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I’m Going To Afghanistan

Hiking in Afghanistan

I’m Going Trekking in Afghanistan

Afghanistan

After a year of extensive planning, I’m heading into the mountains of Afghanistan. And you can follow along.

No, this isn’t a joke. And no, I haven’t lost my mind.

Do you have a travel bucket list? Yeah, so do I. A big one. And for the past 2 years, there’s been one country peering down at me from the very top.

Afghanistan.

Well I’m finally off to explore some incredibly remote & mountainous tribal areas of Afghanistan for the next few weeks. Hiking and camping through one of the most isolated locations on Earth.

Completely off the grid. No cell phone. No wifi.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

That’s because all most of us ever hear about Afghanistan is doom & gloom from the evening news. But there’s another side to the country, one that doesn’t get shared enough. A beautiful, hospitable, and adventurous side.

This is the Afghanistan I’m off to find, and report back on.

The other Afghanistan…

Are You Crazy?!

I’ve never been more excited to visit a new country then I am right now… but honestly I’m a bit nervous too. Even though I think I’m immune to sensational news coverage, and know that the area I’ll be traveling in is relatively safe — Afghanistan is still considered a war zone.

What you may not realize is that Afghanistan does get some tourism. Not very much, but people do travel there. And they come back with amazing stories about both the people and the landscapes.

I’ve hired a trustworthy local guide to help me navigate through the wilderness and communicate with the people I meet on this journey. I want to learn about their lives, their customs, their hardships, their joys.

And then share what I’ve learned with you.

Where In Afghanistan?

I’ve decided to keep my exact location in Afghanistan semi-private from the online world for safety sake. Not that I think I’m in any real danger where I’ll be, but it’s good to play it safe anyways — just in case.

There are no Taliban or ISIS in the immediate region I’m traveling in. However the Taliban has been moving closer, which is one of the reasons I decided to embark on this trip sooner rather than later. It very well might not be possible next year. I didn’t want to take that chance.

When I return in September, I promise to share everything with you.

Follow Along!

I’m carrying a Delorme InReach Explorer Satellite Communicator as I trek through the mountains of Afghanistan for the next few weeks.

This amazing technology helps keep me safe in case of an emergency, while also giving me the ability to share my adventure with you from one of the most remote locations on Earth!

I will be attempting to send text-message style satellite updates/stories to my Expert Vagabond Facebook Page on a regular basis.

So go check it out if want to see what I’m up to in Afghanistan.

There is a small chance the military will take away my GPS device, so don’t freak out if you don’t see any messages. I’ll just have to report back once I return from the trip.

Watch Video: I’m Going To Afghanistan…

(Click to watch I’m Going To Afghanistan on YouTube)

Blog comments are closed — but feel free to join the discussion on my Facebook Page!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Exploring Viñales: Farm Life In Rural Cuba

Vinales Cuba

Exploring Viñales, Cuba

Viñales, Cuba

Riding through endless fields of green tobacco and fertile red soil in Viñales, we passed local farmers harvesting the leaves that would become Cuba’s world famous cigars.

Viñales is a small town located on the Western tip of Cuba. Set in a beautiful lush valley with funky looking hills and limestone caves, people have been growing tobacco in the area for over 200 years.

In Havana we hired Jose and his sweet red 1957 Ford Victoria to drive the four of us 3 hours out to Viñales, passing only a handful of other classic cars and a bunch of horse-drawn carriages on Cuba’s poorly maintained highways.

Vinales National Park

Lush Green Viñales Valley

Vinales Cars

Plenty of Classic Cars

Welcome To Viñales

Viñales feels stuck in time. The main street is lined with small single story wooden homes with faded paint. Locals pass by riding old bicycles, horses, or driving colorful vintage American cars.

While there are some hotels in town, most travelers stay with locals in casas particulares, which are like guest bedrooms in other people’s homes.

Our host was Lay, a welcoming lady who turned her home into a guesthouse with two double rooms. This is how many Cubans make extra income beyond their communist government regulated salary of about $ 30 USD per month.

The town has plenty of small restaurants and bars with live music, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded. In fact, Viñales is rumored to be Fidel Castro’s favorite part of Cuba!

Horseback Riding Vinales Cuba

Horseback Riding Through Tobacco Farms

Vinales Cigars

Best Cigars in the World?

Viñales National Park

Viñales Valley was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to its dramatic landscape of karst limestone domes called mogotes, traditional agricultural methods of farming, and rich cultural history.

The valley was formed underwater, rising from the sea millions of years ago. Ancient ocean fossils can still be found in the caves that dot the landscape.

The New York Times called Viñales one of the top places to visit in 2016.

But aside from being a beautiful travel destination, Viñales is known for the quality of its tobacco. I’m not a “smoker” per se, but I do enjoy the occasional cigar at the end of a big trek or for special occasions.

So I was excited to learn how Cuba’s world-famous cigars are actually made.

Tobacco Farm Cuba

Harvesting Tobacco Leaves

Vinales Livestock

Friendly Livestock!

Home Of Cuban Cigars

Why are Cuban cigars so special? Well, many people believe Cuba is the birthplace of cigars. Christopher Columbus encountered native Cubans smoking cylindrical bundles of twisted tobacco leaves in 1492.

The practice was eventually exported to Europe, and by the 19th century, smoking cigars became a popular pastime for wealthy men — who formed special cigar clubs called divans.

Cuba’s time-honored tobacco growing and production techniques were exported to places like the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Then came the United States trade embargo, making Cuban cigars illegal — and increasing their value even more.

The fertile land and favorable climate of Viñales make for perfect cigar tobacco growing conditions. Most residents here are in the tobacco farming business.

Farmhouse in Vinales

Pastel Colored Farmhouse

Vinales Tobacco Farm Tour

Our Horse Guide “Papito”

Tobacco Farm Experience

We hired a guide and some horses to take a tour of Viñales National Park, learning about the traditional techniques used here for hundreds of years. No machines are used, which means crops are picked by hand and fields are plowed with oxen.

Passing through farms with pigs, chickens, and turkeys, we rode along green tobacco fields where local workers were harvesting the last of the season’s prized leaves. Tobacco grows fast, ready for harvest after 2-3 months.

The leaves are then hung in special curing barns, where they dry for about a month, turning a toasty brown color. The Cuban government buys 90% of the tobacco, while locals are allowed to keep 10% for themselves.

To prepare Cuban cigars, the center vein of the leaf is removed, where 98% of the nicotine resides. Next, leaves are sprayed with a special mixture of ingredients like pineapple, lemon, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and rum for the fermentation process.

Three different types of leaves are used to roll the final cigar — filler (inside), binder (holding it together), and the wrapper (visually appealing outer layer).

Tobacco Barn Cuba

Tobacco Drying Barn

Vinales Cuba Cowboys

Cuban Cowboys

Adventures In Viñales

Visiting tobacco farms isn’t the only thing to do in Viñales though. As part of the farm tour, we also explored one of the many limestone caves in the area. Rock climbing these unique limestone formations is a popular activity too.

Aside from guided horseback riding, you can also rent a bicycle, ATV, or motorcycle and explore the valley on your own. There’s a popular cave called Cueva del Indio where you can ride a boat on the underground river that flows through the cave.

We heard stories about a nice little beach about an hour North of Viñales called Cayo Jutías, but didn’t have time to visit.

Vinales Ox Cart

Ox Cart Animal Power

Tips For Visiting

Viñales is located about 3-4 hours West of Havana. There are regular Viazul Busses that run twice a day for about $ 15 USD per person. But you often need to buy your ticket a day in advance.

Or you can do what we did, and rent a vintage taxi with room for 4 people for about $ 60-$ 70 depending on your bargaining skills.

While walking the outskirts of Viñales, you might be waved over to learn about the cigar making process at some random farm. It’s a fun experience, just understand that at the end your host will ask you to buy a bundle of 15-20 cigars for about $ 1 each.

Cuban cigars can cost $ 10-$ 20 each in the USA… so it’s a pretty good deal!

“If I cannot smoke in heaven, then I shall not go.” ~ Mark Twain

Watch Video: Viñales Farm Adventure

(Click to watch Viñales Farm Adventure – Cuba on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Viñales, Cuba [Map]
Accommodation: Casa Lay (email: layvinales@nauta.cu)
Horseback Farm Tour: 35 CUC ($ 35 USD)
Useful Notes: Our tobacco farm tour was done on horseback, but they also have ox carts or bikes available. It lasts about 4 hours, with an option for a short cave excursion for a few CUC more. In addition to cigars, you can also purchase cuban coffee at the end.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Cuba
Suggested Reading: The Other Side Of Paradise

READ NEXT: How To Visit Cuba For Americans

Are you planning to visit Cuba? Have you ever smoked a cigar?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

5 Different Ways Travel Opens Our World

Open Your World

5 Ways Travel Opens Our World

Travel Tips

People travel the world for different reasons. Adventure. Curiosity. Escapism. Or maybe just to chase those epic Instagram shots. But something else happens too.

No matter what your reason for traveling is, there’s no denying that travel can change a person. I’m certainly not the same person I was when I started traveling more than five years ago.

In fact, I’m not even the same person I was just one year ago. The more of the world you see, the more you learn about that world and about yourself — plus where you fit into the mix.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Mary Ritter Beard

They say that travel is one of the best educations. But it’s not just facts and historical dates you learn as a traveler. Travel also opens your eyes – and in turn opens the world to you.

This month I’ve partnered up with the flight search experts at Momondo to share some of the different ways travel has opened my world after 5 years of travel adventures.

Be Open

Eating Scorpions in Thailand

1. Be Open

Mark Twain once said that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” When you travel to countries very different than your own, you’re given a chance to set aside your conceptions (or misconceptions) and observe how things really are.

When you set aside your prejudices and open yourself to new cultures and experiences, you’re not just opening your mind to new languages or food or music – you’re also opening your mind to new ways of thinking, living, and understanding.

Even though you may feel like you have nothing in common with the person sitting across from you on the bus 10,000 miles from home, the reality is that, as humans, our similarities far outnumber our differences. Once you are open to this concept, you quickly start noticing the things that all strangers – regardless of race or religion or way of life – have in common.

And suddenly the world becomes a lot less intimidating.

Talk To Strangers

Making New Friends In South Africa

2. Talk To Strangers

Growing up, your parents probably taught you all about “stranger danger.” But forget about that when you’re traveling. When you’re open and open-minded on your travels, you’ll want to talk to that stranger on the bus or that tuk-tuk driver or that surfer who just caught that awesome wave. It’s the locals in a destination who know the best places to eat or the best spot to catch a sunset.

When you talk to strangers, you also help break down barriers. When you can share a joke with someone who doesn’t speak your language or make an effort to communicate with a shy kid on the street, you make a connection. And connections are what help strangers become friends.

Be Open

Moto Taxi Ride

3. Just Say Yes

You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy traveling. In fact, you don’t even have to be all that outgoing at all (I know plenty of people who identify as introverts who still love to travel). The trait you do need is the ability to just say YES.

Travel is sometimes just about the destination – the beaches and colorful towns and snowy landscapes. But often it’s just as much about what happens along the way. Say yes to a ride on the back of a motorbike. Say yes to that scorpion on a stick. Say yes to a polar plunge in frigid Arctic waters. To steal Nike’s slogan: “Just do it!” You’ll be surprised at how much you’re capable of doing if you allow yourself to be spontaneous once in a while.

Stay Curious

Trekking in Greenland

4. Stay Curious

We’ve already talked about being open and open-minded on your travels. And one of the best ways to facilitate this to stay curious and continue pushing yourself.

Talk to that stranger on the bus even if you’re a bit shy. Hike a little further to see what’s over that next ridge even if you’re tired. Find out what will happen if you face your fear of heights or spiders or deep water. I think all travelers are inherently curious people, but cultivating and expanding that curiosity on the road is important, too.

Inspire Others

Playing with Northern Lights in Iceland

5. Inspire Others

When you talk to strangers and say yes to adventure and open your mind to things that are “different,” you often become kind of different yourself. As a travel blogger, I’m always aiming to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones and open themselves up to the world.

I want to convince people that traveling doesn’t have to be scary, and I do this by showing people the world through my eyes.

You don’t have to be a travel blogger to inspire others though. Simply telling your friends and family about the great new dish you had in Mexico or the interesting history you learned about mosques in Turkey can go a long way in inspiring others to travel and open their minds, too.

And, the more people who travel, the more the world opens up.

Let’s Open Our World!

My friends at Momondo believe that “the world is open to those with an open mind,” and want to know how traveling has affected YOUR view of the world around you.

They’re even running an Instagram competition where you can win a 360fly camera by showing them how you’re playing your part in breaking down barriers and opening your mind.

Visit LetsOpenOurWorld.com to learn more & enter for a chance to win. ★

READ NEXT: 33 Cool Travel Jobs For Travel Addicts

How has travel opened your world? Let me know in the comments!

Momondo Flight Search

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

The Best Travel Shirt I’ve Ever Worn (You Won’t Believe What It Can Do!)

Amazing Shirts from Ably Apparel

Amazing Travel Shirts from Ably Apparel

Travel Tips

It’s not often I get excited about clothing. But this amazing new cotton shirt can repel liquid/stains, is quick drying, and super comfortable too! It’s perfect for adventure travel.

I have a confession to make. I’m a sweaty guy. When buying new shirts, I have to be aware of what color they are, because certain colors show my sweaty armpit stains more than others.

White t-shirts don’t stay white for very long either.

Gross I know. But it’s a real problem for many people.

The world is full of sweaty people — and we’ve been searching for a solution.

From what I’ve experienced over the past week, a company called Ably Apparel has just created that solution. A brand new technology for cotton that’s able to repel liquid (including sweat) while also keeping it breathable, comfortable, and environmentally friendly.

Last week I tested their new fabric in Mexico’s high-humidity summer heat, and now I don’t want to wear anything else!

Cotton vs. Synthetic vs. Merino

We all know there are many benefits to wearing modern synthetic performance fabrics for international travel and outdoor activities. Synthetic blends are somewhat breathable, lightweight, and wick away moisture. They air dry quickly after a wash.

The problem is they aren’t as comfortable as cotton. Synthetics also get stinky quickly. Because they’re petroleum based, they aren’t environmentally friendly. Cotton is a plant. It can be grown organically. It’s sustainable, renewable, and biodegradable.

What about merino wool? While it’s organic, it’s much more expensive than cotton. Merino is not as comfortable as cotton in warmer weather either.

Regular cotton is renewable, comfy, and breathable, but it absorbs sweat & moisture leaving dark wet spots. It doesn’t dry fast, and can leave you feeling cold in cooler weather during active sports like hiking or skiing.

Well, at least until Ably Apparel came along with their version.

Amazing Shirts from Ably Apparel

Repels Water Easily

The Perfect Travel Shirt?

Ably’s unbelievably odor and stain repellent natural shirts look and feel like regular cotton shirts. But that’s where the similarities end.

They use a special new technology called Filium™ that makes these incredible shirts stain resistant. Water resistant. Sweat resistant. And quick drying too!

I had to experience it for myself to believe it. It feels as if you’re wearing thin, lightweight, and comfortable body armor against the elements.

Go ahead. Spill wine all over it. Take it to the gym. Wear it for a few days straight. Ably Apparel keeps looking great, smells good, repels stains, sheds liquid, and feels like a regular cotton shirt.

A travel shirt with extraordinary super powers…

Amazing Shirts from Ably Apparel

Stain Resistant Too!

My Experience

I just returned from a four day trip to Isla Holbox, a small tropical island on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Temperatures were in the high 80’s with 90% humidity. I wore the Ably shirt for 4 days without washing it.

Walking on the beach in the sun, spending hours on a boat searching for whale sharks, and going out to eat in town. While I sweated plenty due to the Mexican heat, there were no embarrassing sweat stains. No smell.

I experimented by splashing water, wine, even salsa on the shirt. All three liquids rolled off like it was waterproof.

It’s not waterproof though, more like water resistant. If you jump in the ocean, it will get wet. But it air dries 40% faster than a regular cotton shirt.

You get the best of both worlds. Comfortable, breathable, odorless, lightweight, fast drying, and stain resistant to boot. Not to mention environmentally friendly.

I’ve never seen anything like it before, and can’t wait until they are in full production so I can re-stock my entire travel wardrobe with Ably shirts!

Check them out on Kickstarter here, and make a donation to get your own as soon as humanly possible. ★

Watch Video: Incredible Ably Travel Shirt

(Click to watch The Best Travel Shirt! on YouTube)

READ NEXT: 33 Cool Travel Jobs For Travel Addicts

Is this shirt incredible or what? Let me know in the comments!

Ably Apparel

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

My Personal DNA Journey: Learning Where I Come From

Momondo DNA Journey

Testing My DNA & Family History

Travel Tips

Where do you think you come from? I’ve always been curious about my ancestry, so I decided to take one of those home DNA tests. The results were fascinating.

Like me, I’m sure your family has told you stories passed down from generation to generation. Stories about your heritage, culture, and ancestry. The more we know about ourselves and our family’s past – the more our personal identity evolves.

For me, the stories included family members immigrating from Ireland and Poland looking for a better life in the United States. But these tales are sometimes vague and incomplete after being passed down from person to person, like a childhood game of telephone.

How much is true? How much is being left out? This is where genealogy research and modern DNA technology can give you a more accurate picture of where you really come from. Sometimes, there are surprises…

I partnered up with the flight search experts at Momondo to answer those questions for myself, and hopefully inspire you to do the same.

Momondo DNA Journey

Momondo DNA Journey

Testing Your DNA

Home DNA testing is becoming easier and more affordable than ever before. Companies like AncestryDNA can give you results in a matter of weeks, while also comparing your DNA with 1.5 million members, possibly introducing you to relatives you didn’t know you had.

It’s fascinating technology. For under $ 100, this home DNA test looks at a person’s entire genome from more than 700,000 locations via a sample of saliva to predict your genetic ethnicity.

I received my DNA testing kit in the mail and followed the simple instructions. Basically, you spit into a plastic vial until your saliva reaches a black mark.

Next, you twist on a cap that releases a special DNA stabilizing liquid into the sample. Write down your tracking number, put your vial into a pre-paid box and mail it off to the lab. Easy and fast.

Test results normally take about 6-8 weeks to process. When they’re ready, you receive an email notification with a link to your password protected account, where you can view your ethnicity map and see where your ancestors came from.

Momondo DNA Journey

My Ethnicity Map

What Were My Results?

After listening to family stories for years, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the test would say. But actually seeing my DNA results for the first time was still thrilling…

  • 40% Irish
  • 36% Eastern Europe
  • 14% Scandinavian
  • 8% European Trace Regions
  • 2% West Asia

I knew my family’s strongest roots were based in Ireland and Poland. My Grandmother was born in Ireland and sailed to the United States when she was only 17. My Great Grandfather fled Poland when he was 16 after both his parents were murdered.

However there was a surprise too. Like the 2% West Asian DNA. I also thought I’d have more West European roots, due to my German last name Karsten. But it seems I’m actually more Scandinavian than German!

Interesting, as I’ve been traveling to Sweden and Norway lately and enjoying it very much. Maybe it’s viking blood coursing through my veins that keeps me returning to photograph the landscapes of Scandinavia?

The information has broadened the way I think about my identity. It’s opened my world a little more. Even though I knew about my Polish heritage, the test results have reinforced my desire to visit Poland later this year.

Last year I traveled to Ireland with my parents and sister on a family genealogy road trip, visiting the hometown of my Grandmother and meeting Irish relatives for the first time.

It was an amazing trip and bonding experience. Since then, we’ve been having fun filling out our family tree information to get a better overall picture of our family heritage & history.

Momondo DNA Journey

Traveling with my Family in Ireland

Start Your Own Journey

The beauty of travel is that it broadens the mind. I feel that traveling to learn more about your heritage and background multiplies this effect.

Would you like to explore your own genetic history and get a chance to travel in the footsteps of your ancestors?

Well my friends at Momondo want to help.

Visit LetsOpenOurWorld.com for a chance to win your own DNA testing kit, and the adventure of a lifetime traveling to every country you come from!

I hope you learn something new about your ancestry like I did. ★

Watch Video: The DNA Journey

(Click to watch Momondo – The DNA Journey on YouTube)

READ NEXT: 33 Cool Travel Jobs For Travel Addicts

Ever thought of taking a DNA test? Let me know in the comments!

Momondo Flight Search

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Hanging Out Of A Helicopter Over Manhattan

Open Your World

Scenic Helicopter Flights in New York

New York, New York

One of the best ways to see New York City is by air, and this scenic helicopter flight company lets you dangle your feet over famous Manhattan landmarks for amazing photos!

I’m a complete helicopter fanatic. Sometimes I think if I hadn’t become a travel blogger, I’d have become a professional helicopter pilot by now.

Soaring free above the clouds, hovering only hundreds of feet over mountains or buildings, able to take off and land almost anywhere.

Helicopters are incredible machines. While expensive, I try to hitch a ride in one whenever I can for a truly unique photography experience.

Plus, helicopters are just so much damn fun!

FlyNYON Helicopter

Eurocopter TwinStar AS355 “Angry Bird”

Manhattan Helicopter Flight

Manhattan Skyline

Scenic NYC Helicopter Flight

After all the times I’ve visited New York City over the years, I’ve never taken a scenic helicopter flight over Manhattan. It was Instagram that finally convinced me to take the plunge and splurge on an aerial photography helicopter adventure.

I started seeing these crazy “shoe selfies” showing up in my feed on popular accounts. Photographers were taking photos of their shoes floating over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

A company called FlyNYON are the ones who make these epic Instagram shots possible with their crazy open-door scenic helicopter flights over some of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks.

Open Door Helicopter Tour

What a Crazy Ride!

Shoe Selfie Photo

New York City Shoe Selfie

Open-Door Photography Flight

Here’s the thing about aerial photography. For the best possible shots, you don’t want a window in front of your lens. So flying in a helicopter without doors is the perfect way to capture incredibly clear, crisp images from the air.

Anna and I began our adventure from Blade Lounge Heliport in midtown Manhattan, where the FlyNYON team briefed us on safety and asked where we wanted to go.

There were 4 of us going up, and we discussed which landmarks we should visit during our 15 minute helicopter flight. They also fitted us with full-body harnesses.

Flying a helicopter over New York without doors means you need to be strapped into a harness for safety. Your camera gear is also attached so it doesn’t fall on people below or get sucked up into the rotor.

You literally have your feet dangling outside the door on the skids!

Inside the Helicopter

Christi Rocking the Controls

Empire State Building

Empire State Building from the Sky

FlyNYON Helicopter Experience

Our badass pilot Christi brought us out to her sleek black Eurocopter TwinStar AS355 “Angry Bird” to be strapped in. Engines were powered up and off we flew into the sky!

We then soared past some of New York’s most iconic landmarks like Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

Earlier, Christi was yanking on my photography gear, making sure nothing would come apart once we were flying. I thought she’d been a bit rough…

Until I actually felt the force of those blades whipping around directly over my head 1000 feet in the air. It was like a mini-tornado!

Helicopter Photo Tour

Difficult Tail Rotor Shot

Central Park NYC

Flying Over Central Park

Incredible Aerial Adventure

At first it’s a bit unnerving to be sitting on the edge of a chopper thousands of feet in the air. But you slowly get more comfortable as the flight goes on.

Eventually I trusted the harness enough to lean out and feel the power of the wind as adrenaline coursed through my veins, shooting photos of the helicopter’s tail rotter.

When the helicopter banks sideways in a turn, you’re looking straight down at the tops of New York City’s massive skyscrapers, the only thing keeping you from plummeting to your death is those straps!

If you find yourself in New York, and want to have the experience of a lifetime, make sure to book an epic open-door ariel photography helicopter flight with FlyNYON. You won’t regret it. ★

Watch Video: Helicopter Over New York City

(Click to watch Helicopter Over New York City on YouTube)

More Information

Location: New York, New York [Map]
Company: FlyNYON Helicopter Experience
Total Cost: $ 200 – $ 400 USD
Useful Notes: They offer a few different packages, from 12 – 30 minute flights or you can organize a custom trip. Flights leave from either midtown Manhattan or New Jersey.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet New York City
Suggested Reading: True Tales From the Life of a NYC Cop

READ NEXT: How To Visit Cuba For Americans

Would you fly in a helicopter without doors like this?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

10 Fun Things To Do In South Africa (Plus Win A Free Africa Trip!)

South Africa Activities

Things to do in South Africa

South Africa

I’ve traveled to South Africa twice now. It’s one of my favorite countries and an adventure lover’s playground. Here are some great ideas for things to do there.

The Republic of South Africa is a huge & diverse country teeming with wildlife & culture. It has a little bit of everything — dry deserts, high mountains, subtropical woodlands, modern cities, friendly people and TONS of cool animals.

After spending close to 2 months exploring the country, I’ve put together a list of my favorite experiences to help you plan your own visit one day.

Win A Free Trip To Africa!

It’s easy for US citizens to fly to South Africa these days with KLM Airlines on their routes to Cape Town & Johannesburg via connections in Amsterdam.

If you’re looking to visit other countries in Africa, they also fly to the cities of Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Kilimanjaro.

I’ve partnered with KLM to highlight cool travel experiences in Africa, and help them give away an incredible 6 day safari in Tanzania with 2 free airline tickets (US residents only).

I really hope one of you guys wins it! More details about the contest below.

Things To Do In South Africa

South Africa Safari

Meeting Lions on Safari

South Africa Zebras

Zebra Fight!

South African Safari

I’ll never forget when a huge lion passed just a few feet from our open Land Rover, suddenly stopping to look up. Everyone froze. Make a wrong move now, and we’d be his afternoon snack.

We were on safari at Phinda, a 56,000 acre protected wilderness area in the KwaZulu-Natal provence of South Africa. The lion was only one of the many incredible animal experiences we encountered, there were also families of elephants, cheetahs on the hunt, playful zebras, and so much more.

South Africa Rope Swing

Big Rush Rope Swing

South Africa Bungee

Bungee Jumping Bloukrans

Bungee Jumps & Rope Swings

Three, two, one, jump. I stepped off the catwalk and into the void, falling 288 feet with my stomach in my throat. The world’s tallest rope swing at a soccer stadium in Durban is definitely a big rush!

So is stoping along the Garden Route to leap from the 709 foot high Bloukrans Bridge and bouncing around dangling from your ankles by a glorified rubber band. If you’re looking to cure your fear of heights by going to extreme measures, South Africa is the place.

South Africa Great Whites

Cage Diving with Great Whites

South Africa Shark Diving

Scuba Diving with Sharks

Swimming With Sharks

Arguably the most feared animal under the sea, sharks have a notorious reputation. Great whites grow up to 7 meters long and can weigh over 3,000 kg. But you can get an up-close and personal experience with them under water cage diving off the coast of Cape Town.

For the more adventurous, how about diving with sharks minus the cage? It’s totally possible (and pretty safe) to dive with tiger & bull sharks in South Africa this way. Such a cool experience!

South Africa Soweto

Hanging Out in Soweto

South African People

Making New Friends

Meeting The People

One of the cool things about South Africa is its diversity. The massive city of Johannesburg is a great place to experience this and meet the different types of people that call this country home. I loved visiting the township of Soweto and learning about the vibrant & important history here.

Meeting local residents and admiring an area’s unique art and culture. Or gathering for a traditional Brai dinner in the rural coastal town of St. Lucia with new friends. Learning about a way of life that’s different from my own.

Table Mountain Table Cloth

Hiking Above the Table Cloth

Hiking Table Mountain

Cape Town Far Below

Climbing Table Mountain

Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most prominent landmark. A huge flat block of sandstone that rises 3500 feet into the air. Table mountain is a national park and a wonderful place to go hiking with over 350 paths to the summit.

Most people take the cable car up but hiking is far more rewarding. The weather changes constantly though, so hiking is difficult sometimes. You could luck out with clear skies and great views or maybe climb into the infamous “table cloth”, a blanket of clouds that often covers the mountain.

Surfing South Africa

Best Feeling in the World

South Africa Jeffreys Bay

Surfing at Jeffreys Bay

Surfing The Coast

South Africa has some of the best surf conditions in the world. A popular adventure is renting a car and driving up the coast from Cape Town to Durban stopping at different surf spots along the way.

I spent a month honing my surfing skills in places like Muizenberg & Jeffreys Bay. The water can be cold, but the waves & lack of crowds are worth it. Yes, I realize I just told you how awesome the sharks are, but don’t worry, they prefer eating seals.

South Africa Crocodiles

Kayaking with Crocodiles

South Africa Hippos

Hippos are FAST!

Kayaking With Hippos & Crocs

The St. Lucia estuary is filled with some of Africa’s most dangerous animals. Paddling kayaks past them on a wetlands safari was super fun. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its diverse wildlife and swamp forests.

The area is home to giant crocodiles, hippos, and even bull sharks. Did you know that hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa? You’d never suspect it at first glance. They seem fat & slow, but are surprisingly fast & aggressive.

South Africa Rafting

Rafting the Orange River

South Africa River

Floating Through the Desert

Rafting In The Desert

Home to the indigenous Nama people, the rocky dry landscape surrounding the Orange River is a mix of red, brown, and orange hues — except for the banks, where patches of green vegetation are able to thrive.

The Northern Cape is a huge area with a lot to see and do — and it’s one of the least visited parts of South Africa. Rafting down this winding river in the middle of a desert and finishing the night with a Brai BBQ has been one of my highlights.

South Africa Sangoma

Traditional Sangoma Healer

South Africa Safari

Khula Township

Talking To Spirits

While visiting Khula township in South Africa, I was invited to chat with my dead ancestors with a local Sangoma medicine woman. She communicates with people’s ancestral spirits to share advice and cure ailments.

Sitting down in her sacred healing hut, she gave me details about my future based on what they told her. It’s an ancient profession that’s been practiced for hundreds of years here. The verdict? I’m a very lucky guy. Oh, and my ancestors want me to throw a BBQ for them!

South Africa Safari

Hot Air Balloon Safari

South Africa Safari

Fire in the Hole!

Hot Air Balloon Rides

The beautiful Magalies River Valley fully revealed itself as we rose into the sky with the sunrise in a hot air balloon. It’s only an hour North West of Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa.

Once you realize you’re in the air, profound silence is the first thing you notice. Between occasional blasts of fire from the burner, there is no sound. No propeller, no engine, just the birds. Yet soon we are hovering half a mile above the ground, traveling slowly with the wind.

South Africa Safari

Win A Trip To Africa!

Pack Your Bags!

South Africa is just one of the cool African countries covered by KLM Airlines.

Another is Tanzania — and they are giving one lucky winner two flights from one of KLM’s American gateway cities to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania!

The winner also receives a six-day, five-night luxury safari for two from Aselia Africa! Talk about a sweet prize. I really hope you win it!

How To Enter

Visit The Pack Your Bags Site Here

You will be instructed to click on two items to pack into your virtual “bag”.

Next, you’ll be shown the dream Africa trip that fits your interests based on what you packed.

Then enter your contact information & submit your official ballot.

Contest is open to U.S. residents only. (sorry international readers!)

The contest ends on November 17, 2015. Read the full rules here.

Good Luck!

KLM

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

5 Exercises to Get a Rock-Hard Butt

By Samuel Blackstone for DETAILS.

2015-10-08-1444279434-883786-blogsdailydetailsglutesmain.jpg

(photo: Getty Images)

There are glory muscles and there are real muscles. Biceps? Glory muscles. Quads? Real muscles. Pecs? Glory muscles. Your entire core? Real muscles. Glory muscles get the attention, but real muscles do all the work. So, what happens when you sit in a chair at work all day, then go to gym and work on your glory muscles while ignoring anything that doesn’t immediately show up once you throw on a tank top or go shirtless at the beach? You overdevelop some muscles (and a lot of the time, very useless ones), create imbalances in your body, and become the man who can bicep curl 50s but can’t do 10 lunges without tipping over or hurting yourself. Well, we’re here to make sure you don’t become that guy by giving you five exercises to strengthen the weakest muscle in your body, your glutes, courtesy of Paisley Meekin (BA in Nutrition, CPT), owner, lead trainer, and cycling instructor at Honest Training.

1. Straight Leg Single Leg Deadlift

Stand on one leg with the opposite leg raised off the ground. Using your hip as a hinge, bring your trunk parallel to the floor to make a 90 degree angle. Make sure your spine stays straight, avoiding the hunchback, and that your standing leg is straight with a very slight bend in the knee. As you do the move, think about driving your hips back as you bend over, then forward as you return to the starting position. Also, remember to squeeze your glutes. This exercise is effective because it isolates the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, lower back), an area where most people are quite weak, Meekin says. To add intensity to the move and incorporate core and balance components, hold the weight in the hand opposite the leg on the ground.

2. Cross Over Lunge/Speed Skater Lunge

Start with your feet hip distance apart. Next, lunge back and behind, crossing the midline of your body with the back leg and lower down by bending your front knee. Then, drive up through your heel to the starting position. Alternate legs or do 10-20 reps on one leg, then 10-20 reps on the other. This move is great because while it focuses on the gluteus medius (the side of your butt), it also uses your core, balance, hamstrings, quads, etc. Again, remember to move from your hips, not your knees.

3. Barbell Back Squats

Getting into this position can be tricky for the first few times, so watch the video above before trying this one. Also, you do not need to go as low as the man in the video when you are first starting out. Once you have the barbell on your shoulder/back, place your feet at about shoulder width apart, with your toes pointing straight out, or if it’s more comfortable, a bit outwards like in the video above. Next, squat down while keeping your spine straight, your core and glutes engaged, and your chest up. Avoid the hunchback! As you get stronger and the motion becomes more fluid, start squatting lower than 90 degrees to really target the glutes, says Meekin.

4. Forward Lunge and Reach

“This is one of those movements that happens in real life so it’s important to learn,” explains Meekin. “It’s taking a big step up a hill on a hike, it’s lunging for a ball playing softball.” Start with your feet hip distance apart and lunge forward with one leg. The back leg can bend so the knee just kisses the ground, or it can stay off the ground like in the video above. Tap the floor with one or, preferably, both hands, then drive through the heel of the front foot to push yourself back up into the starting position. Alternate legs or do 10-20 reps on one leg, then switch to the other. To intensify, add weights but still perform the forward tap.

5. Hip Extensions

Lying on your back, bend your knees so that your fingertips can reach your heels. Next, push your lower back off the floor while driving through your heels to lift your hips as well. Hold for a three second count, then lower back down but do not let your butt hit the ground until you have done as many reps as possible. To intensify, try the same move with one leg lifted off the ground. This move is great for people rehabbing from injury, as it is low-impact but still isolates and works your glutes effectively. Remember to drive through your heels and squeeze your butt as you go up and hold the pose, before slowly lowering yourself back down.

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6 Ways to Avoid Bad Breath

By Jon Roth for DETAILS.

2015-10-08-1444280547-7673161-blogsdailydetailsHealthBadBreathFoodsGum620.jpg

(photo: Trunk Archive)

We’ve all worried about it. Even if you’ve brushed, flossed and rinsed your mouth with the precision of a dental hygienist, something will come up–an unexpected business meeting, a run-in with an ex–and you’re caught wondering if your breath smells. You know what? It might. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it is probably the reason people are giving you such a wide berth. Because nobody wants to be that guy, we spoke to with Dr. Robert Lee–Procter & Gamble’s oral care expert–for a professional’s take on the best ways to watch your mouth.

It’s Not Food That’s the Problem
Sure, garlic and tobacco aren’t the sweetest smells, but those substance aren’t causing halitosis the way we know it. Instead, the smell is coming from a food byproduct. “What actually causes bad breath is leftover bacteria–this contains sulfur, and it’s the sulfur that causes the smell,” Dr. Lee says. Another fun fact: there are almost 1,000 bacteria in the human mouth–we only really know about half of them.

Focus On the Tongue
No, not a sex tip. While the offending bacteria can hang out on teeth and gums, it’s most commonly found on the tongue. “It you look at your tongue microscopically, it has a lot of grooves. It’s an uneven surface and bacteria gets trapped there,” Lee says. “Brushing the tongue scrupulously is very, very important.”
The Mirror Is Your Best Friend
At least, it is if your best friend isn’t around. If you’re not sure how your breath smells, no one’s there to help, and the old breathe-into-your-hand trick isn’t cutting it (it usually won’t), find the nearest mirror and stick out your tongue. “Look at the surface of your tongue,” Dr. Lee says. “If there is a coating–for most people, it’s kind of white-ish–the chances are you have bad breath.”

Adopt a Two-Pronged Approach
Brushing your teeth? Obviously good. Using an electric toothbrush? Definitely better. Pairing an electric toothbrush with an antibacterial toothpaste? Freshest mouth you’ve ever had. There are plenty of efficient, good-looking electric brushes on the market, but if you’re looking to tackle bad breath in particular, try Oral-B’s Pro 5000 Smart Series–it comes with an app that’ll encourage specific brushing habits for better breath. Because brushing is 10% less boring when gamified.

Carry Backup.
And we don’t mean breath spray. If you don’t have a toothbrush or toothpaste handy, Dr. Lee says a tongue cleaner is a handy alternative (we’re big fans of these from supersmile–one for home, one for work, one for whenever!). It won’t do the chemical antibacterial work of toothpaste, but it does mechanically remove a lot of junk from your mouth–and it’s a lot easier to carry, too.

Hydration Is Key
This is true for so many reasons (digestion, complexion, thirst-quenching…) you shouldn’t need a reminder, but drinking up is also the easiest way to keeping your mouth clean. “Saliva naturally cleanses the oral cavity,” Lee says. “When we sleep our mouth becomes dry, and that’s why we wake up with morning breath.” In short, you’d be wise to keep a carafe of water on your nightstand, but also at your desk so you can drink throughout the day.

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— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.




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Enjoy The Coasts Of North Carolina With Quality Vacation Rentals

ski resorts

North Carolina is a year round and varied holiday destination in America. With tranquil and peaceful coasts, world renowned national parks, historical places that are numerous and museums that are magnificent to relive history and culture, the place gives plenty of chances to the visitors to make their holiday experience that is unforgettable eternally.

North Carolina is among the quickest growing states by people and. It’s found on the Atlantic Seaboard in the southeastern United States offering a variety of levels, from sea level on the shore to 6,684 feet high point Mt. Mitchell. The state is among the most visited tourist areas in the USA with numerous attractions in or around it. Miles and miles of beaches with peaceful natural beauty along with fun-filled recreational activities are perfect spots for vacationers looking for a household holiday or an intimate escape. A visit to Cape Hatteras, the very first national seashore of Roanoke Island and the USA, famed for first English Settlement in North America supplies an excellent shore holiday but supplies a wealth of the United States history.

Along with these historic and amazing shores, you’d locate plenty of other attractions including the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Roanoke Island Festival Park, Elizabethan Garden and Nags Head Woods to relish your holiday time in North Carolina. Among the major highlights for the visitors in this state is the access to several fantastic museums exhibiting the most recent technologies in addition to the science of early age. For those who adore the ocean, North Carolina is nothing short of a heaven. They are able to appreciate numerous water activities including surfing, scuba diving, fishing, and swimming in the warm ocean water throughout their holiday.

To the great extent in this region of North Carolina, lodging facilities are created with growing amount of people coming to go to the Outer Banks. Vacation rentals are the finest potential choices accessible North Carolina being close to the tourist attractions in every one of the state’s most popular region. Offering a house like environment with all modern facilities, vacation rentals offer flexibility and unbelievable ease. Offering a wide selection of amenities and size to satisfy your conditions, coupled with solitude and independence, vacation rentals make your journey hassle free and more pleasurable. They provide a completely equipped kitchen which allows you to cook you like to eat and whatever. This gives you the capability to cut your expenses down and also make your excursion cost effective. For people who see with North Carolina’s outer banks often, vacation rentals are the greatest potential choice to remain in.

The Internet is going to be an excellent resource to run your research to locate an optimal deal for your vacation rentals. There are several outstanding sites offering a variety of leases to fit your buying criteria. Seek and choose the best one according to your requirements and budget. Make a web-based comparative search before finalizing any deal for the outer banks vacation rentals by owner. Plan your holiday carefully and love it to the utmost degree. Reserving a vacation rentals that can fulfill your needs can help you get the very best price available and helps make sure that you get whatever you’re looking for.

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