Well folks I hope you have not lost any sleep awaiting my next blog post as it has been too many months. While I do enjoy providing blog posts to my dedicated readers this past year has been a transition at 1girlwhotravels. I have focused on getting my travel photography skills refined and activating sales of travel photography items at craft market sales events and my own Etsy shop.
However I wanted to share highlights from 2018 to help provide some possible inspiration for your upcoming travel plans. This year included 32 flights to new destinations including Armenia, Tbilisi Georgia, Quito, Antigua Guatemala and Grenada. There was a total of 11 different hotels / AirBnBs during the year and return destination trips.
Highlights from 2018
Best natural site – Sunrise – Ocean City MD: I absolutely love the natural beauty that greets us daily in sunrise and sunset; some days are certainly more spectacular than others. Luck and natural beauty was on our side the morning we decided to get up for a 5:14am sunrise in Ocean City Maryland. I had seen a few images in local boutique shops of sunrises and could not imagine the prints were real. We were not disappointed with our very early wake up call which provided one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever seen. The colors were spectacular especially with the water and crashing waves. I was fortunate enough to share this magical memory with my sister which I will treasure forever.
Best cultural site – Tatev Monastery – Armenia: There were many amazing historical and cultural sites that I visited during my travels this year. However Tatev Monastery takes the prize! It is nearly a 5 hour drive from Yerevan in the far south of Armenia near Goris in Syunik Province. You can arrive two different directions; drive up to the back side of the monastery or enjoy the Wings of Tatev. I highly recommend the Wings of Tatev to enjoy the breathtaking views as you arrive to Tatev. In addition, the Wings of Tatev is the longest funicular in the world at 3.2 miles distance! Tatev Monastery began in the 11th century with over 1000 monks with many valuable manuscripts, artwork and home to Tatev University starting in 1390. Unfortunately the monastery has been hit by earthquakes, fires and looting numerous times so many of the original items have disappeared. One thing that definitely remains is the architectural beauty which was pure delight!
Best meal & drink – La Tortilla – Antigua Guatemala: While in Antigua we had the opportunity to attend a cooking class one evening to create a traditional Guatemalan dinner. It was hard work cutting and cooking for hours but the end result was the best meal of the year! We feasted on our creations of chicken pepin, rice, handmade tortillas, beet salad and for dessert chocolate stuffed plantains. Also while in Antigua I found the most delicious and refreshing drink hibiscus tea that is made from hibiscus flowers. It has such a beautiful color and definitely makes you feel like you are on vacation.
Best tour – Zohery Grand Tour – Washington DC: Imagine my entire immediate family of 14 (7 adults and 7 littles) in Washington DC for a sightseeing tour like no other. I have previously been to Washington DC many times but never done a full city tour. Given that it was 106 degrees that day we opted for the tour bus with AC. The driver and tour guide was incredible engaging and entertaining the whole tour. He provided a live narrative to small group of 20 for the duration of the tour. There was incredible detail in the facts and figures about the buildings, statues, and general city knowledge. We all learned something and continued to quiz each other for several days!
Best festival – New Year’s – Grenada: While New Year’s Eve is an event celebrated around the world this was my favorite celebration for the year. Imagine yourself sitting on the beach with a few of your closest friends. The weather is absolutely perfect 80 degrees with a light island breeze and you can lie back to star gaze. You crack open a lovely bottle of champagne to pair with the fireworks display. A perfect way to finish 2018 and begin a prosperous new year!
It has recently been confirmed that British Airways will begin to operate the first route from Chicago to London on the Airbus A380. Let the confetti fall and pour the champagne!
For those of us who are travel addicts who geek out on airplane trivia this will be an exciting day for Chicago. The Airbus 380 is the largest capacity passenger airplane ever made and it requires an extended runway to get this “Super Jumbo” into the sky. It also requires a unique gate configure to support the wing span and ideally 2 ramps for the multiple levels to expedite boarding.
In May 2015 I had the good fortune to visit the Airbus factory in Toulouse France and we were treated to a “behind the scenes” tour. For my upcoming trip to Armenia I explicitly routed through JFK so that I could hitch my first ride on an A380 and counting down the days for my flight.
The A380 has opened an opportunity for many airlines to get extremely creative in their business and first class cabins. One of the best examples of luxury on A380 provides a 3 room suite which includes showers onboard in the Etihad Airways – The Residence. WOW! I was just really hoping for a comfortable seat without anyone kicking the back of my seat.
The A380 has gone head to head with Boeing 747 for the last few years as the competition has geared up the world has been watching. Given the number of airlines that have recently retired all of their 747 airplanes I think I know who is winning. For those of you obsessed with flying on the A380 there is now a website and app to help you find flights specifically on an A380.
While the Boeing 747 “Jumbo” still holds the special place in my heart I am looking forward to this new era at Chicago O’hare with the first A380 flights.
Well I thought 2017 was a pretty quiet year but when I reviewed all the details I had 29 flights and slept at 20 different hotels not including 7 nights aboard an Alaskan cruise. At the end of every trip I reflect on my experience to denote the highlights, any challenges and most importantly what I learned. I have summarized my top 5 events for the past year of travel adventures.
Best Festival – Chinese New Year – Hong Kong: Our trip to Hong Kong was during the Chinese New Year which provided many additional highlights to our visit. Our visit to Wong Sai Tin Temple was overwhelming with thousands of locals making their annual pilgrimage for Chinese New Year to thank the immortal for their answered prayers. We enjoyed a traditional Chinese New Year dinner one evening when wandering into a local restaurant. We were entertained by the performance of dragon dance in several locations which is another celebration to bring luck into the new year. We were particularly delighted the luck it brought us at the shops as everyone had a special new year discount.
Best natural site – Alaska: WOW! I don’t think I can pick just one specific spot in Alaska that was so beautiful as the whole state is overwhelming in natural beauty. There was whale watching, bear safari trek, train to the Yukon, visiting glaciers up close and seeing wildlife as we cruise by. It was far more spectacular that I ever imagined! I guess if forced to pick only I spot that took my breath away it would be Hubbard Glacier. We had the luck of the Irish with us that day as it was the only day all season the captain had even seen the peak of the mountain. It was glorious!
Best UNESCO Heritage site: Well this was the year of completing several wish list destinations. I have wanted to visit Machu Picchu for over 15 years and my day finally came. It is an incredible place! I would definitely recommend getting a personal guide otherwise it appears simply as a pile of old rocks. The annual highlight for Machu Picchu is winter solstice on 21st June to catch the sunrise allows for a symbolically return of the sun to earth to allow for a good harvest of crops. I am elated to have visited in 2017 given they will soon begin restricting access to some parts of the site given the high volume of visitors. Note: It is not the easiest place to move around and limited guardrails so I would suggest small children or adults with diminished mobility skip this outing.
Best Meal – La Chata Guadalajara, Mexico: It is always true. When you see a long line of people waiting for food; it must be good. My hotel concierge had recommended I dine at La Chata while I was visiting Guadalajara. The concierge told me the best times when the line for a table would be shortest because there is always a line. I walked by to check the place out; it looked and smelled so good. I went for dinner one night and only had to wait about 25 minutes for a table before enjoying this gourmet feast. The food may not be very photogenic but with flavor this good I think it can be forgiven. Oh and the best part wast the meal price 108 pesos or roughly $6 however after a margarita (okay 2 margaritas) my total was still only $11. Olé!
Best tour – Hong Kong Greeters Private Tour: I was traveling with a few family members and we wanted to experience “real” Hong Kong. Our tour was First Class service and we customized our itinerary via email in advance. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and patient to answer any questions we had. In addition she provided helpful tips and recommendations for the remainder of our stay in Hong Kong. It was the perfect way to start our vacation in Hong Kong! Check out my Tripadvisor review to see details of our schedule for the day.
It is that time of the year; when every minute becomes more precious than gold. You may have already started celebrating the holiday season or find yourself in the final sprint to the holiday finish line; regardless there is not a moment to spare. I have a few ideas for gifts you can purchase while curled up on the couch in your pajamas.
Book a trip. Anywhere. Remember you are not just paying for a trip but for an experience with a lifetime of memories.
Book a local tour. Get out and see your back yard! Here is a place to start for ideas viator.com.
Try new international foods in a monthly subscription to Try the World.
Introducing original travel photos prints from 1girlwhotravels! These travel photo prints will provide daily motivation to skip the Starbucks to save your pennies for your next trip. 1girlwhotravels can provide US delivery within 2-3 business days.
“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”
May you all have a wonderful holiday season. I hope Santa brings you a ticket to Tahiti or whichever destination you choose!
This week marks my 15th anniversary of my returning home from a 4 year assignment in London. I grew up in a small town in northern Michigan so this was the perfect way for me to experience a truly international lifestyle. The decision of “Should I stay or should I go abroad?” is not one to be taken lightly which is featured in my guest blog post for Global Threads.
However as I reminisce about all the ways my life has changed since my international assignment and the bottom line is I don’t regret living abroad for 1 minute. Okay let’s be honest…I miss it!
Here are the top 15 lessons I learned that impact my daily life:
Tea is always served with milk.
BBC News is my daily source for news as it provides an independent truly international news report.
Always carry an umbrella! Also leave an extra umbrella in the car.
A solid understanding of history is critical to begin cultural interaction in any country.
A Tuesday night at a local pub talking with friends is better than any TV program.
Always keep an open mind to reframe my perspective. The British do not drive on the “wrong” side of the road – they drive on the “other” side of the road.
Marks & Spencers has the best knickers in the world!
Public interactions go much smoother when everyone gets into an orderly queue (sorry…line).
Black clothing is always in style regardless of the garment item or season.
Appreciate the importance of work life balance and the concept of “work only to live”
Understand how “It’s a small world after all” when you can bump into old friends in India.
Realize that home is truly where the heart is; however in time of an emergency when you need to travel it seems so very far away.
Ability to portray a modest, calm and composed personality
You can live your life without a car! Public transportation outside of the US can be utilized as your primary mode of transportation.
Plan your weekly shopping time in advance. Even today major stores in the UK are only open 11AM – 5pM on Sundays including grocery stores.
Would you move abroad again?
Due to the opportunity I had to establish a life abroad I was able to experience many great adventures. So many of these experiences would never be possible as a visitor or traveler passing through for a week. Now let me be clear, every day was not easy. There were certainly days when I thought what the $%@% am I doing here!
As I reflect on this portion of my life it is impossible for me to believe that it has already been 15 years since I lived abroad. It seems like only yesterday I was down at my favorite local pub having a pint with friends planning our next trip somewhere in Europe. The most valued keepsake from my experience is the people I met! I have been fortunate that many of my dearest friends in my life today were established from my experience living abroad. Plus they all like to travel!
Enjoy summer solstice with a Midnight sun baseball game. It has been a tradition for over 100 years to take advantage of daylight that shines on through the night.
WW2 battles were fought on Alaskan soil and Japanese occupied land for nearly 1 year.
Alaska is massive with over 663,000 miles which can fit the equialivent of Texas, California and Montana combined. While Texas logo maybe “Don’t mess with Texas”; Alaska responds with “Isn’t Texas cute?”.
Earlier this year I visited Hong Kong for the first time. The trip was full of delightful surprises but our day in Tai O fishing village was one of the most enjoyable. As there are several fishermen in my family who spend endless hours reliving the highlights of the day it was an epic journey to witness lifelong multi-generational career fishermen.
It is a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city as the village of Tai O will immediately transcend you back into a simpler way of life. There are no trains to reach the village only bus or taxi. Once you reach the village center your transportation options are limited to bicycles, walking or of course boats. The waterfront brims of lovely stilt houses in many colors just inviting you to take it all in. There are lovely cafes with waterfront views to relax and soak it all in.
We took a 30 minute water tour for only 20 HKD ($2.60 USD) which was worth the money to check out the village from the waterways. It provides an upfront view of the fishermen coming back with their daily catch. You can find the locals scooting around the village on bicycles to complete their daily errands. The village shops sell every type of dried fish imaginable including shrimp, jellyfish, squid, etc
After you enjoy your time in Tai O you are a short ride away from Tian Tin Big Buddha which is a sight not to be missed.
First my apologies for the several months gap in no new posts. I have been on a whirlwind tour of the heart that abruptly ended and took the wind out of my sails. However the open road calls as my passion for travel continues as I prepare for an upcoming trip to Alaska.
This week One Girl Who Travels is celebrating our 2nd birthday! I am happy to share with you that @1girlwhotravels has over 6200 followers on Twitter and growing daily with followers across the globe!
I hope that you have enjoyed the 60+ blog posts, 90+ #TravelTuesday photos, 2 YouTube videos, 270+ tweets and 200+ FaceBook posts. Once I return from Alaska I will have hot off the press savvy travel tips for you. Please share your feedback on what travel topics you are interested in hearing about. What travel questions are you curious about? Don’t be bashful just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a long list of blog post ideas and would love your thoughts on what you are most interested in hearing about. Here is the list of future blog topic ideas:
Hong Kong highlights
Cebu Philippines highlights
Where is the 747 going?
My top 5 favorite places
How to shop on vacation and still carry on luggage?
How many times during a flight do we hear “Please keep your seat belt fastened”? Okay we have all been on that flight where the turbulence seems to keep coming in various waves and perhaps prior to take off the pilot announces it is going to be a bumpy ride. We are prepared and go easy on the drinks to avoid having to utilize the rest room during the flight.
Did you know that it is illegal to get out of your seat whilst the sign is illuminated?
YES it is true. You can be prosecuted for breaking the FAA Regulations 14 CFR 121.311(f) which requires passengers to wear seat belts when the sign is illuminated.
As a frequent traveler I am a strong advocate to follow the FAA Regulations. I will never be the passenger who stands up 1 minute after takeoff to get a sweater out of the overhead bin. Listen unless there is an urgent bathroom need I am not prepared to violate the law. Safety first.
While no one has ever been prosecuted for violating this regulation the flight attendants appear to have a general “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” philosophy on this. This philosophy seems to take on magical super powers when you are traveling in business or first class; as cabin roaming while the seat belt sign is illuminated is a regular occurrence. Never directly ask for permission from a flight attendant to get out of your seat for a rest room break as it will conflict with their ability to support the regulation. However if the flight attendant asks you to return to your seat while you are headed to the rest room you should comply. You are more likely to be prosecuted for directly disobeying crew member instructions.
So has anyone else noticed that many long flights reach cruising altitude with a smooth ride yet the seat belt sign remains illuminated. Why is that?
Did the pilot simply forget?
Or does the pilot have no regard that we might need to utilize the rest room during a flight over 4 hours?
Or are the flight attendants trying to manage the crowd by forcing passengers to remain seated?
Or is the airline trying to reduce cost on toilet paper?
My money is on crowd control management or cost savings for toilet paper. Let me know your thoughts.
I hope you are sitting down! I have some bad news for you. Our beloved Worldmate app is breaking up with all of us! All functionality will be no longer be available effective the 31st March. Sigh! We worked so well together and we were all so familiar with all the features. After the 1st of April you will not be able to add new trip reservations to the app. However until September 2017 you will have access to view all previously added trip reservations.
After a glass of wine I began the search for my new guy; ahh I mean a new itinerary trip management app. I checked out several apps that are available and I am currently “dating” a new app called TripIt. I tested it with loading a few reservations and so far the functionality seems to work well. Don’t tell anyone but it has some additional features that will be incredibly helpful. For example; it will allow you to connect multiple email addresses to your account and automatically forwards the reservations into the system. However it does not support automatically deleting any reservations that have been cancelled.
Do you have any favorite travel itinerary apps to recommend?