Category Archives: Other

52 Places to go in 2020

If you’re in need for some inspiration on where to travel to this year, have a look at this colorful list of destinations put together by the New York Times:

52 Places to go in 2020

Destinations are broad and cover the globe, from Bolivia to Greenland, and beyond.  Each destination has a description and shows the location on a world map.  Enjoy!

travel-destinations-bolivia

travel-destinations-greenland

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Filed under Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Travel, Wildlife

There is one major difference between people who move abroad and those who don’t, according to a recent study

  • A recent study found that people who relocate to new country tend to have a better sense of self than those who don’t.
  • Living in another country allows people to experience new cultures and beliefs; consequently, they tend to reflect on their own values and cultural background.
  • The research also found that moving abroad can lead to increased satisfaction in life and reduced stress.

Living abroad has plenty of incredible benefits, including getting to travel to new places, meet new people, and try new things. But perhaps the greatest benefit of all is the brand-new sense of self you’ll discover along the way.

And this isn’t us just waxing poetic about living overseas. There’s research to back it up.

According to a new study by Rice University in conjunction with Columbia University and the University of North Carolina, living abroad increases “self-concept clarity,” meaning those who choose to live in a new country tend to have a better sense of self than those who don’t.

The scientists came to this conclusion after conducting a total of six separate studies that surveyed 1,874 participants in the US and in international MBA programs. The surveys included participants who lived abroad and those who did not.

The team found that living aboard triggered “self-discerning reflections in which people grapple with the different cultural values and norms of their home and host cultures.” By reflecting on themselves and their new cultures they were about to discover which values and norms define who people are.

“In a world where living-abroad experiences are increasingly common and technological advances make cross-cultural travel and communication ever easier, it is critical that research keeps pace with these developments and seeks to understand how they affect people,” the authors wrote. “Our studies demonstrate that living abroad affects the fundamental structure of the self-concept by enhancing its clarity.”

The team said the German philosopher Hermann von Keyserling, who wrote in the epigraph to his 1919 book “The Travel Diary of a Philosopher” that “the shortest path to oneself leads around the world.”

According to the research team, living abroad not only provides people with a new sense of self but can bring greater life satisfaction and decreased stress, improved job performance, and even “enhanced clarity about the types of careers that best match an individual’s strengths and values.”

So what are you waiting for? Make the leap and move somewhere new.

The content of this article is from Business Insider and is available here:
https://www.businessinsider.com/the-one-difference-between-people-who-move-abroad-and-those-who-dont-2018-3?r=UK&IR=T&utm_content=bufferb7f11&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer-lifestyle

Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure Apr. 1, 2018

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One week in New York!

Ah New York.  So many things to do!

I really love New York and have spent a lot of time there, including one year as an intern.  I enjoy going back and discovering new things and re-visiting old favourites.  This time, I went for a week with a good friend of mine.  We managed to cover a lot of new and old ground, including Manhattan, Astoria (Queens) and Brooklyn.  Here’s the lowdown of some of the things we got up to!

Times-square-new-york

Times Square

Things to do in Manhattan:

Drag-brunch-lips-nyc

Drag brunch at Lips
I’d had dinner with a show here before.  This time I went to the Sunday drag brunch show that includes a meal and unlimited mimosas for an additional $6.  Great funny show and great entertaining drag queens.  Definitely something different to do!  Definitely book in advance.
Check it out here: http://www.nycdragshow.com/drag-brunch

Comedy Improv UCB theatre
My friend booked tickets for a Sunday evening comedy improv session.  I’d been to prepared comedy shows, this was the first time I’d seen live improvisation in action, like on the show ‘Who’s line is it anyway?’.  It was pretty random, with subjects from peanuts through to Disney!  Very enjoyable.
Check it out here: https://hellskitchen.ucbtheatre.com/

Drinks at Off the wagon
I used to love finding ladies’ nights and happy hour drink offers as an intern in NY.  It seemed a little harder to find happy hours that ended after 7pm this time around, but there were a few.  One of them was at Off the Wagon, an old favourite, with half price drinks until 8pm.  A low key dive bar, just the way I like them!
Check it out here: http://www.nycbestbar.com/off/

Groove-bar-nyc

Live music at Groove Bar

Live music at Groove bar
For a $5 entry charge on a Wednesday evening, we went to the Groove bar, which was one of my favourite live music places.  We listened to a live group in a packed out bar and were lucky to get seats.  Great atmosphere and always great music.
Check it out here: https://clubgroovenyc.com/index.cfm

Staten Island ferry
Did you know the Staten Island ferry is free??  I didn’t!  Luckily my friend did!  We’d both visited the Statue of Liberty before and weren’t too bothered about seeing her up close and personal again, so the free ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island was a great compromise.  We got to take the ferry from the Whitehall ferry terminal for a great view of the Statue of Liberty.  Ferries run 24/7 and regularly.  Just so you know, there wasn’t much to do at the Staten Island end, we got a coffee and waited for the return ferry.  A friend tells me that there are some shops being built near the terminal so there should be some shopping fun available soon.
Check the schedule here: https://www.siferry.com/schedules.html 

Statue-of-liberty-new-york

Statue of Liberty

Roosevelt Island cable car
So while wandering around, we came across a cable car that goes to Roosevelt Island.  A little investigation showed that it’s run by the MTA so you can use your standard subway pass to take it for the same cost as any other journey.  We went along for the views and to try something new, and I’m glad we did.  Have a look at this cool time lapse video of the view across the city…

Shopping
Of course, you have to go shopping in New York!  There are countless places to shop, but I have two favourites.  One is shopping around Union Square (14th Street) where there is a big DSW (shoes!) and a Burlington’s Coat Factory.  There’s also Barnes & Noble (books), TJ Maxx (discount everything), Old Navy and other places nearby.

Union-square-new-york

Union Square

My other favourite is Century 21.  There are a few of these around, but the one I always go to is the Downtown Manhattan store (Cortlandt Street).  The store is pretty mahoosive and good for a wander around.
You can check locations here: https://www.c21stores.com/stores

Things to eat in Manhattan:

Ippudo
Ippudo is a nice Japanese restaurant with great ramen.  There is a very friendly, lively and buzzy atmosphere here and the food was very tasty.  There a few different locations, you can check them here: https://ippudony.com/

Gyukaku
I LOVED this place.  It’s a Japanese grill place where you order various meat dishes and grill them straight on the table in front of you.  We went to the Times Square restaurant at lunch time on a weekday.  The lunch offers were awesome, including $6 cocktails.  We both ate well and the food was so tasty!  I would have happily eaten here again.  Multiple times…
Here is the website: https://www.gyu-kaku.com/

Have a look at this delicious video…

Xian famous foods
This chain is a low key restaurant serving tasty, and often spicy, Chinese food.  It’s reasonably priced and very unassuming.  More cafe style dining.  I enjoyed my spicy lamb noodles and the iced tea was lovely.
You can see their menu here: https://www.xianfoods.com/menu

Sagaponack
I met an ex-colleague for lunch and she recommended this seafood restaurant close to Union Square.  It’s a very cute and cosy place with great service and a nice atmosphere.  I ordered the seafood paella, which was very tasty.
Here is their website: https://www.sagaponacknyc.com/ 

Sagaponack-ny-seafood-restaurant

Seafood paella at Sagaponack

Things to eat in Astoria:

Astoria in Queens has become cooler and trendier over the years.  There are a lot of new shops and restaurants opening up regularly.

Chip
Don’t come here if you’re looking for a light snack.  Do come here if you’re looking for a hefty fresh gooey cookie.  Chocolate peanut butter cookies were goooood.

Chip-nyc-cookies

Cookies at Chip NYC

Pink Nori
I know this place has been here (survived) for at least a few years as I came here before.  The photos of the sushi don’t do it justice!  It was very tasty, and we celebrated with happy hour lychee mimosas.

New York City Bagel & Coffee House
New York and Bagels are a winning combination.  I enjoyed my ‘everything bagel’ with cream cheese, and a good chai latte.  We even had breakfast here twice.  My friend enjoyed waffles on one of those mornings.
Here’s the website for the chain: http://nycbch.com/

New-York-bagel-coffee-house-astoria

Waffles for breakfast

Brooklyn:

We spent one evening in Brooklyn, which started with us walking across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan – a nice 25 minute stroll.  We then took the train to Jefferson Street and walked through part of the Bushwick Collective and saw some of the street art.

Brooklyn-bridge-new-york

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn-bunny-street-art

Brooklyn bunny

We met up with some friends at Archie’s for pizza and drinks.  It’s a really nice little unassuming restaurant with great food.  We were lucky to get seats!  Also pretty chilled out and it was nice not to be rushed at all.  We enjoyed a good chat over our food and drinks.
Here is their website: https://www.archiesbrooklyn.com/

 

 

Trip summary

So that’s not even everything that we did or ate, but it is a good selection!  The trip was really jam-packed with a lot of walking and a lot of eating.  New York is a great place for walking around and transport is really convenient.  It was easy to find anything we needed.  As ever, I’m always happy to go back to discover even more about this great place.

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Filed under Americas, Art, New York, Restaurants, Travel

This travel hacker paid $400 for a $52,000 round-the-world trip — here’s how he did it

Daniel Gillaspia is an attorney based in Houston, but in his spare time he’s a travel hacker. He has seen the globe and experienced some of the world’s best first-class cabins and five-star hotels.

His most recent vacation was a $52,294 round-the-world trip that took him to Tokyo; Cape Town, South Africa; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and other far-off destinations.

It was the trip of a lifetime, but Gillaspia isn’t a big spender.

So when it came to planning his trip, he employed every trick and some serious travel hacking to whittle his bill down to as little as possible.

In the end, he paid just $408.

After months of meticulous planning, he and his partner, Bradley Darnell, gamed the system and accrued 1 million air miles through various credit-card programs and deals.

We asked Daniel, who runs the travel blog UponArriving, to let us know more about how he managed to pull it off.

Read the full article here.

 

This article is from Business Insider and is available at the following link:

https://www.businessinsider.com/this-man-paid-400-for-a-52000-round-the-world-trip-heres-how-he-did-it-2016-11

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Awesome trip to Austin, Texas

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Austin so I was really pleased when a friend organised a trip there for three of us. We rented out an apartment on www.vrbo.com close to 10th street for three nights.

I was able to book return bus tickets from Dallas to Austin on www.megabus.com for a mere $4.50.

Before we got there, we had recommendations coming out of our ears for all the great places to eat and drink at. It was pretty easy to find places near the apartment and also by going to the popular areas like 6th Street and Rainey Street.

So here are some highlights…

Friday night drinks at 6th street

This street is lined with bars and some restaurants. We started the evening at Coyote Ugly, a classic dive bar with the addition of ladies dancing on the bar who were mildly abusing men, who volunteered to be abused. It was amusing to watch. Good bar with a good feel.

After a few drinks here, we headed down the street and found Pete’s Dueling Piano bar. This was loads of fun with a playoff between various musicians. Music included Backstreet Boys and some good old rap on piano. The atmosphere in here was great.

We drank a lot here… and the rest of the night is lacking a bit of details! However, when we headed out the street was alive, there were lots of food stands and plenty of bars to visit.

food-truck-bbq-austin-texas

 

Saturday visit to Rainey Street

We took Uber to Rainey Street and ended up in a fun bar called Unbarlievable. There was a big slide in the back as well people practicing with hula hoops. Food was also pretty tasty and they had cool live music.

unbarlievable-austin-texas

There are more bars and restaurants along this street, we did pop into some. I love that day drinking was completely normal and expected. It has a more mature vibe than 6th street. Both were awesome and they’re both worth a visit.

Tipster free walking tour

I always love a good free walking tour and my friend found this Tipster tour that started at the Capitol. No need to sign up in advance and you can leave a tip of your choice. Our tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. She covered a lot of the Austin history. I was surprised that the tour didn’t include any fun stuff like the nightlife, but fortunately my friends and I already had that covered. The tour was a good little walk in the centre of Austin and it was nice to see something other than bars!

matthew-mcconaughey-austin-street-art

We did see some cool street art, including this lovely picture of Matthew McConaughey!

Food recommendations

We ate very well throughout the trip. Plenty of bbq meat from food trucks and restaurants.

Here are some highlights:

  • Stubb’s BBQ

I was happy to check out the restaurant connected to one of my favourite meat marinade brands. Stubb’s BBQ was nice and busy. The food was good and meaty. The service was a little slow, but the food was tasty so they are forgiven.

 

  • Gloria’s Latin Cuisine

We found this using Google maps as it was close to where the walking tour ended. Gloria’s Latin Cuisine turned out to be a lovely little find. A classy restaurant with really great drink prices, including $2 mimosas! My friend even asked the waitress if it was a typo. It wasn’t… so we had a few. The margaritas were also tasty, as well as the food.

Glorias-latin-cuisine-austin

 

  • Walton’s Fancy and Staple

We were inspired to have breakfast here after hearing that it’s owned by actress Sandra Bullock. Walton’s Fancy and Staple is a really lovely quaint cafe-style restaurant, that also sells plants and flowers. I had the breakfast dish with eggs, toast and bacon that was tasty and filling. The mocha latter was pretty good too. We were all satisfied.

 

  • Voodoo Doughnuts

This was recommended to us and seems to be an iconic place. The line was huge when we got there on Sunday afternoon. We got a few different doughnuts between us, and I have to be honest, we were pretty underwhelmed. The doughnuts were very dry, bready and stodgy, there wasn’t really anything special about them. Fortunately they weren’t stupidly expensive, so we survived the disappointment. I’d say Voodoo doughnuts is pretty overhyped, but if you just want a doughnut with no expectations, then go ahead and join the line!

voodoo-doughnuts-austinvoodoo-doughnuts-austinvoodoo-doughnuts-austin

 

Conclusion

We all had a great time in Austin and I’d be happy to go back in a heartbeat. Getting around was really quick and easy (and cheap) by Uber, or if you felt like it there were plenty of electric scooters everywhere you looked. People were friendly and there was a really good vibe there.  Food and drink was easy to find and there are plenty of places to explore.  A great place to visit and hang out with friends!

 

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A weekend away in a luxury villa in Florida. With bowling alley.

An amazing friend of mine organised a long weekend away in an awesome property that she booked on Airbnb.  It came complete with a pool, jacuzzi, arcade room, home theatre, bowling alley, spa, gym, and squash court.

florida-airbnb-luxury-villa

The only agenda was that there was no agenda.  A large group of us (around 15) would just be chilling out there and spending time at the villa as we pleased.  I arrived at Orlando MCO airport on a Friday and met up with a friend who arrived around the same time.  We hopped in an Uber that took about 40 minutes to get to the property in Four Corners and cost about $50.

The house was absolutely stunning.  It was in immaculate condition and just so luxurious…

florida-airbnb-foyer

florida-airbnb-pool

So basically, we just ate well, drank lots, and had a great time together.  We spent a lot of time at the pool, lovely evenings in the hot tub, fun nights bowling together and we all managed to watch a movie in the theatre.  The house was big enough for it to never feel cramped, and there were enough things to do for all of us to be entertained.

There was something really wonderful about being able to relax and recharge somewhere beautiful with amazing people.  It was really good for the soul.  I loved the jacuzzi in my bathroom and pretty much made use of every amenity at some point.  Very grateful for the opportunity to share such a great experience with my friends.

florida-airbnb-pool2

If you want to check out the Airbnb listing itself, you can find it here:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12783742

 

 

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Filed under Americas, Florida, Travel

Dallas Museum of Art

Free art museum in Dallas Texas

While perusing my Texas guide book, I came across the Dallas Museum of Art. It’s located close to St Paul station on the DART train and the added bonus is it’s free to enter.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art

I didn’t really know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. There are quite a lot of rooms, some are very small exhibitions and others are significantly larger. I was impressed by the array of art – from paintings to jewellery and bowls to books. I was also impressed by how global the art was. I saw the works of some very well known artists including Monet, Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art-Monet Dallas-Museum-of-Art-frida-kahlo

This was a really nice couple of hours of looking around at various and eclectic art. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something chilled out to do in Dallas centre.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art-japan

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Six Flags adventure park, Texas

I love rollercoasters so I was completely up for visiting Six Flags over Texas in Arlington. We bought tickets online on the same day to avoid queuing up. The car park seemed pretty full when we were trying to find a spot, but luckily there were hardly any lines for the rides when we got in.

The rides were pretty awesome. I really enjoyed the Batman ride, Cat woman whip and the Superman ride. Even the ‘kiddy’ rides were pretty cool! Spinsanity was also great – except we got stuck for 10 minutes on the way down. Luckily we weren’t upside down so it wasn’t too bad!

It was a hot day, but there is plenty of shade and water fountains around. We bought a refillable drink which was handy to stay hydrated throughout the day. And the Aqua man water ride helped to keep us cool!

We were surprised when all the rides seem to stop at around 6pm… turned out there was a thunder storm looming and I guess lightning and high metal rides are not a good combination. It did start raining and there was plenty of lightning and thunder, at which point nearly everyone started to make their way towards the exits. I’m glad we managed to fit in loads of good rides before nature forced us to leave. I’d go back 🙂

You can check out Six Flags over Texas by clicking here.

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Central London Megabus Tour

Megabus tour in London

Even having lived in London for over ten years, I know there’s always more to see and learn.  I’m already a big fan of the Sandeman free walking tours so I decided to try a London bus tour for a change.

london-eye-megabus-tour

I found that Megabus has started doing bus tours!  They are already great for cheap coach travel across the UK and US, so I was happy to check out their 2-hour London bus tour with a friend.  Tickets start as low as £1, and you can easily find tickets for £5 per person.

london-megabus-tour

Here is the info from the website:

See London for less when you experience our non-stop bus tour, which will take you to up to 50 of the capital’s most famous sights in the space of just 2 hours. Prices start from just £1 plus a booking fee.

You’ll be able to get onboard one of our open top double-decker buses in central London every day of the week, every hour between 10:00 and 17:00. And you can start and end your tour from three locations:

  • The London Eye
  • Tower of London
  • Park Lane

Why choose megasightseeing.com for your open top London bus tour?

  • 2-hour tour – you’ll see all of London’s best bits in two hours
  • Non-stop – we’ll take you through the city, minus the pit-stops
  • Mega Value – prices start from £1 plus a booking fee, subject to availability
  • Seat available upstairs – so you get a great view of all of London’s best bits
  • Easy to use – just get on at your choice of three locations
  • Book online – you can book online right up to time of departure
  • Departures every hour – find the time that suits you best
  • English Commentary – we’ll give you all the fascinating facts about London with a special appearance from Sid.

I booked the tickets online.  I foolishly made some booking errors and was able to correct them easily online for a fee of £2.50.  Our pick up point was at Hyde Park Corner, a couple of minutes from the underground station.  Our bus was late by 15 minutes because of traffic, luckily it was a beautiful sunny day so we waited in Hyde Park.

We sat at the top of the bus and there was a clear recorded commentary throughout the tour.  It was really awesome!  We had great views and went past loads of things like Trafalgar Square, the new Bloomberg building, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye.

tower-bridge-london-megabus-tour

london-city-buildings-megabus-tour

royal-horse-guards-london-megabus-tour

Overall, this Megabus tour was definitely a big HIT.  It was cheap, simple to book, easy to find, then you can just sit back and enjoy!  I did learn lots of new interesting info, like the spike monument at London Bridge station (pictured below with the Shard in the background) is to remember all the beheadings that used to take place there… before the heads were placed on spikes along the bridge!  How times have changed!!

spike-monument-london-bridge-megabus-tour

Bear in mind when booking that there are various pick up points.  Make sure you pick the right one!  And take a brolly.  We did get a few minutes of rain, but what’s a summer day in London without a sprinkling of rain??

Click here to book the Megabus London Tour.

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Be flexible with your travel plans (and life)

I called a friend this morning to give him some life advice: It’s ok to change your plans.  He suggested I write a blog about it… so here we are!

I explained that I used to be someone who made plans, committed to them, and had to complete that plan no matter what.  Whether it was committing to a relationship or booking a holiday, I always wanted to see that plan through to the end.  There was no alternative.  And if I couldn’t make that plan happen, it led to a lot of heartache, pain and internal conflict.  Because for me, the plan I’d committed to was the only way.

There were a couple of big things I’d committed to that I really struggled with.  One was a relationship where I found out he cheated but I felt I couldn’t leave.  The other was a job that didn’t play out as I had intended.  When I did eventually leave both of these things, I felt like I had failed because, despite my effort, I did not complete what I had committed to.

What I learned (the hard way) is that sometimes you can’t control everything.  Sometimes circumstances change or you discover new information and that it is, in fact, OK to change your plan to something different.  That’s not failure, that’s being flexible.  You don’t have to stick to your original plan.

Before I went to Costa Rica, I spoke to a friend who’d lived in Colombia for some months. She shared some of her experiences with me, including how she pre-paid to live in a shared house for two months.  When she got there, she absolutely hated it.  She hated the house and the people in it, but didn’t want to leave and lose her money.  She begrudgingly stuck it out. She said she realised now that she should have just accepted the loss of money so she could find somewhere else to stay where she would have been happier.  Staying in a situation she’d committed to but wasn’t happy in wasn’t worth it.  Her advice to me before I moved to Costa Rica?  If you don’t like it, change it.

I did remember her advice in Costa Rica.  I had originally planned to stay for a year or more, but I just didn’t like it (San Jose) as much as I thought I would.  I do remember reviewing my options after six months and realising that I could stick it out for a year or move on.  I thought about my friend’s advice and decided I would be happier if I left.  So I did.

How I wish I could have thought about life in such simple terms when I was stuck in my relationship or that job.  I didn’t have to stay.  I could have just changed my plan.  And not beaten myself up about it.  We always have a choice in life, and staying in a situation that you’re not happy with is also a choice you have made.

Nowadays, I still make plans and commitments, but I know in my heart that it may or may not work out as I planned and I am open to changing my plans if I need to.  Knowing this from the outset makes it so much easier to handle unexpected obstacles and circumstances as they come up.

A book that I found useful and relevant to this topic is the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.  A great read that I recommend for everyone:

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