Author Archive | aweekatthebeach

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Travel Light: Why You Should Skip the Suitcase

You guys. It’s Spring. Like it’s really, really Spring. You can see it and feel it and smell it. It’s literally everywhere. The days are getting longer, baseball has started, and even the desert is in bloom. And while Spring is all well and good, it also means that Summer, sweet Summer, is just around the corner. And, for most of us, summer means vacation and vacation means travel. Amirite?

This summer I have at least one trip planned for every month except June. Most are weekenders and all are domestic, but they all take planning just the same. Luckily, for short trips like these I almost never check a bag. I learned to travel light long before the airlines started charging for checked bags. (Don’t get me wrong, I still overpack but not nearly as much as I did 10 years ago.)

Packing Cubes

First let me tell you why I travel light, then I’ll tell you how. The why is simple really; it all comes down to time. There are few things I dislike as much as having to wait for a bag when I’ve just touched down. I’m either setting out on an adventure or I’m returning home, and, either way, I’m eager to get where I’m going. I’d much rather leave a pair of shoes behind than risk the extra 20 minutes. Call me impatient, if you will, but by now we all know that time adds up quickly.

Deuter Act lite

Now for the how. For whatever reason, I’ve resorted to duffel bags for as long as I can remember. When I first started traveling, they were often bigger than me, and only one had wheels. As the distances I traveled got farther, I quickly realized large duffels weren’t making my trips easy on me. Now if I have to check a bag, I take my Deuter Backpack. And up until last year, I was still swinging a small, old duffel from Target over my shoulder when I needed to travel light.

Cabin Zero backpack

At least until Cabin Zero reached out to us to try their latest backpack and packing cubes. The 44 liter has as much space as my favorite duffel, but it unzips almost completely so you can see practically everything you’ve packed at once.

Cabin Zero Packing Cubes

If you’re a pack rat like I am, between this and the packing cubes, you can stay perfectly organized in a small space without having to unload your belongings.

Big enough for boots and small enough to count as a carry on. (But don’t take my word for it– you should still check with your airline for their specific requirements!)

So far the only downside I’ve discovered with the Cabin Zero bag is that it’s hard to carry when I have another backpack. I often take a smaller one to carry my laptop, wallet and other knick knacks, and I can’t exactly put two backpacks on my back at once. Still, I’ll take a little awkward shuffling in favor of a baggage claim any day. If you want to try Cabin Zero for yourself, use the code CZAWATB to save 10%.

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The 4 Best Reasons to Tour Tibet in Winter

Perched high on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tibet boasts awe-inspiring Himalayan mountain vistas, mysterious Tibetan Buddhist culture, and captivating local customs. With blinding sunlight and clear, deep blue skies, all visitors need to go through the phase of acclimatization to the high altitude on the plateau as they tour Tibet.

With its incredible alpine scenery and inhospitable natural environment, Tibet has many natural features worth seeing during a Tibet tour. But first, we want to clear up some misconceptions about Tibet travel, particularly about visiting Tibet in the winter.

Insider Tip: Tibet has an average altitude of more than 4000m (13000 feet), and the oxygen content in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is one third less than that of Beijing. Tibet tourism reaches its high season from early April to Oct. From mid-Oct. to early Feb the next year, it’s the off season. During mid-Feb and March, Tibet has a recess and is completely unavailable to visit by international tourists.

Here are the 4 Biggest Misconceptions about touring Tibet in winter:

 1. The winter weather in Tibet is unbearable.

Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest misunderstandings of Tibet. True, the weather on the lofty plateaus does get bitter cold. In reality, the weather is quite temperate from season to season and Tibetan winters are not as cold as one expects.

Take Lhasa (3658m), the capital of Tibet for example, the average annual temperatures are: Spring ( -2℃ to 12℃); Summer (9℃ to 22℃); Autumn (7℃ to 19℃) and Winter (-7℃ to 9℃).  There is not a huge difference between winter and the other three seasons. There is a proverb in some places that one can experience four seasons in just one day. In Tibet, it can be hard to tell the difference of the four seasons in a single year. The unique climate of Tibet is largely due to the ample sunlight and strong solar radiation. As long as there is sunlight, you won’t feel cold at all. Besides, heavy snow normally occurs in mountains areas, while the Lhasa valley is spared most of the time.

Insider Tip: Whenever you come to Tibet you will experience the dramatic temperature change between day and night. Be prepared for the chilly winds on the plateau and use a sunhat, sun glasses, and sun screen to protect you from strong UV light. Don’t forget to drink lots of water as the mountain air is very dry.

2. The Oxygen Content Is Extremely Low in Winter

Many people assume that the heavy snow and lack of vegetation in winter would further intensify the low oxygen content. In fact, according to the statistics from the China meteorological bureau, the oxygen content of Lhasa in summer is around 66% of that of the plain regions, while in winter the figure falls only 3 points to 63%. The subtle difference feels negligible to the body.

All people travelling to Tibet will have some mild altitude sickness symptoms in one way or another. It’s highly advisable to stay in Lhasa for a couple of days for acclimatization purposes.

Insider Tip: After your arrival in Lhasa, never hurry to tour attractions inside Lhasa or other areas. Instead, you’d be better served to have a sleep at your hotel. If you have shortness of breath, try to avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating too much food because they will only exacerbate the situation. Also, try not to overexert yourself, otherwise you might suffer acute altitude sickness.

3.  Most of the Attractions Can’t Be Seen in Winter

Another common misnomer about touring Tibet in winter is the belief that many attractions and shops will be closed due to the heavy snow and subsequent fewer numbers of tourists. In fact, the attractions in Lhasa and surrounding areas are readily available for tourists year round (except from mid-Feb to March). The temperature does get cold in mountains areas. However, as long as the road is not completely blocked by a blizzard, all attractions still remain available.

namtso-lake

The frozen Namtso Lake(4718m) will take your breath away instantly, with its surface exquisitely embedded into the lofty Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains. October is also one of the best seasons to visit Mt. Everest (8844.43m) at EBC in Tringri, Tibet.

Instead of closing souvenir shops, most of the businessmen inside Lhasa offer more products that cater to local Tibetans. In winter, Tibetan farmers and nomads have more time to go on a pilgrimage in this holy city. The few tourists and more Tibetan pilgrims allow you to enjoy the most intense religious atmosphere in Lhasa. You can explore more local customs than in high seasons of tourism.

Insider Tip: In addition to being less crowded, it takes less time for you to get your Tibet Permit in winter. You can enjoy more tourism promotion events in Lhasa and Shigatse, and the cost for hotels, transportation, and attraction tickets can also be much cheaper. In addition, the grandest celebration, Losar (Tibetan New Year), is also celebrated in winter. The various performances and distinct local dishes can only be seen and tasted during this particular time.

4.  All You Can See Is the Lifeless Mountain Scenery

Many falsely believe that the scenery in winter of Tibet is little more than monotonous, cragged mountains and valleys. But in fact, even in winter, Tibet is full of surprises. In Nyingchi (3100m), in eastern Tibet, the evergreen pristine forest and enchanting landscape will awe your senses.

Tour Tibet

Due to the influence of the warm air currents in Yarlung Tsangpo River, the typical “Swiss-Alps” scenery in Nyingchi remains unchanged. Why not enjoy the ride either on the tour bus or bicycle along the charming Nyang River, or explore in the renowned Lulang Forest? Nyingchi is the only place with dense forest coverage and lower altitude, so there is no need to worry about altitude sickness there.

Insider Tip: In winter, a large number of migratory birds will fly all the way from other provinces to spend the winter in Tibet. Never miss the rare chance to see a large number of black-necked cranes in the suburbs of Lhasa.

Best Travel Routes for Winter Tibet Tour

tibet-tour

Different regions of Tibet

Lhasa—Gyantse—Shigatse—EBC
Lhasa— Namtso (Nagqu)
Lhasa—Nyingchi

Overall, for international tourists, the excitement of a Tibet tour in winter definitely surpasses all expectations.

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Travel Stories through Pictures

5 Creative Ways to Tell Your Travel Stories Through Photos

 

Traveling requires funding and a lot of planning, which is why every traveler is blessed with the opportunity to explore the world one place at a time. Taking photos is a must-do for every traveler, and if you want to share your experiences with everyone, you’d better take a lot of them.

Photos are a visual way to tell stories of the moment you step out of your comfort zone and decide to see what the rest of the world can offer. In fact, travel photography is much better at telling stories than telling the story yourself. Pictures stimulate the mind and imagination better than spoken words (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?). That’s why it’s important that you take better travel photos.

To share your stories interestingly and effectively with other people, you have to be precise and avoid taking photos solely for the sake of remembrance. If you’re planning to create travel photo books that can last a lifetime, here are some ways to make sure your travel stories get through your photos:

1.  Envision Your Story

Before you start taking photos, think of a theme that will suit the culture of the place you’re going to visit. From there, list iconic places any tourist shouldn’t miss: historical buildings, iconic landmarks, must-try exotic local cuisines, and many more.

Planning can clear your head from having too many ideas and getting overwhelmed. It can help you in organizing and making your travel photography smooth sailing without going away from your desired theme.

2.  Get Posey

Of course, you’re essentially a tourist and you’re entitled to act like one. It’s okay to pose with a subject or set up a tripod and snap a photo with a breathtaking view as your background. It’s part of your travels and should always highlight every story because you’re finally visiting a place you previously see only through its photos on the internet.

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It will show how much happiness traveling can bring you and eventually, encourage your viewers to take a leap of faith and discover the world with their very own eyes.

3.  Go Candid

Candid photos are honest photos of subjects who don’t normally smile, pose, or project for the camera. Undirected photos show activities and reveal the underlying stories of every subject, which gives the viewer the gist of the way of life in that certain place.

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What’s great about photos is that they unravel the true emotions of a person, especially if they’re taken candidly. The next time you travel, make sure to take photos of people doing their daily routine.

While this is perfect for portrait photography, you can also capture the story of a place by snapping iconic monuments or the unique views that only the place or country can offer.

4.  Capture Every Detail

Every single detail is important and necessary when telling a story. Even the simplest things like riding trains and buying tickets play a big role in your travel narrative. Make sure to cover everything from the moment you step outside of your house until to your flight home.

5.  Accept Technical Imperfections

Yes, the spontaneous taking of photos can result in overexposed and blurry pictures. But that’s okay! Don’t delete them because certain precious moments happen rarely, and you might not take a photo of them again. Besides, you can always enhance low-quality photos using a photo editing software.

You can also try shooting in black and white, as it helps develop your photographic eye for good lighting and composition as well as highlights your subject’s emotions without the distraction of colors. Also, black-and-white photos look timeless and classic!

You don’t have to always abide by travel photography rules and compositions. As long as it’s your own style, do it!

Telling the story of your trips through photos is not hard if you just know exactly what message you want to convey to your audience. With a clear mind and organized way of taking photographs, you’ll definitely have no problem in sharing your experiences with people.

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Best Miami Beaches

Best Miami Beaches to Visit in 2017

With their white sands and electric blue waters, many of the Miami beaches are among the finest in the world. But with so many bays to choose from, how do you decide where the best ones are? Whether you are a resident of Miami or just visiting for a holiday, our list of the best beaches will help you find what you are looking for.

Miami Beaches

Image by Ricardo’s Photography, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Five Best Miami Beaches

Hobie Beach

For solo riders or families, beginners and professionals, Hobie Beach is the ideal spot for surfing, sailing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and just about any other water adventure or activity you can think of. Named after Hobart “Hobie” Alter, the legendary surf and sailing pioneer, this beach provides plenty of water-based action.

Matheson Hammock Park Beach

Ideal for families with young children, Matheson Hammock Park Beach features a manmade atoll pool and several scenic nature trails. The atoll pool makes it a great spot for younger children as there are no waves other than the gentle tidal movement of Biscayne Bay.

Crandon Park Beach

Lined with palm trees, Crandon Park Beach, located in Key Biscayne, has lovely shallow waters making it a popular destination for families. It also has sand as soft and white as flour, making it popular for romantic getaways.

Surfside

Surfside is not only a beautiful beach, it is a beautiful experience. Here, community is the word and the first Friday of every month sees residents and tourists alike gathering for a community get together and picnic.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Beach

Frequently listed as one of the top ten Miami beaches, this State Park offers much more than most beaches and provides visitors with the opportunity to go quad riding, kayaking and snorkeling. The beach is overlooked by the county’s oldest historical landmark, a lighthouse built in 1825.

Lighthouse Miami Beach

Image by Kent Wang, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Very Worthy Mentions

  • South Beach
  • Sunny Isles Beach
  • 46th–63rd Street Beach
  • Haulover Beach Park
  • Orlando

OK, so Orlando is clearly not a beach in Miami… BUT, at a mere three hours’ drive away this city is too good to be missed. Especially when you consider Orlando is the home of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and a wealth of other waterparks and amusement parks.

Where will you visit?

What are your favorite Miami beaches and where else would you recommend?

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Road Trips Best Done by Bike

Three U.S. Road Trips Best Done by Bike

Most people dread the driving aspect of a road trip, especially if you’re riding solo. But that completely changes when you’re taking the road via motorcycle. The adventure hones in on the ride itself, and the destination becomes an afterthought.

We’re reminded of this fantastic quote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of our favorite books about travel and philosophy:

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.  On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

Here are three road trips best done by bike:

Tail of the Dragon

Some of the greatest adventures on the open road can be found in the United States. First and foremost, we must talk about the Tail of the Dragon. The name in itself is enough to offer a great deal of excitement and anticipation. This road is more than an enticing name, though. The Tail of the Dragon offers 318 curves over 11 miles of Robbinsville, North Carolina. While this road is a great sight and perfectly suited for an adventure on the back of your bike, it is not for the faint of heart. Even advanced riders should prepare themselves with reliable motorcycle gear and accessories. That being said, If you’re up for a challenge, then this is the route for you.

San Juan Mountain Skyway

Next up we head to Colorado, specifically the San Juan Mountain Skyway. One of the most interesting things about this route is that it is a loop. This is a road equipped perfectly for the biker seeking to take in beautiful scenery and simply enjoy the ride. Because of the loop shape, you can technically hop onto this route anywhere, head either direction, and end up where you started again! Of course, it wouldn’t be Colorado if you didn’t spot some of the nation’s most breathtaking mountains throughout this amazing 225 mile ride.

Highway 1

Lastly, we go back to the beach. The world-renowned Pacific Coast Highway nestled in beautiful and sunny California. The beauty of the Pacific Coast Cruise is not only in its physical scenery and views, but also in its simplicity. It is one road that stretches all the way up and down the coast and overlooks beautiful oceans from southern to northern California.  It stretches from the beautiful beaches of Malibu to the foggy hills of Big Sur to the spectacular Redwoods of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. What a phenomenal way to spend a summer day!

These road trips all provide bucket-list views that prove the adventure is in the journey itself. If you’ve been inspired to hop on the back of a bike, we’d love to hear about your adventures and tips you may have for other riders.

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