The Blog

Cuba Travel Demystified

For decades, Cuba has held a certain mystique for the curious American traveler. Although citizens of other countries could visit, Cuba was previously off limits for Americans. As a result, the country has occupied a special space in the traveler’s imagination, with images of charismatic revolutionaries and flavorful foods, as well as vibrant nights of dancing and music.

In 2015, the United States president, Barack Obama, announced that the country would partially lift its travel ban for American citizens traveling to Cuba. Though there were some caveats – the main being that travel to Cuba in the form of tourism is still strictly prohibited – this lift in the travel ban has definitely opened the door for Americans to consider Cuba travel. With the doors to Cuba slowly opening up, travelers are rightfully confused as to what is allowed and what is not allowed with regards to travel to Cuba. As a means to demystify Cuba travel, here are a few key points to keep in mind when planning travel to Cuba.

flag - Cuba travel

Who can travel to Cuba?
In previous years, American travelers were not allowed into Cuba. And those who were had to face a barrage of restrictions and authorizations to legally travel to the country. Even business transactions with Cuba were considered illegal, and would warrant hefty fines or jail time if caught. These days, most Americans can legally travel to Cuba, as long as they fall into one of the few allowable types of travel.

What kind of travel is allowed?
For Americans, tourism to Cuba is still not allowed. However, there are other types of travel to Cuba that are allowed, including educational activities, professional research, public art performances, religious activities, and even humanitarian projects. Recently, companies have sprung up offering people-to-people trips to Cuba, connecting travelers directly with Cubans as a means to bring about educational and cultural exchange. The main idea behind this travel restriction is that travel to Cuba must have a component in which the traveler is helping the people of Cuba or the trip is educational for the traveler.

How do travelers get there?
From the United States, flights to Cuba are relatively short. A flight from Miami to Havana takes less than an hour. Besides Miami, travelers can get flights to Cuba from cities such Tampa, Orlando, or New York, through various airlines such as American Airlines and JetBlue. However, although flights are offered, actual seats must be purchased through a third party vendor, as the United States and Cuba has yet to sign an aviation agreement.

Musicians - Cuba travel

Is it safe to travel there?
Cuba is a relative stable country to visit. Unlike in past years, demonstrations against the United States are now few and far between. Demonstrations against local opposition groups, however, can get violent, so it is best to avoid those if in the area. Travel to Cuba is much like travel to any developing country. As there are pockets of poor people, it’s best not to flash too much money around or too many expensive gadgets.

Will there be internet?
As Cuba has remained relatively untouched by tourists, the infrastructure in the country has been relatively weak. Only a few good hotels exist, and many businesses still do not accept foreign credit cards. In terms of internet access, only some hotels, as well as government “hot spots” can offer travelers that luxury.

With the new partial lift on the travel ban, Cuba travel is now becoming a reality for many Americans. Although not all types of travel are allowed, those that have an educational or altruistic purpose are, and tour companies are popping up to take advantage of this travel loophole.

Carnival - Cuba travel

For more ideas about travel to Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, download the LeafCanoe app.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Five Ideas for Travel After a Divorce

Divorce and breakups can be difficult. When a marriage or a relationship ends, people often feel a sense of grief and loss, even if they were the ones who ended the relationship. Yet, despite the difficulties of a breakup, there are many ways to cope with the end of a relationship. One such way is through travel.

Travel is more than just a means to see the world. It can also be transformative and healing. Being in a new place can help bring a different perspective to your life. This new perspective can help you immensely on your path towards acceptance. Almost any destination can be a good place to start on your healing journey. The best way to choose your destination is by exploring what that particular destination has to offer. Though it may be difficult to take that first step, travel after a divorce can serve to help you move on from your breakup.

Take some time to be alone
After a serious breakup, it’s helpful to take some time to be alone and reflect on life. A train trip through Europe, for example, can offer a good balance of solitude and social interaction, as you work through your period of reflection. From the countrysides of France and Italy, to the streets of cities like Prague or Amsterdam, there are plenty of opportunities to hop off the train and engage in some solo exploration on foot.

Europe - Travel after a divorce

Simplify your life
Going through a breakup involves a major life change, and can often force you to rethink your day to day. Take this opportunity to visit a place that allows you to focus on the simple things in life. The laid-back culture of Jamaica is perfect for re-examining what is important in your life. Go at your own pace and enjoy exploring the country’s beaches and towns. Let Jamaica’s relaxed attitude influence the way you see the world.

Jamaica - Travel after a divorce

Test your strength
The emotional stress of a divorce can leave you filled with self-doubt and insecurity. Take this time to take on a challenge and test your strength. A popular travel destination for those looking for a challenge is the 15th century Incan site, Machu Picchu, located in Peru. Hikers and adventure travelers love to visit Machu Picchu, whose altitude at 2,000 meters above sea level poses a challenge for many travelers who come to the site. But it is this challenge that will ultimately help you in your road towards moving on from a divorce. Being able to overcome the difficulties of visiting such a site, can help reaffirm the inner strength that may have been lost when you went through your breakup.

Machu Picchu - Travel after a divorce

Rediscover the beauty of the world
The world is a beautiful place, and often times, the depression that comes with a divorce or breakup serves to obscure this fact. However, it’s good to take the time to appreciate what the world has to offer. African countries like Tanzania are a wonderful place to visit for witnessing the world’s natural beauty. From the wild animals of the Serengeti and the breath-taking views of Mount Kilimanjaro, to the serene waters of Zanzibar, Tanzania offers a wealth of natural beauty for you to soak in. Rediscovering the beauty of the world can help you move on from the depression and sadness.

Zanzibar - Travel after a breakup

Find balance
The final step towards recovering from a divorce is to find balance in your life. Practices such as yoga and meditation can help you achieve balance and maintain a sense of peace with your life. Although India is often known as the birthplace of yoga, places like Ubud, on the Indonesian island of Bali, has started to become a hub for yoga and meditation. With beautiful Hindu temples, serene rice paddies, and a plethora of yoga and meditation centers, Ubud is a peaceful retreat from the hectic and tourist-laden spots found on the rest of the island. Rent a quiet and secluded villa and spend your days meditating. By finding balance in your life, and accepting what the world has to offer, you are well on your way towards creating a new life post-divorce.

Bali - Travel after a divorce

No matter how you slice it, divorce is a difficult thing, and the feelings of sadness, self-doubt, and insecurity can often be hard to shake off. The wonderful thing about travel, though, is that it can have the power to help you in your process toward healing. By allowing you to do things like see a new perspective, test your strength, and achieve a sense of balance, travel can play an influential role in helping you move on from a divorce.

For more ideas of where to travel, download the LeafCanoe app.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Thailand off the beaten path

Exploring Thailand Off the Beaten Path

The country of Thailand is known for its exotic beaches, delicious food, and thriving culture. Located in the center of the Southeast Asian peninsula, Thailand boasts a booming economy and attracts over 20 million tourists a year. In 2013, Thailand was among the top ten most visited countries, and one of only two Asian countries to have made that list. Tourism to Thailand makes up approximately 6% of the country’s economy. Clearly, Thailand is a popular travel destination, and the success of the country’s tourism industry has only made it easier for tourists to visit Thailand. But there is more to the country than beaches and food. Taking a moment to explore Thailand off the beaten path can open up a whole new side to what the Thai affectionately call “the land of a thousand smiles.”

Thailand off the beaten path
LeafCanoer cmlenny recently posted a leaf about Thailand called “Thailand in 10 Days.” Within the leaf are plenty of suggestions for seeing Thailand off the beaten path. Below are highlights from that leaf. A guide, so to speak, to experiencing a new side of Thailand.

Try the local street food
The best way to learn about a country is to try the local food. Thailand is known to have some of the best street food in the world. From cool fresh fruit to a hot steaming bowl of soup, Thailand’s street food is sure to surprise your senses and taste buds. A word of caution about street food, however. Always make sure your food is clean, and if ordering cooked food, make sure it is served piping hot.

Thailand off the beaten path

Go shopping at night
The seasoned traveler will tell you, one of the best ways to experience the local side of a country is to visit its markets. The Night Bazaar in the city of Chiang Mai is one such market worth visiting. Located near the Ping River, the Night Bazaar is known for selling handicrafts, jewelry, toys and artwork. If shopping at night is not your thing, you can easily check out the daytime markets, especially the floating markets just outside of Bangkok. The most popular floating markets are Khlong Lat Mayom, Damnoen, and Amphawa, all located around the city of Bangkok.

Engage in local beauty customs
One of the popular trends in Thai beauty as of late are fish pedicures. For a small fee, you can dunk your feet in a pool or tub filled with tiny fish. These fish feed off the dead skin on your feet, and after a long soak, you are left with smooth feet, and a feeling of refreshment and relaxation.

Thailand off the beaten path

Seek out the hot springs
Thailand has a number of national parks worth exploring and visiting. Within many of these parks are hot springs, which have become quite popular among the tourist set. After a long day of exploring, a dip in the hot springs is a well deserved reward for the weary traveler.

Meet an elephant
Getting to know the locals can extend beyond just getting to know the people. Animals are also worth getting to know. For a personal meet and greet with elephants, you can head out to the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand. Here, visitors can see an elephant up close and personal, touching it and feeding it, while at the same time learning all about what goes into taking care of an elephant.

Thailand off the beaten path
With so many activities to choose from, it’s hard to pick one that really exemplifies Thailand off the beaten path. In actuality, the best way to explore a new country like Thailand is simply to get out into the country and try new things. In the end, these experiences are what will make your trip memorable and worthwhile.

For more ideas of travel and to read what other LeafCanoers have to say, download the LeafCanoe app.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Ten Family-Friendly Seattle Center Activities

Seattle is a great place for families.  With its many parks, museums, restaurants, and shops, finding an activity to do with your family is not difficult.  One of the local favorites, the Seattle Center, offers many activities for families to enjoy.  Here are ten family-friendly Seattle Center activities worth checking out.

Go to the top of the Space Needle

The Space Needle is a popular attraction for families.  Visitors can catch panoramic views of the city from the top of the needle, situated over 500 feet in the air.  Or they can enjoy a delicious lunch at the SkyCity Restaurant, which features fine regional cuisine.

2014-12-16 13.15.02

The Space Needle, a popular family-friendly attraction

 

Marvel at the glass art at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Local artist, Dale Chihuly, is world-renowned for his work with glass.   At the Chihuly Garden and Glass, visitors can see his work on display in both indoor and outdoor exhibits.  With its colorful and whimsical glass sculptures, the glass garden is sure to delight kids and adults alike.

Play music at the Experience Music Project

The Experience Music Project has a number of interactive musical exhibits, but one of the favorites among families is the Sound Lab.  Here, kids can practice jamming on drums and guitars, or try their hand at being a dj.

Hang out with a Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Pacific Science Center

The Pacific Science Center’s family-friendly exhibits are both educational and interactive. Permanent exhibits include a butterfly house, a dinosaur exhibit, and a model tide pool.  The Pacific Science Center also houses an IMAX theater, laser dome, and planetarium, that offer thrilling and exciting shows.

2014-12-16 13.14.34

The Sonic Bloom exhibit at the Pacific Science Center

 

Catch a show or a game at the Key Arena

The Key Arena is home to Seattle’s WNBA team, the Storms, as well as their roller derby team, the Rat City Roller Girls.  With a seating capacity of over 17,000 people, the Key Arena is also a great place to catch a show.  Past performers have included U2 and Diana Ross, as well as Selena Gomez.

Explore and learn at the Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum, located in the Armory building, is an excellent place to take young kids. With exhibits such as the Global Village, where kids can see how life is like in other parts of the world, and Cog City, where kids learn about the mechanics of pulleys and vacuums, the Children’s Museum encourages kids to explore in a very hands on way.

Splash around at the International Fountain

A favorite past time for families during the summer months is to play at the International Fountain.  The fountain consists of a 10 feet tall, 27 feet wide dome with over 270 water shooters that are synchronized to music. Surrounding the fountain is a bowl that is 220 feet in diameter where children can play in the spray from the fountain. It’s the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.

2013-09-01 17.40.31

Families playing at the International Fountain

 

Watch a play at the Children’s Theater

The Seattle Children’s Theater is known for its professional programming geared towards younger audiences, and recognized as leaders in their field by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, Time Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Their shows are characterized by stories that both empower kids and encourage them to explore the world.

Check out a festival

Throughout the year, the Seattle Center hosts a number of cultural, musical, and culinary festivals. Festal is a yearlong celebration that highlights a region of the world each month, with free presentations of music and dance. Another popular festival taking place in the late summer is Bumbershoot, a music festival that brings in some of the best new bands in the United States. Other festivals worth checking out are the Northwest Folklife Festival, Bite of Seattle, and Seattle PrideFest.

Watch a free concert at the Mural

During the summer months, local radio station, KEXP, hosts outdoor concerts at the Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheater.  These events draw crowds of families and adults interested in listening to local music.  The concerts are free, and all you really need is a nice picnic blanket to enjoy some good music.

SAM_2250

Free concerts at the Mural Amphitheater, hosted by KEXP

 

Looking for more family-friendly activities to do in Seattle?  Download the Leaf Canoe app for more tips.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS