Millennials in Travel Exclusive FAM to NIZUC Resort & Spa

Millennials in Travel members joined Bennett Mercado this past June to discover the Mexican spirit and Mayan soul of NIZUC Resort & Spa.  Our very own Officer of Events for San Diego, Aimee Leon recounts the experience....

The group arrived in style as we had a private transfer waiting for us at the Cancun airport to take us on the short journey to the resort. NIZUC is located just 15 mins from the Cancun airport yet it feels very secluded as it is on a peninsula and you can’t see any other resorts nearby.

We all had fabulous Ocean View Junior Suites, which had floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a beautiful terrace featuring a private plunge pool!

We had a jam packed itinerary but it allowed us to experience the resort as well as a little bit of the culture and heritage of Mexico.

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The first evening we got to know each other the best way possible – over tequila tasting in the Havana Lounge – followed by dinner in the amazing Indochine, which is the resorts Asian Fusion cuisine restaurant.

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The next day, after a full site inspection, we had ceviche at “Ni” followed by a day at the spa and unwound with the Nizuc Hydrotherapy experience as well as stress relief massages.

The last day we had an all day excursion to Coba with a knowledgeable and passionate guide and had a blast riding bicycles around the Archaeological site, hiking up a large pyramid ruin and swimming in Cenotes.

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We ended our FAM with a lovely, romantic dinner setting in La Punta Grill, which is the resorts Mediterranean cuisine restaurant, followed by hand rolled Cuban cigars and live music in the Havana lounge.

Thank you so much to Bennett + Mercado and NIZUC for having us for such a memorable stay!

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For more information about NIZUC Resort & Spa, please contact Bennett Mercado: info@bennettmercado.com

Belmond El Encanto - a FAM fit for the Stars!

Located less than 2 hours from Los Angeles, Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara makes for the perfect weekend getaway or, for those seeking seclusion, a true hideaway. This past April MIT members had the opportunity to experience Santa Barbara like rockstars! Our Director of Operations, Monika Weinsoft recounts the experience....

Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the Belmond team, checked in and whisked away to our individual accommodations. The Belmond features Californian craftsman and Spanish style bungalows set on seven acres of serene gardens, perched high above the glittering Pacific Ocean, and each room feels secluded and private. Later that evening, we gathered in The Riviera Bar for cocktails, which included a special menu "Celebrating 100 years of social, cultural and architectural heritage". We then enjoyed  dinner in the Wine Room with a menu created just for us!  

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The following day we gathered for breakfast on The Terrace, followed by a hotel site inspection. This FAM was designed for MIT Members who actively book clients in the entertainment industry, and the site inspection provided insight into what a perfect oasis of seclusion and privacy the resort is for guests looking to get away from the buzz of Los Angeles. 

Our day continued with a Santa Barbara city tour by private chartered trolley, including a behind-the-scenes tour of the Santa Barbara Bowl with the venue's program manager. Here we learned about the history of the Santa Barbara Bowl and the logistics that go into each and every performance. We even got to go "backstage" and walk the halls of the dressing rooms,  lined with framed photos of past performers. 

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We returned to the resort for a light lunch and time to relax. Later that evening,  we gathered for drinks and appetizers, before returning to the Santa Barbara Bowl to see Alt J perform live! It was a fun evening under the stars, in one of the most beautiful and architecturally unique outdoor concert venues. 

The following morning provided time to relax and stroll the gardens and lounge by the pool before making the short and beautiful drive back to LA. Belmond El Encanto is a true oasis, perfect for a weekend getaway from Los Angeles or part of a longer coastal California itinerary. Solitude and relaxation await you and your clients! 

For more information about Belmond El Encanto, and to book your entertainment clients, please contact Michelle McMahon, Entertainment Sales Manager: michelle.mcmahon@belmond.com

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Millennials Explore Alaska By Kayak

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The title of this blog might sound like the newest action-packed (with some romance, of course) film coming to a theater near you. I hope you won’t be let down that it is about three different three-day sea kayaking trips that I had the pleasure of guiding here in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Yes, the trips were action-packed and yes, some of the clients probably enjoyed some romance. I’m here to share some of the highlights from these great trips.

This three-day sea kayaking trip starts and finishes in beautiful Valdez, which offers a glorious coastline to paddle. What makes this trip so wonderful? Old-growth forest, rushing waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, juicy Blueberries and Salmonberries to eat, Bald Eagles diving for jumping salmon, serene bays, snow-capped peaks, adorable Sea Otters and curious Harbor Seals, and the holy grail of exploring the magnificently blue and alive Shoup Glacier.

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Look at all of those millennials having such a good time! I’m a millennial myself, so it was really fun (and entertaining. . . I mean, we understood the same social references, and could quote the same movies!) to share what I love with people around my own age. It was also inspiring to see my cohort getting out in the world and exploring amazing places, such as Prince William Sound, partaking in an adventure they might not have ever done before, such as an overnight sea kayaking trip near a glacier.

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This string of three trips in a row were with 100% millennials. Gosh, I hope that I’m right about that. If not, I’m in trouble. Although it should definitely be taken as a compliment if I thought that people were younger than they actually are:) People often ask me who are the clients who do camping trips with me. “Really, kind of everybody, except for babies and geriatrics. I’m talking really geriatric. . . like 90’s. I’ve had a handful of 12-year-olds who did amazingly well on long paddle days, as well as a 12-year-old who was the only one of us to sleep through a torrential downpour that lasted for 15 minutes in the middle of the night in a hammock. On a few of my trips the strongest group of paddlers were within the ages of 55-75! For those of you who have gone on a trip with me in Guna Yala, and know what a paddling beast Nemesio is (I always tell every single client that if they can even keep up with Nemesio. . not pass him. . simply keep up with him, that they would be the first to do so). And the 75-year-old was the one in the group to paddle the closest to Nemesio for the entire trip. Very impressive. My first day trip of this season I was in the back of a boat with an 89-year-old woman traveling around Alaska for a couple of months by herself. So, my answer to that question of who are my clients is quite varied. However, these three trips definitely tip the clientele in favor of millennials.

One of the coolest perks of a job that takes you to the same places throughout the season is that you get to see the fascinating changes that occur, especially at such a dynamic environment as a glacier. Glaciers are often where the “adventure-packed” part of a trip occurs. We get to witness the ice shifting and changing. (Below photos) The “after” photo on the right was taken a couple of weeks after the “before” photo on the left. Pretty cool.

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So millennials: here’s to you. . . (here’s to us) and your young, energetic professionalism that allows you to travel the world and do awesome things, like a three-day sea kayaking adventure with an equally energetic guide!

 Happy Hour on local hand-picked free range glacial ice:)      MORE POSTS BY ILENE PRICE

Happy Hour on local hand-picked free range glacial ice:)

 

MORE POSTS BY ILENE PRICE

 

 

Why New Zealand is an Adventurer’s Dream

There’s something magical about New Zealand. It’s a country filled with everything you need for an unforgettable outdoor adventure – sprawling pastures, raging waterfalls, and even active volcanoes. Still, New Zealand is often forgotten in the conversation of best travel destinations. It’s treated like Australia’s little brother – a small island nation whose main association is with Middle Earth. But on a recent trip, I discovered that there’s more to New Zealand than I could have imagined. Here a few reasons why you should book a trip to New Zealand for your next adventure.

Outdoor Adventures

There’s nothing quite like New Zealand’s landscape. You can go from a shimmering lake to a towering mountain or hidden cave at a moment’s notice.

My first taste of New Zealand’s beauty came with a helicopter tour of the Milford Sound and Fiordland on the South Island. The helicopter tour gave me access to some of the most remote parts of New Zealand. During the trip, I flew under 2000 foot waterfalls and through steep fiords.

We took a pitstop for lunch at Minaret Station. This dream lodge is hidden in the mountains and requires a helicopter arrival. The lodge may not look like anything special upon first glance. After arriving, however, you’re greeted by five star cuisine and a large selection of wines. The lodge doubles as an expansive 50,000 acre farm home to thousands of deer, sheep, and cattle.

From there, we traversed our way through glaciers and through deep snow. This culminated in a view of Mt. Aspiring, one of New Zealand’s highest peaks. The entire tour showcased the limitless possibilities for exploring in New Zealand. You can spend days hiking through mountains, valleys, and glaciers and still feel thirsty for more.

The Kiwi Spirit

New Zealanders (or Kiwis) are known to be a rowdy bunch. Case in point – the Kawarau Bridge Bungy.

It’s the World’s first commercially operated Bungy Jumping Site, opened by Bungy pioneer AJ Hackett. I embraced the Kiwi spirit by taking a plunge of my own off Kawarau Bridge. The jump included a 141-foot drop into a gorgeous canyon. It was simultaneously terrifying and thrilling – and totally worth it.

Locals made my trip extra memorable by being warm, hospitable, and helpful throughout my travels. Even dreaded trips to the airport became a highlight – as they were filled with friendly staff and great lounges that took the stress out of travel.

Island Paradise

New Zealand is known for being split into two islands – the North Island and the South Island. So you might be surprised to learn about the Bay of Islands.

It’s a group of over 140 subtropical islands located off the coast of the North Island. It’s like a New Zealand version of the Hawaiian Islands – complete with shimmering sand beaches and warm water. What more could you want?

My trip may have been in the winter, but the cooler weather was refreshing and enjoyable. The water was still swimmable and there were more than a few opportunities to sunbathe near the water.

My Bay of Islands adventure culminated in a daylong sailing excursion. We ported from the Russell Wharf and spent the day admiring stunning views. We even got lunch in a sheltered cove.

My trip gave me a small sample of the Bay of Islands. If the small sample size is any indication, the rest of the islands are more than worth a trip.

Lift Off

There’s no shortage of ways to experience New Zealand. You can hike, kayak, drive or sail your way around the country.  I was able to access some of the most remote parts of New Zealand by taking helicopter tours. It allowed me to get bird’s eye views of glaciers, Alps, and even an active volcano.

One of my more memorable experiences came with a helicopter tour of White Island near Rotorua. The flight gave me aerial views of Mount Tarawera, an active volcano that’s responsible for one of New Zealand’s largest eruptions. I was able to walk the crater floor and witness the magnitude of the volcano up close. There’s no wrong way to explore New Zealand. But flying opens up the most opportunities for thrill seekers.

Special thanks to Tourism New Zealand & Seasonz Travel for planning such an exceptional itinerary. My short trip to New Zealand had all the elements of a great adventure. It showed me that this underrated destination has a beautiful setting, eccentric people, and diverse terrain. So what are you waiting for?

MORE POSTS BY VICTORIA STRUBBE

SLEEPING AROUND: INDIA HOTEL REVIEWS

I recently found myself in Northern India, wandering the crowded, bustling streets by day and drenched in luxury at night in a country with a story of occupation, then freedom. It’s undeniable how much history has influenced all of these hotel properties whether it be the former residents, the design or the staff, who take pride in teaching you about their culture. Whether you find yourself in the insanely overpopulated cities of Delhi and Mumbai or the “smaller”, brilliantly colored cities through the northern state of Rajasthan, these are the most jaw dropping places and palaces to rest your head after a dizzying and exhilarating day zipping down bustling city streets and dirt narrows by tuk tuk.

DELHI

The Leela, New Delhi: The open lobby is adorned with crystal vases and bright roses. At any given time, there are 14,000 roses throughout the hotel, 500 of which are arranged in the lobby’s silver centerpiece. The Leela New Delhi is the right combination of international flare (Le Cirque serves dinner to celebs and socialites) and cultural awareness (there is a female-only floor for traditional travelers of Eastern culture). What impressed me the most was the service, ever-present, from calling the elevator to pouring more tea at breakfast, my every need was anticipated.

The Oberoi, Gurgaon: Although just 15 minutes from Delhi International, this is far from what you’d think of as an “airport hotel”. The Oberoi Gurgaon is an ultra modern, sleek property divided into three blocks: hotel, residence and conference center. The 220 hotel rooms all have private butler service and not just any ol’ service, but rather trained by the same school as Queen of England’s butlers. So it’s safe to say, it’s literally fit for a queen…or Maharani, as a princess is called in India.

ThreeSixtyOne, the hotel’s restaurant, has a chocolate cake that is a must. But don’t worry, the gym and spa are 24/7 hours so your indulgence can be (almost) guilt-free. Dine on Indian, Asian and continental cuisines.

The welcome from staff upon stepping into The Oberoi Amarvilas’ courtyard. 

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The Oberoi, Amarvilas: If you’re visiting the Taj Mahal, a white marble symbol of an emperor’s love for his favorite(!) wife, which you should if you’re visiting northern India, you MUST stay at The Oberoi Amarvilas. It’s an oasis in Agra, a city where India’s harsh poverty isn’t lost. This ancient wonder of the world and UNESCO site can be seen from every suite. Soaking in a bubble bath while gazing at the setting sun over the Taj Mahal…now that’s romantic. Amarvilas is ideal for two to three nights of relaxation in the midst of your Indian journey. The idyllic setting will be welcome after days of visiting massive mausoleums, forts and temples in the beating sun. You’ll need a full day to just take in the vast pool, multi-tiered lounging decks and manicured gardens.

Just part of the Maharani suite at Suján Rajmahal.

JAIPUR

Suján Rajmahal: Rajmahal, a former British Residence and then private home of the Mahajara, boasts just 14 suites, all differing in decor and size, and aptly named. The Princess Diana suite, delicately decorated in blues and whites, is where the late royalty stayed when visiting the palace. The Maharani suite, second largest on property only to the Maharaja suite, is the former chamber of the Maharani and boasts a well-lit, massive bathroom, plenty of mirrored closets and a private pool. True to it’s name, it’s fit for a princess! It’s also where I got to call home for two nights (and recently, so did this Forbes writer). The bold teal and fuchsia wall coverings and upholstery make for an opulent atmosphere. The rich and fun colors are woven throughout the property’s decor.

Rajmahal feels like your own private palace. (It almost is with so few other guests!) And as silly as it sounds, I can’t stop craving the sweet corn-like muffins and mini slices of pound cake. Just a week after my stay here, the palace was given Relais & Châteaux accolades, only given to properties that embody the culture, people and history of its surroundings. Over the next year, the property will be almost tripling to 40 suites.

One of Rambagh’s meticulous gardens and courtyards.

Rambagh Palace: Rambagh is synonymous with regal, with its grand entrance and outdoor halls overlooking vast courtyards and richly decorated suites. India’s history is apparent throughout Rambagh, from photos of the former royal tenants to the polo lounge honoring the days the property hosted the sport. If you’re looking to indulge in luxury and learn along the way, a suite here is where to stay.

Mehrangarh Fort illuminated above RAAS.

JODHPUR

RAAS: With crisp white sheets and a comfortable bed, this is where you will rise to a deep-voiced, pre-dawn prayer echoing through the blue, walled city. The property is built from local Jodhpur pink sandstone and gives a welcomed juxtaposition to the cool hue of the rest of the city. Peek through scalloped open-air windows for an unobstructed view of the Mehrangarh Fort, seemingly an arm’s length away.

Simple luxury and pink sandstone at RAAS.

MUMBAI

Taj Mahal Palace: Never has there been a more appropriate name of “Presidential Suite” than Taj Mahal’s, the waterfront property in Mumbai, not to be confused with the iconic Agra mausoleum. President Obama was the first to stay in the 5,000 sq. ft. suite, which is large enough to get lost in (which I did), has bullet proof glass, a 12-person conference room and private spa, to relax in after those day-long meetings making decisions that impact the world. For those of us outside the Oval Office, Taj has not quite as large but equally exquisite suites that overlook The Gateway to India, a monument symbolizing both the British rule and India’s freedom. I particularly enjoyed the bathrooms with claw-foot soaking tubs reminiscent of colonial times and double vanities.

Taj’s Presidential Suite, former guest: Barack Obama.

The Oberoi Mumbai: This Oberoi gets it right on all accounts: anticipatory service, sleek, sophisticated design, and convenient city location. A near and dear property to owner Mr. Oberoi’s heart, he personally redesigned and oversaw the hotel’s reconstruction when it was closed from 2008-2010 after the 2008 terrorist bombing. Expect the edge of a modern city with elements like a red lacquer baby grand as the focal point of the lobby. A wall of windows and full-ceiling skylights brighten the space and look out to the Arabian Sea. Rooms are crisp and clean, designed tastefully with contemporary paintings and statues. And a 24-hour spa- the only in the city.

A large bathroom with luxurious free standing tub and glass walls at The Oberoi Mumbai.

For more on how to support the local people sustainably, read about Nikki’s visit to Salaam Baalak Foundation in Delhi.

Must Try Food in Penang

Penang, the island city in Malaysia is home to the multicultural cuisine and you get to find lots of varieties here. Work has taken me to Penang many a time and the foodie in me has had the opportunity to experience many dishes that were not only mouth watering and super tasty but they introduced diverse tastes as well. There are different religions, ethnicities and cultures that join together at Penang and so do the foods. Penang street food is famous across the borders. One thing that I found exceptional with the restaurants, cafes and hotels is the taste and almost every option was great. And guess what- as an Indian I found high-quality food here way cheaper than back home.

It’s an island city hence easy access to the beaches, rich cultural heritage and is identified as a UNESCO heritage city, beautiful mountains, Buddisht temples, great shopping experience, very modern in its outlook and great food- all this and the vibe makes Penang one of my favourite SE Asian cities.

I haven’t gone wrong trying any food here, but I’ll try to call out some of my favourites and must try while you’re in the city.  

Char Koay Teow

This can be called the national food of Malaysia.  Fried Kway Teow is another name given to this dish. The fresh and lively ingredients with their entire aroma are the specifications of this dish just make it my top favorite. Kaoy teow is very famous and easily available in street food stalls and high end restaurants alike. My favorite variety was the Sea Food Char Kaoy Teow with duck eggs.

 Char Keoy Teow

Char Keoy Teow

 

Penang Assam Laksa

Laksa is a very popular SE Asian dish and you get different versions across the region. Whether you’re in Singapore, Hilly areas of India or Malaysia- Laksa is a staple diet for the locals. I have had it in all of these countries but this is the signature dish of Penang, filled with the richness of spices and tastes of sardines and prawns. The lemongrass, chili and tamarind make the wholesome taste even better. I found it quite hard to brace the power of tamarind. First spoon was harder, the second was hard, third one softer and keep it going till you acquire its taste. You have options to enjoy the yellow noodles or the white whatever you prefer.

 Penang Laksa

Penang Laksa

 eafood overload Laksa

eafood overload Laksa

 

Penang Rojak

Penang Rojak was recommended by one of my Malaysian friends and I found it awesome in both taste and richness. There is a variety you would experience with an informal mixture. I love flavours of this dish and the peanut sauce serves a great taste. It’s very different from anything you’ve tried before!

 Penang Rojak

Penang Rojak

 

 

Curry Mee

Without adding Curry Mee, I can’t find myself doing justice with the memories of Penang. This is the most popular street food where every stall offers its own version of this hugely popular dish. Where ever you enjoy this from, it gives the taste you would never forget. You can eat the curry with noodles, rice or by itself.

 Penang Curry

Penang Curry

 

Raw Mango & Papaya Salad with Avocado Shake

This is a tangy but yummy salad prepared with raw mango and papaya spiced with local spices. And if you can get yourself some thick avocado shake, this can be a meal in itself. It is delicious to say the least. Although, this is not a signature Penang dish and available in many other regions, the spices and flavours will make you want more of this 

 aw Mango and Papaya Salad

aw Mango and Papaya Salad

 Avocado thick shake

Avocado thick shake

 

Deep fried Cencaru Fish

You are mostly going to find the deep-fried Hard-scaled Cencaru fish with sambal inserted through slits at the street food stalls. 

 Deep-fried Cencaru

Deep-fried Cencaru

 

Tom Yum hot Pot

Although, this is a thai delicacy, I’ve chanced upon some of the yummiest Tom Yum hotpots while in Penang.  If you’re a Tomyum fan, give it a go!

 Tom Yum hotpot

Tom Yum hotpot

 

Red Ruby Dessert (Tub Tim Krob)

Time for some yummy dessert! Tub Tim Krob is Penangs famous dessert that is made of red dried water chestnuts, jackfruit and coconut milk with ice. It is very refreshing and absolutely delicious. Even if you are not the Dessert types, I’d suggest youTom Y give this a go.

 Red Ruby Dessert (Tub Tim Krob)

Red Ruby Dessert (Tub Tim Krob)

Hope you enjoy your stay in Penang and enjoy the amazing food this city has to offer like I do. Do post your thoughts in the comments section below on your take on Penangs must try food. 

To learn more about Aditi Chauhan, please visit her website Wandering Passport

 

From Gators To Mountain Goats

 Klahhane Ridge. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

Klahhane Ridge. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

It will be one year this October since moving to Seattle. Growing up as a Native Floridian, mountains were mostly foreign to me. I was used to sandy, warm beaches, palm trees, flat terrain and reptiles—those cute, little gators. I had seen mountains before, having been to the northwest and traveling to the northeast for family vacations, but the awe didn’t really set in until I began hiking in them. After my first hike upon moving out here, I was hooked. Being at elevation and immersed in the rocky terrain, you feel small yet powerful at the same time. That was a spiritual experience for me. I was at peace and humbled by the might and sheer magnitude of the alpine landscape.

Washington has the secret recipe—although it is not so secret anymore. Other transplants (like me) are catching on to why this state is so magical. Now that I live here, I’ve toyed with the idea of keeping my enthusiasm for this place a secret. I have realized however, that if others can experience natural beauty like this, only good can come from that; including a new found respect and awareness like I’ve developed. Quick nature geek out–Washington has water, forests and mountains! To break it down even further, WA is home to a rainforest, five volcanos and a major fjord. Seriously?! There is a lifetime of exploration one can do in this state alone. I can ramble on for days about Washington’s natural beauty, but instead let me share some of my favorite day hikes I have been able to experience so far.

 Klahhane Ridge. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

Klahhane Ridge. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

Klahhane Ridge– Located in Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula, you can pick up the trail from Hurricane Ridge for a longer hike, about 7 miles roundtrip. Driving up to Hurricane Ridge alone is breathtaking with sweeping views of the Olympics. I was spoiled because the first time I did this hike, there was a plethora of active wildlife that day. Dozens of black-tailed deer, handfuls of marmot, a mama black bear and her two cubs, chipmunks and a lone mountain goat which, by the way, are the coolest animals. I wish I could scale peaks like a mountain goat!

Mailbox Peak– Buns. Of. Steel. If you did this hike every day, you would be a marble statue. There is an old and new trail; my friend and I did the old. The new trail is around 9 miles roundtrip and less steep. The old trail is around 5 miles roundtrip so you’re doing a 4,000 ft. elevation gain in 2.5 miles. One of the volunteer rangers we ran into when we were there said Mountaineers training for Rainier will hike the old trail with heavy packs on to see if they are prepared to summit. Simply put, it feels INCREDIBLE when you make it to the top.

 Right and left: Mailbox Peak. Photos: Chelsea Westerlund.

Right and left: Mailbox Peak. Photos: Chelsea Westerlund.

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Camp Muir – Hiking to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier was a blast! It is a physical and mental combo. You are exposed to the elements and should definitely be prepared since the weather does change quickly at elevation. The climb up to Muir is about 8 miles roundtrip and you end at over 10,000 ft. in elevation. The sensory experience was unreal. From the sounds of rock fall and stepping over crevasses in the snowfield to feeling the difference in my breathing because of the thinner air; it gave me a little insight into what real mountaineering might be like. My favorite part of the entire day was chatting it up with the extraordinary people at Camp Muir that were roping up to continue on in attempt to summit. That and glissading on the way back down!

 View of mountaineers beginning their summit attempt of Mt. Rainier, from Camp Muir. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

View of mountaineers beginning their summit attempt of Mt. Rainier, from Camp Muir. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

 Climbers preparing for the next leg of their Mt. Rainier ascent. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

Climbers preparing for the next leg of their Mt. Rainier ascent. Photo: Chelsea Westerlund.

I definitely miss the warm ocean and Florida wildlife, but it’s been an incredible experience to see and learn about something very different than that. Washington’s vibrant outdoor culture continuously inspires me and the next trip I plan on doing is to Mount Adams. John Muir said it, “The Mountains are calling and I must go.” Wherever you are, enjoy the outdoors and relish in what is unique to your area. Happy trails!

Note: We used Hefty Ultra Flex trash bags for glissading and they worked like a charm!

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Explore a Central American Safari, at Nekupe.

Ever want to go horseback riding, drive ATV's, play with monkeys and do some clay shooting all while having an active Volcano as your backdrop? Nekupe is just the place...and the greatest part? You don't have to travel around the globe to do it.

There are several direct flights to Nicaragua from the US and even if you happen to live in a city without a direct flight, it's still pretty easy. I was lucky enough to travel to Nicaragua last week from Los Angeles. We took a 10pm flight from LAX and were at the hotel sipping on a signature drink by 11am the next day. Super easy and Super worth it. 

Now, let the fun begin! Along with your amazing room, you're assigned a personal Ranger that helps you explore the resort. How do you get around you ask? An ATV of course! Way cooler than any golf cart you'll ever get at a hotel. Your activities and meals are all included in the cost of your room too....pretty hard to beat that. 

I'm not the only one to think this new hotel is something to see and know about, Nekupe was just named one of the "Best New Hotels in the World" by Travel + Leisure

I could walk you through the day by day but why would I do that when I can show you? Check out my adventure, it was Epic to say the least and of course, let me know when I can book your trip! Contact me at jennifer@imouttravels.com

From Street Children to Tour Guides in Delhi, India: How Salaam Baalak Trust is Changing Children's Lives

Few places in the world embody a contrast starker than India, with its vibrating colors, rich culture, legendary temples, forts, and luxurious hotels…and dilapidation and poverty. On my recent trip, which started in Delhi, this contrast was evident from the moment I landed. The following two weeks would expose me to many awe-inspiring moments, from stepping inside the Taj Mahal to feeding elephants, but what impacted me the most was just a few little faces in one of the biggest cities in the world during a tour that very first day in Delhi.

Nine children go missing a day in Delhi, a city of 20 million people. Some cases are accidental- at the crowded train stations, buses, and markets. Due to the dense population and rapid movement of large crowds, it's a common reality for children to be separated from their families. Other children are abandoned because of medical issues, sexually exploited or run away. It’s foundations like Salaam Baalak Trust that give hope to what sounds like a hopeless epidemic.

The work of Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) started with 25 children in 1988 and now cares for 6,600 children a year. SBT has six centers throughout India, four homes for boys and two girls homes, one of which is solely for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. 70% of the children return home at their will, while the rest are cared for and educated at SBT’s long-term centers.

In addition to providing safety and education, SBT trains the teenagers to become tour guides of their own backyards, building their confidence, improving their English and teaching them to earn a living.

On that painfully humid, sunny afternoon, our guide, Ejaz, confidently walked us through the dirt alleyways of Old Delhi, past stray dogs and produce carts, educating us on the daily lives and stories of the locals. Alongside him walked a timid guide-in-training, Pav, whose smile caught my eye and innocence won my heart. We walked side by side and I began asking about school, life in India, and his family. The young man – no more than 16 – spoke of studying like it was a privilege, a gift he was so grateful to be given. He smiled a little wider when he told me he plans to return to his home country of Nepal and his sister.

We ended the tour at the center where a dozen boys flocked us. They sang twinkle twinkle little star and took turns taking center circle to show off their Bollywood-inspired dance moves. They were completely enamored by our iPhones and were antsy waiting for us to snap photos as they posed in our sunglasses.

And then a simple, heartfelt answer to a question a man in our group asked Ejaz: “What do you want to do after this? Your aspirations, goals?”

“I want to be a good man.”

I start to tear up from his honesty and gratitude for all he’s been given, which is nothing in a Westerner’s mind. (Had I not just complained about the weather?) The outlook Ejaz and the other boys have on their future, how much they value each other and SBT, and of course their smiles marked my memory forever.

After the walk and visit to SBT, our guides took us back to our bus. We boarded, waved through the window at their royal blue shirts shrinking down the street as we picked up speed past the teetering rickshaws. That was probably the last time I’ll see Ejaz and Pav, but I’m confident they have bright lives ahead of them, including the big screens of Bollywood.

Salaam Baalak Trust is funded from a combination of government, international agency and tourism donations. For more information on booking a tour and visit, go to the foundation’s website.

Discovering the 7th Continent with Quark Expeditions | Antarctica Cruise

by Tye Rogerson

Travel Consultant, Tye Rogerson, just returned from the adventure of a lifetime on a Quark Expedition to Antarctica.  Follow his journey as he takes us from the southern tip of Ushuaia to the White Wilderness, Antarctica. 

We reached Antarctica the old fashioned way, by crossing the Drake Passage. It is now possible to fly over the passage and then cruise, avoiding the dark and moody waters of the southern seas. But we wanted to grab ahold of distance, and wait for the moment until the world’s largest wilderness area faded into view. And in the meantime, it wasn’t hard to enjoy the sight of half a dozen albatross strafing our stern. We were aboard the Ocean Endeavour, owned by Quark Expeditions, on one of the first departures of the season. Everyone beamed, we knew we were going somewhere rare.

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth, and it has the highest average elevation. It is nearly twice the size of Australia, and in the winter the sea ice expands its size almost twofold. There never were any indigenous peoples dwelling on the seventh continent, and today Antarctica is a symbol of international cooperation. The whaling has almost entirely ended, and where there are people, they are there in pursuit of science. Or simply curiosity. As a travel destination, it’s on most people’s bucket list because…what can possibly compare? ­­

Our expedition leader was an adventurous Alaskan native, who had previously studied philosophy and been an iron worker at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. He explained that as an expedition trip we had a general daily itinerary, but would pivot as necessary to make the most of our weather and wildlife opportunities. This approach came in handy a few days later when somebody spotted a pod of orcas, and a few days after that when our resident bird expert spied an emperor penguin.

 

Ocean Endeavour – Ship Amenities

Although we crossed the Drake like the heroic explorers a century ago, our onboard experience was very comfortable. As a hotel, the Ocean Endeavour had multiple decks with a variety of areas to spend time in. There were saunas and a full health spa (massage, facial, etc.) on Deck 8, as well as the Meridian Lounge which served as the quiet area for reading. On Deck 7 we often took tea in the Aurora Lounge, Deck 5 was the lobby, and on Deck 4 was the mud room where we suited up before boarding the zodiacs. After making landings and leaving our outerwear in the lockers, staff always had a mug of hot cocoa to hand us. Deck 6 was the main one, and included a pool heated by the ship’s engine, the bar and Nautilus Lounge where scientists and adventurers gave talks and shared stories, the library and Compass Lounge stocked with every polar book one could wish for, the dining area (very popular!), and the Polar Boutique store. Outdoor observation was possible on several decks, and the bow was open a couple times during the week. It was a pleasant surprise to learn the ship’s captain maintained an “open bridge” policy where, most of the time, passengers could see what it takes to pilot a 137m vessel around icebergs and islands.

 

Shore Excursions

The landings were our favorite part of the voyage, whether it was walking thru chinstrap and gentoo penguin colonies or watching elephant seals groan along the rocky beaches. Some days we passed Adélie penguins porpoising across the wavelets, and others we gazed at tabular icebergs the size of city blocks floating ever so slowly out from the Weddell Sea. The places we visited were varied and endlessly photogenic. The expedition photographer took photos of those silly enough to take the polar plunge (worth it!), and he gave us plenty of tips on how to compose and shoot better images ourselves.

Quark also offered adventure activities, such as sea kayaking, cross country skiing and mountaineering. We opted for the stand up paddle boarding and snow camping, a stunning day of fresh air and the super moon looming over Cuverville Island. In the distance we heard some “Antarctic Thunder”, a falling cornice became an avalanche. Then night.

At certain points some of us found ourselves waking up at dawn to listen to orchestral music and watch the first light strike the glacial fjords. Indoors, the Ocean Endeavour was brimming with talented and interesting people, and stepping outside presented this unbelievable world, Antarctica, and everything that represented to us. Some people said they wanted to check off a bucket list item, some came for nature photography, and others couldn’t quite put it into words.

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We re-crossed the Drake Passage and disembarked at the very tip of Argentina in the charming town of Ushuaia. It is known as the “End of the World”, but that is only if you’re arriving from the north. Reflecting on where we had been, it was more like the beginning.

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