In Remembrance

America the Free

Today, 13 years ago, the world changed.

Flight 175

Today, we remember.

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer

“God bless America, land that I love
Stand behind her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above
From the mountains, to the prairies

“To the oceans white with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home.”

                                     -Irving Berlin, “God Bless America.”

-JB

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Post-Summer Blues

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With the passing of Labor Day, summer has “officially” ended and everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is returning to a season of books, pencils, classrooms, and studying. It seems like this summer went by so quickly! I’m sure more than a few people are wishing they were able to spend just a few more hours relaxing at the beach, spending time with long distance family members, and allowing themselves to enjoy life.

On the other hand, I for one have to admit that I enjoy a return to more structured schedules, regular routines, and increased productivity. But the feelings and desires of summer linger on… The need to explore, to enjoy being with others, to feel excited about the next adventure.

The good thing is that just because school and work are back in full swing doesn’t mean that you can’t already plan for next summer! Yes, enjoy the moment; be present in the present. Not many people seem to know how to do that nowadays. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look ahead to how you can reward yourself for excellent work in the office or for graduating from high school or college.

With your now regulated schedule, set apart some time to start planning your dream trip. Talk with others, put away money, learn about where you want to go, get a little of the language under your belt. If you’re traveling with a group, give us a call! We can help you with making the necessary plans for group travel easy and simplified.

Your next trip doesn’t even have to be that far in the future (winter here is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, *wink, wink*).

So don’t allow yourself to settle into the post-summer blues, use your happy memories to help plan your next escapade. It’ll give you a goal to work for while you are enjoying your productivity in the here and now.

Do you have any favorite stories or photos from a trip you took this summer? Share them with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Happy traveling!

-JB

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Do You Wanna Be My Pen Pal?

A Note of Assurance: This is not yet another parody of the snowman song from Frozen. Just thought putting that out there.

When I was younger, one of the most exciting things was to get a letter in the mail. Understand, that when I was growing up computers were already starting to take hold of society, so it wasn’t that I was so excited about getting something handwritten as I was about getting something for me.

As I grew older, a steady flow of things began to arrive in the mail, just for me. But now… They weren’t quite as exciting. I mean, sure, college paraphernalia was pretty cool but bills… Not so much. I began looking for something new and different to make the daily arrival of mail a little less boring and monotonous, so in high school I decided to get a pen pal.

I have heard of services that set you up with pen pals from around the world, but I didn’t go that route. Instead, I went looking for a pen pal myself. On one of my earliest trips, an academy mission trip to Belize, I was determined to find someone who would be willing to write letters to me. The use of email was still kind of a novel thing, but my academy friends and I were sharing our addresses with those who wanted them and claimed to have internet access. However, I had started to develop by this time an appreciation for handwritten notes and letters, so despite being happy that so many people wanted my email, I wanted to find someone who wanted to be my pen pal.

There are many people that I got to know during my time in Belize, but there was one girl that became really attached to me. I really enjoyed chatting with her but soon discovered she did not have an email address. My eyes lit up when I asked her, “Do you want to be my pen pal?”

We have been writing back and forth since 2006. We’ve shared good times, bad times, happy times, and sad times. We’ve offered each other spiritual support and words of encouragement. We’ve watched each other grow, from a distance, and I am so proud to call this intelligent, dedicated, and beautiful young woman my friend. And the best part? Coming home to find special and unique handwritten notes in my mailbox.

Pen Pal Letter

Do you have any pen pals? Where are they from? What do you talk about? Or, if you don’t have one, would be interested in finding one? Perhaps one for your kids? Its a fun and educational experience, helping people gain the perspectives of others from around the world. I’d even be willing to write to you if you’d like! Just comment below and let’s get writing, because you know… There really is nothing like receiving a handwritten letter.

So, do you wanna be my pen pal?

Happy Traveling!

-JB

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Five Hour Enchantment

Did anyone guess where the photo from the other week’s post was from? It was Seattle, Washington.

I had the privilege of spending about 5 hours or so in Seattle last year and boy, was that certainly not enough time to see everything the city has to offer. Since we were on a tight schedule, we had to prioritize our time and chose to see two of the most famous locations within Seattle.

Sadly, we arrived too late in the day to see the fish tossing at Pike’s Place, but we did manage to visit the flagship Starbucks. Apparently, its almost like a required pilgrimage for any Starbucks lover to go at least once to this shop, which still retains the original logo. There are specialty drinks that can only be found at that shop and the baristas were very outgoing and interactive with the customers.

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The other must see of Seattle is the Space Needle. It was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair and was thus dubbed due to the country’s obsession with space at the time. There is a fantastic (but pricey) restaurant at the top and the view of Seattle and the nearby bay and mountains is unparallelled. Tickets with specific times have to be bought before entering the building, as an effort to control traffic at the top, and we managed to be at the top just as the sun was setting the city lights were gleaming.

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I was enchanted by Seattle. Hopefully the next time I’ll have more than five hours to enjoy its various experiences and opportunities. What should I visit next time I go? Do you have any stories of Seattle you like to share? We’d love to hear from you.

Happy traveling!

-JB

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A Beautiful Year

As my days in the UK begin to dwindle I can look back on a great year spent here. A beautiful time of new people, new places, and lessons learnt, and of course a whole lot of time spent in the library, but I supposed that is guaranteed upon deciding to be a graduate student. Although I won’t miss the library, classroom walls, or lectures which seemed to last forever, I am grateful for what I have gained from all those hours. The opportunity to study here was something I had to take advantage of. Being a lover of travel and history I just couldn’t say no, and I’m glad that I didn’t, since my time in England has been full of both.
I think that there are always positives and negatives of the places where one decides to travel or live. That seems obvious, but I think the important part is to remember the amazing positives. I could focus on those cold winter days when it just wouldn’t stop raining, but the summer weather so far has been warm, sunny, and incredibly beautiful. I’ll remember the friends that will hopefully last a lifetime, the laughs, the trips, the memories, and even breakfast tea with a bit of milk.
-CG

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A Thousand Words

I’m a bit of a photograholic.

Traveling to various parts of the world, I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of photographs. I have often tried to avoid the stereotypical tourist look (most likely to little avail) of constantly having a camera strapped around my neck taking pictures of absolutely everything. On some trips I have nominated myself as trip photographer and take pictures of the activities and people involved, sometimes to the annoyance of my fellow travelers.

The other day I was thinking to myself, why? Why is it that I feel this compulsion to take pictures? To compile photographs of the places I go, the people I meet? Why does anybody do such things?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. True, but looking at a photograph can also remind us of emotions and thoughts, smells and sounds – a picture is a story. For centuries, stories were told by drawing pictures – think of the hieroglyphics and pictograms of ancient peoples. These were placed on cave walls, in temples, etched into stone so that the people would remember; rather, so they would never forget.

That’s why I, and others, take photographs. I don’t ever want to forget – not only what I saw, but how I felt, what I did, who I met. Over the course of time, memories tend to fade but with pictures, they can return to you as if they happened yesterday. Sure, maybe I can be a little “shutter happy,” but the value that those pictures carry are more than anything I could ever buy.

Three guesses as to where this was taken:

Seattle at Twilight

Do you feel like you’re a photograholic, too? Share your favorite photo with us and tell us a bit of your story, we’d love to hear about it!

Happy traveling!

-JB

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A Farewell to the World Cup

Well, the World Cup is over now, and the majority of the world seems to be recovering quite nicely from what was quite the enthralling tournament. It’s been a little over ten days since that tense final match between Germany and Argentina, and the reactions have been many. Most of course are sad, or frustrated, and disappointed due to their teams’ failures over the course of the month-long competition. Although in reality, it is only possible for one team to leave entirely happy, perhaps the most disappointed would have to be the host nation of Brazil. Even so, hopefully most will remember the good things and the fun times.
One of the best ways to enjoy the World Cup is to be in country that absolutely loves its football. Of course being able to take a quick trip over to Brazil would have been ideal, but being in England was a great way to soak in a great football fan atmosphere. Unfortunately England didn’t last long in the tournament but it was fun while it lasted, and I was able to meet and hang out with Mexican and American soccer fans as well. Either way, the combination of football and travel led to quite the enjoyable month of cheering, “suffering,” yelling at referees, and of course meeting new people from many different places, as we all enjoyed the beautiful game. Now when is the next one?
-CG

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Lost in (Lack of) Communication

Without communication, things can get frustrating.  For all the Brazil did to prepare for the World Cup – spend millions of dollars on building the stadiums, maximizing security in major cities, and more – they did not invest in the one thing that would have greatly benefited them both now and in the future: teaching people the English language. Visitors here in Brazil have expressed over and over again their dissatisfaction with the lack individuals with English-speaking abilities, regardless of whether or not they work in the business of tourism. Its understandable that the person in the corner bakery might not know any English, but for an employee of a major tourist attraction like Corcovado to not know English is absurd. Even more absurd that a popular extreme sports activity in Rio, hang gliding, would only have release papers in Portuguese when (I’m guessing here) at least 80% of their attendees are foreigners. How are the participants supposed to know what they’re signing if it’s in a language they can’t read and understand?

Why English? Its not because I think the rest of the world should cater to English-speaking people. In fact, I find it irritating when people travel and then act as if the locals must accommodate them. However, it cannot be denied that English is the international language of business affairs and thus extremely important for anyone who deals with international businesses, especially tourism, to have a certain level of proficiency in English. Here’s hoping that Brazil will have learned its lesson in two years time to be better equipped for another influx of foreigners with the Summer Olympics 2016.

Now, on the other hand… I also believe that it is extremely important for travelers to develop a basic set of vocabulary in the language of whatever country they might be traveling to. You might be surprised how far phrases like, “I’m hungry,” “How much does it cost?” and “Where is the bathroom?” will go and come in handy during your travels. Locals often are appreciative of efforts to speak the local language and are often even encourage you to improve.

Therefore, besides Brazil not being prepared for all the visitors of the world that came for the Cup, I feel that the travelers could have helped themselves by having taken the time before arriving to learn some Portuguese. It is amazing the difference in experiences you can have when you either viewed as an outsider or someone who is genuinely seeking a travel experience.

So before going on your next trip, be sure to grab a phrase book from your local bookstore. I promise a little effort will go a long way.

Happy traveling!

-JB

 

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Rio from Every Angle

I’ve been able to pack in a lot of sight seeing in the three weeks that I’ve been in the Rio de Janeiro/Niterói region. There is so much to see and do here; as the cultural capital of Brazil, it is unsurpassed as the “place-to-be” for foreigners and even citizens, especially during the time of the World Cup. Following is a compilation of the Rio landscape that I’ve taken on my escapades. Enjoy and all the best to those participating in the games tomorrow.

Happy traveling!

Praia Vermelha, a beach found at the base of Pão de Açúcar.

Praia Vermelha, a beach found at the base of Pão de Açúcar.

A spectacular view of Rio, being watched over by the Christ Statue.

A spectacular view of Rio, being watched over by the Christ Statue.

Fisherman's boats in the Rio marina.

Fisherman’s boats in the Rio marina.

Guanabara Bay at sunset, taken from Pão de Açúcar.

Guanabara Bay at sunset, taken from Pão de Açúcar.

Paragliding over Niterói, with a view of Rio on the horizon.

Paragliding over Niterói, with a view of Rio on the horizon.

Parque dos Patins, a skating park.

Parque dos Patins, a skating park.

Ipanema, the ever popular beach, surpassed only by Copacabana.

Ipanema, the ever popular beach, surpassed only by Copacabana.

 

 

As evening creeps upon the city, the lights of the favelas rise upon the morros.

As evening creeps upon the city, the lights of the favelas rise upon the morros.

-JB

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Friends

There are plenty of arguments which can be made in favour of travelling alone. From planning and keeping to your own schedule, changing those plans drastically whenever you want, and of course the openness it leaves to meeting new people along the way. For student travel, particularly when staying in hostels, it is even easier to meet new people and even get advice and travel tips, or even plan unexpected destinations with new people.

However sometimes there’s nothing better than travelling with a good friend, or a group of friends. Travelling, discovering, and wandering about together creates new memories, while even getting lost and blundering, often leaves the longest lasting memories and later the best laughter. Even memories like walking for three hours through an unknown city, unsure of where exactly you are, or getting your bags stolen, paying way too much for that taxi, or that really dodgy motel on a border town and the story of how you managed to survive.

The point is, to take that opportunity, that unbelievable chance to travel and discover other parts of the world. It really is a privilege that not so many people get to experience, so when we have the opportunity we should definitely take advantage of it.

-CG

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