Guest Spot

Transportation in London for Newbies

Posted by | Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, London, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | One Comment

London is a huge metropolis. The streets are all alike, the underground is a big maze. It is easy to get lost here. I can’t tell how many times I have found myself walking down a street, not knowing where I am only to find a building or fence that I thought I have seen before. I could not have been more wrong.

When you arrive to the city, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of London A-Z, it has all the underground lines and all the streets and districts (boroughs) listed in a clear and concise manner. It is a tremendous help. The book is not expensive and it will save you a lot of time.

There are a few options to chose from when it comes to moving around the city. An obvious one would be public transportation. Let me warn you though, public transport in London is expensive. The city is divided up to zones; the more zones you cross in any one journey the more expensive the fare will be. This is not true for buses, as they have a fixed fare no matter how many stops you take.

Oyster CardAnyone who spends more than a few days here should pick up an Oyster card. It is a small electronic card that you can buy from most news stands that gives you a discount on every trip you take. I don’t have to tell you how quickly those add up. It is a must have.

They can be topped up with money on a pay as you go basis, or you can add travel cards to them (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.). You have to touch them to the Oyster reader at the beginning of every journey and touch them out at your destination. Be sure  you do this, as there is a penalty if you forget to do it.

The C Lane in LondonWhat most tourists don’t realize is that stops are fairly close to each other. Buses stop almost on every corner and the underground stations are no more than 10 minutes walk apart. So if you are travelling small distances, it is a good idea to get your A-Z and do a bit of walking.
Be wary though, the cars are going the opposite direction here (if you are from the U.S. or Europe or most of the rest of the civilized world). It is easy to look the other way and find yourself in front of a car. Always make sure you look both ways!

If you have time, it can save some money if you cut out the Tube (that is what Londoners call the underground) and take buses instead. But with congestions, travelling time can add up. It is something to think about.

Speaking of congestions. London being a major city, traffic is hectic and for that reason they have a congestion charge in the inner zones. It costs £10 every day and it allows you to drive into roads marked with a big C. There are some exceptions however, such as electric cars and motorbikes. If you happen to drive one, you are free to go wherever you like.

Bikes in LondonBicycles are another great option. It can be a lot of fun, and with Barclay’s hire a bike scheme, it just got a lot easier. They are the blue bikes that you can find near most stations. You can chose a pay as you go theme, or get a pass for them. In the later case, if your destination is within 30 minutes, you will not be charged extra. Just remember to ride on the left side of the road in the bicycle lanes.

There are a few extra ways to travel here, which can still be used with an Oyster card but they are charged as separate services. These are the trains that go outside London, as well as boats and the newly built cable car service. But more on those later.

I hope this article will be of use to you, if you are thinking about visiting this magnificent city. Enjoy your time, take lots of pictures and let us know how your trip went!

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Private pool at Royal Meridien Resort

Jet Set to Dubai

Posted by | Dubai, Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

I have to admit, I had never entertained the idea of ever going to the Middle East in my lifetime. Considering the hostilities that have entrenched that part of the world for a while now, along with the unfortunate assumptions Americans have made as a result, many people absolutely miss what is one of the most culturally rich regions on the planet. I was the last to believe that I had been presented with a last-minute opportunity to board a plane in Denver that would take me into Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but I am glad I seized it.

Burj KhalifaI fortunately was very close with someone who had done some contract work overseas in Afghanistan, and he was relocated temporarily to Dubai during some work changes. He was supposing, as was I, that he would only be there for a week or two, at the very most. But upon realizing it was closing in on a month and he was still living at a resort in Dubai, the idea came about that I should go visit. And why not—I only had a few shifts to have covered at my job with the prospect, and the trip was promised to be cost-free for me (I know, lucky girl).

The most exciting part about this trip is that upon believing it would maybe be too risky job-wise to hop a plane last minute to Dubai, and then deciding it was not going to happen, I found myself nevertheless purchasing a ticket the next morning, with only twenty minutes for a shower and a quick pack in order to get to the airport on time. Talk about exhilarating!

While sitting on a plane for 20 hours isn’t exactly the highlight of a trip the only good news is I was so excited to be in the middle of this unplanned adventure that the flight passed by considerably faster than I had believed it would. Upon arriving into the airport, I made sure to be polite going through customs, and I made sure to purchase alcohol at the duty-free store. I was visiting during what was Labor Day week here in 2010 in the States, which happens to fall during the holy week of Ramadan for the Muslim countries. I knew we could enjoy some adult beverages within the comfort and confines of our hotel room, as well as by the pool at the resort, but other than that it was going to be a dry trip. When I arrived I was ready for my very much needed shower and overall decompression, as I was out of sorts after traveling so last-minute and with such a limited amount of time for preparation.

Firstly, I could not believe the humidity and heat that welcomed me into Dubai. Although my northern Colorado location now feels similar, being in the desert during what is considered to still be a summer month was nothing short of physically miserable. The good news was that every taxi/private car was heavily air-conditioned. The only time I had to be outside was to walk to and from one of these vehicles (whew!).

I found Dubai to be a magical city for many reasons, but the first and most prominent thing was the incredible hospitality and grandeur that accompanied my hotel stay. This was no normal hotel; my friend was staying at the Royal Meridien Resort, which is a five-star palace (just about). The mini bar was stocked daily, room service was available around the clock, as well as service by the pool, we had our own butler who greeted us every morning, asking what our plans were, and even if he could open the curtains for us.

Our room view of the entirety of The Royal Meridien ResortThe hospitality and customer service these people offer in Dubai rivals what we have here in America, and is a far cry from the daily news that would have you believe that the Middle East is some backwards, repressed section of the planet where people still live in caves and tents. Granted, this is Dubai, known for being one of the most opulent cities on the globe, but even so the people were the kindest, most courteous and helpful people I had ever come across. Our butler rang our room phone every night to know what our dinner plans were, and if he could make any suggestions. And did I mention the in-house dry cleaning that arrived sealed in a leather box? I know, amazing!

My place of stay was just the beginning of what I was to experience in this beautiful Middle Eastern country. To be continued…

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Amsterdam Grachtenbrucken

Coffee really means just coffee

Posted by | Food, Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, The Netherlands, Traveling Tips | 2 Comments

Amsterdam has everything a tourist could want, whether you’re going there to enjoy a relaxing afternoon coffee or see historic places like Anne Frank’s house or the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. There are multiple things to do in Amsterdam ranging from site-seeing and viewing its impressive architecture filled with canals crisscrossing the city to kicking back alongside one of the canals and just enjoying the afternoon. This is also a world-class shopping destination, not to mention Amsterdam is known for its nightlife a.k.a. the red light district where  prostitution is legal and some of the local coffee shops sell small quantities of high grade marijuana (although the current laws are cutting back on tourists being able to purchase bud, since the city is tired of its reputation as a drug haven). Between the coffee shops, the pubs, famous museums and places to go shopping there’ll never be a dull moment during your trip here.

Amsterdam Bike

Amsterdam has been renowned for its liberal drug policy in the past, but as of 2012 the laws have changed so that you are only allowed to frequent the special coffee shops if you are a Dutch resident over the age of 18 who is registered with the club. If you are one to visit one of these coffee shops be sure not to get confused with a normal cafe. The policies are still being rolled into place across the country and a lot of tourists don’t know about the new laws yet, so you may find yourself barred from entry into certain places.

amsterdam coffee shopYou also have your so-called smart shops where they sell dietary supplements and herbal ecstasy and other forms of feel-good pills and plants which are completely natural. It is for this reason that the government has started to ban foreigners from accessing the special coffee shops, because their reputation as a drug haven was starting to attract the wrong type of travelers.

But Amsterdam is also known for having plenty of sick jams, with music venues like Muziekgebouw aaan ‘t IJ which is one of the largest complexes in Europe for all different types of art and music. Although music isn’t the only art showcased at the complex, there are tons of actual art shops ranging from digital snaps to gelatin prints. Plus, this is one of the greenest cities in the world in terms of manual means of getting around, not to mention it’s just better for you as well as the environment. Bicycles are so popular you can actually rent your own bike at places like Rent a Bike, or you can book a guided tour via bicycle through the Yellow Bike Company. (Try finding someone using a bicycle in my part of the world, much less rental shops!)

There is a lot more to Amsterdam than just the liberal views on drugs and prostitution, but the unfortunate reality is that those have been the trendy reasons to go there for so long that they have come to overshadow the beauty of the city, the museums, the food, the culture and the people. With the new policies against foreigners entering the special shops, this trend should start to reverse and Amsterdam can once again emerge as a culture capital of the world, rather than just a haven for potheads and sex addicts.

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The Dead Sea in Israel

Israel – The Taglit Birthright Program

Posted by | Guest Spot, Israel, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | No Comments

I have mentioned in my blog that my father is of Colombian descent and I have also written a little about my love for Colombian cuisine (Mondongo, in particular). What I have not mentioned is that the other half of my heritage is Eastern European; specifically Russian. My mother’s side is of Jewish heritage as a result. And while it is fascinating to most just how a Colombian priest and a Russian Jew met, believe me when I say the truth behind it reveals nothing as ironic as my parent’s subsequent marriage and procreation.

Parents and I

Needless to say, I am proud of the fact that I come from two very distinguishable ethnic backgrounds, both special in their own right. And since I have experienced Colombia and what South Americans have to offer, my next adventure involves immersing myself in the Jewish culture. To do this, I am planning on visiting Israel this winter.

Now before getting ahead of myself, and also confusing anyone reading this, I will establish the specific details regarding my ability to actually visit Israel. in 1994, a not-for-profit organization was created titled Taglit Birthright Israel. Taglit, which means discovery in Hebrew, was the brainchild of various Jewish organizations, individuals and philanthropists alike, hoping to educate those of Jewish heritage about their motherland, and to also assuage any kind of hostilities or ignorance associated with Israel and foreign relations.

Any individual who can prove one of their parents is Jewish, and that they also do not actively practice any religion, or any religion other than Judaism, is cleared for potential acceptance to the Taglit Birthright program. I say potentially because unfortunately the demand is high and thousands of people apply each season to go to Israel, which exceeds the allowed number of participants. I plan on registering this fall, when the next round of applications is open, so that I can make a winter trip.

What is amazing about this program is that new individuals, as well as the Israeli government, have continued to pledge more funds in order to not only keep this program running, but to increase the number of allowed participants for each trip. An additional $105 million alone was pledged in 2011 in order to expand involvement. Clearly Israel loves the tourism, but it is profoundly touching how many Jewish individuals are willing to put forth their personal fortunes  in order for strangers between the ages of 18 and 27 to visit the country of their oldest ancestors. What an amazing gift.

The Western Wall

But to get to my point, as I do digress, I had never really considered this trip unfortunately until now, and it is almost too late. My older sister has already reached 27 years of age, and my little sister turns 18 next year, by the time which I will be too old to participate. So it is up to me; I am the sole remaining daughter of my mother who can attempt to achieve the feat that is walking upon ground where our most ancient ancestors did the same. It is a great responsibility, but I am up to the challenge.

I would also very much would like to learn Hebrew. What could be more exhilarating than learning THE original language, one that is still spoken today? (And don’t start with me about learning Spanish. I know..I am still working on that and I’m a bit behind, but I can do more than one!). Either way, visiting Israel would be amazing, and I am sure it is quite the experience, Jewish or non-Jewish. So this Colombian-Jewish girl is going to get her tuchus (anyone know Yiddish?) to Israel, no matter how hard she has to try.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

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brazil-beaches

Coffee, Capoeira, The Amazon and Beyond

Posted by | Brazil, Guest Spot, Live Like a Local, Quality of Life, Traveling Tips | 4 Comments

Considered by many to be one of South America’s most beautiful paradise getaways, Brazil covers nearly half of the continent and is the largest nation. My focus while interning for Marginal Boundaries is my dream of traveling to different countries to experience different music cultures and martial arts, and Brazil happens to have both of those all intertwined into one, which also happens to be one of my favorites. Known as Capoeria, it is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music with lightning speed lake sweeps, gravity-defying flips and full contact hits.

capoeiraBrazil is also known for its beautiful beaches, fine cuisine and voluptuous women, not to mention their love for football (although it’s known as soccer here in the U.S.). I have always wanted to  travel  to Brazil and experience the exotic qualities of their country as well as their martial arts, which also include Brazilian Jujitsu. Both Capoeira and Jujitsu include very precise and technical moves, each with a very different origin of music.

The cheapest time to fly to Brazil is from February to May and from August to November. For instance, if you’re flying out of New York to Brazil it should cost around $700 USD as of 2012, although you can find that fares vary per year and can range upwards of double that in the low seasons when not a lot of tourists are traveling (supply = demand). Always remember to blend in with your surroundings so you don’t look like a tourist, which means pack light and acquire some local clothing when you get on the ground; it’ll make you look less obvious, plus you’ll have bragging rights back home in regards to the bargain you got on your clothing.

Beyond the martial arts, there are numerous adventure activities in Brazil, ranging from sightseeing the beautiful waterfalls, wildlife watching or kayaking, snorkeling and surfing. Another good thing to know when grabbing a bite to eat in Brazil is that if you want Coke you better say coca or Coca-Cola because cola means clue in Portuguese. Like Mexico, Brazil has festivals that can last a week or more throughout the year, including the world-famous Carnival. Brazil is also one of the few countries that uses 120 and 244 volt electricity, which means you don’t necessarily need a converter just to charge a cell phone or laptop.

The-Municipality-of-Florianopolis-Brazil-I’d love to live in Brazil for a few months and study one of the martial arts, or maybe hop on an Amazon riverboat and go through a grueling 12-day river cruise. Or maybe just rent a car, since Brazil has the largest road network in Latin America with over 1.6 million kilometers of highway to explore. It’s definetely on my top five places I want to travel to for its musical background,  martial arts, fine cuisine and stunning beaches, and I know from reading the material published here at Marginal Boundaries and over at The Expat Guidebook site as I’ve been coming along in the internship that it has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, as well as one of the strongest economies. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this internship, so I can learn how to be global and start visiting the places I’ve always dreamed about for exploration and new work connections, and Brazil is high on my list!

Don’t forget to sign up for our free newsletter for several-times-a-week, your-eyes-only travel and entrepreneur tips, plus receive a complimentary copy of our 85-page starter book on location independence and living abroad, 30 Ways in 30 Days.

With over 1,500 copies sold, our flagship 568-page eBook is what started it all. Learn how to travel the world like I do: without a budget, with no plans, funded completely by your website and online ventures.

The Expat GuidebookGet Your Copy Today!

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