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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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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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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Cycling to work can cut risk of cancer by 45 percent

Cycling to work can cut risk of cancer by 45 percent

 

For all the people I badger and annoy endlessly about Citibike: Listen Up!!

  • Research from the University of Glasgow, based on 264,000 people over the course of 5 years, has highlighted the benefits of cycling and walking to work.
  • Compared to “a non-active commute”, riding a bike to work was associated with a 45% lower risk of cancer and a 46% lower risk of heart disease.
  • The World Health Organization says that 8.8 million people died from cancer in 2015, and that 30-50% of cancers could be prevented by regular exercise, keeping a healthy body weight, and cutting alcohol consumption.
  • Walking to work is also beneficial but lags behind cycling.
  • Walking to work was associated with lower risk of heart disease, but unlike cycling was not associated with a significantly lower risk of cancer or overall death,” the university’s Carlos Celis-Morales said.
  • This may be because walkers commute shorter distances than cyclists – typically 6 miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week – and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling.

Read on below for two new reports on health that are quite controversial.

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Around The World Here I Come: But There’s More…..

Around The World Here I Come: But There’s More…..

 

Today, I am leaving on my 22-day Around The World Trip (Northern Route) with Nat Geo.

Seems like the perfect time to get the word out on my travel goals for 2018 and the one country, in particular, I am determined to visit next year. Also, want to share the info I’ve found on all the ways that we, as travelers, are changing:

We are more independent and adventurous

  • Although my Nat Geo trip is uber-deluxe, we are heading to fairly remote and un-traveled parts of the world (hello, Mongolia and Siberia!).
  • I’ve noticed younger travelers are especially adventurous e.g. my friends Chris and Anni have been in Thailand for the last several months, getting certified for all manner of diving. They’re staying in fairly random boarding houses, renting mopeds, living the nomad life. I would never have the gumption to do their trip.
  • And then there’s the trip a young British couple did – traveling all over Asia using Instagrammers as their guides. They’re planning a similar trip in the Southern States of America this year (“Secrets of the South”). Check out the photos in this link, they are spectacular.

We are picking destinations based on specific interests vs. sightseeing

  • Many more people are traveling to follow their passions e.g. Venice for the Biennale, Palm Springs for the mid-century architecture, Cuba for the time-capsule cars.
  • A group of my friends are exploring America via State Fairs. Last year it was Dallas for the Texas State Fair, this year we’re heading to Iowa (August).

Millennial vs. Older Travelers (Source: MediaPost)

  • Millennials view travel (especially international travel) as vital to their personal growth and life experiences. Older travelers consider it more of a luxury.
  • The experience is key: 55% of millennials say travel is all about discovery and adventure. When they hit the road, they don’t see themselves as tourists — they are experience pioneers.
  • Millennials are digital travelers: 75% have travel apps on their phones. Raised on Wi-Fi and smartphones, digital connectivity is as vital as food or shelter.
  • Travel Hackers: Millennials are savvy travelers. They’ll use apps, online travel agents, the sharing economy to bypass expensive taxis, restaurants, and tours for more accessible alternatives e.g. foregoing a five-star hotel for cheaper accommodations in order to afford a culinary experience or diving accreditation.

See below for my top 5 bucket list destinations plus Pinterest’s top trending spots.

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Colin Beavan: Thanks For The Inspiration To Be More Alive!

Colin Beavan: Thanks For The Inspiration To Be More Alive!

 

Colin Beavan, author of How To Be Alive, was an awesome speaker at last week’s PSFK Conference.

  • What especially resonated with me was his belief (as it is mine) that friends and community are key to a successful and happy life. Every great and amazing thing that has happened to me has been connected, in some way, to my friends.
  • Another important point he made was that your friends need to know each other and be actively interacting with each other for the real “friendship magic” to happen. I couldn’t agree more. There is something very powerful about having an interconnected network of friends around you.
  • One of my greatest joys and proudest achievements has been seeing so many of my friends strike up friendships separate and apart from my dinner table. I don’t know why, but I just love seeing that happen.
  • Colin’s talk made me aware that I’ve dropped the ball on the entertaining front. So to all of my friends who have been asking when I will get back to my dinner party routine! Soon!
  • I can’t believe that I’ve let this joyful aspect of my life dissipate. I’m still ultra social but it’s all been at Ludlow and Soho House. I had forgotten how my best friendship-building has always been at my own house.
  • But I am back. Expect numerous invitations as soon as I return from my trip.

Read on below.

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