by Lola Akinmade on 18/09/14 at 1:17 pm
Like millions of others, I have been plotting my round-the-world journey and absolute cultural immersion for years.
Sometimes, a lengthy trip just isn’t possible. For various reasons (family commitments, financial priorities and other responsibilities), you may end up working a 9-to-5 gig. This means you are given a few fleeting vacation days off a year, often amounting to just two weeks. That’s 14 days out of 365 you can dedicate to venturing into the unknown.
Deciding how to use those days can be quite the challenge for those who equally love their careers and also love to travel. Having dealt with that situation numerous times myself, I’ve managed to figure out the best ways to stretch your vacation days into a full-blown adventure.
#1: First Decide How to Spend Those 14 days
Do you want to take two (2) longer stints or four (4) short city breaks? Do you want to travel halfway across the world, or just hop over the Atlantic?
Choosing how to allocate those days is based on your individual travel style and travel goals for the year. A reasonable travel goal could be this: You want to volunteer in Nicaragua, experience San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, and take a city break to Krakow, Poland before the end of the year.
Remember: You may also want to save a few days for when you are summoned by family for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
#2: Yes, Do Travel Around Holidays
By traveling around holidays twice or thrice a year, it allows you to make the most out of your allocated days.
Planning your trips around holidays means you can save vacation days.
For example, if you want to travel to Spain and spend 9-10 days, leaving on a Friday evening and returning the following weekend, with Monday being a holiday in-between means that you will travel for 10 days but only take four (4) work vacation days. This leaves you with a balance of eight (8) vacation days.
By traveling around holidays twice or thrice a year, it allows you to make the most out of your allocated days.
#3: Have Flexible Travel Plans
You can argue that airfare prices might be higher around holidays. By picking holidays that fall around or flank the international travel off-season (for example, Memorial Day weekend in May or Labor Day weekend in September), you will find reasonable prices.
For travelers intently seeking cheap vacations, this means watching for low fares and being able to travel on a whim. Airlines such as United and Delta send out regular emails with loads of international airfare sales.
#4: For Short City Breaks, Use Budget Airlines to Cut Costs
Four or five day city breaks mean leaving mid-week (for example, on a Wednesday evening) and returning on a Sunday (or Monday if it is a holiday). This means you take only two vacation days off (Thursday and Friday), but use up your weekend as well.
For example, if you want to travel to Dublin or Edinburgh for a short break, flying to a larger hub like London will be much cheaper than directly to your destination. From London, you can hop on one of the many budget airlines like Easy Jet and Ryan Air which run roundtrip fares as low as 20 pounds ($40). If you’ve already looked into cheap travel insurance then you’ll be making a huge saving.
These budget airlines also fly to many cities in Europe such as Sofia, Bulgaria and Poznan, Poland so your city break options are limitless.
#5: Traveling to Farther Destinations Like Asia or South America on Only 12 Days
A short break to Buenos Aires or Tokyo seems very unrealistic; however, don’t strike them off your list just yet. Try focusing on one activity, event or festival when traveling to farther destinations.
If your goal is to go hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you can take a 10-day longer stint (weekends included of course!) and visit Peru for this specific purpose. You can also visit Cuzco or nearby cities as a daytrip.
#6: Use Time Differences to Your Advantage
If you travel eastwards to Europe from the US, you will move ahead a couple hours. If you travel westwards to Central and South America, you will fall behind a few hours. So returning from Europe on a holiday Monday means you arrive on the same day. This obviously does not count towards your vacation days.
When traveling to South America, you will arrive on the same day you depart, which means you will not lose any additional days.
#7: Volunteer Internationally
You can still get to off-beaten locations and paths by volunteering for 7-12 days (including weekends) with international organizations that operate in less touristy locations. You can work at an orphanage in a remote part of Central America or work with school children in Cambodia.
GlobeAware offers short-term (one week) volunteer opportunities that focus on cultural awareness and sustainability. This will focus your trip by allowing you to interact with the locals, and give you a real insight into their way of life and customs.
#8: Explore Your Own Backyard
Whether it is visiting Chinatown in San Francisco or learning more about Native American culture in the Southwest, you can still immerse yourself in culture without leaving the country. (Tim Patterson wrote an excellent article on the topic of local travel)
Overall, nothing beats extended travel and total immersion. As an avid traveler myself, I operate under that school of thought. Until you get to that point personally, you can still work with what you have.Full Story
We’ll be giving away a free DacMagic XS to one lucky reader!
Did you know that computer manufacturers spend as little as $2 on the sound cards in many modern laptops? Which explains why their cheap headphone jacks frankly suck. They’re simply not good enough to get the most from your headphones.
Which leaves you with two options: buy a high-end (read: expensive) pair of better headphones with built-in processing. Or buy a DAC (digital audio converter) headphone amp with which you can use any pair of headphones you like.
I much prefer the latter option which is where Cambridge Audio’s new DacMagic XS headphone amp comes in.
In their own words, the DacMagic XS is:
… an instant upgrade to any computer’s sound output. It connects quickly and easily to any USB port and allows you to hear your favourite music and movies with every drop of detail, exactly as the artist intended.
Here’s the gist:
The Traveler’s Take
The first thing I love about the DacMagic is the size: about the size of a matchbox and only 100g, it’s insanely small. The case is also constructed of durable, brushed aluminum to boot so it’s built to withstand the rigors of the road.
Straight out of the box, the one-sheet quick start guide provides installation instructions that took less than a minute to complete. On my Windows 8.1 laptop, I simply plugged the unit into an available USB port, plugged the headphones into the DacMagic and … that’s it.
I tested the unit on a variety of different music genres (including talk/podcast, EDM and of course some Bieber) and in my opinion this thing sounds great! I admit that I’m no audiophile, but it kicks out some seriously loud sound from my budget RHA earbuds. Cambridge Audio promises a boost of up to 10 times more power than most laptop sound cards manage. While I haven’t access to an audio lab to prove this claim, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Like most travelers, I often find myself in loud environments on the road: coffee shops, airports, trains, and of course planes. An ultra-portable device like the DacMagic is perfect for being able to crank up my headphones to drown out all of the ambient noise, especially when I’m working.
As an added bonus, the unit features dedicated volume controls so there’s no need to fiddle with the ones on your laptop.
If there’s one thing I’d love to see is a similar unit for smartphones, as that’s my primary music device when traveling.
Pricing + Availability
Available now in black for around $200 USD from these Cambridge Audio dealers.
The post The Only Gadget You Need to Make Your Travel Headphones Sound Amazing appeared first on Vagabondish.
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Maria Laborde.
Like in many Latin American countries, Nicaraguan food goes back as far as pre-Columbian times, being transformed and influenced post the Spanish Conquista.
This is evident not only in the name of some of its dishes, but also the ingredients and spices used in them.
Most of the traditional Nicaragua menu is known as “criollo,” which is how Indian-Spanish fusion cuisine is also called throughout most of the Caribbean, Central and South America.
A Brief Overview
There is a major difference between the Pacific, Atlantic/Caribbean, Northern and Central Nicaraguan foods—particularly the type of vegetables and spices consumed.
Yet, there is one omnipresent base ingredient: corn.
Its wide usage goes back to ancient indigenous cultures in the Americas, particularly Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc.
Furthermore, this ingredient is not limited to food, but also used in a variety of traditional drinks such as Pinole (pre-Columbian drink with cocoa, cinnamon, toasted ground corn), Chicha (fermented corn beer) and other fruit-based nonalcoholic beverages.
When it comes to other ingredients, those typically found in the tropics triumph here as well.
These include fruits such as mangoes, jocotes, papaya, plantains, avocado, and tamarind; in addition to starchy root vegetables such as cassava and quequisque (also known as Malanga or yautia).
Herbs and spices include others well-known around the world such as garlic, onions, tomatoes cilantro, oregano, achiote (annatto), cacao, cinnamon.
They portray how well seasoned, yet non-spicy, Nicaraguan cuisine is. Moreover, how the mixing of the sweet, savory, and sour is the norm—especially when it comes to seafood (in order to kill that “fishy” taste and smell).
Other unique features of Nicaraguan recipes are animal innards such as tails, stomachs, brains, testicles, skin (particularly of pigs), feet, and even blood (to make the traditional moronga).
Central and Pacific Cuisine
The inhabitants of the Central and Pacific regions of Nicaragua prefer simple gallo pinto (rice and black beans, fried in cooking oil) with either beef, chicken, pork or (particularly on the coast) seafood—alongside fried snacks and dairy products. Sample dishes include:
Indio Viejo is a thick chicken or beef stew, made with corn flour “masa,” garlic, onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and a squirt of sour orange. Use of achiote or annatto also gives the dish an inviting deep-orange color.
Quesillo is a thick corn tortilla with soft cheese, pickled onions, sour cream.
Tajadas con Queso
Tajadas con queso are fried plantains, sliced thin or thick, with salty local cheese & repollo (cabbage salad) as toppings.
Caballo bayo is the Nicaraguan twist of Mexican fajitas: many ingredients typically served in clay pots, from which guests pick their favorites to make their own tortillas.
Fillings and toppings include fried/shredded beef or chicken, mashed beans, creole chorizo, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, moronga (pork blood sausage), chicharrón, green & red sauces.
Local Fish with Tropical Fruit and Vegetables
Local fish dishes such as guapote are typically seasoned while cooking with savory ingredients such as garlic, black pepper, cilantro, onions; but topped upon serving with sweet tropical fruit sauces that may include, say mango and tomatoes (as pictured above).
Atlantic and Caribbean Cuisine
On the other hand, Nicaraguan food in the Atlantic coast is heavily influenced by Afro-Caribbean spices and flavors, particularly coconuts, chiltoma (sweet peppers) and chilies accompanied by roots such as yuca (like cassava), malanga.
Moreover, coconut oil is typically used for cooking instead of lard or cooking oil.
These combinations give ‘Nica-Caribbean’ cuisine a distinct flavor.
The most popular dishes on this coast include seafood: lobster, shrimp, crab, you name it.
When it comes to fish, it is eaten either dried, fried or in soups.
Rondón is a creamy coconut milk-based stew of turtle meat or fish with beef or pork, originally from the city of Bluefields.
It is seasoned with sweet peppers, chilies, onions, plantains, yuca, quequisque, and an herb named nargan.
We recommend you opt for the fish variety though, as turtles are endangered.
Gallo pinto con Coco
Gallo pinto con coco is just like the traditional Nicaraguan rice and black beans dish, but cooking oil is substituted by coconut oil when frying.
Pan de Coco
Likewise, pan de coco is bread whose flour includes ground coconut. It is the perfect accompaniment of rondón.
Gaubul is a traditional Caribbean-Nicaraguan drink, little known even in the Pacific coast of its own country. It is the mixture of cooked, mashed green plantains with fresh cow milk, coconut water, and sugar to taste.