Respectful Travel In the United States

The Importance of Respectful Travel

In January 2018, an American Youtube creator by the name of Logan Paul made headlines for his video showcasing the body of a Japanese suicide victim. The existence of the video was insensitive in every sense of the word. Its use of tragedy as click bait was more than reprehensible. However, it came to light shortly after that this video was only a part of Logan’s profane escapades during his time in Japan. His actions on the street and even in places of worship were annoying at best, and blatantly disrespectful at worst. Nightborn felt for every Japanese person that he harassed, embarrassed, and annoyed. We also hate to think of what people like him do to the reputation of other travelers or tourists from their country. Its time to start talking about respectful travel and how to do it.

respectful travel

(c) Max Pixel

“Tourist” has become kind of an unwanted label, hasn’t it? It usually slips off the tongues of locals with bitterness and a roll of the eyes. But why? Sometimes it’s the Logan Pauls of the world – who seem to think that other cultures are a joke. But mostly, it’s everyday folks who just don’t take the time to do a little learning before they travel.

So here’s our challenge to you: take the time. Be informed. Be BETTER.

Be a good steward of your nationality and change the locals opinions of what a “tourist” can be.

We’ll even help you get started! For the benefit of anyone thinking of visiting the US, we wanted to share a quick and dirty guide to respectful behavior for travelers to the United States.

We Love Our Lines

In some places, a line is more of a suggestion than a rule, but this is absolutely not true in the United States. If people are waiting in line, it is considered extremely rude to cut your way to the front… or really anywhere that isn’t the back. Even if someone from your party is waiting further up, people will give you dirty looks for cutting ahead. Being pushy in line is even worse. The best line etiquette is to patiently join at the back of the line, and avoid touching anyone around you that you don’t know.

respectful travel

Personal Bubbles

We like our personal space. Unless you are on a crowded train or elevator, it is not appropriate to bump shoulders with people you don’t know. When speaking with Americans, it is also good to keep at least a couple feet between you. When it comes to greetings and goodbyes, we also aren’t big on kissing or hugging unless you are already good friends. Handshakes are probably the safest way to go if you feel that you must give a physical greeting to a stranger.

respectful travel

The Bubble! (c) Wikimedia Commons

Saying Hello

We grew up in Arizona, and it is pretty traditional to be friendly to people you meet on the street, particularly in residential areas and while hiking. If there aren’t tons of people around, it’s polite to say good morning or hello. You don’t need to attempt a conversation (especially if they’re in a rush), but acknowledging the other person goes a long way. This also goes when you are at the cash register. It’s polite to ask the person working how they are and maybe engage in small talk as long as you don’t hold up the line. As far as I know, this is common throughout the south and midwest, and probably rural areas of the Northern US as well. But you  might  not find this in a BIG city like New York.

respectful travel

Wave hello! (c) Wikimedia Commons

Time Is Money!

Lots of Americans, particularly urban ones, are very focused on being efficient with their time. So, if you are ordering food somewhere, or otherwise selecting a service, but have no idea what you want, it is polite to let the person behind you order first, if they know what they want. Likewise, if you are in line at the grocery store and have a cart full of food for your road trip, while the person behind you has a loaf of bread and some peanut butter, they would be extremely grateful if you let them go in front of you. Although, if you don’t do these things, you won’t be seen as impolite, as long as you respected the line.

respectful travel

(c) Wikimedia Commons

Driving Rules

Roadtrips are one of our favorites, and respectful travel is just as important on the road as anywhere else. Just like the line situation, driving rules in the US are not suggestions. If there is a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop. If there is a red arrow for a turn, you may not go until a green arrow is on. Red lights cannot be run, even though there’s no one there and it’s the middle of the night. A few rogues will break these rules, but Americans expect you to respect the laws of the road.

respectful travel

(c) Wikimedia Commons

We Aren’t All Loud and You Don’t Have to Be Either

I know I could fill a book with these things, but this will be my last point. I want to cover this because the “loud American” is such a stereotype elsewhere. As with probably anywhere, you should really gauge your volume based on the people around you. If you are in a bar, and everyone is loud, feel free to be loud. But if you are at a nice restaurant, hiking, shopping, at the movies (!!!!), it’s really more polite to keep your volume down. No one anywhere likes it when other people ruin their peaceful day by being obnoxious.

respectful travel

(c) Wikimedia Commons

These guidelines are not asking you to stop being yourself, we’re just asking you to be respectful. And that goes for wherever you travel, not just the U.S. Respectful travel can help us all build a better reputation for our favorite pastime.

If you’d like to learn more about travel in the US, be sure to visit our Guide to the United States.

respectful travel

respectful travel

The Perfect 5 Day Netherlands Itinerary for Nature Lovers

For anyone used to roadtripping in the US, the Netherlands will make for a very relaxing place to explore. Getting from one end of the country to the other on their very nice highways won’t take long at all, and this country has so much to offer the nature-lover. If you’re wondering what the perfect Netherlands itinerary is for us outdoor folks, this is where it’s at. Tulips, beaches, farmland, Van Gogh, deserts and mountains, this is the dream Netherlands roadtrip.

DAY ONE: TULIPS AND THE SEA

I loved spending time in Lisse; it is the perfect small-town Netherlands experience, If you are looking for a refreshing break from crowds, staying here outside of tulip season is extremely nice. On the other hand, if you are in the Netherlands for tulip season, Lisse is the perfect place to be. It is situated right in the middle agricultural fields, some of which are devoted to the Netherlands’ favorite flowers.

netherlands itinerary

Downtown Lisse (c) ABR 2017

After spending the day relaxing among downtown Lisse’s restaurants and shops, or marveling at a colorful sea of flowers, the beach is just a short drive away in Noordwijk. We took a nice stroll through the sand, and when we got tired, we retreated to one of the beach-side restaurants for mussels and wine.

netherlands itinerary

Noordwijk beach-ish area (c) ABR 2017

Small town Lisse and the beach are a great way to spend your first day in the Netherlands, whether or not there are tulips. Having a restful day before a roadtrip really kicks off is always a good thing, especially if you just stepped off a 10+ hr plane ride.

DAY TWO: SOUTHERN NETHERLANDS

On the way down from Lisse to the southern tip of the Netherlands, stop by the Dunes of Loon National Park. I have already talked about this beautiful little arid spot in my post about the Netherlands national parks, but this is a wonderful place to stroll through a bright forest of tall trees, which gives way to a sudden island of sand dunes. It is a quiet little spot that locals and visitors enjoy alike.

netherlands itinerary

Dune of Loon National Park! (c) ABR 2017

The Netherlands isn’t known for its mountains… mostly, because it doesn’t have any. Vaalserberg, the highpoint of the country, is a bit of a surprise then, because while it is more of a hill than a true mountain, it can actually make for a nice uphill climb (or drive if you prefer). There are plenty of trails crisscrossing the Netherlands side of this mountain. They are easily accessible from the road that weaves its way up to the top. Vaalserberg is also where the Netherlands meets both Germany and Belgium. So, even if you aren’t a big fan of hiking or highpoints, this is a neat place to get a glimpse of three different countries at once and frolic in some very verdant forests.

netherlands itinerary

(c) ABR 2017

Finally, finish your day off in Eindhoven. The village has a very nice downtown area with tons of restaurant choices to enjoy. Once the sun goes down, go check out the little Van Gogh trail nearby. This beautiful section of a longer bike trail passes through some beautiful fields. It has grown famous for its glowing Starry Night depiction. Eindhoven a great place to end a busy day and watch the stars, both real and artistic.

netherlands itinerary

Van Gogh trail (c) ABR 2017

DAY THREE: AMSTERDAM (OR ROTTERDAM)

Even for us nature lovers, I would be remiss to have a Netherlands itinerary that left out the major cities. Amsterdam is the capital of the country and is (in my opinion) erroneously known for pot smoking and prostitution. I didn’t see any more of either than I would anywhere else, because I stayed out of the red light district. It is totally up to you if you want to confront this stuff.

netherlands itinerary

Amsterdam (c) ABR 2017

The capital is a beautiful city with tons of canals, great food, and lots of different things to do. There are a ton of museums to enjoy, as well as the tulip market and the Ann Frank House (get reservations ahead of time if you want to do this one).

If you aren’t one for crowds, we had Rotterdam suggested to us as an alternative. So you might consider spending the day there if you want to experience the Netherlands urban landscape without the bustle of Amsterdam.

DAY FOUR: THE VILLAGE OF GEITHOORN

I’ve heard of Geithoorn being referred to as the Venice of the Netherlands, and the little town with no roads. There are a few caveats that I’d like to add to this, because I think it is good to go with the right expectations. The idea of a little Venice is a good fit, for one section of the town, and there are definitely roads. You will need one to get there. Pedestrians might even have to dodge a few cars while you walk around. You should also know that this village has become very popular with big, organized tour groups. I would suggest getting there early to avoid some of the crowds.

netherlands itinerary

Giethoorn (c) ABR 2017

Even though I absolutely loved the town (it looks like it belongs in a fairy tale!), the best part about visiting Giethoorn was taking a boat through the nearby wetlands. It was nice to get some isolation and I think being on the water is so relaxing under those conditions. Taking a boat out on the water and through Giethoorn would be a great outing for anyone. When you are done boating around there are some very original shops in the town and delicious food as well.

DAY FIVE: BIKES AND ART IN DE HOGE

I have covered my love for and experience with De Hoge in detail in my National Parks of the Netherlands post. I think anyone who loves nature should make this park a priority. This is the perfect place to go bike riding. There are two amazing museums here as well. It is a full day of activities at De Hoge and a great place to end your Netherlands roadtrip.

netherlands itinerary

netherlands itinerary

Four Tips for Auckland Day Trips

So dear reader, you’re telling me that you’re having a grand old time in Auckland, New Zealand, but you’d like to venture outside of the city a little bit.

Do you have time to drive to NZ’s south island? It could be an 8-12 hour trip depending on where you go. No?

Well, luckily for you, I have some wonderful day-tripping options for you to choose from. Keep on reading, you intrepid traveler.

Things I recommend for day-trip travel:

  • A vehicle, preferably a car (if you’re looking for a place to rent a car, I recommend GO rentals)
  • A good sense of direction OR access to GPS navigation
  • PocWifi – so you can use wi-fi at any time, at a relatively affordable price
  • Cash, just in case
  • Snacks??? I mean, it’s up to you, I just very snacky when I roadtrip.

I’ve given you some one-way travel times from Auckland to all of the listed destinations below, but take these with a grain of salt. Traffic, road work, your own driving speed, etc. will all flex these times.

Hobbiton

Travel time from Auckland: About 2 hours

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or even if you aren’t, Hobbiton is beautiful venture in the countryside to the movie set where scenes from the Shire were filmed for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

During the tour, you’re able to walk through the actual set and take photos, while a guide tells you all sorts of movie trivia (a delight for any nerdy heart). If you’re lucky, the weather will be sunny and light up the green hills of the Shire, making you feel like you might ACTUALLY be a little hobbit. (Shoot for summer or maybe late spring.)

I recommend that you book your ticket online in advance, because the time slots can sell out and you can only visit the set if you’re on a tour. Also, since you book a time and they ask you to check in 15 minutes before your tour, you should give yourself enough time to get there. Even if you arrive early, they have a gift shop and a cafe where you can kill time.

Rotorua

Travel time from Auckland: About 3 hours

Rotorua is an excellent place to visit for nature and culture fans.

Whakarewarewa Forest

The Whakarewarewa Forest is only about 5 minutes from downtown Rotorua and is a great place to stroll, hike, bike and even ride on horseback. For travelers from the U.S., the huge trees that the forest is famous for might look a little familiar, and that’s because they’re actually California Redwoods!

Geothermal Activity

Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone resulting in a ton of geothermal activity! We visited Hells Gate – both a geothermal park and spa. When you visit and find yourself encompassed by the warm steam and surrounded by volcanic rock, you’ll understand how it got its name. I recommend choosing the tour and spa package, so you can take a self-guided tour through the sulphur and mud pools that make the naturally-heated spa pools possible.

Lake Taupo

Speaking of Taupo, if you have a little more time in Rotorua, Lake Taupo is just about an hour’s drive away. It also has a lot to offer! Apart from a HUGE natural lake that you can take boat and kayak tours on, there’s also Huka Falls, known for its beautiful icy blue water. Huka Falls has a few different hike trails of its own – including the Spa Walk, which actually leads you to a natural hot spring.

Maori Villages

If you’re interested in learning more about Maori culture, there are a couple different Maori villages that you can visit in Rotorua. If you’re not sure which one you’d like to visit, ask the locals. Some of them are actual living Maori villages and others are a bit more… tourist-y. We had planned to visit the living village, but after freezing our buns off on a brisk Lake Taupo boat tour, we opted to warm ourselves up at a local pub.

Waitomo

Travel time from Auckland: About 2-and-a-half hours

One of the big attractions in Waitomo is their cave system. You can visit Ruakuri, Aranui or their Glowworm Caves – all of them offering a different experience. Feeling particularly adventurous? Try black water rafting or tubing through the caves (we were a little too chicken to try this – plus, it was already pretty chilly OUT of the water)!

However, if you’re finding yourself short on time like we were, I would make the Glowworm Caves your Waitomo stop. When you’re in the sitting in the darkness of the cave, only illuminated by the soft blue lights of the thousands of glowworms – you forget you’re in a cave. It’s almost like looking up at a bunch of little stars. It’s truly beautiful, and honestly, my words do do it justice. You can’t take photos in the cave because the glowworms are very sensitive to lights and sound, so it’s really something you have to see for yourself.

Tauranga

Travel time from Auckland: About 2-and-a-half hours

Tauranga is for lovers – beach lovers, that is. The Mt. Maunganui Main Beach has been voted New Zealand’s best, and I can totally see why. The long stretch of beach is a great place to stroll, relax on the soft sand and swim.

If you want to get a hike in, the beach is also conveniently located at the base of Mt. Mauao. If I recall, there were a couple main hiker trails – one that loops a bit more gently up the mountain and one that’s a shorter, but steeper climb up to the summit. We took the steeper climb, which was QUITE the haul, but we were rewarded with gorgeous views along the way and at the top.

If you can believe it, I cut this day trip round-up short for you, dear reader. There’s just SO much to do and see in New Zealand. That’s why I’m definitely going back in the near future and why I’m creating these helpful guides for travelers. If you’re looking for a place to start in Auckland, check out my budget traveler’s guide.

Happy travels to you!

xoxo,
Katie

The Future of Tourism: Tourism Has Major Impacts on the Environment and It’s Only Going to Get Worse

Tourism Now: Impacts on People and Places

Most people love exploring new places, and escaping the routine of day-to-day life.  Travel has become more accessible over time, with more people on the planet with a greater ability to take an international journey. Due to this, the tourism industry has seen massive growth over the past few decades. To give you some perspective on the matter, in 1950 there were just 25 million international travelers. By 2012 that number had risen to 1.035 billion. This doesn’t even count domestic travelers, or people that are staying in their own countries. So, what does future tourism look like?

Recently, it has come to light that these crowds of visitors are wearing on the patience of local people in tourism hotspots such as Iceland and Italy. No one appreciates the traffic and crowds of popular attractions. Culture clash can also be a major problem for local people when visitors take over their home. But as you might guess, it isn’t just people that tourism can have negative impacts on. This expanding industry has considerable effects on the environment. Most of those impacts are negative (although we cover some of the potential benefits in our article about ecotourism).

future tourism

(c) ABR

The Science

In order to understand just how much of an impact global tourism is having on the planet, Stefan Gössling and Paul Peeters used historic information to build a model. They used data from 1900-2014 to predict the impact that tourism might have onwards, into 2050. The resources that they looked at included energy, water, land, and food. Due to its importance to climate change, the scientists also gathered information on tourism’s contribution to CO2 levels. When examining the potential future of tourism, the scientists compared three different scenarios. One in which there was a “economic slowdown,” status quo, and “global growth.”

future tourism

(c) ABR

Water, Food, Energy, and Greenhouse Gases

In regards to greenhouse gas emissions, the study’s findings were shocking. When including emissions from transportation, accommodations, and activities in a destination, it was found that 5% of the world’s total CO2 emissions came from the tourism sector. Nearly half of this came from air travel alone. Since these numbers don’t include any CO2 released by the production of food, and construction of buildings they are conservative estimates at best.

Tourism research has also shown that the industry increases water and food use. Golf is one particularly water-hungry form of tourism, but many activities have unforeseen water consumption. For example, it takes about 10 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of fuel, which is concerning for the air traveler and roadtripper among us. Gössling and Peeters suggest that the average traveler on an average trip will use or cause to be used 27,800 L of water.

future tourism

(c) ABR

For food consumption, when compared to what people used at home, travelers tended to eat at least 0.5 kg extra food per day. Many of us love splurging while on the road as well, so these foods tend to include more meats and high protein treats. Scientists generally considered these to have a worse impact on the environment.

Finally, the pair looked at land use by tourism, found that resorts were the most wasteful in terms of this resource. In fact, one study that they cite found that a five star hotel with a golf course could use up to 4580 sq. meters (or 15,026 sq. ft) per bed. For reference, the US Census Bureau found that the average American home was around 2,600 sq. feet in 2014.

future tourism

(c) ABR

The Future of Tourism

Gössling and Peeters discovered that even with increase fuel, food production, and construction efficiencies, the tourism industry would see a massive increase in resource use in the future.  In the Slowdown scenario their calculations indicated that there would be over 7 billion international tourists, and in the Growth scenario over 15 billion by 2050!

Despite better technology, they then estimated that this would result in a 164% growth in energy use and CO2 emissions, 92% increase in water use, 189% increase in land use, and 108% growth in food consumption. Of course, the problem with this is that our favorite hobby is going to have a hard impact on the finite resources of the planet. It seems that potential improvements in technology aren’t going to make these problems go away.

future tourism

(c) ABR

We Are the Solution

It is up to us as travelers and citizens of this shared planet, to make sure that our choices lessen our impact. This may mean opting for slow travel (e.g. biking or walking rather than taking motorized transportation). We might also consider paying for carbon offsets when traveling by plane. And staying in smaller, local-run businesses that use less resources overall can also be helpful. Whatever it is, there is no denying that tourism can be just as negative as it can be good, and we are part of the solution.

future tourism

(c) ABR

Want to Learn More?

Read the original paper here.

Eat Your Way Through L.A.: Places to Try

I visited Los Angeles for New Year’s shenanigans and proceeded to eat my weight in, well, basically everything. I’ve listed a few of the places I liked the most – give them a try the next time you’re in the City of Angels.

Disclaimer: I’m 99% sure that I’ve got the locations right, but I don’t travel to L.A. much, so maybe double check their Yelp/websites/social media pages before you go.

Quick Breakfast

Sam’s Bagels

Location: Main St., Santa Monica

If you love bagels (and really, who doesn’t?), then you’ll be a fan of Sam’s Bagels. Even though it’s along Main St. in Santa Monica, it’s a bit of a hidden gem, tucked between a tavern and a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Its own sign is pretty high up on it’s brick wall that you won’t notice it and the window signs won’t really help you either. You’ll know it’s Sam’s when you walk in and there’s a just a strange, inexplicably large bagel on the wall for decoration and not much else.

In case you thought I was lying about the large wall bagel.

Bagels are big and toasty, schmear is excellent (I got a strawberry spread that was perfect) and the place is small and quiet.

Extra perks:
1) It’s a stone’s throw away from the beach.
2)  Window seating to bask in the morning/afternoon sun and people-watch.

Not-So-Quick Breakfast (Or Brunch)

Nick’s Coffee Shop

Location: Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson

Breakfast is 100% my favorite meal of the day, so obviously Nick’s is my pick for best place. What you’re looking at here is a delicious waffle combo.

I would move to L.A. for this place, I’m only half-joking. I only had breakfast at this diner, but it was SO good. And the people were so nice – surprisingly jovial in the aftermath of New Year’s Eve and always checking to see if we were happy with our food and needed anything else. They seemed to know and have a great relationships with their regulars and the walls look to be chock full of “celebrity” diner portraits, even locals.

It’s not a big establishment, being a diner, after all. So if you’re thinking about dropping by, you can actually call ahead an ask to hold a table.

Extra Perks:
1) A few outside tables if the weather is nice or if you have a furry companion.
2) Perfectly crispy hash browns.
3) Did I mention that the staff is lovely?

Lunch/Dinner

Tatsu Ramen

Location: Sawtelle Blvd, Little Osaka (other location available)

Their Old Skool ramen with Tonkotsu broth – ’cause you can’t go wrong with a classic.

Little Osaka has a TON of restaurants in the area. Even the complex Tatsu is in has like four or five of them packed in there. But if you’re in the mood for some tasty Ramen, go to Tatsu.

Portions are generous, especially if you order extra noodles for just a couple bucks more. Space is limited, because of the small size of the restaurant (even with the extra seating outside) and because of Tatsu’s popularity. You won’t have to wait to order, thanks to the tablet ordering system out front, but you’ll most likely have to wait for a table. Just give your number to the hostess and they can send a text when your table is ready, meanwhile, you can pop into the other little shops nearby.

Extra Perks:
1) A true vegan/vegetarian ramen bowl for your veggie/vegan friends.
2) I say lunch or dinner, but this place is open until 2 a.m. (sometimes 3 a.m.) for your late-night ramen cravings.

Dessert

Honeymee

Location: Sawtelle Blvd., Little Osaka (other locations available)

You definitely won’t BEE sad when you eat this ice cream.

Once you’re done with ramen or some other savory goodness in Little Osaka, stop by Honeymee for a sweet treat. Not only is their ice cream swirled into a perfect dessert, it’s accompanied by a delicious little honeycomb from a local bee farm.

Extra Perks:
1) After you’ve had a heavy meal, it’s a great light dessert.
2) Particularly picture-worthy (I’m looking at you, food bloggers).

For the Trip Home

Bibi’s Bakery and Cafe

Location: Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson

Bibi’s is a great place to stop for reasonably-priced neighborhood baked goods for the drive (or plane ride) home and to take back to family, friends and co-workers.  Gentleman working the register was extremely helpful/patient as I figured out what I wanted and then inevitably came back to buy more, and seemed to be the bakery’s owner, Dan – which is always a good sign.

This chocolate rugelach might be TOO good. I bought three of these to share… and I ate most of them myself.

Extra Perks:
1) Kosher!
2) Also excellent bagels and schmear.

Well, I think that’s enough for you to chew on. Can you tell that I love to eat?

Bon appetit,
Katie

Cave Creek Hiking: Go John Trail

There is alot of variety to Cave Creek hiking, and Go John Trail is one well known trail in this area. It was previously showcased by Sweat Magazine as reader’s choice best hike.

go john trail

Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

General Information

Location: Cave Creek Regional Park
Run By: Maricopa County
Fee: $6 per car
General Difficulty: 2.5 (1 being easiest and 5 being hardest)
Round Trip Length: 5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Accumulated Gain: 1,260 feet (384 meters)
Crowd Levels: Moderate
Other activities: Camping, picnicking, visiting the nature center

Recommendation

Go John trail is a good place to visit if you are a local who hasn’t been, or a visitor looking to experience lots of Sonoran plant diversity. There are better trails for scenery and work outs. This trail is also fairly far from the city center.

Description

First Half

go john trail

Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

The Go John Trail starts at the parking lot at the very end of the road in the recreation area. It is a loop hike that you can start heading north or east. The first section of the trail (if you head north on the Maricopa Trail) rises up over a saddle in the mountains. It’s not a particularly steep incline, but it was sustained enough to get my heart rate up. This is the hardest part of the trail, in my opinion, and after you make the top of this rise, Go John will take you down into a valley where you will meander through fluffy, desert washes.

Before you descend onto the main length of the trail, however, I would suggest pausing to enjoy the view. The saddle is a great place to snap some pictures of the valleys to either side, one with the heart of Phoenix and one still wild. The rest of the trail is fairly low elevation, so there aren’t tons of other spots for pictures until  the end. That being said, the mountains in Spur Cross will  be at eye line for most of your trek, so the horizon-to-horizon beauty is there.

Second Half

go john trail

Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

Once you hike down into the washes, you will have some wonderful opportunities to see Sonoran desert biodiversity, with a multitude of plants growing in this relatively lush part of the Phoenix valley. Birds abound as well, and if you know where to look (and how to be both safe and respectful of the animals) there is also come good herping here.

The way back towards the trailhead goes require you to gain some elevation again, but it is much more gradual than the first half of the trail. The descent to the parking lot is really nice and gradual as well.

go john trail

Bloggers’ Favorite Spots in Japan

If you are thinking about traveling to Japan, you probably know about some of the most famous places in the country, like Tokyo and Kyoto. You might still be wondering about the specifics of what to do in Japan or just looking for more travel inspiration. Either way, we’ve gathered a list of six travel bloggers’ favorite spots in Japan. From urban delights, to spectacular cultural locations and beautiful nature, these highlights are sure to inspire you and enhance any itinerary that you might be planning for this exceptional country. If you’d like more tips for traveling to Japan, be sure to check out our guide!

Fushimi Inari Shrine

what to do in japan

(c) G. Isabelle

by G. Isabelle of Dominican Abroad

For two weeks, I traveled throughout Japan from Nikko to Osaka. I enjoyed and came across gorgeous architecture, traditional Japanese rituals, delicious food, cozy streets, lush mountains, and bucolic countryside views. But what captivated me the most was my experience at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. One quiet night, on my e-bike, I peddled through zigzag streets of Kyoto until finally reaching this shrine. I was immediately awestruck by its quaint ambiance and beauty at first sight. I was one of only three people there. Unlike most other shrines, Fushimi Inari is open 24 hours, which many travelers are unaware of. It was the first shrine I was able to fully take in and enjoy peacefully and without the pressure of crowds and camera flashes. The deep orange-red hues of the torii gates temple contrasted beautifully against the night’s darkness. It was one of my most memorable experiences of Japanese spirituality, beauty, and culture and I strongly recommend it.

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Kamikochi National Park

what to do in Japan

(c) Sarah Carter

by Sarah Carter of ASocialNomad

Kamikochi National Park is a free to access National Park in the Japanese Alps.  It is quite simply a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains.  The day hiking here is easy, with short walks and a combination circular trail that crisscrosses the river running through the park.  There are stunning views throughout the park and trails are a combination of boardwalks, paving and reinforced track.  Kamikochi NP has toilet facilities, café’s, a souvenir shop and a very helpful information centre.  You won’t find any trash facilities in the park, so pack it in and pack it out!

The park is most easily accessed from Matsumoto via a combo train and bus ticket, which you can buy from Matsumoto train station.   A combined return transport ticket will cost around USD$38, the views are spectacular on the bus.

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Little Edo

What to do in Japan

(c) Noel Cabacungan

by Noel Cabacungan of Ten Thousand Strangers

Little Edo is a small district of Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture.  It is one of the many areas in Japan that has preserved most of its architecture which dates back from the old Edo Period (1603-1868). Kawagoe is just a 30-minute train ride from Central Tokyo and if you happen to be in the capital, a short day trip to this district should definitely be on your itinerary.

Some of the must-see attractions in Little Edo includes the old clay-walled warehouses popularly known as the Kurazukuri no Machinami (Warehouse District), the centuries-old Toki no Kane (Bell of Time Tower) which still functions to tell the time at several intervals throughout the day, the numerous temples around, and  the popular candy street where you can buy traditional Japanese candies and snacks.

If you’re really in for the experience, wear your traditional Japanese costumes and ride one of the jinrikishas (pulled rickshaws) which will tour you around Little Edo for only ¥6,000 for an hour.

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Osaka

(c) Patrick Muntzinger

by Patrick Muntzinger of German Backpacker

Competing with famous tourist destinations such as Tokyo and neighboring Kyoto, Osaka is often overlooked by travelers. However, I had a wonderful time exploring this city and there’s much to do and to see. Make sure to visit the famous castle, which offers you some culture, history and a great view on the city. Plan a stop at the world-famous Aquarium if you’re interested in marine wildlife. Make sure to visit the popular and hip neighborhood of Dotonbori – the touristic center of the city. This place is especially great in the evening, with millions of lights, LED screens and people – the Time Square of Japan! For the best view on the skyline, get on top of the Umeda Sky Building. This place with its unique architecture and its breathtaking panorama is another highlight of Osaka. Enjoy your visit!

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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

(c) the Travel Sisters

by Matilda of the Travel Sisters

One of my favorite places in Japan is the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen actually consists of three different types of gardens: Japanese traditional, French formal and English landscape garden. Tokyo can be hectic so this large and peaceful park is a great place to spend a few hours exploring the garden or enjoying a picnic. Home to a large number of cherry trees, it is also one of the most popular spots in Tokyo for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) during in the spring. Even during the busy cherry blossom season, the park is not as crowded as most places in Tokyo making it a relaxing oasis in the middle of the city.

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Takayama

Autumn scenery, Hida-Furukawa (c) Ingrid Truemper

 By Ingrid Truemper of Second-Half Travels

Nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Takayama preserves Japan’s traditional culture in its photogenic historic architecture, legendary handicrafts, and intricately decorated temples and shrines. Wander the narrow streets of Takayama’s picturesque merchants’ quarter, lined with wooden houses dating from the Edo Period. Don’t miss the colorful morning markets, which sell local snacks and crafts in addition to fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn, is ranked one of Japan’s best. If you can’t make the festival, be sure to check out the gorgeous floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.

Takayama also makes a great base for exploring the Japanese Alps. The Unesco World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, famous for its unique thatched-roof houses, is a popular day trip from Takayama. Better yet, spend the night at a traditional inn to experience the tranquility after the crowds of day-trippers depart. Hida-Furukawa is a charming village 20 minutes by train from Takayama. It’s strikingly similar in layout and architecture to Takayama, but much less touristy. Stroll the peaceful streets of its lovely canal district, where beautifully preserved white-walled storehouses overlook waterways teeming with colorful carp.

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Japan Travel

japan travel

Tempe Chai Tea at Cupz

Phoenix (Tempe) Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix-area coffee shops for anyone wondering where to eat in Phoenix. Today I am highlighting one of my favorite spots for Tempe chai tea, Cupz Coffee, which is was my favor coffee shop while I was working at ASU. The cafe is just a stone’s throw from campus, and has a great atmosphere for anyone who likes to get some work done at the coffee shop.

The Tea!

Tempe chai tea

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Seattle’s Best (Unconfirmed)

Flavor: I believe that Cupz serves Seattle’s Best chai, but I have not yet confirmed this. Either way, the chai tea that they serve is very sweet. I would actually say that I don’t get much of a spicy hint at all when I drink this tea, but for anyone that loves sugary drinks (like myself), it still has a good flavor. It is a great, milky drink for cold mornings and I find that it is also more rich than many of the other chais I have had. If you prefer sweet, rather than spicy, this is definitely a chai that you might enjoy. I love this tea, but I’m giving it a 2.5/5 just because it strays so far from the classic chai flavor.

chai tea in phoenix

The Locale

tempe chai tea

Location: 777 S College Ave # 101, Tempe, AZ 85281

WIFI: Free

Atmosphere: Cupz has a classic coffee shop atmosphere, and it is one of my favorite places to work. There’s lots of original art on the walls, and a nice couch corner for anyone looking for a comfy place to enjoy some drinks and food. The area near the cash register is also home to some really cute coffee humor that I always appreciate while waiting for my chai.

tempe chai tea

Staff: A bunch of the staff at Cupz are ASU students, so stopping by here is a great way to support the community in more ways than one. They are also some very sweet people, which may not be quite as outgoing as Starbucks employees, but I always enjoy chatting with them. A few of the baristas here are also very good at their jobs, and I often get a cup of chai that is artfully put together.

Pros: Cupz is super close to campus and has a good atmosphere for working, with free wifi, lots of tables, and couches. They have plenty of breakfast food options , and a very nice selection of drinks besides chai. Their staff is genuine and its a generally a welcoming place that’s great for regulars.

Cons: The quality of the food can vary here, depend on who’s working, but I likely only noticed this due to the fact that I visited 1-2 times a week for 5 years. They also don’t have a bathroom in the shop, which can be a bit problematic if you plan on staying there for a long time.

tempe chai tea

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures for more information on Phoenix and Tempe coffee shops.

tempe chai tea

Six Reasons to Travel in 2018

6 Reasons To Travel in 2018

2018 is upon us! It is time to break out our New Years resolutions, and we here at Nightborn Travel want to give you some great reasons to travel this coming year. Having travel goals is not only fun, but there is plenty to learn from exploring as well.

(1) Travel keeps me interested and curious. When I say travel, I just mean the act of exploring a new place, be that across the world or a restaurant you haven’t tried in your home town. Either way, it is refreshing to visit somewhere new, and it’s something hardwired into us humans. In short, exploring new places is good for your mind and body.

(2) Travel makes you a better person. Maybe a bold claim, but I think it’s true. When you leave the comfort of your warm and cozy home to travel (even if it’s just outside of your own city), you’re opening yourself up to different foods, cultures and histories. This is where being a responsible traveler becomes really important. Respect the places that you visit, treat the people that you meet well and accept your similarities and differences. Traveling is such a privilege, and if you treat each trip as such, I think you’ll have a great time.

(3) Travel helps with my anxiety (but not the way you might think). Some bloggers claim that traveling made their anxiety go away, but that is not true for me. It does, however, give me a reason to be excited about each new day. Experiencing new things is a great reason to push through hard times for me. Travel may be a good motivation for you too, in whatever shape exploring may take for you.

Things Travel Taught Us in 2017

(1) Do as much as you can, because you will probably regret the chances you didn’t take. One of my biggest travel regrets in 2017 is that I canceled my side-trip to the Chatham Islands of New Zealand. I was suffering bad anxiety at the time, and almost broke my hand. I was happy to rest at the time, but looking back, I always wish I had gone through with my full plan despite my worries.

reasons to travel

Pandora at night (c) ABR 2017

(2) Plan ahead! I know some people love to be spontaneous, and I am definitely not telling you to give that up, if that’s how you are. Even so, researching a location ahead of time will help you avoid missing stuff that you would have really loved to see. This is something that I am slowly getting better at, because I always feel sad when I am visiting somewhere and I realize I don’t have time to visit all the places I learn about as I travel.

reasons to travel

Lee’s Ferry (c) ABR

(3) You are capable of so much more than you think. I’ve planned international trips. I’ve driven on the left side of the road. I’ve successfully navigated through cities I’ve never been to before. I’ve gotten my butt on a plane, time after time, even though I squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath through every take-off. Travel isn’t always easy (especially getting to your destination), but it’s worth every beautiful second. We believe in you, reader, and we’ve got your back.

 

Travel Goals in 2018

Whether your goal is to see all 417 national park units in the US, or to just visit one new restaurant in your hometown this year, we would ask that you share a singular travel goal with us for this 2018.

Travel responsibly, putting the environment and the people of the places you visit first.

reasons to travel

Fossil Creek (c) ABR 2017

If you have any questions on how to do that, we will be here, providing guides and discussions about seeing the world and leaving no trace.

Thanks for reading! -Katie and Aireona

reasons to travel

reasons to travel

View of Auckland from One Tree Hill

Budget Traveler’s Guide to Auckland

View of Auckland from One Tree Hill

Auckland has a lot to offer – and many of its great attractions cost little to no money to see. This humble guide will help you explore the city without breaking the bank.

First things first, though. If you weren’t thinking about renting a car in New Zealand, I urge you to reconsider. There are so many places to explore and driving will give you the most freedom. If you haven’t driven on the left side of the road before from the right side of a car, I promise you, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Just drive carefully (and more slowly, if you must) and follow ALL road signs/rules. Roundabouts and one-way bridges are kind of a doozy, but you’ll figure it out – you’re smart people.

If you’re looking for an affordable and reliable rental place, I can’t recommend GO rentals at the Auckland Airport enough (I swear, I’m not a plant, I just had a really good experience). They’re conveniently located just about five minutes from the international departure terminal, they have long hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to accommodate almost any pick-up or drop-off time and they have a shuttle to get you to and from the airport terminals. Plus, they’re just NICE. And if you’re driving in an unfamiliar country, you don’t want a crap car. Don’t forget to ask them about their GO Play discount card- it comes with a map of attractions around NZ that you can get discounted prices on.

Once you’ve gotten all settled, here are my recommendations of places to go:

Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill Domain

In the heart of Auckland, Cornwall Park has it all – you can drive through it, jog or walk. You can marvel at all the precious sheep just wandering around without a care in the world (don’t try and approach them though, they are not a fan).

Basically, the most adorable sheep.

Basically, the most adorable sheep.

And if you make it to the top of One Tree Hill, you can see some great city views, as well as the obelisk put in place to honor the Maori people

This One Tree Hill is NOT the American TV drama series – so if you were hoping to see Chad Michael Murray, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But not really, because this One Tree Hill and surrounding Cornwall park is SO much cooler (sorry, Chad).

Mission Bay

If you’re a beach person (like I am), then you’ll definitely want to take a trip to Mission Bay. Like most beaches, it will get crowded as the day goes on and the temperature rises, so if you want peace and quiet, I would go in the morning.

Here you can stroll along and enjoy the beach views, go for a swim and have a fish-and-chips picnic on the sand or the park grass. Once you’re done having fun in the sun (maybe, depending on the time of year – we went at the end of spring/vert beginning of summer, so weather was cloudier and cooler), you can head into the City Centre. It’s only about a 15-minute drive, depending on traffic.

Central Business District/City Centre

I like checking out the downtown areas of each city I visit, so for me, visiting the City Centre was worth that alone. But it’s also a good place to go for food and shopping – both luxury, local and tourist gift shops are all located here. It’s also close to the University of Auckland if you’re curious about that, and it’s an easy way to hop on a boat tour or ferry and get to Viaduct Harbour.

Viaduct Harbour

The harbour is right smack dab in the middle of the City Centre. With a bunch of bars/restaurants to choose from right on the waterfront, it’s an excellent place to wind down your day. Ferries seem to come in and out of here, if you’re interested in a ferry trip. Plus, there’s a park down way for kids and apparently a summer movie series shown here, as well. It’s also home to the New Zealand Maritime Museum – free entry for Auckland residents and about $10-$20 for visitors.

Botanical Gardens

Let it be known that I love gardens – so naturally, we ended up going to THREE botanical gardens here in Auckland.

The Auckland Botanic Gardens is just under 15 minutes away from the Auckland Airport and admission is completely free. The crazy thing is not only how beautiful the gardens are, but they span over 150 acres of land. If you go, prepare to get a little lost inside – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Eden Garden is a much smaller, but equally gorgeous botanical garden located on the side of Mt. Eden and just a stone’s throw away from the City Centre (about a 7-minute drive). For only $6-$10 (children 12 and under get free admission), you can wander around these stunning blooms to your heart’s content. You may see some goofy-looking chickens also mucking about. And if you’re feeling ambitious, one of the trails in the garden leads you further up the mountain to a great city view.

If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be the Domain Wintergardens. I had never seen or been in Victorian-style greenhouse gardens before, and honestly, I couldn’t get enough. The flowers inside are ridiculously pretty and enhanced by the pool/fountains set in the middle of the two greenhouses, surrounded by statues. It almost made me want to pop on a corset and bustle and sit down for high tea – ALMOST. Wintergardens also is free to see, just outside of the City Centre and across from the  Auckland War Memorial Museum.

So really, this barely scratches the surface of things to see in Auckland, but it’s a quick round-up of some of my favorites! And I know traveling isn’t cheap, so I hope this guide helps you jump-start your planning and save some dough, so you can treat yo’self in other ways. New Zealand is worth it!

With Much Aroha (Love),
Katie

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