Top 5 Travel Spots for Swimmers Around the World

The world we live in is made up of 71 percent water, which means there are lots of opportunities for great swimming. If you love water like I do, I’ve rounded up a collection of the top five travel spots in the world for swimmers.

  1. Red Beach, Santorini, Greece

Santorini is a crescent-shaped island at the heart of the Aegean Sea. Archaeologists say it was once a massive volcano, but it blew its top away during the Bronze Age, leaving behind a fascinating area with whitewashed buildings clinging to the edge of towering sea cliffs. The beaches here come in many colors including white, red, brown, and even black. It is arguably one of the most beautiful and famous beaches in Santorini. Positioned only a short distance away from the ancient Akrotiri, this small beach is so remarkable that visitors often stand at the headland to admire its unique landscape of black and red volcanic rocks.

  1. Linapacan Island, Palawan, Philippines

Not many people think of the Philippines for travel destinations, but my ethnic homeland happens to have some of the most beautiful waters in the world. Linapacan Island is an area in the Palawan municipality of the Philippines which has some of the clearest waters in the globe. The island is located between the Bacuit archipelago and Busuanga. In October 2013, it was listed among the “35 Clearest Waters in the World to Swim Before You Die.” Although it’s not a very easy place to get to, its captivating beauty is worth the effort. The road trip from Puerto Princesa to Dipnay in El Nido takes about six hours. From here, you will take a 45-minutes boat ride to Takling Island, one of the islands in Linapacan.

And if you plan on going, let me know as I’d love to go again too!

  1. Santa Monica Beach, California

Having lived in California, I can safely say that while there are many more idyllic waters in the world, none compares to Santa Monica’s cool factor. The long, broad expanse of this beach is distinct from other Southern California shorelines by the slew of activities you can enjoy here. Both the ocean and the sand are beautiful and clean, making it ideal for swimming, surfing, and beachcombing. The area is teeming with energy and is home to seafood restaurants, roller coasters, and old men angling for a catch. But that is not all. If you want a cool place to relax after a long, sunny day, the Bungalows and Fairmont Miramar Hotel offer great entertainment. The beach stretches for three and a half miles and provides ample room for summer crowds. It features manned lifeguard stations, restrooms, paved walkways, and plenty of restaurants.

  1. Blue Lagoon, Fiji

By now everyone should know Fiji, a cluster of 330 islands located in the South Pacific, is the ultimate paradise. This place is close to mystical. The water feels warm, and the extensive coral reefs are a bounty for snorkelers from all over the world. Although any spot in the Fiji is perfect for swimming, the most beautiful place is the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is part of the Yasawa Islands. It is an area where the water has a dark blue color, and the beaches are whiter, with an abundance of seahorses and starfish.

  1. Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

A magnificent confluence of sea and land, the long, scalloped Copacabana beach extends for four kilometers, with a bustle of activity along its expanse: beach vendors advertising their wares, favela kids showing off their skill in soccer, and tourists and Cariocas (residents of Rio) queuing for caipirinhas at kiosks. From the beach, you can see the granite slabs surrounding the bay entrance. A short walk will take you to the restaurants and nightclubs, fashion and jewelry shops, and one of the greatest shopping centers in Rio. At both ends of Copacabana beach are historic forts. At the north end is Fort Duque de Caxias, built in 1779, and at the south end near Posto Seis is Fort Copacabana which was built in 1914. The Copacabana Beach is often referred to as the world’s most renowned beach. During the annual New Year’s Eve celebrations, Copacabana Beach hosts millions of revelers, and in most years, it has been the official locale of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. If you are looking for a great vacation, the Copacabana website is an excellent resource that lists accommodation ratings and rates, and dining options organized by cuisine and cost.
If you’re an avid swimmer looking for the best spots around the world, take a dive into these five places, and you won’t be disappointed.

Places to Visit This Spring

Now that the winter season is coming to an end and the temperatures are beginning to climb back up, warmer climates are being sought after by avid travelers to ring in the new season. To truly embrace spring, I’ve put together a list of my favorite consideration this year, for a memorable, relaxing getaway in the sun.

Aogashima Island, Japan

If you’re looking for a destination to escape city life and bustling communities, Aogashima is a real hidden gem. It is important to note that getting here isn’t easy. Whether you are traveling by air or by sea, it will most likely take multiple stops before reaching the island. However, once you do arrive, the views alone are arguably worth the trip. Forests line the volcanic island, with a village within an actual crater. Popular activities here include hiking and enjoying the quaint lifestyle that comes with such a small island.

Dominican Republic

Full of all-inclusive resorts that provide the amenities of a luxury vacation, the Dominican Republic offers a relatively affordable getaway for most travelers. Towns like Punta Cana offer a thriving nightlife with plenty of restaurants and bars, while Las Terrenas, a smaller fishing village, gives you a less crowded experience with breathtaking beaches. A popular spot for even more views is Los Haitises National Park, where you and a tour guide can navigate the many lagoons and canals via kayak.

Massachusetts

What is typically a freezing cold destination in several months in the year, Massachusetts is a great destination in the spring for those seeking an authentic New England experience. Boston, Gloucester, and Quincy are all cities offering very different experiences, all of which thriving in the spring. Cape Ann in Gloucester is a great fishing town with historic buildings and lighthouses, and some of the best seafood you will find in the United States. For naval enthusiasts, Quincy has a great marina that houses hundreds of boats, with bayside restaurants all around.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

In recent news, the Great Barrier Reef has been in some serious trouble. The enormous structure visible from space has been experiencing coral bleaching, so an attempt to see this remarkable animal should be made as soon as possible. There are several tours that offer scuba diving and snorkeling trips for visitors around the area, like Cruise Whitsundays, whose ships include glass observatories in the bottoms for a unique perspective without getting wet.

Olympic National Park, Washington
A hometown favorite of mine, this is a trip that must be made for sightseers. Seeing as this past winter included several strong blizzards, the ensuing melting should lead to flourishing waterfalls and rivers all around the park. Hiking here allows visitors to see exotic flowers, enormous trees, and several lakes. Outside the forests, whalewatching tours can be found along the Pacific coast. One of my favorite spots to camp when I was little was Kalaloch campgrounds, situated right on beautiful Kalaloch beach. I would recommend staying there if you have some time to unwind.

5 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Your calendar just cleared for the weekend, and that excitement of sitting down to write starts to build. You wake up, make your coffee, walk your dogs, before finally opening up your laptop with the intention of using your time to hammer away at that manuscript you’ve talked about since forever.

Except, when it comes time to actually move your fingers to start writing, you hit a wall. You stare at that blank word document, searching for answers that may or may not come.

It’s a feeling that all writers have come across at some point. With writing inevitably comes moments of stagnancy where you feel as though every ounce of creativity you ever had has been completely exhausted. Writer’s block affects almost everyone whose interests lie within a pen and paper. This temporary inability to think can be caused by fear of critique, wanting to create something perfect, or simply a lack of motivation. Here are a few techniques to aid in getting out of this creative slump.

Get up and move

It may seem simple, but going for a leisurely stroll around the block can do wonders for one’s mental clarity. Walking and physical activity in general reduces stress, relieves anxiety, and boosts creativity. If there happens to be inclement weather that day, try yoga, or other meditative practices. The trick is to clear your mind. Sitting around your desk wallowing in self-pity from your lack of imagination will only worsen your writer’s block.

Change your environment

Many writers tend to lose motivation over time from a stale environment. A writing area that remains unchanged for years can easily turn into a place of dread if you begin to associate that area with negativity, regardless of aesthetics. Rearrange the layout of your desk or of the room entirely. Add a few plants, paintings, or candles to inspire yourself, and create a whole new atmosphere that feels different. If you’d prefer to leave your current area of creativity as is, even writing outside or in a different room can be the environmental change your mind needs.

Freewrite

Writing when you’re experiencing writer’s block may seem counter intuitive. One simple solution is to write about just that. Describe your feelings about your current situation, and expand on the frustration of not being able to write in general. An alternative to this method would be to look around the room and write about what you see. Though it may feel forced, getting your pen moving can actually promote mental activity, leading to a wider range of thought.

Indulge in another form of creativity

Your temporary absence of thought when writing could be limited to just that. Direct your creativity towards another hobby like painting, playing an instrument, building a house of cards, or cooking, for example. The key is to keep the creative part of your brain active regardless of the task. Focusing on other art forms could put an end to that mental pause, and get you back into the flow of writing.

Eliminate distractions

Common causes of writer’s block are consistently checking one’s phone, surfing the internet, or constant interaction with others. Anything that can direct your attention away from writing should be considered a distraction, and should be set aside for the time being. Turn off your phone, unplug your internet connection, and lock the door. While you may feel like a bit of a recluse, disconnecting yourself from the outside world can help your brain tap into its most creative portion.

Writer’s block can truly discourage those who believe the pen is mightier than the sword from thinking so. Do not let this pessimism consume you. Try some of the strategies listed above if you’re experiencing a creative deficit to keep your pen or pencil moving.

The Best Destinations when Traveling Alone

There’s simply nothing like traveling by yourself. Whether you’re embarking on a new journey to discover yourself, or simply getting away to break up a monotonous day-to-day schedule, traveling on your own can open your eyes in a lot of ways. The theory of the “lonely traveler” is a common misconception. Any feelings of loneliness one may experience when traveling solo are typically due to lethargy. Getting out there to embrace everything your country of choice has to offer will be incredibly fulfilling, and a sure-fire way to meet new people. The following are just a few of my favorite places to visit for those exploring the world without a travel buddy.

Thailand

Many people don’t think of Thailand first, but it is one of the most visually stunning countries in the world. Thailand is a popular spot for solo travelers searching for a more peaceful experience given the country’s Buddhist traditions. Because of its popularity, meeting fellow travelers is almost impossible to avoid. Combine that with Thailand’s notorious hospitality, and this destination becomes an instant bullet on anyone’s bucket list.

Khao Yai National Park is an absolute must-see attraction for people visiting Thailand. This enormous reservation of rainforests, grasslands, and mountain tops is home to migratory birds, elephants, bears, gibbons, and more, all of which can be seen on guided tours.

France

It may seem cliche, but seeing the Eiffel Tower is something all travelers should do at least once in their lifetime. With an abundance of museums, and cafes showcasing the delicious cuisine of France, solo travelers would be all too occupied in Paris to feel anything remotely similar to loneliness. If a city environment isn’t quite what you had in mind, the French countryside is great for avid hikers and backpackers.

Australia

Melbourne and Australia as a whole is known as one of the safest travel destinations in the world, and as an English-speaking country, you won’t come across many language barriers here. Another country with bustling cities, Australia also has a beautiful countryside where a huge variety of wildlife lives. However, a word of caution: many animals in this country tend to be poisonous or venomous.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is truly the capital of adventure among Central American countries. From surfing, to hiking, to ziplining through rainforests, a trip here would be met with warmth from locals, as it is one of the most peaceful countries in its region.

Netherlands

Perhaps my favorite location in the world, the Netherlands is a dream travel spot known for its bike riders, gorgeous architecture, gourmet cafes, and liberal social policies. The Netherlands is simply a solo traveler’s ideal destination. Possibly the most laid back country in Europe, the Dutch truly know how to let your worries go and enjoy the moment. Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Maastricht are among the most popular cities for tourists, and for good reason. 755 restaurants and 1,400 cafes and bars fill the country with culture, and make for great spots to meet locals, or others traveling abroad.

For more, visit LeonardRaymundo.org!

Expanding Your Social Media Reach (Part 2)

As a business, utilizing social media is not only crucial, but imperative in today’s world. In my previous blog, I discussed a few ways you can enhance the strength and engagement among your Facebook and Twitter profiles. For those of you whose businesses may flourish more on YouTube or LinkedIn, this blog is for you.

YouTube

Social media users today want quick, easy-to-access information, and what better way to oblige them than with a video? Video marketing is a great way to showcase what you do, as long it fits your brand identity. As of 2015, 93% of those in marketing used video for sales or communication. Predictions say that in 2017, 74% of all internet traffic will be video.

It’s important to note that, compared to Facebook’s 50 million business pages, YouTube is almost an untapped market for those looking to advertise their goods or services. With a less fierce competition compared to other social media sites, growing the strength of your business’s YouTube account can help greatly in giving you a leg up.

The most obvious tactic for improving your YouTube account is to upload videos regularly. Having your target audience come to expect a new video daily or weekly will earn you their trust as consumers. However, be sure to keep these videos around 2-3 minutes. Many users tend to be turned off by those of 4 minutes or more. Creating an introduction video is another great way to add professionalism to your channel.

Organize your videos by playlist. A well laid out YouTube channel is not only visually appealing, but provides the simplicity of having to do little navigating for customers looking for specific videos.

Be sure to post any videos or links to these videos to any preexisting social media profiles. If you have a large following on Facebook or Twitter, sharing your YouTube videos on these platforms could greatly increase your followers. Add a ‘subscribe’ button to blogs or posts for even more convenience.

LinkedIn

A social media profile that was once thought of as simply a networking tool, LinkedIn is now a networking requirement in order to expand your name or business. Adding connections not only grows your audience, but gives you more and more opportunities to meet potential clients or business partners.

An amazingly simple way to increase your number of connections is by utilizing the address book tool. Importing contacts from your email can instantly send invitations to hundreds of people you know. However, be sure not to send a mass invite. In order to make meaningful connections, choose those who you truly wish to connect with on LinkedIn, and send a personal message rather than a generic “Hi! Connect with me on LinkedIn!”

Add the URL to your LinkedIn profile to other social media profiles. Much like adding YouTube videos to Facebook as mentioned above, this increased visibility can only help. Add a link to your email signature as well to show other professionals that your profile is worthy of being viewed.

With that said, it’s extremely important to have a well written, thorough profile page. List all job history that is relevant and meaningful, your education history along with degree earned and courses taken, and any volunteer work completed or awards received. A detailed LinkedIn page shows others that you take the site seriously, and wish to expand your professional reach.
Join groups dealing with your business or interests, and connect with other members. Again, making meaningful connections is much more likely to generate more engagement than adding strangers.

Expanding Your Social Media Reach (Part 1)

Social media can be a gift and a curse. From a branding perspective, certain things such as effective advertising, can be enhanced through social media.  Social media marketing, on the other hand, may be more difficult , as your targeted audience is not guaranteed to be reached. For those in charge of marketing, it’s easy to miss opportunities that may increase the number of people who see your product or service. Effective tactics can be frequently overlooked, and in turn, disregarded, while you could end up spending a great deal of time on something that has virtually no impact on your social media reach, and thus harm business.

In the United States alone, 1.96 billion people use social media to some extent, and that number is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2018. Tapping into this market is crucial for a successful business, with the largest platforms to do so being Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, just to name a few. On these sites, you can build a proficient social media following through many different ways.

Facebook

Having your business’s page, or even individual posts shared is an extremely effective way to increase your following. In order to get shares, you must motivate and engage people. Running a contest is a powerful way to brand your product or service. Rather than simply saying “Share our page,” offer a giveaway for anyone who does share a specific post. Seeing “share to win” on one’s news feed will immediately grab the attention of the person seeing the post. Not only does this engage and reward those who have already been following you, but it increases the potential for others to see your page who may not have before.

Call to actions in general are great tools in reaching your targeted audience through Facebook. “Like our page for more!” or “Comment below if you agree!” are tactics that can engage those who truly wish to learn more and share their opinions. But, this is something that should not be overdone. A page that posts nothing but pleas for attention will be continuously ignored.

Use images as well. Photos make up 75% of the content shared on Facebook since 2014, and have an 87% interaction rate among users. It’s pretty simple. Visuals are much easier to process than text.

Twitter

As the third largest social media site in the world behind Facebook and YouTube, Twitter can be an extremely powerful tool for businesses if used correctly. First, you’ll need followers. Otherwise, who is going to see what you post? One thing you can do is run a Twitter campaign. Here, you can send out promoted tweets that will reach a specified audience based on geographical location, interests, and language. While this is a great way to grow your followers, it can be expensive.

Short on cash? Don’t worry, there are some free strategies to increase your followers including following others yourself, using hashtags relevant to your target audience, and scheduling tweets to be posted at times when most people are using the site. Adding links to tweets is a proven way to engage more people as well. Posts that provide the convenience of information without asking readers to look it up themselves are much more appreciated.

And don’t forget to establish your brand through Twitter. Update your bio with relevant information about you or your business, and make sure people know what they can expect by following you.

Visual Writing: Painting a Mental Picture

Captivating your audience as a writer can be fairly difficult due to a number of factors, including the topic of the piece, the attention span of the reader, and most importantly, the style of writing. An effective way to attract readers and inspire them to continue reading is writing visually, and by that I mean creating images within the heads of those reading simply through your choice of words.

A definition of “good” visual writing would be painting mental pictures in your audience’s minds without them even realizing you are doing so. In order to engage your readers, they’ll want to be able to see the action taking place in their heads. However, don’t have the mindset that bigger is better. More action, violence, or drama in general doesn’t necessarily translate to visuality. Focus on the detail of every scene in your narrative. This includes things like the set, symbol, and characters.

The line “It was nighttime when I awoke.” gives little insight as to what the character is actually seeing in that moment. As the narrator, imagine yourself in that position, and expand on what could possibly be seen. This line could convey much more visuality if it were to say “I awoke to a dark room dimly lit by moonlight, with shadows cast by the items on my desk next to the window.” Already the audience has an idea of what that room looks like, and can put themselves in that position.

Symbols and motifs are also great ways to further describe each scene. The items on the desk mentioned above could be better detailed depending on the mood. If this is a horror story for example, the character could describe seeing the silhouette of a doll standing on the desk casting a shadow, when the doll was previously on the floor before he or she fell asleep. Or, if you would prefer to be a little less obvious, the doll could be a recurring theme that symbolizes a specific thought the character is having about another character in the piece.

Another aspect of visual writing to consider is the depth of emotion that you wish to channel in any given scene. Things to play off of can include the focus of a specific image, duration, already connected emotions, and the genre of the piece. For example, in a dramatic play, describing a moment where the main character is looking at a picture of his or her deceased father, and going into great detail as to what he or she is seeing, feeling, and hearing in that instance can perpetuate the anguish of the piece.

It is important to remember that images are subjectively interpreted. Asking a large group of people to describe a tree for example, will result in possibly hundreds of variations. The same can be said when asking that group how a specific image of a tree makes them feel. Some may react positively, while others react negatively. With that said, it is not an easy task composing a picture that you want to convey one single emotion, but focusing on that picture with words that give emotional context can help.

While stories are typically comprised of a beginning, middle, and end, it’s the scenes in between that build each. Visual writing is vital in establishing characters’ motivations, the theme, and the plot as a whole, and could spell the difference between a subpar story, and a great story.

For more, visit LeonardRaymundo.com!