Nat Geo Northern Route: Nordic Countries Knock It Out Of The Park

Nat Geo Northern Route: Nordic Countries Knock It Out Of The Park

Breakfast at the Storfjord Hotel, Norway

 

I’m BACK with highlights from the three Nordic countries on our trip: Norway, Iceland and Greenland.

  • In a nutshell: Norway/Alesund is the WINNER when it comes to where we most wanted to extend our stay.
  • For me, Norway was such an agreeable experience that I started planning an extended Scandinavian trip for next year.
  • My goal: spend a total of 4-6 weeks in Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki exploring the culture and lifestyle of each city/country.
  • Ideally, I’ll  stay at some Scandinavian-chic but inexpensive hotels. If you know of any, send names my way!

Greenland, however, is the undisputed winner when it comes to which destination was the most mind-blowingly epic. I will never forget the sight of those majestic icebergs

Read on below for more on each of these Nordic countries – the highs, the lows and everything in-between including photos and video.

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NAT GEO NORTHERN ROUTE: From Russia, With Love

NAT GEO NORTHERN ROUTE: From Russia, With Love

 

This is my second visit to Russia and St. Petersburg is even more beautiful than I remember it. Can’t say I can recommend the other city we visited: Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia. While intriguing to visit Siberia, it’s not a destination I will be returning to in the near future.

Highlights (and caveats) when visiting these two cities in Russia:

 St. Petersburg: More gorgeous than ever!

  • Filled with ornate golden palaces, churches, exquisite fountains, gardens and parks.
  • Very European vibe – in design and architecture as well as lifestyle.

Must-sees include:

Caveat:

  • Russia is a massive (11 time zones), complex country with a lot of tragedy and turmoil in its past that lives on in people’s memories into the present (from horrific wars to palace intrigue).
  • Even when staying in ultra-exclusive luxury (Four Seasons, St. Petersburg), there is an undercurrent of uncertainty and risk that can put you on edge
  • That said, it is a remarkable country that piques the interest of savvy travelers.

See below for additional highlights as well as pics and videos of the 5 palaces, churches and museums listed above.

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My Indispensables: Business Insider and The Business of Fashion

My Indispensables: Business Insider and The Business of Fashion

 

These two digital business news sites have become essential reading, my top go-to’s for all things business. They have replaced The New York Times and the WSJ in terms of relevancy and importance.

I get the BoF Daily Digest newsletter at 6am every morning and there is always at least one story that I want to read immediately.

  • BoF provides an extremely insightful perspective on the global economy and business in general.
  • The info is filtered thru the lens of fashion but always relevant no matter what category you work in e.g. their writing on luxury has implications whether you’re in automobile,  housing, travel, or hospitality.
  • For those of you not familiar with BoF: It was founded in 2007 by Imran Amed, a fashion business advisor, writer and digital entrepreneur. His aim was to fill the void for an informed, analytical and opinionated point of view on the fashion business. He has succeeded and then some!

Business Insider (BI) has been a favorite of mine for several years. I follow them – as well as their editor, Henry Blodget – on twitter and refer to the site daily.

  • They cover everything from how to buy Bitcoins to the hottest bars e.g. the newly reopened Campbell Bar in Grand Central now run by The Gerber Group
  • Their IGNITION conferences are always amazing with phenomenal speakers e.g. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk. This year’s is scheduled for November 29-30 in NYC. It’s pricey at $3000 a ticket.
  • Henry Blodget is a frequent guest on CNBC.
  • BI launched in 2007 and is now the largest business news site on the web. They were acquired by German media company Axel Springer SE in September, 2015.

What makes both of these sites so outstanding?

  • Their take on business is contemporary – nothing about it feels traditional or old.
  • They both skew to tech and startups. Always seen thru a digital lens.
  • The writing is crisp and to the point
  • Their headlines are killer. What I would do to have that kind of skill. Additionally, the headlines and the stories mesh – it’s not bait and switch.
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NAT GEO Northern Route: Mongolia and Gobi Desert

NAT GEO Northern Route: Mongolia and Gobi Desert

 

First of all, I’m back on the grid after three days in the Gobi desert without access to the internet.

That said, Mongolia has to be one of the most magical places I have ever visited. Recommend to everyone (with a few caveats).

Here’s what I loved most:

The Landscape:

  • The vastness of the vistas, in every direction, are breathtaking
  • The sky is HUGE – be it sunny or cloudy, sunrise or sunset
  • Mountain ranges are always in sight, in the far-off distance
  • Enormous herds of free-roaming horses, cows, goats and sheep. Especially love seeing them cantering to their watering holes.

Caveat:

  • You will spend hours each day in SUVs on unpaved roads getting from Points A to B
  • If you get carsick, make sure you have dramamine on hand.
  • If rugged car travel is a problem, this may not be the trip for you.
  • Several of our fellow travelers ended up severely limiting their off-lodge activities because of the car ride situation.

Read on below for more on our lodgings and other not-to-be-missed highlights.

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Midwest Weddings: Totally Fun, Interactive and Cool!

Midwest Weddings: Totally Fun, Interactive and Cool!

 

The wedding trends I’m hearing about from Wisconsin sound awesome! And thank you news8000.com for this great roundup.

Here are four I’m most jazzed about:

  • Dessert bars: Couples ditching traditional wedding cakes and going with dessert bars. The s’mores bar sounds especially excellent.
  • Classic cocktails: I’ve been seeing my Midwest friends getting into the Moscow Mule so not surprising to see it showing up as a favorite wedding cocktail, right along with that all-time Wisconsin favorite, the old fashioned.
  • Food Trucks: Popping up at weddings as couples ditch the traditional sit-down dinner and go for a more casual experience. I haven’t been to a food truck catered wedding but it just sounds like so much fun. Some couples opt for a full-on food truck experience while others go for ice cream trucks or cocktail trucks.
  • Games: People love games (everything from bocce to croquet to Cards Against Humanity) but I haven’t seen them playing a big role at weddings. However, it makes sense that games would start to be incorporated into the wedding activities based on their popularity. Sign me up.
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Surfing As An Analogy For Start Ups: Who Knew?

Surfing As An Analogy For Start Ups: Who Knew?

 

I was stunned to see the third mention, in as many months, of a tech founder talking about how his inspiration came from surfing (IRL not on the internet).

  • In this latest instance, I was reading about Richard Werbe, the young founder and CEO of Studypool, a redhot microtutoring platform.
  • Werbe, an avid surfer and serial entrepreneur, has said the process of dreaming up a successful idea is similar to following a wave.
  • In an interview in Forbes he explains: “You have to have the mentality of a surfer, and look for those tiny swells that will eventually turn into big waves. If you can position yourself just right, you’ll be able to ride that wave all the way to the crest. If you aren’t in the right spot or if you lose your balance, you could be plunged under, and have to start over again from the beginning — or get injured. It’s dangerous, it’s exhilarating, and it’s always worth it, but know that attention to little details will make or break each attempt.”
  • The other two tech founders who got their inspiration from surfing include Steve Case (founder of AOL) and in The Upstarts, Brad Stone’s excellent new book, surfing is used as an analogy for startups by none other than Greg McAdoo, VC at Sequoia Capital: “Being a great entrepreneur requires the precision of a great surfer. If you want to build a truly great company you have got to ride a really big wave.”

Read on below for more on Studypool. Fascinating how they’re disrupting education.

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Instagram’s New(ish) Carousel Feature Is Just About The Best Thing Ever!

Instagram’s New(ish) Carousel Feature Is Just About The Best Thing Ever!

 

I am going to be using this carousal feature ALOT during my trip so follow me on Instagram, if you don’t already, and keep an eye out for my IG over the next couple of weeks.

  • Instagram launched this new multiple image/video feature back in February but I’ve just started using it and absolutely love it.
  • Not too many people appear to be into it yet which is surprising – but perhaps with so much snapchat vs. instagram drama, this new feature fell through the cracks.

Here’s why I consider it so valuable:

  • It lets you tell a full story using 10 photos or video clips
  • You no longer have to resort to using layout – which always diminished the post because the photos got too small
  • Carousel is super easy to use. See below for directions.
  • It’s fabulous for bloggers. I use it for posts that are very visual (restaurant reviews, art, festivals/events, retail, travel)

Here’s what needs to be tweaked:

  • Most people are not aware that there are multiple images in your post
  • Even if they see the little blue dots under the images (see photo above right) or notice the page icon on the upper right of the first image e.g. 1/10 on same image upper right.
  • SO, until people become acclimated to this new feature, you must add in the first line of the copy: SWIPE LEFT FOR MORE PHOTOS/VIDEOS

Read on below for directions on how to create a carousel.

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Nat Geo Northern Route First Stop: Nara Is Awesome!

Nat Geo Northern Route First Stop: Nara Is Awesome!

 

Make Nara a priority: the Todaiji Temple (above) with its enormous Daibutsu Buddha and Kasuga-Taisha, the most celebrated shrine in Japan are absolute must-sees. PLUS: the grounds are home to about 1000 deer!

  • If coming to Kyoto, avoid the weekends. Absolutely the worst time for visiting the shrines/temples. Chock-a-block with tourists all armed with selfie-sticks. Not pleasant.
  • But if you are coming to Kyoto, 2 must-sees are Sanju-Sangendo, the Buddhist Temple of 1000 statues – absolutely phenomenal. Unfortunately no photography allowed.
  • The other must-sees are the Red Torii Gates that line the path to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. I would not bother attending any ceremonies – it feels extremely touristic and I’m not even sure the monks are the real deal. However, the gates are beautiful.

Read on below for more standouts from this trip to Japan.

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