Posted by: Michelle | October 18, 2010

Travel Photos

If an average picture speaks a thousand words, then the photos on my new favorite travel blog The Happy Explorer must be quite the talkers.

This post is dedicated to the incredible photos taken by The Happy Explorer’s Keith Jenkins.

"The Power of the Might Iguazu Falls: The sheer volume of water that drops off the cliffs of the Iguazu Falls every day is absolutely astounding!"

"The Gorgeous Colours of Portofino: Portofino is a colorful fishing village and jet-set playground on the Italian Riveriera"

"Sunset at the Masaai Mara: The sun sets as dark clouds roll in over the Masaai Mara in Kenya"

"The Ancient Walled City of Morella: A panoramic view of the ancient walled city of Morella in Spain"

I love reading about travel, but photos bring all those words to life. Needless to say, I’ll be adding the Iguazu Falls, Portofino, the Masaai Mara, and Morella to my journey in the next few weeks.

Posted by: Michelle | October 7, 2010

The Prettiest Cities

The Huffington Post just did a story on the 43 Prettiest Cities in the World. I was actually surprised at how many I’ve already visited (or lived in!) – Florence, Sydney, Venice, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Quebec, Rome and Washington D.C. – but there are still 34 more urban oases waiting for me.

One that caught my attention was La Habana (Havana in English). Considering how hard it is for Americans to get to Cuba right now, a trip to Havana might have to wait till later in my journey, but I hope to make it there eventually!

All it took was this one photo from the Huffington Post’s slideshow to convince me to go to Havana, with the Spanish colonial buildings gleaming against the sapphire harbor.

While a gorgeous waterfront would usually be the main attraction for me, what really draws me to Havana is its old-world charm. The city looks like a snapshot of the past, with its vintage cars and baroque architecture.

Between researching Havana and looking for photos, I came across a couple interesting fun facts:

In 1927 the first ever international flight on a US airline went from Key West, Florida to Havana. Ironically, you can now fly from the US to pretty much any country in the world, except Cuba.

Also, Havana has a Chinatown! It’s called Barrio Chino, and it was once the biggest Chinatown in all of Latin America. At least I know if I don’t like Cuban food I can always get some veggie lo mein!

Posted by: Michelle | September 29, 2010

The Lost Girls

I recently finished reading the book The Lost Girls, the true story of three young women (Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner) working their way up the corporate ladder in New York City who decide to take a whole year off to travel around the world.

These women remind me of myself – working in communications, living in the upper east side, and struggling with the conflict between the drive to succeed in a career and the urge to explore the world.

It’s thrilling and even a little overwhelming to imagine that after I’ve saved some money in my late twenties I could actually go to all these incredible destinations I’ve been writing about in this blog. And all in one trip! The Lost Girls managed to travel to Peru, Brazil, Kenya, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Bali, New Zealand and Australia in one year, often with several destinations in each country.

I enjoyed reading about the couple places I’ve actually been to (Australia and Thailand), and I lived vicariously through Jen, Holly and Amanda’s experiences in the rest of the world. I’m sure I’ll be adding at least a few of their travel spots to my journey in the future, so stay tuned!

Posted by: Michelle | August 7, 2010

Inspired by Reality TV?

Ok, two confessions.

First, as you can see, I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been writing for my company blog and I took a little break from the Journey. But I missed it too much so now I’m back!

Second, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I got the subject of this post from an episode of The Bachelorette, but every idea has to come from somewhere, right?

One episode of this season’s Bachelorette took place in Lisbon, Portugal. From the first minute of the episode, I was captivated. As you know, I have a thing for cities with beautiful waterfronts. I’m sure the center of Lisbon is vibrant with entertainment, shopping and restaurants, but I get enough of that here in NYC. What I really miss is a gorgeous harbor, like I was spoiled with during my time in Sydney. Lisbon has that.

Lisbon is built on the Tagus River, and the views of the city from the river are breathtaking, especially with all the monuments right on the water. Belém Tower was built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor. UNESCO made the tower a World Heritage site because, “It is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world.”

Whatever the reason, I’m glad Belém Tower is protected. It looks gorgeous and hopefully I’ll be able to journey there someday!

Posted by: Michelle | June 13, 2010

A City in South Africa

The recent World Cup excitement inspired the next stop on my journey – South Africa! My cousin studied abroad in South Africa last year and raved about it when she came home. After she made an incredible South African dinner for the whole family, I knew that I wanted to experience South African food, and culture, for myself someday.

I haven’t written much about cities in these travel bucket list entries so far, but I definitely want to visit Cape Town. It looks more like a resort beach town than the second-most populous city in South Africa.

Photos of Cape Town remind me of what I loved so much about Sydney – a bustling city surrounded by gorgeous beaches and majestic mountains. Downtown Cape Town is small enough to be explored on foot, but big enough to include a mix of trendy restaurants, sidewalk cafes, markets and shops. Greenmarket Square (below), set on a cobbled block of the city, is one of Cape Town’s oldest markets. Popular with locals and tourists, you can find everything from clothing to crafts to artifacts, for great value.

Cape Town seems like an ideal city even without the natural beauty surrounding it, but the beaches put it over the top. The South Atlantic Beaches seem like the nicest ones – prettiest and least touristy, and Noordhoek Beach specifically is known for its sunsets. No offense to NYC, but I’ll take this view over the Hudson River any day.

Posted by: Michelle | June 4, 2010

Pleasantly Surprised by Poland

It’s been a busy few weeks for me – graduating college, moving from Boston back home to CT and then to my new home in NYC, and starting a new job. I’ve been meaning to write for a couple weeks about an encounter I had while waiting for the bus from Boston to Hartford. I met a Lafayette College student who was on his way to NYC before returning home to Ukraine for the summer. We started talking about traveling, and, to my surprise, he chose Poland as his top destination.

While he gushed about the incredible architecture and beautiful scenery, I realized that as helpful as guide books and online research are, traveling itself is really the best way to figure out where to travel next. Most people you meet on the road are eager to share their experiences and knowledge with you. And a lot of them will even offer you their couch if you ever visit their home city!

Unfortunately my bus came before I got a couch invitation from the Ukrainian, but the conversation about Poland stayed with me. Even though I never considered going to Poland before, the Ukrainian persuaded me, so now I’m adding it to my list. Some quick image searches show that the architecture actually is pretty cool. The building below, located in Rezydent shopping center in Sopot, is aptly named “The Crooked House.”

I also looked up scenery in Poland, and the Tatra Mountains seem to be the main scenic landmark. The mountains themselves are beautiful, but what struck me most are these adorable little villages tucked into the hills (below). I would love to spend a week in one of those houses, getting to know all the locals and soaking up the fresh air.

Posted by: Michelle | May 12, 2010

Amazon Rainforest

With college graduation just around the corner, I’ve been talking to my friends a lot about what we want to do with our lives, and more specifically, where we want to do it. My friend Mariam has always wanted to go to the Amazon Rainforest, “to see the toucans!” That was enough to convince me, but there is actually a lot more to see in the Amazon Rainforest for those who are not as inclined to large-beaked birds.

The rainforest is a lot bigger than I thought it was. It’s 1.7 billion acres, covering parts of nine countries, with the majority of it in Brazil and Peru. Between the tropical rivers and the lush jungles, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, exploring, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, etc. Everywhere you look a new species of flora or fauna is staring you in the eye. There are plenty of toucans, of course, as well as a plethora of other birds. In fact, about 20 percent of all the birds in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest. The rainforest also has everything from Anacondas to Piranhas, and Three-toed Sloths to Oceleots. It’s almost surprising Dr. Seuss never wrote a book about Amazon animals!

Posted by: Michelle | May 3, 2010

Remembering in Nong Khai

Last Thursday would have been the 25th birthday of a good friend of mine who sadly passed away in February. Tyler loved traveling, and the name of this blog even comes from one of his favorite phrases. Tyler’s experience traveling to Thailand a couple summers ago inspired me to travel there last spring. My friend Katelyn and I planned on visiting Nong Khai, the city in which Tyler spent most of his time in Thailand as an English teacher. When Katelyn and I arrived in Bangkok, however, we discovered that train tickets to Nong Khai for the next day were already sold out, so on a whim we chose Chiang Mai instead. We had a great time exploring the northwest, but I still hope to go Nong Khai someday, so I’m adding it to my journey.

Nong Khai is in northeastern Thailand, right on the Mekong River, which is the border between Thailand and Laos. The Friendship Bridge connects the two countries, and tourists can easily cross over. The most appealing aspect of Nong Khai to me is that it’s not as touristy as many other part of Thailand. As much fun as I had during my time in the country, most people spoke English everywhere I went, so I didn’t always feel like I was seeing the real Thailand. Nong Khai and its surrounding areas can offer that true cultural experience.

Sunset over the Mekong River

When I discussed my travel plans with Tyler last spring, he recommended many activities in Nong Khai. I don’t remember all of them, but one that stuck out was renting a motor bike and riding along the Mekong River. Tyler warned me against riding the motor bike in the city because of all the traffic, but by the river, he said, you could ride as fast as you wanted, and you wouldn’t get lost. I had an amazing time exploring the northwestern country town of Pai on a motor bike, so I would definitely do it again in Nong Khai. It sounds incredible  riding along not only a beautiful river, but also the border between two countries.

I hope everyone finds someone in their life to inspire them to travel the way Tyler inspired me. To the journey.

Posted by: Michelle | April 20, 2010

Airline Safety Parody

As I wrote about in a post last week, the journey can be just as great or even better than the destination when you’re traveling. But sometimes, a plane ride is just a plane ride. I just came across this funny video from MADtv parodying an airline safety video and thought it was worth sharing. Next time you’re bored on a plane, just be thankful you’re not on this one:

Posted by: Michelle | April 19, 2010

Romania

Even though my family comes from “somewhere in Eastern Europe,” I’ve never had a big interest in seeing it. The cliché romance and sophistication of Paris or Barcelona always seemed more appealing to me. But then a post from Leif Pettersen’s Killing Batteries blog made me question my preconceived notions. He said, “I can confidently inform you that Romania is among the greatest destinations in Eastern Europe and boasts, on a whole, more bang for your buck than just about any other country on the continent.” I decided to check out Leif’s Romania and Moldova Travel Guide that he referenced in his blog post to do some further investigation.

Transylvania is the main highlight of Romania. Most famous for being the birthplace of Dracula, Transylvania actually has a lot more to offer! The Bucegi Mountains (below, left) look stunningly beautiful. The mountains are ideal for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing (one of my favorite winter activities!). Then there’s Székely Land, a very traditional region with a lot of original Habsburg architecture. One town in particular, Targu Mures, looks particularly old-fashioned and charming (below, right).

Another alluring option in Romania are the painted monasteries in Southern Bucovina. The buildings are uniquely painted on the outside and inside, and they date back to the 1400s. Sucevita seems to be the best monastery to see because the incredible views from the road on the way there are apparently as special as the monastery itself. Below is a close-up of the intricate art on the outside of Sucevita.

Overall, I would say Leif was right! Romania (and I’m sure the rest of Eastern Europe too) is a worthy travel destination. It will definitely be a part of my journey someday!!

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