Saturday, April 22, 2017

Flying: The Aisle or The Window


     The great debate that will change your life... ok at least your flight, should you choose the aisle or the window... Here's my way I choose:

THE WINDOW

  • If I have never been there before and I'm landing during the day do I want a good view of the land from above as I enter?
  • Do I need to sleep really bad? The window is easier to lean on.
  • Do I need to accommodate someone else?
*That being said... I rarely choose the window.



THE AISLE


  • Personally I get antsy, I like to get up, walk around and not both the other person.
  • I also like to be able to get things out of my bag if need be.
  • If you are delayed the aisle may give you an extra 5 seconds to run for your connection

    The choice is yours, but I'd say 7 out 10 times, I'm going for the aisle.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quick Stopover in Copenhagen


   On my way to a 2 month trip to Italy this year I saw I could take advantage of a 24 hour lay over in Copenhagen! I'm a huge fan of utilizing layovers, so of course I did it! I didn't have much time for either research or Copenhagen to really, I stayed in the center of the city and in a day managed to check out the pier, hit the gym, try a danish dog, and enjoy local architecture. Too bad my flight was early, I've heard the nightlife there is top end, but that will have to be saved for next time!






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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

1 Day In Tunisia


    After leaving Egypt on my way home I decided to do what I preach best and do a full stop over in Tunis, Tunisia.  Coming from Egypt the land of hagglers and still being in North Africa I was expecting Tunis to be the same mix of crazy shop keepers, blended with amazing people, and amazing history, I was pleasantly surprised to see the hagglers didn't exist there, I actually felt bad walking into stores where I intended to spend money. Anyway, along with a selective color setting I accidentally found on my camera, while exploring the history of the city and creating a great photo journal of it, here's my tips:


  • If you only have one day to three days, Tunis is renoun for it's beautiful beaches, but if you want a real feel for the history and the people, the Medina is the place to stay. I was fortunate enough to find an airbnb built during the Ottoman Empire, thank god we are in the days of digital cameras, because in the old days I would have ran a whole role of film on this place alone.
  • French and Arabic are the native languages but you will have no issue finding plenty of people that can communicate in English
  • Tunis is cheap, super cheap, but super first world at the same time. Modern facilities, great restaurants, and personally I had zero safety issues.
  • Get your shopping in at the Medina, there's plenty of other places but the Medina is loaded with common items, as well as unique Tunisian items and souvenirs.

Winding alleys of the Medina

  • Sidi Bou Said is like Mykonos, but nicer! That's how it was explained to me and that's how I spent my evening enjoying a delicious dinner there.
  • Worried about getting ripped of by Taxi drivers? Don't. All the cabs were metered and prices matched what I had been told they would by people that lived there.
  • No trip to the middle East or north Africa is complete without vile Turkish Coffee, although I hated it while there, I think about it and crave it anytime I think about this trip for some reason!
  • I didn't have enough time to check out museums etc, this was more because how drawn in I was by the Medina, I can't express how much I loved it, be sure to check it out!

Whether it's just a stop over, or you can spend more time there, Tunisia is not a country to be missed!


                       Enjoy my video of the trip below!




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Safari Through South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique


     You have not experienced life to it's fullest without visiting Africa. I knew I wanted to go, and I knew a safari was more my speed than visiting the pyramids in Northern Africa. I monitored the flights for over a 6 month period for trends, and could have booked my flight for very cheap but got greedy and ended up paying $2,200 to fly from Phoenix to South Africa, but that included layover vacations to London and Amsterdam.


     Once in Africa, you will not have to worry about money much! I stayed my first and last night at the Dove's Nest Guest House in Tambo/Johannesburg. I booked a camping Safari with a Nomad Tours, at first to save money, but in the long run, if you make $200,000 a year, I would go this way! It was the complete best way for me to see Africa. We spent the days exploring wild life reserves or beautiful islands and beaches and nights spent by the campfire. I met a lot of great people I am still friends with and the cost came out to around $60 a day including meals, transport, wild life reserves entry, camping equipment etc. To do this yourself would be easily over $150 a day and good luck driving on streets with no pavement and no signs in Africa. I get lost in my own city, couldn't imagine doing Africa solo!

If you hit the coast you will see the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, and 90% of the time, we were the only people on them.
     Camping in Africa can be found easily by googling "Africa Overland". You will have an amazing time and the experiences I had in Africa I will never forget!

How to save money in Africa:

Well, firstly, Africa is for the most part 3rd world, you will not be spending much money anywhere, we had dinner and drinks on the beach resorts for around $5 for what would cost around $50 in developed nations. This is the only continent of the 6 of the 7 that instead of urging you where to save, I'm going to urge you to spend more. So let's get right to....

What to splurge on:

 -Do at least one ocean safari if you are by the ocean, it's pennies on the dollar compared to what you'd pay anywhere else.
Me with a whale shark!
 -Buy wine. We lived on the South African wine for over 2 weeks, it was a great thing to bring some home as a gift and for myself.

-Do every type of land Safari available, especially the walking ones! This is for most people a once in a lifetime adventure, the safari options I had were from free to around $100. All well worth it!



-Do not bargain! Ok every tour book I read, and a lot of the people there will encourage you to bargain when you hit the villages, towns, or random places they sell things in Africa. Here's the deal, you can bargain down and save $5. Yipee. But that $5 that can't even buy you lunch in America will pay for that African's family to eat that night. Give the money to them full price, they need it more than you, and you will very much understand that once you are in Africa.

-Buy it from the guy that makes it. Instead of getting your wooden elephant from the airport that was made in China buy if from the sculptor you see making it.

-Do make friends!


Enjoy my travel video of this trip!




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Monday, November 28, 2016

My 1 Year Review Of Duolingo

Peru, Spanish is by far my most used 2nd language.

      So I recently finally accomplished it, a 365 day streak of Duolingo. Those of you who follow this board know that I have studied around 8 languages, a few of which I use frequently and/or fluently. The others were learned for a trip, a speech, or whatever, and I have not studied since. When Duolingo was launched I quickly became a fan and user of the app. With life's daily inconveniences it took me a few goes, but finally I recently hit a 365 day streak or one year of learning Duolingo. I've been working on 3 languages there, Spanish, Italian and Russian. Here is my review of using it for one year straight.

  • Duolingo is a great tool, but it is by no means an end all be all to learning the language, I would say it's great for starting or mid-level. Now I have been using it for Spanish, Italian, and Russian. Russian is one of my weakest languages that I regularly use, and for one year I've only used Duolingo for Russian, while my Spanish and Italian have accelerated to the point where I'm reading novels in both and regularly communicating with people, Russian has only moved a bit from where it was a year ago. Using only Duolingo is only going to get you to a basic level.
  • Excellent for drills and grammar. But for vocabulary building, speaking, and listening I don't think the program is effective enough, you do speak and listen, and of course build grammar, but it's limited each drill. Grammar however is extremely well covered. You can build a great foundation of grammar from Duo that you can build further on by other means. 
  • Fun, Duo is fun, the little owl reminder everyday and the streak competition that you can do with friends or other people on the site makes it fun. It's also fun because you can put 5 minutes in a day or 2 hours.
  • Listening/speaking, here is where it's lacking, there's a drill or two to listen, it would be great if you could get a special option to practice only listening or only speaking.
  • Taking all 3 languages I've used it for I'd say if you use Duo in conjunction with another program, or programs, or even better yet practicing with a native speaker, it's well worth it's price tag, which by the way is free!
     So overall, it's a great way to learn, but it should be your side kick, not your main weapon to learn. Having a native speaker practice with you, a language exchange, a meetup group, or if it's in your budget an immersion trip is the best way to learn in my opinion. But if you don't speak it you won't learn. You have to force yourself to use your 2nd language and use English as little as possible to get to the next level. Which you will! Because if you are reading this without a translator it means you have already learned one of the most complicated languages in the world, and the next one is right at your fingertips (or tip of your tongue haha) if you want.
      So another great app I want to mention quickly here is HelloTalk, this is like the meet up square of the world for languages! You can meet people anywhere to practice communicating with, I won't go into detail of all the special features, but I will say that in a year when I review HelloTalk, I have a feeling I'll put it above Duolingo. And finally a great book to get you started on whatever language you are learning, Fluent In 3 Months by Benny Lewis the Irish polyglot is such a simple read yet so much information! Have a look on amazon.com link below.




Have a great day!
 And if you don't speak English yet and maybe used a translator to read this, I hope to learn your language to communicate even better!



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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Incredible 4 Day Layover in Iceland!

       

     If you have heard Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in this world, you have heard very correctly! What unfortunately what most people haven't heard about this beautiful little country is that Iceland Air offers free layovers up to 7 days here, which in my humble opinion is more than enough to get a taste of any place! The first time I took Iceland Air passing through here on the way to Russia we only stayed in the airport a couple of hours, but it was more than enough to inspire me and make me realize I had to see Iceland.



      When I traveled to Italy in end of winter/early spring of 2016 I had seen it was only going to be an extra $200 or so to fly thru Iceland and do my layover there. My dream was to actually camp there and explore the country that way, but unfortunately the camp grounds were not going to yet be opened and I wasn't feeling versatile enough with my rental to go off road and pitch a tent somewhere, but... in a beautiful exception of events, I got to see Iceland under the snow, travel thru the ice caves, snow mobile, taste the cold without it being bitter cold, and experience this great nation. Here's my tips to make a kick ass great lay over:

  • Get a taste of Reykjavik, but don't sacrifice it for the rest of the country. It's a beautiful city with amazing people, but we are budget travelers and don't have all time in the world to explore every corner of every city we visit, and as you travel more you will see many big cities are similar, it's getting out of the cities that you really learn a country.
  • By all means self tour! Rent a car, it's super easy driving there, there's only one road once you are out of the city, my 6 hour drive across the country took closer to 10 because the amount of times I had to stop and pull over to explore or photograph something, as tour buses passed I felt bad for the people that were locked in and unable to get out and see more of the place.

      
  • If you go in the winter do everything you can to make it to the Jokulsarlon Ice Caves, by far the highlight of that trip.

      




  • And winter or not winter, you can snow mobile year round on the glaciers!



  • And of course either on your way when you land or before you take off head to Iceland's top tourist spot, the geothermal spa Blue Lagoon, it was perfect after my red eye flight to get me ready for the long drive ahead through this amazing country!



  • OH YEAH BONUS TIP! Don't speed, the cops found my friend and gave her a $400 ticket!


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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Thailand The Budget Traveler's Paradise

    Sometimes I like to travel solo, other times with friends, in February of 2015 I was glad to have experience Thailand with a group of friends. A lot of my friends had been to Thailand already, you obviously fly into Bangkok and the overwhelming majority of advice I got going into the trip, was don't spend too much time in Bangkok. My advice is going to be the complete opposite:

SPEND A LOT OF TIME IN BANGKOK

   The Thai beaches are beautiful, the scuba diving, the moon parties, the entertainers, etc. But to get a real feel of what Thailand is about, you also need to see the capital. As I read more and more on Thailand, and talked with other travelers both in person and on forums, it became clear that there was a lot to see and do in Bangkok, and merely using it as a stopover for the beach cities or Chang Mai was not going to be an option. 

    So first and foremost, my must see and do's for Bangkok and the areas around:

  • Take tuk tuk taxi's, there are constant signs warning tourists of the dangers of taking the tuk tuk's, but you are a budget traveler, the tuk tuk's are cheap, and danger is your middle name... especially if you have a few Singha beers on board.
  • Your trip is going to be almost free.... compared to cost of things in first world countries, and compared to what you would be spending at home, Thailand is pretty much about just booking your flight.
  • The elephant bath is my top recommendation for your nature experience, we used Tour With Tong who has infinite good reviews on the net and a great value.

                              
  • Ayutthaya is a great day trip from Bangkok, rather than pay for a tour 100 to 300 usd each, take public transport there and hire a tuk tuk driver for the day to tour you around for around 50 bucks for the group. The temples are incredible and so is the elephant ride.
     


  • Lopburi, aka the monkey city is a great excursion too less travelers hit, the downtown of the city is pretty much occupied by monkey's. Beware, they are not afraid of you, one actually climbed up on me and stole my shades.

  • We ventured into the tiger temple which is now closed. I don't know enough about animal rights to comment on what happened, but I will say it was epic while I was there.

  •  Take a river cruise, the floating market is great, but if you really wanna see it check ahead for schedules as it's not there every day.

  • Be sure to hit up a roof top lounge bar around sunset to see the skyline, Octave Roof Top was definitely our favorite.

  • Heading to the beaches....

           
  • Check out local kick boxing gyms or rent a moped for some island experiences, but make sure you know how to drive it! A rental is 6 bucks for 24 hours, but the scratches etc are super expensive if you nick it!  
  • Check ahead of time if you want to do the full moon or half moon parties as they are only twice a month.

                            
  • And finally just when we thought it was over, on your way out of the country have dinner or lunch at Koh Lanta Suvarnbhumi Restaurant, literally right next to the airport it's a recreated little Thai village to give yourself one last feel of this beautiful country.



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