With temperatures dipping into single digits, even here in Virginia and points south as 2018 approaches,* what’s not to like about “Caribbean Night in December?!!?
It didn’t take much arm-wringing to get this reporter to the event hosted by Passages Travel & Cruises’ Maria Dutton on the second floor of the Main Street Mill on December 19. The event was co-sponsored by Sandals Resorts and featured, not only Dutton’s recently refurbished “Road Warrior” vehicle sporting art advertising balmy Sandals resorts throughout the Caribbean, but a slide presentation and literature on those destinations and their many distinctive amenities.
“Romance” – we like to emphasize the Romance equation at our resorts, the Sandals representative said in opening his presentation. And speaking of “romance”: “the best beaches, whitest sands, bluest and calmest waters” – I am already IN LOVE with all these things (see the Sandals power point art attached below).
Mike, Norma Jean – we need a travel writer don’t we?!!? Maria, can you hold a spot for Montego Bay or Negril, Jamaica or …
How to avoid getting sick overseas
Do you have an upcoming trip? If you’re headed abroad, it’s important to take precautions to avoid getting sick. You don’t want to ruin your travel plans by accidentally eating or drinking something that makes you ill.
Remember, even if you’ve received the recommended vaccinations and taken preventive medication, you won’t be protected against common pathogens and bacteria. You should still adhere to the following tips to avoid getting sick:
• Only eat fruits and vegetables that are cooked and peeled
• Avoid raw food, especially shellfish and salads
• Don’t eat food that’s left sitting out uncovered
• Only drink water that’s boiled or bottled and opened in front of you
• Skip the ice cubes unless you’re sure they’re made with decontaminated water
• Avoid unpasteurized dairy products
• Don’t eat food from street cart vendors
If you’re careful about what you eat and drink, it’s likely you’ll remain healthy when you travel overseas.
Travel the world by cargo ship
If you want to see the world, have a little extra time, and aren’t fussy about the accommodations, consider ditching the cramped economy seats on a noisy airplane and travel by cargo ship instead.
Most travel bloggers say it’s not going to be faster or cheaper or more entertaining than a plane or cruise ship. And you might not want to try this right now, with cargo ships stacked up at ports and shipping at an all-time high-stress level. In 2020, as the pandemic hit, there were more than 400,000 seafarers (and presumably their handful of travelers) stranded at sea. The ship’s delays are your delays.
According to ABC News, the shipping company CMA CGM charges just over $100 per day to travel on one of their ships. Fares include meals (eaten with the crew), cabins with private bathrooms, and access to the ship’s library and recreational areas. You can take a short trip — as few as eight days on a Rickmers Group vessel — or spend months on board during an 83-day “around the world” adventure with a CMA CGM ship.
If you’re hoping for a budget-friendly cruise ship experience, though, you might want to think twice before booking passage on a cargo ship. Passenger space is always limited, so you’ll be one of just a handful of passengers or even all by yourself. According to Transitions Abroad, cargo ships usually don’t offer much in the way of planned activities, so you’ll need to make your own fun. Flexibility is also important — departure times and locations can and often do change. It’s a cargo ship first and a passenger vessel second, so seasoned cargo ship travelers say a sense of patience and a sense of humor are indispensable.
You won’t pay for luxury and you won’t get any, but if you’re an intrepid traveler who doesn’t care about frills and wants to see the world a little differently, cargo ship travel might be for you.
Does my pet need a passport to travel?
If you’re planning to travel internationally and you want to bring your pet with you, you’ll need to make sure you have specific documentation. Here’s what you need to know about pet passports.
Requirements by country
The documentation that’s required varies depending on the country you visit. You may also be asked to provide an international health certificate from your country of origin, or you may be asked to obtain a health certificate when you arrive at your destination. Other common requirements include:
• Proof of vaccination
• Microchip details
• Proof of ownership
• Treatment records
• A description of the animal
A pet passport contains most or all of the required information listed above. A pet passport is needed to travel through Europe and several other countries. If you travel frequently with your pet, you’ll want to consider getting one.
Each country has different requirements depending on the type of pet you have (e.g. dog, cat, parrot, snake, etc.). Some exotic species require a specific permit from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in order to travel.
Talk to your veterinarian about your travel plans as soon as possible. And don’t forget to check your airline’s pet policy before you book your flight.
Cultural travel: The problem of modesty
Flip-flops, shorts, tank tops — that is the ticket for summer travel, or so we think, but if your travel takes you to places with certain religious or cultural standards, think again.
The problem of modesty, both in apparel and behavior, has been a serious issue with travelers from the West to Europe and Asia and even within the Americas.
In mosques, temples, and churches, a good rule of thumb for both men and women is to cover legs and shoulders.
Acceptable for men and women: Lightweight, straight trousers. Women may wear a long skirt and loose-fitting top that, at minimum, covers the shoulders and chest. Men can usually wear a pair of shorts that covers their knees.
Don’t wear shorts, tank tops, sundresses, or spaghetti strap dresses. Carry a shawl for a cover if you absolutely can’t change clothes. Don’t wear leggings or skin-tight jeans to a religious site.
In mosques and Buddhist temples, everyone is required to remove their shoes. Be prepared by wearing socks. In some temples in Asia, you may also be asked to remove your socks.
At mosques, women may be asked to cover their heads, but not always. Look for a tour guide and stow your opinion at the door. Shoes are also often removed.
Save the public displays of affection for other venues.
The Buddha may be a pop-culture symbol in much of the West, but Buddhists revere figures of the Buddha.
Don’t touch the Buddha. Don’t hop on it for a great selfie. Don’t stand taller than the Buddha. Don’t take pictures. Be prepared to remove your shoes.
Don’t point your feet at the Buddha or at a Buddhist. Don’t point with your index finger. To indicate something, use your right hand, fingers together, palm up.
Monks are friendly, but don’t touch them. They are the ones in orange. Women should not get close enough to even brush the sleeve of a monk. If a woman buys something from a monk, she should put the money on the table, not in his hand. Women should not hand anything to a monk. Greet them with a bow. For extra respect, put your hands in a prayer-like gesture.
Cover your Buddha tattoo. It is considered disrespectful.
Trip alert: A unique oasis for lovers
Leave it to Dubai to surprise the world by building an Instagram-ready oasis in the middle of a desert.
The city is already renowned for the tallest building in the world, an indoor ski slope in a mall, and the world’s highest infinity pool (a dizzying 1,000 feet above sea level), among other attractions.
In 2018, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, revealed a surprise new tourist attraction in an Instagram post.
Love Lake is two water-filled lagoons in the shape of intertwined hearts, with vegetation below (when viewed from above) spelling out the word “Love.” The attraction is located in the man-made desert oasis of Al Qudra on the outskirts of Dubai, already home to a number of artificial lakes.
Sheikh Hamdan’s father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, commissioned the project.
Work was done around the clock and in secret over the course of 20 months leading up to Sheikh Hamdan’s reveal, then continued for another year. Thousands of flowering plants and more than 16,000 trees were planted at the site and seating facilities all use eco-friendly materials, including bamboo water sinks. There’s a running track around the site, which is also home to more than 150 species of birds and other desert wildlife.
And don’t forget about social media. Signage lets you know the best selfie points, and a variety of vegetation around the lake is crafted into interlocking hearts.
Van life: how to find the right vehicle
Do you dream of joining the van life movement and traveling the world in a tiny home on wheels? This nomadic lifestyle with its emphasis on simplicity, freedom, and adventure can be enticing. However, if you want to hit the open road, the first thing you’ll need is a comfortable and reliable vehicle.
In general, conversion vans and small motorhomes are the vehicles best suited for van life. One important factor to consider is how much space you’ll need. If you plan to travel alone or with a partner, a small campervan should suffice. If you intend to have kids, pets, or friends along for the ride, however, you may want a more spacious model with room to stand up.
Keep in mind that the furniture and features included vary from one vehicle to the next. In addition to a modest amount of storage space, you’ll likely want a model equipped with:
• A bed or long bench seat
• A table or fold-out countertop
• A sink and water tank
• A cooler, electric cooler or mini-fridge
• A camp stove or cooking plate
• A rack for bikes, kayaks, or surfboards
If you have limited funds, consider purchasing a used vehicle (inspected by a trusted mechanic) and transforming the interior yourself using new or second-hand materials. Alternatively, various companies offer van conversion kits that are fairly simple to install. Just make sure any modifications you make to a vehicle are safe and legal.
For example, find out if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has any regulations about removing or modifying seats and other vehicle components. You should also leave the installation of electrical wiring and gas lines to a professional. In addition, make sure you don’t exceed the gross vehicle weight rating.
If you sell your home to become a full-time nomad, however, you might have a more flexible budget. In this case, you may want to invest in customizing your van to ensure it’s fully equipped and designed according to your preferences. Plus, with the right gear, you’ll be able to maximize your time off-grid.
Finally, remember to add personal touches that make your vehicle feel at home. These can include patterned fabrics, reclaimed wood, colorful lighting, eclectic decor, funny bumper stickers, and more.
Test it out
Do you want to get a taste of van life before you commit to buying a vehicle? Plenty of companies rent camper vans equipped with everything you need to enjoy a nomadic lifestyle for a few days or weeks.