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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!

2014 Wrap Up

Latitude 34 Year End Wrap Up 2014

Now that it is 2015, we wanted to take a look back at this past year. In just 365 days we traveled to over 30 countries on four continents. Jeff and I also both moved from Thailand. In June I moved back home to California, while Jeff took a new job and relocated to Dubai.

2014 was an amazing year! We got to Climb to the top of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, I started my chalkboard photo series, we went off-roading in the Arabian Desert, we visited the Great Pyramids in Egypt, we went to the Maldives on a budget and got to ride in a sea plane, and we took a husky safari in Lapland, Finland!

We traveled over 32,281 miles around the world and had the time of our lives!

 

2014 Wrap Up

 

 

Bio Photo Marina 150x150 UPDATED: Taking A Chalkboard Around The World (PHOTOS)Marina Dominguez is the co-founder of Latitude 34 Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker.

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her best friend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more. 

How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

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Ten years ago right now I was sitting in the Chicago O’Hare international terminal waiting to board a flight to Dublin. It was the day after Christmas and I remember being freezing cold, sitting on hard metal chairs, watching the constant barrage of horrible images coming in on CNN from across SE Asia – Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia. I was watching in awe, never having seen such devastation, at least not on this level.

I began to feel helpless, useless, like nothing I was doing that day, that week, that year mattered anymore. In a matter of minutes hundreds of thousands had lost their lives and millions had theirs changed forever. I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of such a disaster. I knew nothing about South East Asia, nothing about the cultures affected, the region, languages or food but knew I couldn’t help unless I was there. My thoughts were simple, “I have two good hands and they could be helping”, that was all. It was a message more clear in my head than anything in my life and I could not ignore it.

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“It showed me that even while dealing with unending pain and heartache, we all possess the power to rise above it…”

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A few days later I had informed my college I would be taking some time off from school and a couple weeks after that I was standing alone in LAX, boarding a flight to the other side of the world, not really knowing why but feeling like I needed to. I’ll never forget arriving to Phuket, not knowing the first thing about where I was. I tried to get money out of the ATM but had no idea what the exchange was. I clutched tightly to a small piece of paper I had written down the name of a small village on and reluctantly handed it to a tuk-tuk driver, hoping he’d know where to take me.

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How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

 

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What followed was the most impactful and full-filling period of my life up to that point. I met travelers from all over the world, all who came to Phuket drawn by the same feeling – to help strangers in need. I learned about the beautiful Thai culture, the gentle people and the unimaginable suffering they were going through. For the first time in my 20 years on Earth I felt a calling to tell stories, witnessed the power that visuals can have to share emotion and ultimately decided to return to the states and pursue visual journalism as a career.

Upon returning home I switched schools, obtained a photo journalism and documentary filmmaking degree, set off around the world to tell stories, continued to volunteer around the world after natural disasters and have yet to stop chasing the feeling of being in the unknown, exploring the mysterious and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Ten years later I have visited 70 countries on 6 continents, seen things I could only ever dream of, traveled with some of my best friends and met people I will never forget.

Ten years later I have a love for people and places I have yet to visit, but will some day.

Ten years later I have a respect for the world around me I never thought I would.

Ten years later I have a desire to keep going, keep exploring, no matter the cost.

Ten years later I know myself so much deeper because of the travels I have taken.

Ten years later I have stories I hold more tightly than any possessions I own.

Ten years later I have memories of people and places I may never see again, who made me who I am today.

Ten years later I cannot be more thankful I listened to my heart and followed a feeling.

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How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

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I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and I am yet to know why traveling, exploring and documenting the world around me has been what I have been called to do, but I will continue none the less. If you asked me when I was growing up where I would be at 30, I never would have believed I’d be sitting in Madrid, Spain writing this post with my family, flown in from Ecuador and Boston, days before I return to Dubai, where I now live. I never would have believed I could have had such amazing experiences, meet such beautiful people or have made such truly unforgettable memories.

The tsunami destroyed a lot of lives, took a lot of lives too soon and altered the paths of many but it also brought together countries, communities and people from all over the world who otherwise never would have met. As I try and struggle to find my small piece in all of that I try and take comfort in the unending good that has come from the relationships formed since then and how they have helped to make the world a better place – one small deed at a time, one person at a time.

The tsunami changed my life, it changed my life for the better. That single wave changed the course of my entire life, changed the way I think, changed the way I act and showed me what mattered in the world, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. It showed me life is short, to go after my passions, to follow my feelings, to take a leap and trust in where I would land. It showed me that even while dealing with unending pain and heartache, we all possess the power to rise above it. And above all, the tsunami taught me that we are all the same. We all want to be happy, healthy and loved, no matter our path in life.

Sitting here 10 years later I cannot imagine my life any different than it is now. Not a month goes by I don’t meet someone I can never imagine not knowing, whether in Dubai, Finland, Santiago or Chicago and I owe it all to the moment I was sitting on that cold metal chair in Chicago, glued to the TV, knowing I had to do something. So follow that voice, trust where it leads and take a leap, we only live once and who knows where you could end up, just know the world will make it matter, I promise.

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How The Tsunami Changed My Life (For The Better)

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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 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! 

Hotel Review: Cinnamon Lodge Habarana

Hotel Review: Cinnamon Lodge Habarana

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Spread out over an amazingly beautiful 27 acres in the middle of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana is set amongst the lush greenery of Sri Lanka and provides a comfortable, luxurious and centrally located accommodation. Away from the noise of Columbo, the traffic and the hustle and bustle, Cinnamon Lodge Habarana allowed us to relax, recharge and revive our passion for travel before heading out to explore the country.

Small bungalow like rooms are spacious, nicely decorated and private feelings. The grounds are covered in beautiful gardens, green is everywhere with a perfect mix of flowers, plants and pathways seamlessly leading around the property. Warmly welcomed by the caring staff, guests are greeted with a welcome drink and flower before heading to their rooms.

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The restaurant and bar are open spaced, laid out by the pool on the vast green grounds. The food was maybe the best part about our entire stay at Habarana. A complete mix of local, western and Asian foods, there is something for everyone and no one will ever leave hungry. We enjoyed the open air eatery and especially the live music pouring over from the bar area.

Aside from the beautiful grounds at the hotel itself, there are endless activities close by including our favorite excursion in Sri Lanka, our elephant trek into the vast Kaudulla National Park where we finally, for the first time, saw a complete herd of wild elephants in their natural habitat, a truly stunning site to behold.

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We never expected to see such vast greenery in Sri Lanka, and while we should have expected all the natural beauty, it was amazing to explore and discovery the wonders that Sri Lanka had in store for us.

Warmly welcomed back to the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana we spent the evening around the bar, enjoying drinks with new friends and listening to the great live music.

The only downside of our experience was the wifi speed, which was sparse and slow at best and nonexistent at worse. Unfortunately we never came across perfect internet or wifi anywhere in Sri Lanka, so the internet at Habarana is no worse than anywhere else, but just know going in it will frustrate you. Luckily there is so much to do you shouldn’t be worrying about being connected anyway.

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Many choose to travel around the world and stay in luxury hotels in major cities, rarely venturing into the heart of the countries they are visiting. Take the chance, leave the comfort of the cities and travel into the sole of the country you are visiting. Cinnamon Lodge Habarana provides all the comforts of home, the kindness you long for while away from home and experiences you never could have imagined.

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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 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! 

Do Not Miss Climbing Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

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Marina and I were recently lucky enough to jump over to Sri Lanka to attend TBC Asia, the first ever travel blogging conference in Asia. What was even more exciting was being able to arrive four days before the conference and travel around seeing all that we could of this beautiful country in the short time that we had. Easily one of our favorite experiences of our time in Sri Lanka was hiking up to the top of Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, located in the town of Dambulla, in the Central Province.

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We arrive early, maybe before 7am, and the heat was already turning up quickly. Chosen by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) as the location of his capital, the grounds are covered in ancient walls, structures and ponds as the location of his palace was at the base of this magnificent rock structure. Walking towards this massive rock I felt a bit like I was walking through the grounds of Angkor Wat as the vastness of ruins reminded me of the similar layout of the Cambodian temples.

Sri Lanka is one of the greenest countries we have ever visited and while it is also extremely humid for much of the year, it is a small price to pay for the beautiful scenery the wet climate produces. Approaching the first stairs at the base of the rock, we passed one of the funniest signs we have ever seen, a bit intimidating huh? Luckily we kept our cool and didn’t get attacked.

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Approaching the rock itself we started to climb small stone steps leading to the sheer, flat side of the stone. Watch your step, as the stones are often wet and extremely slippery. Word of caution, if you are afraid of heights, have anxiety or are easily scared, think twice about doing this hike as most of the journey is up somewhat rattling metal stairs, bolted directly into the stone face. You will no doubt be fine and will feel like Indian Jones the whole way, but just know its a bit of a thrill.

About half way up the rock face there is a small cave which is still filled with some of the amazing paintings from centuries ago. Take a minute to check out these beautiful frescos, delicately preserved and still just as colorful as when they were painted.

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For those who do not want to go all the way to the summit (but you totally should, the view is amazing!) you can stop about half way up on a plateau where you can see the ancient remnants of the lion massive lion statue which was built into the side of the rock. Only the feet remain, but you get an amazing idea of the insane size this statue must have been.

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Continuing on we started our ascent up the winding walkways, again built into the side of the rock, slowly, as we approached the summit. Once on top we were greeted with a truly magnificent view. The early morning sun had filled the valley below and the glistening mountain tops in the far distance were covered in perfect clouds. The shimmering ponds below reflected the perfect blue morning sky and we sat in awe for a good 30 minutes before beginning our decent down to the base.

The hike down is equally exciting so remember to go slow, take your time and enjoy the view. While we might not either be morning hiker people we would both do this amazing climb over again in a heartbeat – just one more thing that makes Sri Lanka such an amazing destination to visit.

Today Sigiriya is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and is the single most visited historical site in the entire country.

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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 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! 

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Happy Holidays from Latitude 34 – WIN €150 from Radisson Blu! 

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Marina and I have had quite the year in 2014 having traveled to over 35 countries on 4 continents, and while few things have remained certain across our crazy travels, we were always shocked to find a Radisson Blu almost anywhere we ended up. From Estonia to Dubai, Thailand to Germany, there was always a Radisson Blu close by. Having loved our stays so much, (Check out all of our hotel reviews) we asked the kind folks at Radisson Blu if they had anything special they could offer our readers – and you’re in luck!

From today through Christmas Day, you can enter to win a €150 voucher from Radisson Blu that can be used for whatever you want, at any of their locations across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia – and whats more, it doesn’t have to be just for a room. Do you live in Hamburg but are dying to try dinner at the amazing Filini at Radisson Blu Hamburg? Go for it. If you want to try the spa at the Radisson Royal in Dubai – feel free – although we also recommend staying there, as it is one of our favorite hotels in the world.

So enough of my talking right – what do you have to do to win?

  • Comment below this post to be eligible to enter the competition.
  • Add your name and email address to your comment so that we can contact you if you are picked at random.
  • You can maximize your chances of winning by sharing the competition on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag#FestiveBlu One additional entry will be added when you share on one or more of your social media channels.
  • The competition will run for 10 days and will close on December 25th at midnight CET.
  • A winner will be picked at random on December 28th and will be contacted for the gift card to be delivered.
  • Have fun and good luck!

If we had to pick how to spend a €150 voucher from Radisson Blu it would be a tough choice so we’ll leave that up to you!

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Additional Information about the Radisson Blu gift card giveaway:

  • The prize is a Rezidor Giftcard of a value of one hundred and fifty euro (EUR 150.00) which will be awarded at random to someone who has entered the competition
  • Winners can use this gift card in any Radisson Blu hotel in Europe, Middle East and Africa. It can be used towards a stay in one of the Radisson Blu hotels, for drinks and cocktails at any of the Radisson Blu bars, for diner in any of the restaurants or in any of the spa retreats.

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Read our review of one of our favorite Radisson hotels in the world, the Radisson Royal in Dubai!

Hotel Review: Radisson Royal Dubai
Marina getting to work in our amazing room on the 34th floor – its the little things that make Raddison Blu so special!

4 Ways to Travel Healthier

4 Ways to Travel Healthier

 

Are you “one of those people” who always comes back from vacation with a flu or cold? Can you never sleep on hotel beds no matter how comfortable they claim to be? Does it seem like you get back from your trip more stressed and worse for wear compared to when you left? If that’s the case, you’re one of the many travelers who isn’t taking care of their health while discovering new adventures.

You would plan a holiday and leave your travel CPAP machine at home, but caring for your sleep apnea is right on par with not taking care of your subtler health concerns. For example, if you diligently take supplements in your “real life”, don’t forget to pack them in travel-friendly containers for your trip. Here are a few ways to make your next trip healthier and, ultimately, happier:

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1. Boost your immune system

There are many ways to keep your immune system healthy, so start doing so at least a month before you travel (and keep on with it afterward). One of the most effective and natural ways is to add turmeric to your daily diet. You can do this by sprinkling at least a teaspoon’s worth on your meals throughout the day or take a supplement of 800mg to ensure you’re getting the full benefits. Also get adequate amounts of Vitamin C (check the percentage on your multi-vitamin).

The one food we ALWAYS eat while traveling is yogurt. I don’t know about you, but I have a very sensitive tummy, and making sure to always keep enough good bacteria from yogurt in my system has proven time and time again to be the single best way to keep my body in check when I land in a new place.

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2. Stay hydrated

Did you know that, according to Medical Daily, the majority of Americans are dehydrated? This issue becomes exacerbated with long-haul flights where the moisture in the air is even sparser and a lot of people avoiding drinking water in an effort to avoid those cramped bathrooms. Instead, choose an aisle seat if you have a small bladder and fill up on H2O.

 

3. Always choose hotels with a gym

It’s a great excuse to avoid your workouts when you don’t have a free gym an elevator ride away. Even if it’s “just” 20 minutes on the elliptical each day, it’s better than nothing. In fact, the American Heart Association’s recommendation for weekly exercise is a lot more reasonable than many people think. Pack your lightest gym shoes (or wear them on the plane) and commit to sticking with some type of regime.

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4. Pack healthy snacks

Convenience foods usually aren’t the healthiest and many people over indulge on vacation (but not where it counts). Save those splurges for famous food carts, fine dining and other experiences, not raiding the vending machine. While packing a small bag of nuts or a protein bar is simple enough, few people actually take the time to make sure they have a quick, healthy snack while they are traveling and instead just settle for airport meals or convenient store bites to eat – never a good idea. Traveling is way more taxing on our bodies and immune systems so always give your body the best shot to stay healthy so you can enjoy your entire trip!


Traveling healthy can be just as easy as traveling any other way. It just requires a little prep work.

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.Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors, fashion, and relaxing with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Airbnb Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

Airbnb Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

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Booking a vacation rental on Airbnb can seem extremely appealing, especially if you’re staring at some really intimidating hotel prices for a popular destination. Financial concerns can become particularly pressing, if you wait too long to plan your lodging. Travelers can easily find good deals on Airbnb, however some rentals can be more trouble than they’re worth. These properties are listed by citizen property owners who don’t always prioritize customer service or convenience when they’re trying to fill up a vacancy. Here are some major red flags to keep an eye out for as you browse Airbnb listings.

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Host Account Age

Airbnb publishes the amount of time a host has been a member on their website. Airbnb itself was founded in 2008, so you can’t browse around, expecting to find too many hosts with extremely old accounts. However, accounts that have been created during the very same month should lead you to ask some questions about host reliability. Sure, this host could be totally fine, just completely new to the Airbnb process. But how badly do you want to test this theory?

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Airbnb Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

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Unresponsive Hosts

While you’re shopping around for the right rental, use the Airbnb messaging feature to ask questions. Try to do this before you book a place – if time permits – so that you can get a good idea of how responsive a host might be when you’re actually staying at their place. If they take forever to respond, or don’t answer your questions at all, then you should consider giving another host your business.

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Sketchy Payment Requests

Airbnb has created a closed system that allows you to communicate and pay hosts completely through their website. There is absolutely no legitimate reason for a host to speak with you outside of Airbnb’s messaging system or request payment through another platform, such as PayPal or wire transfer. Requests for outside payments are extremely likely to be a scam, and Airbnb won’t be able to intervene in transactions that aren’t conducted on their platform. According to Airbnb’s Online Safety webpage, “you can report people who ask you to do this by flagging the message.”

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Airbnb Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

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Exorbitant Security Deposits

Airbnb allows hosts to set security deposits ranging between $100 and $5000. Unless you’re expecting to Ritz Carlton experience at a particular vacation rental, then you should definitely steer clear of rentals that seem to have unusually high security deposits based on the type of property you’ll be renting.

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Negative Reviews As A Host…Or A Guest

You can get a general idea about the quality of a host by looking at the reviews on their property listings. However, you can even see how these hosts behave as guests when they rent Airbnb properties from other hosts. You can see all of their reviews by going directly to a host’s profile and scrolling down to the “Reviews From Hosts” section. If their “Reviews from Guests” section is pretty sparse, then you can still get a general feel for their reliability based on their experiences as a guest.

Airbnb can be an excellent way to learn more about an area, meet locals, and snag a great deal on your lodging. However, make sure that you won’t get stuck with problematic hosts and properties first. Keep an eye out for these warning signs the next time you book an Airbnb rental!

.Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors, fashion, and relaxing with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Preserving Mexico's Ancient Music

Preserving Mexico’s Ancient Music

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One of the greatest joys of traveling the world for Marina and I is discovering ancient cultures we never have even heard of. While we hope to discover all these great cultures all over the world, we realize this is a somewhat impossible task, and thats when we turn to our friends! Marina and I were very lucky to go to film school with some amazing filmmaking friends and are always excited to see the great projects they are working on all over the world.

Recently, our good friend Cole embarked on a very ambitious project “Sanctuary of Butterflies“, but one well worth the time and energy, to preserve and protect the ancient music of Mexico with Luis Perez, one of the last musicians truly working to preserve this ancient art form. We recently spoke to Cole and Luis to learn more about their project and the amazing history of the music they are dedicated to preserve.

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Preserving Mexico's Ancient Music

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What’s the film about?

Sanctuary of Butterflies is about the need for preservation of cultural traditions throughout Mexico and the impact of such traditions in contemporary urban societies. Music and dance are important forms of expression rooted in thousands of years of traditions, but they are now threatened due to the voracity of modern societies represented by corporate greed and corruption in a globalized world out of balance. Luis Perez-Ixoneztli takes us on a journey across Mexico to experience and learn from a wide variety of unique cultures while they still exist.

Check out the trailer to their amazing project!

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Sanctuary of Butterflies Promo from Gravity Free Productions on Vimeo.

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Help these guys meet their Kickstarter goal so they can make this amazing film – because we really want to watch it!

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Who is Luis Perez-Ixoneztli?

Luis Perez-Ixoneztli has contributed to the world of Mexican music by incorporating native musical instruments into a contemporary musical language, while paving a unique path for new generations of musicians. He believes that the most important part of his musical contribution is bringing back attention to the sheer wealth of native Mexican musical instruments. His first work, En el Ombligo de la Luna, perhaps the ultimate fusion involving Pre-Columbian instruments and electronics, has recently been recognized after 33 years as a pioneering musical work and has been inducted into the National Archives of Mexican Music. In addition, the National Institute of Anthropology and History will be publishing his book next year on the methods involved in constructing instruments native to Mexico, specifically Pre-Columbian clay percussion and winds.

Luis’ vast array of archaeological artifacts, some dating over 3000 years old, and ethnographic instruments, still in use by numerous diverse ethnic communities, have been displayed in various museums in both Mexico and the United States.

In his youth, Luis went on a series of trips very similar to the one we have planned. Over the course of those trips, he traded songs, learned dances, collected ethnographic as well as ancient Pre-Columbian instruments, and was inspired by the cultures he encountered to the point of changing his life’s musical direction.

Instruments

Luis’ collection of native Mexican instruments includes archaeological artifacts representative of the different cultural regions in the area known as Mesoamerica. Some of the instruments date back more than 3000 years and are preserved in excellent condition. Found in archaeological excavations, these instruments were once used in the ancient past by ministers of music as vehicles of communication between the material and the spiritual realms. They were buried to prevent their destruction from invaders and have remained silent for thousands of years until it was time for them to rise and, through the breath of a musician, speak again. Luis regularly uses these instruments in his recordings and lectures.

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Preserving Mexico's Ancient Music

Photos copyright Oscar Colorado Nates and Cole Smothers.

Is TravelPony the Best Hotel Booking Site?

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Okay, lets be honest, now days there are apps and websites for just about everything you can think of. You may not think much about apps when traveling, but Jeff and I depend on them to help us out when we are on the road, or in a plane, or even on a boat in the middle of the ocean. There are many travel websites that can help you when you’re traveling. One we have recent come across is called TravelPony.com and here is how it can help you out too.

 

What is TravelPony?

 First of all it is really simple and they have a pretty unique concept. Booking hotels is one of the biggest part of any trip and they make it simple and get you some great deals. Because TravelPony focuses on getting you the best rates for hotels possible and because their deals are so cheap you have to create an account in order to see the rates and book hotel rooms.

Now you may be thinking, “Really, I have to make another account on another website?” but trust me, this one is worth it and it is free! If you’re looking for a quick way to create an account you can just login through your Facebook account.

Once you have your account, you can start searching for great hotel deals. I wanted to see if the deals were really as good as they claim they are so I tested the theory. I searched for the same hotel in Phuket, Thailand for two people all on the same dates with several different hotel-booking sites as well as on TravelPony. I was a bit surprised that TravelPony rates were in fact much lower.

 

The Website

Overall the website functions really well and is very simple. It’s easy to look up new hotels in new places. They even have new hotel deals every day:

“1 Deal – Per city. Per Day. While they last.”

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Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.33.33 PM

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If you’re just in the mood to browse or do some research on vacation ideas, you can also see thumbnails of popular cities on their websites. I like to check in every once in a while and see the prices in London. Jeff and I were just there for only two days this past winter and although it is a very expensive city, I want to go back and see more. With TravelPony, I can just log on and see new deals!

 

The App

 Most of the time now days, people use apps more than online websites. This is really true for me when I’m traveling because I always have my phone with me and every time I stop into a café for a cup of coffee or am kicking back at the hotel pool, I use the wifi to access the internet on my phone. Most of the time it is to plan our next destination and with TravelPony I can open the app and see some great deals for hotels.

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Sharing with friends

What makes TravelPony unique is that you can share your deals and experiences with friends. In such an age of social media, it is always fun to share what you are up to with your friends. You can share how much you saved on Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn. They even have this great feature called “Pony Promise” where you can tell others about the great discount you found!

 

Overall 

Having resources for any traveler is always important. As someone who travels more than most, I have many resources I check before booking anything and recommend you do that too. Whether I’m on my desktop or on my phone, I can be confident that TravelPony will help me find the right deal for me!

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Bio Photo Marina 150x150 Taking A Chalkboard Around The World (PHOTOS)Marina Dominguez is the co-founder of Latitude 34 Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker.

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more. 

Exploring the Swiss Alps

From the Road: Exploring the Swiss Alps

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When you think of Switzerland, you think of the Alps – the enormous snow capped mountains with an alpine backdrop. You barely ever hear mention of the Swiss cities like Zurich or Basel. Swiss cities display an impeccable mix of modern cleanliness and rich historical architecture. When one of these picturesque cities collides with the rugged Swiss wilderness, something truly special is born: Lake Lucerne.

I found myself headed to Lake Lucerne after a brief trip to Munich, Germany, and even the trip there was an adventure. We boarded a little stuffy bus in the early morning, only to find out that we landed on a ferry in the mid afternoon. It was on this ferry that I captured my very first breathtaking picture of Switzerland.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Lake Lucerne became one of the most beautiful cities I’ve laid eyes on in Europe. For someone who is both- a European city fanatic and an outdoors enthusiast- it really was my dream location.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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I knew that I wanted to experience one of the Gondola tours up to the top of the Alps. The most popular two mountains in Lake Lucerne are Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus. Unfortunately, both gondola rides for these mountains were shut down for the winter (it was early November) so I settled for Mt. Stanserhorn.

 

The bus ride to the base of Mt. Stansorhorn took us amidst the surreal Swiss countryside filled with small farmhouses, cattle, and some of the healthiest looking grass I’ve ever seen.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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The adventure to the top of Stansorhorn begins with a vintage wooden train that strolls along the meadows and up the side of the mountain. The sightseeing begins here, as you get higher and higher you can view the scenery in its entirety. The train ride is peaceful and quiet, with only the sound of the train tracks and some cowbells in the distance.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Next, we reached the station of the Cabrio, an open top aerial cable car that would escort us to the top of the mountain (6230ft / 1900m). The view from the second deck of the Cabrio is an unforgettable experience.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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The top of Mt. Stanserhorn offered an outstanding panoramic view over ten lakes, 100 kilometers of Alpine mountain range and three countries. From here, you can hike to the lookout point, or choose from various other paths along the summit. When you get hungry, you can grab a bite at the Ronorama- a revolving restaurant at the top of the mountain. If you time it right, you can get the opportunity to watch the sunset over the mountains, which is a sight you won’t want to miss.

Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Exploring the Swiss AlpsExploring the Swiss Alps

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After returning to the city from our trip to the Alps, we worked up quite an appetite. We opted to take a stroll across the famous Chapel Bridge and grab some Swiss fondue along the water edge. The Chapel Bridge, a landmark of Lucerne, is said to be the oldest woodbridge of Europe (however it was rebuilt after an accident in 1993).

Exploring the Swiss Alps

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The next day we decided to view Lucerne by boat, which is a great way to see the other small towns located around the lake.

Whether viewing the city by boat or gondola, Lake Lucerne is an exceptional town and an enchanting place. I came for the lake, was charmed by the city, and fell in love with the mountains.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Want to see more of Marteen’s experience in Lake Lucerne?

Watch Lake Lucerne: A Video Starring the Alps

 

Marteen is a travel obsessed twenty something trying to live the dream while maintaining a 9-5 to pay the bills (until she has the freedom to go rogue). In her blog, Lust For The World, she proves that it is possible to travel the world while your young, earning an entry level salary, and working 40 hours a week.

 

 

 

Dream Destination: Australia

Dream Destination: Australia

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Marina and I have had a blast this year having already traveled through 35 countries since January, but the gold at the end of the rainbow was always Australia! Unfortunately, while we’ve made it most of the way around the world, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make it to the gold coast before New Years, and that is why we’ve added Australia as a this weeks dream destination!

I was able to visit Australia and New Zealand about 15 years ago and have been dying to go back and explore more since. While the country is absolutely massive, there is little in the majority of the country, with all major cities spotting the outlines of this beautiful country. Marina and I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing friends in our travels, and among our favorites are our Aussie friends! (yes, they know how to party). I think us Americans feel a kinship with Aussies, we are both loud and know how to party, however I’m not sure how they’d feel about me comparing them to Americans!

So no matter if we get to Australia before the end of this year or sometime in the future, it will always remain a dream destination, and here is why.

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Dream Destination: Australia

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1. Epic Road Trips! 

Australia can be quite expensive to travel through, especially if you are used to backpacking in South America or South East Asia, however there are some easy ways to cut down on your costs. One of the most fun ways is to rent a camper, grab a couple buddies and drive around, camp and really hit the open road! This has been a dream of ours for a long time, and while it might take us a couple more tries to get a group of friends together in one place (harder than herding cats!), it’ll happen one day. There are endless routes to take, from the west coast cities if Perth to driving up the gold coast from Sydney to Brisbane and up to the beautiful sights of Bondi Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. So make it happen, I know we will!

 

2. The Beaches

I’ve been telling myself for years that I will learn to surf, and while it has yet to happen, I can’t think of a better place to at least give it a shot than in Australia. Bondi Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen (yes, we did live in Thailand for 2 years) and even failing miserably would be fun. There are no bad experiences, so take the leap!

If the sand isn’t your thing, the Great Barrier Reef is hands down one of the most amazing things on Earth and snorkeling above the reefs will spoil any visit you ever take to another aquarium. I saw full length sharks, the most colorful fish and creatures I had never dreamed of, all while just floating a few feet above it all.

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Dream Destination: Australia

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3. Sydney

One of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in the entire world, Sydney is home to some of the most recognizable landmarks on Earth in the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Stepping inside the opera house is amazing even if music isn’t your thing and no trip to Sydney would be complete without strapping on a harness and climbing your way to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, an experience that is hard to top.

With such an amazing skyline, taking advantage of the top hotels in Sydney is a must, as you’ll be glad you paid for a room with a view in this amazing city. We always dreamed of celebrating New Years in Sydney, as the first major city to celebrate the holiday, but get your room reserved months in advance as they fill up so quick! While a hotel room would give an amazing view of the fireworks from up high, you can also rent a house boat on the harbor for the night, an experience that would last a lifetime!

With so much to explore in Sydney, we’ll need at least a week to get lost and find the hidden gems we know are just waiting for us.

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4. The Wildlife

When you think of tigers you think of Asia, giraffes remind you of Africa and without a doubt koala bears and kangaroos will give you visions of the vast Australian outback. Australia has done an amazing job of educating, caring for and preserving the ecology of these two amazing animal species. Steve Irwin probably taught us all everything we know about crocodiles and while we are all sad he is gone, he left behind some of the most amazing animal education programs, preserves and zoos in the entire world. So make sure to plan a trip to learn about and interact with the wildlife in this amazing landscape.

While not wildlife, no true traveler would say their trip to Australia was complete without at least gazing on Ayers Rock, sure its just a huge rock in the middle of nowhere, but when you see pictures of something your entire life and you’re that close, you’ve got to go for it!

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Dream Destination: Australia

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Some images provided curtesy of Flickr by Yoann JEZEQUEL#dailyshootCharlie Stinchcomb and Ib Aarmo 

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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 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! 

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