Monday, 11 May 2015

Gi2C Guide: Must-Try Restaurants in Downtown Beijing

This post comes from my friends over at the Gi2C Group, an internship provider in China. Careful reading this post as you might get hungry enough to jump on a plane to do some great eating in Beijing!

Beijing is a superb place to live if you are a foodie. Not only is the authentic Chinese food in the Jing delicious and extremely diverse, but you also have a plethora of international delights that will whet your appetite. Don’t waste your time cooking at home in Beijing. Even if you ate out every day, it would take you several years to try all of Beijing’s fabulous restaurants. Save yourself time by avoiding the multiple trips way out to IKEA to stock up on kitchen supplies and instead focus on finding a good job to pay for your soon-to-be crazy high food budget. You’ll also want to invest in several pairs of pants with quality elastic waistbands.

Almost all of our Gi2C interns are new to China and Beijing, which is exactly why we wrote this guide.We want to help Beijing interns and everyone else enjoy the great China capital of Beijing to the fullest. Literally. You will get very full living here. If you live close to the Second and Third Ring roads on the east side of downtown Beijing, you will want to get out and experience the following five eateries for yourself:


 
Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide


1. Makye Ame Tibetan Restaurant 玛  吉阿米
11A Xiushui Nanjie, Jianguomenwai Chaoyang District
朝阳区建国门外秀水南街甲 11号
Hours: 10am – Midnight

Makye Ame has excellent Tibetan food as well as dinner entertainment.  The restaurant is extremely hard to find but think of it as your own secret location and enjoy the hunt to discover this delicious treasure. Food is not cheap at Makye. Dinner for two may cost you around 500rmb (US$80) for four dishes depending on which dishes you choose and how much Tibetan butter tea you drink. If you are looking for an internship in Tibetan dancing (a competitive industry for internships), this is the place for you. Dust off your business cards and get ready to network. The Tibetan dancing and singing begins at 8pm.


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide

2. Bazha Tongga Tibetan Restaurant 巴扎童嘎藏餐吧
Southwest corner of Dongzhimenwai Dajie and Xindong Lu Chaoyang District
朝阳区东直门外大街新东路十字路口西南角
Hours: 10am – Midnight

As you walk up the stairs of this restaurant on the busy corner of Dongzhimenwai, you walk into a whole new world, magic carpets and all. Tibetan relics and adornments surround you as you take your place at a wood table. The menu boasts a great deal of dishes; however, when we were there, some were unavailable. The wait staff are extremely entertaining and are more than happy to break out in song if you ask them. They also provide good recommendations if you have no idea what to order.  Dishes are mid-priced which means dinner for two might run at most 300rmb ($50). 


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide


3. Middle 8th Yunnan Restaurant中八楼
Zhongba Lou, Sanlitun Zhongjie Chaoyang District
朝阳区三里屯中街中八楼饭馆
Hours: 11am – 11.30pm

You might not expect to find such a classy restaurant serving Yunnan style food hidden away in a tiny,dirty hutong, but that’s what we love about China: the surprises and new discoveries.  The food can get a little spicy so if you are sensitive, be sure to ask the wait staff to keep it mild for you. One item toabsolutely order from the menu is their rice wine, which is served in a giant piece of bamboo. It has a relatively low alcohol content and tastes simply divine. If you’re in a rush, it is advisable to make reservations ahead of time as Middle 8 is often quite busy. However, they provide great snacks shipped all the way from Yunnan in the waiting area which makes having to wait not so bad. 


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide


4. Haidilao Hot Pot 海底捞火锅
2A Baijiazhuang Lu (next to No. 80 Middle School) Chaoyang District
朝阳区白家庄路甲 2  号 (八十中学西侧)
Hours: 24/7

One simply cannot leave China without having hotpot. Hot pot comes in all shapes and flavors in China but a foreigner favorite hotpot destination is Haidilao. The customer service is superb (which is extremely rare in China), there’s a variety of food to make any picky eater happy and you are able to play games, eat snacks, or even have a manicure while you wait to be seated. They also provide a play area for small children. What’s not to love? Be sure to make a reservation well in advance as thisplace is almost always packed. Eating hotpot is something to do with a big group of friends, but if there are only two of you expect the bill to be around 200-300rmb ($50). If this Chaoyang location isn’t convenient for you, they have multiple locations around Beijing. In advance of your first visit, you’re welcome.  


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide

5. Xiaodiao Litang 小吊梨汤
14 Baijiazhuang Dongli, Chaoyang District
朝阳区白家庄东里甲 14号
Hours: 11am-9:30pm

Xiao Diao Li Tang is off the radar of most foreigners. However, they have several locations around thecity, and oh my, do they have yummy, home-style food. This particular location can be a little tricky to find as it’s down a small alleyway but once in the general area, simply show the locals the address and they will point you in the right direction. If you’re craving Chinese comfort food, look no further. Prices are also quite reasonable so don’t be shy about ordering too much. Two people ordering four dishes might end up with a bill slightly over 100rmb ($15). If you’re a Gi2C intern on a tight budget, this is the place for you.

Let us know what you think of our five favorite east Beijing restaurants in the heart of downtown! You can read more info about life in Beijing and other delicious restaurants at the Gi2C blog.

This Beijing restaurant guide is brought to you by Gi2C Group. Gi2C has been an internship provider in China since 2008 and has become a leader in the China internship industry. Gi2C’s goal is to help students and young professionals not only gain China work experience but also to help them understand China and Chinese business culture. Gi2C provides tailor-made opportunities for interns to work for a variety companies in multiple industries based in China. Gi2C also provides daily support for Gi2C interns as needed for the duration of their stay in China.

This has been a sponsored post with our partner HelpGoAbroad. Note that I would not post content that I would not agree with.

Monday, 4 May 2015

8 Do’s and Don’ts of Volunteering Abroad

This post comes from Alex Bradbeer, the creator and author of Finding The Freedom, an adventure travel blog focused on adventure and crazy off the beaten path destinations.

Perhaps you have a ‘gap’ year to fill before university? Maybe you want a break from the 9-5-work treadmill? Or you might be someone who has taken ‘early retirement’ and now wants a new direction in life.

Volunteering abroad is a great way to see new countries, learn about different cultures and grow as a person. Is it for you? Well, here are 8 ‘do’s and don’t’s to help you decide.

 

Do think about why you are doing it

 

Be clear about what you expect to get out – and give to – the experience. Is it mostly about philanthropy, training, self-development or one big adventure? It’s fine for it to be a mixture of those things but try to analyze which is the most important to you, as this will help you pick the right project.

Do think about where you want to go



Could you cope with the humidity of a city like Singapore? Copyright CC User Khánh Hmoong on Flickr

Location is always a major decision for those thinking about living abroad and volunteering abroad. Lots of factors will affect your decision – climate, language, culture, distance from home.

Interrogate yourself: Can I cope with a very humid climate? Will I survive in a quiet rural location with a patchy electricity supply and unreliable Internet? Do I feel comfortable in very conservative societies where women might be expected to cover up and behave modestly?


Do ask lots of questions 


 Teaching is a popular volunteer activity, Copyright CC User Rex Pe on Flickr

If you’re paying a fee to an agency to secure you a volunteer placement, get clear answers about what it covers. Will medical insurance, for example, be included if you get ill?

You will also need to know how many hours a day you will be expected to work and what support there will be when you are ‘in country’.


Don’t be afraid to do some serious vetting


Whether you are planning to apply directly to a charity or NGO or use an agency that specializes in placements, make sure you check them out thoroughly. Find out how long they have been in business and scour the Internet for online information and reviews by past volunteers.


Look for transparency. Reputable organizations should publish their accounts or be happy to share them with you. It’s totally acceptable for organizations to have a margin of profit for overheads and paying permanent staff, but they shouldn’t be exploiting volunteers and communities for profit.

 

Don’t make assumptions


Researching a country like Cambodia’s history is crucial for volunteers, Copyright CC User Bryn Jones on Flickr

Read as much as you can about the history and culture of the country you plan to visit. It may turn out to be very different from your initial thoughts. Not only will locals appreciate the interest you have taken when you arrive, but it will also enable you to pack the correct clothes for visits to mosques and temples – and indeed people’s homes.

Do prepare for leaving


Think about taking out medical insurance, even if you are covered by the organization you will be volunteering for. You may want to take part in sports or activities not included in their plan.

Do you need any vaccinations or Malaria tablets? Make sure you have an ample supply of any prescription drugs that you will need while you’re abroad. It’s also a good idea to take basic medications like painkillers, antibiotics and anti-histamines in case they are hard to come by.

Make photocopies of your passport and credit cards. Take one set with you and leave one at home. This is useful if the documents and cards get lost or stolen. Compile a list of emergency numbers – both of people you can call if something happens and that can be called on your behalf in the unfortunate event that you are injured.

Do try to be enthusiastic

Volunteering with a smile in Peru, Copyright CC User VISIONS Service Adventures on Flickr

When you finally arrive abroad, try to be upbeat. There’s nothing worse than a grumpy volunteer, except perhaps 2 grumpy volunteers! Accept that some of the things you might be asked to do will be dull and tedious and undertake them with a good heart. You will only get out what you put in - and no one wants to be remembered as a whiner.

Do support local businesses


Everyone loves a McDonald’s burger when they have been eating goat curry everyday for a month, but don’t routinely eat in western food outlets. Your custom is incredibly important to local restaurants, hotels and businesses. It ensures that money stays in the community and it will also help support entrepreneurship.

Embrace the fact that you will be leaving your comfort zone and be prepared to go with the flow. After all, there’s no point in volunteering abroad if you just want to duplicate your life at home
. 

This has been a sponsored post with our partner HelpGoAbroad. Note that I would not post content that I would not agree with.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

5 everyday actions you can take to support gender equality (and they’re not all what you’d expect)

Note to reader: An original version of this blog can be found on the Oxfam America First-Person Blog here.

From kids’ play to hashtags, change starts with our individual actions.

Draw a picture of a time you’ve witnessed discrimination. Walk across this line if you agree with the ideals of feminism. Discuss who tends to do the chores in the family and why.

Can you imagine a workspace where co-workers are honest enough to take on issues like these? That’s what we aimed to do at an Oxfam workshop on gender equality that I attended in Senegal recently. Oxfam believes in putting women’s rights at the heart of all we do, which is why we partnered up with Gender at Work in a global project to promote women’s participation and empowerment.

Coming out of the workshop, we had action plans: increasing budgets for gender projects, performing theater skits to build awareness about sexual abuse, and so on. However, what also struck me was that we had opened up an honest and supportive space to discuss our own attitudes toward gender roles and what gender equality meant for us in our personal lives.

In my job, I spend a lot of time discussing technical aspects of gender in development, using terms like “power analysis” and “theories of change.” Through exercises like the ones above, however, I remember that change starts with individual actions and how we treat people on a day-to-day basis.

As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, here are 5 simple, yet unexpected ways we can all support gender equality in our everyday lives:

1. Encourage the kids in your life to play as they wish.

If you go to any toy store, the section marked for boys has sporting equipment, action figures, and race cars. The section for girls? Princess dolls and play vanity sets. What messages do we send when these are the general choices we give our kids?


A viral Christmas video, above, depicts a four-year-old girl’s frustration (however adorable) over how a store’s “girls” section was full of pink toys and the “boys” section was full of blue toys. She wishes the two genders could buy both colors. Let’s take a moment to challenge our own stereotypes of what toys our sons or daughters playing with. Even the Obamas are breaking down stereotypes too!

I was at a friend’s house recently and she and her husband have two kids. At one point, both the kids were in the play kitchen cooking and blending juices before running off to make castles with building blocks. My takeaway? Both were happy kids and encouraged to do what they wished, defiant of stereotypical “boy” and “girl” toys.

2. Support films and media with women as leads and directors

From 2002-2012, less than 5 percent of the top 100 box-office domestic releases were directed by women. The lack of representation in mainstream Hollywood has warranted attention and concern from average moviegoers to celebrities like Ben Affleck. Reese Witherspoon started a production company because of the lack of women as the lead star in movies. The result? Her movies “Gone Girl” and “Wild,” based on a true story of Cheryl Strayed hiking 1,000 miles alone on the Pacific Coast Trail, received accolades and Oscar nominations.

The organization Miss Representation works to also combat harmful stereotypes and sexism in the media. You can join 100,000 others and sign the pledge here.

3. Stand up to street harassment


hollaback
Image via Hollaback! http://on.fb.me/1vSXWNj
Some studies show that 80 to 90 percent of women have been harassed in public. Not okay.  Luckily in today’s world of social media, local activists in 84 cities and 25 countries have powered together to grow Hollaback!, a movement to end street harassment. They’ve even made simple infographics on how to respond to street harassment if you experience it yourself (taking into account safety first!) and what you can do as a bystander if you witness catcalling on the street.

4) Include boys and men in the conversation

 heforshe 
 Image via HeforShe http://on.fb.me/17KnIIr

A common misnomer is that gender equality only means focusing on women, but as the name implies, it’s about equality of the genders. Both men and boys need to be included in the conversation and more so, be advocates of change for themselves and the others around them. In her popular September 2014 speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Actress and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson officially launched the HeForShe Campaign calling on everyone to participate in the fight against gender inequality.

Watson states, “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer.” 

As the HeForShe Commitment states, “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue.” Make your commitment here today.

5. Use social media to bring attention to gender imbalances


Have you ever read a list about top people in professions and see women barely represented (or no women, in the case of The Economist’s Most Influential Economists of 2014)?  Attended a concert, conference, or event and notice that only male voices are being heard?

Get on that phone and tweet away! Gina Glantz, an Oxfam America board member, recently started Gender Avenger, a “community dedicated to ensuring women are always part of the public dialog.”  Beyond bringing attention to those event organizers and article authors of the lack of female representation, #genderavenger is a pretty sweet sounding hashtag to use!

Think social media can’t be a real way to create change?  Check out how #NotBuyingIt created a movement and the world of advertising in the Super Bowl took notice, addressing sexist advertisements.

These 5 ideas are just a start. What are you going to do today to contribute to gender equality?


This March 8, honor women worldwide and join Oxfam’s International Women’s Day celebration. Send an eCard to friends and family here.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pisac Market, Sacred Valley, Peru


If you happen to find yourself in the Sacred Valley of Peru and need to do some shopping, head no further than Pisac! A small Peruvian village at the Willkanuta River, Pisac holds a large market every Sunday and is well-known for its ruins that sit atop a hill. Just an hour and a half from Cusco by bus, it's worth a stop over on your way to Ollantaytambo or even just an afternoon trip.

For anyone looking to alpaca meat, head on over to the street of Calle bolognesi. Ayahuasca Arte Cafe is not only delicious, but credit card accepted and TripAdvisor approved!

A note for travelers is to take it easy given that Cusco is 11,150 foot above sea level meaning that altitude sickness affects up to 70 % of people. That night, that statistic included me!  At about 36 degrees Fahrenheit, I woke up freezing cold with shallow breathes. Bundling up with another jacket significantly helped, so make sure to stay warm, drink plenty of water, and take it easy to acclimate!  
 
Lindsey Dattels and me exploring Pisac from the Mercado to the Ruins

Saturday, 21 June 2014

5 Things to Do in Lima, Peru

After last year's adventure to Ecuador, I was excited to return to South America to Peru, a traveler's top destination. After a night's sleep from a late night airport arrival, the day was spent exploring the capital city before heading off to Cusco for the one and only Macchu Picchu. If you're up for running around the largest city of Peru, here are five things you can do with a day in Lima:

1. Watch the Magic Water Circuit Fountain Show at Parque de la Reserva

Parque de la Reserva has easily become my new favorite place. More than a dozen fountains colorfully and even interactively light up a downtown park. Paid for by the Lima municipal government, the treasure of the night is the Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Mágico del Agua) in which water and light shoot into the sky against a background of music. Well worth the $1.50 admission and open after sundown Wednesdays-Sundays.  Truly magical!

A magical night watching the Magic Water Circuit Fountain Show!

2. Paraglide over Lima

This one is for all the adventure seekers out there! At Parque del Amor ("Love Park"), you can grab a parachute and literally...jump off a cliff!  For ten minutes, you'll glide over between Larcomar, a multi-level shopping complex, and the Pacific Ocean. Most of the guides only speak Spanish, so good luck if you don't (I don't either!). The ride and a DVD with a few photos will cost 205 soles (~$70US). Do this at your own discretion...some may consider the ride a bit sketchy!



 Paragliding over Lima. I'm much more scared that I look!

3. Explore Miraflores

The Miraflores District is the upscale neighborhood of Lima know for shopping, gardens, beaches and flower-filled parks. Think of it as the Beverly Hills (I was lucky to have a friend living here). Take some time to explore Parque Kennedy, Miraflores' central plaza, with its regular flea markets and art exhibitions and if you're up for a night out, head out to Calle de las Pizzas ("Pizza Street") once the sun sets.

Miraflores District. Photo courtesy of A Flâneur Abroad

4. Walk Around the Huaca Pucllana Ruins

It's the greatest juxtaposition to be in a city standing on top of ruins from 200AD. Huaca Pucllana, Quechu for "a place for ritual games" is built from staggered platforms out of adobe and clay. The ruins served as an important ceremonial and administrative center for the Lima Culture Society with eventual use by the Wari Culture. If you bring along a student ID, entrance is only 5 soles (~$1.50US).

 
 Monica Dykas and I take a tour of Huaca Pucllana

5. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art

For a less touristy crowd, take a bus to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Though it only has 3 rooms, the current exhibition of the intersections between locals and tourists in Cusco proves a solid visit. Again, bring along a student ID as admission is only 2 soles (~$.50US).


Outside the MCA

Lima's a great place to explore, so enjoy it all! What are your top five things to do in Lima? 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

5 Ways to Make Extra Money to Travel the World

"How do you have money to travel?"

This is a question that I frequently get asked. As a lifelong nonprofit professional and a millennial with student loan debt, any discretionary income is a luxury. Beyond being diligent about budgeting and saving, I've had several side businesses throughout the years that helped to fund my travels.  

Here are five of my favorite "side hustles" that will get you extra cash to help finance that next trip!

 I wish I could sit on piles of money like this woman! Courtesy of www.travelsworlds.com
1) Provide Referrals

This is an such an overlooked way to get extra cash and requires little time. Companies are always looking to hire good people and the best way to do that is through its own employees. Check with your HR to see how much you can earn by referring a friend or contact to an open position - your friend gets a job and you can snag anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars!

Company doesn't offer anything?  Recruit for other companies that do! For example, Vecna pays you $4000 for a good referral whether you work there or not!  

Finished a professional development class?  Enjoyed a tour? Love your dentist?  As a client yourself, likely those businesses and services you've already paid for have referral bonuses. I've racked up a list of my own Deals & Discounts of my satisfied customer experiences here.

2) Participate in Research Studies

I love this one. When I was in college, graduate students and professors were always looking for subjects for their research. Usually, this consists of playing computer games and answering surveys typically paying $20/hour or more. I would do these between classes fairly easily and hey, you are contributing to research! Personally, I don't do anything evasive (like blood tests), but to each their own.

Studies are sometimes very general (such as healthy adults between the ages of 18-45) or very specific (right-handed females who drink an energy drink a day), but can be lucrative. The most recent one I did was for McLean Hospital - $200 for a day of playing games and a free MRI scan.  

Beyond online research databases, check your university newspapers, community boards, and even public transportation ads.

3) Launch a Side Business or Freelance 

  
This is my favorite type of side hustling. Outside of your day job, what are you passionate about? Or at least hey, what can you do outside the 9-5? Maybe it's graphic design or pet-sitting. Maybe you promote networking or nightlife events and get people to attend. Try things out and see what works for you!

For me, I always had a knack for resume writing and getting jobs. As part of a new year's resolution, I launched my career consulting website aimed at helping young professionals jobs - go side hustling!


http://www.krystinanguyen.com/
Looking for your dream job? Let's talk!
  
4) Sell Old and Unnecessary Stuff

This one is pretty typical. I've found that travelers typically have less material possessions that the average person (except for their storage boxes of souvenirs of course!) and selling is the way to go to de-clutter and get extra cash.

Got old textbooks? Send them in with free shipping to Textbook Rush or Chegg. Clutter around the house? Have a garage sale on a sunny day. Got unused giftcards? Exchange them for cash with Gift Card Rescue.

I often enter event raffles as the prizes far exceed the ticket value. $1 for a snowboard?  If I win, that snowboard's getting sold!

5) Work as a Brand or Event Ambassador

This is a great way to not only get entry into cool events, but earn a decent cash flow typically anywhere from $12-$25 an hour. I worked the U.S. Open of Surfing years ago manning a keychain-making booth and earned $400 over the 4-day beach festival. In Boston, I managed a talent casting call for a weekend for $230. Not too shabby!

Gigs can be found on sites such as Craigslist or local promotion agencies. What is nice is that if a company likes you, they'll often keep calling you back. Also note that you should never need to front money for membership or access to these events.


Of course, use proper discretion when working side businesses as you should only do whatever you are comfortable with. From some or all combination of these side hustles, you could earn yourself a nice vacation!

Monday, 10 March 2014

7 Things Every Female Traveler Needs to Pack

Note to reader: This post was originally featured on There D Goes, a lifestyle blog for women.

If you know me, you know I love to travel. I’ve gone all over the world on all different types of trips from relaxing, luxurious vacations to to “I can’t believe I did that” adventurous, budget backpacking trips and everywhere in between. But no matter where you go, there are always a few “must haves” for women travelers. Luckily, Krystina Nguyen at the travel blog, C’est La Vie, was willing to share her packing tips and recommendations. Enjoy! 

It’s your moment. You’ve booked the ticket and have the vacation time blocked for the next week, weeks, or if you’re lucky enough, months. You’ve run around the last few days finishing up work projects or school assignments. In a few hours, you’ll jump on that jet plane to backpack Europe, sip piña coladas on Caribbean beaches, or trek from temple to temple in Southeast Asia.

But wait…what are you going to pack?

When I took a Contiki trip in 2008, my 42 other travel buddies voted me “Best Packer.” Before every trip, I research what’s culturally and weather-appropriate and grab my Ziploc bag full of 3oz. toiletries that’s ready to go at a moment’s notice. However, whether I’m traveling for work, Couchsurfing, getting lost in the Amazon, or taking a girls trip, I’ve come to learn there are essential things that can make the life of young female much easier on her adventures!

A photo of Krystina with her backpack  
I live by the philosophy, “Take no more than you can carry” which for my petite self means minimal baggage!

1) Quick Dry Towel
 
Unless I’m staying with friends or at a fancy hotel, my quick dry towel is one of the first things to go into my backpack. Though extremely light, it can absorb up to 8 times its weight in water and then wrings out dry in just minutes in airy temperatures or a few hours in more humid conditions. As its super compact and folds up neatly into a pouch, I love traveling with this – great for the gym too!

A photo of quick dry towels from REI 
Source: REI.com

2) Long Scarf or Shawl
 
A long scarf or shawl serves as a variety of functions from keeping you comfy on cold airplanes to serving as a barrier against questionable hostel bed sheets to hiding a purse at a crowded street market. If you forget to pack one, then buying one is a great souvenir to have.


Krystina on a hike with a scarf for sun protection  
Need sun protection when you’re hiking 15 miles across Dogon Country in Mali? Long scarf to the rescue!

3) Ciprofloxacin a.k.a. Cipro (for those just in case situations)
 
You’ll need to see a doctor or visit a travel clinic for this one. Cipro cures both traveler’s diarrhea and UTIs. No further explanation needed.


4) Non-locking Carabiners
 
This simple tool has saved me on so many occasions. I’m not a fan of having a million locks on my bags, but a carabiner can make it difficult for anyone to jiggle my backpack open and prevents my backpack from opening on itself since I packed too many clothes. It’s also a great space saver to attach shoes or water bottles!


Krystina's backpack with carabiners
5) Pocket Knife
Yes! Empowering and useful, a pocket knife is any girl’s best friend. You never know when you’ll need to peel an avocado or cut open…well anything! I personally prefer the SwissCard style pocket knives as they’re shaped like credit cards and can fit into a wallet, but see what you prefer.


Krystina's Pocket Knife
6) Health and Property Travel Insurance
 
This is particularly important for international travelers. You never know when the worst-case scenario can happen and you always want to be prepared. Travel credit cards often offer benefits for cardholders, so make sure you know what’s available to you. For those 26 or younger, as well as teachers and students, STA Travel can provide the International Youth Travel Card which provides basic sickness and accident travel insurance for international trips for just $25. I was able to get travel medical insurance for three weeks in Ecuador for just $36 and property insurance for a year for my DSLR camera (including theft and accidents) for $99 with TripInsurance.com. International SOS is popular as well. Whatever you choose, be prepared!


7) Travel Journal
 
Last and for me, most important, is a travel journal! While so many moments will take your breath away, jotting down a few notes on how you felt and what you did will let you reflect on how truly amazing the experience is. After you get back, you’ll want to remember that name of the incredibly delicious gelato shop or the generous tour guide that you want all your future friends to request on their journeys. Trust me. Years down the line and after the trip is over, you’ll thank me for this one!


Those are my seven. What are some of your “must packs?”

Krystina Nguyen is a career consultant and nonprofit professional living in Boston.  Her previous travel adventures include being spat on by an elephant in Vietnam, repelling down waterfalls in the Andes, and mistakenly crossing the Chadian border only to end up doing event set up at a wedding.  You can follow Krystina’s adventures on Twitter @Krystina_Nguyen and read her travel blog, C’est La Vie.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Top 10 Things to Do In Costa Rica

In 2007, I took my first international trip to Costa Rica and fell in love, not only with the country, but the adventure of traveling itself. I started C'est La Vie a few months after that trip so it was never documented on this blog, but I've always wanted to share the attractiveness of the country as it still sits as one of my Top 5 Countries. Lucky enough, Devon DeMars of There D Goes, just came back from the land of "Pura Vida" and I couldn't agree more with her list of things to do. Enjoy!

Planning for (or daydreaming about) a trip to Costa Rica? It’s a popular destination for those looking for adventure and leisure alike, but there are some definite “must-do’s” when going to this Central American country. 

  1) Go ziplining

You’ve probably heard about this before, as it is a popular activity in Costa Rica. There are several different zipline companies in different areas of the country, but one fun place to do it is in Monteverde where you will be able to glide down several different ziplines over the lush cloud forest. One zipline company I recommend is Costa Rica Sky Adventures.  

Snapped a picture of my mom’s nervous smile before our first zipline!

  2)   Grab some coconut water 

Costa Rica can be warm and humid, and you’ll want to stay hydrated, so do it with one of the freshest and healthiest drinks available – a coconut! They are inexpensive and easy to find, generally at a stand on the side of the road, where the merchant will machete chop it open for you then and there. So refreshing!

  3)   Explore the cloud forest              

The Costa Rican cloud forest is famous for its numerous flora & fauna species. It’s best to explore with a guide who can point out all the interesting plant and animal life that you might not have noticed without a trained eye. (Trust me on this.) You can often find monkeys, sloths, bats, lizards, birds and butterflies in their natural habitat and snap amazing photos.



  4) Visit the Arenal Volcano

The Arenal Volcano and surrounding town of La Fortuna is a highlight of many tourists’ trips. With a lush tropical climate, the scenery is beautiful and the imposing view of volcano is impressive. La Fortuna is a small town with several restaurant choices, shops, and things to do.

  5)  Dip in the natural hot springs

While you’re near the Arenal Volcano, stop by a natural hot spring! Most of these hot springs have been turned into beautiful pools, where guests can relax and test out the different temperatures of the pools before enjoying a traditional Costa Rican dinner.

  6)  Take a “Tico Tour”

A “Tico Tour” is a day trip to a small, local village where you can explore the lifestyle of small-town Costa Rica. Many Tico Tours include a guided nature walk, a traditional “campesino” style meal, swimming and/or fishing, horseback riding, and information about the town and local way of life. Check out the Santa Juana Mountain Adventure tour if this type of day trip sounds right up your alley.

After all the day’s activities of hiking, swimming, horseback riding and fishing, this meal and view were the perfect way to end the tour

  7)  Learn about local farming and agriculture

Costa Rica has several coffee and vanilla or chocolate plantations that are interesting to tourists. Visit one to learn how coffee, vanilla, chocolate or other items are harvested and get a new appreciation for your cup of joe!
Henry, owner of Villa Vanilla, explains how chocolate is created from cocoa beans

  8)  Sit back and relax

When visiting a beach town, take some time to relax and soak up the sun by the pool or ocean. Costa Rica is a beautiful place to kick back, but don’t forget to wear your sunscreen! The country is very close to the equator, and the sun’s rays are likely much stronger then what you are used to. 

  9)  Rent a moped

Many small tourist towns can be explored on foot or by cab, but another way is by moped! If you are an adventurous soul, you can rent a moped for the day or week and use it to get around town. You’ll feel like a local and make memories as you won’t forget zipping around town.


  10) Go surfing

Tamarindo Bay and other areas of Costa Rica are famous surf spots that you won’t want to miss if you love water sports. There are several places to rent surf or boogie boards. If you don’t want to surf, you can’t go wrong with just exploring the habitat along the beaches and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Devon DeMars is a lifestyle blogger at There D Goes writing about fitness, beauty and travel adventures. When she’s not blogging you’ll find her always on-the-go exploring her town of San Diego, day dreaming about her next adventure, training for her first marathon, finding a new favorite wine, or visiting her friends and family across the country. You can see what she’s up to on her lifestyle blog or on Twitter at @ThereDGoes.