I make no secret of my love affair with travel. It’s the thing that invigorates me, inspires me, sates the wonder I carry with me. It’s the thing I crave, crush on and chase after whether I intended to or not. It’s the thing that either makes people think I’m absolutely crazy or makes them low-key hate me for going places they haven’t.
Either way, it matters not. Travel is about the relationship you want to have with the world.
So, on days when love is top of mind, my shout out goes to travel. For being my forever boo. Here, my ode to travel, for all the things I love about it…
How you open my eyes to things I would never have dreamed of seeing. Like the majesty of Machu Picchu, the glittering bioluminescence of a bay in Puerto Rico, the grandeur of the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
How you remind me of what beauty means. The way the man in Ethiopia carves the wooden masks for his craft. The way indigenous mothers in Ecuador carry their ruddy-cheeked children. The way lovers in Paris meet after work to open a bottle of wine and break bread by the Seine.
How you make me feel more alive than I ever have. Like when the breeze whips my hair when I glide over the bluest Bermuda Triangle waters on a jet ski. Or when I float over the jungle on a zip line in Belize half fearing for my life but half relishing the view those that fly get to enjoy. Or when I dive beneath the ocean to discover life-sized works of art submerged in Grenada.
How you carry me when I need inspiration. Because how can the unreal beauty of the curving canals of Venice or the imposing presence of the Grand Canyon or the unassumingly luxe banana plantations in St. Lucia not reinvigorate my spirit and remind me that beauty is everywhere, whether it feels that way or not?
How you teach me some of life’s most important lessons. Like how rich it feels to recognize newness of culture, how necessary it is to recognize struggle and appreciate freedom, how human it is to live and love, no matter the manner in which you do it.
How you show me that travel, like love, has so many levels. And what a great gift it is to have a chance to feel them, experience them, relish them.
And while there are endless articles about the best carry-on bag and the best big luggage, I find myself rarely having the right bag to take on weekend trips—one that’s not too small or too big, stylish but not overpriced, convenient but still cute, and most importantly, doesn’t rely on a too-short handle to carry a not-always-light load.
So, I did some digging and here’s what I found. Happy weekending.
1. Lo & Sons: The Catalina DeluxeImage credit: loandsons.com
Anything that says “deluxe” and doesn’t come with the deluxe price tag to match, has my attention.
Best for: This bag sort of wins at everything. The 100 percent organic cotton canvas it’s made from makes it both light and less impactful on the environment. It has a separate, well-sized bottom pocket that can keep shoes and dirty clothes away from things you wouldn’t want them touching, like underwear, and it’s spacious enough to fit three pairs of pants, three tops, two sweaters, four pairs of socks, a scarf, undergarments and toiletries. Maybe even more if you’re really good at packing. It’s not an under-the-seat bag if your weekend getaway involves an airplane, but it’s a good sub for a wheely carry-on.
The Catalina Deluxe, from $128 (depending on the size), Lo & Sons
2. Away: The Everywhere BagImage credit: awaytravel.com
Not that we’re choosing the best weekend bags by name, but Away kind of nailed it here.
Best for: This sleek option is great for weekend work trips or writing retreats, since it’s big enough for a few outfits, has a designated space for a laptop and notebooks, plus a convenient compartment for an umbrella at the bottom. Just in case.
This bag, according to Pakt, should really be the only weekend bag you’ll ever need. And, let’s face it, they get a point for the clever company name.
Best for: A little pricier, this weekend bag may give you an extra jolt to really take the trip and stop talking about it. Made by travelers, the bag zips open in half like a hard side suitcase, making it easy to keep things organized in the separate mesh compartments. The company says “pack it like a suitcase, carry it like a duffel.” It fits more clothes than you could wear in a weekend and comes with a zippered laundry bag that can be used for dirty clothes or as a tote if you need it for that. There’s a separate slot for a laptop, and the strap is long enough to carry it cross body to better distribute the weight as needed. This one does fit under the airplane seat if you’re flying with it.
4. Caraa: The Studio BagImage credit: caraasport.com
If you’re into versatility and style, this may be your bag.
Best for: This ‘transformer’ weekend bag can convert from a satchel to a backpack to a crossbody with a simple change of the straps. Easy grab side pockets can hold things like phones and passports, while the main compartment can handle a few outfits, your laptop, and it comes with both a wet bag if your weekend escape requires a bathing suit plus a waterproof shoe bag if your weekend escape requires hiking through creeks or something.
Best for: Firstly, you can beat $60 for a sturdy, handy weekend bag. Secondly, you may be wondering why you’d ever need a weekend bag to fold up since you’ll be leaving with it full and, I’m almost positive, returning it the same way. Here’s why: If you’re really clever about your travels and have built a weekend getaway into a bigger trip (like you went to stay with a friend in Rome and built in a weekend jaunt to Venice), you could pack this little gem almost flat in its folded state in your suitcase, then take it out and fill it with just what you need for the trip within your trip. You’d be really winning at that point.
There are a number of things going dreadfully awry in this country, but for sanity’s sake, let’s just focus on what the ongoing government shutdown means for travel.
Really, it means the TSA is a hot mess too.
Not surprisingly, a lack of paychecks thanks to what has become the longest government shutdown in history, has spawned a lack of interest in working. So TSA workers are calling in sick, tapping into vacation days or taking their cool time when they are at work toiling sans pay. (Because Transportation Security Administration agents are considered “essential” employees, they are required to work whether they’re receiving a paycheck or not, lest they those their jobs).
Airlines are privately owned and, therefore, won’t be shutting down. As long as they have air traffic controllers to direct their planes in and out, but more on that later.
This all means security lines are longer than their already long lengths, and security measures don’t seem to be all the way in force—which might explain why a Delta Airlines passenger got through security in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and onto a Tokyo flight with a gun they “forgot” to remove from their carry on bag.
Essentially, the airport is a crazier crazy place than it normally is. And traveling stepped up a notch on the annoying scale.
Here’s what you need to know to deal with it.
You might want to get to the airport earlier
An update from TSA Sunday said 99.9 percent of travelers made it through security lines in the standard 30 minutes or less, though some waited upward of 40 minutes. But what the TSA claims in official statements and what’s happening IRL might be two different things. How long you’ll wait depends on the airport and the time of day, as usual, but with 8 percent of TSA staff absent on Sunday (which means about 4,080 people who were supposed to be at work just weren’t, and that’s nearly triple the normal number), tardiness on your part won’t be a good look right now.
Some security lines, or entire terminals, may be shut down
With fewer TSA workers, some airports are shutting whatever they can’t populate with enough staff. In Atlanta last week, as many as six security lanes were closed. I don’t know how many lanes there were in total, but I know what six lanes looks like and that sounds like major bottleneck vibes. At Houston Bush Intercontinental, one terminal was almost entirely shuttered, with the check-in ticket counter closed and no security lanes available thanks to a lack of staff, so passengers had to be routed to other terminals. You’ll need to allow ample time for unforeseen nonsense.
TSA Pre-Check might not work in your favor
Those of us who’ve gotten on that Global Entry tip or who have gotten lucky with that random but beloved tick at the top of our boarding pass, may not be gloating as we glide by the rest of the un-savvy travelers in the regular people line. Security staff shortages could also mean a lightly used Pre-Check line could be first to be closed off.
Your flight probably won’t be late or canceled
For now, it seems the debacle on the Hill hasn’t caused rampant flight delays or cancellations, so you should be good to go there. At least for the moment. It may come down to what happens next with air traffic controllers, though. They are also considered essential employees and have had to report to work, but if more of them start calling in sick, likely trying to figure out how/where else to make money to, you know, live/eat/pay rent/feed their families, there’ll be fewer people to direct the planes, which will likely mean fewer planes are going anywhere.
Hopefully you’re not planning to fly through Atlanta for or during the Super Bowl (Feb. 3) when more visitors and less TSA staff will likely be a recipe for a travel situation I’d want no parts of.
St. Lucia may have won for World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination in the World Travel Awards last year, making 10 times the island has snagged the romantic title, but there’s more to this gem for those of us looking for something other than a post sealing-the-deal destination.
The 27-mile-long island in the Eastern Caribbean, where the sea breeze carries with it the cool sounds of Saint Lucian Creole French (Kwéyòl) being spoken in the streets and the scent of fresh bread baking in wood burning stone ovens, has its own way of romancing you—and it has little to do with love, lust or otherwise related honeymoon requisites.
St. Lucia speaks to anyone’s senses, whether it’s the commanding presence of the isle’s famed Pitons or the taste of butter melting into the folds of that just-baked bread or the feel of sparkling salt water dancing on your skin, it will all call your name once you’ve departed.
That said, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not wait for the love of your life to land in your lap if they haven’t already. Head straight to St. Lucia to see what it’s all about.
Here are five things to do when you get there.
Stop for Dennery Creole bread
The first order of business once you’ve touched down in Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) in Vieux Fort, is to get yourself some Dennery bread. Now, any local will tell you Creole bread from this fishing town that has spawned the raw and infectious new sound of Dennery Segment soca music (more on that later) is a must. Not that anyone will be able to give you a precise address for finding it, but most locals will know where to stop for the roadside treat in Tomazo, Dennery. It’s on the main road if you’re heading from Vieux Fort to Castries and you’ll know it when you see the line of cars parked and salivating people waiting. The bread is baked fresh at the outdoor stand in an outdoor oven by a man who wines while he works, and gets served by a girl well versed in the art of controlling a crowd vying for the hottest, freshest bread the fastest they can get it. Try one buttered with cheese and eat it right away.
Gros Islet Street Party
First and foremost, if you’re not going to be on island for a Friday, you may want to go ahead and rethink your travel plans entirely. The Gros Islet Sreet Party or street ‘lime’ (to lime is to hang out, or a hang out if you’re not yet versed in Caribbean lingo) has been going on weekly on Friday nights for the better part of 50 years. There, you’ll start with the fish fry at Duke’s for fresh catch so well seasoned you’ll be hard pressed not to head back there to taste it again on Saturday night, the only other night it’s on offer. Reggae music from the nearby Irie Bar will compete with the sound of waves lapping at the shore a stone’s throw from where you’ll sit, sipping a rum punch or Caribbean soft drink, like Lemon, Lime & Bitters, better known as LLB. Once you’re good and full, walk into the thick of the fete to jump up and jam to soca, dancehall and Dennery Segment tunes.
Who couldn’t use a life-renewing cleanse? Most of us would be all for anything that promises to make you look and feel younger, and that’s what a dip in Lucia’s Sulphur Springs promises to do. The drive-in dormant volcano in Soufrière (a name that means ‘place of sulphur’) is home to mud baths amid the natural sulphur springs. There, you’ll dip in the warm darkened water and feel the day/the month/the year wash off of you as the sulphur bath and detoxifying mud work their purported magic to heal sunburns, arthritis, sore joints, sore souls even. Head out early if you want to beat the busloads of tourists. Unless you are the busloads of tourists. The experience may be just enough to rid you of bad vibes/bad beaus and see you soon back to the island to give it a run for its honeymoon-ness.
When you’re done soaking back to your younger days in the nearby Sulphur Springs, head down to the main town of Soufrière, the original capital of the island, which remains one of St. Lucia’s cutest and quaintest colorful towns by the sea. Stop by a street vendor for some freshly fried bake, a fluffy fried dough typically served at breakfast time, and wash it down with some cocoa tea (a hot drink of grated local cocoa, nutmeg and cinnamon) while you take in an up-close-and-personal view of Petit Piton (there are two Pitons, Petit and Gros, or little and big). *Note: Soufrière is where all the finest honeymoon resorts are should you decide at a later date that you’re about that life. It’s also the more lush, rainforest covered side of the island, should you decide you want to spend some time away from it all in the thick of all that’s beautiful in St. Lucia.
Take a dip at Pigeon Point Beach
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches in St. Lucia, but a good no-fail option that’s largely locals only because the tourists haven’t tapped into it yet (so let’s not tell them about it), is Pigeon Point Beach. It’s a long stretch of aquamarine sea with gentle waves for a serene swim. When you’re done with the water, grab a spot in the shade of the trees and contemplate how sweet life is in that very moment.
I get the feeling 2019 is going to be a good year—for travel, adventure and newness.
If you’re planning on more travel this year but haven’t yet settled on where you’re headed, Travel + Leisure has done us all the favor of drawing on their own expertise and info at hand to deliver a list of what are expected to be the 50 best places to travel in 2019.
Here’s a look at my favorite 10, the places high on my bucket list to explore.
If you’re looking for cool and culture all rolled into one African city that’s only just starting to get the credit it deserves, add Nairobi to your list. The city is fully establishing itself as a creative hub of art, fashion and film. Kenya Airways just launched a direct flight to Nairobi from New York in October, too, so now it’s even easier to get there, soak up the vibes, get your safari on and try some ugali, Kenya’s staple cornmeal porridge, often served alongside meats, veggies and stews.
There’s something about the Caribbean, where the latter half of a two-island nation gets no love. That’s been the case with The Grenadines, as in St. Vincent and The Grenadines. The Grenadines, itself made up of dozens of islands, including Bequia (if you haven’t read this yet, you very likely just pronounced that wrong), has its eye on tourism right now. New hotels are popping up all over the islands and a new airport in St. Vincent means direct flights from New York and Miami.
Egypt is one of the most majestic places I’ve ever been. Just to experience a civilization so ancient and ingenious is a wonder of the world itself. And the upcoming movie adaption of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile is expected to kick off a new wave of interest in Egypt. If you’re going to go, here are my tips on five places to hit in Cairo. If it’s not in the cards for you this year, 2020 will see the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, which will be a treasure trove of finds if there ever was one.
Guatemala may be one of the most beautiful countries in Central America, but you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t know it. The country is quietly cool, rich with Mayan ruins, indigenous culture and color in the form of buildings lining the streets of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage town. The gem of the country is easily Lake Atitlan, which is marked by volcanoes making for a dreamy backdrop to a quaint area.
There’s so much to see and do around Vietnam, from junk boat rides on Ha Long Bay, rice paddies to take photos in front of, temples to traverse—but Hoi An may be the new not-to-be-missed city. With new hotels and restaurants re-embracing the city’s spice trade history, Hoi An is getting a contemporary update, and it’s expected to get even more popular in the coming years.
Israel is starting to marry ancient with modern in the best ways possible. The holy land has a new high-speed train connecting the main airport to cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in less than half an hour. And there’s new boutique hotels popping up, as well as beach front properties along the Dead Sea. Plus, a promenade connecting one beach to the next is forthcoming, which means even more convenient basking. All the newness has the country expecting new records of travelers, so it will be wise to go before things get out of hand, per usual with tourism.
If you’ve adopted “more beach time” as a goal of your own from this list of 19 travel goals for 2019, why not make it happen in Malaysia? According to T+L, the 99-isle archipelago that is Langkawi is about to make Malaysia “the next beach-lover’s paradise.” The airport at Langkawi was just renovated, tripling capacity, so there’s even more opportunity for you to grab a roti canai, pass the rice paddies and situate yourself on a secluded stretch of pristine beach.
OK, I may be mildly obsessed with Milan, but now Matera has my attention. Matera is famed for its Sassi houses dug into limestone, where humans are said to have settled as early as 7,000 B.C. The UNESCO heritage area is also a 2019 European Capital of Culture, a designation doled out to a new historically cool city each year. Duck into ancient caves, sample fresh ricotta and embrace getting lost among the uncommon landscape.
If you’ve ever dreamt of getting lost in a beautiful abyss of desert for as far as the eye can see, Namibia is the place to do it. Head to the Namib Desert to be struck by nature’s glory, venture out to track lions, elephants and giraffes in their element, then sleep under the stars in glamping style setups.
If you saw Crazy Rich Asians last year, it likely sparked or renewed your interest in exploring Singapore. New flights and hotels are welcoming even more visitors, and the movie is likely to further fuel the flood. Hit up the famed Newton Food Centre the cast dined at for all manner of street food finds, and either partake in or marvel at the glamour of the place if you aren’t of the crazy rich ilk.
Every year, instead of making New Year’s Resolutions I potentially won’t keep because A) they’re not realistic, or B) I’ve forgotten what they are entirely, I make goals.
And I make specific goals, tied to things I want to achieve, like new travel publications I’d like to be published in, or an amount of money I’d like to save. When it comes to travel, I like to outline overall aspirations, plus more pointed things I’d like to see happen in the year ahead.
So, in honor of 2019, here are 19 travel goals for this year. Yes, it may be my list, but the goals should speak to any wanderer who wants more out of life’s greatest adventures.
1. Just travel more
For a traveler, this one probably makes it into every resolution or goal list. But then life happens, money goes, friends flake and you find yourself setting the same goal the next year. Instead, decide how much “more” actually means. Outline the places you definitely want to get to, or the number of trips you definitely want to take and make it happen. Save for each of those adventures, set out to go with or without flaky friends and make sure it’s just as much of a priority as anything else that’s important to you. More musings on how to spend less and travel more here.
2. Use Hopper religiously
OK, for those of you who have already been hip to the Hopper game long before me, I have two things to say: 1) shame on you for not sharing the knowledge and 2) it’s the best, isn’t it?! Finding flights at the best prices is probably the most un-fun part of traveling, but Hopper comes in like your travel agent best friend to help do the dirty work. Just put in the places and dates you’re planning to travel and let the app watch them for you. This year, I’ve gotten some ridiculous deals thanks to what Hopper found for me, and I’ve found them consistently right when they tell you to “book now” or wait for a lower price.
3. Make it to three new countries
This is one overarching goal I set each year: to make it to three countries I haven’t yet been to. With so much to see in the world, I want my travel to also include new adventures alongside revisiting beloved places or traveling to see family and friends. It’s one way I quantify what “travel more” means to me. This doesn’t happen for me every year, but I’ve found that setting the goal early on at least makes me work hard to reach this goal. I’m grateful to have nailed it in 2018 with trips to Brazil, Italy and St. Lucia—three places I’d never been before.
4. Consider how I can leave a smaller imprint
All around the world, the environment is in jeopardy thanks to resource overuse, global warming (whether you believe in it or not) and too much waste. This year, I want to be the kind of traveler who carefully considers how I’m leaving the places I visit. We should all be doing our best to figure out how we can reduce waste, stay at environmentally friendly locations or somehow give back to the communities we’re exploring. I don’t have all the answers yet, but working on it.
5. Spend more time with locals
In certain places, particularly when you’re traveling for work, it’s too easy just to go to your trade show or conference, eat in or near the hotel and stay confined within the main tourist drags because you have little time for exploration. This year, I want to make sure that even within those constraints, I try to find at least one local haunt, one hole-in-the-wall restaurant or beloved experience among locals and at least immerse myself in that thing.
6. Get to Cuba
This is the third year visiting Cuba is on my travel goals list, which means I have failed two years in a row in getting there. This year, I want it to happen for real. I want to be immersed in the color and culture of the place and relish its uniqueness. I want to salsa in the streets and gape at art all over Old Havana. I want to feel Cuba and all it has to offer.
7. Set clearer budgets for travel
It’s easy to save up for airfare and accommodations and to budget accordingly for it, but once you factor in eating, exploring and unforeseen (or foreseen, let’s be real) shopping, the trip can come in much pricier than you had planned for. This year, I will budget spending money into my travels and work to stay within that so one trip doesn’t have to mean dining on ramen noodles for two months when I come back.
8. Choose one must-try restaurant for each place
Whenever I travel to a new place, I always want to eat at all the best places. Now, without knowing a local or getting a really good recommendation from one, it’s hard to tell what that place is. And depending on who you’re traveling with, they may not want to constantly scour recommendations and reviews just to decide where to eat. Especially when hunger has already set in. So, to avoid that—and to minimize the stress of travel planning—I’m going to research my reviews and recommendations to determine at least one must-eat dish and the place to eat it. Everything else I want to be willing to discover.
9. Learn to make a foreign meal
In keeping with the food vibe, it’s a beautiful thing when you taste something delicious in another country and you can learn how to make it (or a least a reasonable semblance of it). It means you have at least some cooking skills and you may be able to impress people with the dish, but most importantly, it means you get to keep a part of that place with you long after the trip is over.
10. Visit one new place in my home city per month
Sometimes we take for granted that travel can happen in our own neighborhoods too. And more often than not, there’s a lot locals haven’t seen in the places they live. This year, I want to aim to see one new place each month, whether that means trying a new restaurant I haven’t been to yet, exploring a new neighborhood, hitting a new museum or taking a drive to a new place Upstate that I’d like to see.
11. Stay in a really unique Airbnb
I stayed in my first Airbnb in Venice this year, and it was great. Good service, great location, nice local vibe. This year, I want to continue exploring interesting (and well-priced) properties to stay in, but in a really unique place, like the middle of Joshua Tree or a treehouse in some jungle somewhere.
12. Take more long weekends
Long weekends are like the gift to quick travel. There’s a lot you can do with three days off, provided you don’t have to travel too far. This year, I want to take at least one long weekend every couple of months to break up the monotony of routine and turn three days into even more travel adventures. This is a good time for road trips, too.
13. Go back to Milan
I’ll admit it: I’m a shopper. And for anyone else like me, particularly those keen on fashion, there’s no better place I’ve been to in the world than Milan. It’s an added bonus that traveling there also means treating yourself to pasta and gelato daily and taking in all the beauty that is Italian architecture and craftsmanship. Going back to Milan this year is a must.
14. Try new in-country experiences
There are so many mind-blowingly cool things to do in other countries, but the average traveler either won’t necessarily know what that thing is, or won’t always have access to it. This year, I want to try out more things like Eatwith, which let’s you learn to make homemade pasta from an Italian lady in Rome or do a tour of Catalan cuisine in Barcelona (check this one out in my gift guide for this year). Airbnb also has Experiences, where you can cycle and snack your way through Bangkok or watch the sun set over desert hot springs with your boo.
15. Take a wellness-focused trip
Wellness has become a trend all over the world as we finally start to realize how important it is to take care of ourselves. Now, people are turning healthy things into trip ideas. This year, I’d like to travel for yoga, to stay in an ashram somewhere or wake to a morning beach practice. It’s good to do things that feel good. And doing them while you travel will feel even better.
16. Hit up a Caribbean Carnival
It may be in my roots, but I wholly believe a Caribbean Carnival is the most liberating, exciting fete-focused experience there is to be had in this world. Naturally, I stand behind Trinidad Carnival as the best, but this year I’d be happy to enjoy one on any other island too. Each island has its own flavor, its own traditions and its own spin on the Carnival celebrations and I’ll gladly let any and/or all of it wash over me.
17. Learn how to take better travel photos
There’s little good about having a great camera if you’re not fully versed in how to use it. And there’s too much beauty in the world to relish to miss it because you’re fancy camera averse. This year, I want to really learn how to use my Canon Rebel, how to take the kind of photos I get travel envy over and ones that I can keep in my family forever.
18. Spend more time at the beach
The beach is my single favorite type of place in the world. And sadly, I live on the wrong kind of island for enjoying the kind of beaches I want to spend my time on. This year, I fully intend to go to every beach I can get to. And I may even plan specific trips with beach time in mind. Though, if I’m being honest, that’s pretty much how I plan a lot of my trips.
19. Embrace the spontaneity of a travel deal
Let’s end things for our 2019 travel goals on a spontaneous note. Travel is so much about taking chances, seizing opportunities and trying new things, so this year I want to do a better job of remembering that. Every week I search and write about travel deals that sometimes seem too good to be true (but are actually true). In 2019, I’m going to take one, going to book a trip based on a good deal alone. Maybe it will make me uncover a place I didn’t know much about. And it could certainly help with goals No. 3 and No. 7 on this list if I get a really good deal.
So with that, I’ll wish you a travel-filled 2019, complete with memories to cherish for years to come, meals to lust after long after and the kind of adventure that keeps your soul alive.
For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas. For those who don’t, happy Travel Tuesday.
Today, in the U.S., tradition will see many people spending time with family, sharing gifts and cooking big meals to eat together. The little ones may have left cookies and milk out for Santa last night as a gesture of thanks for sledding the world to deliver gifts.
But Christmas traditions vary all over the world, each reflecting aspects of the culture and the people of the place. Check out 10 fun things people around the world are doing today and this Christmas season.
A Junkanoo Festival in the Bahamas
On Boxing Day (Dec. 26) in the Bahamas, the Junkanoo festival begins. It’s the islands’ biggest street carnival, where costumed dance troupes dance to music and rhythms kept on goat-skin drums and cowbells. Paraders move through the darkened streets of downtown Nassau (as well as other parts of the islands) from 2:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and sideline spectators join in the fete.
Fried chicken dinner in Japan
Though not widely celebrated as in other countries, recent years have seen fried chicken become a Christmas Day staple in Japan. Yep, it’s quite common for couples or families to relish the colonel’s Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner, and the KFC Japan website even has its Xmas special promoted front and center.
A giant lantern festival in the Philippines
On the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the Philippines, it’s Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, or the Giant Lantern Festival in the city of San Fernando. To celebrate, villages across the country collaborate to create what they hope is deemed the grandest, most elaborate lantern—which can reach as high as 20 feet. The illumination from the lanterns are supposed to send a message of light and hope.
A Guinness for Santy in Ireland
Only in Ireland would Santa—or Santy as he’s more lovingly called there—get a Guinness and mince pies for delivering gifts instead of mere milk and cookies. I suspect Santy’s extra happy when in Ireland.
Burning a straw goat in Sweden
In Sweden, what started in 1966 as building a 13-meter (42-foot) straw goat in the center of Gävle’s Castle Square has evolved into also attempting to burn said goat down. As tradition goes, participants try each year to raze the goat, though they don’t always succeed. Wiki says since 1966 the goat has been successfully burned 37 times, the most recent of which was in 2016.
The Krampus who stole Christmas in Austria
You really wouldn’t want to be a naughty child in Austria. In the first week of December, young men dress as Krampus, St. Nick’s evil (and pretty scary looking) accomplice, dragging chains and bells and scaring little children. The legend goes that St. Nick will bring good girls and boys presents, while Krampus captures the naughty ones and steals them away in his sack.
Sauna before Santa arrives in Finland
In the sauna capital of the world, it’s customary to have a run in the hot room on Christmas Eve. As Christmas is a time to eat well and purify yourself, Finns go for a sauna in the afternoon of Christmas Eve before the spirits take their turn.
Yule Lads in Iceland
For the 13 days leading to Christmas, 13 troll-like Yule Lads dressed in traditional Icelandic costume, each with a different name and character visit children in their homes. Each night before bed, kiddies place a shoe in their bedroom window, and every night they’ll be visited by one Yule Lad, who will either leave sweets and small gifts, or rotting potatoes depending on how the child behaved that day.
Hiding brooms in Norway
Stemming from an age-old belief that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve in search of brooms to ride on, many people in Norway will hide their brooms in safe spots in the house to make sure they don’t get “stolen.”
Skating to church in Venezuela
In Venezuela, Christmas comes with some spunk. On Christmas Eve morning, Venezuelans head to church—on roller skates. The tradition is popular enough that streets are closed off for safe skating. After church, people skate back home and feast on tamales.
If money is what’s keeping you back from traveling, 2019 may just be your year to run the world thanks to travel “layaway.”
You’ve heard of buy now, pay later for things like furniture or clothing, but did you know you can do the same with travel?
To be perfectly honest, I just discovered this and…#mindblown.
The biggest challenge when planning for a trip (apart from deciding who to travel with, where to go, when to go, what to pack, what you’ll do there and how to get the time off work) is that you have to pay for it all at once. And sometimes, if you haven’t been saving up for a specific trip and are deciding to travel on the fly, your bank account isn’t as excited as you are about the adventure.
Turns out, though, there’s ways to pay a little bit at a time for the trip you’re about to take, according to Lonely Planet. Here’s a look at four options that may change your travel life and help you achieve some of those #travelgoals in 2019.
Since 2016, Expedia lets travelers spending more than $200 on a trip pay for it in installments. The travel site has a partnership with online lender Affirm, that let’s you pay for your wanderlust in three, six or 12 monthly installments. Not exactly sure how I’m only now getting this memo, but better late than never I guess? When booking on Expedia, you can just select Affirm as a payment option, they pay Expedia, which is essentially a loan to you that then has to be repaid with a transfer from your bank account, a debit card payment or a check. If you’re spending $1,500 on travel plans, for example, you’d only have to pay $139.16 a month if you opted to pay over a 12-month period. There’s a 20 percent interest rate, but if you pay over a shorter period, the interest could be as low as 10 percent. It may be a small price to pay if it means travel will be more manageable. More details here.
Airfordable offers up a similarly travel life changing option, that allows you to purchase your flight in installments before the departure date. This one requires some advance planning, but if that’s how you operate anyway, you’ll be in business. With Airfordable, you search for a flight from sites it works with (like Expedia, Google Flights, Priceline), take and upload a screenshot of the flight details to the Airfordable site, book the trip up front with them for a fraction of the cost and then pay the rest in installments before the flight. You only receive your e-ticket once you’ve made the final payment. It’s free to sign up, but there’s a one-time fee for the service and they don’t tell you what that is until you sign up. More details here.
Here’s how I know Virgin Holidays gets it: When you visit the direct debit page of its site it says, “Now that you’ve booked your holiday…unfortunately you’ll need to pay for it. Why not break the balance of your holiday down into less scary payments?” I’m here for it. To make this magical offer work, those booking trips with Virgin Holidays have to set up a direct debit to their account with Virgin. They’ll take the money out once a month on the 1st of the month, the 7th, the 14th or the 21st—you decide what works best for you. You get to decide how much they take out each month, too, and it doesn’t even have to be the same each month. You can pay $50 one month and $100 the next as long as it’s all paid off 12 weeks before departure. So again, some advance planning required, but it could easily be very worthwhile. More details here.
As the name suggests, FOMO Travel never wants you to suffer FOMO (fear of missing out in case you’re not hip with it) when it comes to travel. The company offers a heap of different travel packages, and if you’re keen to book one, all you have to do is select “Pay with LayUp” at checkout to create a customized payment plan with interest-free monthly installments. The most interesting part of this one? You don’t have to be the only one paying into it. FOMO Travel lets you share your holiday with friends and family via email or social media and they can contribute to your trip and lower your remaining installments. Quick, if you book something now, there’s still time to rope loved ones into adding to it instead of getting you a holiday gift you probably don’t want. More details here.
When I say I love travel, it’s not an understatement—the travel bug touches everything I do.
Including how I approach decorating the house for the holidays (and for the regular days, too, but more on that in another post).
On every trip I take, I consider how to let the memory of that place live on in my home, because surrounding yourself with relics from your adventures creates that constant sense of wander I crave.
When it comes to the holidays, specifically, here are three ideas I have for marrying your love of travel with the festivities of the season.
1. Collect ornaments instead of tchotchkes
Instead of collecting shot glasses, Hard Rock Café T-shirts or keychains I could never hope to use with only one set of keys, I collect a Christmas ornament from every place I go. And when it’s a place where Christmas isn’t part of their tradition or celebrations, I still find some kind of hanging decoration that could be used as an ornament for the tree.
It’s a fun practice because there’s always one specific thing you’re on the hunt for in each place you travel to, but the most beautiful part is that your Christmas tree then tells a fabulous story of your travels.
2. Hang the world on your tree
Globes make the perfect Christmas bulbs. But if you’re looking for a globe ornament in most places that sell ornaments (like I was for yeeeears), chances are you’ll find them priced at $15 for one. If you only want one, I guess it’s not the worst price in the world, but if you want enough for these to be your set of matching bulbs, ain’t nobody got time to pay $15 for one. That’s why you should head to World Market, or at least its website, and get two for $6. Make sure to seek them out before December even hits, though, because they sell out fast. They come in four colors but I chose the standard tan color and added gold foil to all the oceans to make the bulbs look more festive.
Gilded Globe Ornaments
Materials: global ornaments, gilding paper, adhesive, a paint brush
Time you’ll have to invest: 2 hours
Instructions: If you feel like getting crafty, buy this gold gilding paper, the adhesive and the brush that goes with it (or use any paint brush you have at home). Basically, you’ll use the brush to apply adhesive where you want to add the gold foil, then you’ll cut the gilding sheets to size, press them onto the adhesive and peel off the paper backing. Here’s a great video on how simple the gilding is if it’s already sounding too complicated to you. I will be honest, though, adding gilding to a bowl is much, much easier than navigating the seas on a global ornament. The best way to do it is to use tissue paper (or tracing paper) to trace an outline of each section of sea, cut out what you’ve traced, then use that cutout as a guide to cut a whole stack of your gilding paper into those shapes all at once. For these particular globes, you’ll have three main sea sections, so once you’ve traced those pattern pieces onto your 12-sheet stack of gilding paper and cut them out (3 shapes on each sheet x 12 sheets = 36 cut pieces in total), you’ll have enough to do 12 globes. I did this little project I made up this weekend and I’m really pleased with how the globes came out!
3. Get (or make) a wreath with a sense of place
Wreaths can basically look like anything. Once it’s more or less round and you hang it on your door, it’s a wreath. You could make a paper wreath like this using vintage maps. Or you could make fabric wreath using African wax print cloth you picked up on your trip to Ghana. The idea is just to create something that gives you a sense of travel or a sense of place.
My wreath is semi-homemade. I bought this feather wreath from Michael’s because it resembles feathers on Carnival costumes from Trinidad & Tobago, the country of my heritage. Then I added some gold leaf garland to it just to make it a little more interesting and a little more my own.