Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Favorite & Most Popular Travel Posts of 2015

In case you missed them, here is a list (and links) to my favorite and most read blog posts of 2015.

Most Popular Blog Posts (Based on Page Views)

Havana, Cuba: A Romance with the Past
I've never felt more suspect than when I boarded my first class flight to the Caymans - for the weekend - with no checked baggage ...

Mission Accomplished: 100 Countries
Background: Growing up my family didn't travel internationally. Aside from a few trips to Canada, we spent our vacations and long weekends ...

Parikkala, Finland: The Lost Maiden's Freezing Glance
Tucked in the southeastern Finland birch forest hugging the border with Russia is the small town of Parikkala. The sleepy town was once home ...

Ten Most Obnoxious Travelers: Don't be that Guy
After having crisscrossed the globe for more than a decade I feel I can talk honestly about the cast of characters I've encountered on ...

Dahab, Egypt: Flashback - October 2007
I was terrifyingly close to dying in Egypt. About six months prior to my visit to Dahab, Egypt I had certified to scuba dive in Phuket, Thailand ...

My Favorite Blog Posts

Merzouga, Morocco: Camping in the Sahara Desert
From Marrakech it took two days driving through steep mountains, grassy hills and rocky desert plains to reach Merzouga ...

Hostel Nightmares: How to Avoid Sleeping with the Maid
Hostel: an establishment that provides inexpensive food and lodging for a specific group of people, such as ...

Fifty United States: Our Journey Off the Beaten Path
Guest Blogger: Pauline Leupo, In today's day and age there are a variety of ways to keep our minds and bodies active. Some people are collectors ...

Bunol, Spain: Life Lessons from a Tomato Fight
Every year on the last Wednesday of August, tens of thousands of people flock to the La Tomatina Festival ...

Top Ten Bizarre Foods: My Stomach Has Been Violated
Throughout my travels I've eaten a lot of questionable food - sometimes out of curiosity, often times to be polite ...

Imatra, Finland: Southern Boy Brings Spice to the Nordic
Guest Blogger: James Strange, You can take a boy out of the south, but you can't take the south out of a boy. The first rule of adaption ...

The Whirlwind Life of a Bi-Continental Commuter - December 2015

Breakfast in St. Petersburg. Lunch in Paris. Dinner in Atlanta. Sleep wherever there's a pillow.

For the past year I have been continent hopping on a regular basis. In January I packed my bags and moved from Memphis, Tennessee to Imatra, Finland. Due to my husband's assignment in Russia, our company graciously allowed me to continue work in my new locale. The only catch was that I needed to be back in the U.S. for monthly meetings and be available at any one of our 42 manufacturing sites around the world if duty called.

While I've traveled for business the majority of my career, this new travel expectation of being "on the road" about fifty percent of the time was considerably different. In order to maintain my health and lock down my sanity, I've had to operate under a new set of principles and practice a few habits religiously.

Relationships. When your schedule is erratic, it can be hard to cultivate and maintain important relationships. Whether it's scheduling lunch with a friend or arranging a simple phone call, everything is more difficult when you are juggling time zones, jet lag and other commitments. Having an international phone plan helps a lot as well as being organized with your daily agenda. I routinely block out periods of time when I travel to connect with family and friends. Also having clocks and apps set on multiple time zones helps keep my various appointments in order.

Sleep. Two weeks in one country and two weeks in another with a eight-hour time difference can lead to a life where you are in a constant blur and never really get with it. Jet lag is real and can be debilitating. My philosophy is to sleep as much as I can, whenever I can, wherever I can. The only way I've found to cope is to listen to my body. Melatonin and other over-the-counter sleep aids can be helpful but the key is training your body and your mind. Forget about what time it is at home and try to adapt to your new time zone as quickly as possible. Don't worry about how you look sleeping on the plane or if the airport floor is cold; slip on your eye mask, pop in some ear plugs and try to your best to catch a few z's.

Packing. For me, if I can't carry it on the plane, it can't come. These days checking bags is a gamble even with the best laid plans, and I just can't afford to be without my belongings upon arrival. This means typically packing for up to three weeks in a roller board suitcase and backpack. To make the monthly ordeal more efficient, both my toiletry (liquids) bag as well as my make-up bag include duplicates of all of my essentials. That way I never really unpack these items but instead refill or repurchase when necessary. Being smart with clothing packing means knowing if laundry options will be available and thinking through the various outfit requirements of the trip. As a rule, I tend pack mix and match neutrals that don't wrinkle easily and are lightweight. You can throw in a few accessories for a pop of color and a jacket to dress up. I've also found that rolling your clothes as opposed to folding them makes them easier to find and organize.

Brand Loyalty. One piece of wisdom my Dad imparted on me early was to sign up for all the travel loyalty programs offered. Whether it's airlines, hotels or rental cars, ensure you are enrolled in all of the plans available as you never know where your travels may take you. That being said, loyalty is paramount. Do your research to determine which programs have the best perks (that don't expire!) and are most convenient. Select a plane/hotel/car provider and plan your travel with them religiously. Before long you'll be reaping the benefits and swimming in upgrades.

Traveling as much as I have over the last year has definitely been exhausting, but at the same time it's been an incredible opportunity to see more of the world. I won't lie that occasionally I find myself having "wake up envy" ... that tinge of longing to be like those who get to enjoy the comfort of their own beds, know what's in their fridge and can navigate life in somewhat of a routine. Of course,
I know at some point life will slow down for me and my bi-continental commuting days will come to an end, but for now I'm looking out the window and enjoying the view.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Elite Travel Blog: Five Travel Questions Interview

Earlier this month I was interviewed by Elite Travel Blog out of London and featured on its website's Five Travel Questions Interview Series. Visit the site to read similar travel interviews; read my story here.

Elite Travel Blog: A real life wanderluster, I’m pleased to have Kimberly from Girl Lost in the World take on our Five Travel Questions! She’s travelled to more than 100 countries – find out where!

Why do you love travel?
For me traveling is an opportunity to step outside of the comfort and familiarity of my world and into someone else’s. My favorite aspect of traveling is immersing myself in another culture: to travel somewhere I haven’t been and meet the people, taste the food, drink the wine, see the sights and learn the local customs. Visit my travel blog, Girl Lost in the World to read my post: Overcome with Wanderlust: Why I Travel 

What destination is top of your bucket list?
I have an endless list of places I’d love to see or visit again, but one near the top is Palau. Palau is an island nation in the western Pacific Ocean and home to Jellyfish Lake. Within the marine waters, two types of jellyfish, golden and moon, have evolved so that their stinger cells are not powerful enough to cause harm to humans. It would be a surreal experience to snorkel in the lake and swim with the jellies.

Where is your most favourite place you have travelled to?
Hands down my favorite region of the planet is Southeast Asia and the country I could visit time and time again is Thailand. I think the reason I like it so much is because it’s such a stark contrast from home. From the first time I stepped foot there in 2006, and the handful of times I’ve been back, the country and its people exude warmth and hospitality. From its unique tribe culture in the northern mountains to the picturesque beaches in the south, Thailand welcomes you with its distinct culture, pride and charm. I can’t get enough of the red curry or Tom Kha Gai either! Check out my post: Thailand Top Ten

What is your most favourite memory or experience whilst travelling?
My all-time favorite travel memory is and always will be getting married to my amazing husband in my 100th country of Jamaica this past summer. It was incredible celebrating the occasion surrounded by our closest family and friends in an idyllic setting. Aside from that, a few other unforgettable experiences include sneaking into Cuba with a press badge, learning to dive in the Great Barrier Reef, camping for two weeks in southern Africa, backpacking for seven months from Sydney to New York City westward, volunteering at a monastery in Thailand, and right now having the opportunity to live in Finland while commuting to work in Russia.

What is your favourite photo from your travels?
Photos are the perfect way to make your travel adventures timeless. I couldn’t pick just one so I put together a collage which includes a few of my favorites: Kathmandu, Nepal; Zulu Kingdom, South Africa; Santorini, Greece; Cappadocia, Turkey; Havana, Cuba; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Kruger National Park, South Africa; Easter Island, Chile; Copenhagen, Denmark; Imatra, Finland.

Follow Kimberly’s travels on Twitter too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Cappadocia, Turkey: Flashback - July 2012

Lying on a hard marble slab, hot suds pouring over my eyes and mouth, I gasped for air thinking that this was different from the relaxing experience I was expecting. I'd had many massages in my life but nothing would've prepared me for a large Turkish woman flogging my back with a soapy wet pillow case. As I laid there naked, dehydrated and bewildered, she violently scrubbed every inch of my body with bar soap and a wash cloth while loudly singing. In the clouded sauna room, I was laid out head to toe with a scattering of other naked women. I coiled under the abuse and motioned for a drink. I needed water. But the woman didn't speak English, so the belting continued.

The traditional Turkish massage was my first glimpse into the culture. Several other sights I would encounter were far more pleasant like the lunar-like landscape of the Cappadocia region.

According to our local guide, millions of years ago a volcano erupted in the region with lava spilling everywhere. Overtime, the lava rock was sculpted by the wind and rain to create vast cavernous valleys, jagged cliff faces and protruding rock formations. After the crater lake and nearby streams dried, the surreal moonscape formed the nearly 250 by 160 mile territory in what is now considered Turkey's central heartland.

The towering pillars of rock were soft enough to carve yet solid enough to provide protection from the variable climate. The area began being inhabited by people during the Roman period in the 9th to 11th century. Entire villages were chiseled from the rock with houses, churches and monasteries dotting the hillsides.

Today the Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the most popular monastic communities to visit. The museum preserves thirty rock churches and chapels with colorful Byzantine frescoes adorning the walls dating back to the area's earliest inhabitants. The fairy chimneys, or hoodoos, are also a sight to be seen with tall thin spires of rock rising from the bottom of an arid drainage basin in Urgup, near Cavusin. Fairy chimneys are characterized by soft rock topped by harder, less easily-eroded stone, and some in the area stand higher than ten-stories tall.

Several of the fairy-chimneys in Cappadocia have been converted into boutique hotels. In addition to admiring the peculiar landscape, exploring the underground cities, trekking and hot-air ballooning is popular. The cities of Nevsehir or Kayseri allow for the easiest point of entry into the area by both air and rail from Ankara and Istanbul.