Traveler Profile Part #1: “The Backpacker”

Alright, so the main reason I travel is to experience local culture, but the cynical part of me really enjoys analyzing the often even more fascinating traveler culture that revolves around me. Whether passing through India, Mexico, or France, there are a few traveler types that can be seen around the world–some of whom we envy, and some that just make us laugh. Over the next few weeks, I will compile a 5 part traveler profile covering:

  • The Backpacker
  • The Catalogue Model
  • The Journalist
  • The Tacky Tourist
  • The Partier

Disclaimer: I know that stereotyping is wrong. This post is only a silly, sarcastic view of the author!

Here is the traveler profile of part 1 of my 5 part series: The Backpacker

Dress Code: The backpacker uniform is quite complex because of its many layers. Every good backpacker outfit begins with an obnoxious pair of gypsy pants. After a conservative first layer, they will then wear a culturally inappropriate tank top that shows bra straps or pectorals. Next, the backpacker throws on at least 3 mismatched scarves as a belt, neck tie, head wrap, sash, etc. The look is completed by a woven shoulder bag, cow bone necklace, gladiator sandals, a gauged earring, and a goat leather fanny pack. If they look disheveled, they have succeeded.

Hygiene: Backpackers shower, on average, once every 4-7 days. Basic toiletries such as deodorant and shampoo are considered as extra weight, and will not be included in their bag. While dreadlocks or a partially shaven head are preferred, some backpackers are accepted into the community with nothing more than a messy head of curls or a thick head wrap. Backpackers must always smell of incense, essential oils, tea, or body odor. Barefoot walking is preferred.

Equipment: A hidden copy of the Lonely Planet; a pricey REI backpack; a leather bound journal; a yoga mat, ukelele, flag, or other random novelty items strung off the side of their backpack.

Activities: This can get tricky. The objective of the backpacker is to avoid all things commercialized and “touristy”, but in doing so, they end up participating in the exact same activities as other backpackers. Favorite activities include tea with monks, hitch hiking, yoga, overland transportation, panning for gold, smoking cigarettes, etc.Backpackers often favor experiences that be retold in a sensational way, and they often intentionally place themselves in bad situations for this reason.

Favorite Topics of Conversation: Eastern religions, symbolism of tattoos, exaggerated travel memories, philosophy, etc.

14

11 2014

I Scream, You Scream, Are We Too Old for Ice Cream?

Denver, Colorado is slowly becoming a favorite United States travel destination. Why? Could be the 300 days of sunshine each year or the epic powder days in the Rocky Mountains… oh and Colorado is absolutely THE state to visit when it comes to microbreweries, Denver itself home to hundreds, not to mention some of the biggest beer competitions in the world. Ah, but there’s a little known gem that is often over looked by the common traveler – Denver’s ice cream scene. That’s right, its ‘ice cream scene’. While some leave the ice cream infatuation to the kids, it’s a treat you can’t really out grow. Denver is home to some downright amazing ice creameries; several of which have been producing interesting flavor combinations since before it was hip.

So where can you get the best ice cream in Denver? You have to start at the beginning. You haven’t had a proper visit to Denver if you haven’t tried Liks Ice Cream located at 2039 E 13th Ave.  They’ve been scooping the sweet stuff since 1976.

Try flavors ranging from the interesting – ancho chile, whiskey river cheesecake (cheesecake ice cream, caramel whiskey and graham cracker), and huckleberry – to the classic favorites like vanilla bean. If variety is your spice, Liks Ice Cream is your place.

Another classic Denver favorite is Bonnie Brae Ice Cream located at 799 S University Blvd. Since the late ’80s, Bonnie Brae has been Denver’s most idyllic, classic ice cream parlor. Regardless of time of day, their large store front always brings in a diverse crowd. Try their famous “Cappuccino Crunch” ice cream, a thick shake, or a good ol’ banana spilt. And don’t worry, no one will judge if you aren’t inclined to share.

Little Man Ice Cream is one of the most original ice cream shops in all the land. When asking for directions you’ll hear, “you can’t miss it”. New to Denver in 2008, Little Man Ice Cream is already becoming as iconic as the Rocky Mountains and the 16th Street Mall. This neighborhood landmark positioned atop a hill in the Highlands neighborhood (20 16th St to be precise), is a gigantic early 20th century metal cream can.

Nostalgia is the name of the game and aesthetically speaking, they nailed it. Little Man works hard to bring the community together through frequent events including live music, poetry, movie nights, and more. And don’t worry, just because they’re reminiscent of ‘simpler times’, their flavors are anything but. They frequently feature creative new flavors, they offer incredible ice cream sandwiches and their service is as dreamy as their storefront.

They may be one of the newest kids on the block, but Sweet Action Ice Cream has come ready to rock.

The 52 Broadway creamery already has some serious bragging rights, having won accolades including “Best Ice Cream Shop in Colorado” by USA Today and “One of the Best Ice Cream Shops in the US” by Food and Wine Magazine. They have a wide variety of flavors and are always trying out new combinations, including most recently: Elderflower, vegan raspberry chip and garam masala – yes garam masala. Try as many samples as you like, but don’t leave without tasting their epic ‘Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey’ flavored ice cream. With flavors like that, no one can accuse Sweet Action of child’s play.

With all these sweet temptations, are you wondering how it is that Denver is consistently ranked one of the “Healthiest Cities in America”? It may have something to with the quality of the ingredients that go into the ice cream. All of the above ice creameries use high quality, local ingredients, and all ice cream is made inhouse. But, if one does happen to go overboard and over indulge, there are no lack of activities and locations to work off that quarter kilo of ice cream you finished in one sitting – don’t worry we won’t tell anyone.

There are a ton of fantastic places to visit and see while you’re in Denver. Learn all about the different neighborhoods of the city on a Denver Highlights Tour. If you’re not content with simply enjoying Rocky Mountain views from Denver, get up close and personal with a Denver Mountain Parks City Tour Combo. For an even more wild adventure, try the Denver Mountain Parks Tour to some of the most beloved places beyond the city limits.

Crème de la Crème – Paris’ Most Fashionable Hotels

When it comes to traveling, I want to be just as impressed with my hotel as I am with every other part of my trip. While hostels will always have a place in my heart, I have embraced the fact that I have grown up and with that change, I have realized just how important comfort is. Finding the right place to lay your head is just as important as packing the right pair of shoes. While, I am personally inclined to use up my travel budget on those special wardrobe pieces and exquisite meals, I am willing to forgo a new pair of shoes for the right hotel.

Paris has a way of enveloping you in its classy, timeless, luxurious air. Is it too much to ask the same from my hotel? I think not. But, Paris is Paris. It is not a city lacking in incredible pastries or beautiful hotels. That said there is nothing worse than booking your hotel months in advance and arriving to find that the photos were deceiving. At the end of the day, finding the right hotel can be tiring. So to help you with your decision by compiling a list of hotels for those that want to know “where to stay in Paris” when wanting a fabulous room that caters to the fashion minded.

So who made our list?

  • The Ritz – This is your quintessential Paris hotel c’est magnifique. Coco Chanel once called this hotel home for many years. That statement alone should be reason enough to stay here, if it’s not, allow the posh interior take you back to an era when tea had a time. If you want to really kick up a notch why not splurge on the Coco Chanel Suite?  This suite is the definition of elegance. Allow the gold chandeliers, large mirrors and rock crystals enchant you – after a few nights – you may find yourself wanting to make this permanent residence as well.
  • If you are looking for a mix of the modern and antique, then look no further than Hotel Belle Juliette. Inspired by the famously mysterious Juliette Recamier and masterminded by designer Anne Gelbard. Every room is a representation of different parts of the life of the French icon. The goal behind this hotel is a refined comfort. You can expect soft feminine touches amidst restored antiques and modern comforts. 
  • If Paris is bringing out the bolder side of you why not give into it and book a room at the Hotel Du Petit Moulin. Swedish designer Christian Lacriox designed the interior of the hotel in 2005. Staying in this hotel makes as much of a statement as the bag you carry. This boutique hotel is a work of art and promises you surfaces that you won’t want to leave unexplored.
  • Hotel Plaza Athenee has perfected the blending of Parisian style and Art Deco. This hotel has a bright interior with a perfect blend of bright and subtle tones. This is the hotel to stay at to fulfill all your shopping needs. Plaza Athenee is located within walking distance from all the high end shops and has private access to the Dior Institute. This is place to stay when you are feeling inclined to indulge. 
  • Looking for something a little nicer on the wallet but still a win when it comes to style? Look no further than Hotel Palm Opera. This hotel offers stunning views, won’t break the bank and embodies modern and minimalist design.  This centrally located hotel is sure please and keep you sitting pretty. 
  • The last hotel on this list is another Christian Lacroix masterpiece, Le Bellechasse Saint Germain.  This hotel is an attraction all its own.  Centrally located this hotel is sure to make your time in Paris memorable. There is nothing shy about this hotel and while it may seem quite busy in regards to décor it manages to not be distracting.  This hotel will feed your artistic soul and leave you feeling inspired. 

Now that you have figured out where to stay, you need to find some things to do in Paris. One of the best ways to get your bearings in a new city is to take a Hop on Hop off tour. They are a great way to get a feel for your surrounds – see the highlights – and decide where you want to actually spend your time. Not interested in taking a bus tour? You can look into a walking tour. If it’s the large group that turns you off there are several small group alternatives, this one even includes lunch at the Eiffel Tower. Now that you have a few activities, and know where you are staying, all that’s left to do is work on your French and pack!

13

09 2013

Oh the Places You’ll Go for a Good Cup of Joe: Coffee Vacations

Hardly able to crack a smile before noon without coffee? Of the opinion that Nescafe is probably better for paving roads than human consumption? Willing to travel anywhere in the world to find a good cup?If this describes you or a loved one… don’t worry. There is a vacation solution.

Whether you’re a java connoisseur or a simple devotee to the morning routine, there are places in the world that true coffee lovers simply must go to get their fix. Maybe your next vacation will take you to the coffee plantations of Asia or have you yelling out your order at a vicious espresso bar. I can assure you though, if you book your next vacation to one of these spots, you won’t be drinking instant:

  1. To Nature (Indonesia): The famed Civet Coffee is primarily produced in Indonesia. Not familiar? Civet Coffee is made from a bean collected from the stool of the Civet monkey, then (thoroughly washed, I hope) and processed into one of the crappiest (haha), most expensive cups of coffee you’ll ever drink.
  2. To the Farm (Hawaii): Hawaii has one of the best set-ups for coffee tourists. From the Kona Historical Society to the farms themselves, you can have an informative vacation full of bean-related information.
  3. To the Table (Italy): If you’ve never had practice elbowing your way in and yelling out an order, perhaps 8 o’clock in the morning is not the time to try. Things can get aggressive at the Italian coffee bar, but they sure do take their brew seriously. Don’t expect any under frothed cappuccinos or non-fat lattes here. Your options are simple, straight forward, and absolutely delicious.
  4. To the Jungle (Costa Rica): The fertile tropical rain forests of Costa Rica have produced some of the world’s finest coffee for centuries since the bean was introduced from Ethiopia in 1779. Follow the production process from planting to brewing where your tastebuds will discover why coffee is among Costa Rica’s top exports. (Take a Costa Rica coffee tour)
  5. To a New Take (Turkey): Though its origins are in the 15th century, Turkish coffee might be new to many Western coffee drinkers. The preparation method in a pot (cezve) is perhaps the most interesting part, but the unmistakable clove flavor makes for a completely different take on classic coffee.

Where did you drink your best cup of coffee? Tell us about it on Facebook or in the comments section below! (Can’t see the comments? Click here to link to the full story: Oh the Places You’ll Go for A Good Cup of Joe: Coffee Vacations)

The Reading Sherpa: How to Pack Lighter

Once upon a cold day in Frankfurt, I was miserably bogged down by a 40lb backpack and a 15lb shoulder bag while scaling a steep hill questing for a hostel. I took massive pity on myself and imagined myself as a Sherpa hauling heavy supplies up Everest (something tells me I was really just acting like a big baby) and let my grumpy mood develop accordingly.

If you’ve ever packed an uber-heavy bag, you know what a burden taking the stairs, changing hotels or checking bags can be. You also might know how many t-shirts you have to unpack to lose any weight in your luggage. However, there is one heavy item that almost all travelers pack that you can use to dramatically change the weight of your bag. Books!

At an average of .75lbs each, books can quite literally weigh you down! Here are a few travel tips for lightening your load while still having the chance to read on vacation (because when else do you have the time to catch up on  your reading!).

  1. Grab an e-Reader. A Kindle or Nook are the most obvious options for saving weight in your bag, though you should be aware of international downloading restrictions before your vacation.
  2. Only bring a book you think you can finish. This is not the time to start a hard-covered copy of War & Peace. The extra 500 pages are probably not worth the weight–it’s not much of a beach read anyway.
  3. Consider buying books in-country. While not all countries have English bookstores, they will often have a small section of English books mixed in with the local offerings.
  4. Leave behind books that you finish for other travelers. You can read while you’re there and cut the weight on your way out. Plus just think of all the bonus karma.
  5. Swap books with traveling companions… just don’t get too pushy after you’ve finished your first read and they’re still leisurely thumbing through theirs.
  6. Read newspapers or magazines instead. If you don’t think you’ll be reading a lot on the trip, but want something casual to pass the time, newspapers and magazines are a great way to pack light. In flight publications are usually free and interesting, or pick up a paper or magazine to stay up on current events or industry happening while on vacation.

Ever made the mistake of bringing a book on vacation that you wouldn’t even touch at home? What was it? Tell us about it on Facebook or in the comments below! (Click here if you can’t see the comments)

28

11 2012

Cricket Games and Pumpkin Curry: Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad

It’s Thanksgiving time again, and while family gatherings, turkey, pumpkin pie, parades, and American football are the staples for most, the holiday takes different forms for everyone. Sometimes it can even take the form of watching cricket and eating pumpkin curry if you’re not in the United States. Some celebrate Thanksgiving by flocking home, mashing potatoes and putting on the T.V., while others flee family obligations for the islands and pretend that it’s just any fourth Thursday. However, there is also a group in between–the people that are away from home for the holidays, but really wish they weren’t. They will spend November 22nd seeking out an American sports bar and roasting a “turkey” (or any bird-shaped meat for that matter) to be shared with anyone who’s interested.

Last year, I fell into the latter category during a teaching contract in Thailand, so this Thanksgiving, I’m especially grateful to be home and with my family for the celebration. It did make me wonder, though… how do people who live abroad permanently celebrate at this time of year? Is Thanksgiving abroad depressing? …unimportant? …better than at home?

NPR had the same question last year and surveyed travelers, expats, and service members about how they plan celebrate Thanksgiving from abroad. One contributor writes that roast ostrich might be on his dinner table in South Africa while others vow to recreate the full experience with expensive imported goods. While most have the food down, it seems as though the hardest part for many is figuring out how to catch the game… Check out NPR’s Interactive Map of How Travelers, Expatriates And Service Members Spend Thanksgiving.

How do you plan to spend your Thanksgiving this year? And, how much would you pay for a turkey to make your Thanksgiving abroad authentic? Tell us about it on Facebook or in the comments section below. (Click here for a link to the full story if you can’t see the comments below: Cricket Games and Pumpkin Curry: Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad)

Happy Veterans Day! Veteran Travel Discounts

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” -Cynthia Ozick

While Veterans Day is an especially good time to honor the men and women that have served the United States, their honorable sacrifice is one that should be revered year round. There are hundreds of benefits and discounts for veterans as a small form of thanks for your service, but with so much information, perhaps you don’t know exactly what’s available. If you are a veteran or have a family member who is, here are some veteran travel resources to help you benefit from your veteran status on your next vacation.

    • Get your Veterans Advantage Card: Veterans Advantage is a benefits program designed to offer veterans and their families discounts on everything from electronics to travel. Veterans holding a Veterans Advantage membership card are eligible for major discounts on all things travel. With airline, train, bus, cruise, hotel and rental car partners, Veterans Advantage can save money for a veteran with a love of travel.
    • Discover Exclusive Military Discounts before You Travel: Check out exclusive veteran travel discounts at Military.com before planning your trip to find out where you can stay, what you can do, and how you can travel at a discounted rate.
    • Travel Space-A: If your itinerary is flexible, travel “Space-A” rather than on commercial airlines. Space Available travel is an way for veterans to travel by flying from one base to another on an open seat basis. Sign up on the Air Mobility Command website. While openings can be unpredictable, it’s easy to register your spot and save money on vacation.
    • Use Military Lodging as a Hotel Alternative:  Find an Army, Navy or Air Force base near your vacation spot through the Department of Defense list dodlodging.net or call the centralized reservation systems for the U.S. Army (866-363-5771), the U.S. Navy (800-628-9466) or the U.S. Air Force (888-235-6343) to book. (Source: USAToday)

 

Find out more about veteran benefits on the US Department of Veterans Affairs website. Travel safe and Happy Veterans Day to the men and women who have served in the United States military!

Say your thanks to the veterans in the comments section below or on Facebook. (Can’t see comments? Click here for a link: Happy Veterans Day! Veteran Travel Discounts)

11

11 2012

Quick & Easy Travel Hairstyles for Women

In my imagination, my traveling self looks fabulous. I’m traipsing in front of the crowd-free Taj Mahal rocking perfectly pleated linen pants and a crisp white button down with sun-kissed skin and long-and-flowing-yet-tastefully-tousled hair.

However, mirrors and photos show otherwise. It’s usually me with bed-head, wrinkled oversized shirts, frumpy food stained mom jeans, and some sort of tropical rash that has taken over my sensitive skin. That’s certainly one to be framed and set on the mantle for all of eternity, eh?

After a few months of backpacking, I started to notice the trend of me looking… sloppy and plain? It was too late to change wardrobes, however I did find a way to style my hair so that even on the most pillow smashed days, I could look at least a little more framable.

So here are a few recommendations for 4 super easy travel hairstyles that can be pulled together with no styling tools and in two minutes or less!

1. The High Pony Tail: Maybe you think the high pony tail died with the aerobics fad, but when you’re traveling, anything goes. Flip your head upside down and pull your hair up into a loose messy high pony tail, pulling out pieces at the front to soften the look. Of course, you’ll still want to avoid a scrunchy, but this look can be modern or even glamorous when paired with a scarf or earrings.

2. The Low Bun: The low bun is the easiest and most versatile travel hairstyle. If you want a messy look, pull out face-framing pieces at the front then pull the rest into a low bun at the nape of your neck. For a more elegant look, try twisting pieces and clipping them with bobby pins into a surprisingly easy updo.

3. The Half-up: If your hair is a bit too flat or funky to wear down, the half-up hair style is the next best thing. You can brush back your part and clip up with bobby pins for a voluminous half pony tail or loosely twist back pieces and secure with bobby pins for a more relaxed look.

4. The Braid: A braid can be a good styling technique or a look on its own when you’re without your styling tools. Whether you sleep in a wet braid for more dramatic waves or pleat your hair into a simple side braid to clean up your look, the braid is a classic finishing touch on any outfit.

Whats your go-to style on the road? Tell us about it on Facebook or in the comments section below! (Can’t see the comments? Click the link for the full story: Quick & Easy Travel Hairstyles for Women)

06

11 2012

Photo Blog: The Color Saturated Highlights of Madrid

Gray Line Hop-on Hop-off Bus Cruises down one of Madrid’s Wide Boulevards

A few weeks back, I had the chance to take a Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour in Madrid and write about for Gray Line. Cool, right? (To read my write up about the full tour, click the link: Hop-On, Hop-Off, Hop Into Madrid). However, by the time I wrote the piece, I was already in a rainy Moroccan mountain town typing from a touch screen phone, so I had to skimp on the pictures. But have no fear, the photo blog is here! Now to avoid showing you the Madrid photos you’ve probably seen 100x before, I decided to amp up the contrast to make the pictures more interesting:

Step #1: Pick up your tickets and hop on a bus outside of El Museo Nacional del Prado (or other location)

El Museo Nacional del Prado – Accessible via Banco de España and Atocha metro stops

Step #2: Select your language option on the audio tour… I know you speak at least one of these.

Step #3: Alright…. let’s go!

Step #4: Enjoy the Ride Around Madrid!

What’s your favorite spot in Madrid? Tell us about it in the comments below! (Can’t see the comments? Click here for a link to the full story: Photo Blog: Color Saturated Highlights of Madrid)

02

11 2012

Funny Travel Themed Halloween Costume Ideas!

Are you Ready for Halloween? Photo by Author.

Halloween is creeping up again, and I have to say… it might just be my favorite holiday. Every year, I construct a ridiculous, elaborate, and random costume, then wait for the response. Sometimes, I win prizes, while other times I just end up squeezing myself through crowds restricted by a large trash can lid and overexplaining my costume for the few people that might ACTUALLY get it.

If you too love travel and Halloween, I’ve thought of a few clever and funny travel-related Halloween costume ideas for 2012. Sure, you could be a scantily-dressed cat or lazily constructed ghost again, but wouldn’t you rather choose something different this year? Read on for a few funny unique travel-themed Halloween Costume ideas!

1. The Rude Flight Attendant: The angry flight attendant is a great reference, because just about anyone who’s ever taken a flight anywhere can relate. Find a well tailored polyester dress or suit, over-coif your hair, and accessorize with a silk scarf, a pair of wings, and a little hat. The angry part can involve a beverage cart which you wield around recklessly, some miniature wine bottles, and snarky comments about seat belts and luggage. Don’t forget your fake smile for this one!

2. The Backpacker: The backpacker look is one that can be appreciated with anyone who’s traveled in the hostel scene before. Wear wildly patterned genie pants, a tank top advertising Southeast Asian lager, and a pair of obnoxiously colored Ray Bans. Mess up your hair a bit, and equip yourself with a smartphone, a lonely planet, and an REI daypack. Complete the look with a tribal tattoo, bare feet and a 40oz beer.

3. The Tourist: The stereotypical tourist is a travel reference that anyone will identify. Throw on your most obnoxious floral printed or “I ♥ …” shirt with a pair of khakis, high socks, and walking shoes. Sling a fake jumbo camera around your neck, fill your pockets with boarding passes and a crinkled map, and throw on a huge straw hat.

4. The Travelocity Gnome, Priceline Negotiator, etc.: Pick the travel commercial spokesman of your choice and build your own Halloween costume. Throw on a suit and your best William Shatner impression, or deck yourself out in a gnome hat and white beard to be the Travelocity gnome. Get creative, and rest assured that even your non-traveler friends can get this joke.

If you’re not up for the sarcasm, you could always be a pilot, tour guide, or even the hotel maid. For other ideas, think of all the people you meet on vacation and get creative!

Have you ever worn a travel-themed Halloween costume? Was it a success or a flop? Tell us about it in the comments below or on Facebook! (Click here if you can’t see the comments below: Funny Travel-Themed Halloween Costume Ideas for 2012)