Archive for the ‘travel advice’ Category

6 May 2012

At this point in my life, I have now visited 26 countries.  Although this in itself is the progression of one of my life missions, the number is not what is of most importance to share.  Rather, I would like to remember my most preferred eateries, parks, and monuments so that you and I will each be able to visit and treasure these places.

Toronto: Enjoy your time in the city center, but take a day to drive out towards battle grounds, and the small towns on your way to Niagara Falls. The towns nearby have great spots for tea, cheese, and best of all: Pillitteri Estates Winery.  It is a must stop.  Sample the ice wines, as they are hard to come by.  I treasured my glass of their 2007 Ice wine Cabernet Sauvignon. It is nearly impossible to capture the falls on film from the ferry, but once you board the ferry take your photos in the first 5 minutes, before you and your camera are rained on by the waterfalls.


Belgium: I nearly hate Brussels more than any city I have ever visited in all my life. However, Brugge is a charm.  Although I would not necessarily consider it a “Magical place” worth living your last moments in, as In Bruges suggests, I have visited twice and plan on many more. Make sure to visit Gare ( I think it is called), a hidden pub, where everyone orders the house beer, served with cubes of cheese.  Also enjoy the World’s Best Hot Chocolate upstairs in the small cafe, and sample your way through the small town known best for chocolate.  Although I have not yet made the trip, I believe I will even love Gent more than Brugge.  It is a town about 3x the size of Brugge and is not defined by the chocolate.  Therefore, I believe I will find many more enjoyable parks and pathways to walk along and enjoy the true Belgian culture.





Paris:Make sure when planning your trip to Paris that you take into consideration your own personal interest.  Paris is “The City of Lights,” however, in the hustle of the city, it is easy to miss out on everything.  It wasn’t until my third trip to Paris that I appreciated the flavor, colors, lights, smells, or sounds of the city.  It can be peaceful.  It can be remarkable, romantic, luxurious, historic, entertaining, or exhausting.  Location is key! Choose lodging around the Notre Dame if you are on a student budget–make sure to carry your international student ID with you for free entrance into museums.  Start your day with a breakfast at the nearby cafe.  Your first landmark will be Notre Dame itself, then head towards the Shakespeare Company bookshop where Hemingway is celebrated as a former frequent visitor. Next, cross the bridge, enjoying the book stands on the side of the river.  If it is a hot day, there are ice cream stands to try out.  Take 3 hours or more to wander around the Louvre. My favorite piece incorporates the entire life of Jesus on earth: Antonio Campi’s “Les Mysteres de la Passion du Christ.” It is on the right wall along the hall after visiting DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. After your stay here, spend the money on a delicious bowl of French Onion Soup at the Hotel du Louvre’s Restaurant.  Followed by a visit to Musee d’Orsay.  Finish your day with a visit to the Eiffel Tour–make a booking online for your tour of the top at sunset.  Dinner is welcomed at a 20’s styled- restaurant nearby.


I know that each person has their own list of places to see before they die, but if you are looking for a new adventure, these are the explorations I will be planning in the next decade or two:

Gombe, Africa: Hike through the forest to Jane’s Peak, where Jane Goodall first studied the personality of chimpanzees.

Plitvice Falls, Croatia: For years I have dreamed of kayaking to the falls, but recently heard it is illegal.  However,  I would still like to view the falls during the spring, but also the glaciers in the winter.

Morocco: I plan on taking a 4-7 day Camel-ride, camping under the stars trip through the desert.

New Zealand: While searching for the perfect place to study abroad, I fell in love with the wilderness of New Zealand.  In one country, I found my home in the mountains and the greatest beaches.  The forests and other landmarks have also created many exciting dreams within me.

Japan: While serving in a Sunday school program with a Japanese descendant, I learned of a phrase, 水に流す mizu ni nagasu, which is the equivalent of “water under the bridge,” or, “forgive and forget.”  However, she told me that if two Japanese individuals are fighting for whatever reason, if they bow to each other and say, “水に流す,” they will leave the situation with respect, truly living the words.  I would like to experience this as well as many aspects of the Japanese culture.

Burma: this country has been considered the #1 out-of-the-world experience, as it remains untouched by westernization.


However, wherever you choose to visit.  I highly recommend packing:

America for some reason has better quality:
super glue
mole skin
Crystal Light–or water flavoring
Wet-ones or Huggies (for bathroom on the go, or for cleaning dishes outdoors, hands, tables, etc)
Water bladder for backpack–if on a hiking trip
water filter water bottle


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22 April 2012

I have never thought this way before this trip, but many of times I have dedicated my future family to the Family and work of God.  I have stood where Mary and Elizabeth met, where John the Baptist jumped for joy in the presence of Jesus in the womb (Luke 1).  I have stood where Mary’s milk may have dripped to the ground turning it white.  I have sat in peace where Ruth worked on Baaz’s farm, and later gave her born child to her mother-in-law.  I have stood in these places.

The women in the Bible, as well as the Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood, all seem dedicated to the Lord through pregnancy and the continuation of His lineage.  Joseph, father to Jesus was a descendant of King David, Mary was to be married into a wealthier family name. However, these were not of her concerns.  Rather, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary all proved to be concerned by the messages the Angel Gabriel shared with them.  Zechariah gave up his family name to honor the Father’s orders, and Mary, believed that she, a virgin could become pregnant by the Spirit.

These women were joyful in the presence of the Holy Spirit. These women, different from the modern women I knew before this trip, are inspirational.  However, being in Israel, I wonder, do these young mothers/ couples even understand what they are living for? At twenty years old I could not imagine being a mother of two, walking, nursing, and sleeping–only.  I have great dreams to accomplish in life, but if God is the same God yesterday and today, then is the modern day woman any less honoring to His Will?

Anyhow…I have gained much respect for a life based on the Scriptures alone during my stay in Israel.


Petra, Jordan:

I recommend a two or three day trip.  Although you are able to visit the majority of the sites in a long day, it is worth sitting at the High Sacrafice site, or on top of the Monastery.  However, my top recommendation is for the Seven Wonder’s Bedouin Camp, which will not only give you a great dessert experience, but also provides opportunity for a guided backdoor hike.  This hike was the calmest day of my full 18 day adventure.  Please make sure to visit Little Petra as well, as you will climb into the 2nd story buildings and have an opportunity to picture life in a small cave town.

At night, you will be able to enjoy sugar-sage tea/ Bedouin “whisky” and join other campers around a comfortably cushioned camp fire ring.

Wadi Rum, Jordan:

I was unable to make it this time, but would like to adventure out into this dessert region.  I have heard that camels, horses, and ATV’s are the only ways to explore this region.



-Lodging: I have enjoyed my stay at House 57 on Ammunition Hill.  The tram is a 5 minute walk and for $2 you can see almost anywhere in the city, except for on Sabbath/ Shabbot.

– Eating: When traveling, I like to start my visit with a trip to the nearby outdoor market, if possible.  With a kitchen, make sure to buy the local produce, baked goods, etc.  Without, I have enjoyed many falafels, but there are also great vegetarian restaurants: Eucalyptus and Fig (the name is in Hebrew), both located near Jaffa Gate outside the Old City.  Holy Bagel supplied a great lunch with a tradition Middle Eastern flare to a common food choice.

– Shopping: In Israel, I have learned to choose the shopkeeper, the artist, mores than their work or merchandise.  It is important to trust a salesperson, and if there is no ground for loyal trade, then walk away.  In the Cardo, there is a micro calligraphy studio that uses Scripture to fill the empty figurines, settings within Jerusalem.

– Activities: The Night Spectacular at Tower of David at Jaffa Gate is not necessarily what i expected, but fantastically done.  It is a good way to spend your first or second night in the region.

– Churches: Church of the Visitation and John the Baptist on Ein Kerem both display tiles of many languages stating the praises and prophecy within Luke 1.  Ein Kerem is my most peaceful district within Jerusalem.  I believe the hillside most resembles what I imagined previously. Within the Old City, life can sometimes seem too chaotic.  However, there are multiple churches designed by Antonia Barluzzi in the early 20th century that represent Jesus’ expressions in respect to His story at the sites.  His churches include: Church of All Nations,  Church of the Flagellation, The Church of the Visitation (Ein Kerem), The Church & Tomb of St. Lazarus (Bethany), The Church of the Angels (Shepherds Field, Bethlehem), Church of the Beatitudes (Galilee), and many others.  The first and second stations on Via Dolorosa occur within the Franciscan property where Barluzzi’s Church of Flagellation testifies the crown of thrones given to Christ, and the cross he was to carry.  St. Anne’s and Bethsada Pool is nearby as well.


– See nature! There are many hikes, but most importantly pay a visit to Mount Bental, where on a clear day, you can see Jordan and Syria. Mount Hermon was in clear view with snowy mountain tops.  This site was also a station for military, and the tunnels within the mountain are accessible by visitors.  Also, plan time to stop and relax along the Kinneret–the Sea of Galilee near Primacy of Peter or further north.  Spend the time to visit the shore side, sit and picnic, or reflect on your time.

– Golan Heights is home to a brewery, winery, and olive oil press.  Of which, I recommend visiting the olive oil press and washing your hands along the sides of the main area.  The products are sold cheaper at the store at the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River near Tiberias.


– Explore the modern recreation of Herodian ruins.  Although not entirely authentic, this town is a very pleasant port side village and a great stop for afternoon-evenings.


– Make sure to start your hike as early as possible, for although the sunrise is not always breathtaking, the quietness at the peak is outstanding.  A realistic way of reflecting on the occurrences on the location.

Ein Gedi

– I loved walking in the stream! With a 15 minute hike you are able to cool off and visit the water fall, get wet, and enjoy a nice time.  However, with strong knees, you can hike up higher to a peaceful high point with many baths and the spring–with natural drinking water.

Bethlehem, Jericho, and Bethany–the West Bank

– Bansky is not respected as much as I expected it seems.  His work has been covered, primarily. However, it is still an experience to read and interpret the graffiti that lines the inside wall.

– Make sure to climb to the Monastery at Jericho.  Not only is Jericho beautiful to look down onto, but the caves and apartments built into the hillside stone is undeniably incredible. This is also the location where Satan appeared to Jesus during his 40 days in the desert and attempted to tempt our Savior.  Satan failed of course, and therefore, by example, Jesus leads us away from temptation.

– In the Square of Church of the Nativity is a restaurant that offers cheap traditional rice dishes, but there is also an AMAZING falafel shop within a block. At the church itself, the tour guide that took us, Sam Salom, was baptized in the baptismal that now sits inside the church, and married in Saint Catherine’s next door.  In Saint Catherine’s, notice the baby Jesus, as it is the Jesus doll they place in the cave symbolizing Jesus’ birth right where tradition states his manger rested.

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22 April 2012

I am cheap.

I am assertive.

I am a natural leader.

I am outgoing.

I am willing.

However, to each of the statements I claim above, I have heard the contrary.  Recently I have been told by my own mother that I am “bossy.” Ouch, right?

I am cheap, because I know what I value most in a trip, and am wise in budgeting accordingly.

I am assertive, because I know that time does escape a traveler easily, and each trip is a once in a lifetime experience–I want to experience a city to my best ability.

I am a natural leader, yet, when someone does not know personal responsibility, my nurturing characteristics overwhelm the relationship, and a leader persona becomes more motherly, and inappropriate in a teamwork scenario such as traveling in pairs.

I am outgoing, yet I know that I am cleansed each and every day.  I desire time to listen for the Lord’s guidance in the morning and at night, as well as throughout the entirety of a day.  This is my priority.

I am willing to experience life through those I am visiting, however, I am wise in not accepting every way as the right or wrong way–I have a mind of my own.

Do I sound bossy? Through reading the above explanations, I can understand my mother’s choice of words, but still… life is hard to live when you aren’t even able to hear yourself.  At this very moment for instance, I am writing and she is standing over my shoulder speaking about every detail of packing.  I need people to do things for themselves sometimes.  I need to be able to make my own mistakes just as others do. I am not perfect, nor is anyone else who currently walks this earth.

We can of course learn from other’s experiences and strengths, but learning is not a process of shadowing or mimicking their life entirely.  It is important to “know thyself.”  Once again, I find myself caught on the words of Socrates.

May you find your peace with travel, as it used to be my favorite part of life.  Solo travel is a great experiment in gaining insight to your own abilities and sense of self-acceptance and responsibility, but to test a relationship–be wise in choosing travel companions.  Very wise.

And with that person(s), I advise us to all consider an in-depth conversation or continued conversation on the topics of values, expectations, habits, etc.  that pertain to the trip ahead. I believe it is the essential foundation in experiencing a solid trip–vacation or work.

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