For most people, an African safari is a major bucket list trip for me however, it was never truly on my radar. Last year, as I was deciding where to go for my big annual trip I was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Tanzania episode on Parts Unknown. If Tony could do it I could do it but the only challenge would be getting the maternal unit onboard.
When I started researching the trip and the suppliers I was convinced that I would be paying off this bucket list trip for years to come. However, as I did my research it became clear that safaris come in all shapes and sizes ranging from budget conscious overland camping tours to the high-end super luxe packages. When all was said and done, we decided on a mid-range private tour and could not have been happier with the decision.
When landed at Kilimanjaro airport and our guide was waiting for us right outside the airport with warm welcoming smile. As we departed the airport I was instantly taken away by how lush, green and undeveloped the landscape was. As we drove to our first lodge we passed fields of sunflowers and corn and almost every home had a donkey or two grazing in the yard. After about an hour drive we arrived at the beautiful Lake Duluti Lodge and were greeted by the friendly staff. Our room at the lodge immediately exceeded my expectations and eased my fears of spending the next six days in the African bush as a city girl. The next morning we were finally off on our first game drive but we had to navigate the traffic of downtown Arusha first. When we finally reached the edge of the city our guide commented on how that would be the last of the city for a while. I foolishly asked what we would see and his response was the bush and almost instantaneously the land on both sides of the jeep was natural untouched land.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our first wildlife spotting as we drove up to our second lodge. Our guide had to remind us that we hadn't even entered Tarangire National Park and that there was much more to come. Seeing animals behind enclosures in a zoo is one thing, being able to witness them in their natural habitat takes the experience to a whole other level and gives one an even deeper appreciation and respect for these creatures.
After a few days when we finally arrived at the savannah that is the Serengeti National Park our guide paid the entrance fees to the park and suggested that I climb the steps to get a view of the park. I climbed halfway up the steps and almost turned back out of fear (my mother stayed below as she didn't want to climb all the steps). However I carried on despite almost being "attacked" by a lizard and I was glad I did because I was awestruck at being able to see land for miles and miles in the distance. Nothing really prepares you for seeing the Serengeti for the first time.
During our trip, each day and each experience surpassed the previous and no matter how many zebras, giraffes or gazelles I saw I was always amazed. For some people a safari is a trip of a lifetime but for me this trip instilled a desire to go on safari again and again. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I detail our exact itinerary and give an overview of each of the lodges.
I have a confession, I'm a list maker. Especially, when I'm feeling overwhelmed I'll usually take a moment to break things down and write a list. The act of actually writing the list usually calms me down and I come away from the exercise feeling ready to to attack the task at hand.
When I'm planning and preparing for a trip it's usually no different. And depending on the length of the trip and complexity of the itinerary I am prone to create checklists, excel documents and leave post-it notes everywhere. To help you my dear readers plan for your next international trip I created the following international travel checklist to help keep you organized.
If there's anything you think I missed or if there are any other checklists that you'd like to see leave a comment and let me know.
The bag you choose as your carry-on bag can make or break your trip. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it can have an impact on your overall packing efficiency and whether you look like a the hotness or a hot mess while schlepping through the airport. My preference is always for the former.
Until recently, the last time I carried a backpack was when I was in high school lugging my books from class to class and to and from home. As an adult, backpacks never appealed to me because I never saw one that appealed to my personal taste and style. Most backpacks have more compartments and zippers than you can count and external accents that I personally have no use for. Anything that makes me look like I’m about to go hiking for a month in the Andes doesn’t fit the bill for me. Last year I discovered two different backpack styles that I completely obsessed over and had to have, and in a relatively short period of time I went from zero backpacks to three.
I first saw this backpack in a YouTube video and I immediately had to have it, however, I couldn't decide which size to purchase. I ultimately decided to go with the large canvas style in the color wine and when it arrived I wasn’t disappointed. What I love about this backpack is that it’s lightweight yet sturdy which means I can pack it full of goodies and the bag itself doesn’t contribute much additional weight.
The other feature that I love is that there is one main large compartment and a metal lined opening which stays open until I’m ready to close it. The one main compartment may not work for everyone but it works for me because I generally use smaller pouches to compartmentalize my things so there’s no need to dig around looking for what I need. One downside here is that it generally takes both hands to open and close the bag but I see this as a deterrent to would be thieves. Another neat feature is the easy access zipper on the back which gives quick access to the main compartment which is convenient for grabbing a wallet or a snack quickly from the bag.
Since I’ve had it I've used the backpack for my trips to Cuba, South Africa and Martha’s Vineyard. In Cuba it was ideal because I could pack my DSLR camera in the large compartment in its padded Ape Case without anyone suspecting that I was carrying such an expensive piece of equipment on me. My iPhone did end up getting jacked from one of the side pockets while on a crowded ferry but that was totally my fault for being careless about the placement. In South Africa it worked out well to pack snacks for the long flight and again to transport my DSLR and binoculars. Once in South Africa I used it as my main bag during our safari game drives and it was just perfect. Since the material is a durable canvas I could wipe it down with a damp cloth if it got too dusty. Most recently, I used this bag for my road trip to Martha’s Vineyard. As I had to work for some days while I was there, I packed my 13’ MacBook Pro, some snacks (I’m big on snacks when traveling) and a few other things for the long drive.
I ended up loving this backpack so much that I purchased the smaller size in their nylon fabric in navy blue. While I haven’t travelled with this one yet I do however love the smaller one just as much for everyday use.
Oh how I love my Jetsetter Convertible Backpack. I don’t even know where to begin. First of all it’s sleek and perfect for those city getaways where you want to look fashionable and stylish but where you want a bag that’s practical as well. Second of all, since the material on mine is nylon that makes it lightweight. No one wants to be burdened with a heavier than necessary bag when traveling and clocking in almost 20k steps per day, I’m just saying. And finally, the pièce de résistance is that it can be converted from a backpack to a shoulder or cross body bag in no time adding to its versatility.
For my trip to Orlando I was able to fit my laptop with ample room to spare and it was the perfect day bag for the conference I was attending. I was able to carry the bag all day without any shoulder or back aches from the weight. I also had enough room to pack it with pamphlets and swag that I picked up each day.
I used this bag for my trip to Copenhagen and it was clutch running through the airport to catch my flight. As a travel professional I don’t recommended arriving late for flights however, there are sometimes circumstances beyond our control. I packed the bag full with my DSLR camera, snacks for the flight and all of my other long haul-flight necessities.
I have been traveling regularly for the past 10 years, and while my first international travel experiences happened before that mark but it’s within the past 10 years that I’ve travelled internationally at least once annually. This was well before the invention of Instagram and the hashtag FOMO. However, despite my travels I don’t think of myself as well travelled and I definitely don’t count the number of countries that I’ve visited. I choose to not allow myself to be identified by the number of countries that I’ve visited. With the advent of social media apps like Facebook and Instagram way too many people are getting caught up in their country count and I wonder if they even enjoy the trip they take. I’ve seen itineraries so jam packed I would personally need another vacation just to recover.
Part of the reason I enjoy traveling is to connect with locals in any small way and to be able to experience their culture in an authentic way. Whether it’s sitting outside on a terrace café in Paris during happy hour or renting bikes in Amsterdam and navigating the streets as a local, it’s these types of experiences that make my trips unforgettable. So, if an itinerary has me spending a day or just a few hours in a city it’s much harder, if not impossible, to have those types of experiences or to connect with locals. One ends up too busy trying to visit the “must-do” items on your list with the limited time you have and snapping a photo in front of that important landmark. Granted there are always exceptions and reasons why a limited time in a location may be necessary however, trying to cram in London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and Dublin into a 7-day trip to Europe just strikes me as crazy. With itineraries like that it seems like the intent is to “check the box” and to rack up as many countries as one can in a single trip without really taking the time to experience any one of those beautiful cities. By doing so you’re doing yourself a disservice.
By no means am I saying multi-city itineraries are inherently bad but what I am saying is that if you do have a multi-city itinerary planned make sure it allows you enough time because travel is complicated. I know first-hand how complicated travel can be as a result of my recent trip to Copenhagen which was full of mishaps, delayed flights and missed connections. Given these types of complications why would you want to add to it and increase the risk of something going wrong without any buffer to be able to correct it? Also, do you really want to wake up at the crack of dawn during your vacation? Do you really want to have to pack and unpack every day? That’s not vacation that’s work.
The bottom line is, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Next time you’re considering a 7 day trip that includes stops in 12 cities consult a professional before you make that purchase because random travelers on the internet may not have your best interests in mind.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city and offers several great opportunities for spectacular panoramic views. If you're looking to explore the city from new heights, I’ve compiled a list of places that offer the best aerial views.
Church of Our Saviour
Price: 35.00 DKK - 45.00 DKK / Free with Copenhagen Card
This is an impressive landmark in the heart of Christianshavn and the church is easily identifiable by its helix spire and winding external staircase.
There are 400 steps to reach the top and the last 150 steps are on the outside of the spire so the climb isn’t for the faint of heart. If you do make it to the top you will be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the city.
Price: 5.00 DKK - 110.00 DKK / Free with Copenhagen Card
This museum was founded by brewer Carl Jacobsen and contains pieces from his personal collection along with ancient sculptures and works from Danish painters from the 19th and 20th century. However, one of the real hidden gems is their roof terrace where you can sit back and relax while taking in the views.
City Hall Tower
Price: 30.00 DKK / Free with Copenhagen Card
As this is an active building, City Hall to be exact, access to the tower is limited to twice a day at 11AM and 2PM. It’s not a guided tour but you need an employee to escort you through the first portion of the of the ascent. After than you’re on your own to climb to the top (yes there are actual winding staircases here).
Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
Price: 25.00 DKK / Free with Copenhagen CardThis is a 17th century observatory but what makes this site unique is the equestrian staircase (which isn't a staircase at all) that makes the ascent to the top fairly easy. Coupled with the amazing lighting in the staircase which will make you want to stop and take pictures you will barely realize when you make it to the top. The views are slightly obstructed by protective fencing but it’s worth the climb in my book.
Illum is a beautiful department store in the Strøget area of Copenhagen. After you’ve shopped until you’re ready to drop head to the top floor to grab some food, snack or even an adult beverage to recharge. If the weather is nice you can enjoy seating on their roof terrace and take in some of the city’s sights. After a long day of sightseeing the great thing about this terrace is that there are no stairs to climb.
Hay (honorable mention)
Hay is a design shop which features modern Scandinavian designs and is located Strøget the pedestrian shopping area. If you go to the 2nd floor and look out the windows, which may be open if the weather is nice, you can get a bird's eye view of the action on the street below. .
Back in February I found a reasonably priced ticket to Copenhagen for the end of May and I jumped on it. I had friends travel to the city over the past couple of years and they all had nothing but rave reviews of the city and the photos to prove it. Originally, I planned to travel solo but once I told a friend about my plans she jumped on the idea as well. So the Thursday before Memorial Day we boarded a flight to Copenhagen and we were off.
One of the things that makes Copenhagen a great city to visit for a less seasoned traveler is that everyone speaks perfect English so there are no language barriers to deal with. It’s also quite a compact city with an excellent public transportation system so it's quite easy to navigate on your own and meander down the pleasant pedestrian streets. Pro-tip: the buses are equipped with wifi service and so are the metro stations. Credit cards are readily accepted for almost all purchases big and small and I found myself relying on Apple Pay once I realized it worked there. As a result I didn't have to withdraw or convert any cash during my visit which was a first for me. If you decide to take this approach make sure you have a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
When planning a trip to Copenhagen I suggest giving yourself ample time to explore what the city has to offer. People often try to squeeze too many cities into a single trip and everything ends up being a big blur. We were there for a week which was a good amount of time, but I would have liked couple of extra days to revisit some of my favorite spots and explore other neighborhoods. My sightseeing highlights were the following; Nyhavn, Botanical Garden, Tivoli, Glyptoteket museum (for the roof deck and winter garden) and the Louisiana museum.
In addition to all of the amazing sights, Copenhagen is a must visit city for anyone that calls themself a foodie. Noma may be temporarily closed, but scouting a new location proved there are quite a few other restaurants that offer delicious food for fairly reasonable prices. For example at Gemyse, which bills itself as a urban garden restaurant in the heart of Tivoli, we enjoyed a six course vegetarian tasting menu for 250 DKK (approximately $37). We were fortunate enough to dine outside in the greenhouse surrounded by lush herbs and plants. In the US it's rare to find a tasting menu so reasonably priced and even rarer to find one that a vegetarian like myself can eat. However, in Copenhagen it's not so rare at all as we followed up our meal at Gemyse with another tasting menu at Väkst. There they offer a vegetarian tasting menu with wine pairing for 520 DKK (approximately $78) or a version that included meat or fish for slightly more. The food and wine pairing was scrumptious but be aware that this place charges almost $5 for small carafe of tap water. Had we known about this charge we may have opted for bottled or sparkling water instead. If you have other dietary restrictions, such a gluten-free or vegan, you’re in luck as I noticed many places that offered options that cater to this crowd. One breakfast highlight was at Social where they make a gluten-free zucchini bread using chickpea flower and top it avocado, micro greens, and hummus. The last thing I will say about the food is that you will be hard pressed to find a bad cup of coffee in Copenhagen. My personal favorite was the coffee at The Coffee Collective which has several locations throughout the city and their cups make for the perfect Instagram snap. One thing to note about this place is that they only serve their coffee drinks with milk and alternatives such as almond milk and soy milk are not available.
If you travel during the summer months the weather is generally rather pleasant without getting too hot or humid but the city can be breezy so a light jacket is recommended. Also due to the city's northern latitude the sun practically doesn't set during the summer months. While we were there sunrise was at 4:30am but the sky started to get light much earlier so make sure you close your blinds if you want to ensure you get enough sleep. Sunset was around 9:45pm with the sky not getting dark until around close to midnight so you have ample day time hours to explore all the city has to offer.
Travel can be a fun and enriching experience but it can also be a stressor on one's body. To combat some minor ailments that may plague a traveler here are my top 5 natural remedies for travelers.
1. Probiotics Whenever I plan a trip to travel internationally, especially to developing countries, I make sure to up my probiotics game. This generally entails me taking the probiotics at least two weeks prior to, for the duration of the trip, and for two weeks upon my return. Following this routine builds up the good microbes in my intestinal track and can ward off traveler’s diarrhea and other forms of upset stomach. It can also help to keep you regular when dealing with the stress of travel such as the time zone changes, changes in eating habits and schedules, and generally being out of a routine.
2. Propolis - This is a mixture that honey bees make which is used to seal unwanted open spaces in the hive. For humans this potent mixture is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Whenever I start to feel a tickle in my throat, which for me is thesign of a cold coming on, I pump two sprays of this stuff on the back of my throat a few times a day. I can usually prevent my cold from getting worse and I am feeling like myself again within 2 days. The key is to take it early an often.
3. Herbal tea - Drinking a warm cup of tea is a great way to relax on a flight, calm oneself down before bed, or settle an upset stomach. Peppermint, chamomile, green, Echinacea, and smooth move are the ones that I suggest traveling with.
4. Activated charcoal - This is a good go-to remedy for food poisoning and stomach bugs as it absorbs most organic toxins and chemicals before they can enter the body. Which is exactly what you want to do if you accidentally ate some bad food. As a bonus, you can also use it to brush your teeth as it is a natural teeth whitener.
5. Ginger chews - Ginger is known as a great anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory herb. It is also great for treating nausea, helping with digestion and easing congestions. These candies taste good and are perfectly packaged for travel.
6. Oregano oil - Like many of the other items listed, oil of oregano is known for it’s anti-bacterial properties. You can use this not so great tasting oil to treat gastrointestinal or respiratory issues. If the taste is too strong to handle you can always dilute in a carrier oil such as coconut oil. If you mix a few drops with water and put into a spray bottle you have a natural insect repellent.
People come up with many excuses as to why they cannot travel – such as they just don't have the time, they can't travel with kids, they fear discrimination, and the list goes one. One of the most common challenges people have is finding the money to finance their trips. I’m not going to pretend that travel isn’t a luxury because it is, however, if you prioritize it over other things, such as buying a new purse or shoes, it becomes more accessible.
1. Draft a Savings Plan and Stick with It
Two years ago after reading an article about saving on the internet, I got into the habit of setting aside $20 a week just to see if I was disciplined enough to do it. I liked the idea of having a slush fund that I could spend as indiscriminately as I wanted without any guilt. Saving $20 a week adds up to a little over $1000 a year. Depending on your travel goals and style this could easily be enough to take a nice trip.
2. Sell Your Stuff
As a society we like to buy and accumulate stuff. If you’re like most you probably have things that you no longer wear or use that are in good condition taking up space in your home. There may even be items in your closet that still have tags on them. If you download an app like Poshmark you can easily and seamlessly sell your unwanted items online for some extra cash.
If it’s books you're looking to get rid of you can sell them on BookScouter.com or you can try a site like swap.com. Depending on where you live you can even have a yard sale and if you want to take it a step further you can even make it a neighborhood affair.
3. Get a Part-Time Job
If your 9-5 just isn't cutting it in terms of leaving you with enough left over to save for a travel budget you may want to consider getting another part-time job or stepping up your side hustle. There are the typical options like retail work and restaurant work but if you have certain skills like graphic design, copy editing etc. you can freelance in your spare time with a lot more flexibility. On a site like Fiverr you can post gigs based on your specialty and wait for the orders to roll in. You may not be able to charge a ton for your skills at first but as you work on more projects and get more reviews you can demand a higher fee.
4. Credit Card Points Game*
This is one of my favorite options but it’s only for those that already have their finances in order, have a good to excellent credit score, and actually know what a credit score is. Many credit card companies offer benefits for using their card. The benefits usually fall into two categories; either cash back or reward points. I prefer the rewards points but cash back rewards could work as well. The key here is to put all of your normal monthly expenses on the credit card and pay off the bill in full at the end of each month. This is where discipline and budgeting come into play as it can be easy to overspend if you don't know what your monthly budget should be.
At the end of the year you will have racked up a nice bounty with the credit card company that you can use towards your travel plans. The option only works if you pay off the bill on time each month otherwise you end up racking up additional fees which defeats the purpose of saving money.
*use at your own risk
5. Build a Relationship with a Trusted Travel Consultant
Most people think all of the best deals are found online and sometimes this is true but the majority of the time this isn’t the case. Most travel consultants have access to exclusive offers that you wouldn’t be aware of if you didn’t work with one. Another benefit to building a relationship with a travel consultant is that he/she can learn about your travel style and preferences and keep you up to date on any offers that might suit your interests.
If you like to travel off the beaten path look no further than the list below for the 15 most unusual museums around the world.
1. The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland : A museum dedicated to the collection and scientific study of mammal penises
2. Foam, Amsterdam, Netherland : Photography Museum in a row house with rotating exhibits
3. Museu d'Història de la Ciutat, Barcelona, Spain : Museum of the History of the City of Barcelona showing subterranean archeological sites dating back 2000 years
4. Crocodile Museum at Temple of Kom Ombo, Egypt : A museum displaying mummified crocodiles revered by ancient Egyptians
5. Camel Museum, Dubai, U.A.E. : A museum dedicated to the important role camels have played in the Arabian peninsula
6. District Six Museum, Cape Town, South Africa : A museum focusing on an area of Cape Town decimated by Apartheid and the experiences before and after residents were removed
7. Museum of Marrakech, Marrakech, Morocco : An Andalusian building that showcases traditional and contemporary Moroccan art
8. War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam : Formerly the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression, this state run museum is about the military conflict between Vietnam and the United States
9. Nukus Museum of Art, Nukus, Uzbekistan - A museum in an unlikely place that houses a collection of more than 82000 works of art, ranging from Karakalpak folk art to Russian avant- garde pieces.
10. Power Station Art Museum, Shanghai, China : The first state run contemporary art museum on mainland China, house in a former power plant
11. Gorky’s House or Ryabushinsky Mansion, Moscow, Russia : The art nouveau home of the late writer and political activist Maxim Gorky
12. Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines, Moscow, Russia : A museum of restored arcade games collected from former Soviet states that are playable for guests.
13. El Museo del Oro, Bogota, Colombia - The Museum of Gold showcases gold work, jewelry and crafts from pre-Colombian indigenous civilizations
14. Bell Museum, Mina Clavero, Argentina : A museum housing a collection of more than 500 bells from all over the world with information on construction, cultural significance and musical uses.
15. The Cuban Postal Museum, Havana, Cuba : A museum about the history and importance of the mail service in Cuba that also has an impressive collection of stamps
Located on Museum Island in central Berlin, the Pergamon Museum is an exceptional window into history. Constructed between 1910 and 1930, it houses the Pergamon Altar, Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Market Gate of Miletus, among many other treasures brought by German archeologists from Turkey and the Middle East. It also has space for rotating exhibits of classical and modern Islamic art and special exhibits on Middle Eastern history.
The history of Germanic collections of antiquities dates back to an acquisition by the royal family of a collection of Roman artifacts in 1698. The current iteration of the museum came about because of the volume of artifacts excavated by German-led teams at the turn of the 20th century. The centerpiece of the museum is Pergamon Altar, constructed as part of the acropolis in the city of Pergamon in the 2nd century BC and excavated by Alexander Conze and Carl Humann between 1878 and 1886. The Ottoman and German governments reached an agreement in 1879 to allow the excavated relief panels to be displayed in Berlin, in part as an attempt to preserve them from stone robbers.
So, worth it? Sadly, right now, no. The Pergamon museum is stunning and there is nothing quite like walking into the hall that houses the altar and being dwarfed by its size and beauty. But the museum began extensive renovations in 2012, closing the altar room to the public in 2014. The renovations are expected to be completed in 2026. Until then, parts of the museum are still accessible to the public, but because admission is still full price for less than half of the offerings and because the wait to get in can be over an hour, it’s not advisable to try to go.