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Posts Tagged ‘Guest blog post’

Discovering the magic of ageless India

The following story from Cherie Thiessen, a traveler on one of our Taj Mahal Express tours, ran in Senior Living Magazine’s December 2013 issue. I was truly impressed by her fabulous article about India, which captures the essence of the scenes she describes beautifully. I experienced those very same places, and her descriptions reminded me of the details, which we typically tend to gloss over in our hurry to take everything in. She, on the other hand, noticed all the special tidbits that make India so fascinating. Read on for her story.


We’re swerving and bumping our way along one of the world’s oldest roads: the historic Silk Route, one of a network of connecting trade routes linking East, South, and Western Asia with Europe and North Africa. We’re only taking this impossibly congested road from Delhi as far as Agra, a mere 240 kilometres, but that will nevertheless take us all day. Here’s what will slow us down:

  • Cows lying in the middle of the road, nonchalantly munching on garbage. The drivers all manage to veer around them without altering their speed.
  • Two truckloads full of students, standing cheek-to-jowl in the back as they jerk and jostle to the music spilling out of the front. Every time the vehicles slow, some of the agile youths rappel out of the trucks and swap places, nonchalantly flicking in and out of traffic. Our driver brakes.
  • Women in rainbow saris balancing bales of chaff the size of smart cars on their heads, the edges of which scratch against our windows.
  • Vehicles ahead of us abruptly stopping in the middle of the road to enable occupants to pray alongside three-storey Hindu statues whose large eyes eerily track our every move.
  • A school bus crammed with tidy, uniformed children, barreling down on us on the wrong side of the freeway, forcing our two lanes of traffic to further divide into a very emaciated three. An overloaded fruit truck inching past the school bus so closely that a young arm is able to reach out and grab a banana from the teetering pile.

We wave and the children wave back exuberantly. (more…)

The miracle of Israel that touches travelers of all walks of life

The following is a guest post from Dr. Steven Derfler, who just returned from Israel with a group.


Traveling to the ancient land of David and Solomon, Sarah and Deborah, the ministry of Jesus, and 3rd holiest place in Islam, is to be profoundly touched by history. The art and archaeology of this biblical world “puts flesh onto the bones” of the literature and religion that shapes the 3 great western religious traditions.

As an archaeology professor who has been a part of many excavations in Israel, and served as the American director of 2 projects, I try to bring the passion of rediscovery to those who travel with me. As a result, in-depth explanation on an archaeology and history-oriented study tour brings the biblical world to life again. Then, when you add in the opportunity to visit the sites with fellow archaeologists involved in the process itself gives a first-hand perspective not often found in study tours.

This was lure of our program this past October. Perhaps the signature site for archaeology and history of ancient Israel is the mountain-top monolith of Masada; overlooking the Dead Sea. The fortress citadel of King Herod over 2000 years ago, this site later went on to become the rallying point of Jewish identity and self-preservation — as defenders were the last to hold out against Rome in 73 CE. Having worked on the mountain myself, one of my closest friends in Israel is the Director of Masada National Park, Eitan Campbell. He would greet the group personally, and offer his own eloquent description of the fortress initially excavated by Yigal Yadin in the mid-60s. It has been the focus of his entire adult life in Israel, and his love for the site came through in his discussion — a fact not lost on the group. (more…)

Travel Talk: How to be anything but an Ordinary Traveler

Life is too short to do anything that you don’t love. At least, that’s how Scott Calafiore and Christy Woodrow see it. The couple met in 2006, and began traveling the world together to pursue their love of photography and surfing. They started their travel and photography blog, Ordinary Traveler, in 2010 to chronicle their adventures for their friends and family. The blog has since taken off and become one of the top blogs in its genre.

We wanted to hear more about why Scott and Christy got started traveling, how they balance travel with their home life in San Diego, and what tips they have for other travel dreamers looking to get started. Read below for their answers, written by Christy.

1) What sparked your decision to begin chronicling your travels in the form of a blog?

We wanted to have not only a record of our travels, but also an online portfolio for our photography. The two-month trip we took in early 2010 gave us the motivation to actually build the blog and start writing stories. I realized how much I love writing and sharing travel tips with others, so it has been a large focus of our lives ever since that trip. (more…)

Answering your questions about legal travel to Cuba

As more Americans learn about the opportunity to travel to Cuba legally, we’ve begun fielding questions about what the island is like, what travelers need to do to prepare for a trip there, what is and isn’t allowed in Cuba, and how Americans are perceived after so many years of embargo-fueled shortages of just about everything.

I have written my latest contribution to Huffington Post with those questions in mind. Titled “What to know before you go to Cuba,” the article covers what the people of Cuba are like, what Americans need to do to comply with the People-to-People license, and why, if you truly love to travel, you really should visit Cuba. Visit the site to read my thoughts in full.

Do you have more questions about travel to Cuba? Leave them in a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.

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. 

Travel Talk: Following your travel dreams, no matter your age

If given the chance, would you quit your job, sell your house, and leave your friends and family behind to travel the world and see its wonders firsthand? This seems daunting, but there are days that I’d love to shelf my responsibilities and travel to my heart’s content. Gary Arndt, author of the travel blog Everything Everywhere, which was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 25 Blogs in the World in 2010, has done just that.

He sold his business in 1998 to a multinational corporation, and after a whirlwind tour of their overseas offices, he was struck by the travel bug. Gary sold his home in 2007 and began to travel the world, for what he thought was going to be a one or two year trip. Five years later, his journey continues.

At last count, Gary has visited all seven continents, over 116 countries and territories around the world, all 50 U.S. states, 9 of of 10 Canadian provinces, every Australian state and territory, over 125 U.S. National Park Service sites, and over 180 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We wanted to hear more about why Gary decided to start traveling, what he enjoys most about travel, the biggest lesson he’s learned, and where he’s heading next. Read on for these details and more.

1) What sparked your decision to sell your house in 2007 and start traveling? Was it a difficult decision to make?
I had reached a point in my life where I didn’t know what to do. I enjoyed traveling, so I decided to go travel. It was actually a very easy decision for me to make. I had nothing tying me down, so it wasn’t as big of a decision as it would be for most people.http://blog.friendlyplanet.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif (more…)

Travel Talk: Pairing backpacking with lending a helping hand to those in need around the world

Do you dream of seeing the world and inspiring good along the way? That was the dream of Jessica Festa, the woman behind the travel blog Jessie on a Journey and the next guest we’ve invited to join us for our Travel Talk blog series.

Jessica has traveled all over the world to help people, including teaching English in Thailand and orphanage work in Ghana. She is also a backpacker by nature, and has backpacked through Europe and South America, studied abroad in Australia, and toured Southeast Asia and China.

She writes about her philanthropic travels on her blog to inspire others. We think Jessica is pretty inspiring herself! Read on for how she got started volunteering and traveling, misconceptions she often hears about solo women travelers, her best budget tip, and more.

1) When did your love of traveling begin?
I’ve been traveling my whole life, as my parents also are avid travelers, just with a different focus. When I was younger, we would do a road trip every summer driving to different amusement parks. Then as I got older, we started doing the whole cruise thing. It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, that I realized I wanted to go abroad more. Now my travel style is a mix of volunteering abroad, international solo backpacking, and U.S. road trips.

2) What is the most memorable destination you’ve visited and why?
Probably Sydney. I was there for six months and had an apartment, gym membership, favorite cafe, designated grocery store, a part-time job, etc. These things made me feel as though I was truly a local, and helped me to get to know the place. Another very memorable place was Ghana, Africa. I lived with a family and worked at an orphanage for a month, and really fell in love with the culture.

3) What’s the biggest misconception people have about traveling solo, especially women who travel by themselves?

That you can’t do it. People still tell me “you can’t go to Bolivia by yourself” or “Quito is too dangerous for a solo woman traveler.” Well, I’ve done both and lived to tell the tale!

4) What is the best piece of advice you can offer to someone traveling solo to a country they’ve never been to before?

Don’t give up as soon as you start to feel lonely. There will inevitably be times you feel a bit more lonely than others, but there are also ways to combat it. My favorite thing to do is use the CouchSurfing forum, not for sleeping on couches, but to plan meet-ups and dinners. For example, if you’re going to Buenos Aires, search for the city group, join, post a note saying when you’ll be in the city, and ask if anyone would be interested in grabbing a drink, sightseeing, etc. It worked out very well for me.

5) What’s one travel item you can’t leave home without?

My LUSH Godiva shampoo bar. It’s moisturizing, compact, and takes up much less space than a shampoo and conditioner together.

6) What’s your best budget travel tip?

Go local! Skip the touristy restaurants and shops and opt for local eateries and markets.

7) You’ve written in the past about a travel philosophy. How would you define yours?

To me, your travel philosophy is about your beliefs on travel and travel goals. It’s all about experiencing local culture and getting to know new people and places with an open and welcoming mind.

8) Are there any stereotypes of places you’ve visited that you can disprove based on your travels, especially for women travelers?

One thing I’ll say that’s usually wrong is when people stereotype an entire country. For example, I heard over and over about how dangerous Brazil was. However, while Rio and Sao Paulo may have been a bit rough, the areas of Paraty and Ilha Grande felt very, very safe.

9) When you meet other women solo travelers, have you found that there are any common personal or cultural characteristics that you share?

I think women solo travelers seem to be easy-going and adventurous. I mean, you have to be to go against the warnings of your friends and family and do what’s best for yourself.

10) Where in the world are you headed next?

I’m going on an adventure-focused trip to Ohio this week, which I’m excited about, as well as a two-week road trip from Melbourne to the Outback in Australia. Then, I’ll be driving around Kentucky for two weeks exploring the hiking and bourbon offerings. I definitely have some exciting things coming up! :)

Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures with us Jessica! Be sure to check out Jessie on a Journey for the latest news on where she’s going next.

Travel Talk: What would you ask someone who’s been to almost every country in the world?

When you’ve visited almost every country in the world, there are probably few surprises left to be seen. But that’s not stopping Lee Abbamonte, who is on track to become the youngest American to visit every country in the world. At the age of 34, he’s visited 306 out of 321 countries and unique destinations in the world per the Travelers Century Club list.

With so much travel experience under his belt, Lee has a ton of advice for blog readers, and we thought he’d be the perfect interviewee for the blog series we’re kicking off today — Travel Talk. Our series will feature travel enthusiasts from around the globe who will share their knowledge and insight with you.

Read on for our interview with Lee about his amazing travel adventures and the record he’s trying to break. Right now, it’s held by Charles Veley, who visited all 321 countries in 37 years, 9 months, and 17 days. At 34 years old, Lee hopes to beat that record with room to spare!

1) When did your love of traveling begin?

I always loved discovering new places in the small town in Connecticut I grew up in, but never even thought about traveling the world until my junior year in college when I studied abroad in London. It changed my life and I fell in love with travel.

2) What is the most memorable destination you’ve visited, and why?

(more…)

How to choose the right travel guide for your trip

One of the best ways to prepare for a trip to somewhere you’ve never been is to do some research and pick up a travel guide on your destination. A good travel book will give you the inside scoop on things a regular tourist probably wouldn’t know. Like where to get the perfect stew in Dublin, or what to wear dancing in Barcelona, or even how to find a room for under $30 in Auckland.

There’s a ton of choices when it comes to choosing a reputable travel guide, and with aisles of options staring you in the face at your local bookstore, that could be a little overwhelming. But on the Examiner.com today, I gave my two cents on how to select a guide that’s right for you. So mosey on over to the Examiner and check it out!

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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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