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Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for April, 2013

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Travel enthusiast checks Cuba off her bucket list

Cuba was always on Mimi’s Gough’s bucket list, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to check it off. So when the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made people-to-people travel to Cuba legal, Mimi knew she had to jump at the chance to visit this fascinating destination.

Mimi is a travel enthusiast who has visited over 40 countries in her lifetime. She has traveled on escorted tours and on solo explorations, and was once a travel agent herself! Mimi and her husband went to Cuba on our Discover Havana tour in September 2012, and she wrote about her experience for the Portland Press Herald. I loved her write-up, and asked our blogging team to reach out to Mimi to hear more about her trip.

She joined us for a podcast to discuss her trip, why she chose Friendly Planet for her tour, the great people she met along the way, and the most memorable experience she had in Cuba. Listen in for these details and more.

Thanks so much for sharing your tour experience with us, Mimi! We had a great time talking with you.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Kissing the Blarney Stone

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Travel Talk: How one blogger explores the world by tasting it

“The best way to learn about a destination is through its flavors.” That’s the travel philosophy of Rachelle Lucas, founder and editor of and the next guest for our Travel Talk blog series.

So how does one become a travel and food blogger? In Rachelle’s case, quite by accident! When she felt she wasn’t living her life to the fullest, she left her marketing job in the banking industry to move to Florida and become an inn keeper. When the inn decided to start blogging, it chose Rachelle to lead the charge.

From there, Rachelle discovered her love for sharing recipes and travel stories through a blog. She is no longer an innkeeper, but continues to travel, blog, and try new food all over the world. We asked her to answer a few questions so we could learn more about the fabulous exotic cuisine she has tasted from every corner of the planet.

1) We’ve read that you quit your office job, opened an inn in Florida, and the rest is history. What sparked this decision, and was it a difficult one to make?

What sparked the decision is that I didn’t feel I was my true “authentic” self. Many of my friends were happy working downtown in an office environment, but I always looked out the window with a longing for something different. I was successful. I had a great job with a big desk and my own office. I just wasn’t happy. After staying at a bed-and-breakfast and mingling with the innkeepers all morning, I was hooked! Their 9-5 seemed more like my Saturday morning. After that, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. The most difficult part in any goal or dream is identifying what you want. Once you have that in mind, it’s just about enjoying the journey and the process.

2) Do you mostly travel domestically or internationally? (more…)

Friday’s Friendly Funny: An authentic Venice experience

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Where you should travel with your tax refund

Tax season is officially over and you might be expecting a refund check in the near future. The average person will receive a tax refund of about $2,755, according to the IRS, which can come in handy if you want to get away on an international vacation. To help, I’ve broken down a few suggestions for where you can travel at a few different price points.

If you’re looking to stay under about $2,000 per person, I recommend:

  • A Taste of China or Beijing & Tokyo. Visiting China is the trip of a lifetime for travelers interested in exploring a culture truly different from their own. The country has impressive modern achievements and an ancient, rich culture. Beijing, China’s capital, and Shanghai, often called the “Paris of the East,” are two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an, a large industrial city, is the site of one of the world’s most important archaeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers buried to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.
  • A Taste of Ireland or Discover Ireland. As I’ve said before, whether you have Irish roots or just a love of Irish culture, there has never been a better year to visit Ireland. That’s because The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Irish ancestry with clan gatherings, festivals, sporting events, music, and concerts, is going on this year. This event only adds to the lush countryside, friendly and wonderful people, and the array of beautiful destinations — Dublin, Kerry, Killarney, Kilkenny, Limerick, and more — in Ireland.
  • Captivating Costa Rica or Costa Rica Pura Vida. From jungles, cloud forests, and active volcanoes to its rivers and Caribbean and Pacific coasts, travelers need to experience everything that makes Costa Rica the jewel of Central America. This destination has beautiful resorts and adventurous travel opportunities — making it the perfect place for every kind of traveler. And the location is out of this world: the island contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. (more…)

Clearing up 4 misconceptions about Cuba

When news broke that Jay-Z and Beyoncé had traveled to Cuba, it reignited questions about whether Americans can travel to the island country legally. In those conversations, I heard many misconceptions about American travel to Cuba, and wanted to clear a few points up.

I wrote my latest contribution to Huffington Post, titled “Dispelling Four Misconceptions About Travel to Cuba” to do just that. I cover how Americans can travel legally to Cuba through People-to-People licensing, the cost of a trip to Cuba, the island’s tourism infrastructure, and more. Click over to read what I wrote, and I welcome your thoughts in a comment below. 

Friday’s Friendly Funny: A Guinness shower

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Travel Talk: There’s no stopping Uncornered Market’s world travelers

We’re continuing with our Travel Talk blog series by featuring not one, but two amazing travelers who are still going strong after visiting over 75 countries in the past six years. Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott are the husband-and-wife storytelling and photography team behind Uncornered Market.

Dan and Audrey left their secure jobs and quiet lifestyles in 2006 for what was planned to be a 12-18 month traveling adventure. It’s been six years since they began, and they see no end in sight. Together they explore the world, photograph the people and places they see, and blog about their experiences. They’ve visited over 75 countries, and have many more on their list.

We reached out to Dan and Audrey because we wanted to know what they’ve learned from their travels, what they have most enjoyed, and what’s next on their agenda.

1) What sparked your decision to leave your jobs and lifestyle in 2006 to travel the world? Was it a difficult decision to make?

We were both working in traditional desk jobs and had reached a point where we weren’t learning anymore and wanted more creativity in our lives. We had always dreamed about traveling around the world and decided to combine travel with learning new creative skills to try and get into a different type of work. Was it a difficult decision? YES!! Everyone thought we were crazy leaving all the security and stability behind. But it was worth it. (more…)

Submit your True Travel Tales to win prizes and be featured on our blog!

When you have an amazing experience while traveling, it creates a memory that will last a lifetime. I have many of those memories, some of which I’ve shared here on the blog.

Now, we want you to share your traveling memories. We’re adding a new feature to our blog which we’ve titled ‘True Travel Tales’. We’re inviting everyone who has traveled on any Friendly Planet Travel tour to submit a True Travel Tale of their own. It can be your favorite, funniest, or most heartwarming story or photos from a Friendly Planet trip. Just tell us what made your trip memorable for you and your family.

We’ll feature some of our favorite True Travel Tales on our blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed, which reach millions of travelers. As an added bonus, the entrants who have their stories chosen will receive a coupon for $100 off their next Friendly Planet Travel booking, and a copy of “One Day on Earth” on DVD.

Here’s how it works: Anyone can submit a True Travel Tale to us. You can submit your story, a few photos with descriptions, or both. If your entry is chosen, you will win a $100 off coupon for your next Friendly Planet Travel tour, plus a copy of the “One Day on Earth” DVD. The $100 coupon has no expiration date and may be used toward the total purchase price of any booking. It cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts, and expires on Dec. 31, 2014.

Submitting a True Travel Tale is easy. Just email your story and/or photos from your trip to us at We have a few details we’d like you to keep in mind before submitting your True Travel Tale:

  • Please keep your story brief (400 words max). Unfortunately, we are not able to publish all stories we receive, and we reserve the right to edit submissions for length and clarity.
  • Please send your story in the body of the email, and include a photo as an attachment.
  • We’d love for you to submit photos of you and your travel companions, so please include the names of everyone in the photo. Please also provide a brief description of the photo, including where it was and what you were doing. We ask that you be the photographer of all the photos you submit, and by submitting your photo to us, you grant us permission to publish it on our blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.
  • We’ll notify you if we plan to include your True Travel Tale on our blog or other networks. Please include a valid email address or phone number so we can reach you if we have any questions.

So start submitting! We can’t wait to read your favorite memories from your Friendly Planet Travel trip.

Why you need to get in on The Gathering in Ireland

There are 34.5 million people in the United States who claim Irish heritage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011. So if recent St. Patrick’s Day celebrations weren’t enough to make you feel close to your Irish roots, there’s another event you should know about: The Gathering.

The Gathering is a year-long celebration of Irish ancestry with clan gatherings, festivals, sporting events, music, and concerts across Ireland. The Gathering was launched by the Irish Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Tourism in May 2012 and is being supported by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland.

Myriad events have been planned throughout the country this year, ranging from concerts and cultural events, to ones meant to help you trace your Irish linage. Whether you have Irish roots or just a love of Irish culture, there has never been a better year to visit Ireland.

Friendly Planet is taking part in the celebration by offering five different tours to Ireland, including one during the very special Fitzgerald Clan Gathering. The Fitzgerald clan, one of Ireland’s oldest and most powerful families, is reuniting in late June and our Fitzgerald Clan Gathering in Ireland tour is for anyone who wants to be a part of it. It’s designed for travelers to discover, or re-discover, their Fitzgerald Clan roots, and especially for those with an interest in tracing their Irish genealogy. You may even be surprised to uncover family ties to the historic Fitzgerald Clan.

It’s looking to be an unforgettable year in Ireland. Are you taking a trip to Ireland in 2013? If so, what are you planning to see and do? I’d love to hear about it in a comment below.

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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

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