Why Go on a Free Walking Tour in Bucharest

People often ask – Isn’t traveling abroad expensive? Seasoned travelers will tell you that traveling abroad can sometimes be cheaper than living in the US! With so many platforms such as discounted airlines, HomeExchange, AirBnB, work exchanges, etc. it is cheaper to travel now than it has ever been before.

One of the best ways to save money while traveling is my taking Free Walking Tours. These are great ways to explore the city on foot, with a local guide, while getting some exercise. And the best part is they are free, though I do advise you to tip your guide generously 🙂

During my recent visit to Bucharest, I took a walking tour of Old Town Bucharest with Unbelievable Bucharest Tours.

Enjoy free concerts at the open air atrium near University Square.

I met my guide, Catalana at the guitar statue near University Square. I was the only one on the tour that morning, so I had the guide all to myself.

We made our way through the main streets, crossing church into Old Town, while Catalana explained to me some of the history of the city as well as the Parisian style buildings we were looking at.

I find it fascinating when people tell me the “behind the scenes” story of unassuming buildings we would pass by, not realizing what they are truly used for.

This palatial looking building is used as a hospital!
Statue at the entrance of Old Town that represents the birth of Rome.
Biserica Sfantul Anton church used for coronations
Stavropoleos Monastery has beautiful Turkish architecture and a courtyard to take a break

You can easily get lost in historic Old Town Bucharest. With hundreds of bars, restaurants and souvenier shops, it may look very touristy but the locals also hang out here (you just need to know the right spots). Plus, there are interesting places to see that you will miss if you didn’t know where to look, such as the remains of an underground carvan sarai attached to a church or a Soviet era apartment building.

This building was the original stock market

When most people think of Romania, the first thing that comes to mind is Dracula. Catalana explained to me that the fiction novel Dracula is based on the emperor Vlad. He never drank blood, rather impaled his prisoners in public as was the tradition during Medieval times. Growing up, Catalana was told heroic tales of Vlad as he defeated the Romans against the Ottoman empire.

She also pointed out some good places to eat, which I returned to during the rest of my stay. Finding out where the locals go eat is another great tip to gather on the free walking tours.

Hanu Lui Manuc is one of the oldest restaurants serving traditional food in a beautiful courtyard and live folk dance performances.
Caruicubere is a Romanian brewery and restaurant designed to look like a palace.
Pasajul Mazza-Villacrosse is a Parisian style covered alley with the best hookah bars.
I had a great Lebanese lunch at Finikia in Old Town.

Catalana also pointed out that I could see bullet holes in the building across from my hotel from the Romanian revolution.

Sample free fruits, cheese, ham and honey at Piata Obor market.

Further, she gave me tips to where to spend the rest of my stay in Bucharest. Since I am most interested in food, I went to see the Piata Obor market where locals come to buy fresh vegetables, flowers, cheese and spices. Another money saving tip – you can always find cheap street food and free tastings at the fresh food markets. Just ask for a sample!

To learn more about Unbelievable Bucharest private and free tours click here.

Have you had a great Free Walking Tour experience? Do share in the comments section below…

Want Fresh, Fast, and Healthy? Purely is the Place to Be

Being Italian, I had high expectations for the gelato at Purely. Non-traditional soft serve gelato sounded iffy at first. But no lie the gelato was so good I shed a tear. Italy will just have to wait for now.

Dominic Leong, owner of Purely, informed me that he studied the art of making gelato n Rimini, Italy, help start and ran the restaurant chain Pino Gelato (one of their locations is at Hartsfield Jackson Airport) for 12 years, and even modified the soft serve gelato machine himself.

Leong is the ultimate renaissance man. He consults and designs restaurants, as he did with Purely (his baby), creates the innovative menu, cooks all the food, and engages customers with his bubbly personality.

The Midtown Atlanta space has tall glass windows looking out to busy Peachtree Street, bright lime green painted walls with eye catching photos of the food, and exquisite glass chandeliers.

The concept of Purely is like other ‘make-your-own restaurants’ where customers design their own meal in an assembly line style. All the meat and vegetables are prepared fresh daily, and customers have the option whether to create their own concoction or choose from already created specialties. Purely’s food is fast, fresh and healthy, which makes it a perfect lunch spot for business people and college students. What’s more, most meals are under $10.

Even the presentation of the food is stunning. Organic vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, kale and mixed greens are showcased in a glass container so customers are more attracted to eating fresh food.

Diners start by choosing their base in a bowl. They have options of white or brown rice, mixed greens and even gluten free pasta. For tacos and salads, customers choose their protein with options such as slow cooked Mexican style pork carnitas and or all natural Caribbean beef barbacoa. After, adding fresh veggies of your choice, top it off with sauces such as creamy chipotle and sweet chili.

Tacos are served in cooked to order warm Chinese steamed buns, but customers also have the option of a traditional corn tortilla. I tried the braised jerk chicken taco served with kale, and a customer favorite – Asian sesame sauce, topped with grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. The taco was sweet considering the sauce, but I was expecting more of a kick since it was jerk chicken. I also felt the kale and the lack of sauce made the taco a little dry.

The spicy chicken teriyaki taco with Purely’s signature sauce (like spicy mayo), fresh red cabbage, well-seasoned chicken, the dish was very different though, hitting all the right notes of spice and texture.

Fun fact, Purely’s bowls are 70% decomposable.

Food bowls have become the new hipster food trend of 2018. Specifically, poke bowls, which are often served with raw fish, salad topping and Asian sauces. I created my own poke bowl and added tuna and salmon with spicy mayo, poke sauce, lime juice, mixed greens, cabbage and edamame. With several competitors out there trying to master the poke bowl trend, Purely’s bowl deserves a spot at the top. The bowl made for a light flavor packed lunch.

Bubble tea has never tickled my fancy, but I decided to give it another try by adding strawberry popping pearls (like tapioca but made of real fruit) to my matcha tea. With one sip, I was in heaven! Purely uses oolong tea as the base instead of water which gives it a more robust flavor. And did I mention the matcha powder is imported straight from Japan?

Purely’s biggest hit are the bubble waffles. Bubble waffles became popular in Hong Kong and are a fancier version of the traditional American ice cream waffle only with batter filled spheres, making it look more attractive. I filled mine with matcha gelato and triple berry sorbet, topped with mango and strawberry flavored popping pearls and fresh peaches.

Sorbet isn’t typically my first choice, but the soft serve gelato version of it made the consistency creamy rather than icy. Although bubble waffle tasted like a regular waffle, it was rather soft than crispy, which can be messy to eat.

What Purely is offering is not totally unique, but having the best gelato, teas, buddle waffles and poke bowls – all in a vibrant atmosphere at affordable prices – is notable. I would return to create new combinations using the fresh, healthy and organic ingredients Purely offers.

~ By Daniella Boik, Go Eat Give summer 2018 intern. Daniella is a journalism student at Georgia State University and has a passion for food, books and skateboards. When she’s not writing, she is drafting her ideas while running long distance. Follow her on Facebook 

Reasons your travel insurance claim could be denied, and how to make sure it isn’t

As you can imagine, having your travel cancelled, interrupted or simply not go as planned is never ideal. When you have travel insurance, however, you can feel better knowing that at least some of your travel expenses will be reimbursed. Hurricane season starts one month from today, and after last’s years record storms, many are ensuring they are covered if something does arise this year.

But what if you file your claim, and it comes back denied?

Stan Sandberg, travel expert and co-Founder of TravelInsurance.com, is a respected authority on travel insurance in the U.S. has provided some information below on reasons a claim could be denied, and how to ensure it isn’t.  Given tropical storms could start hitting as soon as next month, having this knowledge could hopefully come in handy when, not if, storms affect travel this year.

You didn’t purchase the right kind of insurance for your needs:  A common mistake that those filing claims make is not taking the time to fully understand their travel insurance policy and the coverage that it provides, before making the purchase. For example, if a traveler is going heli-skiing and gets injured. If he or she did not purchase Adventure Travel coverage, the medical expenses likely won’t be covered. Many travelers submit claims for coverage that they do not even have because they assume that travel insurance will cover just about anything.

Take the time to read your policy, and if you haven’t purchased one yet, look at a few quotes online to get a general idea of how travel insurance works. If you need to submit a claim, a solid understanding of your policy will be the best tool at your disposal. Most policies will have glossaries of the terms, or you can review one online. Click here for the one on TravelInsurance.com.

You misunderstand what is needed when submitting: Some travelers may think they understand everything they need to submit when filing a claim, but they may miss important details. This can hold things up at best, or cause the claim to be denied altogether.

We recommend always calling the insurance company prior to submitting a claim. Read up on your plan so you have a basic understanding. From there, you can ask what documents are needed specifically, the correct steps to file a claim and the best route to send in the claim. The process is usually straightforward for filling out forms and submitting them with the right documentation, but the more complete everything is, the faster the claim will be filed and the payments made.

You failed to provide proof: Documentation is key when it comes to receiving a payout for covered situations. Even if travelers are fully entitled to the benefits of a travel insurance claim, they can wind up with a claim denial if they do not provide the documentation to back their claim up. An insurer will want proof of a trip delay, cancellation or event that causes a policyholder to file a claim, along with receipts that pertain to the purchases made.

Before anything goes wrong, it is always important to keep track of your purchases related to your trip — receipts and credit card statements showing that you actually paid for the flights, hotels and other trip-related costs that you are claiming against. When you submit your claim, make sure you have all the documentation you can think of. For instance, for ticket compensation, you will need to produce receipts for the tickets. For lost luggage, you will have to provide the list of items inside the luggage as well and so on. Without this information, the insurer has no way to verify that you actually paid for the trip costs. If you are filing a claim for a stolen personal effect during your travels, you should make sure to save the documentation provided by the local police (when you reported the theft) so the insurer can validate that the event actually happened. You might also want to take pictures of all of the items you are bringing on your trip just before you pack them.

You waited too long: Most insurance providers require consumers to file a claim within a specific period from the event of loss. Some insurance providers may offer a period of a few weeks while others may offer a period of one month to file a claim.

Travelers should review their policy or call the insurance company to know about the exact period. If a claim is filed after the due date, most insurance providers will reject the application without any consideration. Most modern travel insurance companies have websites that allow claims to be digitally submitted and processed. This is a great way to get the process rolling and helps save time to meet the deadlines.

You take no for a final answer:  Travel insurance claims usually take a few weeks to process. However, complicated claims take longer. For some, if their claim is denied they may fume, but do little to change the outcome.

If your claim is denied, contact the company or agent that sold you the travel insurance plan right away. They will often help with filing an appeal. The good news is that about 50 percent of appeals are honored, so taking this extra step is not a wasted effort, especially if you feel strongly that your claim is valid. When a company will not honor an appeal, the next step is to contact the state insurance commissioner and the Better Business Bureau and see if they can assist.

~ By guest blogger, Sarah Mann 

Why I Ditched That Luxury Vacation For A Volunteering Trip

For some travelers, a ‘holiday/ vacation’ is synonymous with a relaxing time, or maybe just another break to do nothing and just chill. While I also had the option for the same, I decided to do something different and take a volunteering journey to Nepal. I had no idea how it would turn out to be like! Yes – to be honest, I was tensed and skeptic thinking whether I can really do this or not. But once I was there, all my doubts melted away. I knew that this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken and here are the reasons why I feel good about ditching the regular holiday for a more meaningful one.

Discovering Myself

I’m bothered by certain social causes that catch my attention on and off. I feel bad to see the little boy at the traffic signal selling balloons to earn his daily bread. Nobody cares to stop and ask him what he wants to do in life. This is just a small incident – there are probably hundreds of other things that catch our attention, and then get wiped off our minds. On a volunteer trip, I can actually do something about it, and bring smiles to others faces.

Doing Something for Others

There’s no denying that all our lives we work, we earn, and we spend on ourselves. Instead of complaining, I accepted  that life isn’t easy for all, but if we can help others to live better, then we should. As a volunteer in an orphanage in Nepal, I had to take care of the toddlers who became like my own kids in no time. There was an immense sense of satisfaction to see them happy when they were around me. Maybe, we can’t totally change someone’s life, but even if we can give them a moment of happiness – that counts!

Spending More Time with Locals

When we are on a holiday, we mostly spend time doing nothing. We barely make any effort to know the place and the people, often being too busy clicking those endless selfies that we can show off to the folks back at home. A volunteering journey, on the other hand, is the best way to connect with the natives of a place. During my stay in Nepal, I was living with a host family who took care of me like their own. Not even for a day did I feel like a guest at their place. It was fun to adapt to their way of life, follow their customs, take part in their festivals, and attend family gatherings. Now that I’m back home, I know that I have another family in a faraway land, and I can go back to visit them whenever I want to.

Exploring Unique Places

On a regular vacation, we mostly visit those listed touristy places that are almost always crowded and overpriced. Often, I’ve seen that those places are hyped and not as good as they appear in photographs. Quite opposite to that, a volunteering journey can endow us with the opportunity to explore the hidden gems of the country – courtesy: the local friends! I went for a hike in the Himalayan trails, and trust me when I say this, I’ve never seen a view so beautiful. The tiny little villages tucked on the slopes, the majestic mountains covered with snow right in front of me, and the humble people who called me for a warm cup of tea just made my life worthy. Witnessing the gorgeous sunset with the Himalayan backdrop is something that has left mark on my mind, and I can visualize it every time I close my eyes.

Meeting Like-Minded People From Around The World

During my volunteering trip, I realized that the world still has good people. There were folks from different parts of the world, people of different age groups and from different walks of life, who came together for a common cause – to help the little ones at the orphanage. We brainstormed together, thinking what we can do better for the kids. We worked together for hours, sharing thoughts and ideas, planning games and activities for the children, we fundraised to buy stuff for them and renovated the care center to make it more vibrant and lively. It was such an amazing experience that I would probably never had if I chose just another regular holiday.

I was lucky to find an organization like Volunteering Solutions, who offered me the opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal and supported me throughout my entire journey. The time that I got to spend with those toddles there has left a mark on my mind, heart & soul.

If you are also craving to set out on a meaningful journey, then don’t procrastinate. Know that there are millions of people out there who need your help. And if you have the time and strength to make a difference in their lives, you must do it.

~ By guest blogger Riyanka Roy from Haryana, India. Roy has traveled extensively throughout India. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Looking for a Luxury Spring Break! Here’s Why You Need to Head to Monte Carlo

There aren’t many places in the world that give off a clearer air of luxury than Monte Carlo. Because of this, a lot of people write it off as a place they’ll probably never actually visit. But this is actually a mistake! Yes, it’s a luxurious destination. Getting there can be expensive, and some of the activities and meals you’ll enjoy once there will be pricey as well. But you can actually spend a night in a fairly nice hotel for under $200 – which is expensive, but really not too bad for international tourism.

If, then, you decide that Monte Carlo doesn’t have to be taken off the map, you might start exploring what a trip there would actually look like. The best time to go is during the spring, and below we’ll get into a few of the things you might do there.

Explore The Harbor

If you have a picture in your head of Monte Carlo, chances are that picture includes a large Mediterranean harbor filled with yachts and sailboats. This indeed is the trademark postcard image of the city, and it’s one of the more iconic city views in the world. Exploring the harbor and taking a look at the spectacular boats is an absolute must when you’re in Monte Carlo (and it’s free!). As one write-up put it, the harbor sits like the stage of an amphitheater upon which the rest of Monaco looks down. That’s about as nice a way to explain its situation and appeal as there is. And if you want to enjoy it even more intimately, there are a few different opportunities to essentially rent time on one of the yachts.

Lounge On Larvotto Beach

In a place like Monte Carlo it’s only natural that there will be a few great beaches. The most famous of the bunch (and probably the most fun) is Larvotto Beach. It’s very much a city beach in one sense, just steps away from luxury condos and fancy restaurants. However, it’s also a very pretty shoreline where you can lounge, swim, and even rent a kayak or jet ski to go out on the water.

Visit The Casino

Visiting just any casino may not sound like your ideal hobby. It may also sound somewhat unnecessary or old-fashioned given that casinos have been reborn as a thriving online industry. Where once there were crude poker sites there are now full-fledged online platforms, complete with their own mobile apps. A single download can include over 500 games, begging the question of why anyone would need to visit a real life casino. Monte Carlo, as it turns out, has the answer. This establishment is not about the gaming or the money, but rather the experience. It’s an elegant, beautiful, world famous venue where you almost can’t help feeling like a movie star. Even if you don’t sit down at a poker table or spin a slot reel, it’s worth checking out as a sightseeing point of interest.

Tour The Oceanographic Museum

The Oceanographic Museum is actually one of the more famous attractions in Monte Carlo, which is saying something in a city like this one. It’s known primarily as a museum – a large, striking building on a hillside sticking up over the sea. The museum largely contains sea-related relics retrieved by Prince Albert, who founded the establishment early in the 20th century. What really sets it apart though is the fact that it doubles as an aquarium. The museum contains more than 90 tanks with sea creatures in them, including an indoor shark lagoon.

Eat At Elsa

As you would no doubt expect there are a lot of truly wonderful places to eat in Monte Carlo. Elsa is certainly among the best of them though. A combination of fresh local ingredients, Mediterranean seafood preparations, and seaside seating make for a simply delightful experience. Plus, it’s one of the few very nice restaurants in Monte Carlo where you don’t necessarily feel like you have to be dressed up and formal.

Watch The Grand Prix

As a final point, if your trip happens to overlap with the Monaco Grand Prix (which is one reason it’s great to visit in the spring), you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the world’s most iconic sporting events. It’s an annual Formula 1 race through the streets and by the harbor, and it’s a true treat for everyone who’s able to see it. The whole town tends to be abuzz with energy during the race and the few days on either end of it, and there are numerous ticket packages you can look into that allow you to experience the action, whether via watching the drivers practice or sitting on a yacht during the race.

~ By guest blogger, Jonathan Nelson. 

2018’s Best Frequent Flyer Programs

Airline loyalty is hard to come by. Most travelers are willing to jump to another jet for the slightest of discounts. Yet roughly 7% of flights are paid for with points or miles, according to PWC. So there’s obviously value in committing to a carrier. You just have to find the right one.

To help you earn more free flights and other assorted perks, WalletHub compared the 10 largest domestic airlines’ loyalty rewards programs across 23 key metrics, ranging from the value of a rewards point or mile to blackout-date policies.

Here are the best frequent flyer programs:

Frequent Flyer Program Overall WalletHub Score
Delta SkyMiles 64.14
Mileage Plan 50.87
HawaiianMiles 49.38

Main Findings

Delta SkyMiles is the best frequent flyer program for the third straight year, earning an average WalletHub score of 64.14% in the three usage scenarios.

Hawaiian Airlines offers the most rewards value ($19.95 per $100 spent), with Alaska Airlines coming in a close second ($19.87 per $100 spent).

Four of the 10 largest airlines offered more rewards in 2018 than in 2017, sweetening the pot by an average of 20%.

Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways are the only two major airlines whose miles do not expire because of inactivity.

Airline miles cost an average of 62% more than they’re worth when purchased rather than earned.

This comparison was based on three hypothetical annual airline budgets: Light ($453), Average ($4,088) and Frequent ($7,722). But you can customize the results to match your own airline budget using a tool. Read the full airline study on WalletHub.

Who benefits more from airline rewards programs: consumers or the airlines themselves? Leave your comments below…

~ By Alina Comoreanu, Senior Researcher. This article was reprinted with permission from WalletHub

11 Fun Things To Do in Myrtle Beach

“Are you going to play a lot of mini golf?” smirked my boyfriend, as I told him about my planned trip to Myrtle Beach, sponsored by the tourism board.

And hey, it’s not a bad question. Actually, Myrtle Beach is known as the “Miniature Golf Capital of the World,” with over 50 courses to choose from.

But that’s not what I would be focusing on for my trip. Instead, my goal was to go beyond the guidebook to discover Myrtle Beach activities beyond the green. And while I did spend time around the “Grand Strand” — Myrtle Beach’s waterfront strip showcasing 60+ miles of beaches — I added other atypical experiences to my itinerary.

Stay: North Beach Plantation

This luxury resort sits on the Atlantic Ocean in North Myrtle Beach. Onsite you’ll find pretty much everything you could need: beach access, free Wi-Fi, restaurants, a 2.5-acre waterpark, multiple indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, a fitness center and incredible spa (tip: get the Fijian Ritual!) and more.

Along with two towers full of various sized condos, they have standalone villas and vacation rentals with shops dotting the blocks, giving it a suburban neighborhood feel. It’s large, and there’s a free shuttle that can help you get around if needed.

Tip: Spring for the waterfront views, especially as even the one-bedroom condos have balconies. They’re actually pretty budget-friendly for what you get, especially if you go in September (about $200 or less per night!).

Airbnb also offers a slew of great Myrtle Beach options! Click here to snag $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

So what kinds of Myrtle Beach activities exist beyond mini golf? Check out the video above. Then, scroll down to read my trip highlights (so you can add them to your itinerary, too!).

  1. Savor Local Wine Culture

While typically vineyards in the US grow grapes like chardonnay, merlot and pinot grigio, in South Carolina there’s only one variety that flourishes: the muscadine. There are over 300 varieties of muscadine, many of which you can try at La Belle Amie Vineyard in Myrtle Beach.

I never expected Myrtle Beach to have a vineyard and winery. A tasting room maybe, but actual rows of grape vines next to olive bushes? I felt like I was in Italy.

Or France, as they also sell wine from their family vineyard in the South of France. You can read the full (and inspiring) story of how that partnership came to be here.

Vicki Weigle, La Belle Amie Vineyard’s owner, believes you only need to know two things about wine: if you like it or if you don’t. This fun philosophy can be felt throughout the property, including Wine Wednesday’s live outdoor music and the creative wines with fun names offered at the tasting bar. How about a glass of “What Was I Thinking?” or an “Ice Queen” ice wine made without freezing the grapes?

By the way, it’s just $5 for six tastings + surprises like mulled wine and wine slushies. Yum!

  1. Learn A New Water Sport

There are so many water sports to choose from in Myrtle Beach! Two on my itinerary were new to me: wakeboarding and surfing.

While inclement weather cancelled the wakeboarding, I did visit Shark Wake Park to see what the course looked like. It’s a controlled pool with ramps if you’re up for doing tricks. Cables pull you as you try to stand on what looks like a snowboard. Sitting back and watching the advanced wakeboarders is also an option.

I did get to try surfing near Springmade Pier at the softest beach I’ve ever stepped on with Jack’s Surf Lessons.

Wow, was surfing hard! The waves were pretty high — about three feet — so it definitely presented a fun and exciting challenge for a newbie.

Actually, here’s me (below) standing for 0.3 seconds until I came crashing down so hard I lost my GoPro to the Atlantic Ocean despite it being on a headstrap tied into my hair. I just hope a school of fish has found it and is putting it to good use. Sigh.

Despite the technical issues, I had a lot of fun trying something new. Plus, Jack is such a cool, laid-back dude he had the group laughing the whole time.

Just leave the GoPro on the beach unless it’s really affixed.

  1. Indulge In Some Boozy Brunch

You know those beautiful wood accented spaces with high ceilings and lots of natural light flowing in? And maybe a case of colorful macarons beckoning you to stay a while? That’s Croissants Bistro & Bakery.

And while they do make some incredible baked goods (salted caramel brownie, anyone?), you also won’t want to miss their savory fare. Of course, shrimp and grits is a local favorite, especially as these grits are laced with pimento cheese. Make it a boozy brunch by adding on a mimosa or Bloody Mary with your choice of vodka!

  1. Get High (Literally)

Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk stretches for 1.2 miles along the waterfront, showcasing quirky restaurants (some jokingly claiming to be the “8th Wonder of the World”), arcades, various Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attractions, rides and more.

While a walk down this wooden stretch is a must on a list of Myrtle Beach activities, another way to take it all in is with a ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.

The giant enclosed Ferris wheel takes you 200 feet high for an aerial perspective of the beach and boardwalk.

While I rode the SkyWheel during the day, I was told by many locals it’s actually best at night when it’s all lit up.

Tickets are $14 per person.

  1. Stretch It Out (On The Beach)

A true highlight of my trip was doing a morning yoga class on the beach with Dawn Yager, owner of Shanti Yoga. I love yoga anywhere, anytime; but there’s something truly therapeutic about going through Sun Salutations while actually being washed in the sun’s loving glow.

I must have felt inspired, because I held Crow Pose for my longest time ever! Just a few simple shifts like moving my gaze beyond my hands and digging my fingers into the ground helped so much.

Tip: If you’re visiting during September, Shanti Yoga offers discounts on classes at their Myrtle Beach studio for National Yoga Month.

  1. Photograph The Gorgeous Live Oaks

You can see Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss all over Myrtle Beach; however, in historic Conway — a city founded in 1732 located about 25 minutes from the coast — you can take a tour of them.

They’re so whimsical; the gnarled branches adding a gothic beauty to the area. In Myrtle Beach they’re prevalent and protected. You can wander the very walkable neighborhood yourself using the free Historic Trail guide (pick it up free at the Conway Visitor Center). Additionally, here is a link to a self-guided Conway tour using a map and/or QR codes.

Tip: After seeing the gorgeous trees, take a walk along the Waccamaw River on the 1.5-mile River Walk.

  1. Savor The Local Craft Beer

While Myrtle Beach isn’t a craft beer hub, it does have some quality beer offerings. Hop heads can check out New South Brewing, featuring a large tasting room with plenty of space to chill with some board games and a nut brown ale, or talk suds with the brewmasters.

While they don’t have flights, 6-ounce pours are only $3. Plus if you book a tour in advance ($7) there are tastings included.

If you try one beer only, make it their famous “White Ale.” The brew is a take on a classic Belgian wheat ale, with notes of coriander and citrus.

They’re also known for their canned beers; in fact, their slogan is “The beer from here. Hand crafted. Hand canned. Hands on.” You can purchase a 6-pack to-go ($9) or create a mixed case ($30).

Tip: The local grocery chain, Lowes Foods, features a Beer Den with craft beers on tap and a growler program!

  1. Wander Brookgreen Gardens

I love wandering without a plan, especially when that wandering involves being immersed in lovely live oaks, inspiring sculptures and gorgeous gardens. Brookgreen Gardens is that place, a sculpture garden (the country’s largest) and wildlife preserve featuring thousands of acres of nature.

Take a pontoon ride on the onsite creek to see alligators and osprey while learning about the property’s rice farming heritage (cultivated by past African and Indian slaves). Made up of four former plantations, one pre-Brookgreen Gardens homestead was actually home to Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia.

While the tour was interesting, my favorite part of the visit was just wandering the gardens without a plan, taking moments to regroup and admire Mother Nature.

  1. Bird Watch In Huntington Beach State Park

Nearby is another natural beauty: Huntington Beach State Park. The two main attractions in this 2500-acre park are the beach and the trails, including a nature walk and a boardwalk over the marsh.

Oh, the Marsh Boardwalk! One of the most peaceful places I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite Myrtle Beach activities. I spotted so many birds — egrets, herons, cormorants — as well as a variety of crabs dancing in the mud. I stood in silence and awe for a good 30 minutes just taking it all in.

Here’s a printable birding checklist for the park if you want to create a fun challenge for yourself! According to the park, a full day of bird watching could very well get you 100 different species sightings.

  1. Try Hook-To-Plate At Wicked Tuna

You’ve probably heard of farm-to-table; but what about hook-to-plate?

Murrells Inlet is where many locals — especially local restaurants — claim the freshest seafood in South Carolina comes from. At The Wicked Tuna they make use of their uber fresh location, employing their own fleet of fishing boats to head out each day and catch what’s served on your plate.

Fresh catch, lobster tails and sushi rolls are all part of the fun, typically with a twist. While the pan-seared scallops might be dressed in a cauliflower puree and tamarind brown butter, a soft shell crab might be topped with cilantro oil and sweet potato flakes.

I was obsessed with my “Dragon Egg” appetizer: a halvedavocado filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, blue crab, king crab and spicy crab and gowned in tempura sweet potato, spicy mayo and sweet glaze. Paired with my wasabi- and basil-laced “Wicked Lemonade” (pictured above), my taste buds were certainly dancing.

Everything was superb, complimented by a prime waterfront view from the patio!

  1. Indulge Your Inner Carnivore

The name River City Cafe may sound simple; but actually, this meat-focused eatery has a dizzying list of delicious burgers you must try.

While I was tempted to try their Short Rib Cheeseburger featuring short rib meat mixed with prime beef, I had to savor the “Kitchen Sink Burger.” This enormous sandwich showcases two patties topped with chili, hickory-smoked bacon, grilled onions, spicy jalapeños, mushrooms, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and mayo. And that’s not all. That setup is then placed neatly (yea right) between two grilled cheeses, accompanied by fries, onion rings and coleslaw.

Luckily this was a trip full of active Myrtle Beach activities!

Turkey, chicken and veggie burgers are also available for those seeking a healthier meal.

What are your favorite Myrtle Beach activities beyond golf? Have a travel question? Please share in the comments below!

~ By New York city based award-winning travel blogger, Jessica Festa. Find her at Jessie on a JourneyFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest. This post originally appeared on her blog

Each One Teach One – Volunteer Abroad With Kids

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela.

What is ‘Education’?

This might sound like a very easy question and everyone is well versed with how the Oxford Dictionary defines the term – “The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university”.

But in reality, the word has a much deeper sense associated with it – ‘Education’ is not just about what Oxford Dictionary tells us. It is the means of understanding life, and knowing what we want. It is the tool to polish our thoughts and turning them into actions. It is an art of choosing between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies. Great people like Rabindranath Tagore never went to school, but he was one of the most learned men that the world has ever seen.

Generally, when we talk about education, what we majorly mean is schooling and knowing the basics of reading and writing. The parameter of literacy is judged by an individual’s capacity or write his/her name in any language, preferably in the mother tongue.

What statistics have to say?

According to the UNESCO data, more than 17% of the total world population is still illiterate, of which 2/3rd are women. Undoubtedly, this makes gender equality more difficult to be attained.

In most of the developing countries, the situation is worse compared to the First World Countries. An estimated number of 122 million youths and nearly 67.4 million children are currently uneducated and dwell in some of the most poverty-stricken lands of the World.

While Europe and America are at a much better position, countries in Africa and Asia are the most affected. Several government and non-government organizations have taken up the issue of education, and thousands of youth who believe in the proverb – ‘Each One Teach One’ – have stepped forward to make a difference.

How can you contribute for eradication of illiteracy?

It is always easy to talk about a problem from outside, but if you are really concerned about this grave matter then try to be a part of the solution, and contribute in whichever manner you can.

While many people initially chose to donate money for the cause, it was later seen that half of that amount wasn’t properly utilized. Therefore, it is more advisable to give time to the kids and get involved with them so that there’s some real difference.

One of the best ways that most of the millennials are opting is to volunteer for the cause of education. Thousands of University students, gap year travellers and even professionals are traveling abroad to spend time with underprivileged kids, and spreading love and knowledge among them.

Volunteer Abroad With Kids
Volunteer Abroad With Kids

Being a volunteer myself, I’ve stayed in a tribal village in Rajasthan, India, where I taught kids in a government school. In spite of a huge enrollment in the school, only a handful of students turned up, and my main aim was to get all the kids to the school. It was a challenging task, but not an impossible one – and in nearly 5 months time, I was able to get them all to the school. The moment of satisfaction was when they said they love to come to school because of me.

Once you’ll take up the cause of spreading the light of education, you’ll see that people will eventually come under the rays.

Volunteer Abroad With Kids
Volunteer Abroad With Kids

In countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, India and Vietnam, most kids dwelling in the slums never get the opportunity to visit a school. Even if they do, those schools suffer from a lot of inadequacies like lack of staff, poor method of teaching etc. The infrastructural facilities aren’t proper, and many kids stop going as they don’t find the process of learning interesting.

What is necessary in this case to focus more on activity based learning – where kids can be involved in the process of teaching, so that it’s more of a communicative procedure than a boring class.

You don’t need to be a teacher to teach these kids – all you need is patience and perseverance to deal with them, and make them learn something that would help them in later years of their life. If you are good in singing, dancing, painting or origami, you can teach that as well – because every step counts!

If you are thinking of how to be a part of the change, then take the first step of volunteering. Travel to a new country, and spend some time with the kids who need you. From my personal experience of volunteering in a tribal school of India, I can assure that it’ll be one of the most satisfying chapters of your life.

And not only will you make a difference to someone else’s life, but you’ll also inspire other people to think about the cause and doing something for it.

If we want to have a better tomorrow, then we have to spread the light of education – as that is key to make this world a better place to live.

Here are a few organizations which have specially curated volunteering programs for people who really care for the cause: PeaceCorpsVolunteering Solutions, and GoAbroad.

~ By guest blogger Riyanka Roy in India. Riyanka is a self proclaimed die-hard traveler and has explored India through its length and breadth – from Himachal in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, and from Kutch in the West to Gangtok in the East. She currently lives in Gurgaon, Haryana. She loves to binge on local food from the places where she travels to. She has previously written for Tripoto, Youth Ki Awaaz, Your Story and Huffington Post. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

A Guide To NYC’s Best Subway Art

Whether you’re a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the wonders of the city, you’ll no doubt find yourself taking the subway. While there are certainly crazy NYC subway stories that’ll make you crave a cab, venturing into New York’s underground can be unforgettable for good reasons, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. Keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across —  especially when it comes to the five installations listed below!

1. Life Underground

Where: 14 St @ Eighth Avenue station

art in the subway

STOP BY THE 14TH ST/EIGHT AVENUE STATION TO SEE LIFE UNDERGROUND! PHOTO VIA TOM OTTERNESS

This 16-year-old installation, meant to capture “life in New York,” is one of the city’s best pieces of art in the subway. Artist Tom Otterness used over a dozen bronze sculptures to depict everything from the homeless being watched over by police to New York’s famous sewer gators chomping on the head of a wealthy citizen. It’s easy to rush through the city when it comes to a commute, but these playful figures are worth slowing down for!

2. Happy World

Where: Flushing/Main Street

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA IK-JOONG KANG.

Flushing is often noted as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city — a fact that Ik-Joong Kang made a point of celebrating with this art piece. Happy World uses over two thousand hand-painted ceramic tiles to depict various aspects of the large world Kang saw in Flushing and beyond. This includes many different people, events and views of NYC. With so much happening all at once, it can be comforting to see it condensed into a single installation (even if condensed refers to over two-thousand tiles!).

3. REACH

Where: 34th St/Herald Square

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA CHRISTOPHER JANNEY @ JANNEYSOUND

Suspended above the N/R platforms of this station, there is a green bar with sensors that run along its side. While this horizontal rack has a tendency to go unnoticed by commuters, it’s actually a brilliant piece of interactive art in the subway that encourages New Yorkers to communicate with one another, even at their busiest. Waving your hands in front of the sensors causes a light to flicker on, and a sound to come from the rack on the opposite platform.With this unique musical instrument, those on the downtown and uptown platforms can interact without a single word!

4. My Coney Island Baby

Where: Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA MTA

There are a number of creative reasons to make your way down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. NYC street art is one, while the other is the artwork of Robert Wilson. This installation features a wall of glass bricks showcasing silkscreened images. The format of this unusual exhibit makes the pictures — like Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and Coney Island’s famous carousel — especially alluring on sunny days when light streams in, illuminating the images. Just one reason to plan your Coney Island trip for a sunny day!

5. Elevated

Where: Lexington Avenue/63rd St

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA MTA FLICKR

With the Second Avenue Station nearly a decade in the making, artist Jean Shin had to pull out all the stops when planning her contribution. Sure enough, her mural “Elevated” is a standout even among the world class art of this brand new subway line. This piece spans over three levels of the station, depicting the construction done to dismantle the Second and Third Avenue line, along with stills of commuters — all of which are composed of ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. This piece works to connect the past of New York to the present. And this is something you can be a part of for yourself, now that this new subway line is open!

~ By guest blogger, Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters with a passion for writing. She has used programs such as Young Playwrights Inc., The Moth and Girls Write Now to channel these passions, and has done her best to help others do the same as managing editor of her school’s literary magazine, One Pen. When not busied with her tendency to overextend herself with various projects, she can be found with her nose in a book or humming the tune of whatever musical soundtrack she is obsessed with that week. THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON NYC TOURS & PHOTO SAFARIS

Why Volunteering Abroad Leads To Happier Travel Experiences

We all know that staying happy and joyous can improve one’s lifestyle immensely. But it doesn’t just end there. It also helps in a lot of ways to keep your health in check and (might even) increase your lifespan as well.

As an individual, we must always look for reasons, occasions, and ways to stay happy and content. There is no fix scientific formula to attain happiness. It’s as simple as you want it to be.

All you have to do is to seek for it in whatever you do; and that includes traveling abroad.

Talking about finding happiness in overseas trips, volunteer vacations have proved to be a great channel to acquire this state. Travelers and backpackers from around the world do volunteer work abroad to see the world differently. College and high school students have started taking volunteer trips during their gap year time.

To understand why volunteering abroad is a factor for happy travel abroad experience, here are some verified reasons for it:

You’re Not Just Traveling

The opportunity to work for the welfare and development of the poor and underprivileged, providing support in conserving our ecosystem, and creating a difference in misfortunate lives – All these, put together, provides unparallel satisfaction and contentment in life.

Seeing all those happy and smiling faces around brings a smile to your own face in no time. Knowing that your efforts have helped make many futures better, gives a feeling of your own worth.

While volunteering abroad, you don’t just travel and click photos like any other tourist, but make a huge difference by giving back to the society.

You Get To Learn A Lot

Of course, you get to learn about the Whens, Whys, and Hows of heritage sites and cultural places of a destination you travel to. But, the same can be found anywhere over the internet as well; isn’t it!? (Hail Google!).

However, that, it’s liver (and not the heart) which is considered to be the symbol of love in Morocco, is a fact you would only get to learn when you get to interact with the locals: volunteering abroad helps doing that.

And, then, there are many other things your get to learn, which, at the end of the day, will bring happiness and satisfaction to you.

It’s A Great Mix Of Travel And Volunteering

So, just in case you have started to get a feeling that a volunteer trip will bind you completely to the project, leaving you with no time to have some fun, explore the city and take excursion; wait till you read ahead.

Most of the volunteer projects would require you to work for 5 days a week, leaving the weekends open for adventure trips and fun activities. Do all the touristy things during your free time. Even on weekdays, you can make the most of your evenings by exploring the places that are in close proximity.

If you are volunteering through a placement organization (highly recommended), you can always ask for the weekend trips they provide and leave the entire itinerary planning to them.

Great Travel Expedition Well Within Your Budget

Let’s face it. Everybody in this world looks forward to save money and get the best of the experiences for a minimum budget; every penny counts!

Volunteer trips are not only budget friendly, but are also highly cost effective. The number of experiences you get during your expedition and the quality of them are extraordinary.

As mentioned earlier, if you are volunteering through a placement agency, all you have to do is to pay the ‘one-time’ program fee, which will cover your accommodation, meals, in-country support, pre-departure information booklet, airport pickup, travel insurance support, weekend getaway offers, and much more. Go Eat Give offers such programs!

Of course, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can certainly make ways for you to be happy. Happiness is said to be the key to success, and volunteering abroad is the key to happy travel experiences; eventually, making your trip a success, every single time!

~ By guest blogger Riyanka Roy in India. Riyanka is a self proclaimed die-hard traveler and has explored India through its length and breadth – from Himachal in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, and from Kutch in the West to Gangtok in the East. She currently lives in Gurgaon, Haryana. She loves to binge on local food from the places where she travels to. She has previously written for Tripoto, Youth Ki Awaaz, Your Story and Huffington Post. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram