What To Pack For Boston in Summer

What To Pack For Boston in Summer

Reading Time: 7 minutes

There are hundreds of articles on ‘What To Pack for Boston’, but most of them focus on what to pack for winter not in summer. Boston can get hot and muggy, with all the water surrounding it – so it is important to plan accordingly. Here are my suggestions on what to pack for Boston in Summer, especially for those who don’t tolerate humidity very well like me.

Body Glide

My number one item for any trip that has increased humidity is body glide. This stuff saves me every single trip! For curvy girls, and men alike, this will save you from chafing. Boston is said to be one of the most walk-able cities in the United States, so be prepared for the dreaded chaffe. This is the first thing to add to your bag when planning on what to pack for Boston.

An App To ‘Pack’ for Boston

While this isn’t really a clothing item, it is something you definitely need to pack for Boston. With the walk-ability rating of this city, you have the option to take the underground T (or Train). There is an app you should get in order to get around town, it can be extremely confusing at first where to enter the subway. The train system isn’t like train travel in Europe. There is no where to cross to the other side, without entering the proper stairwell. Once you are past the ticket machine, the doors open to let you pass, then close, and your ticket is used up. If you have to turn around and go out again, then try to use the same ticket to get on the correct side for your train – well you will have to pay again.

What to Pack For Boston in Summer

So I would suggest getting this free app, it gives you a map of where to enter, times when the train is coming, and then where to get off.

You can also get a Charlie Card, where you pay about $22 for a 7 day pass, that you can use unlimited times in the subway. You can get these at any ticket station, but they don’t take cash, so make sure to have a card.

Traveler Tip: They have elevators, but be warned they are often used by the homeless as urinals; so on hot summer days you may want to just take the stairs.

Cool Classy Shirts

Keep in mind that when you are visiting this city you will be among all the Harvard and MIT smarty pants. I was glad I brought some casual business outfits to help me fit in. Cool shirts with pastel colors of pink, green, and blue will make you feel summery – but also stand out, at least in the center of Boston. Many people wear dresses, low heels, business attire – so you can choose what you would like to wear.

What to Pack For Boston in Summer

For the best pictures along Beacon Hill in front of the Red Brick houses, I would bring black, white, tan, or dark green to help you pop in the photos you are bound to take.

Most of what I packed for Boston in the way of shirts came from LOFT – where sizes range from 4-26. Another reason I love to promote them is no one is excluded from wanting to feel like a goddess in her photos. Guys, if you drop by the website – let me know your review of their clothing below in the comments or who you would recommend.

A Bit of Flair

For me spending $350 on a brand name shirt is just not in my budget, but props to you if you can throw money away like that. I like to feel fancy with my sunglasses, or a unique piece of jewelry.

So I will typically get my sun glasses from a place like Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, or have even found some good ones at Ross. You can get some really nice brand name ones for an affordable price. The one reason I invest in a good pair of these, for two reasons. One, I don’t mess with my eyeballs – and don’t want to have cataracts, so getting good UV protection is important.

Second, people are mostly looking at your face when they meet you, not the brand name label on your butt (if you are you might get slapped). So when they are staring at your face, and notice the fancy brand name on it – humans have a funny way of assuming everything else must be just as posh. (Your welcome for this little luxury hack of mine).

What to Pack For Boston in Summer

The other thing I bring that is both practical and will make you feel fancy is a quality watch. Now don’t click off of the article yet, I will tell you why I don’t think watches are out of date. Phones notoriously get the battery life sucked out of them with every update. With all the tours, appointments, subway arrivals/departures etc… I am constantly looking at the time. So in order to save as much battery life as possible, I always bring a watch with me.

A brand I recently partnered with, JORD watches, has some eco-friendly, unique watches to match any flavor. It is made out of wood from trees that have naturally fallen, no chemicals are used in the process, there is no plastic, only metal and wood. It stays on my wrist, no matter if I’m running for the train, tossing in my sleep, or messing with it nervously during an interview. They even engrave messages on the back of the watch if you wanted to give this as a gift.

For Your Bottom

Capri’s or midi dresses for the ladies. Guys, you will want to try and avoid jeans or pants that don’t breathe. Comfortable slacks, or the stretchy jeans might be better options. For the guys who don’t care about epic or perfectly curated pictures and just want the boys to be comfortable, go with black basketball shorts.

Personally, I regretted bringing the white and black pairs of jeans that I did. However, they did look stellar in photos, so I suffered through it, lol.

What to Pack For Boston in Summer

Shoes to Bring

Flats are what most Bostonians wear, but because of my plantar fasciitis, I wore Taos sandals. Don’t wear heels unless you plan on breaking an ankle. The sidewalks tend reach out and grab you at any moment attempting to get you to face plant in front of the many pedestrians about. (Not that I know from experience….ahem….). So if you don’t want to face plant or break your ankle, wear sturdy sandals, flats, or even classy tennis shoes. Make sure whatever you bring is breathable so that you don’t get blisters.

The Weather

Rain, Fog, Wind, Sun, and reflective heat from all the cement and pavement in the city are all possible and all in the same day. What I observed by my long weekend there in June was a Fog rolls in overnight, it burns off when the sun comes up. Then you are broiled to death in the middle of the day (85-90F with 60-70% humidity). In the afternoon and evening you can have torrential down pour, think huge raindrops.

Then in the evening, a breeze rolls in and the sky clears up, for a nice evening by the Charles River Esplanade. So really, I would bring a cute poncho, or if you want to pack super light and thrifty, just bring a large garbage bag to throw on. You can also bring an umbrella, but with luggage restrictions I’m starting to move more towards ponchos, and rain jackets because umbrellas just take up too much valuable luggage space now.

Other Recommendations

These are the major changes I would recommend bringing from my Basic Packing Checklist when choosing what to pack for Boston.

Be sure to pack your camera gear, here are some things I keep in my bag. Boston is very good for both Day and Night photography. There is plenty to see and do while here. Everything from the food, the streets, the backstreets, the bridges, and the coastline sunset cruises will have you filling up your SD cards quickly.

So if you plan to travel to Boston in Summer, make sure you prepare to the heat, fog, and rain. Realize many people there are dressed classy, and in business casual in the center of the city. If you go outside of the center of town, you will find people dressed a little more, or a lot more casual. It depends on where you are staying.

Have more recommendations for What To Pack for Boston in the Summer? Drop them down below!

Saving Sea Turtles with STOP in Fort Lauderdale

Saving Sea Turtles with STOP in Fort Lauderdale

Reading Time: 14 minutes

There are some things in life that worm their way into your heart, and start pulling heartstrings you didn’t even know existed. Sea Turtles, and especially baby sea turtles are one of these things for me. I didn’t really know much about the life cycle of turtles, what the biological reasons they were disappearing were – nor that a major issue was a threat to the nesting grounds. After visiting the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, and Gumbo Limbo, these educational facilities set the stage to saving sea turtles with the Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP) in Fort Lauderdale Florida.

Different Types of Sea Turtles

There are several different types of Sea Turtles, some more endangered than others. There is the Loggerhead, Leatherback, Greenback, Hawksbill, and the very rare Kemp’s Ridley.

The most common type of Sea Turtle along the Florida Coastline is the Loggerhead Sea turtle. The main diet of this type of sea turtle is shellfish, they love the Conch shells. It is listed as a threatened species, due to the major coastal developments, coastal fishing, and pollution (both chemical and garbage).

The Less common is the Green Sea Turtle, likely because it is now listed as endangered. These eat mainly seagrass, seaweed, and algae. For the same reasons that the loggerhead sea turtle is endangered, so is this one.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle is considered a vulnerable species as its population is currently decreasing. It feeds primarily on Jellyfish, can weight up to 550 – 1,500 lbs! As a Scuba Diver, Jellyfish are not my friends, so I want to really see these Leatherback Sea Turtles flourish!

The incubation time for the Green and Loggerhead Turtle eggs is around 45-55 days, while the Leatherback Sea Turtle eggs can reach up to 70-90 days.

The Turtle Nesting Season

While visiting STOP I learned that each type of turtle has different times it likes to nest, and each female can lay multiple nests in a season with multiple different male partners. The Leatherback lays her eggs primarily in March to June, the Loggerhead from May to August, and the Green Turtle from June to September.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

I happened to join Richard and his team at STOP near the end of June. We learned that each nest has about a 51-day gestational period, and there was one nest that was on day 54. I couldn’t stop smiling, I was taking part or at the very least contributing to spreading knowledge about these wonderful animals, and may just be able to see them be born. Being able to help in a small way to saving sea turtles is a pretty incredible responsibility.

The Perfect Conditions

When a female sea turtle comes ashore to lay her eggs there are a few things she looks for. She will typically come when the moon is full or nearly full, when it is high tide, and the waves are just right.

When the ocean conditions are right, the turtle then has to feel as if she is coming home. They are, in general, very shy creatures, and spook easily. If there are parties every night on the beaches, flashlights, Iphones, loud music, then the female won’t lay her eggs and will wait.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

If you were coming to a hospital to give birth and your doctor was drinking alcohol, your husband was blasting Metallica in your ear, and the Nurse was snapping selfies. You wouldn’t want to give birth either or would give the entire room an earful about ruining the moment. It is the same idea with turtles if there is too much noise, fires, flashing lights, or large groups of people near the shore – it won’t come to shore. Eventually, it will just dump the eggs into the ocean, losing the precious and endangered cargo.

If she does come ashore, imagine dragging your pregnant body 300 yards, weighing 450-1000 lbs using only walking sticks to do it. It is dark, if there are sandcastles, holes dug in the sand, beach chairs, or anything that they can get stuck under – this kills the mama sea turtles folks.

Saving Sea Turtles, and the Mama

Richard told us about how people on the beach dig holes, and a turtle came up, laid her eggs, and on her way back to shore, fell into a hole dug into the sand, breaking her neck and killing her.

He also told us there was a mama turtle that came ashore the night before I arrived. She became stuck under a stack of beach chairs. The hotels along Fort Lauderdale Beach rammed metal poles into the ground, chained the beach chairs – and thought to leave them on their side was ‘good enough’. Well, the turtle made her way up the beach, got stuck under a stack of chairs, the chain wrapped around her neck. Luckily STOP was there to rescue her or she would have died. They were able to calm her enough for him to go and ask the hotel for a key to unlock the beach chairs and free her. The night crew didn’t know where it was, so he used a chain cutter and let the turtle free.

What the most amazing part of this story was, is that the turtle ended up laying her eggs anyway! Despite all of the trauma from getting stuck and nearly being suffocated to death. I think, in a way, she knew Richard and his team were there trying to do whatever they could to help her.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

Location of the Nests

Did you know that turtles are able to map out beaches based on magnets? They are able to navigate their way back to the same beach where they were born from to lay their own eggs!

There are many facets that go into making a beach feel like a good nesting ground; that turtles will return to over and over again.

Nest Temperatures

What scientists have observed, is that the turtles will go and seek dark objects to lay their eggs under. The temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby turtles. Nests than incubate below 81.86F (27.7C) then they will be male. Nests that incubate at 87.8F (31C).

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

The turtles who are born from warm nests, end up being much slower swimmers, they can’t make it past the break line of waves. Gumbo Limbo and the Loggerhead Marine life center help to rehab these baby turtles so that they can make it out in the ocean. They do this by tying tethers to the baby turtles who then, when strong enough, are released back into the wild.

The problem that is being faced with warmer nests, especially in places like Australia, is that only females are being born. Australia has one of the largest Green Sea Turtle populations, but 99% of the turtles being born are female. There needs to be enough genetic diversity within a species so that deformities and susceptibility to disease are less likely.

There are certain measures Australia is implementing to help more males being born. They are using artificial shade over the nest or spraying artificial rain to cool the temperature of the nests. There is a lot of fear, that when the people who are implementing these measures leave. What if Administration positions change, then funding could be lost and these measures will stop – this could cause this species of turtles to become extinct.

Barriers for Sea Turtles on the Beaches

When the mothers seek the shade, they often encounter barriers. Things like large sandcastles can appear as adequate shade, umbrellas or life guardhouses. Other barriers for turtles that are commonly found on beaches are cabanas, umbrellas, Hobie cats, canoes, small boats, and beach cycles.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

Some beaches even rake their sand, to create a nice flat beach. This creates a ledge at the end of the beach that the mothers are unable to get up over because the tide bites at the edge of the beach over and over again.

The mothers think they have gone far enough, and end up laying their eggs right in the grip of the tide line. These nests have to then be dug up, replanted in an area that is safely away from the tide so that the eggs don’t suffocate in the water before they hatch.

Predators on the Beach

Then there are new invasive species onto the beaches because of increased housing developments. Pet dogs and cats eat the eggs and hatchlings and even attack nesting turtles.

Those that leave trash behind lure animals that typically reside inland migrate to the beaches for that food. They may encounter mama turtles and/or hatchlings and kill them. So think of picking up after yourself when you are on the beach or visit the beach as a way in doing your part to save sea turtles.

Major Nesting Beaches Around the World

There are lots of nesting sites around the world, but as coastal development remains ever coveted and popular – the areas that turtles can lay their eggs is shrinking rapidly.

SWOT is a global database that allows volunteers to input different nest sites, sea turtle spotting etc… They have interactive maps of the sea turtle nesting sites, and how you can contribute to helping save even just one turtle.

sea-turtle-database-maps.png

The Nest

If you visit Florida, there is a major conservation effort through mass volunteering and even city ordinances to help contribute to the cause of protecting the nests. Each nest is taped off (at least in Florida) with bright pink tape. A sign is posted stating that disturbing the nest will result in a massive fine and/or imprisonment.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

As the eggs incubate, it is important to not shoot off fireworks near them, nor stomp or jump on or around them. The baby turtles have a biological ability to sense vibration as a trigger to break free from the egg. Having just a few eggs hatch won’t be enough vibration to make the whole nest hatch, there has to be many. Once there are enough vibrations, then the race is on.

The baby turtles, wriggle their way through the sand that causes other eggs to hatch. Once enough of the little ones are free it causes the center of the sandy nest to drop. The turtles then climb over each other up the sloping edges of the sand and then follow the brightest lights.

Confusing Bright Lights

The problem with this is that they often end up following the bright lights of the hotels, and cars near the beach. They get lost under beach chairs, stuck behind garbage cans, make their way to the car lights and ultimately are smashed in the road.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

Something fascinating about Sea Turtles is that they are unable to see Orange or Red Lights. So driving along with certain coastal areas in Florida, you will see hotels beaming the orange lights (after a long fight with them to do so).

There are still certain shops, restaurants, and people who refuse to not use orange lights – so there will continue to be baby sea turtles that die. This is tragic and unfortunate that these humans refuse to do small things to help preserve these endangered animals.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida fwcordinances

Richard explained that there are people, businesses and hotels he has offered to pay to switch the lights out. He even offered to go and install the lights himself. The people, shops, and owners down-right refuse to take him up on his offer.

While this is aggravating and selfish; the only thing that we can continue to do as the Culture Trekking Community is to share, educate, and spread awareness. If enough people write emails, letters, or voice their opinion – we truly can create change that will save lives.

STOP

Richard and his team of Volunteers decided that if the hotels and businesses will not do their part, then they will pick up the slack. While the government supplies protection during the day, Richard and his handful of volunteers provide protection at night.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

These volunteers spend countless nights sitting on the beach next to nests protecting and waiting for when they hatch. These volunteers and those who sign up for their turtle treks help guide the baby sea turtles away from the deadly road, and back to the ocean.

Each nest and the expected due date is charted in the new database STOP created. The nests are then color-coded by the number of days of gestation, and those in red are due soon. The nests that are nearing their 45-55 day window, are then guarded and babysat until the turtle’s hatch. Sometimes there are stragglers, and the nests are seen as ‘active’ and not to be disturbed, for at least 3 days after the initial hatching.

Once the Active period has ended, the nest is then evaluated, and eggs that are remaining or baby turtles that didn’t make it are counted. Unfortunately, the eggs at the bottom of the nest don’t get the necessary oxygen, or can be crushed by the weight of the other eggs – so there will always be some that do not survive.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

Saving Sea Turtles

Richard and the STOP volunteers, along with those like me who signed up for the Turtle Trek will comb the beach looking for sandcastles to knockdown. They pick up garbage and items that could impede a mama turtle or a baby turtle from completing their biological tasks. They remind and educate party-goers on the beach to not use phones, flashlights, yell, or play loud music.

During nesting season, they allow people to sign up for Turtle Treks for a fee of $25 or more to help guard, and maybe save baby sea turtles from wandering into the road.

There is a circle around the nest that is drawn to keep the Turtle Trekkers at a safe distance to not create vibrations. Then there is a 10-foot perimeter drawn around the circle. This perimeter is drawn so that scientists can draw conclusions and collect data on the progress they are making in saving the turtles. The marine biologists also want to give the turtles a chance to turn around if they get confused. Volunteers are advised to not pick up the baby turtles until they reach the 10 Foot perimeter.

Once the baby turtles hatch and they reach the perimeter, they are then put into buckets, and placed back into the ocean.

Volunteering to Save Sea Turtles

Being able to be a part of this Turtle Trek is something I will never forget. There are many nights the volunteers see amazing things. As Richard said, “Each time we see these tiny turtles emerge from the nest, it is a new experience. Each one has his/her own personality and you can see it by how they interact”.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

The night I was there we were able to fill in a few holes in the sand. We listened to the stories Richard has collected through the years. Unfortunately, the nest they had anticipated hatching, hatched at 7 pm, just the time we were meeting at the gathering place. This was likely due to the cooler than normal weather, and the cloud cover from the rain making it a little darker a little earlier than normal.

We sat around another nest all night, it was on day 49, and sometimes they are known to hatch a little early. Blessedly the little turtles stayed tucked in their sand bed, and it just gives me another reason to come back and participate again.

Anyone can volunteer, anyone can go on a Turtle Trek. While it does have a fee associated with it, please know that all proceeds go towards protecting the animals.

Richard and his STOP volunteers work tirelessly to protect the nests, fight for the rights of the turtles against the big hotel chains that run along Broward County coastline. The work they do today, will help protect these animals for your children’s, children’s, children – they don’t get paid to do this – they volunteer to be on-call, out late at night. They have been spit at, yelled at, and even stalked because of their efforts – so $25 is not a lot to ask for the experience and education provided.

What Can You Do At Home To Save Sea Turtles?

Living in Utah, there aren’t a whole lot of oceans around. Yet there are things that I can personally do to help with the cause. The first being, use less plastic as much as possible.

There is nearly 8 million tons of garbage that end up in the ocean each year. Each item of garbage has different rates of decomposition, plastic is the longest of all of them. Hundreds of thousands of sea life die each year from garbage that is consumed.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

It isn’t just Sea Turtles, it is whales, seals, and fish. I’m sure we have all seen at least one article about garbage being found in a dead whale – or a plastic straw lodged into a sea turtles nose. So hang those reusable bags near your door, take one with you on your vacation, buy a few for a friend.

Choose the milk in the paper carton, instead of the plastic carton, get reusable straws (they even have portable ones), use bamboo forks/spoons and keep one in your purse. Email locations, theaters or even local coffee shops that don’t offer more environmentally friendly container options. If you go out to eat, bring a glass Tupperware to bring home leftovers.

Chemicals

Pay attention to the chemicals that you use. What kind of chemicals do you use in your laundry detergent, what about your dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. Think about those items you use the most frequently and make better choices. Sometimes that is all it takes, is a better choice, not a drastic change. Each month you can commit to making a better choice than last month. Eventually, it will become second nature to you.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

Staying on Coastlines

If you are staying at any coastline hotel near the regions highlighted above – close your curtains after the sun goes down. Ask the hotel why they don’t have orange lighting to help protect against sea turtles getting confused. Send emails, be a voice, be a force.

If you decide to go out on the beach at night, do not use your phone on the beach nor near nesting turtles. Don’t play loud music, or light a fire that could deter turtles from coming ashore to lay their eggs.

Other Ideas for Doing Our Part At Home

Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, this can decrease your carbon footprint by 150 pounds per year. Driving less, taking a bike to the store instead of driving can save one pound of carbon for every mile you don’t drive.

Recycling can potentially save you up to 2400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of what you use in your daily life.

Checking the tires on your car so your gas mileage is more efficient saves 20 pounds of carbon per gallon per year. Use less hot water, by taking shorter showers can save 500 pounds of carbon per year. This can also apply to washing your clothes in cooler water as well.

Planting one tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the tree.

If you aren’t using your computer, television, DVD player, stereo or computer then turn them off. You can save yourself thousands of pounds of Carbon Dioxide a year by doing this.

These are just a few ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint while you are in this world. What we do today can impact our descendants for decades to come.

A Duty to Save Baby Sea Turtles

We as a human race, are the biggest threat to Sea Turtles becoming extinct. Imagine your Grandchildren watching Finding Nemo, and then they ask ‘Are Sea Turtles Real?’ – I for one, hope I never have to answer, ‘Well….they were real, but they all died’.

Saving Sea Turtles in Florida

We have a duty to protect, save, and educate not just ourselves but spread the news in a positive and constructive way to those who may just not know any better. Get involved with a volunteer group, go on a Scuba Diving Ocean extravaganza, pick up trash, move those beach chairs.

If you would like to go on a Turtle Trek and save sea turtles, visit STOP in Florida or donate today.

***Please note that all photos of turtles taken at night and hatching from the nests were taken by Richard Whitecloud who is licensed by the State of Florida to do so. Lights of any kind are not allowed on beaches as listed above. Please do not attempt to film, or photograph any nests during the evening***

Where to Stay Near the Turtle Trek

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Diving Singer Island Florida – Is Better Than Florida Keys

Diving Singer Island Florida – Is Better Than Florida Keys

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Sweat dripped down my forehead, my mouth was slightly dry and I turned to my diving buddy Jen, “Do you still get nervous before you go diving?”. We were Scuba Diving off of Singer Island and West Palm Beach in Florida with Pura Vida Divers in June. She gave a knowing smile, and replied, “It has only been within the last year that I haven’t been nervous before a dive. It took diving on a regular basis to get to this point. You will become more confidant in your diving and things won’t seem as scary because you will know what to do”.

It had only been a few months since I was in Florida last, diving at Devils Den and swimming with Manatees in Crystal River Florida. My first Ocean dive was in Cabo San Lucas, and that was incredibly nerve wracking. So I decided on this dive, to box up my anxiety into a tight package, and put it in my diving bag with my sunglasses.

Diving Singer Island Florida - Scuba tanks on a boat rail with singer island hotels in the background

Our dive masters, one a tall hulk of a former Navy man who briefed us on diving in the Trench. A drop in open water with depths of 50 – 60 feet (15 – 18 meters), and a moderate current. He was a bit on the camera shy end, but detailed us in an efficient and well dictated manner. The two things I remembered, ‘Stay in the trench’ and ‘if you get lost, go to the right’.

A Feeling Of Unease

We got our gear ready, flippers on, mask on, regulators checked, and waited for the call to giant walk into the deep blue. I was sitting by the end of the boat, so would be the first one to follow the Dive Master. Then just as is characteristic of military fashion, we were ushered quickly to the end of the boat, looking like penguins with massive flippers flopping awkwardly to the walk off point. I grabbed my mask and took that giant step into the ocean.

Woman sitting on a boat headed to Scuba dive off singer island in florida

I turned and my diving partner was caught on something, the current was sweeping me and the dive master further and further from the boat. I waited til she was in the water, then we signaled to go down. This was the first moment that I felt the unease of this dive. I have a natural ability when it comes to predicting bad events, I wouldn’t say I’m a psychic, but know when things aren’t quite going to go well. I can’t really explain it, but I would soon find out why I felt this way.

Diving into the Trench off Singer Island Florida

The visibility was about 40-50 feet near the top, a strong current was sweeping us all towards the dive master. We followed the bouy down behind him, and Jen and I corrected our distance from each other. It was hard to see the dive master below, as it takes me a bit longer to descend than others due to my Asthma. I tend to get nervous and hold my breath a bit more than I should.

Practicing some of my own self-calming measures, I exhaled the fear, and dropped more easily down next to Jen. We slowly neared the bottom and that is when I was surrounded by an aquatic forest of barrel coral and fishy friends.

drawing of the trench on a white board. There are small fish drawn on the board, with turtles, manta rays, crab, and a 45 foot depth indicated

Avoiding the Current

I never want to be the person that sits and ruins coral because I’m not as adept at keeping my bouyancy as I should be. So I tried to hover a bit higher than the rest of the group so as to not bump into anyone, or ruin the coral. This wasn’t quite working out though, the current was quite strong and I remembered the instructor telling us to stay low.

I was so grateful I had brought my photo stick so that I could gently push away from coral with minimal impact should I have drifted too close.

A spotted brown fish with yellow feather like fins - photo credit Jennifer Coleman from Coleman Concierge
Photo Credit: Jennifer from Coleman Concierge

Soft Bottom Surrounded by Color

I was enamored by all the fish hiding in the nooks and crannies here. Since I was in the front of the group and slowly drifted breathing slowly with minimal movements of my arms the fish became curious. Swimming right up to my camera, until the bubbles from my regulator scared them away. I would periodically check back to see Jen, just as enamored as I was at the abundance of healthy coral here.

It made my heart sad that there weren’t more places in the world that the coral was this healthy. Committing to show the Culture Trekking Community what healthy Coral should look like & the abundance of life that can come from responsible tourism.

The Trench with barrel coral, multiple fish, some yellow, some striped, hiding among the coral from the scuba diver.

The bottom of the trench is white sand, with a few coral bits here and there. It was created when an oil company decided to drill a trench for a pipeline they were going to place here. Luckily that was stopped by environmental activists that got wind of it, and now I was reaping the benefits of this beautiful area. The reef was covered with both soft and hard corals. I didn’t see any moray eels rumored to be living there but I’m still not great at spotting them. They said that there is an abundance of green, spotted purplemouth, and goldentail eels said to hide out often in the nooks and crannies here.

Losing Time and Our Group:

After getting lost in my own thoughts, and capturing as much of this wonderful area as I could – I turned around and didn’t see anyone else but me and Jen. I signaled behind us, and she agreed to take the lead to try and find our group.

We made our way back along the trench where we had entered, still not seeing anyone. The current had really picked up, and visibility had dropped by about 10 feet. We tried to turn to the left and the current was so strong, even for an advanced diver like Jen to swim against (and she is an extremely experienced diver). I knew I wouldn’t be able to last the day if I wasted all my energy trying to fight the current. So I tapped Jen and signaled to go to the right.

Scuba Diving Singer Island Florida with blue and yellow fish hiding among the coral.

Riding the Current

We drifted for about 4-5 minutes, and didn’t see anyone. So Jen stopped us, checked both of our air, and just enjoyed the rest of the dive. We both had our inflatable bright orange signaling devices, and decided to get some footage and pictures and enjoy the rest of the air that was in our tank in this watery wonderland.

Ending the First Dive off Singer Island

We surfaced around 800 psi, doing a safety stop along the way. The captain saw our signal, and picked us up promptly. The rest of the group looked like they were just out of our visibility range, only 30-40 feet away from us. It made me feel better we hadn’t drifted into the middle of nowhere like it felt that we had.

Diving Singer Island Florida, looking into a barrel Coral with yellow fish swimming nearby

We waited for the other members of the group to pop up one by one. The Dive Master surfacing last, with only a few members here and there that had drifted a bit too far.

We all felt a little disjointed because of how strong the current had become within the last few minutes. It scattered us like the sand on the beach, but luckily we all had enough training to know not to fight the current, stay with our dive buddy and enjoy the time.

Dive Interval with Pura Vida Divers

The dive interval was relaxing and seamless. Our captain took us to an area, where we could snorkel around and orange slices and chips were passed around.

Cannonballs off the back of the boat were a must, and music played for the people on board to enjoy while waiting the appropriate time for our next dive.

There was a hose to wash off the salt from the ocean, a fresh water bucket I dunked my camera into, and a toilet in the hull of the boat for those who needed it.

drawing of the 4th window

Dive Dive Dive! A Briefing On 4th Street

Watching the second dive master draw out the little animals we might see while diving along 4th street, my smile just grew and grew til my cheeks hurt in celebratory anticipation.

I was going to see a Sea Turtle in real life! You can’t come to Singer Island or West Palm Beach without running into some Sea Turtles. There were also rumored to be a few moray eels lurking about, a few sharks, and our dive master even said there was a hammerhead shark hanging around in the area too.

Jennifer Coleman from Coleman concierge photo credit . School of brown and yellow fish with black tail lined by white
Photo Credit: Jennifer Coleman from Coleman Concierge

Riding the High:

Jen and I made an agreement to get off the boat closer together this time, and to stick right with the Dive Master no matter what. So we took the leap to see what underwater creature lottery we were about to win. Riding the high of seeing all the healthy coral on the last dive, I followed the Dive master right down. We were immediately greeted with a Sea Turtle swimming away from us.

Diving Singer Island Florida - bright red coral with yellow fish and white sand along the bottom of the trench

While slightly disappointed it was swimming away from us, I was hopeful I would see one again. The dive master pointed out the sea anemone, and the tiny spider lobsters. Apparently there was a Lemon shark behind me, but I missed it because I had just spotted a moray eel. I know….not as exciting as a Lemon shark, but it was the first creature I had found on my own without needing aid.

There is a certain ‘eye’ you have to develop when you are underwater, as these creatures have evolved to camouflage and hide from predators. We are one of their greatest threats, so it takes a lot of practice to have the ‘underwater eye’ as I call it. Although, missing the Lemon Shark and even the Massive Leatherback Turtle tucked underneath the rock, was very disappointing. I’m sure that the more I go scuba diving, the more I will be able to spot these creatures, and recognize them by name.

sea turtle swimming near barrel coral while diving singer island florida near the 4th window

Seeing Sea Turtles

Swimming a head a little, the Sea Turtle came back! It swam right in front of me, looking around the barrel coral. It even stuck its snout inside of one, looking for anything scrumptious that would have gotten stuck inside. It made me so happy to see this wonderful, yet endangered creature that has survived since the age of the dinosaurs swimming right in front of me like I was part of the turtle family.

There were only one or two of us who saw the turtle foraging for food. It was an incredibly intimate moment with this creature that I have grown to love over the years. This beautiful loggerhead turtle was in this environment of wonder and beauty. It made me so happy to see that there was no plastic wrapped around its neck, no straws shoved into the nostrils, no propeller scars on its back. Maybe the small steps we are making in saving these creatures was starting to pay off? I know it is just one turtle, but I never discount the power of hope from seeing one of these incredible turtles survive.

Baby Shark….Oh Wait….WHAT!?!

A frantic banging noise on the dive masters tank made me turn quickly as the turtle swam away. I turned and saw a nurse shark laying on the sand about 50 feet away. The characteristic shark was snuggled into its sandy bed, disturbed by the noise, it lazily swam away into a more private location.

Nurse shark resting on the ocean floor while diving singer island florida near the 4th window

HOW IS THIS REAL LIFE!?!?! I felt like crying! A Shark, an Eel, a Sea Turtle, and not just that, the shark left and we were graced by four more sea turtles! There was coral all around, colorful fish, too many to really focus in any one spot. My heart felt as if it was going to burst from joy. All the fear, all the worry, all of the effort to get my Scuba Diving license and here I was – witnessing animals in a way that I thought I would only see on a TV screen.

Diving Singer Island Florida - photo credit Jennifer Coleman from Coleman Concierge
Photo Credit: Jennifer from Coleman Concierge

It is like Robin Williams said in Good Will Hunting, you can see all the photos of the Sistine Chapel in a book – but you won’t know how it feels, smells or the memories it will create by seeing the real thing. This is exactly how I felt when I spent my afternoon among my aquatic mammal friends.

Thank You Florida & Pura Vida Divers

The Coral along 4th Street and the Trench is (reportedly) better than what you would find in the Maldives and the Caribbean. Not many people know about these areas, and it is very well protected from over tourism. The amount of education given to the public on how to protect the beaches, turtles, and marine life in these areas is definitely creating a positive impact.

Barrel coral in shape of a heart while diving singer island florida

Working with Pura Vida Divers to promote West Palm Beach and Singer Island Scuba Diving, was a pleasure and an honor beyond belief. They were kind, informative, and friendly – they certainly pushed my comfort zone with the current that we faced; yet I feel these moments have to happen in order for you to grow as a diver. Not only are they informative and efficient at what they do, they also are only the second dive shop in Florida to earn the PADI Green Star Award.  

From our dive center to the boat, we demonstrate a dedication to conservation across a wide range of business functions, including:  recycling, our 100% AWARE Program, conservation leadership, paperless programs, use of sustainable materials, conservation fundraisers, and many other proactive actions.

– from the Pura Vida Divers Website

Other Areas Available to Dive Near Singer Island & West Palm Beach

Singer Island:

  • Cable Crossing 16 to 22 feet deep (4 to 6 meters) great for snorkeling, it is a shallow reef with Manta rays, sea turtles and nurse sharks visiting throughout the year.
  • Jolly Jacks 87 feet (26 meters) deep there is a wide variety of tropical fish and plenty of sea turtles, moray eels, Lobsters and rays.
  • Spearman’s Barge 70 feet deep (21 meters), Turtles take up refuge here including hawksbill and loggerhead turtles with the elusive green moray eels.
  • Double Ledges 70 to 90 feet depth (21 to 27 meters) double reef. This is a perfect drift diving spot, with game fish, turtles and soft corals.
  • Governor’s Riverwalk  Shasha Boekanier shipwreck (since 2002) the site is 184 feet (56 meters) freighter and a bonus of 2 more ships are located in this same area houses tropical fish, coral and algae. Gilbert Reef is also considered a part of the Governer’s Riverwalk as well.
  • Juno Ledge  65 to 90 feet depth (19 to27 meters) with fabulous cave formations as well as a wide variety sharks, Goliath groupers and large moray eels
Diving Singer Island Florida

West Palm Beach

  • Amarilys was purposefully sunk to be part of Palm Beach artificial reef program. Lying in 70 – 90 feet (21 – 27 meters) of water. Now covered in coral it is home to jacks, snapper, cobia, snook, and sailfish.
  • Bath & Tennis is a colorful site at a depth of 50 – 65 feet (15 – 20 meters). Schools of fish and lobsters inhabit the broken edges and stretches of ridges.
  • Breaker’s Shallow located 3 miles (5 km) south from the Palm Beach Inlet 30 – 35 feet (9 – 11 meters). This site in known for vertical wall rises from 30 to 20 (9 to 6 meters).
  • Cable Crossing  20 – 30 foot depth (6 – 9 meters). There is a plethora of mini caves and sea life and is perfect for beginner divers & Snorklers
  • Eidsvag & Owens – these sunken wrecks from 1985 became artificial reefs covered by algae, small sponges, tiny gorgonians. You can swim through ship holes here as well. The Eidsvag & Owens are 150-foot (45 meters) and 125 foot (38 meters) freighters at a depth of 80 – 90 feet (24 – 27 meters).
  • Flower Gardens at a depth of 50 – 70 feet (15 – 21 meters) this beautiful area has large amounts of sea life, sponges, corals and schools of grunts
  • Paul’s Reef a fabulous drift dive with a depth of 45 – 55 feet (14 – 17 meters). This ledge is covered in gorgonians, sponges, and coral home to many kinds of tropical fish. This is also a great night dive for parrot fish, turtles, and sharks that sleep near this area.
  • Princess Anne is considered one of the best dive sites in the United States. This vessel sunk in 1993 in 80-100 feet (24-30 meters) now crawling with schools of jacks, barracuda, and shark. It is a great opportunity for multi-level dives.
Diving Singer Island Florida

Technical Aspects of Diving Near West Palm Beach & Singer Island

There are more places to dive than just the Florida keys. Did you know that Scuba diving magazine actually rated Singer Island higher than the Florida Keys on 8/9 categories.

Best Time to Dive: The best time to dive off of Singer Island and West Palm Beach would be during the Turtle Nesting season, which runs from late May to the end of July depending on the season.

Visibility: Can be anywhere from 60 to 100 feet depending on the current and time of year

Current: Diving off of Singer Island, is considered to be the drift capital of the world. With the average current running about 1 knot that runs parallel to the reef lines.

Average Temperatures Year Round: Between 21°C and 27°C. (70° F and 82° F). The coldest month is typically January, and the warmest month is in July.

Where to Stay Near West Palm Beach

Booking.com

Things To Do Near West Palm Beach

Salt-water fishing, Snorkeling, Parasialing, Jet Skiing, Biking, Kayaking tours of Munyon Island and John D McAruthur State Park, Water Taxi Tours with plenty of restaurants and nightlife to choose from.

What To Pack For Diving in West Palm Beach

Photo Stick, Snorkel, Diving Knife, GoPro, Sea Life 1000, Shortie Wetsuit (Summer), Dive Light, Reef Safe SunScreen

Where To Travel After A Bad Breakup

Where To Travel After A Bad Breakup

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We have all been there….either from a relationship or some other heartbreak. Sometimes you just need to get away from real life, disappear into the world and forget your problems at home. So here are my suggestions on where to travel after a bad breakup.

Where to Travel When You Get Dumped

Grand Cayman

Beautiful beaches, men with British Accents and plenty of photo opportunities to make them regret the day they left you. The snorkeling there is phenomenal and so is the Scuba Diving. Being among so many fish will make you feel a little less lonely after you get dumped. Who knows you may even meet someone!

Santorini

There are plenty of trails to explore on this Greek Island, that will help distract you from the heartbreak. The sunsets are phenomenal, and the whitewashed homes and blue topped homes give a perfect Zen-like feeling when you look out over the sweeping cliffs and ocean that stretches on for miles. Treat yourself to a luxury hotel and really make the folks at home jealous. Santorini is a definite MUST for those with a broken heart wanting the feel of a whimsical vacation.

Morocco

Morocco is more for my ladies who get dumped. There is a feeling of ‘not being enough’ or ‘not being attractive enough’ when you get dumped. This happens to us all and is completely untrue. So when you go to Morocco, no matter where it is – the men are known for staring longingly into your eyes and catering to you- hand and foot to win your favor. Some women feel that it is harassment, but if you know how to handle yourself, well….after a breakup….the attention makes you feel like Aphrodite. Which in the moment might feel a bit consoling after a breakup.

Argentina

I have one word for this place…..Tango. Going to Buenos Aires, feeling overwhelmed or broken hearted it doesn’t matter – you won’t feel that way after a night of Tango. They have Tango lessons, and men (surprisingly) outnumber women. My first night in Buenos Aires, I went to a Tango Club, La Virtua. The instructors (who taught at local universities), would not even let me sit down or catch my breath. I can’t tell you how nice it was to not feel like the last person picked for a dance. It is also very safe, where I was walking home at 1230 am, all alone, and felt completely safe.

Where to Travel When You Dump Them

Scotland

If it is a toxic relationship, an exhausting relationship it doesn’t matter ……Scotland has the cure! Scotland is my number one choice of where to travel after a breakup. If you go in April, May, or October you won’t run into a mass of tourists that you might get in Italy. Head to the Scottish Highlands on a road trip, and experience just how wild and beautiful this world can be. The little lambs running about on the Isle of Skye, or the boat ride to Staffa Island to see the Puffins will help to heal the soul and help you heal from something that was never meant to last.

Austin

A place of love for all! I highly recommend going during a music festival. It is a time when the city really comes alive. There is so much art, quirky places to eat, and outdoor activities to do in Austin. If you can’t go during a music festival, there are still plenty of unique things to do in Austin you won’t get bored. The people there are incredibly friendly, as long as you are friendly to them as well. You can be yourself, and let you of the pretense you might have felt you had to keep with your ex. The slogan, after all, in Austin is ‘Keep Austin Weird’.

Jordan

The number one question I get asked about my travels to Jordan, is it was safe for a female to travel there alone. It is safe for everyone! You have dangers in your own town that you just dismiss, but anywhere you go there are still the baseline dangers. The world is filled with humans, so this is inevitable. Jordan is a true adventurers paradise though, with Wadi Rum, Petra, and Roman Ruins to explore. You will be kept so busy exploring this country that has not yet truly hit the tourist market – it will truly feel as if you left the world behind and your problems with it. If you are still nervous about this, read Touring Jordan with tips from a local. I dated a man from Jordan, who is one of my dearest friends still – he will give a very real and honest view of the people in Jordan and mistakes many tourists make when traveling there.

New York

Bright lights, big city, and lots of people – but there is a vibe to this city that makes you feel as if the world is your apple. If you are an American or a foreign visitor, the amount of activities available here will distract even those in the deepest heartache. The thing I love the most about this city, is the diversity of activities available. No matter your interests or tastes there is something for everyone. New York is such a melting pot of people, the influence each one has on the city is felt in the diversity that exists for the tourists that come.

Where to Travel After An Abusive Relationship

Scotland

I know it has been mentioned before, but I had a personal experience with this. After suffering a traumatic event that has caused me to have PTSD for years afterward, I cannot recommend this place enough. I know how I felt when walking into a B&B in Inverness where an old couple made me eggs and soldiers (eggs and toast cut into strips). I know how I felt after climbing up to the Old Man of Stoor completely alone with the wind whipping at my face, looking out over the landscape. There are hard things that happen in all of our lives, and some of those things can break the soul. Scotland was what made me truly fall in love with travel after 12 years – this was the first Solo travel trip I took and still hold the memories I had there deep in my heart and mind.

Amsterdam

In general, there are a lot of tourists here that can make someone who has been through a traumatic event a bit jumpy. Yet, the people in Amsterdam are very much business minded and keep to themselves. It is clean, organized, and there are plenty of outdoor adventures like Keukenhoff, Zaanse Schans, and Kinderdijk. There is also the inspiring story of Ann Frank, which will help you not feel so alone in your recovery.

Costa Rica

This is one of the top destinations for solo travelers. The beaches are legendary, and with rain forests so close – it is an outdoor paradise to help you recover. Drink in the beauty of the ocean, sunsets, beaches, and then travel up to the rain forest for some bungee jumping off a bridge into the cloud forest or zip line through a rain forest.

Bali

This is a classic Eat, Love, Pray destination where the culture is so vastly different and so kind it will help restore your faith in humanity again. While there are parts that are extremely over-toured, it still holds its hidden gems and delicious foods. Nourish the body with bowls of fruit freshly picked from the tree and soak in a tub full of flowers in a luxury suite that are quite common on Bali.

Where to Travel When You Can’t Afford To Travel

Home Town Tourist

One of my favorite past-times is getting in the car, and just heading in a random direction. You can also look at the side streets or freeways that run parallel to the main highways. Take your tent and remote camping gear, and just plop yourself down in the middle of nowhere and enjoy the silence. Disconnect from technology, and just tell your closest friend where you are going. Leave your phone at home, so you aren’t tempted to text your ex – just breathe in the freedom and remind yourself how much this world still has to offer you. If you have never used TripAdvisor to give you suggestions on how to explore your home town – I highly encourage you to do so.

Road Trip with the Possee

If traveling solo isn’t the thing for you, well pack the girlfriends in the car with you! Take off on an adventure, and tell them it is going to be a weekend getaway. There is so much value in being spontaneous, especially for those prone to wanderlust – it helps you feel freedom from those feelings of loss.

Go on an Epic Hike

While I may be biased, I think nature is the closest you can get to heaven on earth. So going for a hike is a great way to escape the daily grind of life, and forget the woes of past relationships. Take an early hike near a lake, climb up to a peak and greet the sunrise.

The reason I specifically suggest this is because when people are sad, or depressed – they tend to isolate themselves. So getting out into nature, even when you don’t feel like it – is really going to help you remember how much world there is to explore and the people that didn’t make into into your future should be left in your past.

Go Camping

Challenge yourself, and get out and go camping – camping in a place you have never been before. Usually, BLM (Basic Land Management – here in the States) is free and you just have to pack in your food/water. Always keep the standards of safety when hiking or camping, and tell someone where you are going. Invite some good friends with you, eat s’mores….because everything is better with chocolate 😉

Know That Things Will Get Better

I’m 35 and have not dated in several years, I went through bad breakups…I thought my life would be very different. I thought that by now I would be married with 7 kids (not kidding) – but life doesn’t always turn out the way we think. It took a lot of time, crying, bad choices and good choices to finally come to terms that there is a possibility that I will never be a mother. At least in the traditional sense, where I may not be able to have my own children. It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my friends who have the opportunity to have children, don’t want them.

So I wrapped up my love for all the children I may never have, and buried it because there is no use being sad and isolated during the best years of my life. Everyone has a choice, and just because it is not one that you would make – doesn’t mean it is wrong.

This is the same idea with relationships…everyone has a choice. Everyone has a choice to stay or to leave. If they aren’t ready mentally, don’t want to commit, aren’t headed in the same direction as you are – it is better to let it go. It wasn’t until I let go of the idea of having children or needing a man in my life to complete me that I found my true joy and strength. The things is, desperation never looked good on anyone – so don’t try to make it look natural….it isn’t.

Start believing that you are worthwhile and keep your dreams your dreams no matter who you decide to date/marry. Dreams and goals will always shift in our lives, but we often hold ourselves back in trivial pursuits that impede you from reaching your full potential. The real question is…..are you ready to reach your full potential or will you let your brain succumb to mediocrity because that is what you think is best.

Search For That Peace When Your Alone

I once dated a man from San Paulo Brazil, who taught me so much about how to reach my full potential. It was a toxic relationship on the whole, and there were a lot of lies. Yet after each relationship, I try to ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this?’

I will never forget what he told me, “I don’t have to constantly fill my life with things, doing things, being things because I’m at peace in the silence”. So that is my challenge to you, to find peace in the silence. The journey will be scary, you may not have the courage right now – but keep searching and I promise you will find it. It may involve sleepless nights when you don’t feel your partner next to you, or when things get hard having no one to cry to or be comforted by – but you have the capacity to evolve. Push yourself to do new things you have always wanted to do, and now have the time to. Enjoy that big bed space and sleep sideways on the bed, or just trash the one that has so many memories and buy a new one.

You have the capacity to be ok being alone, but sometimes broken hearts need a crutch just like a broken leg. So pick your flavor of vacation and don’t over think it….plan it, and ask Nike says ‘Just do it’.

Sending love and light your way, know that you aren’t the first person to feel this way. Time does blunt the pain of the wounds that might be left, but in order to heal from those wounds you have to keep moving.

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Tips for First Time Scuba Divers – Avoid Aquatic Awkwardness

Tips for First Time Scuba Divers – Avoid Aquatic Awkwardness

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No one likes to stand out or feel awkward in sports, especially me. If there were awards for awkwardness, I’m sure I would have a few by now. Maybe it is the elementary physical education classes where I farted while trying to do a sit up in front of the entire 6th grade that still haunts me, I dunno – it just isn’t fun to feel awkward. So when I took up the new, posh, sport of Scuba Diving I dreaded getting in the water and looking like a fool. So after a few dive trips under my belt, here are my Tips for First Time Scuba Divers, and how to avoid aquatic awkwardness.

Tanks for scuba diving equipment with city in the backgorund

My Number One Tip for First Time Divers: Go To The Bathroom!

Going to the bathroom beforehand is the most important part of this entire tip. Do NOT get creative in your eating right before your first scuba trip. Yes some of the boats have the confined toilets, but if your bowels decide to become water instead….well, the whole boat will get to smell your innards the whole trip. The other part is, when you are under pressure, at depth and have a….shall we say intestinal civil war – you are going to be in a wetsuit and there is no escape from the dreaded explosion.

There is a natural physiological phenomenon that happens when a warm body is placed in cool water. It will make you want to urinate, so just let it go – most divers end up doing this. You are swimming in a marine life toilet anyway, so just consider it contributing to the minerals in the ocean.

Ladies, very important, do not plan on going diving with sharks if it is your time of the month unless you are in a cage – then it is fine.

scuba diving in a cave with flashlights

Keep it Clean

Make sure to keep your stuff neat and tidy. While there are different ways for everyone to organize, just make sure you are conscious of the common space on the boat. There are limited areas for you to put your belongings. There is a dry area (typically under the front of the boat on a ledge) where you can keep a small bag. Anything wet, that can get wet should be tucked under the assigned spot where your tanks are.

Keep your fins out of the walking area, as this is a tripping hazard and can land someone in the water with a ‘man overboard’. Which you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that when the individual gets back in the boat.

scuba diving in a cave with a flashlight

Bring Cash

There are a lot of things I remembered to bring on my first dive trip, and a few I didn’t. No matter where you are in the world, a boat does not have an ATM card to give tips, nor do they have a cash register. So if you plan on giving a tip then be sure to bring that with you.

My Scuba Instructor Rachelle, from Scuba Utah, gave some good advice on this as she has been diving for the last 35 years, “It is pretty typical when on a dive trip to tip them 10-15% for the day (total, not per individual). Make sure to tip them on a daily basis, as the crew will or can change daily”.

Bring a Photo Stick

I’m not talking about a selfie stick, I’m talking about a blunt 12″ rod that you can clip to your BCD. When you are first starting out, and going from fresh water to salt water; or if you have lost a lot of weight or gained weight it can be hard to find your buoyancy. This small blunt instrument will allow you to gently push off surrounding rock and not crash into the delicate coral reefs.

I recently lost 25 lbs and wasn’t quite sure on my weight I should have in salt water. Utah has all fresh water diving, and when you dive in Salt Water, your weight requirements are going to increase. So keep that in mind, and get the photo stick so that you are protecting the environment until your able to get a little more experience.

Janiel with city in the background with dive flag and scuba tanks

Get Reef Safe Defogger and Sunscreen

While on the subject of protecting the coral systems and reefs of the world I would highly suggest getting reef safe defogger and sunscreen. Here are a few I recommend: SurfDurt not only is it organic, it is also in a non-plastic container, so win win!

Hairstyle

There are a couple of different options for the ladies (or guys) with long hair and to keep it from becoming a rats nest when you get out of the ocean. One way is to use a swim cap. You want to make sure that it does not go underneath your mask, as this can let the water seep in. It keeps everything tame, and also adds a little extra layer to your head to keep in the heat without having to wear a hood.

Another option, which I learned recently, is to put leave in conditioner in your hair the night before (I’m talking quite a bit). I prefer the spray in kind, like Sun Bum Revitalizing 3 in 1 Leave-In Conditioner Spray (which is vegan and environmentally friendly). When you wake up, put your hair in two braids as tightly as you can get them. This works well for those with long hair especially. It looks great in underwater photos too! When I got back to my hotel, I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to unravel my hair.

scuba diving in a cave with a surprised face on a woman

Watch That Air

I was guilty of this the last dive trip I went on. Again, being from Utah, pretty coral reefs, sea turtles, and sharks are in short supply here for divers. So when you see these animals in person, it is easy to get enamored with them and taking video of it that you lose track of your air. Luckily I had a dive buddy who I had warned her about this prior to diving and she caught me at 800 on my tank pressure. We started to head for our safety stop, and the more shallow we became the harder it was to stay down despite the extra weight that I added. I have never swam so hard to stay at 15 feet in my life as BCD and tank were trying to skyrocket me to the surface. I burned through 300 PSI in 1:30 min and surfaced before my 3 minutes were up with 400 PSI.

This could have gotten me in big trouble, and her in big trouble. So now I’m fully aware that each time I see marine life that is interesting to me, I need to check my air. Luckily I wasn’t diving deep enough on that dive to put me into decompression sickness, but I don’t ever want to take that chance again.

For the Asthmatics or Those With COPD

When you have Asthma, or COPD you can still go Scuba diving, but have to be aware of a few things. You have a form of air obstruction, which means air gets trapped in your lungs more easily than the average joe (or jane). This can significantly affect your bouyancy when you get fatigued.

When a person with Asthma or COPD is fatigued, air can get trapped. This will require you to add more weight to counter this. Think of trying to get an inflated balloon to descend on a dive. It is nearly impossible, unless you have a tow rope to pull you down with the balloon. This is the same idea when you go diving. So if you are out of shape or fatigued, I would suggest adding an additional 2-4 lbs of weight to your BCD so that you can stay down during the safety stop as you start to surface. (A lesson I have had to learn the hard way).

Scuba Diving among fish in cabo san lucas

The Noise

Rachelle taught me in my Scuba Class, that noise underwater will be amplified. Being very sensitive to sound above land, I was a shocked at how much sound carries underwater.

My first time diving in Cabo San Lucas, was my first real ocean dive. Our first dive was near Pelican Rock, with the boats zipping back and forth above us to take tourists to see the Sealions. While it was fun to see the Sealions playing underwater in Cabo, the noise from the boats felt like it was a tourist trap both above and below ground.

Once I realized what was going on, it was easier to isolate and tune out the buzzing of the engines above me. It is quite distracting though when your descending for the firs time, so stay close to your diving buddy and the instructor.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can happen in many different places, and is different for everyone. For example, I do not get sick on boats big or small, but get me in the back of a tour bus and I will be green as a tree within the first ten minutes. There are many options for Motion Sickness so be sure to read my recent article on different ways of treating this and avoiding it in the first place.

sealion swimming

Allow 18-24 hours Before Flying

Even some of the most experienced divers, forget about this rule. It can affect the incidence of Decompression sickness due to the altitude, and Nitrogen needing to fully ‘off-gas’ or dissolve before flying.

I typically give myself 24 hours, just to make sure I won’t get sick. While this is more important for live aboard diving where you are doing multiple dives per day over several days. It is good to get into the habit, so you don’t forget in the long term like many divers end up doing.

Know How To Self Calm

The Scuba Magazine reported that 20% of diving accidents are caused by people panicking. So knowing how to calm yourself while underwater is key to beginner divers.

On my last dive, I was so nervous before getting into the water for some reason. I quietly asked my friend Jen, from Coleman Concierge, ‘Do you get nervous before dives still?’ She said, ‘After all the dives I have been on, all the years I have done this. This year has been the first year where I haven’t felt nervous before a dive’.

I have PTSD, and anxiety at baseline – I also almost drowned as a child after getting stuck under a bridge during a river tubing trip. So I had to learn very quickly underwater, that simply maintaining bouyancy, making a specific handsignal where both hands are up in a stop gesture – signals to my diving buddy that I just need a second to calm my nerves.

After getting an ok from my dive buddy that they understand and come closer. I hang onto their BCD, close my eyes, and concentrate on breathing slowly until the wave of anxiety passes.

If the wave of panic or anxiety is bad enough, or you can’t self soothe. Just gesture to your diving buddy that you need to end the dive. Be kind to yourself, and like Rachelle always says – ‘It is normal and ok to be nervous. Never be afraid to end a dive if you feel uncomfortable’.

star fish with frog fish while scuba diving
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Tips for First Time Scuba Divers From A Professional

I asked my instructor, Rachelle, for some of her input on things that she would strongly recommend to new students. Having 35 years of experience and teaching hundreds of students, and Veterans with PTSD, Here is what she suggested:

  • Dive within your limits – don’t try to appear cool, or think you are the weak link by voicing something you are uncomfortable with.
  • Do not try to dive outside your training or your equipment requirements. You will put yourself at risk, which you have that right to do if you wish – but more importantly, you are putting your dive buddy, and dive master at risk which is absolutely NOT ok to do.
  • Respect the boat and the crew no matter how much you think you know. They know the area better than anyone, and they know what works best for the conditions in that moment. So even if it seems ridiculous, offensive or childish – just do what they ask with a smile and complain when your done with the dive.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Our brains aren’t trained to protect us underwater, so just keep in mind to keep an eye above, and below you. You could stuck between a person who can’t keep their buoyancy and a Moray Eel. You might be confidant in your abilities, but there are other people you can affect by not being aware.
  • Leave only bubbles, take only picture. While it might be tempting to pick up that starfish, or take that giant seashell home as a souvenir. Just leave it alone, and let the next diver appreciate it as you did.
  • Don’t touch, tease or harass aquatic animals. There are so many marine animals that may look harmless enough, but can be quite deadly.
  • Keep your mask OFF your forehead! This is a universal sign of distress that Master Divers are trained to recognize. So when you do this, it can cause all sorts of chaos that is not needed. Keep the mask on your face until you are back in the boat and even then don’t make it a habit.
colorful coral reefs and barrel coral reefs

Create Your Bucket List!

The Diving community is a tight knit community, that generally is quite supportive. Reach out to those in your community, take a dive class, and then create your bucket list of Diving. I asked my fellow divers for their Top Dives From Around The World, and now have my own Diving Bucket list I’m working through.

If you have any Tips for First Time Scuba Divers, be sure to drop them below and connect with the Culture Trekking Community on Facebook or Instagram; arrange a few dive trips with other members of the community.

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Introduction to Wilderness Medicine

Introduction to Wilderness Medicine

Reading Time: 16 minutes

In the wilderness you will have limited resources, and limited capabilities for major medical intervention. So it is important to have a basic understanding of wilderness medicine and first aid, as it could save a life. So with my medical background in trauma surgery, and the emergency room – here is an introduction to Wilderness Medicine.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this is a guide and you should receive additional training in order to feel confidant and comfortable in each scenario.

Initial Assessment:

The best thing to do is approach the patient using the Acronym: ABCDE, which stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure. The initial question before all else, is “Am I putting myself at risk by trying to save this person?”. Make sure there won’t be two injured people on the ground before you commit to completing the ABCDE steps. Please make sure that the scene is safe for you approach – don’t approach a bleeding person with a Grizzly Bear standing over them.

Make sure to wear gloves, put on your sunglasses because you may not know them- and don’t know your friends as well as you do.

For those with minimal medical knowledge, here are some questions you should ask after taking a big breath, and introducing yourself in a calm way to the injured person or suspected injured person.

Airway in Wilderness Medicine

  • Remove dirt or objects that you can see. Do not do blind sweeps with your fingers as this can lodge things further down the throat. They can have dirt, teeth, severed tounge etc… it might be bloody so be prepared (thus the gloves and sunglasses).
  • Jaw thrust – go to the head of the patient, grab their jaw (right at the angled portion) and lift it slightly forward. Do not move the neck, or tilt the head back significantly when you are doing this because they may have a major neck injury.
    • In the Emergency Room they often use an nasopharyngeal tube to keep an airway open in an emergency. You can use a camel back to cut this down measuring from ear to mouth.
    • If you don’t have a nasopharyngeal tube, then you can take your knife – cut the tube on a camel back and insert that into the nose down to the airway. Be sure to measure it properly. Using the ear to jaw measurement method.
    • If the camel back doesn’t work, you can also use TWO safety pins pinned on either side of the tongue with a shoelace threaded through them tied to the belt loop, their finger etc… I like to have four safety pins so that the paracord/string/shoelace remains in place.
      • If this wakes the patient up, then you have solved the issue of their airway, because an awake patient, can control their tongue muscles. Also, keep in mind it will feel weird grabbing a limp tounge, it might be weird and gross but it is better than that person being dead because you couldn’t leave their airway while trying to treat the bleeding broken leg that may also kill them.
  • Chin lift – you only want to do this if you are absolutely SURE that the patient has had NO head trauma.
Wilderness Medicine
Jaw Thrust with no Chin Tilt – Photo Credit Rrapid
  • Have they choked on something? Is there something blocking the airway?
  • Cricothyrotomy (The Emergency Airway): You can slit the skin right below the Adams apple and stick the knife in. You will pop (it will literally be a pop) through a couple of layers and will hear a rush of air. If you don’t feel a rush of air, then you aren’t in the right space. Don’t dig around, in a normal weight and build individual, it should only be about a 1/2 inch below the layer of skin/fat. In larger individuals you may have to go a little deeper. You can measure a stick a straw, a camel back tube or ball point pens to the side of the neck and it will give you a good idea of how deep the tube needs to go in order to get into the airway.
    • I like to keep a 14G IV Catheter with me so that I can use that to puncture into the airway. It will be large enough to help air escape, and guide you for making a larger incision in the event that you need to ventilate.
    • Keep in mind that once you put an incision in this position, medical personell will not be able to insert a viable airway tube through the mouth. So only resort to this option if the upper airway is completely blocked and the patient is deteriorating.

Breathing

Do you lay them on their back or on their side? Are you sure they are breathing? What do the breaths sound like and feel like? Breathing is really important obviously, it is generally associated with death if someone isn’t breathing and/or isn’t breathing well. There are entire campaigns in the States to help the public become more aware about how to save a life through CPR and First Aid classes. I highly recommend going if you have the chance.

So when assessing breathing, I would review the list below before each activity or vacation. Have someone be in charge and a backup person to support them. Having someone assigned to each task, and someone assigned to be the team leader in the event of an accident will help prevent confusion.

Wilderness Medicine
  • Look for the breathing, is their chest moving?
    • Is the chest moving equally? Is one rising above the other?
    • Are they using nose, neck or other muscles to help them breathe?
  • Listen for their breath by putting your ear right next to their chest.
  • Feel the breaths by placing your hands lightly on the chest. Does it feel like broken bones grinding together or does it feel like rice krispies under their skin?
    • The feeling of Rice Krispies on the chest can indicate a tension pneumothorax. This is something that cannot wait and the patient will be dead by the time someone arrives.
      • Keeping a 14G IV catheter for this situation. You go very high on the chest, right below the collar bone, pick a rib high up, and stick the needle on the TOP part of the rib. (Hold onto it because the trapped air will push the needle out- if there is no rush of air, try the other side. If the rush of air is not on the other side, then take it out).
      • Most of the time, people don’t put the needle deep enough.
    • Open Pneumothorax – this is when someone has something penetrating through their skin into their lung. This destroys the physics of the lung and how we breathe. So if there is a hole in the chest, with abnormal breathing – take a plastic baggie, take your duct tape and tape ONLY THREE Sides flat onto the chest (so that air can get OUT of one side).
      • Do not EVER remove an impaled object into the chest area, or into the leg area.
  • Basic Life Support would suggest giving breath’s (use a glove as a barrier for rescue breathing- tear off the middle finger and put your mouth in the opening to give breaths) to the patient and doing chest compressions. Contact your local hospital to get education on how to do this. In the USA the Red Cross does BLS courses in the community.

Circulation in Wilderness Medicine

First things first, if they aren’t already laying down – ask them to lie down. If you know how to take a pulse (near the thumb, or on the neck on either side of the neck right near their windpipe) see what their heart rate is. A normal adult should have a heart beat from 70-80 beats per minute.

Wilderness Medicine

Check their skin color, are they pale, cool, moist? If you answered yes, they may have an issue with their circulation or are in shock.

If you press down on their fingernails does the blood come back into the fingernail within <2 seconds? If it doesn’t, they may be losing a lot of blood, or being going into severe shock. This method is called checking capillary refill time.

If it looks like they have a lot of the symptoms described above, or you can’t feel the pulse on the wrist – you may not be able to see the bleeding that the patient is experiencing. Some of this bleeding can be internal, so raising the legs (only raise the legs that are uninjured) it can be a way to increase the blood pressure and keep blood pressure up to the brain.

If there are any areas on the surface of the body make sure to hold direct pressure for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let the pressure go and check to see if it is still bleeding until that 10-15 minutes is up. If you have quick clot, pour that on and hold pressure.

  • For Wounds/lacerations you can use crazy glue, duct tape, staples (even the small stationary staples), or the hair closure technique.
  • Hair Closure technique: If the hair is more than 1-2 inches long, you can take small pieces on either side of the wound, and twist them around each other tightly. Lay them down flat against the scalp, and put crazy glue on the knot on the top of the head.
  • If there is a lot of debri in the wound, you can use the sterile saline rinse kits they have over the counter that people use for sinus irrigation, or they also come in small disposable packs. You can also use water (with chlorine tablets dropped in) inside a bag with small holes poked in it to irrigate it out. You can use garbage bags, condoms, sandwich bags etc.. to bring enough water to clean out the wound.
    • In the Operating Room we had a saying, “The Solution to Pollution is Dilution” – and oh how true that is.
    • Just keep in mind, you don’t want to close a wound unless it is life threatening. Just clean the wound as well as you can, and then put pressure on it. If you close it completely then they have to keep the wound open for irrigation and it closes on its own leaving a massive scar. If it is a life threatening opening that won’t stop bleeding even with pressure, then there isn’t a choice but to close the wound.
Wilderness Medicine

If the bleeding is coming from the legs or arms, putting a tourniquet on the limb using a stick slid just underneath the knot (turning it slowly until the bleeding stops). Make some kind of mark on the patient to make sure that someone knows a tourniquet has been placed.

If a tourniquet is left on for more than 6 hours they are at risk of losing their limb. You are ok to release the tourniquet after 6 hours, as long as the bleeding from the limb is not life threatening. Leave it off for at least 20 minutes to 1 hour (as bleeding allows) then replace it.

If you don’t have quick clot, you can use duct tape, crazy glue (but not for lots of bleeding as it won’t stick), hair ties, staples. If someone has an epi pen for allergies- you can use that injected into the body. There are certain places they say NOT to use any kind of Epi (Fingers, Toes, Penis, Nose) – but again, if it is life threatening….then just do it).

Many medical personell don’t know how to use Epi pens if you ask them, they will likely go into their office or look up how on their phones. So it is really simple…take off the caps and THE ORANGE PART GOES INTO THE PATIENT. Don’t stick it in quickly and pull it out once you push the button on the top, as it takes 10 FULL seconds to get the epi (the medicine) into the patient.

Disability

Are they talking normally, confused (name, date, location, what they were doing), responding with a loud voice, do they respond to pain (pinch them on the wrists and behind the ear)? Are their pupils equal? Do the pupils respond to light (use your phone light)? Are they able to move both arms and both legs?

Wilderness Medicine

The reason you want to do this as the initial portion for ‘D’ is to see what type of transportation you need for this person. If their pupils aren’t reacting like they should, if they do not respond to pain stimuli, or they are confused – then there is likely something going on with their brain and they need immediate attention via a helicopter transport that would get them the medical attention necessary to save as much of their brain as possible.

Neck Injury

Always assume they have a neck injury if they have had a head injury, major injuries or broken bones, they are intoxicated, or were hit by a moving vehicle or boat. Do not believe them when they say their neck is fine, there are plenty of times in the moment of the Adrenalin rush that they won’t feel the trauma that is there.

  • In this case you want to imagine the patient as a log. everything should remain in line, and no turning, pulling pushing on the spine or neck.
  • Improvising to protect their neck – you want to prevent them from flexing their neck and turning it side to side:
    • Preventing Forward Neck Flexion
      • Aluminum Splints area a great way to splint not just a fracture, but you can thread these behind the neck, and then cut it down so it encircles it once.
      • A really bulky sweater wrapped around the neck and duct taped on also works
    • Prevent them from looking side to side with Side Rolls
      • Improvise with: Water bottles duct taped to the side of the neck to keep it in place. paddles on both sides crossed over the chest, taping sticks together and wrapping a shirt around the ends to prevent punctures, putting their shoes on either side of their neck, stuff sacks or a back pack (filled with sand, clothes) put on both sides and duct tape it together.

Exposure

What are the weather conditions like? Do you, or can you move them to a better location without causing pain or further damage?

  • For cold environments you want to try and keep them warm. Use something to block the wind.
    • You can also use a garbage bag wrapped around and underneath them (as a improvised shirt or pants) with DRY leaves or other clothing stuffed inside of it to keep the heat in.
      • Make sure whatever you stuff into the bag is DRY, no exceptions.
    • Using a sleeping bag is also a great idea (only if not wet).
    • The ground is very cold, even the dirt – so don’t forget to wrap their entire body.
      • It can be 85 degrees outside, and someone in shock will still be shivering relentlessly.
Wilderness Medicine

Were they impaled with any objects?

  • If there is an object that impaled the patient and is stuck in them — DO NOT REMOVE THIS AS IT CAN CAUSE FURTHER DAMAGE!
    • A good example of this, is when Steve Irwin was stung by stingray rebarbs, he quickly removed them and one was in his heart. When he removed it, it created an outlet for bleeding to happen around and from his heart causing his death.
  • You can wrap something around the impaled object to stabilize it until the patient can get to the operating room to have it taken out. Even doctors in the Emergency Room don’t typically mess with these things until you know for CERTAIN that an object has not severed an artery.

Invest in a Good First Aid Kit (not just ones with bandaids)

There are thousands of First Aid Kits out there, but how do you know which one if the best? Think of your situation, how much you are willing to put in the suitcase?

I was looking into getting an updated First Aid Kit, and ran across the company MyMedic. This company sells tourniquets, first aid kits that fit into your pocket, all the way up to a First Aid Kit that field Medics use in the war zone. The MyMedic First Aid Kit I chose, was one that specifically has quik clot in it.

This First Aid Kit has so many good things in it! I’m sincerely impressed with everything in here. It is so compact too, it is smaller than my makeup bag (and I don’t wear a lot) yet has everything I would want in an emergency other than an AED and a back board. They have built the outside of the bag so you won’t lose any space on your backpack with loops to hang carabiners off of.

On the back there are two button straps you could also use to hang onto your bag. You can unclip the strap that goes around the bag and use that as a neck brace with the rolled clothing or water bottles and cinch it down.

Inside it is very well organized with straps holding everything in place, just like you would find in a paramedic bag. There is benedryl, tylenol, advil, sunscreen, electrolytes, 2 pairs of gloves. Sterile bandage, triangle bandage, emergency blanket, suture kit, scissors, tweezers, sterile saline, ace wrap, tourniquet (the fancy kind), paracord, QuikClot, snap light, whistle, medical tape, bandaids, Nasopharyngeal tube, hydrogel (used for severe burns – to help slow damage to lower levels), CPR shield (so you don’t have to use a glove).

This is just to name a few of the things tightly compacted into this bag. The bag also is easy to close once you are done exploring it.

Wilderness Medicine

Another thing I do when I go camping, hiking, climbing, or any other adventuring – I always make sure everyone knows where the first aid kit is. You put it in the same spot every time you go out adventuring. If it is on your backpack, or in your backpack, you make sure that people know how to access it. If it is in your car, make sure they know where the keys are to open the car.

If I were to add a few more things to this MyMedic Pack, I would add an Epi Pen, 14G IV Catheter, strap my swiss army knife to the outside. I would also put 4 safety pins, chlorine tablets, and crazy glue.

Just like Duct Tape, Safety Pins have so many uses, so I would highly recommend always keeping a few handy:

  • Tongue Extension, making eyeglasses, removing foreign bodies from skin, cornea, abscess drainage, removing a fishhook, T-shirt arm splint, sewing needle, wound closure, unclogging camping stove jet, tick removal, fix zippers/bindings, and last but not least for all my ladies out there – they work great for separating eyelashes after putting mascara on 😉

When Do You Evacuate Someone?

If the patient is having any of the following, you will likely need to ask for a helicopter or rescue team evacuation:

Wilderness Medicine
Photo Credit: Canada West Mountain School
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dizzy/weak/weak pulse
  • Unconscious/Confused
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Neck or Torso Pain
  • Unable to Walk
  • Visible Bone or Clear Dislocation
  • Unsure of Severity of Injury

Animal Bites and Stings in Wilderness Medicine

Know the area, animals that frequently attack – an easy way to know this is to ask a local. If you ask the concierge, the taxi driver, the ticket counter, or even your guide should know.

When I was hiking in Jamaica through the Jungle, we emerged and I felt a pinch on the skin of my foot. In the States, ticks are known to hold Lyme Disease- but my guide was able to dislodge the tick, and said that Jamaica didn’t have Lyme Disease like the States did. She was from New York, and one of the toughest ladies I have ever met. So even common pests like this, may not be dangerous in the places that you visit – they may be…just pests.

This is why it is important to just ask questions about dangers when hiking in certain areas, or animals. The animal world is always changing, and animals can be quite territorial, or hide in places you may not think of.

For example, where I live, we have to keep our dogs out of the weeds in certain places we go hiking as Rattlesnakes are quite common here. You likely wouldn’t find Rattlesnakes while hiking in Zermatt Switzerland. So get educated and be prepared.

  • Snake Bites: Move away from the snake, take off any tight clothing, do not use a tourniquet. Take a photo of the snake if possible. Call 911 to minimize having to move and increase the circulation of the poison.

Hypothermia in Wilderness Medicine

The first time I personally experienced Hypothermia was when I went camping and hiking on Mount Whitney in November. You don’t really know that you are getting cold until things start to turn blue (especially if you are exercising). Make sure to read about my whole experience there.

If you encounter someone who has Hypothermia, or if you yourself start to experience it – there are some things you can take with you. Hand warmers (the 12 hour ones are best) I would bring at least 6 for each person, or more if you are car camping. An emergency blanket, if I am backpacking or camping I will typically bring a compact Mylar blanket, and then a cloth emergency blanket over that that you can find at REI and are easy to put on your backpack.

Hyperthermia in Wilderness Medicine

Wilderness Medicinejg5409

The first time I experienced Heat exhaustion was hiking in Zion National Park in the sun when it was 112 F (44C). Ever since that time I have been easily prone to heat exhaustion (another reason I sweat like a whore in church in any kind of humidity).

It starts with a dry mouth, then you get hot and start sweating so much you can hardly keep it off your body. Then it feels like your heart is going to beat out of your chest. It feels like it takes monumental effort to take even a few steps or keep your eyes open. Then your stomach starts to cramp, and you can get nauseated. When I got to the nausea and dizzy stage, that is when I knew I had heat exhaustion for sure. Be sure to read that first hand account, and keep yourself safe in warmer climates.

Getting Travel Insurance

Sometimes the first aid kit isn’t enough, it can save a life in order to get to medical care though. When you are traveling abroad, you won’t know what hospital is a good one, or what the cost will be. This is why I highly encourage Travel Insurance.

World Nomad Travel Insurance

Not only do they help with repatriation (arrange for your body to be transported back home), they also can help with delayed or canceled flights, long term hospitalizations abroad etc..

I recommend World Nomad Insurance, because it is highly customizable. Even for coverage for my diving trip in Cabo San Lucas, for my age it was only around $69 for repatriation coverage, hospitalization, cancelled flights, delayed flights and more. For everything that they cover, I was stunned….especially since I work in the medical field and know how much headache it is to cover sports like these.

Stay Aware, and Stay Safe

There is only so much that you can prepare for on a trip. There will always be the unexpected in this life, so just prepare as much as you can – get familiar with some of these Wilderness Medicine Hacks. Some people never get hurt while they are traveling, some people are so accident prone they can regail you with stories for hours. You personally may not feel you need any of this information, but you may just possibly save someone else’s life should you prepare yourself with the right information and your own first aid kit. Be safe, don’t be sorry you didn’t prepare. The worst thing in the world to live with is the ‘What If I Would Have?’

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Exploring Doune Castle A Popular Filming Location in Scotland

Exploring Doune Castle A Popular Filming Location in Scotland

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Exploring Doune Castle, a popular filming location in Scotland was a little surreal when your standing right in front of it. If you have ever seen Monty Python, or Outlander – then you might recognize Doune Castle.

The History of Doune Castle

A 13th century castle beautifully restored in the 14th century, with open rooms to explore and let your imagination run wild.

This was my second time visiting Doune Castle. The first time I took a day trip from Edinburgh to this beautiful location- I hadn’t given myself quite enough time to really learn the history. What I hadn’t realized was that this castle is mostly all the original stonework from the 14th century with minor repairs. The Wood flooring and roof, however, is mainly from the 1800’s.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch

Not only is Doune Castle a popular filming location, it was also favored by Royal Monarchs as a hunting retreat, including Mary Queen of Scots at one point.

It was also occupied by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite rising of 1745. When he was attempting to take English throne on the basis that he felt he was the rightful heir.

It is now maintained by the Historic environment of Scotland who have kept it in beautiful shape!

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch

Castle Leoch from Outlander

Outlander Tours often come to this location, as it was used as the set for Castle Leoch. This series depicts what it was like during the Scottish Rebellion that led up to the Battle at Culloden.

The series used cranes to hoist the set into the main courtyard of the castle. Then piles of mud, hay and other items to truly recreate a scene akin to that of 18th century Scottish Clan life.

The series follows a woman, Claire Randall back in time, during the Scottish Rebellion – where she meets heart throb James Frasier. Their harrowing adventures, her constant efforts to get back to her own time period – sets an incredibly accurate depiction of life in the Highlands. So if you get a chance to watch Outlander, I highly suggest it – especially if you have Scottish ancestors like me.

Monty Python Filming Location

If you watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then you will remember a few scenes from this castle.

The first, and a personal favorite, was when King Arthur rode up to the castle with his imaginary horse and coconut clapper. The French poked their head over the top and an exchange of ridiculous insults ensued – at the end of which there was a cow launched over the walls.

The second scene, was when the knights of the round table met and broke into boisterous song. Using the different outlets in the Great Hall as platforms for song and dance after the wedding.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch
Medieval Doune Castle, Stirling district of central Scotland, UK, famous for being a filming location of British comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The third scene was in the massive kitchen where they used this area to film Sir Galahad being chased by the seductive girls out of the castle.

While there are several other scenes filmed here during this movie, these are the most famous.

Game of Thrones Winterfell Castle

Here is a bit of film history some may not know, that Game of Thrones used this castle as a basis for Winterfell. Winterfell is the home of many of the main characters and heroes of this international hit TV series.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch
The Great Hall – The Wooden Balcony would be for the Musicians

Taking the Tour

I would highly recommend getting the audio tour when you explore Doune Castle. There is a small shop right inside the courtyard area where you can pick up your headset.

The headset plays songs sung here during Monty Python, has Jamie Frasier (Sam Heughan) giving you a large part of the tour through the castle. Let me tell you ladies and gents, his voice is like chocolate to the ears. He is also Scottish, and I find it very fitting that his voice is used to give you a large part of the tour.

If you get to the castle early (or early-ish), then it isn’t too crowded, and you can wander about and let the headset help you recreate the fond memories of the movies in your mind. It is hard to not have a smile on your face when you wander through this incredibly well preserved castle.

It isn’t all about the filming locations though, they also give you a good bit of history about the castle – and guide to to very specific locations within the castle.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch

The Kitchen

The Kitchen is always a favorite place for me, especially at home . To see how they produced food in this place – made me grateful for my modern conveniences.

What surprised me the most was the MASSIVE fireplace that is 18 feet (5.5m) long. There would be several fires all going at once in this area. A kitchen boy would have to sit in this area – with only a window cracked to help air to the fire, make sure they didn’t die, and turn the spits when ordered to. In the winters I can imagine how this might be a coveted spot, but to think about how much smoke he would have to inhale…..induced some coughing.

The Great Tower

This is the main building that you see when you first round the corner from the parking lot. A massive 59 feet x 49 foot (17m x 15m) tall tower is quite impressive height for a 13-14th century building of that time.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch
The stone blocks on the sides are where the former wood flooring would have been

The rooms of the Clan leader, or high ranking guest rooms were kept over the kitchen. A clever way for the most important people to stay warm during the cold winter months.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch
Where Mary Queen of Scots would have stayed

The tower is accessed by a stairwell in the main courtyard. The rooms are empty, but you will notice, this particular tower was quite lavish – as it has a double fireplace.

Exploring Doune Castle – A Scotland Favorite

Exploring Doune Castle is something I could do again and again, and still enjoy the time there because of how well preserved it is. It is also incredibly easy to imagine men in kilts, ladies dresses swishing around the great hall and Christmas feasts in the well heated rooms of the great tower. I spent two and a half hours in this place, and could have stayed for a long picnic if I would have had the time.

Exploring Doune Castle - Culture Trekking - #DouneCastle #OutlanderFilminglocations #CastleLeoch

While Dunrobin Castle, and Cawdor Castle are some of the more modern versions of these ancient castles. There is something quite special about seeing an empty well preserved castle like this. It makes me think of how I would decorate it, or where I would put the horses and refrigerator. So that being said, Doune Castle is one of my favorite ancient castles in Scotland for the history, the film locations, and gorgeous surrounding countryside.

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Tours To Doune Castle

Small Group West Highland Day Tour From Edinburgh

West Highlands Lochs and Castles Day Trip from Edinburgh

Outlander Day Tour from Glasgow or Edinburgh

Private Outlander Film Locations Day Trip from Edinburgh

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

Booking.com

What to Pack for Scotland

Useful Words & Phrases in Scotland

Washroom/Water closet = Toliet

Coo = Cow, Aye = Yes, Nay = No

You’re a wee scunner = You’re a Winer

Yer bum’s oot the windae = You’re not making any sense

Yer Fixin ta = Your getting ready to

Sláinte = Cheers

Blood Pudding = Yes it has blood in it and is more delicious in the Highlands

Eggs & Soldiers = These are runny eggs slightly cooked that you dip sliced toast sticks into for breakfast.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize: The Perfect Shore Excursion

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize: The Perfect Shore Excursion

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Belize is a country unlike most in the Caribbean, it is quickly being considered as the next Venice of the South. Luxury hotels, incredible food, and hospitable people make this a truly spectacular place to vacation to. Yet the two things I enjoyed most while visiting Belize were the Lamanai Mayan Ruins and Rio Secreto. I was able to take a cruise to the Western Carribean, and visit this ancient city – learning all about what life was like in ancient Mayan times.

How to Get To Lamanai Ruins

Getting to the Lamanai Ruins is half the adventure! I would suggest picking a tour group as the journey can be quite extensive – but easily done within the time allotted for a shore excursion. The drive from the port to the boat launch is around an hour, from there you take a boat along the New River.

The boat ride is up a very tropical river, albeit hot so be sure to bring an umbrella or a wide-brimmed sun hat. You will likely see Spider monkeys, howler monkeys, a variety of tropical birds, plants, and maybe even a drifting crocodile or two that the guides are great about pointing out to those on the boat.

I would suggest getting a spot on the front to middle of the boat for a nice breeze, excellent view, and a bit of spray from the river as many of the boats do not have shade on them.

You can also drive, but the drive out is long and really bumpy (think four-wheeling in a small van). You can choose either option from the Orange Walk area.

The History of the Lamanai Ruins

Entering the ancient Lamanai city, the guide pointed out mounds of dirt we had to walk over. The two mounds were about 8-9 feet in height, with a trench in between – suggesting that these were strategically dug in order to be used as a defensive protection for the city.

These ruins date back as far as 1500 BC, and have been excavating the ruins here since 1974 so it is still fairly new to the archaeology world. The three temples they have uncovered so far are the Jaguar Temple, The Mask Temple, and the High temple. These are the main highlights in the Lamanai ruins, and unlike Chizen Itza, you are able to climb up the High Temple for a great view over the canopy.

Something I learned about Mayans was that they put their faith in animals, and believe they represent different parts of a person. These animals are called Nuals or spirit animals that help shape our personalities as humans. They are also believed that in worshiping them, it provided a way for the specific power they would hold to enter them.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

Temple of the Jaguar

This was my favorite Temple here apart from the high temple because you have to use your imagination to see the Jaguar. It was used up until the 15th century when the Lamanai people were converted to Christianity by the Spanish. The Jaguar is a cleverly structured so that the extensive time to carve the face from stone was avoided. Instead there are slots placed for the eyes, mouth, and nose. The slots placed here were used to leave offerings to the Jaguar God.

The Jaguar was considered the God of the Underworld, but takes the image of the nighttime sun God. He is often connected to fire rituals, which are very sacred to the Mayan Shamans. He is also considered to bring trade, riches, and is connected to the powers of sorcery.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

The Mask Temple

This temple was built during 200 BC, and has two massive limestone heads carved carved into either side of the temple. Many historians believe this face represents one of the early leaders of the Mayans.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

Beneath the temple, archeologists found a burial chamber with a male and a female buried here with several jade statues. These can be representative of a possible trade route between Copan or Quirigua and the Jade mines of a Guatemala.

The High Temple

The Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize are unique in that it has the tallest Mayan Temple, the High Temple. Rising 108 feet (33m) into the sky, this temple provides an incredible view of the canopy surrounding the area. This would have been the tallest building in Mesoamerica and was a bit of a billboard for those on the new river.

The long part of the temple (now deteriorated) once extended the entire length of the open area in front of the temple. This former part of the temple was used for sacrifices, and other offerings to the Gods. The guide told us when they were excavating they found parts of animal bones, and human bones.

The High Temple would have brought them closer to heaven, and allowed them to plot the stars and check the position of the sun. You can still climb to the summit today, but it is quite steep and so make sure you have good knees and are not afraid of heights. Take is slow and steady and you will be awarded with an amazing view.

It is interesting to think about how much science has taught us vs what ancient civilizations would craft in their minds to explain simple processes. It makes me grateful to live in a time and age, where I’m able to know the ‘why’ for most things. Why the stars rotate, how animals function, how to heal the human body – and especially like that human sacrifices for the purpose of religion has become a thing of the past.

The Sunken Crocodile

Lamanai is the Mayan word for Sunken Crocodile, first recorded by Franciscan Monasteries visiting the area in the 15th century. My inquring mind wondered, ‘Why would you name a city after such an ugly creature?’. Crocodiles, in Mayan theology were typically associated with fertility. Crocodiles were associated with the fertility of the soil, and the timeliness of the rains. Later on, the crocodiles were associated with the nobility. The God Itzam Na was commonly associated with the God of nobility.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

There are a few things that crocodiles do well, and that is search for life, search for water both which are crucial elements of the earth. The Mayan’s believed that like a terrestrial being they can find water and absorb the energy from it. They also obtain it through a Celestial element by commanding the rainfall. So they believed that the crocodile is both terrestrial, celestial and from the underworld as well – rising from the depths to contact humans and give inspiration.

Water is, and was revered as a sacred element of life – despite all the rain, jungle and resources – the people in Belize have often known drought as much of the surrounding water is undrinkable. So to have animals like Crocodiles search out water sources, I could definitely see the connection of importance to the Mayans and these ferocious creatures.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

Stela 9

This Stele was one of the first items found when uncovering this building. I didn’t understand the meaning of this Stela until after I came home and was researching it.

It has a long Heiroglyphic text on it that provided quite a bit of insight into the Mayan culture and religion. Many ‘writings’ with the Mayan Culture were done in images, that were then interpreted.

Stela 9 shows a image of a king dressed in symbolic attire. The symbolism of the attire reflects that of cosmic events (interpreted as acts by the Mayan Gods) that would happen in this area.

This King is wearing a serpent-monster headdress (likely a crocodile) symbolizing his celestial/divine birth/descent to being King of this region of the land. There is a dragon-like serpent head that protrudes from the top of the sceptre he is holding, and has a god appearing from its mouth, which is said to be the patron deity of Lamanai. The God from the sceptre wears goggles and has a curling serpent seeping from the corner of its mouth, both of these images are often associated with the rain-gods, such as Cicoyo/Chac/Cauac/Tlaloc.

While it is hard to see this in the photo, this is an important piece in the Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize as it provides further evidence of Mayan culture, their beliefs and images associated with certain Gods they worshiped in this region.

Entertainment without TV in Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

It might be wrong to call it entertainment, the Mayans used it as a way to hold rituals and even ritualistic sacrifices. There are several basketball courts in Lamanai, shaped in an I shape with two slopes on either side. There was a long narrow playing field and two end zones. There was a 20 foot (6m) ring which competing teams would try to score through.

These rings are twice the height of a NBA net. The rules are not well understood as they weren’t documented well. There were, however, end results for the winners….some being not so enticing.

Many Mayans played this game, and often were mere betting on the teams that would happen. Other times it was done as a significant spiritual and ritualistic meaning. The significantly ritualistic events turned spectacle in rigged games where prisoners of war played and were sacrificed in the end.

Mayans believed that the Gods needed needed human blood to keep the sun and moon orbiting for their harvests. Thus it was also seen as a game between life and death, good and evil, with the possibility of the winners becoming demi-gods themselves.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

There are over 1300 of these basketball courts throughout mesoamerica. There are over 500 of them in Guatemala alone, where they believe this game started.

While no one knows the exact rules of the ball game, Spaniards who saw the Aztec games in the 1500s reported that two teams of two to five players had to keep the ball in the air without using their hands or feet. They hit the ball with their upper arms, thighs or hips.

The rubber balls they used were of varying weight and size, from the size of a softball to a soccer ball. Solid rubber balls were heavy—up to eight or nine pounds—and could cause serious injury or even death. Games were won mostly by points. Around A.D. 1200, stone circles with a hole in the middle were attached high up on the walls of the ball court, up to six meters high. While getting a ball through the hole was rare, if a player got the ball through the hole, it was an instant win.

I knew there was a reason I have never been a big basketball fan. Now every time you watch a game, think about the opposing team being sacrificed in a blood ritual, lol.

Trade in Lamanai

Lamanai was a great trade route, being so close to the river. There have been remnants of trade materials within Lamanai, namely trade metals like copper dating back to 1150 AD. There was also Jade, bells, clothing ornaments, pins, chisels, axes, needles and fish hooks found.

Learning Mayan Culture

The Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize have yet to all be unearthed as funding for it is quite scant, yet I highly encourage a visit to see this ancient city. The Mayan culture was a unique and highly developed civilization for that time period.

It is always fascinating to learn about these ancient cultures, how they made sense of their daily lives, deities they worshiped and how they handled territorial disputes in the Jungle.

A visit to this Mayan city is highly encouraged for all those who have a sense of adventure, and want to learn how these people lived, worshiped, and died.

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How to Recover from Your Vacation

How to Recover from Your Vacation

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Have you ever heard someone say, “I need a vacation from my vacation”. I hear this more and more from people who ask me how I have so much energy after traveling so much. There really isn’t a secret to it, I just know how to pace myself while traveling, listen to what my body needs, and follow a certain set of rules for when I get back no matter how tired I feel – or how heavy the post-vacation blues feels.

Leave the House Clean

There is nothing worse than coming home to a pile of laundry that you know you are just going to make worse by all your travel clothes. While it seems stressful to try and add another thing to your ‘to-do’ list before you leave – at the bare minimum do your laundry before you leave. For those of us who love watching Marie Kondo, or Mrs Hinch; I suggest making the bed, chopping those pillows, doing the dishes, and vaccuming and mopping the floors.

How to Recover from a Vacation

You will find just how refreshing it is to come home to a clean house. Trying to readjust to normal life after a vacation is almost like trying to screw your head back on straight. It is easier for me to do get my life in order and back into a routine inside a clean house.

Arrange For A Ride Before Leaving

If you don’t need a car to take you, at least make sure you know if you will need to take a Taxi, train, or bus on the way home. Think about the luggage you will have, the time of night, if the transportation methods run that late; or if you should just take that Uber home and save yourself some headache.

How to Recover from a Vacation

There are always ways to get home, just be sure to keep in mind what time you arrive back home so you don’t have to stress about it when your jet lagged and shuffling your way out to your chosen transport method in a post vacation hangover.

Good Night’s Rest

The blessed bed! There is no bed, in the whole world, that is as comfortable as my own bed, my own incredibly soft Crown Goose Bedding, my 1000 count sheets, and Zoey snuggling up next to me. This is bliss to me!

Do not under-estimate investing in your bed, it is the thing that will help you the most with the inevitable Jet-Lag. It will help you recover your scrambled brain to help you function at work, so you can save for your next trip.

I am a very light sleeper, so I have made every effort to make sure that every part, portion and piece of my bed feels like heaven. I got my tufted headboard off of Amazon, and my favorite color being blue – for it’s soft and relaxing shade contributes to a relaxed environment.

The bedding, from Crown Goose, with some of the softest material I have felt in a long time. This bedding holds up in the wash really well, so no worries when you have your puppy snuggles. I also really like how elegant it looks, almost as if I have my own hotel room at home. The fabric holds up really well when I go and chop my pillows like Mrs Hinch in the morning, with crisp clean lines, and a white that reflects the sunlight from my window. They have several colors, all which are in the comforting and relaxing shades – so be sure to check them out – I promise you won’t regret it.

The 500 thread count sheets are a must for me. I know it sounds like a bit of a Princess and the Pea at this point, but I rub my feet on the sheets to help me sleep. I also toss and turn so much I needed some sheets that would hold up. I like that they come in all shades, and really can make or break my whole bed.

The last things I would add to this section is make sure you have a darkened room at appropriate times of the day. I personally use black-out curtains, and have to have the bedroom a little cooler. Fun fact, studies show that humans sleep better when the temperature is cooler at night because our body temperature drops slightly.

Be sure to check out my tips on How To Combat Jet Lag.

Unpack Immediately

I must try and ride the wave coming off the plane on auto mode, and promptly unpack. I typically will unpack immediately and at least throw all the clothes either in the wash or the hamper. That way at least it is in its proper place ready for the madness of dealing with the laundry on your day off.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I also tend to pick out an outfit for work the next day. I typically go with some dark colors, to help my inevitable dark circles look a little brighter. I will either wear a flowy dress or skirt as well, so I don’t have to suck in the gut I tend to get from eating so much while on vacation.

Exercise vs Resting

Each body is different, and so I would say – listen to what your body needs. I typical traveler can walk anywhere from six to ten miles per day. When you add that up over the course of your trip, you pretty much walk two marathons over a week long trip!

How to Recover from a Vacation

For those coming from a desk job, to suddenly walking more than you do in a month combined – give your body the rest it needs. Give yourself plenty of water, and when your ready, keep walking at least three miles a day to keep up the stamina for your next trip. Even 20 minutes per day at least four days a week is great.

For those who run five or six miles a day, well… you just pat yourself on the back and get straight back to that gym! No pain, no gain – work off those carbs you indulged in while on vacation.

Nutrition vs easy Fast Food

I know how easy it is to drive home jet lagged and just stop by the nearest fast-food joint to do ‘one less thing’. RESIST THE URGE TO DO IT! This is part of the reason I try to meal prep something the week before I leave. Then freeze part of it so I have something healthy and nutritious to come home to.

How to Recover from a Vacation

If nothing else, grab your InstaPot throw in BBQ and some Frozen chicken and you can have a hot meal in 20 minutes. Get creative! There are plenty of recipes on Pinterest that are still good after being frozen.

Self Care

Now this is the step that is an absolute must! It is hard for me to remember to take care of myself after going on a trip, feeling jet lagged, and needing my precious self care time. A time where I can soak the sore muscles from the flight in the tub, take a hot shower with a bath bomb thrown onto the floor for an infusion of wonderful smells. I also need cuddle time with my dog and to let the silence reset me while I rock in my recliner.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I feel like a part of me gets extremely fatigued by all the camera work, video work, and general mass amounts of ‘new input’ it receives while on vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I really love to travel the way I do, but after doing it every other week for two months – this step became increasingly important to me and the health of my friendships at home.

Take an Extra Day Off Work

The older I get the more I’m allowing myself to be ok with at least an extra day off of work. My paid time off of work is EXTREMELY precious to me, but I try and schedule my flights to give me at least one full day (or nearly full day) at home on my regularly scheduled day off, or I come home early on a Saturday instead of midnight on a Sunday. The extra cost is worth it to me, to come home earlier in the day.

How to Recover from a Vacation

Arrange for Grocery Pickup/Delivery

With Walmart, Amazon, Costco, Smiths and many other large grocery chains now offering ordering your groceries online – take advantage of this! For one thing, it helps you stay on budget which will help you save for your next trip. The second part, is that you can jump in the car, drive 5-10 minutes and just pick up the few things you will need to complete the work week and still get the rest you need.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I started doing this on my last trip, and was amazed at just how incredibly put together I felt the next morning – knowing all I had to do was go to work and come home to rest.

Purge All Your Thoughts

Writing down all the impact memories that either agitated you, or inspired you along your trip will do two things. One- It will help you release some of the emotions you may have collected along the way, and also ease the worry of not remembering your incredible journey. Two- Allows your mind to take a rest of trying to input so much information, learning, and experiences.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I also keep a small journal with me, or notepad where I take notes of buildings I visit, places to remember – costs of tickets etc…. See the things I do for my Culture Trekkers? 😉

Print Out The Photos

We live in a Digital world, and sometimes having the photos on the wall when you get that post-vacation blues can be a way to remind you of the amazing journeys you have been on.

How to Recover from a Vacation

You can make an arrangement of photos in frames, use string/cord to clip them to your wall with fairy lights. Take it a step further and make a travel book for your coffee table, or fireplace mantel that you can show friends when they come over. I think that creating something like this, along with inserting feelings/phrases like before would be

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