Thailand Martial Arts and Outdoor Adventure Travel – Long-Term Travel in Thailand on a Budget

1. Amazing Adventures in Thailand

A few years ago, I decided to migrate the majority of my efforts, lifestyle and long-term ninja training programs to Thailand. This decision was based on number of pros as compared to our original California program. First, I like change and I like to stretch what we can offer to students. I have run programs in Europe, the United States and now Asia equally.

Does it mean that California or the United States does not have a lot to offer? No, it just means there are other options and I have a lot of pros to talk about for the Adventurer that can financially manage a long term trip to the U.S. or Europe.

Thailand has a lot to offer serious students and adventurers. Especially those participating in our long-term Martial Arts Training camps.

There is a popular commercial in Thailand called – Amazing Thailand. It highlights the plethora of adventure and fun that is available in one small location.

In Bangkok for example, you can spend time shopping in a 7 story mall (even purchase Ferrari in one of the stores), visit historical temples (feel like a king in the Grand Palace or say hello to the emerald Buddha), or perhaps enjoy an endless variety of nightlife (have a drink on top of the world overlooking the city). Bangkok is an internationally known pit-stop and great for students to spend some time adjusting to the Asia before heading out to see what else Thailand has to offer.

For me, the major draw to Thailand was the tropical outdoor options that are available. I have taken students to the mountains of Pai near Chiang Mai to the warm blue waters of the Andaman sea. We have trained on beautiful islands like Koh Samui and climbed some of the best rock climbing available in the world in Krabi province. When you are not training in the martial arts, there is plenty of adventure in Thailand.

Enjoy a fresh and extremely healthy coconut on the beach, or go snorkeling and diving for a price that you can feel great about. Feel like checking out the bridge over the river Kwai or exploring the Erawan Waterfall in Kanchanaburi? No problem. How about taking a trip to Hua Hin where the King lives and enjoy the long ocean strip. You name it, adventure is abundant and access to that adventure is made extremely accessible.

It might sound silly, but many of my students found that renting a moped and cruising around the islands to be one of the best experiences. Simple adventures like taking a long tail boat from one island to another can be quite thrilling. Adventure is often equated to new experiences and Thailand has plenty to offer.

I believe Thailand offers the best of Southeast Asia, but one of the added benefits to being in Thailand is that with a hop, skip and a jump you can be in experience new adventures in Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, or Cambodia. You can stretch that just a bit to visit China, Singapore, Hong Kong or further to places like Taiwan and Japan. When you are in Thailand, other locations in Asia feel closer and you are more likely to explore.

What Thailand has to offer is of course amazing. However, the real benefits of Thailand hit when we get practical and this is determined by how much of a hole any trip will have on our pocket book.

2. A big reason students love Thailand is financial

As with any functional service – money is an important tool. Students that attend my programs, often do so for long periods. Many students prefer 1-12 months of training as opposed to weekend seminars or weekly courses that often cost far more.

Another benefit of a long-term program in Thailand is the students lower personal costs as compared to what they would pay in the States. There are too many discounts to list here, but here are a few to consider.

3. Cheaper Food in Thailand

You can pick up a decent healthy meal for about $2.00 in Thailand, and that is in a restaurant. On the street, you can get a filling bowl of noodles for 50 cents. In California, you are lucky to get a meal for $5.00 (though Subway helps with their $5.00 foot long sandwiches) and 50 cents might buy you a candy bar. I also tip a minimum of $5.00 in restaurants in the States. A tip like that in Thailand would be outrageous, even 20 Thai Baht is high and that is less than a $1.00

4. Entertainment can be costly, but not in Thailand

In Thailand, you can see a movie for about $5.00. In California, a movie ticket can cost you closer to $10.00. In addition, the quality of movie theaters in Thailand is often superior to what you find elsewhere. For example, you can choose to sit in a reclining mini couch, and choose your seats in advance (even pay less depending on where you want to sit). In the States, if you cannot choose your seat in advance you are forced to arrive early to get a good seat and also be forced to sit through previews and commercials.

This savings extends to almost every sector of entertainment, whether you want to rent a motorcycle, go to a nightclub or ride an elephant, the costs in comparison are outstanding.

5. Shopping in Thailand

Although students and adventures may not have shopping on their mind, it can still be a factor for those that like to buy and why not save some money in the process. Thailand is famous for getting a great deal on your purchase and has shopping streets all over the country. You can pick up designer jeans for $20 as opposed to $200 or invest in a work of art. I managed to buy gifts for Christmas for everyone in the family in Thailand and spend the same amount (including flight, hotel and gifts) as I would have spent just on the gifts themselves (judging from my normal spending habits) in California. I also am able to buy items that are unique and not just another gadget to clutter their closets. Many people have made their short term stay in Thailand into a business and fund their new lifestyle by purchasing items in Thailand to sell in the States.

6. Travel in Thailand

You can travel from the mountains of Pai (north of Chiang Mai) all the way south to the islands of Koh Phi Phi (where they filmed the movie the Beach) for about $60. This would cost you in the hundreds in the States. When I lived in Pai, I would fly to the city for only $30. The bus ride down the mountain is about $5 and takes 2 hours. This travel savings extends to almost every type of travel in Thailand. You can take a taxi anywhere you want for about $10 an hour or hop in a tuk tuk for $5.00 and take a scenic route. Students have rented mopeds for an entire month in Pai for only $50 or $150 in more expensive locations like Samui Thailand. If you want to jump on a short flight to Cambodia to see the Angkor Wat (a wonder of the world) or take a train to Malaysia – no problem, and it won’t hurt your pocket book. I often fly to Singapore from Bangkok and it costs me less than it would to fly from city to city in California.

7. Housing and accommodation in Thailand

A great thing about Thailand is that you have a choice of stay that will meet every budget. In California, a typical hotel is $100 per night and for a month at a basic hotel you will pay about $3,000 or more. This is usually without Internet, without food and without additional benefits. In Bangkok for example, you can get a one-month stay in a great hotel that will include internet, give you a great breakfast buffet (usually for two), swimming pools, fitness gym, lounge use and daily maid service all for $1,000. Not to mention these locations can be found with a small kitchen area – much like Extended Stay of America only at half the cost. Now $1,000 a month may not be cheap to many, but this is for an upscale location. You can also stay in a small house for as low as $200 a month in many locations. I have stayed in a $2,000 a month location on a tropical island and I have stayed at a $300 a month location on the same island. Both locations were great and no, you do not have to live in the alley to get a great price.

All of this is very important to a long-term student of the martial arts. They often only have so much money to spare and they need it to last them a long time. Students that come to California programs often run out of money in a few weeks (going out to town to eat, seeing movies, buying ridiculously pricey popcorn and hanging out with friends). Whereas in Thailand, they can stretch that same money into months and actually get more entertainment – not to mention enjoy the splendors of a tropical island or globally famous city.

8. Medical care

One time flying to Thailand for another adventure I couldn’t help overhearing the couple in front of me. They were not together but seated next to each other. One person asked the other why they were going to Thailand. His response at first startled me. He said he was going to Thailand to see a dentist as it was just too costly in the States by comparison.

I have not seen a dentist in Thailand however I do remember a student that had a cavity removed for only about 500 baht in a great location off of a main Soi in Bangkok. I also remember visiting the hospital in Chiang Mai and after visiting three doctors for three separate issues (thought I would try to get as much covered as possible at the same time) it only cost me about 1000 Thai baht (about $35 U.S. Dollars). Naturally, this person must be getting some major dental work done to spend $1,000 or close to it to fly to Thailand to see a dentist.

However, Thailand is famous for those looking for high quality medical care for a low price. I often catch myself saying, “I will wait till I am back in Thailand to get that checked out.” Many people have a poor view of Thailand when it comes to health care. Yes, you don’t have to get a prescription when you want some medicine to fight off a major virus and you don’t have to get 5 screenings before you can see an expert. All of the facilities I have been to in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and even the island of Koh Samui have been top notch locations with modern equipment and English speaking doctors. I would wager that I received more attention and better care than I have in the States.

As a martial artists and adventurer – it is important to know that when I am traveling that there are up-to-date medical solutions in the event of an accident.

9. Culture of new locations

I once heard that there was more culture in Yoghurt than there was in the California. This might be why websites like EscapeAmerica.com are springing up supporting life outside our borders. Some people are looking for more than freedom of speech. Now I love California and I am proud to be an American, so I will not have much to say about negative concerns. However, having run adventure programs for the better part of 20 years and teaching students for the same amount of time, I know where they can get more for their money.

An exciting part of travel and adventure is meeting new people and learning new languages. Going to places like Thailand will offer a NEW approach and with that comes a benefit that is hard to measure. If you live in the United States already, traveling to another location in the U.S. will not offer much variety. It is hard to grow if you are not challenged to adapt to new locations, meet new people and learn new languages.

10. Friends in Asia

Naturally, you can meet friends almost anywhere you go, but there is something unique about traveling in a country with others of like mind. When you are abroad, you will meet others that have taken the time and have the time to spend – people from all over the world. In California, you are likely to meet more people just like you. This can be boring. My first trip to Thailand I made good friends with people from places like Holland, England, Norway, Australia and of course Thailand itself.

11. Time to play in Thailand

One of the reasons I created my long-term program was to offer a lifestyle that is against the grain of modern society. If, for example, you come to a typical city in the United States, you will meet people that are more than likely following a very specific path. They are working, going to school or busy with their family or business.

Long term students can however get together easily to take a road trip almost any time to either explore a new location, go rock climbing or take a road trip. The same ability to meet new people and adventure with them spontaneously is available in Thailand. This is because Thailand and places like Bangkok is an adventure hub of the world.

In a typical city in the U.S. you are more likely to be challenged with schedules and a tight work week. In Thailand and for students and adventurers alike, the weekend is whenever they want it to be.

12. Moving to Thailand

I ran my long-term martial arts program in California for more than 5 years. I have not had one student of hundreds, move to California (other than to train at our camp) for a new lifestyle. However, with only a few years in Thailand, I have had already three students that are trying or have tried to move and set up life in Thailand (outside of our program). Is it because their American dollar will go a lot further? Is it because they have additional freedoms they are excited about in a new country? Is it because they can escape the almost forced social strategy that is pushed in the U.S.? Any of these might be true, and they are a few reasons that so many foreigners attempt to set up life in Thailand. Even if it is just for a change of pace and a break from the typical norm. Many might head home in a year or two refreshed and ready to settle down in their home country.

My last visit I met a man that was to only be in Bangkok for a few weeks decide to move and live there. He was only there to organize shipments of gems to the U.S. and realized he could spread his wealth and live like a king as opposed to just getting by in the States.

One of my students made the comment the first week I introduced him to Thailand that he had seen enough to know he never wants to come back – that same person is now living in Thailand and has been for more than a year now. It only took another week to convince him that his typical Untied States views of Thailand were way off base.

Do students want to live in Thailand? Some might, but the point is that for a long-term program to be successful, you need to be able to survive in a location long term. As a child, living on a tropical island was a dream and a goal. Living on an island in Thailand is not as challenging as some might think.

Our program also serves as a stepping-stone for introducing students to a new life. I too am able to fully appreciate the good with the bad. As I am from California, I am spoiled with majestic mountains and National Parks like Yosemite. However, I have found that I appreciate the wealth the United States has to offer by living abroad.

13. Freedom to be YOU

As a U.S. citizen you truly have a lot of freedom, but you will only begin to respect your real freedoms when you travel to a country where you have even more opportunities to do what you want and how you want to live. In Thailand, for example, if you want to live in one location for a week or months, it is very easy to do so without the hassle of paperwork, credit checks and other headaches that limit you from actually feeling free. Naturally, every country has limitations and Thailand has many. However, for the long-term martial artist or adventurer – Thailand has plenty of options to make you smile.

Consider being able to pick up a moped in a matter of minutes, or rent a 1 month serviced apartment without anything other than your passport (and the ability to pay of course). In the States, most houses or apartments that you rent (other than outrageously expensive hotels) charge you first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit. Many only charge a security deposit, but this is usually the same as the rent.

In Thailand, there is a lot of flexibility with how you decide to use your rental space too. Usually you are not charged more if you have more people in your room. This is great for students that are looking to adventure with friends and get the best deal. If book a hotel in the States (including Extended Stay Hotels) and add another adult, you will most likely be charged more for the same room and service. If anything, they should be giving you an additional benefit, such as breakfast.

My point is to point out the positive benefits for long-term students to choose Thailand as their destination for growth. I expect everyone to return home with tales of adventure and eventually settle down where they are happy and can make a successful life for themselves. However, the truth is that jobs will always be there and family and friends will be waiting for you to return. Therefore, while you are focused on training and personal growth, you might as well get the best adventure and experience that your money can buy.

14. Self-Power

I remember something that I either read or heard from a public speaker more than 20 years ago. The quote or text was something like this:

If you want to be a success – leave home.

Thinking about my experiences over the last 20 years, I would have to agree that my time away from home has taught me some very important lessons. Thailand has a lot to teach any open minded individual, but the big lesson is already available as the student must leave their country and embark on a journey. This step alone is a big step for any adult and one that I believe will help to teach them more about who they are as a human being.

One of the major differences between our martial art system and others label based martial art styles is the fact that we really push self-powered training and personal growth. It is about creating a lifestyle that you love.

I remember traveling for the first time on the boat to Koh Phi Phi island from Phuket thinking how great it would be to share this experience with students. It reminded me of the feeling Bruce Lee’s character might have felt on his island trip where he was headed to deal some kung-fu fighting in the film Enter the Dragon.

What about you? Have you ever been to Thailand? Have you ever dreamed of going to Thailand? Do you know anyone who had been to Thailand? Share your experience or thought with us!

Join NinjaGym Live-In Martial Arts and Adventure Camp in Thailand and bring balance to your Mind (with the mental martial art of Winjitsu), Body (by teaching the Martial Arts and Ninjutsu) and Spirit (outdoor adventure – travel and climbing). Whether you want to learn how to become a Ninja, get in shape fast with our NinjaGym fitness boot camp, or be part of the an island adventure, we can help.

Adventure Travel – Washington

Adventure Washington

Adventure travel into Washington state and you will be surprised at what you will find. Travel along on roads where the forest is so thick you can’t see the mountain losing your sense of direction and discovering the secrets the forest has hidden within. Enjoy the crystal clear waters and friendly locals and some of the most scenic landscape of any US tour.

Traveling along the southern border of Washington along the border of Oregon you will find the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway for eighty miles you can discover scenic views, cascading waterfalls and a replica of Stonehedge. Horsethief State Park is where you will find Stonehedge and ancient Indian writings on the rock. You will see the paragliders above you feel the power of the river around you and be filled with adventure within.

Interior Washington adventures are not hard to find when you travel the one hundred twenty mile White Pass Scenic Byway by car. Here you will find virgin forests, meadows full of wildflowers, salmon fishing and enjoy views of wildlife while passing through two National Forests.

Hiking in Mount Ranier National Park if the weather permits is a heart stopping experience. The largest glacier in the lower forty eight states sits on the top of the mountain along the rocky top. You should take a hike here and travel as far as you feel your endurance will hold out. The weather on the mountain can be dangerous so keep your safety in mind. You can hike for a while and head back to the bar with beautiful views of the mountain and just kick back and just enjoy nature.

While visiting the Cascade Range you will want to stop and view the devastation and the quick recovery of the mountain by visiting Mount St Helen’s while your in the area. You will realize the power of nature both to devastate and heal it will put your ability to control nature into perspective. Vacationing in Washington would not be complete without a visit to the Pacific Ocean. Here you will find the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean you can travel along the coast by car and see wild orchids, lupine, ferns and many other beautiful plants.

The blue waters of the Ocean are home to gray whales and other sea mammals seeing these enormous creatures in nature is not a sight you will soon forget. Visit Ocean Beach State Park and spend the night. At low tide you can visit tide pools that are full of life and wonder. This area gets over one hundred inches of rain per year so have your rain gear handy.

A visit to Washington will have you seeing green for the entire adventure vacation. Keeping your eyes seeing green, your mind filled with wonder and you will know before you go home that you will be back.

Traveling With Wheelchairs and Strollers in Israel’s North

Long ago, or so they say, an angel appeared to one of a band of thieves who made a living robbing travelers in the Upper Galilee. “Turn over a new leaf,” warned the angel, “or bad things will happen.” In the morning, the thief begged his comrades to change their ways. Annoyed, the group hatched a plan to get rid of their newly reformed friend. They asked him to help carry out one more heist before going straight. Placing him atop an enormous cave as a lookout, they waited for an opportunity to throw him down into the abyss. Suddenly the cave collapsed – except for the narrow strip on which the “good” thief stood. Only he remained alive . . . standing on the remains of Keshet (Arch) Cave.

Until a very few years ago, Israel’s most delightful natural phenomena and unique historic sites were out of bounds to parents whose toddlers were in strollers, anyone with a cane, and people who could only move about in wheelchairs. That meant that whole families were stuck at home staring at the walls, while the rest of the country was enjoying riverside trails, waterfalls, unique memorials and stupendous views – and picnicking in the forest.

Not any more, however – at least not in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights! Here are 10 great sites suitable for just about anyone!

1) Spectacular Me’arat Keshet (Keshet Cave): Off Route 8993 Once accessible only to good hikers, Keshet Cave is situated inside the Jewish National Fund’s beautiful Adamit Park. Get there by following Route 899 east from Rosh Hanikra and heading north at the sign for Kibbutz Adamit (Route 8993). To reach the cave itself, drive down to the lower parking lot and take the paved route marked with a green trail marker. After you’ve seen the cave, you can picnic near the parking lot.

2) Montfort Observation Point: Off Route 899, east of Kibbutz Eilon Situated on the slopes of a hill and surrounded by rich green trees all year ’round, the Montfort Citadel is a dazzling sight. It is particularly stunning in late afternoon when the setting sun lights up portions of the fortress. Montfort was originally built in Roman times. During the early Crusader period a small fortress was put up on the same site, apparently to defend a French nobleman’s estate. Decades later, the German Teutonic Order decided to set up its own headquarters. They bought Montfort (“strong mountain”) %u2011 in 1228, then expanded and beautified the citadel until it became one of the loveliest in the whole Crusader Kingdom. Your best view of Montfort is from within the JNF’s Goren Park, situated in the heart of the largest natural forest in the country and above the longest riverbed in the Galilee %u2011 Nahal Kziv. Drive through the forest to see winter anemones and cyclamen and, in spring, orchids and the flaming flowers of the Mediterranean rosebud. When the scenic drive splits, take the left (higher) road. Pass a campground and a ranch, park in the lot, and follow a paved route to the Montfort Observation Point for a breathtaking view of the citadel and the lush, green riverbed. You come out of the park on Road 899, near Kibbutz Granot. This is the back entrance to Goren Park, so if you prefer you can begin your trip from this end.

3) Tel Dan Nature Reserve: Off Highway 99 east of Kiryat Shmona According to legend, long ago each of the three rivers went its own separate way. For millions of years they bragged and boasted, all three claiming to be the biggest and most beautiful body of water. Finally, they asked God to descend from above and to decide between them. When the Lord couldn’t make up His mind, goes the story, He suggested that all three join together. The ancient wise men of Israel say that the Dan actually won, because the word Jordan means “came out of the Dan”. Few sights are more refreshing than a delightfully flowing river – like the glorious Dan. At the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, an excellent wheelchair – accessible path takes you over and right next to the river, with its deliciously rushing waters. The circular path takes about 45 minutes, during which you can enjoy the thickets on both sides of bridges built over the Dan’s flow. On one side, you may see exceptionally tall Syrian ash trees endemic to Turkey and accustomed to freezing whether. And only a few meters away from the Syrian ash, stand thriving laurel (bay) trees, the kind whose leaves are used for cooking. Laurel trees need a Mediterranean climate, and that, too, is found in the reserve! Excavations at Tel Dan have uncovered unique and fascinating remains, some of which have been restored. These are not wheelchair accessible, so instead, follow up your trip with a visit to nearby Beit Ussishkin. A natural history museum offering a fascinating overview of the region’s natural phenomena, it is also the only place in the world where the whole development of the biblical city of Dan is on display. Here you can find artifacts from four biblical eras: the time of Abraham, the period of the Judges, the Israelite Conquest and the divided Kingdom.

4) Sa’ar Waterfall: Off Highway 99 at intersection with Route 989. Few sights in Israel are as impressive as the extraordinary multi-layered Sa’ar Waterfall. The waterfall’s source is Nahal Sa’ar, a river which acts as a natural border between the limestone-covered Hermon mountain range and the basalt rocks of the Golan Heights. Nahal Sa’ar flows from the Hermon in the direction of the Banias River, dropping 500 meters in only seven kilometers. The top layer of the waterfall is 20 meters high; the bottom an additional seven. A brand-new wheelchair accessible path takes you right up to a great observation point next to the waterfall. Now everyone can delight in this glorious sight – but only you if they come during the few weeks in early spring when the waterfall flows (late February, early March)..

5) Ancient Katzrin Village – near modern Katzrin, on Route 9088. When you visit an archeological site, your imagination has to work hard to fill in the holes. The restorations at ancient Katzrin, however, offer a unique and effortless peek into the past. Located about one kilometer east of modern Katzrin, the village was re%u2011created by archeologists and experts in Jewish law, and realistically portrays Jewish life between the 4th and 7thth centuries. A new, paved path takes you right to the restored ancient-house-under-construction, a completely restored home, and the famous Katzrin synagogue. Recently introduced, a golf cart is available to take visitors along the path as well! It isn’t necessary to reserve but is a good idea in season. Phone: 04-6962412 Round off your tour with a stop at the Golan Archeological Museum, in the modern city center (also on route 9088). Here you can view unique and exciting remains from the nearly 3 dozen Jewish villages that studded the Golan Heights long ago. Buy a combined ticket for the village and the museum, and hold onto your ticket stub!

6) Salukiya Springs: Off Highway 87 between Bashan and Katzrin Junctions. Full of tiny waterfalls, this charming little park features wading pools for the kiddies and a dry path for the grownups. Mei Eden, the large mineral water company based in nearby Katzrin, helped develop the site for visitors and says it bottles water from these springs in its factory. Little pools feature the riverbed frog, an amphibian that lives in sweet water and is up to 7.5 cm long. Fruit trees and old buildings remain from the Syrian period on the Golan. Absolutely enchanting, shaded by eucalyptus trees, this site was developed with local materials, mainly dark, basalt rock. The path, although not asphalt, is well-suited to strollers and wheelchairs.

7) Mitzpe Ofir – Ofir Lookout: Off Route 789, road leads west 2 kilometers north of Moshav Givat Yoav. In your zeal to find just the right view of Lake Kinneret, don’t forget Mitzpe Ofir! Towering nearly 480 meters above the lake’s shimmering waters, the spot served as the perfect outpost for Syrian sharpshooters from 1948 until the Golan Heights came under Israeli control during the Six Day War. The troops must have had a field day – not only did they have an excellent view of the settlements below, making it easy to take potshots whenever they wished – but in April they could feast their eyes on the wild, pink-and-purple blossom called the Mesapotamica iris (iris aram naharayim, in Hebrew). With the help of the Jewish National Fund, Jewish Agency and the Local Council, Mitzpe Ofir was developed by Jimmy Sha’al of nearby Moshav Givat Yoav as a memorial to son Ofir: the youth died of a long, lingering illness at the age of 16. A grove of 16 olive trees, planted here, symbolizes each year of his short life. The stone picnic tables and overlook near the parking lot are accessible to wheelchairs (paving consists of flat basalt rock); hike up the hill to a second, unusual group of stone tables with a stupendous view of Lake Kinneret, Kibbutz Ein Gev, Kursi, and, on the other side of the water, Tiberias and the mountains of the Lower Galilee.

For the Average Traveler Who Needs Money Saving Travel Tips

Many families are finding it hard to come up with the money to take a vacation, with the rise in prices for almost everything in the last few years. But taking a vacation does not have to be expensive. There are many money saving travel tips to be found to save the average traveler a lot of money.

Regardless of age or income, everyone can benefit from money saving travel tips. Whether aiming for a four-star, week-long vacation or a weekend getaway, there are travel tips that can save you money to be found with a little searching. These tips can save you money on everything from hotels, to airfare, to food.

Money Saving Travel Tips For Lodging

One of the best money saving travel tips for saving money on lodging is compare prices. Prices for hotel rooms can vary greatly, even if the hotels are located close to each other. If booking a hotel room online, check several different sites for the same hotel rooms. Chances are the price on one site will be lower than the prices on other sites. Another way to save is with a Travel Membership.

Another tip for saving on lodging is” try to be flexible”. For example, in Hilton Head, a hotel room with an ocean view is more than twice as much per night than the hotel room with all of the same amenities but without an ocean view directly across the street. If you are intending to spend your vacation days on the beach, an ocean view may not be necessary and that extra money could be spent towards something else. With a little research, money saving travel tips can save you quite a bit of money over the length of your vacation.

Money Saving Travel Tips For Dining

One of the biggest expenses of any vacation is food. With some money saving travel tips and a little prior planning, you can minimize the amount that you will pay for dining. The first tip is to research restaurants in the area before leaving on vacation. This way you know what types of restaurants are in the area and the price ranges for these restaurants. Many people on vacation walk into a restaurant that they have never been in before and pay a much higher price than they intended to spend for the meal. By choosing which restaurants you will eat in before you leave for the trip, you will eliminate the possibility of sticker shock when you see the menu.

One of the most overlooked money saving travel tips for dining is to request from the city you are planning to travel to, a guide to the local restaurants. Many of these guides include money saving coupons to restaurants in the area to entice you into eating there. Whether the coupon is for 10% off or 50% off, they are still saving you money you would have had to spend anyway. By doing a little research and learning some money saving travel tips, a vacation does not have to be as expensive as expected.

You can also get lodging that comes with a fully equipped kitchen, so you can cook some of your own meals. Most places you vacation have a local grocery store or deli near by. This is a great way to save. On a romantic get away you can do breakfast in bed and be spoiled by your love. If you have the family with you, having a kitchen will save you a ton of money on food. Just make sure Mom gets a break from the kitchen. Remember, this is her vacation too.

How to Write Great Travel Blog Titles

This post shows you how to write great post titles. Are you looking for more visitors to your travel blog? One key is writing post titles that contain keywords and that at the same time are attention grabbing. Here is how:

1)Sensationalise!

These days it is easy to go unnoticed. I worked hard on a blog post about Cordoba province in Argentina. Alas, this post, that I worked so hard on, never got more than a few views over several months. So, I decided it was time to do something.

EXAMPLE 1 – Original Title.

Of brunettes, fernet con coca and UFOs…

I thought it was clever, it sounded quite poetic and literary.

Improved title:

How to see a UFO in Cordoba, Argentina.

That gets your attention! It´s a cheeky post title, because I don´t tell you really how to see UFOs but where to see them (if you believe in them of course!). A post title that begins, ´How to…´ is a proven marketing technique that WORKS! Suddenly this post became one of my most searched for posts, quadrupling the number of views in only a week.

EXAMPLE 2.

ITBC youth rally, 2008, Holland.

The ‘ITCB’ for example is an organisation that only people who collect travel memorobilia are likely to know about. So wanting to sensationalise the post title as much as possible it became this:

Bizarre travel collections: Shrunken heads from Peru.

And again it became one of my most popular posts. The second post title tells you a lot more about the content and it really piques a persons curiousity.

2)Keywords!

EXAMPLE 1.

The original titles contains no keywords (words that people are going to use in a search engine to find your post), so not many people are going to see the post. However, How to see a UFO in Cordoba, Argentina has the keywords HOW TO, SEE, UFO and ARGENTINA, words that people are very likely to search for in Google, if for example they want to find out info on where and how to see UFOs in Argentina.

EXAMPLE 2.

ITBC youth rally, 2008, Holland is a very technical title that is going to confuse and put many people off having a look at the post. Bizarre travel collections: Shrunken heads from Peru contains the keywords SHRUNKEN, HEAD, PERU and COLLECTION, all things that people are likely to look for in Google.

American Express Travel Suggests Aruba Vacations Hard to Beat

From a traveler’s point of view, Aruba can be divided into two coasts. The southeast coast has the white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and warm waters. The northwest coast is exposed to the Atlantic, and therefore has rougher seas with treacherous currents and a rockier coastline. These two extremes contribute to Aruba’s growing reputation for being a “Desert Paradise”.

Weather in Aruba

Unlike a desert, Aruba’s weather is mostly the same, having no extremes, while maintaining relatively consistent temperatures. But because of its more southern location in the Caribbean, the heat of the sun can be stronger than other Caribbean islands. A constant light breeze tempers the hot sun to create a cooling effect. The lack of rain is what really marks Aruba as a desert paradise. Most other Caribbean islands have a wet season and are prone to storms and hurricanes. Yet according to the information gathered by American Express Travel, the weather is almost always dry in Aruba, with most rain showers coming at night and lasting only a little while. Aruba is also on the outer hurricane zone, meaning it is rarely hit or affected by other storms.

With this lack of rain comes a lack of the lush vegetation that the other Caribbean islands are known for. The combination of comparatively sparse vegetation, and the seemingly endless beach, Aruba is definitely a desert island. But all things considered, Aruba is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Most tourists see Aruba as remotely luxurious. And while this island of endless sand seems a bit like a desert, the waters bloom with tropical fish, perfect for diving, snorkeling, and fishing.

How Much Does it Cost and How to Save Money

Some travelers consider Aruba a relatively expensive place to go. However, while Aruba flights tend to be more expensive, hotels are often better deals. Unlike the Florida Keys or the Bahamas, Aruba is a long flight from almost all major airports. Aruba’s pricing is best described as moderate, offering both upscale and moderate accommodations and packages. There are some upscale hotels in Aruba who offer American Express Travel Deals, bringing the high end pricing down to something more reasonable. If you plan to do a lot of activities or dine out a lot, it’s a good idea to purchase a Visit Aruba discount card. With this card you can get deals in a lot of places, sometimes a 5-10% discount. You can also take a look at Free Discount Coupons to save some money. American dollars are accepted virtually everywhere at a decent exchange rate. The exchange rate given in shops is about 1.75 florins to the dollar.

Like most island destinations, American Express Travel representatives say that groceries and other supplies are all imported from elsewhere, so prices tend to be high. Ling & Sons Grocery is the closest to the resort area which has good prices, high quality and is one of the least known to tourists.

How to Decide Between Picking Out a Soft Vs Hard Leather Briefcase for Travel or Work

Leather is undoubtedly one of the most popular materials used by man for almost anything. It gives off an elegant and corporate feel which makes it perfect in business and executive settings. It is also versatile enough to have found its way even in casual wears. But when it comes to picking out the right leather briefcase, buyers are often undecided between two types – soft leather and hard leather.

Whereas soft leather briefcases are flexible and can expand (within certain limits) to accommodate more contents, hard leather briefcases have a fixed storage space and will not expand to accommodate irregularly shaped objects. However, hard leather cases are sturdier and will stand on their own, resting on the floor or table without any aid. These different characteristics are enough for most people to figure out which briefcase he/she will choose.

To help you further in your decision-making, here are other factors that you might want to consider when choosing:

Where You Plan To Use Them

Mostly, soft leather brief bags have a less corporate feel, although contemporary designs are really evolving and starting to sport a very serious business and corporate feel. But for a really executive approach, hard briefcases pull off the image more effectively.

So generally, soft leather cases are appropriate for less stern and more casual environments, but they are also more versatile and can be used almost anywhere. Hard leather cases, on the other hand can be more corporate in feel but are less versatile.

What You Plan To Put In Them

If you only plan on using the briefcase to hold documents, folders, and other regular items which will not really take up a lot of space, hard briefcases can accommodate them properly.

But if you will be carrying around irregularly shaped objects which might require more space and flexibility, then you should opt for soft leather briefcases.

What Kind Of Protection Your Belongings Need

Next, you should consider what kind of protection you need your bag to provide for your belongings. For example, if you will be carrying around laptops and other mobile electronic devices, you might want a sturdier bag.

Soft leather briefcases might offer less protection from bumps and shocks. But they will be good enough in protecting electronic mobile devices from water damage. As you know, leather is a water resistant material.

The Price Difference

Additionally, there is the matter of the price, which impacts greatly the decision of many people when it comes to picking out soft or hard leather briefcases.

Generally speaking, hard leather briefcases are more expensive, depending on the brand you choose to buy. So analyze your needs and your budget capacity carefully and find the balance between the two.

Interview: Dr. Arya Goes Trekks Through Nepal – His Most Intense Travel Experience Ever

I have written about my dentist before who is a really cool guy. Not only is he a dentist, but he is also a practicing lawyer. More than that he is also a world traveller and an active global volunteer. Dr. Arya recently did a treek through Nepal, which he described as his most challenging travel experience ever, physically and mentally. Read here about his adventure in Nepal:

1) Please give us a general itinerary of the trip and a description of the trekk

Our trip was a 12-day trip in which we landed in the Delhi and eventually made our way by various modes of transportation to the State of Sikhim, which is in the very northern part of India. Sikhim is a very controversial state, as it is the subject of many territory disputes between China and India. However, I believe that China has just recently officially recognized it as a part of India. The trekk involved first going to Darjeeling (yes, where the tea originates!), where we rested up and slightly acclimatized ourselves for 2 or 3 days in a very picturesque, tranquil setting. From there we took a 7 hour jeep ride up into Yuksom (Sikhim), a little village where trekkers usually start their journey. The long jeep ride itself was quite exciting as you are going up mountains on very narrow roads, and cars are coming from all over not paying particular attention to which side of the road they should be traveling. One side of the road has a sheer cliff with no guardrails, and you think you are going to fall down any moment.

There were also some hilarious road signs going all the way up, reminding people to drive slowly: For example, “Don’t hurry, so that you can enjoy your curry”, or “Donate your blood at the blood bank, not on the highway.” We really got a chuckle out of these signs. Finally, after the long ride we made it to our starting point for the trekk where we stayed in a very basic hotel. It was probably a one-star hotel; however little did we know that this would actually be luxury compared to the accommodations that were still to come.

On our trekk we had with us one sherpa guide, 2 sherpa cooks, and 2 sherpa horsemen for carrying supplies. The carrying animals are small ponies or yaks, since they are the only animals that can make it through the rough terrain.

We started the trekk with daypacks- weighing less than 20 pounds. We also carried water and fancy gear such as climbing poles, fancy hiking boots, etc. Members of 6 person group also carried medical and trekking kits. The heavier bags were put on the animals and taken up. So, we were excited and ready to go.

Basically, every day we walked about 20 km or so which took about 9 hours to do. We typically walked uphill for 8 or 9 hours straight with a one hour lunch break through various terrains. The vegetation changes the higher up you go. We started at an altitude of about 2000 m where the vegetation was very green and lush. As we got to 4000 m (equivalent to the top of the European Alps) around the second or third day of the trekk, we started to see rhododendrons fade, less green and more shrubs. We spent about a day at that altitude to acclimatize ourselves.

We stayed in wood huts or tents that had no electricity, no running water, no furniture, no plumbing, or no heat. The nights got really cold, so the sherpas would boil water and fill it into our drinking bottles. We took those hot bottles and put them into our sleeping bags to keep warm. The next day we used the same water as drinking water. For the entire 8 days we did not really substantially change our clothes; we just changed socks in order to avoid blisters. You certainly don’t want to expose skin too long in this environment.

Interestingly enough, at about 4000 m I actually got a severe headache, my nose started bleeding, and my ears were ringing really bad. Every night we would have debriefings: however that night I did not participate in the debriefing since I wasn’t feeling well at all. I was very quiet. I took some diamoxx to help me more quickly adjust to the altitude.

The next day I felt better, and we kept on going up. At about 4500 m we started to see snow and sleet. At about 5000 m we reached Samiti Lake, which is a high altitude lake. It is very odd to see a little lake in the middle of these mountains. We camped out there, this was our pinnacle day.
The next day we aimed to go to Lagochla which was going to be the high altitude point for the trekk. Of the 6 people in our group, 4 of us decided to make it to Lagochla. Last year 6 Germans actually died on this stretch because of an avalanche. They had been instructed by the sherpas not to go, but they went anyway- killing themselves and a poor porter.

To reach Lagochla we left at 2 am, when it was pitch dark outside. We had headlights on our heads and followed closely on the guide’s footsteps. We were literally walking on the edge of cliffs at times. You don’t know how far down the cliff is- it could be 2 feet or 200 feet. All you can do is just concentrate and keep on walking. At 2:30 am, my hands started hurting because of the cold. Since it was so early into the trekk I did not want to say anything and embarrass myself. Right about that time, the girl in front of me stopped and started to complain about the same thing. We all stopped to evaluate the situation. She pulled out a heat pack to warm her hands. I found that the act of moving fingers back and forth quickly actually calmed our fingers down. We continued to climb and at 4:45 am we reached our pinnacle. We didn’t go any further than that. We had hit Lagochla I. Lagochla III was slightly ahead and was to be our planned destination; however the sherpas felt it was too dangerous to continue. There was some heavy debate amongst them and then us. We decided we were done and would watch the sunrise from this point. Then we all did a little prayer with the sherpas. We savoured the view, which is, of course, unbelievably beautiful. We were very close to Katchachamanga, the 3rd highest peak in the world. The view was truly spectacular. I made a mental note as we turned around at 5:10 am and I thought of my wife, saying to myself “I am coming home”. Little did I know that the walk back was extremely hard as well, it was very slippery and dangerous and very hard on the knees. At that point we were 4 days into the hard trekk and we had another 4 days to go.

After our early morning trip to Lagochla, we got back to the camp at 8:30 am. We had breakfast and then we walked another 9 hours. We slowly made our way down, 8 or 9 hours every day. On the second last day of the trekk, one group member got very violently ill. At one time she actually threw up 9 times an hour. She was completely zapped of energy. On the last day, another group member got sick. At this point, I decided to talk to the leader since I am familiar with this type of illness. I figured both of them just needed rest, why don’t I take them down as quickly as possible to the hotel. Coming down slower would be even more painful for these guys as they had the mental fortitude and physical tenacity to make a ‘run’ for it. We would aim for doing it in 6 hours instead of 9. So a decision was made that I would take them down. The 2 sick people and myself rushed down and we indeed made it in 6 hours. Making it down safely was an incredible experience. I felt it was a real physical and mental feat.

After rushing down from the mountains we arrived in the little dusty town where we had started and we felt like cowboys riding in. The locals were sitting around in the heat watching three dusty travellers limp through their town with smiling faces. We were told that of all trekking groups that went up at this time, we were the only group that had made it to Lagochla, everybody else had turned around. We were very even more proud of the accomplishment.

One of the sherpas said that Western people always say “we conquered the mountain”. Eastern people, on the other hand, say “the mountain let us pass”. I am a firm believer of the latter. The rest of group came down a couple of hours later, exhilirated to make it back safely. We were all in a state of shock due to exertion, but we were happy as well.

3) Please comment on practical aspects of the trekk: accommodation, food, equipment, fitness level required

Obviously, one has to be in decent shape to do this sort of trek. I am not certain one needs to be a marathoner etc. do complete it. I was in good shape anyway as I run and work out quite a bit. From a cardio perspective, I did not feel exerted. I did feel exerted tremendously from a muscular perspective as the duration of each trekking day was quite long. The trek can be hard on your knees and feet.

We all had very high quality mountain boots and packs. We had breathable clothes and socks. We would carry water bottles during the day along with high energy food stuffs like peanut brittle.

As far as accommodation goes-well, what accommodation?

I would, however, recommend that if one elects to go on this type of journey then they be in good shape of course. Get your cardio to a point where you are not huffing and puffing after a 30 minute jog. The mental training would be equally important. Read about the details of these types of trips and learn what to expect. Try to take some of the surprise out of it. It may help.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.

Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest(http://www.travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm) and have a chance to win an amazing adventure cruise on the Amazon River.

“Life is a Journey ­ Explore New Horizons”.

The whole interview with photos is published at Travel and Transitions – Interviews

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Susanne_Pacher/14107

Traveling to Europe with Your Digital Camera?

The Vacation Season is fast approaching and naturally you will be taking your digital camera along for the journey. After all your vacations are far and few between and it is nice to look back on those memories as you slave away at your job. However, when you travel with a digital camera, it is a completely different experience from that of traveling with a film camera. This is a lesson that far too many travelers seem to be learning the hard way, especially if you’re traveling to Europe. After a couples years of relying solely on digital camera for taking photos when I travel, there are things you should consider before you head off on your next trip.

Charging Batteries is one of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ll face when you travel. Outlets can be scarce in hotels. On a recent trip to Europe, only one of the five modern hotels I stayed in had more than one outlet available for use when charging up electronics. Charging your battery can be more of a hassle if you’re traveling by train: If you take an overnight train in Europe, they don’t have power adapters at the seats (certain trains do, but it’s not something you can count on). I suggest bringing at least two rechargeable batteries, three if you plan to travel with overnight trains, or don’t think you’ll be able to charge every night. If your camera uses regular AA batteries, consider yourself lucky-you’ll find those everywhere. Scope out the situation in your room when you check in: You should get at least one usable outlet, but don’t count on more than that.

Bring your plugs. Some digital cameras typically come with a power brick that can handle international voltages, so you won’t need a voltage adapter. However, you will need a power plug adapter to convert a US outlet plug to the local plug. Most of Europe is on the same outlet now-but not all countries accept the general “Europe” plug. Be sure to research what you’ll need to jack in, and try to buy it before you leave (try CompUSA, Radio Shack, Rand McNally, or your local luggage store). If you don’t have a chance to get what you need Stateside, don’t fret: You should have no trouble finding an outlet converter overseas.

How do I offload my images? For fellow travelers using digicams, this was the number one problem I have heard repeatedly. Many comments from folks traveling for a week or more are: “I’m taking more pictures than I expected to.” “I’m not shooting at the best resolution, because I need the room on my memory card.” “I’m only halfway through my trip, and I have only 50 shots left.” When you travel, odds are you’ll take more pictures than you expect to also. A 1 GB card is very useful, and should suffice for low-usage shooters. But for those of us, who can go through a gigabyte or more in a day, not a week? Whether it’s because your a high-volume shooter, shooting in RAW format, or a combination of the two. What I discovered is many who had digital SLRs, that had 5 megapixel or more reported they were traveling with a laptop to off load their images. None of these folks were traveling on business, so they didn’t need to bring a laptop along. The sad fact is, for now, a laptop remains the most efficient and usable means of off loading images. Epson and Nikon have dedicated handheld units with a hard drive, card reader, and LCD display for copying over and viewing your images. But neither has a full-blown keyboard.

If you’re first buying a laptop, and intend to travel with it, I suggest going for the smallest one you can. Fujitsu, Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony all have models under four pounds. A laptop provides several additional advantages. For one thing, you can see your pictures on a big screen-to view how you’re doing, and if you see any problems you want to correct with your exposure, for example, or if your pictures are being affected by dirt. For another thing, you can properly label your folders, so you know which pictures were taken where.

Most newer laptops have integrated memory card readers, but otherwise, you can buy a small external card reader. For the wire-free approach, use a PC Card slot adapter for your memory card; and invest in a 32-bit Cardbus adapter (Delkin and Lexar Media offer these), for speedier transfers. Nothing’s worse than coming back to the hotel after a long day of sightseeing, and needing to stay awake another 40 minutes just to off -load two 1 GB cards, at about 20 minutes a pop. If you bring a laptop, I also suggest investing in a portable hard drive.

A portable hard drive can serve multiple purposes: It can be a means of backing up your photos on the go; a means of giving you a way to take your photos with you if you have to leave your laptop unattended; and a means of expansion, if you somehow manage to fill up your laptop’s built-in hard disk. If you don’t want to bring a laptop, and already have an Apple iPod, Belkin sells an attachment for using your iPod with memory cards; or, consider the pricey units from Nikon and Epson. And if you’re in a bind, remember you can always buy memory overseas.

I was surprised that when I went to Europe, the prices were high, but not so outrageously so that I wouldn’t buy another card if I were in a bind. Cards were more readily available, too, than they were when I last traveled through Europe three years ago. Look at it this way: Even if you overpay on the card, you can still reuse it-which beats overpaying for a single use 35mm film cartridge when you were in a bind in years’ past.

Be prepared for problems. Things happen when you travel and I’ve had more things go awry carrying my digital SLR than I have had with my 35mm over the years. Lens paper is always useful to have on hand, but if you have a digital SLR, another supply is absolutely critical: An air blower bulb, to blast out the dust and dirt that will inevitably get trapped inside your camera. I never had problems with my 35mm SLR, but with my digital SLR, I constantly find dirt gets trapped inside, when I change lenses. And there’s nothing worse than having a splotch marring your otherwise awesome shots. Finally, remember the philosophy of redundancy.

Whether your battery dies and you have no way to charge it, or you run out of space on your memory card(s), and don’t want to buy another at a higher-than-usual price, I suggest packing a second camera if you can. A digital point and shoot is a good option but I usually carry a point and shoot 35mm to use if I run into any problems just so I won’t lose any precious pictures.

Doug Rogers has worked as a freelance photographer for the past 25 years in various fields of photography. In the past two years he has become an avid and devoted fan of digital and video photography and a life long lover of new technology. For tips on better digital photography and the latest reviews on the newest digital equipment that hits the market, Subscribe to his monthly Newsletter “The ViewFinder” at [http://www.best-digital-cameras-review.com]

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Douglas_Rogers/6544

A Prolific South Carolina Travel Author and Writer

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com and Sketchandtravel.com is excited to have as our guest, Barbie Perkins-Cooper.

Barbie is a playwright, travel writer, author and an award winning screenwriter. Barbie lives in Charleston, South Carolina and is an expert on SC as well as North Carolina and other geographical areas. Barbie is also the author of a soon to be published Insides’ Guide to Asheville, NC

Good day Barbie and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.

Norm:

Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background. When did your passion for travel writing begin and when did you start traveling? What keeps you going? How do you come up with ideas for what you write? What methods do you use to flesh out your idea to determine if it’s salable?

Barbie:

Thank you Norm. It is a pleasure to be here and to discuss travel writing. I have been a writer since the third grade of elementary school. My first science fiction story was published many, many years ago, all to the credit of my third grade teacher and father. Of course, like most kids, I failed to see the thrill and passion of writing until later in life. In the 1980’s I suffered from depression and started writing again. Looking back, I discovered I did have a flair for words, so I joined a writers group giving myself ten years to achieve something, or I’d only write for fun and family letters.

In 1994, after writing my first screenplay, I entered a few screenplay competitions, after suggestions from my agent, and I was selected as a finalist. My passion for travel writing started in 2003 after attending a travel writing workshop hosted by Sharon Spence Lieb. She inspired me so much that I had to put my credentials to the test. Within 24 hours, I had my first FAM trip. I have been working as a travel writer since October 2003. At first, it was a struggle, but with each decline, I persevered, determined to achieve my goals.

Since I write (and revise) my goals every January, my goal for 2005 was to target guidebook publishers. I developed a proposal, based on the Charleston, SC community. Because I was still working full-time at a college, like most writers, my desk was stacking high with e-mails and snail mail to read. I targeted the higher paying markets, at first.

In December 2004, I submitted a query to a travel guide site, pitching an idea about Charleston. The editor responded stating she had just finalized the Charleston guidebook but she liked my style and wanted me to keep in touch. Flash forward to May of 2005. The clock was ticking as my job was downsized and I had no clue what I would do after June 2 when my career in the Corporate World ended. I knew I wanted to write, so I reread my dusty goals, and those cluttered e-mails, finding the correspondence with the editor. Quickly, I sent her another e-mail, and within minutes (or so it seemed) she responded, wanting a proposal from me within three days. I wrote the shortest proposal in history and sent it to her.

After a few weeks of negotiations, we agreed on the contract and now I am working on my first guidebook, Insiders’ Guide to Asheville, NC, scheduled for publication in the spring of 2007. My father lived in Asheville for many years, and I have several friends there, so I felt comfortable writing about the city. After that doorway opened, a few magazines I had targeted previously responded to my queries and now, I am publishing travel stories on a regular basis.

The things that keep me going are the people, places, and things I discover while traveling. I love meeting the people and discovering the flavor of the area.

On a recent trip to one of the devastated areas from Hurricane Katrina, I met a displaced man from New Orleans. Although he had relocated, he still had a passion for life. He will be a character I use in a story. The stories I discover at each location inspire me to look deep within to discover the actions and characters revealed. Not only is there a character, there is adventure.

While traveling, you get to try new adventures you never anticipated before. On a trip to Alabama, we visited the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. My goal and dream as a teenager was to become a famous singer. Unfortunately, I never pursued that dream until I stepped into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and there, I was able to record a song while the group cheered me on. My dream was now reality!

On a trip to Kentucky, I interviewed blue grass musicians, coal miners, male quilt makers, and singers. During each interview, I discovered that regardless who they were, despite all of the adversities in life, these people held a passion for life in their hearts, and a love for their town and artistry. Each time I meet and interview someone, I am inspired with new stories to tell. On another trip, I met a mother who was desperate to save her daughter’s school in Kentucky. The more we talked, the more I realized this was a story I needed to tell others, and I am still sending queries pertaining to her story and the educational plans of Kentucky.

The methods I use to determine if a story is marketable are to determine the angle I will use and I research the markets, answering the questions:

Who is the story targeting to and what angle?

What markets may I approach?

Who cares about this story?

Resources I use weekly are:

Writersmarket.com

Writer’s Guidelines, 4th Edition by Brigitte M. Phillips, Susan D. Klassen, and Doris Hall

The Internet

Fortunately, after many hurdles, I now have editors approaching me about story ideas. It’s taken me years to accomplish this, but it is exciting to finally have regular assignments. Nevertheless, I still have a goal of sending five query letters out weekly, and I have an idea spreadsheet that I update with new story ideas, almost on a weekly basis. I encourage all writers to write goals down. Build an ideas file, update on a regular basis, and never give up. Always remember, one editor’s rejection will be another editor’s acceptance. It has certainly happened to me, and each time, I’ve submitted that same query, or an updated version, to another market.

Norm:

As you are very familiar with South Carolina, if you had to choose eight of the most romantic venues for a wedding celebration, honeymoon, or romantic getaway, which ones would you choose and why?

Barbie:

Eight romantic venues in the South Carolina area for weddings would be:

Any of the beautiful churches in the downtown area of Charleston are romantic and stunning for weddings. There are so many that it would be really hard to choose which one, although St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is the one that really stands out in my mind.

Grace Episcopal Church is another breathtaking beauty for a wedding. The architecture, statues, and ceilings are stunning.

Sullivan’s Island Beach I’ve seen several beach weddings along the shores of Sullivan’s Island. With the backdrop of the ocean, and the sand dunes along the shore, the view makes for a beautiful setting.

Alhambra Hall a garden wedding on the lawn, overlooking the harbor of Charleston and our new signature bridge the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Many of the weddings are held on the lawn, decorated with all white chairs draped in white bows, ribbons, and flowers, lining the walkway for the bride. One particular wedding had a red and white theme, a red carpet, white chairs and the bridal attendants dressed in red. This was an afternoon wedding and was gorgeous. At Alhambra Hall, the reception may be held either outside or in the fellowship hall area. This building was remodeled after Hurricane Hugo and it is a beautiful, romantic setting for receptions, weddings, and family reunions. Book it early it usually has a long waiting list!

Magnolia Gardens Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is another dramatic place to hold a wedding, especially during the spring time when the gardens are in full bloom. There is a beautiful white bridge serving as a backdrop that makes a gorgeous site, also, a gazebo. Since the trend in Charleston is to host a wedding outside near the gardens, Magnolia Plantation is definitely a romantic place to make the special, romantic times of a wedding spectacular.

Park locations including the Waterfront Park, located in downtown Charleston, White Point Gardens, Hampton Park, and Washington Park. Waterfront Park provides the scenery of the harbor, and deep in the horizon a view of the new bridge previously mentioned. The other parks have breathtaking views serving as a mesmerizing backdrop, so any of the parks in Charleston, especially during the spring time, can make a beautiful wedding. For additional information about park weddings visit HERE

The Citadel If you’ve never visited Charleston and driven by the Citadel, you are missing a great picturesque view. Summerall Chapel hosts a variety of weddings. The campus, complete with landscapes, interesting architecture and military history is beautiful. CLICK HERE

Boone Hall Plantation with the sweeping landscapes, plantation home, and the history attached to Boone Hall Plantation, this is the perfect location to have a traditional Southern wedding, full of charm, heritage, and romance that would make Scarlett and Rhett envious.

In the Charleston community, there are so many romantic and beautiful sites it is truly difficult to narrow the locations down to only eight. Since I love the ocean, I enjoy the beauty of the city at the Battery, and while walking along the beach. For additional sites to consider, CLICK HERE

Norm:

What does travel mean to you? As a traveler and fact/story-gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road and how do you overcome these challenges.

Barbie:

If I had to define travel, I would define it as a thrilling adventure and exploration about life and people. I find people fascinating. I enjoy watching them, their body language, and their zest for life. Almost everyone has a story to tell and to share.

The biggest challenge I have while traveling is sometimes I am so rushed I don’t have enough time to get all the ideas completed. These ideas dance inside my head until I can get them down on paper. That is why I always ask for contact information because I know I’ll have additional questions when I transcribe the notes.

I practice the idea of following up by sending thank you letters within two weeks of my trips, and I try to point out something significant that happened during my trip. Another practice I strive for is to take photographs plenty of digital photographs! If I have an image as reference, my brain will usually retrieve the information.

Norm:

Besides writing travel articles, what other writing gigs have you found profitable or rewarding? As a follow up, you have written in various genre, which ones do you prefer, i.e. travel writing, screen writing, etc

Barbie:

You’ll laugh when I share this information! Although I am a travel writer, many of my credentials are in construction. Since my husband was in construction for many years, I broke into the construction industry, writing stories about highway roadbeds, tilt wall construction, bridge construction, shopping center renovations, John Deere and Komatsu equipment, and a few stories about the construction workers.

Although the pay wasn’t well, it was a stepping stone for me to break into magazine and newspaper writing, and the stories were regular, dependable assignments. Other genres I’ve written for include health and beauty, elder care, business journals, hospitality, food, bedding (a recent story about the new Revive Marriott bed) military venues, and of course, travel.

In 2001, I published a non-fiction memoir titled A Condition of Limbo. I’ve also written seven screenplays, four plays, and I am presently writing a memoir titled, Chattahoochee Child. In October 2005, that story won second place at the South Carolina Writers Workshop writer’s conference held in Myrtle Beach, SC. Lately, most of my time is spent on my guidebook. The deadline for the final project is scheduled for June 2006, with the spring 2007 as the publication date. I am excited about this project and continue to schedule time to write travel stories.

Norm:

What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing in order to achieve success?

Barbie:

My friends tease me constantly about writing so much, but as we know, life is a challenge. Life is much too short to look back with regret, so every day, I strive to make the most of that day. Writing is something I attempt to schedule on a daily basis, although as writers know, life does have a way of breaking into the demands of our busy lives. Writers must continue to work towards their goals and dreams and never give up. We must persevere with belief and pride for what we do.

The best advice I would give to a writer considering travel writing is to learn all that you can learn and to establish your goals every January. I am constantly adjusting my goals, but for 2005, my goal was to land a book contract. Following the guidelines I wrote, I achieved that goal this year by following up with editors. I have a notebook on my desk titled Follow up. I file all comments from editors, contacts, etc. in that booklet and refer to it at least once a month.

Networking is crucial. Last week while on a press trip I met an editor and now I have an assignment with her. Networking is the key.

If truly interested in travel writing, contact the Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB’s) introduce yourself along with your credentials and request consideration to be added to their press list. I have made many contacts by doing this. Most of them are most receptive to assisting with story ideas and they will make suggestions.

Another suggestion is to start out slow. I made the attempt to break into the bigger markets, only to discover the majority of them have staff writers they use. I write for trade and regional magazines, and now I’m writing a guidebook. The most important suggestion I would tell anyone wanting to break into travel writing is to never give up. A writer must keep marketing. Build a web site (or hire someone else to do this for you). I am not a web master, so I use resources that will assist me. Carry business cards everywhere, and introduce yourself as a writer. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you?

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to share with us that we have not covered?

Barbie:

Yes, I would like to end this interview by saying you must move forward and believe in yourself. Whenever a writer receives a rejection, move on to the next submission. Once, for a construction magazine, I sent a spec assignment, only to discover the editor did not like it. He phoned me stating that he was returning it because it did not meet his needs. I thanked him and moved on, looking for another market. Exactly 24 hours later, I received a phone call from the same publication, but a different editor. He stated he needed an invoice to pay me for the story. I was shocked, stating that only yesterday I was told it was being returned. He replied that he was the new editor and was publishing the story verbatim and he needed an invoice.

This is only one example of how we must persevere. What is one editor’s rejection could be another editor’s acceptance. Never give up! Find your stories while looking for the unique characters. Develop your voice and style. Listen to what your editors say, but believe in your talent, passion, and ability to communicate. Practice your goals, readjust when necessary, and make certain you follow up and practice what you preach to others.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Norm Goldman is the Editor of the travel site, Sketchandtravel.com and the book reviewing and author interviewing site Bookpleasures.com.

Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, this unique couple meld words with art focusing on romantic destinations.

Norm also offers an express book review service that you can find out more about by clicking on: bookpleasures.com under the heading of express review services.

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