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A Galapagos iguana, best seen on a stress-free guided trip. Photo by Clark Norton

One of my favorite trips ever was to the Galapagos Islands, via a small cruise ship, much like the one contributing writer Robert Waite took in his compelling narrative below. The fellow pictured above, a marine iguana with a face only a mother (or mate) could love, is one of countless friendly creatures my wife and I encountered during our eight-island cruise. But I’ll leave it to Bob to chronicle his own experiences, which complete his trilogy on traveling to Ecuador, including visits to the colonial-era capital, Quito, and the Amazon.

By Robert Waite

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos – Want to feel young again, even if you are in your sixth or seventh decade? Head to the Santa Cruz highlands, where you will be a veritable spring chicken compared to the Galapagos giant tortoises ambling about.

Many tortoises reach 100 years of age or more, and one —… Continue reading

Back in 2003, during a round trip flight from New York to Bali, I had layovers in the Dubai International Airport in both directions. Located in the United Arab Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula, it’s a convenient stop between the East Coast of the U.S. (or Europe) and Southeast Asia.

Even then, the airport had a kind of fantasy-land feel to it, with the latest technologies and striking decor. It has since become the world’s busiest airport for international travelers, having served well over a billion passengers on more than 7 million flights.

Now, though, many of the passengers are leaving the airport to enjoy a vacation or long stopover in Dubai itself, which has taken the fantasy-land feel to new heights (literally). It’s become kind of a cross between Las Vegas (without the “sin city” element) and Disney World (without the humidity and mandatory high prices, though you can… Continue reading

Ecuador, a relatively small nation (about the size of Nevada), packs a wallop for its size — offering a remarkably diverse set of natural and cultural attractions.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to all four of its main regions: The Andes (including the colonial-era city of Quito); the Amazon basin; the Pacific coast, anchored by the city of Guayaquil; and the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles out in the ocean. All are memorable.

In this informative and engaging piece, contributing writer Robert Waite continues his recent journey through Ecuador by taking us to Yasuni National Park and the Napo Wildlife Center deep in the Amazon rainforest. Here’s his report:

By Robert Waite

Yasuni Park, Ecuador – There are two indigenous tribes located in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane, who have had virtually no contact with the outside world.

I say “virtually” because there have been… Continue reading

By Robert Waite

Quito, Ecuador – There are three things to keep in mind when planning a visit to Quito, capital of Ecuador.

First, it is high. Not Cusco-high, but — at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters )– you’re 2,000 feet (610 meters) higher than Mexico City. It may take you a few days to acclimate.

Second, it is hilly. As one who once lived on Russian Hill in San Francisco, I thought I knew hilly, but Quito even beats the City by the Bay.

Third, it is old. The present-day city was established by Spaniards in 1534, almost 100 years before the founding of Boston. And indigenous peoples lived here for centuries before that.

And if I were to add a fourth, it would be not to miss the surrounding countryside, known for its mountains, lush natural beauty, and a chance to straddle the Equator itself.

The Archbishop’s former digs… Continue reading
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It’s Mardi Gras time in Louisiana, and not just in New Orleans.

Several years ago I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, during Mardi Gras, and while the carnival festival there is more low-key than in New Orleans, it’s said to be the second largest in the state.

Along with a few other visiting travel writers, I was invited to ride on the local Convention and Visitors Bureau’s float, which led the midday parade. Best of all, we were also invited to throw out beads and candies to the folks lining the parade route.

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People had camped out all morning to get a prime spot, bringing their folding chairs and coolers stocked with cold drinks, many wearing Mardi Gras colors: purple, green and gold. They also wore beads, funny hats, sequined outfits, and various Krewe T-shirts, indicating allegiance to the various social clubs that build and run the parade floats. (There’s… Continue reading

Ever since my own visit to Panama, I’ve considered it one of the “essential countries” for travelers.

And not just because it harbors a canal vital for global commerce. Panama also connects two continents (North and South America) and is a key link in a chain of countries (including neighboring Costa Rica and Colombia) that claims some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet.

For older baby boomers, it’s also an enticing location for retirement, offering comparatively low prices and modern amenities.

Contributing writer Robert Waite recently visited Panama and returned with this informative report:

By Robert Waite

Panama City – When I think of airlines and stopover programs, Icelandair comes immediately to mind.

For no extra charge, they allowed you to stop over in Reykjavik when flying from North America to Europe. They often threw in discounted hotel stays and a trip to the hot spring-fed Blue Lagoon.

But… Continue reading

According to reports, an unruly passenger who recently forced an American Airlines pilot to return to Miami en route to London was sitting in first class.

In this timely post, Contributing Writer Bob Waite offers his perspective on encountering rude behavior in the premium seats and check-in lines.

It’s happening more and more often — the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration investigated three times as many unruly passenger events in 2021 as in any of the previous 25 years. And just because someone is sitting in first class, doesn’t necessarily mean they exhibit first-class behavior.

By Bob Waite

Is it just me, or do the airlines bring out the worst in people?

The other day I was at the Air Canada counter in Toronto checking in for a flight to Honolulu.

Suddenly, there was a commotion to my right. A man of middle-age and middle-girth was having a tantrum worthy of… Continue reading

Several years ago I wrote about the Mediterranean island nation of Malta offering citizenship and a passport to most anyone willing to pony up US$850,000 for the privilege.

Malta’s potential clients included Americans eager to move to and/or travel freely among the European Union (EU) nations and many other countries, some of which might not welcome US travelers.

But the first nation to offer citizenship and passports for sale was the Caribbean dual-island state of St. Kitts and Nevis (more formally, the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis), way back in 1984.

Best known for its beaches, mountains, and tropical atmosphere — as well as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton in Nevis — the Leeward Islands’ destination is the smallest nation in the Americas, both in size and population. An 18-mile scenic railway circles the entire island of St. Kitts (Nevis is even smaller), and Vervet monkeys are said to… Continue reading

By Bob Waite

There are tragedies far more consequential than the inability of a travel writer to travel.

It’s just that I can’t think of any at the moment.

My travels ended in late January 2020. As related on this site, I visited Japan, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The month prior I had been in China.

Then the world shut down.

Subsequent planned trips to France, Jordan, Israel, Ecuador, and Panama were all postponed or cancelled. My travel was largely confined to trips to the kitchen for subsistence; to my office to teach my college students remotely; or to the family room to watch sporting events or movies.

The highlight during this period of enforced stasis was the rearrangement of the condiments in our fridge alphabetically, A-Z. And then reversing them.

But — Omicron variant permitting — brighter days have arrived. I have begun traveling again… Continue reading

Here are some of the travel books I’ve been reading the past few months, any of which would make a nice gift for the hodophile among your family, friends, colleagues — or for yourself, of course.

They’re selected to get those travel juices flowing again (if they aren’t already).

The Road Trip Survival Guide

By Rob Taylor (Tiller Press, 2021)

Even as the Covid epidemic was dealing severe blows to airline, cruise, and international travel, domestic road trips were zooming in popularity in 2020-21, making this practical yet enjoyably written guide a timely read.

Penned in a folksy style, Rob Taylor encourages readers to “explore at their own speed” and modify his suggestions as needed to fit their own circumstances.

That said, just about any road-tripper (novice or experienced) can find loads of tips within these pages. Divided into five sections — Planning, Packing, Road Trip Food, Safety, and… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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