Bill Bryson says…

“…[T]here are always people who don’t want to go anywhere and I think that’s a great pity because two things happen when you travel – you find out there are other ways of doing things, and that sometimes they are better; and sometimes they’re not done half as well. But it gives you a much greater appreciation for what you’ve got at home, or how you might improve it.” Why people wouldn’t want to do that is a mystery to me.”

Bill Bryson, a travel writing icon (legend?), when asked in a recent interview on why some people have no interest in traveling.

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IT’S A MAJOR AWARD!

It’s not everyday that the beautiful and free-spirited mind behind Travel Chick Diaries bestows a wonderful honor on yours truly…MY FIRST BLOG AWARD!!!

WHAT!?

I think this GIF really sums up my level of excitement —

Happy!

Okay, so now that that’s out of the way, the Lighthouse Award was created in 2013 as a way to “recognize the people who have created beautiful, heartwarming, and inspirational blogs” and to honor those who bring a little ray of light into our world.

Wow.

I am SO thankful and appreciative of all of my readers  – both those who follow regularly and those who find my blog by accident – who have found my posts over these last few months interesting and inspiring.

Besides being a place to share great travel tips, stories, and news, I also hope this blog helps you to:

1. Become a better and smarter traveler. There are so many choices and disclaimers when it comes to booking a trip these days. The more educated you are about what your choices are, the better you can make a decision about what best suits your travel needs (and wallet!).

2. Realize that travel is scalable.  You don’t have to travel halfway around the world for it to count! Travel opportunities are all around you whether its an afternoon visiting your local sights and attractions or just taking a day trip to a locale within 3 hours of you. Don’t ever feel limited by your environment or intimidated by travel stories from others.

3. LAUGH. Shit happens when you travel, and often at the most inconvenient of times. Learn from my mistakes and the lessons of your fellow travel bloggers.  Then go make your own. You’ll laugh about it later.

In the spirit of the Lighthouse Award, here are few blogs that I enjoy and will surely bring a little bit of light into your life as well:

http://ontheluce.com/

http://journeywonders.com/

http://thirdeyemom.com/

http://nkellersarmiento.wordpress.com/

http://photocory.com/

http://backpackerlee.wordpress.com/

For those nominated, let’s keep the light going! Here’s how:

• Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
• Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
• Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
• Share three ways that you like to help others.
• Nominate as many bloggers as you like.

Now – who’s ready to get lost?

xo

My Abyssinia

This post originally appeared in my travel journal.  During July 2012, I spent some time in Ethiopia supporting a USAID-sponsored development project.  I’m excited to share excerpts from that trip with you.  This post has been edited from its original version.

I arrived three hours late.

The company driver didn’t have the means to research my flight status before arriving at the airport, nor did he have the wherewithal to ask anyone at the airport about it…so he left.  It was chilly so I fished my fleece jacket out of my suitcase and headed back to the arrival hall.  The hotel had a desk just inside the doors and they could surely arrange a shuttle from the airport.

Except the guards stopped me because once you exit the airport you can’t re-enter.

Oops.

I repeated the name of my hotel, “Jupiter, Jupiter Hotel,” and one guard dispatched the other to the hotel desk stand to fetch the hotel rep.  I sat on my suitcase.  I’d been traveling for two days.  I was tired.  It was nearly midnight.  I started laughing.

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Jupiter Hotel, adorned with red window awnings. I often saw flocks of sheep and goats outside my window.

The hotel rep quickly admonished me for not stopping by the hotel desk on my way out of the airport; I explained I was told I’d have a driver waiting for me.  He made a clucking noise with his tongue and was on his phone calling the hotel shuttle bus.  Within a few minutes, I was packed into a large van.  Thankfully, the hotel was only minutes away from the airport.  The hotel staff, who had been expecting me for the past three hours, quickly ushered me through check-in and told me to drink down a glass of juice to “refresh myself.”  It was mango juice, and it was good.

As I headed to the elevator, a man approached me holding a sign with my name on it and a goofy expression.  The driver.

“You didn’t wait at the airport.”
“Yes.  Plane was late.”
“You’ve been here at the hotel?”
“Yes.”

Lunch the next day was Italian.  There are lots of Italian restaurants here.  When the rest of the colonial powers turned to Africa with a bright eye, Ethiopia was one of two African nations that kept their sovereignty with the exception of a brief flirtation with the Italians in the late 1930s.  They were later liberated by the British and nothing much remains of the Italian occupation with the exception of pizza and pasta.

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Russian Lada taxis parked up the main road from the hotel

After many years supporting infrastructure projects, I tend to take notice of roads when I travel.  For the most part, the roads in Addis are pretty good. The main roads are paved with few potholes; I can’t say the same for side streets which look more like what you would expect roads to look like in developing countries.  The Chinese have taken great interest in Ethiopia and have injected large amounts of capital into the country over the last 12 years.  Much of this money is put back into the infrastructure work, including roads and dams.

The latest project recently completed by the Chinese is a massive ring road which encircles the city of Addis and provides a bypass for many cars clearing up congested city streets.  In exchange for urban investment, Ethiopia imports tons of goods from China.  I bought a wireless mouse this morning – made in China.  Most of the house wares sold in the supermarket – made in China.  The street signs – albeit the majority of them laughably incorrectly translated into English – yup, made in China.

Ethiopia remains as one of the more developed and economically stable countries in East Africa.  The crime rate is far lower than in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Kenya.  Education is very important and there are a number of universities located throughout the capital.  English is widely used as the lingua franca despite the official language being Amharic.  I’ve had no difficultly communicating with our local office staff, at shops, or restaurants.

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At Kaldi’s Coffee. Which uses the same color scheme as Starbucks, and would give it a serious run for its money.

Coffee is Ethiopia’s main export and they are the largest producer of coffee in Africa.  In fact, it was here in Ethiopia that the coffee bean was domesticated. Starbucks and Ethiopia have a very contentious relationship regarding coffee rights and trademarks.  It’s a shame, really, because Ethiopian coffee is very, very good.

I took particular notice of the women’s dress which ranged from western-style clothing to the more indigenous, traditional wear.  Everyone was very friendly, lots of smiles.

Cars are plastered with “I love Jesus,” and “Jesus love me” stickers. Ethiopians are overwhelmingly Christian, with a large minority of Muslims.  It being Ramadan, many remain home until iftar (breaking of the daily fast) at which time the streets and shops become even more crowded.  The Jews largely emigrated to Israel in the late 1980s.

Maybe I’ll make it into the Merkato shopping district tomorrow and take in some of the city’s downtown sights.

If it ever stops raining.

How to Travel with Your Pets

We recently adopted a second dog.  She’s a Treeing Walker Coonhound named Moonshine.  She’s everything our Rat Terrier, Kaiser, is not. We love to be around our dogs and wish we could take them everywhere with us on our travels.  As avid travelers, the length of the long-haul flights coupled with quarantine requirements (for some countries) outweigh the benefits of bringing our pets with us.

A few years ago, we took Kaiser with us on a short road trip.  He failed his first hotel stay miserably.  He was on high-alert the whole night barking at everyone that passed by our door. No one slept and we needed a vacation from the vacation after that experiment.

After that experience, we opted to board our dog at doggy day care, and now sign up for in-home overnights from local business Alpha Pets, Inc., to ease the anxiety on everyone.  Our pets are happy, and we’re happy.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

But for over 50% of Americans, your furbabies are right in tow along with your neck pillow and 3 oz. of liquids.  Just as you take care and caution in traveling with small children or breakables in your luggage, the same kind of thought and care should apply when traveling with your pets.

If you are considering bringing your pet along with you on your next vacation, here are some great tips to keep in mind to make your trip as comfortable as possible for both you and them.

1. Do Your Homework — Airline regulations vary in terms of what breeds are allowed, how much the dog can weigh and whether the dog can fly in the cabin or as cargo, the type of carriers that are allowed, and the fees that are involved.  Additionally, the USDA requires the following with all carriers: food and water dishes, “Live Animal” stickers, upright arrows and bedding  It is also critical that you check the pet incident records for the specific airline.  These reports will tell you how many were lost, died, or injured in recent years.

Also, if you intend to fly with Fido or Fluffy, book them early.  Each plane is allowed a maximum of in-cabin or cargo animals and waiting until the last minute means they may not be able to come after all.

2. Assess Pet Health — Just because your pet can fly, doesn’t mean they should.  Older dogs, or those in poor health, are probably better left at home.  Some dogs, such as pugs which are prone to breathing problems, are mostly prohibited from flying in cargo and may not be allowed at all.

3. Carry copies of your pet records in your carry-on — This should include copies showing that your pet is current on its vaccinations, whether your pet is micro-chipped, and any other entry/quarantine documents that may be required if you are traveling outside of the U.S.

4. Tags and Collars – Ensure that your pet is wearing its collar with you contact information.  Make sure that your contact information is also prominently displayed on the pet carrier itself as well.

Courtesy of southbridge.olx.com

5. Exercise before the flight — this will not only help you, but it will greatly soothe your animal before the long flight.  Whether in the main cabin in or in cargo, you are not allowed to take the pet out until you reach your destination (unless you have great seatmates and a pet-lover for a flight attendant).  Exercise can help to tired out your animal and make it easier for them to sleep for the whole flight.

6. Book Pet-Friendly Hotels — websites such as www.pet-friendly-hotels.net or http://www.petswelcome.com can help you select a hotel that has pet-friendly policies and rates for your four-legged friend.

For those of you travelers that take to the road more often than the friendly skies, tips 2-5 are still very applicable.  I would also add that road travelers should safely secure their pets in a carrier or modified seat belt to reduce the risk of injury to your pet in the event of an accident.  Paws and their head should be kept in the car to limit risk of lung and ear damage for your pets!

Also,make sure to plan enough pit stops for your pets to take care of business, move their legs, and to hydrate.  Not a bad idea for their humans, either!

Do you travel with your pets?
What has been your experience and what other tips would you recommend?

Travel Headline Roundup

I was skimming the travel headlines today and came across a few jewels in the rough that haven’t gotten mainstream press (yet).  Here are my favorites:

 The shocker story.

Passengers using free wifi at a major Canadian airport were tracked by for a week afterwards by Canada’s version of the NSA as their phones and laptops plugged into other wifi spots across the continent.  In coordination with the NSA.

Why should this concern you?   

Because it’s illegal.  And because it begs the question who else can monitor you wanted to check your email between flights.  I’m working under the assumption that my readers are not part of some illicit organization whose movements maybe should be tracked, but it does act as a reminder to think twice about the types of wifi networks we use when traveling and that when possible, to use a secure network over an unsecured one.

 The funny story.

For the first time since…ever…the state of Louisiana is releasing advertisement

to encourage tourists to visit for Mardi Gras.  The Governor of Louisiana says its meant to draw tourist to other parts of the state.

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to go to Louisiana for Mardi Gras, you’re probably (in all honesty) going to New Orleans.  Last I checked, NOLA didn’t need any help drawing a crowd even when it’s NOT Mardi Gras!

The not so disappointing story.

Ryanair’s CEO has ruled out low-cost transatlantic flights because competing airlines, such as Etihad and Emirates, are driving long-haul aircraft prices up because of the amount of planes they’re buying [to meet their expansionist objectives].

I don’t mind.  Honestly.

Even if he could drop transatlantic prices to half of what they are now, Ryanair boasts some of the most expensive baggage fees and airport check in fees of all the airlines. Thank goodness you can still use the toilet for free!

And finally, the absolutely ridiculous story. 

Japan’s new ANA ad launched with the intent of  appealing to non-Japanese travelers as it launches new international routes.  Two pilots talk about their new destinations: Hanoi and Vancouver.  One says to the other, “Let’s change the image of the Japanese.”  The other responds – now dressed in a blonde wig and a long pointy nose – “Of course.”

The ad was pulled after it was criticized as being racist.

Was it?
You tell me.