Planning a cruise is typically for the retired or nearly retired set it seems. Short distances to walk, non-stop food, carefully planned entertainment schedules and a drive-by view of exotic locations. Exactly what a person who wants to travel and rack up the countries on the visited list could want. Luxurious and convenient. Well, that is the media image left over from The Love Boat days. There is all kinds of marketing to tell you that it is fun and family now but deep down, you think that taking a cruise means you are really travelling.
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There are other options that involve getting on a boat for your time away from work and the shore. For one, the network of river boats in Europe that will give you unique views of different countries is worth considering. From taking river cruises on the Douro for a chance to sample wine along the way, to cycle and cruising trips on the Danube where you get your exercise while enjoying some fine food and wine, put you much closer to the countryside than any of the ocean going bulks will ever get you. River cruising also comes without the waves and rough weather that can make ocean cruises a nightmare rather than the advertised dream. The land is right there beside you the whole time if thoughts of open water is frightening.
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If safety and the sight of land are what you are trying to avoid, then there are the other end of cruising to checkout. Everything from comfortable crew charters in the Mediterranean where you get to play sailor for a week under the watchful eye of a seasoned captain as you island hop from taverna to taverns, to signing up for open ocean racing on clipper ships where you serve for a leg or for all the ways around the world. Extreme open water adventures or even having a bit of a job while on board can not be confused with the grey haired floating hotel experience that cruising brings to mind.
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Asian travel still has a sense of mystery for many especially when compared to hopping across the channel for a weekend lunch in Paris or Brussels. The rules are different. The language is different. The food may be inscrutable. The signs will baffle some. It certainly isn’t Blackpool. That is exactly the reason to step out of a comfort zone and try something different. There can be magical China holidays just as much as there are screams from the young ones for holidays at the Magic Kingdom.
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Naming some of the countries like, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Burma, Nepal, India will stir ideas of exotic, foreign or mysterious adventures. It is most likely that any memories of childhood stories from Tin-Tin or Kipling are far from the modern reality for any of these countries. It doesn’t make travel in Asia any less magical, it just means that the magic will be heady mix of ancient and modern. Monks with smart phones texting their friends. The largest networks of high speed trains winding their way between millennium-old cities. Memorials to wars both modern and ancient. Travel in Asia extends the juxtaposition between old and new further than anywhere else in the world.
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Then there is the food. While many of the flavours and styles will cause a strict meat and potato lover to blanch. The possibility that sushi or century eggs are the only thing to eat can scare away some. Bugs and eye-balls are mostly for show and even picky eaters with a talented guide are likely to find out that they are not going to starve. It may not be Sunday roast but clay pot pork or a steaming bowl of ramen can go a long way to fill the belly. Chicken from the grill is a standard everywhere in the world and just a little sense of adventure may just push the envelop for people’s palette in a good direction. The new reality is this may not be the problem, now that the curry takeaway is more popular than the chippy for a late night snack. Traveling in Asia may feel more like a quest for the mother of dish that spawn all late night cravings.
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Journey, travel, getaway, vacation or holiday can all mean the same thing or be slight variations for different people. Some is language regionalization, or the peculiarities of family history that defines how you interpret each of the words. In the end, it is about taking a break from the regular routine, reconnecting with yourself, your family, or friends. It doesn’t matter if you need to book holiday rental cottages in The New Forest to accommodate a family reunion or if the goal is to run on adrenaline for 36 hours of partying in Ibiza making new fast friends, you aren’t following the same old, same old.
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Where you go and where you stay when you get there will define what that valuable break looks like. The cozy cottage, nestled in a quaint town, surrounded by forrest can bring the centring, rejuvenating energy to your time off. The glitzy party suite steps from the club scene will provide the space to completely blow off excess energy. Tailoring the type of accommodation you are looking for can set the tone for the entire experience. A nondescript concrete bunker on the side of the motorway is unlikely to offer much more of an experience that a place to sleep and shower.
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Knowing what you want from your time off is important before you start searching for a place to stay. Once you’ve arrived at a lovely family-friendly campground is a bad time to realize you wanted to be in the heart of a city with pubs and clubs at your doorstep. Trying to get the little ones to sleep early while the bass is just starting to thump from the club below your room is unlikely to lead to anything like relaxation. It is the questions and the honest answers before your travels that will set the tone for your experience. It may even be a simple thing like, I really would like a kettle in the room because a little cup of tea whenever I want makes the day so much better.
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When the criteria is set, it makes knowing you are done searching easier. You aren’t chasing down the perfect experience that belonged to someone else. You are finding exactly what you want, and when everything aligns you are done. It doesn’t matter that some random person at work tells you about the amazing place they stayed on their last trip. It was their amazing trip and you are planning your amazing trip for yourself. One is not better than the other objectively, only subjectively and that is what matters for your break.
Travel evolves. Riding up to the next caravansary on the trade route is no longer the usual way to find a bed for the night. Travel is less about point to point now where the bed is a welcome change from sleeping rough because there is no other option. As more people have leisure time, heading out on a holiday is less likely to require a bedroll and sleeping in the weather. Camping out is more of luxury for people that want to get close to nature but usually comes with tents, sleeping bags and probably a cell phone and starts to look like glamping instead of sleeping rough. Luckily for those not interested in giving up modern convenience, time has changed what holiday accommodations look like now.
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A generic motel on the side of a motorway or a questionable room above the pub would have been the only options for people traveling without servants not so long ago. Back then, a holiday with the whole family would be a difficult balance between renting multiple rooms to avoid feeling like a tin of sardines and draining the family fortune. Either option doesn’t lend itself to a relaxing getaway to the seaside. This is one of the nice things about evolution in travel, the world has listened and holiday stays don’t need to brutish. People appreciate that the comforts of home are important and should be attainable without purchasing a second home.
A second home is not as crazy as it sounds when you start looking deeper into the options available. Not to purchase, but to borrow for a shorter time, holiday rental houses make sense for taking care of the whole family. Say you fancy a seaside getaway. Looking for Polperro holiday homes in Cornwall will turn up surprisingly comfortable options that don’t include waiting for the band to retire for the evening before you get to sleep. Room for the whole family and a place to feed them all is nice change from choosing of which flavour of crisps in the vending machine down the hall will tame their hunger. Equally important to consider is, as lovely as Polperro is in the summer, it may not be the only family holiday destination for the family year after year. Comforts of home without the permanent second home.
No longer a no-go zone of South America, Colombia has risen to the challenge of proving itself as a fantastic place to head to for a holiday that’s guaranteed to be filled with friendly people, classic architecture, history and amazing food. Still slightly off the beaten track of South America, go now to enjoy this hidden gem of a country. If you hire a car, you’ll see the smaller villages and the road less travelled of this stunning country, just remember to take out direct car excess cover in case anything goes wrong.
The country’s capital, Bogotá, takes the bronze medal for third highest in the world. The northern part of the city is the place to be for the best entertainment and boutique hotels as well as bars which boast great views of the Andes mountain range that surrounds the city. Colonial buildings, steak houses and the city’s top museums are found in the La Candelaria area, the historic epicentre of downtown Bogota. Head to the museums mid-week if you want to skip the queues.
A novel setting
If literature is where it’s at for you, stay in Cartagena de Indias, or Cartagena for short. The setting of many a novel by Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s Nobel Prize winning author, Cartagena boasts a divine beach and colonial town located side by side on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. A picture-perfect setting, spend your days wandering around the Unesco World Heritage centre of the old town and sample locally grown coffee in one of the many cafés dotted around town. You can expect service with a smile from the friendly locals.
Whether you’re a telenovela (soap opera) fan or not, the delightful town of Barichara is bound to enthrall you. The filming location for numerous soap operas – the other addiction for the coffee drinkers of Colombia – it’s a film makers dream. Three hundred year old whitewashed houses and tiny cobbled streets just add to its charm. Visit the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, a sandstone cathedral built in the 18th century which, at sunset appears to turn orange. If you’re looking for something that costs absolutely nada, meander in the Parque Para Las Artes, a local park which showcases local sculptors and hosts free concerts in the ampitheatre.
Eat to your heart’s content
Foodwise, you can’t go wrong in Colombia. From fruit of every colour and variety to steak, freshly caught fish and of course, chocolate, Colombian cuisine will whet your appetite and have you asking for more. Simply prepared with fresh ingredients, it is wholesome and delicious. Wash your dinner down with locally sourced coffee and give something back to the local community.