Monthly Archives: May 2012 " />
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How to Know When it’s Time to Pack Up and Pack it In

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For most travelers, knowing when to pack up and go is a no-brainer: you leave when your vacation days run out. Time to get back to the kids, the dogs, the house, the bills, and the boss.

The average American – North and South – is awarded roughly two weeks of paid vacation time. In other countries, a month is closer to the norm. The days of precious freedom are parceled out painstakingly, like Black Market butter. You help yourself to your few delicious golden pats and then you’re miserable the first day at work before settling back into your ordinary margarine life.

After all, that is the order of things.

But what about when you choose to travel for an extended period of time – be it for a sabbatical, a project, or even something as drastic as expatriation? When does the journey end? Sometimes the decision is made for you, and it’s wonderfully dramatic. The money’s finished. Your Visa expires. You get fired. School ends. Your wife leaves you for a fur trader. You get deported. As unsettling as those events may be, you can still seem terribly exciting when you tell friends and family back home: Yeah, so after 4 years in Mexico, I had to get out of dodge. The narcos were on my trail.

Other times, the end isn’t that simple.

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How To Get Out of Town Fast

Filed under Adventure, Body and Mind
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Recently we had to return from the United Kingdom to my hometown in New England for a family emergency that turned into family bereavement. We had about twelve hours between the phone call from home and our flight departure. While it was entirely worth the travel, getting out of town in that big of a hurry is not easy for even just one person. We had four people to move across the ocean, and two of them were very small children. Here are three tips I learned about getting yourselves the heck out of Dodge in mere hours.

Some rights reserved by dacotahsgirl

Some rights reserved by dacotahsgirl

1. Talk to a human being

If you are flying home for bereavement, many airlines offer special fares or discounts to take the sting out of the price of last-minute travel. Definitely do a fare check on your favorite flight cost aggregate website, but then call the customer service lines to book directly with the airline. The customer service rep should be able to discuss discounted fares and reimbursements and go over any necessary documentation that may be required, like a death certificate or doctor’s report. You can also use this call to make sure your seat assignments are together if you’re traveling in a group, because playing musical seats with your kids once the aircraft doors have been closed is just no fun for anyone.

2. Organize ahead of time

Wait, how does that work? How can you organize ahead of time if last-minute emergency travel comes up? It’s morbid to have a packing list waiting to go specifically in case of a dire catastrophic event; it is just good sense for regular travelers to make up a packing list for all occasions and save it in an easily accessible place. My family’s needs are the same regardless of where we travel. Wherever we may be in the world, we’re always going to need a few changes of comfortable pants, the iPad charger, contact lenses, and passports. I have a master packing list for our family to which I can refer for any trip and it’s saved in Google Docs, so I can pull it up anywhere that I can access Google. As for your hard documents like your passports, those should all be in a safe, secure place and all together anyway, so there should be no last-minute scrambling.

I’ve said before to remember your assigned roles when traveling with kids: if you’re the one who’s responsible for little Billy’s shoes, you’re always going to be responsible for little Billy’s shoes. Parent or not, this is still valid advice; if you’re super-stressed and distracted, you need to rely on mental-muscle memory a little bit. Pack as you normally would and use familiar luggage: this is not the time to break in your new backpack or your funky new purse. Familiarity is key, and you have the list to check against the contents of your bag when you’re done packing in case you miss something, but relying on those old habits help reduce errors.

3. Go easy on yourself and try to relax

There’s a lot of anxiety and hurry-hurry-hurry on your mind when you’re traveling in an emergency, but you have to give yourself as much space and time as possible. Get to the airport early in case anyone asks you questions about why you booked tickets so late (as they did with us). If you’re flying internationally, give yourself a good-size window to clear Customs. We gave ourselves two and a half hours in Newark that got chopped down to just over 60 minutes when our first flight was delayed, and if anyone is in the business of giving out medals I would like one for me and my husband for getting the four of us through customs, to our baggage pickup, to the domestic baggage recheck, back through security, and to our connecting flight to New Hampshire in that time period. In retrospect, I should have taken the flight that had the four or five hour layover for the extra cushion and opportunity to eat and use the facilities it would have provided.

As the Brits and all the knockoff posters say, “Keep calm and carry on.” Try to have a sense of humor; anything can and does happen when you travel under the best of circumstances. For example, we flew from Manchester, United Kingdom to Manchester, New Hampshire. Two of our three checked items made it to New Hampshire. The other? Sent back to England. (Reading comprehension just isn’t what it used to be.) Rather than make a huge stink we shrugged, filed our claim, hoped for the best, and figured it would make a funny story. It worked out fine. Your emotions are on high alert already, so try to stay Zen about the small stuff. The important thing is to just get there.

Have you ever had to do emergency travel? Why?

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Gokarna: the new Goa?

Filed under Beaches, general, India, Travel Tips
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Every year, tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world descend upon Goa, India’s best-known beach destination.  The tiny coastal state first gained popularity with foreign visitors in the 1970s, as the final destination of the “hippie trail”, a popular overland route that extended from Turkey, across Central Asia, and into the subcontinent. For decades to come, Goa would remain popular with western backpackers, who traveled there for the notorious (and now nearly extinct) beach parties.

Then something changed. Package tourists from across Europe—most notably from Russia—began to show up en masse, and pockets of Goa that were once popular with bohemians on a budget started to look more like beach side strip malls. Local shops traded in hippie dresses and djembes for beach balls and beer T-shirts. Organized crime boomed. And the laid-back peace and love vibe that helped put Goa on the map began to fade.

While Goa is still one of the most stunning parts of India (and certainly home to some great beaches), travellers searching for a quieter, more rustic experience may wish to skip a visit to the state and instead head straight to Gokarna, a beautiful, peaceful holy town on the northern coast of Karnataka, a short jaunt south from Goa’s Vasco de Gama airport.

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App News: tripwolf Travel Blog goes Mobile

Filed under Inside Tripwolf, Mobile
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We’ve just updated our iPhone and Android apps – aside from the few minor updates and bug fixes, there is a new feature that we are particularly pleased to mention:

The tripwolf travel blog can now be accessed in our mobile travel guides!

Now, relevant travel stories from the tripwolf blog are integrated into specific city and country guides. This feature is available in 5 languages (just like our blog, of course!)  Here’s where you’ll find the travel stories in your apps:

There you’ll find all the relevant titles and insider travel tips for the location:

 

On another note: Wikitravel travel information in the app

In addition to our tripwolf travel guide information, we’ve recently integrated info from Wikitravel into our apps.  If you’re going somewhere we haven’t written about yet, you’ll still be able to find what you need!

We hope you enjoy the new features and of course we are always open to your feedback / suggestions / wishes.  Send us an email at support@tripwolf.com

Happy travels,

Your tripwolf team

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Love on the Run

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In August 2009, I was preparing to move to Dublin, Ireland to be with my Irish boyfriend. One night, I went out for drinks with a friend and his colleague, Danny. I told them about my upcoming move. We’ve been together for two and a half years, I said. He wants to be home. I want to be with him.

Danny took a swig of his drink. He threw his head back.

“Mistake,” he bellowed.

This post is for all of the travelers out there who’ve chosen a life of constant motion, but want love on top of it. How will you make it work? You’ll find a way. You have to. You’re long-distance. You’re from different cultures. You met while on vacation in Atlanta. You moved to China together. Facebook and Skype are your lifeblood. Your family approves. Your family doesn’t approve. Where will the wedding be? What language will the children speak? Your friends say: An internet boyfriend in Paris isn’t real. Your heart says, But what if it is?

Photo 1 by Eva Sandoval

The human race has been traveling desperate distances to find love since the beginning of time. And in this modern world, the journey just keeps getting longer and stranger.

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Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck: A Trio of Endless Variety

Filed under Austria's Hidden Treasures
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Austria TreasuresThe “Austria’s Hidden Treasures” blog series is brought to you by the Austrian National Tourist Office and will show you fresh views and enchanting surprises.

Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck: A Trio of Endless Variety

Austrian cities offer more than just the well-known guidebook sights. Gourmet Graz, seductive Salzburg, and invigorating Innsbruck always have new experiences to offer.

Graz: Austria’s Delicatessen

Austria’s second-largest city, Graz is still relatively undiscovered amongst British holidaymakers. It is becoming increasingly popular however, due to its outstanding restaurants throughout the city which serve traditional dishes with modern flair.  The top event in the culinary calendar is the ‘Long Table’ of Graz (Aug 18th, 2012), where fine restaurants serve a set menu, including wine, to 600 guests seated at a table placed right in the heart of Graz.

In addition to its fabulous food, Graz has some of Europe’s most exciting architecture. A classic example of this is the Kunsthaus Graz (art museum), resembling a spaceship, a contrast to the angular Baroque rooftops nearby. At night the entire structure is lit with hundreds of lights – locals call it ‘the friendly alien’. From here, the nearby Old Town, just a short stroll across the Mur River, is all tiny alleyways and quiet courtyards.

Schlossberg, Graz. Copyright: Austrian National Tourist Office

Schlossberg, Graz. Copyright: Austrian National Tourist Office

Find more information on Graz holiday offers!

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May Days: Springtime in New York

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They might write songs about Autumn in New York, but Springtime is a pretty great time of year in Gotham City, too. Now that it has thrown off the shackles of Winter and summer’s broiling humidity has yet to arrive, it’s a perfect time to get out and about. Here are 5 places to take advantage of the city’s greener side.

The grass is always greener in New York - all photos JBogdaneris

1. The High Line

Like with many things in New York this project was hyped to death but for once, the reality met the expectations. Built atop a disused train line above Eighth Avenue, this stretch of urban green is an unexpected bonus for pedestrians who want to breath air that’s a little fresher and take in views a bit more rarified. There are places to sit and snacks to munch but beware the peak hour crowds, which prompted one recent visitor to mumble, “this place is cool, but annoying,” as he got caught behind some slow moving tourists along the narrow walkway.

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In Defense of Vacation

Filed under Body and Mind, general, Wellness
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We are travelers. We devote an enormous amount of resources into seeing the wonders of the world. We’ve structured our careers and family life in order to maximize our opportunities for global travel. We juggle passports and residency visas with detailed self-made itineraries, sucking the marrow out of each and every trip. And after all that…oh my God, do I ever need a vacation.

Ke'e Beach. Photo by deannanmc.

While we travel often, I don’t think we’ve taken a real vacation since we went to Kauai in 2008. Even then, I was six miserable weeks into my first pregnancy–there was a lot of sleeping, but I’d hardly call it restful. Usually I love our trips; why go to a new country or exotic locale just to sleep in? Who knows when you might be back, if ever? See as much as you can! Experience it all!

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A Cultural Guide to Uruguayan Cuisine

Filed under Food Culture, Uruguay
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As you hop from Argentina to Brazil, you might not notice that you stepped right over a small country with a big heart.   While it hides between these two giants of international tourism, Uruguay boasts a distinctive culture and cuisine worth experiencing.

Uruguay grilling

The asado plays a key role in Uruguay’s culinary culture.

Uruguay’s Culinary Mosaic

Having lived in Uruguay for just under a year, I can honestly say that it often “feels” less South American, and in some ways, very European. Population analysts estimate that 60 percent of the Uruguayan population has at least one ancestor from Spain, and 40 percent has at least one ancestor from Italy. Spain established a colony in Montevideo in 1726. In the meantime, the Portuguese had already established Colonia in 1680. Inevitably, the two countries eventually went to war. Spain won possession, but the Portuguese still swayed Uruguayan food culture.

If you go to the prepared food counter at Tienda Inglesa, you’ll discover a chicken dish cooked with tomato sauce and peas. This epitomizes the Portuguese influence in Uruguayan cuisine.

Thank the Spanish if you enjoy empanadas in Uruguay. Its name evolved from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to coat in bread. Uruguayan empanadas are made from baked or fried wheat flour, filled with combinations of meat, chicken, vegetables and cheeses.

Dulche de leche, a carmel-like desert, fills the Uruguayan dessert empanadas, which are topped with powdered sugar and apple jam. Most places serve a vegetarian empanada, and the Disco Supermarket (the national chain) has frozen vegan empanadas, which actually taste pretty good if you need something quick to bring back to your hostel. In case you’re wondering, ‘Disco’ stands for discount. There’s no disco music, unless you count the Muzak versions of USA tunes from the 1980s.

Dulche de leche also plays a starring role in the Uruguayan alfajor, whose name stems from the Arabic, al-hasú, meaning ‘filled’ or ‘stuffed’. These sweets were a product of the Moorish occupation of Spain. The Uruguayan alfajore is made with dulce de leche sandwiched between two cookies and topped with a generous – often too generous – sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Italy: For the Love of Pasta

Italian immigrants arrived in Uruguay during the 1900s. As active labor unionists, they helped reform Uruguayan work practices, and as superb chefs, they helped shape the Uruguayan culinary culture. Uruguayans have an affinity for pizza and pasta, which proves that the Italians never really left the country. Read this article about gnocchi for more information about the Italian influence on Uruguayan cuisine.

Resembling a spinach pie, tarta pascualina originates from the Liguria section of Italy. While this meatless dish originated during lent, Uruguayans enjoy tarta pascualina all year round. The dish combines a crust, ricotta cheese, spinach and eggs, which represent the resurrection of Christ. All of the ingredients are placed in a crust and baked in the oven. When ready, the eggs are hard-boiled and baked directly into the pie.

Say Cheese: The Swiss

Italy and Spain played a key role in the development of Uruguayan gastronomy, but other cultures add more diversity to an already colorful food culture. The Swiss, for example, arrived in Uruguay during the middle of the 19th century, and formed a colony called Nueva Helvecia, or “New Switzerland.” Much to their surprise, the Swiss discovered that they had arrived in a country with many cows, but no cheese. They quickly introduced the cheese-making process, and claimed their place in the Uruguayan cuisine development chain.

The Russians are Coming, Honey

During the early 20th century, an effort to increase agricultural development inspired the Uruguayan government to create an immigration policy that attracted immigrants to the countryside. Russian Jews, deprived of religious freedom in their own country, arrived on the scene and established an agricultural community in San Javier. They built Uruguay’s first flour mill and started its honey-making industry. Every year, Russia’s San Javier throws a huge celebration in honor of the Russian filmmaker Max Gorky. Russian ancestry is not required. Locals of all nationalities attend the event to enjoy the music and dancing, and savor the Russian specialties, such as lamb with nuts, and bread with cabbage.

Armenian Pizza

The Armenians, fleeing persecution from the Ottoman Empire, arrived in Uruguay during the early 20th century. They worked hard to support their new country, and added to the culinary traditions. The lehmeyun is an open-faced, Armenian meat pie, sometimes referred to as “Armenian Pizza.”

Here’s the Beef

With four cows per inhabitant, Uruguay is a confirmed beef culture, as indicated by the outdoor barbecue found in just about every home. Uruguayan beef is grass-fed and hormone-free, and the asado or home-based barbecue. Asado hosts serve different cuts of beef, including sweet breads, sausage, ribs and organ meats.

While Uruguayans do not have elaborate breakfast menus, the chivito serves as the Uruguayan equivalent of a brunch. This heavy-duty sandwich consists of beef, eggs, bacon, cheese, vegetables and lots of mayonnaise. It is usually served with a large order of french fries.

Despite the predominance of meat in Uruguayan cuisine, the country’s rich natural resources make fresh vegetables readily available at an affordable price. In fact, asado (BBQ) guests usually bring a wide assortment of salads, vegetable and fresh pasta dishes.

Restaurant lunch

Vegetarian lunch at La Pasiva in Atlantida

 

As Uruguay evolves, it gains favor with expats from the United States. Perhaps, within a few years, we will see a North American influence on this South American cuisine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel Hangover

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There may seem to be few downsides to a life of constant travel – be it long-term or short-term. Sure, sometimes people complain about things like impermanency and rootlessness; the sadness of living out of a suitcase. But in the end, a life filled with travel is a life down the road less traveled; one that has truly been lived; grabbed by the horns and ridden like a mechanical bull on Cinco de Mayo.

Some rights reserved by bewarenerd

Some rights reserved by bewarenerd

What can we say? While you’re in the thick of it, the party is pretty sick. But what about the aftermath? That is, the travel hangover. Days, weeks, months, or even years of exotic fun, and you’re left with the physical symptoms you just can’t seem to shake.

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