Truly Unique Destinations

12 Nov

The writers over at Forbes put together this article on some truly unique destinations.  The article and additional picture montage explores several amazing destinations and what makes them unique.  From the remote land of Madagascar, to geothermal steam baths in Iceland, to an underwater museum in Cancun, this collection of destinations is unlike any other.

Visit plant and wildlife that exists nowhere else on Earth in Madagascar

Swim in Iceland’s geothermal baths

Snorkel or scuba among underwater sculptures in Cancun

Weekend Getaway: Austin, TX Edition

10 Nov

Austin is an extremely diverse town in the Texas Hill Country.  Mixed with art, diverse culture, and the great outdoors, Austin is the perfect spot for a fun filled weekend escape or day trip.  Austin has so much to offer it really doesn’t matter how much is in your wallet, just hop in your car and figure it out as you go.

Austin’s infamous slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” began in an attempt to promote small businesses within the community but quickly spread, lending itself to support the local idea of individualism and expression.  This melting pot of artists, intellects, naturalists, and oddballs creates an atmosphere enjoyable for many.  The people here are proud to be Austinites and love their city for its uniqueness.

There are way too many spots to list so below are just a few spots to check according to the locals.  Austin definitely lends itself to many weekend trips.

NATURE

Barton Spring Bridge and Lady Bird Lake – kayak, paddle boat, row, canoe, stand up paddle board, water bike, hike, or cycle this popular trail.  Definitely something for every adventure lover here.

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats (over lady bird Lake)- Close to 1 million Mexican Free Tail Bats escape into the night over Lady Bird Lake.  Viewable at dusk from mid March through November, with the best views in August just after the pups are born.   For best viewing contact the Bat Hotline (yes, the bat hotline!) at 416-5700 ext. 3636 for times.  Yet another unique Austin experience.  Cost: Free!

Barton Creek Greenbelt many trails with varying degrees of difficulty for the novice to the expert.  Activities include rock climbing, biking, kayaking, hiking, swimming holes:  Twin Falls, Sculpture Falls, and Campbell’s Hole where water is fed from the Balcones fault.  Entrance to the park is FREE and locals recommend visiting after a nice rain during drought season.  The trail also has several shops to stop and relax in as you wonder about in nature.

Lake Austin – A popular spot for fishing and boating.  Check out Austin Lake Park for camping and lake activities.

Pennybacker Bridge – Located over lake Austin, this minimalistic bridge was built to blend into the scenery and does not obstruct from the natural views of the city.  There is a an area that allows for a small hike, great views, and best of all it’s free!

Mount Bonnell – Another scenic point located along Lake Austin, visitors can walk the stairs for a great view of the city.

Deep Eddy This spring fed pool is the oldest pool in TX and is considered a historical landmark.   Enjoy a swim and a movie in the summer months.  Admission: $3.

Zipline over Lake Travis!

Food, Drink, Entertainment

Elephant Room – Jazz Bar

Cathedral of Junk – a fort built out of junk.  Private residnece, must call ahead

Jackalope Bar – Burgers, Booze, and pictures on a stuffed jackalope in a dive bar setting

Alamo Draft House – Eclectic shows, food, and drink

Ginny Little Longhorn – Live music, chicken shit bingo, BYOB

Magnolia Cafe – Open 24 hours, everyone raves about their breakfast

Kerbey Lane Cafe – Open 24 hours, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Supports local vendors.

South Congress Avenue – Wander around and check out the shops and restaurants.

Tour the Capitol – Tours offered daily and admission is free!

Music Festivals

Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World.”  Check out Austin’s website for a list of music festivals by month.

Beyond Austin

Krause Springs Camping and swimming holes fed by natural springs.  Spicewood, TX, 30 miles west of Austin

Hamilton PoolTexas Outside describes Hamilton Pool as a “preserve [that] is managed as a natural area (preserve) with emphasis on habitat protection and restoration, environmental education for public and private groups, and ongoing research; it offers limited, day-use only, with recreational opportunities such as picnicking, hiking, swimming and nature study.”

Excuses, Excuses: Time and Money

2 Nov

The two biggest reasons people have for not travelling are usually lack of time and money.  Nomadic Mike addresses these issues on his blog in two seperate posts, offering some great solutions for these excuses.

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You have No Money outlines how to travel longer, smarter, and cheaper.

Fighting Cubicle Nation: Why You Have More Time to Travel Than You Think explores the freetime we often overlook in our day to day lives.

Exploring the Canyon

30 Oct

The Grand Canyon is a great stop off on any roadtrip.  Visit the Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower  or the infamous skywalk to stretch your legs and get amazing views of this national treasure.

It also offers many activities for those who prefer longer adventures, suvh as overnight trips and guided day hikes.

Exploring the canyon:

Hiking

Every Trail offers some great tips and points of interests for those interested in hiking the canyon and there are pleny of day hikes for those looking for a quick adventure.  Also, Grand Canyon Hikes organizes hiking expeditions and their tours include food, gear, and permits.

Train

Journey back in time by travelling the canyon on a vintage train with the Grand Canyon Railway.

Air Tours

Want to get a bird’s eye view?  You can explore the canyon via helicopter or plane.  Air tours offer a great way to see the canyon on a smaller time frame.

Jeep Tours

Explore the Grand Canyon and learn about the history and geology on a guided Jeep tour.

The National Park Service’s  website has a ton of good information if you’re travelling to the Grand Canyon.  Before you go you’ll want to check out their backcountry updates for any news regarding the trails and restrictions.  Also, if you’re planning an overnight adventure you’ll need a permit.  You do not need a pertmit if you plan on staying at one of their developed campgrounds.  Permits should be obtained as far in advance as possible, only 13,000 issued each year.

Samaritan Travels

25 Oct

Looking for an exciting vacation that is a little out of the ordinary?  Want to give back to communities and experience different countries and cultures?  Make your next trip a volunteer vacation!

Something for Everyone

Activities range from restoration, preservation, and education, working with children to working in and with wildlife locally and abroad.  These are just a few examples of what volunteer activities are offered, however there are many more options suited for a variety of tastes and interests.  Simply Google your interest with the search terms “volunteer vacation”.  There are many vacations here in the United States, as well as abroad, at varying price points.

Enriching Benefits

Volunteer vacations are a great way to give back to a community while experiencing another part of the world. The experience is mutually beneficial, allowing you to become truly immersed in a culture while creating a sense of connectedness.  Knowing that you are connected to others provides immeasurable health benefitsAside from helping others, the sense of unity creates a sense of satisfaction and well being.  Volunteer Vacations: The Health Benefits of Helping Others explores the health benefits associated with volunteering, and also provides some great jumping off points with some popular programs.

Getting Started

USA Today Travel offers information on finding the right opportunity for you

How Stuff Works provides a brief overview of planning your trip as well as opportunities in Africa, U.S, and Latin America

Independent Traveler helps you identify reputable organizations

Volunteer Guide lists different causes and explores ideas relevant to that cause

Global Volunteers organizes volunteer opportunities for 20 countries

American Hiking Society offers volunteer opportunities while preserving the great outdoors

Sierra Club has vacations mainly in the U.S. for working and exploring in the wilderness

REI offers volunteer vacations in Latin and North America

Free Opportunities

Also check out this Storify story for many more links to opportunities, benefits, and tips

Please share your volunteer experiences in the comments!

Pre-Travel Checklist

22 Oct

Karen over at Gadling compiled a list of the top 10 items to pack before travelling abroad and very smartly reminds us to pack universal plug adapters!  She also mentions ensuring you have back up documentation for you passports.  One of her readers commented and recommended scanning and emailing a copy to yourself to ensure you always have access to a copy.  Brilliant!

Also, the U.S Department of State has a great website filled with tons of information for travelling abroad – from country specific information on the laws and conditions, to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), to applying for a passport, this website is a one stop shop for travel information.

Check out this storify for additional packing tips and what to do if you decide to stay indefinitely!

This cute checklist notepad is available at World Market.

Travel On!

15 Oct

Travelling and exploring new places offers much more than just adventure and fun.  There are also immeasurable benefits that come along with the experience of travel.

Personal growth

If you venture out of your backyard with an open mind you allow yourself to experience different cultures and values.  Through this understanding comes a more developed sense of awareness, inner peace, and happiness.  Immersing yourself in a new culture cultivates compassion and understanding.

Variety is the spice of life

Travelling builds connections with people that can potentially lead to lifelong friendships and broadens your horizons – exposing you to new food, music, and art.  What could be better than that?

Adventures are closer than they appear

You don’t have to go far to experience the benefits of travel and exploration.  There are plenty of places close to home to explore.

These experiences combine to create a more well-rounded, happier you.

No excuses, get up and go!

I would love to hear how travel has enriched your life, feel free to share your stories in the comments section.

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