The Wild Pair

Posts Tagged ‘Adventure Travel’


In Travel Tips on May 21, 2009 at 11:36 pm


It’s pretty excruciating for many people before they travel. They have to find a home for the dog or cat, close up the house, tell neighbors they are going, get tickets, pack, download boarding passes, remember to turn on the vacation response on their computers. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, fun.  But once you board the plane….it’s all behind you. Your attention is on the excitement of the trip. And since you have a clear mind with no major worries, here are a few thoughts you might consider while on the road.



If you are a collector, you already know that the art world in your destination is your oyster. If the only thing you collect is parking tickets, then there is no better time to start collecting than now. You can start with street art—perhaps a piece from  someone selling wire sculptures on a street corner. You can wander into galleries. Or you can find art in restaurants and coffee houses. Take the plunge. Your first piece may be under $100, and, depending upon what you collect, your 100th piece may also be under $100.


You probably have friends and family who say to you, “Send me a postcard from Prague, okay?” Your answer should be, “I would love to, but I really don’t have time when I am on the road.” Why do we suggest you act like a postcard Grinch? Because it can be a hassle to find the right postcard, score a stamp, locate a mailbox or bring the postcard back to your hotel.  In the latter instance, it’s probably creased or soggy after you’ve carried it in your bag or tote all day. If you FEEL LIKE sending someone a postcard, it’s a great reminder to someone back home that you are thinking of her. But an obligation? That’s not what you need on vacation.


Once you have said “no” to postcards, it’s an easy stretch to saying “no” more often. Of course you want to compromise. Of course you want to be a good travel mate. But don’t say “yes” when you mean “no.” Say “yes” when you mean it and don’t be afraid to turn down an offer or invitation. Do it politely, do it gently, but learn to say “no” on the road to authenticity.


Almost everywhere you go—hotels, museums, restaurants, attractions—there are brochures and business cards. Avail yourself of them. Instead of having to remind yourself of the name of a hotel or restaurant when you get back home, the card or brochure will do it for you. Ask for an envelope at your hotel and put the cards or thin brochures it in. Label it “contact info.” You will thank yourself when you get back home.


When you are traveling, you are accomplishing new and perhaps difficult things all the time. You are eating fried grasshoppers for the first time. You are speaking German for the first time since high school.  You have a meal alone in a restaurant. You go to your first opera. You forego spending a wad on a pair of shoes and blow it instead on a piece of art. Each time you do something new or challenging, endorse yourself. Recognize that you are growing as a traveler and a human.

The only other thing you have to think of is this: Relax, enjoy and bon voyage from the Wild Pair.



In Travel Tips on April 6, 2009 at 7:37 pm

wall clock. twelveWe are now on Daylight Savings time. Just about the only thing we’ve been able to save lately is time, but, when you think about it, time may be more valuable than money. Money can, as we have all seen in the Madoff debacle, be swept away by someone else. Money can evaporate in the vagaries of the stock market. But your time is your own, and no one can take it away from you. You can spend it as you please and you own each second. Here are some of the Wild Pair’s thoughts on ways to maximize your time.

1.Your Internal Clock

It is important to know that you have a clock inside of you that is not the same as the one ticking on the wall. You may be a prisoner of the latter, but the former is yours to control. Play with your inner clock. Try getting up an hour later than usual, or spending a morning in bed. Take a walk for one hour and five minutes instead of one hour. When you go on the road, enjoy a lingering meal in a restaurant if you are usually a fast eater. Get used to being master or mistress of your clock.

2. Getting Timely Bargains

Looking to book a flight on Southwest Airlines? If you do it several weeks in advance, the fare can be half of what it is the week before your trip to see the folks. Searching for a cheap vacation? Plan to travel outside of peak season. Instead of sighing about the high cost of travel, make sure time is on your side. Act in a timely fashion to grab the great offers.

3. Time to Look at Currencies

The U.S. dollar is bouncing around like everything else these days, but don’t assume you know its value against foreign currencies. Go to and check the value of the dollar NOW. What the dollar was worth a year ago may bear no resemblance to its value today. In countries like Hungary, Turkey, Iceland or Argentina, time is definitely on your side: the dollar has 30,40,50 or even 60 per cent more purchase value than it did l2 months ago.

4. Your Time and God’s Time

Whether you are religious or spiritual or decidedly secular, you surely know that you may want something to happen NOW, but it happens in its own time. Instead of fighting this, relax into it. If you are attempting to sell your house, you may bust your chops marketing it, but no one buys. And then, one day, the house is ready to sell, and bingo, a buyer shows up. One way to master time is to step into the big picture: things happen when they are supposed to happen. Accept this. Instead of banging your head against your keyboard when you try to find a date when you can use your air miles to get to Lima, take a deep breath. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but relax and check back with the airline often: a seat will open up for you on American Airlines. You’ll see.

5. Waiting and Acting

Whenever you use the phrase “when I have time,” stop and think about it. You have the time right now. No matter how busy your life is, you can make time for what you want to do. If you are saying to others,”I’ll travel when I have more time,” stop. Make the time. This spring. This summer. This fall. You are in command.

6. Acting in a Timely Fashion

Shakespeare tells us that Hamlet was a procrastinator. He almost drove himself nuts with his inner dialogue. If something need to be done, do it now. If you dread clearing off your desk, decide to undertake the task tomorrow. If a hotel has an offer that is only good for a week, don’t wait until a week and one day. You’ll just kick yourself in your cargo pants. You know the old maxim: don’t put off till tomorrow what needs to be done to day. What doesn’t need to be done today you can put off till tomorrow.

7. Timing the Cycles

You can’t time the stock market. You can’t time the weather. But you can time your time off. If you feel burnout coming on, get away before it happens. An ounce of intervention can prevent a pound of pain. Travel. Change your scene. Do not wait until you are leveled to crawl your way back to happiness.

8. Counting Time

In Guatemala, in the world of Maya ceremonies, there is a man who is the official Counter of Time. Every day, he recites the days and hours of the Maya calendar. He acknowledges the power of the days, the energies that protect that power, and the place of humans in the eternal calendar. He gives thanks, offers candles. You can be the counter of your time. Do a quick scan of your birth, the first day of school, your first love, first car. Think of your wedding, your dad’s 80 birthday party, the surprise party your friends threw for you. Acknowledge each. Give thanks for each. Do it often. Know that your life has and will continue to be marked by special times and memorable occasions.

And now, just smile and have a good time.

Bon voyage and happy seconds, minutes and hours from The Wild Pair.


In Cultural Travel on March 11, 2009 at 1:20 am

Slideshow by Paul Ross.

Three decades ago, we were at war with Vietnam, in what they call “The American War.” Today, Vietnam welcomes Americans and looks to the west for inspiration. The communist party still holds sway, but there is roaring free enterprise, a thriving stock market, open discussion and criticism of the party, and unstoppable individualism and ingenuity. The Vietnamese have suffered wave after wave of war and occupation, and they have bounced back with amazing resilience. They are forward-looking, forward-thinking, and masters of forgiveness. I can’t imagine a sentient being who wouldn’t love Vietnam.

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A rural farmer buys another traditional hat.

My feet were all over Vietnam, but my heart was really in the north. Hanoi, for me, is about the streets. People cook, eat, talk, play board games, sell, buy, hang, smoke, socialize and nap on the sidewalks. On the roads of the city, there are approximately one-and-a-half million motorbikes (I heard estimates ranging from one to two million) and it’s like the Wild West. Sure, there are traffic lights, but no one pays attention to them. You soon develop a strategy for getting across the street; mine was to stand next to a Vietnamese person, close my eyes, move my feetäand pray. You can buy anything in Hanoi–from silks and high fashion to water puppets (Vietnam is famous for its aquatic puppet shows, which include fireworks, music and puppets fighting, loving and fishing together). If your digestive track is delicate, you can find western-style food or familiar Vietnamese dishes you would find in restaurants back home (but better, of course). There are upscale restaurants where you can put together a customized Vietnamese banquet. If you are adventurous, you can try delicacies that include porcupine and rice wine infused with a huge cobra. And yes, you will see crispy dog in the markets. Everywhere you go, you’ll find pho (pronounced “fur”) – a delicious, inexpensive noodly soup with beef or chicken. If you don’t read Vietnamese, and the menus aren’t translated, you can just point.

If you leave Hanoi and head for the hills (the mountains in the north) you enter a world of ethnic villages that maintain a traditional lifestyle. Vietnam has 53 ethnic minorities, more than anywhere else in Southeast Asia. They are designated by tribal names (and, according to some experts, some names reflect the colors of their traditional dress). Along the road and in villages, you’ll encounter groups like the white Thai, back Thai, black Dzao, red Dzao, white H’mong, black H’mong, Nung, Tay …and many others.

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Blackening the teeth is considered beautiful in the custom of a White Thai village in the north of Vietnam.

Several of the inhabitants of the villages have learned English well enough to be your guides into their daily life and customs. They are friendly, open and willing to answer any of your questions. If you have a camera, it’s a chance to get those shots of a lifetime of women in conical hats working in the rice paddies, water buffalos, kids playing, thatched wooden houses on stilts and beautiful people in dazzling native dress.

The most well-known of the mountain villages is Sa Pa. The guidebooks warn you that it’s touristy, but, frankly, the fact that some other westerners were there didn’t bother me at all. The ethnic minority women are very persistent, and you should be prepared for a gaggle of them to follow you through the streets, proffering embroidery and jewelry. They are really poor, and they are trying to sell to survive. If you buy something from them – and it’s wonderfully affordable – they will give you a little embroidered bracelet as a gift and gently move away.

If travel is about adventure, about leaving behind your daily life, cares, worries and surroundings, then a trip into the northern mountains is the very essence of traveling.

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The romance and glamour of the south China seas is found in the Gulf of Tonkin on a luxury cruise among the fabulous limestone formations of Halong Bay.

For sheer beauty, head for Halong Bay (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and board one of the ships for a one or two night cruise. There are more than 1969 sandstone islands and that rise, mysteriously, out of the water. When it’s foggy and overcast, the islands look ghostlike and shadowy; you’ll feel as though you have entered into a Chinese painting. After sipping wine on deck and lingering over a multi-course dinner, you can make arrangements to burn off the calories the next day by paddling a kayak to visit picturesque caves.

If shopping is your thing, think Hoi An. It’s the new Hong Kong where, for an unbelievably low price, you can have clothes custom tailored and ready for pickup within 24 hours. The best of the shops offer up-to-date catalogues for you to pick out clothing designs, and you can choose from an almost endless variety of silks and silk blends. If you don’t want to be fitted and like your shopping ready-made, hand-tailored clothes are available at many of the shops.

In the southern part of the country, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a bustling, thriving city with high-end shops and hotels. The War Remnants museum provides a chilling overview of the American war with objects and photos that bring home the horror of warfare. And outside of the city are the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, where thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers lived in claustrophobic, miserable conditions as they carried out a guerrilla war. Some of the tunnels have recently been widened so that well-fed westerners can fit inside. Going down into the bowels of the earth, with the walls closing in on you, is a searingly memorable experience. If you don’t wish to have tunnel moments, the grounds around the tunnels are a living museum of the war from the Vietnamese side.

And, every day, at noon, visitors can go to a temple to experience Cau Dai, a Vietnamese religion that includes all other religions and has some pretty unusual saints–like Victor Hugo. It is hard to leave Vietnam. No matter how long one stays, there’s a feeling that you have just grazed the surface and there is much, much more to discover.

IF YOU GO: One of the reasons I signed on as an expert with Trusted Adventures is because I traveled to North Vietnam with Myths and Mountains . The experience, the guide, the care, the cultural connections made this trip one of the most memorable I have taken in years. I extended the trip to include four days in Cambodia, and would be kicking myself in the culottes for the rest of my life if I hadn’t. Info on Myths and Mountains: Phone: 1-800-670-6984. Flying there: Asian travelers and Westerners in the know fly EVA airline and book seats in their premium-economy Elite Class. They fly from 5 North American cities and make one stopover in Taiwan. Phone: 1-800-695-6000 or online at . In Hanoi, the legendary Sofitel Metropole Hotel drips with French colonial charm and offers luxury, elegance and graceful service. Stay in the old wing rather than the new one; the former has much more character. Telephone: 011-84-4 826 6919 The hotels in the north are generally lackluster and basic. But the Mai Chau Lodge in the Mai Chau valley does not disappoint. It used to be a resort for guests of communist party officials. ( ) The Bhaya is one of the best boats to take for a visit to Halong Bay. ( ) In Hoi An, take the money you have saved on clothes and book a suite at the Life Resort. The multi-level rooms are designerly, spacious, elegant and beautifully appointed. ( ) Bon voyage!

ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,

They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.

© The Wild Pair. All Rights Reserved.

Ask The Wild Pair: Off-Season Travel

In Ask The Wild Pair on January 24, 2009 at 7:41 pm

qDo you have any ideas for great off-season destinations?  My friend and I like to travel when prices are lower and there are fewer tourists.

a2There are pros and cons to off-season travel. On the one hand, you can save you money and afford you the opportunity to enjoy a more relaxing vacation without the crowds. Alaska, for instance, might not be an obvious wintertime choice. But it’s an awesome time to visit, boasting once-in-a-lifetime dog sled adventures, top-tier skiing, natural hot springs and the best time to view the Northern Lights. Conversely, high-season usually equates to a destination’s prime weather and natural beauty. Try leaf-peeping in New England off-season, for example, or good luck enjoying that Caribbean hot-spot during a hurricane. That said, good times, and considerable savings, can be had nearly anywhere off season.

“Everyone goes to Jamaica in the spring, but December is also a lovely time to explore this island,” advises adventure travel guru Peter Grubb of ROW Adventures.  “In the first few weeks of December before Christmas, prices are considered ‘off season’ and the weather is lovely.  In addition to the traditional beach resorts, some outfitters are now offering more adventurous trips that take you to the real Jamaica.”  One to check out is ROW’s Jamaica MultiSport that includes hiking the Blue Mountains, mountain biking, bird watching, rafting and of course, some lazy time at the beach.

“Also, says Grubb, “river rafting in the western USA is at its peak from June through August.  But going in September you’ll find few others on the rivers while weather is typically still fantastic.  Trip sizes tend to be much smaller as well, so instead of 16-24 other passengers, you’re more likely to be on a trip with just 4-10.  The water is cooler so swimming is less inviting, but daytime temperatures are typically still in the high 70’s and 80’s, and nights are comfortable.”

Bon Voyage!

Is The Sun Fun?

In Travel Tips on August 22, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Why does everything have to be so complicated? Your computer, cell phone, Blackberry and digital camera have a thousand ways of crashing and flaking on you. You try to call a company to get service and you end up repeating yourself endlessly and talking through clenched teeth at a recorded announcement. Your calendar is covered with ink and you spend a good chunk of your entertainment time looking for parking spaces. For every appliance you have, you need a PhD to read the manual.

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, hit the road, strip down to bare essentials, and go out in the sun. Easy, right? Hmmmm. The Wild Pair has the same love of the sun as you do, and we’ll try to make this part of your life as uncomplicated as sniffing a rose or the proverbial walk in a park.


Apparently, the sun we grew up with is not the same as the sun we are living with today. Or, more precisely, there was an ozone layer that protected us from the not-fun part of Mr. Sun. Now the ozone is holey, and we have to protect ourselves from the thing we love.


You probably think we are going to wax rhapsodic about the use of sunscreen and sunblock but the Wild Pair has a surprise for you: we have our own reservations about chemically blocking the sun. The emphasis here is on the word “chemically.” Have you read the ingredient list of what’s in your beloved sunscreen? It may include irritants, allergens, carcinogens, pore-blockers, and a host of substances you can live a long and healthy life without. It’s great that you put it on all the time, but it would be a lot better if you weren’t slathered in potentially-harmful chemicals. Which means you may want to think about….a hat.


We hate to break it to you, but your backward-facing baseball cap doesn’t provide much protection at all, except for your scalp. If you corner a dermatologist and ask her to give you the skinny on protecting your face and head, she’s likely to reply with three words: four inch brim. Yup. That’s how many inches it takes to shield your precious cheeks and skin from the sun.


If you can accept the fact that a hat is not just something made of felt that your uncle Oscar wore, and are willing to consider its benefits to you, you will be surprised to find that there are nerdy hats and stylish hats. You can try the Indiana Jones look with an explorer-like hat at Sun Precautions (, where they specialize in SPF30+ clothing. You can find the safari or foreign legion look at ExOfficio( or Coolibar ( Tilley Endurables ( and Outdoor Research ( ) also offer an attractive selection of lightweight, wide-brimmed weather proof hats. You can browse the isles of R.E.I or your local outfitting shop. Women will be pleased to find that big floppy brims are the rage. Just remember those three words: four-inch-brims. And think about buying a lightweight hat so you are not weighed down. They make featherweight hats that you won’t even remember you’re wearing.


Pretty soon, we’ll be telling you about safe sunscreen solutions, so you will always have the option of slathering. But, for an alt idea, you can…don’t faint when we say this….wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. The new generation of travel fabrics is colorful, breathable, vented, fast drying (sometimes amazingly fast drying), wrinkle-resistant and LIGHT. You’ll hardly know you have anything on your bod.


We know this talk of covering up is not appealing to you, but is having skin cancers burned off your body or cut out with a scalpel attractive? So please read on.


“You don’t like all those chemicals, do you?” a dermatologist asked us recently. We shook our heads from side to side. “Well, then,” he said, “why don’t you look into VaniCream?” They make sunscreens that are much cleaner than most of what you find on the market, so we tried a few (


Then we found two sunscreens that really are clean. Caribbean Solutions sunscreen ( is so chemical free you can probably spread it on a slice of rye bread and eat it. Bert’s Bees ( has just come out with a sunscreen that is labeled “chemical free.” These are two very welcomed additions to the sunscreen market. However–we warned you that life is complicated–they both may leave a thin white residue on your skin. Burt’s Bees is whiter than Caribbean Solutions. You just have to scrub it off.


Caribbean Solutions says their sunscreen is safe for marine animals and will not harm reefs. On a recent trip to the Yucatan in Mexico, at a top tourist attraction we saw a sign requiring removal of all sunscreen products because they harm the fragile ecosystem under water. What’s ikky for you is also ikky for fish. So bravo to Caribbean Solutions for paying attention to this.


D isn’t good in school, but it’s good as a vitamin. It has a host of important health benefits that are being touted daily in the media. So instead of covering up in sunscreen from head to toe all day long, maybe get a little early morning or late afternoon sun on your bod. It will do you good. As little as l0 minutes may do the trick.


Do you see life through shades? Perhaps a little exposure to full-spectrum light from our friend the sun is a good thing. When there’s no glare (from water or sand or snow), it may be okay to remove your sunglasses sometimes. You’re wearing a four-inch-brimmed hat to protect your face and eyes. Now tell us the truth–aren’t those natural colors beautiful?


Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on your relationship with the sun. We’re just offering some input from the field. The most important thing is to cherish the sun for providing light and life for us, and, whatever you do, relax and enjoy.

BON VOYAGE from the Wild Pair!

ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,

They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.

© Ellen Barone and Judith Fein. All Rights Reserved.

You Are A Travel Ambassador Every Time You Hit The Road

In Travel Tips on June 22, 2008 at 6:56 pm

There doesn’t seem to be any way to discourage people from traveling. The Wild Pair is delighted to discover that no matter how many annoyances and inconveniences travelers face, they don’t stop buying tickets. Even when the price of airline seats goes up and services go down, planes are flying at capacity and airports are jammed.

The benefits of travel are obvious to all of you–expanding your mind, having thrilling adventures, meeting people, changing your habitual environment, taking time out from work and responsibility, challenging yourself, enjoying life–but have you ever thought of yourself as an ambassador without a portfolio? Here are some tips from the Wild Pair about how to step into that role.

1. Being Label Conscious

None of us like to be typed, and certainly not stereotyped, but people do it all the time. They label you by your country of origin. “He is an American,” or “She is Brazilian.” It’s important to be aware of this, because your behavior helps others to determine what they think about your country. If they like you, they tend to generalize and think Americans or Brazilians as likeable.

2. To Err is Human

Everyone makes cultural faux pas. It is inevitable, even if you are well-meaning. So it always helps to find out about cultural norms in advance, and apologize if you make a mistake and are chided.

Instead of getting defensive, apologizing shows you are willing to learn. It earns you good will points, and makes people think well of the culture you come from.

3. There Is No Comparison

People want to think their city or country is admired by others. Even if they are plagued by poverty, crime, natural disasters or manmade disasters, they love knowing that you find good things about the place they live. Try not to make comparisons to “what we have back home.” A compliment to one’s city or country is, to many people, like a compliment paid to them.

4. Investing in Bonds

The more contact you have with locals, the more they have an opportunity to get to know something about your country. If you’re eating around a campfire at night, sit next to someone you don’t know. If you’re hiking with a group, don’t just stay with your mate or travel partners. Get to know people in the place you are visiting. They will really appreciate it.

5. They Like Me, They Like Me

There has been a lot of ink lately about the bad image America has abroad. It doesn’t matter what end of the political spectrum you are on–but you can be patient, explain your point of view, ask people what they think. Every time you engage, share your opinions and really, truly listen, you allow folks to look behind the headlines and see that Americans are real people, with awareness, conscience, patience, interest in others. If they like you, they will begin to see that they may not like American policy, but the American people are a different story.

6. Sharing is Caring

Wherever you go, you can’t assume that people know a lot about where you come from. They may know a lot about American music and movie stars, but your home town is probably off their radar. Bring photos from home. The more they learn about you, the more they are apt to like you and the country you come from.

7. Turn the Other Cheek

If you encounter people who are hostile to your country, don’t get angry. Listen. Listening is the most powerful tool you have, because it shows people you respect them. Present your views in a clear, reasoned way. Remind them that you may not agree, but it is good to hear each other out and learn from each other.

8. You’re Not Mrs. or Mr. Moneybags

Some people may assume that all Americans are rich, because America is a wealthy nation. You are never obliged to give handouts or cough up money because it is expected of you. You may wish to buy from people who really need money, or make donations to charities. You may choose to return home with souvenirs and gifts for friends that you purchase during your travels. What you can always give–whether you buy or not– is attention, fairness and respect.

9. Be a Blender

If people greet each other with folded hands, try to do the same. If they cover up, make sure you are not showing a lot of skin. If they don’t drink alcohol, try to forego it. If they speak quietly, adjust the volume of your voice. Your blending behavior is an unspoken way of telling people you respect their ways. It reflects well on you and your country.

10. So There You Are…

If you follow the tips above, you are already an ambassador for your country. You will create good will wherever you go, and show what generous, open-minded people your countrymen and women are. If enough of you are ambassadors, it can affect the way America is perceived in the world, and create opportunities for peace and cooperation.

Bon Voyage!

ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,

They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.

© Ellen Barone and Judith Fein. All Rights Reserved.