Choose My Next Adventure!

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Bucket List
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I have been waiting for months to post this.  It’s that time again!  Every year I go on a crazy adventure, and this year is going to be no different.  I have traveled without plans, rode through 3 European countries on a bike (even though I’m not a cyclist), and did almost every crazy thing you can in New Zealand from sky diving to ice climbing to white water rafting.  This year I wanted to do something that hasn’t been done before.  That is where you come in.  For this trip I am going to let you choose where I go, what I do, and take any request that you might have.  I will explain how this will work later on, but first I want to explain how I came up with this idea.

Do you remember reading Goosebumps growing up as a kid?  The choose your own adventure books from that series were my favorite.  Even though my choices often led to the death of the characters, I loved how the books allowed me to participate in the adventure.  One day as I sat watching Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, I thought “who is this show really for?”  Sure the show was interesting while providing a preview of the country he was visiting, but who decided he should go to India and talk about cricket?  Is that truly what viewers wanted to see or learn?

This was how my idea was born, combining choose your own adventure with travel (hopefully you are better at “choosing your own adventure” than me because this character doesn’t want to die).  I want you to be able to join in on my adventure.

Everyone who has subscribed to my blog can vote and help create my next trip.  If you haven’t subscribed, all you have to do is enter your email address under the subscription title on the left side of my blog.  This will notify you when I have entered an amazing new post!  There will be different periods of voting, which I will inform you about on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

The first voting period starts today and ends on July 27th at 11:59 PM.  You will be voting for which continent you want me to visit.  All you have to do is leave a comment below this blog post stating which continent you want me to go to.

The next voting period will start after I have posted which continent got the most votes.  You will then be voting for which country you want me to visit within the chosen continent.

I’m really excited because I have never heard of anyone doing something like this.  Remember you must subscribe to my blog to vote or else it won’t be counted.  Spread the word and vote!

Cheap Trips

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Travel Tips
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I don’t like making recommendations without trying the product myself, but I feel very safe about this recommendation.  Recently I discovered a site called TravelZoo.  The website offers cheap flights, cruises, hotels, and vacation packages.  In a couple of months I will be planning a big trip and TravelZoo will be the first on my list of sites to visit.  I have seen some of the lowest priced domestic and international flights.

From the reviews I have read about TravelZoo there are a few things you need to be careful of.  My main recommendation is be SMART!  Of the few negative reviews I found, most people were upset because they got something they didn’t expect.  Some people got a hotel that wasn’t as nice as they thought or they thought they were getting more activities on a travel package than they did.  To avoid this problem, read the description carefully, look up the hotel or airline that’s being offered, and research other deals.  As soon as I plan my next trip I will let you know how it goes with using TravelZoo.

If you, or a friend, have used TravelZoo comment about your experience.  Comment on any other websites you have used.

I recently noticed that I have not talked about food in any of my posts.  There are shows, books, and blogs dedicated to writing about the foods of different cultures.

When I arrived in South Africa I did not know what to expect food wise.  I had never heard much about South African cuisine, but after my first meal of chicken curry, I was in love.  Although South African curry is similar to Indian curry, there are slight differences.  South African curry isn’t as thick, the chicken and vegetables are cut larger, and it doesn’t use as many spices.  The coolest thing I ate was chicken curry in a bun (it’s called a fat cake).  The bun is deep fat fried dough, which allows this meal to be eaten on the go without a large mess.  It’s tasty, it’s great, it’s curry on the go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the weirdest things I ate is called Walkie Talkies.  It is cooked chicken legs and chicken heads.  There is very little flavor because I think it is only seasoned with salt.  Although the taste wasn’t bad, the texture was a little rubbery.  What made this South African treat so weird was that the feet still had nails and the head still had the beak.  You stick the entire leg (nails and all) in your mouth and then you use your teeth to scrape off the skin and meat as you pull the leg out.

After some curry filled fat cakes and Walkie Talkies, what could be next?  How about cooked sisters?  This was my favorite South African desert.  You deep fat fry dough and then roll it in coconut flakes (for extra taste you can add sugar).  Cooked sisters taste so good, and the coconut makes it seem that you are eating healthy.  Basically it is a healthier version of donuts…maybe not healthier, but Cooked Sisters are so good!

 

Before I can even think about concluding this intro to South African cuisine I have to mention braais.  Braaing is a way of life, and a very serious custom.  You make a fire in a pit, put a grill on top and cook boerwors, sosaties, kebabs,chicken, steaks, sausages, etc.  Although the food is wonderful, it is the social aspect of this meal that was my favorite.  All the men gather around the braai and talk, while the women gather in the kitchen and prepare the side dishes.  Once the meat is cooked everyone gathers together, eats, and talks.  It was a lot of fun and reminded me of a BBQ at home.  If you go to South Africa you have to partake in curry filled fat cakes, walkie talkies, fat sisters, and a braai.

American Airlines is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  What better way to celebrate than offer chances to win AA miles?  They have a special website that you can enter to win miles and find ways to earn bonus miles on different purchases.  Each day there is a new deal, but some of the deals last longer than one day.  Go through each of the days to see which ones have expired.  

Since my kindness has no end, look at MAY 9TH for a chance to win a trip around the world.  Also on the upper right hand corner you can enter for a chance to win 30,000 miles everyday.  In order to enter these contests you have to have an AAdvantage number.  If you are not a member of their frequent flyer program, no worries.  Sign up using the promo code ADV30 and you’ll receive 500 bonus miles.  Good luck to everyone, especially me!

The great thing about never truly planning a trip is that if you need to change your schedule, it is really easy.

Originally I was going to cycle from Milan to Barcelona, but after seeing the amazing scenery, I decided I would spend an extra day at each of my stops.  My first stop on the coast was Albisola Superior.  The decision to spend an extra day at each of the locations paid off immediately.  I spent the day laying out at the beach trying to recover from all of the cycling.  Since I fell asleep immediately while on the beach, I didn’t get to see much of Albisola.

The next day I spent the day walking around the different shops, seeing all of the unique buildings, and watching people eat (I’m not a creep, I just wanted to see what everyone was eating).  The narrow streets were mesmerizing because around every corner there was something new to see.  Down one street there was an old church.  Around the corner there was an old fashion art studio.  In front of the studio there was a restaurant with a giant window to watch pizzas being tossed.

The next day I cycled to Albenga.  It was fun to ride along the coast because I had to cycle up a large hill and follow the road as it curved around the cliff.  As I began the descent, the city of Albenga came more and more into view.  The coolest part about the ride was seeing an old castle on top of a mountain overlooking the coast.  When I arrived I found a cheap hotel, but unfortunately no one spoke English.  I guess not a lot of tourist outside of Italy visit Albenga.  It was a difficult situation because I usually ask locals where I should visit and which restaurants to try.   To overcome this challenge, I would ask a question in English and get a bunch of blank stares.  Then I would ask it in Spanish.  People would reply in Italian and after a bunch of hand signals we would finally be able to understand one another…I think.

Abel Tasman

Posted: April 8, 2011 in New Zealand
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Sometimes the name of a place is a good indicator of what to expect.  Abel Tasman.  The name has an exotic, but peaceful ring to it. And that is what you will get.  It is a passage to a world free of technology, human influence, pollution, noise, and cubicles.  Although I loved all of New Zealand, Abel Tasman is in my top three favorite places in this beautiful country.  Since I didn’t have enough time to go hiking through the park, I decided to kayak in the Tasman Bay along the coast of the park.

If I had a personal Guinness Book of World Records (that people actually cared about) then you would see Abel Tasman listed three times.  It holds the record for being the quietest place I have been to.  The only sound that could be heard was the occasional bird call, seal grunt, or paddle cutting in and out of the water.  Even when I was on the shore, eating lunch, the waves breaking on the sand were so gentle that they hardly made a sound.  This quietness filled me with immense peace and provided the perfect opportunity for self reflection.

Following this peaceful theme, the second record this national park would hold is the calmest ocean water I have ever seen.  I felt like I was on a calm lake with a slight breeze causing little ripples throughout the entire body of water.  There were no waves (on the shore or in the middle of the bay).  The biggest waves I saw were caused by a larger than life gentlemen and his slightly skinner counterpart (Luckily the huge tidal waves were being created behind me and did not swallow me with my kayak).

The final record would be for the most exotic sand.  I have never seen sand like I did in Abel Tasman.  Caught between the turquoise water and the green forest wall, the yellow sand seemed to emanate a golden glow.  The sand was soft and appeared untouched by man.  There were no footprints or trash, just the trickle of the waves against the soft golden sand.

If you have a chance to go to Abel Tasman, I highly recommend kayaking.  There’s nothing like cruising at a steady pace and enjoying the scenery.  Plus one of the best parts of the day was paddling to an island covered with seals.  Most were getting their tan on and sleeping, but every now and then one would stir and make a sound or go for a dip.  It was fun to circle the island and see all different sized seals.  Some had too much to eat.  Others would fit in your arms.  All in all two words provided me with and peaceful and enjoyable day, Abel Tasman.

Where do you go to find peace?

Prepare to Save

Posted: April 1, 2011 in Travel Tips
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I have been slacking with the travel tips as of late, but this week I have a couple that will save you a lot of money.  There is a website called Airfarewatchdog that allows you to find unadvertised sales and cheap flights.  All you have to do is sign-up with your email address and select alerts from your home airport and other close airports.  If you are looking to travel to a certain city you can also select “to a city”, which alerts you of deals to a certain city from various airports.  It’s a great way to find the cheapest flights.  Once you find a good deal, select it, and to the right of the flight information there will be several discount websites you can book the flight through (Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.)   To get these deals you have to act quickly and have flexible travel dates.  The tickets go fast because you can save hundreds of dollars. This gives you the power to find deals that you would have otherwise missed. 

If you hate renting a car as much as I do, you will enjoy this tip.  Auto Slash helps you find the cheapest car rental prices.  The cool thing is that if you’ve booked a car and the price drops, you’ll receive an alert and be allowed to rebook at the lower price.  I compared the prices from this website with other common cheap car rental websites and Auto Slash has been the cheapest and easiest to use.  It provides all of the details of the car rental agreement.  This is a great tool to help you quickly find cheap rentals.

Although I haven’t used either website, I know that both websites will help you save a lot of money.  There are a lot of good reviews and information about both sites.  I can’t wait to begin using them!