Monday, April 14, 2014

Enjoy the Views...and Enter My Giveaway

My passion for travel means that I make it a daily part of my life. If I'm not somewhere with a suit case in tow, I'm reading through travel magazines, interacting via social media with other travel-junkies or scouring through all the travel related emails, articles and promotions that show up in my inbox each day.  As much as I love it, it can be a bit hard to keep up with.  

The other day a friend sent me a link to an article listing 33 places you must see before you die.  Often I file these kinds of articles away to read on that lazy weekend that never seems to come, but for some reason I decided to check this one out.  What I found was a collection of amazing photos of far flung locations that almost seemed unreal.  As I scrolled through the article, I made mental additions to my list of must visit places on the planet. But after all my world travels I was surprised to find out that I had only made it to 1 place on the list.  Clearly I have some work to do.  

But this list also inspired me to have a little fun with the blog. How about a little contest?  Entering is easy.  It just takes three simple steps:

(1) Scroll through the article 33 Unbelievable Places to Visit Before you Die (even if you don't win the contest, the images you'll see are well worth the click),
(2) Guess which is the 1 spot I've made it to on the list (1 down, 32 to go).
(3) Write your guess in the comments section below or on my Facebook Page. 

That's it. And in return, all I ask is that you LIKE the There's So Much To See Facebook Page (and hell, why not follow me on Twitter and Instagram while you're at it). That's it. The first person with the correct guess gets the prize. 

And what's the prize, you ask?  Something every traveler can use. A set of 3 Packing organizers from one of my favorite companies, Eagle Creek. 

So try your luck...or knowledge of my past travel habits...and leave your guess below. Good Luck!

Monday, April 7, 2014

F1: Formula 1, First 1

Ever travel to a foreign country just to meet someone from your hometown?  Last year I headed to a travel blogger's conference in Dublin where I struck up a conversation a woman who was also there from Los Angeles. (This is when someone usually utters the requisite "what a small world" comment.) We decided to meet up not long after we got back to Los Angeles and we had to time it right because enviably this woman owns her own location independent business and makes the highly intelligent decision to live in the south of France for months at a time.  Now folks, that's how you run a business!

During our first catch up stateside, she told me about her love for all things sports related. Basketball. Football. The other football. And Formula 1 which she'd grown to love while studying abroad in Monaco.  I mentioned that I'd never been to a Formula 1 race before and that I didn't know the first thing about it. And with that her eyes lit up and she went into all the amazingness that is Formula 1. The sights, the sounds, the adrenaline, the competition. International locations filled with well-healed and excitement-filled race fans. The late night parties, the festive atmosphere and the hair raising roar of the car engines.  All that taking place in some of the most glamourous cities of the world? I was sold.  By the end of the evening she promised to send me a listing of the 19 F1 races to take place this year so we could figure out which one to go to. 

Some locations were easy to rule out: Austin, TX is a great city but my first F1 race cannot be domestic, and though I'd love to see the Monaco Grand Prix, I gave that one a go since my friend has been to that one a few times. So going through a complicated calculation of race schedules, our schedules, cities we've not been to before and race tracks vs. street courses we ended up choosing...SINGAPORE.

The Singapore Grand Prix takes place in September which gave us plenty of time to plan and since neither of us had been to Singapore before, this would be a true adventure. Plus, the Singapore races are held on the city streets (instead of on an enclosed track) and at night - and that just sounded cool as hell.  And yes, the chance to check out the #1 rated airport in the world also added a little weight to the Singapore decision for me. 

So our event tickets have been purchased, I'm already outfit planning (F1 is not a time to be caught slacking), and we're working on where to go, what to see and which parties to hit up.  I couldn't be more excited.

So come September I'm off to my first visit to Singapore and my first Formula 1 Grand Prix. Hopefully not the last time for either of those events.  So for anyone who has any Singapore travel advice or F1 spectator advice, PLEASE give this newbie a hand and leave a comment below.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Breathtaking Travel Experiences


That is a word that I am always a bit skeptical of.  Whether it is found scribbled on the back of a post card or perfectly placed in a travel brochure, I often find myself asking Really? Did it really take your breath away? There is no shortage of beautiful views just within your own home town, let alone throughout the world at large, but aren't we being a little over the top when we call something breathtaking?

Then the other day as I was scrolling through an online list of the most unbelievable places on earth to visit, I started to think about the many beautiful places, people and things that I've seen in my years of travel and I have to say, with out being overly dramatic, there are a few stand-out places that really did take my breath away.  Sitting on an out of the way section of the Great Wall of China, I was speechless and found myself struggling to breath. Not because of the strenuous climb to get there, but because of the vast view and complete silence that was a true contrast to my past few days in non-stop Beijing.

The Great Wall (photo compliments of Wikipedia)

Standing on a cliff overlooking the beach of Praia do Forte, Brazil another place where I had to catch my breath and take it all in.  Though it was during my very first overseas trip, I still remember standing among the skyscrapers in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo doing the complete tourist move (head to the sky, mouth wide open, turning slowly in circles) and feeling infinitesimally small and immensely lucky at the same time.  Oh and that time diving in the Red Sea and spotting a hammerhead shark! Had it not been for the diving regulator controlling my breathing, I would have for sure forgotten to breath.

Is the Great Wall of China any more spectacular than the Pyramids of Giza?  Or the buildings of Shinjuku any more awe inspiring than the same towering buildings in New York City? Probably not, but I realize it is not only the site you're taking in with your eyes, but also some indescribable pull it has on you. Be it on a peaceful mountain top or at a lively, colorful religious ceremony, whatever takes your breath away touches you on more than just a visual level. All of your senses and emotions are involved.

If you think back over your travels, have you ever had the amazing experience of losing yourself in your surroundings? Losing your breath to the beauty around you? If so, where were you? What were the circumstances? Have you gone back to visit again and did you have the same experience? Please share your comments below.

Monday, March 24, 2014

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

Perhaps it was just a scheduling coincidence that the Women in Travel Summit conference was held in Chicago on the same weekend as their big St. Patrick's Day celebration...or maybe it was just a bit of Irish Luck.  A full day of conference workshops and breakout sessions kept me off the streets and out of the pubs for most of the day, but even back to back panel discussions cannot keep someone for getting the St. Patty's spirit while in the Windy City. 

A generous 2 hour lunch break afforded me a little time to get out in the streets with my camera and capture the craziness that goes on in this city when they celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The true professionals...and I suppose the amateurs too...hit the pubs early around 7:00 AM which means that the general population is good and happy by mid-day.  Aside from one or two fist fights we saw brewing, most people were in great spirits whether it was happy college students, families with kids out to watch the annual parade, or tourists in town for the holiday. 

Green was the color of the day from silly hats, balloons and beer to the city's main river. You see, this was my second time celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Chicago and the first time I missed seeing the famous green river. THIS year I was determined to see it. I walked around the city for nearly 1 hour trying to follow local's directions to the river. When I finally arrived I was sadly met with a regular greenish-brown river. What?? Apparently I ended up upstream from where the dye was put in the river so I missed seeing the emerald shade. With frozen fingers I headed back to the conference defeated, but not totally out of ideas. The next day my enthusiasm for seeing the river wore down a friend who had a car and she dropped me off at the proper part of the river and FINALLY I got a glimpse. Mission accomplished! Thank you, Chicago!

Green was the color of the day from silly hats, balloons, beer and even the city's main river.  See this was my second St. Patrick's Day celebrating in Chicago and the first time we missed seeing the green river. THIS year I was determined to see it.  I walked around for nearly an hour trying to follow local's directions to the river and by the time I finally arrived I was sadly met with a regular brownish-green river.  What??  Apparently we ended up upstream from where the dye was placed so we missed seeing the emerald shade.  With frozen fingers I headed back to the conference defeated, but not totally out of ideas. The next day my enthusiasm for seeing the river wore down a friend who had a car so she dropped me off at the proper part of the river and FINALLY I got a glimpse.  Mission accomplished! Thank you Chicago.

Though the focus of the weekend was the conference, we still managed to have a little fun. Running the streets with festive locals and winding down the day in a proper Irish pub with an Irish whiskey for my friend and an Irish stout for myself.   Good times, indeed!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Travel Blogging: A Passion, A Hobby, A Business

When I first began this blog back in 2009 (my baby is almost 5 years old!) my posts were infrequent and erratic. I would proudly declare "I only write on my blog when I am actually traveling"...not sure why I was so proud of that.  That first year I had four whole posts for the 6 months of the year that the blog was live. That next full year, 10 posts.  I was happy to write at random times, but I didn't see the value in regular content.  At this point my blog was a hobby and not one that I engaged in very often.  


In 2011, I began to write a bit more frequently. On a whim, I attended Chris Guillebeau's first World Domination Summit and it was there that I was completely bowled over by the number of people who took what started as a hobby, and made it into a successful business. One that paid the bills, or at least supported what ever it was they were passionate about.  These people took their passion seriously, turned it into a business, thrived and became public speakers, authors, industry experts and internet celebrities.  

Leaving that event, I knew that I wanted to do more....I had to do more. I picked up the pace with my blog writing (not so hard to do when your previous pace had been less than 1 post per month), joined in-person and on-line travel writing groups, signed up for writing courses, volunteered to speak at events, planned countless international trips (OK, I probably would have done that anyway) and began following those who were doing what I wanted to be doing. I started collaborating with hotels, global travelers,  serial expats and travel related business to begin to tell their stories.  At this point, my blog as a hobby was not going to cut it any more.  Instead it became a business. I began investing time and money in my writing, even though I knew the returns would not be immediate.  

Last year I went to my first travel blogging conference, TBEX, in Dublin and this past weekend I made it to the inaugural Women In Travel Summit in Chicago. It is inspiring, a little bit intimidating and ultimately motivating to be surrounded by likeminded people; people who love travel, writing, photography and living a life beyond the repetitive 9 - 5.  

@ the 1st Women in Travel Summit conference - 2014

So here I am, 5 years later, with more writing, traveling, photography and business experience than i had back in 2009, but I am "not there yet".  I am preparing to invest in an blog revamp, to reach out to more business and organizations for collaborations and, (here's where YOU come in), continue to grow my audience. If you've read my blog and like it, please make sure you LIKE IT.   If you've already given me a Facebook thumbs up, and you know someone else who is travel minded, please share my site, Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram with them.  Every little bit helps. 

Leave comments, give suggestions, share your thoughts ... it all helps me tremendously and doesn't cost you a cent, pence, peso or bhat. This is not all so I feel popular and loved (though, hey...who doesn't want that?), it's so potential sponsors, investors and future business partners know that I have a voice and influence in the vast world of travel blogging and travel writing.  Quality content and enjoying the process of creating it is most important to me, but I can't lie...the numbers are important as well. 

Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting, thank you for sharing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Global News: Keeping up With the World

For me, there's never a shortage of learning opportunities when I travel abroad. Whether I'm studying for my advanced scuba certificate in South Africa, struggling through an Arabic class in Lebanon or just listening to people tell stories around a dinner table, I'm always trying to soak up as much as I can about the city, town or village that is hosting me.  Beyond my personal learning experiences, I also like to see what kinds of events and perspectives are present in the country's news.  When I am abroad, one thing I quickly notice is how much news never makes it back to the U.S.

I remember picking up an English language newspaper while traveling in eastern Africa back in 2002 and coming across a tragic article about a bridge collapse in a town that took a number of lives.  After finishing the article about the bridge collapse and the tragic loss of life that came with it, it hit me that if I hadn't been in east Africa when it happened, I never would have known about this incident.  That back at home in America, that story wouldn't even have registered a back page story in any local paper. It would have been replaced by a piece about a local murder, a national political scandal or, sadly, a story about a celebrity that would have little to no impact on those who read it. Not that the article about the bridge collapse was any less important, its just that there is too much news and not enough time to absorb it all. 

There will never be enough hours in the day to catch up on world news, politics, scientific discoveries, fashion trends, sports victories and cultural traditions from around the globe.  When I was younger I wanted to be a world news reporter because then it would be my job to constantly be reading up on events, regardless of when and where they happened.  But instead I end up getting most of my news in bits via daily podcasts. I like to listen to ones with a global spin like PRI's The World and the BBC's Global News, but even those only get me a small percent of what's going on around the world. What if I want more?  I am curious, where do you turn? What are your suggestions for news that will (1) give me stories that I am not getting from the national evening news and (2) that offer a perspective that beyond what we're used to in the western media.  Do you listen to podcasts? Local or National television news? Magazines? Newspapers? And which countries are they based out of?  While I cannot add more hours to the day, I would like to make the most out of the ones I have to check out what is going on beyond my doorstep. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mexico City: 48 Hours in Photos, Part 2

I was going through my photos over the weekend and came across more pictures from my recent Mexico City trip. I feel they deserve their own post...I hope you do as well. 
So here we are with Mexico City: 48 Hours in Photos, Part 2.

I have never actually gotten my shoes shined, but this looks like a very relaxing way to read the Sunday paper.

Frida Kahlo gives another meaning to the words "death bed"

I almost thought they made this house up for the movie, Frida. Nope - it's real!

Colorful house numbers

Marketplace masks

Woven baskets for sale

Late for church

Pretty window box

Zocalo Square at dusk

Roof top pool at the Hotel Downtown Mexico

Gorgeous lobby of the Gran Hotel Mexico City

Every musician needs a loyal audience

Fruit vendor

Hipster bikers 

Too cute - couldn't help taking this picture

News anchors are a bit different in Mexico City

@ La Botica Mezcal Bar