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Knights, Truffles, and Bolivar’s Birthday

With summer in full swing, many parts of the world can get hot at this time of year. The Philippines is one of them, with average temperatures pushing above 80 F. So July is a perfect month to get a refreshing splash of water, and the Bocaue River Festival is a perfect opportunity to do just that. Taking place in the municipality of Bocaue on the main island, Luzon, on the first Sunday in July, the festival commemorates the holy cross found in the river around 200 years ago. A pagoda—an ornately decorated barge—is set afloat in the river, accompanied by small boats. Attendees douse themselves with water to mark the occasion.

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Mystical Halong Bay, a Cliff-Hanger Hotel, & more…

Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular wonders. This 580-square-mile natural cove contains some 2,000 limestone islands—occupied only by trees, ferns, birds, and monkeys. Small floating villages and isolated sandy beaches also entice. The best—and perhaps the only—way to see Halong Bay in its entirety is by boat, or more specifically, by junk. A junk is an ancient Chinese sailing-ship design, and many junks still sail Halong Bay.

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Swim in a Cenote and Dine with the Maya in Mexico’s Yucatán

Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula has a lot more to offer visitors than just sun and sand. As well as miles of pristine beaches and Cancún’s modern conveniences, the region is dotted with cenotes (underground lakes formed from limestone sinkholes): portals into the mysterious Maya underworld. This part of Mexico is also home to some of the last remnants of Maya culture in the country. And with the Mayan Nature Experience Cenote Tour, from the Layla Guesthouse in the beach town of Puerto Morelos, you can now experience all of this. This intimate tour yielded memories worth far more than the 900 pesos (about $60 dollars) I paid for it.

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Find Passion and Purpose in Punta Gorda

Before moving to Belize, Polly Alford lived a cushy life in southeastern England. She had a lucrative job with an IBM partner company, drove a convertible Volvo, owned a comfortable home, and vacationed several times a year. But she wasn’t content…Whenever Polly returned home from an exotic diving vacation, she wondered what it would be like to live a different lifestyle…in an exotic location…where she could indulge her favorite passion, scuba diving. So in October 2003 she gave in to that yearning.

“I made the decision to change my life,” she says. “I wanted to do something more fulfilling. I was already a certified scuba instructor. Since I’m committed to marine conservation, I decided to create a non-profit, marine conservation organization.” Next, Polly took a series of deliberate steps to create her new life. She wrote a business plan, left her job, and sold her home and belongings. This was how she funded her new life and non-profit endeavor. In January of 2004 she flew to Belize, ready to start Reef Conservation International, Ltd (ReefCI).

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Hungry Ghosts, Water Fights and Fun—Southeast Asia’s Top 5 Festivals

I ’d never seen a festival like it in my life, and I’d been living in Southeast Asia for 16 years: the massive procession of people winding its way through the streets, bearing aloft colorful offerings of fruit, flowers, and food, following a glowing chariot to the temple where they unburden themselves. Many of them adorn their bodies with ornate but painful-looking piercings and shave their heads as a sign of devotion.

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Shopping for Profit in Ecuador

Ecuador is a land of rainforests, breathtaking river gorges, and volcanic hot springs, where you can be pampered by affordable spa treatments or simply enjoy the beautiful landscapes. My life has changed over the last 10 years since I discovered how to fund my travels and spend more time there. I feel so fortunate to have had the experiences I’ve logged on my trips.

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My Belize Trip Went to Hell…

It took a trip to hell to show me all the heavenly delights Belize has to offer. It’s probably not the hell you’re thinking of, and I didn’t get there the way folks usually do. This particular hell is Xibalba, the Maya underworld. And I got there on a raft.

My wife, Suzan, and I love scuba diving, and Belize has always been a favorite destination. The second-longest reef on the planet runs along Belize’s Caribbean coast, and the diving is world class.

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Travel Experiences That You Don’t Expect

One of the things I love most about traveling is that it can be a metaphor for other parts of our life. Outside of familiar surroundings, we are apt to be more alert, more conscious. In such situations we frequently gain new skills—like learning how we respond to unexpected delays and distractions. It was a discovery I made after spending 10 days with my siblings in Lucca, Italy. I planned to take a train to Venice, spend a bonus afternoon in my favorite city, and fly home the next day.

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How One Photo Earned Me $600

I never thought of photography as a way to earn money. It was just too much fun as a hobby. So, you can imagine my elation when I sold my first framed travel photo for $600! And, then, sold two more on the same weekend. I had been a teacher and a programmer, back in the States. But when I began living out of a suitcase—accompanying my husband on his longer business trips—I started photographing my travels

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Rio for Free, Own Your Own Elephant & More…

Ever wonder what it would be like to work with elephants for a day in the jungles of northern Thailand? At the Patara Elephant Camp, you can. Not all elephant camps are created equal but this is one of the highest on the list when it comes to ethics and dedicated mahouts (elephant handlers).

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Explore Buenos Aires’ Vibrant Graffiti

Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city chock-a-block with visual delights. From sultry tango dancers in the streets to impressive French architecture and monuments, stylish street cafés, and street ferias (fairs) enlivened by entertainers, arts and crafts.

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The Maltese Islands: Year-Round Sun and Affordable Living

When I think about my time on Malta, I think of bright blue skies, fields of richly green clover, the sound of the ocean smashing against the cliffs, all only steps away from the well-worn stone streets of ancient cities and the chatty and perpetually kind people. And all of it—cities, coastal walks—warmed and cheered by the seemingly endless sunshine, even at the height of winter.

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Savor World-Class Beaches and Fine Dining in Las Terrenas

The Dominican Republic, with its pristine tropical beaches, attracts more vacationers than any other Caribbean island. Most stay at all-inclusive resorts, where you can eat from the buffet and let the staff pamper you. But maybe you’re after a more authentic Caribbean experience…a chance to sample this region’s many delights away from the tourist throngs. If so, Las Terrenas is the perfect place for you. Famous for its 11 miles of world-class beaches, Las Terrenas is on the north shore of the lush and mountainous Samaná Peninsula.

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Magical Ireland, Sunny Fiji…Your Camera Makes it Possible

As a travel photographer, I stayed for free in a vacation rental, a charming little authentic cottage tucked away in the lush green countryside. I photographed the cottage and interesting things one might see and do, both in the immediate area of County Limerick and as far away as Dublin, for the same publication.

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Retire to a Haven Made for Hammocks in Placencia, Belize

It’s ideal weather in Belize right now for lounging in a beach hammock, under a palm tree, as the emerald green and turquoise shaded waves gently lap up on the warm, golden sand beach… What could be better than sipping a frosty refreshment while gazing out at a tranquil seascape?

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7 Fun Activities for Tourists in Buenos Aires

The stunning architecture, broad boulevards and inviting sidewalk cafés you’ll find in Buenos Aires remind me of days spent wandering neighborhoods in Paris. Of course, the Italian influence is equally apparent–from the faces of the porteños (Buenos Aires natives), to their expressive hand signals, and abundant espresso, gelato, and pizza joints. In fact, two-thirds of Argentines are of Italian descent.

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Langkawi: Tranquility and Wildlife Off the Coast of Malaysia

The vibe of Langkawi, also known as the Jewel of Kedah, is one of a laidback island. If it’s beaches and wildlife that you’re after, Langkawi is probably the Malaysian Island to head to—and Malaysia does have a few to choose from.

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Langkawi, “The Jewel of Kedah:” Secluded Island Getaway

Many people yearn for the classic tropical-island getaway: pristine beaches, clear water, sunkissed sands, and palm fronds fringing verdant rainforest. Alas, such places are in increasingly short supply. One still-pristine getaway is Langkawi. Known as the jewel of the Malaysian state of Kedah, this archipelago of 105 islands remains off most tourists’ radar. As a result, the traditions and tropical-island feel remain intact. Here you’ll find the unblemished beaches, crystal-clear waters, and wild rainforests of tropical-island lore.

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The Seven Best Daytrips in Chiriquí, Panama

Spectacular mountains, a towering volcano, azure waters, and verdant rainforests with a wealth of wildlife: Chiriquí province is Panama’s natural treasure trove. It’s also the place I—and about 20,000 other expats—call home, and it’s Panama’s most popular tourist destination. Whether you live in Chiriquí, plan to retire here, or just come on vacation, here are seven of my favorite daytrips that Chiriquí has to offer. Mysteries of Panama’s Distant Past. One of Panama’s most intact archaeological sites, Sitio Barriles was a center of the native Barriles culture, which thrived in the area until around 800 AD.

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Enjoy the Caribbean With a French Twist

When you think of France, tropical beaches may not spring to mind. But there is a place where you can experience the best of both these worlds: a taste of French language and culture with an infusion of rum, sun, and laidback island life. The bulk of France lies in Europe, but a small piece is sandwiched between the Caribbean islands of St. Lucia and Dominica: Martinique. Martinique is, for all intents and purposes, French. The locals use the euro, speak French, and vote for the president who resides in Paris.

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Cut Your Travel Expenses in Romantic Europe

I confess I am a travel addict as is my husband Michael. We’ve seen much of the world and we want to see more. One highlight I will never forget is our four-month long trip to Europe. Long after the azure twinkle of the Mediterranean disappeared beneath the clouds, and our plane soared toward the Americas, the views still sprang fresh to mind: the canyon that cleaves the Spanish town of Rhonda in two, washed by the setting sun…the rolling hills of Tuscany…the white villages of Andalucia, stacked like brilliant sugar cubes.

Myth and Majesty in Spain’s Sierra Nevada

As I savor coffee on a honeysuckle-scented terrace, it strikes me that Lanjarón doesn’t look at all weird. South of Granada, on the edge of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains, this beguiling little spa town overlooks the ruins of an old Moorish castle. Its spring-fed fountains are tiled with snippets of Federico García Lorca’s poetry. Its whitewashed houses have saintly wall shrines and balconies hung with geraniums. Its long main street is a sun-splashed jumble of florists, tapas bars, and old-fashioned stores stocked with locally produced hams and honey.

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“We Sold our House, Ditched our Jobs and Took to the Road for a Life of Adventure”

In 2010, after several years of dreaming, planning, and preparing, Betsy and Warren Talbot sold their home, packed a couple of bags, and left the U.S. on a one-way ticket with the intention of traveling the world full-time for five years. Little did they know that their five-year travel dream would become an indefinite adventure, with a sustainable location-independent income, and a lifestyle full of more freedom and better health than they could have ever imagined. Since hitting the road on that crisp October day, they have picnicked in Provence, fallen in love all over again in romantic Florence, snuck away from the crowds to write and recharge at a 300-yearold farmhouse in Portugal, hiked the 335-mile Lycian Way in Turkey, camped overnight on the ice of Antarctica, learned Spanish in Mexico, and recently bought a house in a small countryside town in the Andalucía region of Spain.

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Pirates and the World’s Best Snorkeling on the Caribbean’s Forgotten Island

I’m standing on a floating footbridge over a piratedug canal once used as a secret ship hideaway. To my right lies the tiny island of Santa Catalina, birthed when the creation of Canal Aury separated it from the main island, where centuries-old cannons still stand watch atop a high bluff. To my left is the sleepy town of Santa Isabel, administrative center of Isla Providencia. Other Caribbean islands may be soaked in pirate lore, but Providencia is drenched in it. More than one buccaneer made this his base, perhaps the most notorious of whom was Captain Henry Morgan. Today he is most famous for the rum that bears his name, but in his time Captain Morgan made a name for himself by attacking Spanish strongholds.

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Discover Paraguay: South America’s Forgotten Heartland

Bumping along on the back of an ox cart, I’m wondering why some of the locals look amused. “Well, usually it’s the kids who like riding in Domingo’s ox cart,” says my new friend and guide, Adrian. “They don’t usually see a gringo in it.” In fairness, they probably don’t see all that many foreigners anywhere in the beautiful colonial town of Santa María de Fe. On the site of a former Jesuit reduction (mission town), Santa María de Fe is a small town in Paraguay’s Misiones Department, 152 miles south of the capital, Asunción. Paraguay is one of the least-known countries in Latin America. And the little that people do know about this landlocked country at the heart of the continent is often about its history of eccentric dictators and military coups.

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Five Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventures in Nicaragua

I’ve lived in Nicaragua for seven years, and I can tell you that this is one of the most beautiful, affordable, and exciting countries in Central America. You can leave your stressful life behind and relax in the tranquility of a liquid gold-touched sunset, listen to a gentle forest rain, or watch from your patio as thousands of fireflies make it look as though the stars have descended from the sky. And if you like excitement and adventure, Nicaragua will not disappoint. Here are just some of the once-in-a-lifetime activities Nicaragua has to offer, whether you’re stopping over for vacation or staying full-time.

Why Switzerland? My Simple Answer

For most of history, home was simply where you were born. It was your tribe. Your family. Your community—big or small. It wasn’t really something you chose. But today, you have more freedom to go your own way. You can—more easily than ever—travel the planet and find a place you’re always glad to come back to. In short, in an increasingly-globalized world, home really can be where the heart is—not just where you end up by default. I could delve into the reasons for this—air travel, the Internet, globalization. But you already know the world is getting smaller, easier to travel, easier to navigate.

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A 5-Week Adventure in Italy’s Hill Country

When I think about my winter in Italy, I think of cobblestone alleyways sparkling with rain, mist-shrouded cathedrals in the “hill country,” days spent with tourist attractions almost all to myself, and a pleasant chill in the air—cool, but not too cold. I based myself, during my five winter weeks in Italy, in the mid-sized university town of Perugia, which is the capital of Umbria, Tuscany’s lesser known but just-as-lovely neighbor. It’s a place of rolling hills, world-famous wines, and postcard-perfect mountain towns. Because Umbria is nestled in between Tuscany (where you will, of course, find pretty, popular Florence, as well as a sunflower-dotted countryside that has inspired writers, artists, and tourists alike) and Lazio (the region that houses historic, grandiose Rome), it was the perfect place to do a little exploring.

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Five Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Scouting Trip to Costa Rica

When visiting Costa Rica during a scouting trip, your goal is to figure out which region suits you and your lifestyle best. Even though it’s a small country, about the size of West Virginia, there are many different climates and lifestyles in each area. You might also be trying to determine if the country as a whole is the best fit at all. So you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your journey by gathering as much useful information about your possible new home country. Here are some tips to make for an educational—and fun—scouting trip to Costa Rica.

How to Eat Locally—and Well—in Italy

As North Americans, we have a few myths about Italy. We think of Italian men as Casanovas: handsome, suave, and maybe a little dangerous. We think that every Italian woman is sexy, self-assured, and passionate. We imagine that all Italians are loud, passionate people with hot tempers and strong opinions… And we believe that all Italian food tastes amazing. So when we arrive for that first time in Italy and stumble into a random osteria in Rome or a little café in Florence, we expect the best of the best. We expect to be transported in ecstasy through a taste experience unlike any we’ve had before.

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Find Your Perfect Beach in Cambodia

I wasn’t asking for much when I went in search of the perfect place to live. All I wanted was white-sand beaches giving way to crystal-clear tropical seas. For variety, I wanted a choice between a beachfront café, with mellow music playing in the background, and an empty beach where the only sounds are birds chirping and waves lapping against the shore. Oh, and the beaches had to be within easy reach of each other, and I needed to be able to live well on a small budget.

From Desk-Bound to Travel Hound in Europe

Five years ago, I was the lead copywriter and content strategist at an advertising agency in Denver, Colorado…coming in as early as 7 a.m. and leaving sometimes as late as 9 p.m.—and rarely ever got a real break. Now, I’m sitting in a sunny top-floor apartment in the Swiss Alps, writing this to you. I can see a waterfall from my window and, only a few steps from my door, I could be on a hiking trail that leads to a Swiss ski town or a 360-degree panorama of the mountains. All because I am a travel writer.

Málaga: The Sleek, Urban Heart of Spain’s Costa del Sol

Twenty years ago, when I first visited Málaga, it was the ugly stepsister of Spain’s Costa del Sol: a little scruffy and down-at-heels (though with gloriously sunny weather and a seaside location). So it was pure pleasure to return last summer and find it transformed into a Cinderella: one of Spain’s most livable—and affordable—cities for coastal living. Today’s Málaga is clean and bright, with a pedestrian-only city center and a revamped harbor area that is a joy to stroll. The city is brimming with museums, great dining, and plenty of shopping to suit all tastes and budgets.

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Costa Rica’s Wild and Thriving Pacific Coast

I’ve never seen so much green…and in so many shades and variations. The tall, jungle-covered mountains of Costa Rica’s Southern Zone dominate the landscape. And many locals and long-time expats say they enjoy these mountain views even more than the ocean, thanks to the lush vegetation that covers them. This region, on the southern Pacific coast, is a land of extremes. Empty beaches, wild Pacific waters, those tall mountains dropping to brief lowlands before turning to a strip of sand, and then blue ocean.

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The Best Places To Vacation In Panama

After eight years as Panama Editor for International Living, you’d think writing about the best places to vacation in Panama would be a cinch. But there are so many great places to vacation in Panama that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. In fact, I’m constantly adding new favorites to my list.

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Discover a Roving Retirement Lifestyle

The couple explored Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. As their trips were part of a search for a new home, it made sense to stay awhile and get beneath the surface of a place. Ellen explains, “Extended stays make sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the cost of moving about.” But after three years of having no permanent base, they realized that it was actually this roving retirement lifestyle that suited them.

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Romantic Europe—One Town and Village at a Time

This morning, I awoke to bright blue skies, crisp autumn air, and the slow, muted clanking sounds of cows wearing big metal cowbells and moving down the street just outside my window. You see, today I am living in a small town in the Swiss Alps. It’s October, which means the farmers are bringing their cows down from the high altitudes and into the low fields and warm barns for the winter. The air smells faintly of fields and campfires. And aside from the bells, all is quiet.

Riots, Escapes and Contraband High on the Moors

I’m on a narrow road that cuts across the bleakest part of Dartmoor. And from here, the view of one of Britain’s most dismally austere buildings is perfect. The road leads to HMP Dartmoor—and HMP is the acronym for Her Majesty’s Prison.

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Eat Gourmet at Street Stalls in Southeast Asia’s Foodie Capital

In a place like Penang, food is everything. That’s why this little island off the coast of Malaysia is so often touted as a top foodie destination by big name publications and news outlets. But, unlike many top foodie spots, it’s not because of expensive Michelin-starred restaurants or celebrity chefs.

Transplant Your Talent — It's Easier Than You Think

Transplant Your Talent — It’s Easier Than You Think

When Joan Jontilano arrived to one of my seminars a few years ago, she was a young woman with a big smile, a complex work history, and an enormous amount of wanderlust. She had tried conventional employment working in IT and retail, among other things, but showing up at the same place at the same time every day was not working for her.

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