Puerto Rico travel video and photos: my first hosting bid!

Last month, I had the opportunity to shoot my first travel hosting bid! Yes, I had my very own cameraman and even a director. The following Puerto Rico travel video was made for a competition that will hopefully send me around the world for 6 months btw, taking you to the most exciting places on my biggest, baddest travel bucket list! 😀

Puerto Rico: The Land of a Thousand Blessings

Liked it? Then VOTE FOR ME here! All you have to do is go to that page, then click on the social media icons beside my Puerto Rico travel video there. Share that entry page on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and even Pinterest!

Puerto Rico travel video, Puerto Rican girl

The Making of: more work than you think!

Remember that old MTV series “Making the Video”? I loved going behind the scenes of my favorite music videos, learning about special effects, how storylines are written, and how hard the artists actually work for what comes to be a mere 3-5 min. video clip.

That being said: how long you think it took us to shoot the previous 3-minute Puerto Rico travel video? C’mon, take a wild guess!

Puerto Rico travel video, Luquillo Beach

Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico by Ard Hesselink

More than 20 hours!

We worked for 14 continuous hours the first day of shooting, visiting over a dozen locations (scattered throughout the island!), taking video clips, stills, and different commentary. Then, on the second day, we worked a couple more hours to capture a glimpse of the nightlife.

But of course, with only 3 mins. to work with, a lot of good material had to be sacrificed…which makes me sad! All in all though, a great learning experience.

Puerto Rico travel video, La Guancha Ponce

Pelican at La Guancha, Ponce, Puerto Rico by José Zayas

While filming was hard work, I had a blast. I honestly wouldn’t mind working more than 14 continuous hours on a single day, all while travel hosting! It didn’t feel like work. It felt like a great adventure, road tripping all over Puerto Rico 😀

What did you think of my Puerto Rico travel video? VOTE FOR ME here!

Ultimate Train Challenge = THE ultimate travel bucket list journey!

When you think of the ultimate travel bucket list, what comes to mind? I’m always thinking BIG: as in EPIC. 40-day overland Turkish delights trip (oh yes, as a solo female). 5 weeks hitchhiking and Couchsurfing throughout the Middle East. What about 31 days trying to get from Vietnam to Portugalexclusively traveling by rail? Such a journey has a name: it’s the Ultimate Train Challenge and this year’s race is ON!

Ultimate Train Challenge 2013 discount code

JOIN US on the Ultimate Train Challenge 2013! Enter the discount code MA13UTC in the “Referral” box of your registration form and get $30 off your entrance fee

Teams vs. the rails = the Ultimate Train Challenge

Are you adventurous enough to go across more than 15,000 miles (25,000 km), planning your own route, arranging your own visas, accommodation, and rail passes? This is no organized or guided tour. YOU pick your own countries, stops, cities, and overnights.  YOU get to create your own epic itinerary — one that hundreds of travelers may want to follow years from now.

And that’s not all: several other teams will be competing to get to the finish line before you. You may pick any of these routes: Saigon to Lisbon or Lisbon to Vietnam. Not only will great prices be awarded to the winning team either way, but the amazing memories and skills you develop this May will last a lifetime.

Write your own history! You think you got what it takes?!

Ultimate Train Challenge: fees and GRAND PRIZES

ultimate train challenge, rail travel photo

Rail travel by ad.hermann, Flickr

Yes, there is a registration fee: US $295 (or approx. £183 / €223) if you register by THIS Friday, Feb 15th. Afterward, registration will go up by a $100 and the fee to join this epic journey and competition will be US $395 (approx. £245 / €298) until April 30th.

HOWEVER: if you use the code MA13UTC you get US $30 off the registration fee! You may use this discount code anytime — all the way until April 30th.

If you still need some convincing to join, just check out the ~$10,000 worth of PRIZES and discounts for UTC13:

– Entry to the kick off party in both Lisbon and Saigon.

– Intrepid Travel is giving at away their 15-day Morocco tour to the faster person from Saigon to Lisbon and their 15-day Bangkok to Hanoi trip to the winner going the other direction.

– Eurail has donated a couple 10-day Global rail passes we will be raffling off to anyone that signs up before February 15th. They are also donating additional passes that we will be giving away for the best on-train photo taken on the trip and also one for the best video.

– Urban Adventures is offering 15% off any of their great day tours to all participants (valid for a time period yet that will be determined in the next couple weeks).

– HostelWorld will be providing 2 night’s free accommodation for everyone prior to departure, in addition to offering some prizes (various monetary coupons) for other contests along the way.

–  Real Russia, UK will be giving away two Trans-Manchurian train tickets and a discount on rail ticket purchase through them.

– Non-bloggers will be able to use our YWNR website to blog their trip and there will be a real-time map that everyone can use on the site, so that friends and family can track where they are on their journey.

Trip of a lifetime + fundraising for CHARITY

Still hesitating? What if we tell you that the Ultimate Train Challenge has a CHARITY component? Every participant is expected to raise at least $500 for the selected charity, Blue Dragon’s Children Foundation in Vietnam, in order to have this whole journey help out some needy children.

Moreover, UTC sponsor Intrepid Travel has agreed to match each contribution (dollar for dollar!) up to $10,000. So, in addition to having an adventure of a lifetime, we are all going to help make a small, but positive change in the world.

Ultimate Trail Challenge charity

Need another incentive? Trip planning assistance available, cost-FREE!

Please remember folks: you got nothing to worry about. You are not alone! The organizers of the Ultimate Train Challenge have put together a great trip planning and resources page in order to assist you with arrangements such as getting your visas, recommended rail passes, accommodation, stops, etc.

Got other concerns not addressed on this page? Shoot an email to the Ultimate Train Challenge team at contact@yourworldnorules.com if you have any other questions about this ultimate travel bucket list journey.

Now: are you READY for this? Take the plunge, explore your world, HELP A CHARITY! And don’t forget to use the code MA13UTC to get $30 off the registration fee 😉

JOIN US NOW

The Ultimate Train Challenge is on my travel bucket list. What’s on YOURS?

Nepalese charity behind TBC 2013: Mitrata Children Home

– April 2014 UPDATE: while not a charity of TBC anymore, please read past the first paragraph in order to STILL support this amazing Nepalese charity and children’s home! – On a special Cultural Tidbits Monday post, LatinAbroad is proud to introduce one of the charities behind the Travel Blogging Calendar 2013. Personally, I’m saddened by (and tired of) fellow bloggers, those who are supposed to be part of our own community, bashing this terrific project many of us have worked hard on. I mean, is there really something bad about giving back!?

But I digress. Please, take your time to read and learn more about the charities we are trying to help out!

Learn more: Travel Blogging Calendar 2013 charities

Mitrata Children Home: Nepalese charity of TBC 2013

Nepalese charity Mitrata, sponsor a child

Adorable Bikram, one of the children Mitrata has taken in

If your heart doesn’t want to grow arms and give a bear hug to the cutie on the picture above, you are simply not a human being. His name is Bikram and he was abandoned, along with his 3 siblings, by his mother. This happened after their father died in an accident years ago.

He is one of many the Nepalese charity Mitrata Children Home has rescued.

In their own words:

The aim of Mitrata is to provide a loving family environment for children who have known little or no security in their lives. We provide them education and lessons on morals and cultivate a fondness for family values and team work.

Over 98% of every donation and sponsorships go directly toward Nepalese charity programs that help these children in one way or another. These include, but are not limited to: education, medical assistance, individualized care, and therapy. Also, annual reports of this Nepalese charity (including pertinent tax documentation) are made available to any donor upon request.

The transparency and commitment of Mitrata’s Children Home is admirable — one of the reasons it was selected as one of the charities for the 2013 Travel Blogging Calendar!

Mitrata children home photo, Nepalese charity

Mitrata Nepal’s children home photo

In addition to supporting our causes by buying a calendar (100% of proceeds go to our selected charities, by the way!), please consider sponsoring a Mitrata child. Your donations will fund:

    • Clothing and supplies
    • Physical therapy for children with disabilities
    • Health care screenings and basic medical care
    • Quality nutrition and specialized nutritional support
    • Education for school-aged children
    • Caretaker training and education
    • Books
    • Computer training for older children
    • Recreational opportunities and outings for all children
    • And even Music Training!

To learn more about the children currently supported by the Nepalese charity Mitrata Children Home, click here.

Do you know of any other Nepalese charities? Please share them below!

Travel bucket list destination: Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Welcome to another edition of Travel Bucket List Wednesday! This week’s travel bucket list destination is Komodo National Park. Located in Indonesia, it is a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The diving there is supposed to be unbelievable and I can’t wait to finally visit. Oh my dear Asia, you have escaped me for so many years! soon I’ll catch you, soon I’ll catch you…

Komodo National Park, travel bucket list destination

“Islands in Komodo National Park” (Nick Hobgood, Flickr)

Location

The Komodo National Park stretches across a total of 29 volcanic islands. Naturally, the archipelago offers spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Komodo location

Flores, Indonesia: Where Komodo National Park is located (Sadalmelik,Wiki Commons)

Komodo, Padar & Rincah

The largest islands of this travel bucket list destination park are Komodo, Padar & Rincah. Besides excellent diving, they are mostly a popular place to watch the famous Komodo Dragon.

Indonesia Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon – Komodo, Indonesia (whl.travel, Flickr)

travel bucket list pink sand beach

Pink Beach of Komodo – Komodo, Indonesia (whl.travel, Flickr)

Diving Komodo National Park

Chromodoris joshi species, diving Komodo National Park (Nick Hobgood, Flickr)

Have you been to Komodo? Is it your travel bucket list destination?

Ancient ruins and other close-ups: A FriFotos special

TGIF! After a hiatus, I join FriFotos for another week to celebrate the theme “Close-up.” I’ll show you photos of my favorite ancient ruins and other close-up shots from sights I’ve encountered throughout my travels in Egypt. Enjoy!

The Ramesseum: Luxor, Egypt

The mortuary temple of the infamous “Ramses The Great,” The Rammesseum is kind of an off-the-beaten-path ancient ruins site. In fact, when I visited back in June 2008, I had the whole place for myself — midday! It was great. I even had time to kill as my cabbie wouldn’t come back for another hour:

Ramesseum Luxor, ancient ruins head

Beheaded! Oh yeah, Karma…

Ramesseum Luxor, ancient ruins feet

Feet?

Ramesseum Luxor, ancient ruins statue

Love staring up high statues

Town’s ferry: Luxor, Egypt

I traveled throughout Egypt independently. My morning routine included reading up the history of most sites I visited before heading out. For Luxor, one of Egypt’s top tourist towns, I simply took the local ferry (picture below) to the West Bank, bargained down a daily rate with a cab driver (in Arabic!), and saw all sights on my own. Later that day, I took the same ferry back, hired a pink bike (US$1.50/day), and saw the rest of the town’s sights. Best game plan ever!

local Luxor ferry, Egypt

local Luxor ferry, Egypt

My favorite soft drink in the whole wide world: Fayrouz pineapple

Fayrouz, not to be confused with Lebanese legend Fairuz, means “turquoise” in Arabic. She happens to be my favorite Arab singer. And favorite color. And favorite drink. The universe knows me well.

Fayrouz pinapple, Luxor Egypt

I don’t ever drink soda, but when I do, it’s FAYROUZ

Hatshepsut temple: Luxor, Egypt

This shall be the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman Pharaoh! She wore a fake beard in order to look like a man in statues and drawings. Rumor has it that people from her kingdom attempted to destroy all evidence of her ever reigning. Clearly, they failed. GIRL POWER!

Temple Hatshepsut, woman pharaoh ancient ruins

Strong woman in history: Hatshepsut, “the Djeser-Djeseru” or “Holy of Holies” (Wikipedia)

Temple Hatshepsut, woman pharaoh ancient ruins

We are powerful

Oh, today I found out this was also the site of the massacre of 62 people, attack conducted by Islamist extremists back in 1997 (according to WIkipedia)…

Have you been to any of these ancient ruins? Comment below!

Travel inspiration Wednesday: Who, What, When and Where

Welcome to Travel Bucket List Wednesday! Today’s article will be quite different. Yet, somehow, more inspirational. It’ll describe Who, What, When, Where has defined my travel inspiration throughout the years. These places, people, and circumstances have shaped my own travel bucket list, so they merit a mention on this week’s #TravelBL post. I hope that these personal tales and stories of my struggles will push you to pursue your own dreams, overcome your own fears, and understand that life’s circumstances truly work out on our favor–if we have the right attitude.

While EasyJet’s “Inspiration Initiative” competition is now closed, I still wanted to share my stories…

My Travel Inspiration: Who to blame?

While we could blame Nefertiti (more on that later), I must say that who truly made me take action was James (*pseudonym used). Yes…the protagonist of my Travel and a Broken Heart open letter.

Theories about why he broke up with me have morphed and are still somewhat of a mystery to me. Yet, one thing is certain: James is who ultimately pushed me to pursue my dreams and, most importantly, to travel. It was him who first talked to me about teaching English abroad while being able to save money and travel the world. It was him who made me believe I had it in me to someday travel indefinitely. It was him who gave wings to my wildest travel inspiration and told me those dreams were more than attainable…

Travel inspiration, James

“James” : Thank you…

What kick-started my wanderlust?

James’ love, and the broken he left behind, pushed me to travel–immediately. However,  my travel inspiration, that persistent little bug, had been in me for years before I moved to the U.S. to go to college.

In fact, my interest to learn English at a young age made me flip through foreign TV channels. That habit, eventually, led me to National Geographic, Discovery Kids, and History Channel. Soon, I was intrigued: where are these beautiful places and impressive creatures? How can I see them? What do I have to do to get the money to do so?

Those, my friends, are the things that created this travel monster: Learning English and travel/history channels.

History Channel travel inspiration

History Channel sign in NYC (Kevin Dooley, Flickr)

When did I feel the strongest urge to see the world, though?

Sooner than you may think. In fact, that day, the exact moment that fire was ignited, is still vivid in my mind…

It was the summer before I started 4th grade.

Mom had just purchased my textbooks for the new school year. As usual, I quickly unwrapped each and one of them to start reading. Flipping through the pages of the turquoise “Historia del Mundo Antiguo” (History of the Ancient World), a photo caught my eye: Nefertiti. I loved her golden jewelry and black eyeliner. For the next couple of days, I would be devouring every single page depicting Ancient Egypt.

I must go there. Someday. I must see these temples with my own eyes.

And just like that, I finally made it happen in 2008. For a full year I was living in Egypt, learning Arabic thanks to a full-ride academic scholarship. For a year before that, I prepped intensely, fueled by the passion ignited in me that summer of 1996. After that year in the Middle East, I embarked to Morocco to study some more and, 7 months later, my country counter clicked past 20.

Nefertiti bust, my travel inspiration

it’s your fault, Nefertiti! [Photo by Lwp Kommunikáció, Flickr]

Where did I draw most of my travel inspiration from?

While many places inspired me to travel, Cairo, Egypt was quite defining in my life. I was traveling with a broken heart back then…and I felt quite defiant toward life in general. The emotions this huge city got out of me were intense. Some days I was head over heels for it; while on others, I absolutely hated it.

On the ups, I was deeply interested in interacting with the locals, practicing my Arabic, and getting to know Egypt deeply. I visited the Pyramids of Giza 4 times, found my my favorite place on Earth in Dahab, sailed down the Nile on a felucca, and came across dozens of Ancient Egyptian temples.

The downs made me scream in the middle of a dusty room and want to get out of the country ASAP. It happens…and it so also happens that Egypt is close to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. So when I had enough, I simply embarked on an epic solo Middle East road trip, hitchhiking and Couchsurfing through historical lands.

Furthermore, after my study abroad program in Egypt, I had to stay abroad. Where did I end up? In another study abroad program in Morocco! From there, I visited Europe several times. Then, in 2010, I came back to the U.S. to face post-travel depression and learned that a digital nomad career was the only option for me.

Thanks for all the lessons and travel inspiration, Egypt!

travel inspiration, Islamic Cairo

Me in Islamic Cairo, Egypt

Who, what, when, and where can you blame for your travel inspiration?

TBEX 2012 review and my 1st Blogiversary! Hard work paying off

Before I start my TBEX 2012 review, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY LatinAbroad! It was June 18, 2011 when Jodi from Legal Nomads helped me come up with the name, I bought this domain, and published my first post.

If you only wish to read my TBEX 2012 review, please scroll down the page until you see the appropriate heading

While my first write ups are not stellar, I’ve always kept my voice, written from the heart, and shared my love for travel and how it transformed my life. After attending TBEX 2012 though, I’m fully loaded: this second year travel blogging will be better than ever! I’ll focus much more on defining my brand, quality, travel advice articles, and more inspirational/personal posts.

My goals are set: branding, further engage my audience, win the hearts of new visitors, and inspire all of you to overcome your fears and follow your dreams through my travels and personal experiences. Furthermore, I’ll work even harder on my dream of becoming a full-time digital nomad! And after the great connections (and even contracts!) made in Keystone, I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s to the next seven decades! 😉

2011-2012 at a glance

Most clicks: Puerto Rico: Beach Thursday photo essay

Most commented: Travel Bucket List Wednesdays are now #TravelBL!

Most personal: Travel and a broken heart: How they changed my life forever

Most popular photo essay: Traveling through Spanish food (after PR essay)

Most popular travel series: Cultural Tidbits Monday (superstitions and food)

Best travel advice: How to dress in Egypt or any conservative country (photos)

And that’s a wrap! Did your favorite blog post make the cut? Whether your answer is a yes or a no, please tell me on a comment below! I would love to hear what you enjoy, beyond what Google Analytics tells me 😉

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone village view

At TBEX: A local brew and me with Keystone on the background

TBEX 2012 review: What was done, what could have been done

With my first blogiversary came my first TBEX (June 15th – 17th). After much preparation, I arrived to Keystone, CO last Friday with great expectations and willingness to learn. Overall, I was very satisfied: I enjoyed most events and the schedule of the conference. However, certain sessions left much to be desired! Thus, I give the whole weekend a B+/A-. I hope this TBEX 2012 review helps speakers and organizers alike make the 2013 gathering even better.

Welcome Party: A

We were welcomed with a party at 11,444 feet: “Taste of Vail Resorts.” Unfortunately, my flight and shuttle came in all too late, and just 10 minutes upon arrival I had to head down. I didn’t miss the champagne and cookies though–nice touch! Oh yeah, it was given to us when switching cable cars on our way to the summit.

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone gondola champagne

Champagne and a view: Couldn’t ask for a better ride to a welcome party! (Photo: Jennifer Huber)

TBEX 2012 review, welcome party food

Even more food (Photo: Dave Cynkin, Flickr)

TBEX 2012 review, Outpost Gondola

Cookies by the gondolas! (Photo by @earthXplorer, Twitter)

TBEX 2012 review, welcome party dinner

“Smoked Gouda Cheese with Crab Meat Fondu” (Jennifer Huber, Flickr)

TBEX 2012 review, welcome party dessert

Yep, those are PASTRIES! (Photo by @KLadyga, Twitter)

After interviewing some attendees and seeing all their photos, I can confidently give this event an A. Chefs were imaginative, the selection of food was plentiful, and everyone left with happy tummies.

Registration: A / Sessions & keynotes: B

Registration was speedy and gets an A — no need for a different section, as it is a straight-forward process. The goodie bag was awesome and we even got a free Scottevest, which I’ll be reviewing on a different post.

The sessions, however, fell somewhat short. While the Opening Keynote and The Branding of You were excellent, the ones about How to build a business with your blog and SEOmoz’s SEO without Selling your Soul were pretty elementary. In fact, I learned more about blogging from the Q & A section and I was already familiar with all the SEO techniques presented by Rand.

TBEX 2012 review, sessions quote

One of my favorite quotes during the particularly-inspirational Open Keynote

I understand that the speakers wanted to cater to newbies, but that’s what other sessions were for. I felt like there was some repetition and lack of substance. For instance, I thought the SEO for Beginners session was going to be the “inspirational” one, getting you pumped about the subject while covering the basics. But heck, the SEO Without Selling Your Soul session didn’t even talk about meta keywords or SEO plugins available! And even that is 101 material.

Maybe my expectations were too high: I wanted to learn more about SEO, beyond the plugins, focus keywords, and meta descriptions. Maybe I’m more “advanced” in SEO than I thought, eh?

Expedia Shindig: B

The Expedia Shindighad a lot of potential — but fell short in the end. I didn’t even know they were going to run giveaways! And lots of people that were drinking and missed the competitions on stage altogether will probably agree now.

TBEX 2012 review, Expedia Shindig

Me at the Expedia Shindig

While surprises are nice, Expedia should have done a better job at announcing some of the contests and giveaways beforehand. A 4-day stay at the St. Regis in Vieques, Puerto Rico for Best Dressed? I’m sure more people would have dressed appropriately! In fact, I went forward for that contest and only heard the announcer’s call 2 minutes beforehand.

Also, I heard the host try to giveaway other prizes throughout the night. Yet, because I didn’t know much about them, I preferred to mingle with travel bloggers by the beer tent in the back instead.

That being said: The Stables = a great venue for the themed Shindig, service was nice, food was good (oh dear, the brisket!) and drinks were plentiful (both beers and cocktails). All comped. #ExpediaTBEX. I like.

Networking opportunities: B

The TBEX Presdo Match was a godsend. Unfortunately, some bloggers and PR reps got on the wagon a little too late. Those that updated their profile and began using the tool right when it launched, however, truly reaped the benefits.

As I said on my TBEX first timer pre-conference post, I scheduled 90% of my connections via the Presdo Match tool. It was easy to use, most users with full profiles were very responsive, and I knew what to expect and what to discuss during my appointments once at Keystone.

TBEX 2012 review, networking

Black curly hair, golden streaks? That’s me in action! (Photo: @revealedrome, Twitter)

The only reason why I’m giving networking a B is because the Speed Dating event was disorganized. We were told that we would receive emails about where we were going to meet for our appointments. Instead, we only knew this event would take place on the Expo floor, a huge space flooded with people. Once there, there was only one person directing every blogger to where each rep was. I had to stay in line and wait until this one nice lady found all my reps on the big list. I was late to my first appointment because I had to wait in line for this. No bueno.

Still, the Presdo Match and networking events (once the reps could finally be located) were excellent. Thus, I can’t give them a B-. I was too happy with the connections and willingness of the PR reps to truly work with bloggers.

Location: A+

Beautiful. Unbelievably beautiful. Honestly, I was skeptical at first: Why such a “remote” location, instead of having a big travel conference such as TBEX in a big city? Once there, I got it. Keystone was the perfect setting: Quiet, yet stunning surroundings that allowed me to relax and fully recharge in-between sessions.

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone lake view

Gorgeous Keystone lake view

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone Colorado

Road to Keystone, Colorado

TBEX 2012 review, Keystone road

Road from Keystone-Denver

Moreover, if you felt adventurous, there were so many outdoor activities to partake in. I was sad I had to leave so early–I was too busy during the conference and couldn’t squeeze in any special sightseeing. Still, the wonderful views of Keystone are stuck in my mind and I’m sure coming back for more! Stay tuned as tomorrow’s Travel Tuesday post will be all about Keystone, Colorado! 😉

The true highlight…?

Yes, I did get two translation contracts, lots of “maybes,” and made incredible professional contacts. I even cried during an interview with John from Travelllll, where I talked about my experiences at TBEX and how happy I was about all my hard work finally starting to pay off. However, the fact that I exceeded my own goals and expectations at TBEX 2012 was not necessarily my favorite aspect of the event. In fact, meeting my role models and connecting with some of my favorite travel blogging tweeps IRL was the true highlight of this weekend getaway.

After each official event, we would usually head to the Kickapoo Tavern to mingle. I was surprised at how outgoing almost everyone seemed to be and what a blast we had every single night. Also, as far as I know, no drama ensued either. I can’t wait to show you more photos on my next post!

TBEX 2012 review, meeting Legal Nomads

Me (right) meeting my role model and first travel blogger I followed, since 2008: Jodi from Legal Nomads! I actually shed a tear when we hugged…felt so silly!

TBEX 2012 review, meet ups

Me (bottom) surrounded by some big names! Guess who? 😉

TBEX 2012 review, Runaway Juno

Me (left) and @RunawayJuno (right) at the Expedia Shindig

Did you go? Write or post a link to your TBEX 2012 review below!

Travel bucket list ideas: Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, New Zealand

Today’s Travel Bucket List ideas post will be short and sweet, as I am not feeling very well 🙁 Not only did I barely sleep last night, but also my RSI (thanks, American work culture!) is coming back to stab my hands :/

Still, I would love for you to take part of this week’s Travel Bucket List Wednesday by telling me about the new travel bucket list ideas and items you’ve come up with lately. Please share your links, blog posts, and photos on the Mr. Linky, found at the bottom of this post! As for me, I only have the strength to write about one new travel bucket list idea this week:

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, New Zealand

The name speaks for itself: In Waitomo, New Zealand there are caves filled with wonderful glow worms. What’s most interesting about these worms, however, is that the more hungry they are, the brighter they glow! To see these beautiful critters, one may go black water tubing for three hours, go rappelling and climbing for five hours or simply go by lazy boat. Judging by how adventurous yours truly is, I definitely want to cross this item off my travel bucket list via option 2 😀 Unless they come up with a more daredevil way of doing this by the time I get there… 😉

travel bucket list ideas, rappelling Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

Two great travel bucket list ideas: Rappelling @ Waitomo Caves *and* seeing the glow worms in one day. WOO! (Photo:colincookman, Flickr)

travel bucket list ideas, 1977 WAITOMO GLOW WORM CAVE NZ

"NZ WAITOMO GLOW WORM CAVE: 1976 Pugh family photos" (by DON PUGH)

travel bucket list ideas, Waitomo glow worm caves

Glow worms Arachnocampa look like glow-in-the-dark pearl necklaces dangling from the top (Photo: Markrosenrosen, WIki)

travel bucket list ideas, glow worms New Zealand North Island

More glow worms! These look like shiny blue stars (Flickr Commons)

Got any travel bucket list ideas? Share them below!

1. Submit a link related to an item you crossed off or plan to cross off your travel bucket list to Mr. Linky belowIt can be any type of travel inspiration, Pinterest board, photo galleries, blog posts, etc.

2. Please, leave a comment on this post, sharing why the content of your link/post is on your travel bucket list.

3. Tweet all your travel bucket list ideas and inspiration with #TravelBL and I promise an RT.

Taxi cab driver story: The day a Haitian made me cry

I always take the bus. However, today was raining like crazy, so I had no choice but to splurge on a cab ride. This is the taxi cab driver story that developed.

Taxi cab driver story rainy day

Taxi cab driver story begins (Flickr Photo: Clint)

My alarm went off at 6 AM. I hit the snooze button…so many times that I had to jump out of bed like a possessed soul at 7:30 AM. Ten minutes ’til the bus, phew! Then I looked out my window.

Torrential rain. Damn. I guess I can’t walk to the freakin’ bus after all.

Knowing how cabbies take forever in this city, I quickly called one in, hoping it would arrive just in time to make it to work early. I took a shower, came out, and ACK! My cabbie was 3 miles away, TEN minutes ago! I ran out of the bathroom and almost fell flat on my tile floor. I looked out the window but no one was there. So I called the company…apparently, cab 475 was nowhere to be found. Operator dialed and dialed.

No answer.

“Cab driver will be seriously reprimanded, I am so sorry m’am. I’m calling a different cab your way right now.”

Le sigh. Late to work. On first day of the month. As a marketing manager. Didn’t look like a bright Friday.

Surprisingly, as I looked out of my window in frustration, I see cabbie 475 – YAY! I ran out in the rain and asked him to please wait, I’m here, let me get my purse!” Five mins. later, we were on our way.

Where the taxi cab driver story took a sharp turn

As I hopped in, Charlie quickly apologized: “sorry for the wait, m’am!” I then went to tell him the ordeal, and Charlie lamented that his phone broke down and hasn’t been able to answer some calls. This has happened all week and he’s about to lose his job, even though he’s right there to pick up customers a few mins. after the assigned time.

At this point, I call the cab company and tell them about cab 475’s technical issues, to please not reprimand him, that he made it despite the rain, and was very professional and courteous.

Taxi cab driver story tear

Photo: smilla4, Flickr

My cab driver teared up: “I can’t believe you just did that. That call just saved my job. That’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a while”

Naturally, given how much of a softie I am, I teared up too. “But it’s simply the right thing to do. Who wouldn’t do that?” Charlie responded: “Two other customers I had today were in your same exact situation, but didn’t even bother to call my boss to say everything was OK. Instead, they complained the whole way and told me how I needed to hurry the hell up, that they were late as it was because of the rain”

Wow.

Charlie went on: “I just can’t believe you did that. I know you must also be late for work, yet you have been so nice to me. You saved my job. You are such a good person. It is so hard to find people with such a kind heart as yours nowadays.”

Yep, you guessed it: I teared up again. Just yesterday I had the most horrible day, deep within my life after travel depression, even yelled “I just fucking hate this country!” while sobbing in my gringo boyfriend’s arms last night. And then…I find a beautiful soul that makes my day (besides my boyfriend). But this not it for this taxi cab driver story.

Where this taxi cab driver story got funny

Charlie started asking where I’m from and if I’m a Christian. I say Puerto Rico and that yes, I’m a Christ follower. We started going about how we’re both just trying to follow Jesus footsteps and hoping that spreading our kindness however we can may hopefully transform some lives daily. We then went off about how hospitable Caribbean people are, how we rejoice on daily life and are not so sucked up on material things, like the new American Dream trap and such. I digressed, saying not many Puerto Ricans are like that, but we laughed it off. Live day by day. “Live that your memories will be part of your happiness.” That sort of thing.

Then he told me a funny Haitian tale and my top taxi cab driver story:

Back in Haiti, there was this good old man with 4 sons: Three were rich, one was very poor. One fine day the good old man dies. At his funeral, his 3 rich sons dropped $20,000 cash, EACH, inside the good old man’s coffin, so he could take riches to heaven. Can you believe that?! All that cash! Haitian beliefs and materialism, bad bad mix most times. Anyway! All that cash is in, then the 4th son of the good old man, the very poor one, goes by the coffin, writes a $100,000 check and tells his good old man: “Father, God doesn’t accept that much cash in heaven. I’ll take the $60,000 — here’s a $100,000 check, with $40,000 just from me, because I love you so.” Then the poor son walked away rich, with $60,000 … whilst his bank account had NO FUNDS!
But hey, there’s no cash and no banks in heaven either, are there? 😉

Lol! I died! We both laughed so hard! Charlie continued:

“You see, many times, many rich people not so smart, but many poor people very smart too. Depends where you go. But I see it here in the USA too: People with so much money, buy so many cars and big houses, put away so much money, work so so so many hours, barely live until just a few years before they die. Then they die and where does all that money go!? WASTED! Most true rich people, rich people in the heart, live instead of exist. Live much happier life. Enjoy much more life. Not saying being rich is bad, but it is like Jesus said: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Only the humble in the heart will enter heaven. To me, only the humble in the heart, too, have true heaven on Earth.”

I nodded and teared up a bit again as we rolled into my company’s building. I said farewell, took his card, and went into my office. I know who I’m calling on another rainy day.

Taxi cab driver story

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