Posts Tagged With: News

R.I.P. Felipe

I received a sad email last night with an obituary attached. My friend and colleague, Felipe, passed away Tuesday from a brain tumor. Felipe was one of my travel companions on my first trip to China when I taught English and dance. He had a huge heart, he was always open to the new experiences abroad and was willing to give anything a try. His favorite song while we were overseas was the Cupid Shuffle and absolutely loved teaching the dance to the Chinese students. He will be missed dearly. Rest in peace, Felipe.


Felipe and me at the Summer Palace in Beijing, China (summer 2009)

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Travel Tip Tuesday!

Travel, be it a family vacation, business trip or RTW adventure, has gone digital. Between the internet cafés (which are quickly becoming a thing of the past), 4G and matchbook-sized travel devices, there are plenty of gizmos to keep you constantly connected to the rest of the world on the other side of cyberspace. Mobile apps like Facebook and Instagram are some of the most common – seriously, who doesn’t use them? But have you heard of some of these others? Below is a [truncated] list of the “Ultimate Travel Apps” – a list compiled by CNNGo. I’ve summarized 5 apps that I’d splurge on. To view the whole list, click here.

1) UNESCO World Heritage Location Guide – Over 900 sites all over the world to browse from, this is a great app for those travelers looking for something on the road less traveled. (Don’t worry, all the famous sites are on there, too.)


2) mTrip – Great for big cities in Asia (i.e.: Bangkok, Hong Kong… all my faves). It tells you what places you’d enjoy visiting (based on preferences you enter once downloaded) and even lets you send virtual postcards to friends and family! I am a sucker for postcards – physical or digital – so I think this one is perfect.


3) Trip Advisor – As small business owners, Trip Advisor is some of the best word-of-mouth advertising we could ask for. Whenever we go on trips (even if it’s just a of couple hours away), we’ll hit up this site for activities, things to do and hotel recommendations. NOTE: In my experience, this site has only been beneficial for places in the U.S. (If you want to check out our business on Trip Advisor, just click here!)


4) Tripline – This app lets you document your trip with pictures, notes and a mapped timeline of everywhere you’ve been. You can check in at various places on your journey just by snapping a photo! Then return home and replay your adventures at your next family function.

5) EveryTrail – Perfect for nature freaks and hiking junkies, this app lets you find trips and trails nearest you, allows you to map your route with the phone’s GPS and even find other hikers in your area. You can view stats (like elevation and distance), see pictures of what’s around the bend and search tons of other trips that fellow nature nuts have taken.

Last tip: Make sure you’ll actually be able to use your smartphone or mobile device where you’re traveling. Just because you have lightning-speed service doesn’t mean you’ll be able to catch a signal in all corners of the globe.

Safe travels!

Categories: Accessories, Adventure, Around the World, Asia, Backpacking, Beach Snoballs, Communication, Europe, Explore, Gear, Hiking, Nature, News, Outdoors, Paracord, Photography, Planning vacation, RTW, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Tips, Trip planning, UNESCO World Heritage, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vegetarian McDonald’s in India!

As much as I love exploring local cuisine when traveling, I was excited to hear that McDonald’s is opening an all-vegetarian outlet in India soon! While the conglomerate certainly has more than a few strikes against it (like tons of trans fats, very UNfair trade with farmers, obesity-causing-artery-clogging fries for a mere $1…just to name a few), I was surprised to see it could and would bend its menu to accommodate a vegetarian diet. In India, where the majority of the population is Hindu and does not eat beef for religious reasons (there are also a large number of Muslims in the country who do not eat pork), McDonald’s needed to invent a menu that was 100% veggie-friendly. And they did! According to CNNGo, Micky D’s gave up their McRib and Big Mac burgers for the McAloo Tiki burger and the McVeggie – an delicious vegetable patty made with carrots, potatoes and peas. The sandwich I’m most excited about (who says you can’t be excited for people halfway across the earth?) is the McSpicy Paneer – a spicy burger filled with paneer (Indian) cheese!

The McSpicy Panner sandwich! YUM!

The foodie fun has its downsides, though. McDonald’s wants to build stores that would be practically on top of Temples and holy site property in order to maximize visitor foot traffic. Many locals and officials are upset that the golden arches are invading their space and building too close to sacred sites.

Many Indians are upset that McDonald’s plans to open a location close to the Golden Temple of Amritsar. They say it’s an “attempt to humiliate Hindus”.

As enthusiastic as I am about the spicy panner sandwich (and the jobs that McDonald’s could bring to India), I hope the company has enough compassion to set aside their business plans and respect the Indian culture. Read the whole article on!

Categories: Asia, Backpacking, Food, India, Indian Food, Religion, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Made it to the Front Page!

We’ve kind of been MIA lately – swamped with work in our “real lives” where we own and operate a shaved ice business on the beach. We moved from Michigan to Florida last June to buy Beach Snoballs – an artisan shaved ice shop across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in Treasure Island, Florida. I know, rough life, right? Spring breakers and tourists have consumed us this month but today, we made it to the FRONT PAGE of the local beach newspaper! The Pinellas Beaches Patch interviewed us and took some great pictures of our storefront and of us shaving/making a customer’s snoball. Click here to read our article!

Photo credit: Rachel Jolley of the Pinellas Beaches Patch

And a little side note: The businesses around Treasure Island are having a contest for Best Customer Service on the Beach. Beach Snoballs has made it to the Elite 8 but we need VOTES to move on to the next round. If you would be willing to take a few seconds to click the link below and vote for BEACH SNOBALLS in the contest, we would greatly appreciate your support.

You don’t have to have visited our shop before to vote – anyone can vote! And you can submit votes from multiple devices (phones, laptops, desktops, iPads, etc.). So the more votes we can accumulate between now and Monday at noon, the better! THANK YOU to all!

Categories: Beach, Beach Snoballs, Family, Florida, Food, News, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Random, Summer, Summer Desserts, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Tips, Trip planning, United States, Vegan, Vegetarian, Water, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NEW Gear for Spring & Summer!

Did you think we forgot about you?  Sorry for the infrequent posts, it’s just that we’ve been hard at work tying knew gear for the Spring/Summer 2012 season. Check out some of our latest designs! All of our gear can be found at our online store Top Knotch Gear on Etsy.

New for pups:
A dog collar where the paracord is integrated into the nylon collar.  Not just tied over, the paracord is woven right into the collar, making it strong, reliable and fully customizable.  It’s got a heavyweight metal buckle and welded d-ring, and comes in all of your favorite colors.

Adjustable paracord and nylon dog collar tied in custom colors!

Part of our new ladies line:
This is a slip-on bracelet tied from a 2mm (thin) black cord.  The black part is stretchy, so one size fits most, and it’s got a double silver chain that dresses it up a bit.  Below that is another bracelet tied in the same style, but with yellow flecked cord.

Our black slip-on knot and silver chain bracelet is tied in 2 mm nylon cord. We like to call it "rugged sophistication."

Same as above but tied in 1.5 mm black- and yellow-flecked cord!

Categories: Accessories, Bracelet, Etsy, Gear, Jewelry, Outdoors, Parachute Cord, Paracord, Paracord Dog Collar, Paracord Pet Gear, Paracord Pet Supplies, Pets, Photography, Pinterest, Survival Bracelet, Survival gear, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travel Tip Tuesday!

We’re back! After a brief hiatus to handle a family emergency, we’re back in Florida.

This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday is all about how to save money WHILE TRAVELING. So you’ve already hit the road, you’re on an adventure and you want to be sure you stay within your budget. The tips below will help effectively budget your money and not go broke while traveling.

How to save money while traveling:

Forego fancy restaurants – Utilize the local markets and vendors to make your own food or eat the street food (which is MUCH cheaper than restaurants, usually). That being said, you’ll want to navigate street foods carefully and have anti-diarrhea pills handy.

Save the souvenirs – My first trip to China, I bought 3 tea sets (I’m an impulse buyer) without factoring in that China was only the first stop on my itinerary. The lesson: Buy souvenirs and ship them home or stick to smaller items that you can easily put it your pack and carry with you (jewelry, magnets, etc.)

Tipping – An easy way to save money while you’re traveling is researching local customs to see if tipping is necessary. In the U.S., we tip for everything but in some cities in China, it’s rude to tip. Do the research and you may be able to save a chunk of change.

Taxi Troubles – If you can get around without using a taxi, do it. If you can’t, try to negotiate the fare before getting in. (If you’re a woman, fight hard. There are many countries that will try to take advantage of you if you’re a foreign woman).

Exchanging Money – Exchange money for the currency you want BEFORE you get to that country. Don’t exchange at the airport and if you use a kiosk, don’t forget there are fees. I like to use ATM’s… but watch out… there are international and bank fees that apply to ATM’s, too.

Tours and Tickets – This is my weakness. It’s so tempting to book every boat charter, snorkeling trip, zip line and caving tour out there but these activities will drain your bank. Set a budget and stick to it. Or investigate what the tours do (where they go, how they get there, what’s included) and do some of the same activities on your own.

For more tips and tricks to saving money while overseas, check out AirTreks Travel Blog.

Categories: Adventure, Alcohol, Around the World, Asia, Asian Food, Australia, Backpacking, Bracelet, Camping, Caving, China, Circumnavigation, Climbing, Europe, Explore, Extreme Vacation/Adventures, Food, Fresh Food, Gear, Globetrotting, Hiking, Jewelry, Nature, Packing, Planning vacation, RTW, Seafood, South America, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Tips, Trek, Trip planning, Vegetarian, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People We Wish Would Be President (excluding Obama)

Florida just had its primary at the end of January but political ads continue to litter television commercials and news broadcasts. In honor of all the drama, here’s a funny article from Matador Network on 40 people we wish were running for president (of the U.S.).



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Islands for Everyone!

As cabin fever sets in and winter blues hover in the air (unless you live in Florida, no winter blues here), why not take yourself on a tropical getaway? Say, to an island that’s perfect for your personality?! CNN Go has put together a list of islands that are perfect for all kinds of people – nudists, families, loners, lovers…. you name it. Here are some of the findings:

World’s Best Islands For…

Naughty Nudists
Rab, Croatia – The birthplace of skinny dipping where clothing is optional. There are 3 different nude beaches where all of your parts can get some Vitamin D.

Nature Nuts
Sark, Channel Islands – It’s here, off the French coast of Normandy, that you can see the Milky Way nearly every night. There are no street lights or headlights because cars and bright lights are outlawed – perfect for stargazing space freaks (like me)!

Family Frenzies
Oahu, Hawaii – I’ll admit, the thought of visiting an island where are bunch of kids are running around is a turnoff to me. But Oahu is a great destination for families because of all the activities to keep young ones entertained – things like surfing school, giant mazes and water slides.

Lusty Lovebirds
Lizard Island, Australia – Between the 24 private beaches, the torch-lit dinners at the resorts and the Great Barrier Reef, this island is sure to make sparks fly. I know it’s going on our itinerary…

Laid Back Loners
Ogasawara Island, Japan – Traveling solo isn’t a bad thing, especially if you enjoy the quiet of being one with nature. South of Tokyo, this island has few inhabitants and a ferry is the only means of connecting the island to the “real world”… otherwise, you’re on your own! (Bring your survival bracelet!)

Party Peeps
Ibiza, Spain – Yes, the same Ibiza that J-Lo sings about. Known for its sweaty summer raves, there are tons of clubs with head-throbbing trance music if you’re looking for a party scene-getaway.

Movie Star Madness
St. Barts, French West Indies – Pretty, posh and full of paparazzi, this is THE island for celeb sightings. It’s also a gorgeous place with white sand beaches, just like in the Hollywood movies.

To read about the other island recommended, check out CNN Go’s article.

Happy island-hopping!

Categories: Adventure, Around the World, Backpacking, Celebrities, Explore, Family, Globetrotting, Landscape Photograph, Love, Naked Hiking, Naturalist, Nature, News, Nude Beach, Nude Hiking, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Plants and Flowers, RTW, SCUBA Diving, Summer, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Transportation, Travel, Travel Photography, Travel Tips, Trip planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coffee Guide – Day 5

Well folks, this is the 5th and final day of my coffee adventures around the world… just in time for the weekend! To read the whole article from MSNBC Itineraries, click here.

United StatesFrappuccino
It’s funny to see what people (in this case MSNBC Itineraries) thinks is the quintessential all-American coffee drink. Starbucks, yes. But a frap? Weird. For anyone who doesn’t know (or any non-coffee drinkers out there), a frappuccino is a coffee-meets-milkshake concoction. Usually high in calories and not as much caffeine as your classic black cup of Joe, a frappuccino can be especially tasty on hot days in the summer.

Netherlands: Bakkie Troost
This my type of morning brew: black coffee served with a cookie!

Brazil: Cafezinho
Very sweet and very strong. Did you know that Brazil produces 1/3 of the world’s coffee beans?! Awesome!

Poland: Kawa Parzona
Ground coffee beans and water mixed right in your cup. No filter. I feel like this would be like drinking sandy water. Hmmm.

Japan: Kan Kohi
Two words: canned coffee. Usually from one of the 6 million vending machines in the country that will dispense a cold brew in the summer and hot brew in the winter.

Photo by Alberto Pizzoli - MSNBCtravels

Categories: Adventure, Around the World, Asia, Coffee, Europe, Explore, Food, Globetrotting, Japan, Photography, Pinterest, South America, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Around the World for $100,000

The Chinese are generally known to be frugal and modest, so it’s quite a surprise to hear that a 66-day luxury trip around the world sold out in just 13 SECONDS! The trip costs [a mere] RMB 660,000 – over $100,000 USD. The 11-person tour is organized by Ctrip – a Chinese travel agency conglomerate. (Tip: book airline tickets through them when you’re in China – they’re much cheaper than the usual travel agencies/airlines).

The “world tour”, China claims, is the “ultimate travel experience.” The itinerary looks something like this:

Australia + 24 days in South America + a cruise to Antarctica + North Africa + Europe + a 10-day cruise through the Med + Paris + Finland + Dubai + India + Hong Kong.

They’re flying first-class to all of their destinations, staying at the most high-end and posh hotels, and only participating in luxury-related activities. Read the article at CNN Go here.

I think this type of “tour” is an embarrassment for China. Not only is it ridiculously expensive given that the price tag is 8-10x that of the average annual Chinese salary, but I think it’s extremely homogenous, limited, and narrow-minded. Don’t get me wrong, people are absolutely free to travel however they please and by whatever means they desire but don’t call this the “ultimate travel experience” globetrotting tour of of the world when you’re only going to a fraction of it. (These are my personal thoughts only and do not reflect those of CNN Go or Ctrip.)

Categories: Adventure, Airplanes, Around the World, Asia, Australia, Europe, Explore, Extreme Vacation/Adventures, Globetrotting, Hong Kong, India, RTW, Shanghai, South America, Summer, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Transportation, Travel, Trip planning, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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