Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

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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Find Your Balance

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

by Malori


If travel provides a respite from daily responsibilities, then nature re-balances the soul. Spending time in the outdoors is uplifting and provides an energy seldom found in day-to-day life. Having just returned from a trekking adventure in Argentina, the goal I set was to create a special opportunity where we could explore the beauty of the land as well as some self discovery along the way.

After gathering the group in Buenos Aries and learning a bit about several of the neighborhoods that make up this energetic city, the next morning we got on a plane and headed south – three and a half hours south – to the bottom of the globe. We landed in El Calafate where the sun was bright in the sky for long hours each day and didn’t set until 11:00 pm. After all, it’s summer here in the Southern Hemisphere. Snow covered mountains, glaciers and lakes filled with flamingos were but a few of the many surprises awaiting us.


We spent our time in this amazing region visiting the Estancia Christina, reachable only by a 3 hour boat ride, passing icebergs and glaciers and highlighted by a pristine turquoise blue (we call it “amazing” blue) moraine lake. It truly took our breath away. The next day we were treated to the Pertido Moraino Glacier where we stood under absolute perfectly blue skies (a rarity here) and watched as this spectacular glacier calved, losing large chunks, the size of buildings. I call this “natures fireworks” and as we stood silently waiting, we’d hear a thunderous roar and then gaze giddily as we heard the cracking as we experienced parts of the glacier crashing into the water. We all clapped as if seeing a live theater performance. Although this glacier is neither shrinking nor expanding, this is the normal growth cycle of a glacier. We were happy to know that it was not a shrinking glacier as so many of the earths glaciers are. We hiked the trails from below and above with a picnic lunch along the way, and happily enjoyed the views from each angle.

With a three hour drive across the beautiful and stark Patagonian landscape, seeing little else but guanacos along the way (a cousin of the llama), we arrived in the trekkers town of El Chalten. It was here we experienced the heart and soul of our adventure and our most challenging trekking of our entire journey. Over the next three days, we embarked three different hikes within Los Glaciares National Park. On our arrival day, we set out into a beautiful landscape enveloped by meandering rivers, snow capped mountains and several different rock types including red rocks, granite, sandstone and basalt, a combination generally not found together. The windswept valleys were covered with clouds that have formations unlike those we had ever seen anywhere. Most were long flowing cloud formations in the shape of ribbons across the big sky. Others were wispy yet round taking on the shape of a spaceship. Under these skies, our journey began. We walked six miles through and beside the mountain valley to a waterfall. It was really lovely.


The next day was our most demanding. We set out early in the morning for our 11-13 mile trek. Backpacks filled with water, layers of clothing and snacks, our walking sticks in hand and hiking boots laced, we began our walk on the Fitz Roy Footbath to the Glacier of the Three, one of the most breathtaking hikes in the world.  Those who wanted the longer hike were challenged not only with an additional two miles of trekking, but going nearly straight up the side of the mountain, climbing 1,200 feet in only half of mile.  That means on the way down, heading nearly straight down.  The view from the top was amazing and described by one of our passengers upon reaching the summit, “it was as if a curtain opened and the most incredible scenery on earth stood before us.”


The following day we were supposed to climb another 10 – 12 miles, but the unpredictable Patagonian winds and rain were starting to form so on this day, some of the group walked six miles while others did about eight.

It wouldn’t have been an adventure in Argentina without a visit to the wine growing region of Mendoza where Malbec wines are produced. Winding our way through the vineyards at the base of the Andes Mountain which form the border between Chile and Argentina, we visited three different wineries, tasting 12 different wines.  By the end of the day, we couldn’t tell which wine was which, but then again, it didn’t matter much.  Our wine pairing lunch was an amazing combination of gourmet food, freshly baked breads and desserts that were as tasty as they were spectacular to look at.  This was paired with a late-harvest dessert wine.


Finally, our last stop brought us back to nature where we visited one of my favorite spots on earth, Iguaçu Falls.  Imagine you’re at the center of an IMAX movie, and you are surrounded by water on all sides – and above you, and below you, and you hear the sound of the rushing water all around you – that’s the feeling you get in Iguaçu Falls. Visiting both the Brazilian and the Argentinean side of the falls, you get the full scope of just how massive these 275 waterfalls are, and how in touch with nature you are at that moment in time.  The feeling stays with you for a lifetime and the memories never fade.  Iguaçu Falls touches you in a way few places can.

I recommend treating yourself to a getaway in nature.  Reset your mind. Invigorate your body. Balance your soul.  And then be thankful for all the treasures we have on this earth.

Surprises at Every Turn

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

by Malori

Turning travel logistics into dreams: that’s what I do. Thousands of moving parts turn into a vacation of a lifetime through creativity, attention to detail plus a bit of magic.

Recently, I had the opportunity to create and lead a group to the exotic destinations of India and the United Arab Emirates.  These two countries offered unique experiences for the traveler and are, in fact, polar opposites. They are diametrically opposed in so many ways and the differences are apparent.

I love India! Its a feeling you walk away with. And it’s not just me. I’ve planned 7 trips to India for our Amazing Journeys groups. I’ve seen the faces and gleaned the reactions of over 130 travelers who came away from the experience with the same feelings. It’s just amazing! Even if you’re super well-traveled, until you’ve seen India, in my opinion, you have not checked off the world. You can’t complete your “world jigsaw puzzle” without having experienced India.


India has an ancient history. The architecture and history date back thousands of years. Palaces, ancient forts, art and treasures plus stories of the Raj and the Taj bring to light the history lessons learned. The collective favorite day of all of our groups is a visit to the incomprable Taj Mahal – it never disappoints! The culture is one of the oldest, the religion, too. Locals think a lot more deeply, bringing a religious base of Hinduism and rebirth to the surface. Every action has a reaction. Karma is a top of mind thought.

The population is one of the largest in the world at 1.3 billion. It’s one of only two countries who have populations over a billion. There is poverty.


India appears to be in a state of organized chaos. I didn’t make that up, many feel the same. Cars are driving on the opposite side of the street, elephants and camels may be next to you at a stoplight, babies and chickens and dogs may be sauntering across the road as your bus is about to meet them head on. And then there are the cows… you see livestock everywhere, including a goat wearing a sweater! In India, there is an explosion of colors in the beautiful traditional sarees.

Not so in the UAE.  The UAE was established as a country in 1971. Sure, the culture and civilization are old, but being there you see that it’s as if there isn’t a building older than that, with most being built in the last few years. Do you know that 25% of the worlds active cranes are currently working in Dubai?

The population is small, with only about 1.4 million Emirati citizens. The rest of the population is made up by foreigners who come over as workers.  This is an very organized country with lots of rules. The traffic is organized. There is a calm in the streets. The traditional clothing is very monochromatic with crisp white for the men and stark black for the women. The Sheiks Palace in Abu Dhabi sits in the center of the city and is quite impressive in its size and architecture, including its gold-leaf domes and private airport.

The opulence is inexplicable. You just have to experience it. And that we did. You can get a cappuccino with gold-leaf.  They boast the worlds largest mosque housing the worlds largest chandelier (12 tons) and largest area rug (over 60,000 square feet), the worlds tallest building, worlds fastest accelerating roller coaster, an indoor ski resort , a mall with a separate gold mall and shoe mall attached. Dubai hosts one of the largest New Years Eve gatherings.


Two countries, dissimilar yet each amazing in their own ways. And isn’t that what travel is all about? World travel allows you to see for yourself the beautiful differences each country offers and to embrace a world of memories long after the journey has ended. That’s why I travel.

(Folk)lores and lures of Alaska

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

 

As a professional tour leader for 18 years, the experiences and memories I’ve garnered while traveling the world is a book with so many different chapters than I would have ever imagined when I first entered the work force in my given profession as a teacher.  As I sit here at my desk feeling a little melancholy having just returned home from my favorite of all destinations, I am also feeling somewhat reflective.  I love travel. I love travel to all places around the globe and literally yearn for the next adventurous pursuit.  But, no place on earth effects me as does that place from where I just returned…and the place that is causing my current feelings of reflection; Alaska. 

If you know me, you know I love Alaska.  If you’ve traveled with Amazing Journeys to Alaska, you probably share my love and attachment to that great land.  Alaska comes with many lores and lures.  The lores speak of the old Gold Rush, the handing over of land from Russia in 1867 for a mere $7million, the symbolism of the land, the call of the wild, and unique verbiage like “permafrost”, “Iditarod“, “pipeline”, “Aurora Borealis” and “Permanent Fund” (a dividend paid to each resident annually).  The lures include unending adventure, the vast uncharted and ever-changing landscape, the tallest mountain in North America, mesmerizing wildlife, the midnight sun, monstrous glaciers, a culture that stands apart from the lower 48, and a lifestyle that befits Alaska’s wilderness more than it does the few-and-far-between urban acreage. 

As testimony to Alaska’s unique and special meaning, here are a few interesting tidbits:

  • Alaska contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the US
  • Mt. McKinley (known simply as “Denali” to the local folk) is actually the tallest mountain in the world.  Not the “highest”–that’s Everest which reaches higher into the sky because its base is at a higher elevation.  But, from base to summit, McKinley is actually a “taller” mountain
  • Juneau, the capital, has no road access to the rest of the state.
  • More than 1/2 of the world’s glaciers are found in Alaska
  • Alaska is as big as England, France, Italy and Spain combined.  You could also fit 22 of the smaller US states within Alaska. Alaska is actually about 1/2 the size of the entire rest of the continental US.
  • In the dead of winter in Fairbanks, you could walk outside with a cup of steaming coffee…toss it in the air, and it will float away as ice crystals.
  • Parking meters have electrical outlets incorporated into each pole. Cars have electrical cords and 3-pronged plugs connected to their engine block so that they can “plug” their car in outdoors during the winter and keep the engine from freezing over.
  • More people than I’m comfortable with will ask what rate the of exchange is with the US dollar to Alaskan currency.

There is so much to share about Alaska, but the true meaning of this great land is to experience it yourself.  Imagine for a moment holding an iceberg that was part of a glacier for over 1000 years, or watching a mama bear and her 2 cubs munching on berries, or watching an iceberg that’s as tall as a skyscraper come crashing down to earth…..or meeting Mary Shields, the first woman ever to have completed the 1000 mile Iditarod sled dog race, and her dogs. 

Alaska is a wondrous place.  Take it from someone who’s been to 7 continents, its the greatest show on earth.  If you’ve never been, make plans to do so.  Its a place that will give you perspective, enjoyment and meaning.  If you have been to Alaska, go again!  Having been there 11 times now, I can honestly say that it only gets better.  Going once is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ (pun intended!), but going again will strengthen your bond, open your mind and show you things still that you never thought imaginable.  I have feelings each and every summer when I go…and I yearn for them the minute I get home, each and every time.