All from Discovering

Gilded in Black Gold: Six Gaudy Projects of the Petroleum Gulf

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It’s not a surprise that the Gulf region contains some of the world’s more curious construction. Northwest to southeast Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the U.A.E. and Oman share more than just a shoreline along the world’s most politically charged body of water. These desert regions were for centuries populated by nomadic Arabian shepherds and traders, seasonal migrants. Fossil-fuels changed everything. Today the grandchildren of  the last  generation of nomads occupy some of the world’s most densely-populated urban areas...

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Five Natural Places to Love in Post-Tsunami Tohoku, Japan

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I’m letting the secret out: Tohoku, a region in Japan most widely recognized for the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated its eastern shore in 2011, has another reason to be known: for its outdoors. Dotted with mountains, gorges, waterfalls, lakes, and fields, this northern area of mainland Japan offers a superabundance of scenic pursuits for any nature-loving soul. Call me biased (this region has been my home for the past 1.5 years), but Tohoku has some of the most beautiful and at times most surprising nature a person...

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Defining “Thin Places” for the Traveler in Search of Transcendence

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What is a “Thin Place”? Despite having travelled extensively for a variety of purposes, the idea of a “thin place” was entirely new to me when I came across Eric Weiner’s article “Thin Places, Where We Are Jolted Out of Old Ways of Seeing the World,” in The New York Times. The term “thin place” derives from the Celtic Christians. Initially, the Celtic Christians believed that there was a significant distance, or border, between Heaven and Earth. At certain places, this border was significantly thinner, allowing people to...

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How to “Bow like a Japanese”: Lessons in Culture from an American Living in Japan

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There are the obvious cultural characteristics of Japan that everyone knows: trade your shoes for slippers indoors, bow, eat with chopsticks. But there are a few other differences I learned only once I’d lived in the country. The cultural differences weren’t profound, but were quite useful once I knew them. Perhaps even the most obvious of customs like indoor slippers and bowing are best understood through experience. For example, you’ll learn to watch out for those aptly named “bathroom slippers” as you fish one out of the squat...

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An Open Letter to the TSA Supervisor at Reagan Airport

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Dear TSA Supervisor at Reagan Airport: Let’s get one thing straight. There are two terminal buildings at DCA. One building houses U.S. Air and Delta and other overpriced but fairly competent airlines, the other houses Air Tran, Spirit and other Ford Fiesta level airlines (hereafter know as the Short Bus terminal). I am talking to the TSA supervisor who handles the Short Bus terminal. To the other guy, thank you for making flying a pleasant experience. So you Mr. Short Bus, must have flunked a major portion of your TSA security exam or slept...

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11 Things to Do in Dahab, Egypt

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Dahab is a little beach town on the southern tip of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that has great food, comfortable hotels, and a laid-back atmosphere. While most tourists flock to the more glittery and developed Sharm El Sheikh about 100km south, Dahab is a great little town to get away from it all. Though it’s a small place, there is more than enough in Dahab to keep you busy, but aside from all the touristy tours and four-wheeler trips into the desert, there are a few more things you have to do while you’re in Dahab, Egypt. 1....

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World Leaders Lock Lips for Benetton’s “Unhate” Campaign

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The marketing department at the United Colors of Benetton is known for their controversial advertisements. Past ads have depicted human hearts, interracial lesbian couples, a woman breast feeding, and even a newborn baby with umbilical chord and all. They’ve outdone themselves once again. Benetton’s newest “Unhate” campaign shows world leaders of opposing ideologies in the midst of a gentle little kiss on the lips. This is definitely a good way to get people’s attention. I would sure stop walking, or at least...

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The Solo Traveler’s Guide to Exploring the Unknown

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The Art of Travelling Without Planning Step 1) Plan your trip, Step 2) Buy your plane ticket. As most solo travelers would agree, these two steps are both the least and most important aspects of traveling alone. To be fair, buying the ticket is the most important. Not because you necessarily need to have a ticket to get where you are going, but because once the ticket is bought there’s no backing out. This is the beginning of a new adventure, and in most cases a new outlook on life. In terms of travel, the word ‘plan’ tends to be used...

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6 Experiences Not to Miss While Traveling in Cambodia

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When I tell people that Cambodia is one of my favorite countries I usually get a very strange look of confusion and bewilderment. A lot of people still view Cambodia as this terrible, violent, land of rubble and danger. But the opposite it true. Cambodia has an amazing, vibrant, unavoidable soul and it rubs off on every person that goes within the border of this beauty filled country. Whether you grew up there as a child or you’re just traveling through, the excitement of everything is overwhelming. It’s a true land of smiles, with a true...

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Egypt’s “Second Revolution” – The Short of It

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Tahrir, Round Two Crowds are once again gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. This story is pretty similar to that of January except that Mubarak is out of the picture. There are a number of issues but the major grievance is with the new constitution and timetables for change the military regime has put in place. The government the military rulers designed gives the military greater power than the parliament and the timetables for elections leaves the military in control of the government for much longer than necessary. They’re...

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What Were They Thinking? 25 Crazy Laws from Around the World

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One of civilized man’s greatest achievements was the rule of law. A unified list of codes for what is essentially “right” and “wrong” to do with the threat of punishment if your actions fall into the “wrong” category. Over the years, however, it seems lawmakers started shooting from the hip, resulting in some strange laws making their way into the books. Some obsolete, some unnecessary, some weird, here’s a list of 25 of the world’s craziest laws. 25 of the World’s Weirdest Laws 1....

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Why Credit Card Fraud Protection Sucks

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Well I can’t really say that credit card fraud protection sucks, but it sure can be a pain in the ass. Before I left for Egypt I called my credit card companies and my bank AND my cell phone company to tell them about my travel plans for the next 3 months or so. I sat through the boring phone calls, transfers, and verifications like the responsible traveler I (sometimes) am. At least I didn’t wait until the day of my flight to Paris to get my Eurail pass, but that’s another story. So I thought all was well and good with the credit cards...

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6 Ways Egypt Confuses the Heck Out of Travelers

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1. The Time Issue Egyptians are not known for being prompt. One of the most perplexing aspects of Arab cultures for Westerners is their sense of time. When you’re meeting someone out on the town and they say 8, expect to see them around 10. When someone tells you they’ll get back to you at 1, it can be at 2, or 3, or maybe even the next day. “Give me five minutes” means “I need a little time,” “Give me an hour” means “I need a lot of time,” and “I’ll get it to you tomorrow” means you should plan for next week. And if...

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Secrets to Happier and Healthier Travel Days: Don’t Try to See Everything

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Trying to squeeze in too much is a classic cause of traveler anxiety and undue stress.  Novice travelers are prone to cramming too many plans in too short a time frame. It’s easy to think “how often do I get to travel all the way to **insert place**, I need to make the most of it while I’m here!” True, it would be a waste to sit in your Paris hotel and watch seasons one through six of Lost, but it would be just as bad to rush through everything the city has to offer and not enjoy or really experience any of it. So find the middle...

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A Day in the Life of an American in Cairo

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Sunrise on the Nile No matter what time it is, the sun has been shining on us for too long. The bed directly faces the folding set of glass doors to our balcony overlooking the Nile and Cairo’s eastern sky. Our entire room is illuminated once the sun comes up around 5am. I usually spend the next two hours rolling around trying to pretend it isn’t there. If I’ve managed to sleep through the car horns, the sunlight, and Casey jumping around the room, the alarm goes off at 7 and I pull myself out of bed. I’m in charge of breakfast, but...

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Unreal Buildings from Around the World

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Crooked House Sopot, Poland This dream-like design, by architects Szotynscy & Zaleski (pronounced how it’s spelled if you were wondering), was inspired by the children’s fairy tale illustrations of Jan Marcin Szancer and the work of artist Per Dahlberg. Completed in 2004, the three-story structure was built with the surrounding buildings in mind to look as though it belongs there but has somehow melted or sagged under pressure. The Crooked House houses several tourist attractions other than its façade including restaurants, bars, and...

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Egypt Before the Revolution: It’s Either the Mubarak Way or the Mubarak Way

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The small lounge was as smoky as it was loud, and the music was blaring. My girlfriend and I sat at a table against the wall with a two of my Egyptian co-workers and a few friends of theirs. It didn’t take very long for the revolution to come up. We leaned toward the middle of the table to hear one another. “Mubarak is shit.” Ibrahim answers my question regarding the ousted dictator. I wasn’t surprised. His opinion is not unique among young educated Egyptians. They were the first Egyptians to grow up with extensive exposure to...

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15 Travel Quotes to Help Keep Things in Perspective

15 Travel Quotes to Help Keep Things in Perspective

Seeing the way others live is the only way to truly understand and appreciate (or seek to change) your own life. Traveling to other countries allows you to witness first-hand where people in different cultures live, how they get to work, what they eat for dinner, how they socialize, and all the little idiosyncrasies of daily life that are so fascinating to foreigners. However, most travelers would agree that a certain point those picturesque beaches, brightly painted homes, and endless smokey mountains start to lose the jaw-dropping effect...

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Oh, Those Dictatorships! Anti-American Propaganda at its Finest

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The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (a.k.a Bat Sh*t Crazy North Korea) “Do not forget the U.S. Imperialist wolves!” It’s dark images like this that make isolated dictatorships like North Korea so scary and fascinating. This is an older poster, but like most outdated things in North Korea, it’s still being used. The poster comes free with the purchase of “Kim Jung Il, Our Divine Leader” commemorative plates!   The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (a.k.a. The Soviet Union – the Original Gangster) “Same...

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10 Tips for Haggling in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (and most other markets)

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Istanbul, Turkey is home to one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. The Grand Bazaar, first opened in 1461, currently receives around 250,000 – 500,000 visitors daily. The vast majority of these shoppers are tourists, and most of them end up paying too much for their souvenirs. The Grand Bazaar is home to hundreds of multilingual expert salesmen who are determined to sell you their wares. Many of these salesmen have an array of witty greetings and one-liners, and are in general pretty entertaining people. They all...

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An American’s Guide to Oktoberfest

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A great article from our friend Casey at CaseyFrolickingAbroad.com! Casey describes her experience at the 2011 Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Having spent the evening prior on a Brewery Tour of Munich, Kelley and I dragged our lifeless zombie bodies to Oktoberfest. Upon reporting for duty at the Oktoberfest Fairgrounds, we scouted out the scene.  After we assessed our combined knowledge of three German words and walking through two intimidating, clearly German tents we headed to the place most tourists head first, the Hafbrau house. We...

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Why Stock Investing is a Traveler’s Dream Job – And How You Can Learn to Work Part-Time

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The market used to be men in suits, shelves of ledgers, newspaper, yelling into the phone to buy or sell. It was a very elite club. Luckily the internet came along, and with it online trading platforms, news websites, streaming stock quotes and a host of other great tools for stock traders of all levels. The club today is much bigger – and you’re invited! Most people view the stock market as this mysterious risky machine where you put in your money and cross your fingers that it all doesn’t evaporate before your eyes. Especially...

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The Cliffs of Moher

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As I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down upon the flying birds and crashing water, a soft wave of salty wind blew across my face.  One more step and I would have been at one with the ocean, slamming into the jagged wall of rock with the frothy white tips.  I leaned over but kept my footing, as I watched the gulls glide effortlessly with the energy coming in from the deep open ocean.  From far away the ocean seemed to move in slow motion with surprising force, but upon closer inspection the sheer power is more natural than the...

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Discovering Kinsale, Ireland

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Into the second week of my study abroad program in Ireland, a group of us took a trip from Cork to Kinsale. It was only a 30 minute bus ride, so why not?  Plus, they had two beaches to relax on: something I desperately needed.  When we pulled up, the tide was almost completely out and all you could see in the river was mud, algae and boats sitting on top of the mud.  But farther out there were rows of brightly colored sailboats sitting on shallow water, with rolling green hills in the background, lit up, as Colleen so beautifully put,...

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Discovering Tarifa, Spain

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When making your way into the port-town of Tarifa, Spain, do: take the bus from Algeciras (it’s 2 euros), don’t: hire the local drunk hanging out at the Tarifa bus station to take you the rest of the way to your hotel. Maybe it was the salty air and languid mood of our surroundings that had us at ease, either way Carolyn and I found ourselves helping a weathered old man pile our luggage into a two-door hatchback missing its wax. I paused uncomfortably before carefully moving over a double-barrel rifle lying across the backseat. I sensed...

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Discovering Marseilles, France

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Marseilles, France. The first stop on a backpacking adventure with my sister Molly, and our friend Matt. I beat them to our hostel, Vertigo Vieux-Port, by a few hours. I had just come in from Turkey and they were still on the way from the US so I decided to take the scenic route. The bus from the airport dropped me off at the main train station in the middle of the city. I had a map and was tired of sitting so I thought I would walk to the hostel from there. Mistake. My pack didn’t seem very heavy walking from one terminal to another or...

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Discovering Dubai, U.A.E

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Dubai, U.A.E. It was around 6 am local time when I lugged my backpack off of the conveyor belt. After readjusting the many straps from their “flight position” of knots and loops, I walked outside through the automatic doors toward the swarm of taxis and rolling suitcases. I resisted the urge to cough as I took my first breath of the 100 degree air. How do people do this everyday? I thought to myself as sweat began to form on my brow almost immediately. It was only 6am, I couldn’t imagine what it was like in the sun at midday....

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