Rick's Travel Blog

Trips & Tricks

The Art of Travel

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Everyone should find time to travel. It’s the one thing that gets us out of our comfort zone and into the big wide world. There are a lifetime of experiences to be had here at home in the US or abroad in far-flung destinations. In this blog I will bring together a collection of stories about my adventures and those of other travel writers. If you’re looking for inspiration for life on the open road you’ve come to the right place. Please check back at Rick’s Travel Blog soon to catch the latest travel write-ups on must-see destinations and experiences to do before you die.

Scenic Road Trips in Italy

Exploring Italy by car is obviously much better than sticking to rail, but it is not for amateur drivers. You will need to watch out for hotheaded locals and complicated twisted roads. You just have to be brave and have patience (especially when those narrow alleys are full), because many of the scenic views of the country can only be viewed by car.

Here are some of the best road trips to try out in Italy.

1. Sicily

This trip allows you to see the iconic Mt. Etna, as well as other beautiful cities and towns around. You can start with Cefalu, with its charming cobblestone alleys and picture-perfect beach. You can continue onto Zingaroo National Park for a hike to any one of its beaches before ending up in Trapani. This is a great starting point for Favignana Island, switching the car for a bike.

After that, head over to the Valley of the Temples to explore some huge ancient monuments. If you have time to spare, check out some Baroque towns in the southeast, like Ragusa and Marzamemmi. You can enjoy the small-town charm, the local catch (from the fishing communities), and the very delicious food.

2. Highlights of Northern Italy

Driving around mountainous Northern Italy can be tricky, but the ride will reward you with unparalleled views. You can start at Cinque De Terre and the colorful villages emerging from the dramatic coastline. You will need to park your car to access the 5 villages, but the ferry ride allows you to enjoy the views from a different perspective.

Head over to Lake Garda and the spa town of Sirmione for a relaxing jacuzzi in between drives. Don’t get too comfortable as there are more villages in the area. You can continue on to Trentino, using it as a jumpoff point to visit the nearby lakes, mountains, and vineyards. You can close your trip to Venice, which is a must-see in any Northern Italy itinerary.

3. Florence and Tuscany

This beautiful piece of Italy is the perfect location for a road trip. Small, walled villages, vineyards, rolling hills, and colorful flowers await you. Start your trip in Tuscany, seeing the Duomo and all the other highlights in the area.

Continue on to the Chianti wine region to try out the wine straight from the vineyard. The next step is driving the Val D’Orcia, which is one of the most picturesque driving routes in Italy. Make sure to visit Pienza as well.

4. Amalfi Coast

This drive is not for the inexperienced, given the scary bends, narrow roads, bad traffic, and scarce parking. Despite this, it is one of the prettiest road trips in the country!

Start by driving from Sorrento to Amalfi, stopping to check out some of the colorful towns and villages along the way. Ravello has the most beautiful views from the garden, so bring your camera with you. Continue on to Positano and sunbathing at the local beach to relax. Capri is a short boat trip away, and you can explore it for great viewpoints.

Italy has so many little villages and towns that you will not run out of places to visit during your visit. Just make sure to do your research or interview some people about the driving experience in the city.

Your Wyoming Adventure Itinerary

The home of the cowboys and the first national park in the whole world has enough natural landscapes to explore for weeks or months. In fact, even locals will always have new corners to discover, as this state simply has so many treasures. Here is a sample itinerary that allows you to capture the highlights in a shorter amount of time.

Day 1: Arrival and Drive to Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area

Take the time to rest and gather energy as you will need it the next days. Still, enjoy the drive along the Bighorns Scenic Byway with its breathtaking views.

Day 2: Bighorn Canyon

This canyon is the 3rd largest in the country and while it is lesser-known, it will really take your breath away. Instead of just seeing it from above, arrange a scenic boat tour to appreciate it more.

Day 3: Cody

Cody is the rodeo capital of the whole world, where they have a rodeo every summer night. While there, you can explore the land and lifestyle of the cowboys and a real western town. Start off with the Cody Firearms Experience before learning more about the history of the American West in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. While you might find the story of the cowboys interesting, the Native American exhibits are also very educational.

Day 4: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is surely the main reason for your trip, so make sure you have enough time to at least see the highlights. You can start with the Historic Yellow Bus Tour with a local guide.

The Mammoth Hot Springs, which are divided in the Upper and Lower terraces, is another must-see. The 50 hot springs are interesting but take a short hike around o the boardwalk to see the other park features. To end the day, drop by the Artist’s Point where every view of the Yellowstone and Grand Canyon is simply picturesque.

Day 5 : Old Faithful

Take time to visit this world-famous geyser basin and watch it in action. The rest of the day can be spent at the Grand Prismatic Spring which is the largest hot spring in the country and the 3rd largest in the world. While you cannot swim because the water goes up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, the colors and the beautiful sights make this trip worthwhile.

Day 6: Grand Teton National Park

Even the locals will list this as their favorite spot, it is that beautiful. Start by kayaking on Jackson Lake and watch the majestic mountain range in the background. You can end the day with a horseback ride through the national park.

Day 7: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

For your last stop, try out some skiing or snowboarding. Just make sure you take the Aerial Tram up to enjoy the view.

Wyoming might not be on everyone’s bucket list but it should be. It packs enough natural beauty to surprise and amaze you every single moment of your trip. Just make sure you prepare well, pack the right clothes and get ready for the higher altitude. Once you plan well, you can enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Kilimanjaro Climbing Experience

Climbing the Kilimanjaro is an unforgettable experience, one that you can enjoy even if you are not an expert climber. While it still does not mean that you simply decide to do the climb without any preparation at all, it does not require any climbing expertise. The biggest challenge is acclimatizing to the high altitudes, though this can be solved by adopting the right approach.

What To Expect During Your Climb Up Mount Kilimanjaro

1. Planning

When you decide to go up any mountain, regardless of how high it is, you will definitely need to plan well. Mount Kilimanjaro has 6 official routes (Rongai, Marangu, Shira, Machame, Umbwe, and Lemosho) and they all have their unique characteristics and success rates. Choosing which route depends on you and your group, specifically on your fitness level, expertise and interests. Each route also has its sceneries and this is another factor in deciding which way to go.

The most important thing is to get expert advice because while it is not a technically difficult trek, it is a very high trek that will be taxing on your body. Tips on how to deal with acclimatizing are important, as well as other tips on how to make it to the top without any injuries.

2. Preparation

So many people get hung up on the fact that it is more of a trek than a difficult climb (no rock climbing or other similar stunts like in the movies) that they tend to downgrade its complexity. Remember, you are climbing one of the Seven Summits and going up almost 6,000 meters above sea level. Your body will feel the effects of being so high and trekking at high altitude.

That being said, you will want to prepare your body before the actual hike. If you have ever been successful in hikes at home, do not be overconfident as the Kilimanjaro hike is much longer. You will be climbing at least 4 hours (or up to 12 hours) a day for maybe 6 to 7 days, so it can be a shock to your body. Try to do long climbs beforehand and break in your hiking boots. Lastly, be prepared for all kinds of temperatures and weather (from tropical to arctic) so pack layers that you can put on or remove when necessary.

3. The Climb Itself

Interestingly, only about 30% of hikers actually reach the Uhuru (the highest) peak. If you want to be a part of this statistic, then you need to pace yourself during the trek. Trying to rush puts you at risk and tires your body. Instead, try to go about it slowly but surely. You will also need to take breaks to allow your body to adjust to the altitude, no matter how strong or healthy you think you are. Remember, it is not a race, so focus instead on every step that gets you to the top.

Going up Mount Kilimanjaro is truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip that you should try out if you love trekking. From its relatively easy climb to the interesting sights along the way, it is a trek that belongs in every adventure-lovers’ bucket list.

Most Wonderfully Remote Places in South America

The huge continent of South America has been drawing visitors for decades, because of its archaeological sites and breathtaking sceneries. While access to some of these sites has improved in the last years, there are still many that have remained hidden to most of the world. Visiting these places might mean hours of bus or boat rides but every single minute is worth it once you see what they have to offer.

1. Lago General Carrera, Chile/Argentina

This 1850 square-kilometer body of water straddles the borders of Chile and Argentina and is located about 5 hours south of Coyhaique. It is impressive due to the changing hues of the water, which comes from melting glaciers from the mountain.

Just as breathtaking are the blue, white, and pink marble rock formations at the center, formed after 6000 years of erosion. Visitors can take a boat ride to the biggest, the Marble Cathedral or El Catedral de Marbol.

2. Quilotoa Volcano, Ecuador

Ecuador is already one of the least visited countries in South America, so you can expect almost no rush of tourists here. Although it is much smaller compared to its neighbors, it has enough natural beauty to draw visitors in. For example, it has 8 major volcanoes that can wow you.

The most beautiful is the Quilotoa Volcano, with its caldera at 3,914 meters or 12,841 feet high. The crater has a 3 km diameter and offers wonderful sights, so long as you make the difficult hike. What makes it more remote is also the lack of tourist infrastructure around the volcano, so you can expect the trip to be a true adventure.

3. Vinicunca, Peru

The Rainbow Mountain of Vinicunca is a true once-in-a-lifetime natural wonder. At an altitude of 5,200 meters or 17,100 feet, it is a part of the Peruvian Andes. The name comes from the 7 colors due to the minerals found on the mountain. The end effect is a rainbow mountain that cannot be found anywhere else. Reaching the mountain is a challenge, with visitors needing to hike for a day from Quichuyuno.

4. Angel Falls, Venezuela

The Angel Falls, or Salto Angel in Spanish, is not just remote because of the difficulties traveling into Venezuela these days. The world’s highest waterfall also requires a total travel time of 3 days from the nearest city. It is found inside a dense rainforest, adding to the challenge of reaching it. However, its impressive drop will make any other waterfall look tiny. Visitors who want to reach Salto Angel will need to first fly from Ciudad Bolivar to Canaima Camp. Next is a 10-hour drive to the river, before a long boat ride to reach the base of the falls.

5. Yacyreta Island Dunes, Paraguay

This site is found in another one of the lesser-known South American countries, Paraguay. Here the Parana River hosts the island of Yacyreta and its interestingly-shaped white sand dunes. The most famous of them all is the San Cosme y Damian. Visiting these dunes are tough due to the lack of tourist infrastructure. In fact, only some fishermen live there so you will need a tour guide to bring you there.

These are just some of the truly hidden gems found in South America, which might be challenging to reach but once you see the beauty they have to offer, will make every hour of journey nothing less than worthwhile.

5 Most Awesome Motorcycle Road Trips in America

A road trip on top of a motorcycle is much more of a thrilling ride, especially if you are driving along the most scenic roads in the United States. Beyond the wind on your face, you will see breathtaking views and some adrenaline-pumping curves. So leave the car at home and take your bike through these best motorcycle road trips in the country.

1. Black Hills, South Dakota

Black Hills is very popular with bikers for being the home of the very famous Sturgis Rally. Dating back almost 90 years ago, it has attracted riders from towns within 100 miles of Black Hills. The route takes you through the scenic Custer State Park and its Needles Highway. The 67 miles is full of exciting tight curves and switchbacks, including the 3 tunnels built around Mount Rushmore. You can also take a break at the picturesque Sylvan Lake.

2. Pacific Coast Highway, California

Highway One is known worldwide as being legendary, specifically the 123 miles of the winding and hold-on-to-your-seats stretch between Big Sur and Monterey. On this stretch, the cliffs lead you all the way down to the Pacific but the other side is a beautiful sight full of majestic redwoods. On the southern part of the road, the eye-catching scenery continues, giving you a view of pine forests, beaches and even waterfalls leading down to the sea. Make sure to stop at Pfeiffer State Beach, which contains the curious purple sand beach, the color coming from the deposits of manganese garnet deposits in the rocks.

3. Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

This route goes through 25 miles of Highway 550 between Silverton and Ouray. This ride is truly exciting, with the neverending turns and twists at the edge of the cliffs. It is not for the weak-hearted, but risking the journey will reward you with breathtaking views, including the dramatic San Juan Mountains.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park Loop

There is no better way to enjoy the views of Rocky Mountain National Park, plus you get some hair-raising curves and turns along the way. Trail Ridge Road, or the “Roof of the Rockies”, being 12,183 feet above sea level, is the real highlight of the trip. This means, even in the middle of summer, you can still see some snow at the peaks.

5. Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Part of what makes this road trip very exciting is that it is only 60% paved and the other 40% being gravel or dirt road, perfect for an adventure bike. This means this route is only for the most experienced, while it promises beautiful views of Denali national parks and the Gates of the Arctic. It is also the most northern you can go on the continent, so expect to see the unspoiled landscapes of the area.

The United States has thousands of miles of roads spanning from east to west and north to south, passing by the most scenic of landscapes and coastlines. So instead of just riding in some boring highway, take a scenic trip to one in this list.


How to Make the Most of Your Seaside Vacation

Not all of us are lucky enough to live near the seashore where the morning is typically greeted by the warm, life-giving breath of sunshine or saying adieu to the day as the sun sets in the horizon, turning the sea into a glimmering ocean of little fireflies. Sure enough, lucky are those who are afforded these views. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll forever be confined to seeing the concrete jungle of the city. You can always go on a seaside holiday vacation and make the most out of it. That way when you do get home you’ll be bringing with you nothing but a bucket full of wonderful memories of sun, surf, and a whole lot more. Here’s how.

Plan early

Unless you’re the type of holiday vacationer who prefers to pack up unprepared, there’s only one way you can truly enjoy the most out of your seaside holiday vacation: plan for it. When we say plan we don’t necessarily mean you are going to write every detail of your trip. Just a general idea of what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it should be enough. This also means you’ve got to set your budget as well as the things you are going to do. Make sure to put an allowance into everything as you will never really know what can happen when you’re already there.

Book early

Just as planning your trip early on can help you enjoy your holiday trip, booking early can also help you feel less stressed. In addition to the great savings you’ll get, you will also be able to spend more time preparing for your holiday getaway since you have all the reservations and bookings taken care of in advance.

Take the advice of locals

Try to get as much advice as possible from local people in the destination you’ll be travelling to. This could be online advice through review sites and forums, or you could ask questions on social media platforms. When seeking vacation accommodation it pays to talk to a local holiday representative on the ground at the resort to get the best support before booking. For holiday lets and vacation rentals choose an agent who is based in the destination itself and not a national or international broker. For example, if travelling to Cornwall in the UK, go with a reputable local company like Cornish Holiday Cottages. Or if you wish to stay at a hotel, speak to a receptionist or manager at the hotel before you commit to spend your money on seaside accommodation for your vacation or holiday.

Study the location

People from different places often have different customs, traditions, beliefs, and practices. While it is important to be well-informed about the different festivities and things to do in a particular holiday destination, it is equally crucial to have a basic understanding of the local customs and traditions. Remember, you will be mostly interacting with local folks so it would really pay to learn a few things about their culture. 

Let loose, but be vigilant

Enjoy every moment of your trip. However, you should still keep an eye on things. Holiday tourist destinations even those located in the beach are magnets for unscrupulous activities. Scammers will always be out to spoil your planned holiday. Make sure you’re aware of the common vacation scams so you no what to avoid during your time away. Otherwise, instead of bringing home many fond memories with you, you’ll perhaps end up with nightmares of your ordeal. So, let loose but do not ever let your guard down.

Having a really fabulous time during your much-deserved seaside holiday vacation is easy if you plan enough for it. Understanding local customs and letting loose while remaining vigilant are some of the keys to help you relish the memories you will be making while on your dream getaway. If any, it’s immersing oneself in the beauty of the place that makes it all the more worthwhile.


6 Things to Do in Romania Aside from Seeing Count Dracula’s Castle

Whenever someone talks about Romania, there’s always one character that comes to mind – Count Dracula. But this country is so much more than its blood-sucking, vampire bat-turning, caped character. This Eastern European nation is known for its unusual yet equally cool attractions. When coupled with its rich cultural heritage, you’ve got a country that’s full of wonder just waiting for the outside world to explore. Here are 6 things you simply have to do when in Romania.


Four Unique Experiences When Travelling in Japan With Your Dog

Japan is well-known for its highly unusual take on things that are very common in everyday life. From whimsical construction barriers to blue traffic lights, an island full of bunnies, and a dizzying array of vending machines, the Japanese clearly have a way with things. This also extends well onto man’s best friend. While it might not get as much attention as other pet-friendly destinations around the world, such as the UK, France and Argentina, Japan is also a nation of dog lovers. So if ever you’re thinking of spending a holiday in the Land of the Rising Sun, you’d better get acquainted with these four peculiar but otherwise beneficial services for your pet dog.

Luxury Resort for Dogs

With 4 villas, a luxurious pool, and aesthetically-designed suites, the Doggy’s Island Resort & Villa is the equivalent of a 5-star hotel and resort that is specially designed for the most lavishly pampered dogs in the land. There are Dog Suites and Executive Suites complete with a complimentary chef’s special of croquettes and risotto. Located in Yachimata, Doggy’s is the perfect retreat for the world’s richest dog. A single night can easily net between $400 and $750. It’s mighty expensive, but your pet will be pampered like a king.

Dog Café

Most restaurants that accept dogs don’t actually treat these pets as customers, but rather as companions of paying customers. At the Deco’s Dog Café, however, both pet parents and their dogs are customers. Both get to enjoy finger-licking-good pizzas, cakes, chicken steaks, and meatballs. For the ultimate in canine birthdays, the café can actually throw in a special plate that is prepared just for the 4-legged birthday celebrant. This is one of those eateries in Japan where man and dog can sit side by side and enjoy a full course meal.

Hot Springs for Man’s Best Friend

Japan ranks number 2 in the world in terms of the best hot springs, being an archipelago in the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is no wonder that many of these hot springs also open their doors to man’s best friend. At the Tsunayoshi no Yu, your pet gets to experience a warm onsen, a full shampoo, and a really soothing jet bath massage. Pooches are also placed in an oxygen capsule and allowed to relax in a bubble spa to really provide the most lavish, most outlandish internal beauty treatment for dogs. You’re bound to get jealous and jump right in.

Pet Exorcism

Fans of Linda Blair in the hair-raising, spine-tingling horror flick, The Exorcist, will be glad to know that there is such a thing as pet exorcism. The D+Khrishima provides pet exorcism services to dogs that their pet parents believe to be possessed by demons. A Shinto priest will perform a variety of rituals, expel the bad spirit from your dog’s body, and provide a spiritual shield for future health. Whether it’s the dog exorcism you’re after or not, it’s always nice to know that the spa actually provides gourmet meals, overnight stays, and luxury baths especially for your 4-legged friend.

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