Best Travel Books of 2020 That You Need To Read

With several countries still closed and vacation plans coming to a halt, the need to travel is at an all-time high. If you are looking through old travel pictures, feeling nostalgic about places, or still trying to plan a trip for the near future, you’ll definitely get the travel blues. The pandemic has everyone on the edge of their seats, and eager to book the next flight out of town. However, who says you can’t scratch that travel itch while in lockdown?

Books are a fantastic medium to introduce yourself to new worlds, cultures and people, all from the comfort of your own home. Even if you’re not an avid reader, lounging on your patio, book in hand, while sipping a refreshing drink, is a great way to unwind or easily expand your knowledge. With the pages transporting you to a new world and life, this pastime takes your mind off of any current worries you may have.

Specifically, travel books take our imagination on endless miles that’s just as transformative as a physical journey. While self-quarantining, pick up a travel book to transport yourself to unbelievable locations, or simply cradle your wanderlust and be inspired. By the time traveling is safe again, you’ll have ideas for your next hike, drive, or even bike!

Here are a few travel books I recommend for the summer of 2020…

Hidden Places: An Inspired Traveller’s Guide by Sarah Baxter

Hidden Places: An Inspired Traveller’s Guide by Sarah Baxter. Illustrated by Amy Grimes.

Hole-in-the-wall places can be as unique and fun as going to the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. Author Sara Baxter is a travel journalist who wrote for Wanderlust Travel Magazine and The Telegraph. From her travel experiences, she compiled a list of the world’s most beautiful and unknown destinations for people to discover. From ancient gateways to underwater monuments, Hidden Places instantly transports its readers to cities with meaningful stories. The Black Forest in Germany, the Turban Oasis in China and the Kaisertal Valley in Austria are a few examples.

From the USA to Ethiopia, 25 countries are illustrated through colorful pages and descriptive details. For your next awe-inspiring view or moments that’ll take your breath away, check out this travel book.

Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

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Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

This charming memoir tells the story of an Australian woman with a great fear of the ocean. But one day, the man of her dreams decides to voyage across the globe on his small boat. To save her relationship and conquer her fear, she takes the plunge and sails across the Pacific for one year. While traveling, they encounter tropical landscapes, welcoming natives and have thrilling adventures. 

Love with a Chance of Drowning is an irresistibly, funny tale about the risk and rewards of living and the need to get out of one’s comfort zone. It’s a great read for someone wanting to overcome their travel fears!

The Only Gaijin in the Village by Iain Maloney

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The Only Gaijin in the Village by Iain Maloney

In 2016, Iain Maloney moved to a rural village in Japan. Maloney, who is a native Scot and now a foreigner or “gaijin” in a small Japanese village, talks about his experiences of trying to fit in and finding acceptance in the Gifu Prefecture. He learns the language, attempts farming, and even grows his own garden, while under the guidance of his neighbors. 

As a travel book, The Only Gaijin in the Village enlightens the readers with aspects of Japanese tradition, history, language and politics that were never highlighted before. It also asks the question, “what truly makes a home?” With his sarcastic humor and unique personality, Maloney describes a side of Japan that is rarely seen and speaks about the positive benefits of immigration.

The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

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The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jane Ashford

This novel narrates a story of two women. One searches for her missing brother, while the other hides from the truth of her past. Though both characters seem completely different, fate draws them together and takes them on a journey from London to Spain.

This novel dives deeper into the wildlands of the Camargue to the highest peaks of Spain’s ancient mountains, as both women discover a new understanding of themselves. The Snow Gypsy also plays out relationships among the British, Gypsies, and Spanish, making this travel book thrilling and informative.

Time of Birds: Reflections on Cycling Across Europe by Helen Moat

A Time of Birds by Helen Moat

Leaving her day job, Helen Moat and her teenage son set out to cycle across Europe in the new novel. While this is a story about familial relationships, A Time of Birds also touches on topics of forgiveness, understanding and self-discovery. As Helen and her son pedal through Europe’s great forest and waterways, they make new friends and find a sense of belonging in unexpected places.

This travel book narrates the importance of going to new places, meeting new people and enjoying the little moments along the way. It is a must-read for those wanting a meaningful journey and for keen cyclists!

A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar

A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar

If you’re still nostalgic of your last trip to Italy, then this book is a must-read. Hisham Matar is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who fell in love with Sienese art more than 25 years ago. A Month in Siena depicts the relationship between art and life during Matar’s month-long stay in the Tuscan city.

With beautiful illustrations, the inhabitants and culture come to life through recollections of food, conversations and artwork. For those who love to learn the history of a city and have an in-depth look at the lives of the people in Siena, A Month in Siena is the book for you.

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

Greetings to Learn From Other Cultures

In America, what’s a common way for a person to greet someone? A usual “Hi! Nice to meet you!” followed by a handshake is what many would think of when asked that question. What started as a Greek symbol of peace has became an everyday action now, but how do you feel about the new elbow bump that’s becoming commonplace with social distancing?

With COVID-19 still a concern, you may be wary of exchanging physical contact. So instead of the usual universal greeting, why not take a look at how other cultures greet each other? Though the handshake has been a long tradition in American life, learning and trying out different new ways to greet people can be a fun, unique experience, while also helping you build stronger bonds with people from various backgrounds. It may even come in handy on your next business or leisure trip!

1. Bow

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In Asia, a bow is appropriate for all social settings.
photo courtesy of TripSavvy

In Eastern Asian countries like Japan and Korea, bowing is a common greeting. Though everyone greets by bowing, the meaning of the gesture can take on different forms. It can symbolize respect, sincerity, humility, and remorse, depending on the context of the situation. Increase the emotion behind the greeting by bowing lower than the other person.

For a Japanese bow or “ojigi,” men should have their hands to their sides, while women would place their hands onto their laps. During the bow, make sure to lower your gaze and avoid eye contact. The neck and back should be a straight line. In informal situations, a 15-degree angle bow is acceptable, but during formal situations, a 30-degree angle bow is expected. In Korea, however, numerous bows or “konsu” are practiced. They vary from casual and respectful, to “belly-button” bows. Each gesture has different guidelines to follow for specific settings a person may be in. 

Check out this video for a more in-depth explanation and the difference between the two cultural bows!

Want to try some Japanese snacks? Check out this fun box that comes with an assortment of food items anyone can enjoy!

2. Shaking Fist

I tried out this fun greeting, and it’s super easy! Try it out next time you’re with friends!
Photo courtesy by Mental Floss

This greeting of shaking your own fist in the air is common among the Kanuri tribe in Niger. The Kanuri tribe belongs to the Saharan Branch of the Nilo-Sharan, and its lineage traces back to the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire. As farmers, fishers and traders, it’s common to encounter the Kanuri people in Southeast Niger. Instead of smiling or waving, shaking fists is a formal greeting!

To correctly do this, raise your hands at eye level and then form them into fists. Then, shake your fists while saying “wooshay!” which translates to “hi!”

3. Wai

For the wei, the higher your hands symbolizes the amount of respect shown.
Photo courtesy by Koh Samui Sunset

The wai, pronounced  “why,” is exclusive to the people of Thailand. The wai complements the Thai word “sawasdee” which means hello. However, it’s recommended to not gesture the wai to people who are younger than you, as age plays a major role in social ranking in Thailand. Instead, give them a nod and smile. Use the greeting to say goodbye, to apologize, and to pay respects to spirit houses, temples or shrines!

To wai, place your palms together with each finger touching its counterpart. With your hands at the center of your chest, bend your neck toward your fingers. As your neck is lowering, rotate your hands to where your index figure will touch your nose. The higher you place your hands, the more respect is conveyed.

4. Tongue Out

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This Tibetan greeting will make kids chuckle.
Photo courtesy of Home Exchange

Across the globe, children often stick their tongues out when making fun of each other. As adults, we refrain from this as it is considered rude. In Tibet, however, it’s quite the opposite, and is actually a formal greeting. The tradition stems from the 9th century during the rule of Tibetan King Lang Darma. Known for his cruelty and black tongue, Darma is an infamous figure in Tibetian history.

Tibetans fear Darma’s incarnation and stick out their tongues as a greeting. If the tongue is not black, they are deemed not guilty of evil deeds, and are not incarnations of the malevolent king. When you visit Tibet, you don’t have to worry about being impolite since the greeting is actually a form of respect!

5. Namaste

namaste greeting
Namaste symbolizes unity and good energy.
Photo courtesy of Stuff

During this time of social distancing, namaste has become the go-to method across the globe for greeting people. The action is a customary, non-contact form of Hindu greeting predominately found in India. The meaning behind the custom is to welcome guests, relatives, or to acknowledge strangers. It expresses courtesy, politeness and gratitude, while also acting as a salutation and valediction. Derived from the Sanskrit language and meaning, “I bow to the divine in you,” namaste is the highest and most respectful greeting in the world!

To say namaste, hold both palms together with forefingers posing upwards. Bring your thumbs close to your chest. Close your eyes as you bow, and say “namaste” loud and clear. For an example of how to correctly observe this greeting, watch this video from Hemalayaa.

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

A Complete Road Trip Guide During COVID-19

Due to the Coronavirus, the closing of numerous states and countries have put a pause in many people’s travel plans. Though it may be a while before the tourism industry takes full flight again, the United States is beginning to ease its quarantine restrictions as states make plans to reopen. That being said, family-friendly, affordable and fun summer getaways can still be enjoyed, while abiding by CDC’s health guidelines. Now is the best time to start planning for practical road trips you and your loved ones can experience, and here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for your upcoming road trip.

Heath and safety reminders at Rock City Gardens

Pack An Essentials Bag

An emergency bag is important for every road trip you take, especially during this time. When preparing your kit, remember to gather any over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, Pepto Bismol and Benadryl, so you’re ready to combat any health symptoms you may experience and avoid an impromptu trip to the store. To save money and avoid too many stops, pack granola bars and energy drinks along with other non-perishable foods. 

Your main essentials to pack to help you practice good hygiene and ensure your safety include –  sanitary items such as gloves, wet wipes, at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and face masks. Use disposable gloves when pumping gas or entering rest areas. Wear a face mask whenever you leave your car to protect yourself and those around you. Be sure to regularly wipe down surfaces before and after touching them, and you’re ready to go!

The Ultimate PPE Care Package includes all the essentials you need for travel

Get 10% off Ultimate PPE CarePackage with code: GOEATGIVE10. The ready-to-go travel box comes complete with reusable and disposable face masks (including KN95 Face Masks), hand sanitizer, flushable wipes, safety glasses and several pairs of gloves.

The Riverview Inn is tucked away in the historic Lookout Mountain

Stay In Places Where Social Distancing Is Easier

With new regulations in place, several hotels, Like Extended Stay America and Hyatt, have also implemented new policies on how they will maintain social distancing and sanitize their facility. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines provided by the American Hotel & Lodging Association

Before booking a room, call the hotel or visit the website to see what COVID-19 protocols are in place. When checking into your hotel, also ask to decline housekeeping to reduce the number of people entering your room. Try to avoid densely populated locations that are popular “tourist areas,” such as Las Vegas or New York. Also, now may be a good time to stay at a short-term vacation rental, condo, or AirBnB that will limit frequent contact with others. 

Set ground rules for traveling together

Travel With People You Are Quarantined With

Some say that the best part of a road trip is the company they bring along. When planning for your destination, consider who to travel with. It is best to choose people you’ve been in constant contact with or have been self-quarantining with. Such individuals can be family members in the same house, roommates and significant others. 

Try out this fun game that anyone can enjoy while on the road!

Establish social distancing rules that everyone follows before, during and after the road trip. Make sure everyone is on the same page with protecting themselves and potentially exposing others. It’s important to pick people who can earnestly self-quarantine themselves and can guarantee they will not come into contact with others after the trip.

Wash hands after visiting and touching public areas

Disinfect Frequently During The Road Trip

The CDC released a disinfection guide for everyone to follow good hygiene practices for any situation. When making stops for food, gas and resting, bacteria is easily transferred from outside surfaces and to those around you. With your road trip kit packed and ready to go, make it a habit to wipe down the inside of your car and surfaces that you may touch often – such as gas pumps, car door, restroom fixtures, handles, and your phone. Wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. It’s also a good idea to disinfect your room when checking into your hotel.

Plan ahead and be a smart traveler

Preplan Your Locations and Activities

With several businesses and attractions being closed, there’s a good chance that your typical summer activities are on hold. However, The National Governors Association created a terrific resource to show which states are under stay-at-home orders. For your road trip, prepare for closed theme parks, boardwalks, beaches and parks. Map how many rest stops you may take, and be on the lookout for any toll collection sites that require either cash or card. Also, know which restaurants allow on delivery/carry out, have limited dine-in services, or are reservations only by checking online and calling. It’ll save you the hassle once you hit the road!

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

Volunteer & Yoga Retreat in Bali

This is not your ordinary yoga retreat! Join Go Eat Give for once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the true culture and cuisine of Bali, Indonesia. We will give you a complete spiritual experience with daily yoga classes, spa treatment, and plenty of time to relax by the pool! Our uniquely designed itinerary gives you authentic exposure to the Balinese culture. From staying in a sustainable resort, where 100% of the proceeds go to the village dwellers, eating authentic local cuisine, learning local arts and crafts with renowned artists, to volunteering at Bali Children’s Project, your vacation will be meaningful to yourself, as well as the community you visit.

Dates: September 1-8, 2018

Full itinerary at www.goeatgive.com/trips/yogaandculture-in-bali/

5 Reasons Why I Could Live in the Philippines

What did I like most about the Philippines? Well, a lot of things! Beautiful beaches, quiet islands, fresh fruits, friendly people, to name a few. Each day, I thought about what it would be like to live here and thought about the five most compelling reasons I would want to move to the Philippines.

Mangoes Grow Year Round – Mangoes, undoubtedly, are my favorite fruit. I have been known to eat a lot (record 15 in one sitting)! Growing up in India, I use to anxiously wait for summers when mangoes were available. In the Philippines, there is no one season for growing mangoes. The tropical weather allows good quality production year-round. As a result, you can get fresh mango juice, fruit, yogurt, desserts and anything else you can think of. Dried mangoes from Cebu are world famous and even available in grocery stores across the US.

Coconuts Are Everywhere – Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts in the world. It is a spectacular sight from an airplane to see rolling hills full of coconut trees on many of the islands. Whether you are driving, walking or visiting a home, there’s a pretty good chance you can find a fresh sweet coconut readily available. Coconut water is good for circulation, blood circulation, skin, provides energy, healthy for the heart and helps with weight loss. Where else in the world can you find a superfood for only $0.20?

coconuts in philippinesFilipinos Have The Fountain of Youth – Well, not a fountain as such, but most Filipino look at least 10-20 years younger than they actually are. I asked a few people I met about the reason for their young appearance, and they replied that it was staying happy, always smiling and not stressing too much. “You must exercise your face muscles a lot” one lady told me. In fact, all of the Filipinos I met were very friendly and smiling all the time.

philippines travel

Freshness in Seafood is Redefined – I have turned into a pescetarian over the years and when I walk into a restaurant, my eyes go straight to the seafood section of the menu. In the Philippines, many of the restaurants would display your choices of fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, sea shells, etc. (live in tanks or on ice). You simply pick out what you want and how much of it, and the chef does the rest. I ate the biggest king crab of my life (at 4 pounds), which was still alive when I placed my order.

seafood in manilaBudget Friendly Spas – Self care in the Philippines is a priority. Every mall, hotel and street corner has a spa, and most of them are no frills but offer really good service. Skilled professionals can do deep tissue, Swedish, or a local version of head to toe massage, leaving you totally relaxed. At $20 a massage, you can definitely afford to hit the spa a few times a week.

philippines spasPhilippines is an English speaking country. Even in the most remote places, people speak very good English, which makes it relatively easy to get around and interact with the locals. Other factors that make Philippines an attract place to live include – affordable cost of living, ease of finding domestic help, and year-round tropical weather. There’s also option to live in the bustling western capital of Manila with beautiful waterfront high risers, golf courses, international restaurants, and some of the biggest malls in the world; or at some of the isolated islands where you can enjoy quiet beaches, surf, swim, snorkel, and karaoke with the islanders at night.

 

Go Eat Give Insight to Cuba

Join Go Eat Give and GCIV Executive Director, Shell Stuart for an insider look into Cuba. A visit to Havana and Trinidad offers an unforgettable and unique experience to learn about the legendary history, art, music and architecture of Cuba. Each day, we will explore a different element of this beautiful country that is frozen in time. From a walking tour of Old Havana, to touring a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to visiting Hemingway’s private estate, and the picturesque Bay of Pigs, you will get to experience the real Cuba. During this one week tour, you will stay at private homes, eat at authentic restaurants, visit popular sites and volunteer with local projects.

More information at at www.goeatgive.com/trips/tour-of-cuba

10 Things I Learned About Armenia

I have a confession to make. Until recently I didn’t know much about this tiny country the size of Maryland. I have only 3 friends from Armenia. I did go to an Armenian restaurant once while I was in Russia and have visited the Armenian quarters in Jerusalem. That is pretty much all my exposure to Armenian food and culture, until now.

Fortunately, I was invited by TATON and USAID on a media trip to Armenia, for 10 days. Here are some of the things I learned…

  1. Armenia is located in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. It was not always landlocked. The current day landmass is actually 1/10 of what it use to be at it’s peak.
  2. The history of Armenia dates back to early civilization. One of the caves we visited had the world’s earliest known leather shoe, skit, and wine-producing facility dating back to 4000 BC. Noah’s Ark is said to have landed on the peak of Mount Ararat (then Armenia, now Turkey) during the biblical flood.
  3. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a nation in 301 AD, though Christianity was practiced before that. There are over 3,000 churches and monasteries in the country, making it the highest per capita Christian monuments in a small area of land. Incidentally, many modern Armenians are not religious.

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    Monastery of Tatev in southern Armenia
  4. For a country its size, Armenia has the most varied landscapes. You can find snow year round on top of its highest peaks, mountainous terrains, colorful valleys, deep gorges, and one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. While Yerevan is a bustling modern city, scantly populated villages across the country are mostly rural.

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    Preparing to go paragliding over Lake Sevan
  5. Armenia is bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan, and on the south and west by Iran and Turkey. Thought its political relations with its neighbors have not been so good in the past, it is still a peaceful and safe place to travel.

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    A fraction of our dinner table in Armenia
  6. The food scene in Armenia is amazing! The cuisine has influences of it’s neighboring cultures and different parts of Armenia have regionalized dishes. Every meal is a festive occasion where families and friends come together over piles of plates of fresh salads, cheese, bread, meat and fruit. My mouth salivated as I saw picture perfect fruits and nuts at the farmers market in Yerevan. They taste as good as they look!

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    Fresh fruits at GUM market in Yerevan
  7. The wines are great too. It seems everyone in Armenia makes their wine and harvests their own honey. The wine making tradition has been going on for 6k years and no special records have been kept of it. You can buy 1 liter of homemade wine for 1000 Drams (less than $2). There are also excellent wineries around the country that are gaining popularity in the international scene.

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    Wine tasting at Vozkavaz winery
  8. The people in Armenia are extremely friendly. If you meet someone for the first time, they will invite you to dine with them and give you small presents. This happened to me at multiple occassions. My American friends who live there safely hitchhike around the country as a mode of transport. There is practically no crime, though gender divides give rise to domestic violence.

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    Amanda with her adopted Armenian grandparents
  9. Armenia as a travel destination is affordable and not overcrowded with tourists. Hostels in Yerevan can be found for as little as $10/ night, and even the most expensive hotels are $100+. High end restaurants cost $10-30 per meal, while delicious local fast food like shawarma goes for $2-4. Bus and subways can easily be accessed for $0.20/ ride while taxis are also very cheap. I never paid more than $5 for a ride inside the city.
  10. I also learned more details about the Armenian genocide, beyond what is talked about in the West. While I had some prior knowledge about the historical events, I came to learn that the impact of these events is still felt today. Many Armenian families mourn their lost family members and are not able to overcome their grief, leading to deep depression that ultimately interferes in daily work and life. One of the locals told me that if the world comes forward and acknowledges that what happened in Armenia in the 19-20th centuries was a genocide, they might be able to get some closure.

More about my experiences with Armenian food, sights and culture on my next blog….

10 Things I Love About Mongolia

Mongolia was one of the countries that I was fascinated to travel to, but didn’t know much about. In my imagination, I had pictured a vast barren desert with nomadic culture. Though some of that was true, I discovered a lot more in Mongolia during my one-week visit. Here are some of the most beautiful things that took me by surprise…

Lush Green Landscapes – Yes there is a big desert covering a big chunk of the country, but there are also forests with trees, and lush grasslands. The rainy summer season and the rivers help irrigate the area. In winter, most of the country is covered in snow. Note: Ulaanbaatar (UB) is the coldest capital in the world, having a January average of -20 °C (minimum reaching -45 °C).

Village in Terelj National Park/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos
Village in Terelj National Park/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Free Roaming Animals – During my long drives through the countryside, I saw hundreds of yaks, sheep, goat, cows, horses and camels roaming around on their own. Because Mongolia still preserves it’s nomadic culture, many families keep a herd of animals, and keep moving to different locations for better grazing access. Note: The Mongolian diet is rich in meat and animal products (such as milk, cheese, yogurt) as this is the only source of food in many areas. 

Two humped camels/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos
Two humped camels/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Cute Kids – The children in Mongolia have a blend of Chinese, Persian and Russian looks. They are chubby and adorable! The kids who grow up in the countryside learn survival skills at an early age. They ride horses, milk animals, collect firewood and build gers.

Family at a parade in UB/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos
Family at a parade in UB/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Sleeping in Gers – While I am not a big fan of camping, I enjoyed staying at the luxury ger camps – Dream Terelj Lodge and Dream Gobi Lodge. Can you imagine waking up to this view? Here I was able to experience a nomadic home which is constructed using minimum equipment (felt, poles, lattice, cloth, ties). There is a door and an opening on the roof which is uncovered to let the light in. My ger also came with a fan, heater, lights and a private attached bath. Did you know? It takes about 2 hours for a family to construct a ger and only half hour to dissemble it.

Traditional Costumes – The Mongolian national costume is a robelike garment called a deel. It is worn with a thin silk sash several yards long tightly wound around the waist. Attached to the sash are essential objects such as the eating set, tinder pouch, snuff bottle, and tobacco and pipe pouches. Female attires are adorned with ornaments and jewelry. There are different kinds of hats and boots, depending on which part of the country they belong to. Travel Tip: There is a costume parade at the opening ceremony day before the annual Naadam festival in July. This is a good opportunity to see families from all over the country dressed in the traditional clothes. Tourists are encouraged to dress up too!

Mongolian women dressed in traditional costumes/ Sucheta Rawal
Mongolian women dressed in traditional costumes/ Photo by Sucheta Rawal

Winding Back The Clock –  Mongolia’s ancient culture is well persevered at the 13th Century National Park (located 2 hours outside UB). Here visitors can eat traditional food, visit old gers where Shamans practiced religion and Chinggis Khaan’s teacher lived, learn to write in Mongolian script, and play a horse headed fiddle.

Vastness of the Gobi Desert – The Gobi desert is the coldest desert in the world and home to many important cities along the Silk Road. It is said to be high energy place, covered with fossils as old as 100,000 years. Bayanzag aka Flaming Cliffs is a location where the highest concentration of dinosaur bones and eggs have been found. Travel Tip: Travel through the vast region of Gobi can take several days as there are no roads or signs; there are few flights which can be affected by weather conditions; the region shuts down in winters; and there are not many places to stop and ask for directions! 

Flaming Cliffs/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos
Flaming Cliffs/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Warm Hospitality – My hosts for this trip were Voyage Unique Mongolie. Khishigjargal and her husband, Dorjpurev took us around the entire time, giving us a very personal experience showing us their country. It felt like we were on a holiday with the family. We sang songs and ate candy during long drives, and stopped to have picnics in breathtaking sceneries. No matter where we went, we experienced the same level of polite and warm hospitality. Even when language was a challenge, the employees at hotels and restaurants would make a sincere effort to address our needs the best they could.

Drinking tea at a nomad's home/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos
Drinking tea at a nomad’s home/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Modern Mongolian Music and Dance – The traditional Mongolian dance is bielgee, which is performed by both men and women. Rhythmic movements, fast beats and expressive gestures that represent daily life, are simply captivating. Mongolian musicians are especially talented using deep throat singing, and several local instruments, such as the horse head fiddle, drum and gong. These days, techno and rap are being integrated, creating fun modern tunes. Travel Tip: Watch a traditional concert by the band Tumen Ekh ensemble at National Recreation Center in UB.

Naadam Festival – The annual festival celebrates the ancient sports of Mongolia – horseback riding, archery and wrestling. The entire country goes on holiday while families dress up, go for picnics and cheer the contestants. The main competitions take place at the stadium in UB, but events are also spread out. One of the most fascinating aspects of the festival is to see 5-12 year old kids race horses for up to 10 kilometers. They ride solo, at very high speeds, through the countryside! The winner receives a medal, money and bragging rights.

Horseback racing at Naadam festival/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos
Horseback racing at Naadam festival/ Photo by Amanda Villa-Lobos

Announcing – My First Book on Kids Travel

BIG NEWS!!! My first children’s book, Beato Goes To Greenland will be available in bookstores and online next week! Pre order your copy through Mascot Books by clicking here.

Beato Goes to Greenland cover

It has been a long process. I have started to write books, finished the chapter outlines, pitched to editors, and ditches the whole idea – about a half dozen times. I always knew I wanted to write a book, or two, and several of my well wishers (including readers, editors & publishers) have encouraged me to do so. However, I never quite believed in myself. Who would want to read this and why?

And I never found enough time to write, or perhaps made it a priority.

I have sort of dedicated my life to food, travel and community service, since I left corporate America to pursue my passion. I founded Go Eat Give in 2010 as a blog, and later into a nonprofit organization, with a mission to raise awareness of the diverse and beautiful world we live in. Finally, I discovered an audience, that is perhaps the most impressionable. Beato Goes To is a series of children’s illustrative books that takes young readers on a thrilling adventure across different countries. They learn about nature, culture, food, costume and much more.

I have no prior experience writing children’s books, but felt compelled enough to take this project on. After months of browsing through the little sections of Barnes and Nobles, and reading all the stories about bunnies, princesses, bees, elves, and what not, I realized that there were hardly any books that taught kids about travel or culture.

The main character of the book is my larger than life cat/ baby, Beato. He has been a great inspiration to me, while he lounges on my feet, at my desk, in the couch, and watches me write day after day, occasionally rising from his naps to give me a head nudge. Anyone who has met Beato can’t stop admiring his large size (he is a 20 pounder), handsome looks (yes he has his own Pinterest page), and friendly personality (aka life of the party). It just made sense that Beato took on my persona and started traveling the world!

Beato the cat

What I hope to accomplish from the series is not only to provide entertaining and educational material to kids, but inspire them to learn about each other and discover the world. We live in a interconnected community, where we have no other option but to expand our horizons. To do this at a young age will only give someone a head start.

So if you are reading this and know of any parent with young kids, send them a link to www.BeatoGoesTo.com. Perhaps you can recommend my book to your teacher friend or neighborhood preschool. Beato Goes To also makes a great gift for any young reader in your friends and family circle. Pre order your copy today!

 

Customized Lightweight Luggage That You Can’t Lose

When shopping for new luggage, what are some things that you look for? For me, it is looks, durability and price. With thousands of black, blue and red check-in bags circling around the conveyor belt, it can get difficult to identify your bag. Have you ever picked up someone else’s suitcase because it was the same, make, model and color as yours? Have your personalized luggage tags and luggage labels fallen off? Well, you can now get some relief with custom bags from UGO Bags.

I ordered a medium hardshell suitcase with Go Eat Give logo design and immediately placed another order for a large one! Here are some things I loved about UGO Bags…

uno bags goeatgive

SUPER LIGHT – Don’t you hate it when the bag weighs half the luggage allowance, leaving little room for your much needed clothes and shoes? The UGO Bag has shell casing that is super lightweight and robust polycarbonate. I can lift the large bag with one hand and no effort.

CUSTOM EXTERIOR – You can select an existing design on UGO Bag website or completely customize your own. Collections include colorful images of pets, cities, sports, contemporary art, and more. Chose the case color (white, black or silver), upload a photo or logo, change the colors (10 options) of the handles and the wheels, and click “add to cart.” It takes less than 5 minutes and now you will be able to spot your bag at the airport! The image is actually engraved on the bag, so it doesn’t risk peeling off like some of the adhesive ones.

uno bags customize

SMART INTERIOR – One of the things I look for in a good piece of luggage is how much storage capacity it has. UGO Bag’s smart interior design with multiple pockets divides both halves of the bag and secures belongings when opening. You don’t need to carry packing cubes as everything is already built in.

IN BUILT LOCKS – You buy a $200 bag, then a $10-20 lock. Often times, you lose the locks in hotel rooms or at home, then you go buy some more. Not anymore! The UGO Bag has a built in TSA locking system, so you can ensure your luggage is secure at all times.

GOOD WARRANTY – My UGO Bag is made with high quality materials and looks very cool. It says “Made in US.” UGO Bags warranty promises to repair or replace any malfunctioning or defective luggage in the first 5 years.

FUNCTIONAL DESIGN – The bags also feature ultra smooth four-wheel spinner, top and lateral handles for easy loading and unloading, and side bumpers allowing horizontal storage of luggage. The multi-lock retractable trolley handle allows for smooth maneuverability.

ufo-bags-luggage

MOBILE ART – If you are an artist or photographer and want to feature your work on a bag, apply here.

UGO Bags come in 3 sizes – Small carry-on $199, Medium for 1-3 night getaway $249, and Large $299 for week long trips. If you would like to order one for yourself or as a gift, use discount code  “UGOEATGIVE25” to receive 25% off!