#FriFotos: Sweets

KatkaTravels

Christmas market sweets near the Thames ©KatkaTravels

I’ve never been to London during the holidays.  I’ve been in summertime, and in the dead of winter in February, but London on December 13th is charming and nostalgic.  Storefronts are bedecked in Victorian-themed Christmastime window scenes, pine needle garlands wrap around lamposts and hang above on electrical wires.  And then, there are the markets.

I do so love a good European Christmas market.

Dana, her friend Roger and I meet at Fishcoteque, the greasy fish ‘n chips shop I used to frequent while a student at King’s College.  Dana and Roger are studying music and television production at the University of Buckinghamshire – although they’ve been in the United Kingdom for three months now, this is their first time ever visiting London.

We decide to do some touristy things – take a ride on the London Eye, walk to Westminster Abbey.  From Fishcoteque I lead them on the familiar path towards the river Thames, past the National Theatre where in the summer, Shakespeare is performed for free.  I can see the Oxo Tower, looming in the background, where I was stood up one time after my date was arrested for dealing drugs.

God, I miss London.

The Thames is brightly lit tonight.  Market stalls selling festive wares make me smile, putting me in a rare holiday spirit.  One kiosk in particular catches our attention -

Sweets.

Rows and rows of British candy neatly sit within nested boxes.  Dana, with her perpetual sweet tooth, immediately digs in.  She collects enough sweets for all three of us and explains how much better the London Eye will be, now that we have gummy worms.

Later that year, Dana discovered she was hypoglycemic.  All I can picture is her viciously tearing through the buckets of British sweets, and eating half of the bag herself that very evening.

Voluntourism: Hurricane Sandy

Volunteers gather supplies at a local donation shelter in Queens, NY

There is often a disconnect between travelers and local communities; many people stay in hotels, eat in touristy areas and shop according to their guidebooks.  Most rarely interact with local people unless during some sort of transaction.  Voluntourism is a great way for travelers to help out while experiencing all their temporary community has to offer.  Voluntourism – the act of traveling for the purpose of volunteering – is a growing trend within the travel community. Many times, voluntourists can get their lodging and meals from host families in exchange for their services.

I used to work as a volunteer coordinator at the College of Charleston, setting up students with local non-profits and communicating with the public about community needs in Charleston, South Carolina.  One of the programs we ran was called “Alternative Spring Break,” where students organized voluntourism trips across America and around the world.

Never been to New York City before?  What better way to explore my hometown than creating a voluntour to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy?  New York and New Jersey are in dire need of extra hands.  You can help to help rebuild homes, hang out with awesome people who need a friend, and clean up what were some of the best beaches in America.

Here are some great resources for helping out the local communities in and around New York City.  Can’t get away from home?  You can still donate your time and effort from afar:

How to help in New York City after Hurricane Sandy: Time Out New York lists ways you can volunteer locally in NYC, donate blood, collect food and clothing and funds to Hurricane Sandy victims.

Storm Aftermath: Live Updates: Great resource for those wishing to go to New York City/Long Island to help with the aftermath.  Includes live updates of transportation routing, which areas have restored power, emergency supplies distribution, school closing information, and up-to-the-minute news articles.

How to Help the Survivors of Hurricane Sandy: issued by the White House Blog, a list of ways you can help those affected by Hurricane Sandy including a link to FEMA’s volunteer/donation resources.

Long Island Volunteer Center: Come clean up my house! Just kidding, but here is a great list of organizations from my neck of the woods, along with how YOU can help my community get back on its feet.

If you are interested in helping out the Hurricane Sandy relief effort but are still stuck, feel free to contact me via email.  I’d be happy to point you out in the right direction!

Awesome Trip Alert: 6 Nights in Peru

I want to do this at Machu Picchu! Photo by wanderlasss

Peru is definitely on my list of places to go, if only to see Machu Picchu.  But if I only have six nights to see everything, I want to do it right.  Sometimes, guided tours are a good thing…

What You Get: International airfare from Miami to Lima, intra-Peru airfare, 6 nights accommodations (3 nights in Lima, 2 nights in Cusco and 1 night in Aguas Caliente near Machu Picchu), English-speaking tour guide, all transfers and entrance fees, 6 breakfasts and 2 dinners.

Additional info: Reservations will require a deposit to secure the package airfare.

Why this trip is awesome: HELLO! MACHU PICCHU, one of the great mountainous mysteries of the ancient world! This trip provides a nice little sampling of Peru’s great cities and sights. Traveling to Machu Picchu can be a little hectic, so having a guide plan everything for you makes it really easy. A couple of meals thrown in there also helps cut down costs for you while still allowing you to sample local flavors on your own.

Dates: March 11, 25, April 8, 22 or May 20, 2013

Book by: October 26, 2012. Click here to book.

Information courtesy of Travel Zoo and Gate 1 Travel

Career-Break Travel with BootsnAll

Recently, BootsnAll held a fantastic interactive RTW chat about career-break travel. One of their innovative methods was recording their Google Hangout session and posting it on Youtube. I really enjoyed watching the experts discuss this topic in-depth. Sometimes, 140 characters just doesn’t cut it – I need to hear it from the “horse’s mouth.”

I am always ready, and never ready, for career-break travel. Yes, of course I am totally capable of packing up my bags and leaving home to travel the world – the motivation isn’t the problem. But at this juncture in my life, I have too many responsibilities that are unavoidable. I have to pay my student loans. I have at least a year of grad school left. My boyfriend and I have been talking about getting married soon. I could leave my family, my home, my dog and my friends behind, no problem, and I have enough money saved to make it possible, but those aforementioned hiccups sadly are causing the delay.

Before the BootsnAll RTW chat, career-break travel depressed me. Here I am, 25, well-traveled but always seeking more, and always jealous of those younger than I who have traveled extensively. “Travel while you’re young,” people always tell me; I freak out visualizing how someday I’ll be too old and full of kids and arthritis to do anything ever again. Hearing miserable adults reminiscing about their study abroad or backpacking stints in their 20s also worries me. I can’t imagine going through life the same way – honestly, it terrifies me.

But hearing the BootsnAll RTW career-break travel chat live was incredibly inspiring. Here are a handful of people who have taken that leap, and guess what? They didn’t do it when they were 25! Sherri Ott, founder of MeetGoPlan said she took her career break at 35. That’s ten years more I have to save, plan and GO! She made me confident that career break travel can occur at any age and that you don’t have to be an early 20s spring chicken to enjoy adventurous world travel. Not to mention, scores of other social media users I connect with are well-seasoned, spritely travelers, and none of them are younger than 25.

So the point is, if you are young and suffer from wanderlust, don’t get discouraged. If travel is a priority in your life (like it is in mine), you’ll make it happen. All of those little trips will eventually lead up to one big, fabulous experience. Whether that career break comes when you’re 25 or 55, it’ll come, it will be wonderful, life changing, and help you feel complete.

It’s always good to have long-term goals, and RTW travel is definitely something to look forward to!

You are never too old to dream a new dream ~ C.S. Lewis

#FriFotos: Two

©KatkaTravels

We don’t want to board the cruise ship too early, but we’re starving, sunburned, inebriated, and tired.  Still, we feel like we haven’t taken advantage of all Grand Turk has to offer.  I mean, look at that gorgeous turquoise-colored water, clear as crystal, with tropical fish darting in and out of man-made reefs.  It’s not time to get back on the 311 cruise, it just can’t be.  Tom takes out his camera, starts shooting photos.  Drunk off of one too-many beachside pina coladas/Landshark beers/shooters of rum tastings, I suggest we take some jump shots – purely staged, ridiculously cliche “jump shots.”  The four of us rotate between partners and cameras, redoing takes and fumbling with timing.  Perhaps I’m biased – Tom and I are a “power couple,” after all – but I believe this photo, of the two of us, is absolutely, the best.