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SEEKING ENLIGHTENMENT – THE ADVANTAGES OF TRAVELING LIGHT

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When I took my first-round-the-world trip back in the eighties, my backpack was ridiculous. And by that, I mean enormous. Looking back, I am not sure what it contained, but whatever it was, not only was it huge, but it had too much in it. I recall waiting for a boat to take me from a Malaysian island back to the mainland when my pack split open at the seams, pouring the contents onto the dock.

On reflection, I can’t believe I hauled so much stuff around. Surely the object of travel is to free ourselves of the material objects that we surround ourselves with at home. Nowadays, whether I am traveling for a weekend or six months, I only carry a thirty-five-litre backpack and I never check luggage.

The (very minimal) disadvantages….

I admit that there are one or two disadvantages to traveling light, but the advantages outweigh them by far.

First the cons. Having a daypack means that you are limited to buying only very small souvenirs. This could either be a good thing or not, depending on your viewpoint. If you are a hard-core backpacker, you won’t be purchasing too many souvenirs anyway.

If camping forms a substantial part of your trip, it’s going to be difficult to get away with carrying a daypack. I have got around this by borrowing camping gear from local friends or hiring it. In many of the popular trekking areas of the world, there are plenty of companies from whom you can hire tents and sleeping bags. Likewise, I love to snorkel and it is generally easy to hire snorkelling equipment.

And the many advantages….

The pros – where do I begin? Physically, schlepping around an oversize pack is hard work. When you arrive in town and you are looking for somewhere to stay, hauling a large pack is cumbersome, especially in a hot climate. A heavy pack also puts a strain on your back and joints. Not having to handle a heavy/bulky pack generally makes life easier and gives you a sense of freedom and enlightenment.

Whilst traveling on buses and trains, handling a small pack is so much easier. Usually, it can be stored under your seat or in the overhead luggage rack. You can keep it within your sights, eliminating the security risks. I recall taking local buses in Sri Lanka, none of which had luggage compartments. I spotted more than one backpacker who had a major problem attempting to balance an over-sized pack on their lap on the crowded buses. I must admit to a small degree of smugness, as I sat with my comparatively tiny backpack stored neatly at my feet.

Imagine the scenario…..you have just got off a bus in India after a long and arduous journey and you are waiting for the luggage to be unpacked from the hold. As you wait, you are besieged by touts and beggars all trying to get your attention. If you were just carrying a small pack, you could have walked straight through them all and be checking in at your guest house by now!

At airports, there is no need to wait for checked bags, saving time and potential lost luggage. Anyone who has ever had a bag go missing will surely appreciate the wisdom in taking only carry-on.

Top Tips for traveling light

After many years of tweaking my packing list, here are a few tips:

Wash what you wear daily. If that sounds like a chore, don’t worry – it will soon become part of your routine. If you are traveling somewhere hot, you can wash it before bed and it’s usually dry by the morning. Some countries, especially in Asia, sell tiny packets of washing powder which are perfect for life on the road.

Technology has made life easier. Back in the day, I would carry a Walkman along with a case of tapes. Now all my music is on my phone. Instead of books, I have a Kindle.

Instead of taking a full-size towel, take a compact travel towel which will barely take up any space.

A lightweight foldaway backpack is a necessity when only taking a small pack. This can be used for daily excursions and your main pack can be left at your accommodation.

Take a mini size in everything you possibly can – hairbrush, hairdryer, mini sewing kit and pack of cards.

If you are traveling with a friend or partner, share anything that you both use.

No turning back

My first light-weight excursion was a month-long trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I was apprehensive to start with. How would I possibly cope without all those unnecessary items?!  Now, I couldn’t travel any other way.

Originally posted 2017-06-15 02:07:26.

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Featured

Ireland Travel Guide

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Ireland isn’t nicknamed the emerald isle without reason. Sprawling across the entirety of the country are woodland forests, wildflowers, and seacoast grasses. In the summer, heather blankets the mountainsides and a light dusting of snow covers the green grass in the winter. The entirety of the island, comprised of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) is only about the size of Indiana but it is certainly no day trip. With its rich history, natural beauty, and lively culture, there is something for everyone.

Skellig Michael

Whether it’s the first or last thing you do, take a slow drive around the Ring of Kerry. The route itself is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and will take you through the staple scenery of the island. Tumbling waterfalls, crumbling castles, and picturesque seaside villages are all accessible from the road. Star Wars fans, history buffs, and lovers of the ocean won’t want to miss the rare chance to visit Skellig Michael. With only a few boats going out to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you have to secure your spot well in advance but exploring the centuries-old honeycomb monastery huts, climbing the steep cliffs, and watching the nesting puffins will be worth the wait. Besides, the pilgrimage to the tiny island isn’t only about the destination but the journey too. The only way to get to Skellig Michael is by fishing boat early in the morning, when the sea is tumultuous. But the trip rewards those that take it with the chance to see whales and dolphins right alongside of them. The ships leave from Portmagee, a tiny town on the coast with tight streets, quaint shops, and cozy restaurants.

Make sure to pack your wellies for a trip to Killarney National Park. The first and one of the most diverse national parks in the country, Killarney offers spectacular experiences in nature. Dotted with lakes, the woodland environment is home to a variety of flora and fauna including Ireland’s only remaining herd of wild deer. Just outside of the park lies the lively village of Killarney. Almost as popular a destination as the park itself, Killarney offers music, culture, and history. Later, kiss the Blarney stone for the gift of eloquence like Winston Churchill and so many others have and tour the castle grounds.

Irish Sheep

Further north is the city of Cork and past that is Dublin . Whether you’re looking to have a wild night at the infamous Temple Bar, or just a quiet pub to sit down, you’ll find it in Ireland’s biggest city. Also the nation’s capital, Dublin is teaming with diverse experiences including castles, goals, and cathedrals. In the summer, the city hosts the Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival, the biggest of its kind on the island.

Within driving distance of the city are the Hill of Tara and New Grange, archeological complexes that have brought awe and wonder to people for generations. There, you can see the ruins and inscriptions left behind by Neolithic people thousands of years ago. Due to conservation efforts, New Grange is difficult to visit because tickets need to be bought in advance for a guided tour, but if history is what you came to Ireland for, it will be worth the trouble. On the other hand, the Hill of Tara is an easy drive and walkable park.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

The northern third or so of the island is Northern Ireland, a part of the UK. Though religious tensions caused the two sides to incite violence, that is now well in the past. The border is open and you can cross without any bother, not even needing to stop to show your passport. Just don’t forget to reset your speedometer to miles per hour and convert your cash into pounds. Northern Ireland is also covered in locations to stop and experience. From the bustling city of Belfast, to the sleepy village of Cobh where the Titanic last docked, this country is teeming with reasons to get off the highway. Cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, skip along hexagonal basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway, or drive along the scenic coast. Game of Thrones fans will also enjoy seeking out filming locations like The King’s Road (The Dark Hedges) and Dragonstone (The Mussenden Temple).

Musseden Temple

Of course, no trip to Ireland is complete without a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. The multiple hundred feet drop of sheer cliff is one of the most iconic locations in the country. Despite its size, Ireland has so much to discover. If you didn’t get a chance to see it all, it’s only a reason to come back again.

 

Originally posted 2017-10-27 19:25:29.

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ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED: WHAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE

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You are planning a trip and have booked your flight, now it is time to pack!  Depending on your destination or the length of travel, your suitcase should be filled with items that will be comfortable for your leave. While everyone packs differently, there are certain things that are essential and should always be added to your carry-on- This will help you prepare you for the unexpected.

ALL TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

If you are traveling alone, with a group or significant other, make sure everyone has their documents, IDs and passports readily available when requested. As a backup, keep your information and photocopy of your passport stored on your phone. Try putting them in a travel document holder for better organization.

PHONE CHARGER

Never assume that you have enough battery juice to get you to your destination.  Anytime you have a few minutes to spare, charge your phone to give it quick boost of power. There is nothing worse than needing to use your phone in an emergency and not having enough battery life left.  Invest in a portable charger from Walmart, Amazon, or eBay for backup in case of emergency.

MEDICATION

If you have essential medication that you take a regular basis, pack those in your carry-on. Don’t settle and just pack a day’s worth a meds, pack all of them. If you put them in your checked luggage, you are taking a risk with your health if your luggage is lost or stolen.  It also doesn’t hurt to pack over-the-counter medication as well.

ELECTRONICS/ENTERTAINMENT

First, never trust baggage handlers to treat your luggage delicately or gentle.  If you have anything fragile that you need to take with you on a trip, please put it in your carry-on bag.  Electronics are fragile and expensive to replace. Besides, you may need something to keep you occupied throughout your flight.

Remember laptops are not allowed in checked baggage because they have lithium batteries and are a fire risk. Because earbuds are crap and never last as long as you may want, pack an extra pair just in case.

CHANGE OF CLOTHES AND TOILETRIES

Yes, it is 2017!  I know it is unfathomable but even with all this technology that airlines have, they can still lose your luggage.  Believe me, it can and still happens.

By packing a set of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on, you are guaranteeing that you have at least one set of changing clothes and can brush your teeth.  It also helps if you have an extended layover without access to your checked luggage.

SNACKS

Due to airline security, all liquids over a certain ounce will be rejected.  However, snacks are not.    Dollar Tree is to the go spot to stock up on snack at a reasonable price. Snacks are good in time of stress or simply when you are hungry. Airline peanuts and pretzels are not enough to fill you up.

Plus, if you are sitting next to cranky child or travel companion, try sharing some of your snacks with them. It may make your travel better.

What essentials do you always pack?  What do you feel was left off this list? Would love to read your thoughts and comments below.

Originally posted 2017-10-24 18:01:31.

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The Perfect North East Coast Road Trip

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When you’re on a road trip, everything feels a little better. You get to experience the country on a much more intimate level and experience much more of it from the open road. On the East Coast, you can drive from the tropics of Florida up through the beachy coastal towns of the Carolinas, see New York City, and end up in the lush forests of Maine in just a few days. On the way, stop by the multitude of historical LGBTQ markers, places, and even night clubs. So what are you waiting for? Get out there!

This planner is written from Maine down to Pennsylvania but if you choose to follow it, you can easily do it the other way around, start at the middle, or cherry pick and make it your own!

Maine:

With more same-sex couples than all but 6 states, Maine was once called “a mecca for gay couples” by the Press Herald. Of course, with numerous restaurants and things to do, Portland and Bangor are both worth a visit. Literary buffs would enjoy driving past Stephen King’s Bangor home and take a gander at its appropriately horror-themed decor. Meanwhile, Acadia National Park in the north attracts nature lovers. The many towns along the way are all worth taking an exit off the highway for and make sure to stop in for a lobster roll!

In the southeast of the state, a tiny town called Ogunquit prides itself on acceptance and individuality. Ogunquit, which means “beautiful place  by the sea” in the native Abenaki language started out as a small fishing village but soon became an artistic haven. Now many of the local shops, restaurants, and hotels are proudly LGBTq-operated. It’s main village only has a population of 1200 people, but in the summer months it comes alive with travellers from all walks of life.

New Hampshire:

Northern New England’s openness continues eagerly into New Hampshire where the white mountains beckon to nature lovers. The old man of the mountain may not be there anymore but profile lake still is, and it provides a great backdrop to a foggy day. In the fall, the mountains are ablaze with autumnal colors.

Throughout the state there are a variety of gay-friendly and gay-operated inns, restaurants, and bars. The sleepy towns are quiet but peaceful.

Vermont:

In 2000, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the same rights and benefits as their hetero counterparts and became the first state in the US to give full marriage rights to same-sex unions. At the time, this caused some outrage from the state’s more conservative populace but against acceptance and reason, those voices never stood a chance.

Burlington, the state’s most populous city, is actually the least populous in the country to hold that title but that does not mean it’s anything but lively. Along the water, festivals are constantly bustling and the farmer’s market offers fresh fruits, novelty ices, and local IPA’s. In the town, the main street is an outdoor mall with small businesses and of course, a Ben and Jerry’s location. Make sure to keep on the lookout for Bernie.

Massachusetts:


On the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is a well-known LGBTQ haven but that’s not the only hotbed of gay culture. In fact, in 2003, Massachusetts became the first state in the US to legalize same-sex marriage. There’s a lot more to Massachusetts than Cape Cod, however.

Outside of the obvious choice of Boston, Northhampton offers a perfect haven for LGBTQ travellers and according to Jezebel, it’s one of the most “lesbianish” cities in the country. Plenty of local businesses are owned by members of the LGBTQ community and the college town prides itself on Pride. If that doesn’t sell you, its rainbow crosswalk just might.

Connecticut:

Mystic, Connecticut has a population of only 4,000 people but it’s one of the most revered towns to visit. The tiny town is filled with coffee shops and bookstores that pull you in, and the Mystic Aquarium is great for kids as well as adults. Seafood is aplenty and delicious.

Outside of Mystic, Connecticut is a lively state, and larger cities like Hartford offer a large LGBTQ community where gay businesses thrive.

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island may be the smallest state but it has a lot to offer. This beachy, breezy, coastal state is only about an hour’s drive all around. Its biggest city, Providence, is home to RI Pride and celebrates itself as an artsy town. Literary lovers might not want to miss the chance to seek out the grave of HP Lovecraft. There’s also “TAG Approved” hotels and locations that LGBTQ+ travelers can check out.

On your way south of the city, stop by Olneyville New York Station for some local hot dogs and a cool glass of coffee milk.

New York:


There’s a lot more to New York than New York. In fact, there’s a ton more. In the north east, the dense Adirondack wilderness offers camping, hiking, kayaking, or just a quiet day on the lake, while in the west, Rochester provides all your city comforts. New York state is huge and there is no one list that can cover it all.

Of course there’s Broadway, but there’s also miles upon miles of untouched coastline, sleepy mountain towns, and plenty of farmland. State parks are aplenty throughout and I Love NY offers LGBTQ travellers great resources.

Pennsylvania:

Whether you’re in the City of Brotherly Love, or the Steel City, you’re bound to be in for a treat. Pennsylvania offers LGBTQ travelers plenty of resources and openness. As long as you’re wearing the right team’s colors, you’re going to be welcomed with open arms.

On the west side of the state, Pittsburgh is home to the Andy Warhol museum, the Mexican War Streets, and of course, the black and gold. In the south east, Philadelphia has a great music scene, historical museums, and cheese steaks. The rivalries may never end but it’s all in good fun.

Have you been to any of these locations or are there any great places we missed? Share your road trip stories in the comments!

Originally posted 2017-10-24 16:42:05.

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