaccurate blogging on social media led to a major influx of applications from people who just want to move to Hawaii. Many of these inquiries came from individuals who are not interested in teaching, but who just want to move to Hawaii under the false impression that the Department will pay for people to move here to live and work.”

Lesson: Check the fine print. It’s not always an easy ride to paradise.

 

 

Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Why Owambo dancing, Slovakian bagpipes and Saudis sharing coffee merit protection from UN agency

The Owambo women who organise a festival to celebrate omagongo – a fruit beverage – in northern Namibia, and Wititi folk dancers from Peru’s Colca Valley had cause for celebration. So too did Saudi coffee drinkers and bagpipe-playing Slovakians.

They all take part in 20 cultural practices deemed significant enough by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to be safeguarded as heritage to be preserved this week, writes the Independent.

Members of the Unesco committee responsible for “safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage” deemed that piping in Slovakia, with a history dating back to the 18th century, was sufficiently under threat to safeguard. While “bagpipe culture exists throughout Slovakia”, according to Unesco, few can still play the instrument.

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Owambo dancing in Namibia (Alamy )

“Communities are proud to have a bagpipe player perform at local events as the music invokes a sense of identity for the public,” said Unesco.

The organisation also highlighted the importance of the Kazakhstani art of improvisation known as “Aitys” or “Aitysh”. Shared by neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, it is a contest of poetic improvisation between two people, either spoken or sung to music. The lyricist displaying the most wit, rhythm and creativity wins.

Askar Zhiymbayev, First Secretary of the Kazakh Embassy in London, said: “Aitys is not only a cultural asset of Kazakhstan but also a cultural asset of humankind.”

The traditional Peruvian Wititi dance is characterised by colourful costumes and is performed annually on the Day of Wititi, on 14 July, in the Colca Valley of Arequipa, Southern Peru.

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Saudi men share coffee (Getty)

Peru’s Culture Minister, Diana Alvarez-Calderon, told Peruvian news agency Andina: “We want every Peruvian to enjoy this declaration… This proves us Peruvians know how to preserve our traditions and dances.”

Much attention focused on the choice of Unesco to include coffee drinking in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar on the list. Sharing a brew of the black stuff was, said the UN agency, a “symbol of generosity”.

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Slovakian bagpipes (UNESCO)

It said: “Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies. Traditionally prepared in front of house guests by men and women, it is also served by sheikhs and heads of tribes.”

Also recognised in Saudi was “Alardah Alnajdiyah” dance, drumming and poetry performed carrying swords.

 

 

9 wonders of the world set to vanish forever: How many have you ticked off?

Some of the planet’s greatest spots have made Unesco’s danger list of World Heritage Sites on the verge of disappearing.  This article from the Independent highlights to me just how fragile our earth is and how easily and stupidly we can lose the beauty of nature all around us.  Let’s PLEASE all work together to help save the world we claim is so precious to us!   😦


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According to Unesco, parts of Liverpool are an endangered World Heritage Site (Shutterstock)

This month, we learned that Spain was facing the prospect of becoming the first European Union member state to have a natural World Heritage Site make Unesco’s “danger list”.  The Doñana coastal wetlands in Andalucía – home to the endangered Iberian lynx – is said to be under threat from a mining and dredging plan, as well as 1,000 illegal wells in the area.

But it’s just one among a number of incredible sites the world over that, according to Unesco, could be lost forever.  Here are just a few World Heritage Sites in Unesco’s danger zone that you might need to scrub off the bucket list.

Everglades National Park, Florida

Florida’s Everglades add some wonderfully swampy mystery to the state’s man-made draws of nightclubs and theme parks. Encompassing 1.5 million acres of wetland, the Everglades are a sanctuary for rare, endangered, and threatened species including the Florida panther and the manatee. Unesco says nutrient pollution and reduced water inflows are contributing to loss of marine habitat and the decline of marine species, with vast conservation efforts now needed to stem the damage.

Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls

Jerusalem is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Old City hosts an incredible 220 historic monuments, including major pilgrimage sites like the Dome of the Rock (the site of Abraham’s sacrifice) and the Wailing Wall. Unesco has said it is “deeply concerned” by what it calls “the persistence of the Israeli illegal excavations” around the Old City, which it says is damaging some historic sites. Unesco has also accused Israel of obstructing some restoration projects.

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The Old City of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock at the back and the dome of the al-Aqsa mosque in the foreground (Getty)

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize has plenty to show for itself – ancient Mayan ruins, top diving site the Great Blue Hole – but the latter is part of what is now an endangered system, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve. The largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere – think of it as the north’s answer to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which itself could be heading for the danger zone – it’s home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile.

Threats to the site include overharvesting of marine resources and proposed oil and gas exploration and exploitation. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 15 per cent of Belize’s gross domestic product comes from the reef – including about US$15 million from the commercial fishing industry and about $200 million from tourism. It suggests a more sustainable approach to managing the reef would benefit wildlife and people alike.

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An aerial view of the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize (Shutterstock)

Abu Mena, Egypt

This Christian holy city, a significant pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, includes a church, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops, which were built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria, one of Egypt’s best-known saints. Agricultural work in the area has led to a rise in groundwater, causing the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable, with a number of underground cavities opening up. The local authorities have been forced to fill the cavities with sand to save the buildings, including the crypt of Abu Mena, which contains the tomb of the saint.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia

Spanning 2.5 million hectares, the tropical rainforest heritage of the wild Indonesian island of Sumatra spreads across three national parks, and is a protected area home to a wide range of endangered animals and plants, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. The site also provides biogeographic evidence of the evolution of the island. But the extraordinary beauty of this untamed, tangled land is deemed at significant risk thanks to road development plans, alongside the illegal logging and poaching of animals – including elephants and tigers – facilitated by such road access.

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The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Getty)

Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, Georgia

Two gems of Georgian architecture, these medieval wonders have been placed on the endangered list after a reconstruction project to restore them went against Unesco recommendations on maintaining authenticity. The ruins of 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral in Georgia’s third-largest city, Kutaisi, and the nearby Gelati Monastery, which is covered with magnificent mosaics and wall paintings, are prized for representing “the flowering of medieval architecture” in the country. Unesco says irreversible interventions at the site undermine the integrity of these priceless nuggets of history.

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Georgia’s Gelati monastery complex (DDohler/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Peru

Chan Chan was the capital of the ancient Chimu Kingdom before they fell to the Incas, and is a huge adobe settlement split into nine citadels, with temples, plazas and cemeteries still discernible. But this amazing example of earthen architecture is at risk owing to extreme environmental events, including those caused by El Niño.

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Chan Chan is a pre-Inca settlement in Peru (Tyler Bell/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar

An island of weird and wonderful creatures, Madagascar separated from all other land masses more than 60 million years ago, where its plant and animal life evolved in complete isolation. But Madagascar’s unique biodiversity depends on the Rainforests of the Atsinanana, which comprise six national parks. Illegal logging and hunting of the area’s endangered lemur are prime problems with the site.

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Lemurs are being illegally hunted in Madagascar (Getty)

Maritime Mercantile City, Liverpool

Liverpool enjoys the dubious honour of being one of only two endangered Unesco sites in Europe (the other is the medieval monuments of Kosovo). Six areas of Liverpool city centre and its docklands constitute its World Heritage listing, documenting Liverpool’s development into one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. The city played an important role in the growth of the British Empire and became the major port for the mass movement of people. However, Unesco warns redevelopment in the area – namely, the multi-billion Liverpool Waters “mixed use” waterfront quarter – will adversely alter the site.

Dream job for a cold-blooded trekker?

An ice hotel in the Arctic Circle is advertising the perfect job for anyone who loves skygazing

Fancy working here? (Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

If you favour donning your thermals and trekking through the snow, wrapping yourself in blankets and staring up at the night sky over packing in your nine-to-five and moving to the Caribbean, Metro may have found the perfect job for you.

Seriously.  This is the definition of a dream job.  As long as you don’t mind the cold…

The Arctic SnowHotel, located right in the Arctic Circle, is searching for a Northern Lights spotter.  Yup.  They’re advertising a job that mostly involves looking at one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The position will require the Northern Lights spotter to, well, spot the Northern Lights.

They’ll need to analyse weather data to predict when the Aurora Borealis will be visible in the night skies, and let guests know when they’re most likely to see them.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

When the North Lights do appear, the spotter will need to alert the guests so they can come out and take a look.

They’ll also need to help out with the hotel’s Aurora Alarm Service, which gently wakes up guests when the Northern Lights appear.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: CEN)

Now the only thing holding us back a bit from quitting our jobs and applying for this one immediately is the fact that the hotel hasn’t revealed how much their Northern Lights spotter will be paid.  Maybe it’s dependent on how much experience you have looking at the sky.

What we do know, however, is that the successful applicant will get free accommodation in the hotel – in a room made of ice or a glass igloo – throughout the Aurora season, which runs from December to March.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

As well as getting paid to look at the sky, whoever gets hired for the position will get to enjoy all sorts of perks, including access to a snow sauna, outdoor hot tubs, and three fancy lakeside restaurants.

They’ll also be able to learn how to ice fish, make ice sculptures, and make snow shoes.  Fun.

Of course, this does all mean that if you fancy applying, you’ll need to be able to handle the cold.  Not only is it pretty nippy outside, but the rooms themselves are all kept at a temperature of between zero and minus five degrees celsius.  So you’ll need to pack some warm PJs.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

If this all sounds like your snow-covered dream, you can apply for the position by directly contacting the hotel.

If you’d prefer something a little warmer, we’d recommend going for the sausage expert job.  Sounds nice…

 

 

Introducing – SLEEP ON AN AEROPLANE!!

Finally, someone’s invented the head hammock so you might finally get some damn sleep on the plane.  Sure, it looks ridiculous; but if it helps us finally get some decent shut-eye at 35,000 feet then we don’t really care!

The Nod Travel Pillow easily reached its Kickstarter $20,000 goal within a couple of weeks and then exceeded it by shedloads, raising over $300,000 to date!  Production is now underway and I for one am looking forward immensely to testing it out…

                                                                         Ned


Someone's invented a head-hammock so you can finally get some damn sleep on the plane

The dream is real (Picture: Rex)

Because, as we all know, those neck pillows are next to useless – also, don’t talk to me about people who wear them around the airport – and being endlessly jolted awake every time your chin hits your chest is really not fun.

If you’ve ever sat on a 12-hour flight, in darkness, willing yourself to sleep and thinking there must be a better way, then this is for you.

Life is like a neck pillow, comfortable for a little while, then finally uncomfortable without warning.

— Zachary Haube (@HOBBST3N) August 7, 2016

 

Introducing the NodPod, aka the head hammock and the answer to your prayers.

It recreates how you sleep in bed (with your head at a 90 degree angle) but in an upright position, so you can nap on the go. And there’s no risk of being jolted awake, or inadvertently head-butting your neighbour.

Maybe don’t wear it while driving though.

CREDIT: NodPod/Rex Shutterstock. Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by NodPod/REX/Shutterstock (5830015e) The NodPod travel sleep aid NodPod travel sleep aid - Aug 2016 WORDS: http://www.rexfeatures.com/nanolink/sne7 Many people this Summer will have experienced the drowsy head-nod associated with napping while travelling. However, a new head-hammock called the NodPod looks set to end your dozing woes. Kentucky-based Paula Blankenship says she created the U.S. patented NodPod after years and years of traveling for work and never being able to get good rest on long journeys, leaving you "tired and with aches and pains". YOUTUBE: https://youtu.be/9WKlCAGESRI

Also, wear a seatbelt. You know what? We don’t believe this car is moving (Picture: Rex)

The patented ‘Over The Top’ design keeps your head from falling forward, as well as left and right.

It works on all types of seats – planes, trains, automobiles and, yep, office chairs. And, don’t worry, the cord is designed so that it doesn’t obstruct the view the passenger behind you has of their TV screen (so you won’t be rudely awakened by the guy in 23C having an apoplectic fit).

The head hammock was created by Paula Blankenship from Kentucky, after years and years of sleepless travel for work.

Head-hammocks are the future of travel sleep

Why is she awake goddamn it? (Picture: Rex)

Check it out on Kickstarter now.  And then you too could achieve the impossible dream…

 

 

13 of the coolest capsule hotels around the world

This is an idea that’s really taking off: capsule hotels – for those on a bit of a budget, basically a bed with not a lot else.
Kinda minimalist.  Kinda cool.  Thanks to Metro for the feature.


13 of the coolest capsule hotels around the world
So pretty. (Picture: CityHub Amsterdam)

Size isn’t everything.

Sure, if you’re a chronic over-packer and like to spread out like a starfish on a giant hotel bed, a tiny room might not be your idea of the perfect holiday resting point.

But if you’re more of a minimalist, a capsule hotel is the dream.

Originally created in Japan, capsule hotels take the basic idea of ‘hey, I need somewhere to sleep’ and simplify it, getting rid of all the frills of your average hotel experience and stripping it back to just what you need: a small, sleek room with space for you to rest (and not much else).

But don’t imagine a tiny pod stripped of all colour and style. Today’s capsule hotels are sleek, stylish, and have all kinds of extras, seamlessly slotted into tiny spaces.

Behold, a few of the coolest capsule hotels around the world.

1. Anshin Oyado, Japan

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock (5826515b) Capsule bedrooms 'Anshin Oyado' luxury capsule hotel, Tokyo, Japan - 07 Aug 2016 Anshin Oyado luxury capsule hotel located within 3-minutes of the busy Shinjuku station, Tokyo, Japan. The new take on the traditional Japanese capsule hotel offers larger capsules, free artificial hot springs & mist sauna, internet cafe and Wi-Fi. This hotel is male only and rates start at 5480 yen (54USD). Each of the hotel's 256 capsules is equipped with fire alarm, air conditioner, tablet computer and flat-screen TV. Public areas such as the hot springs bath, laundromat, clothing shop and snack and drinks vending machines are open 24 hours. The hotel's website is in Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese and welcomes male foreign travellers as well as Japanese businessmen who have missed their last train home.
(Picture: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock)

A new luxurious take on the capsule hotel, set up just three minutes from Shinjuku station in Tokyo.

This one’s a little fancier than the average. Each capsule room has an air conditioner, tablet computer, and a flat-screen TV provided inside (along with a cosy futon style bed, of course), and all guests can enjoy full use of free artificial hot springs and a misting sauna.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock (5826515c) Capsule bedrooms 'Anshin Oyado' luxury capsule hotel, Tokyo, Japan - 07 Aug 2016 Anshin Oyado luxury capsule hotel located within 3-minutes of the busy Shinjuku station, Tokyo, Japan. The new take on the traditional Japanese capsule hotel offers larger capsules, free artificial hot springs & mist sauna, internet cafe and Wi-Fi. This hotel is male only and rates start at 5480 yen (54USD). Each of the hotel's 256 capsules is equipped with fire alarm, air conditioner, tablet computer and flat-screen TV. Public areas such as the hot springs bath, laundromat, clothing shop and snack and drinks vending machines are open 24 hours. The hotel's website is in Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese and welcomes male foreign travellers as well as Japanese businessmen who have missed their last train home.
(Picture: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock)

There’s also a laundromat, shop, and places to get snacks – all open 24 hours of the day.

 

2. Sleepbox, Moscow

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Sleepbox Moscow)

Sleepbox in Moscow is the best option for anyone who wants an entirely fuss-free stay. There are no gimmicks here. No arty stuff. No dust-ruffles.

Just sleek pods where you sleep and shared bathrooms.

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Sleepbox Moscow)

Simple.

 

3. Book and Bed, Tokyo

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Book and Bed Tokyo)

Okay, book-lovers. Behold your dream holiday destination.

Book and Bed is a bookshop-themed hotel in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighbourhood. It’s home to thousands of books for you to buy and read, and each capsule room (there are two sizes to choose from, ‘compact’ or ‘standard’) is tucked away within bookshelves.

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Book and Bed Tokyo)

The rooms themselves are pretty bare, with just a futon bed, a pillow, and – of course – a reading light.

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Book and Bed Tokyo)

 

4. Bloc Hotel, London Gatwick

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Bloc Hotel)

Small, perfectly formed rooms with enough room for a proper hotel bed. Snazzy.

This one is a few steps from Gatwick’s departure lounge, so it’s best suited for those who need a place to rest their head between travels, rather than anyone looking for a week-long holiday in a cosy capsule.

 

5. Hotel Sleeps, Tokyo

XX coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Hotel Sleeps)

For men only (sorry, fellow women), Hotel Sleeps is one of the original capsule hotels, made up of hundreds of pods filled with just a bed.

There’s also a whisky bar, which we’d recommend visiting if you start feeling a little claustrophobic, and a manga library.

 

6. CityHub, Amsterdam

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: CityHub Amsterdam)

CityHub just looks cool, no?

The pod hotel has a super futuristic vibe, complete with slotting bunk beds, touch-screens dotted around the building, an interactive app that instantly registers all hotel guests, and a digital concierge – all in the middle of the city’s centre.

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: CityHub Amsterdam)

 

7. 9 Hours, Narita Airport, Kyoto, Japan

XX coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: 9 Hours)

Looks so pared-back it’s a bit military-esque, sure, but 9 Hours is actually a pretty special spot.

Each pod has been designed for optimal sleep, featuring a special extra-supportive pillow, a mattress made with ‘Breath Air’ material, and a ‘Sleep Ambient Control System’ – essentially a gentle alarm clock that replicates the light of dawn to slowly wake you up each morning.

9 Hours also rents out its pods for naps, if you don’t fancy a full-on stay.

 

8. Cabana, Osaka, Japan

coolest capsule hotels
Credit: Cabana

Cosy looking beds in simple, compact rooms. There’s an open-air bar on the roof to escape to when you feel a bit cramped.

 

9. The Jane Hotel, New York

coolest capsule hotels
Credit: The Jane Hotel, NYC

The Jane Hotel’s 50-square-foot rooms were inspired by the compartments on old-school sleeper trains.

Then hotel overlooks the Hudson River, so you’ll have some great views from your bed.

 

10. YOTELAIR, Heathrow Airport

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: YOTELAIR)

Another spot that’s best if you’re just making a quick stop between destinations, YOTELAIR adds the handy benefit of a little work area along with your bed, flatscreen TV, and free wifi.

 

11. Pod Hotel, New York

Picture: Pod Hotels)
(Picture: Pod Hotels)

Basically the best way to stay in New York if you’re on a budget.

For a capsule hotel, the rooms are actually fairly spacious, and there’s a fancy bar on the rooftop where you can look out at the city.

 

12. CAPSULE by Container, Malaysia

Picture: Tripadvisor)
(Picture: Tripadvisor)

Your standard capsule hotel, basically: cosy rooms with just a tiny bit of space next to a single bed.

CAPSULE does provide you with slippers, which is a nice touch.

 

13. CitizenM Hotel, Amsterdam

picture: TripAdvisor)
(Picture: TripAdvisor)

Described as a ‘capsule hotel for hipsters’ on TripAdvisor, these are simple, soothing cream rooms filled from wall to wall with a large double bed.

 

 

The world’s most extreme tourist attractions revealed

Most people like to do something a bit wild on holiday: a spot of surfing perhaps or skiing a red run.

But for those who want a genuine adrenaline rush, the activities below ought to keep them happy.

A new infographic reveals the most blood-pumping, heart-pounding adventures out there, from bungee jumping into a volcano to camping on cliff faces and “horse boarding” to cycling Bolivia’s “Death Road” (which I’ve done – see the pic to prove it!)

ned-on-death-road-boliviaThe infographic has been produced by TravelSupermarket and claims to offer something to suit everyone, even the most demanding thrill-seeker.

But it needn’t cost a fortune: the cheapest experience is just £8 ($10) riding the Mieders Alpine Rollercoaster in Austria, where you’ll rush down a track at speeds of up to 40kph, taking in 40 hairpin bends and dropping 640 vertical metres.


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Just £20 ($25) buys you a SCAD diving experience in Soweto, South Africa, where you’ll freefall backwards 50m (165 feet) – no bungee rope or parachute – and reaching up to 100kph.

But if money and bravery are no object, try the world’s most expensive (and some would say crazy) bungee jump – from a helicopter skid bar into the crater of Chile’s still active Villarrica volcano.  If you survive that (and paying the bill – a whopping $16,000), you’ll get to spend five nights in a five-star luxury hotel – and get a teeshirt to boot; so all in all extreme value then!

“Obviously, some of these adventures are not for the faint-hearted,” says Emma Coulthurst from TravelSupermarket.  “But sometimes it’s good to get a little bit out of your comfort zone.  And one thing’s for sure – you’ll definitely have a holiday to remember!”

So, if you fancy lake bombing, cliff camping and generally taking on the most challenging activities in the world, this is definitely the list for you…!

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This beats the Swiss Army Knife any day!

Finally – the ultimate boys’ toys: Texas-based Wazoo Survival Gear has launched the ultimate travel belt.  This super-stylish accessory features more than 24 cleverly-secreted tools, including duct tape, fishing hooks and bandages.  It was unveiled via Kickstarter and reached its funding goals in under two hours.  Thanks guys – this is DEFO on my Christmas list!   – Ned


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The Cache Belt is the world’s most functional travel and adventure belt. It’s versatile enough to take you from the boardroom to the backwoods of Borneo and combines the highest grade components with a sleek, goes-with-anything look. Best of all, it features a “hook and loop” enclosure over two feet long that’s fully customizable. From carrying some extra Euros on the streets of Amsterdam, to packing a compass and signaling mirror up a volcano in Nicaragua, we’ve tested this belt all around the world and we’re confident you’ll agree: this is the ultimate everyday and travel accessory.

Always be prepared: If you've ripped your trousers or cut yourself, you can simply patch up the damage with some needle and thread thanks to the stylish tool-loaded belt

Light bulb moment: Makers say they came up with the idea for a slick multi-tool belt in 2014

Fit for the job: The Cache Belt was unveiled on September 20 via Kickstarter (above, all of the tools that the fashion accessory can carry when fully loaded)

 

 

 

 

5 Weird Things That Happen To Your Body When You Fly

From Bustle.  Scary!


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Whether you’re a travel enthusiast or not, anyone who has ever flown before knows that weird things can happen to your body when you fly. When you’re actually sitting on a plane, you might not even realize the effect the flight is having on you — but it totally makes an impact. Sure, everyone knows that when you fly into a new time zone or have to catch a red-eye flight, you’re likely to feel exhausted for a day or two; jet lag is no fun. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that not only can flying can actually affect the way your body functions and feels.

Of course, if you have real fears about flying, or have specific medical concerns that can cause complications while flying, don’t hesitate to talk to a medical professional before you hit the skies. Your health and comfort is super important, even if other people don’t face the same challenges you do when it comes to flying. When it comes to your body, knowledge is always power; knowing how your trip might affect your body before you board might help you better predict and handle the possible side effects of being in the air.

That said, though, even your average, everyday human experiences some pretty weird things while flying. Here are five of them:

1. Your Taste Buds Become Dull

We’ve all heard the running jokes that airline food is bland and tasteless, but some research shows that it might not actually be the food that’s at fault. A 2010 study conducted by Lufthansa suggests that when you fly, the dry air in the plane can cause your nasal mucus to evaporate and your membranes to swell, both of which can impact your taste buds. In the same study, researchers found that when we’re in the air, our perceptions of sweet and saltiness can drop by as much as 30 percent. No wonder our food tastes bland when we’re flying.

2. Air Pressure Can Impact Your Teeth

According to Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S., writing for the Huffington Post, changes in air pressure that occur during a flight can cause tiny pockets of gas to get trapped within your dental fillings or areas of decay, which can result in a whole lot of pain. I for one had never considered how flying can impact my teeth, but this is one factoid that isn’t going to leave my mind!

3. Your Skin Loses Moisture

If you’ve ever walked off of a flight and wondered if your skin felt unusually dry and tight, you’re not alone. Between the dry, recirculated air and the cabin pressure, moisture leaves the skin of most people while they’re flying. While you can always apply lotion or other products to your skin, hydration is actually key here, not only to add moisture back to your skin, but also for your overall health. So drink plenty of water while you’re in the air!

4. Flying May Cause Gas To Expand In Your Body

As planes rise and cabin pressures drop, it’s common for gas to spread through our intestines. Gas fluctuations in your body can become painful and cause bloating, so it’s important to relieve yourself in the bathroom if you experience this. Interestingly, these gas fluctuations can also impact your ears. You know how you feel the need to “pop” your ears when flying? That’s generally due to the air not pressuring properly, due to the aforementioned gas fluctuations.

5. Flying Exposes You To UV Rays

Some scientific studies have actually revealed some real risks in flying when it comes to your skin. In a study that looked at cases of melanoma in flight attendants and pilots, researchers discovered that flight crews have more than double the chance of developing melanoma than the general population. The study suggests that this may be because when you’re flying, you’re exposed to stronger UV rays and the windows in planes may not sufficiently protect you from them. Don’t forget the sunblock!

 

 

Flight of Fancy or Safe as Houses..?

Ukrainian inventor Vladimir Tatarenko has come up with a concept for a plane with a cabin that can eject itself in the event of an aviation emergency. Some experts questions whether it's viable.

It might be the wildest aviation idea since Da Vinci’s flying machine, but the detachable plane cabin might also be more than an awesome and radical breakthrough in technology; it might be able to save lives. And in case you haven’t yet heard what a detachable plane cabin is, the name should be an indicator, though I can’t blame you if it lets your imagination run wild for a moment.

So, what exactly is it? For starters, it got put on the map by Ukrainian inventor and aviation engineer Vladimir Tatarenko, who worked in special commissions for Antonov, an aircraft manufacturing company in Kyiv. Tatarenko often worked on the scene of accidents, where he says he started thinking about human error and the extent to which they lead to accidents.

“Looking at these horrible scenes and knowing the statistics of crashes, I came to certain conclusions,” Tatarenko told Ukranian news outlet, ain.ua. “People are wrong about air disasters, because some 80 percent of them happen due to human error.”

The engineer and inventor received a patent for the novel idea that involves parachutes, a detachable plane cabin, and an increased chance of a safe landing in the event of an accident. If an emergency landing was needed, a pilot could push a button that would release the cabin from the rest of the plane. The design does not yet have a safety provision for the pilot.

When the cabin detaches from the plane, parachutes would launch, and inflatable tubes on the bottom of the cabin are also part of the design. Sounding like a scene straight out of a James Bond film, the parachutes would automatically open once the cabin was ejected, aiding the cabin to safety on ground or water. And of course, as people would not just be concerned about their safety, the cargo is also taken into account, with the current design reportedly including a spot for the luggage, at the bottom of the cabin.

Of course there are some critics and many on social media who are understandably skeptical of such an idea. Some main points include the fact that in the absence of a pilot or someone to steer the cabin in a particular direction, the cabin could in effect land anywhere, and could possibly hit buildings or even mountains if the plane was flying over such terrain. Other comments mention a predictable hike in cost and amount of fuel needed, as well as the plausible idea that such additions could weaken the airframe because joints and fittings would separate what was once a solid fuselage.

Plane crashes, while not a common occurrence, sadly happen yearly. There were 137 plane crashes in 2013, 122 in 2014, and in 2015, there were 121 crashes with 898 reported fatalities, according to the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. And the idea of a detachable cabin could be solution to the dangers that come with airplane accidents.

Since the idea is still in the design phase, it is still too early to say whether the design is feasible or just a fantasy, but the idea is definitely intriguing.

 

 

The abandoned mansions of billionaires

One of the most fascinating, recently man-made places on the planet IMHO, Shekhawati is an area in north-east Rajasthan, that huge arid state of northern India which was home to the ancient Rajput princes and now includes the cities of Jaipur (formerly Dhundhar), Jodhpur (Marwar) and Bikaner.   I am lucky enough to have trekked around the region in 2014 and cannot wait to go back.

Rajasthan’s formerly independent kingdoms created a rich architectural and cultural heritage, seen even today in their numerous forts and palaces (mahals and havelis) which are enriched by features of Islamic and Jain architecture.

The development of frescoes in Rajasthan is linked with the history of the Marwaris (Jodhpur-pali), who played a crucial role in the economic development of the region; many wealthy families throughout Indian history have links to Marwar.

The haveli is unique to this part of the world.  Between 1830 and 1930, the Marwari merchants erected extravagant mansions in their homeland (Shekhawati and Marwar) and commissioned artists to paint elaborate murals which were heavily influenced by Mughal architecture.

The havelis were status symbols for the Marwaris as well as homes for their extended families, providing security and comfort in seclusion from the outside world.  The havelis were closed on all sides with just one large main gate.

Sadly, most of Shekhawati’s havelis have fallen into disrepair and remain abandoned due to the understandably exorbitant upkeep costs; however, a small window into the world of these painted mansions is finally being preserved.  In this piece for BBC Travel, Neelima Vallangi paints us a stunning picture.


A former home of opulence

A former home of opulence
Forgotten in the barren landscapes of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert, the Shekhawati region was once home to the unabashed extravagance of India’s billionaires. Today, many of the billionaires’ grand havelis (mansions) are crumbling – the fading frescoes marking the only vestiges of the area’s vanished glory.

Drenching the dusty towns in colour

Drenching the dusty towns in colour
With paintings covering nearly every inch of the grand havelis, the towns and villages of Shekhawati encompass the world’s largest concentration of magnificent frescoes in a single region. To protect these once grand estates from crumbling further, two districts within Shekhawati have banned the sale of the havelis to anyone who could harm their heritage look. Their aim is to conserve and promote Shekhawati as a tourist destination.

Modest merchant homes gave way to grand mansions

The rise of merchant success
Founded by the eponymous Rajput chieftain Rao Shekha in the late 15th Century, Shekhawati prospered immensely at the turn of the 19th Century. The region reduced taxes to lure merchants and diverted all caravan trade from the nearby commercial centres of Jaipur and Bikaner. Merchants belonging to the Marwari and Bania community, a renowned ethnic trading group in India, moved into Shekhawati from the surrounding towns, and amassed great wealth through a  flourishing trade in opium, cotton and spices. Modest merchant homes started giving way to grand mansions by the end of the 19th Century.

Havelis acted as lavish displays of wealth

Where wealth melds with artistic expression
When trade moved from caravan routes to sea routes and railways in the 1820s, Rajasthan’s trade centres were on a steady decline. However, the enterprising merchants of Shekhawati followed the money trail and moved to the fledgling port towns of Bombay and Calcutta on the Indian coast, sending back enormous amounts of money to their homes in Shekhawati and thus heralding an era of uniquely painted havelis that acted as lavish displays of wealth.

Most Havelis were built in a similar architectural style – usually two storied buildings with two to four open courtyards arranged within a rectangular block. Each courtyard and the corresponding rooms were designated for specific purposes. The first courtyard after entering the house was for men and their business dealings, the second was for women and the other two were for cooking and animal stables. But the merchants left no stone unturned in giving their mansions a distinct look, with ornately carved wooden entrances, pompous mirror work and the defining differentiator: ostentatious paintings depicting daily life and mythology.

Frescoes adorn every surface

Frescoes adorn every surface
Inspired by the 17th-century ochre frescoes introduced by the Rajput kings of Jaipur in Amer Fort, the merchants commissioned intricate paintings on every inch of the mansion walls – including exteriors, interiors, ceilings and even the spaces under the arches and eaves. Scenes from the ancient Hindu epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana – along with plenty of decorative floral designs and patterns – were the most common motifs featured in the frescoes for a large part of the 19th Century.

Painters were commissioned to paint havelis

A wide range of colours
Painters were first commissioned from the city of Jaipur, but after noticing a rising interest in frescoes, members from the potter community in Shekhawati started learning the craft and created a proliferation of distinct styles across different villages. It is not entirely clear if the artists had full reign over the designs or if they were given specific instructions in choosing patterns and mythological scenes.

Before the mid-19th Century, traditional pigments made from minerals and vegetables dominated the colour palette, with intense shades of reds, maroons, indigo, lapis lazuli and copper blue along with bright yellow supposedly made out cow’s urine. Starting in the 1860s, synthetic pigments came into use, which were cheaper and offered a wide range of new colours.

Frescoes in havelis began depicting European influences

Mixing myth and the modern
By the early 20th Century, the frescoes began depicting European influences and modern advancements – recollections from what the well-travelled merchants had seen in the big cities. In some rare cases, the painters were sent to observe and recreate the scenes. Among the traditional motifs, there are frescoes of Queen Elizabeth, Jesus, cherubs, steam engines and gramophones, as well as whacky creations mixing mythology with modern inventions, such as Hindu gods in chauffeur-driven cars (pictured).

Havelis were abandoned for good after the 20th Century

Abandoned for good
The havelis and frescoes of Shekhawati blossomed until the early 20th Century; after which, the rich business tycoons left the desert wasteland for better opportunities in bustling metropolises like Bombay and Calcutta and even abroad. After the trade moved elsewhere, there was little development in the arid lands of Shekhawati, and the havelis were abandoned for good.

Some of the biggest names in the Indian and global business scene today – including the likes of the steel baron Laxmi Mittal, Kumar Birla of Aditya Birla Group, pharmaceutical billionaire Ajay Piramal and Nepal’s only billionaire, Binod K Chaudhary, had their origins in the villages of Shekhawati. In fact, according to Forbes, almost 25% of India’s 100 richest were from Shekhawati.

By the 1950s, havelis were falling into steady despair

The high cost of upkeep
By the 1950s, the thriving towns that had raised these billionaires were falling into steady despair. Selling or renovating these rural family bungalows – some of which could house up to 50 families at once – is a difficult job. The cost of upkeep is high and many of the properties, usually shared between multiple heirs, are embroiled in legal disputes. But since havelis are private properties, the government cannot do much to preserve them.

A new life for the Shekhawati mansions

A new life for the Shekhawati mansions
Luckily, the beauty and cultural significance of these painted havelis is not lost on everyone. In 1999, French artist Nadine Le Prince bought the 1802-built Nand Lal Devra Haveli (now called Nadine Le Prince Cultural Centre) and painstakingly restored it to its former glory in the town of Fatehpur. In the neighbouring towns of Dunlod and Nawalgarh, Seth Arjun Das Goenka Haveli and Shri Jairam Dasji Morarka’s family mansions have also been restored and turned into museums for public viewings. A few other havelis-turned-museums are scattered in the hinterlands of Shekhawati, and some like Malji ka Kamra, Koolwal Kothi and Castle Mandawa have been turned into heritage hotels.

While some of the havelis may crumble and fall apart – their glory lives on in others.

 

All photos by Neelima Vallangi

 

 

 

38 Wonderful Foreign Words we could use in English

Here’s something different:-

I try to pick up some of the foreign lingo whenever I’m somewhere new – Hello, Goodbye, How are you? and Thank you at the very least.  But this awesome info from Mental Floss gives us soooo much more.  Ungefährlich !    – Ned


Sometimes we must turn to other languages to find le mot juste. Here are a whole bunch of foreign words with no direct English equivalent.

Photo: Getty

1. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

2. Shemomedjamo (Georgian)
You know when you’re really full, but your meal is just so delicious, you can’t stop eating it? The Georgians feel your pain. This word means, “I accidentally ate the whole thing.”

3. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

4. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.

5. Backpfeifengesicht (German)
A face badly in need of a fist.

6. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.

7. Pelinti (Buli, Ghana)
Your friend bites into a piece of piping hot pizza, then opens his mouth and sort of tilts his head around while making an “aaaarrrahh” noise. The Ghanaians have a word for that. More specifically, it means “to move hot food around in your mouth.”

8. Greng-jai (Thai)
That feeling you get when you don’t want someone to do something for you because it would be a pain for them.

9. Mencolek (Indonesian)
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it.

10. Faamiti (Samoan)
To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.

11. Gigil (Filipino)
The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.

12. Yuputka (Ulwa)
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.

13. Zhaghzhagh (Persian)
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.

14. Vybafnout (Czech)
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.

15. Fremdschämen (German); Myötähäpeä (Finnish)
The kinder, gentler cousins of Schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to “vicarious embarrassment.”

16. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”

17. Pålegg (Norwegian)
Sandwich Artists unite! The Norwegians have a non-specific descriptor for anything – ham, cheese, jam, Nutella, mustard, herring, pickles, Doritos, you name it – you might consider putting into a sandwich.

18. Layogenic (Tagalog)
Remember in Clueless when Cher describes someone as “a full-on Monet…from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess”? That’s exactly what this word means.

19. Bakku-shan (Japanese)
Or there’s this Japanese slang term, which describes the experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.

20. Seigneur-terraces (French)
Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.

21. Ya’arburnee (Arabic)
This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, may you bury me.

22. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian)
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.

23. Slampadato (Italian)
Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.

24. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” OK, we do have “overmorrow” in English, but when was the last time someone used that?

25. Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese)
Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for “tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair.”

26. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.

27. Kaelling (Danish)
You know that woman who stands on her doorstep (or in line at the supermarket, or at the park, or in a restaurant) cursing at her children? The Danes know her, too.

28. Boketto (Japanese)
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.

29. L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
Literally, stairwell wit—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.

30. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish)
A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.

31. Packesel (German)
The packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.

32. Hygge (Danish)
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.

33. Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. Translates to “reheated cabbage.”

34. Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing dream. Not just a “good” dream; the opposite of a nightmare.

35. Litost (Czech)
Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”

36. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense.

37 & 38. Schlemiel and schlimazel (Yiddish)
Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it’s spilled.

 

 

Travelling the World: most common FAQs – Part III

I’m a huge fan of Chris Guillebeau: his travels, his philosophy and his website.  Chris has travelled to every country in the world and now devotes his time to motivational speaking, writing, travelling for pleasure and sharing his story of how to change the world by achieving personal goals while helping others at the same time.

All the writing on Chris’s site is presented freely with no outside advertising.  If you’d like to support the project, pass it on to someone who might be interested…

Ned


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Chris’s story:

I’m no longer going to every country in the world (mission accomplished), but I’m still traveling at least 200,000 miles a year.

As such, I get a lot of questions over and over, both from people who want to travel far and wide and those who just want to learn a few things to make their lives easier.

This series of three posts provides some attempted As to the Qs.

This is part III; here’s part I and here’s part II.


  • When using points or miles for flights, how far in advance do you have to book?

The best answer is “it depends,” but of course that’s not helpful on its own. The factors it depends on include the airline you’re hoping to fly on, your specific destination, season, and class of service.

Here are some general points that may help:

1. A lot of award seats open up as travel approaches. This is especially true on some of my favorite airlines and routings. Cathay Pacific First Class, for example, is hard to book in advance, but very regularly shows up within a week of departure.

2. If the airline agent says there’s no availability, make sure that he or she is really looking for it. Ask them to search segment by segment. Ask if they’ve checked all available partners. Ask if they have any other ideas. Lastly, if you’re not getting the answer you think you should, hang up and call back. It may just be a question of reaching a more helpful person.

3. In some cases, you may be successful convincing an agent to open up availability when there isn’t supposed to be anything bookable with miles. This outcome is more likely when you just need a single segment to complete your trip. Having elite status also goes a long way in getting exceptions like these.


  • Where should I stay?

In 15 years of regular, active travel I’ve stayed in all sorts of accommodations: hostels, guesthouses, strangers’ couches, and no shortage of airport floors, to name a few. These days I’m more of a hotel loyalist, especially with Starwood and Hyatt (and to a lesser extent with Hilton and IHG).

When you’re first starting out, you have a lot of options to choose from. To start with the above:

Hostels or guesthouses: check HostelWorld.com or HostelBookings.com

Independent lodging: check Airbnb.com

Strangers’ couches: check Couchsurfing.org

Hotels: check directly on the website for the hotel chain you’re interested in, or search IBCHotels.com for independent hotels

(Tip: if you care about loyalty programs, don’t book chain hotels using Hotels.com or similar agencies. You won’t earn benefits or nights toward elite status.)


  • What is your #1 recommendation for travel and travel planning?

#1 recommendation for travel in general: do it! Take your first international trip (or your first major trip, wherever it is) as soon as you can.

#1 recommendation for travel planning: learn more about the world. Read the Economist. Get a map and become familiar with the major regions. Pick a few countries or cultures you’re interested in visiting.

#1 recommendation for travel hacking: if possible, get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It’s the single best credit card for both an immediate bonus and strong ongoing benefits. I use mine every day.

Bonus: Join the Travel Hacking Cartel or read up on Frequent Flyer forums to help with earning points.

Then, put all these things together and refer back to recommendation #1: do it!


  • What’s your favorite country?

I don’t have a favorite! Everyone asks, but I really don’t. If forced to pick a single country, I’d pick Australia, where I try to visit at least once a year.

But there are lots of other places I like, too. Among others: Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Ghana, South Africa, Jordan, Macedonia, Lithuania, and the list goes on.

I mostly just like traveling. I like being in motion.

I also like planning trips almost as much as I like going on them. For me, travel is a lifestyle, and I have no plans to stop traveling anytime soon.

***

This concludes the series… but definitely not the traveling. Wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well, and I hope to see you on the road sometime!

 

 

 

Travelling the World: most common FAQs – Part II

I’m a huge fan of Chris Guillebeau: his travels, his philosophy and his website.  Chris has travelled to every country in the world and now devotes his time to motivational speaking, writing, travelling for pleasure and sharing his story of how to change the world by achieving personal goals while helping others at the same time.

All the writing on Chris’s site is presented freely with no outside advertising.  If you’d like to support the project, pass it on to someone who might be interested…

Ned


https://i0.wp.com/chrisguillebeau.com/files/2016/07/mountain.jpg

Chris’s story:

I’m no longer going to every country in the world (mission accomplished), but I’m still traveling at least 200,000 miles a year.

As such, I get a lot of questions over and over, both from people who want to travel far and wide and those who just want to learn a few things to make their lives easier.

This series of three posts provides some attempted As to the Qs.


  • Why travel? What’s the point?

Have you ever done something that brought joy to your life, even if other people thought it was stupid or just didn’t understand it? Well, that’s what travel does for me.

At first it was about discovery. Being out in the world, I felt different. I felt alive. Something had changed and it was intoxicating. The more I saw of the planet, the more I wanted to see.

Then it was about challenge: I wanted to go everywhere! I set a quest to visit every country in the world, and I accomplished that goal in 2013.

I didn’t stop after making it to country 193 of 193, though. Now it’s about lifestyle—it brings me joy, so I keep doing it.


  • How do you manage to work from the road?

Short answer: my work is my life, and it goes with me everywhere. As a general rule, if I’m in a city where I want to sightsee or explore, I’ll work through the morning and then take off for an adventure of some kind in the afternoon. Then I usually have another work session before dinner.

I like my work, so it’s not something I need to escape from. Also, my work enables me to travel. I’m not independently wealthy, so I couldn’t travel indefinitely without producing an income—and neither would I want to.

I also take a lot of long flights, where I have 8 hours or more to catch up on neglected emails and plan the next steps for my projects.


  • Can anyone do this? 

I’m well aware that traveling is easier for those of us who have passports from rich countries (U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European Union, some Asian countries, etc.). However, this community also has a lot of independent travelers from countries ranging from India to Iran. Visas may be more of a challenge, but it’s certainly not only Americans who can venture outside their homeland.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you can access much of the world of travel. There are plenty of people in the world who can’t do that, of course. But most of them don’t read this blog, or any blog for that matter.


  • What’s the best way to book flights? 

The best way depends on lots of factors, but here’s a simple way: use Google flights to check a whole month’s worth of options at once.

Next, use Skiplagged (more info in this post) to check on hidden-city ticketing options.

Those two sources are decent enough to get a quick look at basic paid (cash) fares. But for more significant trips, or if the price is higher than you’d like, you should also search for award travel.

Searching for award travel is a little more complicated. If you only have miles or points in one program, that’s easy enough—you just go to that program’s website and search from there. Note that results for all available partner airlines may not be displayed online, so in that case, you’ll need to call.

If you’ve been building miles & points balances for a while (and you should be!), then you’ll have a few different options. My “go-to” award searches include:

  • United.com (for awards on Star Alliance partners) – Earn miles through Chase Ultimate Rewards, especially the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card
  • Aeroplan (also for awards on Star Alliance partners) – Earn miles through American Express Membership Rewards, especially the Premier Rewards and the Platinum cards
  • AA.com (for awards on American Airlines and OneWorld partners) – Earn miles through AA Citi cards, BankDirect, and ongoing promotions

There are other options, of course, but searching those sites will help at least 75% of the time.

***

I hope that’s helpful—part I is here and stay tuned for part III!

 

 

Photos courtesy of unsplash.com

Travelling the World: most common FAQs – Part I

I’m a huge fan of Chris Guillebeau: his travels, his philosophy and his website.  Chris has travelled to every country in the world and now devotes his time to motivational speaking, writing, travelling for pleasure and sharing his story of how to change the world by achieving personal goals while helping others at the same time.

All the writing on Chris’s site is presented freely with no outside advertising.  If you’d like to support the project, pass it on to someone who might be interested…

Ned


https://i1.wp.com/chrisguillebeau.com/files/2016/07/boat.jpg

Chris’s story:

I’m no longer going to every country in the world (mission accomplished), but I’m still traveling at least 200,000 miles a year.

As such, I get a lot of questions over and over, both from people who want to travel far and wide and those who just want to learn a few things to make their lives easier.

This series of three posts provides some attempted As to the Qs.


  • How did you get the idea to go everywhere?

I remember it very clearly: I was on a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau, during my first big independent trip after ending a four-year volunteer commitment in West Africa. I had two weeks until my graduate program started in Seattle, so I went to Asia.

On that trip I visited several countries, including Burma and Vietnam. I loved the rush I felt from crossing borders and arriving in a new setting.

I’d been working on my initial goal of visiting 100 countries for a while. But on that ferry, I suddenly started thinking about a much bigger goal: every country in the world, no exceptions.

The more I thought about it, the more it stayed with me. I still had my graduate program to complete (at that time I hadn’t even started!) but over the next year I continued to travel during breaks, as well as map out an initial 5-year plan that would begin on my 30th birthday just as I approached graduation.


  • How would someone else get started?

This is an even better question!

Start with picking a place. It doesn’t much matter where; just pick somewhere. As a general idea, Latin America and Southeast Asia (broadly speaking) are great places to start if you’ve never traveled outside of a more westernized country.

Find a way to go somewhere—traveling is not the same as reading about traveling. Spend at least a week in a foreign country or region. Hotels are fine (I stay in hotels a lot these days), but if possible stay in a hostel or guesthouse at least part of the time. Take a walking tour—usually easy to find through a quick online search or by asking upon arrival—to learn more about the history and culture of the place.

After you’ve had an initial experience or two, you may want to get more serious about making travel part of your lifestyle. As soon as you’re back home (if not before…), start planning your next trip.

It’s also good to learn about logistics. Will you need a visa for your chosen country? Can you earn miles & points and use those to lower the cost and open new opportunities?


  • Do you worry about safety?

I don’t “worry” about it but I do pay attention to it, just as I do in my hometown or pretty much anywhere. I take basic precautions. I don’t tell strangers where I’m staying or exactly what I’m doing in any particular place. I wear casual clothes. In many parts of the world, I can’t really “blend it” but I do always try to be respectful and polite.

Bad things can happen at home or abroad. Lots of good things can happen too, of course.

That said, there are a few countries I wouldn’t visit today, at least in the current world order. For example, during the initial quest my favorite country in the middle east was Syria. I have good memories of my visit to Damascus, traveling overland from Beirut and staying in a guesthouse in the heart of the old city. Unfortunately, such a thing is not advisable now.

Aside from a few situations like those, though, most of the world is perfectly safe.


  • How do you pay for your trips?

Check the archives—I’ve been writing about this question since 2008. 🙂

Short version:

1. I choose to prioritize and invest in life experiences, including travel.

2. Travel hacking greatly helps to lower overall costs.

These two strategies work hand-in-hand. It’s kind of like the old axiom about having more money: to achieve that goal, you can either earn more or spend less.

For me, if I was forced to choose between travel and, well, just about any other “unnecessary” expense, I’d choose travel.

Secondly, as I’ve continued to learn about travel hacking, I’ve been able to earn more and more miles, and also put them to better use. It’s actually a lot easier for me now that I’m not trying to get to places like Tonga, Kyrgyzstan, and East Timor. Going to London or Bangkok is a piece of cake.


  • How do you travel without speaking 20 languages?

You can travel to huge parts of the world without speaking any language other than English. Let me be clear: learning languages is great! And being respectful and not assuming that everyone else speaks English is critical.

Still, if you don’t speak a lot of languages, it needn’t keep you at home. You can usually find the help you need. I’ve been helped many times by strangers all over the world, often without any common language.

Besides, it’s fun to feel disoriented. That’s part of what’s interesting about travel. So yes, do practice your conjugated verbs, but don’t wait to buy plane tickets to your preferred destination.

***

Stay tuned for parts II and III!

 

 

Photos courtesy of unsplash.com

 

 

Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel around the World

Chris Guillebeau (pronounced Gil-a-beau) is a traveller and blogger.  He set himself a huge challenge ten years ago to visit every country in the world… and he succeeded.  He now splits his time between motivational speaking, travelling for the sheer joy of it and running his cool website The Art of Non-Conformity (AONC), “a home for unconventional people doing remarkable things” whose sole purpose is “to share the story of how to change the world by achieving personal goals while helping others at the same time.  In the battle against conventional beliefs, we focus on three core areas: Life, Work, and Travel“.

As a serial trekker he has frequently been asked about his travel bug and I think he’s given some great answers here…


Image: Tiffani

It happens to me every time I travel overseas. I talk with people who hear about where I’m going, and they always say the same thing: “That sounds amazing! I wish I could do that.”

My reply is always the same: “What’s keeping you from it?”

I’m not being judgmental; I’m just trying to figure out what people’s motivations and priorities are. There really could be a good reason why someone doesn’t travel much, but the responses I hear back is usually variations of these answers:

  • “I don’t have money to travel.”

Fair enough if it’s true, but for many people who say this, it would be better to say, “I’ve chosen to spend money on a lot of other things, so now I don’t have money to travel.” America is a country of great wealth, and many of us living here throw things away every week that would be prized possessions to lots of other people. If that sounds a little soapbox to you, read this New York Times article.

We choose what we value, either consciously or unconsciously.

Many people, young and old, have no problem happily spending their money and even going into debt for luxuries each week. I’ve chosen to focus my own spending priorities on meaningful experiences.

One time someone told me that she couldn’t give to a charity event because she did not believe in going into debt, and that her husband believed that a pledge to give money was effectively a debt. I must have surprised the person making the comment, because I agreed and said that I also believe in living a completely debt-free lifestyle.

She nodded and said, “Yeah, we don’t have any debt either right now. Well, just the two cars… and the student loan… and the credit card… and of course, the mortgage doesn’t count.”

I was too shocked to say much of anything in response to that statement.

  • “The rest of the world is dangerous.”

Most people don’t come out and say it that way, but that’s what they mean. “If I leave home, something terrible will go wrong.” Aside from the fact that bad things can happen in your own country just as easily as anywhere else, there are very few places in the world that are outright hostile to visitors.

The more you travel, the more you realize you are at least as safe in many places around the world as you are at home. Sure, you probably shouldn’t plan a trip to Baghdad or Mogadishu right now, but the list of inhospitable places is really short. The list of amazing places is incredibly long, so get started. Intelligent people usually recognize this fear to be somewhat irrational, so as long as you don’t let it keep you home, it’s not worth fighting.

  • “I like staying at home.”

This is another way of saying, “I’m afraid of change and different experiences.” Before you write it off, understand that most of us feel this way at one time or another. It’s just something that needs to be overcome. A small group of people will be brave enough to do it, and the rest will stay home, never venturing out beyond their own culture of comfort. It’s their loss; don’t let it be yours.

  • “I’ll do this kind of stuff when I retire (or at some other distant point in the future).”

I see nothing wrong with the general concept of delayed gratification. I have an IRA, I look both ways when I cross the street, and it’s reasonable to give up something now in expectation of greater future benefit.

What is dangerous, however, is when delayed gratification becomes an excuse for not living the life you want.

How many people do you know that actually do the things they say they are going to when they reach arbitrary ages of leaving the jobs they have given their lives to? Far more common is the downsizing of dreams along the way.

If you want to play golf all day and take your medication at regular intervals, the 40-year career track plan should work well for you. If you have other ideas or ambitions, though, don’t kill yourself as a slave for the future. Instead, go and figure out where you want to travel and do something about it.

4 Important Questions to Ask Yourself:

1) Am I satisfied with my work? Does it meet my needs and fulfill my desires?

Your work should not exist merely to provide income for the rest of your life. Ask yourself, what am I working for? Am I working to make a living or to make a life? If your work supports your goals, that’s great. If it doesn’t, maybe it’s time to make a change.

2) Think back to the times you have left your home country. What did you learn on those trips? Do you think you have more to learn?

For me, the more I have traveled, the more I learn, and the more I realize how big the world really is. When I was younger and had spent a fair amount of time abroad, I used to say that I had traveled “all over the world.” More than 60 countries later, I laugh at that idea. There are still many, many countries I have yet to visit, and even after I achieve my goal of visiting every country in the world, there will still be many places within those countries that I still won’t have experienced.

3) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be? (Don’t think about reasons why you can’t go there.)

Brainstorm through the six inhabited continents – Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, North and South America – and think about cities or countries on each of them that you’ve always wondered about. Chances are there’s somewhere, and probably several places, that you’ve always wanted to see.

Finally, while I believe that international travel is not nearly as expensive as the lifestyle many people wear themselves out to maintain, it’s true that it does cost money to travel around the world.

Therefore, you should also understand the answer to this question:

4) What are your financial priorities?

If you don’t know the answer offhand, it’s easy to get it. Just look back at your bank statements, financial software, or credit card statements for the last six months. Whether you like it or not, where you’ve been spending a lot of money is where your priorities are. If you’d like to value experiences more than “stuff,” you may need to make some changes.

***

In future essays, I’ll discuss exactly how you should go about pursuing the goal of world travel – or anything else you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t known how to get started. I’ll also cover the following topics in detail:

  • How to earn money without a job
  • How to achieve great things for yourself while also making a difference in the lives of others
  • How to align your values with your life, reducing stress and ensuring that you are doing the right things the right way
  • How to change the world by rising above the norm of mediocrity

For now, the rest of the story is up to you. Think about the questions and make a plan. What’s that one place – or ten places – you’ve always wanted to go to?

Write it down and stick it to your monitor so you’ll continually be reminded of it.

If you don’t take your own dreams seriously, who will?

 

You can catch up with Chris and get more inspiration at http://chrisguillebeau.com

 

Travel light without the smell?!

This is absolutely the BEST travel hack I’ve seen in ages.

It’s an idea come up with by three lifelong Canadian buddies who love to travel but hate to lug a huge bag around – a perennial bugbear for most of us serial trekkers.

The vast majority of our luggage capacity is taken up with clothes; so wouldn’t it be great to reduce a month’s worth of tees, pants and socks to just two or three items?  Sounds impossible doesn’t it?  Well not with Unbound Apparel.

Thanks to these clever dudes, you can go for weeks – yes weeks – wearing the same clothes WITHOUT THE NEED TO WASH THEM!!  Seriously – you just need one tee, a couple of pairs of pants and the same of socks.

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HOW??  Because they’re made of high-quality Merino wool.  If you didn’t know, it’s wool from sheep that originated in Spain and are now bred all over the world, particularly in the southern hemisphere.  Merino wool is special because it is ultra thin and light, yet ultra warm, anti-bacterial and anti-wrinkle – making it the perfect fabric for travellers.

Until now, Merino has been traditionally used for high-performance active wear.  That means flashy colours, intricate patterns and very athletic fits and functionality.  It also means it’s expensive and hard to find.

But the team has solved these issues by redesigning simple, efficient styles for the modern savvy trekker.

The collection, designed by the Toronto-based company, currently comprises a T-shirt in a choice of two colours and two neck lines, men’s briefs and socks.

Photo: Unbound Apparel

The guys announce:

“We now work with ethical manufacturers in 3 countries, source eco-friendly materials and have established an independent fulfillment operation that ships to countries all over the world.

Unbound is a new venture that solves a problem we’ve had with our own travels. We’ve been working late nights and weekends on refining what we feel is the perfect travel clothing. We’ve been testing our prototypes for months (and all over the world) and it’s changed our lives.”

Here is an example of what one of their prototype shirts has gone through without a single wash:

  • Worn 46 days in a row without exception
  • In that 46 days worn in the gym around 6 or 7 times through heavy cardio (testing the product was the motivation for the gym more so than sheer discipline, they joke)
  • Worn twice in the sauna (they meant it when they said they took this to the limits)
  • Worn to bed some nights and stayed on the body right through the day
  • Taken to Shanghai, Bangkok and Koh Tao, Thailand and worn daily in sweltering 40 degree weather.  (see the Indiegogo video below)

The products have proved such a hit with fellow travellers that the company exceeded its $30,000 crowdfunding goal by over 500% before launch date!!

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Hacks: Travelling Europe for Cheap

Some useful advice from Will Tang at Going Awesome Places


Europe is one of those dream destinations that everyone has on their mind when they think about travel.  When I graduated, the idea of a Eurotrip was the only thing we considered but as you can imagine, we didn’t have a lot of money back then so we had to figure out how to do it on the cheap.  Even today, I’m sure the idea of a trip to Europe flashes dollar signs across your eyes.  So how do you get that trip of your dreams while keeping the costs manageable?  Let me breakdown a few tips that you’ll want to keep in mind as you start planning your itinerary.

Consider Different Parts of Europe

Bilbao Guggenheim: Image via Flickr by tchacky

Europe is a large continent that spans a lot of different countries.  While most of us will gravitate to Western Europe and big cities like London, Paris, and Rome, consider cities and countries that are cheaper to cut costs.

The reason why big cities are expensive is because there are a lot of people living there which drives up the standard of living for locals and because it’s heavily touristed, businesses know they can command a much higher price.  So one big tip is to incorporate lesser known, but not necessarily less interesting or beautiful places in Europe.  For instance, Bilbao, in northern Spain is somewhere that is not along the main tourist path but is one of those not-to-miss cities being the home of the titanium-clad Guggenheim and the successful mix of traditional Basque culture with modern design.

Book Smart Rooms

Airbnb Apartment

Besides transportation, the other big cost to any trip is going to be your accommodations so naturally, you’re going to want to see if you can save money here.  When you’re travelling Europe, there’s really no reason to splurge because you’re never going to be in your room beyond sleeping.  Whether you’re looking for a room in a big city or somewhere smaller like Yaiza, Bordeaux or Luxembourg, make sure you do your research and consider all of your options.

Hostels aren’t only for young backpackers.  There are plenty of private suite rooms available if you’re worried about sharing rooms with someone else.  An added benefit of hostels is that there are lots of people to get travel suggestions from and breakfast is often included.

Airbnb is becoming a popular option these days as well especially if your’e going to be in one place for multiple days.  You can find some great deals here if you’re travelling with a larger group and in prime locations as well.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

There are a ton of different ways to get around in Europe.  It all depends on how spread out your travels are and how fast you need to get from one place to another.

What I love about Europe is that there are so many low cost carrier airlines that often times, flying becomes cheaper than any other option.  I always make sure I check the list of airlines when I plan things out since not all search engines have every single one.  The only disadvantage of flying is that you end up spending extra money getting to and from the airport as well as the time wasted going through things like checking in, security, and boarding.

Depending on how you link things up, it may make sense to look at trains as a way to get around.  This is never a bad option because train stations are always central in cities and the network is so vast that it can take you anywhere you need to go.  If you’re considering trains, make sure you check out the Eurail passes that you can buy beforehand to save lots of money.

Recently, there’s been more tourist-friendly buses made available.  Megabus offers numerous routes within the UK with prices as low as £1.  Another unique option is a new venture called Busabout which provides hop-on and hop-off flexibility, perfect for the independent traveller.

Look for Deals

Iceland Northern Lights

If you’re flexibile in where you want to go, stay on top of travel deals that come up.  For instance, Iceland Air has been making a massive push for travel to Reykjavik, Iceland and they’ve been promoting budget-friendly prices from North America that also allow you to hop into Europe after you’re done your tour there.

How do you stay updated on deals?  Check my own deals page to get the latest promotions!

Timing is Everything

Last thing I’ll mention is that when you go in the year plays the biggest role out of anything and this applies to anywhere you go in the world.  Travelling when everyone else is going is both expensive and not as fun.  If you’re able to schedule your trip during low-season when prices are less inflated and businesses are pushing offers to attract travellers to come, you’re going to save a lot more money.

Pin It!

Planning a trip to Europe and want to save this for later?  Pin this onto your travel board.

Travel Hacks Europe For Cheap Pinterest

About Will Tang

http://2.gravatar.com/avatar/b482d5828d9ec58079126895f0bd3e90?s=60&d=retro&r=gWill is a travel blogger writing for Going Awesome Places. Since quitting his consulting job in 2012 he’s been travelling the world and along the way writing about his epic adventures and taking amazing photos. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring others to travel, writing detailed trip itineraries for others to follow and providing helpful tips and tricks to travel better. Also the founder behind Travel Blog Breakthrough and freelance writer for Hipmunk and currently working on the #‎HipmunkCityLove Project.

Too Many Places: Overcoming the Paradox of Choice

One of my fave travel bloggers, Nomadic Matt, recently posted this piece and it struck a chord as I was pondering where to go in September. Check out what he advises…  – Nick


A man staring out of an airport window looking at airplanes

“Where should I go?” is a question I frequently ask myself.

Wanting to escape the oppressive summer heat of Austin in August, I’ve spent the last few months staring at a map, unable answer that very question. I toyed with the idea of heading to Madagascar, Hawaii, Malta, Kenya, the Caribbean, the Maldives, Dubai, or Sri Lanka.

And, because I couldn’t choose and was so afraid to commit, it wasn’t until this week I finally decided — just weeks before I wanted to go. (More on that later.)

Why?

I was suffering from what psychologists call “choice overload.”

Whether we have two weeks, two months, or two years, deciding where to go is the hardest part about travel. Once you have the time, picking the destination becomes a task of whittling down a long list of “must-see” destinations.

When people are faced with too many options, they are sometimes so paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice that they don’t make any choice.

Think of standing in the cereal aisle. We have all these options right in front of us, but we keep going back to our old favorite, Fruity Pebbles. (Or, Cinnamon Toast Crunch if we’re feeling crazy!)

We may want to try something new, but we can’t figure out what we want the most — there are just too many options! How do we choose? How do we know we won’t make the wrong choice? So, paralyzed with indecision, we go back to what we know. And, if we don’t have a favorite, often we just choose what is popular and familiar to our mind (Cheerios).

In psychology, this is called “analysis paralysis.” Contemplating our options becomes such a taxing mental burden that we don’t make a decision. Our minds want shortcuts. It’s how we process all the information thrown at us each day. It’s too difficult to think about every simple decision all the time. Going with what you know and is familiar is how we shortcut our analysis paralysis. (This is all explained in the 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, which I highly recommend reading!)

Think of the world as the proverbial cereal aisle. We’re looking forward to picking a cereal (a destination), but suddenly realize we have too many options. Faced with so many choices and without a strong opinion (e.g., I really want to go to Thailand this fall!), we stare blankly, wondering if picking a destination is the right choice, so we end up (a) fretting about it for months like I did, missing flight deals and precious planning time or (b) end up with what is big, popular, and familiar (let’s visit Paris for the tenth time!).

I often get so paralyzed by choice that I don’t book a trip until the last minute, and even then, I often suffer from buyer’s remorse. Did I really want to book that flight to Dubai? Or should I have gone to Madagascar instead? If I do this trip, will I have time to visit Peru later this year, or should I just go to Peru now?

Last week, after months of fretting, I finally bit the bullet and booked tickets to Dubai, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. I’m beyond thrilled (especially for Sri Lanka) but in the back of my mind I still find myself thinking, “Is 15 days really enough to enjoy Sri Lanka? Maybe I should go somewhere else until I can spend more time there!”

Of course, when I get to the destination — any destination — all of that second-guessing melts away and I have the time of my life.

If you’re a long-term traveler, you can go anywhere for as long as you want. But when you only have a limited amount of time — because you’re like me and slowing down, or because you just have a few weeks off from work and need to make the most of them — you have to be more selective.

So how do you narrow down your destinations, get on with your trip planning, and not suffer the anxiety that comes with choice overload?

This experience has given me a new philosophy on trip planning. I’ve changed how I decide on destinations:

First, embrace the variety. You’re always going to be overwhelmed by choice. There will always be more destinations to visit than you have time to see. The list of places to visit will only get longer the more you travel, not shorter. Don’t fight it. Recognize it, but don’t let it control you.

Second, start with list of ten places you want to go right now. Come up with the destinations that are at the top of your mind. This year, now that I am taking fewer trips, I want my trips to be to places I’ve never been and are as culturally different as possible, so I came up with the list at the top of this blog (yes, I know not all of the places are culturally different from each other!).

Third, figure out when you can go and how long you have. For me, since I was only going in August, I knew I had exactly a month (since I have to be stateside for weddings in September and October).

Fourth, think of the time of year. Which country has the weather you want to enjoy the most? I’m trying to escape the heat of inland Austin, so I wanted beaches. I crossed Hawaii and the Caribbean off the list, but I still wanted something beachy and adventurous. The Maldives and Sri Lanka may be hot, but they have beaches!

Fifth, make the length of your travels proportional to the size of the country. I didn’t want to attempt to visit large countries like India, Brazil, or China when I have just a few weeks. I wanted to see smaller destinations that I could explore more in depth during a shorter period of time. By this point I knew I was down to using Dubai as a hub and finding destinations from there.

Finally, look up flights. From Dubai, it was $1,700 USD to Madagascar but $400 to the Maldives, and $0 to get to and from Sri Lanka, thanks to airline miles. I didn’t have enough points to fly on the African carriers I wanted (I burned 100K United points last month on other flights — whoops!) so Madagascar and Kenya were out of the question. That left the Maldives and Sri Lanka as the best places to visit from Dubai.

And, with that, where I’m going was settled.

Once I stopped letting too much choice keep me from making a decision and after logically going through my checklist, I stopped hemming and hawing about where I wanted to go, found my destinations, booked my trip, and got on with getting excited about visiting new places.

Overcoming choice overload in travel is about first realizing that there will always be more places to visit than you have time, then figuring out what destinations fit what you can do right now. Once you start with your list of destinations, getting down to the perfect one becomes a process of elimination.

I know many of you suffer from the same problem I do (your emails to me are proof), and I hope you use this advice to overcome choice overload.

Because there will always be too many destinations to choose from and too little time to see them in.


Rio Celeste Falls

Rio Celeste Falls

Nomadic Matt is author of the New York Times best-selling book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. He’s been travelling the world since 2006 and created his website to help others travel more while spending less. Growing up in Boston, he says: “I was never a big traveler. I didn’t take my first trip overseas until I was 23. Outside a cruise and college trip to Montreal, I had no travel experience. After college, I got a job and the standard American two weeks a year vacation. I wanted to use that time to travel. After all, it was vacation time, right? So for my first trip overseas, I went on a tour to Costa Rica. That trip changed my life. It opened me up to the possibilities of the world. I was just a sheltered middle class suburban kid before that trip.

In Costa Rica, I experienced other cultures, got lost in a jungle, saw real poverty, conservation projects in action, and met people from around the world. From that moment on, I was hooked in travel. All I wanted to do was travel, see more of the world, and learn more about the people in it. But like most Americans I only had two weeks of vacation per year and I didn’t know any of the genius ways to save money and travel longer.”

You can find Matt on http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

 

25 potential culture shocks from around the world (and how to avoid them)

Not sure I agree with a few of these from MailOnline but the infographic amused me!  – Ned  🙂


  • A handy infographic reveals surprising habits and social faux pas 
  • For example in Canada it is normal to transport and store milk in a bag
  • In Istanbul you should know that there is a loud call to prayer at 3am

When visiting a new country, there are often local customs that can come as a shock to travellers. 

For example, foreigners in Greece should be aware that some toilets don’t allow you to flush paper down them, due to poor sewage systems, and in Canada it is common for milk to be stored in a bag. 

A handy infographic reveals some of the biggest culture shocks and how to avoid looking out of place when abroad.

When visiting a new country, there are often local customs that can come as a shock to travellers

When visiting a new country, there are often local customs that can come as a shock to travellers

A handy infographic reveals some of the biggest culture shocks and how to avoid looking out of place when abroad

A handy infographic reveals some of the biggest culture shocks and how to avoid looking out of place when abroad

The Fly to Dubai  infographic includes a helpful tip that in some Asian countries such as China, it is rude to finish all the food on your plate when being hosted.

In China this signals that you want more food or are dissatisfied with the amount you have received.

The guide also advises non-religious travellers that in Istanbul you may want to come equipped with some ear plugs, as a loud Muslim call to prayer is blasted at 3am in the morning.

And those intent on boarding a train in India should be prepared for the hustle that is required to secure a coveted spot on board.

According to the infographic, this includes ‘furious fighting, shoving, scratching and clawing.’

Did you know that in Canada it is common for milk to be stored and transported in a bag?

Did you know that in Canada it is common for milk to be stored and transported in a bag?

Those intent on boarding a train in India should be prepared for the hustle that is required to secure a coveted spot on board

Why Travel Makes You Awesome

I just love this post from Nomadic Matt, one of the coolest travel bloggers around.  He gets huge traffic to his site – and for good reason.  Check this one out and learn how to be even more awesome…

Ned


be awesome by traveling the worldPeople always ask how travel has changed me. If I look back at who I was before I began traveling and compare that to who I am now, I would have to say that travel has made me a better and more well-rounded person. I’m way cooler now than I was at 25 when I first left to explore the world.

Simply put, I’m a lot more awesome now than I used to be.

In fact, I think travel makes everybody a more awesome person. We end our travels way better off than when we started. I’m not saying this to be conceited or egotistical; I’m saying it because I believe that travel is something that makes you not only a better human being but a way cooler one too. The kind of person people gravitate toward and want to be around.

You become like the Dos Equis guy.

How and why does travel make you more awesome? Let me count the ways:

More social – It’s sink or swim on the road. You either get better at making friends or you end up alone, crying each night into a pillow. You learn to make friends out of strangers and get more comfortable talking to new people. When I first started traveling, I was kind of an introvert and uncomfortable talking to those I didn’t know. Now, I’ll happily talk to strangers like we’ve been best friends for years.

Better at conversation – Travel not only makes you comfortable talking to strangers, it makes you better at it too. After talking to people all the time, the same questions get boring. You start to even bore yourself. After a while, you don’t care about where people are from, where they are going, how long they’ve been traveling, and yada yada yada. Those kinds of questions don’t actually tell you anything about the person. You’ll get better at small talk and how to ask interesting questions — the ones that matter and tell you more about the person.

More confident – You’ve traveled the world. Hiked Mt. Everest. Dived the Great Barrier Reef. Wined and dined that beautiful French girl in Paris, navigated unknown cities, and conquered your fear of heights. In short, you did awesome things. How can you not be more confident? How can you not be sure about your abilities? After accomplishing so much, you’re going to feel a lot more confident in your ability to achieve anything you set your mind to.

keep calm and stay awesomeMore adaptable – You’ve dealt with missed flights, slow buses, wrong turns, delays, bad street food, and much, much more. After a while, you learn how to adapt your plans to changing situations. You don’t get mad, you don’t get angry; you just alter what you are doing and move on. Life throws you curve balls and you hit them out of the park. Why? Because you’re awesome like that.

More adventurous – When you become confident in your ability to do anything, you do anything. Last week in Austin, Texas, despite not liking spicy food, I ate the world’s hottest pepper and some pure capsicum extract. Why? Because I wanted to. What’s the purpose of life if not to break out of your comfort zone? My mouth was on fire for ages, but I’d do it again.

More easy-going – All those mistakes? They did something else for you, too. They made you more easy-going and relaxed. Why? Because you’ve dealt with all those errors and you don’t care. You go with the flow now, because if travel taught you anything, it’s that it all works out in the end and that there’s no need to stress.

Sexier – Stress causes aging. Those carefree, relaxing days on the road are going to make you more confident and radiant, and you’ll age slower. You’ll look young and sexy. Unless you are George Clooney, who definitely got better with age.

Smarter – Unless you sit at a resort drowning your brain in frozen drinks, travel will teach you about the world. You’ll learn about people, history, and culture, and arcane facts about places some people could only dream about. In short, you’ll have a better understanding about how it works and how people behave. That’s something that can’t be learned from books; you can only pick it up with on-the-road experience.

Less materialistic – On the road, you learn just how little stuff you actually need. You’ll realize that all that crap they sell at the mall is pretty useless in leading a truly happy life. Coming home, you’ll find yourself a minimalist simply because you realize what you need to live and what you don’t. As they say, the more you own, the more it owns you.

Happier – Travel simply teaches you how to be happy. You’ll become more relaxed, more confident, and see the world as a brighter place. How can you not be happy about life after all of that?

Think about all the famous, successful people in the world. How many of these qualities do those people exhibit? A lot. Why? Because being outgoing, funny, social, happy, confident, and smart are all qualities that make people more successful in everyday life.

Travel makes people better people. When you learn more about the world and the people in it, push your boundaries, and try new things, you become a more open, outgoing, and awesome person. All the people I’ve known who have traveled are better people because of it.

With all the ways a trip can make you more of an awesome person, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be planning your next adventure now — whether it’s around the world or just a short, two-week vacation to Mexico.

You can sit at home, wishing you were somewhere exotic, having fun, and doing something cool.

Or you can listen to Kid President, stop being boring, and do something awesome:

The choice is yours.

 

Gïk Live – the wine that really could make you feel blue in the face

Read this in the Guardian.  Now as you know I looove my wine so this had me thinking…   – Ned


Blue wine

Vintage or gimmick? The ‘world’s first blue wine’, Gïk Live

A company is trying to shake up the wine industry by producing bright blue bottles of the boozy beverage. But will it help the taste?

Blueness and alcohol aren’t strangers, as anyone who has drunk one too many gins and wept into their lap on the night bus will know. But last week, a Spanish company decided to make that link a tad less metaphorical by launching a wine that is the same shade as the WKD Blue alcopop.

The “world’s first blue wine”, Gïk Live, is the brainchild of six young entrepreneurs with no previous experience of the wine trade, who are attempting to “shake things up” in what they call “the most traditional and close-minded industry out there”. They take a wine “base” that mixes red and white grapes, and add two organic pigments, one of which, anthocyanin, is found in grape skin. Then, hey presto: you’ve got an alcoholic drink that wouldn’t look out of place at a student union happy hour.

Gïk Live’s creators say there is some psychology behind what they’re doing. (And not just such a desire to be anti-establishment that they’ve called their tasting notes an “anti-tasting sheet”.) The reason that they’ve opted to colour their beverage a light shade of Harpic Toilet Duck is because: “In psychology, blue represents movement, innovation and infinity” and “is frequently associated with flow and change.”

So by drinking a beverage that is a light shade of Toilet Duck, you will presumably be more psychologically open to enjoying new experiences and will find your mind opening up to a world-changing way to drink wine. Unless you ask a psychologist.

“People have an expectation of the way drinks will taste based on their colour,” says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Somerville College, Oxford – an expert in the multisensory perception of food who has collaborated with Heston Blumenthal, such as on Blumenthal’s Sound of the Sea dish. “They might expect a blue drink to taste of raspberry or blue curaçao or even mouthwash. If you don’t get the taste you’re expecting, it can be disconcerting.”

But what about the element of surprise? After all, when you see a blue drink, you’re not thinking: “Ooh, I bet that’s got a lovely buttery mouthfeel.” If it tastes nicer than you’d anticipated, surely it could enhance the experience?

“If you get something that’s a little bit better than you expected, that’s a good thing,” explains Spence. “But if it’s very different, more often than not your brain goes: “Have I been poisoned? What’s gone wrong in my head?”

Gïk Live isn’t the only blue-coloured alcohol to launch recently in the UK. In 2014, The London No 1 launched a range of blue gin. And it’s part of a growing trend to turn our foodstuffs into the shades you’d find in a packet of kids’ crayons, given the recent popularity of rainbow bagels and cheese toasties, the shade of which also looks as if it was dreamed up by a five-year-old. Given the column inches devoted to what, essentially, seem to be little more than marketing gimmicks, lurid food and drink is something we are likely to see more of.

“Actually, it’s not a new phenomenon,” offers Spence. “The Italian futurist art movement would serve blue wine to guests at their dinners in the 1930s.”

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Traditional tipple … blue curaçao. Photograph: Alamy

Ah, so it’s not a fad. It’s a traditional and long-established way to render foodstuffs more enjoyable. A spot of culinary wizardry with more than 80 years worth of research into how to tantalise people’s tastebuds.

“Well, no: they were doing it to shock people into an altered state of consciousness. It wasn’t meant to taste good.”

Even if the makers’ marketing claims may be psychologically flawed, at least there’s one advantage. It should be very easy to enjoy this wine until you’re blue in the face.

 

 

The Art of Being Alone – by Paul Theroux

Part of the wonder of travel is encountering other people, other customs. But, as Paul Theroux reminds us, total seclusion is sometimes the most thrilling state of all.

The art of being alone

Michael Turek/Gallery Stock

Finding solitude in travel—the satisfactions of the desert island, the mountain fastness, the jungle hut—used to be a simple matter. For details, you don’t have to reach back (as some do) to the poster boy for solitude, Henry David Thoreau, who found monastic bliss a few miles from Concord, in a cabin that cost him a little more than $28 to build. He knew the American dream, living within walking distance of his mother’s apple pies while extolling the uses of wilderness.

Attaining solitude was once as straightforward as joining the Peace Corps—and it might still be the case. Nyasaland, in southeast Africa, in the 1960s was my first experience of blissful seclusion. I lived at the end of a dirt road in the bush—no telephone, no TV, and only the weekly mail drop; no car either, but I had a bicycle. In such a situation, you adapt or go mad, conscious of the messy fate of Mister Kurtz. Learning the language is a necessity that becomes a continuing fascination and skill. You become practical without being excessively fatalistic; and while developing a passion for local color, you discover a taste for the fauna and flora, an appreciation of the landscape, and taking nothing for granted you say: I am alone, this is my life, I will make the most of it.

In this sort of confinement, you forgo the big picture for the small one and you discover that the tiniest things are the most telling—knowing the names of people and things, learning what they care about, understanding the subtleties of weather and the turn of the seasons, the look of the landscape at different times of day, its textures and odors. My objection to people who want to save the world through lots of money and grand designs is that they don’t know this experience of articulating what William Blake called “minute particulars.” When you’re alone in an enormous landscape—if you’re alert—you learn that, in the day-to-day, the smallest things matter most, and you follow Blake’s advice in his prophetic book Jerusalem: “Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little-ones…. He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.”

The push in our age to find the last remaining pockets of seclusion is also a suspicion that we have been wickedly tricked by civilization, perhaps an admission that for all its benefits— museums, opera, fine restaurants, easy money—urban life can be nasty. Not just the competition on the roads and sidewalks, the incessant frottage in the subway, but the realization that urban life can impose all the loneliness that one would feel in Patagonia without any of its pleasures.

It is one of the oldest ambitions in travel to find the great undiscovered land, the dream of Columbus and Captain Cook and the true explorers, who traveled alone or led expeditions, developed a taste for solitude and an aversion for cities. There are all sorts of solitude. Nothing to me is more melancholy than the seclusion of a youth in a room tapping out his miseries in text messages or fondling a laptop in finger-strokes in search of virtual fun. The seclusion that matters to me implies the open air, a liberation in the very bosom of the world.

 

Source: Conde Nast Traveler

Gifts for the Budget Traveller

From a bed in a bag to anti-pickpocket undies, BBC Travel has picked five perfect presents for the value-minded backpacker for any holiday season.

1. An awesomely versatile flashlight

Sleepless in your hostel bunk with only snorers for company? Escape into a book using the tiny BugLit flashlight. A powerful, hands-free and highly packable LED lamp no bigger than a stag beetle, the diamond-shaped gizmo’s tough polycarbonate body sends out a surprisingly strong beam while its bendable legs can be posed into handy positions or wrapped around a promontory to create a useful side lamp (we suggest the nose of a nearby sleeper). Function and performance perfected, the versatile light – with several beam settings, seven body colour options and a useful clip for attaching it to key rings or zips – is ideal for tossing in your backpack until required.

An awesomely versatile flashlight

2. Glasgow’s train station tour

Possibly the best £10 you’ll ever spend in Scotland, the behind-the-scenes Glasgow Central Station tour has been a runaway success since launching in autumn 2014. A great reason to miss your train, the 90-minute guided weave wanders the hidden nooks and crannies of Scotland’s biggest and busiest railway station, a handsome, glass-roofed Victorian edifice opened in 1879. Hard-hatted participants poke around the station’s subterranean brick-built tunnels and old boiler room while listening to tales evoking the building’s sometimes spooky past. And as for that 48,000-panel glass ceiling – reputedly the largest of its kind in the world – if the weather cooperates, you’ll be ushered up there for a peek as well.

Glasgow’s train station tour

3. Road-tested travel tips

A problem-solving consumer travel advocate for publications such as USA Today and National Geographic Traveler, Christopher Elliott has accrued more than a few tips on how to find the best travel deals. But the road-tested wisdom distilled in the book [How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle)](http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/books/travel-and-adventure/travel-best-sellers/how-to-be-the-world-s-smartest-traveler–and-save-time–money–and-hassle-) isn’t just about cutting costs. In addition to advice on flight sales and car rental fees, there’s also a backpack full of common sense on everything from choosing travel insurance to resolving trip complaints without blowing your top. Sprinkled with letters from frustrated readers – plus the solutions Elliott sent them – this handy volume helps everyone from newbies to frequent-fliers navigate the ever-complex world of travel planning.

Road-tested travel tips

4. Bed in a bag

Tony and Lisa Clark originally created their portable Backpack Bed for homeless people needing a safe and comfortable way to sleep outdoors. But when their clever design attracted the attention of campers, they also started selling to individuals – with the profits funding beds for those in need. It’s a win-win social enterprise. The lightweight bag unrolls into a waterproof shelter with a built-in sleep mat, mosquito net windows and a lockable inside pocket, making it an ideal option for snoozing under the stars wherever you find yourself.

Bed in a bag

5. Anti-pickpocket (under)pants

Visiting a destination reputed to be a larcenous pickpocketing capital? One solution is to stuff your valuables in your underwear. But an even better answer (if you don’t want them falling from your trouser leg) is to slip your goodies into a pair of anti-theft “smart undies”. Specially designed with zip-able front pockets, Clever Travel Companion’s natty range of security skivvies for men and women is perfect for stashing cash, passports, your parents’ credit card or that precious faded photo of your partner back home. Just don’t forget to empty your pockets on laundry day.

Anti-pickpocket (under)pants

Essential Travel Experiences to Have Before You’re 30

Fromat Thrillist


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Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

As the great Aaliyah once said, age ain’t nothin’ but a number. And while travelling is wonderful at any number – people who spend their money on experiences are happier than those who spend their money on stuff, blah blah, blah – there are certain kinds of travel experiences that just make more sense to have in your 20s, before you develop a pesky sense of responsibility, professional and familial obligations, or a new-found sense-of-your-own-mortality aversion to risk.

In other words, how LO can you YOLO? Here are some travel experiences to get out of your system (and, umm… maybe make you a better, more fulfilled, more culturally sophisticated person?) before you join the ranks of those who can legitimately say: “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

Party with strangers whose names you don’t remember/never knew

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Pressmaster/Shutterstock

My friends call this unique single-serving-friend phenomenon “Cowboy Guy.” I forget why exactly, something do with a dude in a cowboy hat in New Orleans. It doesn’t matter, but to Cowboy Guy (spread it!) is to truly laissez les bon temps rouler. Basically, you meet strangers, you become fast friends, you spend an outrageous night of drinking and debauchery with them, and you forget their names the next day (if, in fact, you ever knew them).

And I’m not talking about doing sex (see below). This is just dumb camaraderie born of partying, and while you can do it at any age, it’s really something you should experience before the clock strikes, “I can’t believe it’s 2am and I’m still out!” Also, you can Cowboy Guy (it’s gonna catch on!) with a group of friends or alone. But stranger danger, of course. We would be remiss if we didn’t urge you to exercise caution as much as realistically possible.

Go somewhere where you don’t know the language

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Captain Yeo/Shutterstock

Why? Because it sucks. And it’s intimidating. And nerve-racking. And it’s pretty much the worst. It will test your mettle and self-sufficiency in ways few other life experiences will, and THAT is some true character-building right there. How much can you really know about yourself as a person if you’ve never tried desperately to charade, “I’ve been drinking and forgot where I’m staying” to a non-English-speaking stranger before?

Teach English in a foreign country

This used to be a lot easier and much more lucrative. Now, if you can get hired, it’s just a good way to get free room-and-board in a foreign country for a few months. Also, resume experience! And an immersive cultural something something something where you learn things and grow and what not.

Attend a once-in-a-lifetime event

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PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock

It can be the Olympics, the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the World Series, Mardi Gras, Carnival in Rio, Oktoberfest (in September) in Munich, Burning Man, whatever. Granted most of these events happen once a year (obviously, not the Olympics), but the expense of attending most of them as well as the simple time and life constraints means that for most people, going once is once-in-a-lifetime.

Have a one-night stand in a foreign country

As promised: doing sex! Why in a foreign country? Um, why NOT in a foreign country? Sure, you can, and probably will, also do this within the continental United States, but a steamy one-night romance in an exotic foreign land – like Canada! – is just one of those life bucket list items. Because it just is.

Climb something, jump off something, dive into something

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Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock

Climb a mountain. It doesn’t have to be Kili, just climb a damn mountain. Or go bungee jumping, or skydiving, or whitewater rafting, or scuba diving, or hell, even river kayaking and snorkelling will work. Just do something outside the norm of what you would usually do at home, and push your personal limits a little bit. Because if all you’re doing when you travel is the same old “Hey, we should totally hit that Starbucks outside the Eiffel Tower” stuff you’d be doing at home anyway, what really is the point? Challenge yourself. Let yourself surprise you.

Go on vacation ALONE

A lot of the things mentioned on this list are a hell of a lot easier to do – and probably more fun – if you’re flying solo and not at the mercy of your friend herd. Travelling alone is some next-level me time, and at the risk of sounding sensational and cliché, it will change you as a person. (In a good way!) Spending a week by yourself (added bonus if it’s in a foreign country) is an accelerated master class of learning how to handle your shit. (Also, here’s our guide to how to do it.)

 

 

 

 

Spain’s Cursed Village of Witches

From Inka Piegsa-Quischotte at BBC Travel again – fascinating!


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Trazmos, Aragon, Spain (Credit: Credit: Teresa Esteban/Getty)

How does a tiny Spanish village of just 62 souls come to be excommunicated in its entirety and cursed with a spell so strong that only the Pope can lift it?

To find out more about this bizarre story of witchcraft, superstition, revenge, envy and power, I headed to the village of Trasmoz, nested in the foothills of the snow-covered Moncayo mountain range in Aragon. Trasmoz has centuries of witchcraft history, and I’d arranged to meet Lola Ruiz Diaz, a local modern-day witch, to learn the truth. As I waited for her in the freezing-cold hall of the half-ruined 12th-century Trasmoz Castle, perched on a hilltop above the village, I shivered in anticipation.

Once home to 10,000 inhabitants, Trazmos now has just 62 (Credit: Credit: Teresa Esteban/Getty)

Once home to 10,000 inhabitants, Trazmos now has just 62 (Credit: Teresa Esteban/Getty)

Ruiz, custodian of the castle, greeted me with a broad smile. She had grey hair, green eyes, chic clothes and a laptop under her arm – a far cry from the crystal balls, black candles and Tarot cards I’d been envisaging. The only things that seemed remotely witch-like about her outfit were her earrings – dangling small gold owls with little feathers attached – and the gold amulets around her neck.

“The whole saga of witchcraft in Trasmoz starts here, at this castle,” she explained. “During the 13th Century, the castle occupants dedicated their time to forging fake coins. And to keep the people of Trasmoz from investigating all that scraping and hammering, they spread a rumour that witches and sorcerers were rattling chains and forging cauldrons to boil magic potions at night. It worked, and Trasmoz was forever associated with witchcraft.”

In the 13th Century, Trasmoz castle was rumoured to be a haven for witchcraft and black magic (Credit: Credit: Juanje 2712/Wikipedia)

In the 13th Century, Trasmoz castle was rumoured to be a haven for witchcraft and black magic (Credit: Credit: Juanje 2712/Wikipedia)

Ruiz explained that at this time Trasmoz was a thriving community and powerful fiefdom, full of iron and silver mines and vast wood and water reserves. It was also lay territory, which meant it didn’t belong to the surrounding Catholic dominion of the Church, and by royal decree didn’t have to pay dues or taxes to the nearby monastery of Veruela – a fact that angered the Church. So when rumours of Trasmoz as a haven for witchcraft started to spread beyond the village boundaries, the abbot of Veruela seized his opportunity to punish the population, requesting that the archbishop of Tarazona, the biggest nearby town, excommunicate the entire village. This meant that they weren’t allowed to go to confession or take the holy sacraments at the Catholic church.

The wealthy community of Trasmoz, a mix of Jews, Christians and Arabs, didn’t repent  – which would have been the only way to remove the excommunication. The  disputes with Veruela continued for many years, finally coming to a head when the monastery started diverting water from the village instead of paying for it. In response, Pedro Manuel Ximenez de Urrea, the Lord of Trasmoz, took up arms against the monastery. But before an outright war could erupt, the matter was taken up by King Ferdinand II, who decided that Trasmoz’s actions were justified.

The abbot at Veruela Abbey excommunicated Tresmoz after hearing rumours of witchcraft (Credit: Credit: Emvallmitjana/Wikipedia)

The abbot at Veruela Abbey excommunicated Tresmoz after hearing rumours of witchcraft (Credit: Credit: Emvallmitjana/Wikipedia)

The Church never forgave the defeat, and – with the explicit permission of Pope Julius II – cast a curse over the village in 1511 by chanting psalm 108 of the Book of Psalms – the most powerful tool the Church possesses to pronounce a curse. They alleged that Pedro Manuel and the people of Trasmoz had been blinded by witchcraft, and since the curse was sanctioned by the Pope, only a Pope has the power to lift it. None have done so to this day.

The years that followed were not easy for Trasmoz. The castle burned to the ground in 1520 and remained in ruins for centuries. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in the 15th Century, Trasmoz fell into decline, from about 10,000 inhabitants to a population of just 62, only half of which live here permanently. The village today has no shops, no school and only one bar. Many houses are in disrepair and the streets are mostly empty.

The village of Trasmoz is surrounded the snow-capped Moncayo mountains (Credit: Credit: Miguel Ángel García/Flickr)

The village of Trasmoz is surrounded the snow-capped Moncayo mountains (Credit: Credit: Miguel Ángel García/Flickr)

Back in the castle, Ruiz led me down the steep steps of the tower, which has been restored to house a tiny witchcraft museum and a collection of black magic paraphernalia such as brooms, black crucifixes and cauldrons. Crossing the courtyard, we came to a platform dominated by a wrought-iron sculpture of a woman. “This is La Tia Casca, the last witch to be killed in Trasmoz, in 1860,” Ruiz said. “A deadly epidemic had broken out and neither cure nor explanation was found. So they blamed La Tia Casca, as she was thought to be strange and secretive. They rounded her up and threw her into a deep well, on top of which we are actually standing.”

La Tia Casca may have been the last witch to be killed in Trasmoz, but the tradition of witchcraft seems to be alive and well in the Spanish village. Every June, during the Feria de Brujeria festival, a market sells lotions and potions made from the healing and hallucinogenic herbs and plants that grow in the surrounding Moncayo mountains. Actors re-enact historical scenes, such as the rounding up and torture of presumed witches. And one lucky person gets named as the Witch of the Year. Ruiz, who lives permanently in Trasmoz, is the latest.

“What do you have to do to qualify as Witch of the Year?” I asked.

“Obviously, you have to have a knowledge of herbal medicine,” Ruiz replied, “but, most importantly, you have to be involved in the history and promotion of all things connected with Trasmoz. To be a witch today is a badge of honour.“

“Can you cast a spell?” I finally blurted out .

The half-ruined 12th-century Trasmoz Castle is perched on a hilltop above the village (Credit: Credit: Julio Alvarez German/Getty)

The half-ruined 12th-century Trasmoz Castle is perched on a hilltop above the village (Credit: Credit: Julio Alvarez German/Getty)

For the first time, Ruiz’s easy smile disappeared. Seconds later, it was back. “Casting a spell? No, but I make a special liquid from sage and rosemary that you splash around you. People tell me it lifts depression, and that their streak of misfortune comes to an end as soon as they started using the liquid. Of course,“ she added, ”you have to believe in it, otherwise it won’t work.”

It was getting late, and the sun had begun to set, casting the ragged ruins and restored tower of Trasmoz into relief as the light disappeared behind the peaks of the Moncayo mountains. With that view – and a tiny bottle of Diaz’s herbal concoction in my hand – it was easy to fall under the village’s magical spell. Perhaps there really was witchcraft here.

I‘d brought with me a few grains of rice and a little sachet of salt – both time-honoured remedies to ward off evil spirits. As I turned my back on the village, I threw them over my shoulder. Just in case.

 

 

Barbie challenges the ‘white saviour complex’

While this is not strictly a travel article, it runs very close to the subject and I found it a fascinating piece nonetheless.  I’ve worked in children’s charities in Tanzania and Costa Rica and this really got me thinking about the whole experience of volunteering abroad and what we expect to take out of it.

Thanks to the BBC and Barbie Savior on Instagram – check it out.      – Ned


Barbie in front of a blackboard

“Who needs a formal education to teach in Africa? Not me! All I need is some chalk and a dose of optimism.”

Barbie has ditched her riding gear, her ball gown and her ballerina costume and travelled to Africa to help the people there, while still managing to stay fashionable.

That is at least according to a much talked about Instagram account, Barbie Savior, which is charting her imaginary volunteer journey.

It starts with her saying farewell to her home in the US and wondering if the “sweet sweet orphans in the country of Africa” are going to love her the way she already loves them.

The satirical account encapsulates what some see as the white saviour complex, a modern version of Rudyard Kipling’s White Man’s Burden.

The 19th Century Kipling poem instructed colonialists to “Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease”. Today, Barbie Savior says she is going to love the orphans “who lack such an amazing Instagram community”.

Because of the history of slavery and colonialism, many people in Africa find such attitudes deeply patronising and offensive. Some argue that aid industry can be counter-productive, as it means African countries will continue to rely on outside help.

Barbie with a baby on her back

“At first, she was scared of my white skin… We are bound together by spirit and our humanity. And now, by cloth. I feel like mothering all of this country’s children.”

Barbie in front of a slum

“Just taking a #slumfie amidst this dire poverty and need. Feeling so #blessed and #thankful that I have so much more than this”

US-based Nigerian author Teju Cole described the complex in a 2012 essay as a belief that “a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike saviour, or at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied”.

The two American women behind Barbie Savior said that through their 10 years combined experience of volunteering, studying and working abroad they began to question what they once thought was right and good.

“From orphanage tourism, to blatant racism in [the] treatment of local residents, to trafficking children in the name of adoption – the list of errors never ends,” the two – who have chosen to remain anonymous – wrote in an email to the BBC.

They are not against all aid work and when asked about medical staff going to help the fight against Ebola, replied:

“We have seen short-term medical teams do amazing things, as well as act in inexcusable ways.”

They say that aid workers should act in the same way they would back home.

“For example, nurses in America are not allowed to take Instagram photos of their patients and post emotionally captivating blurbs about how tragic their life is.”

They note that in the US, and other Western countries “it was decided that a person’s privacy is more valuable than the need of the caretaker to have an emotional outlet” and the same standards should apply in Africa.

“As a Westerner coming into a developing country, whether to live or visit, you must be aware of the privilege your skin colour affords you,” they argued.

And they want people to “stop treating ‘third world countries’ as a playground for us to learn and gain real life experience from”.

Barbie with an Africa tatoo

“Only hours after landing I knew that I needed no more time to make a permanent, life-long decision. One week later, I committed.”

There are plenty of opportunities for Westerners to work abroad, from long-term placements with established NGOs to the growing market for the short-term “voluntourism” experience.

According to a 2008 estimate, 1.6 million volunteer tourists spent around $2bn globally.

On the GoAbroad.com site, which pulls together volunteering opportunities, there are more than 1,600 programmes in Africa alone.

One of the organisations featured is African Impact which says in its publicity that volunteering is not only about the “skills that volunteers bring, but also about what this magnificent continent, its warm people and amazing wildlife can give volunteers in return”.

It sends volunteers to work in health, education and conservation projects across southern and east Africa, and in 2016 it is recruiting around 2,500 people.

African Impact managing director Greg Bows says that out of naivety some volunteers they get do come believing they can solve a country’s problems – though one of its slogans encouraging people to sign up is “let’s save Africa’s wildlife”.

But Mr Bows adds that he is now using some of the Barbie Savior pictures during the induction process to disabuse new volunteers of those ideas.

Barbie Savior’s creators take particular issue with unqualified people doing jobs that they would never be allowed to do at home.

African Impact’s publicity for a position helping at a school in Zambia, says “you do not have to be a qualified teacher to be a volunteer”, but Mr Bows points out that none of his volunteers teach whole classes, rather they can provide vital one-to-one support.

Barbie by the pool

“Even amongst this devastation and poverty, amongst so much need… A girl’s gotta relax from time to time!”

He says that local guidelines are observed and argues that in general, as long as the limitations are accepted, volunteering can make a difference.

He does acknowledge though that there are organisations that do not have the same standards as African Impact and that for him Barbie Savior highlights the need for regulation in the industry.

But for critics this goes beyond the sphere of volunteering, and Barbie Savior’s creators say they are trying to tackle not just the attitudes but the damage that they can cause.

Kenyan writer and development consultant Ciku Kimeria says that “the development sector today is still chock-full of examples of benevolent and sometimes not-so-benevolent paternalistic attitudes from the West”, and she draws a link with the colonial mindset.

She says that this can sometimes lead to people with an “average undergraduate education and a lack of development experience… getting to chair meetings of local experts with decades of experience”.

Barbie doll in front of a hut

“The people living in the country of Africa are some of the most beautiful humans I have ever laid eyes on. I feel so insignificant next to my new friend Promise.”

She has come across some development workers who “are very uneasy with me and other Africans who don’t fit into the mould of what they were told about African people.

“They do not know what to make of Africans who are better educated than them, more articulate than them, well-read, knowledgeable about the world and so on.”

Ms Kimeria says aid work and volunteering can work as long as some basic points are observed.

Firstly, that people are aware that they are coming not to “save Africa” but to help out locals who are already doing the work.

Secondly, they need to acknowledge the privilege that they come with.

And thirdly, they need to know the real place they are visiting, not the place they imagined back home.

Two Barbie dolls dancing

Image caption “Learning to dance like a native. May the movement of my hips be as intense as the belief I have in myself!”

Barbie Savior’s creators are not intending to offer solutions themselves, but what they are happy about is that the Instagram account has sparked discussions and raised awareness about the white saviour complex.

But is Barbie Savior herself listening?

As she puts it: “I have noticed people informing me that Africa is a continent and not a country. I hope you can forgive my mistake. I have so much to learn.

“But I do know one thing for certain, and that is that my love for this place is bigger than any country! Even bigger than the country of Africa!”

 

 

The World’s Top 20 Small Towns (According to The Dude Who Visited Every Country)

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Ushuaia, Argentina | Jefferson Bernardes / Shutterstock.com

Last year, Thrillist asked me to pick my top 20 cities in the world, and it wasn’t easy. But this time, when they wanted my favorite small towns (population under 100k), things got a hell of a lot harder.

You see, I’ve visited every country (plus a few) and wrote a book on it titled, 198: How I Ran Out of Countries*. And while I’ve passed through A LOT of cities and towns over the course of my travels, the sheer number of smaller locales in the world makes it virtually impossible for one person to properly visit them all. So yes, these are my top 20, but it’s quite conceivable that I might not have been to one that should appear on this list. Maybe that’s your hometown. I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments. Hopefully, I’ll make it there eventually.

As before, these picks are based on the people, the food, the fun, and the atmosphere. And for the sake of fairness, I have resisted the temptation to list more than one town from any country. With that said, here we go…

20. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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Flickr/Daniel

Population: 45,000
This town is great except for the resorts. Which is ironic, I realize, because it’s a resort town. But I still say avoid them if you can, or at least ignore the exaggerated lies about crime and venture off resort property to take in the island. The locals here are friendly and cool and know how to party (case in point: there’s a car wash-slash-liquor store!). Also, be sure to visit the area’s underground lagoons — the water is bright blue, crystal clear, and ready for swimming.

 

19. Majuro, Marshall Islands

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Flickr/Stefan Lins

Population: 28,000
The capital of this island nation stretches over a large section of the narrow atoll, so prepare to do some walking. When you’re not scuba diving or fishing, of course; both are high on the list of island activities. Definitely hit the communities of Laura (in the west, with a great beach) and Rita (to the east, also known as Djarrit), and if you can afford it, charter a boat to the Bikini Atoll where — despite a lack of bars — the locals are party people. Just follow the crowd.

18. Thimphu, Bhutan

 

The World\'s Top 20 Small Towns, According to That Dude Who Visited Every Country

Flickr/Birger Hoppe

Population: 91,000
Not everyone in Bhutan is happy with the country’s so-called “Gross National Happiness Index” (which many correctly deem a PR stunt), but the capital is a cool, seemingly happy town nevertheless. It’s located in the Himalayas and boasts stunning views of snow-covered peaks and other drop-dead gorgeous scenery. While Thimphu is a quiet and relaxing place with a lot of parks and green space, you’ll also find a number of weird, fun bars/cafés and excellent restaurants serving local dishes. Also, expect to stumble across cultural performances, especially near the Trongsa Dzong — an impressive Buddhist fortress. However, be aware that a visit to Bhutan requires an arranged guide and that your trip must be fully prepaid.

17. Guaratuba, Brazil

 

The World\'s Top 20 Small Towns, According to That Dude Who Visited Every Country

Flickr/Henrique Oscar Loeffler

Population: 35,000
This little beach town maintains a number of good restaurants, but what really got to me was how the locals party at night — rather than sit inside the bars, they bring their drinks, chairs, and tables out on the street instead. Talk about an electric atmosphere. Sure, the beaches here are top notch, but venturing outside Guaratuba is highly recommended as well. For example, the car-less island Ilha do Mel — where you can only get around on foot and sandy path — is a couple of ferry rides and a short drive to the north, and well worth the trip.

Matej Hudovernik/Shutterstock

16. Massawa, Eritrea

 

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Matej Hudovernik/Shutterstock

Population: 53,000
This important East African port has lived through some tough times, as evidenced by the bullet holes in many of the old town’s buildings on Batsi island. What’s cool, though, is that some of the buildings are virtually in ruins, and seem unused during daytime, but suddenly come to life as bars and restaurants at night.

Visiting Massawa isn’t the easiest of tasks, however, and you should set aside six to eight weeks to get your Eritrean visa. It’s also a bit of a bus ride from the capital of Asmara unless you take the tourist train that leaves, well, almost never. So, prepare for a journey. If you do make it and can afford to, organize a boat ride to the Dahlak islands.

15. Sukhumi, Abkhazia, Georgia

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Flickr/Stefan Krasowski (edited)

Population: 63,000
Visiting this town is not for the faint-hearted, as it’s in a breakaway republic — or a country that does not exist, if you like. And while Abkhazia may not be recognized by any member of the United Nations, that doesn’t seem to stop the inhabitants in the capital city of Sukhumi from caring and/or having fun. And lots of it too. You’ll need a visa to enter (available online, just make sure to print it out!) from Georgia or Russia, and its location on the Black Sea makes it an ideal spot for a good ole Soviet-style beach holiday. Although, admittedly, the place is more than just beaches — the mountains and some of the lakes are equally stunning.

14. Nuku’alofa, Tonga

The World\'s Top 20 Small Towns, According to That Dude Who Visited Every Country

Flickr/Antoine Hubert

Population: 25,000
Chances are you’ve never even heard of this place, as Tonga is a tiny island state with virtually no tourists. But that shouldn’t prevent you from going. In fact, just the opposite. The capital, Nuku’alofa, is famous for its BBQ feasts and the people are very welcoming — so there’s a good shot you’ll be invited to one. Stay in town but take day trips to the beaches on either side of the main island; I rented a scooter and got to the isolated beaches and blowholes — geysers created when the waves push water through tunnels in the bedrock — in no time. They’re fascinating and great for your Instagram feed!

13. Jurmala, Latvia

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Flickr/Bryan Ledgard (edited)

Population: 56,000
I am not really into resort towns, but the Pearl of Latvia delivers on so many levels beyond nice hotels and white sand beaches. You can enjoy pretty much any spa treatment you’ve heard about (you know, if that’s your thing), dine at nice restaurants, or enjoy leisurely walks between the characteristic wooden houses or on marked trails outside of town. Also, check out the open-air ethnographic museum and see what traditional coastal fishing villages used to look like. Located only a few miles from Riga Airport, the hub for airBaltic, it’s super easy to get to, as well.

12. Eilat, Israel

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Flickr/israeltourism

Population: 85,000
This town by the Red Sea is ideal for party lovers, beach enthusiasts, and scuba divers; the Red Sea offers ace diving conditions and you can rent gear on Coral Beach. Restaurants are in no short supply, and there are a lot of bars too, many of which stay open 24 hours. The town is also a perfect launching spot for day trips into the Southern Negev desert.

11. Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain

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roberaten/Shutterstock.com

Population: 68,000
This little gem of a town isn’t quite as little as it seems, and you might easily end up trekking five to 10 miles in a day here in order to see everything. Then again, all the tempting food is likely to slow you down a bit. The seafood is first-rate, as is, of course, the jamon — this is Spain after all, and you’ll find several specialty shops where you can pick up big joints of cured ham. I particularly love the cozy and romantic bars along the seafront — they’re perfect for trying out the local sherry and enjoying the flamenco music. For some excitement, visit in August when there are horse races on the beach.

10. Barranco, Peru

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Flickr/Kimon Berlin

Population: 46,000
Barranco is actually one of Lima’s 43 districts, but it’s the one that stands out and feels like a town on its own. This is where you will roam the streets with artists, writers, and musicians, and where you should fully expect to enter into eye-opening and mind-broadening discussions. And when you’re tired of all the intellectual deep thought, escape to the beach and jump on a surfboard — the conditions are absolutely ace. I also love the colonial architecture, the many green spaces, and, of course, the top-class nightlife. And who would have known, but Peruvian wine is catching up to its excellent cuisine. Prepare for some big surprises.

9. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The World\'s Top 20 Small Towns, According to That Dude Who Visited Every Country

Flickr/Zhu

Population: 16,000
The bright colors of the wooden houses in this seaside town are amazing, but that’s not the half of it. Luckily, there’s even more to the area in natural beauty. Both the surrounding forests and remote beaches are must-visits, and the harbor and boats that anchor outside aren’t too bad either. The selection of restaurants and bars is solid for a town this size; just don’t ask for a Cuba Libre — bartenders will make you an equally good or better Nica Libre with local rum.

8. Napier, New Zealand

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Flickr/sam.romilly

Population: 61,000
This is one of the two coolest Art Deco cities IN THE WORLD, challenged only by Asmara in Eritrea. Napier, which is located in one of New Zealand’s wine districts, was totally rebuilt in 1931 following an earthquake, and it’s impressive. As for the wine, there are several tasting trips you can take that also include locally produced food; the cheese, in particular, is highly recommended. Also, don’t worry about finding a place to stay, the hotels are plentiful and available in all price ranges. Finally, random pub-quiz fact: the world’s longest place name (which my sister Kjersti amazingly knows by heart), Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, is only 100 miles away. A drive to at least the sign is a must for the wildest selfie of the year.

7. Ushuaia, Argentina

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Flickr/CucombreLibre

Population: 57,000
Naturally, the gateway to Patagonia and Antarctica delivers on nature. That’s expected. But throw in great restaurants and a few cool pubs, and you’ve got yourself a surefire winner. You’ll still want to leave the town to truly appreciate the area’s main attractions, including penguins, and be sure to venture into the area north of town where many of the locals live; the bright colors and architectural liberties will bring a big smile to your face.

6. Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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LMspencer/Shutterstock

Population: 16,000
Stone Town is in reality one of two parts of the larger Zanzibar city, but the one that has helped make Zanibar world famous. The architecturally impressive coral stone buildings from the 19th century are divided by very narrow streets and alleys and take hours to explore on foot. Notice the designer wooden doors! Plan on scuba diving with turtles and dolphins in some of the world’s clearest waters and haggling at the market for quality local spices to bring home with you. And no matter what, don’t miss out on the sunset — it’s one of the most famous in Africa and best enjoyed with a drink on a terrace.

5. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

Population: 22,000
The historic seaport on the border of New Hampshire and Maine is a seafood lover’s dream and leaving without eating lobster from the area should be a crime — the quality is amazing and the prices much lower than expected. I love the small-town atmosphere in Portsmouth (it’s actually one of the oldest towns in the US), and it has a nice array of shops, pubs, breweries, and restaurants. And because Maine is across the bridge to the north, and Boston a short drive to the south, there’s plenty to see and do if you venture out.

4. Kep, Cambodia

The World\'s Top 20 Small Towns, According to That Dude Who Visited Every Country

Flickr/Jules

Population: 36,000
Cambodians have rediscovered Kep as a holiday destination and as such, you’ll find some truly great restaurants and a handful of watering holes by the beach (although it’s still not going to be a party town). Plus, there are a lot of hotels. You have to eat the crab, as it’s the delicacy here, and you can get it at the local crab market. The town’s well known for its extremely friendly locals (my brother and I helped a guy with his car once and were treated like heroes for the rest of the night), ecotourism activities, and some good/cheap massages. Just don’t expect any happy endings.

3. Tromsø, Norway

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Flickr/Michael Becker

Population: 72,000
This Norwegian outpost got its nickname, the Paris of the Nordics, for a reason: the nightlife and restaurant scene is thriving and outshines cities 10 times its size. Tromsø’s very northern location also provides you with the midnight sun every summer, which means that the sun NEVER sets. Combine that with too many drinks and your head will surely spin when you roll out of the bar at a very sunny 3am. Although in winter, just the opposite: no sun at all. Be sure to bring a light-sensitive camera to capture those northern lights.

2. Island of Saint-Louis, Senegal

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Michael Piccaya/Shutterstock

Population: 35,000 (estimate)
This was originally the capital of France’s colony in Senegal and hints can still be found in much of the architecture. The narrow 1.2-mile-long island in the middle of the Senegal River is part of the bigger city of Saint-Louis but houses the old colonial city — and that’s what you’re after. The impressive Faidherbe metal bridge is a third-of-a-mile long and connects the island to the mainland; you will take a photo of it. From the other side, you’ll take more — excellent, colorful shots of fishermen and their boats. What I love the most about this town is the number of traditional small shops and workshops where good old craftsmanship is still on display. The number of quirky bars and hotels doesn’t hurt its case either.

1. Falmouth, United Kingdom

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ian woolcock/Shutterstock

Population: 27,000
There is something magical about the county of Cornwall and its idyllic, friendly, and heartwarming towns and villages. The port of Falmouth has everything: small cobbled streets with traditional and not-so-traditional pubs and galleries, a beautiful port, ace views, beaches, and a university that specializes in the arts. Which guarantees some untraditional and fun people.

Cornwall’s also the best spot for surfing in Europe, so bring your board. Or rent one. Or, just opt for dark sunglasses, get a drink, and enjoy the view. Although don’t you dare leave without having a world-famous Cornish pasty — they can only legally be made in Cornwall. Oggy, oggy! (That’s the slang word for pastry.) Just don’t get too shocked, nor flatter yourself, when the 75-year-old shopkeeper greets you with “Hello, lover!” That only shows the friendliness of the people here, she is probably not trying to pick you up.

An incurable globetrotter, Gunnar Garfors has visited every country in the world and is the author of 198: How I Ran Out of Countries. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

No Translation Needed!

You know that feeling of utter frustration when you can’t understand what the locals are telling you?  Or the cafe bill is double Dutch?  Or you simply don’t know the word for “hostel” in Vietnamese?  Well this is one of the neatest ideas to help that I have ever seen in my many years of trekking.  Thought up by three mates just like me after a difficult time in Asia, this tee-shirt by IconSpeak is nifty beyond words.

Photo: IconSpeak

The simple design features easy-to-understand icons of some of the most common items travellers may have questions about: food, transportation, accommodation and so on.  Read the guys’ blog to learn more about how this simple sartorial innovation may change your future travel experiences.

https://iconspeak.world/

 

 

10 of the Craziest Places to Sleep Around the World

Whether bedding down in a wacky hotel, camping at a dizzying altitude or indulging in an unforgettable back-to-nature experience, your accommodation choice can sometimes be one of the most memorable parts of your vacation. Looking to add a unique twist to your trip, impress a loved one with a spectacular hotel or just dare to be different?  Here are 10 of the craziest places to sleep around the world as offered by HuffPost Travel.


1. In a Treehouse

The high-tech alternative to the garden treehouse you dreamed of having as a kid, the Treehotel in Sweden offers the perfect juxtaposition of contemporary architecture and back-to-nature simplicity. Choose from themed rooms like the UFO, Bird’s Nest and Mirror Cube, each perched in the treetops four to six meters off the ground and offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding forest. Located around 40 minutes from Boden in Northern Sweden, you’ll truly be surrounded by wilderness, making this the ultimate eco-getaway for nature enthusiasts.

2. Under the Ocean

Sure, you could snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, cage dive with sharks or swim with dolphins on your next vacation. Or you could go one step further and spend a night beneath the ocean. Book the Underwater Room at the Manta Resort in Zanzibar and spend a night on your own private floating island, reachable only by boat and featuring a glass-walled room beneath the ocean. Alternatively, the Atlantis The Palm hotel in Dubai has magnificent underwater suites, and the Conrad hotel in the Maldives offers a truly unique dining experience at its undersea restaurant.

3. Beneath the Northern Lights

Watch nature’s dazzling lightshow without having to step outside by booking a room at the Kakslauttanen hotel in north Finland. Sleep beneath the stars in a glass igloo and watch the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis dancing overhead, cozy up in a romantic log cabin or brave a night in an authentic snow igloo.

4. Among Wild Gibbons

Indulge your adventurous side by sleeping out in the rainforest among leopards, tigers and wild gibbons at the Gibbon Experience in Laos. Embark on a two- or three-day trek through the rainforest, tackling a thrilling course of ziplines and canopy walks during the day and sleeping out at night in the world’s highest treehouses.

5. At 17,000 Feet

Camping at Mount Everest
Camping at Mount Everest

It’s the ultimate feat for climbers and mountaineers, but for most hikers, a visit to Mount Everest Base Camp is the nearest they get to scaling the mighty peak. Located at a dizzying 17,598 feet (5,364 meters), the South Base Camp in Nepal presents a hiking challenge in itself, but for those who can’t handle the trek, the North Base Camp at 16,900 feet (5,150 meters) can be reached by road from Tibet.

6. 155 Meters Underground

Brave a night in the world’s deepest hotel room at Sweden’s Sala Silvermine, an incredible 155 meters underground. The hotel is actually a single suite located in a former silver mine and reached by elevator. It’s cold, dark and eerily beautiful, with a maze of winding passages and cavities to explore, and assistance available above ground if needed.

7. In a Giraffe Manor

Home to a free-roaming herd of Rothschild’s giraffes, Kenya’s aptly named Giraffe Manor might just be the only hotel in the world where you can share your breakfast with the long-necked giants. Set on a 12-acre private plot, the grand mansion offers luxury rooms with huge windows at giraffe’s-head height, so the friendly creatures can pop in to say hi to guests.

8. On a Plane

Forget wedging your travel pillow against the window or fighting for the armrest with your neighbor — the coolest way to sleep on a plane is to check into Costa Rica’s luxurious Hotel Costa Verde. Built within a refurbished 1965 Boeing 727, the two-bedroom suite lies at the heart of the rainforest, just minutes from the beach and the Manuel Antonio National Park. Alternatively, Jumbo Stay at Stockholm Arlanda Airport offers rooms in a converted jumbo jet, including a lavish suite housed in the cockpit.

9. In a Bubble

French company BubbleTree specializes in transparent bubble-inspired tents or “pods” which offer an eco-friendly way to get close to nature or sleep out beneath the stars. Can’t shell out to buy your own? There are hotels, campsites and nature reserves all around the country that offer the chance to spend a night in a bubble, against a range of spectacular natural backdrops.

10. On Ice

Ice bars have become hugely popular in recent years, but there’s still nothing quite like the experience of bedding down in a sub-zero hotel suite. The original ICEHOTEL is located in Jukkasjärvi in Northern Sweden and sculpted entirely from ice, re-built each winter season. You’ll sleep in a magnificent ice suite at -5 degrees Celsius, complete with a bed, furniture and artworks sculpted from ice, but don’t worry about catching a chill — you’ll be wrapped up warm in thermal sleeping bags and animal skin rugs. Alternatively, other ice hotels include the SnowCastle in Finland, the Kirkenes Snowhotel in Norway and Switzerland’s Iglu-Dorf igloo hotels.

Zoe Smith for Viator

 

 

9 Things You Should Never Wear When Flying

These may seem obvious but you’d be amazed at the sort of ridiculous get-up some people throw on to go travelling.  When you’re 35,000 feet up the rules are different and comfort trumps style every time.

Here are my rules to make it plane (lol) sailing.

Ned


High Heels

9 Things You Should Never Wear on a Plane

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This might seem blindingly obvious but I’ve seen plenty of girls (and even the odd bloke too) tottering along the concourse in THE most laughable footwear: stilettos, platforms, patent leather thigh-high boots – you name it.

Your best bet is a slip-on loafer or lightweight comfy trainer, preferably with no laces for ease of removal at the scanning machines (though careful about odours annoying the passenger in front on you!)

Non-Breathable Fabrics

Fabrics That Don't Breathe

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Shun any fabrics that lack breathability, such as nylon or leatherette.  Add your rubber raincoat or waterproof jacket to this list as well (though not high-quality waterproof or ski jackets made of Gore-Tex for example).  Less breathable fabrics hold sweat on the skin as well as prevent air circulation.  You won’t feel very good leaking away in too-tight, synthetic clothes if your plane suffers delays on the hot tarmac.

Tight Clothing

tight clothing

Ever heard of DVT?  Deep vein thrombosis occurs when dangerous blood clots form in veins.  Those blood clots can lead to a pulmonary embolism – not nice.  According to the University of Washington Medical Center, sitting for long periods of time can increase the risk of DVT, as can constrictive clothing.  They warn: “Avoid tight clothing, nylons, or socks (especially the type that are too tight at the top and/or leave marks on your skin) that might restrict blood flow through veins.” Compression socks are a good choice for travellers interested in taking further steps to reduce the likelihood of DVT.

Complicated Clothing

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Aircraft lavatories are tiny contrivances, probably the smallest human containers on (or off) the planet.  So manoeuvering in and out of your under- and outerwear can be, well, tricky.  (That’s why someone invented Claspies: neat little idea).

Lest you drop your phone in the toilet or trip and knock yourself out, wear something that isn’t likely to cause difficulties in the loo.  Avoid catsuits and dungarees or complicated wrap shirts or dresses, as well as long trousers or unwieldy skirts that may graze the unsanitary (and often disturbingly wet) surroundings.

Contact Lenses

Contact Lenses

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Not something I’d know about, but according to travel gurus at Frommer’s, “The air in plane cabins is so dry (usually 10 percent to 20 percent humidity, sometimes as little as 1 percent, compared to the Sahara desert’s 20 percent to 25 percent humidity) that your health is challenged every time you fly.”

Contacts can become uncomfortable to wear if your eyes lose too much moisture in the arid cabin, so either avoid them altogether or bring a pair of glasses to change into.

Perfume

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Avoid this one for the good of your fellow passengers.  Strong-smelling perfumes, colognes and body sprays really shouldn’t be worn in the confined environment of the aircraft.  Some passengers may simply find your CK One offensive, but others might actually suffer an allergic reactions to synthetic fragrances.

If you really must smell of the finest department-store perfumery counter upon arrival at your destination, pack a sample size and apply it once you land.

Too Warm/Too Cool Clothing

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The key here is layers.  It’s fine to wear lightweight fabrics on a plane; it may even be a smart strategy if you’re flying to or from a sweltering climate; but planes are often very cold – and blankets aren’t exactly thick, or even freely distributed on many flights these days.  So fight the air-conditioned chill by layering up.

Getting too warm?  Remove a few layers, bundle them up and use them as a pillow.

Bonus: The more layers you can pile on your body, the fewer items you need to stuff in your suitcase.

Loud Jewellery

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It will set off the metal detectors.  It will draw attention to you.  You’ll probably just look daft.  especially if you’re a bloke.  😉

Offensive Or Inappropriate Clothing

Offensive Or Inappropriate Clothing

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Carriers typically leave it up to flight attendants to judge whether a passenger’s garb is inappropriate for wear in the air.  So how do you know if your outfit is appropriate?  Learn from history: passengers have been removed from planes for wearing everything from low-cut dresses to baggy pants to T-shirts splashed with expletives or offensive (well, depending on whom you ask) political messages.

Rule is, if you can’t wear it to church or dinner with your mother-in-law, you shouldn’t wear it on a flight.

Read more about airline dress codes in Are Airline Dress Codes Too Extreme?

 

 

Small is beautiful! Spain is so proud of its tapas that it wants the food style protected by Unesco

When it comes to Spanish food, tapas is perhaps the way of eating that carries its reputation across the world.

Consisting of small plates of food traditionally served on top of a cold beverage, tapas is intended to provide a nibble while protecting the drink from flies and insects.

But now the president of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy of Spain, Rafael Anson, is calling for UNESCO to declare the humble tapas an intangible cultural heritage.

An interesting little morsel from the Mail Online.

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy wants Unesco protection for tapas as an intangible cultural heritage

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy wants Unesco protection for tapas as an intangible cultural heritage

Anson told Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena Ser on April 14 that ‘Tapas are the very model of food’ according to The Local.

He said: ‘Pizza in itself is not intangible, but the concept of the Mediterranean diet, for example, is.

‘Tapas, too, are a way of eating.’

Anson added that the Spanish Ministry of Culture will make a formal presentation for tapas to be included but UNESCO is said to be ‘already looking into it’.

In order for tapas to be considered, it will have to fit a number of criterion, including that its cultural heritage status will contribute towards its visibility and awareness as well as its protection.

Academy president Rafael Anson called the snacks ‘the very model of food’ and said a formal presentation will be made

These will need to be included in the presentation alongside a formal definition of tapas.

However, in the Basque country and Navarre in northern Spain, there’s also a style food food similar to tapas called pintxos.

These small plate dishes are typically served skewered on toothpicks.

It’s not clear whether these will also be included in the official presentation to Unesco.

Spain currently has 15 items on Unesco‘s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which includes fiesta of the patios in Cordova, Chant of the Sybil on Majorca and Silbo Gomero, the whistled language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands).

Alongside Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal, it’s also one of the countries where the Mediterranean diet is considered an intangible cultural heritage.


Ned’s tip: if you’re planning a visit to Madrid you won’t find better service than the Hotel Miguel Angel, part of Sir Nadhmi Auchi’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group.

 

 

Girl Power – Indian Style

Inside India’s vibrant 500-year-old market where there are over 4000 traders… and all of them are women

From the dazzling array of fresh fruit, spices and textiles, the sprawling Imphal market in Manipur could be mistaken for any other bazaar in India but it has one distinct difference – all 4000 traders manning its stalls are female.

Ima Keithel which translates as ‘mothers’ market’ is a meeting ground and trading hub, run exclusively by women and is reportedly the largest all-women market in Asia and possibly the world.

Although there is debate over when exactly it was established, some say the market dates back to the 16th century. This female-only workforce originated during the ‘Lallup’ era when men from the Meitei community were called upon to serve the King leaving the women the responsibilities of commerce and farming, according to Oddity Central. 

Only married women are allowed to run the stalls and family members pass their trade on to the next generation keeping the enterprising spirit alive.

Despite threat of closure over the years, the market is still thriving. It did however take a battering during an earthquake in January which killed nine people and destroyed some of its structures.

Tourists visiting the region will be greeted by friendly traders offering a lively blend of traditional handcrafted items, modern clothing and local produce.

Although Ima Keithel was damaged in the 4 January earthquake, it has returned back to normal. Nine deaths were reported from in and around Imphal due to falling debris. Imphal has a population of some 270,000 and people were jolted from their sleep and ran out of their homes in panic when the earth shook. A woman reads the news at her vegetable stall (pictured)

This female-only workforce originated during the ‘Lallup’ era when men from the Meitei community were called upon to serve the King leaving the women the responsibilities of commerce and farmingThis female-only workforce originated during the ‘Lallup’ era when men from the Meitei community were called upon to serve the King leaving the women the responsibilities of commerce and farming
Local delicacies: A Manipuri woman sells smoked and dry fish in Ima Keithel marketLocal delicacies: A Manipuri woman sells smoked and dry fish in Ima Keithel market
A woman vendor on her way with 'Yongchak' to Ima market.   Khwairaman Bazar, known as Women's Market, the market stalls are all run by women, the main market of Imphal, Manipur, India
A woman vendor on her way with yongchak to Ima market (left) and one of the 4000 traders at the market sells garlic (right)
This market is said to reflect the empowerment of the women of Manipur. A woman vendor sells Yongchak (pictured)This market is said to reflect the empowerment of the women of Manipur. A woman vendor sells Yongchak
Female shoppers look delighted at the selection of traditional handcrafted items, modern clothing and local produce available to buyFemale shoppers look delighted at the selection of traditional handcrafted items, modern clothing and local produce available to buy
Tools of the trade: Women sell farming and kitchen implements and other hardware at the mother's marketTools of the trade: Women sell farming and kitchen implements and other hardware at the mothers’ market
Fabric of life: A view of the section of cloth and textiles being sold at Ima Market in Imphal, ManipurFabric of life: A view of the section of cloth and textiles being sold at Ima Market in Imphal, Manipur
Family members pass their trade on to the next generation keeping the enterprising spirit alive at the market. Vendors wait for customers (pictured)Family members pass their trade on to the next generation keeping the enterprising spirit alive at the market. Vendors wait for customers
Despite threat of closure over the years, the market is still thriving. Women buy fish at Ima Market (pictured)Despite threat of closure over the years, the market is still thriving. Women buy fish at Ima Market

Live the Jungle Book lifestyle with these spectacular treehouses

Stunning photography of even more stunning places to visit from Mail Online – I just had to just copy and paste this one!   – Ned


If there was ever a time to book into a spectacular treehouse and spend the night close to nature, now could be it – as Disney’s Jungle Book has hit the screens.

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities, there are plenty of simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature’s arms. But there are also some more lavish options for those looking for something more comfortable.

Here MailOnline Travel shares some of the most incredible boutique treehouses around the world – perfect for living like Mowgli for the night.

The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear

The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities like Mowgli, there are simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature's arms.And for those who prefer luxury breaks in the woods, there are plenty of breathtaking options available

Watamu Guest House, Watamu, Kenya 

The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis

Nestled high in the trees on a breathtaking stretch of Watamu beach in Kenya is the Watamu Treehouse.

The white, unusually-designed property looks like something from a fairytale, with its thatched roofs, mosaic glass inside and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.

The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis.

Prices for the paradisal retreat don’t come cheap at £253 per night on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, but it could be worth it for the views alone.

The Buckland, Atlanta, US

Peter and Katie Bahouth bought the land in 2000 and spent six months designing and building the fairytale retreat, which they now rent out

Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light, while pretty fairy lights and swishy curtains add a dash of romance to the scheme

If you’ve ever dreamed of a fairytale treehouse, complete with twinkling lights and romantic bridges, it probably looks a lot like this.

The Buckland retreat, nestled in pristine woodland in the heart of Atlanta, is listed on Airbnb for around £255 per night, and it even comes with Wi-Fi.

Set amid the branches of a 150-year-old Southern Short-Leaf Pine tree, the enchanting treehouse is the handywork of creative couple Peter and Katie Bahouth, and consists of three separate rooms that are connected by rope bridges strewn with fairy lights.

The cosy living room is decked out with a masterful blend of beautiful antiques and up-cycled furniture, including a chandelier to add a touch ofglamour to the scheme, and an 80-year-old butterfly window.

Keemala, Thailand 

Keemala is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala on the island of Phuket

The bauble-shaped treehouses, one of four types of dwelling, loosely resemble James Cameron's Pandora from the blockbuster film Avatar

So close yet so far from the parties of Patong on Thailand’s biggest island, developers aimed for Keemala to be the epitome of serenity.

The hotel is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala, on the west coast of the island, and opened in September of last year.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World says the tranquil setting of the resort will ‘encourage guests to rebalance, rejuvenate and relax’ among the trees, streams and waterfalls seamlessly added to enhance the natural landscape.

The resort’s 38 pool villas come in in four separate styles – clay and straw cottages, tent villas, treehouses and bird’s nest villas – with each one representing a clan of fictitious early Phuket settlers.

Treehouse Point, Washington

If you are looking for some rest and relaxation, TreeHouse Point, Washington, could be the perfect escape.

The utopia, which was constructed in 2006, features a number of treehouse options, the largest of which features leather reading chairs, a queen-sized bed and two singles, hand-made quilts, a writing desk, bookcases and large hammocks, all for around $330 (£234) per night, plus tax.

What makes it even more perfect are the ways you access the treehouses. Guests have to travel across a swinging rope bridge or ascend a ladder to reach the forest paradises.

Montaña Mágica Lodge, Chile 

The bar and restaurant inside are just as beautiful as the exterior, with its all-natural wood and stone decor

The southern Andes is home to the spectacular Montaña Mágica Lodge, a luxury hotel in the heart of Patagonia’s 300,000-acre Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve that has a spectacular waterfall cascading down one side.

Looking as though it’s been plucked straight out of a fantasy film, the hotel is made completely out of wood and stone, and would no doubt be at home as a background set for The Hobbit.

The retreat, in Los Rios, is accessible only by foot and intrepid guests must brave a swinging rope bridge to enter it.

Free Spirit Spheres – Vancouver Island, Canada 

These magical circular treehouses are suspended in the forest canopy and reached by guests via bridged walkways.

And since they move in a slow rocking motion when the wind blows, the experience of sleeping in a sphere is unique to each individual.

There are four different spherical rooms in all at the Free Spirit Spheres, Vancouver Island, Canada, and each can comfortably sleep an adult couple, though amenities are relatively limited inside.

Rates start at CAD$160 (£84) for one night in the smallest of the four.

Lion Sands Game Reserve, South Africa 

There can be few more spine-tingling ways of seeing lions, leopards and elephants in their natural habitat than from a lavish treehouse.

These amazing pictures show how one particular hotel allows its guests to gaze across a private reserve near the Kruger National Park in five-star luxury, with a four-poster bed, sofa and dining table installed on the decking.

Located in the exclusive Sabi Sand Reserve, it’s truly the ultimate exotic escape, with guests taken to the treehouse at sunset, where a picnic awaits them.

What’s more, they aren’t just treated to the sights and sounds of Africa’s wildlife. Lion Sands Game Reserve, which operates several ‘bush bedrooms’, promises that if you look up there are stars so great in number ‘they’re impossible to count’.

Prices are available from £590 per night.

Teahouse Tetsu, Japan 

Enchanting: The utterly charming Teahouse Tetsu was built by architect Terunobu Fujimori for the Kiyoharu Shirakaba Museum in Hokuto, Japan

Perhaps the most picturesque of all treehouses is the stunning Teahouse Tetsu at the Kiyoharu Shirakaba Museum in the Japanese city of Hokuto.

Perched atop a cypress base in a gorgeous grove of pink-petalled cherry trees, the Terunobu Fujimori-designed teahouse looks as if it sprang direct from the imagination of Hans Christian Andersen and even has a fairytale-style crooked chimney.

Sadly guests can only visit the treehouse and not spend the night in it.

Treehouses at Center Parcs, Longleat Forest

They feature four en-suite bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, a separate games den (accessed along a timber walkway) and a private hot tub

Many opt for a holiday at Center Parcs to enjoy cycling around the woodlands, the wealth of activities and dining options – but now you can have the full forest experience by staying in one of the picturesque treehouses.

In Longleat Forest there are three luxury, two-storey options, nestled in a quiet corner of the 400 acres of woodland.

They feature four en-suite bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, a separate games den (accessed along a timber walkway) and a private hot tub.

Prices start from £349 and can be booked on the website.

Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa 

When it’s time to eat, guests dine in a glass-walled dining room or on a suspended deck where they can take in the views

Holidaymakers who want to revisit the days when they climbed trees as a child can do one better at this luxurious hotel in the wilds of South Africa.

Tsala lodge is set high in the treetops with rustic suites and villas complete with fireplaces, spa bathrooms and infinity pools on private decks, where guests can admire spectacular vistas of a lush forest.

Offering a unique take on a room with a view, the wood and stone treehouses boast high ceilings, kitchenettes and outdoor showers in a peaceful location between the coastal towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Châteaux dans les Arbres, France 

Outside on the terrace is a hot tub for two and a personal chef is on hand to create a delicious supper to complete the romantic evening

Perched among the branches in a rural spot near Bergerac is a unique treehouse, complete with four fairytale turrets and all built out of wood.

The cosy interior of Châteaux dans les Arbres (Castle in the Trees) includes a double bed with a stained-glass window above, an electric heater for chilly evenings and a coffee machine for a morning pick-me-up.

Outside on the terrace is a hot tub for two and a personal chef is on hand to create a delicious supper to complete the romantic evening.

Pura Vida Eco lodge & Retreat, Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica 

If you are looking for pampering, you may wish to opt for Pura Vida Ecolodge, an ‘eco-luxury’ retreat nestled amongst virgin rain forest in Central America’s Costa Rica.

This peaceful accommodation sleeps seven over its two bedrooms, and is listed as promoting a ‘sustainable lifestyle.’ The modern ecolodge, which comes with use of  an infinity-edge plunge pool with forest views, is set up with rain water catchment and has solar panels.

According to TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, ‘the most magical times are the early mornings and late afternoons where you can sit back with a freshly made juice or a glass of wine and be a spectator of nature with monkeys, parrots and toucans all frequently visiting the lodge and its surrounding reserve’.

Bird’s Nest Treehotel, Sweden

 

Inside the walls are clad with wood panels and the port hole windows almost disappear in the exterior’s network of branches

From the outside it looks like a giant bird’s nest, perched high in a tree in a Swedish forest, but inside it is a luxury guest room with enough space for four to stay comfortably.

The Bird’s Nest, built by architect Bertil Harström, is part of an outdoor sleeping experience called the Treehotel.

The unusual room is located in Harads, near the Lule River, in Sweden. Kent says: ‘From the Bird’s Nest you get a fantastic view of the Lule River valley, miles of forest and the powerful river.

Inside, the room, which sleeps a family of four is the height of luxury. The walls are clad with wood panels and the windows almost disappear in the exterior’s network of branches.

Overnight stays, including breakfast, start from £380 and there’s also a restaurant, bar, sauna and relaxation area, TV, and internet access on site.

Call a Random Swede (yes – honest!)

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This is just FAB: earlier this year, Sweden decided to celebrate the 250th anniversary of abolishing censorship by becoming the first country in the world with its own phone number. If you call, you’ll be connected with a “random Swede, somewhere in Sweden,” to whom you can ask all those things you always wanted to know about the country. Do you like the weather? What’s your opinion on ABBA? The video link below shows what happened when the guys at Vox called.

But you too can call Sweden. And don’t fret, those random Swedes answering the phone have already downloaded an app and said they want to receive those phone calls!

The number is +46771 793 336.

 

 

13 of the World’s Best Cities for Vegetarians

Although I’m a fairly red-blooded meat-eater, I have to say I do love my fruit and veggies too.  I came across this article on Matador network, the world’s largest independent travel publisher, and thought it’d be good to share.   – Ned


1. Seattle, USA

Not only are there are some spots around town that cater directly to the plant-eating crowd, like Plum Vegan Bistro (and food truck) in Capitol Hill and Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont, but there’s usually at least several vegetarian options on every menu.

So many vegans and vegetarians call this city home that even the burger and BBQ joints have options like veggie burgers and fried seitan, so you’ll never feel like you’re missing out if you’re eating with carnivores. Within walking distance from hot dog carts and sports stadiums downtown are dishes like the vegan mac n cheese at Bang Bang Café. And oh yeah, the hot dog carts will have veggie dogs available, too. A bevy of authentic Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, and Ethiopian restaurants here are largely vegetarian in their menu options as well.

Year round Sunday Farmer’s Markets in Ballard, Fremont, and Capitol Hill also promote an abundance of local and organic produce — lots of apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, kale, chard, potatoes, and leeks. You can easily get your week’s worth of healthy fruits and veggies for under $10, and often the farmers will throw in a little extra. For the stuff you can’t find at the market, many health food stores surround the city and carry a large variety for vegetarians.

Special thanks: Elisbeth McKinley

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo: Connie Ma

If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, your first stop should really be Pun Pun. Although they do operate two restaurants within Chiang Mai city, Pun Pun is really an organic farm on the outskirts that calls itself a ‘center for self-reliance.’ Their main mission is to teach seed saving, which is an ancient tradition that connects us to the foods our ancestors grew but has since fallen by the wayside because of commercial seeding operations.Pun Pun also teaches organic farming, natural home building and they even make their own products like kefir shampoo, organic jams and soaps. If you’re a gardener, which if you’re a vegetarian you should be, the seeds from Pun Pun are sent all over the world.

For less learning and more eating, Italics & Rise has some interesting pizzas with its fusion of Thai and Italian food and Anchan Vegetarian restaurant has a menu that changes weekly — the cinnamon, ginger, green iced tea should be the first thing you order. But honestly, just walk around and you’ll find a vegetarian meal, for cheap — just be careful of fish sauce, it’s a common ingredient.

Special thanks: Blaze Nowara

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Fifty percent of Ho Chi Minh City’s population has Buddhist roots, so the word “chay” (vegetarian) can be found on nearly every street corner. The Vietnamese have perfected the art of tofu manipulation and created things that, frankly, haven’t even made it to America yet. Thin sheets of seitan get pressed together around lemongrass stalks to form weirdly accurate-tasting chicken drumsticks. Then there’s the shrimp that actually looks and tastes like shrimp. Then there’s the dozens and dozens of varieties of balls, patties, and squares that are somehow more unidentifiable and yet more delicious. I

To see and taste this in all its glory, hit up Thuyen Vien, though driving around the city and stopping at the first hole-in-the-wall with a large sign out front that says chay likely won’t disappoint, either. It might literally be some of the best vegetarian food you’ve had in your whole life, and for what equates to your own personal buffet, you’ll throw down nothing more than a few bucks.

Special thanks: Jacqueline Kehoe

4. Melbourne, Australia

If you’re from Melbourne and you happen to be a vegetarian, the Moroccan Soup Bar is your ‘institution in the heart of North Fitzroy.’ There’s no printed menu, and even though the place is clearly not hurting for attention, there’s still a good chance you’ll get to chat with the founder, who recently published a book: Moroccan Soup Bar — Recipes of a Spoken Menu. The chickpea bake is a good stand-by, which Matador editor Debbie called ‘legendary’ and claimed it left her ‘speechless.’ So yeah, try that.

When you’ve exhausted everything on that menu, try The Vegie Bar, Lentil As Anything — especially if you’re a student on a budget — and Enlightened Cuisine. The great thing about Melbourne as a vegetarian destination is that it’s so diverse, so it should be easy for you to sample traditional vegetarian cuisine from around the world.

Special thanks: Debbie Gonzalez

5. Seoul, South Korea

If you’re from North America, you may only think ‘meat-heavy barbecue’ when you think about South Korean cuisine. But of course, you’d be wrong. Kimbap (also called Gimbap) is basically Korean sushi, but vegetarian — and you can get it at mom and pop-type restaurants across the city. There are literally at least 1,000 different chains of places where you can order Kimbap, but a good place to start is Kim Ga Ne in the Jongak area, Jinsunja Gyeranmali Kimbap at Yeongdeungpo or Mo-nyeo Woncho Mayak Kimbap in Gwangjang Market.

Bibimbap is another Korean dish that’s actually getting pretty hip right now. It’s super simple and traditional. Dolsot bibimbap is the best order — the rice, julienne veggies and egg come out in a super hot dolsot stone pot and the whole thing just looks like a work of art. Then you ruin all that beauty by smashing the egg right into everything else so you get a kind of delicious fried rice. At the bottom of the stone pot there are crispy crunchy bits of jewel-like rice that have been overcooked by the stone pot. They’re the best bit.

Of course the Buddhist temple-type restaurants in Seoul are also worth mentioning, many of which are in the Insa-dong area. And if you stay overnight on a Templestay — which is a very inexpensive way to learn about Buddhist culture, stay the night at a temple and do a Buddhist program — you’ll get your vegan dinner and breakfast prepared for you by a super chef nun.

Special thanks: Ailsa Ross

6. Grand Rapids, USA

Here’s what’s great about Grand Rapids, Michigan: Little Africa Ethiopian Restaurant. This is a place where you may need to call ahead to make sure the place is open, but if it is, you can relax in a booth, drink a glass of mango juice, sop up an all-you-can-eat special with light and airy injera (Ethiopian bread) and just be a vegetarian.

If that place isn’t open, there’s actually a ton of other excellent options. Bartertown Diner, which now serves breakfast, is probably the first place you think about when you think about the Grand Rapids vegetarian scene. Stella’s has the best ‘buffalo wings’ that aren’t really buffalo wings and the goat cheese and artichoke pizza at Vitale’s Pizza in Ada is the bomb. Honorable mentions have to be Marie Catrib’s, Global Infusion Cafe and the classic staple of Brickroad Pizza.

Special thanks: Cathy Brown, Sarah Schneider

7. London, England

London has a monumental range of vegetarian options, and we’re talking inventive vegetarian cuisine, not a bunch of green salads.

When it comes to vegetarian-only restaurants, Mildreds is one of the best. This is where you can get charcoal-roasted peppers and leeks with smoked chili jam or some gyoza dumplings with chilli sauce, enough said. There’s also The Gate and Manna, which kind of just says it in the name.

Many non-vegetarian restaurants in London have impressive vegetarian options too though, for example, Nopi-Ottolenghi is Mediterranean inspired, The River Cafe is Italian, Ember Yard has veggie tapas and Franco Manca is where you go if you absolutely need to have a sourdough pizza. If you’re looking for a tasty burger, try Honest Burgers, which serves up a crispy cauliflower and sweet corn fritter or Byron, which makes their burger out of a portobello mushroom, some goat’s cheese and roasted red pepper. Oh, and since you’re in London, try an authentic Indian vegetarian curry at Potli.

If you really just want to grab something and get out, Leon offers healthy and interesting fast food options such as the super food salad and grilled halloumi wrap.

8. East Nashville, USA

Okay, so the South isn’t usually the first place you think of when you’re trying to get down with some vegetarian food — especially Nashville because, you know, fiery baskets of Hot Chicken. That being said, East Nashville is a pocket of Music City that has tons of meatless options. You can get tofu hot dogs from I Dream of Weenie food shack, plates of peanut tempeh tacos from Wild Cow, and BBQ Asian tofu sandwiches from Mitchell Deli. Even if it’s a meat-eating restaurant, you’ll usually be able to find a vegetarian option on the menu and most of the time, it will be a little more sustenance than just ordering all the sides — collard greens, potato salad, and cole slaw. But as far as East Nashville ganging together to create a vegetarian’s version of Hot Chicken? That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, some things are just sacred.

Special thanks: Shannon Dell

9. Vancouver, Canada

Van is no joke when it comes to vegetarianism. For all the Matador staffers who reside or have resided in Vancouver, The Foundation is at the top of the list. It’s a bit of a trendy spot that’s known for its loud music in the evenings (so go for lunch instead if you’re looking to have a meaningful conversation) but it’s got excellent salads and some serious vegetarian nachos. Over in Kitsilano, there’s The Naam, which is a little bit of a Vancouver institution seeing as it’s been running 24/7 since 1968 — so that has to be a necessary trip.

Honorable mentions have to include The Acorn, Bandidas Taqueria, Heirloom and Nourish Vancouver.

Special thanks: Carlo Alcos, Morgane Croissant, Stefan Klopp

10. Ghent, Belgium

Photo: Visit Gent

If you’re a vegetarian in Ghent, your lifestyle is basically backed-up by the officials in office. Ghent’s local government mandates that every restaurant must have at least one vegetarian item on their menu. And beginning in 2009, every Thursday became “Veggieday” and many restaurants just go full vegetarian for 24 hours, while the schools make a vegetarian meal their main staple of the day. It all started as an experiment to bring more awareness to climate change and obesity.

Basically, the entire city is a paradise, but if you’re looking for specific options, you can’t go wrong with Avalon for something a little fancier, the vegan buffet at Komkommertijd and Greenway Foods if you’re looking for a quicker, budget place.

Special thanks: Ana Bulnes

11. Delhi, India

Photo: CIAT

Vegetarianism is a massive part of India’s culture, so going there will basically be a dream for you. Delhi, as India’s teeming, vibrant capital has among the best selection of Indian and international restaurants in the country and its one of Matador contributor Elen’s favorite vegetarian destinations — especially because of the rich selection in street food.

If you’re used to dismissing street fare while traveling because it’s so often meat-heavy, you’re going to keel over in Delhi when you see how many options you have. Elen claims that the two best places to find street eats are the lanes of Old Delhi and the Lajpat Nagar Central Market — and both are best explored in the evening.

In Old Delhi, Parathewali Galli is famous for its array of parathas, which are flat bread stuffed with fillings and fried. The lanes around this famous street are just as good though, with all sorts of fried savouries and sweets. An Old Delhi specialty is daulat-ki-chaat, a fluffy sweet dish that can only be made in the cold of winter. Street food walking tours are a great way to navigate the congested lanes of this part of the city.

On the other side of Delhi, in the more upmarket South Delhi, the Lajpat Nagar Central Market is the best place to go for a more relaxed street-food experience (although it can still get crowded). A large variety of mainly veg food can be found here, from Tibetan momos (dumplings) to pav bhaji (buttered bread and potato curry) to gol gappe (hollow balls of deep-fried dough filled with a tangy, spicy sauce, and eaten in a single gulp). Many of the menus at street stalls are in Hindi, so if you can’t read the language, ask the locals what they recommend and you’ll soon have a whole line of dishes to try. This is a city where you can comfortably be a vegetarian, and not miss out on anything.

Special Thanks: Elen Turner

12. Dublin, Ireland

Cornucopia Dublin should be your first visit. They’ve got granary bread, savoury scones and delicious, chunky, fennel soup. This is the kind of place that’s small and friendly enough to see strangers sharing tables, even since they’ve expanded and made the place a touch fancier. Matador staffer Morgane Croissant claims Cornucopia makes the best vegetarian food she’s ever eaten and she even owns the restaurant’s cookbook (and uses it all the time).

Govindas, which has three different locations in Dublin, is also worth mentioning with its subji specials changing daily and often served with some homemade panir. It also serves as a companion restaurant to the Hare Krishna community in Dublin.

Special thanks: Morgane Croissant

13. Ithaca, USA

If you cook at home, you’ve probably made a handful of meals out of the Moosewood Cookbook series — the first step to vegetarianism is probably getting lost in the enchanted broccoli forest, right? Ithaca is actually where the Moosewood Restaurant resides, and their Mediterranean Chickpea Basil Burger is probably way better than the one you tried to make at home last week. Ithaca also has a committed farmer’s market that’s been open four days a week since 1973. For your own shopping, there’s the GreenStar Natural Foods coop and you can get vegetarian and vegan offerings pretty much everywhere else around town — from the corner bagel store (Collegetown Bagels, Ithaca Bakery) to the ice cream shop (Sweet Melissa’s) to the sandwich shop (Gorgers) to the many ethnic restaurants (Ciao) to your standard upscale American bistros.

Special thanks: Liz Burnham

 

 

The World’s Weirdest Travel Trends, Explained

You may not hear much about people travelling long distances for 120-degree weather or internationally renowned “phallus festivals”—but plenty of tourists are doing it. In an age of globalization and instant communication, these weird travel trends are coming into the spotlight more than ever before. Here’s what you should know about some of the world’s weirdest travel trends.  My strangest thanks to Smarter Travel.

The World's Weirdest Travel Trends, Explained

(Photo: Vera & Jean-Christophe via flickr/CC Attribution)


Extreme Heat Tourism

Extreme Heat Tourism

High season in Europe may have gotten so crowded it’s pushing the locals to extremes—including escaping to Death Valley’s record-breaking temperatures. A new crowd of heat-seeking travellers show up in American deserts each summer—so many that the National Parks Service opened up to ABC News last year about the overwhelming aroma of eggs that’s becoming increasingly common as heat-seeking visitors test the 120-plus degree weather (that’s 50 degree C) by frying eggs in the hot sun. Tourists have suffered heat stroke and even died of heat exhaustion hiking Death Valley in recent years, and the National Parks Service has been urging visitors to stay hydrated and consider the consequences of their heat-chasing travels.

Space Tourism

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No, I don’t mean signing up to colonize Mars—actual space travel is a bit more complicated than the space-themed tourism that’s on the cusp of a boom. Las Vegas is pioneering a new era of galaxy-inspired entertainment with a $2 billion Mars colony theme park in the works. Mars World is slated to have a Rover space tram, concert venues, and an animatronic petting zoo, and will likely open in 2021.

If you’re looking to get a bit closer than a theme park to the wonders of space, keep your eye on Virgin Galactic. Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines created a spaceflight company that’s developing commercial spacecraft it hopes to soon have in orbit. Currently, about 700 paying customers are supporting the effort in an attempt to get a spot on one of the first Virgin Galactic human spaceflights. The price is likely to be sky-high.

Conception Tourism

 Conception Tourism 

Couples seeking answers to fertility woes have created their own odd market of travel—conception tourism, which can range from phallic-themed travel and festivals to visiting sites rumored to have worked miracles on barren couples.

Kanamaya Shrine in Japan has an extremely odd backstory that includes a woman cured of a phallus-rejecting reproductive organ, and is consequently frequented by fertility-seekers. It’s also the site of an annual “Penis Festival” that attracts international conception tourists. The phallic celebration is on the weirder end of this trend, however—other conception sites include the Miracle Chair of Naples, Italy; and Osun Sacred Grove in Nigeria. Both bear folk stories that claim their magic can increase or correct a woman’s fertility, so it seems there’s a spectrum of conception attractions for this niche.

Movie Fandom Vacations

Movie Fandom Vacations

Modern-era movie fandoms are creating booming business beyond Hollywood itself— Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings have led hoards to the United Kingdom and New Zealand, respectively. Whether it’s wandering Hogwarts at Gloucester Castle in England or milling about Hobbiton’s theatrical set in costume in rural New Zealand, fans of acclaimed movies and books are likely to find a way to visit their beloved, albeit imaginary, world.

With space tourism on the horizon, it’s almost impossible not to wonder if Star Wars will soon take its tourists beyond the new Disney World attractions and filming sites and into the galaxy.

War Tourism

War Tourism

With conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan raging on, there’s apparently a group of travellers heading to the very battle grounds refugees have been fleeing. Warzone tourism is alive and well thanks to tour companies that will actually take people to the front lines of conflicts for an “adrenaline rush.” A company called War Zone Tours, for example, will take participants to Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, and different countries in Africa in an effort to show “what is really going on in the places you had previously just seen on the news.”

This trend calls into question whether or not tourists heading to warzones are creating a spectacle of harrowing places that see high death tolls and endless destruction. Some war tourism operations have even been criticized for attracting potential fighters of ISIS and other terror groups, according to CNN. While flocking to death and destruction for entertainment may seem tasteless, there’s certainly an increasing market for it.

Slum Tours

Slum Tours

With the Olympics coming up in Brazil, Rio is likely to see tourists in its Olympic stadiums as well as in its favelas, or slums. Touring dangerous, overcrowded neighborhoods is nothing new—India’s largest slum, Dharavi, has seen its fair share of wealthy Western tourists for years now. But the trend seems to be gaining momentum.

Locals often say heading into impoverished areas for tourism is akin to making humans into zoo animals, while those who participate are organizing tours that claim to give back to the communities they explore. It’s unclear if educating yourself about those less fortunate helps or hurts that population, but at the very least you should ensure that whatever money you’re spending in a slum goes back to its people and not those touting it as a tourist attraction.

Getting Off the “Eaten Path”

 Getting Off the "Eaten Path"

Bizarre food is one thing, but near-poisonous delicacies and live meals are another. Eating wriggling insects in South America and deadly puffer fish in Asia is a trend that’s arisen with the increased popularity of authentic, local travel experiences. This trend has also been possibly fueled by likes of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, who have eaten poisonous and raw delicacies on television. Note that getting off the “eaten path” could cost you your life if you’re ingesting ill-prepared furu, a partially poisonous fish; or accidentally popping seeds of ackee, actual “forbidden fruit” in Jamaica.

Cannabis Travel

Cannabis Travel

While it’s not exactly “weird” anymore, the rise of legal cannabis in cities like Denver and Seattle are to thank for an immense rise in tourism, especially following tightening of marijuana legislation for tourists in pot capitals like Amsterdam. Travelling to toke was normal in Amsterdam until the Dutch government recently reclassified cannabis as a hard drug when it comes to visitors. Now, however, Americans don’t need to leave the country for legal weed—getting high in Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, and Alaska is completely legal now, and 10 more states are voting on the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana in late 2016. A vacation rental site that calls itself the “Airbnb of THC” even boasts marijuana-friendly accommodations, so a number of cities in the U.S. may be turning into the new Amsterdam.

 

Incredible Places That Don’t Exist, and Where to Go Instead

I’m a stickler for honesty in my travel blogging so I was pleased to see this feature from SmarterTravel via HuffPost.

With so many beautiful photographs of far-off destinations circulating the Internet, it should come as no surprise that some of these unbelievable places truly should not be believed. Through the power of Photoshop, artists can create beautiful scenes of fantasy worlds. But often, such images are taken out of context and advertised as real. You might have seen some of the following photographs making the rounds—the bad news is they’re totally fake, but the good news is there are places in the real world that are just as beautiful. Luckily for us, we live in a world so magnificent that it sometimes surpasses our imaginations.


The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye Scotland

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(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

One of the most popular picture hoaxes on the Internet, this photo and its bright purple trees are totally Photoshopped. On top of the fake color, this photograph isn’t even from Scotland’s Fairy Pools … it wasn’t even taken in Scotland. It is actually a photograph of New Zealand’s Shotover River—it’s just as beautiful, but somewhat disappointingly green.

Go Instead: If brightly colored trees stoke your wanderlust, head to Japan for cherry blossoms. In springtime, Japan comes together for Hanami, which literally translates into “flower viewing,” to celebrate the short window of two weeks in which the flowers bloom. One of the best places to see the bloom is Goryokaku Park in Hokkaido, but if you can’t make it to Japan, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. is just as beautiful.

Moon and Star Island

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons via CC Attribution/Share Alike)

This photo of two neighboring islands that appears to be shaped like a moon with a star is only half false. The crescent shape is real, part of a submerged volcanic crater in Hawaii, but the star is a total fake. Even without the star, Molokini Crater is still amazing, and turns out to be a pretty spectacular spot for scuba diving as well.

Go Instead: If a crescent without its star doesn’t do it for you, there are still some incredibly shaped islands out there, like Heart Island, a heart-shaped resort in in Fiji; or Dolphin Island, part of the Li Galli islands off Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Temple of Lysistrata, Greece

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

This enchanting scene of an ancient Greek temple is in reality, a photo mash-up between Rome’s Pantheon and the Benagil Cave in Portugal. There is no temple of Lysistrata and in fact, this photo fake-out takes its name from a Greek play of the same name.

Go Instead: If you want to see the combination of incredible architecture and natural cave formations, and are willing to climb the steep 272 steps it will take to get there, look no farther than Malaysia’s Batu Caves. This Hindu shrine consists of three main limestone caves and holds temples inside where visitors can marvel at the stalagmites and the giant golden statue of Murugan, the Hindu God of War.

Castle Island

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

This image of a castle balancing on top of a rock might seem amazing at first, but take a second to think about it and you’ll realize there’s no way this place could be real. It’s actually another photo mash-up of Khao Phing Kan island in Thailand and Lichtenstein Castle in Germany.

Go instead: If you’re looking for an island-bound castle, Italy’s Loreto Island is a magnificent alternative. A neo-gothic castle, constructed in 1910, crowns the island and, though the castle is privately owned, boat tours of the lake will take you past it.

Ngyen Khat Taktsang Monastery

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(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

This photograph of the “Ngyen Khat Taktsang Monastery” depicts a carving of Buddha in a truly impossible location: On the sheer side of a massive natural sandstone pillar. While the pillar in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is real, the carving is totally fake. Seriously, how would people even get up there?

Go Instead: If your interest is piqued for monasteries carved into rock, Jordan’s Petra is the perfect fit. Carved from the red sandstone canyons over 2,000 years ago, Petra is one of the wonders of the world. If you like your monasteries with a touch of vertigo, make a trip to the the truly gravity-defying Taktsank Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, in Bhutan.

Ned’s Tip:

 

The ultimate rides and roller coasters revealed

These rides should be on every thrillseeker’s bucket list.

From the Ferrari coaster that hits 150mph in under five seconds in Abu Dhabi to the 90mph vertical drop of Zumanjaro in the US, they are designed for those who have screaming to go faster in their DNA.

Here, MailOnline Travel takes a look at some of the scariest theme park and roller coaster rides around the world.


Frantic twists and turns at 62mph – Tatsu, Six Flags, California

This video takes viewers on a stomach-churning ride aboard Tatsu – a face-down ride billed as the world’s most extreme flying roller coaster, which cost an estimated $21million to build at the Six Flags theme park in California.

Filmed on a GoPro camera from the front seat, footage cuts from blue skies to green ground as the carriage twists and turns at 62mph.

Filmed on a GoPro camera from the front seat, footage cuts from blue skies to green ground as the carriage twists and turns at 62mph on Tatsu

Filmed on a GoPro camera from the front seat, footage cuts from blue skies to green ground as the carriage twists and turns at 62mph on Tatsu

Tatsu is one of the tallest, longest, and fastest flying coasters in the world, Six Flags boasts

Tatsu is one of the tallest, longest, and fastest flying coasters in the world, Six Flags boasts

At the beginning, passengers climb to 17-stories-high before plummeting down. They are then treated to various high-speed loop-the-loops and corkscrews.

People can be heard screaming and laughing as the g-force kicks in.

It is one of the tallest, longest, and fastest flying coasters in the world, Six Flags boasts.

The steel ride, which opened in 2006, is 170ft tall and has 3,602ft of track.

The ride’s name comes from Japanese mythology and means ‘flying beast’ in Japanese. The video was shot by YouTube user GoPro Ozzy.

Plunging head first on your back – the X2, Six Flags, California

The X2 roller coaster at Magic Mountain in California sends riders down a huge drop head first - while they're lying on their backs

The X2 roller coaster at Magic Mountain in California sends riders down a huge drop head first – while they’re lying on their backs

X2 reaches speeds of 76mph and features two 'raven turns' - half loops that turn into sheer drops. Pictured is the terrifying initial drop

X2 reaches speeds of 76mph and features two ‘raven turns’ – half loops that turn into sheer drops. Pictured is the terrifying initial drop

The X2 gives riders an intense thrill within seconds – because they’re plunged head-first down a steep drop, while lying on their backs.

The ride then flips this way and that, leaving them in a total spin.

This ground-breaking roller coaster reaches 76mph and, as the Six Flags website states, contains ‘two ultra-rare “raven turns” – half loops that change their minds midway and become sheer drops’.

The most epic mountain slide ever – Switzerland

This incredible slide proves that you don’t have to don skis or a snowboard for an adrenalin rush in the Alps.

Running through verdant green countryside the ride lasts for over two minutes

Running through verdant green countryside the ride lasts for over two minutes

Incredible point-of-view footage has emerged of a ride down a 2,460ft-long slide that winds through the stunning snowcapped Swiss landscape.

Guests of the Oeschinensee run are treated to some of the most breathtaking sights on earth.

Captured by YouTuber Bruce Milleson, the footage begins with the adventurer hopping into his solo toboggan, with his friend perching in one in front.

Posted in 2015, the video showcases the spectacular views near Kandersteg as they set off down the winding run.

Lasting for nearly two minutes the ride features extensive track that cuts a path through verdant green hills.

If you are keen to add this exhilarating slide to your bucket list this year you’ll have to wait until May 7, as it only open during warmer months.

Riders on the 2,460-foot-long Oeschinensee run are treated to some of the most breathtaking sights on earth

Riders on the 2,460-foot-long Oeschinensee run are treated to some of the most breathtaking sights on earth

Aimed at both ‘young and old’, the ride can be undertaken in pairs or for a solo run.

One ride of Oeschinensee’s toboggan run is just CHF 4 (£2.83) for adults and CHF 3 (£2.12) for children, with the option to buy up to five and ten rides on the website.

The world’s tallest roller coaster – Kingda Ka, Six Flags, New Jersey

At 460 feet, this vertigo-inducing ride is the world’s tallest coaster… and the fastest in North America.

Kingda Ka uses a hydraulic launch to rocket riders horizontally from 0 to 128mph in just 3.5 seconds.

Kingda Ka uses a hydraulic launch to rocket riders horizontally from 0 to 128mph in just 3.5 seconds

Kingda Ka uses a hydraulic launch to rocket riders horizontally from 0 to 128mph in just 3.5 seconds

Kingda Ka, Six Flags, California is the world's tallest roller coaster and is guaranteed to set pulses racing

Kingda Ka, Six Flags, California is the world’s tallest roller coaster and is guaranteed to set pulses racing

Riders on Kingda Ka hurtle to a height of 460 feet above the park, before they plummet back down

Riders on Kingda Ka hurtle to a height of 460 feet above the park, before they plummet back down

Then comes the main tower – 460ft above the park. The train shoots up it then hurtles down and over a 132ft ‘camel hump’, which gives riders the feeling of being weightless.

The fastest wooden roller coaster – Goliath, Six Flags, Illinois

Goliath has the longest drop of any wooden roller coaster – and is the fastest.

The attraction, which opened at Six Flags Great America in July 2014, reaches 72mph.

Goliath is the world's fastest wooden roller coaster - and the one with the longest drop

Goliath is the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster – and the one with the longest drop

Those brave enough to take a ride on it are plunged down a 180ft near-vertical incline

Those brave enough to take a ride on it are plunged down a 180ft near-vertical incline

And those brave enough to take a ride on it are plunged down a 180ft near-vertical drop.

It takes just one minute and 15 seconds to complete the course of loops, rolls and spiraling section that includes an inverted zero-G stall, where the ride twists upside down.

It is rare for wooden coasters to have sections where riders go upside down, but Goliath has been built on specially designed track.

The biggest coaster loop – Full Throttle, Six Flags, California

Full Throttle is a steel launched roller coaster at the Six Flags amusement park.

The ride features the world’s tallest vertical loop at 160ft. It is also the first roller coaster to feature a top-hat element on a loop.

Full Throttle, at Six Flags California, features the world's tallest vertical loop at 160ft

Full Throttle, at Six Flags California, features the world’s tallest vertical loop at 160ft

Full Throttle is also the first roller coaster to feature a 'top-hat element' on a loop

Full Throttle is also the first roller coaster to feature a ‘top-hat element’ on a loop

From a complete stop riders on Full Throttle are propelled at speeds of up to 70mph

From a complete stop riders on Full Throttle are propelled at speeds of up to 70mph

It officially opened to the public on June 22, 2013.

Full Throttle has not one, but three separate launches – and hits 70mph.

The second time it launches – it’s backwards. Riders come to a slamming stop inside a sci-fi tunnel, only to be bolted back out, in reverse, looping just as high and fast.

Tallest wooden roller coaster – Colossos at Heide-Park Soltau, Germany

Representing the old school, Colossus at Heide-Park Soltau in Lower Saxony, Germany, is the tallest operating wooden coaster at 197ft.

Colossus at Heide-Park Soltau in Lower Saxony, Germany, is the tallest operating wooden coaster at 197ft

Colossus at Heide-Park Soltau in Lower Saxony, Germany, is the tallest operating wooden coaster at 197ft

Colossus' sections are designed to snap together like Lego pieces

Colossus’ sections are designed to snap together like Lego pieces

Unlike traditional wooden roller coasters, Colossos is prefabricated, meaning the track is laser cut in a factory to achieve a higher degree of precision.

The sections are designed to snap together like Lego pieces.

Take a ride on the largest wooden roller coaster in eastern China – Jungle Trailblazer

This heart-pounding footage gives a front-row account of what adrenaline junkies can expect to experience on board eastern China’s greatest wooden ride.

The largest wooden rollercoaster in the region belongs to The Fantawild Adventure theme park in Anhui province.

After the initial stomach-turning vertical descent, visitors are sent on a swirling ride of twists, turns and loops

After the initial stomach-turning vertical descent, visitors are sent on a swirling ride of twists, turns and loops

At an impressive 3,500ft long and reaching a peak of 105ft, this wild ride is definitely not for those with a fear of heights.

As the video shows, the entire experience starts out harmlessly enough.

A slow and steady climb leads guests up to the top of a towering drop, where cars can reach shocking speeds of up to 57mph, reports China Daily.

Footage of eastern China’s largest wooden roller coaster alone will get the heart racing

After the initial stomach-turning vertical descent, visitors are sent on a swirling ride of twists, turns and loops, before racing back to the station.

And it’s some of the most horrifying two minutes any thrill-seeking rider will experience.

‘I didn’t dare to open my eyes throughout the ride,’ one park-goer told Shanghaiist.com after trying the Trailblazer for the first time.  

Zumanjaro: ‘Drop of Doom’ at Six Flags, New Jersey

It is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty and plunges thrillseekers 41 storeys at speeds of up to 90mph.

The world’s tallest and fastest drop ride hoisted its first riders into the sky on Independence Day back in 2014 and sent them freefalling down to ground level in less than 10 seconds.

Zumanjaro is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty and plunges thrillseekers 41 storeys at speeds of up to 90mph

Zumanjaro is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty and plunges thrillseekers 41 storeys at speeds of up to 90mph

The ride reaches the same speed as a female cheetah - the fastest animal in the world - chases her prey

The ride reaches the same speed as a female cheetah – the fastest animal in the world – chases her prey

The three soaring towers, each with eight-person gondolas, blasts riders 415ft into the air in just 30 seconds.

It then pauses for a few terrifying moments so people can catch a glimpse of the skyscrapers of Philadelphia 52 miles to the south, before plunging back to the ground.

The ride reaches the same speed as a female cheetah – the fastest animal in the world – chases her prey.

4.9 seconds to reach 150mph – Formula Rossa, Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

The world’s fastest roller coaster needs only 4.9 seconds to reach an astounding 150mph.

Sitting in a cart designed to resemble the Ferrari Formula 1 car, riders are made to wear safety goggles due to the intense speed of the ride.

Ferrari World's Formula Rossa roller coaster is the fastest in the world - providing 150mph thrills

Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa roller coaster is the fastest in the world – providing 150mph thrills

They are then launched 170ft into the air and experience a brutal 4.8G’s.

At over 80,000m² Ferrari World is the world’s largest indoor park and attracts an estimated 10,000 tourists a day.

Its red roof is modelled on the side profile of a Ferrari GT and features the largest prancing horse logo ever created.

Formula 1 speedsters Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were treated to the high speeds of the Formula Rossa roller coaster

An amusing video shows Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen visiting Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi along with Fernando Alonso to experience the Formula One inspired ride.

And while Alonso clearly loved the thrill of being launched 170ft into the air and experiencing 4.8G’s, Raikonnen looked bored.

While Alonso threw his arms up in the air as the ride roared off into the desert surroundings, Raikonen did not seem to acknowledge he was even moving.

This ride is certainly no joke – The Joker, Six Flags, California

The Joker ride mimics the antagonist’s chaotic personality, throwing guests around with twists and turns along its 3,200ft track.

The ride, based on Batman’s nemesis, features a world first for a coaster- a ‘step-up under-flip inverted roll’ manoeuvre.

The Joker ride mimics the antagonist's chaotic personality, throwing guests around twists and turns along its 3,200ft track

The Joker ride mimics the antagonist’s chaotic personality, throwing guests around twists and turns along its 3,200ft track

Riders also experience ‘wild Zero G rolls over 15 airtime moments’ on the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom attraction in California.

And you can look forward to these soon…

A 214ft freefall – Valravn, Cedar Point, Ohio

The ride, called Valravn (val-rey-vuhn), at Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, promises to be a terrifying experience, as daredevil passengers will free fall a record 214ft at a 90-degree angle and top speed of 75mph.

With stomach-churning twists and turns, Valravn will set 10 world records when it debuts in the summer of 2016 at the theme park, which is situated on a Lake Erie peninsula.

Adrenalin junkies have been offered a sneak peek at what to expect once the roller coaster is in action, thanks to computer-generated videos showing the extreme ride from various angles.

Thrillseekers are eagerly anticipating Valravn (val-rey-vuhn), a new ride that will debut at Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, this summer

VALRAVN SET TO SMASH 10 ROLLER COASTER WORLD RECORDS

Tallest dive coaster: 223ft

Fastest dive coaster: 75mph

Longest dive coaster: 3,415ft

Most inversions on a dive coaster: 3

Longest drop on a dive coaster: 214ft

Highest inversion on a dive coaster: 165ft

Most roller coasters taller than 200ft at one amusement park: 5

Most rides at one amusement park: 72

Most steel track at one amusement park: 52,125ft/9.9 miles

Most roller coaster track at one amusement park: 60,110ft/11.4 miles

Source: Cedar Point


Anxious passengers will be carried more than 20 storeys to the top of a 223ft tall hill, and the floorless train will be held perilously over the edge of the first drop for approximately four seconds before the record-setting face-first drop.

Riders are then flipped upside down through a 165-ft tall Immelmann turn, a fighter jet-like manoeuvre that takes the train into a half loop and half roll before travelling in the opposite direction.

Cedar Point said the train then approaches another drop zone and plunges 125ft at a near-90-degree angle while twisting and turning upside down twice before coming to a stop at the end of the 3,415ft copper and steel track.

Once it’s up and running Valravn will set a number of records for dive coasters, including height (223ft), speed (75mph), distance (3,415ft), inversions (three), longest drop (214ft), and highest inversion (165ft).

On dive coasters, passengers experience at least one free fall with a 90-degree drop after coming off a flat section of track.

Cedar Point will become the record holder for the most roller coasters taller than 200ft at one amusement park (five), and most rides at one amusement park (72).

Valravn will also set new marks for the most steel roller coaster track at one amusement park (52,125ft/9.9 miles) and most roller coaster track at one amusement park (60,110ft/11.4 miles).

With stomach-churning twists and turns, Valravn will set 10 world records when it goes into service at the second-largest park in the US

The fastest wooden coaster in the world – Lightning Rod, Dollywood’s Jukebox Junction

Lightning Rod is an innovative ride featuring new technology never before used on a wooden coaster.

Themed after a ‘tricked out 1950s-era hot rod’, Lightning Rod launches riders from zero to 45mph and gives riders an airtime moment 20 stories up.

Lightning Rod is an innovative ride featuring new technology never before used on a wooden coaster

Lightning Rod is an innovative ride featuring new technology never before used on a wooden coaster

At the crest of the hill, riders face twin summit airtime hills before tackling the first drop.

Lightning Rod races down the 165ft drop and propels guests along its 3,800ft track to a top speed of 73 mph, the fastest speed for a wood coaster in the world.

Whizzing around at 73mph – Mako, Seaworld, Orlando

Surfacing this summer is Mako, a 200-foot-tall ‘hypercoaster’ that will reach speeds of up to 73mph along 4,760 feet of steel track — nearly a mile long — leaving riders feeling both breathless and weightless.

Mako was named after the shark - which is known for its top speed, extreme jumps and the ability to quickly change course

Mako was named after the shark – which is known for its top speed, extreme jumps and the ability to quickly change course

The ride at SeaWorld is the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando.

Mako’s tight turns and speed are inspired by one of the ocean’s fastest sharks – Mako sharks, also called ‘blue pointers’.

They are known for their speed, making extreme jumps and the ability to quickly change course as they pursue their prey.

22 of the best English idioms and what they really mean

Gulf News

So on the basis that a lot of my readers are non-native English speakers, here’s some brilliant advice on the correct use of idioms – for when you’re past that level 1 stuff 😉


Indirect negative feedback is the very backbone of modern British English

Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As the world’s third-most spoken language, you’d think that English wasn’t too hard to learn. However it turns out that learning your “throughs” from your “threws” is only the start.

When it comes to understanding the British, what makes English hard for non-native speakers to grasp is the sense of irony, the context in which things are said, the timing and, most importantly, the indirect negative feedback. It can completely transform the meaning of simple discourse.

We’ve penned down some of the most common British idioms which will, hopefully, help you to understand things a little bit better.

1. You’re alright

Don’t mistake this as a compliment. The Briton does not think you’re “alright”. “You’re alright” actually means “No, thank you.”

2. Amazing

The British only use the adjective “amazing” in times of great sarcasm. Nothing is ever truly amazing. If a Briton says something is “amazing”, what they really mean is “I am indifferent” or “I am staggered at the situation and no amount of animated gesticulating will suffice.”

3. Really

“Really” is the one-size-fits-all answer to everything for the uninterested Briton. Going long on the vowels is the key to the ultimate uninterested retort. “Really” effectively translates to “I don’t care”.

4. Pleased to meet you

Once a common salutation, the expression “pleased to meet you” when introduced to someone new is an instant sign that all is not well. “Pleased to meet you” is only used to bridge a gap between social classes. It infers that you have judged, in a split second, that the other person is not the kind of person you’d like to go for a drink with. It is used to disguise the fact that you’re not pleased to see them, but you’re trying to be polite as possible so to as end this unbearable awkwardness. To a Briton, it really means “Hello, now let’s get this over with as neither of us want to be here.”

5. In a bit of a pickle

Nothing is so drenched in British understatement like the idiom “bit of a pickle.” No matter if you’re in crippling debt or you’ve misplaced your car keys, to be “in a bit of a pickle” means the same thing: cataclysmic disaster. It is used to soften the reality of the gravity of the situation. It helps keep things calm.

6. I see

Similar in context to “really”, “I see” is generally used when someone is trying to sell you an idea. For true effect, one must go long on the e: “I seeee”, with the e dropping off into a low tone at the end. It means that you are not impressed. More commonly used in work environments towards subordinates.

7. Oh, right

Said with your eyebrows raised several centimetres higher than they normally sit, “oh right” almost becomes one word when you have no idea what is being said. While you may understand the words, the subject might be alien to you and you are doing your best not to let on that you have no idea what the other person is on about.

Example Person 1: “You won’t believe this, but the new quasi-finance merger protection regulation has actually caused investment bonds to triple in the capital trust hedge fund sector so long as they’re subject to US-stipulations pertaining to theoretical wealth acquisition”. Briton: “O’right”

8. That sounds like fun

If you tell a Briton what you do for a living and they respond with “that sounds like fun”, unless you’re a (former) Top Gear host or a rollercoaster tester, then it means they aren’t impressed or aren’t interested. They are simply being polite as they don’t want to ask any further follow-up questions.

9. With the greatest of respect

When a Briton comes at you with the phrase “with the greatest of respect”, they are implying that they think you’re being daft. It’s deemed a more professional way of saying “I really think you’re quite dim”. It can be cunningly used when addressing superiors as it comes with a refined edge.

10. Not bad, actually

“Not bad, actually” is a typical English double negative. It is used in situations when we don’t want to sound curt by giving a simple one-word answer, such as “good”. “Not bad, actually” can be preceded by “yeah”, to drag it out into a barely passable sentence. It is, in essence, a Briton attempting to sound engaging without really wanting to engage.

11. I’m disappointed

If a Briton ever says that they’re “disappointed with you”, what they really mean is that they are annoyed beyond comprehension. They are so angry, in fact, that they had to take five minutes to come up with the phrase “I’m disappointed with you” to hide what they really think.

12. You must come over for dinner one night

Rest assured, if a Briton is inviting you over to their house for dinner, it is not an invitation to come over, but an invitation to leave. It is used to end a conversation that you don’t want to be having. First social interactions between new friends or colleagues always take place on neutral ground, like a bar or a restaurant, never at someone’s house.

13. I don’t want to cause a fuss, but…

If a Briton ever says “I don’t want to cause a fuss, but…” then you can pretty much guarantee he will be regaling his friends with the story about how his eggs weren’t cooked to preference for years to come. It’s how the British cause a fuss without actually doing or saying anything which could be deemed impolite. It translates as “Oi, you. You’d better sort this out now or things are going to turn ugly.”

14. I’ll bear that in mind

“I’ll bear that in mind” is a holding statement. It is used when a Briton has been given an instruction or a piece of advice that they deem is either pointless or useless. It is not a lie as it will be held in mind, but seldom applied. The Briton is effectively dismissing you.

15. I hear what you’re saying

To say to someone that you “hear what you’re saying” isn’t a lie, it is very much true. You can hear them. Sadly, what you’re hearing is garbage and the discussion must cease immediately. It is a closing statement designed to end conversations.

16. It’s an interesting idea

It’s a stupid idea

17. I might catch up with you later

This popular phrase is used when a Briton is saying they cannot commit yet, and that they will see how they get on. What it really means is that they have no intention of joining you. If they really liked you, they’d have just said yes.

18. Is anyone sitting here?

In Britain, “is anyone sitting here” means you have two seconds to confirm that the seat is being used before it is taken away.

19. Well, I guess I should start thinking about making a move

This rather long-winded statement can be easily translated to “goodbye”.

20. That’s one way of looking at it

There are numerous ways to look at things, and if you’ve chosen that “one” way, the Briton is implying that you’ve chosen a ridiculously daft way of looking at it. In essence, you’re barking mad.

21. My fault

If you collide with a Briton while in the supermarket or walking around the mall, you can guarantee that a Briton will claim responsibility. “No, no, it’s my fault sorry” – what they really mean is “if you walk into me again I will destroy you.”

22. Thank you, cheers, thanks…

There is nothing worse – literally nothing – than following someone along a corridor and having them hold all the doors open for you. Should this happen, a Briton will say a genuine “thank you very much” at the first door. At the second door they will raise an awkward smile and say “cheers”. If there is a third door then the Briton will say, under a cloud of anxiety, “thanks” under their breath. If there is a fourth door, then the situation becomes intolerable and the Briton will stop in the corridor until no one else is around.

What Happens if Someone Dies on a Plane?

There you are, just minding your business and sipping free chardonnay in first class, when all of a sudden the flight attendant has the audacity to stick some slob in the seat next to you. He can barely control his movements, can’t open his eyes, and he refuses to talk even after you repeatedly ask him to show you his boarding pass. And when you go to complain about him, the flight attendant politely whispers to you, “I’m sorry, but he’s dead.”

Sound improbable? It actually happened to a guy on a British Airways flight from Delhi to Heathrow in 2007. And it’s not the first or only time a dead body has been propped up in first class. That’s not to say you didn’t get your upgrade because there was a corpse on the list ahead of you, just that it’s one of the more popular options flight crews use when figuring out what to do when someone dies mid-flight.

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A person takes ill on a flight, what happens first?

OK, so let’s start from the beginning: what does the crew do if a passenger becomes sick or appears to be dying mid-air? Simple, said one pilot: “We ask if there are any medical professionals on board. And if the guy is, indeed, in the process of dying, we divert and try to save him.”

Where the plane is diverted, obviously, depends on where it was headed. “If it’s a domestic flight, we’ll divert to the nearest airport and try to get him or her medical attention. If it’s an international flight, however, we try to work on them until we can get close to a US airport. There’s less paperwork to declare if we’re in the United States.”

But what if there’s no saving him?

Just to clarify: nobody technically “dies” on a plane. For legal reasons, the flight crew can’t declare a person dead, and the airlines take serious issue with doctors on board doing so as well. Blame the lawyers for that one. But if the person really is dead, the flight must go on, and it’s up to the crew to determine where to put the body.

Chances are, corpses will remain in their seats until the plane lands

The FAA actually has no set rules on what to do with in-flight corpses, so procedures vary from airline to airline. And since it’s not a common occurrence — unlike, say, a fistfight breaking out over a seat-reclining incident — most FAs don’t know the procedure off hand. In fact, the most common response we got from FAs and pilots was, “I’d have to check in the manual.”

That said, people who have died mid-flight in the past have simply been left in their seats until the plane lands, at which point medical personnel removes the body. Typically, the body is covered with a blanket so passengers aren’t staring at a corpse all flight, although some airlines do carry body bags on board.

Other times, the body has been moved up to first or business class, since those seats offer more room and are often empty. Alas, how our friend on British Airways ended up with a deceased seatmate.

If there’s absolutely no room on board and the decision is made to move the body from its original seat, the flight crew has to get resourceful. Dead bodies are specifically not to be put in the lavatory, but they can be placed nearby.

“A lady just died on my friend’s flight,” said one International FA. “They left her on the floor between the bathrooms, tied up a few blankets, and told everyone the lavatories were inoperable.”

What about this “corpse compartment” we’ve heard about?

The corpse compartment isn’t an urban legend. Singapore Airlines had a fleet of A340-500 airplanes that flew from Singapore to Newark, each equipped with a special compartment for dead bodies (assuming the cabin was full). However, Singapore stopped those flights in 2013 and sold the aircraft, so the corpse compartment is no more.

Honestly, though, how often does this even happen?

Very, VERY rarely. According to MedAire, the company that handles in-air calls regarding medical emergencies, of the nearly 20,000 calls it received in 2010 (the last year the data was available), only 93 ended in death. And that’s out of literally billions of people flying every year. So chances are it’ll never happen on your flight.

But it might. Or might have already, and you didn’t even know it. In order to keep the plane calm, flight crews rarely tell anyone a passenger has died on board. That said, take caution next time you’re about to unload on your seatmate for refusing to get up when you need to use the bathroom. He might not be rude, he might just be dead.

 

Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist. If he’s ever seated near a corpse you’ll see it on Instagram: @meltrez1.

8 Terrifyingly Dirty Parts of an Airplane You Never Suspected

OMG this is a killer from Thrillist! – The dirtiest little spots on that mode of travel we love to hate, the one that takes us longer and further and gives us all the more opportunity to catch any number of nasty bugs. Read on and cringe people…


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Photo: Shutterstock

Flying might be, statistically, the safest mode of transportation in the world. Safest, in terms of your chances of not dying in a fiery crash. But nowhere near the safest in terms of getting sick. And while there are plenty of ways that flying is destroying your health, germs are probably the grossest.

But even the most obsessive people need to fly; they just also need know which parts of the cabin to wipe down with the industrial-size pack of bleach wipes stashed in their carry-on. And to help them out, we talked to flight attendants — and pored over current medical research — to identify the eight nastiest parts of the airplane.

Armrest

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Photo: FLICKR/SUNFOX

It’s kind of funny that people get in actual fistfights for control of something that’s layered with disgusting bacteria. Plane logic. But in addition to being a place nearly every person touches with their infected hands, its non-porous surface makes it the spot where E. Coli lives the longest on an airplane, up to 96 hours according to an Auburn University study.

Pillows and blankets

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Photo: Shutterstock

So maybe the A/C is cranked or you don’t want to put your head right up against the bulkhead for a cramped night of uncomfortable sleep. Suck it up. A famous 2007 story from the Wall Street Journal found that airlines washed their pillows and blankets only once every five to 30 days. Yep. Once a month.

Tray table

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Photo: FLICKR/rafael-castillo

In addition to flight attendant horror stories about tray tables being used for everything from baby-changing stations to biohazard bins for bloody napkins, that Auburn study found them to be the place where E. Coli survived the second longest on the plane: a whopping 72 hours. And a 2007 study by Jonathan Sexton at the University of Arizona found MRSA on 60% of all airline tray tables that were tested.

Tap water

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Photo: Shutterstock

You ever notice how even the “welcome” glass of water you get on board typically comes from a bottle? There’s a reason for that. Though the EPA has cracked down on airplane drinking water since a 2004 study found 17.2% of planes tested positive for coliform, a more recent study showed that number has dropped to only 12%. So, yeah, go with the Diet Coke, no ice.

Toilet handle

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Photo: Shutterstock

Though any public bathroom is more or less the catalyst for a germaphobic nervous breakdown, the most septic part is always the toilet handle. Think about the order of operations in the bathroom; yeah, most people are touching it between doing their business and washing their hands. So wash yours. Also, about that E. Coli — it’s living here for a whole 48 hours. That’s two days’ worth of doodie germs.

Seat-back pocket

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Photo: FLICKR/TOM HENTOFF

Sure, it’s a fun place to store your laptop so it doesn’t slide to the back of the plane during takeoff, and is especially handy for storing that half-finished Starbucks cup while you use the tray table, but it’s also a great place to put used tissues, toenail clippings, old gum, and snot you sneezed into your hand and don’t know where to wipe. People. Are. Awful.

In-flight magazines

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Photo: FLICKR/VOX_EFX

Though the days of being able to leaf through last month’s Sports Illustrated on a plane are long gone, there’s still that bastion of useless stuff known as SkyMall (yes, it’s back!). And while you might find perusing it for the latest and greatest in combination putting machines/soda fountains to be a great way to spend the flight, so has everyone else who’s been in your seat. And even when a plane does get a deep cleaning, nobody’s exactly spraying the SkyMall down with Simple Green.

Bathroom counter

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Photo: FLICKR/EYELIAM

Thanks to the fire hydrant-powered spray of the toilet, germs end up covering the lavatory. And the most popular place for those microscopic pellets of water to land? After the floor, it’s the counter. Which, if you listen to flight attendant anecdotes, is often cleaned by crews with the same rag that’s used to clean the toilet. Also, where do you think adventurous Mile High Clubbers do THEIR business?

10 Types of Seafood You Really Shouldn’t Eat (and 10 You Should)

And now for something a bit tasty.  Thrillist has come up with a delicious guide to what seafood we should be eating and what we shouldn’t.

Happy fishing people 🙂


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It may seem like the ocean is just a bottomless pit of fish sticks and sushi, but the reality is that our supply of seafood is finite. Through rampant overfishing and just generally treating the ocean like a cheap buffet, we’ve depleted the populations and ruined the habitats of some truly delicious fish.

To find out which species are in the most danger, we spoke with Reid Bogert, sustainability coordinator at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, who in addition to scaring us skate (zing!), offered some tasty alternatives. Read on to learn more about which salmon is safe, which seafood certifications to look for, and why grouper are basically screwed.

Atlantic salmon

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Reid says: “The stocks on the East Coast where these are native have just not been managed as well as in Alaska and California, where the salmon are plentiful and healthy.”
Another option: “Pacific salmon is only available a few months of the year, but Arctic char is in the same family and is available year-round. It has a similar beautiful pink meat and flavor profile that’s rich in fatty acids. They don’t require much fish feed, so they have a smaller footprint.”

Swordfish

Reid says: “Swordfish is a popular dish all over the world that has been overfished using a certain technique called longline fishing. It puts other wildlife at risk because you can have miles of baited line trailing a boat. All of that fishing line makes other sea life vulnerable. Sea turtles, sharks, even albatross can grab a line and become what’s called bycatch.”
Another option: “Look for swordfish with a third-party certification from a non-profit, like Marine Stewardship Certification or Best Aquaculture Practices. But you could also go with mahi mahi. It’s a smaller fish, which tends to be a bit healthier and reproduces quicker. The meat is similar to swordfish. It’s dense and has a wonderfully natural citrus flavor.”

Wild-caught sea scallops

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Reid says: “In the past you always had to take a big dredge and dig into the bottom of the ocean to get the scallops out. That was disrupting the habitat and making it so the shellfish couldn’t reproduce at an acceptable rate. Now you have divers out there collecting them by hand, but it’s just a much more involved process.”
Another option: “People are often surprised that farmed shellfish are one of the most sustainable seafood types you can find on the market. Scallops, clams, mussels, oysters, anything with a shell can be farmed and harvested sustainably.”

Bluefin or bigeye tuna

Reid: “It takes them longer to reach maturity than most fish, and what that really comes down to is the nature of how they reproduce. They also swim in schools, which makes them more vulnerable to very large nets that can catch a lot of fish at once. And there’s such a high market demand because it’s such a great-tasting fish.”
Another option: “Skipjack tuna reproduces more often, grows quickly, and is smaller so there’s less of a concern about mercury.”

Imported shrimp

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Reid says: “We import something like 90% of our shrimp. Some of the issues are just the way those fisheries are managed. They’re often in sensitive habitats that don’t regrow after they’ve been impacted by a shrimp farm, and they’ll often use antibiotics and pesticides to manage those fisheries, so you’re dealing with chemicals in the water.”
Another option: “Here in the Midwest, there’s a growing movement of sustainable aquaculture, so there are several farms doing things like tilapia or shrimp that are based on land or produced in systems that are recycling the water, using fewer chemicals, and ensuring the health of those animals and also people on the table side.”

Atlantic cod

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Reid says: “This is a deep-water fish whose population basically collapsed in the ’90s and never really recovered.”
Another option: “There’s a fish called hake which tastes very similar. It breaks off in big chunks, which is a signature feature of cod. Or a softer whitefish like catfish, which believe it or not is very sustainable and amounts to nearly two-thirds of the aquaculture in the US.”

Spanish mackerel

Reid says: “This has been overfished and not well managed. Basically, this is off the table.”
Another option: “Most other types of mackerel tend to be sustainable because they reproduce a lot and they’re so healthy to eat because of their Omega 3.”

Grouper

Reid says: “This is a really common seafood item on many menus, but there’s the same problem: since these are so large they’ve been overfished. They also have an interesting mating ritual where they aggregate in huge spawning grounds in one location, so fishermen can go there during breeding season to collect more than is sustainable.”
Another option: “Any kind of flakier whitefish is a nice alternative. They tend to come into season in the summertime, and there’s usually a regional option. We have great whitefish in Lake Michigan, for instance.”

King crab

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Reid says: “This is a matter of locality and what type of regulations are in place. In places like Russia or Japan, they’re not regulated in a way that’s sustainable, and it has a negative impact on the habitat and other wildlife.”
Another option: “Blue crab or stone crab come from well-managed fisheries in the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Just thinking closer to home is important. And if you’re looking specifically for those really long, meaty legs, Alaskan king crab would be a smarter choice.”

Atlantic halibut

Reid says: “This is an enormous fish. It can get up to 7ft long and weigh up to 800lbs. Because of its long period of time before reproduction, it’s susceptible to overfishing.”
Another option: “Pacific halibut is a great alternative. In general, the Pacific fisheries tend to be in better shape than the Atlantic because they’ve been fished for fewer years and the Pacific Ocean is just so much bigger that the seafood seems to be in better condition.”

Dan Gentile is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist. He is basically a bottomless pit of fish sticks and sushi. Follow him to treating life like a buffet at @Dannosphere.

Surviving natural disasters revealed

Mail Online again with some essential tips: How to avoid the ‘death mask’ in an avalanche, how to run around a forest fire and why a radio could save you in the middle of a hurricane


  • Lloyd Figgins and Ed Stafford talk through ways to beat forces of nature
  • They explain how to survive earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis
  • Stafford was the first person to ever walk the length of the Amazon
  • Figgins has written Looking for Lemons – A Travel Survival Guide

Mother Nature doesn’t always play nice.  From earthquakes to forest fires, there are plenty of potentially lethal events she throws at us.  But listen to the advice of survival experts such as Lloyd Figgins and Ed Stafford, and you will stand a chance.

Here they impart their wisdom on making it out of natural disasters alive.

Earthquakes

There are thousands of earthquakes around the world every day. However, most are not sizeable enough to cause damage and some won’t even be felt.

According to the US Geological survey, around 275 of these will be large enough to be felt by humans.

Lloyd Figgins, author and international expert on risk and crisis management, points out that most earthquake-related deaths and injuries result from being hit by falling debris and collapsing structures 

Lloyd Figgins, author and international expert on risk and crisis management, points out that most earthquake-related deaths and injuries result from being hit by falling debris and collapsing structures

In April last year, over 8,000 people were killed when an earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude rocked Nepal causing mass devastation and the region is still recovering.

While earthquakes on this scale are almost impossible to predict, there are ways in which we can give ourselves the best possible chance of survival.

Lloyd Figgins, author and international expert on risk and crisis management, points out that most earthquake-related deaths and injuries result from being hit by falling debris and collapsing structures.

In his book Looking For Lemons: A Travel Survival Guide, he writes: ‘Identify safe places in the area where you are staying. Look for things like sturdy tables to an interior wall.

‘Stay well away from windows that could shatter and cause injury and from tall furniture that could fall on you.’

English Explorer Ed Stafford believes planning is essential if visiting an area where earthquakes could happen.

HOW TO SURVIVE AN EARTHQUAKE

  • Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
  • Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down.
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
  • Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops.

UK Government advice

Figgins (pictured) highlights the importance of being prepared and stocking up on food and water to up your chances of surviving hurricanes

Figgins (pictured) highlights the importance of being prepared and stocking up on food and water to up your chances of surviving hurricanes

In his book How To Survive Anything: A Visual Guide To Laughing In The Face Of Adversity, he writes: ‘Channel your inner Boy Scout and stock up on non-perishable food, water, a battery-operated radio and fire extinguishers.

‘Pack a bag with a first-aid kit, a pair of work gloves, a torch, some cash and a whistle.’

Both experts emphasise that you should stay away from doors and windows to avoid being injured.

In the aftermath of an earthquake, usually there are further aftershocks, or at worst, another sizeable quake.

Stafford says the next step is to get to higher ground as soon as it is safe to do so, as there is even the risk of a tsunami if near the coast.

Figgins highlights the importance of being aware – look out for potential hazards, check for any injuries and get first aid if necessary, and use stairs and not elevators.

Hurricanes and tornadoes

A hurricane, also referred to as a cyclone or typhoon, is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain.

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as twisters or cyclones.

Experts recommend that you listen to radio updates on the weather and safe zones in the event of a hurricane or tornado 

Experts recommend that you listen to radio updates on the weather and safe zones in the event of a hurricane or tornado

Modern-day warning systems greatly improve the chance of survival from these type of natural disaster, although not everybody will clear the danger zone effectively.

‘Get indoors, preferably in a cellar or a shelter below the ground,’ says Figgins.

‘If you can’t get to such a place, you should secure yourself in a middle room of the house, where there are no windows. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture that will protect you if the roof gets blown off.’

Figgins again highlights the importance of being prepared and stocking up on food and water, as well as objects that will aid escape such as a torch, a radio to listen for meteorological updates and information about safe zones and a first-aid kit.

It is also important to turn off all electricity before the storm hits.

Chillingly, Figgins says that a lull in the hurricane ‘could indicate that the eye of the storm is directly above you,’ so stresses the importance of not being tempted to leave a place of safety until instructed to do so.

IF A HURRICANE IS IN YOUR AREA…

  • Stay informed by monitoring the store via radio, TV, and internet.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Keep your vehicles fully fueled.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Tsunamis

A tsunami is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake.

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami.

Advanced warning systems continue to be improved, meaning death tolls from events such as the 2011 tsunami in Japan should be reduced

Advanced warning systems continue to be improved, meaning death tolls from events such as the 2011 tsunami in Japan should be reduced

It’s when these waves reach shallow waters that devastation can be caused, as shown in 2011 in Japan when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake was followed by a tsunami that left almost 20,000 dead.

In 2004, an earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day left 230,000 people dead in 14 countries.

Again, recent technology means early warnings can be given to try and move people away from areas that will be affected.

Stafford writes: ‘If there’s danger you’ll hear sirens, emergency instructions on the radio and television, and possibly even receive a text.’

It is important to get to as high ground as possible, as a tsunami ‘travels as fast as a plane’.

Figgins adds: ‘If you are in an “at risk” coastal region, plan your evacuation route in advance and actually travel the route to make sure you are familiar with it.’

But what should you do if caught in the terror of a tsunami?

HOW TO SURVIVE A TSUNAMI

  • If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once
  • Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation
  • Take your pets with you. If it is not safe for you, it’s not safe for them
  • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible

As well as moving to higher ground, possessions should be left behind as they can slow down your progress.

If there is no higher ground Figgins says you should look to climb onto a roof or an upper floor of a strong building, or even a tree.

The absolute final resort sounds desperate, but Figgins highlights that by grabbing onto ‘something that floats’ you have more chance of survival.

‘There are frequently stories of people who survive tsunamis by clinging to floating objects,’ he adds.

Volcanoes

If you live in a community near an active volcano, there will be warning signs and this coupled with news and radio broadcasts are the best bets for survival.

However, volcanoes don’t often give much warning about an eruption.

In 2014, a volcano erupted without warning in Japan. More than 50 people died when Mount Ontake, a popular hiking destination in central Japan, erupted in the country’s deadliest volcanic eruption since the Second World War.

Experts do not recommend attempting to jump over lava flows 

Experts do not recommend attempting to jump over lava flows

If you are unlucky enough to get caught in an eruption, it’s the falling debris and inhalation of volcanic ash that could lead to illness, injury and even death.

‘Place a wet cloth over your nose and mouth so you do not inhale volcanic ash,’ advises Figgins.

‘Find shelter as quickly as you can and seal all doors, windows, chimneys and vents. Place wet towels beneath the doors.’

In the terrifying predicament of being met by a lava flow, Figgins says you should never run across active flows, but assess the speed and likelihood of outrunning it.’

Advice on Wikihow adds: Lava flows, laggards, mudflows, and flooding are common in a major eruption. All of these can be deadly, and all of them tend to travel in valleys and low-lying areas.

‘Climb to higher ground, and stay there until you can confirm that the danger has passed.’

HOW TO SURVIVE A VOLCANIC ERUPTION

  • Protect yourself from breathing in volcanic ash by placing a wet cloth over your mouth and nose.
  • Find shelter quickly indoors, but be wary of falling debris.
  • If unlucky to be caught in lava flows, assess the speed and likelihood of outrunning it.
  • Never jump across lava flows as you could get caught in the middle with nowhere to go.

Avalanches

An avalanche is a sudden downhill movement of snow. It is a significant hazard to people living in, or visiting, glacial areas. A slab avalanche is the most dangerous form of movement and will often lead to serious injury and death.

Again, preparation and information is key – there is an avalanche forecast that skiers and snow-lovers should tune into before heading out. It’s also a good idea to wear an avalanche beacon that can send signals to rescuers if you are buried.

‘If there’s no time to get out of the way, make your body as big as possible and swim for your life’ writes Stafford in his book.

A beacon that transmits radio signals is essential if travelling to an area known for its avalanches

A beacon that transmits radio signals is essential if travelling to an area known for its avalanches

He says that 30 per cent of avalanche deaths are as a result of being crushed by huge blocks of snow or being thrown off rocks or into trees.

But if you can survive this gauntlet, try and keep on top of the snow and make space above your head. He even has advice if you find yourself buried.

‘Resist the urge to dig yourself out of the snow,’ he says, ‘as avalanche debris settles like cement.’

He believes it’s important to remain calm and preserve your oxygen with steady breathing.

If you have taken a beacon out with you, or managed to lay a marker down during the snow-fall, then rescuers could be on their way.

HOW TO SURVIVE AN AVALANCHE

  • Be a Beacon. You can take one huge step toward survival before you ever set foot on a mountain by taking a radio transmitter with you.
  • Stay On Top. ‘Swimming’ to the top of the avalanche will help avoid being trapped under debris.
  • Reach for the sky and remain calm.

Source: mentalfloss.com

However, time isn’t on your side.

‘You only have about 15 to 20 minutes of air. Even though snow is full of oxygen, ice will form around your warm breath and form a ‘death mask’, he adds.

This makes the beacon an absolute necessity if travelling in areas where an avalanche might occur.

Forest fires

A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks.

Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of propagation, the combustible material present and the effect of weather on the fire.

Though Stafford says wildfires are ‘nearly impossible to outrun and extremely dangerous to cross’, he does have some advice for anyone unlucky enough to end up near one.

Stafford says wildfires are 'nearly impossible to outrun and extremely dangerous to cross' 

Stafford says wildfires are ‘nearly impossible to outrun and extremely dangerous to cross’

‘If you cannot see for smoke, do not attempt to run in the general direction of the wind,’ he advises.

‘Hot air rising above the fire causes a powerful updraft sucking air towards the front. These can even create vortices, small tornadoes that spread the fire in finger-like patterns.’

Avoiding large numbers of trees and vegetation goes without saying, but how to run past a fire isn’t necessarily common knowledge.

‘On hills, attempt to cross diagonally in front of the advancing flames, uphill and to one side,’ says Stafford.

‘This may bring you around the side of the wildfire and let the leading edge of the blaze go past as it rages upwards.’

The aim is then to reach a low point, where you should lie down and “breathe into your clothes” so that you don’t suck in hot gases.

Once enough energy has been restored, it’s time to run and find shelter.

Your best bet, says Stafford, is to find a house surrounded by a 30ft vegetation-free buffer zone.

Once inside, move everything flammable into the middle of the rooms.


Lloyd Figgins is an International Expert in Travel Safety and author of Looking for Lemons – A Travel Survival Guide £9.99, available from Amazon or www.lloydfiggins.com

Ed Stafford is the Guinness World Record-holding first man to walk the Amazon. He was European Adventurer of the Year 2011 and is the author of How To Survive Anything: A Visual Guide To Laughing In The Face Of Adversity.

The worst mistakes you can make on holiday revealed

This is interesting and I’ve come across a couple of these (although was not aware of others!); but most people are pretty understanding, what with all the global travel and almost universal internet access nowadays.  Thanks to the Mail online again for helping us to get it right abroad.  – Ned


  • In a new thread on Reddit, users have revealed how tourists offend locals
  • Visitors to Thailand can land in jail for disrespecting the country’s king
  • In the Middle East, it’s an insult to show the soles of your feet or shoes
  • Don’t touch people’s heads in Thailand and NEVER make the ‘OK’ sign in Brazil

Tourists who don’t do their research can make all kinds of cultural gaffes abroad – or even run into trouble with the law – for something as simple as a hand gesture or a drink order.

While some no-nos are a no-brainer, holidaymakers can offend locals even by doing something that is perfectly acceptable at home.

In a new thread, Reddit users have revealed some of the worst mistakes made by holidaymakers in their hometown or country.

Don’t give this hand gesture in Britain

In Britain, the V sign is acceptable if the palm faces away from the signer, but not the other way around

In Britain, the V sign is acceptable if the palm faces away from the signer, but not the other way around

The V sign, where the index and middle finger are parted, can mean peace, victory or even the number two in American Sign Language.

But in Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, it is an insult if the palm of the hand faces the signer.

A Reddit user wrote: ‘It’s considered the same as giving someone the middle finger. But most people I know realise that when a non-Brit does it, it’s not a case of being rude, just a case of not realising.’

The peace sign, where the palm faces away from the signer, is perfectly acceptable. Americans and Canadians, for example, often make the gaffe when they show the V sign for the number two.

Don’t touch people’s heads in Thailand

Thailand is one of Asia’s most popular destinations, but visitors should be careful not to get too friendly with the locals.

A user offered this warning: ‘Don’t touch people on their heads, it is the highest point of the body so therefore it’s the most respectful part.’

Pointing your feet at a Buddha statue is considered very rude and visitors risk being thrown in jail if they disrespect Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Redditor added: ‘If you step on money, you’ll be thrown in jail. It has the king’s face on it and disrespecting him in any way (like stepping on his image or saying you hate him) will get you a one-way ticket to a not very nice prison.’

In Thailand, it is illegal to step on the country's money, which features a photo of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

In Thailand, it is illegal to step on the country’s money, which features a photo of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Don’t antagonise the Queen’s guards in Britain

Soldiers from the Queen’s Guard are a popular attraction for tourists at Buckingham Palace and Whitehall, but they’re not props for photos.

Reddit users were warned not to antagonise the soldiers in full dress uniform (red tunics and bearskin hats).

A user wrote: ‘They’re not decoration, they’re serving soldiers. Have a good gawp but leave them be.’

Another Redditor added: ‘I can kind of get it, though. They’re never portrayed seriously in movies or TV shows.’

Don’t use the ‘OK’ sign in Brazil

A Reddit user explained that making the 'OK' sign in Brazil can cause serious offence

A Reddit user explained that making the ‘OK’ sign in Brazil can cause serious offence

A Reddit user from Brazil explained why visitors shouldn’t make the ‘OK’ gesture with their fingers to Brazilians.

They wrote: ‘The “OK” thing Americans do with their hands means “Shove it up your a***” – So don’t do it!’

Don’t order this drink in Northern Ireland or Ireland

In bars in North America, the ‘Irish car bomb’ – a shot of Irish cream and whisky dropped into a glass of Guinness – is a popular frat boy cocktail.

But, due to the Troubles, it’s an offensive name in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The same goes for the black and tan – a mix of dark and pale beer.

It was a nickname given to the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, which became notorious for a brutal crackdown during the Irish War of Independence

Instead, ask for a ‘half and half’.

Don’t show the bottom of your feet in the Middle East

In the Middle East, it’s an insult to show the soles of your feet or shoes.

A user wrote: ‘When I lived in the Middle East, showing the bottom of your feet (like when your legs are crossed) was offensive, saw expats do it all the time though.’

Another user added: ‘Which ties into how throwing your shoes at someone is such an insult in the Middle East. The foot is the “lowest” part of your body, and you’re throwing something that spends most of its time touching your feet.’

Don’t wear your shoes in someone’s house in the US, Canada or Sweden

Although it is perfectly acceptable in some cultures, this applies as a general rule in countries such as Canada, the US and Sweden.

A Redditor wrote: ‘In the US, look down when you enter a house. If there are shoes near the door then assume it’s a shoes-free house. Many houses are shoe-free, it saves so much cleaning hassle.’

Another user added: ‘Sam in Sweden. Why would you drag that filth from outside into your home?’

No Selfies Allowed: Social Media Bans at Landmarks

In the age of social media ubiquity, some popular destinations are instituting selfie (or, more specifically, selfie stick) bans. This interesting piece is for Conde Nast Traveller.

Oceanfront, Mumbai

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Getty

While not a full-on ban, Mumbai police are instituting patrols in zones where selfie mishaps are most common, like the city’s oceanfront promenade, a popular pedestrian area. Most recently, two teenagers drowned while trying to get that perfect aquatic backdrop, the latest in a string of snap-related deaths around the country. India leads the world in deaths-by-selfie: Of 49 globally recorded fatalities over the past 3 years, nearly 40 percent have occurred there.

Disney

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Getty

All Disney parks have banned selfie sticks on their grounds as of July 1, 2015. Previously, Disney had banned the sticks in rides where they were the most dangerous, but after complaints from visitors and employees alike they extended the ban. “We strive to provide a great experience for the entire family, and unfortunately selfie-sticks have become a growing safety concern for both our guests and cast,” a rep for The Mouse told the Washington Post.

Lollapalooza

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Courtesy Lollapalooza

The annual summer music festival in Chicago (this year it’s happening from July 31-August 2) is the first major music festival to ban selfie sticks and other similar devices. The festival organizers have added these sticks to the list of banned items, which also includes skateboards, aerosol cans, and illegal drugs.

The Palace Museum, Beijing

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Cin Paradiso WOM

The Palace Museum, usually referred to as the Forbidden City, is a hugely popular tourist attraction in Beijing, but it’s also extremely delicate. For that reason, Chinese officials have banned selfie sticks there, saying they pose a risk to the antiquities and also to other people, particularly in the most crowded sections. The museum’s director said that the ban will be strictly enforced: “Our staff will stop visitors using such devices when necessary.”

South Korea

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Ed Jones/AFP/Getty

South Korea hasn’t passed any laws related to selfies, but they recently passed one about “selfie sticks,” a popular device that can hold up your phone and snap the photo for you. These devices make it easy to snap better selfies from different angles, but they’re connected to your phone via Bluetooth, which means that the sticks could be used to access your personal data. South Korea is cracking down on unregistered knock-off selfie sticks and will now regulate them via a government agency that monitors telecom devices.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

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Debra Behr / Alamy

Staff at Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, are asking visitors not to take pictures of bears, especially selfies that have them turning their backs to said bears. A recent uptick in the number of selfies with bears in the background are “presenting a safety issue,” according to a spokesperson for the park. It’s possible that they’re thinking about a 2013 incident where a couple on safari were gored by rhinos after their guide suggested they get closer to the animals for a better photo.

The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

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Hemis / Alamy

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has a contentious relationship with social media and photography. The institution had a photography ban, repealed it in May 2013, then re-instituted the ban in March 2014. The museum said that photography there, one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist sites, “caused tension between those wishing to photograph and those wishing to view the paintings.”

Mecca, Saudi Arabia

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Art Directors & TRIP / Alamy

The hajj, a trip to the holy city of Mecca, is one of the most important requirements in Islam. But the rise of technology is causing conflict as younger Muslims use social media to document their pilgrimages. Several prominent clerics and scholars have asked people to refrain from posting selfies, especially of them visiting or touching holy sites, claiming that such photos go against Islamic principles of modesty.

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

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Nic Cleave Photography / Alamy

The Sistine Chapel has banned photography, including snapping shots of its famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo. This rule has nothing to do with overcrowding or trying to move people along more quickly, though. The ban dates to 1980, when the Vatican raised $3 million in necessary renovation funds from Japan’s Nippon Television Network in exchange for exclusive photo and video rights to the art within. Though the ban is still technically in place, enforcement isn’t very strict and plenty of tourists have been able to snap pictures.

Garoupe Beach, France

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Hemis / Alamy

Leave it to the French to treasure their exclusivity, even on vacation. The southern French beach Garoupe banned selfies, which it calls “braggies,” claiming that constant photo-sharing was ruining the true beachgoing experience. “The Garoupe beaches are among the most glamorous and pristine beaches in all of France,” said a spokesperson. “We want people to be able to enjoy our exclusive beach in the moment, not spending the majority of their time bragging to their friends and family back home.”

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona

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Alan Copson City Pictures / Alamy

Running while selfie-ing doesn’t seem very safe. And selfie-ing while running away from bulls seems even less safe. Authorities in Pamplona, which hosts the annual Running of the Bulls, have imposed a no-selfies rule and are fining violators. This summer, a British man was fined €3,000 (about $4,000) for taking a picture of himself participating in the run, prompting one Spanish newspaper to ask “Is this the most dangerous selfie ever?”

New York state

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Patti McConville / Alamy

New York became the first state in America to outlaw people having direct contact with—or taking pictures of themselves with—dangerous cats like lions, tigers, and leopards at places like zoos. Although the politician who sponsored the bill claims that social media wasn’t the only motivation behind the law, a growing trend of “tiger selfies” on social media did play a major role. Now, people caught violating the law face $500-$1,000 fines, and the Tinder Guys With Tigers tumblr is out of material.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

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Some of the country’s most popular museums are taking a stand against selfie sticks, including the National Gallery, the Getty Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (pictured). These museums have all cited issues with selfie sticks causing injury to works of art or other museum patrons, but they haven’t gone for full-on photography bans just yet.

A Heartfelt Post for Valentine’s Day! <3

Hey there all you romantics: I spotted this piece in the Mail Online Travel – just perfect for Feb 14th.
Check it out… ❤ ❤ ❤

Ned


It appears that love is not just in the air, but also hidden in natural wonders all over the planet. 

From peaceful atolls, vibrant islands and rocky cliffs there are heart-shapes surprises to be discovered among the landscape. 

Sir Richard Branson is even a fan of the phenomenon, forking out for a heart-shaped island resort in Australia.

Romantics may wish to spend a day exploring Croatia’s perfectly shaped paradise, Galesnjak, which received international fame after it was captured by a Google Earth satellite in 2009. 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora. There are flights available for tours and couples can even tie the knot on the stunning island.

Here are some of the most spectacular natural wonders – that are sure to capture your heart.

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia's Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart 

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia's Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed 

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed

 

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    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake - ideal for romantic strolls

    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake – ideal for romantic strolls

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand 

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand

     

 

7 Habits of Highly Efficient Trekkers

The best trekkers develop habits and routines to help make their travels go more smoothly.  Adopt these seven tricks to take your trekking skills to the next level.


Pack Smart

Packing Smart

Photo: Shutterstock

Do you do a lot of travelling?  Then make it a habit to keep your suitcase stocked with travel toiletries and a regularly updated carry-on bag list.  Even if you’re not away every weekend, having the essentials ready to go and an idea of what you need to check off can save you lots of pre-trip stress and prevent over-packing.  Plus if someone ever offers to whisk you away at a moment’s notice, you’ll be prepared! 😉

Take Advantage Of Flight-Tracking Apps

Taking Advantage Of Flight-Tracking Apps

Photo: Shutterstock

It’s called a smartphone for obvious reasons, and one of the smartest things you can do with it is download a good flight-tracking app.  There are plenty of great free tracking apps and you can upscale to the pro versions for instant alerts about flight delays, cancellations, and gate changes. You’ll also be notified as soon as online check-in is available, whether your airfare is eligible for a refund, and you’ll get help finding a new flight if yours is cancelled.  Get into the habit of inputting your itinerary into your travel app before you take off, and you (or at least your smartphone) will be on top of the travel game.

Check in ASAP

Checking in ASAP

Photo: Shutterstock

With airlines trying to squeeze every last penny out of flyers by turning exit-row economy seats into “premium economy,” your chance of snagging a good aisle or window seat (without paying extra) is dwindling.  Get in the habit of setting an alarm on your phone to remind you exactly when your airline’s online check-in starts: then if you weren’t able to select seats when you booked, it will give you am early shot at what’s still open.  If you already picked a seat, remember that usually it’s the passengers who check in last who get bumped from oversold flights.  Print your boarding passes at this time too and you’ll be able to ditch the long check-in lines at the airport.

Get in with the Locals

three beardies & a beer

Photo: author’s own

Start a new tradition: make one of your first stops on each trip a bar, coffee shop or restaurant frequented by locals and not recommended by any guidebooks.  While you’re there, chat up friendly natives for their tips on what to do.  By starting off every trip like this, you’ll often discover things you would have missed by sticking to a guidebook or travel agent’s recommendations.  Why not start a routine of dropping your bags at the hotel, then immediately heading out for refreshment at the quirkiest local establishment you can find?  It’s a fun and informative way to ease into your holiday.

Do Your Homework!

Doing Your Homework

Photo: Shutterstock

I really can’t emphasis this enough: spontaneity on trips is great but doing a little homework before you go can vastly enhance your getaway.  A few weeks before you travel, try signing up for daily deal sites (like Groupon or LivingSocial) for your destination.  You’ll get offers for local restaurants and activities that you can redeem once you’re there – all at a heavy discount.  And read up on the places you’re travelling to: there’s nothing worse than finding out about an amazing event or attraction after you’ve returned home!

Call Your Credit Card Company

James on phone

Photo: author’s own

Another important habit is to call your credit card company and bank before you head off to any far-flung destination.  Many companies will freeze your card if it’s used outside of your home country, thinking that it’s fraud.  A few days before you leave, give them a call and let them know the dates you’ll be gone so you’ll still be able to access all your funds abroad.

Build some Downtime into your Schedule

Mauritius 2 121

Photo: author’s own

It’s tempting to try to pack a million different activities and sights into your trip, because who knows when you’ll get a chance to come back? Get in the habit of leaving some downtime in your schedule. Without it, you’ll be overexerted and tired, and you’ll never have time to just wander and discover the unexpected delights that can be the best part of any trip.

 

10 Essential Skills Every Traveller Should Have

Great Smarter Travel tips


Anyone can fumble their way through security and learn a few words in a foreign language. But expert travellers are the ones who can pick up a specific skill set that makes travelling easier wherever they go.

Here are the 10 essential skills that will help you with domestic and foreign travel—and the best part is you can practise them all at home.

10 Essential Skills Every Traveler Should Have

(All photos courtesy of Shutterstock)

1. Drive a manual (stick shift)

 Drive a Stick Shift
Only a small percentage of new cars sold in the U.S. come with a manual transmission, and getting an automatic is pretty much guaranteed when you rent domestically. But renting a car in Europe is easier—and cheaper—if you know how to drive a “stick”. Manual transmissions are more common and often the cheapest rental option overseas. Being able to drive one means you can worry less about requesting a specific make and more about getting to the nearest restaurant.

While there are various online tutorials and videos describing how to drive a manual car, there’s nothing quite like actually doing it. Ask a friend to teach you in an empty parking lot, or search for driving schools in your area that offer lessons.

2. De-bone a Fish

De-bone a Fish

Ordering food at a restaurant doesn’t usually require much thought: Pick what sounds good and then eat it when it arrives. Occasionally ordering fish complicates things if the chef decides to cook it and serve it whole. You could just cut into it and work around the bones (or pick the bones out of your teeth), but there’s an art to filleting a fish that will make eating it easier and less messy. Try practising it at home—before you attempt it at the dinner table.

3. Read a Map

Read a Map

In an age of ubiquitous GPS, it’s still good to know how to read a map—a skill that’s especially critical in areas where there’s no cellphone service. It’s also an essential tool for hiking, for road trips, and for navigating a city center where you may want to save data for emergencies (versus Yelping a restaurant for dinner). Level up your orienteering skills by teaching yourself how to use a good old-fashioned compass. Studying maps of where you’re travelling beforehand can also help you acquaint yourself with unfamiliar places.

4. Haggle

Haggle

Haggling is a craft. It’s also a skill you need if don’t want to pay full price for things. And bargaining comes in handy in more ways than you think, so it’s worth practicing every chance you get. Most people think of haggling when they think of shopping street markets where it’s common practice: start low, walk away if the vendor isn’t budging.

But negotiating also comes in handy any time you’re booking lodging. Start by booking your accommodations via phone; it’s easier to feel more confident when you’re not face to face and, since there’s more of a chance of losing you as a customer than if you’re physically in a hotel, you may get a better deal. Even if they can’t budge on the rate, you may be able to get extras like parking or breakfast.

5. Approach Strangers

Approach Strangers

Growing up, you learn never talk to strangers. On the road, strangers can help you locate the best restaurants, local shops, and under-the-radar attractions. And if you’re lost, you may be able to find someone who can point you in the right direction. Approaching someone you don’t know is sometimes intimidating, but you can start by talking with shop owners or hotel staff (even if you’re not staying at a particular spot). No matter where you are, folks in service industries often know multiple languages.

Saddling up to a local bar is another great place to chat with others. After some practice, you’ll feel more comfortable and be able to determine who may be willing to spare a few minutes to have a conversation. Try it first near home in your own language.

6. Change A Flat Tyre

Change A Flat Tire

Knowing basic car maintenance is helpful for everyday driving. But having the ability to change a flat tyre, especially if you’re heading out on a lengthy road trip, can save you from hassles and headaches—and keep you moving. Of course, services like the AA are great for peace of mind and larger snafus.

Learn where to place the car jack, how to boost up the car, and how to loosen the lug nuts. If your car has wheel locks make sure you know where your key is, otherwise even kind strangers that want to help you change a flat won’t be able help. Other useful skills to practise are jump-starting a car (knowing where the black and red cables get clamped) and parallel parking (then you won’t have to pass up the best on-street parking spots).

7. Estimate Conversions

Estimate Conversions

The bulk of the world deals in kilometers and liters and Celsius versus miles and gallons and Fahrenheit. Having a basic understanding of these will help you obey speed limits without checking your dash every few seconds, order drinks in restaurants, and dress appropriately for any given day. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the local currency and exchange rates will not only help you find places offering the most bang for your buck, but can also prevent you from overspending.

One thousand Swedish kroner, 1,000 Japanese Yen, and 1,000 US dollars are all drastically different amounts. Being able to quickly estimate how much a meal, train ticket, or tchotchke will cost you in your native currency will help you avoid purchases in excess of your budget. Of course you can do all these things on a phone, but it’s easier to just learn it.

It’s also a good idea to set your phone to 24-hour time. By the time you get to your destination, you’ll be a pro at knowing 1500 is 3:00 p.m. Reading train timetables or making a reservation will be that much easier.

8. Use a Squat Toilet

Use a Squat Toilet

Depending where your travels take you, you may encounter the squat toilet—particularly in the East. The first thing to do when you see a slab of porcelain on the floor is decide if you’re keeping your trousers on (if you’re comfortable with squatting) or taking them off (if you aren’t sure about the whole process). Placing your feet on either side, squat down, hugging your knees if you need extra support. Once you’re done, use the pot of water to “flush” the toilet. You may or may not encounter toilet paper (that’s also what the water is for—and why people generally greet others with a right-handed shake), though bringing your own paper is okay—just don’t throw it in the toilet since it can easily clog.

9. Learn the Local Language

 Learn the Local Language

It’s great to know a language other than English, but some of the best travellers don’t. Instead, they know enough key phrases to get by wherever they go. Go beyond learning—and relying on—”do you speak English?” and show you’re really trying. Your efforts will give you the confidence to navigate new territory, and the locals will appreciate it.

Apps like Duolingo can help you get started with the basics: greetings, yes and no, numbers one to 10, and how to order in a restaurant. Tools like Google Translate are helpful in-country and for translating specific phrases you find yourself wanting to use.

10. Acquire Basic Survival Skills

Acquire Basic Survival Skills

Whether travelling alone or with others, it’s good to know how to use a first aid kit, if needed, in addition to other life-saving skills like  CPR and the Heimlich (on yourself and others). It’s best to take a CPR class to feel more confident and ensure you’re getting the most up-to-date procedures. Additional seemingly basic skills like knowing how to swim, learning how to stop yourself or someone else from bleeding, self-defense moves, or treating shock are invaluable, too.

Many stores offer a comprehensive Wilderness First Aid class that will ensure you feel comfortable in backcountry emergencies. They cover a range of topics that include cold and heat injuries, wound management, and altitude sickness. The skills are also handy to know even when you’re not miles from the nearest road.

 

 

How to Avoid the Worst Seat on the Plane

Essential reading from Smarter Travel

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Everyone agrees that legroom is a huge deal. But it’s not the only way that airplane seats come up short. Some won’t recline. Others are constantly bombarded with the scent of the airplane lavatory. Point is, there are many ways your seat can disappoint. Fortunately, you can steer clear of most of these seats most of the time just by learning which ones to avoid when making your seat selection. Here are the seats you should stay away from every time you travel.

The Seat with the Entertainment Box

You’ve arrived at your seat and you’re going through the process of deciding which items to put in the overhead bin (if you’re lucky enough to find room in the overhead bin) and which to stow under the seat in front of you. And that’s when you look down and realize it’s going to be an easy decision—because there is no room to stash your stuff (or stretch your legs) under the seat in front of you. Instead, there’s a metal case, an “entertainment equipment box,” taking up the entire under-seat storage area. You only have to make this seat mistake once to know those few extra inches of storage and stretching space make a huge difference.

The Seat At the Back of Any Section

Seats at the back of a section—those usually found just in front of a bank of lavatories or a galley—are the absolute best if you refuse to recline on principle, truly can’t stand having your seat kicked by the person in back of you, or if you’re simply an aficionado of discomfort. For the rest of us, these seats should be avoided whenever possible.

The Seat Next to the Main Exit Door

If legroom is your only consideration, then this might be the seat for you. But if you’re an average-height person, you may want to question the common wisdom that the seats next to the main exit door are prime real estate. Why? You’ll be giving up your arm’s-reach stowage (no seat in front of you means no under-seat storage, so you’ll need to put everything in the overhead bins during take-off and landing). You’ll also come up against ‐ literally – the reduced seat width that comes with the solid metal armrests needed to stow tray tables. And you will likely remain chilly for the length of the flight, since the air by the door is colder, presumably because the door has inner mechanical workings instead of insulation.

The Broken Seat

Fly enough and you’ll eventually end up in a broken seat. Maybe the seat leans at a weird angle. Or it jiggles loosely in its bolts. Perhaps the recline mechanism is jammed. Or, as seems to happen far more often than it should, the headphone jack or the seatback screen is on the fritz. Of all the bad seats to get, this one might be the true worst because it’s the one you can’t plan for. In the best-case scenario, you can draw attention to it and be reseated, but it’s our experience that broken seats and full flights go hand in hand.

The Seat Near the Bathroom

Questionable aromas aside, the seats closest to the lavatories are still among the worst in the cabin. That’s because there’s nearly always a line for the bathroom, and there’s something about being in line for the bathroom that seems to make airplane passengers take leave of their basic manners. Expect to be treated to a constant stream of passengers steadying themselves on your seatback, jiggling it back and forth—because of turbulence or simply because they’re in the middle of some complicated hamstring stretch. Prepare for getting various body parts smooshed into your shoulder as people try to accommodate two-way traffic in the aisle. And let’s not forget all the projecting-over-the-engine-noise conversations you’ll be treated to while trying to sleep.

The Tapered Window Seat

At the back of some planes there are a few rows of two. This might seem like a dream—more space, no middle seat. But … there are issues. There’s a gap between the seat and the wall of the plane, so you won’t be able to lean to sleep. If you like the feeling of a little room, it can be nice (and it’s a perk to be able to stash your stuff alongside you rather than under the seat in front). But beware: The person in the seat behind you may claim this space as their extra legroom, which could mean enduring malodourous feet wiggling in your peripheral vision for the length of your flight. And believe us when we say this can make any flight smell twice as long.

Misaligned Window Seat

The implied promise of the term “window seat” is of course that there’s a window you can actually see through. But many planes have configurations that place some seats between windows. Not only is this disappointing for anyone who likes to look out the window, it can also create complicated lighting issues, as the window in front of and behind you may peek into your row but you won’t be able to control them. So if you want a dim cabin but the person behind you prefers light, you’re either going to have to negotiate (we suggest bribing with chocolate) or invest in a good eye mask.

The Last Row

Sit in the last row of a plane and you’ll likely be treated to a custom blend of lavatory aromas, seats that don’t recline, and a constant crowd of impatient bathroom aspirants waiting their turns. And when it’s time to disembark, here’s a tip: Don’t bother getting up for at least 10 minutes after the seatbelt sign dings off. By the time the aisle is clear for you to go, it will just be you and the cleaning crew.

Seats Between Different Configurations

You should be wary of being in that first row when a plane goes from four to three seats per row, or three to two. When a configuration switches to adapt to the tapering of the plane, legroom gets complicated since the optimal leg-stretch zone will be occupied by the seat anchors. Not only does it mean you may encroach on your neighbor’s space to stow and retrieve items placed under the seat, but it can lead to some pretty significant body aches if you’re twisting to reach your allotted leg room.

The Rows in Front of Exit Rows

You know all that legroom that the people have in the exit row behind you? Know that it’s partially at the expense of the row ahead. To ensure that exit rows remain clear for emergencies, the row in front of the exit row is lined with seats that don’t recline (or recline only very slightly). For safety, it makes perfect sense. What makes even more sense, though, is to try to avoid these seats when you’re choosing yours.

The Dreaded Middle Seat

The DMS, or Dreaded Middle Seat, is the true mush-pot in the seat assignment game of duck-duck-goose. On non-assignment airlines like Southwest, you can see the panic in the eyes of people in later boarding groups as they search for a seat—any seat—that’s not sandwiched between two people. On airlines with seat assignments, dreaded middle seats are always the last to be claimed, meaning the later you book, the more likely you are to have to resign yourself to battling your window and aisle seatmates for the extra few centimeters that armrest domination secures.

Bulkhead Rows

For some people, bulkhead is basically the first class of economy. But many people don’t realize its drawbacks until they’ve shelled out extra money for these coveted-but-flawed seats. As with seats by the main exit, bulkhead seats lack under-seat storage, meaning you’ll be stowing all your gear during the long stretches of time around takeoff and landing. There’s also the slightly reduced width of the seat (due to the tray-table-in-armrest configuration) to account for, and the simple fact that some find staring at a wall unpleasant. Finally, unless you’ve secured that extra space by filling it with an airline-supplied baby basinet or a bunch of your own junk, you may find that other passengers try to use it as a cut-through to get to the opposite aisle.

So how do you avoid these worst airplane seats? Before selecting a seat, we always head to SeatGuru and look up the airline and plane to figure out which seats to avoid. (SeatGuru is part of the TripAdvisor Media Group, which also owns SmarterTravel.)

 

 

In praise of boring places

Another good travel piece from my favourite-website-of-the-moment, the BBC (Travel section).  – Ned


Eric Weiner finds that when you relinquish the spectacular, you’re rewarded with the quieter joy of the ordinary.

Street with swiss flags in Geneva old Town

Wandering the streets of Geneva’s Old Town (Credit: Michał Ludwiczak/Thinkstock

An unspoken rule of travel is that, no matter what, you must avoid boring destinations. If you’re going to endure the sundry hassles of travel – from the cruel middle seat to the temporal whiplash of jet lag – you might as well go someplace interesting, right?

Not necessarily. Interesting is a relative term, and one that lies largely in the eye of the traveller. Boring can be ­– and I realise this is heresy – good. In fact, thumbing through passport stamps and other travel ephemerae recently, I realised that it was the “boring” places that stirred some of the fondest memories. Geneva? Deadly dull. I loved it. Bhopal, India? Nothing special. I had a great time. Ditto Izmir, Turkey and Cleveland, Ohio.

I know this sounds insane. Isn’t travel all about escaping boredom, about making a headlong rush away from the dull and toward the invigorating?

Couple Kissing on the Pier in Geneva, Switzerland (Credit: Credit: Kevin George/Alamy)

Couple Kissing on the Pier in Geneva, Switzerland (Credit: Kevin George/Alamy)

No, it’s not. Travel, I believe, means confronting boredom, staring it down, and emerging not only unscathed but revitalized. We live in an age that has little patience for monotony. Tethered to our iThings, we text and tweet the days away, secure in the knowledge that we need never experience that unsettling ennui that is, let’s face it, part of the human condition. Travel presents an opportunity to untether, and that is best done in less interesting places. That’s because such destinations are completely distraction free, unencumbered by even the distraction of beauty – and, yes, beauty can be distracting, as anyone who has ever stepped foot in Italy can attest. Boring places are like gyms. There’s a reason we join, and that reason has little to do with immediate gratification.

Unfortunately so-called boring places get a bad rap. On a recent visit to Geneva, my daily walks through the city streets were punctuated by, well, nothing much: no Arc de Triomphe or Trafalgar Square or any other sight that might warrant a guidebook mention. I was accustomed to being entertained, especially on the road, and Switzerland refused to deliver. No drama. No fireworks, literal or metaphoric.

Men play chess in Geneva's Parc des Bastions (Credit: Credit: Martin Good/Thinkstock)

Men play chess in Geneva’s Parc des Bastions (Credit: Martin Good/Thinkstock)

At first, this annoyed me. As the days passed, I grew increasingly restless. Dang it, Switzerland, entertain me! Soon, though, this irritation subsided, and I realised the hidden benefit of a place like Switzerland: it’s challenging – not in a K2 way, of course, but, still, the Swiss lay down their own gauntlet: make your own excitement, they say. We’re not going to help you. And so we do.

For instance, at a dinner party in Geneva, I pressed the guests about my obsession at the time – the cultural roots of happiness – and, after some prodding, they responded with many thoughtful comments, about everything from the local music scene to Switzerland’s controversial policy of assisted suicide. The Swiss, I realized, aren’t so much boring as they are reticent. It ended up being an interesting evening, because I took the initiative and helped make it so.

Cafe culture is a way of life in Geneva (Credit: Credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Cafe culture is a way of life in Geneva (Credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

My issue with so-called “exciting” destinations is that they’re crowded, swarming with fellow travellers in search of that very same exhilaration. If you’ve visited Florence during the summer, you know what I mean. Boring places, by contrast, are fresher, less thumbed-through, and therefore more receptive to our trespasses. A few miles off the coast of Bali, for instance, lies the lesser-known Indonesian island of Lombok, where I spent one of the happiest weeks of my life. Lombok may lack Bali’s colourful Hindu culture and its artist colonies, but it makes up for these excitements with a frumpier authenticity. As I criss-crossed the island, imbibing its less-trodden beauty, I experienced a sense of exploration that Bali, for all its beauty, has long ago foregone. When you relinquish the spectacular, you are rewarded with the quieter joy of the ordinary.

Fishermen returning to Kuta Beach with the daily catch in Lombok, Indonesia (Credit: Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis/robertharding/Alamy)

Fishermen returning to Kuta Beach with the daily catch in Lombok, Indonesia (Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis/robertharding/Alamy)

There’s another problem with exciting and beautiful destinations – or heaven forbid, “breathtaking” ones. They create expectations, and expectations are the enemy of happiness. These places raise the bar so high that your experience there is bound to fall short. We’re told, again and again that Paris, for instance, is a romantic city, so if it proves to be anything less we’re disappointed. But in boring places, the bar isn’t only set low; often there is no bar. Any joy we squeeze from their lacklustre sites, their tedious landscape, their humdrum cafes is pure gravy. Boring places lower expectations and, from a happiness perspective, that’s a good thing.

On a visit to Dijon, France, I arrived knowing nothing about the city (other than its famous mustard) and, so, was delighted to discover a clutch of serviceable museums, art galleries and cafes. I would be lying if I claimed these were on par with anything Paris has to offer, ­but as the days passed, unhurriedly, I found myself, in an odd way, savouring their ordinariness. Rather than asking Dijon to entertain me, I had recalibrated my notion of what constituted entertainment.

Shopping for bread is part of daily life in Dijon, France (Credit: Credit: Stephen Chapman/Alamy)

Shopping for bread is part of daily life in Dijon, France (Credit: Stephen Chapman/Alamy)

I experienced a similar mental adjustment on a visit to Cleveland. The city, like my hometown of Baltimore, gets a bum rap. Cleveland has its charms, as any city does, and those are best experienced unencumbered by labels. So I did, eating in trendy cafes that were blissfully unaware of their trendiness, and walking leafy streets that are in no guidebook. Preconceptions­ – even positive ones – hamper the travel experience more than all the lost luggage in the world.

To be clear: I’m not suggesting that we travel to the Clevelands of the world with low expectations. I suggest we go with no expectations. There’s a difference. With low expectations, you are playing a head game with yourself, trying to forestall disappointment. With no expectations, you are open to whatever comes along.

Cafes and pubs dot Cleveland's East 4th Street (Credit: Credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty)

Cafes and pubs dot Cleveland’s East 4th Street (Credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty)

This latter approach is, in fact, a very Buddhist way to travel. The Dalai Lama travels an awful lot, including to many dull destinations, yet I’ve never seen him exude anything other than unalloyed joy.

Philosophers have, through the ages, elucidated the benefits of boredom. “A certain amount of boredom is… essential to a happy life,” wrote British philosopher Bertrand Russell. His fellow Briton, the author and seasoned traveller Aldous Huxley, agreed.  “Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable,” he said. “It is the symbol of his liberty ­– his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically but almost with pleasure.”

I concede that we don’t normally equate boredom and pleasure – but think about it. We travel in order to change the rhythm of our lives, and that means embracing the lulls as well as the storms we encounter on the road.

More than that, boring places stretch our travel skills, forcing us to find beauty and meaning­ – and, yes, excitement too – in the ordinary. They alter our “muscle memory” – our natural inclination to grow accustomed to anything – and, in the process, make us stronger, better. Isn’t that why we travel in the first place?

The truth is there are no boring places. Only boring travellers.

 

 

Could just two people repopulate Earth?

This is a fascinating article from the BBC future website – not strictly travel-related (although it does mention journeying into outer space!) but certainly got me thinking.  Must pick my genetic partner carefully…!

Ned


The last man on Earth is a common trope in fiction – but what if it actually happened? How many people would it take to save our species?

Earth repopulation

Credit: Getty Images

The alien predators arrived by boat. Within two years, everyone was dead. Almost.

The tiny islet of Ball’s Pyramid lies 600km east of Australia in the South Pacific, rising out of the sea like a shard of glass. And there they were – halfway up its sheer cliff edge, sheltering under a spindly bush – the last of the species. Two escaped and just nine years later there were 9,000, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Adam and Eve.

No, this isn’t a bizarre take on the story of creation. The lucky couple were tree lobsters Dryococelus australis, stick insects the size of a human hand. They were thought to be extinct soon after black rats invaded their native Lord Howe Island in 1918, but were found clinging on in Ball’s Pyramid 83 years later. The species owes its miraculous recovery to a team of scientists who scaled 500ft of vertical rock to reach their hiding place in 2003. The lobsters were named “Adam” and “Eve” and sent to start a breeding programme at Melbourne Zoo.

Lord Howe Island near Australia – where species have been driven to the brink thanks to ‘alien’ invaders (Credit: Getty Images)

Bouncing back after insect Armageddon is one thing. Female tree lobsters lay 10 eggs every 10 days and are capable of parthenogenesis; they don’t need a man to reproduce. Repopulating the earth with humans is quite another matter. Could we do it? And how long would it take?

The answer is more than a whimsical discussion for the pub. From Nasa’s research on the magic number of pioneers needed for our move to another planet, to decisions about the conservation of endangered species, it’s a matter of increasing international importance and urgency.

So let’s fast-forward 100 years. Humanity’s endeavours have gone horribly wrong and a robot uprising has wiped us off the face of the Earth – a fate predicted by Stephen Hawking in 2014. Just two people made it. There’s no way around it: the first generation would all be brothers and sisters.

Sigmund Freud believed incest was the only universal human taboo alongside murdering your parents. It’s not just gross, it’s downright dangerous. A study of children born in Czechoslovakia between 1933 and 1970 found that nearly 40% of those whose parents were first-degree relatives were severely handicapped, of which 14% eventually died.

Recessive risks

To understand why inbreeding can be so deadly, we need to get to grips with some genetics. We all have two copies of every gene, one from each parent. But some gene variants don’t show up unless you have two exactly the same. Most inherited diseases are caused by these “recessive” variants, which sneak through the evolutionary radar because they are harmless on their own. In fact, the average person has between one and two lethal recessive mutations in their genome.

When a couple are related, it doesn’t take long for the mask to slip. Take achromatopsia, a rare recessive disorder which causes total colour blindness. It affects 1 in 33,000 Americans and is carried by one in 100. If one of our post-apocalyptic survivors had the variant, there’s a one in four chance of their child having a copy. So far, so good. After just one generation of incest, the risk skyrockets – with a one in four chance of their child having two copies. That’s a 1 in 16 chance that the original couple’s first grandchild would have the disease.

This was the fate of the inhabitants of Pingelap, an isolated atoll in the western Pacific. The entire population is descended from just 20 survivors of a typhoon which swept the island in the 18th Century, including a carrier of achromatopsia. With such a small gene pool, today a 10th of the island’s population is totally colour blind.

Rebuilding populations of New Zealand’s threatened kakapo have struggled, partly because of the limited gene pool (Credit: Getty Images)

Even with these hideous risks in mind, if the survivors had enough children the chances are at least some of them would be healthy. But what happens when inbreeding continues for hundreds of years? It turns out you don’t have to be stuck on an island to find out, because there’s one community that just can’t get enough of their close relatives: European royalty. And with nine generations of strategic marriages between cousins, uncles, and nieces in 200 years, the Spanish Habsburgs are a natural experiment in how it all adds up.

Charles II was the family’s most famous victim. Born with a litany of physical and mental disabilities, the king didn’t learn to walk until he was eight years old. As an adult his infertility spelled the extinction of an entire dynasty.

In 2009 a team of Spanish scientists revealed why. Charles’ ancestry was so entangled, his “inbreeding coefficient” – a figure reflecting the proportion of inherited genes that would be identical from both parents – was higher than if he had been born to siblings.

It’s the same measure used by ecologists to assess the genetic risks faced by endangered species. “With a small population size everyone is going to be related sooner or later, and as relatedness increases inbreeding effects become more important,” explains Dr Bruce Robertson from Otago University. He studies New Zealand’s giant, flightless parrots, called the kakapo, of which there are only 125 left on the planet.

Of particular concern are the effects of inbreeding on sperm quality, which has increased the proportion of eggs that will never hatch from 10% to around 40%. It’s an example of inbreeding depression, Robertson says, caused by the exposure of recessive genetic defects in a population. Despite plenty of food and protection from predators, the kakapo might not make it.

Immune mix

Endangered species also run the gauntlet of longer-term risks. Although they may already be well adapted to their environment, genetic diversity allows species to evolve their way around future challenges. Nowhere is this more important than immunity. “It’s something that most species seem keen to promote diversity in, even humans. We pick mates with a very different immune composition so our offspring have a diverse array of immune locks,” says Dr Philip Stephens from Durham University. Back in our evolutionary past, it’s thought that pairing with Neanderthals may have given our immune systems a genetic boost.

Even if our species makes it, it could be unrecognisable. When small pockets of individuals remain isolated for too long they become susceptible to the founder effect, in which the loss of genetic diversity amplifies the population’s genetic quirks. Not only would the new humans look and sound different – they could be an entirely different species.

The European royal families of the 19th Century were living proof of the perils of inbreeding (Credit: Science Photo Library)

So how much variety do you need? It’s a debate that goes right back to the 80s, says Stephens, when an Australian scientist proposed a universal rule of thumb. “Basically you need 50 breeding individuals to avoid inbreeding depression and 500 in order to adapt,” he says. It’s a rule still used today – though it’s been upped to 500-5,000 to account for random losses when genes are passed from one generation to the next – to inform the IUCN Red List, which catalogues the world’s most threatened species.

Increasingly, the concept is leading those in the field to question the policies of large conservation charities, which prioritise the most endangered species. “It’s conservation framed in the context of triage – you sift casualties and ask is there a chance of saving them. It can be used to say well, can we forget about species?”

But before you write off our couple, as one scientist pointed out, we’re living proof of the concept’s inherent flaws. According to anatomical and archaeological evidence, our ancestors wouldn’t have made our own population targets, with 1,000 individuals in existence for nearly a million years. Then between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, we hit another rough patch as our ancestors migrated out of Africa. As you would expect, we’ve been left with astonishingly low genetic diversity. A 2012 study of the genetic differences between neighbouring groups of chimpanzees found more diversity in a single group than among all seven billion humans alive today.

Looking to our ancestors may be our best bet. Anthropologist John Moore’s estimate, which was published by Nasa in 2002, was modelled on small migrating groups of early humans – around 160 people. He recommends starting with young, childless couples and screening for the presence of potentially dangerous recessive genes. Alas, Moore was contemplating long-term space travel, not repopulating the planet. His number only allows for 200 years of isolation before the pioneers head back to Earth.

We could go from a handful to billions in a few short centuries – if we put our minds to it (Credit: Getty Images)

So what of the last man and woman? It’s impossible to say with any certainty, though Stephens is tentatively optimistic. “The evidence for the short-term effects of low genetic diversity is very strong, but all these things are probabilistic. There are stories of incredible journeys back from the brink – anything is possible.”

As long as the apocalypse doesn’t destroy the foundations of modern civilisation, humanity could bounce back surprisingly fast. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Hutterite community of North America – which is, incidentally, highly inbred – achieved the highest levels of population growth ever recorded, doubling every 17 years. It’s a tough ask, but if each woman had eight children, we’d be back to seven billion people and our current population crisis in just 556 years.

 

Why airlines charge so much for in-flight wifi (and who offers it for FREE)

This is interesting: I’ve paid as little as 3 bucks for plenty of internet time but some airlines charge up to £2.50 PER MINUTE!

Thanks to Mail Online Travel for this info (current Jan 2016).  – Ned


It’s the amenity that passengers want more than anything when they set foot on a plane, but few have ever used it due to high costs or slow speeds.

In-flight wifi remains a frustrating aspect of air travel for those who want to stream their favourite programmes, tweet a photo from 35,000ft or stay in touch with family and friends back home.

With widespread complaints that it is expensive and slow, analysis of current pricing plans has found that just a handful of airlines offer free wifi, and most are cashing in with plans that cost as much as £30 ($45) for a six-hour flight.

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A recent study found that passengers want to use wifi to kill the boredom and keep in touch with family

Budget airlines Norwegian and JetBlue are two of the few who offer free wifi for every passenger on board, although Norwegian’s free service is limited to flights within Europe and between the US and Caribbean.

When it comes to other carriers, passengers can end up paying a fee that matches or exceeds their monthly broadband charges at home.

And they shouldn’t expect any uniformity from airline to airline or even across the same carrier, as availability, prices and speeds vary per company, aircraft, destination or electronic device.

While major American carriers currently offer wifi to their passengers, while British airlines have been slow to meet the demand, with many not offering the service at all.

Tim Farrar, president of TMF Associates, told MailOnline the highest price he has encountered was $45 (£30) on a Virgin America flight from Washington, DC, to San Francisco.

That’s more than three times the average price – £8.50 ($13) – of a single session on a US domestic flight, with airlines getting a 20-25 per cent cut from providers such as Gogo, said Farrar.

Gogo, one of the world’s largest providers, sells day passes for $16 (£10.50) when purchased in advance, although on-board purchases can be about £25 ($40) per flight.

For £40 ($60), travellers can get a month’s worth of access on all domestic flights with Gogo service, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Virgin America.

Gogo recently announced a new messaging pass that allows passengers to use apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and iMessage for under £2 ($3) per flight on most flights in the US and Canada.

Norwegian is one of the few carriers in the world that currently offers free wifi for its passengers

Norwegian is one of the few carriers in the world that currently offers free wifi for its passengers

WHAT DO AIRLINES CHARGE FOR IN-FLIGHT WIFI ACCESS?

Pricing plans and availability vary by airline and aircraft. Here is a sampling of some of the options available to passengers:

Aer Lingus: £5.85 ($9.95) per hour or £11 ($18.95) per flight; free for business class 

American Airlines: £10 ($16) for an all-day pass and £33 ($49.95) for a monthly pass on domestic flights; £8 ($12) for two hours, £11.50 ($17) for four hours or £12.75 ($19) for a full flight on international routes

Delta Air Lines: £13.50 ($19.95) for 60 minutes on a laptop/tablet, £27 ($39.95) for a full flight on a laptop/tablet, £10 ($14.95) for 60 minutes on a mobile, £20 ($29.95) for a full flight on a mobile

Emirates: 10MB of data free, with an extra 500MB for 65p ($1) on Airbus A380 aircraft 

Finnair: £3.50 ($5.50) for one hour or £11 ($16.50) for the entire flight on its Airbus A350 (the service is free in business class)

JetBlue: Basic service is free, premium service is £6 ($9) per hour   

Norwegian: Free service on flights within Europe and between the US and Caribbean (no service on transatlantic flights)

Qatar Airways: 5MB of data from £1.35 ($2), three hours for £6.75 ($10) or the whole flight for £14.75 ($22) on Airbus A380 aircraft 

Southwest Airlines: £5.40 ($8) a day 

United Airlines: £2.70 ($3.99) to £10.75 ($15.99) per domestic flight, depending on the distance; hourly rates range from £1.35 ($1.99) to £2.70 ($3.99)

Virgin Atlantic: £14.99 ($22.30) per flight


Emirates is one of the airlines that offers its passengers a small amount of data for free before charging a fee.

Passengers on its Airbus A380 aircraft receive 10MB of data free, with an extra 500MB costing just 65p ($1).

An Emirates spokesperson said: ‘Our wifi service is incredibly popular among our customers. According to our data, the websites our passengers most frequently access on board include Facebook and Google, and chat services such as Skype and WhatsApp, reflecting travellers’ desire to stay connected on the move through social media.’

Plans can also vary according to the device, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Those plans will charge more for laptops and less for smartphones.

According to analysts, in-flight wifi is costly because airlines see it more as a revenue generator than a perk for passengers.

Farrar, who is based in California’s Silicon Valley, said: ‘Most passengers aren’t willing to pay anything for it.

‘Any provider that’s trying to make a profit is going to figure out rapidly that they’re better off charging a lot and getting the business travellers to use it. They can expense it.’

Seb Lahtinen, co-founder of London-based Thinkbroadband.com, added: ‘It’s really geared to try and get revenue, especially from business customers who are using business [credit] cards and need to catch up on work, and they are willing to pay.’

The cost of the equipment and installation isn’t cheap, he added.

Some airlines are allowing travellers to redeem their frequent flyer miles for wifi access. United Airlines recently became the first US carrier to do so, although the option won’t be offered on all domestic and international routes until next summer.

Free wifi is a bonus for loyal travellers. Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum members, for example, don’t have to pay to connect on its Airbus A350 fleet.

Most airlines offer download speeds of 1-3MB per second, which is OK for browsing or checking email

Most airlines offer download speeds of 1-3MB per second, which is OK for browsing or checking email

Airlines currently use two systems to provide wifi access on their planes – satellite connections for flights over oceans, and air-to-ground, which is faster.

Most airlines offer download speeds of 1-3MB per second, which is OK for internet browsing or checking email, but not for streaming TV programmes or films, said Lahtinen.

The average UK download speed at home is just under 23MB per second.

To meet the demand, a handful of airlines have launched free streaming using on-board technology, including Virgin America, which has partnered with Netflix. Last month JetBlue allowed its passengers to stream using Amazon Prime.

Monarch Airlines doesn’t allow its customers to do things such as browse the internet or check wifi, but uses wifi to offer a video streaming service that costs up to £3.99 ($6) for an entire flight and operates through an app downloaded onto a tablet or laptop.

Video streaming is one of the main reasons passengers want affordable wifi on board.

A recent Cheapflights.co.uk survey of 1,073 adults found that 70 per cent of passengers want to remain connected to avoid boredom, stay in touch with family and friends, or complete business work.

Phil Bloomfield, a spokesman for the travel website, said: ‘Airlines find themselves facing a dilemma when it comes to in-flight wifi.

‘Despite the ever increasing presence of mobile and tablet devices, and an expectation among certain generations and groups within the travelling public that the ability to be permanently connected should be a given in this day and age, others see flying as one of the few remaining bastions of peace and digital isolation, and even look forward to taking to the skies knowing the constant bombardment from technology will cease temporarily.’

It’s for this reason some airlines have set up filters to block programmes such as Skype.

Bloomfield added: ‘As the technology to allow mass participation continues to lag behind the reality of demand, it looks as if being able to post a selfie from your seat, or Instagram your flight meal, might remain the preserve of the few at the front of the aircraft for the foreseeable future.’

And it appears those who are hoping prices will come down shouldn’t hold their breath.

Farrar said: ‘It’s likely to be the carriers who are trying to differentiate themselves and win business away and win market share based on the passenger experience, so you can see why Norwegian have done it.

‘It probably won’t be the British Airways or Lufthansas of the world who jump in that direction. They want to make money off the service.’

Currently, British Airways passengers are unable to use wifi, but the airline is in discussions with satellite technology company Inmarsat.

A BA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Starting with UK domestic routes it intends to roll out Europe’s first ground-based 4G broadband network giving customers the internet access they expect on the ground while in the air.

‘In terms of pricing, we are not providing further details at this stage.’

Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline, is another airline that hasn’t started offering in-flight wifi just yet.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are currently exploring the possibility of being able to offer customers in-flight entertainment, such as movies or games they could access via their smartphones, tablets or laptops and we hope to commence some trials soon.’

EasyJet is also in talks to bring wifi to its passengers.

A spokesman said: ‘EasyJet will not fit a “first generation” wifi product to its aircraft as it doesn’t produce a high enough quality wifi for passengers and also significantly increases fuel burn and therefore cost for the airline.

‘EasyJet is talking to “second generation” technology ‎providers, including Inmarsat. It appears that this technology solves the problems of the previous generation technology and easyJet believes it is no longer a question of if but when we are able to install a product that works well for our passengers and the airline.’

AIRLINES WITHOUT WIFI ACCESS

These airlines are not yet equipped with technology that allows passengers to use wifi to browse the internet or check their email:

British Airways – easyJet – Flybe – Jet2 – Monarch – Qantas – Ryanair – Swiss – Thomas Cook – Thomson 

 

 

Fancy a SPACE escape?

OK so not reeeeally a trekking feature, but with travellers demanding more and more exotic destinations this one’s a must – IF you have the budget…!

Ned


The first galactic travel breaks are now available but a five minute journey will cost you $150,000 (£98,987)

  • XCOR Space Expeditions are offering trips from January 2016 onwards
  • Flights begin in USA and on Curaçao Island and end in the Thermosphere
  • Travellers will get to experience weightlessness for around five minutes
  • Total journey time is between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the vessel

If you’ve always dreamt of travelling into space but don’t have the time to train as an astronaut, you could be in luck as the first ‘out of this world’ trips become available online.

Aerospace company XCOR Space Expeditions is offering journeys to the Thermosphere, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, from several space ports in America, including Mojave in California, Midland in Texas and Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, as well as the airport on Curaçao Island.

While the time actually spent in space is as little as five minutes, prices are an astounding $150,000 (£98,987) with departure dates from 2017.

Aerospace company XCOR Space Expeditions is offering journeys to the Thermosphere, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, from 2017

Aerospace company XCOR Space Expeditions is offering journeys to the Thermosphere, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, from 2017

While the time actually spent in space is as little as five minutes, prices are an astounding $150,000 (£98,987)

While the time actually spent in space is as little as five minutes, prices are an astounding $150,000 (£98,987)

The journeys are currently being listed, with fluctuating prices, on UK holiday booking site Kayak.

In order to find the journeys, users must input “Mojave” or “Curaçao” as the departure point with “Thermosphere” as the destination.

The departure and return date must be the same and the travel class should be selected as first.

Currently, there are several dates listed from January 2016 onwards.

A search for August 31, 2016, revealed a journey from Mojave to the Thermosphere, which is priced at £71,852.

Journeys last as long as 60 minutes but there is only about five minutes that's actually spent in space with the space craft spending most of the time gliding back to Earth

Journeys last as long as 60 minutes but there is only about five minutes that’s actually spent in space with the space craft spending most of the time gliding back to Earth

Although dates and prices are listed on Kayak, they are not confirmed as travellers must book through XCOR. 

Eva van Pelt, a representative of XCOR told MailOnline Travel, ‘We don’t have other online outlets besides our own website XCOR.com. We do have 35 agents all around the world.

She added, ‘We’ve already sold over 300 tickets.’

However, XCOR are currently unable to confirm any flights until 2017.

The official prices given by XCOR is $150,000 (£98,987) for a journey between 30 to 60 minutes depending on the space craft.

These are still at the testing stage.

This includes the five minutes it takes for the space craft to fly into the Thermosphere, five minutes of weightlessness, plus the time it takes to get back.

 

TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID LOSING YOUR SUITCASE

From the Travel Mail: great travel tips.

 

loads of suitcases


1. Keep it simple

The nicer your luggage, the more irresistible it’s going to be to a thief. Play it safe, choose a less flashy bag and the chances of it being ‘accidentally’ picked up by the wrong person are much lower.

2. Avoid an identity crisis

Make sure no-one picks up your lookalike bag by mistake.

Here are a few suggestions: tie a bright red scarf around the handle; attach sticky labels everywhere and mark your name on them with highlighters (the brighter the better); buy a colourful luggage strap to wrap around your bags (there are several brands available) or get creative with some neon duct tape. Believe us, thieves will avoid your work of art in favour of something more discreet.

3. Avoid flashy padlocksbright green padlock

A big and bright green flashy padlock attached to your suitcase will not avoid it getting lost. On the contrary, once you have checked it in and it’s out of your sight for hours that padlock will draw too much attention to your case.

Don’t make it look like you are carrying something valuable and your suitcase will most likely go unnoticed.

4. Your phone is your best friend

Before falling asleep in a taxi, ask the driver how long the ride should take and set up an alarm on your phone to wake you up with the word ’luggage’ in capital letters. When it goes off, you may be a bit drowsy but, there is no way you will leave your suitcase behind.

5. Check your luggage labels

luggage labelsAfter you’ve checked in your suitcase, the airline attendant sends it off and you’re ready to begin your holiday. But just before you reach for that Pina Colada, ask to quickly check that your luggage label ID matches your flight number and destination – human errors can happen.

Checking now could save lots of pain later. And don’t lose it – sticking the label slip to your passport is a good way to keep hold of it.

6. Divide and conquer

If you’re not travelling alone, one way to minimise the pain of lost luggage is by dividing your belongings between suitcases.

7. Be prepared for any lost luggage eventuality

Although it feels a little over the top, researching and printing out the contact numbers for the airline is a good way to minimise the stress when you land at your destination and find your luggage is on holiday somewhere else.

The baggage handlers at the airport are there to help you, but relocating your luggage and getting it back to you is the responsibility of the airline.

8. Listen to your motherMum always right mug

You may not want to admit it, but your mother was right. Never, ever stash important documents – cash, credit cards etc – in your luggage.

9. Get technology on your case

A simple luggage tracker, like TRACE ME, which integrates with the worldwide airline baggage system to identify your bag even if you lose your luggage tags.

Smart luggage tags with microchips embedded in them, like the ReboundTag.

Or how about the ultimate in luggage protection systems, Bag2Go? This amazing system actually embeds a satellite tracker in your case and communicates with an app in your smartphone so you’ll always know exactly where your precious is hiding.

Nat Geo’s Best Trips 2016

So here are National Geographic Magazine’s top travel picks for 2016 – enjoy!

                                                                                Ned


Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France

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Photograph by Günter Gräfenhain, SIME

 

The hotel where snacks, toiletries and HANGOVER CURES can all be ordered using emojis

This is just the best idea.

An American hotel chain is making life that little bit easier for those travellers who are too tired (or lazy) to talk, with the launch of a new emoji service called Text it, Get it.

Each room in the Manhattan-based Aloft Hotel will have a menu of six emoji packages you can order from.

To do this you simply text a few select emojis – along with your name and room number- to the hotel.

Guests will then receive a confirmation and their order will follow shortly.

The hotel began offering the services - that will be available if ordered by emoji - this morning in Manhattan

The hotel which is offering services via emoji is situated in Manhattan

For guests suffering the effects of a big night out, they can text the water droplet, pill and banana emojis for the $10 (£6.50) ‘Hangover Package’, made up of two bottles of Vitamin Water, Advil and a couple of bananas.

By stringing together emojis of a chocolate bar, lollipop and cookie, for $10 (£6.50) you will have ordered the ‘Munchies’ package. This features a bottle of Coca-Cola, a Snickers bar, a packet of Doritos and a chocolate brownie.

A phone plus a two pin plug will get you a phone charger delivered for $25 (£16).

The Text it Get it system consists of six packages

The Text it Get it system consists of six packages

Other packages include the ‘Re:Fresh’, comprising a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor, shaving foam and deodorant; the ‘Sightseer’, which is a $10 MetroCard, a city map and two drinks at the hotel bar; and the ‘Surprise Me’ box – which is describe as ‘fun swag and cool stuff’ for $25 (£16).

Although the service is only currently available at Aloft in Manhattan Downtown, it could soon expand to Europe, Asia and the rest of the U.S.

Love it!  ❤

Record-breaking travel revealed: The over-the-top hotels, astonishing plane journeys and breathtaking natural wonders that you have to see to believe

Guinness World Records has compiled some of the most surprising and little-known travel facts and records. The world’s largest ice structure, for example, is the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, which is built from scratch annually. And the most expensive hotel room can be found at Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson for a staggering £53,760 per night!

The Guinness World Records 2016 book is brimming with amazing trivia - and is on sale now

When it comes to the world’s most show-stopping attractions, bigger is almost always better.

Whether it’s documenting the world’s longest commercial flight on record or measuring the world’s tallest hotel – which comes in at a towering 355 metres – Guinness World Records has long been chronicling some of the most amazing and astonishing travel and tourism facts.

Here we’re sharing some of the most unbelievable record-breaking accounts, all fully fact-checked and Guinness-approved.

And if these don’t inspire you to book a flight, I don’t know what will.


Largest Ice Structure – ICEHOTEL in Sweden

Each year, in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, the ICEHOTEL is erected using thousands of blocks of ice from the nearby River Torne

Each year, in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, the ICEHOTEL is erected using thousands of blocks of ice from the nearby River Torne

Each year, the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, is rebuilt from blocks of frozen ice from the nearby River Torne.

Covering an area of 5,500 square metres (59,200 square ft), the hotel is – unsurprisingly – open seasonally, from December through to March when it melts away.

In 2015, the hotel celebrated its 25th anniversary, complete with an ice bar, ice church and bespoke themed bedrooms – one even featured a London Tube carriage made entirely of ice.

The spectacular frozen property is open seasonally, from December through to March when it begins to melt away

The spectacular frozen property is open seasonally, from December through to March when it begins to melt away

LARGEST ICE LANTERN DISPLAY

And while you’re in Sweden, why not head to Vuollerim to see the town’s ice lantern-carving tradition? Each February, locals craft thousands of the unique frozen lamps to display in the quaint Lapland village.

Tallest Waterfall – Angel Falls, Venezuela

The tallest waterfall in the world is Angel Falls, located in South America, which boasts a water cascade of 979 metres (3,211 feet)

The tallest waterfall in the world is Angel Falls, located in South America, which boasts a water cascade of 979 metres (3,211 feet)

The largest waterfall by vertical area may be the famed Victoria Falls, which sit on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, but it’s South America that’s home to the world’s tallest.

Salto Angel, or Angel Falls, located in Bolivar, Venezuela, has an impressive, uninterrupted drop of 807 metres (2,648 ft). And if you combine that with the additional sloped cascades, the entire thing measures an astonishing 979 metres (3,212 ft).

Fun fact: It was actually named after the American pilot, Jimmie Angel, who first recorded it in his logbook on November 16, 1933.

And, in case you were wondering, the world’s largest plunge pool – the lakes or depressions formed at the base of waterfalls by the erosive action of the water – is Perth Canyon, in Western Australia, measuring 300 metres deep.

Deepest Blue Hole – Turtle Cove, Bahamas

The deepest blue hole in the world is known as Dean's Blue Hole and is located at Turtle Cove on the Atlantic side of the Bahamas

The deepest blue hole in the world is known as Dean’s Blue Hole and is located at Turtle Cove on the Atlantic side of the Bahamas

Found at, or just below, sea level, blue holes are once-dry caves that have filled with seawater over time.

Dean’s Blue Hole is a 76 metre-wide vertical shaft that sinks for 202 metres at Turtle Cove near Clarence Town, on the Atlantic side of The Bahamas.

And there’s no denying that its beautiful blue hues make it one of the area’s most stunning tourist attractions.

Largest Area of Glowing Sea – Indian Ocean, near Somalia

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living thing – and can be used to explain the stunning phenomenon of ‘glowing oceans.’

It was in 1995 that scientists at the US Naval Research Laboratory detected luminous sea in the Indian Ocean – just off the coast of Somalia – via satellite.

In this instance, the patch of water was more than 250 kilometres long, and was all thanks to bioluminescent bacteria called phytoplankton.

Similar sightings have occurred in the Maldives and Florida. 

AND THE BIGGEST GROUP OF UNDERWATER LIFE-SIZE STATUES…

Found at the National Marine Park in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, The Silent Evolution installation is a group of 450 figures sitting eight metres below the water’s surface.

Made from sand, cement, silicone and fibreglass, the sculptures, which were made by Jason deClaires Taylor, help to promote the recovery of nearby natural reefs.

Tallest Hotel – J W Marriott Marquis Dubai

Found in Dubai, the J W Marriott Marquis is the world's tallest hotel, towering 355 metres (or 1,165 feet) from ground level

Found in Dubai, the J W Marriott Marquis is the world’s tallest hotel, towering 355 metres (or 1,165 feet) from ground level

Formerly known as Emirates Park Towers Hotel and Spa, this UAE establishment holds the title of being the world’s tallest hotel.

Standing over 355 metres (1,165 feet) from ground level to the top of its mast, the property consists of two 77-floor twin towers, the first of which opened on November 11, 2012.

Needless to stay, the five-star hotels offers breath-taking views of the city. 

Most Expensive Hotel Room – The Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson

For those looking to splash out, the Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva's Hotel President Wilson goes for as much as $83,000 per night

For those looking to splash out, the Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson goes for as much as $83,000 per night

The truly spectacularly rich don’t just merely stay at the most expensive hotel – they want access to an entire wing of a hotel, where they are lavishly catered for.

And this particular suite is just the ticket, costing as much as $83,000 (£53,760) per night.

However, the hefty price tag does give guests access to 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, as well as sweeping vistas of the Alps

However, the hefty price tag does give guests access to 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, as well as sweeping vistas of the Alps

But the hefty price tag will gain you access to 12 bedrooms and 12 marble bathrooms across 18,000 square feet.

With stunning vistas overlooking the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva, it’s no surprise that some of the world’s richest – think: Bill Gates and Michael Douglas – have been known to check in.

Most Travelled Toy – Raymondo

Now this is one enviable bear! 

A stuffed toy called Raymondo, owned by ISPY, is one of the world’s best-travelled, having clocked 395,605 miles (or over 636,000 km) from between September 27, 2009 and September 3, 2010.

During his journey, he passed through six continents and 35 countries.

Most Expensive Meal – Petrus, London

On July 5, 2001, six diners at Gordon Ramsey’s Petrus restaurant in Belgravia, London, spent a whopping £44,007 ($61,941) on just one meal.

The bill consisted mainly of five bottles of wine, with just £300 of the bill’s charge being attributed to food and £107 ($150) going towards water, fruit juice, cigarettes and six glasses of champagne.

Of the astronomically expensive bottles ordered, the priciest was a 1947 Chateau Petrus vintage claret worth £12,300 ($17,312).

AND THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITY

It probably comes as no surprise to learn then that the most expensive city in the world for eating out is London, where the average cost of a three-course meal, plus one glass of wine, is £39.09 ($79.66). This is almost double the cost of dining out in New York City!

Longest Passenger Aircraft Currently in Service – 747-8 Intercontinental

The longest aircraft - that's currently in service - is the 747-8 Intercontinental, a Boeing plane that's commonly used by Lufthansa

The longest aircraft – that’s currently in service – is the 747-8 Intercontinental, a Boeing plane that’s commonly used by Lufthansa

At over 76 metres long (250 feet), this particular model has the distinction of being the longest aircraft – used by passengers – currently in service.

It’s maximum takeoff weight is over 447,000 kg (987,000 lbs) and it typically shuttles 467 individuals.

It first entered into flight in March 2011 with Lufthansa, though today, carriers such as Air China and Atlas Air also regularly utilise the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the largest passenger aircraft now flying – if measured by weight – is the Airbus 380.

Longest Flight by a Commercial Aircraft – Hong Kong to London

The longest flight ever undertaken by a commercial aircraft happened in 2005, flying from Hong Kong to London over the course of 22 hours and 42 minutes

The longest flight ever undertaken by a commercial aircraft happened in 2005, flying from Hong Kong to London over the course of 22 hours and 42 minutes

A Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner flew 11,664 nautical miles (or 21,601 km) non-stop – and without refuelling – from Hong Kong to London, England over the dates of November 9 and 10, 2005.

The entire journey took 22 hours and 42 minutes, making it the longest ever by an unmodified commercial aircraft.

The 777-200LR model is powered by two of the world’s most powerful jet engines and the aircraft was first introduced to customer operators in 2006.

What are the Cheapest Cities to Visit?

If you’re thinking about going on a short city break, your best bet might be to head east.

Bucharest

The capital of Romania comes out top for cheap European cities

In a recent report published by UBS, European cities took up six of the top ten most expensive cities to stay. The cheapest were primarily in Asia and Eastern Europe.

Zurich was the most expensive city to visit, averaging $1,050 for an overnight city break. New York came in close second at $1,030, followed by Geneva and Tokyo, where the price was at least $1,000 each. Paris, Munich, Taipei, Helsinki, and Dubai rounded out the top ten, with Dubai costing $790 for the night.

Those who want a dirt-cheap vacation should go to Bucharest, Romania, where the stay costs just $260. Mumbai in India and Sofia, Bulgaria cost only $300 for the night, followed by Bangkok, New Delhi and Beijing. Nairobi and Vilnus (Lithuania) both cost $380. The ninth and tenth least expensive cities were Budapest and Istanbul.

UBS created the list by finding out the average price in each city surveyed for two people, with an overnight stay in a first-class hotel, two dinners at a restaurant including a bottle of wine, a taxi ride, two tickets for public transportation, a rental car (100 km), a paperback book, a phone call and postage for a letter. The prices listed do not include travel to and from the destination.

Cost of City Break (US dollars)

Zurich  –  1,050
New York  –  1,030
Geneva  –  1,020
Tokyo  –  1,000
Oslo  –  980
Paris  –  890
Munich  –  830
Taipeh  –  820
Helsinki  –  800
Dubai  –  790
Copenhagen  –  780
Miami  –  780
London  –  750
Doha  –  740
Luxembourg  –  720
Manama (Bahrain)  –  720
Moscow  –  710
Rome  –  710
Toronto  –  710
Buenos Aires  –  700
Chicago  –  700
Frankfurt  –  700
Jakarta  –  690
Sydney  –  690
Milan  –  670
Seoul  –  670
Shanghai  –  670
Dublin  –  660
Lyon  –  650
Madrid  –  650
Tel Aviv  –  650
Hong Kong  –  640
Vienna  –  630
Berlin  –  620
Los Angeles  –  620
Stockholm  –  610
Barcelona  –  600
Bogotá  –  590
Auckland  –  580
Brussels  –  580
Montreal  –  570
Santiago de Chile  –  570
Lima  –  560
Kiev  –  550
Kuala Lumpur  –  550
Nicosia  –  550
Mexico City  –  540
Tallinn  –  540
Athens  –  530
Prague  –  500
São Paulo  –  500
Ljubljana  –  490
Warsaw  –  490
Cairo  –  480
Rio de Janeiro  –  470
Lisbon  –  460
Riga  –  460
Bratislava  –  450
Johannesburg  –  450
Manila  –  450
Istanbul  –  440
Budapest  –  430
Nairobi  –  380
Vilnius  –  380
Beijing  –  350
New Delhi  –  340
Bangkok  –  320
Mumbai (Bombay)  –  300
Sofia  –  300
Bucharest  –  260

Avid international travelers may be interested to learn that, for example, rental cars vary greatly in price from city to city: in Rio de Janeiro, a rental car can cost you around $25 – one tenth of the cost of the same vehicle in Oslo! Over half of our cities offer rental cars for under $110 per day – less than half the price of one in Paris, which was our second-most expensive city for rental cars. Postage had one of the greatest price variances: the price of sending a letter was 58 times more expensive in Bogotá than in Kiev; while fifty-nine cities have postage prices under a dollar.

Source: UBS

City breaks
Cities USD Index
Amsterdam 570 55.3
Athens 530 51.5
Auckland 580 56.3
Bangkok 320 31.1
Barcelona 600 58.3
Beijing 350 34.0
Berlin 620 60.2
Bogotá 590 57.3
Bratislava 450 43.7
Brussels 580 56.3
Bucharest 260 25.2
Budapest 430 41.7
Buenos Aires 700 68.0
Cairo 480 46.6
Chicago 700 68.0
Copenhagen 780 75.7
Doha 740 71.8
Dubai 790 76.7
Dublin 660 64.1
Frankfurt 700 68.0
Geneva 1,020 99.0
Helsinki 800 77.7
Hong Kong 640 62.1
Istanbul 440 42.7
Jakarta 690 67.0
Johannesburg 450 43.7
Kiev 550 53.4
Kuala Lumpur 550 53.4
Lima 560 54.4
Lisbon 460 44.7
Ljubljana 490 47.6
London 750 72.8
Los Angeles 620 60.2
Luxembourg 720 69.9
Lyon 650 63.1
Madrid 650 63.1
Manama 720 69.9
Manila 450 43.7
Mexico City 540 52.4
Miami 780 75.7
Milan 670 65.0
Montreal 570 55.3
Moscow 710 68.9
Mumbai 300 29.1
Munich 830 80.6
Nairobi 380 36.9
New Delhi 340 33.0
New York City* 1,030 100.0
Nicosia 550 53.4
Oslo 980 95.1
Paris 890 86.4
Prague 500 48.5
Riga 460 44.7
Rio de Janeiro 470 45.6
Rome 710 68.9
Santiago de Chile 570 55.3
Sao Paulo 500 48.5
Seoul 670 65.0
Shanghai 670 65.0
Sofia 300 29.1
Stockholm 610 59.2
Sydney 690 67.0
Taipei 820 79.6
Tallinn 540 52.4
Tel Aviv 650 63.1
Tokyo 1,000 97.1
Toronto 710 68.9
Vienna 630 61.2
Vilnius 380 36.9
Warsaw 490 47.6
Zurich 1,050 101.9

 

 

Best Countries for Solo Travellers

Taking off on a journey alone? Have no fear. Here are the safest, friendliest countries for your solo adventure.

Original feature in Travel&Leisure


There are many travellers who claim that travelling alone is the best way to see the world. You deliberately travel solo, they say, because you want to experience the world without the influence of a friend or partner’s tastes, prejudices, or preferences. When you’re with a companion, it’s easy to focus on that person and forget about meeting other travellers. Travelling alone, you’re more likely to be on a voyage of self-discovery.

Solo travel can be delightfully self-indulgent. You can spend a day doing nothing but café hopping or lingering in a single museum. You can loll on a beach on the South China Sea or hire a guide to visit remote ruins. Indulge your classical music passion in one of Europe’s great concert halls or join a group of like-minded strangers for a Himalayan trek.

It’s your call. Solo travel is the ideal opportunity to try something new, like a surf camp in Central America, a bike trip in Southeast Asia, or a visit to a classic European spa town. Despite the dreaded (and often costly) single supplement, bona fide single accommodations are both affordable and available in many parts of the world.

Still, there are two concerns for many solo travellers. The first is safety: the simple fact is that there are countries that are statistically safer than others for travellers.

The second concern is a bit less tangible but just as critical: is the country you’ve chosen a happy place? Is it a country where you’ll be made to feel welcome, a nation where you can easily interact with the locals, where conversation flows easily even if you’re struggling with a new language? For truly rewarding solo travel, it’s crucial that you can connect with the culture and not feel like an outsider.

To find the answer to these two questions, we crunched the numbers from the Global Peace Index, which ranks 162 nations for their peacefulness, and the Happy Planet Index, which looks at environmental impact and human well-being in 151 countries to measure where people live long and happy lives.

The resulting 20 best destinations for solo travellers present an amazing mash-up of geography along with radically different cultures, languages, and customs. (Canada represents North America here, as the U.S. didn’t rank highly enough to make the cut.) Safety and happiness prevail in all of them, making any of them ideal for your next solo adventure.

No. 1 New Zealand

Safety Ranking: 4
Happiness Ranking: 24

In New Zealand, the lush setting of the Lord of the Rings films, travellers can look forward to adventures on glaciers, in rainforests, and on the peaks of the Southern Alps, not to mention bungee jumping, jet boating, and hiking on the legendary Milford Track. All while meeting some of the friendliest and most open-minded people in the world—a major plus for those going solo.

No. 2 Norway

Safety Ranking: 10
Happiness Ranking: 22

The best way for solo travellers to experience an expensive country that’s 1,000 miles long: aboard one of the Hurtigruten coastal steamers that sail up the coast of Norway, into the city of Bergen, and through some of the country’s most beautiful fjords, stopping at dozens of ports along the way. Or sign up with a local outfitter for a multiday trek along the fjords, with accommodations ranging from comfortable hotels to mountain huts. The northern lights are gratis.

No. 3 Switzerland

Safety Ranking: 5
Happiness Ranking: 30

Switzerland, a place known for people who mind their own business, is a natural choice for solo travellers. Equip yourself with good hiking boots and a Swiss Rail Pass—good for every train, tram, and lake steamer. You might start with a couple of days in stately, pedestrian-friendly Zurich and then head south to the shores of Lake Geneva for the bistros, nightlife, and museums of Montreux and Lausanne before carrying on to the Italian-speaking Ticino region.

No. 4 Costa Rica

Safety Ranking: 42
Happiness Ranking: 1

You could argue that the concept of adventure travel was born here in Costa Rica, a.k.a. the world’s happiest country. This Central American destination has been drawing Americans for decades to surf on the Pacific coast or join a rafting company for a day on the white water of the Reventazón or Pacuare rivers. If comfort is a priority, book one of the country’s storied adventure lodges and head out for day trips in the cloud forest.

No. 5 Austria

Safety Ranking: 3
Happiness Ranking: 42

Small and compact, Vienna is one of the easiest European cities to navigate as a solo traveller. Start with an abundance of concert halls, dozens of museums, and cafés where you are expected to linger, a tried-and-true Viennese tradition. Salzburg is even smaller but equally welcoming to singles. A superb rail network means that getting anywhere else in the country, from Innsbruck to Kitzbühel to Graz, is easy.

No. 6 Vietnam

Safety Ranking: 45
Happiness Ranking: 2

Street life is colorful and safe in Vietnam’s largest cities, whether you’re exploring Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh City or heading for Hanoi’s massive Dong Xuan Market. Do tai chi with hundreds of others by Hoan Kiem lake before heading into the mountains of the Central Highlands, preferably on a trek with a local outfitter. Wind up with a stay on Phu Quoc Island for a taste of the classic Southeast Asian beach-bum lifestyle.

No. 7 Chile

Safety Ranking: 30
Happiness Ranking: 19

As a rule, Chileans tend to be friendly and welcoming, a plus for adventurous single travellers eager to explore this 3,000-mile-long country of deserts, mountains, and endless coastline. Whether you head north to the magical Atacama Desert or south to untrammeled Chiloé Island or Patagonia, save a little time for Santiago, safe and easy to navigate. You might well find yourself as a guest at a family asado, or Chilean barbecue—and becoming part of a local family may be the ultimate definition of a friendly country.

No. 8 Japan (equal)

Safety Ranking: 8
Happiness Ranking: 48

After a few days in the fascinating megalopolis of Tokyo, hop a bullet train ride past Mount Fuji to experience the contrasting tranquility of old Kyoto. Lodgings, from venerable ryokan inns to modern hotels, are designed with single travellers in mind. You can enjoy a communal hot spring bath, meditate in a Zen garden, and dine at the counter of a sushi restaurant—a classic favorite of solo travellers.

No. 8 Sweden (equal)

Safety Ranking: 11
Happiness Ranking: 45

It’s easy to be a solo traveller in Stockholm, a compact city surrounded by the waters of the archipelago. Sea kayaking? Check. A day exploring the city’s parks by bike? Easy enough. There are outdoor cafés, the artistic treasures of the Moderna Museet, and stellar shopping for design here in the country that gave us Ikea. City life aside, the quintessential Swedish experience is outdoors, lakeside or trekking in the far north, both easily done with an outfitter.

No. 10 Indonesia

Safety Ranking: 54
Happiness Ranking: 5

Let’s see, temples, yoga on the beach, and cheap food, lodging, and massages. Then add an international roster of backpackers, hedonists, and spiritual seekers. It must be Bali, the single most popular destination for Western solo travellers in Indonesia. If you prefer someplace less touristy, take a 25-minute flight to Lombok, an island off the coast of Bali that feels like travelling back in time to 1970s Indonesia.

No. 11 Germany

Safety Ranking: 17
Happiness Ranking: 43

Too many choices can be a good thing, and that’s what you’ll encounter in Germany, one of Europe’s friendliest countries. You can hang out in Berlin—the café, gallery, and nightclub-filled epicenter of hipster Europe—and never want for company. But sooner or later, you’ll be tempted to explore other parts of this underrated country, using Germany’s well-regarded rail network. Head to the art hub of Düsseldorf, the beer gardens of Munich, or the restored city of Dresden.

No. 12 Argentina

Safety Ranking: 43
Happiness Ranking: 18

Café culture and a European vibe are reasons that solo travellers flock to Buenos Aires, where tango salons stay open late. But life outside of the city of Evita can be equally fascinating, whether you fancy the wine region of Mendoza, the starkly beautiful landscapes around Salta, or horse rides with gauchos.

No. 13 Canada (equal)

Safety Ranking: 7
Happiness Ranking: 58

As a solo traveller visiting the world’s second largest country, you should set your sights on its cities—like Vancouver, tucked between mountains and water, with fantastic Asian cuisine and the sublime green space of Stanley Park. Or Montreal, for its thriving café and bar scene and distinctly French flair. Smaller redoubts like Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital can be especially welcoming; it’s a thrumming university town that also happens to be great for sea kayaking.

No. 13 Finland (equal)

Safety Ranking: 6
Happiness Ranking: 59

Plan your visit for the sunshine-filled long days of summer and get oriented in Helsinki, walkable, easygoing, and filled with design stores and museums. The Esplanade is an area filled with outdoor cafés and a market. Sociability begins here and continues in saunas, which are found all over the city and the country. Day trips by train are a breeze, whether you’re bound for the seaside towns of Hanko or Lohja, or the arts-filled town of Espoo.

No. 13 Laos (equal)

Safety Ranking: 38
Happiness Ranking: 27

Laos has something of a cult-like status among single travellers. Like Vietnam, Laos was a war-ravaged place that has emerged as a peaceful haven. Unlike Vietnam, it has managed to retain much of its original culture and to preserve its environment, among the most pristine in Southeast Asia. Highlights include a classic riverboat trip down the Mekong, a visit to the royal city of Luang Prabang, and hanging out with an international cadre of travellers in the capital of Vientiane.

No. 16 Panama

Safety Ranking: 57
Happiness Ranking: 9

Adventure travel is a prime reason for solo travellers to visit this Central American country, from whitewater rafting on the Chiriquí and Chiriquí Viejo rivers to ziplining through the tropical treetops. Then there’s the growing surfing culture, especially in Bocas del Toro, where the Caribbean vibe, intense nightlife, and beach culture are tempting for young singles. Be sure to catch the obligatory view of ships transiting the Panama Canal—and to explore Panama City’s atmospheric Casco Antiguo (Old Town)—before or after your time on the coast.

No. 17 Netherlands

Safety Ranking: 20
Happiness Ranking: 55

Take liberal social policies, the original bike culture, and cities and towns crisscrossed with canals, and you’ve got the solo traveller’s Disneyland known as the Netherlands. The Dutch are among the most laid-back and accepting people in Europe. You can get wonderfully lost in the tiny streets of Amsterdam for a week, though you’d do well to venture out to see smaller cities like Utrecht or the art capital of Maastricht.

No. 18 Ireland

Safety Ranking: 13
Happiness Ranking: 67

Blame it on the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, but the famous Irish devil-may-care friendliness is a lot more subdued these days. Statistics aside, whether you’re in a thatch-roofed pub in County Clare or walking down Grafton Street in Dublin on a literary walking tour in this UNESCO City of Literature, you will still feel welcome. With a vast network of bed & breakfasts, where to stay as a solo is easy.

No. 19 Iceland

Safety Ranking: 1
Happiness Ranking: 80

The safest country on the list ranks 80th for happiness? Blame some of the highest taxes in the world and long winters. Even so, it’s an easy country for single travellers to feel comfortable in. The capital city of Reykjavik makes a fine base for excursions to swim outdoors at the Blue Lagoon or to ride Icelandic horses across some of the most rugged terrain on earth.

No. 20 United Kingdom

Safety Ranking: 47
Happiness Ranking: 39

The land of Shakespeare has long been a welcoming place for single American travellers, especially those with an Anglophile bent. You can typically enjoy theater—and everything else—sans lost-in-translation issues. (If only Londoners would do something about those sky-high prices, from the cost of a Tube ticket to a hotel stay.) Historic cities like York and Cambridge, as well as the countryside destinations, are a haven for solo travellers.

 

 

Inside the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

I must say I do love to get my nose into a good book after a hard day’s trekking, but I’ve never really explored libraries per se.  So from heavy Baroque gilding and Gothic oak to ice-white concrete and digital modernism, here are some absolutely incredible pictures to get your literary taste buds going.


Circular wonder: The Library of Congress in Washington DC was founded in 1800 and contains more than 160 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves

The Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart in Germany was built in 1965, with its bare decoration drawing attention to its books

Stunning surroundings: The largest monastery library of the world is Admont Benedictine Monastery in Austria which comprises some 200,000 volumes in its beautiful halls

From a glance the Tama Art University Library’s concrete arches resemble those of a Roman aqueduct, but up close provide an interesting place to settle down with a book

Page turner: The impressive Clementinum library in Czech Republic is magnificently decorated with ornate gilded carvings and a ceiling fresco depicting the Temple of Wisdom

The 213ft-long main chamber of the Long Room at Trinity College Library in Dublin was built between 1712 and 1732. By the 1850s the Library had been given permission to obtain a free copy of every book that had been published in Ireland and Britain

The 213ft-long main chamber of the Long Room at Trinity College Library in Dublin was built between 1712 and 1732. By the 1850s the Library had been given permission to obtain a free copy of every book that had been published in Ireland and Britain

The Austrian National Library is a Unesco-protected site and it is easy to see why, with its captivating gold painted marble pillars

The Austrian National Library is a Unesco-protected site and it is easy to see why, with its captivating gold painted marble pillars

Mexico City's recently reopened Biblioteca Vasconcelos is an outstanding example of a contemporary digital-age library

Mexico City’s recently reopened Biblioteca Vasconcelos is an outstanding example of a contemporary digital-age library

The six-floor Baltimore George Peabody Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world featuring 300,000 volumes largely from the 18th and 19th centuries

The six-floor Baltimore George Peabody Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world featuring 300,000 volumes largely from the 18th and 19th centuries

Taking the prize for one of the fanciest libraries around is Wiblingen Abbey's halls. This 18th century monastery is built in rococo style featuring gold accents and statutes 

Taking the prize for one of the fanciest libraries around is Wiblingen Abbey’s halls. This 18th century monastery is built in rococo style featuring gold accents and statutes

It is easy to see why stunning New York Public Library took 12 years to build, with high ceilings and gilded decoration. Pictured is The Rose Main Reading Room

It is easy to see why stunning New York Public Library took 12 years to build, with high ceilings and gilded decoration. Pictured is The Rose Main Reading Room

Plenty to explore: The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is located in the University of Toronto, featuring the largest collection of publicly accessible rare books and manuscripts in Canada

Plenty to explore: The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is located in the University of Toronto, featuring the largest collection of publicly accessible rare books and manuscripts in Canada

The Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina) is the Baroque library of the University of Coimbra in Portugal with the walls covered by two-storied shelves, in gilded or painted exotic woods

The Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina) is the Baroque library of the University of Coimbra in Portugal with the walls covered by two-storied shelves, in gilded or painted exotic woods

The Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina) is the Baroque library of the University of Coimbra in Portugal with the walls covered by two-storied shelves, in gilded or painted exotic woods

The Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina) is the Baroque library of the University of Coimbra in Portugal with the walls covered by two-storied shelves, in gilded or painted exotic woods

Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room at Trinity College's Old Library holds the collection's 200,000 oldest books

Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room at Trinity College’s Old Library holds the collection’s 200,000 oldest books

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library contains the principal rare books and literary manuscripts of Yale University, housed within a striking glass network of shelves

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library contains the principal rare books and literary manuscripts of Yale University, housed within a striking glass network of shelves

The Theological Hall inside Strahov Library in Prague is breathtaking to behold

The Theological Hall inside Strahov Library in Prague is breathtaking to behold

The Hogwarts-esque Reading Room in the Suzzallo Library at University of Washington consists of rows of brass-lamped, oak study tables, beneath a 65ft-high ceiling

The Hogwarts-esque Reading Room in the Suzzallo Library at University of Washington consists of rows of brass-lamped, oak study tables, beneath a 65ft-high ceiling

The University of Salamanca in Spain holds around 906,000 volumes to read from wooden chairs that compliment the surroundings 

The University of Salamanca in Spain holds around 906,000 volumes to read from wooden chairs that compliment the surroundings

Located in Manchester, John Rylands Library is a striking gothic library, which opened on 1 January 1900. Pictured is the Reading Room which features stained-glass windows

Located in Manchester, John Rylands Library is a striking gothic library, which opened on 1 January 1900. Pictured is the Reading Room which features stained-glass windows

The Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve is a French national library in Paris built by architect Henri Labrouste in 1851, featuring a sea of lamps, wrought-iron railings and arched ceilings

The Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve is a French national library in Paris built by architect Henri Labrouste in 1851, featuring a sea of lamps, wrought-iron railings and arched ceilings

The 85ft-long Library of Convent in National Palace of Mafra houses around 36,000 volumes amassed through royal commission

The 85ft-long Library of Convent in National Palace of Mafra houses around 36,000 volumes amassed through royal commission

https://i2.wp.com/www.travelandleisure.com/sites/default/files/styles/tnl_redesign_article_landing_page/public/201407-w-most-beautiful-libraries-in-the-world-mortlock-wing-state-library-adelaide.jpg

The Mortlock Wing of South Australia’s State Library in Adelaide, Travel & Leisure’s 2014 winner of Most Beautiful Library in the World

 

For even more gorgeous book repositories check out Travel & Leisure’s original feature.

NedHappy reading!

In America, Only Some Nipples Can Be Free

Sorry, not travel-related but I just had to post this article from Madeline Wahl on Huff Post – funniest thing I’ve read in bl##dy ages!

COUPLE ON BEACH

Nipples should never be free. To clarify: Women’s nipples should never be free.

It’s fine if a man’s nipples are exposed to the public, because a man’s body is obviously great and inoffensive in any and every possible form. Society has even created a term for men who aren’t the most fit, to make them feel better about themselves: dad bod.

Women’s bodies, on the other hand, need to be criticized in every form and photoshopped beyond recognition. We all know that advertisements geared to women only work if they make women feel bad about themselves.

A woman’s nipples cannot be exposed in public, because men will be unable to control themselves. If men can barely control themselves around women who wear clothes in the workplace or on the street, how can a man control himself next to a woman who is not wearing a top and has exposed breasts and not one but two exposed nipples? If a woman’s nipples are exposed in public for non-sexual purposes, and something happens to her, it’s clearly her own fault. She should have known that men cannot control themselves when they ogle a woman in the street, and that a provocation like this can result in catcalling or worse behavior.

If society allows a woman’s nipples to be exposed in public, why, she will feel empowered! We cannot have empowered nipples of empowered women released upon the world. It would be a detriment to all the battles people have fought to take away women’s rights. Nipples of women must remain hidden!

If men and women currently do not live in an equal United States, why should the nipples of men and women be equal? If there is nipple equality, then women will take that as a leap forward in modern feminism, and we cannot have that. What’ll be next? Equal pay in the workplace? Maternity and paternity leave? A woman’s control over her own body?

Absolutely not.

If men and women cannot be equal in the workforce while actually wearing clothing, then it makes sense that men and women cannot be equal with exposed nipples and no clothing.

Can women actually be trusted to make their own educated decisions when it comes to whether or not they should expose a breast in public? Men are flaunting their nipples with pride on public beaches, and that’s OK because it’s been that way for decades. Women have always been hiding their breasts and nipples behind fashionable bathing suits. What will happen when women are no longer required to cover up? Why should a woman be given the power to pop a boob out of her top, on a whim? What will the fashion industry do — continue to sell bikinis as two-pieces, with separate tops and bottoms?

Men can wear whatever they want, but women should never be allowed to make their own choices, especially when it pertains to how they dress. Even then, men should have a final say in what women wear. Actually, men and only men should have a say about the female body!

A woman’s nipples cannot be exposed and used for healthy, useful things like breastfeeding. If a baby is hungry, that baby should cry and remain unhappy until the mother can cover the baby’s head and the offending nipple with a blanket (or some other uncomfortable cloth). The mother should be resourceful enough to find a remote location in which to expose her breast to the natural world. In the best case scenario, she should avoid using her breasts entirely, even if she has no difficulty breastfeeding and would like to nurse her child.

In summary, a woman’s nipples should only be exposed for entertainment and sexual purposes — specifically, but not limited to, movies, television shows, Broadway plays and porn.

Needless to say, keeping a woman’s nipples hidden also applies to social media. Women can only be topless with exposed nipples if said nipples are actually photoshopped nipples, copied and pasted from photos of men. Yes, it is actually acceptable to have a man’s nipple photoshopped over a woman’s nipple. Again, a woman must never reveal her nipples under any circumstance, unless it’s for the pleasure of a man.

But men — please expose yourselves whenever and wherever you want! In fact, the exposing of men’s nipples should be a requirement whenever the temperature soars above a comfortable 80 degrees. Heck, why not snowboard topless — the world is your shirtless oyster, men!

So please, ladies, keep those nipples hidden. This is America, after all, and only some nipples can, and should, be free.

 

 

Seasickness cure???

Have scientists found a cure for seasickness? Gadget that applies mild electric current to the scalp ‘could eradicate nausea’

  • Device plugs into a mobile phone to deliver a short shock to the head
  • Developers hope gadget will be sold in pharmacies within five to ten years
  • They believe the current dampens activity in brain responsible for motion 

If you are prone to feeling queasy when you step aboard a boat, you will know there is very little you can do about it.

Well, all that may change within a decade, thanks to a device that scientists say can ward off sea sickness.

A mild electric shock to the scalp makes the feelings of nausea go away, according to experts at Imperial College London.

They are now developing a device that will plug into a mobile phone and deliver a short shock to the head via a set of electrodes.

They hope that the gadget will be sold in pharmacies within five to ten years.

Scientists at Imperial College London believe a device that delivers a mild electrical current to the scalp could cure seasickness

Scientists at Imperial College London believe a device that delivers a mild electrical current to the scalp could cure seasickness

Scientists think that motion sickness is caused by the confusing messages received from our ears and eyes when we are moving.

Three in ten people experience symptoms of dizziness, severe nausea and cold sweats when on the high seas or aboard a rollercoaster.

According to the Imperial scientists, whose research was published tonight in the journal Neurology, a mild electrical current applied to the scalp dampens the activity of the part of the brain responsible for processing motion signals.

Doing this reduces the impact of the confusing inputs received in the brain, preventing the problem that causes the symptoms of motion sickness.

Study leader Dr Qadeer Arshad, of Imperial’s department of medicine, said: ‘We are confident that within five to 10 years people will be able to walk into the chemist and buy an anti-seasickness device.

‘It may be something like a TENS [transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation] machine that is used for back pain.

‘We hope it might even integrate with a mobile phone, which would be able to deliver the small amount of electricity required via the headphone jack.

‘In either case, you would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before travelling – on a cross channel ferry, for example.

‘The currents involved are very small and there is no reason to expect any adverse effects from short term use.’

In the study, volunteers wore electrodes on their heads for about 10 minutes.

The device will plug into a mobile phone and deliver a short shock to the head via a set of electrodes. Scientists believe it dampens the activity of the part of the brain responsible for processing motion signals

The device will plug into a mobile phone and deliver a short shock to the head via a set of electrodes. Scientists believe it dampens the activity of the part of the brain responsible for processing motion signals

They were then asked to sit in a motorised rotating chair that also tilts to simulate the motions that tend to make people sick on boats or rollercoasters.

‘Following the treatment, they were less likely to feel nauseous and they recovered more quickly.

Co-author Professor Michael Gresty said: ‘The problem with treatments for motion sickness is that the effective ones are usually tablets that also make people drowsy.

‘That’s all very well if you are on a short journey or a passenger, but what about if you work on a cruise ship and need to deal with motion sickness whilst continuing to work?

‘We are really excited about the potential of this new treatment to provide an effective measure to prevent motion sickness with no apparent side effects.

‘The benefits that we saw are very close to the effects we see with the best travel sickness medications available.’

The research team are already speaking to businesses about commercialising the device.

The military is also interested, the scientists say, particularly for use by people who feel sick when operating military drones.

Dr Arshad said: ‘From other studies we also have evidence that stimulating the brain in this way can enhance attention and concentration.

‘This aspect is of great interest to the military and we imagine that other groups such as students and people who spend long periods playing computer games will also want to try it out.’

Weaving a home…how one woman can help millions of people globally

Amazing inspiration from 1millionwomen.com.au  footer_logo

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.1millionwomen.com.au/media/article/abeer.jpg
A sustainable tent that collects rainwater, folds up for easy transport and stores solar energy? Sounds visionary, right? But this is the invention of Jordanian-Canadian architect, designer and artist Abeer Seikaly.

[IMAGE: Abeer Seikaly]

Seikaly designed these amazing multipurpose tents with refugees in mind, people who have been displaced by global and civil war, climate change and more.

Inspired by elements of nature such as snake skin and traditional cultural aspects such as weaving, nomadic life and tent dwellings, this weather proof, strong but lightweight and mobile fabric tent gives refugees shelter but also a chance to “weave their lives back together”.

The flexible dual layer tent structure has the ability to close out the cold of winter and wet weather. It also opens up to allow cool air in and hot air out in summer. Rainwater is collected in the top of the tent and filters down the sides so the tent does not become flooded. The tent also has the ability to become a showering facility with water being stored in pockets on the side and drawn upwards via a thermosiphoning system providing basic sanitation.

[IMAGE: Abeer Seikaly]

Solar energy hits the tent fabric and is stored in a battery for use at night providing renewable electricity.

[IMAGE: Abeer Seikaly]

For this amazing life changing structure, Seikaly won the 2013 Lexus Design Award.

These tents also would make excellent shelter for people who have been displaced by natural disasters.

A simple but effective structure which has the potential to change so many lives across the world by providing some of the basic human rights to displaced people: a home, water and energy.

 

7 Reasons People who Travel are More Likely to be Successful

Source: yourTango.com

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Time to whip out your maps.

We all want to be successful, and some of us will be, while others won’t. There’s a lot of debate about what creates the road to success.

It’s perseverance, working hard, and being focused and motivated, no doubt. But can success come from knowing when to walk away and take a vacation? There’s a lot of evidence that people who travel frequently tend to be rather successful. Here’s how:

  1. Fear of the unknown drives your ambition.

Traveling helps you acquire skills naturally while building your character.

“Frequent traveling gets you outside of your comfort zone, opening up new worlds and experiences. Faced with new scenarios and encounters, you learn effective coping strategies that help you survive and manage your fear of the unknown,” says Dr. Ben Michaelis, a clinical psychologist and mental health expert.

When you travel, you learn to take action and accept challenges. You also learn creative ways to adapt to change and use your resources wisely. All of these behaviors lie at very core of achieving success in business, and inspire innovation and creativity.

  1. Trying something new can expand your horizons.

So many of us go to the same desk in the same office and work at the same computer each day. It’s comfortable. But sometimes we can learn a lot and think more when we leave the familiar and see new things.

We may leave with some new ideas. Embracing change can help us in all areas of our lives.

  1. You’ll always see the big picture.

When we don’t take time away from work, it’s easy to get caught up in the immediate pressures of the day to day. A little time away, even if it’s just a long weekend, can create the psychological distance to make it easy to see what really matters.

“When we get some distance, it’s easier to see the big picture, to focus on what we want versus just what’s right in front of us, and to be more open to taking risks to get to what we want. While it’s nice to turn off fully on a vacation, I suggest setting aside just 15 minutes at some point to think about what really matters in your work, because you’re much better equipped to see it with psychological distance,” says neurocoach Josh Davis, Ph.D.

Reconnecting with what really matters in your work will make you better at prioritizing.

  1. Vacations improve your overall health.

“Stress accumulation increases our risk for almost every disease. Disease and poor health affect the ability to consistently maintain personal and professional goals. Vacations can decrease anxiety levels and boost metabolism. Not only do vacations impact our health, but they also promote creativity, allow time to recharge, and boost positivity, increasing productivity in the long run,” says Jessie Gill, a holistic nurse.

There’s a beautiful world out there waiting to be explored.

  1. Networking helps you establish influence and respect.

Sharon Schweitzer tells the story of a CEO of a consulting firm who was sent to Myanmar on a major multi-year assignment. From 1962 to 2011, Myanmar was a nation run by a military dictatorship. This might have suggested to the CEO that the country’s culture puts processes before people. Quickly, however, he learned that the opposite is true.

Over time, the CEO nurtured an infinitely important circle of connections in government and business communities. On one occasion, after meeting a certain Thai sugar exporter, he introduced the exporter to numerous higher-ups in State Ministries across the country.

The network led to success for all. This CEO is an example of how you can establish valuable relationships without resorting to gamesmanship, let alone bribery or corruption.

As another CEO once said to her, “You will likely need to invest in relationships over a period of several years before expecting anything to be signed, sealed, and delivered.”

  1. Advanced planning ensures proper project completion.

In an interview with Schweitzer, Mr. Yuki Ochiai, vice-consul of Japan in Houston, explained why there are virtually no disagreements in Japanese boardrooms: advance planning and consensus building, or the Japanese concept of nemawashi.

In essence, nemawashi is a phrase used in gardening, and signifies the importance of pruning and transplanting trees to prevent a state of shock.

When applied to business, Mr. Ochiai says that nemawashi involves explaining a project or idea in a series of pre-meetings with colleagues who will also be attending the final meeting or negotiation.

This provides an opportunity for the root of any challenge to surface. Only then can difficulties be discussed, smoothed over, and resolved. And that paves the way for group buy-ins, as well as in meetings, preventing interruptions, disagreements, or loss of face.

During her most recent trip to Tokyo, Schweitzer noticed that Japanese businessmen dress identically. With their dark suits, white shirts, subdued ties, black shoes, and leather shoulder bags, she says, they were “a classic example of group harmony in Japan.”

  1. Traveling brings a higher level of perspective.

“Each time I come back from a trip, I feel as if I’ve learned something new and enhanced my know-how or perspective on how the world really works. The world is huge in terms of opportunities to contribute and learn, and isn’t big in terms of physical reach,” says Jason Ma, chief mentor at ThreeEQ, a firm that advises CEOs and execs for success.

He continues, “Family is my first priority but I must say that traveling, during which I’m with me, myself, and I, does offer space for me to reflect, clear my head a bit, and refresh. I find that it can actually aid in relationships if we view it as an opportunity to miss each other,” says Ma.

 

Can YOU guess where it is?

Another photography article but WHAT an incredible one. Infinite thanks to Benjamin Grant (via the Daily Mail Online) for sharing these stunning images with the rest of humanity!

Ned


Mesmerising Instagram pictures taken from space show iconic worldwide landmarks as they’ve never been seen before

  • A photography series, called Daily Overview, has been posting satellite images of Earth’s most iconic landscapes 
  • Inspired by the ‘overview effect,’ which is the sensation that astronauts experience viewing Earth from space
  • Project creator Benjamin Grant begins with a ‘thought experiment’ to find each eye-catching aerial image
  • New additions include the blooming tulip fields of Lisse, Netherlands and the medina quarter in Marrakech 

This incredible photography series is inspired by what is known as the ‘overview effect’: the sensation that astronauts experience when the view the Earth from space.

New York-based project creator Benjamin Grant starts with what he calls ‘a thought experiment’ and then works to find an eye-catching satellite image on the resulting theme.

Thanks to an official partnership with satellite imaging company Digital Globe, Benjamin is able to zero in on a location to present and post a new photo every single day on his Daily Overview website.

The Spiral Jetty, which is is a counterclockwise coil jutting out from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, makes for a stunning image

The Spiral Jetty, which is is a counterclockwise coil jutting out from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, makes for a stunning image

The blooming tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands, offer a stunning sky-high shot - in particular, during the peak bloom season in April

The blooming tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands, offer a stunning sky-high shot – in particular, during the peak bloom season in April

The medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco is characterised by its winding, maze-like streets, though is hard to identify from the air

The medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco is characterised by its winding, maze-like streets, though is hard to identify from the air

The stunning results include aerial views of the 7.8 mile long, circular Nardo Ring test track and the Mad Max-esque Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Other highlights include the dense urban sprawls of the medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco, a plane boneyard in Victorville, California and the otherworldly Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain

Benjamin explains: ‘Nearly all of the Overviews focus on the places where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape of the planet. Each one starts with a thought experiment.

‘I consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

‘A number of themes have now developed for example transportation, agriculture, energy, so I often use those buckets to help generate new ideas as I search for new places to capture.

‘Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect.  This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole.’

The impressive image of radiating streets is taken at Plaza Del Ejecutivo in the Venustiano Carranza district of Mexico City

The impressive image of radiating streets is taken at Plaza Del Ejecutivo in the Venustiano Carranza district of Mexico City

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, resembles the design of an aeroplane when photographed from above

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, resembles the design of an aeroplane when photographed from above

The otherworldly Mount Whaleback Ire Ore Mine, located in Western Australia, boasts a kaleidoscope of colours from the air

The otherworldly Mount Whaleback Ire Ore Mine, located in Western Australia, boasts a kaleidoscope of colours from the air

The roads crossing along the Stelvio Pass, a road in Northern Italy, are the highest paved routes in the Eastern Alps

The roads crossing along the Stelvio Pass, a road in Northern Italy, are the highest paved routes in the Eastern Alps

At the Huelva Orchard in Spain, fruit trees create a swirl-like pattern on the hills in the ideal temperate climate

At the Huelva Orchard in Spain, fruit trees create a swirl-like pattern on the hills in the ideal temperate climate

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park gets is vivid colour from pigmented bacteria that grow along its edges

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park gets is vivid colour from pigmented bacteria that grow along its edges

The town of Bourtange, Netherlands - shaped like a star - makes for an incredible satellite image on the Daily Overview

The town of Bourtange, Netherlands – shaped like a star – makes for an incredible satellite image on the Daily Overview

The Gamasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain uses 2,650 mirrors to focus the sun's thermal energy - and looks like an optical illusion from the air

The Gamasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain uses 2,650 mirrors to focus the sun’s thermal energy – and looks like an optical illusion from the air

Aluminum toxic waste gathers in the collection pond of a plant in Darrow, Louisiana, though the red mud generated makes for a stunning shot

Aluminum toxic waste gathers in the collection pond of a plant in Darrow, Louisiana, though the red mud generated makes for a stunning shot

The social media account also includes an image of the Great Pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt

The social media account also includes an image of the Great Pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt

Niagara Falls, which straddle the border between Ontario and the United States, make for a majestic satellite shot

Niagara Falls, which straddle the border between Ontario and the United States, make for a majestic satellite shot

During the Burning Man festival, which is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA, participants can be seen as a semi-circle

During the Burning Man festival, which is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA, participants can be seen as a semi-circle

The Nardo Ring is a high-speed circular test track in Italy and photographs like a contained circle from the sky

The Nardo Ring is a high-speed circular test track in Italy and photographs like a contained circle from the sky

‘They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire,’ Benjamin adds.

‘From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet.

‘We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

‘As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape.

Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

‘The mesmerising flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organisation on a massive scale, or the vibrant colours that we capture will hopefully turn your head.

‘However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.’

And, so far, the response to the images has been overwhelming.

Today, the account has amassed over 40,000 followers and Benjamin even sells some of his more popular images as large prints on his website.

An olive tree plantation covers the hills of Curdoba, Spain, and from the air looks more like dots among a field

An olive tree plantation covers the hills of Curdoba, Spain, and from the air looks more like dots among a field. 90 per cent of all harvested olives will be turned into oil

The Example DIstrict in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards

The Example DIstrict in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards

Venice, Italy is fascinating to observe from above, with its canals, bridges and 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets

Venice, Italy is fascinating to observe from above, with its canals, bridges and 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets

The canal system of Amsterdam makes for an intriguing subject - all a result of conscious urban planning 

The canal system of Amsterdam makes for an intriguing subject – all a result of conscious urban planning

Benjamin Grant's Instagram account, Daily Overview, posts images - taken from space - depicting man's impact on civilisation. This picture shows Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

Benjamin Grant’s Instagram account, Daily Overview, posts images – taken from space – depicting man’s impact on civilisation. This picture shows Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

The Moab Potash Ponds in Utah is a stunning example of vibrant colour contrast between the bright blue water and salt 

The Moab Potash Ponds in Utah is a stunning example of vibrant colour contrast between the bright blue water and salt

In Norfolk, Virginia, Lamberts Point Pier 6 is the largest coal-landing station in the Northern Hemisphere

In Norfolk, Virginia, Lamberts Point Pier 6 is the largest coal-landing station in the Northern Hemisphere

Central Park in New York City spans 843 acres, which accounts for six per cent of the island of Manhattan

Central Park in New York City spans 843 acres, which accounts for six per cent of the island of Manhattan

The Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, has a large boneyard of over 150 retired planes

The Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, has a large boneyard of over 150 retired planes

The neighbourhoods of Sntosh Park and Uttam Nagar in India are some of the most built-up and densely populated

The neighbourhoods of Sntosh Park and Uttam Nagar in India are some of the most built-up and densely populated

Cargo ships and tankers are pictured waiting outside the entry to the Port of Singapore - the world's second-busiest port 

Cargo ships and tankers are pictured waiting outside the entry to the Port of Singapore – the world’s second-busiest port

A whirlpool interchange, which was first built in 2006, connects three major roads by the Miracle Garden in Dubai, UAE

A whirlpool interchange, which was first built in 2006, connects three major roads by the Miracle Garden in Dubai, UAE

Located at the centre of 12 radiating avenues in Paris, France, construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years to complete

Located at the centre of 12 radiating avenues in Paris, France, construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years to complete


Check out Benjamin’s website for the full beauty of the Overview Effect.  This is what he says about it:-

Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire. 

From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea. 

The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.

The stunning snaps of nature at its wildest

Amazing photos from the Daily Mail – just had to show you these!
Ned

Veteran storm chaser hits jackpot by capturing FOURTEEN tornadoes in just one hour

  • Brian Morganti’s latest series features magnificent images of tornadoes tearing across Colorado’s plains
  • He said it was one of the most prolific days he has ever experienced in his 19 years as a tornado chaser 
  • In one scene a tornado passes perilously close to a farm, with the dark skies clashing with the green grass

For storm chasers who spend their summers criss-crossing America’s tornado belt, the astonishing scenes captured in these snaps are the equivalent of hitting the jackpot.

Veteran storm chaser Brian Morganti managed to photograph 14 tornadoes in just one hour, with his latest series featuring magnificent images from violent weather systems that tore through Colorado.

By the end of the day he had driven nearly 400 miles while capturing incredible shots, and said it was one of the most prolific days he has ever experienced in his 19 years as a tornado tracker.

In one photo captured by Brian Morganti a tornado passes perilously close to a farm, with the dark skies clashing with the green grass

In one photo captured by Brian Morganti a tornado passes perilously close to a farm, with the dark skies clashing with the green grass

The veteran storm chaser managed to photograph 14 tornadoes in just one hour while tracking storms on Colorado's plains

The veteran storm chaser managed to photograph 14 tornadoes in just one hour while tracking storms on Colorado’s plains

Further proof of his passion for storm chasing, Brian drove nearly 400 miles to capture the incredible shots on a day last June

Further proof of his passion for storm chasing, Brian drove nearly 400 miles to capture the incredible shots on a day last June

The weather enthusiast said it was one of the most prolific days he has ever experienced in his 19 years as a tornado tracker

The weather enthusiast said it was one of the most prolific days he has ever experienced in his 19 years as a tornado tracker

Brian’s snaps show the fury of nature, with spectacular scenes of wedge, stovepipe and elephant trunk tornadoes ripping up the state’s Eastern Plains.

Brian works for a chasing company, and on June 4, was hoping to find a supercell or two to chase, but instead managed to chase down more than a dozen different twisters.

The impressive pictures reveal just how close Brian was to the tornadoes, getting in amazing detail of the dust clouds they produced and their potential to cause destruction to property.

Brian’s snaps show the fury of nature, with spectacular scenes of stovepipe and elephant trunk tornadoes destroying the landscape

Brian’s snaps show the fury of nature, with spectacular scenes of stovepipe and elephant trunk tornadoes destroying the landscape

Brian works for a chasing company, and on June 4 was just hoping to find a supercell or two to pursue

Brian works for a chasing company, and on June 4 was just hoping to find a supercell or two to pursue

With a little bit of luck, he instead managed to chase down more than a dozen different twisters in less than an hour

With a little bit of luck, he instead managed to chase down more than a dozen different twisters in less than an hour

Brian was a safe distance from this wedge tornado as it tore across the plains with sunshine breaking through clouds in the distance 

Brian was a safe distance from this wedge tornado as it tore across the plains with sunshine breaking through clouds in the distance

In one scene a tornado passes perilously close to a farm, with the dark skies clashing with the strong greenery of the grass.

Brian said: ‘I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw a large dark dust swirl about a quarter mile behind me and had to get out to photograph the action once again.

‘This was when a high base tornado funnel occurred at cloud level with a long skinny needle tornado extended to the ground occasionally producing dark dust swirls.

‘Marble size hail began to fall and the tornado was getting away from me to the south, so it was time to blast south again.’

When Brian thought the chase was over, it resumed when he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw a large dust swirl behind him

When Brian thought the chase was over, it resumed when he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw a large dust swirl behind him

The impressive pictures reveal just how close Brian was to the tornadoes, getting in amazing detail of the dust clouds they produced

The impressive pictures reveal just how close Brian was to the tornadoes, getting in amazing detail of the dust clouds they produced

Every year storm chasers flock to the notorious Tornado Alley in the US to chase and photograph these massive storms

Every year storm chasers flock to the notorious Tornado Alley in the US to chase and photograph these massive storms

15 Epic Photos That Prove Adventure Doesn’t Live On A Screen

Thanks to Street View, online virtual tours and that gosh darn Oculus Rift, most travelers have “seen” the world without actually seeing the world. But don’t be fooled: An epic adventure via screen is not the same as an epic adventure in real life.

We asked the photographer community at EyeEm for photos that capture the adrenaline rush of adventure … and, unsurprisingly, not one of them takes place on a computer or movie screen.

So toss your tech aside, book a one-way ticket and let your wanderlust run wild in these heart-stealing destinations.

Thanks to HuffPost Travel for this awesome feature.

Mate Is The South American Drink That Puts Our Coffee Game To Shame

Via HuffPost

The Brits might have a deeply-steeped tea tradition. The Italians’ espresso game is surely strong. Americans know where it’s at when it comes to iced coffee. But none of that compares to the strong tradition that South America has with its energy-boosting beverage of choice, mate.

Yerba mate

Mate is an infusion made by steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant (a species of the holly family) in near-boiling water. It is traditionally drank from a calabasa gourd — though these days the drinking vessel can be made out of just about anything — with a silver metal straw called a bombilla. The straw is integral to the drinking process because it filters out the leaves. Drank straight, a sip of hot mate will taste a lot like a strong, slightly bitter tea and it has been enjoyed in the Southern Hemisphere for hundreds of years. This is what yerba mate looks like before it’s steeped.

Yerba Mate

Mate has a long history in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Bolivia. It is not uncommon to see people walking the stre