About Megan McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is writer, blogger and social media specialist based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails, a lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Bohemian Trails aims to feature must-see places around the world, covering everything from revamped neighborhoods and vibrant street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.
Latest Posts by Megan McDonough
On the road, I have discovered that sometimes even the most amateur photographer can capture a beautiful moment and freeze it in time. If you’re headed to any of these five destinations this year, lucky you! These locales are extremely photogenic and you’ll come back with some wonderful images to prove it.
Israel may be small on the geographic scale, but it’s diverse in every other sense. Tel Aviv is the best place to capture locals at play, whether that be at nightclubs, lounging on the beach or biking through town. Jerusalem has a totally different feel and is mainly comprised of religious monuments and historical backdrops. Many people visit Israel to grow in spirituality so many of your pictures will likely have an emotion attached, which is one of my favorite things about sifting through them post-trip. For more nature shots, head to Haifa where you can view gardens, flowers all while taking in the impressive view of the Mediterranean Sea.
I am convinced that Maui is a bubble of beauty and feel a twinge of jealousy anytime I remember that some people actually get to call this magical island home. For one thing, Maui is surrounded by nature so if you’re interested in pursuing landscape photography, this is a great place to start. From hiking trails to a slew of water activities like surfing and stand up paddle boarding (SUP), there’s never a dull moment on Maui. Camp out for either sunrise or sunset…maybe even both, and watch as the colors change. For a cultural angle, snag a ticket to a luau where you can marvel at the vibrant colored costumes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Norway is my Neverland. Having visited this picturesque country in the winter and the summer, it’s really a toss up as to which time of year is better to photograph. Winter is the perfect season to spot snowfall and it’s literally everywhere. You find it on the tops of quaint log cabins, on the slopes and on the glistening city streets of Oslo. During the summer, the fjord region is a great area to focus on because everything is in full bloom. With villages like Geiranger and Håholmen not to mention the Art Nouveau style of architecture found in Ålesund, there’s no end of where and what you can photograph.
Japan is the only country I’ve visited (yet!) in Asia but it quickly became one of my top places to photograph. Everything from the architecture to the intricate detail seen in the shrines, Japan is a continuous blur of inspiration. I was most fascinated by the culture so many of my pictures focused on the people rather than the places. Tokyo’s energy is contagious and it wasn’t long before I felt at home. Kyoto, on the other hand, is slightly less intimidating. I spent most of my time focusing on neighborhoods including a few on the outskirts. Arashiyama has a few lookout points that are helpful in capturing the essence of the entire district.
Europe as a whole is very photogenic. Cobblestone streets, lush green parks and fashionable trendsetters are common threads in many countries and Croatia is no exception. What I appreciated about visiting Croatia during the off-season was not having to compete with other tourists for photographs. In simpler terms, I didn’t have a bunch of random passerby in all my photos. Zagreb, for example, has a little bit of everything and is ideal for any city slicker. From local street art to ground-breaking attractions like the Museum of Broken Relationships, something will spark your interest and that’s the trail you should follow.
Dominica is called the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean and that nickname is well-deserved. Upon arriving, I embarked on a nearly two hour ride from the airport to the capital city of Roseau. The roads were barely decipherable but nature was all around. Even in the dark, I could make out the families of trees flanking our van on either side. During the next few days, I was to discover various aspects of the island, many of which are rooted in the landscape’s lush vegetation. Here are a few ways I experienced nature on Nature Island.
It’s no secret that I’m more than slightly obsessed with marine mammals. In fact, before completely changing my opinion 100%, I used to dream of being a killer whale trainer at Sea World. My intentions were good of course but after learning about the terrible treatment of these brilliant creatures, my goals shifted.
Tangent aside, Dominica is the first place where I got to release my inner five-year old and whale watch. Accompanied by about thirty other tourists, it was a nine year old girl from Brazil who I bonded with the most. She was there with her parents and was the only person as excited as I was to be on the hunt for whales and dolphins. It reminded me of all those times I begged my parents to take me on a whale watch as a kid. It may have taken longer than expected, but I finally got the chance and it was everything…and so much more than what I expected.
Once again, the guides were extremely knowledgeable about what mammals we were spotting, when we would spot them (thanks to underwater technology that detects sound) and when they would breach. By the end of the four hour excursion, I probably saw more than ten whales and about thirty dolphins. One might think that after the third or fourth spotting people would get over the initial shock but that was not the case. The childlike joy radiated from all of us as if it was Christmas morning.
Hiking through the Waitukubuli National Trail
My first morning in Dominica started with an adventurous hike through Segment 10 of the Waitukubuli National Trail. Currently the only trail of its kind in the Caribbean, the WNT includes an impressive 115 miles of hiking routes. There are fourteen segments in total and we chose Segment 10, which is among the easier hikes. Considering it was a “beginner trail,” I actually found it a bit difficult but I enjoyed the challenge…and the view about mid-way through the trail.
If you only have a day or two on the island, this is a good segment to start with because it only takes about three or four hours to complete and there is more than enough nature to see along the way. There are even a few tree branches to swing on, in case you want to channel your inner Jane from Tarzan. Travelers can hike by themselves but I recommend having a guide if possible. Alan, our guide for the trek, is a local from the nearby town and knew every type of plant, flower and fun fact about Dominica and having that inside scoop really made this a memorable morning.
Snorkeling in Champagne Reef
When I learned that there is a place in Dominica called Champagne Reef I knew I had to visit. A part of me hoped that real champagne might be involved but that would probably have been a dangerous combination. The reef got its clever nickname because of the small gas bubbles that rise from the volcanic bottom of the ocean floor. Temperatures can reach up to 90 degrees so it kind of feels like you’re in an underwater jacuzzi.
We took an hour tour through the reef, passing fish of every color and even some ruins from a sunken ship. Pre-Carnival anticipation was in the air and for many, the festivities were already well underway. Not far from the reef, there was a P-Diddy-worthy booze cruise where people were drinking and dancing to Top 40 hits. The energy was contagious and as I listened to songs from Rihanna, Beyonce, Katy Perry and even Miley Cyrus from underneath the water, the bubbles shone like diamonds reflected under the clear blue sky.
Cruising along the Indian River
After hiking the WNT and snorkeling in Champagne Reef, I was ready for a leisurely river cruise. As it turned out, this was one of my favorite activities while on Dominica. Taking a small boat into the river, our tour guide began telling us all about the unique vegetation and animals that live here. We also passed a few different spots where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed, including this small hut that was built specifically for the movies. I really appreciate how the constructors did their best to create something that not only blended into the environment but one that didn’t harm the habitat.
Perhaps the coolest and most unexpected portion of the river cruise was a pit stop to a bar and garden area midway through the cruise. After snapping a few pictures of the colorful flowers and chatting with some of the locals maintaining the grounds, I slurped down a delicious rum cocktail made from fresh ingredients, all before 11 AM. I’ve been on a few river cruises over years, none of which included a bar, let alone one that used tree stumps for seats and blended fruits from the trees overhead.
Taking in Trafalgar Falls
On my last full day on the island, I opted for a leisurely visit to Trafalgar Falls. The great thing about Dominica’s nature attractions is that things can be as rigorous or as laid-back as you like. For example, if I wore hiking shoes I could have climbed the rocks surrounding the falls and bathed underneath the twin waterfalls. Since I wasn’t prepared and already sore from the last few activities, I chose to marvel at the landscape from afar.
If you have a few hours to spare, definitely try to make it here. It’s one of the best places to sit back and end enjoy the view. From the parking lot, it takes about fifteen minutes to get to the base of the waterfalls where all the rocks pile together. Spend a few hours sun bathing or take a dip in the shallow pools.
This trip was hosted by the Discover Dominica Authority and Peridot Group. All opinions are my own.
As I flip back through the hundreds of photos I took while in Dominica I notice a smile creeping upon my face. I wonder what the people sitting on either side of me at this crowded neighborhood coffee shop must think of my glee. Probably nothing, as it’s too time consuming to wonder about the inner workings of those around us but sometimes I do just that. On this particular day, my smile felt like a well kept secret; Something that only Dominica and I share.
For those of you who don’t know much about the very appropriately nicknamed “Nature Island,” it’s a small destination in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, quietly nestled between Guadeloupe and Martinique. Based on a 2011 Census, there are roughly 72,000 people who live here and when I compare that to the 1.6 million or so people who like in Manhattan alone, it sort of feels like a small town where everyone knows each other.
In fact, on my second full day in Dominica, I too recognized someone. The day before we had hiked through Segment 10 of The Waitukubuli National Trail, the longest trail in the Caribbean of its kind, and our guide Alan quickly became a familiar face. On route to our first activity the next morning, I spotted him along the road near another segment’s entrance. I had been in Dominica less than 48 hours and I was already starting to feel like a local myself.
There were many more discoveries I made while on Nature Island and here are the most noteworthy.
Dominica is a relatively undiscovered destination.
Although I knew that most of Dominica would feel undiscovered, nothing quite prepared me for the nearly 90 minute drive from the tiny Melville Hall airport to our hotel in Roseau, Dominica’s capital. For at least the first thirty minutes of the journey, the van bumped up and down as it make its way through the barely paved dirt road underneath.
This wasn’t too different than the flight over here. After two delayed flights, I was arriving to the island much later than anticipated. In fact, when the captain announced our initial descent, I kept looking out the window expecting to see lights but there were only a handful of them. Much to my surprise, we landed with a thud and darkness surrounded me in every direction. The car ride that night was also in darkness but despite everything, it was this sense of isolation that made my heart race with excitement. Dominica was already so different than any place I’ve visited and I hadn’t even seen the light of day yet.
Nature really is all around.
The next morning I woke up with a double rainbow – a phenomenon I’ve never seen until that very moment. It was almost as if the happy island was officially welcoming me after a long day of flights and layovers. Standing there, I felt frozen in the hot sunshine that dominated the sky. Over the next few days I was to uncover that rainbows are only the beginning.
From a scenic river cruise (one of many spots where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed) to a whale watching excursion where I literally jumped up and down at every whale or dolphin spotting and befriended a ten year old who shared my same affinity for marine mammals, I started to understand why everyone is so content here. Nature makes people feel good and there is more than enough of it to go around countless times over. Unlike other destinations I’ve visited in the past, I found it rather easy to disconnect in Dominica and it was those quiet moments when felt the most connected to this new and curious environment.
The lifestyle is laid-back.
Nature wasn’t the only aspect of Dominica I found captivating. More than anything, it was the laid-back lifestyle and positive approach to life that shed the most intense light on the local culture. Despite being in an unknown place with strangers who knew nothing about me, I felt safe and more importantly, I felt at peace with the anonymity that comes along with travel.
In New York I hate being hassled to buy things or pushed to the extreme of walking in between packs of tourists who think the sidewalk is their personal vehicle. But here in Dominica I had to leave my city expectations at the door because everyone I encountered was genuinely interested in making my life easier and the same is true for members of the community. Granted, I was here during Carnival, but I have a feeling that this sort of comradery extends beyond celebrations.
Unique experiences are possible.
I was most impressed by the amount of unique experiences available to tourists. I spent my last two days in Dominica at Rosalie Bay, a quiet resort on the east side of the island. It felt worlds away from Roseau and yet, there were still many excursions at my disposal. If I had come between March and October, I might have spotted the sea turtles nesting and hatching right on Rosalie Bay. This was something that neither of the owners had any inkling of and therefore, they were just as shocked as their guests that first year in operation.
Similarly, trips to some of Dominica’s top attractions like the Emerald Pool, Champagne Reef and Parrot Forest can be explored solo or with a group. One of the benefits of having a guide is the amount of knowledge they provide. All of the guides I had in Dominica knew so much about the nature, history and culture of the island.
More tourism is needed to prosper and thrive.
Although this is last on my list, it’s one of the most obvious things about Dominica. Most of the tourism comes from the cruise ships that stop here for a few hours and the money they spend doesn’t go terribly far. Some will buy souvenirs from vendors set up near the port while others will opt for an excursion to Trafalgar Falls or Morne Trois Pitons National Park. A few might even stop for lunch instead of waiting until they board the boat later that evening but it’s still not enough.
While I’m convinced that visiting Dominica for a day is better than not going at all, I can’t imagine having only a few hours here. This place is a gem and the treasure lies in the people, the culture and the awe-inspiring nature found on the island. While there’s still much to be done to get Dominica to the level of St. Lucia or Sint Maarten in terms of Infrastructure, I hope that travelers will take advantage of how undiscovered Dominica is and book a ticket to experience this raw locale for themselves.
This trip was hosted by the Discover Dominica Authority and Peridot Group. All opinions are my own.
The irony that I’m finally sitting down to write this post mere days after moving to Brooklyn is not lost on me. Not that I’m a Manhattan snob, because I’ve been aware of Brooklyn’s awesomeness for a few years now, but it’s just one of those posts that keeps getting pushed back.
So, in honor of my new Bushwick address, here are five Brooklyn neighborhoods worth a wander. Please note, that these are the ones I’m most familiar with and that there are plenty of other hoods that are quite cool in their own right.
Williamsburg for Markets
It’s probably no surprise that Williamsburg is the first on this list. The neighborhood has become so popular in recent years that the rents are now just as expensive, if not more, than many Manhattan apartments. There’s good reason for the increase though. For one thing, there are a slew of second-hand shops where you can snag designer labels for less. My favorite is Beacon’s Closet (recently relocated to Greenpoint) and I’m not alone on that – the franchise has since expanded to a few more locations throughout the city. There’s also a fantastic brewery a few blocks from the waterfront, Mast Brothers Chocolate and Brooklyn Bowl to keep you entertained.
The best part of the neighborhood, at least in my opinion, are the weekend markets. Head to Smorgasburg for delicious food from some of the city’s top eateries. Many of the vendors offer free samples so technically you could probably just eat your way through those if you’re not terribly hungry. If you’re starving, definitely splurge on at least one dish and if it’s warm out, plan a picnic with friends. The Artists & Fleas market is another great one for vintage enthusiasts. Some of the items are a bit outside of my price range but there are always deals so take your time looking around.
Brooklyn Heights for Architecture
Brooklyn Heights is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods throughout New York’s five boroughs. Why? Well, it’s just across from South Street Seaport, which means it’s a short trip to Manhattan and it also has spectacular views of downtown Manhattan. There’s a lovely little walkway near the waterfront where families, tourists and local residents exist peacefully. It’s always been a posh place to live and not much as changed in that regard.
The area is not terribly busy, but depending on what you’re looking for, that can be a very good thing. There are a few restaurants, all amazing yet on the expensive side, but not too much nightlife here. On the other hand, the architecture is stunning. Much of the area was built by bankers and thus, the buildings reflect architecture from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Picture Italianate brownstones, the Brooklyn Bridge in your backyard and the Promenade toward the front. It’s sort of feels like you’ve time traveled to the New York of a hundred years ago.
Bushwick for street art
Ok, so perhaps I’m slightly biased on this one now that I live within the confines of Bushwick but in terms of street art, this is one of the best places to spot some good ones. Bushwick is what you would call up-and-coming. It’s not as trendy as Williamsburg although it’s getting there. It still feels rather gritty but that’s part of its appeal. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, I knew about five other travel bloggers who also live in Bushwick and the more I mention it to people, the more I’m realizing that it really is getting a better reputation.
Anyway, back to the street art. One of the best places to spot it is Troutman Street (Corner of St. Nicholas Avenue). I didn’t know that this existed until about two weeks ago when I needed to go and sign my lease. I’m glad I arrived early because otherwise I would have been late. There is so much to see here that I plan to go back and snap a few photos for a future post. This outdoor exhibit is called The Bushwick Collective and I highly recommend viewing it for yourself. Otherwise, simply wandering around the neighborhood often yields at least a few murals so keep an eye out for graffiti.
Fort Greene for entertainment
Fort Greene has a little bit of everything and that’s why it makes the cut. BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Greenlight Bookstore and Fort Greene Park are three reasons to visit off the bat. I saw The Nutcracker performed at BAM a few years back and really enjoyed heading to a few nearby bars after the show. By day, Fort Greene is perfect for shopping and eating.The neighborhood is well-balanced in every way. Lots of young professionals live here but so do families. Similarly, there’s a wide variety of cultural attractions that comes in the form of shopping, eating and mingling with the community.
Head to the Brooklyn Flea to score deals on vintage jewelry and repurposed furniture from a well-curated selection of 150 vendors. Come nightfall, locals are most likely eating at one of the restaurants on Dekalb Avenue (dubbed “New Brooklyn Cuisine”) or eco-friendly hotspots like Habana Outpost (closed during winter) or hitting the dance floor. If you’re frightened of biking in Manhattan and believe me I’m right there with you, this is a perfect place to give it a shot.
Park Slope for restaurants
I’m not proud of this but it actually took me nearly two years of living in New York to finally venture into Park Slope. Once I did, I always found an excuse to return. The first thing that strikes you is Prospect Park. For whatever reason, it still makes me think of the spacious and well-kept parks in London. Living in New York is not easy, but with the amount of nature that surrounds Park Slope, I can see why people are generally upbeat here.
Besides Prospect Park, there are a few other reasons to visit. As a writer myself, I appreciate that there is a thriving writer community here. In fact, it’s one of the most concentrated creative hubs in the city. There are tons of cafes like Tea Lounge where writers are hard at work on their next novel…that or catching up on their Facebook notifications. Either way, it’s a cool atmosphere to experience. Secondly, Park Slope has a slew of restaurants ranging from Mexican to Japanese cuisine, not to mention tons of bars and boutiques.
Looking for other Brooklyn neighborhoods to explore? I recommend DUMBO for innovation (tons of start-ups are based here), Cobble Hill or Greenpoint.
Carnival is a festival that has fascinated me for years. Although I’m not a huge fan of crowds, I’ve always wanted to participate in one and this year, I got the chance. While Rio de Janeiro is perhaps the most well-known Carnival around the world, there are plenty of other destinations just as noteworthy and Dominica is definitely one of them.
There are a few different events that lead up to the two day festival (this year it was March 3rd and 4th) and I was glad to have a few days to explore the island before diving full-force into Carnival madness. Unfortunately I missed the Miss Dominica Carnival Queen Pageant due to a flight delay, but I heard that it was quite the spectacle. The pageant features seven lovely ladies from different parts of Dominica and unlike competitions in the US, each contestant competes in every category like swimsuit, evening-wear and the final question and answer round. This year, it was Francine Tiffany Baron, 20, of Grand Bay who took home the coveted crown. Each woman marches in the Carnival parade a few days later, so I was able to see them after all.
There’s also a Calypso Monarch Show the Saturday before Carnival, which I was able to attend. The show is much more informal than the pageant but hugely popular, with tents near the entrance for purchasing beer and souvenirs. We showed up around 8:30pm and the venue was nearly packed. Since there are so many rounds, the music usually lasts through the night, at least until 2am in the morning. It was fun to spend a few hours dancing along to the music, even though many of the themes and lyrics went over my head. I especially liked seeing all the costumes, as many of them were shimmery and/or extremely detailed.
Once Tuesday rolled around I was ready for the famous Carnival parade. I arrived around 11:30am and since I was with a local, we timed it perfectly. What was so great about celebrating Carnival here, rather than in Rio or someplace else, is that I could get right up to the outfits. Sure, there were many people watching along but it didn’t feel overwhelming to be a spectator. The parade takes place in Roseau and participants basically go in a circle for several hours before stopping for lunch. I seriously admire their endurance. For me, the most exciting costumes were those worn by the pageant contestants and the group that walked for hours on end in stilts. There were also a few people dressed in more traditional garb.
This lady made me think of Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. She just exuded elegance and her fun attitude really resonated with the crowd.
These two woman didn’t march side by side but I just adored their costumes, for different reasons obviously.
This is probably my favorite photo from the whole day. This group of about thirty or so people marched on stilts. Talk about talent!
In case you wanted to see what the female outfits looked like, here are two closeups. The girl on the left needs to teach me some dance classes. She sure knows how to move!
Here’s another shot of the parade and a great example of the bright colors used in many of the costumes.
Of course I can’t leave out the little ladies who looked just as fabulous as their older counterparts.
This was the most thrilling portion of the parade, and clearly the most eccentric.
What was the most memorable festival you’ve ever attended? Tell me in the comments below!
This trip was hosted by the Discover Dominica Authority and Peridot Group. All opinions are my own.
Philadelphia holds a soft spot in my heart and that’s mainly because I caught a ball at a Philly’s game when I was about ten years old. It’s one of those stories that I love hear my Dad tell his friends. Even though I sort of ducked underneath a crowd of much larger men stretching their arms in all directions to catch that most coveted prize, it was a little girl who ultimately scored that day. Any other memory of Philadelphia I might have had faded into the distance on that summer day. This past weekend, I rediscovered this city and learned a few fun facts along the way.
But let’s rewind a bit. It all started about a month ago when Diego was invited to speak as a panelist at the Wharton Latin American Conference. The event fell on Valentine’s Day and instead of celebrating the day of love alone, I decided to tag along and make it a weekend trip. Besides a less than stellar hotel stay and an entire day of rain, the silver lining came on our last day in town when the sun shone so brightly that it hurt my eyes to gaze upon Philadelphia’s buildings too long before needing to look back down.
Our first stop was Independence Hall and the surrounding buildings. We started off by taking a look at the Liberty Bell and I thought the exhibit did a a good job of showing the irony of this “symbol of freedom.” While the bell stood as a symbol of independence and hope for so many, it served as a constant reminder to slaves and women that this was still out of their reach. I’ve never been a huge history buff but it was really interesting to imagine what this time period was like for all those living in the United States.
Visiting these monuments also made me ponder the government of today, which is another topic I’ve never been too fond of. One one hand, I think its unrealistic to base the laws of today on the Declaration of Independence, simply because a lot of things change over time and I’m sure the Founding Fathers could not foresee every problem.
On the other hand, the principles that upheld are extremely admirable and I wished that all politicians acted solely for the benefit of their people instead of for selfish reasons.
While all governments have their ups and downs, I left Philadelphia in good spirits and with a stronger sense of my own country’s history. Yet, it really opened my eyes to how little I remember from elementary history classes. It was slightly embarrassing that my own husband, who isn’t from the United States, had to jog my memory of how the US was formed. Yet, I do my best learning when I’m truly interested in a topic and as a first grader, that interest just ins’t there, so I don’t totally blame myself. That being said, I do want to study world history on a deeper level.
Moving on…let’s talk about how amazing the architecture is in Philly. There were moments when I felt like I was in Europe rather than the United States of America. City Hall was one of my favorite buildings because there’s really no bad angle photgraphy-wise. With nearly 700 rooms, it’s makes perfect sense that the construction lasted from 1871 to 1901 and a cool 24 million dollars. For a few years it was even the tallest habitable building in the world.
Since our visit coincided with Valentine’s Day, there was no way I was leaving without snapping a few pictures of the original LOVE statue in John F. Kennedy Plaza. Philly is known as the City of Brotherly Love but ours felt much more romantic. Having seen the statue of the same name and design in Manhattan countless times, this one is much smaller in size but still extremely authentic. The Robert Indiana creation was installed in 1976 and has been inspiring people ever since.
Before heading to the bus terminal, we did a little shopping at the Reading Terminal Market, which is essentially a one-stop-shop for everything you could possibly need. We spent most of our time in the organic produce aisle and I nearly cringed at how low the prices were compared to Whole Foods. Anyway, there are plenty of things to do here, from sampling locally produced cuisine to hunting down the best souvenirs for your family and friends.
1. Find My Itin
As a traveler that specifically wanders off the beaten path, Find My Itin allows users to breeze through the planning process by using hashtags like #inspiration to discover your next destination. If you’re anything like me, hashtags are second nature, as you use them for pretty much any social platform so this integration is extremely intuitive for most users. The goal of the app is to alleviate the stress that often comes with booking flights, hotels and everything in between. Also technically not an app just yet, I personally like Find My Itin because it makes your passion the priority, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important factor.
Image: Find My Itin
Having just experienced one of the worst hotel stays to date, I have since downloaded CheckMate. As a professional travel writer and blogger, I’m often arriving to hotels at odd hours and the worst thing is having to wait in the lobby for an unknown amount of time. With CheckMate, users can check-in directly from their smartphone. The app allows you to pick your room preferences, enter your arrival time in advance and if you’re staying at one of their partner hotels, you receive a room key printed ahead of time. Just like you would pre-check in for a flight, CheckMate allows you to do the same for your hotel.
Waze has been getting a lot of attention lately but it’s all well-deserved. Proving some stiff competition to GoogleMaps (Just kidding – Google already bought the app for a cool $1.3 billion), the app shows your the quickest way to reach your destination. If you’re traveling to a city you’ve never been to before, this sort of insight is invaluable. Perhaps the coolest feature is that the community is there to help. Users gain points for reporting road blocks, police traps and other driving conditions that may affect the effectiveness of the route. If you’re visiting a city, this is probably not necessary but definitely download it before a road trip.
While I’m still a fan of Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and the like, Triposo is quickly becoming my go-to app for on-the-go travel recommendations. Unlike traditional guidebooks, Triposo takes location, weather, season and personal preferences into account. Like most apps out there, the more active you are on Triposo, the more accurate these suggestions will become. Their inventory reaches 15,000 destinations across 200 countries and my guess is that more will be added soon. Whether searching for an art gallery or on the hunt for a local bar that serves your favorite cocktail, Triposo is a great tool to use while on the road.
Even though travel is all about disconnecting from your day to day responsibilities and experiencing some place new (or at least it should be), that doesn’t mean that you should completely cut ties with your friends and family back home. Cloze is kind of like a dream come true when you have limited time to sort through all your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even emails. In a nutshell, the app lumps all these into one stream and prioritizes them based on which contacts you speak with most often and in many cases that will be your significant other, parents and other family members or best friend.
I had traveled to South America during January before but I had never actually spent the holidays anywhere but in Virginia with my family. During the two and a half weeks we spent in Argentina, I learned a lot about myself and about how much family and friendships are valued in Argentina, in South America in general.
One of my favorite moments in Argentina is when we visited one of Diego’s grandmothers who literally lives in the mountains. The drive there was a bumpy one, as the rode consists of pebbles rather than gravel, and there were so many moments when my fear of heights was really put to the test. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the view and with each twist and turn up the mountains, the world below looked farther and farther away. When we finally reached her house, I felt strangely comforted by the stillness of the town. It was almost as if I had entered a bubble of beauty only we knew about.
The air was so crisp and clear that when the night started to descend, every color appeared more vibrant. I have mentioned this before but sometimes I really do think about just moving to the country for awhile. I’m not sure I’d last terribly long but I’d be willing to give it a shot. New York City can beat you down and then lift you back as if nothing ever happened. Living there has given me so much confidence but it’s also added extra padding to my shell whereas, here in the Argentine countryside, I felt like nothing could harm me.
The next day we drove through a few of the neighboring towns, passing families playing in the river, horses grazing in green pastures and landscapes that would make you week in the knees. I had traveled to Argentina once before with Diego but this was the first time that we really ventured outside of his town. It was a really special feeling to experience these natural escapes with him and in many ways, I think I came to understand him more because of it.
A few days before heading back to the US, we joined another couple for a trip to Tafí del Valle, a scenic retreat just a few hours drive from Tucumán. Unlike Las Estancias – Aconquija, Catamarca, Tafí is more than a summer town. This is perhaps best proven by the gravel, rather than pebble, roads leading up these mountains. Many residents living in Tucumán either own a house out here or they visit with family members who do. Summer (which is winter for those of us in the US) is the most popular season but there are many people who live here year round.