Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics

Category : Travel

7 Travel Apps to Help You Eat Like a Local

Discovering local food treasures in a new country rates as one of the best travel experiences you can have. Yet sometimes, no matter how much research you do, or how clever you think you are at spotting an authentic local eatery, falling victim to a touristy-food-trap happens. Want to know how to eat like a local when traveling the world? Then tuck these nifty apps into your smartphone and take your taste buds on a delectable (and trap-free!) culinary adventure.

  1. Meal Sharing Apps

Committed foodies have been rejoicing ever since virtual peer-to-peer agencies started to pop up on every corner of the globe. With these kinds of unique culinary experiences, you can hook up with a like-minded local who’ll prepare you an authentic local meal in his or her home. Think of it as a private dinner invitation where you pay a modest fee and, in return, you are guaranteed a local feast you’d be hard pressed to enjoy in a restaurant.

There are a ton of meal-sharing apps out there and although most are country or region specific, some are spreading their wings. The most comprehensive of these is EatWith, which has set up services in about 150 countries and now boasts over 500 chefs which have all been vetted. Check out TravelingSpoon to eat-off-the-beaten-path in Southeast Asia and Japan, with hosts offering home cooked meals as well as cooking classes and food tours. Download Cookapp if you’re headed to Argentina (now also includes a few cities in the US) and definitely use Home Food when visiting Italy. The brainchild of an Italian professor keen to help nurture traditional regional cuisine, Home Food encourages the preparation (and enjoyment!) of traditional dishes, the way nonna used to make.

  1. Colunching

A fantastic meet-up service that’s ideal for solo travelers, Colunching is set up in 20 countries worldwide, and lets members organize an informal group dining experience in authentic local eateries. A great way to make new friends and feast like a local when traveling, Colunching lets you tag along and even initiate a group meal out when traveling.

  1. LocalEats

An impressive directory of the best local restaurants on your phone for less than a dollar? Now that’s what we call a fantastic travel app! LocalEats prides itself on recommending only personally vetted independent restaurants that are a world away from your run-of-the-mill chain eateries. From delicious food stands to fine-dining establishments, LocalEats offers every dining experience imaginable all over the US and in over 50 cities abroad, sourcing info from local food bloggers, guides, travel writers, and restaurant critics. The handy GPS feature allows the app to notify you when an authentic dining experience is just around the corner.

  1. Field Trip

Keen to learn fun facts of your chosen destination while enjoying an authentic meal? Then Field Trip is for you. This handy app is a treasure trove of recommendations, from what to see and do, to where you can enjoy your next scrumptious local meal. The app bases its recommendations on your GPS location and sources its info from hidden-secret sites like Atlas Obscura, Zagat, EatOut and Spotted by Locals. You can set up your interest to only include eateries and the app will ping you when something utterly delicious pops up near you. Field Trip was launched by Google in 2013 and has now extended to operate in over 80 countries worldwide.

  1. Vayable

Vayable brings together a host of unique travel experiences and the most popular, by far, are its food-themed tours. From pizza-crawls in Rome to winery tours in Austria and cooking classes in Slovenia, Vayable connects you with local guides running personalized food tours and experiences, all over the world.

  1. Foodict

While Google Translate may come in handy when perusing menus in restaurants abroad, Foodict Gourmet Food Dictionary goes a lot further and includes thousands of food-specific translations of dishes and what they’re all about. The great thing about Foodict is that you can download the content and use it offline no matter where you are.

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  1. Foodspotting

What so many apps and sites offering recommendations for the best restaurants, it’s refreshing to find a service that hones in on specific dishes and where to find the best in town. With Foodspotting, you get personal recommendations, descriptions, and even photos of amazing dishes local foodies enjoy. Time Magazine has rated this one of the 50 best apps to download, and we couldn’t agree more. Foodspotting lets you see the best-rated dish in specific restaurants or entice you to travel far and wide to satisfy a unique craving. Currently, the app works extensively in the US, as well as several destinations in Europe and Asia.

The World’s Most Unique Coffee Experiences

To any coffee obsessed traveler, there’s nothing more rewarding than sitting at a local café — in some far-flung corner of the globe — and enjoying a cup of coffee whilst people watching. There are some coffee experiences, all over the world, that are bona fide travel highlights in their own right. Keen to take your taste buds along for an unforgettable ride? Then you’d be well advised to add the following to your must-drink list.

From the smooth taste of an Italian ice cream coffee to the long and laborious Ethiopian coffee ceremony and some seriously questionable drops in Vietnam, Indonesia and Senegal, the world’s most unique coffee experiences are guaranteed to make you, and your taste buds, stand up to attention.

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Affogato, Italy

Italy is one of those countries where it’s literally impossible to have a bad coffee. You can order the wrong coffee, mind you (ordering a cappuccino after 11am is a cultural faux-pas bar none) but never a bad one. Long considered the world’s original and best coffee mecca, Italy boasts an extensive list of coffee options, including the ubiquitous short black (espresso), with a dash of liquor (caffé corretto) or with a splash of hot milk (macchiato). Our favorite coffee of all, however, would have to be the affogato, which is a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla gelato. On a hot summer’s day, and after spending hours on end wandering among millennia-old ruins, a sublimely creamy affogato is like a drink sent from the heavens.

Ethiopian

In Ethiopia, drinking coffee it isn’t something you do in an absentminded hurry. This gorgeous African country — the birthplace of coffee —  may indeed boast the most elaborate coffee ceremony in the world. Recognized as an intangible treasure of the local culture, the renowned Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a very social event, one that requires an audience and a lot of patience. The event can take hours from beginning to end and is preceded by a young woman dressed in traditional costume, who’ll wash the raw green coffee beans and roast them in a pan over an open fire, right in front of you. Once blackened, the beans are crushed by hand using a mortar and pestle, and the powder boiled with water in a heavy-based clay pot called a jebena. The resulting liquid is passed through a sieve several times before being finally served to expecting guests. Coffee is poured in small intricately hand-painted cups, and each participant is expected to drink three cups. Interestingly enough, coffee in Ethiopia is usually served alongside crunchy popcorn.

 

Cà Phê Trứng – Vietnam

Firmly in the ‘What the…?’ category of unique coffee experiences, the Vietnamese egg-coffee rates as one of the most unusual blends you could try in all of Southeast Asia. Cà Phê Trứng is a traditional coffee prepared with condensed milk, sugar, and beaten egg yolks, and although this may sound odd at first, you’ll be surprised just how deliciously smooth and rich the taste really is.

In the preparation of this coffee, the egg yolks are beaten vigorously with the condensed milk and sugar, creating a fluffy cream that’s not unlike custard. The cream is then dolloped in a glass and a shot of unsweetened coffee poured over it. Due to the density of the cream, the coffee tends to settle at the bottom, so every sip delivers a mouthful of silky cream mixed with strong coffee. As an after-meal drink, Cà Phê Trứng is simply superb, especially if you’re craving a sweet treat. Cà Phê Trứng was invented in Hanoi in the 1940s and although this variant is nowadays found all over Vietnam, it is still best enjoyed in the country’s capital where you’ll find quite a number of dedicated egg-coffee shops.

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Mazagran – Portugal

Originally from northern Africa, Mazagran is a cold coffee and lemon drink that seems to be taking over most of Western Europe. Legend has it that members of the French Foreign Legion stationed at the Mazagran Fortress in Algeria in the 1840s brought home an impromptu coffee concoction they created, using lemon juice, sugar, ice cubes and rum. Not long after, a few Parisian cafés started serving the refreshingly unique beverage, minus the alcohol. Fast forward a century and a half and it’s next door, in Portugal, where you’ll find Mazagran served and marketed as an iced coffee lemonade, sometimes with the addition of sparkling iced water for added bubbles.

 

Café Touba – Senegal

Need a serious coffee hit to wake up in the morning? Then a shot of Senegalese café touba may be just the morning drink you need. Prepared with a generous serving of freshly ground Guinea black pepper, which is roasted alongside the coffee beans, café touba is swiftly becoming the drink of choice throughout all of Western Africa. It’s become  so popular that Nestle reacted to a drastic decrease in the amount of Nescafe sold there by creating and marketing a ‘spiced coffee’ instant blend in the region.

To prepare a café touba, the coffee beans are roasted alongside a specific type of African black pepper (called djar). The powder mix is then boiled, sweetened, and filtered. In Dakar, you’ll come across a multitude of touba stands and although we urge you to try a cup of the intense, sweet and spicy brew, we also urge you to have a bottle of water at the ready. That first sip can be quite breathtaking! Said to have wonderful medicinal properties, touba is part and parcel of Senegalese culture nowadays and you just can’t visit without trying it at least once.

Kopi Luwak – Indonesia

Widely reputed to be the most expensive (and questionable) coffee in the world, kopi Luwak is made using coffee beans which have been eaten, digested and secreted by Asian civet cats, known as Luwaks in Indonesia.

The production of the world-renowned Luwak coffee started in Indonesia in the colonial 1800s when local Indonesians were forbidden from consuming the coffee beans they farmed because all had to be exported to Europe. In their coffee-withdrawal desperation (OK, we all get that!) local farmers resorted to collecting partially-digested coffee seeds which had been eaten and secreted by civets. Soon enough, the Dutch farmers came to taste and enjoy this special brew and the rest, as they say, is coffee history.

Civets love the pulpy flesh inside coffee beans and the seeds pass through their digestive system untouched. Proponents say the digestion process adds a unique taste to the coffee, yet critics say any roasting would surely rid the seeds of that. Instead, it is claimed that the smooth taste of a good cup of Luwak coffee is simply due to the civet’s propensity for only picking the best and juiciest coffee berries in the first place. In Asia, and indeed the rest of the world, Luwak coffee has a dubious reputation. The novelty factor alone would certainly make it worth a try, yet nowadays unscrupulous farming practices in the region – which see civets kept in deplorable caging conditions and force-fed coffee beans – make it difficult to pinpoint an authentic coffee made from beans collected in the wild. Still, as far as crazy coffee experiences go, a cup made from beans pooped out by a wild cat rates right up there among the most unique coffee experiences in the world.  

Cooking on the Trail: Tips from a Veteran Backpacker

Planning to backpack the world or hitting the road in your camper? There are a few things you should know about cooking good meals while camping. 

With a little time and a lot of imagination, you can create some truly amazing meals while camping. Combine a few basic dry ingredients with fresh produce you can buy on the road, and you can create a surprising array of tasty epicurean treats. Because cans of baked beans are fine occasionally, but your taste buds will demand variety when you’re out exploring the world.

I’ll give you a couple of camping cooking tips which I’ve learned along the way. For some easy-on-the-trail recipes, see my post with camping recipes.

Dehydrated meals have their time and place – There’s a very good reason dehydrated meals are popular with backpackers, campers, and hikers. They weigh next to nothing, need only a two-minute soak in boiling water to cook and are relatively filling. If you’re off on a multi-day hike in remote wilderness, dehydrated meals can be a (literal) lifesaver. However, unless you are that desperate for food and out in the wilderness on foot for many days on end, then forget dehydrated meals. There are plenty of healthier camping recipe options out there, which only require a few extra minutes to prepare.

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Keep it simple. 

My daily staple camper recipe includes one vegetable, be it an aubergine, a zucchini or a bunch of fresh spinach, one protein source (fresh meat, one piece of fish or a can of lentils or tuna) and one carbohydrate, which is usually one potato, a serve of pasta, half a cup of rice or one bread roll.

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Go fresh as often as possible.

Shopping at wet markets for daily fresh ingredients is one of the things I love most about traveling the world. I discover weird and wonderful new produce, mingle with locals and ensure I load up on my daily dose of vitamins. Although you can carry a few days’ worth of fresh veggies, it is best if you can buy one a day, as it saves you space in your backpack and any squishing problems. When buying meat or fish, I prefer to buy them frozen in the morning (pack in 2 plastic bags) and by the time dinner comes around they’re perfectly defrosted and ready to be cooked.

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Spice up your life. 

My entire camping recipe repertoire would cease to exist without my extensive array of exotic spices. From Moroccan to Italian, Indian, Mexican and Chinese All Spice, my ‘mobile spice rack’ is my ultimate cooking savior and creator. There’s not a dish in the world that can’t be improved with garlic salt, dried onion flakes and one exotic spice of sorts. Rotate daily and you can seriously eat the same meal everyday (chicken, vegetable, and couscous, for example) and feel like you’re enjoying a varied and exotic culinary itinerary.

Love thy cheese. 

Tasty, filling and a great source of both calcium and protein, cheese has become a staple in my backpack over the last few years. This is especially true of stinky cheeses, which keep well outside of the fridge and actually get better as the days pass. A good sprinkle of pecorino cheese or chunk of gruyere in your dinner stew and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.

 

Ready to fire up the camp stove? Here are a few fantastic camping recipes to try next time you hit the road.

Best 5 Travel Destinations to Find Yourself

The Best Travel Destinations to Find Yourself – your guide to push you out of your comfort zone, disconnect from the world, and gain a new perspective on life.

Nowadays, heading off to explore the world in order to ‘find yourself’ has become a hot trend. Whilst some experienced travelers roll their eyes at the phrase, it’s undeniable that travels to far-off destinations have the potential to revolutionize the way one thinks and feels.

A life changing journey is usually taken to a part of the world that is drastically different to home. Experiencing different cultures, languages, and lives, in general, has a wonderful way of making you question and analyze everything about you. Traveling alone is also a must. When you are forced to rely only on your resourcefulness — you can really find yourself, take control of your life, and realize what it is that makes you happy.

If a life-changing journey appeals to you, here are some destinations to look.

  1. Sumatra, Indonesia

    Bali has become synonymous with inspirational and esoteric travels, the kind of place where you go to yoga, namaste and find yourself, with the help of a few exotic cocktails. The only problem with Bali is that it’s become so mainstream that, no matter where you go, you’ll undoubtedly come across approximately 3.1 million foreign tourists looking to do the same. This kind of crowd and popularity defeats the whole purpose, as far as I’m concerned. So go to Sumatra instead. This spectacular Indonesian island offers everything you need for an adventure that’ll blow your mind. The nature is resplendent, English is not widely spoken, tourists are few and far between and the internet connection, the rare times you find it, is simply woeful. This makes it the ideal destination if you want to disconnect from the world and have an introspective travel experience. Hike in search of elusive orangutans, climb the peak of stunning volcanoes and cast your eyes on startling sandy beaches with nary another surfer in sight. And when you need to regroup, head to Lake Toba for good wholesome food and a chat with just a few like-minded adventurous travelers. Perfection.

  2. Patagonia, South AmericaPatagonia, South America, travel, TropicsGourmet

    The southern tip of South America is usually referred to as ‘the end of the world’ and when you’re there it will certainly feel like it. The utterly mesmerizing nature is soul-reviving. In places like the Tierra del Fuego National Park, the colors of the landscape will have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief. Mother Nature boasts a color palette down here that’s simply incredible. Patagonia also happens to be one of the more remote and hard to reach destinations in the southern American continent, and a place where the rest of the world feels nonexistent. Hike the vertiginous peaks of Torres del Paine, explore every nook of the Lakes Region of Argentina and, as you stand on the harbor of Ushuaia, consider hopping on an expedition ship to Antarctica, the last truly unspoilt continent on earth. This is the best destination if you want to get off the grid, test yourself physically and feel like an old-world explorer.

  3. Costa Rica

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    One of Central America’s most popular destinations is a wonderful compromise for those who wish to find somewhere close to home, safe, and offering an array of fun and adventurous travel experiences. One of the world’s most biodiverse nations, Costa Rica is an active traveler’s dream, with ziplining, whitewater rafting, mountain hiking and cycling and wildlife spotting part of everyday life. For adrenalin-pumping adventures far removed from the banality of everyday life at home, Costa Rica is a treasure. Plus, there’s no better place to find yourself than soaking up the therapeutic effects of a hot volcanic thermal pool.

  4. Spitzbergen, Norway

    From the balmy climate of the tropics to the brutal colds of the Arctic: you’ll be surprised what a colossal shock to the system will do for your wellbeing. The easiest Arctic destination to reach and a polar bear’s divine playground, Spitzbergen is that final frontier you’ll need to experience, when you wish to totally explode out of your comfort zone. Go in winter to marvel at the Northern Lights, or in summer to cruise the breathtaking fjords. No matter when you go, you’re bound to enter a white wonderland that’ll offer you the peace and quiet you need to find yourself. The climate is harsh at best, the infrastructure is minimal and adventures in the world’s craziest wilderness are plentiful. The ideal combination for an out-of-this-world travel experience.

  5. Kruger National Park, South Africa

    Although South Africans do speak English and the country is exceptionally modern, the largest wildlife reserve is big enough to enjoy some salutary aloneness in an animal world that is totally spellbinding. The best way to experience Kruger? Fly in, rent a fully kitted 4WD camper, buy a weeklong Kruger pass and get lost (and found again) in the most glorious animal kingdom on our planet. Next, wake up with a lion on your bonnet. When living in a reality where you are considered lunch, you simply can’t help but gain a new perspective on life. Africa is one of those places which offers life-changing experiences, and a week spent immersed in its most revered wildlife park is your express ticket to a new and enlightened you.

 

Your Travel Guide to Totally Unique Spring Break Adventures

Drinking to excess on sun-soaked beaches are wonderful — if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you’ve outgrown frat-boy parties and wet t-shirt contests, you may be searching for a more meaningful or impactful spring break (that you’ll actually remember!). Cruise our travel guide for some unique spring break adventures that could fit the bill.

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Get SCUBA certified on the Komodo Islands of Indonesia

The Indonesian hub of Bali is swiftly becoming popular with spring break travelers, and although we wouldn’t begrudge its appeal (from ankle-deep snow to tropical bliss in just a day!) there are certainly plenty more fish in the sea. Pardon the pun. Indonesia, in fact, has over 15,000 insanely enticing islands to explore, and the islands of the Komodo Marine National Park rate as some of the best. This superlative UNESCO-listed archipelago is home of the magnificent Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on our planet, and boasts one of the world’s richest marine biodiversity. SCUBA-certification trips to unspoilt coral reefs, meeting schools of tropical fish, the ever-elusive manta rays and reef sharks, is an out-of-this-world spring break experience. Although many people base themselves in Labuan Bajo on Flores Island and take day trips to various dive sites every day, we recommend you plan a liveaboard experience to make the most out of your spring break in Indonesia.

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Explore the remote Amazon Jungle in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

A multitude of nature lovers on spring break head to Costa Rica for a week of jungle experiences. Bona fide travel explorers and nature fanatics, however, choose to dive into the heart of the Amazon rainforest instead. In Bolivia’s Rurrenabaque, a remote and fascinating place about as far away from civilization as one could get, you’ll find your springboard to fantastic jungle experiences. From La Paz, the Bolivian capital, you must hop on a 6-seater plane, fly over the highest peak of the Andes Mountains, land on a strip of grass in the jungle basin and take a 4-hour SUV & canoe transfer to reach a smattering of incredible jungle lodges. These, by the way, are nothing more than simple cabanas on stilts. What a Bolivian Amazon experience lacks in comforts and luxury it more than makes up for in wilderness and wildlife perfection. Sloths, pink-bellied dolphins, caimans, howler monkeys and an infinite array of other creatures will be your daily companions, as you walk and canoe your way through impenetrable forests and ethereal waterways. This is one of the most remote – and expensive – places to visit in South America, but if you’re looking for a life-changing wilderness experience then it’s also one of the very best.

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Take a historical tour de force in Colombia

The hit Netflix show, Narcos, may have caused a resurgence in interest in Colombia, a country which was – once upon a time – plagued by crime and drugs. Yet the country has actually been one of the most rewarding off-the-beaten-path spring break destinations for a number of years now, and recognized as one of the most culturally immersive places to visit in South America. The capital, Bogota, is only a 3-hour plane ride away from Florida and is the ideal base from where to explore the rest of the country. As vibrant and interesting as Bogota is, however, Cartagena is the city you really ought to spend most of your time discovering. This is one of the most revered destinations for US families wishing to experience a spring break vacation with a little more substance.

A UNESCO-listed architectural and historical gem, Cartagena boasts one of the best-preserved colonial Old Town Centers in all of the Americas. Stay in the heart of town for an added dash of old-school romance, or stay in Getsemani – a tried and tested backpacker haunt – and even the beach hood of Bocagrande, which is only a half-hour’s walk away from Old Town. Easter celebrations in Colombia are the largest and most important of the year, with the Good Friday procession a vibrant and culturally-enriched affair. Take a week or 10- day tour of Colombia and you’ll come home with a host of incredible experiences under your belt, as well as an enviable suntan.

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Tackle an African safari on an overland expedition

Spring break adventures don’t come much better than on an African safari, yet if you think that driving around in a nondescript SUV, just one of two dozen vehicles looking out for a lion, then you obviously haven’t heard of overlanding adventure tours. With unique tour companies like Overlanding West Africa, you get to experience a side of Africa not many get to and have the chance to see off the beaten path attractions and have more in-depth cultural experiences with locals. On a tour, you get a professional and expert travel guide to take care of all the logistics and your own totally cool expedition truck to take you away from the hustle of tourist-ville. The Dakar to Marrakech tour stretches for a month starting from 17th April, which would require additional holiday time, yet know that there are at least a dozen other African overland companies running shorter tours throughout all of Africa. If your heart is set on endless savannah plains and roars of wild lions, then trust your travel agent to find you an available seat on an African adventure truck.

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So take your next school vacation up a notch and follow our travel guide to a totally AWESOME and unique spring break adventure.

5 Wedding Ideas Pulled from Southeast Asian Traditions

Finding wedding ideas can be a challenging and rewarding experience. A surefire way to throw an event to remember is to incorporate traditions from cultures outside your own. Steer clear of cliche ceremonies and take a peek into some Southeast Asian wedding traditions for some inspiration for your own nuptials. Each tradition is founded in history and heart — you’re sure to find something that speaks to your own love story. 

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Vietnam – Dam Hoi (Tea Ceremony)

A common tradition in Vietnamese weddings is the Dam Hoi ceremony. After the exchange of rings couples will pour wine or tea into the cups of attendees as a symbol of respect and sharing. The couple will serve their respective in-laws as a thanks for raising their children and to their new grandparents to show respect and to embrace of their new family. The family return congratulate the couple with jewelry and gifts. Some unique gifts are received among the Vietnamese couple such as nuts and betel leaves, these are to be chewed to symbolize dialogue between the couple and parents. Other more common gifts include wine, tea, fruits, pastries, a whole roasted pig, and sticky rice.

 

Laos – Baci Ceremony (Spirit Calling)

In Laos, betrothed couples prepare for the big day in a 30-60 minute ceremony held days before the actual wedding.The Baci Ceremony is meant to honor the spirits and reinforce harmony. Otherwise known as “spirit calling,” the Baci Ceremony gathers family and friends to prepare for the upcoming nuptials and to wish well upon the couple.

A handmade ‘pha khuan’ centerpiece made of marigolds, bamboo sticks, banana leaves, thread, and rice will hold folded banana leaves and candles placed within. Known as the ‘maak beng’, folded banana leaves will be the foundation of white string to be tied among the couple and guests. The pha khuan is placed on a white linen in the center of the room where the Baci Ceremony is held. The master of the ceremony will present a small amount of whisky and money wrapped in a banana leaf along with candles and flowers to the couple to invite wellbeing.

He then ties the white strings attached to the maak beng to connect all participants to form a continuous bonding of all attendees to the couple to offer blessings and wishes for the couple. Rice is thrown to represent the spirits and to wish good luck. Finally, as the procession finishes, an elder will make future predictions by looking at a formation of chicken wings and claws. This ceremony is then followed by the invitation to eat, drink, and dance in typical Laos fashion.

 

Cambodia – Hai Goan Gomloh (Groom’s Parade)

Traditionally, Cambodia is known for arranged marriages, the giving of dowry, and having weddings that last from one to three days. They hold multiple ceremonies to symbolically unite the couple and their families. One common tradition is the Hai Goan Gomloh, or “Groom’s Parade”. The Groom, along with friends and family bring silver and gold trays of fruit, desserts, and gifts to the house of the bride’s family. Gifts are then showcased throughout the house to show pride and richness brought from the Groom.

Another common Cambodian wedding ritual is the “Sien Doan Taa” or Tea Ceremony where families bow, burn incense, and offer tea to honor and call upon their ancestors to bestow good wishes and blessings upon the couple.

Malaysia – Berinai Ceremonies (Henna Staining)

Henna staining ceremonies called “Berinai” are very important in Malaysian culture. Henna is extracted from the henna leaf, regarded as a blessed item to cleanse and protect from evil, and is applied to represent unity in marriage. Typically henna is applied by close relatives, usually women and special friends of the couple, and takes place over three days. The first day is applied by close relatives called, “Berinai Curi.” On the second night, “Berinai Kecil,” henna is applied by neighbors and friends. Finally the most important henna ceremony “Berinai Besar” is held after the marriage ceremony. Family members on both sides take turns applying henna and  a mixture of rice and flour to the palms and foreheads of the couple as a blessing.

Thailand – Rod Nam Sang (Shell Ceremony)

Before the wedding ceremony in Thailand, many couples have white string draped between their heads to symbolize independence of each person and their destiny of becoming one. Afterwards, an elder fills a conch shell with holy water and guests —  starting with immediate family and ending with friends —  pour the holy water over the hands of the couple to symbolize unity. The ritual is known as ‘Rod Nam,’ meaning to soak with water. After the Shell Ceremony each guest places a gift into a basket, typically the gift is a symbol of social status, the higher the status the more wealth they give to the couple.

5 Coffee Shops Worth Instagramming

Coffee shops are no longer just for those with newspapers in hand looking to relax or to gossip with your friends on the couch like an episode of Friends. Shops today are not only trying to satisfy customers with their product but are looking for the total package appeal. From engaging interior design, beautiful gardens, and unique exterior appeal you can now find some of the most eye catching, photogenic, Instagram worthy spots to have a cup of joe. This article is going to name a few of the best coffee shops worth stopping at to capture unique photos that will have all your coffee enthusiast Instagram followers beaming with envy.

Truth Coffee, Cape Town, South Africa

Truth Coffee has been recognized as one of, if not the best coffee shop in Cape Town, South Africa. Its outdoor scenery might not be at the top of the list, but its indoor charm is one for the books, simply beautiful. It is so unique and detailed in its decor and not lacking one bit in its quality of food and coffee. It has a distinct modern industrial design with exposed piping, beams, and lighting, displayed typewriters and singer sewing machines, and a vintage cast iron drum for hand roasting coffee. The intention of its interior design matching the quality of their coffee is both unique and detailedly magnificent. Many simply state, Truth Coffee, is THE Truth!”.

Salvaged Ring Cafe, Nha Trang City, Vietnam

The Salvaged Ring Cafe was ranked in the top 20 of the world’s best architectures in 2014 at The World Architecture Festival. This economically friendly and all around beautiful cafe is located among the countryside of Nha Trang City in Vietnam. The cafe was eloquently designed by the architects of a21 studio and constructed primarily of scrap wood, coconut leaves, and locally sourced rocks. The circular flowing architecture blends into its natural surroundings and provides a feeling of being one with the outdoor scenery. Its open contoured design encourages refreshing air flow and natural light, and its curves provide a beautiful outpouring from the highway where you arrive down to a flowing river and lush courtyard. The natural allurement of this cafe will help you relax while you enjoy a cup of coffee in a tropical oasis.

Dreamy Camera Cafe, Yangpyeong, South Korea

The Dreamy Camera Cafe in South Korea is a dream Instagram post for the photograph enthusiast. A bold red Rolleiflex camera makes the shape for this unique cafe that sets among the grandiose South Korean landscape that is picturesque in all four seasons. Inside its camera exterior this cafe also provides a museum where you can interact and marvel at evolving photos and technology.

Take a few polaroids to leave behind and enjoy the view of the rolling hills outside of Seoul, South Korea. There’s good reason why this Cafe is ranked #10 by Buzzfeed’s “Coffee Shops Around the World You Have to See Before You Die.”

Fair Folks & Goat, New York City, United States 

An entrepreneur and coffee addict’s paradise, Fair Folks & Goat describes itself as a “membership cafe.” For $25 a month customers can enjoy unlimited coffee and tea including signature cold brew imported from New Orleans. The funky cafe is also a clothing and accessories shop that helps deliver inspiration to the artists, start-up staffers, writers, and other laptop warriors you’ll see in inside. The turquoise exterior is too cute for words. Oh, and the goat-themed items will be a hit on your Instagram feed.

Open Farm Community, Singapore

Among the open air and lush greenery this farm to table restaurant and cafe has so much beauty inside and out. This is not only a quaint spot for lunch or coffee but a total dining experience. If you’re into Instagramming your food — this is your place. Each plate is a work of art almost too beautiful to eat. You can also take a tour of the farm from its local farmers and immerse yourself in herbs and vegetables soon to be transferred to the table through the Open Farm culinary experience. A cafe, gift shops, and kid-friendly exterior houses activities for all ages.  Enjoy a hot mug in the cafe or sit out on the patio and observe the wonderful 35,000 square feet of charming terrain.

 

The Power of Saying Yes

Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start focusing on what can go right. – Unknown

Sometimes we just have to say “yes,” even if it scares us. Despite what your mother says, the majority of the decisions you make in life are not going to kill you.  Saying yes can be uncomfortable, painful, annoying, and even embarrassing, but quite honestly looking back on all the times I’ve been miserable in my travels — those are some of my most cherished memories.  I said “Yes” along the way knowing fear and failure were very real possibilities. What I found on the other side was exhilaration, laughter, contentment, and genuine happiness.

Fear is a powerful influencer and it permeates every inch of our lives.  When my wife and I decided to quit our jobs to travel to the forgotten corners of the world and likewise when we chose to live out of a van in the wild in-betweens of America, I had serious trepidation.  On our first trip to Asia, I couldn’t eat anything for days and the first few nights I laid in the bed awake scrutinizing every sound and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  But every day I got up and made the choice to say “Yes” to new experiences.  I said yes to exploring ancient ruins and starting conversations with strangers.  I said yes to climbing mountains and eating tarantulas.  I said yes to trusting people I had only just met and to changing my plans on the go.  

There’s no time to waste when one hundred people are trying to fit on a fifty person bus in the middle of nowhere, miss it and your stranded, take your time getting off and the last room in town is booked.  The best way to travel is to team up and double your odds.  As we arrived in Nicaragua one night well after dark we scurried off the bus, grabbed our packs and made a quick introduction with two girls from Sweden.  Understanding the urgency of the moment we joined forces and booked it down the dimly lit streets bouncing in and out of hostels until we found one.  Over the next few days we got to know the girls better and we decided to travel on with them.  Before long we found ourselves on the Isla De Ometepe, an island village in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.  Needing a ride to our ferry the girls suggested hitchhiking, red flags, and sirens were going off in my head.  Hitchhiking has gained a notoriously bad reputation in America and here we were contemplating doing it in the developing world.   As a truck rounded the corner I had to make a decision,  I said “Yes” and just a few short minutes later we were flying down the road in the back of a banana truck with smiles on our faces.  Bad things could have happened, but instead the men couldn’t have been nicer and refused to take even a penny from us.  

The next day we departed the ferry with our new friends and loaded into boats and headed up the Rio De San Juan.  After some time we arrived at the small village of El Castillo.  A remote village on the jungle border with Costa Rica, it has no roads, no cars, no ATM and no internet.  Showers consisted of an oil drum filled with water and a cup.  On a walk through town we encountered some locals who offered to take us out after dark on the river and give us an “authentic” tour.  Our guide spoke exactly zero words of English and we soon realized we were the only boat anywhere on the river.  Again, bad things could have happened, but instead it was an amazing one of a kind experience.  Our guide corralled numerous lizards and cayman with his bare hands and let us hold them as we laughed hysterically at our complete and utter lack of ability to communicate with one another. It was another truly amazing experience, all because I said “Yes.”

I’m not advocating we all become “yes men”, there are plenty of times that require a firm no in life, but too many of us use “no” as a starting point when making decisions.  Even if it is small daily decisions, it is our built in response.  We avoid failure at all costs and want to shield ourselves from the uncertainty of change and saying no is the only way most of us know how to do this.

It’s hard to say yes because it leads us towards things that are unfamiliar and uncertain and this is scary.  But when we look back on our lives the most exciting and growth filled times are also usually the most terrifying.  

Take that trip, switch careers, don’t be scared, life is too short to live the same day twice. Have the courage to do the things you’ve always wanted to, start saying yes today.

5 MORE Ways to Earn Money While Traveling

Enjoyed our top 5 Ways to Earn Money While Traveling? Looking for more creative ways to support your wanderlust?

Here are a few more genial ideas you may want to look into before you pack your bags and head out to discover the world.

1.Casual bar & restaurant work

The savior of many young backpackers, casual bar and restaurant work is phenomenal because it allows you to earn some cash, double that with tips (in many countries), meet a bunch of friendly locals and, if you choose to work nights, still leave you with plenty of daylight hours to explore your intended destination.

Casual work in the hospitality industry is the preferred option for those on working holiday visas mentioned in our last post (link when live). The only bummer with this is that you have infinitely higher chances to find employment in touristy areas, although a rotational roster (say, one month on and one month off) can be an excellent compromise. What you earn in a few weeks in a tourist hot-spot will buy you a month of travel off the beaten path.

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2. Tour guiding & driving

Tour guiding work is rewarding, incredibly fun and is a wonderful way to explore an entire continent – all at your employer’s expense.

From culinary tours to sightseeing tours and specific-interest tours, guiding is an amazing way to finally take advantage of your native language in a foreign country. You may be surprised to know that jobs in the tour guiding field are widespread and, if you’re capable, resourceful and have an outgoing personality, relatively easy to get. This, by the way, is how I traveled through South America and Africa for years. I ran English-speaking tours for various international companies and, once my Spanish and Italian were polished off, even ran foreign language tours back in Australia, my home country.

Contiki run young and fun tours through Europe, and overland companies like Oasis offer adventure tours through several continents. There are also plenty of flash-packing options in between.

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3. Cruise ship work

The floating equivalent of tour guiding work, cruise ship jobs are fabulous, especially if you’re just starting your travels. A lot more structured than other jobs in the field (you may only get one day off a week, for example) cruise ship work is nevertheless a lot of fun and can actually earn you a considerable salary. Moreover, you’ll get to visit exotic locations you may not otherwise ever get to see. Jobs in this field are open to all sorts of skilled workers. Simply think of a cruise liner and all the extras they include, like a gym, on-shore activities, restaurants, bars, beauty salons and spa services. Entertainment coordinators, water sport instructors, human resource managers and so on: you name it and a big cruise liner will probably need it. An even better alternative is scoring a job on a private yacht. You can check this guide out for more detailed info.

4. Seasonal work

Want to pick fruits in Australia, teach surfing in a luxury resort in Morocco or snowboarding in Japan? Then seasonal work is for you.

Farms, resorts and hotels love nothing more than a rush of fresh blood and crew every year. They find seasonal workers to be enthusiastic, usually multilingual and infinitely appreciative of the chance to experience a gorgeous part of the world at the best time of year. Professional companies and farms will also help you apply for work permits and organize accommodation. 

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5. Get creative and put YOUR skills to good use

Honing in on your specific skills and thinking outside the box is arguably the best way to earn some extra cash while traveling. Because, at the end of the day, bar work is no fun if you’re an introvert and snowboarding in Japan is a tad unsuitable if you have never actually snowboarded in your life. So…what is it that YOU can do? List all your skills – and those you wish to gain – and get creative when googling opportunities abroad. Research, network and find that niche market that’s just right for you. Stuck for ideas? Ask your friends! Sometimes an outside perspective can work wonders. Maybe your photos are top-notch and you can sell them online – or ask hotels and resorts if they’d like a professional photographic portfolio done at a bargain price. Maybe you’re great with computers and you can offer web and graphic design services online. Play an instrument? Busking is immensely popular and one of the most portable work-skills you can have.

Get creative and find your own way to put your unique skills to very good use.

A last note…on working permits

The most important aspect which comes up time and again is the legalities of working abroad. This is a very personal decision. Work exchange programs, volunteering, and working for overseas-registered companies are legal in almost every single country, bar very few are exceptions.

When it comes to everything else, however, you should definitely inform yourself about the regulations which are tied to the particular visa for which you apply. If you can’t seem to make heads or tails of it, I suggest you contact the business owner or potential boss, and ask them what the regulations state about foreign workers. Whatever you do, keep in mind that getting caught working illegally can score you a huge black cross or your passport, something no avid traveler ever wishes.

Once you find a way to earn money while traveling, however, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll never look back, and you’ll see the world for the wonderful cache of opportunities it is.

5 Ways to Earn Money While Traveling

Loved How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World in 5 Steps? Looking for ways to earn money while traveling? Join the club! We explore the world of nomadic adventurers with travel-lust in their souls and endless imagination. Let’s discover how they manage to fund their travels by working abroad.

“How on earth can you afford to travel the world?” This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the question I am asked most. When I mention that I write travel guides for a living, the response I get is almost universal: “Aaahhh of course you do…that makes sense!” It’s as if travel writing is about the only option one has when one wishes to earn money while traveling.

But let me tell you, it’s not.

I have been traveling the world for almost 13 years but have only been writing for the last six. How have I supported my travel-lust all this time? Easy! I’ve tour guided through two entire continents, tackled casual bar and restaurant work and taught English. Mind you, these are only the jobs I did for money. There’s still an exhaustive list of things I did in exchange for food and accommodation.

Some travelers feel that a ‘work exchange deal’ – whereby you work in exchange for a bed and a couple of hot meals a day – is not the same thing as earning money. But I disagree. Had I earned money painting that wall, rewriting that menu or managing that campsite, I would have spent it on food and accommodation, so as far as I’m concerned it’s one and the same.

Earning money while traveling simply means finding ways to keep yourself on the road longer. And that’s precisely what I’ve done. For 13 wonderful years.

Here are my top 10 Ways to earn Money While Traveling: 

1. Online Work

Out of all the ways I have earned money on the road, writing and online work has given me the greatest amount of flexibility. I don’t deal with guests and customers, I have no set schedule, my bosses are my clients, and (the best part) I get to move around as often as like. My next ‘office’ is just a plane ride away, to wherever I dream of going next. Having said this, online work has also been the hardest way to earn a decent living.  It took me at least two years to set up a solid reputation as a travel writer, and at least three until I could actively apply for jobs. Now that I have a solid reputation, clients approach me and I no longer waste time on fruitless job applications.

The scope of work available online is virtually limitless. You can find work doing data entry, reviewing of products, designing and supplying content for websites, and writing of any kind, from business reports to travel guides, product launches and even wedding dress descriptions! The world of digital nomading is absolutely huge. Just look at the extensive list on portals like Upwork and you’ll start to understand the kind of work you can find online.

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2. Working Holiday Visas

Working holiday visas are absolutely fantastic and give younger folks the chance to experience life in a new country, whilst earning a bit of cash on the side. Usually, on a 12-month working holiday visa, you have the option to work for a total of 6 months and play the tourist for the rest of the time. Canada, New Zealand and Australia offer perhaps the most known visas of this kind, but you may be surprised to learn they are not the only ones. You can also get a working holiday visa in Ireland, Singapore, and South Korea, whilst other countries offer visas for very specific kind of work like, say, nursing, au pair (nannying) and teaching. The only hitch with working holiday visas is that they are quite restrictive. Most are only available to those under 30 years of age with no dependents and limit the number of hours you can work and the amount of time you can spend at any one particular job. With many, a minimum amount of funds needs to be shown on your bank account before you’re allowed into the country. While some, like South Korea, you must be either be currently at a university, or have completed a degree within the last two years.

Once you’ve bagged one of these golden visas, the world is your oyster. Seasonal agricultural work is hugely popular and, in some countries like New Zealand, it will actually make you eligible for a 3-month visa extension. The most popular websites for finding jobs on a working holiday visa are TAW (Australia) WorkingHolidayStarter (New Zealand) and Jobs.ie (Ireland).

3. Work Exchange

Work exchange projects are extremely popular all over the world, and will give you a chance to extend your travels for much longer than you ever envisaged. In theory, you offer your services to locally-run enterprises, be they campsites, hotels or businesses and, in return, they provide you with food and accommodation. The kind of work available is varied as are the destinations on offer. Just take a look at the most popular sites like WorkAway, HelpX and WWOOF to get an idea. From helping with housework in Sydney (Australia) to running a hostel in the Dominican Republic or getting your hands dirty in an organic farm, the options for this kind of ‘volunteer’ work are endless.

The only downside of this kind of work exchange is actually the one thing it prides itself on most, as this is a relatively unstructured and unmonitored system of job placement. The lack of monitoring can leave you open to unfavorable experiences. Unlike traditional volunteering programs, which are connected to registered NGOs for example, the jobs and employers are not vetted and placements aren’t set in stone. The room for disappointments is considerable. Once a placement is secured, you are really at the mercy of your ‘employer’ and experiences have ranged from ‘perfectly heavenly’ to ‘steer clear of this!’

On the other hand, you can mitigate risks by simply searching for work exchange programs in a country you are already traveling through, rather than hopping on a plane and traveling to a country solely for the job. If you do strike work exchange gold then you’ll certainly enjoy an amazing experience working abroad.

 

4. Teach English

An immensely popular option is to travel the world teaching English. Although you’ll need to be a native English speaker and certified ESL (English as a second language) teacher in order to land the best jobs with lucrative pay working in illustrious schools and universities, there are still plenty of other language classes you can hold in less formal settings or with smaller local schools. Getting ESL certification is the one thing I did before I ever started traveling and although I have not used it all that much – certainly nowhere that required it – I still think it an investment well made, should I ever want to use it in the future.

The most popular resource job recruitment sites are FootprintsRecruiting and GoOverseas but there are dozens more online. ESL certification can either be done remotely or on-sight and the one most important requirement, in my opinion, is that the certificate is internationally recognized. It would certainly defeat the purpose otherwise. Courses can go for upwards of USD 1,000 and include over 100 hours of practice, which is essential. The most respected course are offered by i-to-i (which is the one I did and am happy to recommend) TeflUK and TeachAway which is run by the University of Toronto.

Teaching contracts can go from 6 months to multiple years and will see you immersed in a new culture and living like a local. A good pay and extensive school holidays mean your travels need not stop at the school gate. A wonderful option for those who crave a little stability with the added bonus of an overseas adventure.

5. Trade & Skill work

This is probably my favorite of all the options here and the one I find the most creative. In all the years I’ve been gallivanting about, I’ve met truckloads of travelers who put their particular skills to concrete use. Hairdressers, electricians, plumbers, yoga, dance and music teachers; teachers of everything else, acupuncturists and masseuse, to name but a few. If you have a skill of ANY kind, chances are you can support yourself while traveling simply by advertising your services around. No matter what it is that you do, chances are you’ll find a way to earn money with it.

My partner is a very competent tradesman and he’s earned us a good keep doing all sorts of wonderful things: building wooden furniture in Australia, redoing the electrics in a campsite in Ethiopia, fixing cars in a remote mountainous village in Chile and even managing a horse-farm in South Africa for three months! The amazing this is that once you start exploring this side of your skillset you’ll realize that what you don’t know, you can easily be taught. This is why we take every opportunity to learn a new skill. Someone needs a hand on a farm? We’re onto it! Meet a local who wants help building a wooden pergola? We’ll be all over that too. Learn, practice, perfect. Soon enough you’ll see that skillset grow, attracting even more opportunities to earn your keep while traveling.

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