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!

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.

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!