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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

Dream Destination – Belize, Part 2

.In the second part of our Dream Destination – Belize series we leave the beaches and delve into the jungle in search of more adventures, memories, wild life and a place to stay. So make sure to check out Dream Destination – Belize, Part 1 and continue our journey with us in part two – we’ve got a lot to explore and dream up!

Like we said in part 1, we have a lot left of South and Central America to explore and while we don’t know when we will be able to go next, we never tire of dreaming up our next adventure.

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

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Explore the Jungles –

While jungles can be found in many countries around the world, few countries can boast such a truly wild and diverse jungle as Belize. With over 60% of Belize covered in forest landscapes, a staggering 38% is protected, and safe from deforestation. This fact alone should have and jungle loving hiker packing their bags and booking their flight to Belize as there is simply endless untouched jungle to explore.

There is no other feeling like being completely surrounded by nature and few locations that have the magical feeling of getting lost while exploring a jungle. The sounds are different and unique, there is often the constant sound of dripping water and gorgeous greenery around every turn. Paynes Creek National Park is one of the most vast expanses of protected areas in Belize at over 30,000 acres.

While we love exploring the jungles, always make sure you are covered up and have taken every precaution against insect and bug bites. As anyone who regularly reads this blog will know, I came down with a nasty case of Dengue Fever in Phuket on my birthday last year and it was no fun at all, so always cover up!

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

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Go Kayaking & Canoeing –

With so much of the land area of Belize covered with dense forest, the waterways became popular years ago as the number one way to get around for locals. With the mighty Mopan river starting in Guatemala and meeting the Macal river, the two bodies of water came together to form the Belize river which winds its way across the country to the sea.

Not only is there great kayaking and canoeing along the river where you will often see a wide selection of beautiful wild birds and large iguanas sunbathing on the banks, there are also many class I and II whitewater rapids which can make for quite and adventurous and exciting afternoon.

Not only does Belize offer some amazing kayaking options, but you can also go canoeing through ancient caves, an exciting and thrilling way to explore the vast natural wonders Belize has to offer.

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2

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The waterways are so good for canoeing that each year Belize is home to the La Ruta Maya Belize Canoe Race which is an endurance race through 170 miles of the Belize River, the longest canoe race in South and Central America.

So whether your style is a long distance endurance race or a slower pace exploration of the river during a sunny afternoon, the rive provides endless varieties of activities and sites to see.

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

Stay at a Unique Hotel –

Let’s be honest, the first thing that pops into our heads when thinking about trekking into and exploring the jungle is a comfortable and safe place to sleep. While we love a good sweaty afternoon hiking in a hot and humid jungle, it really makes the day worth it when you have a clean and quiet place to relax at after a long day of exploring.

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

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Lucky for us we found just the spot in the middle of the Belizian jungle. The Ka’ana Resort, located in San Ignacio is nestled among the lush green jungle and provides not only a clean and quiet place to stay during your stay but a downright beautiful and modern one at that.

Watch this video and tell me you don’t want to jump on a plane to Belize right now?

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If you have read any of our hotel reviews on Latitude 34, you will know we are huge fans of hotels which provide a true experience above and beyond just a place to lay our heads. Any place can give you a bed and a bathroom, but it takes a special kind of establishment to think outside the box and provide a true accommodation experience, which it looks like Ka’ana Resort specializes in. We can’t wait to get down there and tell you all about it!

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

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Check out the Animals!

What trip to the middle of the jungle would be complete without seeing all the wildlife there is to experience? In reading all we can about Belize, we have come to the conclusion that it might just have one of the most diverse animal populations on Earth. World famous of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest reef behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Belize offers hands down some of the best diving, snorkeling and fishing anywhere in the world.

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

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With such a dense and diverse jungle area, Belize offers visitors an absolutely vast array of wildlife from exotic birds to reptiles, wild insects and monkey species. But what is the most unique animal Belize offers? The jaguar.

The Jaguar Preserve  at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most vast and protected areas for jaguars in the world, if not the most. The preserve offers visitors the chance to hike one of the longest hiking trails in the country as well as dorms to sleep in and camping for the super adventurous. The entrance fee is $10, camping is $5 per person and dorms are available for $20 per night.

While the most popular trail, the The Victoria Peak trail, is only accessible in the dry season, with over 128,000 acres, there is endless land to explore for any traveler, from novice to expert. 

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Dream Destination- Belize, Part 2_04

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So that raps up our Dream Destination – Belize series. We have learned about the Belize Barrier Reef, the beaches, food, culture, wildlife, jungles and some amazing looking place to stay along the way. I hope you’ll join us in adding a trip to Belize to your dream destination list and we hope to see you there!

If you have already been to Belize, will be going soon or have any suggestions, tips or stories to share, leave them in the comments – we can’t wait to hear from you. Remember, be safe, smile and travel like you mean it!

Images provided in part from Flickr via Sea Kayak ObanDennis Jarvis and Golden Dusk Media

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

Dream Destination – Belize, Part 1

.Each year Marina and I try to put together our dream destination list, a list which is ever growing and rarely gets smaller. While we’ve already checked off some major dream destinations so far this year (Finland, Egypt!) we sure can’t get to everywhere all at once, which is why we have to dream a little bit, something every traveler should do.

We were lucky enough to visit Ecuador and Peru at the end of 2012 and lived briefly in Chile back in 2009, but have yet to truly tackle Central America, the home of this Dream Destination  – Belize.

Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1One of the best parts of traveling is hearing about places we have never been from passionate travelers around the world. Belize seems to keep popping up, so we’ve compiled a list of all the things we have to do when we finally get to Belize. From adventures to the food, excursions to unique hotels, we’ve mapped it all out – and there is so much we broke it in to two different parts!

Belize has the interesting classification as being the only English speaking country in its region while also being part of the Caribbean and Central America simultaneously which makes for a diverse and rich culture, ripe for exploring!

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1. Explore Mayan Ruins

Modern day Belize was the very center of the ancient Mayan civilization, and there is no better place to explore these ancient ruins anywhere in the world. Belize is home to the largest concentration of Mayan temples, artifacts, tunnels, paintings, etc. and you can get lost forever exploring these fascination sites. While the Mayan civilization might have reached its peak 1,000 years ago, decendants of the great Maya still live in Belize, including member of the Yucatec, the Mopan and the Ketchi tribes. 

While there are endless ruins to explore, the Caracol, Altun Ha and Lubaantun ruins are among the most popular and easy to explore. But don’t just take our word for it, check out the top 10 Maya sites to see in Belize and read more about each one. 

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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We have explored ancient temples in Guatemala and climbed the famous steps to Machu Picchu but still have so much exploring to do. There is something about ancient ruins that is endlessly fascinating, and if you let yourself explore and allow your imagination to run wild you are in for a real treat!

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2. Fun in the Sun

When we say head to the beach, we really mean it in Belize. With over 270 miles of stretching white sandy beaches, there are truly endless possibilities for water activities in Belize. Aside from the gorgeous beaches, Belize offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world – including the Belize Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole, one of the most draw dropping sites in the world, over 400 feet deep.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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So whether you fancy simply laying on the beach, diving in for a refreshing swim, exploring the sea life with a snorkel or going all in for a dive, Belize has some of the best sea life in the world and we cannot wait to explore all it has to offer. The best beaches in Belize are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Placencia and Hopkins Bay so take the time to map them out and don’t miss a single one!

Want to go kayaking? Just wait for our part two, where we delve into the jungles!

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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3. The Right Place to Stay

On every adventure the right accommodation is key, and Belize is no different. But with so much to explore and experience we have tried to find the best hotel options that offer both a comfortable and elegant place to stay and a full offering of all Belize has to offer without being over the top or insincere, which is hard to find.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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Our pick for the best hotel to enjoy the sun and seaside fun is Hopkins Bay Belize, which seems to offer the best of both worlds. With comfortable 1, 2 and 3 bedroom bungalows, it is secluded away from tourist activity, right on the beach and close enough to town to not feet completely cut off from the world, while remaining private and quiet.

While located right on the beach, they offer great fishing, diving and snorkeling tours while also offer complete caving, ziplining and Mayan ruin tours, a list so long we’ll never get through it.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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Hopkins bay also offers some really great ways to interact with the local Garifuna people in the village just minutes away. Take a Garifuna drumming lesson and learn the rhythms of the village or jump on the back of a bicycle and join in on a cultural immersion tour, both will leave you with special memories of the native people of Belize.

 

4. The Food!

No matter where we travel in the world we are always on the lookout for the most fresh, authentic and real local food we can find, we’ve even taken Thai cooking classes in Chiangmai just to learn how to make a few of our favorite dishes. With the rich diversity of the Central American and Caribbean influences, Belize truly has a unique and absolutely delicious cuisine.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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We are most excited to try Serre la sus, soup made from coconut milk, onions and fish, which sounds very similar to our favorite Thai soups. Obviously the seafood is of huge popularity, which only makes us more excited to try their local seafood dishes, especially the lobster.

Huge fans of spice and pepper, we’ll be putting local Habanero Pepper Sauce on just about everything and washing it all down with a local ginger beer, hows that for a kick to your palette! (We might even have to add in a bit of world famous Belizian rum!)

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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On part two of our Dream Destination – Belize series, we’ll explore the jungle, find one of the most hidden and beautiful hotels, jump in canoes and find some true wildlife!

What are your dream destinations around the world? Leave a comment below and let us know where you want to get lost, explore, make memories and when you plan to get there!

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Images provided in part by Flicklr via BrettMike Heller and Shezamm

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

The Best Ways to Travel Across Europe

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Europe will always be one of the most popular tourist and holiday destinations in the world, but far too many visitors simply don’t take advantage of all the region has to offer. Coming from the states, Marina and I are always surprised when we travel across Europe, just how close everything really is. So while its lovely to fall in love with Paris for a weekend or get swept off your feet in Budapest, here are our best tips for making the most of your next trip to Europe.

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The Best Ways to Travel Across Europe

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Get out of the city! 

So many visitors simply fly in and out of the same city without ever getting outside the city boundaries, where there is so much left to explore! The city center will always offer a visitor most of the top attractions, tourist restaurants and photo opportunities, but rarely does a city center offer the culture and feel of a country like you find when you escape the tourist traps and long lines. So no matter how you travel, by bus, bike or foot, get out of the city limits!

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Walk Everywhere

Traveling is already exhausting enough as it is, so who wants to walk around all day when you arrive to your destination, right? Wrong! Walking and getting lost in a new city, especially when you travel across Europe is simply one of the best ways to get to know a city, find a secret hole in the wall, run in to friendly locals and discover a completely different side to a city you probably never dreamed of finding. So strap on your big boy shoes, forget the popular areas and wander off into the unknown, we promise you’ll love what you find.

We found some of our favorite areas in Europe simply by getting lost on foot, be it an amazing pub in Tallinn, Estonia or a neighborhood in Holland we never would have seen otherwise.

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Rent a Car

While Europe is very centrally located and much is close together, you’ll still need more than a pair of legs to get around. Flights are a quick and (sometimes) cheap way to get around, however you’ll miss so much of the experience that if you have the time, take a bit longer and consider renting a car. While a bit more time consuming than other modes of transportation, there is really no better or exciting feeling than jumping in a car and driving off into the sunset on a road trip to the unknown. Make sure if you drive in Europe that you have a valid international driver’s license and that you are carrying Breakdown Cover from The AA as the last thing you want to be is stranded in the middle of nowhere. Traveling is all about the adventure, so don’t shy away from a more exciting way to explore a new place, the benefits always outweigh the negatives.

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The Best Ways to Travel Across Europe

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Jump on the Train

Easily the most popular way to travel across Europe, especially among young travelers, the train system in the region is easily the world’s finest, no matter where you are traveling to. While the German, Swiss and Finnish systems are known for their absolute efficiency and on time departures, in general the train will be the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to travel around the area.

The always popular Eurail pass offers travelers nearly endless combinations of routes, passes, tickets to truly match any travel itinerary whether you are hoping to travel in just Italy or through all the 27 countries the pass services.

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Some images provided by Flickr via Santiago La Rotta and Brian Koprowski

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast! 

Confessions of an Expat: How to Talk Dirty to Any Traveler

Confessions of an Expat: How to Talk Dirty to Any Traveler

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It’s funny what turns you on as a kid, and even funnier to to see how that changes over time as you grow up. What once might have got me all excited and giggly as a kid just doesn’t do it for me anymore. No matter how much root beer I find when I open the fridge, I won’t share the same excitement I would have at the age of 11 and no friend telling me their parents are gone for the weekend is going to have the same effect it did on me in high school. And so it goes, from year to year, what excites us changes and what turns us on and off does as well. One thing will always stay the same however, we all still get turned on and if you want to talk dirty to any traveler, here is how to do it.

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4) “We have free wifi” –  Like hearing your friend stole a six pack from their parents basement, being told you are somewhere with free wifi just makes the day or night a bit better. In this day and age it really isn’t cool to not offer free wifi, but some places still try to charge for it. A 24 hour wifi code will run you $20 at some high hotels and don’t even try to get wifi on a cruise or you’ll be paying the better part of $30 an hour. So while free wifi might not be as exciting as a warm can of beer in middle school, it sure is exciting and way more productive – unless you use the money you save to buy a round.

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“While not as exciting as paying a visit to Pacific Sunwear or Abercrombie and Fitch  to buy new clothes in high school, the only thing that matters while traveling is finding a way to keep the clothes you do have clean…”

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3) “You can use my car” – There is no better feeling then when you board that plane for a far off land and leave your car behind, or better yet have sold your car altogether. However, just like having access to your Mom’s mini van in high school for that hot date, having a friend on the road with a car is super awesome and nothing to be taken for granted. Have you ever tried getting from LAX to Pasadena using public transportation? I didn’t think so, which is exactly why having a friend with a car in most cities around the world is incredibly handy. A car was freedom in high school (plus one million cool points) and it is freedom today. So while you might not be needing a car these days to meet your friends in the park at 11pm and sketch out the whole neighborhood, having a car is better than taking three buses and walking two miles any day of the week, especially with a backpack on stuffed with all of your dirty clothes, which brings us to number three.

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2) “We have a washing machine” – Clean clothes are something we all take for granted when we are off the road, but as soon as we hit the road again, having somewhere to clean your clothes is of upmost importance. While not as exciting as paying a visit to Pacific Sunwear or Abercrombie and Fitch  to buy new clothes in high school, the only thing that matters while traveling is finding a way to keep the clothes you do have clean. Plus, even if you are washing your jeans and socks in the small sink of a shared bathroom in a hostel at least your pants earned the tattered and torn look through world exploration instead of spending $89.99 for a pair of pre-frayed shorts at A&F back in 1999.

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1) “I’ve got an extra room you can crash in” – The equivalent to the girl you had a crush on in 9th grade telling you her Mom wasn’t coming up until later, telling any traveler you have an extra room will have the same effect…ok maybe a bit less exciting. We all need a roof over our heads, and while some are happy to simply sleep in the middle of central park for the night (we’ll save that story for later), most enjoy the knowledge of knowing they have somewhere safe and preferably indoors to lay their heads at night. Offering an extra room, bed, couch or even floor to a traveler is just about as good as it gets – although, let’s face it, nothing beats someone’s parents not being home in high school. And while it might not be as exciting as rounding first base and heading for second, nothing beats a free place to stay on the road – and who knows, some great relationships start on the road, so you might get waved home anyway.

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**BONUS** “We’ve got hot water” – Anyone who travels a bit more off the beaten path will appreciate this one and what a hot shower can mean to someone slumming it through mountains of Northern Vietnam for a couple weeks. Taking a long overdue hot shower on the road is almost as good as an out of control pool party in high school. While it might lack the drinks, girls, laughs and shenanigans of a Friday night in 11th grade, you’re still having a party, a party for one. And anything is better than bathing in that bucket of cold rain water for the fifth night in a row.

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So there you have it, the best ways to talk dirty to any traveler. It’s funny how most of us grew up with all of the things listed, yet probably never thought twice about taking a hot shower or using the family wifi as particularly luxurious. And while nothing beats the excitement of teenage trouble making, it’s the little things that matter most on the road. While I’ve been able to walk into a store and buy beer for almost a decade and all of my friends parents are always gone for the night (because most of them live 500 miles away), it really is funny to see how things change over time. However, in the end, all that matters is that there are still things in our lives that turn us on and while it might have been going to see a PG-13 movie with that cute girl in high school, today I’m happy to say that a hot shower, a clean bed (or dirty couch) and free wifi is just fine and will keep me happy for a long time. So find what turns you on in life, go after it, chase it and never stop searching for that which excites you – unless it is just finding wifi to post a picture of your espresso on Instagram.

*Photo provided from Flickr by Tito Tito Juga

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Dream Destination: Scotland

Dream Destination: Scotland

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The more we travel, the longer our dream destination list gets and no matter how many cities, countries or regions we manage to visit each year, the list just keeps growing longer. Never shying from a challenge, we’ve got a lot of work to do and who knows when we’ll get to all our dream destinations, but lucky for us we can dream about them until we do.

Our newest dream destination is Scotland, a country we have long wished to visit but which has somehow eluded us this far. While we were lucky enough to spend time in both Ireland and London earlier this year, Scotland got away from us, much to our disappointment.

While we have stayed in many Accor brand hotels around the world, we haven’t stayed with the Ibis brand, one we’ll be looking forward to staying with in Edinburgh, as our most important goal will be to be comfortable and centrally located with all the running around we’ll be doing.

But hey, we can still dream, and thats just what we’ll do. So sit back and dream with us about visiting Scotland, our next dream destination, as we count down our top five reasons to visit this amazing country.

 

Dream Destination: Scotland

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1.  Visit Loch Ness and the Great Glen 

One of the most beautiful areas in all of the United Kingdom, the product of great geological upheaval, the Loch Ness area of Scotland is as picturesque as it is beautiful and as dreamlike of a destination as you could ever imagine as a child. The luscious landscape, deep earthy greens and bright blue skies paired with the childlike wonder of the region provide endless fantasies to children and adults alike!

So pack a day bag and get the whole family in the car to explore one of the most beautiful and magical areas of Scotland, and keep your eyes peeled for Nessy, who knows what you might see!

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Dream Destination: Scotland

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2. Castles! Castles! Castles!

Castles have always fascinated me and Europe is home to the most beautiful castles in the whole world so it only makes sense that many of these are located in the beautiful backdrop that makes up the Scottish countryside.

While we could visit castles every day and never get bored, there are a few in Scotland we just can’t miss. Eilean Donan, Edinburgh Castle and Castle Fraser are on the top of our list. If you are feeling super adventurous, there are many ancient castles you can even spend the night in and while we try to save money while traveling, there are certain things that might just be worth the extra cost.

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3. Highland Games

Started to celebrate the Scottish and Celtic culture and history in Scotland, the Highland Games, held every August, provide one of the most interesting and cultural looks at any country we have ever seen. A series of unique competitions, strong man games, dancing, food and fun, the Highland Games show off the best of Scottish culture while giving the almost 30,000 visitors a unique and fun look into what is truly means to be Scottish.

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Dream Destination: Scotland

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Being huge fans of experiencing festivals wherever we go around the world, we always try to make our travel plans include all the local celebrations we can, and a visit to Scotland in August to visit the Highland Games is on the top of our list.

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4. Taking a Whiskey Tour

What is a trip to Scotland without at least tasting some whiskey? Long known for it’s whiskey, Scotland has five distinct whiskey producing regions which all have a collection of amazing distilleries you can visit and tour. From the beautiful Abhainn Dearg Distillery on the Isle of Lewis to the Strathisla Distillery near Keith, Moray – Scotland boasts the most amazing distilleries around, and no trip would be complete without a tour of at least one. 

So find a driver, book a tour, and try some of the best whiskey in the world.

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Dream Destination: Scotland

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5. Hiking 

While hiking might not be the first thing that pops into your head after all that whiskey tasting, no hiker in the world wouldn’t wish to meander through the Scottish highlands for at least an afternoon. As green as couple possibly be, the landscape is any outdoor enthusiasts dream and there really isn’t a bad place to hike in Scotland.

If you are looking for a bit of a challenging hike and want to climb some mountains, head to Beinn Alligin in Wester Ross and if you are looking for a more mellow walk, head to Sandwood Bay in Southerland for a more relaxed walk along the gorgeous beach – seemingly undiscovered and in the middle of nowhere.

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All images provided by Flickr via Ernest AguayoMoyan Brenn and Daniel Peckham

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast! 

10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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Europe is packed full of popular weekend break destinations such as Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona, but scratch a little deeper under the surface and you’ll find equally beautiful cities that benefit from less crowd and arguably more charm.

We spent months traveling around Europe this year and while we absolutely loved many of the popular cities, we really fell in love with smaller cities we never planned to visit such as Innsbruck, Austria, Tallin, Estonia and Budapest, Hungary. So take a look at these fantastic little cities in Europe and plan your dream getaway to a city you may never have heard of!

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1. Leipzig

Just over quarter of a century ago there were concerns Leipzig may not survive following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, the concern is they may be soon overrun with tourists and developers as the city builds its reputation as ‘the better Berlin’, combining poignant reminders of history, glorious green spaces and beautiful architecture.

With a focused and blossoming artistic society, Leipzig is fast becoming a city of note for collectors, aficionados and lovers of beauty.

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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2. Naples

Considered to be Milan’s more affordable and beautiful sister, Naples is a historic city, and has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Small streets wrapped around charming old buildings make for an authentic Italian visit. The home of the pizza, nobody creates this culinary favourite like the Neopolitans (Da Michele is the city’s most famous pizzeria, with good reason).

The Neopolitans are fervent football fans; locals worship former Napoli player Diego Maradona, so be sure to make time for a game at the Stadio San Paolo.

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3. Reykjavik

The world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state, Reykjavik is not the location for sun-worshippers. That aside, it’s recognised as one of the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world, and offers incredible natural beauty, plenty of photogenic geographical features such as geysers and glaciers, and a decent chance of seeing the Northern Lights

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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4. Bruges

Located on the north-western point of Belgium, Bruges is picture-perfect, offering incredible architecture and humble beauty. The medieval architecture of the city, mostly still intact, makes it a wonderful place to spend a day simply wandering around. Perhaps Bruges’ most celebrated sight is the Belfry – a stunning 83-meter high medieval bell tower, which still employs a full-time carillonneur (who gives regular free concerts).

Bruges is an ideal city to visit for a day – companies such as Cruise 1st (take a look at the site here) run regular taster cruises, which typically stop off at Bruges and Paris.

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5. Gothenburg

The second city of Sweden is often overlooked by overseas visitors in favour of the capital Stockholm, but offers much in the way of entertainment and culture including the influential Göteborg International Film Festival. The city is growing increasingly popular with Swedish daytrippers looking for a cultural and entertaining visit.

Gothenburg is also developing a reputation as a shopping lovers’ paradise with Nordstan, Scandinavia’s largest shopping centre, based in the city centre.

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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6. Reims

Wine-lovers continue to flock to Reims, which is in the Champagne region, thanks to the city’s wine output. Lovers of the grape make up the majority of the city’s tourism, but there is plenty for teetotallers to enjoy as well including the beautiful architecture of the Basilica St. Remi and Chateau de Conde.

Reims Tourism offers tours around the great Champagne houses, giving visitors the chance to sample the local delicacies.

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7. Ljubljana

Slovenia may not be the first choice which comes to the mind of the British holidaymaker, but the capital Ljubljana is a beautiful city with more than 10,000 cultural events taking place every year. Ljubljana Old Town is beautiful and unspoiled, the perfect size to spend a couple of hours wandering around before finding a café or bar to chill out in for lunch.

For a more modern, contemporary experience Metelkova is an autonomous social centre in the city centre comprising of bars, galleries and artistic studios.

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8. Torshavn

The largest city on the Faroe Islands, Torshavn translates to Thor’s Harbour – after the God of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology. The modern city is much more relaxed than the name suggests with rolling green hills, beautifully simplistic architecture and a clean, peaceful atmosphere.

Take a step back in time by visiting Tinganes, the old region of the city made up small wooden houses covered with turf roofs.

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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9. Braga

Whilst the Algarve is the epicentre of British tourism in Portugal thanks to the beautiful sunshine and stretches of sandy beaches, the northern reaches of the country have plenty to offer visitors. The city of Braga is a historically significant region with Neolithic, Medieval and Modernist monuments making up the ancient streets.

The Episcopal Palace of Braga is a beautiful old place comprising of baroque, gothic and Portuguese architecture.

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10. Cork

Selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2005, Cork is a beautiful old city on the southern coast of Ireland. Known as ‘the rebel city’ thanks to its people’s support of the Yorkist movement during the English War of Roses and as the country’s ‘real capital’ in reference to the city’s anti-treaty stance during the Irish Civil War, Cork has had a controversial and varied history which still scars the city.

The medieval architecture of the city is enduringly popular, charming visitors for hundreds of years.

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Images provided from Flickr via Leandro Neumann CluffoDavid EversGreg NeateWolfgang Staudt and Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Travel Tips for Kids by Kids

Travel Guides for Kids by Kids

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Growing up I always remember heading out on vacations with the family and despite all the excitement of packing our bags, jumping on an airplane and arriving to a new destination there was always one thing nagging me in the back of my mind. This place looks great, but where are all the kids activities, what is there for ME to do?

I’d always run into the hotel lobby and grab all the pamphlets I could see, looking for the most exciting thing my sister and I could plan for the week. With all the information it was always tough to sift through and tell if we would like any of the adventures that were advertised.

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Travel Tips for Kids by Kids

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One trip I remember in particular was to England, where we spent 10 days driving all throughout the country and visiting countless villages, historical sites and churches. While us kids understood the importance of visiting these important places, we were still kids after all and always looking for some childlike fun.

Now, thanks to The UK Our Way, there is tons of helpful information for all those kids looking for the best ways to fill their days while on holiday in the UK including guides on the best place to fly a kite and the best place to build a sandcastle among countless others.

So while no trip should leave out the important historical and significant sites along the way, the kids have the chance to plan their own adventures and finally have an easy and fun way to explore and experience all they can imagine while still learning about the world around them.

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Travel Tips for Kids by Kids

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Images provided via Flickr by Kenny (zoompict) Teo and Kevin Krejci

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast! 

Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico_09

Off the Beaten Path: Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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It’s a widely known fact: the harder you work out before a meal, the better food tastes. Everyone knows the guilt-free sensation of pigging out after a strenuous session at the gym. With that in mind, the idea of visiting the Ocean Grill, located along the coast of the Bay of Banderas just south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, was instantly appealing. You see, there are only 2 ways to get there…by foot or by water taxi. The “by foot” option is a 45 minute hike that starts at the small fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan and ends at a picturesque, secluded cove complete with a gourmet restaurant. Since we were planning on a decadent lunch with a few adult beverages, the exercise-free water taxi wasn’t an option.

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Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico_11

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On the morning of our adventure, we parked at the base of the river mouth in Boca that runs down from the Sierra Madres and meets the Pacific Ocean. After locating a small, concrete pedestrian bridge that took us over the river, we just followed the path south and prayed that we were heading the right way.

The first part of the journey took us past some beautiful villas on the coast that are accessible only by boat or foot. Many local residents were hanging out on their front porches, cheering us along with shouts of encouragement or advice us to drink lots of water. We felt like we were running a marathon with our supporters on the sidelines instead of just heading to lunch.

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Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico_04

 

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Eventually the homes started to peter out and we found ourselves surrounded by lush jungle with the occasional peek-a-boo views to the ocean beyond.

Just around the time when I was starting to daydream about a cool swim and an even colder beer, the path started to descend towards the ocean and opened up to an incredible, golden sand beach at the base of a jungle lined cove which would be the setting for our lunch reservation at Ocean Grill.

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Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico_05

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Upon entering the restaurant, we were promptly greeted with cold towels and seated beneath the cool shade of the palapa. Cervezas were quickly ordered so that they would be waiting for us upon our return from the most important task at hand: jumping off the deck into the cool ocean below.

Properly refreshed, it was time to get down to the business at hand: eating. The menu at Ocean Grill is comprised of what you would expect from a tropical grill restaurant on the ocean in Mexico: fish ceviche, grilled oysters, catch of the day, fresh lobster.

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Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico_06

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We started out with an order of smoked marlin tosadas: a crunchy, round toasted corn tortilla topped shredded, smoked marlin along with fresh avocado, red onion and cilantro and an order of grilled clams in garlic butter and lime. Perfect!

This was followed by grilled octopus with a black olive tapenade, grilled prawns with a tomato and mango salsa, and baby back pork ribs with the chef’s homemade BBQ sauce.

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Ocean Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico_09

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Everything was super fresh and completely delicious, just as you’d expect from a restaurant where you can dip your toes in the ocean below.

Since we weren’t in much of a hurry to leave and the staff seemed content to let us stay, we decided to spend the afternoon lounging about on their deck, drinking margaritas, exploring the beach below and swimming to the ocean raft (complete with palm tree and sun bed).

When it eventually was decided that perhaps we should get back to reality (and by reality I mean head back to gorgeous Puerto Vallarta), we jumped on the Ocean Grill water taxi and were swiftly returned to our starting point in Boca de Tomatlan.

Great company, good food, unique experience, beautiful scenery…is there any better way to spend a day?

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Larissa Magee lives in Puerto Vallarta and works for Agave Villas Mexico, a luxury villa rental company. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+

 

All the photos provided by Mattock Imagery.

16 Best Travel Movies of All Time

The 16 Best Travel Movies of All Time

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While we all might dream of being out on the road traveling all the time, the truth is most of us simply aren’t able to. And even if we are able to travel, there is a huge world out there and we can never be everywhere at once, no matter how hard we try! So, whether you are home on your couch dreaming up your next big adventure or stuck on a chicken bus in South America just trying to remember why you fell in love with travel in the first place, here is our list of the 16 best travel movies of all time to help you pass the time.

So sit back, grab some popcorn, throw on Netflix and enjoy some travel inspiration straight from Latitude 34 as we go through the 16 Best Travel Movies of All Time. Which one is your favorite? Think we forgot one? Add your thoughts in the comments and enjoy!

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1. The Darjeeling Limited


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2. The Beach


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3. Thelma & Louise


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4. Life of Pi


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5. Lost in Translation


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6. Into the Wild


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7. The Motorcycle Diaries


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8. In Bruges 


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9. Eat Pray Love


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10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


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11. Out of Africa Trailer


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12. Vicky Cristina Barcelona


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13. The Endless Summer


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14. The Way


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15. Long Way Around


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16.The Art of Travel


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Photo provided via Flickr from Kelsi Barr

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

The 26 Best Travel Songs of All Time

The 26 Best Travel Songs of All Time

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Music and Travel go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. There really isn’t anything close to jumping on a plane, taking a seat on a bus or setting out on a road trip with your favorite tunes helping to set the mood of your impending adventure. I make a very real effort to listen to songs over and over during intense and memorable segments of my life, many revolving around travel, in order to burn them into my brain, my being, my memory – a soundtrack of my life.

I’ll save you all from the somewhat questionable songs I’ve listened to at certain points in my life (ohh, like you’re one to talk?), but I will say that this list is pretty darn epic and filled with some of the best travel songs of all time. You’ll recognize many instantly, re fall in love with others, laugh at some you had forgotten about and hopefully discover a few new tunes I simply love which have traveled with me around the world.

From the gentle melodies of the 1960’s Beach Boys to brand spanking new songs from 2014, this playlist covers it all. So pack your bag, grab some buddies, and get ready to feel good whether making new memories or remembering old ones.

So let us start off this list and see what happens, in no particular order whatsoever.

What is your favorite travel song of all time? Leave a link to the video in the comments and share it with us!

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1. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Road Trippin’


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2. Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer


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3. Journey – Faithfully


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4. Travelling  – Paper Lions


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5. Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere


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6. The Beach Boys – Surfer Girl


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7. Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild


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8. Toto – Africa


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9. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home


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10. Fastball – The Way


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11. Arcade Fire – No Cars Go


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12. Willie Nelson – On The Road Again


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13. Old Crow Medicine Show – Wagon Wheel


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14. Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole


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15. Curse Curse – James


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16. Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band


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17. Moby – Porcelain


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18. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run


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19. Leaving On A Jet Plane – Peter, Paul & Mary


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20. Pharrell Williams – Happy


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21. Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me


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22. Daft Punk – Get Lucky


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23. Don Henley – Boys of Summer


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24. Men at Work – Down Under


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25. Walk The Moon – Anna Sun


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26. M.I.A. – Paper Planes


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Photo provided from Flickr via Ian Iott

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

7 Tips For a Cross Country Road Trip

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When planning a vacation, one must choose from an infinite amount of options: where to go, how to get there, what to do, etc. You, on the other hand, want to see it all. We’re talking sea to shining sea and everything in between.
Don’t hop in your car just yet, though. Here are some tips you should take into consideration first.

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Budget for Your Trip Wisely

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When it comes to cross-country trips, which can take anywhere from 7 days to a few weeks, fiscal responsibility is key. Start saving a few months in advance and make a detailed plan of how much you’re going to spend. You don’t want to stress about money your whole trip or even worse, run out of it.
Always plan to keep a little extra spending cash in case you get lost, stumble across something you just can’t miss, or an emergency pops up.

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Determine the Best Time of Year For Travel

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Between scorching heat and torrential rain, weather will no doubt throw a loop into your road trip plans. Depending on where you start will help decide what time of year is best.
If going east to west, it’s best to start in April or May as the summer months can reach sweltering temperatures up to 115 degrees out west. Traveling west to east means heading into flatter, cooler land. You could start in August and see the colors change as you head across the country into autumn.

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Decide Whether it’s Round Trip or One Way

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Probably the most substantial part of a cross-country road trip is the car. Should you take your own or rent? If you’re willing to spend the money, renting a car could run you in the ballpark of about $3500 between renting, insurance, gas, incidentals, and a ticket home.
If you take your own car, you’re also adding in another 4-5 days, gas, food, and lodging costs (not to mention putting some miles on that odometer). If done correctly though, you could end up saving yourself a hefty amount.

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Choose Where to Stay Carefully

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Whether you prefer a Motel 6 or the Grand Hyatt, this one is totally a matter of choice. If staying in hotels, be sure to make reservations in advance. Another option is to stay with family and friends; not only do you get in some quality visiting time, but it’s free.
Really want to save on costs? As long as you don’t mind the bugs, you could camp out under the stars for a more rugged experience.

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Document Your Travels

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In today’s world, we know you just have to post every single thing you do on social media. Don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere with zero service and find yourself in a scene out of a horror movie. There would also be no way to upload your adorable vacation pics.
Whether you choose to up your data plan or purchase a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, most carriers offer a few options to keep yourself connected during your trip. Plans offered by T-Mobile offer unlimited talk, text, and data on a reliable network. Their mobile hotspots also start at just $10 a month.

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Pack Like You Mean It

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While it’s true there are no size or weight regulations, and you probably won’t have to worry about losing your luggage, you should still pack conservatively.
Plan your outfits ahead of time and bring light or moisture wicking clothes you could wash and hang up in a hotel room if need be. Why take away precious leg room with unnecessary bags or oversized suitcases?

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See Everything; Big and Small

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Why rush through a vacation and only visit the main attractions? The Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls are trademark tourist spots, but make sure you take yourself off the beaten path and visit spots that will make your trip unique. Even if you’re the type of traveler with a detailed itinerary, allow for a few spontaneous detours.
Make the most of your trip by planning ahead and of course, having fun along the way. A cross-country road trip is a great way to vacation and for some, can be the trip of a lifetime.

Photos provided via Flickr from shell bellenat urazmetovaTrey Ratcliff and Steve Wilson

How I Became a Vampire in Malta

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I always wanted to be involved in making movies, but I was from Ohio.

That’s not to say great movie people don’t come from Ohio; we’ve begotten our share of great actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, and editors, including such illustrious names as Wes Craven, Chris Columbus, and Steven Spielberg… and effectively exported them all to Hollywood.

Ohio is a great place for producing creative people because it’s very boring. Kind of like how so many comedians hail from Canada because it’s very cold and people have such a lot of time to sit around the fire making each other laugh.

Don’t get me wrong, Ohio is beautiful in it’s own quiet way, but until George Clooney convinces the big shots to haul their business over to the Midwest, it’s not a place where aspiring film people are going to make it.

And if you have neither money nor connections, and no way of making either, it’s really no use to hit the road for California.

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Eklissi Director Actors Extras

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As the strange twistings of fate would have it, last year I found myself living on a desert island in the middle of the sea. No, really. Frustration with the American economy had driven me to look for work elsewhere, and to my great shock, I had a contract 5 days after I started my online job search. The next day I handed in my notice. The day after that I bought my plane ticket. 2 weeks later I was here.

Here is Malta. Smallest country in the EU, crossroads of the Mediterranean, and strangely, a little island with a strong magnetic pull for the film industry.

Malta is made of neutral colored sandstone, which looks great on celluloid. Not to mention, there are a whole lot of castle-like structures, underground tunnels, natural rock formations, and a dazzling blue sea, which all make for great sets.

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Eklissi Cameo Shot

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Brad Pitt had been here filming World War Z just before I arrived. The Rome section of Gladiator was made here, as were several entire movies and many small scenes from both cinema and television. Often “at sea” sections are filmed off Malta. The film studio here specializes in coordinating maritime scenes.

I didn’t come to Malta to work in the movies, but it didn’t take long to learn that doing so was not so far out of the question. Though the entire island isn’t much bigger than my hometown Cincinnati, a lot goes on here in the industry, and oddly enough, it’s because of the short distances and thoroughly networked everyone-knows-everyone infrastructure that opportunities are so accessible.

One day as I was waiting for the bus, I got into a conversation with a boy selling tickets there who had worked as an extra in World War Z. He told me to join a facebook group called Malta Film Extras, where openings are posted. I did so, and one day saw a call posted. Interested persons were invited to join in a shooting at a certain street in the city of Isla, from 6pm to 2am. Dress code: Carnival.

I almost didn’t go. I wasn’t feeling good that evening, but I figured I could either stay home and feel sick or do something fun and try to forget about it. I had never experienced Carnival in any European city, and didn’t really know what to do. In the end I settled for my most brightly colored skirt and a polka-dot scarf.

I had never been to Isla either. I looked up where it was on Google Maps and found the nearest bus stop to the right street. When I got there, it was dark and the streets were quiet. I walked down to the marina where I found an old man and asked him for directions. He pointed out the street to me, so I walked all the way to the end of it but didn’t see anyone. It must have been canceled, I figured.

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Maltese Vampires plus Me

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Then I turned around and walked down the street in the opposite direction. And then I saw vampires. Vampires and a lot of people looking very busy. I’d found it.

I had to smile at the irony. This was a vampire show, and I was going to be in it.

I’m the kind of person that so pitilessly makes fun of Twilight that my sisters didn’t even tell me when they went to watch Eclipse. The irony went one step further. The name of this show? Eklissi. That means eclipse in Maltese.

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I spotted a man who looked like he knew what to do and asked, “Can I join?”

He brought me into an open door on the street and up the stairs. This was someone’s house, an old Maltese structure with bare limestone walls and painted floor tiles, with contrasting modern furniture. A bathroom was being used as the makeup studio. The man took a look at my face and gave some instructions to the artist in Maltese. When the girl got finished, I looked ready to suck blood.

Back in the street, I got an idea of what it means to be a film extra. Basically, there is a lot of waiting around. A lot of shutting up so that you don’t spoil scenes you’re not in. A lot of imagination required. But ultimately, a lot of fun too.

We spent several hours dancing around without any music, forming a backdrop for the actors who were performing the story. I had a few memorable moments, like when one of the vampires had to run through the crowd of us, and on every take slammed into me really hard, until I was convinced he was doing it on purpose and went scrambling to get out of the way as soon as action was called.

I even got a cameo. The director arranged a shot of me dancing with one of the vamps. I didn’t even know how to dance, and I got to dance on TV. Irony again.

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After that first time, I worked once more with Eklissi, and almost got to be in an action scene, but then I got terribly ill because we had been shooting in a freezing cold mansion while wearing summer clothes, and so I wasn’t able to make it.

Later I worked once on another Maltese TV show, two separate productions that were strangely both about boxing (lots of cheering and screaming for several hours straight for us extras), and finally on an actual feature movie, in Danish.

Is being an extra really being in the movies though? Yes and no. You get to be there, yes, but really your part is to be invisible, the scenery that needs to be there but that no one notices. You really can’t work your way up from being an extra, unless you happen to be David Niven. And you usually won’t get paid.

On the other hand, you get to watch how magic is made. You get to meet interesting people. You might even get a chance to be a vampire in Malta.

Images courtesy of Viktor Vella.

 

Stephanie Spicer is an American living in Malta. She works at Elanguest English Language School in St. Julian’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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