With the summer months past us it is time to start thinking of the holidays and end of year celebrations. So, students, families, parents, and anyone- listen up!!Obviously things have changed in travel and the world over the past few years, so it is even more important today to plan ahead and prepare for holiday travel well before it gets here.Kids are going crazy because they are out of school, you’re studying for finals, working overtime to help pay for everything, people from all walks of life are planning their trip at the same time, both of you are working hard on everyday life, and people are out in abundance shopping, preparing, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off…
Welcome to the holidays & busy travel season!!So, with that being said, while you have time and the season is yet upon us, start thinking about the necessary steps in planning for the holiday season. Whether you are going or others are coming to you, everyone should know this.First, off plan now for your vacation! This is of the utmost. You’ll have shopping, cooking, preparing, work, kids, spouse, finals, and so forth to do… so waiting to plan your travel needs will be just another headache when it should be fun.Some things you should be doing now include…
Obviously this list is just a starter. Everyone’s situation is different and you need to plan accordingly.A lot of people will be traveling during this time. Snowbirds head south for the winter. Millions of families are working to get together for this time of year. Students are on winter break and trying to get home to their families. You get the idea.The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but are quite hectic with regards to schedules and such. This is when the most people are traveling and you don’t want to be stuck in a situation that causes your holiday season to be a memorable one–for the worst.If you think I’m kidding, just remember the movies, “Christmas Vacation,” or “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles,” or any other holiday movie that turns out to be a nightmare for everyone involved.
Plan ahead and prepare for headaches and it will make things much, much easier.
A traditionally mild, not over-spiced cuisine, the Costa Rican food has absorbed influences from the Caribbean, South America and Europe into its culinary cauldron. Many dishes are simple with the staples of rice and beans tending to form the basis of most rural cooking. Costa Rican’s are also heavily dependent on locally grown fresh produce, particularly members of the squash family including courgette (or zucchini), zapallo and chayote (known as the “Christophine” throughout the Caribbean). Other tropical fruits and vegetables are also widely available and usually of good quality. The plantain, like in most of the neighbouring Caribbean, is a particular favourite and can be served in a variety of ways; from just simply fried in butter, to being served in a honey and sugar sauce.The most famous dish of Costa Rica has to be “Gallo Pinto” (literally translated as “spotted rooster”), a dish brought into the country by Nicaraguan immigrants. The dish consists of rice, coriander, onion and black or red beans and is often served for breakfast or lunch. “Casado” is a similar dish consisting of rice and beans, served with pork, steak or chicken and usually accompanied by a small portion of salad and fried plantains. This dish is customarily served as a dinner and is widely available throughout Costa Rica and can provide tourists with a hearty, low-cost meal.The influence of nearby Mexico can also be seen in Costa Rican cooking – the use of corn tortillas and “gallos” (resembling a soft Mexican taco), are extremely popular. Locals stuff their “gallos” with a vast array of different fillings, usually a combination of diced meat, vegetables and spices. They make an extremely versatile snack or meal that, again, won’t cost the earth and are widely available throughout the country.In terms of fish, Costa Rica has a plentiful supply of abundant fishing waters. With 212km of coast along the Caribbean Sea and a whopping 1,016km along its Pacific coast you would expect to find the country saturated with well-priced, extremely fresh fish. Unfortunately most of the fish is exported elsewhere so whilst fish is still readily available in Costa Rica and usually very fresh, the prices can be a little high, especially when compared to the island’s staples.If you’re wondering what to wash it all down with then the drink Costa Rica is most famous for is indubitably coffee; the nations largest export alongside bananas. Costa Rican’s drink a lot of coffee; it tends to be strong and served with milk. Most of the best stuff tends to be exported so expect the quality to vary throughout Costa Rica from the sublime to the pretty awful. Don’t be surprised to find it served alongside your dinner as well. Other favourite local drinks are “Horcheta” (a cinnamon flavoured cornmeal drink), “Agua Dulce” (a sweetened water based drink usually served at breakfast) and the typical lunchtime drinks “refrescos”, which consist of liquidized fruits mixed with either milk or water.For those seeking some intoxication in their beverage then the best bet is probably beer with Imperial and Bavaria being two of the favourites. Wine is not such a good option, locally produced stuff is a definite no-no and imported stuff tends to be pricey with the exception of wines coming from Chile or Argentina. The local moonshine is known as “Guero” and is so cheap that they virtually give the stuff away, it’s made from sugar cane and is a favourite of the locals, even the poorest of whom can afford it. In more rural areas you can expect to find a drink called “Vino de Coyol” – a wine that’s made from the extracts of a spiny palm, this stuff is apparently lethal so tourists should certainly beware when mixing it with the hot, equatorial climate.
For far longer than I care to admit, I have had a trip to Bali on my dream list, just sitting there taunting me. Over the past year or so, I have enrolled my family into the dream as well, and it has slowly begun to materialize. I figured it wouldn’t hurt and actually might be quite powerful to share it with this loving community of purposeful people.I have even set a target date for May 21, 2006 which will be my 57th birthday. (At least that’s what my birth certificate says. I still feel like a teenager most of the time.) I recently had the idea that this trip to Bali could evolve into a Life On Purpose World Tour of some type, with the Swifts stopping in various ports-of-call along the way to visit other purposeful people.I do know that Bali would be a perfect place for me to experience an even deeper life of service, simplicity and spiritual serenity, thus the reason this particular location calls so strongly to me. It is my desire to really experience the Balinese people, their traditions, their celebrations and their way of life.So, I am putting this dream out to you. I would love to hear from anyone else who has been to Bali, particularly if you have suggestions on how I can optimize this trip. It will be the first time my entire family has traveled together beyond the USA borders and we are really looking forward to it.Â©2005 Brad Swift of Life On Purpose Institute, Inc.
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Traveling can be a humbling experience, particularly when you travel to a foreign country. Such experiences, of course, give rise to travel jokes.Travel Jokes1. Three brothers are sitting at the bar in a Moscow establishment. An older man is sitting at a table behind them and has obviously had too much vodka. He stands, walks up to the first brother and says,”Your mother is a vicious, greedy woman!”The brother tells him to shut up and go sit down.After about 5 minutes, the old man stands and walks up to the second brother,”I sleep with your mother whenever I want!”Disgusted, the brother tells the old man to bugger off.A few minutes later, the old man stands and starts walking towards the third brother. All three brothers turn around and yell,”Dad, go home!”2. You’re at a bad hotel when the bed mint moves.3. “Visi, Vermini, Vomnui” – I visited, I freaked, I threw up.4. The President’s VacationGeorge and Laura Bush take a vacation to Crawford and decide to go the grocery store. In the checkout line, Laura recognizes the man working at the register as an old high school boyfriend. After chatting, they leave the store and George says,”Wow, imagine if you had married him. You’d be married to a grocery store clerk now instead of the President of the United States.”Laura rolls her eyes and says, “No. I’d be married to the President of the United States.”5. “Veni, Veneri, Vamoosi” – I came, I caught a disease, I ran away.”Typically, just the act of traveling produces more than a few funny moments. Get out there and go.
Holland is the land of tulips. When it comes to seeing tulips, no place in the world outdoes the Keukenhof Gardens.Keukenhof GardensThe Keukenhof Gardens are located to the southwest of Amsterdam. I know this because I was visiting Amsterdam with an old friend and his wife. He and I had talked about taking the tour at the Heineken Brewery for days. Unfortunately, we only had two days in Amsterdam and had missed the tour on the first day. This was due to his wife having wet hair because of a blow drier, which meant we had to sit around until nature ran its course. This was not a woman willing to rough it.I arose on the second morning with visions of beer mugs in my mind. I knew that I was in trouble as soon as he walked through the door. He had that look. You know. The one that says I have bad news, but am going to try to make it sound like good news. The powers that be wanted to go to the word famous Keukenhof Gardens.This was disappointing for two reasons. First, I had never heard of the “famous” Kuekenhof Gardens, thus bringing into doubt the claim in my mind. Second, the weighing of the scales of justice were producing results decidedly in favor of a location that encompassed the word “beer” versus one that highlighted “gardens.” For the love of God, we were in Amsterdam!An argument ensued and, of course, I lost. Off we went for a day in the gardens. Oh, fun.As happens more often than not, I was wrong in my assumptions. In a one in a million occurrence, “gardens” definitely outweighed the “beer” option. The Keukenhof Gardens definitely deserve the fame moniker, even if you’ve never heard of them.Keukenhof is perhaps the biggest collection of flowers I have ever seen. Located on 70 acres outside of the town of Lisse, the gardens are surreal. There are over 7 MILLION flowers on the grounds with Tulips in full display. The location was previously the home of a castle and accompanying lands, which gives you an idea of the layout. Essentially, you pay $20 to enter and just start strolling. It is like standing in the middle of a landscape painting. The place is so big, you can rent bikes to put around the grounds. To this end, the best time to go is in April when everything is in bloom.Against all my inherent male attributes, I have to admit visiting the gardens outdid anything the Heineken Brewery could offer. I also felt a heck of a lot better the next morning!
With shores on two oceans, Mexico is a beach lover’s paradise. Here’s a primer on two of the beach areas, Puerto Vallarta and EnsenadaPuerto VallartaConsidered a poor man’s Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta lies in the middle of the Bahia de Banderas, a huge bay. The beach is long and nice while the two lies at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The last ten years have seen a lot of development with condos, hotels and tourist support areas going up like mad. This isn’t particularly surprising since tourism seems to be the hub of the entire economy in Puerto Vallarta.For beaches, you really can’t go wrong in Puerto Vallarta. The northern beaches tend to be the most popular, which also means more people. Personally, I’ve headed to the south to find a little more breathing room. For gay travelers, Puerto Vallarta is considered the most accommodating beach location in an otherwise conservative Mexico.EnsenadaLocated a few hours south of the border with San Diego, Ensenada is a popular weekend trip. Sitting on the bay of Todos Santos, Ensenada is famous for a vibrant nightlife, nice beaches and being the location where much of the movie “Titanic” was shot.Historically, Ensenada used to be a secret location known to San Diegans. Then the Mexican government built a smooth highway from Tijuana through Ensenada. So much for the secret!Today, Ensenada is a good place to go if you want to experience Mexico, but want to avoid the packed, edgy Tijuana scene. In Ensenada, you can ride horses on the beach, do some surfing and visit world famous bars. The most famous, of course, is Hussongs. Hussongs is the place where you can “sample” tequila and sing with Mariachi bands. The two have nothing to do with each other. Honest.Everyone has a favorite beach spot in Mexico. Ensenada and Puerto Vallarta aren’t bad places to sample.
Mexico has beautiful beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean. In this article, we look at two hot spots on the east coast – Playa del Carmen and CozumelPlaya del CarmenWith one of the prettiest beaches on the Caribbean coast, Playa del Carmen was the hidden gem of Mexico for years and years. About 10 years ago, the word got out and now Playa del Carmen is exploding. If you’re looking for solitude, this isn’t the place with cruise ships and so on packing the place during high season. On the other hand, this is definitely the place if you like a lot of “resort” in your beach vacation.Playa del Carmen has a lot to offer to visitors. Of course, the beaches are beautiful and I highly recommend you catch the sunrise, which is some of Mother Nature’s finest work. Staying up shouldn’t be a problem since the nightlife in Playa del Carmen is plentiful.During the day, you can loaf on the beach or head out for some diving in the clear waters of the Caribbean. Should you get tired of the beach, you can head inland for some surprisingly quality hiking.CozumelAn island off the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is a slice of Caribbean paradise. With smooth, crystal clear waters, Cozumel has the white beaches you see in the Corona beer commercials. On the island proper, one can loaf on the beach, pursue world class diving or just loaf on the beach. Dolphin petting and sitting in the hammocks of Xal-Hal are touristy, but fun things to do. Although Cozumel is on cruise ship circuit, it maintains the relaxed atmosphere found in smaller destinations in the Mexican Riviera.Unfortunately, Cozumel was in the news through much of the last week of October 2005 because Hurricane Wilma pounded it. Given a few months, Cozumel will be on the mend and a great location since prices will undoubtedly be low to attract visitors.If you are planning a visit to the Mexican Riviera area, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are definitely worth your consideration. Personally, I would pick Cozumel in a heart beat.
Do you like to travel? Have you traveled to unique places on several continents? Would you like to see more? You can and for a lot less. In the past 6 years I have traveled to every city in the United States over 10,000 population and let me tell you, there is some much to see right here at home. You should see more of America, because there is so many great places worthy of a most excellent and rewarding travel experience.For instance have you seen the Indian Cliff Dwellings in Arizona and Colorado? If not you must see these, they are incredible indeed, truly fascinating. Have you been to the Redwood Forests in California, wow, trees with trunks as wide as homes, unbelievable. Have you been to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico? They are spectacular and talk about a geology lesson, magnificent.There are so many places in America to see and not just our West, but in every state there are incredible treasures. So many people will travel abroad and spend thousands of dollars without even looking in their own back yard. If you love to travel, check out your own back yard. The United States of America has some of everything, we got it all, you need to take a road trip or play to visit all the wonderful attractions her in the states. Get on the Internet and see all you are missing and then go there and you will be blown away on it all and for a third of the cost. Think on this.
I am firmly convinced the country of India was transplanted from another planet. You will find no other place like it on this world.IndiaIndia is a country where you will see everything you can imagine. More importantly, everything you will see will be intense. You will not see a beggar, you will see millions of them. You will not see a beautiful beach, you will see the most beautiful beaches in the world. Places of wealth are so over the top you’ll be stunned. The shanty towns of the poor, on the other hand, will set you back on your heals.India is the one place you can visit and come away completely enthralled and disgusted at the same time. If your idea of traveling is sitting in a posh hotel, India has such resorts but you’ll be unable to avoid the less attractive areas. If you prefer to get out and take in a culture that is completely alien to your own, you will never find a better place than India.India is really a number of countries within a political boundary. The south of India is entirely different than the north. The same goes for the east and west. If you don’t like the place you’re in, just get on a train for a day or two and you’ll be in a completely different world.One of the biggest traveler complaints about India is the poverty. In truth, it is bad. There is simply no way around the fact. Whatever you have previously seen, wherever you have previously gone, nothing matches the poverty in India. The shanty towns are large cities and the conditions are less than ideal. To get a first hand account, I suggest you read the excellent book, “Shantaram”, by Gregory David Roberts. Roberts lived in one of the shanty towns for years while on the run from the law. The book is tremendous and gives you a different perspective on the poverty situation. Regardless, you will have problems dealing with the poverty in India. It can ruin your trip if you’re not careful.If you’re considering visiting India, you need to accept the fact that life is different there and you need to come to grips with this before you go. In truth, India is an incredibly captivating country of beauty, stunning sites and incredibly funny people.
Travel to the city of Varanasi and you will travel back in time. No other city in India will impact you more than ancient Varanasi.VaranasiOne of the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi is located in the upper east area of India and is not far from the border with Nepal. Sitting on the Ganges River, the city is an overwhelming display of crowds, colors and ancient Indian architecture. Roads are packed with people, cars, cows and the pavement is more or less dirt and mud depending upon when you are there.Architecturally, Varanasi is a typical of India itself. You’ll find shanty towns and run down homes laying in contrast to stunning temples and homes of the Maharajas. If you want to be impressed, simply walk down to the Ganges River and look up and down the river. The structures lining the river will remind you of Venice, Italy, without the glitz. The towering structures are both beautiful and ancient.Following this view, a visit to the Darbhanga Ghat is an eye opener. The massive structure is home to the Maharajas of Dharbhanga of Bihar. The Ghat reeks of power, mysticism and long ago ages. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.GangesThe Ganges is the hub of life in Varanasi. The holiest of cities, Varanasi is known as the city of light, but is really the city of death. Believed to have been founded by the Hindu goddess Shiva, the city is a mecca for those seeking religious enlightenment. Thousands of Indians seek to cleanse themselves in the waters each morning, which makes for an explosion of activity and colorful dresses. The rest of the day will amaze you even more.As the holiest Hindu city, many of the Hindu faith believe dying in Varanasi brings enlightenment. Thousands upon thousands of Hindus travel to the city in their later years for this purpose. Charitable institutions and Hindu temples take in the multitude of elderly. Although not as prevalent as in the past, many of the deceased are cremated in the open on pyres overlooking the Ganges. It is truly a site to be seen.In many ways, Varanasi is a microcosm of India. If you visit only one place in India, Varanasi should be the destination.