It’s More Masaya in the Phillippines

They say that everything is more fun—masaya—in the Philippines. Known for having some of the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world, along with white sand beaches, waterfalls, and majestic bright green mountains, the Philippines should be on everyone’s travel list. Even getting around can be fun. Instead of taxis, you’ll find jeepneys (WWII jeeps converted into bus-like transportation) and tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars for passengers). While you’re in the ’Pines, try fresh, sweet mangoes; sour soup called sinigang; and if you’re feeling brave, balut: boiled fertilized duck egg. If you’re looking for adventure and a whole lot of fun, the Philippines is the place to be. Here are four travel destinations to plan your vacation around: Honda Bay, Palawan The island of Palawan beat out Bali and Maui to be named the best island in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine and Condé Nast Traveler readers. Getting to Palawan is easy—a short flight from Manila lands you in the capital city of Puerto Princesa. Don’t leave Palawan without visiting Honda Bay, about 30 minutes outside of the city. To get there, you can take a tricycle for a day trip and then come back to Puerto Princesa at night. Honda Bay is just a short boat ride to several other islands, where you can snorkel in a coral reef, cliff jump, or kayak. You may even end up the only one on an island and get to spend the day exploring the white sand beaches and turquoise ocean. Puerto Princesa While on Palawan, you really shouldn’t skip the region of Puerto Princesa. Its name means “princess...
Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

“So, can you come with us in two weeks?” my uncle asked on the other end of the phone. I paused and considered the implications of skipping the first week of school to go on my uncle’s company cruise to help with my four cousins. My initial instinct was to say no. I had work, plans to be with my family until the end of Christmas break, homework, and a full class load that coming semester. But after talking it over with several people, who all encouraged me to do something spontaneous for once, I called my uncle back and told him I’d love to go. Two weeks later, I was skipping the first week of school, watching the sun set over the ocean, getting my hair done in cornrows, and trying snails for dinner. The straight-A weekly planner in me couldn’t believe what I’d done, but rearranging my schedule to be spontaneous ended up being worth it. I wouldn’t trade the closeness I now have with my cousins, the experience of visiting three different countries, and the memories of that trip for anything. On other trips, spontaneity brought me to a small indoor market in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I found the perfect steaming-hot tamale and fresh mango smoothie. In the Philippines, spontaneity brought me to bright green rice fields as far as the eye could see. Spontaneity made me jump in the ocean in North Carolina fully clothed, try hang gliding, and eat a fertilized duck egg. I’ve learned that leaving some room in your itinerary and travel plans to explore means traveling off the beaten path, discovering...
Travel Hacking

Travel Hacking

(frankieleon)   When you hear the phrase “travel hacking,” you may imagine a darkened room where nefarious spies try to infiltrate airline databases to get tickets. In reality, travel hacking means using hotel, airline, credit card, and loyalty program rules that are already in place to travel for free or at a significant discount. Anyone can be a travel hacker if willing to invest some time and effort—no specialized computer skills required. Here are some tips to help you get started: Sign up for the loyalty programs of any hotels you stay in or airlines you fly with. These programs are almost always free, and you can gain loyalty points only by signing up. Why not use the money you’re already spending on travel to earn points toward future trips? According to an October 2017 study, Wyndham Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and Hilton Honors are the hotel loyalty programs that offer the greatest return on investment. Wyndham Rewards returns about $16.70 in rewards for every $100 spent, while the study’s lowest-ranked rewards program, Starwood SPG, returns only about $5.40 for every $100 spent. US News Travel ranked the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Delta SkyMiles, and JetBlue TrueBlue as the top three airline rewards programs based on each program’s benefits, availability of award flights, and other features. Maximize the benefits of loyalty programs by being a repeat customer when it makes sense. Generally, you’ll earn more rewards by staying with one hotel chain 10 times than you will by staying twice each with five hotel chains. The more you stay with one hotel chain or fly on one airline, the more...
Don’t Be Shark Bait

Don’t Be Shark Bait

So this is how it ends. As the motorboat sped away from the lush shore, the beautiful blue waters of Oahu started to look less like paradise and more like a watery grave. Swimming with sharks—without a cage—had seemed like an adventure when I signed up, but now, as the green island grew smaller, even the dolphins jumping alongside the boat couldn’t ease my nerves. Our diving guide, Cody, had seen this squeamish reaction from his passengers many times before. In an effort to calm us down, he shared with us some of the shark wisdom he had accumulated over many years of experience: True: No one has ever been injured by a shark during a guided shark tour. There have been some rare occasions where a shark has jumped into a shark cage, but these accidents are usually due to the tour guides ignoring certain baiting rules. In every case, the shark did not attack the divers and no one was injured. False: Sharks consider humans to be prey. The majority of shark attacks are “hit and runs,” meaning the shark takes a taste test, realizes you are not a seal, and leaves. I was amazed at how the sharks treated us while we swam with them; they seemed to view us with the same gentle curiosity with which we viewed them. This is not to say that they are harmless, though. Touching any kind of wildlife is always risky, and no guest in unfamiliar waters should do it. True: Eye contact matters. Sharks are like cats: they will sometimes try to sneak up behind you when you’re...
Accidental Criminal: Avoiding Fines and Felonies

Accidental Criminal: Avoiding Fines and Felonies

You’ve finally arrived in Cuba and it’s absolutely picturesque—pastel houses, cobblestone streets, turquois beaches—and you don’t want to forget a single detail. You pass by a large decorated building ornamented with security guards; it looks impressive and important, so you snap a few pictures to show your friends back home. Before you’ve even put your camera down, a scowling security guard is blocking your view, demanding to see your camera, and interrogating you as if you’re some kind of criminal. You don’t even know what you’ve done wrong! When it comes to foreign laws, ignorance is not bliss. An innocent mistake can lead to more than just a scolding; knowing the laws of the land can save you from hefty fees or even jail time. Here are a few of these unfamiliar rules to look out for when traveling. When to Shoot What you might not have known in the scenario above is that taking pictures of government buildings in Cuba is illegal. In fact, photographing military, police, or government buildings—which sometimes include palaces or even airports—is prohibited in several countries, including Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, and Vietnam. Uganda and Saudi Arabia take it a step further, requiring you to obtain permission from any local person you photograph. While there is a slim chance that violating this law will result in jail time, at the very least you may get a stern reprimand. Bubblegum Ban Singapore is famous for its spotless, orderly communities, but maintaining this level of cleanliness requires strict regulations. Littering, jaywalking, and failing to flush the toilet can result in large fines, and in order to...
La Cueca: Step into Chilean Culture

La Cueca: Step into Chilean Culture

On my first day in Chile, colorful leaves were falling in May, and I couldn’t understand some of the signs and street vendors. I was visiting with my dance team, but I felt strange walking into a local church dance when I didn’t quite feel like part of the community. The event began with the performance of a traditional dance, and I looked on blankly, unfamiliar with the music and movement. Unexpectedly, an aging woman in a bright shawl took me by the arm and led me to a partner. She and her daughter began teaching me and my team members how to do the cueca, the traditional dance they’d just been performing. I mimicked her movements, winding around my partner to an energetic rhythm. Little did I know my new friends weren’t just sharing a dance with me: they were sharing their culture and history too.   The Conquest The cueca began as a style of music in the 1800s that featured guitars and tambourines. Later, a flirtacious dance developed to the music and became popular between the cattle-ranching huasos and their sweethearts. In the dance, each man and woman waves a handkerchief high as they lock eyes and dance a set pattern of figures: a half moon, a vuelta (turn), a brush, stomps, another vuelta. The lady, in a colorful, full-skirted dress and apron, waves her handkerchief tauntingly as she performs rhythmic footwork. Dressed as a huaso—spurs and all—the man executes heavy stomps and high-kneed jumps. The cueca mimics the courtship rituals of roosters and hens; however, even though the dance is about pursuit, the dancers barely...