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November – December 2023
1. Travel abroad includes a surprising number of people (known as expats) moving their homes to other countries for a time or permanently. We share some statements and questions that expats find most irritating from their friends and family left behind. You’ll find these both insightful and amusing. 2. What is the perennial attraction of taking to Spain’s Camino de Santiago from medieval times right to the present day? Even COVID only slowed down the flow temporarily. If you are curious about the motivations while you consider what might be your own for a future Camino, you’ll love this article.3. Many of us are becoming aware of how dangerous to marine life and dwindling coral reefs our choice of sunscreens can be. Here is an important primer on how to keep the environment safe with less harmful sunscreens while taking care of sensitive skin. We also spotlight some countries and regions already taking steps to protect their marine areas from damage. 4. Have you ever tried glamping? Learn what it is and how you can get closer to nature in 115 countries thanks to a glamping portal that spotlights more than 33,000 carefully-vetted options from yurts and treehouses to tipis, caves and igloos. 5. Check out our top 10 tips for a winning expeditionary cruise and wilderness holiday. We present 20 years of global expertise as your final food for thought.
We invite you to check out our Feature Link of the Month and our latest Travel Product Reviews.
What you should NEVER say to an expat!
Instead of just traveling abroad, maybe you have a reason to work in another country or even retire to another country. This is no small decision, but it is not an uncommon one, as illustrated by the formation of Internations in 2007, now the largest global expat network with four million members in 420 cities worldwide. Their members have offered thoughts on what you should avoid saying if chatting with an expat (short for a person living abroad) and just what the response might be from that expat.
“You’re so lucky”
Yes, we understand that we’re in a sunnier country with friendlier people and better job opportunities but reiterating how ‘lucky’ we are implies that courage, hard work and tenacity played no part. If you want to live where we live, you can but you choose not to.
That’s not because you’re unlucky; it’s a choice you have made, just like my new country is a choice I’ve made.
“Are you fluent yet?”
Seriously, do you know how long it takes to master a language to fluency?
So many of us spend hours every day on our new language and it’s frustrating enough when, after a year, we’re not even at Kindergarten level. Asking if we’re fluent yet makes us feel embarrassed and inferior so please don’t do it!
“Please, it can’t be that bad”
If I’m complaining about how frustrating it is to open a new bank account when I don’t yet have a permanent address, please don’t say “It can’t be that bad! You live by the beach!” or “You have year-round sunshine! Try queuing up for the [bank] in the pouring rain!”
Just because I’ve moved, it doesn’t mean all my problems have melted away. My new country might have better weather, but that doesn’t automatically negate all my problems.
“Not that it matters to you”
I’m in a new country which I call home, yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested or concerned about the state of affairs in my old home.
In the run up to the UK General Election 2015, I was told more than once that it doesn’t concern me because I’ve been in Australia for two years. I still care about [health care], our education system and all the things that make Britain, Britain. It matters to me. Please don’t tell me it doesn’t.
“You should try making friends with more locals”
Okay, I know that I have more English speaking friends than not, but they’re easier to connect with – for now. Until I learn the local language to an advanced level, there’s only so much conversation I can have with locals.
English is the language I think in, cry in, and sometimes I just need people that are effortless to be with. Local friends will come with time, I promise.
“When are you moving back home?”
You think I packed up 20 tonnes of luggage and hauled it across the Atlantic for fun? No. My new country is my new home. Maybe I’ll ‘move back home’ one day but I don’t know that for sure. For now, I’m making a go of things in my new country. Please support me instead of acting like it’s a phase.
Read the original article on Atlas & Boots. Copyright 2015.
On this same theme, we recommend two feature articles by expats in our own Travel Article Library : one about retiring from Seattle, Washington to Greece’s southern peninsula to buy an olive grove and learn to grow olives successfully, and another article about retiring from Cleveland, Ohio to Seville, Spain to immerse in the local culture and travel the countries of Europe with ease. Sixteen years later and a book about how to enjoy moving abroad, there are no regrets for our nouveau-Sevillians!
A Camino de Santiago for all Ages and Interests
For the past 20 years, stories about traversing a part or the whole of a Camino de Santiago route to the exquisite medieval town of Santiago de Compostela have consistently been among the most read themes in our publication’s Travel Article Library collection. So, understandably, whenever we have some new Camino insights to add to the knowledge of our readers, we love to share them! Though the most popular months to pick a choice of routes is early June to the end of September, it’s definitely time to start planning and maybe doing some training for 2024.
Based on the number of official pilgrim certificates of completion handed out, CaminoWays.com has conducted surveys asking the simple question, “Why are you doing the Camino?” The tour operator’s research showed that just 28% of walkers today do the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, though it is undoubtedly a unique experience and a haven for self-reflection.
About 18% of walkers just want to get away from their daily life and connect with nature. Some of the natural sites and landscapes along the way are truly breathtaking, with the Portuguese Coastal Way arguably the most scenic. It is perfect for a peaceful reflective trip.
The most popular reason for doing the Camino seems to be looking for a new challenge with about 28% wanting to test themselves physically and mentally along the way. The start of the French Way provides a fine challenge going over the Pyrenees Mountains from France into northern Spain. Perhaps related to the challenge theme, about 11% of people walk the trail specifically for health and exercise.
The diverse history and culture experienced along the route is another motivator to “do” the Camino. The pilgrimage can also be a very social experience and some people walk it for that reason. The best route to meet new people is the French Way which is the most popular Camino Route.
With nearly two decades of experience on Camino de Santiago walking and cycling routes in Spain, France and Portugal, CaminoWays.com offers expert advice, assistance or fully-guided service to clients of all ages and abilities. The company also offers creative walking and cycling tours on the Via Francigena (France to Italy).
It seems that COVID also took its toll on the number of pilgrims choosing to do their own Camino! According to the official Pilgrims Office, 178,912 pilgrims arrived in Santiago de Compostela in 2021, more than three times the number that arrived during 2020 (54,144). Still, this was only half the number who made the journey on foot or by bicycle in 2019 (347,598) before the pandemic struck. For 2023, pilgrim numbers do look set to smash the previous record of 438,300 annual visitors. While over 93% walk on their own two feet, others arrive at their ultimate destination of Santiago de Compostela by bicycle, on horseback or in a wheelchair. It’s about 50/50 men and women, and all ages from young adults to seniors.
Re-Thinking Your Sunscreen Choices on Vacation
Quite correctly, we have increasingly been on the warpath for a while now about the pollution of plastics in oceans, lakes and rivers. However, there is a more recent awareness that is building about the toxic damage that common sunscreen products washing off the bodies of vacationers are doing to fragile ecosystems like coral reefs, fish and marine mammals.
While there are some products on the market that are free of harmful ingredients, many are nothing short of poisonous to the marine environment as they contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. In fact, a number of countries, communities or waterside resorts have gone one step further than politely urging visitors to avoid using such sunscreen products as Coppertone, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, and Australian Gold. Governments already have banned or are gearing up to ban any product containing the destructive chemicals from store shelves and their waters.
Here are a few countries and states that deserve a big round of applause for taking these bold steps to protect precious aquatic environments:
Palau (South Pacific Island nation)
This archipelago of hundreds of islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean, has become the first country in the world to ban toxic sunscreens from entering its waters with a law that will take effect in 2020. Businesses could face a fine of up to $1,000 for selling non-biodegradable sunscreens. This tiny nation of 21,000 depends on healthy, clean tourism for its destination survival as well as adjacent reef dwellers as a major food source.
Key West and Miami, Florida
In January 2021, Key West is banning the sale of all toxic sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. It is the southernmost region of the U.S. and home to the largest coral reef in the continental U.S. Miami is also considering a similar ban to be launched on the same date with a proposed fine ranging between $250 and $1,000 for anyone violating the rule.
State of Hawaii
The reef-rich state of Hawaii voted to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain reef-damaging chemicals beginning in 2021. The effort will put pressure on sunscreen manufacturers to better label and produce natural sunscreens that use zinc oxide which does not harm reefs.
Caribbean island of Bonaire
Voting to ban toxic sunscreens by 2021, Bonaire is a municipality of the Netherlands located in the Leeward Antilles, not far off the coast of Venezuela. It is a popular tourist site for diving. About 90 percent of Caribbean reefs are estimated to have disappeared since 1980.
US Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John)
The U.S. Virgin Islands in the eastern Caribbean is banning all sale, distribution and import of toxic sunscreens in March 2020. Harith Wickrema, president of Island Green Living Association, said, “In addition to environmental and human harm, tourism-based economies will experience financial devastation if coral and marine life die off. The ripple effect would be huge and we need to take action now.”
The Yucatan Peninsula has over 6,000 mostly freshwater cenotes and great swaths of shoreline that are a major tourist attraction for swimming, snorkeling and diving as well as home to fragile ecosystems and fish. While not yet government regulated, many Mayan indigenous communities of the region and multiple parks in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and surrounding area — including Xel-Ha Park, Cozumel’s Marine Park, and Xcaret Park — ban any sunscreen that is not “biodegradable.” Approved sunscreens there are all mineral-based.
Education is an effective buy-in for vacationers
While shopping for a natural, eco-friendly sunscreen solution read the back of each product carefully to ensure it is a mineral-based sunscreen that uses zinc and titanium dioxide only. Some of the most popular sunscreen brands are seeing the writing on the wall and beginning to offer chemical-free versions as well. For now, mineral-based sunscreens can be quite expensive at resort destinations, so perhaps for better prices, consider buying products at your local drugstore before leaving home or online through Amazon. At this time, recommended brands include BeautyCounter, Aveno Baby, La Roche-Posay Face and Skin Medica Mineral Shield.
Let’s Go Glamping!
Glamping is a term that has entered the travel vocabulary in recent years seeking to describe a style of camping with a variety of comfortable and even glamorous amenities. In short, there is a resort-style element not usually associated with traditional camping. Today, glamping is to be found all over the world in a creative variety of forms.
Of course, it could not be long before a website was launched to help us navigate the complexities and delights of glamping, from barns, treehouses and yurts to safari tents, caves, cabooses, tipis and igloos. We are happy to introduce readers to Glamping Hub https://glampinghub.com, a leading portal for such unique outdoor accommodations across the globe with over 33,000 rentals to be found in over 115 countries in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Asia and Africa. At present, its main vacationer interest comes from the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Co-founder, Ruben Martinez, emphasizes that there is something for everyone. “The types you may get in California may be different than what you get in Costa Rica than what you find in Spain, so it appeals to anyone that wants to be outside communing with Mother Nature. There is also a wide range of price points that appeal to avid travelers looking for something new and unique in their vacations.”
Glamping Hub’s demographic is about 30% between ages 45 and 80 years, and the majority of its users are families or couples. Conveniently, prices may be viewed in US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand dollars as well as in British pounds and Euros. With each viewed listing, there are numerous reviews offered by verified guests only.
Images courtesy of Glamping Hub.
AdventureSmith Explorations Leads the Pack as a Small-Ship Cruise Matchmaker
In 2023 US-based AdventureSmith Explorations is celebrating 20 years of extraordinary success as a matchmaker. That is how long the company has practiced its core mission of bringing together small ship nature tour operators around the world with those travelers looking for the best of personal connections with the environments they choose to visit.
AdventureSmith founder, Todd Smith, shares with our readers his top ten insights that define a winning expeditionary cruise and wilderness holiday:
1 – Think Outside the Boat: Prioritizing destinations over showy ship amenities, AdventureSmith emphasizes immersive experiences. These will bring travelers closer to wildlife, wilderness, local culture, and sustainability efforts.
2 – Size Matters: Nearly 150 expedition yachts and small ships that AdventureSmith works with host between 8 to 300 guests, with an average of one crew member for every 1.6 guests. This ensures intimate, tailored experiences in locations where bigger ships can’t reach.
3 – Wilderness is Energizing: Direct wilderness engagements encourage travelers to advocate for wild places and enable them to deeply connect with their surroundings in a long lasting way.
4 – People are Just as Important as Place: The strength of relationships between clients, staff, and partners is the foundation of AdventureSmith’s ethos. Repeat clientele and word of mouth recommendations say it all.
5 – Use an Expert: AdventureSmith’s expert matchmaking skills ensure that travelers find the right trip. With deep industry knowledge and connections, the company is able to curate exceptional travel experiences that align with each guest’s distinct travel interests and style.
6 – Experience is the New Luxury: From ultra-luxurious ships to unparalleled wild access, the definition of luxury is being redefined according to each traveler. AdventureSmith’s experts are sensitive to the exclusivity that many travelers are now seeking.
7 – Bring the Kids: Small ships foster multi-generational bonding, promising adventures suitable for all ages, and a “choose your own adventure” style of travel.
8 – A Good Guide Makes All the Difference: Rely on experienced guides to amplify and enrich your trip experience and offer a richer, hassle-free journey. Fewer decisions equate to more learning, relaxation, and adventure.
9 – Never Sacrifice Experience for Price: Be mindful of high versus low season and the most efficient design of travel itineraries. While every traveler should expect value for money, it is also important to put a value on rarely achieved experiences themselves. Sometimes they are priceless!
10 – Take Your Time: Go slow and aim for a digital detox while traveling. Spending quality time in fewer places will result in a deeper experience.
We recommend two richly-illustrated feature articles that Todd Smith has contributed to our Travel Article Library collection over the years. These clearly reflect his philosophy of connecting with nature and the environment through travel. Check out: The World’s Most Rewarding Bird Viewing Cruises and Five Top Whale Watching Cruises.