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Travel Feature

Travel Tips for the Young & Young at Heart

 

Authors of Vagabonding Through Retirement: Unusual Travels Far from Our Paris Houseboat, Bill and Ina Mahoney have led the life of quintessential wanderers. They’ve not only traveled around the world, but actually lived in places from Laos to Bolivia, the Ukraine and France

Mahoney began hitchhiking across the country working odd jobs at 13; then he sailed the Atlantic as a merchant marine and the Pacific in the navy. He hopped trolleys, trucks, automobiles, and trains. Once he graduated from an adult high school he earned a B.A. at UCLA and an M.A. at Boston University. For 10 years, Mahoney taught world history in Paris. His second book, Is Muldoon Still in Paris, recounts his delinquent childhood and a third book, Mission Paris, is appearing soon. Bill speaks five languages and can tell a story in a dozen others.


Ina Garrison Mahoney grew up in the small Texas town of Blooming Grove. She then graduated from Southwestern University with a BA in speech and drama and an MA from the University of Houston. Taking a year’s leave of absence from her teaching job in Victoria, Texas, she went to France in 1958; when she returned to the U.S. five years ago, she had to relearn how to live as an American once again.

vagabondArmed with passion and a remarkable sense of adventure, this duo seeks out the world through the eyes of people of other cultures. In order to share how they create lifetime memories from traveling, they put together a quick guide to how to have memorable experiences through travel.

Here are their seven steps to get you on the way for your own set of “unforgettable memories.”

  1.  Browse through the library and bookstores guidebooks. Look for those authored by non-US writers. Both the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet series were started by young Brits whose clientele weren’t seeking luxury. They have a vested interest in chocking their guides full bargains.

  2. While visiting those “not to be missed” sights mingle with the natives. Learn their customs. Visit their markets. Dine on their authentic cuisine. These experiences could go a long way toward giving you a better understanding of the numerous ways to do everyday things other than the American way.

  3. Search newspapers, as well as the guidebook, for bargain flights. Some airlines provide free overnight accommodations and food for long distance flights—quite a saving if you’re going to Southeast Asia.

  4. Lodging will be your main cost so search for alternatives to hotels. Guest houses are a great recommendation for Thailand. They have all the necessary facilities and with their constant turnover of young backpackers eager to share their latest travel experiences their recommendations are golden.

  5. An even cheaper travel option is a visa length stay in a city or country of your choice. Thailand and Bali are favorites, but any country has a great deal to offer.

  6. Search for alternatives to taxis such as pickup trucks with benches in the back. Motorcycles are easily rented, but helmets are not normally required. Driving on the left side of the road can present problems for Americans. It is often safer to be a passenger than a driver.

  7. Pack light, very light. “Same shirt, different day” is a great byline to keep in mind for any type of independent travel as handling your own luggage saves tip money. Clothes should be functional. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. It is an invitation a thief looks for.

  8. Be flexible. If your carefully planned trip falls through, don't fret—reschedule or forget it. Something else could be serendipity.

To  learn more, visit:http://www.billwrite.website

[Vagabonding Through Retirement: Unusual Travels Far from Our Paris Houseboat is available through all major booksellers and can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble]

Tibet: Five Fast, Fun & Fantastic Facts

 

Few countries in the world evoke the mystique of Tibet. Many people know the name but few know much about this country. Nicknamed the "Roof of the World" (it shares Mount Everest -- the world's tallest mountain -- with Nepal), most people simply know it as the former home of the Dalai Lama. For centuries, Tibet heavily restricted outsiders and it wasn’t until 1924 that the first European woman, Belgian–French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, visited Lhasa, the capital. 

Let’s start with the basics:

 

The Size of Tibet

Many believe that Tibet is a small country like neighboring Nepal or Bhutan. Actually, Tibet is huge. The Traditional Tibet (U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo provinces) is 965,000 square miles. This is over four times larger than France and a whopping 25% of the land mass of China, which is a good reason why the Communist Chinese invaded Tibet on October 6, 1950 only 10 months after winning the Chinese Civil War and declaring the People’s Republic of China. Since 1965, China recognizes only the much smaller Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which comprises U-Tsang and the western area of Kham (474,300 sq. mi).

This Tibet is autonomous in name only because it is strictly governed by the Chinese Communist Party. Furthermore, China has steadily relocated Chinese into Tibet and there are now more Chinese (7.5 million) in Tibet than Tibetans (6 million). This does not bode well for Tibetans. The Tibetan flag and national anthem are banned and they can be imprisoned simply for possessing an image of the Dalai Lama. Over a million Tibetans have been killed and 6,000 monasteries destroyed since the Chinese invaded their country.

 

Tibet’s Altitude

Tibet is the highest country on Earth with an average elevation of 13,000 feet. Altitude sickness is more prevalent here than anywhere else on the planet. If you visit Tibet, it’s recommended you give yourself at least 3-5 days of complete rest for your body to complete acute acclimatization or you can pay a heavy price. 

The most common type of altitude sickness, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) occurs at elevations above 7,500 feet. The two fatal varieties, High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), can occur at 12,500 feet. The elevation in Lhasa is 12,000 feet and 16,732 feet at Rongbuk Monastery. (On a personal note, I grew up surfing in South Florida and thought skiing in Mammoth, California (base elevation 8,000 feet) would be a cinch. I jumped right in and was having a blast until I suddenly became dizzy and couldn’t get my bearings. Ten minutes later, I was gasping for breath as attendants sledded me down the mountain like a deer carcass strapped to the hood of an F-150.)

 

The Dalai Lama

The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the fourteenth Dalai Lama and the spiritual leader of the Yellow Hat Tibetan Buddhists. The first Dalai Lama was born in 1391 and each succeeding Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of his predecessor. Tenzin Gyatso was chosen when, at the age of two in 1937, he correctly selected all items presented to him that had belonged to the recently deceased 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso

However, the Dalai Lama today believes his lineage is much older and that he is the seventy-fourth reincarnation that can be traced back to a Brahman boy who was given a crystal rosary by Buddha himself (567 BC - 484 BC). Many Tibetans remain steadfastly loyal to the Dalai Lama and hold him in extremely high reverence which is a good reason why the Chinese won’t be stamping his passport anytime soon.

Longevity and The Quest for Immortality

Life extension has never been as popular as it is today. In 2015, Google’s Sergey Brin announced that he was investing billions of dollars into his Project Calico, Google’s attempt to “cure death.” In 1696, a monastic medical school was built upon the summit of Chakpori Hill in Lhasa. In 1959, the Chinese destroyed it with artillery during the Tibetan Uprising claiming the Tibetans had posted a couple of cannons outside the school. 

Some of the substances taught at Chakpori Hill reportedly had the ability to extend mortality far beyond that of the average human life span and at least two of them are in popular usage today. Himalayan dried goji berries are readily available in health food stores and shopping chains such as Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Li Qing Yuen subsisted mostly upon them (he also consumed ginseng, licorice root and gotu kola) and claimed that he was 267 years old when he died in 1930. Shilajit is an ancient tar-like substance of vegetable origin that oozes from the rocks in the mountains of Tibet. It has been reported to contain at least 85 minerals in ionic form, as well as triterpenes, humic acid and fulvic acid. The ancient Vedic Hindu text, the Charaka Samhita (200 BC), claims there is no disease that cannot be cured by Shilajit.

 

The Sky Burial

On the flip side of immortality is death and the Tibetans have a unique method for dealing with the deceased. The Sky Burial or Jhator was first mentioned in the 12th century Tibetan Book of the Dead. The ground in Tibet is too hard for traditional burial (solid rock or permafrost is only inches below the surface) and most of the country lies about the tree-line making traditional burial expensive and impractical.  

Beginning at dawn, rogyapas (body-breakers) hack the deceased to pieces and then use rocks to pound the flesh and bones into a paste with tsampa (barley flour mixed with tea and yak butter) before lighting incense to summon hordes of giant Griffin vultures who swoop in to feast. The immediate family may be present, but usually during a nighttime ceremony that does not include a view of watching their beloved reduced to mush. Tibetan Buddhists believe the corpse is nothing but an empty vessel devoid of spirit and giving sustenance back to nature in this manner is an act of generosity that is essential to their beliefs. The practice is in decline due to restrictions in urban areas and the diminishing number of Griffin vultures in Tibet.

[David J. Castello is the author of The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959)]

Five Weekend Getaways in Queensland Australia

 

Once you make it to the land down under, most people generally go Sydney or maybe Melbourne. But the third largest city of Australia is Brisbane and that’s in the state of Queensland

Queensland has many areas of natural beauty, including the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, home to many of the state's most popular beaches. There’s the Bunya Mountains and the Great Dividing Range, with numerous lookouts, waterfalls and picnic areas; Carnarvon Gorge; Whitsunday Islands; and Hinchinbrook Island. The state contains six World Heritage-listed preservation areas: Australian Fossil Mammal Sites at Riversleigh in the Gulf Country, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Fraser Island, Great Barrier Reef, Lamington National Park and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

These escapes offer a chance to get away from the mundane, and have a completely unique outlook on Queensland. From the tropical gleaming waters of the Pacific, through the lush rain forests, to the relaxing inland backdrops, nothing can prepare you for the beauty of Queensland. 

The only problem are the tourists. That’s why sometimes it really pays off packing up and taking a weekend getaway from the bustle of the towns. And because there is no shortage of places to visit in Queensland you might want to consider these getaways as part of your next Aussie adventure. You only have to choose one during your next trip to the Land Down Under to experience an adventure of a lifetime.

Image 2 - Fraser IslandAn Action-Packed Island Escape

Cross the waves in your car and head off to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. A day’s trip there features the single greatest beach highway, ideal for a soothing drive, and the best way to explore the island. The stunning swimming experience starts at the azure waters of the Pacific, and takes you inland to the hidden lagoons and fresh water lakes, awaiting discovery. The adrenaline junkie in you can head to one of the many sand dunes for a real off-road buggy rush. And once the sun gets scorching you can always cool yourself under the shade of coconuts and palms, beside the gleaming waterfalls.

Image 3 - Road trip

A Healthy and Relaxing Retreat

For a calming escape away from the hum-drum of towns and tourist destinations, go for a relaxing weekend into Noosa Hinterland. Make it a real adventure, and embark on a ferry ride through Noosaville, and the meandering waterways of Noosa Everglades. Explore the traditions of the Gubbi Gubbi tribe on the shore of Lake Cooroibah, before you head to the health resort. What makes these life-changing relaxation retreats amazing is their incorporation of the natural surroundings into their activities. A horseback ride across Kin Kin and to Mt. Cooroora with mesmerizing panoramic vistas is truly one of the most rejuvenating experiences Queensland has to offer.

Image 4 - Surfing

Adrenaline Rich Adventure

Boasting of some of the best waves in the world, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is a real water sport extravaganza. Surfers from around the world gather for the notorious surfing festivals, while beginners have a chance to try on something uniquely Australian. The action-packed Aussie adventure doesn’t stop there because the Coast also offers intense wind surfing, and for a really extreme challenge you might try barefoot skiing. Once you get off the water you can enjoy endless pale sandy beaches, along the high-end beachside resorts and world class dining experiences.

Image 5 - Great Barrier Reef

The World’s Greatest Diving and Snorkeling Experience

Dive into a getaway of a lifetime and explore the hidden depths of the Great Barrier Reef. Starting from Cairns, book a cruise along the largest reef system in the world. You can dive into the clear blue waters surrounded by dolphins and be introduced to a treasure trove of marine life. As you enter the water, schools of technicolored fish, magnificent sea turtles, and elegant manta rays will pass you overhead. For a personal encounter with dolphins visit a dolphin sanctuary; it offers a snorkeling experience you won’t forget. And for a day’s adventure on land, be sure to hit the many hidden coves, underwater caverns, and secluded beaches this side of Queensland.

 

South Queensland’s Granite Belt provides a real luxurious wining and dining escape. In recent decades Australia’s wines have been considered one of the best in the world, and Queensland’s southern valleys are among the best in the country. Exploring the rich Chardonnays, fruity Cabernets and flavorful Grenache, you will also enjoy high-end dinning among the numerous restaurants scattered across this wine region. This escape is all about quality in life, and the beauty of setting provides sunsets to match.

13 Things I Miss About Cleveland

 

About 10 years ago, I left Cleveland, Ohio — where I grew up — because the economy was still slow and struggling for this mid-western post-industrial age city. For me, an architect by training, opportunities were very limited. Like most things, you don't realize “what you’ve got until it's gone.” Or in my case, until after I had left.

Immigrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere came to cities like Cleveland in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th Century to work and make a better life. They recreated what they knew and in turn, altered and adapted their culture to the city of Cleveland. I really miss the various ethnic enclaves in different pockets of neighborhoods.

Every city has a Little Italy, but do they have a Slavic Village? Neighborhood places that readily serve fish and perogies on Fridays? They do in this city on Lake Erie.

I was back home recently during the July 4th holiday and was given a tour of a city I had forgotten about. The West Side Market is still there and improving. The joy of experiencing the WSM should never be taken for granted. I used to live a block away and treated the Market like it was my pantry. West 25th Street was struggling to become something. Now, it is a destination.

Almost across the street from the West Side Market is the renovated Market Square next to Great Lakes Brewery. I can get the GLBC beer in other cities now, but being back home and sitting in that bar eating perogies and drinking a beer is an experience of its own.

The city of Cleveland may have shed a few people over the years, but those people always seem to come back. I was amazed at the change of the Public Square and new Convention Center. I do have to admit that I have my own opinion of the casino inside of a historic old building. but everything else that was happening with it seems amazing.

There are some other things that I miss about my hometown such as easily being able to see a band play in a neighborhood bar. People are laid back, blue-collar folks. Some cities just don't get it, but Cleveland now has it.
 
The following is a baker’s dozen of things to experience if you make it to Cleveland:

  1. The West Side Market
  2. Sokolowski's University Inn in Tremont. They are open mostly for lunch only with a cafeteria style serving and received a James Beard award. 
  3. Hanging out in Tremont and seeing a band play. Or some other places like Coventry.
  4. Going to Great Lakes Brewery to eat and drink beer — except when it is too crowded.
  5. Experiencing the changes on West 25th Street. Nice improvements.
  6.  Being in Little Italy for the Feast of the Assumption.
  7. Being in Tremont for the annual Greek Festival (it’s been going for more than 35 years).
  8. Going to the Barking Spider Tavern to see bands play while enjoying the laid back atmosphere. An intimate place within Case Western Reserve campus.
  9. Cleveland Heights on Mayfield Road. Lots of shops and venues. I haven't been there in years...
  10. The industrial feel of the city. There is still a steel plant there.
  11. All the bridges that cross the Cuyahoga River. It was great when they began to light them up at night. My favorite is the Swing Bridge of Center Street Bridge. One of maybe two in the USA.
  12. The Old Arcade downtown. I heard they are brings shops back into it. Plus there are a couple of others that connect Euclid Ave. to Prospect.
  13. Otto Mosers. when it was on old East 4th St. I say it like that because that short street has changed completely. MSNBC did their RNC coverage on that street.

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