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Firmly convinced that our primordial ancestors had every reason to sprout legs and lungs and crawl out of the mayhem that is the sea, I had never felt particularly inclined to reverse that trend. A mediocre swimmer at best, harboring a primal fear of being gobbled up by sharks, and having tuned in to one too many Discovery Channel specials about the veritable sea monsters trolling the ocean’s depths, I had resolved that I would happily stay on terra firma and leave the sea to those with gills.
Of course, having a couple of scuba diver girlfriends along with my boyfriend, John, harp on for years about the wonders that lie beneath the surface of the sea – “it’s like visiting another planet!” – I was, admittedly, intrigued. And then John pulled out the trump card: No true explorer (and gosh darn it, that I was!) could claim to truly know this planet – the Earth’s surface is, after all, 70 percent covered by ocean – without setting out undersea. Read more
With only about six weeks left before the end of the year, it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and the promise of new outdoor adventures. If you haven’t started yet, it’s also probably time to think about the outdoorsman on your holiday gift list. The trouble is, there’s a lot of stuff out there vying for your hard-earned money. Almost every season, new equipment ranging from the essential to the incidental appears in stores and online, and it can be tough to keep up with every new development in outerwear, boots, and backpacks. But since a few pieces of outdoor equipment always help to inspire travel and recreation, I’ve spent some time narrowing down the field. And so for the adventure-seeker you always have trouble shopping for, here’s a short list of gift-worthy gear they’ll be thrilled to unwrap this year.
For decades, Abercrombie & Kent has been known as one of the travel industry’s premiere luxury tour operators. The company’s safaris, Antarctic cruises, and adventure tours combine nature, culture, and the pinnacle of comfort. While this made for amazing travel opportunities, it also priced a great many people out of their offerings. Now, however, comes exciting news that A&K will be launching a more affordable line of tours called Connections. Priced 30 percent lower than the standard A&K trips, Connections trips still focus on exotic destinations and luxury. The company has an ambitious plan in place to maintain its brand while making their trips accessible to a greater percentage of travelers. Read more
Labor Day, the unofficial end to summer (sniff), also offers a great opportunity for an adventure-oriented getaway. But, if you can’t afford (or stomach) shelling out for an evermore expensive airline ticket, or are stressing over spending too much on travel in general, don’t fret. Here are a few timely tips on how you can still score an affordable adventure this Labor Day – or any other time of year.
Hit up a state park. Many of the country’s most popular national parks, such as Yosemite and Great Smoky Mountains, are mobbed over long weekends, but there are scores of state parks that receive a fraction of the crowds and offer excellent programming and events over holiday weekends. For example, activities over Labor Day at various Tennessee State Parks, which will mark their 75th anniversary this year, include a 5K/10K run, ecology and nature hikes, and a Camper’s Night Light Contest for the most well-decorate nighttime campsite. Some states, such as California, also offer a handy link that shows campsite availability over Labor Day. Read more
We don’t get to pick when we have to use the bathroom. We don’t always have a say in where we use it, either. When nature calls, where you are determines the facilities you can use. Would I love to only relieve myself in the pristine executive washroom at SkyMall Tuesday headquarters? Of course. Sadly, you don’t always have the luxury of using your own toilet. Once you leave your house, you’re at the mercy of the elements (and that sloppy joe that you had for lunch). That’s when you need to brave a public restroom. Not all public facilities are created equal, and any time you enter one it’s like playing a game of Russian roulette (with slightly lower, though grosser, stakes). It pays to be prepared when you need to use the bathroom away from home, but assembling your own kit can be challenging. Thankfully, SkyMall has your back (and your front, if you just have to go #1). Before you venture out of the house to eat as many tacos as you can fit inside your belly, be sure to grab your Public Toilet Survival Kit.
Film tie-ins have surfaced on toys, fast food, and even cologne, but Disney has taken movie marketing to the next level with “Scotland: A Brave Adventure,” a nine-day tour from Adventures by Disney beginning in March 2013 with visits to locations that inspired Disney/Pixar’s latest animated movie, Brave, opening June 22.
For Disney fanatics, the itinerary takes travelers to Dunnottar Castle, a ruined medieval fortress in the Scottish Highlands that forms the home of the film’s heroine, Merida; the Callanish Standing Stones, a ring of stone structures on the Isle of Lewis that alters her fate in the movie; the Black House of Arnol and the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a traditional home that served as inspiration for the Witch House; and the Rothiemurchus Estate, one of the largest natural forests in Britain, where you can indulge in Merida’s favorite pastime of riding Highland ponies. And to remind you whose pockets you’re lining, a Disney movie night is scheduled on day three.
We recently included New York in our list of Top 10 Cities for Cycling. With the Citi Bike share program set to launch shortly and many hotels offering bikes for guests, we want to help you ride safely in this bustling metropolis.
Before you peddle off to your favorite landmarks, eateries, and parks, be sure that you’re ready for cycling in one of the busiest cities in the world.
Wear a Helmet
While only riders under the age of 13 are required by law to wear helmets, it’s a good idea for everyone to protect their heads when cycling. The new bike share program will not be supplying headgear, so be sure to pack your own if you’re visiting New York.
With a year-round average temperature of 89 degrees and water so turquoise it looks fake, there are few better places than Aruba for a relaxing, sun-soaked vacation. But stray from your resort and you’ll find an island that also caters to environmentalists, adventurers, and animal lovers. Aruba’s off-roading tours are a fantastic way to discover the unique terrain and natural wonders of this fascinating island.
It’s easy to book an off-roading tour through the concierge at your hotel; popular companies include De Palm Tours and ABC Aruba Tours. Both companies pick you up from the main entrance of your hotel and cost around $100 for a full-day tour (between six to eight hours).
Our tour guide, Rocky Junior, arrived in a bright yellow Jeep at nine in the morning. He suggested we finish our cups of coffee quickly; things could get messy otherwise. Sure enough, after the first ten minutes, we had crossed over from Palm Beach, the flat resort stretch of Aruba, to Arikok National Park, which covers about a fifth of the island. There are no roads, per se, throughout Arikok, which indeed meant a winding, bumpy ride over dormant volcanoes, with gorgeous views of the Caribbean below. Rocky Junior explained to us that Aruba emerged from the water as an active volcano some 95 million years ago. It’s also only 12 miles from the equator, creating an arid terrain of endless cacti.
Those who aren’t afraid of heights are invited to walk in a group of six around the 5-foot wide ledge. While there is no handrail, you are strapped into a harness while you gaze at downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario, 1,168 feet below.
The entire tour is an hour and a half, with the outdoor walk lasting 30 minutes. In addition to a huge dose of adrenaline, visitors receive a keepsake video, photos, certificate of achievement, and a Total Tower Experience Ticket (which includes access to the Look Out, Glass Floor, Sky Pod, movie, and motion theater ride). Tickets are $175 CAD (US$176).
Maya 2012, or the “Year of the Maya,” may already be one-quarter over, but there’s still plenty of time to join in the celebration of this pivotal year before the Mayan long-form calendar, or 13th Baktun, ends on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012. I just returned from Belize, where I joined in the first overnight camp out during the Spring Equinox (the first of four planned events) on the grounds of the incredible ancient city of Caracol, located two hours by dirt road from San Ignacio in the Cayo district and home to the Ca’ana temple (shown at left), which at 140 feet is the tallest structure in Belize and means “sky place.” Tickets (limited to just 100 people per event) are being snatched up for the remaining three Solstice and Equinox celebrations on June 20-21, September 20-21, and December 20-21, but are still available. Read on to learn how you can participate (from pitching your own tent, to sleeping in luxury, to spending a week immersed in Mayan lore) and how the Mayans remain one of the world’s most complex and enigmatic civilizations.
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