Favorite Places: Cuba

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Today’s favorite place is from Andrea MacEachern of Another Day of Grace

Andrea’s Favorite Place: Cuba

cubaWhy She Loves Cuba

“Cuba is so untouched by the influences of the United States and the rest of  the developed world. The culture, the way people behave and interact with  one another and keep family at the forefront, the food, the lack of material  possessions among the people, the cars, the music and just the way of life is  so different from the rest of North America.”

Andrea’s Favorite Things to Do and See in Cuba

About Andrea

andreaI grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, lived in Newfoundland for over ten years and recently returned to my hometown. I am a freelance writer who recently found a love for another art form,  photography. I love being  outdoors and traveling to new  places and keeping my life as  interesting as possible!



The Favorite Places e-book

For more vacation ideas and travel inspiration get the free Favorite Places e-book now.  If you are a blogger who would like to be featured in an upcoming edition of the series simply tell me about your favorite place.

Souvenir Stories: The Lucky Coin

Souvenir Stories is a new series that tells the story behind someone’s souvenir.  Chris from Real Man Travel was kind enough to write the very first one – many thanks Chris!  Go here to share your Souvenir Story.

Do Souvenirs Find You?

Do you look forward to finding making or buying that perfect souvenir?

The common misunderstanding about souvenirs is that they will cost you a lot of money. I’ll tell you that in my experience, this is not always the case. A souvenir can be anything that takes you back to a moment in time by just looking at it. A magical time travel device, think of it like your very own DeLorean (minus the flux capacitor) taking you back to your toes in the sand, or on a road trip with friends, or in my case a football stadium 10 years ago.

My most memorable souvenir can be both a short story and a long story. It’s become a staple of my day-to-day life and it might be the only thing in my wallet that can’t be replaced. You see my most memorable isn’t a t-shirt, a shot glass, or even a photograph. It’s not a stuffed animal in a t-shirt, a wooden keepsake or even a fridge magnet. My most memorable souvenir is my “lucky” 1990 50 cent American coin.

We found each other on a snowy November Monday Night at Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin. This was my first NFL football game I’ve attended (Story told here) and for those of you who do not follow the NFL, Lambeau Field is the “Roman Coliseum” of professional football. It had recently been renovated and I convinced my brother and my best friend to make it a road trip to remember. This trip had already produced lots of memories I will carry with me forever, but it’s the memory of forging a connection with this unique coin (we don’t have 50 cent coins in Canada, although we seem to have one for everything else) that stands out in my mind the most.

That night a new friendship started. Well a rocky friendship anyway. After waiting in a horrendously long beer line up, I was given a pile of change from the cashier. Bingo it was worth the wait. Right away I noticed one coin was bigger. “Cool, we were meant for each other” as I tripped over the first step. “Wow that was crazy but I didn’t spill the beers” I assumed the coin was “Lucky.”

I told the guys when I got back to the seats, “Guys, meet my new good luck charm, my lucky coin!” I said excitedly. They laughed and I put it in my wallet. As we all know good luck doesn’t last forever. As the rain turned to snow we were soaking wet as our home team Packers fell behind the visiting Philadelphia Eagles. Shortly after I spilled my drink all over my friends shoes, and when the final gun sounded the Packers had lost by 3 points. Just like that my “lucky” coin and I had reached highs and lows and we were off to a rocky start. As I put it in my wallet for safe keeping, I could only hope for it to get better.

10 years and 2 wallets later I still have my “lucky” coin, Through the 10 years I have married the love of my life and had 3 beautiful girls. I have a great supportive family as well as friends. I have gotten to visit a lot of cool places after I found my coin. There have been downs too. But it remains right where I put it the day we found each other, and serves as constant reminder that things happen for a reason.


My name is Chris, I’m Married to the love of my life Amanda and we have three beautiful daughters. I have a deep love of traveling, especially when it comes to family vacations and sporting events. One day I decided I wanted to share my travel stories. Real Man Travel was created as an outlet for me. My goals are to inspire other men and women to do silly stuff and have fun when they travel. Follow me @RealManTravel on Twitter.

Favorite Places: Reykjavik, Iceland

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Today’s favorite place is from Julie McNamee of Quirky Travel

Julie’s Favorite Place: Reykjavik, Iceland


Why She Loves Reykjavik

“Reykjavik has the coolest, funniest, most laid-back people you’ll come across. It has beautifully colourful corrugated iron houses because it has few trees. It’s surrounded by volcanoes and you can smell the sulphur. It’s heated solely by geothermal energy. It has a spectacular cathedral. What’s not to like about Reykjavik?”

Julie’s Favorite Things to Do and See in Reykjavik

About Julie

j-mcnamee-catsJulie McNamee blogs at Quirky Travel and has the very determined notion that there’s quirky everywhere.



The Favorite Places e-book

For more vacation ideas and travel inspiration get the free Favorite Places e-book now.  If you are a blogger who would like to be featured in an upcoming edition of the series simply tell me about your favorite place.

Can We See the World Without Destroying It? The Need for Sustainable Travel

Guest post by Laura of Tutus and Tiny Hats

Lately, I’ve found myself torn between wanderlust and concern about global warming. I want so badly to see the world, but I don’t want to harm it — especially since we’re terrifyingly close to the point of no return.

As much as I might wish otherwise, it seems pretty clear that air travel is unsustainable. It’s unlikely that airplanes will become more efficient in the near future, and carbon offsets aren’t particularly helpful in reducing emissions–they might even make it worse by encouraging people to fly more. Luckily, though, air travel is not the only way to see the world.

One alternative is traveling by ship. There’s even some evidence that ships have a cooling effect on the atmosphere due to aerosol pollution (which is still, unfortunately, pollution).

It is possible, although expensive and slow, to travel by cargo ship. If there were increased demand for cargo ship travel, and perhaps some kind of government backing, it could become cheaper and more accessible.

Speaking of ships, one of my friends went on a Semester at Sea voyage last year and loved it–like, life-changing-level loved it. I’m jealous, and would love to go on an SAS enrichment voyage someday. If this aerosol cooling effect thing is true, maybe my time on the ship would even cancel out my flights to and from the beginning and end points of the cruise.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/this-future-map-of-the-united-states-is-way-cooler-than-any-current-map-of-the-u?c=cd1

Another alternative is train travel. How cool would it be if this cross-country high-speed rail system, pictured above, existed? Trains are already a good way to get around much of Europe and Asia, and could be a great alternative to both driving and flying if we invested more money in Amtrak and pushed for cleaner and faster rail technology.

However, there’s still the issue of time–or the lack thereof, since there’s no legally guaranteed vacation time in the US, and the amount of employer-given vacation time is much less than in Europe. With the amount of time USians currently spend working, there’s no way we could make the switch to slower, more sustainable forms of travel.

Which is another reason to push for more vacation time–in addition to the improved health and reduced stress it would bring. It’s even been suggested that the European model of work can slow global warming.

Honestly, I doubt the US will ever adopt the European model (as much as I wish we would). But it’s worth talking about, especially as an inspiration for the growing economies of the developing world.

It’s important to note that Europeans still fly quite a bit, even though they have good rail systems and a good amount of vacation time. So switching to slower, more sustainable forms of travel would involve not only adequate vacation time and available alternatives, but also a cultural shift. It would mean an alliance between travel junkies and environmental activists. It would mean making boats cool again, whatever that takes. It would mean standing up and shouting from the rooftops: “We care about the planet, and we want to see the world. Let’s make this possible.

lauraLaura wants to both see and save the world. You can find her at Tutus and Tiny Hats, where she blogs about fat, fashion, and life.

How to Be Mindful While Traveling


I don’t know about you, but sometimes my trips turn into a blur. My itinerary dominates the vacation and I start worrying more about where I need to be next and not where I am. One cure for this type of vacation overload is to be mindful during your trip.

What is mindfulness anyway?
There are varying definitions of mindfulness, but I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

(If your interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness. It’s an amazing life-changing book.)

So what does it mean to be mindful while on vacation?

As much as people love travel, it can also be stressful, testing our own beliefs and comfort levels at every step. Travel is about experiencing something new, in a way it is a practice in letting go of what you believe to be true, of what you have come to know and opening up to a new reality. The next time you are feeling a resistance to something when you are traveling, see if you can let go of the resistance. Treat it as an opportunity to be nonjudgemental, to simply observe.

Being mindful on vacation means taking the time to notice what is going on around you. Instead of trying to see 20 things in one day choose one and really, truly experience it. Be purposeful in how you are spending your time. An easy way to do this is to focus on the senses. Spend time noticing what you hear, feel, smell, see and touch. ‘Memorize’ moments by truly witnessing them.

Ten ideas for how to be mindful while you travel

  1. Go on a treasure hunt of the senses – take a journal with you for a day and try to list 5 things you notice for each of the senses (think the smell of flowers, or the sounds of the street performers, how the street feels beneath your feet or how the flavors of something you eat sit on your tongue).
  2. People watch – sit outside at your favorite cafe and watch the people pass by – remember to work on being nonjudgemental – just notice.
  3. Listen to the language – a great way to be mindful is to simply listen to a language you don’t understand. Without meaning, all you can do is notice. Listen to intonations and the rhythm of the words.
  4. Be inquisitive – if something interests you, throw away the plans and explore it. Your interests will lead you toward mindfulness naturally.
  5. Sound-watch – okay, made up word I know, but this is just like people watching. Sit somewhere and close your eyes and listen. Really hear your surroundings.
  6. Notice a color – pick a color for the day and look for it while you are out sightseeing. Even better, take a picture and create a color collage of your day.
  7. What is different? – Take an inventory of what around you is different from your hometown. If you notice yourself judging this, gently remind yourself to simply witness.
  8. Taste test – pick local foods you have never tried before and use it as a chance to really taste your food.
  9. Look down, look up, look left, look right – every once in awhile when you are walking somewhere during your trip stop and look up, down, left and right – do this often
  10. Make a memory – take a moment and memorize your surroundings and how you feel at that moment. The best way I’ve found to do this is just to say to myself I want to remember X, Y, Z (e.g. I want to remember what it feels like to be standing in the middle of this town square in France, the chatter of the crowd and the smell of the soup served at the restaurant nearby)

Have you found ways to be mindful while traveling? Please share!