Author: Bret and Mary

Few places are as magical as Finnish Lapland in winter. The land is covered with a blanket of soft, fluffy snow. The air is crisp, and skies are often clear, offering great sunsets and stunning starry skies at night. Yes, it is cold: Temperatures often plummet below -20. But the scenery and warm, golden light more than make up for it! Not to mention the fact that in Lapland, Finland you’ll have the chance to try some activities that are not available anywhere else in Europe. Where is Lapland? Lapland is in the Arctic Circle, in the northern region of…

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Christmas is a time of year when people around the world come together in the spirit of giving, love and hope for mankind, but there are many countries that don’t celebrate Christmas. For Christians, Christmas is one of the most important periods on the calendar. This religious and cultural celebration is observed by billions of people annually on December 25. Christian countries re-enact nativity scenes, which depict the birth of Jesus Christ. They also partake in religious observances such as midnight Mass. Christmas traditions vary considerably from country to country. The people of many different nations install and light Christmas trees,…

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Located about two hours north of Sydney, Australia, the Hunter Region of NSW makes for an incredible escape from the big city.  The area is home to some of the best and oldest vineyards in New South Wales, with the earliest wineries in the Hunter Valley region dating back to the early 19th century.  The towns around the Hunter Valley also boast more than their fair share of foodie-friendly restaurants, upscale boutique hotels, day spas, local markets, and breathtaking scenic views. But the most impressive aspect of this part of New South Wales is its abundant natural areas, including Mt.…

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Christmas in the Philippines is very different from Christmas in other countries. A Philippines Christmas has its own charm, its own appeal, its own beauty, which pairs wonderfully with island nation’s notoriously warm hospitality.  Filipino Christmas celebrations begin long before the actual holiday, and you can often hear Christmas songs in the Philippines as early as September! You can go to any mall, whether in the capital or in the provinces, and you’ll likely find yourself immersed in the holiday spirit. Read on for our guide to  the best ways (& places) to celebrate the Christmas season in the Philippines,…

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[Updated 12/2/2022]  Lebkuchen, a.k.a German Gingerbread, are traditional Christmas Cookies that has been around for centuries. It was originally invented by monks in Franconia, Germany in the late 1200s, but has evolved over the last 800+ years into numerous variations. Here’s a look at the origins of these beloved German Christmas cookies, as well as a simple Lebkuchen recipe courtesy of Chef Mirko Peters, the Executive Chef of the Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.  READ MORE: 90 Christmas Traditions Around the World German Christmas Cookies/Lebkuchen Gingerbread Guide History of German Christmas Cookies Nürnberger Lebkuchen Lebkuchenherzen Elisen Lebkuchen Other Types of Lebkuchen Lebkuchen Recipe a.k.a. German…

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I’ve been a professional travel writer for 25 years now. But, like most people, there was a time in my life when the idea of traveling the world seemed like it was way beyond my financial means.  Back then, figuring out ways to save money for traveling seemed incredibly difficult, especially when I was working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.  These days, with prices for virtually everything from groceries to getaways soaring, finding innovative ways to save on travel can make a huge difference in your bottom line.  Read on for our suggestions on for to save money…

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This post is brought to you in partnership with Australian Wildlife Journeys. But our opinions remain our own, and we will never compromise the integrity of our responsible travel mission. Encompassing 2,966,151 square miles, Australia is the sixth largest country in the world, with 5.2% of the planet’s landmass. The United States is #4, with 6.1%. But with a total population of just 26,177,413 people in 2022, Australia ranks 210th in terms of population density. By contrast, the U.S. ranks at #161, with 338,289,857 people.  In other words, for such a massive country, the Land Down Under has a remarkable…

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Though it is but a slip of land located in between Costa Rica and Colombia, there are ton of fun things to do in Panama including watching exotic wildlife, touring colonial architecture, being awestruck at manmade marvels, and admiring diverse natural landscapes. The culture of the country deep and rich, and Panama’s history (and pre-history, for that matter) is completely unique.  The Isthmus of Panama is the final strip of land formed that separated the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean just a little under 300 million years ago. This has made Panama a strategic location over…

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Creating a “best of” list for any given region, country, or continent is a thankless task. There’s really no way to be objective, and of course it’s impossible to visit EVERY place in a given destination unless you live there. So consider our overview of 20 Best Places to Visit in Central America to be a general bucket list of hot spots to visit, particularly if you love nature, wildlife, history, and indigenous culture. READ MORE: The 16 Best Mayan Ruins to Explore Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize, Central America by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett Best Places to Visit…

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To say that visiting Scotland was life-changing for me would be a vast understatement.    I’d spent years researching my family’s Scottish ancestry, learning that the Loves were a sept of Clan Mackinnon, with significant populations in Glasgow and the Scottish isles of Mull and Skye.    I’d previously gotten a chance to visit Edinburgh (where I interviewed Sean Connery!) and see major Scotland tourist attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Arthur’s Seat.      In addition to Edinburgh, our trip took us through the Scottish Highlands, including Loch Lomond National Park, Loch Ness, the breathtaking valley…

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When most people think of traveling to Iceland, wildlife is probably not their primary consideration. Located in the North Atlantic, the remote island is better known for its Viking history, rugged and diverse landscapes, dramatic waterfalls, and rich Icelandic culture.  But while it may not have the polar bears of the Canadian Arctic and Norway or the grizzlies, moose, and other dynamic megafauna you’ll find with Alaskan Animals, watching wildlife is still one of our favorite things to do in Iceland. Animals in Iceland are basically divided into two main groups, domesticated farm animals and wild animals. And while there…

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Iceland (a.k.a. the land of fire and ice) is often described as dramatic, thrilling, and otherworldly, with natural wonders shaped by unrelenting forces.  But there’s more to this fascinating island than its innate beauty. Icelandic culture remains rich and varied, with friendly people, intriguing traditions, fun festivals, and fascinating traditional food.  Whether you want to enjoy a lunch at a family farm, dance until the sun goes down at midnight, or admire the beauty of the majestic horses, there is no better place than Iceland.  Here’s a window into this Nordic nation that has been repeatedly ranked high among the…

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In the 12 years since we launched Green Global Travel as one of the world’s first responsible travel blogs, we’ve been fortunate to have some incredible experiences in ecotourism destinations all around the world.      But even after 12 years of travel blogging, there are still a lot of places left on our world travel bucket list. In terms of wildlife encounters, no destination ranks higher on that list than Australia, the only continent we’ve never visited.   I fell in love with wildlife conservation partly through watching Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin in the ’90s, so seeing the countless…

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With its relatively isolated location in the frigid north Atlantic, Iceland might not be the first country that comes to mind when you think about the world’s best birdwatching destinations.  It’s true that the harsh winters of the 40,000 square mile island ensures that there are few breeding land birds among the country’s resident avian species. And its remoteness (around 750 miles from Greenland, and 850 miles from the United Kingdom) limits the annual influx of summer migrants. Yet still the list of the birds of Iceland tops 370 different species, with approximately 85 species that are regularly seen during…

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Visiting the Galapagos Islands is like stepping into one of those BBC nature documentaries narrated by Sir David Attenborough. In this archipelago, which is located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, you can swim with sea lions, walk alongside the world’s largest tortoise, and explore dynamic, dramatic landscapes utterly unlike any other place on Earth.  Due to their remote location, the Galapagos Islands remained untouched for millions of years before human discovery. The most famous early explorer of the archipelago was Charles Darwin, who developed his theory of evolution by natural selection after his visit to the Galapagos in…

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As a Slow Travel practitioner for more than a decade now, I’m clearly partial to the many benefits it provides. But I also believe that my experiences make me an astute observer of why this approach to travel works so well.  At the risk of provoking controversy, I’ll just come right out and say it: I think Slow Travel is the ideal way for everyone to see the world. It’s admittedly easier to say this being the perpetual nomad that I’ve been for most of my adult life. I’ve had no mortgage to speak of, no kids to support, and nary a “real…

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Global interest in nature-based tourism, which includes wildlife tourism, has grown rapidly over the last decade. At the same time, wildlife has become increasingly under threat from issues such as habitat loss, poaching, and a lack of funding for conservation.  Richard Damania, lead economist for the World Bank, succinctly explains the intrinsic connection between economy and ecology in tourism destinations: “Provide jobs and (you’ll) save the environment.”  But of course it’s not quite that simple, as a National Geographic cover story on the dark truth behind wildlife tourism illustrated. When managed irresponsibly, wildlife attractions may involve abuse, exploitation, drugged animals,…

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From Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley to colonial cities such as Cusco and Lima, Peru has no shortage of ecotourism attractions. But the Amazon in Peru is easily the biggest of them all, encompassing approximately 60% of the country.  The fourth largest rainforest in the world, the Peruvian Amazon boasts remarkable biodiversity. In terms of flora, the area has 700 types of ferns and more than 7,300 different species of flowering plants. The rainforest is also home to some 180 reptiles, 262 amphibians, 293 mammals, 697 fish, 806 birds, and 2,500 butterflies.  In short, the area is an increasingly…

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We’d set out from the port at Iquitos, Peru at sunset the night before, meeting our naturalist guides, getting a quick safety briefing, and enjoying a refreshing Pisco Sour in our welcome toast. This morning we were up by 6AM, too excited about our Amazon River piranha fishing adventure scheduled for later in the day to sleep-in. All of us early birds were treated to exciting to see animals in the amazon river including egrets and pink dolphins before we’d even had our first cup of coffee. The avid birdwatchers on board were blessed with another spectacular sighting before the…

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The birds of Europe include around 700 different species, but there are only 10 endemic species of European birds that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.  There are six other European birds which could possibly be classified as unique endemic species by taxonomists in the future. These include the Balearic Warbler (found in the Balearic Islands), Brant Goose (from western Siberia), Red Grouse (of Great Britain and Ireland), Lesser Redpoll (which breeds in the southern Alps), Icelandic Redpoll (which breeds in Iceland and winters in Scotland), and Corsican Finch (found in Corsica and Sardinia). Here’s a look at…

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Nature lovers and the best national parks in the world go together like peanut butter and jelly. The concept was championed by early conservation icon John Muir and set in motion when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law establishing Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872.  In the ensuing 144 years, there have been around 7,000 national parks created by nearly 100 different countries. From Afghanistan (which has just 1) to China (208), most countries have exceptional natural areas that are worth celebrating and preserving.  But these 15 stand out for us among the very Best National…

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From Bali to Vanuatu, exotic islands offer an exceptional opportunity to get away from it all, balancing exhilaration and relaxation. But when it comes to the best beaches in the world, different types of travelers crave different types of experiences.  Some people just want to kick back and soak in the sunshine, with beach gear on the sand and a cocktail in hand. But nature lovers crave something more. They want to hike in thick forests teeming with wildlife. They want to explore the ocean, snorkeling or Scuba diving with a diverse array of marine life.  For nature lovers, the best…

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The Polynesian Triangle of the Pacific is synonymous with idyllic islands that offer swaying palms, exceptional places to scuba dive, and fascinating indigenous cultures.  The major islands that make up the rough boundaries of Polynesia include Hawaii in the north, New Zealand in the west, and Easter Island to the east. Scattered between them are countless smaller islands, many of which are among the most isolated in the world.  The native peoples of these islands, known as Polynesians, number more than 2 million closely related people that include indigenous groups such as Hawaiians, Māori, Tongans, Rapa Nui, Samoans, and Tahitians.…

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If you’re only casually familiar with the history of the Vikings, you might think of them as the fearsome seafaring warriors who left their Scandinavian homes in search of wealth, raiding countless coastal sites along the way. Since history is usually written by the victors, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Norsemen have been portrayed as savage heathens who pillaged and plundered their way across Europe. But ancient archaeological sites and evidence suggests that there’s a lot more to intrepid adventurers than meets the eye. Thanks to their superior shipbuilding skills, the Viking Age (from the late 8th to the…

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Over the last decade or so, the news from Brazil has been full of heartbreaking reports about deforestation, water pollution, and ever-increasing threats to Amazon rainforest animals.  What’s less well-known is the fact that the Amazon Basin– one of the world’s largest and most biodiverse repositories of plant and animal life– stretches across South America, covering 4.6 million square miles (or roughly 40% of the continent). Though the Brazilian Amazon has been plagued by a seemingly endless stream of environmental issues, the rainforests of Ecuador and Peru remain relatively unspoiled.  The Yasuni National Park area, which protects most of the…

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With over 1,800 species, of which 139 are endemic, the birds of Peru are spectacularly diverse. So it’s no surprise that the country has emerged as a favorite among people who love wildlife, especially birdwatchers. Destinations such as Manu National Park, Colca Canyon, and the Islas Ballestas have all become increasingly popular ecotourism attractions in recent years.  Still, the Peruvian Amazon is arguably the country’s finest hotbed of incredible avian activity. There were around 575 species of Amazon birds identified, just within one particular 5,500-hectare section of the rainforest. By comparison, only 700 bird species are found in all of…

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Along with the Spartans of ancient Greece, the Samurai warrior caste of Japan, and the Zulus of southern Africa, the Vikings of Scandinavia are widely regarded as one of history’s greatest warrior cultures.  The Viking era has been a staple fodder of popular culture for decades, from films (How to Train Your Dragon, Outlander, Valhalla Rising) and TV shows (The Last Kingdom, Vikings) to comics (Hägar The Horrible) and novels (Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, Terry Jones’ The Saga of Erik the Viking). Now, with Vikings: Valhalla on Netflix, executive producer/writer Jeb Stuart will delve deeper into some of the…

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Today I turned 45… although, on most days, I genuinely feel about 15 years younger. It was a weird thing yesterday, filling out a tour waiver here in Mexico and realizing it was the last time I could truthfully check off the 25-44 age bracket box. It was even weirder because it was a day full of adventure, swimming with whale sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles with my 12-years-old daughter in Isla Holbox Mexico. I’ve never been one to make a big deal out of my birthdays. But this one seems somehow significant, as if I’m entering a new…

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There are over 10,000 Polynesian islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The region is generally defined as the Polynesian Triangle, which stretches from Hawaii in the north to Easter Island in the east and New Zealand in the west. The main groups of Polynesian islands include the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and various others.  In addition to their geographical location, these islands are tied together by their similar languages, cultures, and belief systems. All indigenous Polynesians can trace their prehistoric roots to the Malay Archipelago, migrating by sea from Taiwan to the islands of Southeast Asia…

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There are over 10,000 Polynesian islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The region is generally defined as the Polynesian Triangle, which stretches from Hawaii in the north to Easter Island in the east and New Zealand in the west. The main groups of Polynesian islands include the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and various others.  In addition to their geographical location, these islands are tied together by their similar languages, cultures, and belief systems. All indigenous Polynesians can trace their prehistoric roots to the Malay Archipelago, migrating by sea from Taiwan to the islands of Southeast Asia…

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Birds are probably not the first attraction most people think of when they dream about visiting Hawaii or the other islands of the Polynesian Triangle.  But once you get your fill of glistening waters in every possible shade of blue, grand landscapes that tower like skyscrapers, gregarious indigenous cultures, and gorgeous tropical sunsets, these islands’ forests are well worth exploring. The Polynesian Triangle encompasses around 10,000 islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean, stretching from Hawaii in the north to Easter Island in the east and New Zealand in the west. Though the five main Polynesian island groups (Austral,…

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[Updated 10/29/21]   With the rapid rise of mass tourism, summer travel to Europe has become increasingly problematic.   Record-breaking heat, record-breaking visitor numbers, and horrific tourist behavior are leading to many situations where locals simply wish travelers would stop visiting.   But Christmas in Europe is a different beast entirely. The cold weather of European cities in winter naturally limits the number of visitors.   The holiday season lends a fairytale glow to these ancient towns and historic buildings that feels positively magical.   The oldest European Christmas traditions– including Christmas markets, evergreen trees and wreaths, Yule logs, mulled wine (a.k.a.…

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[Updated 10/25/21] It’s no secret among friends and family that we’re nuts for Christmas traditions, decorating our house from wall to wall and immersing ourselves in local holiday celebrations. In fact, it’s the one time of year that we simply refuse to travel. But even we didn’t know much about how Christmas traditions around the world is celebrated until we began researching this story. Hope you’ll find these 80 fun Christmas facts as fascinating as we did! Christmas Traditions Around the World TOC Origins of Christmas Fun Christmas Traditions Traditional Christmas Dinners Traditional Christmas Songs The Origins of Christmas Trees…

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[Updated 10/22/21]   Although many of our blogging friends enjoy traveling to Christmas destinations around the world, we personally prefer a classic Christmas at home with our families.  We really get into the Christmas holidays in the USA, embracing American Christmas traditions ranging from decorating our house (both inside and outside) with lights, wreaths, and garland to making homemade Christmas gifts.  But now that my daughter is in college, we’ve begun to discuss other places to visit during Christmas (including seeing Mary’s dad’s family in New Jersey and Connecticut).  So this year we decided to chat with some of our blogging…

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If you really want to understand the culture of a place, festivals are a great place to start. Whether you’re interested in music festivals, cultural festivals, food and wine festivals, or holiday-related celebrations,  events like these offer a great chance to mingle with the locals and get a taste of the region’s culture in the process. The Delta surge may make attending even American festivals a risky proposition over the next few months. But the following list of festivals are all annual, meaning they should be back for many years to come.  So check out our guide to 15 Famous Festivals…

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Good news for ecotourists! Sri Lanka reopened its borders on June 1st after a brief shutdown to contain its COVID outbreak. However, despite that, there are still a few things that you need to be prepared for before packing your bags and boarding your flight. The country still has some restrictions in place and knowing where to plan around them could be crucial to your visit. That said, it’s worth the effort. Sri Lanka is one of the best ecotourist destinations in the world and in this article we’ll explain the 5 key things to be ready for whilst traveling…

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Mary and I have been going to the lake 3 to 4 times a week on average for the last 12 years– ever since we pooled our savings and bought a used pontoon boat in 2009.  Because travel is work for us, a lake day feels more like a vacation, with time for swimming, hiking, floating, grilling food, and just hanging out with friends and family.  Over the years we’ve figured out a fairly manageable lake trip packing list that has all of the essentials we (and our two dogs) will need for an awesome summer outing.  Some things we…

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August 30 is National Beach Day, a holiday designed to raise awareness of the beauty of  beaches while also encouraging the clean-up of beaches worldwide to help save the lives of sea birds & ocean animals. Given the travel limitations that have been forced on us city-dwellers over the last 18 months, a beach getaway sounds like just what the doctor ordered for those of us who have struggled with the pandemic lockdown blues.  Whether you’re planning a single-day beach outing or a considerably longer summer vacation (yes, please!!), packing the right equipment can definitely enhance the experience.  To that…

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It’s an old cliché that you can tell a lot about a man by the shoes that he wears.  But it’s not just an old wives’ tale. A recent study by researchers at the University of Kansas has revealed that people can predict the personality traits of strangers with a striking 90% accuracy based solely on their shoes! Not only do the shoes we choose broadcast info about our salary, background, political leanings, and even sexual preferences. But when it comes to outdoor activity, they’re actually crucial to our physical well-being.  A great pair of men’s shoes can aid in our support…

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[UPDATED 6/10/2021] As we began to compile a list of American National Parks by state for this piece to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, I was shocked and dismayed to realize how few of the 63 officially designated parks we’ve visited. Fortunately, we’re already planning a future family road trip with lots of national parks to visit. The NPS was originally created by Congress through the National Parks Service Organic Act on August 25, 1916. Run by the US Department of the Interior, the agency was designed “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife…

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If you looked up the phrase “double-edged sword” in the dictionary, there should really be a picture of palm oil.  Eco-conscious conservationists would likely prefer a complete ban on palm oil products. Growing and harvesting palm oil continues to cause widespread deforestation in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia because brands like Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo continue to buy palm oil from rogue producers. There are other unsavory facts about palm oil: Foods with palm oil are often produced at the expense of local communities, whose land is used without permission and workers are exploited without fair wages…

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Whether trekking through the desert in Jordan, to see Gorillas in the jungle of Rwanda, or just exploring the cobblestone streets of the Greek Islands, we’ve learned the importance of good shoes the hard way. A good pair of shoes may not be able to solve all your problems, such as having your Bedouin guide stung by a Deathstalker scorpion and being chased by a runaway Camel. But I speak from experience when I say that a bad pair of shoes can definitely make a day like that feel a whole lot worse. So here’s a look at more than 30…

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As a college student in my 20s, with no disposable income for travel, eating different foods from around the world offered a chance to explore other cultures affordably. For years I lived off the renowned Buford Highway in Atlanta, which is lined with some of the city’s most impressive international restaurants. So I was always sampling traditional dishes from around the world: From Ethiopian,  Middle Eastern, and Moroccan to Russian, Thai, and Vietnamese, no cuisine was too exotic. Once Mary and I launched Green Global Travel in 2010, we finally had a chance to explore traditional food around the world.…

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This weekend marked the 12th anniversary of the first date Mary and I ever went on. And November 1 marked the 10th anniversary of the day we launched Green Global Travel. To commemorate both occasions, I surprised her with a series of 12 personalized greeting cards from Tellinga. Recently named our pick for Best Holiday Gift of 2020, Tellinga allows you to tell your own personal story in a meaningful way via artfully designed postcards. All you have to do is choose the number of cards you want, upload photos of the people/places you want depicted in them, and provide…

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Normally at this time of year we’d be posting our annual Best Gifts for Travelers guide, showcasing all the best travel gear for your 2021 adventures. But in 2020, the entire world got a stark reminder that travel is a privilege (not a right) that should never be taken for granted. Even now, in mid-December, nobody knows when it will be safe (or even possible) to travel again. So, while our carryon luggage gathers dust in the attic and we dream of the ecotourism destinations we’re dying to visit, this year’s Holiday Gift Guide will focus on things we enjoy…

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[UPDATED DECEMBER 2, 2020] It’s no secret that our family truly loves Christmas. Whether we’re heading out to enjoy our favorite Atlanta Christmas events or staying home to savor our beloved Christmas traditions and decorate our house with the symbols of Christmas, we tend to spend the entire month of December (and half of November) celebrating our favorite holiday. Christmas lights are one of our favorite seasonal traditions. So naturally we adorn our home festively every year, both inside and out. I put up so many festive lights on the house, I’ve been called “Sparky” (after Clark Griswold) on more than one occasion. But we…

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I grew up in a lower middle class family and worked my way through college. So I couldn’t afford to travel internationally much until I was in my thirties. For me, eating exotic food from around the world served as my first introduction to the culture of India, Morocco, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, etc. As I fell in love with traditional dishes from around the world, I became more interested in the music, art, and history of these places. That ever-expanding interest in cultural exploration is what ultimately led me to become a travel writer, which gave me…

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[Updated November 19, 2020]   Everyone knows that we’re passionate about ecotourism and nature conservation. But unless you’re a long-time reader, you might not know that our family is equally wild about spending Christmas in Georgia. From mid-November right up through Christmas Eve, we make a point of attending as many different Atlanta Christmas events as we possibly can. We won’t even travel in the weeks before the holidays, just to make sure we have ample quality time to celebrate the season! These 2020 Christmas events will be especially special for us, as this is my daughter’s first year home for the…

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