Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for May, 2010

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Matt Kepnes: tales of a modern nomad

Nomadic Matt: Professional vagabond

Matt Kepnes was a typical college grad in 2005. He was working and completing his MBA. But after a trip he took to Thailand that year, he decided he wasn’t meant for a desk job, and traveling the world was going to be his new career path.

Matt finished school, quit his job, and in 2006 started traveling full time. Four years and 31 countries later, Matt has become better known as Nomadic Matt, professional vagabond and creator of the popular website, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

While Matt was in Amsterdam last week, I interviewed him about how he got the courage to leave everything behind to travel, how he stretches his dollar, some of his most unforgettable memories, the cities with the best food, and more.

What I discovered is that Matt’s travel philosophy is a little different than one might expect. He doesn’t mind visiting the same city over and over again to really get to know it. It’s one thing to say that you’ve traveled to numerous countries, but it’s another to get to know the towns, the people, and the culture that turns you into a great traveler.

Matt also gave us a sneak peek to the big changes coming to his website. But I won’t dish them here. Click play and listen to my podcast!

Redbook’s advice for making the most out of group travel

REDBOOK: Embracing the benefits of group travel

Not everyone is sold on group travel. For some, sticking to an itinerary can seem restricting. I, on the other hand, think group travel is the perfect way to experience a country you’re unfamiliar with.

For those of you on the fence, a recent article in Redbook gives you “6 Tips to Surviving Group-Tour Travel.” I was excited to see that Friendly Planet customer Monique Valeris was the writer.

The article centers on the trip she took with Friendly Planet to India. She was hesitant at first, being that she never toured with a group before. But she goes on to say that it was “completely worth the money, and honestly, a lot more than I could’ve asked for.”

Well Maria, I’m glad you enjoyed your time with us. We were delighted to have you! The article doesn’t specify which tour she took. But based on the description, it’s safe to say she took the Taj Mahal Express.

Read the full article and get Maria’s tips on making the most out of group travel. I couldn’t have said it better than her. Thanks Maria!

Ten days on the Taste of China tour for $1,099

China has become one of the most attractive travel destinations in the world. Its modern achievements interwoven with an ancient culture, and a recorded history spanning over 5,000 years, entices savvy travelers from all over the globe.

But with its popularity comes rising travel costs. Other tour companies are scaling back their accommodations and trip durations to maintain their pricing — not Friendly Planet. Once again, we’ve maintained our high standards for price and quality with our $1,099 10-day Taste of China tour.

We didn’t cut any corners to get you this price. In fact, we were able to book a better hotel in Xi’an. We’re constantly negotiating better pricing for travelers while maintaining a high level of hotels, service, and programming. It’s not easy to do, but it’s my job to look for new ways to make our trips even more exquisite.

Let me refresh your memory on the attractions Friendly Planeteers will see while in China. Beijing, China’s historic and cultural capital, and Shanghai, often called the “Paris of the East,” are probably two of the most dynamic cities in the world.

Xi’an, which at first glance may appear to be a typical city, is actually the site of one of the world’s most important archeological treasures, an army of 2,200-year-old, terra-cotta soldiers. It includes more than 8,000 life-size ceramic soldiers, chariots, and horses buried there to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.

On this tour, travelers will be introduced to the all of the most significant treasures of China, from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall of China to the Temple of Heaven. They’ll also get a taste of what life is truly like in China, when we stop by picturesque villages, a traditional school, and bustling street vendors.

Here’s what’s included in the price: round-trip flights from LAX via Air China (including fuel surcharges), all ground transfers and intra-China flights, deluxe and first-class hotels, 12 meals, comprehensive cultural touring with a local guide, a professional English-speaking tour director, and more.

While you’re in the neighborhood, why not take advantage of your already-included airfare and visit exotic, frenetic Hong Kong, where East truly meets West, for only $599. City-lovers worldwide rank Hong Kong among their must-see destinations, and for good reason. With its glorious harbor, excellent shopping, renowned restaurants, and some of the best nighttime skylines in the world, Hong Kong has it all.

I encourage you to read my previous posts about the Taste of China tour, and also see what our travelers have said about it. It sells out fast, so book our 10-day Taste of China tour for $1,099 by June 30.

For complete details about the tour and the Hong Kong extension, visit our website. Have any questions? Write to me directly.

Taste of Thailand wins over a Citizen-Times local

Recently, the only news you hear on Thailand is about the political protests that are unfolding. Thailand is normally a very peaceful country, and it saddens me that these protests are disrupting tourism.

When I found this article in the Citizen-Times, called “Amazing Thailand,” my sadness started to disappear. Dottie Trantham wrote a beautiful account of her Taste of Thailand tour for her local paper. It was simply wonderful.

Dottie captured the essence of travel in Thailand perfectly. Life in Thailand moves at a different pace, unless you’re trying to defy the raging river that is Bangkok traffic.

Otherwise, one could easily become addicted to the kind, smiling faces of the people. And let’s not leave out the lovely flowers everywhere (orchids galore), the delicious food, and the fascinating sights and sounds of this amazing country.

I wanted to thank her for taking the time to record her experiences. Read her full account, she doesn’t leave a detail out. Dottie, your article reminded me that I need to get back to Thailand A.S.A.P.

Thailand protests cooling down

This post has been updated here.

This just in from my representatives in Thailand. The political situation in Bangkok seems to be improving at this moment. The number of protesters has reduced substantially, and there have been no threats of violence for several days.

Even more promising is the fact that the negotiations between the government and the protesters appear to be progressing. All roads in Bangkok, except where the protesters are stationed, are open. Most travel warnings have been downgraded or lifted.

The atmosphere is calm elsewhere in Thailand. I’m confident we’ll be resuming travel to Thailand soon. I sincerely hope this situation will be resolved peacefully and that life will return to normal in Bangkok.

A look inside Friendly Planet’s Iberian Coasts Cruise (part 7)

I had the opportunity to travel in a group that included an avid cruise ship historian and author of Maritime Matters, Peter Knego. Peter’s passion for cruise ships goes far beyond an interest in the design, mechanics, and logistics of a boat. Indeed, his interests have opened up an entire career for him.

Peter spends time each year trekking to the far reaches of India to what would most easily be described as a cruise ship graveyard. Once ships have officially gone into retirement, they are docked along the beaches of India, where workers strip each ship down to the bone. Everything from tables and chairs to doorknobs and faucets are ripped out and sold as scrap.

Peter takes this opportunity to “rescue,” as he calls it, what he deems to be some of the most fascinating and culturally valuable aspects of these ships, many of which he has sailed on numerous times. As such, this can be heartbreaking work for him.

Peter returns to his home in southern California with treasure loads of furniture, paintings, tile, and more, which he sells to interior designers and furniture enthusiasts. As you might imagine, Peter’s own home has become a near replica of the fine interiors of a ship itself, overflowing with some of the pieces Peter deemed simply too beautiful or sentimental to part with.

This is my interview with Peter, whose admiration for the beauty of these majestic ships comes shining through in almost everything he says and does.



Friday’s Friendly Funny

Laura Carroll’s advice for student travelers: The podcast transcript

If you didn’t take notes during my podcast with Laura Carroll, Managing Editor of Students In Europe, don’t sweat it. Grab a highlighter and read the transcript.

A first-hand look inside Friendly Planet’s Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise

When in Greece, eat Greek salad.

As a Friendly Planet blogger, I get sneak peeks of incredible deal announcements. There was one in particular that grabbed my attention back in July 2009. It was a discount on the Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise.

As a young professional on a budget, the first thing that caught my eye was the price: $1,199 for an eight-day adventure on the Aegean? Flights, hotels, and cruise included? I was sold. Two days later the trip was booked. And by the end of the week, I’d recruited four more friends to join me!

After months of anticipation, we departed from JFK International on March 24, and landed in Athens 12 hours later. It was an incredible trip packed with some unforgettable experiences.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my stories, photos, and videos from the cities of Athens and Kusadasi, on the islands of Mykonos, Patmos, Crete, and Santorini, and on the decks of the Aquamarine. It was all part of the Athens and 3-Day Greek Isles Cruise. Check back for my first post, Arriving in Athens and boarding the Aquamarine.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

Tours & Packages Our specialty for 30 years! Find one now:
choose a region Europe Mediterranean Asia Middle East Africa Central America Caribbean South America South Pacific