Get Off The Plane: Other Ways To Explore America

America is a huge country – Texas alone is the size of most of Europe – and there is too much to see in a single trip. Unfortunately, most people restrict their exploration of this vast country because, although traveling by plane covers a lot of distance, it can get expensive flying from one state to another. Fortunately, there are ways to travel that are easier on your budget, and let you see more of the country. Get off the planes and try these different methods of travel.

By Train

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Few people know that you can travel around the whole country by rail with a train pass from Amtrak.com. Amtrak offers USA Rail Passes for 15-day, 30-day or 45-day trips. If you’re savvy about using public transport in each stop on your tour, they’re an affordable way to see the country. The most scenic route is the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco, which is one of world’s greatest train journeys. In around 48 hours you will cross the farmlands of Nebraska, scale the Rockies beyond Denver while you eat egg & bacon for breakfast in the diner, snake through rocky river valleys in Colorado and pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.

By Boat

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You might not believe it, but there are some fantastic things to see along the coastline of the country. You can plan your perfect trip around the coast by buying a boat with help from boatfinancing.co, or you could get some friends together and split the cost of hiring a chartered boat for the duration of your travels. If you’re charting the course, you have full control over where you go, and how long you stay there. Alternatively, there are some amazing cruises that let you see more of the country; cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, or the Caribbean are popular, but you can also dock in New York or New Orleans. Not to mention the cruise itself has a lot on entertainment and activities on board, so you never feel bored while you’re traveling.

By Road

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The American road trip has been a popular genre in literature, and it features many coming of age stories, Unfortunately, some of the best routes have been forgotten in favor of the interstate or flying. It’s time to bring back this mode of travel and explore parts of the country you might never have seen before. When you’re planning your road trip, you can schedule as many pit stops as you want, change your route whenever you’re bored, and stay in a single place for as long as you like. The beauty of a road trip is that you can dance to the beat of your own drum. Just make sure you stay safe on the road.

If you don’t feel like driving, you can also take the bus. Book the Great American Crossing tour, and you’ll experience New York, Detroit, Mount Rushmore, and many more cities over the course of 21 days.

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The Best National Parks To Go Camping in America

Looking for an amazing adventure? Consider camping in one of America’s breathtaking national parks! There are over four hundred of them dotted around the country. Each of them have completely different landscapes and things to discover. Here are just a few of the national parks to consider for your next camping trip.

California- Yosemite National Park

Expect to see waterfalls, valleys, meadows, woodland and wilderness in California’s incredible Yosemite National Park. You can go hiking, fishing, horseback riding and rock climbing amongst other things. Just the place for action and adventure! There are over thirteen campsites to choose from within the park; some can be booked ahead, but others are first come first served. And so you’ll want to get there early to avoid any disappointment. You could choose to stay in a deluxe lodge, go camping in an RV or simply take a tent. There’s something for everyone.

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Arizona- Grand Canyon National Park

There are two places to camp in Arizona’s breathtaking Grand Canyon National Park. You can take guided tours, see art exhibits and even take part in fitness opportunities. The ‘South Rim’ of the Canyon is open all year. It’s easier to get to since it has good transport links nearby but can become very busy especially in the summer. The North Rim, on the other hand, is wilder and more secluded, it can only be reached by road and is only open for a short season. Therefore if you do want to camp and see the spectacular sights of the Grand Canyon from this direction, be sure to book in advance.

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Colorado- Rocky Mountain National Park

At Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. The sensational mountain environment gives you the opportunity to overlook alpine woods. You can go on wildlife viewing tours, and ranger led activities. Spend your days hiking, biking and picnicking, and at night camp under the starry sky. There are five different campsites across the park to choose from.

Washington- Kalaloch National Park

With an astounding view of the Pacific ocean, camp on a gorgeous site overlooking a driftwood covered beach. You can buy or hire camping supplies on site and can stay in either your tent or RV- or in one of the amazing lodges or cabins for more of a ‘glamping’ experience. These are stocked with kitchens and essential kitchen supplies. Perfect if you were looking for a slightly more convenient camping experience.

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Utah- Bryce Canyon National Park

See hoodoo rocks in mind-boggling formations along with caves and explore various trails. Visit at the right time of year and you can celebrate Utah Prairie Dog Day or the Annual Astronomy Festival while exploring the park. There are two campgrounds you could choose from, ‘North’ or ‘Sunset.’ There are no hook-ups for RVs here, so you get a true experience of being at one with nature. Both campsites are surrounded by Ponderosa Pine forests giving equal amounts of shade and sun.

5 Cultural Gems To Discover This Summer

If you’re looking for a summer holiday with a difference, why not unleash your inner culture vulture? Make this the year you visit some of the world’s most treasured gems. If you’re a history enthusiast or you’re eager to get some of those bucket-list sites ticked off, here are some ideas.

  1. Chichen Itza, Mexico

A stunning example of Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s star attractions. The highlight of this ancient city is a domineering stone pyramid, which forms the backdrop for many a holiday snap. The city dates back to 600AD, and it has been beautifully preserved. Take a tour to learn all about the Mayan civilization and the significance of the El Castillo pyramid. Stick around for sun down and appreciate an entirely different aesthetic. By night, the pyramid is illuminated. You can appreciate its intricate decoration and striking geometry in a different light.

  1. Petra, Jordan

All the pictures and postcards in the world could never prepare you for seeing Petra with your own eyes. This rose colored ancient city is a worthy wonder of the world, and it has to be seen to be appreciated. Enter through an ornate doorway carved into the rock face and prepare to be amazed. Book one of the many education tours on offer to gain an insight into the architecture and design. Take in the incredible sights and sounds and marvel at the attention to detail. Make sure you have sturdy, comfortable walking boots with you and keep your camera handy.

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Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2216880341

  1. Great Wall of China

An engineering feat and a breathtaking landmark, no trip to China is complete without a tour of the Great Wall. Stretching more than 21,000 kilometers, you probably won’t manage it in its entirety, but it’s fascinating to see it and learn more about it. Local guides are happy to impart their knowledge and wisdom, and there are tours available throughout the country. If you’re visiting Beijing, you can easily arrange a day tour.

  1. Machu Picchu

An iconic symbol of Inca culture, the lost city is a magical and mysterious place. Established in the 15th century and located almost 8,000 feet above sea level, it takes a little effort to reach the site. But it’s well worth it. The ruins have been tended to meticulously and they remain in excellent condition. You can also enjoy staggeringly beautiful views over Peru. Fly to Lima and spend a couple of days exploring this vibrant and hectic city before heading to Cusco. It’s worth doing a little training before you trek up to Machu Picchu, as the altitude can be draining.

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  1. Taj Mahal, India

India is famed for its mesmerizing scenery and nothing lures intrepid travelers in like the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century as a memorial to Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife, this giant mausoleum is made from pristine white marble. It glistens in the sun and the dome penetrates the Agra skyline. Wander around the manicured gardens and soak up the tranquility. Visit at sunrise or dusk to avoid throngs of tourists.

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Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2215341546

If you’re after something different, why not inject some history into your holiday? There are so many awesome sights out there to discover.

Bucket list before moving back to America in summer of 2014

After moving to Belgium in August, 2011 for my husband’s work purpose, we have travelled the world quite a bit, especially Europe and little bit of Africa and Asia. My husband’s assignment was for 2 years; so, according to that we were supposed to go back to Portland, Oregon early August of this year. I won’t’ lie, I was excited to go back to my own familiar place, to my old job, to our friends, to a familiar culture, and finally, to Taco Bell and Olive Garden. But another part of me didn’t really want to leave this laid back and always-on-vacation mode of life so quickly. We weren’t done with our travelling yet, I told myself. The idea of leaving a place like Belgium, or Europe as a whole, is now a bit of scary thought for me. We are seriously spoiled having all these great places to visit within few hours of drive or few hours of flight. It’s not like living in West Coast where you have to cross the whole country and then Atlantic to come to this side of the world (and not to mention the high ticket fare).

So, my husband and I were waiting for his supervisor to give us a green signal to extend to another year in Belgium. I like waiting, it gives you some time to think about and plan for the things that you are waiting for…both the positive and negative sides. But I didn’t really like waiting for the question, “to leave or not to leave?” After about two months, few days ago my husband’s boss said, “yes” for one more year…oh YES, one more year of vacation; after that we can gladly thank the lord for giving us this wonderful opportunity and say good-bye to Europe for a long time (but we would definitely like to come back here again when we are old and retired and dine in up-scale restaurants which we can’t do now with toddlers).

While we were waiting for our answer whether we are staying here or not, we made a bucket list of all the places that we want to see before heading back to America. There are lot more places than these below ones but I only added the places that I know we can practically make it with little effort. The list only contains cities/countries from Europe, Africa, and Asia since it’s easier to reach there unlike South America or Australia (we will cover those once we return to Oregon). So here these are:

1) Europe: People ask me jokingly, “aren’t you done with Europe? Are there any places left for you to visit?” I wish I could say, yes to these questions. But unfortunately we are not, not even close.

a) Scotland – Edinburgh

b) Sweden – Stockholm

c) Finland – Helsinki

d) Norway – Fjords of Norway

e) Portugal – Lisbon

f) Spain – Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, and Gibraltar

g) Albania – Tirana

h) Ukraine – Kiev

i) France – Disney World (for my kids), Etretat, Alsace region (Strasbourg, Colmar, Obernai), and French Alps – Mont Blanc

j) Italy – Trulli, Florence, Tuscan villages, Italian Alps – Dolomite Mountains

k) San Marino

l) Malta – Valetta

m) Cyprus – Larnaca

n) Greece – Crete, Santorini, Mykonos

o) Germany – Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Dresden, Leipzig

p) Belgium – Mons, Liege, Namur, Charleroi, Bouillon, Dinant, Luxembourg, Hainut, Tournai, Durbuy, Leuven, and Mechelen

q) The Netherlands – Utrecht, The Hague, Eindhoven, and Breda

r) Switzerland – Bern and Interlaken

s) Austria – Innsbruck

t) Croatia – Dubrovnik

u) Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sarajevo

v) Serbia – Belgrade

w) Macedonia – Skopje

x) Montenegro – Podgorica

y) Bulgaria – Sofia

z) Poland – Warsaw, Krakow

aa) Latvia – Riga

bb) Lithuania – Kaunas

cc) Russia – St. Petersburg and Moscow

dd) Iceland – Reykjavik and driving the ring road

2) Africa:

a) South Africa – Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Kruger National Park Safari

b) Ivory Coast – Abidjan

c) Egypt – Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Sharm-El-Sheikh

3) Asia:

a) China – Great Wall of China

b) Jordan – Amman and Petra

The list is long but the good news is we will be here until August, 2014. My husband, my 2 girls, and I are ready for more annoying plane journeys, waiting at the airports, being in the car for many hours, waking up or going to sleep at odd times to catch flights, dealing with fussy kids (or cranky parents for our daughters), and not to mention writing more posts on our fascinating experiences.

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