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Wanderlust Blog

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky 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. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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Rollin on the River

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

- by Malori

Ever hear of a river cruise? Are you wondering what all the buzz is about? It’s the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry and 24 new ships are being built by six different companies, all debuting in 2014.

River Cruising opens up a world of possibilities of intriguing destinations. Pulling up right alongside a local dock, the river cruise experience lets you enjoy scenery along the way, and then coming directly in to the city center to explore on foot, by bike or on an array of complimentary guided excursions. According to AMA Waterways, in business since 2002, “there is no better way to experience the soul of a destination than on a leisurely river cruise, immersed in history, culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”

Traveling along rivers, these smaller ships are built with shallow drafts and can navigate smaller waterways, unlike their oceangoing cousins who cruise the high seas. During your journey along the rivers, you can look out from your balcony, window or one of the public spaces and see the ever-changing landscape of the destination you came to see. Many of the “Next-Gen” river cruises use a “long-ship” design that allows more interior space for guest rooms, bars and restaurants, spa and workout facilities, and even a pool with a swim up bar.

Onboard, the experience is more like a small boutique than a large hotel. The staff is dedicated to treating their guests like members of their own families, and several offer a premium experience. With local musicians to entertain, cocktails and dancing, lectures on local history and culture, time on board the ship is spent feeling like you are on vacation, whether it’s relaxing, socializing with other passengers, sunning by the pool, working out or getting a massage.

On most river cruise, complimentary wines are offered with meals, further enhancing your local cultural experience. You get to try wines from the local regions you are visiting, along with regional specialties the chef prepares each night.

River Cruises offer many themed cruises as well. From Chocolate Cruises to Wine Tasting Cruises to Jewish Heritage Cruises, there is a theme that fits nearly every taste and taste bud!

Amazing Journeys is joining in on the River Cruise fun on our Jewish Heritage River Cruise next summer. Sailing from Vilshofen, Germany on August 6 and ending in Budapest, Hungary on August 13, we will transport you along the Danube River through the magnificent landscapes of the Sound of Music Country and along the shores of our Jewish culture and our legacy. From synagogues to Jewish districts, modern museums and historical monuments, this cruise will be one you will surely remember. For more information on our Jewish Heritage cruise, click here or call us for information on any other river boat cruise at 412.571.0220.

Out of Africa

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

- by Bill

We were driving….”game” driving that is.  In the middle of the Entabeni Private Game Conservancy about 3 hours east of Johannesburgh South Africia, our open air jeep moving along a bush road in search of….whatever.  On a game drive, one never knows what one will find and so we just watched and waited for the next amazing sight -whatever it might be.  Already we had seen our share of antelope – rather some of the 91 variations of the antelope species that inhabit Africa. At first, seeing a Spring Buck, an Impala or a Kudu was exciting…but it wasn’t long before we were looking beyond “another antelope” in search of the next big thing.  Well, it was actually the Big Five that we coveted most: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.   It was only our 2nd day on safari but already we had seen – in addition to antelope – a jackal, lots of wildebeest, several giraffes and even the not-as-elusive-as-we-thought cheetah.  It had been exciting…but above and beyond anything else we were bent on ticking the Big Five off our Seen In Africa checklist .

And so we drove.

Suddenly we ascended a small curvy mound on this dirt bush road when, around the bend, we suddently came to a screaching halt (more like a dusty halt) as the horns of a massive rhino were pointed sharply (and I mean “sharply”) at our vehicle.  Mr. Rhino wasn’t charging however – just staring.  And so, we stared back…amidst the clicking of camera shutters and mild shrieks of amazment.  In moment of suspended animation, we faced head-to-horn with this amazing creature as time stood still.

Suddenly, Mr. Rhino took a few steps RIGHT AT US!  While we squirmed in our seats our driver/ranger quietly knocked on the outside door of our jeep, which seemed to startle the creature and stop him in his tracks. Turns out that rhinos have terrible eyesight and probably didn’t even know that we were there.  The sound alerted him that he should proceed elsewhere, and so he did, down into the bush.

This was one tick on our Safari checklist of the Big Five, and what a start.  It was exciting and mezmerizing, but it was only the beginning. 

As our days throughout South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe went by our thirst for viewing all Big Five was satiated.  As were a few unique and special activities that many will never forget including swimming with Great White Sharks, riding an elephant and petting a famous cheetah named Sylvester.  Sylvester is a rescue-now-ambassador of his species throughout all of Botswana. His mother and siblings were killed by lion when he was just one day old.  He would have died too had he not been rescued and now he lives somewhat domestically in a habitat where he is also visited by travelers, school children and researchers.  Sylvester has his own facebook page  and if you “like” him and you can learn all about his amazing story.-https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sylvester-Cheetah-Ambassador/169927003078626  We were all  truly and genuinely “wow’d” by Sylvester – petting a cheetah was utterly indescribable.

As the sun set on our amazing Africa adventure, our group of 18 people were left with warm feelings of Africa, a new sense of adventure and a renewed spirit of the wild. Early morning game drives, experiences of the local culture, adventures that touched our souls, and a heartfelt two weeks with friends is a memory that will never be forgotten.  The 15 hour flight home notwithstanding, being out of Africa keeps us longing to be back again.

 

*As a footnote to the rhino story, I am sorry to say that we were asked not to post any pictures.  Poaching rhino horns is an epidemic in southern Africa and with high tech criminals scanning the internet, ever little bit of effort helps.  Apologies for not being able to post an amazing picture of this remarkable creature.

Wanna Get Away? A Sneak Preview for 2013

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Boy, does Amazing Journeys have a lineup for the ages!  If you are starting to think about traveling in the next year, just you wait and see what we are going to be offering!   We are aware that the information that follows will fill your plates with so many exciting possibilities that you’ll be asking your boss for extra vacation time.  This is why we are letting you know NOW what’s in store for the coming year.  Get those vacation request days in before your co-workers and lock in what we proudly proclaim will be one of the best–if not THE BEST–vacations of your life! 

You may have traveled with us in 2012 or maybe in 2011…..or maybe not for a few years. Or, dare we say….not yet at all?  In any case, you’ll need to hold on tight as we tempt, tantalize and treat you to a lineup of Jewish singles trips for 2013 that you will want to start planning for now.  We are in the throes of putting the final touches on many journeys that are amazing throughout next year, but its not too early to start planning for them. 

Firstly, check out our website (www.amazingjourneys.net) for details on Jewish singles trips that are currently available and sizzling hot:

-Northern California (August 26-Sept 3, 2012); Just ONE spot left!

-New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (October 12-17, 2012); Only 7 spaces left!

-New Year’s Southeast Asia Cruise (December 23 – January 6, 2013); Over 70 people booked!

-Brazil including Rio, The Amazon and Iguazu Falls (February 21-March 2, 2013)

Now that’s what we’re selling today.  In the days and weeks ahead, stay tuned for this AMAZING array of 2013 AMAZING JOURNEYS….and start making plans to join us!

Israel: May 2 – 13

Irresistible Italy by Land:  June  6-16
 

Italy/Croatia Cruise: July 19 – 31

Alaska: August 16 – 23

Heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies: Summer

Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons: Summer

Baseball Lover’s Dream Weekend: Summer

African Safari to South Africa and Botswana:  Fall

Australia and New Zealand:  Fall

Granted that some of these trips are well over a year away, but there are benefits to starting the planning process now.  Send us a note that you are interested in any of our destinations and we’ll place your name and email address on an “interest list”.  Interest Lists receive advanced and priority notice of all trips when they become available, and allow those individuals to capture what is sometimes very limited space or, as in the case of our cruises,  the very best stateroom location.

Amazing Journeys; going strong for over 22 years and heading towards even more amazing destinations.  We hope you’ll join us!

The State of the Travel Industry

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Malori and Stacey just returned from World Travel Market in London and are happy to report that all is good in the travel industry!  We met with tour operators and vendors from over 250 countries around the world as we planned and got ideas for future Amazing Journeys in 2012.  In addition, we attended lectures given by travel insiders from around the globe as they presented the state of the travel industry.

“Green” travel options were a big topic.  Vendors from every corner of the globe are stepping up to the plate to offer sustainable tourism, becoming more aware of water shortages, carbon footprints and taking a stand to keep the world from being overused.  Along those lines, we attended lectures on keeping religious sites truly sacred by limiting the amount of tourists at any one place at a given time.  It’s a responsibility we must all embrace if we are to have a world to share with the next generation.

Trends in growth for travel include Asia, leading the recovery from the 2009 economic downturn with more people visiting countries within Asia, as well as the “new middle class” within China who are beginning to travel within their own country and abroad.  Latin America is offering more adventure and sporting event opportunities with Brazil being the favorite destination.  Africa is getting ahead of the pack with “Space Travel” opportunities, offering travelers in-room telescopes to look at the night sky, night-vision safaris, Astro tourism, clear night skies in Africa and wants to actually take up traveling in space to compete with the US.  Adventure travel is appealing to more individuals than ever before and 85% of those polled worldwide, list adventure travel as a priority when making plans to travel.  And finally, there are the beginnings of interest in Iraq as a growing area for tourists (think Vietnam).

While in London, Stacey and I selected hotels in London for our upcoming British Isles trip.  You’ll love what we found and we can’t wait to share it with you in the coming weeks!

So there you have it.  We have toured the globe in only three days at World Travel Market.  Where do you want to go in 2012?  Now is the time to let us know as the planning has begun!

Scattered Among The Nations

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

For thousands of years since successive waves of invaders chased the Israelites from their ancestral home, Jews have carried their religion with them wherever they have gone. Living in the Diaspora, Jews maintained their way of life, gathering in communities to share their traditions. Others were touched by the faith of the Jews scattered among them, or by the words of the Torah, and bound their lives to this enduring heritage.

There are scarcely more than thirteen million Jews in the world today; most of them live in established Jewish centers like Israel and large cities in North America and Western Europe. But what many do not know is that there are Jewish communities in Africa, Asia, South America, even parts of Europe and the Former Soviet Union, in which the Jewish populations do not have white skin or do not live fast-paced, modern lives. Some of these communities exist in places so geographically and culturally distant from other Jews that they must struggle daily to maintain the religion of their ancestors.

These often tiny Jewish communities are fascinating. Some of them are ancient such as in Tunisia where the first Jews arrived 2600 years ago during the Babylonian Exile. Others are brand new such as the the Inca Jews of Peru who started practicing Judaism just a few decades ago. The small communities are recognizably Jewish with many of them observing Shabbat and kosher laws in the familiar ways one would find everywhere. However, each have customs reflecting their own “flavor” of Judaism. For example, in the tiny Jewish communities of Uganda and Zimbabwe songs written in Hebrew are set to African melodies; in India the Benei Menashe still practice ritual sacrifice of animals while the Bene Israel have their “Malida” ceremony which offers prayers, songs and bowls of fruits and flowers to the Prophet Elijah.

Amazing Journeys has toured 7 continents and save for Antarctica, have explored and enjoyed points of Jewish interest in places like Peru, St. Petersburg, Sydney, Buenos Aires and even San Jose, Costa Rica.  Yours truly was actually an invited guest on my extended “tour of duty” in Costa Rica back in 2003, to join a family—a big “machar” at the local synagogue—for Pesach Seder.  A totally unexpected experience; so amazingly different…yet so amazingly familiar.  Jews are Jews no matter where in the world they are, no matter what language their native tongue, no matter how mainstream or remote their neighborhood.

See below for some snapshots showing our fellow Jewish kinship from places you probably never thought of around the world:

 

 

 

 

 

Ugandan Jews are called the Abayudaya and here are some congregants and their Shule. They are found in the town of Mbale which is in the Eastern part of Uganda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are five rabbis in Tunisia; and even several kosher restaurants. Yacov B’Chiri is a cantor of the Djerba, Tunisia Jewish community. B’Chiri has been playing lute, or ud, and singing Arabic and Hebrew songs since he was young, and has become a legendary voice of the Djerban Jewish community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over five decades ago, in the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca, two brothers began a spiritual journey that would reshape their own lives and those of hundreds of others. After Alvaro and Segundo Villanueva Correa read the Torah, they eventually decided to embrace Judaism, forming a community in 1958 whose members strictly observed the Sabbath and the Festivals and kept kosher.

The group, which came to be known as the “Bnei Moshe” (or Children of Moses), makes no claim of Jewish ancestry. Rather, it consists of like-minded families and individuals who found their spiritual truth in Judaism and decided out of deep sincerity to join the Jewish people. They continued to practice Judaism faithfully over several decades, expanding to the city of Trujillo as well, and growing in number to more than 500 people.  Subsequently, nearly all of the Inca Jews underwent conversion by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and made aliyah, thanks in part to Shavei Israel.

Out of Africa; AJers taking in the sights and sounds

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Two weeks flies by when you spend it with friends…and wild animals. It hard to believe that on June 6, thirty Amazing Journeys adventurers embarked on a trek to the remote bush of Africa for 12 days and nights of exploring a world of unpredictability, randomness and unparallelled beauty. Over this course of time, we saw elephants protecting their babies, baboons strolling with their families of hundreds, giraffes “necking”, wildebeest migrating, lions lounging, buffalos chasing…..even cheetahs prowling and a leapoard just hanging out in a tree.

It was….Amazing!

Life in Africa is …Amazing!

Monday, June 14th, 2010





And Away We Go

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

June 6-20th

Amazing Journeys heads to the bush of Eastern Africa with a sold out crowd of 30 Safari-ing Adventurers.

Wait until you see the images, and hear the stories!!

A Blockbuster Coming Attraction for Amazing Journeys…

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

An African Safari is a vacation experience like nothing else imaginable. There are no museums to visit or ancient cathedrals from the 17th Century…nor are there bridges to climb or ruins to be curious about.
Nothing’s been excavated to expose an Old City, steel skyscrapers don’t reach into the sky and traffic lights don’t control the comings and goings of moving vehicles. Basically, life in the bush is a life the way the world was invented. No rules, no timelines, no deadlines and no predictability.
Life just……..happens.
And like Forest Gump once said about a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”
But one thing you do get is a journey of remarkable and unduplicated wildlife, scenery and randomness. Amazing Journeys is thrilled beyond words to lead a sold out private group of 30 adventure seekers to Tanzania and Kenya in just a few short weeks, beginning June 6th. What is in store for us is something that words will never be able to describe. So intead…we coin an old phrase: A picture’s worth a thousand words: