Brazil is around the corner! Here's what's in my carry-on for the journey.
Birthday wishes for my main squeeze.
Heading to India? Check out the country's amazing array of national parks including Periyar and Tadoba.
The countdown is on! Less than two weeks until we head to Iguassu Falls and Rio to celebrate Scott's milestone birthday.
Travel Beauty: Figuring out what to pack for an in-flight pick-me-up? Here are a few of my go-tos.
I’m Shannon, a twenty-something island dweller with a passport at the ready and a never-ending bucket list. I didn’t start as an island dweller. I started as a California resident – a newly minted grad – and in 2009, I embarked on a journey. I left my home in California to begin graduate school in the UK and at that moment, life changed. Since that time, I have had an amazing opportunity to see parts of the world I never imagined, meet incredible and inspiring people, and enjoy…
Scott and I are headed to Brazil tomorrow for a belated celebration for his recent milestone birthday. As I’ve talked about in a few recent posts, we’ll start with three days at Iguazu Falls before making our way to Rio de Janeiro for the final five days. Instead of last-minute packing this go-around, I started a few days ahead of time to begin the editing process. After a bit of internal debate (do I really need heels and wedges?!) I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve packed for 8 days in Brazil in a carry-on. Seriously. This is a major accomplishment.
I did it earlier this year in Honduras, and then again for a quickie weekend in Puerto Rico, but I had half assumed that Brazil would be a different beast. We’re visiting a couple of different locales with different climates so I accepted that we’d likely be checking a bag for the long journey from St. Maarten. If my packing list serves me well (I’ll check back in with the success of my packing after the trip) I’m in for an easy carry-on journey ahead. Considering we have four (yes, four) connections on flights operated by three different carriers, I’m pretty happy to avoid checking. Continue reading to see what’s in my bag: Read More
I cannot let this day pass without wishing the happiest of birthdays to my husband, the absolute love of my life. I cannot even imagine what my life would be without this guy. I feel immensely blessed an beyond fortunate to have had him in my life for the past handful of years, and the rich layer he’s added to my existence is beyond comprehension. The places we’ve explored together and the life we’ve been able to build as a duo is something that I could have hardly dreamed up as a child. Truthfully, the thought of the life that I currently lead was never an aspiration of mine because it’s a life that I didn’t know ever really existed; it was a path that I never knew was possible. The light that this man has let into my life is the most incredible thing ever and words do a terrible job of capturing the love, admiration and respect I have for him as a husband, as a friend, and as a human.
Happy 30th Birthday, Scott! I am so grateful for the time you’ve let me be a part of your life and am so excited for the decade that lies ahead. Cheers to a million more laughs, memories, and experiences. It’s only just begun!
Editor’s Note: Today’s contributor is sharing some insight from a region I have yet to explore! For many of us, India can be a daunting prospect. In a country this large and this regionally diverse, where do you start? What are some of the off-the-beaten path highlights to put on your radar? Today, Jenny shares the inside scoop on some of India’s natural wonders.
Guest post by Jenny Richards
The monotonous life of the twenty-first century has brought about an ardent desire to travel. If you want to spend some quality time in the lap of nature, you can pay a visit to the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.
India boasts of over two hundred wildlife sanctuaries, around a hundred of which are national parks. These national parks are spread throughout India and guests can visit them to watch some of the rarest species of animals and birds in action. The geographical features of the country are such that it attracts tourists from both India and abroad.
If you’re heading to India, here are some national parks to put on your list:
Periyar National Park
1Periyar National Park lies in a mountainous region of the Cardamom Hills in Kerala. It is a reserved area and is known for its diverse wildlife. About seventy percent of the region is covered by rain forests. The park is home to the Giant King Kobra, the biggest snake in India, and is also among the forty-seven tiger reserves in the nation. At the time of writing, around 53 tigers reside within the park. For nearby accommodations, you can stay at one of the lodges or hotels that stand near the forest.
Tadoba National Park
2Among the largest and most well known national park in Maharashtra, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve gets its name in part from the god Tadoba, who is worshipped by the locals, and in part from the Andhari River. Teak is the most common tree in the forest, and the lakes are rich in fresh water and are home to many aquatic forms of life. Leopards, tigers, wild dogs, Indian bison and flying squirrels are some of the wildlife visitors can expect to see during a visit. If you want to stay near the park, you may want to opt for best Tadoba National Park Resorts. Read More
How it’s already May is beyond me. Scott and I booked our trip to Brazil (Iguassu Falls and Rio) late in 2014, excited to have a big trip to look forward to as the season begins to wind down. May seemed so far away for so long that planning and thinking about Brazil (minus the whole visa acquisition thing) fell a bit to the wayside. Now, inexplicably, it’s nearly arrived and I couldn’t be more excited to continue our Latin American sightseeing trend that’s been so on point this year (read about our trips to Honduras, Panama, and Puerto Rico for some background).
The route above shows our flight path to get to Iguassu Falls. As you may imagine, the airport isn’t huge and to get there from St. Maarten requires connections in Panama City, Lima and Porto Alegre (plus one other stop that’s a quick pause without a plane change) before arriving at Iguassu’s Brazilian side. In total, it represents about 25 hours of travel time, not the greatest route ever executed but I’m trusting that our excitement for our final destination will be the fuel that we need to get through a few long legs. Hey, we booked this fully on miles so we can’t really complain!
Part 1: Iguassu Falls // Brazil + Argentina
After our day of travel, we arrive at beautiful Iguassu Falls, where we will spend three days. Iguassu is often considered one of the natural wonders of the world, and one of the most impressive waterfalls next to Victoria Falls in sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve read about many people doing this as a single day trip or a quick stopover, but we wanted it to be a bit more comprehensive. Everything we’ve read and heard about potential activities near the falls made it appealing enough for a few days of sightseeing, plus some necessary R&R. This will be a contrast to what we’re planning on doing in Rio, and at this point in the year, I’m genuinely excited for some time to just disconnect and enjoy. We’ll be basing ourselves at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, a stunning property within the national park, facing the falls. I’m usually the more frugal of the two of us, but Belmond properties (formerly Orient-Express) are a unique case. We had such a brilliant time experiencing their hotels throughout Peru and it truly made a lasting impression. Their locations are unique, their service is on point, and their properties – while not always small – manage to capture the essence and character of a destination.
While we’ll be based on the Brazilian side, everyone I’ve spoken with who’s visited mentions that visiting both side of the falls (Brazilian and Argentine) is a must. Considering we have enough time, we’ll be doing just that. Also on the docket: the Macuco Safari (seeing the lower falls by speedboat), a full moon walking tour to glimpse a lunar rainbow, and checking out the national park and bird park. Read More
I’ve talked about my carry-on essentials in a previous post, but this time around I thought I’d share some must-haves for in-flight travel beauty products. Air travel does a number on your skin, and long haul flights always leave my eyes red, my skin parched, my hair flattened, and my face dull. Some people manage to look absolutely effortless and perfect after a flight, and I’m convinced there’s some voodoo involved in this. If you’re flying first class, it’s probably a bit easier to exit the plane with a fresher outlook (those lay flat seats can be a godsend for long flights), but if you’re like me – I’m typically in economy unless points buy my way into a more plush arrangement – your hair, face and body take a bit of a beating after 12+ hours of recirculated air. Below are a few of my favorite things to help look a bit less death-like after a long flight:
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there! I couldn’t be luckier to have three wonderful women in my life who support me and provide guidance in every realm of life. A big thank you to my wonderful grandmother, who is and always will be my female soulmate; to my mother, who has always had the best of intentions and raised me to believe in the power of a good work ethic and the importance of embracing your inner child; and to my mother-in-law (gosh, that sounds like such a mean word, right?), who adds the most wonderful layer to my life with her wisdom and joie de vivre.
Happy Mother’s Day from Anguilla!
As you’ve seen already in a previous post, my family and I are heading to Ireland this fall to celebrate my dad’s milestone birthday across the pond. He’s long had a love and fascination with medieval history and exploring Ireland and Scotland were both naturally major bucket list experiences for him. The last time we did something similar, my dad and sister met me in London where we headed off on a 10-day family Eurotrip, jetting around by plane and train to Prague, Amsterdam and Paris. For us, planes were necessary and convenient when time was limited, but trains were so much more than that; they provided transportation with a glimpse into the gorgeous scenery that cut across the European landscape. As a traveler, especially one trying to enjoy the beauty of slow travel, it becomes more than a simple Point A to Point B scenario and morphs into an enjoyable experience that focuses more on taking in the beauty of your surroundings. As a bonus, there was wi-fi on board and extra comfy (and affordable) seats to bump up the value even more. We traveled on a budget that go-around, but I would easily opt for trains around Europe not on a budget, too – it’s a universally appealing experience from my perspective, and if you can splurge on first class, cheers!
I find in Europe especially that trains actually end up being a bit more efficient in terms of time in some instances. City center locations (vs. airports in the outskirts) combined with not having to arrive 2+ hours early for the crazy security lines makes for a much less anxiety-inducing travel experience and sometimes actually represents shorter travel time.
And like I mentioned, these are the kind of views you get to glimpse:
If you’re traveling around Europe or planning a trip that involves hopping around to different countries, train travel makes a ton of sense in many scenarios. There are packages to suit all needs, and Rail Europe makes it simple as a one-stop shop, which is something I personally appreciate when I’m trying to research, compare and book. I’ve purchased on a one-off basis (London to Scotland), for a short-term rail pass experience (on the aforementioned family Eurotrip for the leg from Paris to Amsterdam); and once for a larger trip (a summer gallivanting around Europe with my cousin which involved a whole heap of stops). In each case, I was able to sort out my itinerary and choose an offering that offered the best value based on my scheduled adventures. Regardless, if you’re planning a trip to Europe, their site’s worth a visit just for inspo; there’s tons of useful information in terms of travel logistics plus great guides for exploring and finding destinations that fit your style.
That brings me to something exciting – great news for all European jet setters: Rail Europe is currently giving away a Eurail Global Pass, 1st class (luxe!), valid for 2 people for unlimited travel in 28 countries. Believe me, the thought of winning that is already having me daydreaming about my itinerary. It’s valued at 1662 AUD (around $1325), and it’s easy enough to get yourself entered. Fill out their quickie survey – it’ll take you about 3 total minutes – and share your thoughts on the best way to visit Europe. It’s pretty basic and gathers perspectives on plane vs. train travel, and what consumers find to be the perks of rail (there are seriously lots). Head on over, share your thoughts and enter for a chance to win!
Good luck, globetrotters! Have you traveled by train before in Europe? What did you think and what made it better (or worse) for you than plane travel?
While Puerto Rico is far more than just San Juan, the capital city makes for a great introduction to the Caribbean island and US territory. With easy flights into SJU and a great selection of historical sites, bars and restaurants to keep you captivated, it’s an easy getaway that appeals to shoppers, history buffs, and lovers of salt and sea. We got a healthy dose during an extended weekend getaway, and would have gladly rented a car to explore further afield had we had a few more days on the island.
For those of you visiting San Juan for the first time looking to get a decent feel for the city, here are a few tips and thoughts from our getaway layered with my perspective as a newbie.
A return trip to San Juan may base us in a different part of the city, but for our first go around being centered in scenic Old San Juan was a must. I knew we’d be journeying beyond the borders of the old city during our brief stint, but for first-timers to the area Old San Juan truly captures so much of what you’ll want to see as an introduction to Puerto Rico’s capital. There’s El Morro which is a must for history buffs, and for anyone with an appreciation for a great view (isn’t that everyone? read about our experience at El Morro).
Beyond historic El Morro, there’s a plenty of time that can be dedicated to strolling the streets of the picturesque old town. Old San Juan is the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico, and its cobblestone roads and Spanish colonial architecture bump up the city’s charm factor hugely. There are quaint little eateries tucked into courtyards throughout the area, a perfect spot to grab a glass of sangria or the ever-present mojito while taking in the sights and sounds. You’ll see local establishments doling out hearty portions of mofongo sitting adjacent to posh brunch spots serving up organic cuisine. I was actually surprised to see how many incredible restaurants and bars existed within Old San Juan. Prior to our trip I’d read about Condado, a beachy part of San Juan near the old city that was alleged to boast a Miami-esque vibe. I assumed that is where these cool restaurants and swanky bars would exist.
Every place we wanted to go for a drink or for a bite (based on our research beforehand) was located in Old San Juan. Calle Fortaleza has bar after restaurant after shop lining the way, with options for a huge range of budgets and tastes. All of that in mind, Old San Juan is a great central spot for a first brush with the capital (though as I mentioned, I may stay in a different area next time for a different experience). Read More
I have these moments before any ‘extended’ getaway (6+ nights, not just a long weekend): What do I pack (which is really my way of asking myself if I ‘need to’ go shopping)? What’s appropriate given the destination and norms (and cultural sensitivities)? Can I try to go carry-on only?
During this getaway – six days in Honduras and two days in Panama – carry-on only was totally doable, and this experience made me a certifiable carry-on convert. Life is so much easier when you’re not waiting around baggage claim, praying for your luggage to appear. I’ll admit that this was a warm weather destination which meant that clothes were lightweight, but I still managed to pack more than I needed which was impressive, all things considered.
As you can see, this list isn’t all inclusive as I’ve just included clothing in this visual snapshot, and have not included any of my electronics which I also religiously tote on getaways. In addition to the items I’ll outline here, I also took my laptop and charger, my Canon T2i and charger, my iPad and charger, and our GoPro and charger. I also like to take my carry-on essentials, which I’ve talked about here.
Keep reading for more details on this list, plus a few pieces that I especially love! Read More
Last weekend we headed to Puerto Rico to celebrate the launch of the new Anguilla – San Juan service being offered by Seaborne Airlines. While we were in town for business, we extended our time there a bit to be able to enjoy a bit of what Puerto Rico has to offer. This trip marked my first time in the US territory and I was psyched to have a couple of days to take a dive into Old San Juan’s charming streets and explore a bit of the history-rich island.
One of the musts for anyone’s first time to San Juan? El Morro.
The walk to El Morro from our home base at El Convento was incredibly charming. The colorful streets of Old San Juan bled into gorgeous sea views and a huge lawn at the base of the fort. It was a Saturday when we visited and families were out en masse, soaking up the sun, flying kites and picnicking.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of El Morro but had heard and read enough about it to know that it was a must for any first-timer. The fort is part of the US National Park System and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the 16th century. To find many structures that fall under the US’ jurisdiction dating back that far is something of a rarity. Coming from the West Coast where our US history dates back to 1849, this is practically ancient. The site was built by the Spaniards over the course of 250 years and the fort’s remains which stand today are still pretty remarkable. The beginning of the construction on El Morro predates the first American colony, which lends to its uniqueness in the American landscape. It’s one of the best preserved sites that I’ve encountered (granted it’s not as old as some historical sites we’ve seen around the globe); I was far more impressed than I expected to be. You’ll enter onto the fort’s 5th level, and have the option of climbing up to the 6th level for gorgeous panoramic views of San Juan. Climbing down, you’ll enter open spaces that were once used as living quarters, and then continue to decline into the old tower and then to the bottom floor that sits at sea level. Some of the walls in the old tower are original, dating back to the mid-1500s when the fort was first erected. Read More