Wanderlust Blog

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky to have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock-full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world.

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What an Amazing Summer

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

by Malori

Summers are always busy at Amazing Journeys and this was no exception. During three calendar months, we do nearly half of our year’s trips, and bring along nearly half of all of our year’s passengers! This summer, 250 amazing journeyers participated in a variety of trips to some incredible destinations.

From the North Pole to South America with Europe in-between, we covered a lot of the earth’s circumference.

spitsbergen
We started with Spitsbergen, the closest place on earth to the North Pole.  Our adventure travelers headed north to Norway and then further north to the island of Svalbard in search of the polar bear and they were not disappointed.  Traveling by expedition ship, our Arctic travelers hiked on frozen tundra, rode on a sled pulled by dogs and were transported onto Spitsbergen by zodiac rafts.  Lots of wildlife was spotted, along with 30 polar bears!

med nice group
Next was our Mediterranean Cruise that began in amusing and colorful Barcelona, this group of 30s, 40s, and 50s, many of them new to Amazing Journeys, discovered Spain, France and Italy and visited some of the Mediterranean coasts most loved cities. We spent our days enjoying the beauty of the Amalfi Coast in Italy, the beaches and foods of Southern France in Nice and the excitement of Barcelona. Biking, wine tasting, pizza eating, walking miles and miles, all with a great group and the warm summer sun, this cruise brought everything we wanted and more!

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Our National Parks trip to Colorado and Utah was the perfect summer vacation for those who love nature and beauty. And it’s all right in our own backyard! Visiting four of the US National Parks was a highlight, and having time to hike and soak in the grandeur of it all was breathtaking. Everyday brought new awe-inspiring beauty and adventure, including white water rafting on the Colorado River, a jeep adventure riding over huge rocks and mountains in Moab, Utah, and a highlight, watching sunset over Arches National Park and seeing the “purple mountains majesty” set against rocks so orange and red, it made us cry over it’s sheer beauty! And thanks to our Denver friends who came out to party with us one night in Denver…we loved seeing all of you!

jewish heritage group

Our 74 Amazing Journeyers experienced a different kind of journey on our Jewish Heritage River Cruise along the Danube River in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. Some started in Prague, offering an extra few days of touring, while others began their journey in Munich. This trip, our first river cruise, was an opportunity to explore part of our heritage and with it, part of ourselves. It was truly a journey of discovery as we delved into our past and the turbulent times of our Jewish people. Each day was a new opportunity for education as we met with locals like the 101-year-old Holocaust survivor, spending Shabbat with the local community at the Synagogue of Linz, and walking through the same streets that our family members had done in the not-so-distant past. Every day seemed to bring a new realization of our past, and our family members. And, all loved the river cruise experience and said they would do it again!

peru group machu picchu
Peru and the Inca Trail, one of our summer trips, was offered to those in their 20s and 30s and this group got to challenge themselves on the 47 kilometer Inca Trail. This once-in-a-lifetime experience combined four days and three nights of hiking and camping, in the scenic valleys, mountains and high elevations of Peru. Their prize at the end of it all? Reaching Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate on the morning of the fourth day. They were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise, magnificent views, and bragging rights for life! They also enjoyed biking in Lima, the markets of Cusco, learning how to weave, visiting llamas and alpacas, tasting local foods and visiting ancient ruins which dot the country.

peru group
Our second Peru group, which was designed for our 40+ group of travelers, got to experience adventure as they hiked, biked and white water rafted their way through Peru. For this group of adventurers, visiting Machu Picchu, enjoying a cooking class and exploring ancient Incan sights were among the highlights.

For those who got to spend a part of their summer with Amazing Journeys, we thank you the opportunity to plan and share a part of your summer with you.

Come join us for next summer! We’re already planning and our trips will be appearing on our website soon! We’d love to show you our amazing world!

 

5 Scientific Reasons A Beach Vacation Is Necessary For Your Health

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014


By James Cave, Originally posted on Huffington Post

If you don’t already have a beach vacation planned, marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols’s new book will make you seriously reconsider. Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In , On, Or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, And Better At What You Do (that’s the whole title) is the result of over 10 years of research that shows how looking at water, being around it or in it coaxes our brains into releasing happy chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Below, five theories from Nichols’s book that totally “blue” our minds:


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1. Water returns us to our natural state:

We’re connected to water from the onset of life. Babies’ bodies are 75 percent water. As we age, we become drier (only 60 percent), but our brains are still three-fourths water and even our bones are 31 percent water.

The brain, which rests in a kind of “clear, colorless cerebrospinal fluid” in our heads, reacts to water very fondly because, as Nichols writes, “our ancient ancestors came out of the water and evolved from swimming to crawling to walking. Human fetuses still have ‘gill-slit’ structures in their early stages of development,” and the water in our cells “is comparable to that found in the sea.”

This biological connection to water, Nichols told CBS News, triggers an immediate response in our brains. When you see or hear the ocean, he says, you know “you’re in the right place.”

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2. We’re more relaxed along the coast:

Look at the picture above. Beautiful, right? The very sight of it, it turns out, subconsciously calms us, and Nichols cites a study (“Functional Neuroanatomy Associated with Natural and Urban Scenic Views in the Human Brain: 3.0T Functional MR Imaging,” to be precise) that shows how areas of the brain associated with less stress and more empathy are activated when we look at nature scenes. While pictures of urban landscapes elicited activity in the parts of our brains associated with stress, participants who were shown nature pictures had heightened activity in the parts associated with “positive outlook, emotional stability and the recollection of happy memories.”

And when it comes to nature views, the coast wins. Another study, “Human Brain Activation in Response to Visual Stimulation with Rural and Urban Scenery Pictures: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study, shows that coastal images were more effective than other nature images in activating participants’ reward systems — “an area rich in opioid receptors that triggers feelings of wellness,” Nichols writes.

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3. Looking at pictures is good, but water is even better in real life:

While looking at pictures is one thing, it turns out the real-life natural world also wins over urban landscapes. Nichols references a 2011 study in which a smartphone app called Mappiness tracked the well-being levels of about 22,000 participants. The participants received random prompts to report how happy they were in that moment. According to the over 1.1 million responses that were sent in, not only were people happier when they were outside, they were 5.2 percent happier when near bodies of water.

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4. Water rejuvenates a tired mind:

In a section titled, “Water, Nature, and the Optimum Brain,” Nichols illustrates that we now have more screens to touch, social networks to update and websites to refresh, and our fatigued brains need to recharge. Water, he theorizes, helps that happen.

He references a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 1995, titled “Views to Nature: Effects on Attention.” Researchers wanted to find out whether or not dorm students with views of beautiful nature scenes would do better on cognitive tests that measured attention, visual scanning and motor speed, over students with more urban views.

“The dorm rooms were grouped by the views from their windows: trees and a lake, lawns and buildings, and brick walls and slate rooftops,” Nichols writes. “Students whose rooms overlooked trees and the lake not only performed better on the cognitive tests but also rated their ‘attentional functioning’ as more effective than that of all of the other groups combined.” The study found that, not only does nature rejuvenate a tired mind, but “an attention-restoring experience can be as simple as looking at nature.”

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5. Blue soothes:

Blue, it turns out, is the world’s favorite color. Nichols cites a 2003 research project that surveyed 232 people from around the world about their associations with various colors. Forty-two percent of men said blue was their favorite color, while 35 percent of the women surveyed said the same thing — a majority in both brackets.

Nichols isn’t surprised. We “evolved on a planet that is primarily shades of water and sky blue,” he writes, so it makes sense that blue stimulates a positive emotional response. He quotes neurosurgeon Amir Vokshoor, who explains that “the arousal mechanism stimulated by blue’s wavelengths correlates to the release of neurotransmitters thought to be associated with feelings of euphoria, joy, reward, and wellness related to the effects of dopamine.”

Nichols also cites a study in the journal Perceptual And Motor Skills, entitled “Effect Of Partition Board Color On Mood And Autonomic Nervous Function,” which found that we feel less fatigued and claustrophobic when we’re around the color blue.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with strudel

Friday, August 1st, 2014

- by Erin

The passengers on our upcoming Danube River Cruise will have the opportunity to taste local specialties of the region including crafted brews, indulgent chocolate and of course, homemade strudel.  In an attempt for everyone to get their fair share of pastry, we thought it was only fair to share a recipe for this delicious delicacy!

Apple strudel

STRUDEL PASTRY

INGREDIENTS

Pastry Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ stick butter

 

Stuffing for Pastry

  • 2 lbs. green apples, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 oz. cinnamon
  • 2 oz. raisins
  • 3 oz. sugar
  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 1 egg yolk

 

PREPARATION METHOD

Sift the flour and combine with sugar and salt. Mix the egg and oil together, and them with the dry ingredients. Add the water to the dough a tablespoon at a time and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball and set aside, covered for 30 minutes. Take the dough and roll it out as thinly as possible in a rectangle on a lightly floured pastry board. Drape the sheet of dough over your hands and stretch, being careful not to tear it. Continue until the sheet of dough is very thin, always working from the middle toward the edges until it reaches 18″ x 14″. Lay the sheet of dough on a well-floured pastry cloth. Brush with melted butter. In a bowl, mix the apples, sugar, raisins, cinnamon and dark rum. Spread immediately on the dough. Form a long, tightly tucked roll. Press the ends and seal. Butter an 18” x 12” oven tray with raised sides and preheat the oven to 475°. Beat the egg yolk and brush over the strudel, and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes at 475° then lower to 400° and bake for 20 minutes. Lower to 300° and bake and additional 15 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a large serving tray. Pour the juice from the pay over the strudel and set aside to cool. Serve either hot or cold, and garnish with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Makes 10 servings

 

Greetings from the National Parks

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

- by Malori

Greetings from Colorado and Utah where we are visiting some of our country’s greatest treasures, it’s natural beauty. Our National Parks were created to preserve some of the most awe inspiring scenery anywhere. Our group of 18 Amazing Journeyers are hitting the open roads in search of America’s inspirational landscapes. Today we are in Moab, Utah where we visited our collective favorite, Arches National Park. We visited by day and hiked up to and climbed through several of the actual arches here. The red colored sandstone was nature at it’s finest! In the evening, we went back to an area called “Balanced Rock” to watch the sunset, and with the sun setting against the rocks, we observed the natural colors of the rocks changing from orange to “burnt orange” to red. The colors of the mountains in the background were purple and the clouds in the sky turned pink. It was so beautiful, we broke out singing, “America the Beautiful” together.

This morning, some of the group participated in an exhilarating Hummer Safari tour up and over the red rocks and to the face of the cliffs, overlooking the Colorado River below. The rest of the group choose a white water rafting adventure in the Colorado River, and most of the group escaped the 106 degree heat and jumped right in the water, swimming alongside of the raft.

Later, we visited Canyonlands National Park, another beauty in our four-National Parks Tour. The views and vistas were amazing, and the hiking at both of the National Parks in Utah were incredible.

Earlier in the week, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park outside of Denver and tomorrow we will be visiting Mesa Verde National Park.

The Amazing Journeyers who choose to come with us on this tour love seeing the majestic landscapes we have had the opportunity to visit.

New TSA security regulations

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

cell phone
Is your cell phone charged?

It will need to be going forward. In order to continually protect US borders, TSA has added an additional security regulation at certain overseas airports on inbound flights to the US. TSA agents might ask you to power on any electronic or battery-powered devices in front of them that you bring through airport security, including cell phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, etc. This is to demonstrate the item’s functionality. This new security regulation is focused on intercepting explosives that could be disguised as electronic devices. If you are asked to do this and your device does not have power, you will not be allowed to bring it through security.

Moral of the story – make sure all of the electronic devices are fully charged before you head to the airport.