Category Archives: Adventure

Taking a Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic


All images courtesy of Fathom Travel

I’ve got some exciting news to share! Next week (May 8-15) I will be a media guest on a Fathom Travel cruise to the Dominican Republic, leaving from Miami and docking in Puerto Plata.

Having launched its ship, the Adonia, in April 2016, Fathom Travel currently offers separate round-trip voyages from Miami to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Belonging to the Carnival brand, Fathom takes a different approach to ocean voyaging with a “travel with purpose” mission. While each destination differs on this aspect, passengers will either become involved in immersive cultural experiences or participate in various community projects.


For their Dominican Republic cruises, Fathom’s choices of impact activities may extend to:

  • Visiting a women’s cooperative that produces chocolate (it’s chocolate; how could you say no to doing that!);
  • Interacting with students and adults through helping them learn English;
  • Planting trees through a reforestation and nursery program;
  • Turning recycled paper into craft projects;
  • Building projects involving the installation of water filtration systems and concrete flooring in community homes.


While impact travel is central to Fathom’s mission, cruise excursion options also extend to tours of certain areas and popular activities such as ziplining or snorkeling. As for their Cuba cruises, Fathom broke serious ground in making history as the first cruise to sail from the U.S. to Cuba (setting off on May 1) in 50-plus years. That’s big!

On my Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic, I will be posting as continuously as I can through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And putting a trip recap on here too. So please do follow along!


10 Travel Goals For Turning 40

Photo by Billie Ward via Flickr

Photo by Billie Ward via Flickr

I turn 40 this week. As this age might make you reflect a bit on life, I decided to think about some travel goals I would like to reach at some point. Or at least before I reach 50. So here’s a list of my 10 future travel goals, maybe to accomplish before I hit 50.

1) Get better at swimming. I can swim, but just not that great. Or not that far out. So I need to build up my stamina. And because I want to try snorkeling at some point.

2) Master a language. When I travel overseas, I make it a point to learn words like “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “how much” and “where is ___.” And with my trip to Japan later this year, I would like to grasp a few phrases that I can speak as well as understand with ease.

3) Pack a carry-on at least once. With airlines charging bag fees like $25 each way, a carry-on probably could save me money and time. It also might make me better with packing and have me go directly from the plane to the airport exit.

4) Practice slow travel. Slow travel means spending more time in one place – instead of rushing around from venue to venue or city to city. I’ll probably struggle with slow travel, but some day in the future I’m going to try and focus on spending time in one area or doing or seeing one or two things daily. Or maybe three.

5) Attend one major sporting event. I was lucky to have been in Paris the night of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Italy, and, after the match was over, walked amid the parade of soccer fans along the Champs-Élysées. I would love to get to the Winter or Summer Olympics, but even going to the Super Bowl would be awesome.

6) Participate in a major cultural festival. Like sports, going to a major cultural festival like Carnevale in Venice or Rio de Janeiro or the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona would be pretty cool. I was in Barcelona for a music festival called La Merce, but there are others that are equally if not greater fun.

7) See Machu Picchu or the Galapagos. I’ve yet to get to Central or South America and if I could only visit one place/country, I could get to it either to Peru or Ecuador. For some reason, I’m captivated by the ruins of Machu Picchu and the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Maybe 2016 will bring me to one of them.

8) Improve my photography skills. Lately for photos, I’ve been using my iPhone 5S as a camera. My shots come out great, but I also want to have a camera for taking a variety of close-ups, panoramics, and nighttime images.

9) Get to all 50 states. There’s a lot to see in America. So far this year, I got to visit Montana for the first time. Next month, I’m heading to Michigan, also for the first time. Roughly, I’ve been to about 25 states and I would rush to get to Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska. Even seeing the Heartland or Southwest would be cool.

10) Learn more about food and drink. I’ve gotten over being a picky eater, and I’ll try almost any type of food now. But I like to have some culinary savvy. With eating and drinking, I know what I like, and what I don’t, but I wish I can know more about the terminology behind a dish or a cocktail. What makes the flavors work together? Usually, I say it’s good, but that’s where I reach my limit with descriptions.

What travel goals do you have before turning 40?

Holiday Guide: Travel Gift Box Sets

All good things come in boxes, no doubt. And there are travel-minded gifts that arrive inside them, ready to be opened. Here are three really cool companies that offer ongoing subscription or one-time giving choices that bring parts of the world to your (or your gift receiver’s) front door.


Photo Credit: Hazel Lane

Hazel Lane
Hazel Lane has various box sets that merge the “best of” goodies and products of different major cities across the United States. Set on a “Made in the USA” strategy, their boxes contain produces that are produced or come from small businesses such as local restaurants. The assortments are said to include eco-friendly, sustainable and organic. The boxes vary in size from a mini-city sampler to a full-on size of assortments.


Photo Credit: Try the World (Facebook page)

Try the World
Try the World take an edible approach to introducing travelers of all kinds to new destinations through their respective foods. Celebrity chefs from different countries select local and authentic delicacies from their homelands to be boxed and sent as part of Try the World’s subscription based service. Subscribers receive a box every two months, which contains about seven to 10 curated products.


Photo credit: Little Passports (Facebook page)

Little Passports
For the younger set, roughly from age 3 to 12, Little Passports organizes three types of educational travel packages based on ages and destinations to take kids on a mini-global adventure. Once the subscription is ordered, an introductory kit is said to be mailed that will come with everything these youngsters will need to get their “journeys” started. The packages are destination specific and arrive monthly, containing various items like activity books/sheets, stickers, access to online games and photos.

(Editor’s Note: These selections were based on media pitches and/or recommendations by fellow travel bloggers. I am not receiving any compensation any of their mentions.)

Check Out #TakeaBreakinChile

photo 1-3If you’re passing through Grand Central Terminal now until this Monday, Oct. 27, take a look at #TakeaBreakinChile, a promotion held by Turismo Chile. As a kickoff for its NYC event, Turismo Chile hosted an evening reception this week to unveil this new campaign in promoting this South American destination.

Not knowing much about Chile at first, I had a good time chatting with reps from tourism companies representing various hotels, airlines, cruises and other expeditions and hearing more about the different opportunities to explore the country. There was also a great presentation relating to Chile’s geography and its cultural and culinary offerings.

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Here’s what I learned.

photo 5For adventure travel, Chile is pretty awesome. Its five zones highlight different climates – from desert to mountain to grasslands – so travelers can enjoy activities like hiking, climbing and rafting. It’s also a connecting point for getting to Antarctica (now that would be awesome) as well as to Patagonia and Easter Island. Also, in being great news for Chile, the travel publication Lonely Planet has featured the Atacama Desert on its “Best in Travel 2015” edition. It comes in at number 9 on its “Top 10 Regions” list.

Plus, being another helpful tip for American travelers, is that to U.S. citizens no longer will have to pay a $160 “reciprocity fee” when they enter Chile (this is in exchange for Chile’s citizens now longer needing a visa for business or pleasure travel to the U.S.). photo 1-4With culinary travel, Chile has a wine making heritage that dates back to the arrival of Spainards who found it to be an ideal place to plant vines. Today, Chile’s wine regions produce primary reds such as Cabernet Franc, Cabaret Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah and whites including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. At Turismo Chile’s reception, I got to taste some of these wine varieties. I also tried some culinary finds including quinoa, lamb, oysters, and empanadas.  photo-16 photo 2-1
The evening also included cultural demonstrations featuring a musical performance and a showing of Cueca, a traditional dance.

At Grand Central, the #TakeaBreakinChile exhibit is in Vanderbilt Hall. It’s an interactive exhibit featuring a giant cube that you can step into too. The exhibit closes Monday at 2 p.m.

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What to Look for in a Travel Partner


Photo by dichohecho via

As much as I think people should not be hesitant with solo travel, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a travel partner. But how you pick one is very important.

Drawing from my experiences, here are my suggestions on how what to look for in a travel partner.

1)   Be upfront about your travel expectations before you leave.

It’s exciting to book a trip together to a place you’ve always wanted to see or if the opportunity strikes to go somewhere. However, you and your travel buddy may or may not share the same sense of travel style. While your idea of seeing a tropic destination is pursuing local activities, your travel partner may be more down for a ton of beach time. Or while you plan to visit museums, your friend may want to explore the local scene or the outdoors. Before leaving, talk about what you both would like to do. When I go overseas with my cousin, we email and text each other the names of places and things that we want to see and do—a few weeks beforehand. We also set up a general day-by-day itinerary, with some wiggle room for changes, solo activities, and downtime.

2)   Be honest about what you both can afford.

Slightly or greatly, spending limits and habits can differ, so talk openly about what financial shape you’re in. With making reservations and purchases, I find it’s best for each person to buy his/her airfare. It’s also important for both of you to be very clear, as well as mutually agree, on how to divide up shared expenses like lodging or transportation. Figure out, too, how you both might respond to unexpected costs. For one girls’ getaway, I booked our hotel reservation with my credit card; my friend gave me her half in cash. When we got to our hotel, we found out our reservation had listed us as arriving the following night. We were still able to get a room, but a new and higher price (which I fought against but lost) was charged to my card. So, I asked my friend for the difference. To my surprise, she said no, arguing that she had paid the amount I had told her it was going to be. Whether she was right or wrong, her answer made me leery about traveling with her again. (We’re still friends.)

3)  Make sure you both can adjust to situations, or at least compromise.

Since no travel plans are fully secure, it’s important for both of you to be able to go with the flow—or be open to switching up your schedule. At your destination, you might learn about a great scenic tour or a hit up a locally recommended nightspot. Food can also be tricky, so see what and where each of you will eat—and won’t. I’ve been lucky in that most of my travel partners are pretty open to trying new things or agreeing to last-minute changes. I’ve gotten better in these areas too. A college friend of mine is very spontaneous, especially when traveling, and by doing things on a whim (like driving one night from Chicago to Gary, Indiana for riverboat gambling) we had some great times on the road together.

4)   Know when to let certain things go.

In following Tip 4, remember that people react to issues in different ways and reactions can change the course of your trip. When tensions get high, and depending upon what’s happening, remember to not take it personally. If possible, step away for few seconds or more, or just stop what you’re doing, so you each can calm down. It will also help you both out in addressing the problem better without initially responding with your emotions. During stressful scenarios, I’ve discovered that some people I’ve traveled with can get “tough” on others and I learned quickly when to ignore them and when to push back. And don’t be afraid if you or your travel partner needs alone time. If you’re both comfortable about splitting up, just check in with each other about where you’re at and if everything is okay, and set a certain time and place to meet up later.

In all, remember that with your travel partner it’s the journey that should really matter. Make sure you’re both on the same route.


Meet the Ladies Behind WHOA Travel

whoa1When Danielle Thorton and Allison Fleece met while planning a trip to Kilimanjaro in 2012, the ladies realized that they had two major things in common: a zeal for adventure and a high energy level to pursue it. After going on their life-changing excursion, these fast friends founded WHOA (Women High On Adventure) Travel, a boutique business that brings women together through Bucket List itineraries to provide transforming travel experiences.

Recently, I had a virtual Q & A with Allison about WHOA travel and how females can venture more into adventure travel. Here’s what she said to say.


Why does WHOA focus on adventure travel?

There is something very exciting about adventure travel, that forces you to physically and mentally step outside of your comfort zone.  We believe in the idea of women coming together to meet challenges that sustain other women.  Our model has been  to connect women to take on adventures together while simultaneously connecting with and giving back to women locally in the regions we visit.  This has been an amazing way to combine physical activity with culture and sustainable travel all at the same time.

From your perspective, how does adventure travel appeal to women? Also, what misconceptions do you think women may have about it?

Women want adventure just as much as anyone.  Sometimes people are held back from taking on adventures that are outside their comfort zone because they may not have friends or others to adventure with or there is an innate fear of the unknown.

But, WHOA really brings together like-minded women, women who should know each other, but their paths haven’t crossed and that makes these adventures more comfortable for people.  Some misconceptions that we’ve heard women have about adventure travel is that they don’t think they are fit enough to do some of the trips we do.  But in actuality, we stand by the notion that our trips are 90 percent mental.

You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a triathlete to hike Kilimanjaro or to hike to Machu Picchu.  You just have to have a little drive and will. We love the expression, “Mind over Matter” because that really is what it’s all about. Where there is a will, there really is a way.


What advice would you give women interest in giving adventure travel a try?

 You have to go for it.  If you have any desire to push yourself and experience the world in a new and different way, you just have to do it! We have a really supportive group of women who come together to take on adventures, and that creates such a positive energy on our trips, we promise you it will be worth it. Also, there may never be the perfect time, but you have to make it a priority and try…Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back, because you will regret the chances not taken.

How can they physically prepare themselves for these types of trips?

 We always say the best training is to just get out there and walk, hike, run, do anything you can to get on your feet and stay on your feet! Break in your boots, and wear your backpack (daypack) that you will be using on our trips.  Stairmasters are great and taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a plus too, to get used to the vertical trekking.

What’s next for WHOA Travel?

We are heading to India at the end of the year to do research and exploration for a WHOA trip in 2015. We have big plans to turn WHOA into more than just adventure travel, but for now we are looking to have an adventure on every continent… and we are almost half way there!