Friday, October 31, 2014

Can Protected Environmental Preserves Still Become "At Risk"????

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Unesco World Heritage Site: 

[The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage.
What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.]
*Source: UNESCO Website
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I cannot imagine the world without organizations like UNESCO that protect our heritage and beauty with such diligence.  We all need to recognize their efforts and work with them to protect the beauty we live in.  

One site that is currently on the "danger list" by UNESCO is the Galapagos Islands.

But how does that happen if it is protected???

Part of UNESCO's belief is that these sites belong to everyone so that means people can visit them, creating a tourism industry.  While the industry is regulated it is still impossible to stop the effects of humans on the area.  Humans have an affect on everything.

Each and every year more and more people visit the Galapagos.  Since 2006 the number of visitors has risen 250% to 145,000 and the number of commercial flights between 2001 and 2006 has risen 193%.

While those percentages may sound positive in creating more economic development for the islands it has not.  The "eco-tourist" that visit these islands still require a certain amount of comfort in their travels and that has attracted foreign investors to create businesses there.  In turn it takes away from the locals - they cannot compete with the foreign run companies that have billions of dollars to work with.  Annually $418 million is generated by tourism but only $63 million goes back into the local economy.  So that is a staggering $355 million that goes to foreign investors.  
For example: tourism boats are a HUGE activity there and currently 80 boat companies operate.  Of those 80 boats only 40% are owned locally.    
Dr. Graham Watkins, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation, says "unless we start to make fundamental changes right now, in the next 10 to 15 years we will see the Galapagos suffer from both economic and environmental degradation.  What we have here is an unsustainable model of development." 

Also, until recently a multinational company called Voyages of Discovery brought over 500 passengers to the islands each month.  They are no longer permitted to do so and it is because the Galapagos Conservancy said that the islands were becoming to "disneyfied and less reflective of the surroundings."  Those huge ships are basically floating hotels and those individuals staying there are not putting money back into the local economy.  

So how do you protect and share what is valued and loved?

The Galapagos Conservancy along with the Ecuadorian government are working to encourage the tourist to stay longer and spend their money at local establishments.  They hope that travelers will see the islands as "the Mona Lisa of natural places in the world" and leave with a new found adornment and commit to the protection. 

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So you see, even when you visit a protected site it still could be hurting the area instead of helping it.

A great concept to live by (at home and traveling) is:

You really never have any idea how your simple presence in an establishment can affect their livelihood hood and the local economy's livelihood.  

When you knowingly visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site stop and ask yourself if what you are doing is leaving behind human influence or can you enjoy without disturbing nature.

Go and visit these sites - they are yours to enjoy just be courteous.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winter Activities In Colorado

Currently, a number of my friends have packed their bags and have headed to Colorado for the winter.  
Not only are they stoked for the skiing and snowboarding but for the:
Hot springs
Ice skating
Ice fishing
Dog sledding
Ice climbing

So you see, even though the ski resorts get most of the attention there are still plenty of things to do for the folks who do not ski or snowboard. 
Colorado is a beautiful state regardless of which season you go in :)

The great state is blessed with a ton of hot springs all of which offer accommodation, spa packages and most are family friendly.  You have the luxury of deciding what best fits your needs instead of settling for the overcrowded natural "kiddy pool".
"Colorado’s variety of year-round hot springs all offer relaxation, soothe muscles and will have you marveling at how an unglamorous occurrence like geothermal activity can result in such a luxurious experience." ~ Colorado Come To Life

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Hot Springs
Dunton Hot Springs

Head to Dunton Hot Springs or Pagosa Springs Resort and Spa for your luxe pampering.  These two give you the holistic experience all while showering you in champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.

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Snowmobile Colorado 
If the hot springs are to relaxing for you try you skills at snowmobiling.  You can get your fill of a high speed adventure combined with a snowy alpine environment for one heck of a memorable experience!  Colorado has hundreds and hundreds of miles in every region of the state that offers you the chance to ride.  Head to Grand Lake, Winter Park, Leadville, Buena Vista or South Fork!

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Ice Fishing
Best lakes to fish!
We all know that majority of the time fishing does not have to do with the fish at all - it is all about the experience.  Fisherman are lovers of nature and just enjoy being in the solitude but catching a keeper really makes it all worth it!  Ice fishing you can get out on the lake in the first light of morning and see all the animal prints on the ice and take in nature in its finest.  Some folks just cut a whole in the ice and set up shop and others bring/rent a ice fishing cabin.  I would splurge for the cabin :) Remember, you have to have a Colorado fishing license to fish!

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Dog Sledding
Take your pick!

This is what I would be doing day in and day out!  
Yelling mush mush to the eager barking dogs and then being rushed away through backwoods Colorado would be hands down amazing!  The activity is growing in popularity so there are now more places where you can do it.  Check out: Snowmass, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Steam boat Springs, Telluride and Vail.

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Ice Climbing
Get Your Axe In Gear!
Now this is really for the adventurous and experienced.  If you have ever wondered what happens to the waterfalls in the winter....this is it.  People climb them.  Crazy huh! 
The most popular destination for ice climbing is Ouray and in January the world famous ice festival is held there too!

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Plan your winter vacation today through United Military Travel!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ever Consider Becoming An Expat????


 verb \ek-ˈspā-trē-ˌāt\
To withdraw oneself from residence in or allegiance to one's native country.  

I often dream about it...

Not because I do not love the States but for the simple fact of being able to live a slower lifestyle and having a higher standard of living and more than likely in a tropical location. 

And it is not just for the retired, it is for anyone who desires a different lifestyle.  Just because you move does not mean you cannot work.  Many people mistake that concept because the majority of people who move overseas are retired and have their set income.  

But for someone like me (28)...the world is my playground!

Could you do it?

"Moving to a foreign country is a lot like raising children. It's harder than you think it's going to be, and better than you can imagine!" Lisa Condle, Huffington Post

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Here are a few things to consider:

Speaking the language - can you communicate in the country you are moving to?  

Alone time - if you decide to move by yourself I suggest you get used to being by yourself first.  Take a few trips (far away) and see how you handle yourself.

Inconvenience - no matter where you move to things will be different than they are in the States.  Majority of the time much slower...Things you could get done in an afternoon here you should plan on two else where.  Americans move very fast so enjoy the slow down and relax. 

Moving with children - what is the health care system like in the country of your choice?  Will you home school them or enroll them?  Can they speak the language?

Starting a business overseas - get all your ducks in a row first.  Visa info, tax info, permit info, a good attorney, funds lined up, foreign bank account etc. 

Finding work - assuming you will have to have money you need to research the Visa requirements, how friendly the country is to foreign workers, any industries off-limits, any age restrictions, what does the Visa get you and how long does it last..etc. 

A new attitude - this may be the hardest.  Changing the way you handle things.  You have been in the States since you were born, meaning you handle things a certain way.  Living abroad you are going to need to know how to laugh at yourself and let go of any concern you have about embarrassing yourself.  It is going to happen.  Things are going to take longer so exercising patience and enjoying your surroundings will now be a part of what happens.  There will be many times when you cannot communicate with someone - do not get angry.  You are in there world so just pace yourself.  

Embracing your emotions - if you are even considering becoming an expat is it because you want to live a life different than what you have now.  Part of the new adventure is dealing with all the crazy emotions you are going to face and enjoying each and every moment.  Always remember that whatever you are feeling is ok and that you will become stronger because of it.  What you are going to be doing is probably something you will never be doing again and something others probably dream of so recognize it for what it is and smile.  

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Expat friendly countries

What makes a country attractive enough to makes us want to move there?  

Latin American Countries and Mexico
Well, for starters these countries allow the American Dollar to be spread a lot further.  You can live comfortably in Ecuador for $2,000 a month and that includes rent, utilities, a house keeper and dining out.  Just because you live outside of the United States does not mean you have to live like it.  Many times you can live better than you do on your home soil and in tropical oasis's.  

You probably do not believe that you can retire in some European towns and live better than you could in a small town here.  One, the health care is much better than in the States.  Two, can you imagine paying $50,000 for a quaint seaside house in Italy?  Well you can.  And it is not just Italy that offers opportunities like that but also France, Switzerland, Germany - it just all depends on what you want.  

So essentially, cheaper real estate and lower cost of living plus better health care are the top three reasons why people choose to live abroad.  

Taken from hobotraveler - a travel community website
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I suscribe to the International Living magazine and I would suggest doing the same if you are serious about moving abroad.  It is written by expats and provides a ton of information on all destinations making it a great research method before you leave. Remember research, research, research!

Expat Exchange is useful as well. It offers a job searching database, expat banking, finances, healthcare, blogs etc. And it is free, every bit counts when you are saving to move abroad! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Turks and Caicos Islands

The inspiration for this blog post came from a friend of United Military Travel named Clint who said that Grand Turk and the Caicos Islands are the most beautiful places he has ever seen.  

And for good reason, these islands offer 230 miles of white powdery beaches, world class diving, top-drawer accommodations, gourmet to dive restaurants and protected and unspoiled marine life!

The Turks and Caicos

First off, do you know how easily accessible the islands are from the mainland of the United States?  Flying out of Miami you can be in the islands in 90 minutes making this destination quick and painless and a good weekend jaunt in if you live in the Miami area.  Also, there are direct flights from New York, Philly, Toronto, Charlotte, Atlanta, Montreal, Boston and London.  Then in the high winter season add  Washington DC and Chicago to that list!

Second, what draws the thousands of visitors to these islands each year?  
* Would it be the pristine, white powdery beaches?
* The fact it is surrounded by the world's third largest coral reef?
* How about the uninhabited cays you can explore all by yourself?
* Or the crystal-clear turquoise sea where the waves are the size of a ripple?

All Caribbean islands have their own flavor and the flavor here is luxury.  Whether it be the cruise ships that dock there, the restaurants, shopping or accommodations - you are not going to skrimp anywhere.  

Do you like to travel in packs, with family, just you and your partner or are you a lone wolf?

If you like to travel in packs check out renting a villa.
Check out this extravagant villa called the Mandalay going for 60,000/week in the high season.

Too much?

Ok here is Footprints On The Beach in Grace Bay at $25,000/week in the high season.

With five bedrooms so pick 5 couples or individuals and go the end of August when the weekly rate is just 16,000 it is just $3,200/per room.  

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If you choose to stay in a resort you have 7 luxurious ones to choose from: 

Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa (all-inclusive)
Seven Stars Resort
Parrot Cay by COMO
Alexandra Resort
Windsong Resort 

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Why choose Turks and Caicos over the other Caribbean islands?

Grace Bay Beach is hands down one of the most exquiste beaches ever.  It runs for 12 straight miles and offers perfect fine white sand to dig your toes into before you go for swim, snorkel or dive.  It is also a part of Princess Alexandra National Park.  Meaning that the waters are protected so you are not going to have water skis and jet skis zooming around you while swimming; sailing, catamarans and paddle boarding are encouraged.  Grace Bay is children friendly too, the slope of the beach is so gentle and hardly ever has any strong current or waves it makes for a perfect stress free day at the beach.

Foodie's galore! Aside from the white sand beaches and luxe accommodations the Turks and Caicos are known to have the best Caribbean food around.  I know that one of my favorite things when traveling is eating :) From jerk chicken dives, fine dining, Conch shacks and beach barbecues you will find something for everyone.  
For a pre dinner drink the locals recommend O'Soleil, a very sexy beach bar but go early to enjoy before the dinner rush.  They also say that Da Conch Shack is a must try!  It is an open air casual restaurant right on the beach that serves up delicious, inexpensive food, famous rum punch and it is on the list of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.  So of course you have to go now :) 

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United Military Travel will get you there in a jiffy too - so if you are craving warm salt water and cold rum drinks call them today for your pre-approval!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Celebration!

Well ya'll, I have officially reached 5,000 page views on my blog.

That is exciting news for me and United Military Travel - my goal has always been to share my experiences and ones that I dream of, cultivate my blogging skills and share with the world the wonderful services United Military Travel offers. 

What have I learned in the process up till now?
Blogging for me is a way to explore the world virtually and it helps me plan and add to my bucket list.  It has opened so many windows to the travel industry that I did not know existed.  

Primarily, I learn from other travel bloggers.  

Comparing their travel rituals to mine shows me how I could travel smarter and my favorite is the insider's information on where to eat and stay in different cities as seen by my fellow travelers.  It is just like meeting these people, chatting about a locale and being given recommendations - a completely normal conversation to have with a new friend while traveling.   All except I do not know the person and they possibly are across the globe from me when I learn about what they liked and disliked about a place.  I love the internet.

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Things I wish for in the future.

I wish that my readers would start sharing their thoughts on the blog either in the comment section on Facebook or on the actual post.  Like I said before, learning from others is one of the most beneficial aspects of smart traveling - 
I want to know where ya'll have been, where the best food is found, did you stay in a hotel or hostel, your thoughts on the information I provided...anything you want to tell me I want to hear.

Do people not comment because the information sucks?  I have blatantly put on Facebook a request to hear back from ya'll.  Or am I going about it in a completely wrong way (probably)?  

The love of sharing experiences is something that comes naturally to a traveler.  To tell our favorite stories, stories that physically and mentally empower us to keep exploring, to others and seeing their expressions as we go through the details is priceless.  It also gives us an opportunity to go back in time and relive some of our favorite experiences step by step, place by place.  

I want to hear yours.

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Something that has surprised me is the posts that have received the most page views are not the exotic destinations,  the best
honeymoon resorts or travel guides but ones that cover children, global issues or personal reflection.  

Again, what I truly want is to write about things you all want to learn about but I need to hear from ya'll.  So bust out your travel journals and tell me about your all time favorite experiences!

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I am a follower of Ytravel because my interest is in families that travel with their children.  This is exactly what they do and they do it for a living.  Yaz and Craig explore the world with their two little girls and blog about every single adventure, thought or concern that happens along the way.  It is incredibly insightful as it is not just a do this or go here blog.  
Here is the manifesto that they share with their followers.

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I am looking forward to the next 5,000 page views!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bora Bora, Tahiti

Bora Bora "sounds very sexy, sexy."

Anyone recognize that?
Quote from the movie Serendipity - excuse my cheesiness but that is the first think that comes to mind when I speak of Bora Bora.

Check out what the tourism board has said about this romantic island:
"Under a one hour flight from the island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora, with a lagoon resembling an artist's palette of blues and greens, is love at first sight. Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island where the castle-like Mount Otemanu pierces the sky. Lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus, while palm-covered motu circle the illuminated lagoon like a delicate necklace. Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatchedroof villas, and fabled ambience."

If we did not already understand that this place is literally Heaven on Earth we do now. 

Seriously...where else can you eat like this???

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Before we cover Bora Bora lets learn a bit about Tahiti...
Just so you know a bit about where you are going :) 

Where is Tahiti?
Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia.  It is located equal distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north and also in the same time zone as Hawaii.  The islands are approximately halfway between Los Angeles, California and Sydney, Australia.  

Are the islands easy to get to?
Once you arrive in Tahiti Air Tahiti flies several times a day but are usually very full so make reservations ahead of time.  Once in Bora Bora typically your resort will have arranged pick up for you by boat to take you to the motu (islet) they are located on.  The main form of transportation is by boat.

Do I need a Passport/Visa to visit?
Any citizen of the United States or Canada staying less than 90 days only needs to carry their Passport but if planning on an extended visit or working consult their government website.

What language is spoken there?
French and Tahitian are the official languages but English is spoken in the tourist areas.  But as always when traveling to a foreign destinations, it is always appreciated to learn a few of their words and phrases.

  • Hello - Ia Ora na (yo-rah-nah)
  • Goodbye - Nana (nah-nah)
  • Yes - E (ay)
  • No - Aita (eye-tah)
  • Man - Tane (tah-nay)
  • Woman - Vahine (vah-he-nay)
  • Child - Tamarii (tah-ma-ree-ee)
  • Friend - Hoa (ho-ah)
  • Polynesian - Ma' ohi (mah-o-hee)
  • Big - Nui (new-ee)
  • Small - Iti (ee-tee)
  • Morning - Poipoi (poy-poy)
  • Beer- "Pia" ( pee- ah)

What are their seasons and climate?
Tahiti offers one of the most perfect climates in the world - tropical but moderate and cooled by ocean breezes the average yearly air and water temps are around 80 degrees.  Their summer is from November to April offering a warmer more humid climate and winter is from May to October and the climate is more cooler and dryer.

Can I "haggle prices" when shopping?
No, this is not practiced in the islands and is consider very rude.

Do I need to tip when dining out?
It is not customary to tip but when you receive excellent service it is welcomed.  

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So what is it going to costs to stay?  

Believe it or not there are budget accommodations in Bora Bora.

These bungalows are not located over the lagoon but still offer you a true taste of Tahitian paradise.  It is a small lodge with only four cabins, two bungalows and two studios all with their own kitchens.  They do not offering a catering service but are only five minutes away from the local grocery store.  
If you are wanting to immerse yourself more 
in the local culture and not just a resort - this lodge is for you. 

Another great option for travel is with a group.  One it cuts back the prices so you can stay in something nicer and you have people to do things with.

If you do travel in a group check out HomeAway to rent a villa.  Most offer nightly rates with at least a four night minimum stay.  Staying in your own villa gives you the privacy of your own pool, you can stay water front if you like, the ability to eat wherever you want and to explore more of the local countryside.  

Then for the resorts that offer the famous bungalows over the lagoons.  For most people this is the main reason why they travel to Tahiti making this the one accommodation they want.  
Who could blame them???

There are a handful of resorts that range from 5 stars to 3 stars so depending on what you are willing to spend you have options.  Book early as this is a popular destination all year round!  When you choose to stay at a resort you will find there is not much reason so leave.  You room service is delivered via polynesian canoe and you can swim and sun bath from your private patio.  
Also, many of these resorts are all-inclusive so when you pay for your trip you no longer need to worry about setting aside money for food and drinks.  But check to see what activities (if any) are included because you will probably have to pay separate for them.  

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And no need to worry about the costs of the trip because with United Military Travel you can travel now and pay later.  Contact them today for your pre-approval! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How Is Ebola Virus Affecting Travelers

I just want to start of by saying that more people die each year from the influenza virus. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it kills 3,000 in a good year and 50,000 in a bad year.  And to make matters worse, only 46% of Americans vaccinate themselves each year making this well-known disease far more scary and threatening than Ebola.  
Yes, Ebola is an extreme life threatening virus that should not be taken lightly but unless you have recently traveled to or from West Africa, been in contact with someone who has or been in a treatment facility the chances of you contracting the disease are slim to none.
Also, in order to contract the disease you have to have been in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person that IS showing symptoms - people who test positive for Ebola but are not yet showing symptoms are NOT contagious.  
Once a person has been exposed to the virus it typically takes eight days to show symptoms and that is why quarantine is so important to prevent the spreading.  

Where did the virus come from?
When it first developed in 1976 it created 602 cases and killed 431 people in Sudan and Republic of Congo since then this year has been the worse with 6,553 cases and 3,083 deaths in the Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leon regions of Africa.  That does not include the few deaths around the world.  
Scientists believe that bats are the natural reservoir for the virus and that apes and humans catch the disease from eating food that bats have drooled or defecated on, or by coming in contact with surface covered in infected bat droppings and then touching their eyes or mouths.  
Researchers have tracked down the original outbreak to a village dear Gueckedou, Guinea where bat hunting in common.  

What is the U.S. doing to help prevent the spreading of Ebola?
Instead of creating a travel ban from the U.S. to West Africa we are implementing a rigorous screening process to identify people who may have been in contact with a contagious person.  New protocols have starting at five of the major airports that have flights traveling to and from West Africa.  They are, Kennedy International, Washington Dulles International, O'Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International and Newark Liberty International. 

Signs and symptoms.
Fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising.  

How to protect yourself when traveling.
You as a traveler just need to stay well informed and educated to protect yourself throughout your travels.  Also, practicing good hygiene is always the first step in staying healthy - just because you are traveling does not mean you should slack on your hygiene.  Just the opposite really - keep those hands clean!   Realistically, unless you are traveling to the infected regions your chances of contracting the virus are virtually slim to none.  TRAVELING IS SAFE. It is always a good idea when traveling abroad to check for travel alerts too.  

The reason I covered this topic is because I want everyone to know that traveling is still safe and the best way to protect yourself is to be well informed, practice good hygiene and avoid infected areas. 

Happy and safe travels to you all!