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Archive for November, 2012

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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.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Making space in the overhead compartment

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 blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Jello mold packing

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 blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Skyscraper neck

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

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 blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Getaway Dossier: Things to know before you travel to Dubai

We’re wrapping up our Dubai coverage with one of our favorite blog series — Getaway Dossier. We created this series to share with you everything we know about each destination we visit: the best food to eat, places to visit, and things to know to better prepare for your trip. We chose Dubai for the next dossier destination because we’ve been doing a lot of coverage around this city during our ‘Be Dazzled by Dubai’ Facebook sweepstakes, in which you could win a free trip for two to Dubai just by entering on our Facebook page!

Weather: A desert climate. Dubai is located in the Middle East, so it should come as no surprise that it’s hot pretty much all year round. In the summer, temperatures average around 104°F during the day, and overnight lows fall to around 86°F. Winters are cool and short, averaging 73°F during the day and 57°F at night.

Obviously, travelers should pack clothes to help them stay comfortable in the heat. But, because Dubai is located in a Muslim country, shorts, midriff baring shirts, and clothing that exposes too much skin shouldn’t make it into your suitcase when you pack. Think modest dress, and remember bathing suits are appropriate attire only on the beach and by the pool. If you’re sensitive to the heat, or need to avoid strong sunlight, stay inside or apply plenty of sunscreen during the afternoon hours. If you don’t, you’ll surely burn.

Food: Arabian delicacies. Dubai is a cultural crossroads, so food from almost every country and culture can be found there. There are some Arabian foods however that you shouldn’t miss. We’ve all heard of hummus, but there’s much more available to try.Description: https://blog.friendlyplanet.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

Shawarma, a dish made of chicken or lamb that’s mixed with tomatoes, fries, garlic sauce, and pickles then wrapped inside a small roti (a type of bread) is popular among travelers. It sounds pretty messy to eat, and it is, but it’s delicious — so be sure to give it a try. One of my personal favorites is falafel, which is a mixture of chickpeas and different spices. It’s then deep fried into a cutlet or ball (think meatball) — delicious! But Dubai offers a huge selection of culinary experiences, and I don’t think you can go wrong by trying a meal in a Moroccan, Lebanese, or Iranian restaurant.

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Air Travel: Then and Now [INFOTOON]

More than 84 million Americans are expected to travel over the holidays this year, and 42 percent plan to fly to their destination. I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, how travel, particularly air travel, has undoubtedly transformed over the past several decades. So, we decided to poke fun at some of the most obvious changes in our latest infotoon about air travel, then and now. Feel free to share it with friends and family this holiday season!

What changes have you seen in air travel that make you reminisce about how it ‘used to be’? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

“Air Travel: Then and Now” by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

 

5 travelers tell us why our Dubai tour is truly dazzling

Testimonials from our travelers offer non-biased opinions and real experiences of our tours. Since we have been focusing on Dubai with our “Be Dazzled by Dubai” Facebook contest in full swing, I wanted to share a few testimonials from travelers who went on our Dazzling Dubai tour.

But before I get to their feedback, I want to remind everyone that this is the last week to enter our Facebook contest to win a free trip for two to Dubai! So, enter now!

“Flying with Emirates was an amazing experience. The airline was extremely professional and the staff on board made the trip as comfortable and enjoyable as it could have been. The food, amenities and extras were wonderful. I will always choose Emirates whenever possible. The overall trip was wonderful too. The staff in Dubai was very helpful, knowledgeable, and eager to assist in making the guests feel at home. The hotel was neat, perfectly located, and had great service.” -Andrea Orbe-Martinez

“Overall, the process of booking with Friendly Planet was great and very easy. The flights on Emirates were amazing – the airline is wonderful. I also thought the optional tours were excellent. The dinner cruise and the desert safari tour were great. Everything with this tour was absolutely excellent. The destinations were fabulous, and the price was amazing. I have compared tour companies and the Friendly Planet price and what is included cannot be beat.” -Yameci Maldonado

“We were very pleased with the promptness being met and escorted throughout our tour. The hotel and transportation provided were very nice. Our tour guides were also well versed on the culture and history of Dubai. Overall, we truly enjoyed our trip.” – Albert and Zell Verschaeve

“A good package deal. Our tour guide was professional, knowledgeable and well organized. Also, the tour bus driver was courteous and alert. The hotel was excellent, had great service, and friendly and helpful employees. All of our included breakfasts were excellent too.” – Koumba Noni

Thanks to Andrea, Yameci, Albert, Zell, and Koumba for sharing your experience about our Dazzling Dubai tour. Have you been to Dubai on one of our tours? We’d love to hear from you too – comment below.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Shopping galore

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

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 blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Media spotlight: Friendly Planet’s people-to-people license renewal for travel to Cuba

Announcing our people-to-people license renewal to travel to Cuba has been incredibly exciting for all of us at Friendly Planet. We’re passionate about showing travelers everything this historical and cultural country has to offer, and I’ve been doing my best to spread the word about people-to-people travel to Cuba through the media. Here are some recent news stories that have featured us, in case you haven’t seen them yet.

Cuba ‘people to people’ trips back on track for Americans.” USA Today’s Laura Bly was one of the first to report that the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) approved license renewals for people-to-people programs to Cuba, and ours was one of them. For more background on the license renewals across the industry, be sure to read her full article.

Cuba culture trips back on as licenses are renewed.” Christine Armario of the Associated Press tapped me for information about the changes we made in our Cuba programs to make sure they complied with requirements. I also forecast my hope for continued travel to Cuba in the coming years. Click the link above to read her story in full.

Cuba Radio Interview.” I spoke with the KPAM Portland Travel Show about the people-to-people program that facilitates travel to Cuba, and how Americans act as personal ambassadors on these tours. Listen to my interview for all the details.

I hope you find this information useful in learning more about American travel to Cuba. Feel free to share your thoughts or questions about traveling to Cuba through people-to-people licenses in the comments section.

Traveler tips for a trip to Tokyo

Our staff at Friendly Planet is made up of many travel enthusiasts.  Most of us travel every chance we get, for both business and pleasure. When we return to the office, we often find ourselves having in-depth conversations with one another to share and compare our travel stories and experiences.

I’ve invited some of our staff members to share their travel experiences on the blog to give you a snapshot of some of the most fascinating places around the world, as well as their personal accounts from their trips. First up is Terence Foley, who works in product development here at Friendly Planet. Here’s his description of his most recent trip to Tokyo, in his own words:

“In September, I took a trip to Tokyo, Japan. This remarkable city is comprised of 27 special wards, each with their own distinct feel and attraction. From high-rise business centers and entertainment districts, to beautifully manicured parks and gardens, Tokyo has it all.

I visited most of Tokyo’s major attractions: Tsukiji fish marketMeiji ShrineGinza shopping districtTokyo-Edo Museum, and Asakusa Temple, just to name a few. I even went to Tokyo’s Sushi Academy and learned how to prepare fresh sushi. And, to top it all off, I also made a visit to the Tokyo Skytree’s observatory, 1,150 feet up, for a panoramic sunset view of the sprawling metropolis.

To be honest, I was a bit wary of using Tokyo’s metro system, especially after looking at the map, which looked like a plate of rainbow spaghetti. But to my surprise, it was actually quite simple. In fact, if you find yourself looking at a map for more than a few moments, a friendly Tokyoite is likely to approach you to offer help.

I’ve heard people planning trips to Japan say they were not interested in Tokyo because it’s just another big city. Well, Tokyo is big, but it is unlike any other major city I’ve ever visited. At times, I felt like I had traveled into the future, and other times back to the Edo period. The food was delicious, the people were friendly, and the culture was vibrant. I fell in love with Tokyo and I cannot wait to return!”

I share Terence’s enthusiasm for Tokyo, and can’t wait to return myself. Thanks for sharing about your trip Terence!

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