Norway for Newbies

So you’re headed to Norway – congratulations (and, I’m jealous)! If you’ve never been to this beautiful Nordic Country, there are some cultural and logistical factors you should familiarize yourself with before you visit. There’s a great amount of information on the internet out there, but I went and compiled a comprehensive list that breaks it all down really helps when planning the perfect trip. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 5 things you need to know before visiting Norway.

#1: The main attraction is big. Really big.

TripAdvisor.com recently reported that, “…the main attraction in Norway is the country itself.” With Norway’s vast array of fjords, mountains, waterfalls, and islands, there’s a lot to take in. The fact of the matter is that you simply can’t see all of Norway in just a few days – it’s a big country. Another experience that many flock to Norway for is the “midnight sun,” which can be viewed in the mid-summer, anywhere north of Bodø.

TripAdvisor’s tip? “Slow down, take time to enjoy areas between the cities. Make flexible and generous schedules.” Noted.

#2: The weather is…weird.

Just like the United States, Norway’s weather varies upon the region you are visiting. Even though they are geographically positioned very north, they experience their own Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, too. To pack accordingly, map out your trip in advance and match your wardrobe and supplies to the areas you’ll be visiting.

A great tip from TripAdvisor’s knowledge of the Norwegian climate sums this up perfectly, especially if you are looking to visit the mountains. “The nordic sun can burn your skin even if it is not warm, particularly on snow fields, in the high mountains and near water surfaces. Bring sunglasses (UV-filter) and protect your nose and lips in the high mountains.”

#3: Norway is a rich country, but the views are free.

Even though Norway is considered one of the richest countries in the world, every single visitor or citizen has a right to enjoy and explore the great outdoors. TripAdvisor.com states,  “…everyone has right of access to wilderness (including beaches) even if privately owned.”

The best advice is to take advantage of the great appreciation for nature in Norway. People in Norway may have more money and spend more on personal expenses, but the less than 5 million citizens that live there enjoy their land and want visitors to enjoy it too.

#4: Restaurants are expensive, so get creative.

Sadly, taxes and tips are included on the checks at seemingly every restaurant you might want to go to, so visiting the local supermarkets and bakeries are your best bet for saving on food costs.

If you have a sudden craving for something quick and easy, there are plenty of pizzerias for locals and visitors to delight in.

#5: Norway is the happiest country in the world.

According to a recent study done annually by the United Nation, CBS.com reports that Norway has topped the list. Even with Norway given the top honors in the latest report, its Nordic counterparts round out the top of the list as well.

So, in theory, no matter where you go or what you do, you’re going to be really, super happy you did.

As with anything in life, it’s best to do your research before you pack up and head out. With Norway as your next travel destination, you’re in for something quite unique, with diverse experiences. Take your camera, but remember to soak it all in at the same time. There’s no place quite like it.

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Best Destinations to Airbnb

Hopefully by now you’ve heard of the mega-giant online business known as Airbnb. Since its inception in 2008, Airbnb has become almost ubiquitous with travel accommodations. With a broad range of homes, apartments, condos, and even teepees and igloos available, vacationers can find the perfect abode that will meet their needs and enhance their traveling experience — especially since it allows them to live like the locals do.

But as enticing as it all sounds, keep in mind that there are good Airbnb spots, and very bad ones.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best, and coolest destinations to Airbnb:

Italy

No matter which part of the boot you end up in, there is an Airbnb waiting to give you rest — and maybe even take your breath away.

Take the Domus Civita for example. Located in a town with a population of 10 people, this eclectic, half-cave half-renovated villa is bound to be the perfect location for a secluded getaway.

Or, if you prefer to take in the views of the Italian countryside, consider booking the Trullo Aromatic Green, which boasts ancient architecture as well as the modern amenities we are accustomed to — such as WiFi, a flat-screen television, and a personal kitchen.

India

The city of New Delhi offers a plethora of attractions for visitors of all ages — from the peaceful Lodi Gardens to the stunning architecture and museums found in the sprawling downtown area. Therefore, it would only make sense to find lodging just as eclectic and exciting as one’s surroundings.

That is where the Lake View Room comes into play. This private room in Hauz Khas Village is composed entirely of glass panels, giving visitors access to South Delhi’s most stunning views by day and night. The room is also complete with opaque curtains — just in case privacy is a concern.

Chile

With its rich history and stunning landscapes, Chile is the perfect location for any adventurous couple. That is what makes the Valpo Romantic Suite so appealing to travelers — it boasts the classic, eclectic elements of the surrounding city while providing guests with the modern amenities they need to unwind after a long day of exploring.

California

Although this location may seem too close to home for some, the Golden State has plenty of eclectic Airbnb locations that will make guests feel like they are in another country entirely.

Take the Dome in the Desert for example. This geometric little house is located in the center of the desert in Joshua Tree, just two hours east of Los Angeles.

Although there may not be much to see in this region of the state, it is the perfect location for those who desire to get away from their usual responsibilities and unwind in the truest sense of the word.

Evidently, there are some intriguing places to Airbnb around the globe. So, before you set the destination for your next vacation, consider taking a look at what Airbnb has to offer first and planning your trip around whatever the area has to offer. You never know what you may find by taking this unorthodox approach!

Why You Should Visit British Columbia

While you are researching destinations for your next vacation, you may find yourself feeling torn between choosing a somewhat secluded location in the mountains and a getaway to a bustling city.

Although each has their own benefits and highlights, they are obviously vastly different, and it is very rare to find a single location that encompasses the elements of both location — that is, until you look northward.

Nestled along the western coast of Canada lies British Columbia, a province that is both mountainous and populous, boasting everything from mountain ranges to growing cities that make some visitors feel right at home.

With that in mind, let us discover why British Columbia should be the destination of your next getaway:

There are activities for everyone

It is not an exaggeration when one says that British Columbia offers a little bit of something for everyone. During a vacation that lasts just one week, visitors can hike through the scenic Yoho National Park, master the slopes at the renowned Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, and venture through the streets of vibrant Vancouver — which offers everything from shopping, tours through the historic district, and exciting nightlife.

The sights are stunning

From misty forests to breathtaking city skylines, British Columbia has a sight for everybody’s preference. However, their two most renowned views are their sunsets and, of course, the Northern Lights — though your likelihood of spotting the aurora borealis greatly depends on your location within the province.

The cultural history is rich and eclectic

Throughout the province, visitors will stumble upon countless museums and archaeological site displays that are dedicated to the rich Aboriginal culture. These various locations represent over 30 Nations in approximately 197 communities, thus offering a stark contrast to the modern art and architecture that can be found in the larger cities.

The food is delectable
Although there are common fast food and chain restaurants abound in the larger metropolitan areas, it is highly recommended that you try British Columbia’s authentic Canadian cuisine at least once during your stay. After all, with dishes like poutine and maple bacon peameal roast, you will not be sorry you tried something new.

Why You Need to Visit Seattle

Tucked away in the Northwest corner of the United States (which some jokingly refer to as “South Alaska”), Seattle is often described by outsiders as an embodiment of grunge music, dreary weather, and hipsters. That all may be completely accurate, however, there is much more to it than that. Now, as an Emerald City native, I may be biased, but with everything Seattle has to offer, it should never be defined by so little.

The Views

What ‘visit Seattle’ list would be complete without mentioning the Space Needle? On a clear day (which is surprisingly common despite the city’s reputation), the top floor of one of Seattle’s best known landmarks provides seemingly endless views in every direction. Both Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier can be seen cutting through the skies, as well as Elliott Bay harboring ships from all around the world.

If the Space Needle is a little too high for you, the Seattle Great Wheel, the largest ferris wheel on the West Coast, is a great alternative despite that fact. At a maximum height of 175 feet, a revolution around this attraction could still provide incredible scenery at roughly 1/4th the height.

Downtown

The historic Pike Place Market sits right along the coast of Elliott Bay hosting seafood, vegetable, and cheese stands, and so much more. One of the market’s most popular events that draws tourists from all over is simply the vendors’ ‘flying fish’ strategy. Throwing salmon, halibut, and cod over counters and stands to each other, employees here know a thing or two about a fish’s aerial abilities.

The waterfront downtown is another sight worth seeing, hosting a variety of shops, restaurants, and piers. The Seattle Aquarium sits here as well for those interested in learning about the city’s aquatic life and the Pacific Ocean’s.

Food and Drinks

Like any great city, Seattle has an enormous array of restaurants and cafes ranging from Vietnamese food to vegan donuts, and everything in between. Seattle is filled with neighborhood cafe’s that focus on organic, locally produced food such as Oddfellows Cafe. But, it is important to note how synonymous Seattle and coffee are. Street Bean Espresso, a nonprofit coffee shop providing opportunities for homeless and at-risk youths, is both a hub for amazing coffee and a testament to the city’s philanthropic efforts.

If you’re seeking more of a unique dining experience, The Pink Door offers 5-star Italian food with a twist. Trapeze artists and burlesque shows are also held within these doors, giving a truly particular ambience that can’t be found anywhere else in the city, and with some of the best wines to offer, it may be difficult leaving.

Art

Both indoor and outdoor art museums can be found all around Seattle, with perhaps the most popular being the Seattle Art Museum, which has an eclectic collection of pieces. Ancient Asian artwork, Native American carvings, and European paintings can all be found in the huge number of exhibits this museum offers, and those are just to name a few.

Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor exhibit, is giant sculpture garden spanning 9 acres just north of the downtown area, and it’s free. A stroll through here would surely clear one’s mind with its 1.2-mile walk connecting it to Myrtle Edwards Park.

Outdoor Essentials: What to Pack When Backpacking

Whether you are ready to brave the great outdoors, or preparing for months of traveling abroad, I can tell you there’s nothing in the world that compares to a true backpacking experience. However, It can be pretty overwhelming when thinking of the things you want to take with you on your next backpacking adventure, but you should always bear in mind that what you need to take can spell the difference between a nice trip and a search and rescue party. In order to set yourself up for the safest, most enjoyable backpacking trip of your life, be sure to only pack the essentials.

I’ve found that taking the minimal amount of belongings is the ideal way to travel. Not only in terms of necessity, but the amount of weight you have to carry. I’m compiled a list of the basics you may need.

Finding Your Way

Accurate navigation is one of the most crucial components of backpacking, as getting lost in the wilderness is most likely the last thing on your outdoor itinerary. To prevent this, make sure you bring the following:

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Watch

Even if you plan to bring your smartphone, you should assume that in most places, especially in the more remote regions of the world, you may not get any cell phone service. You never know if you won’t receive reception, or if your phone dies. So be prepared for the worst.

Protecting Yourself

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Regardless of where you’re going, whether it be deep into dense forests, high up into a mountain range, or across a scorching desert, you are bound to face any number of outdoor dangers when backpacking. To avoid succumbing to extreme heat, you should pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Protective hat
  • Chapstick

One thing people often forget is appropriately preparing for hazardous weather conditions. Even if you’re going to a warm climate, you must keep in mind how the weather can shift, particularly at night. I always try to bring the following items:

  • Jacket
  • Protective vest
  • Waterproof shoes/boots
  • Waterproof pants
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves

Campsite Essentials

Once you’ve reached a point in your journey where you’re able to settle down and set up camp, there are a number of things you should have ready for optimal safety and comfort. Be sure to bring multiple sources of light including a flashlight or headlamp, and materials to build a fire. You’ll want to have:

  • Matches or lighter
  • First-aid kit
  • Food (amount depending on the duration of your trip)
  • Water (a canteen and several bottles)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Swiss army knife

Before heading out for your backpacking adventure, be sure to have a checklist of the most essential items you’ll need beforehand, most of which have been listed above.

The Best Places to Boat This Summer

Few activities can give you a true sense of summer as much as boating. Regardless of whether or not you are an owner of any kind of boat, there are countless travel destinations in the world that allow you to experience life at sea, and embrace the sun during the summer months. Today, over 50% of the global population lives less than 2 miles away from a body of fresh water, not including those living along coastlines with access to the world’s oceans. With that said, no matter whether or not you are a part of that demographic, here are some of the best places in the United States to go boating.

Marina del Rey, California

In terms of boating destinations you must experience, Marina del Rey is the Mona Lisa of harbors in the United States. It is the largest manmade small craft harbor in the country, and is only a short drive from Los Angeles. The general crowd that flocks to this marina is typically that of great wealth, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. Despite the million-dollar yachts situated along this California coast, anyone can rent a boat for the day, or even hire your own captain to guide you and your friends or family through the Pacific waters.

Seattle, Washington

Yet another shoutout to my hometown, the ports of Seattle are surprisingly fantastic destinations for naval enthusiasts. Lined with hundreds of miles of saltwater, the Emerald City is a common city for locals to travel by boat to their waterfront homes, restaurants, or harbors. Seattle is also home to the Seattle Boat Show, a number of yacht clubs, and centers offering classes for first-time boaters.

Tokyo’s Best Restaurants

I’ve been to Japan about 3 times now, and I feel confident enough to say that Japan has some of the best foods in the world (in my humble opinion). Tokyo, Japan has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. If that fact alone isn’t enough to convince you to visit for a culinary revelation, it should also be known that they are among some of the most diverse restaurants as well. If a trip to Tokyo, or anywhere in Japan for that matter, is in your future, make sure you write down the following restaurants to experience all that Tokyo has to offer.

Narisawa

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa earned his culinary stripes in the countries of Italy, Switzerland, France, and of course, Japan. His unique skills are displayed in the experimental dishes served at his restaurant, with their biggest emphasis being environmental conservation. Through this, Chef Narisawa has created dishes like moss butter, soil soup, and water salad. This vastly unique dining experience is something that should be considered by anyone with an open mind, especially for those passionate about the environment.

Joël Robuchon

Aptly named after the world-renowned French chef, the cuisine is what you’d expect; exquisite modern French. Joël Robuchon offers a number of set menus featuring visually stunning dishes, as well as a la carte options to match. If you still crave some form of Japanese cuisine at the end of your meal, the restaurant also offers Kyoho graph mochi and almond ice cream for dessert.

Ginza Kojyu

One of Tokyo’s finest dining experiences with a quaint atmosphere, eating at Ginza Kojyu almost resembles a dinner party at a friend’s house. Offering kaiseki dining, servers prepare each dish right before your eyes, and even give detailed explanations before serving. The restaurant primarily focuses on traditional Japanese cuisine, and doesn’t require you to pay too hefty of a bill at the end of the meal.

For the entire blog and more, visit LeonardRaymundo.org!