VIDEO: Great Lakes Roadtrip

2 Countries
5 Great Lakes
2,500 miles
10 Days

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25 safari pictures that will make you want to go to Africa right now

Chobe Hippos

Baboons in Chobe

Crocodile

 

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Impala

Chobe Elephants

Zebras in Okavango Delta

Giraffe in Okavango Delta

Crocodile eating Impala in Chobe

Cheetah

African Fish Eagle

Red Lechwe in Okavango Delta

 


Photos are a mix from South Africa (Kruger), Botswana (Okavango Delta/Chobe), and Kenya (Maasai Mara). All pictures are property of Paul Van Dyke and Adam Van Dyke. 

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Victoria Falls vs. Iguazu Falls

There’s something about waterfalls that captivates the human mind. Like gazing into a campfire, it’s easy to become mesmerized by a little falling water. Victoria Falls and Iguazu Falls have established themselves as two of the world’s most impressive natural wonders, leaving millions of visitors awestruck each year. Both falls offer incredible views, numerous activities, and plenty of wildlife. However, they each have several unique advantages and disadvantages.

Victoria Falls

Located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is a popular starting/ending destination for a southern Africa trip. With a maximum height of 355 feet (108m) and a width of over a mile (1,708m), Victoria Falls claims the title of “biggest single curtain of water” of any waterfall in the world.

Accessibility

Victoria Falls can be easily reached from the Zambian town of Livingstone or the Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls. Getting a short term visa to cross between the two countries for a day is relatively easy and direct flights from Johannesburg are less than two hours long. The falls are located in National Parks on both sides. While tourism and development are increasing (there are plenty of locals to sell you souvenirs at the park entrance), the area is nowhere near the concrete jungle of Niagara Falls.

Views

The biggest drawback of Victoria Falls is that the water essentially cascades into a large crevice. It isn’t possible to see the falls from the bottom of the gorge. In fact, you barely even see the bottom of the falls during the rainy season due to the powerful mist rising up from the gorge to a height of 1,300+ feet (400m+). The only way to really appreciate the vastness of the falls is by helicopter. However, despite the mist, seeing and hearing the roar of the falls from up close is an incredible experience.

Activities

Victoria Falls is a phenomenal place for adrenaline junkies. The bridge spanning the first gorge offers a 364 foot (111m) bungee jumping opportunity, although their safety record is a bit questionable. You can also take powerboat rides along the Upper Zambezi River through the rapids to Livingstone Island at the edge of the falls. Once at Livingstone Island, it’s possible during the low flow months to swim directly to the edge of the falls at the “Devil’s Pool” with nothing but a slippery rock wall separating you from the massive drop.


 

Mist rising from Victoria Falls

Mist rising from Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls from Zambian side

Victoria Falls from Zambian side

Mist at the start of the rainy season

Jumping into the Devil's Pool

Jumping into the Devil’s Pool

Devil's Pool in December

Devil’s Pool in December

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls is situated in a rainforest on the border of Argentina and Brazil. With a maximum height of 269 feet (82m), it is considerably smaller vertically than Victoria Falls. However, the falls span an area of 1.7 miles (2,700m) with numerous separate cascades instead of one large curtain.

Accessibility

Iguazu Falls can be reached via the smaller Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazu or the larger Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu. From either municipality, the entrance to the country’s respective national park is only a short bus ride away. Unfortunately, there are no short term visa options so a full $160 visa is required (for US citizens at least) even if you just want to see the other side for a few hours. Direct flights are available from major Argentinian and Brazilian cities but, like most South American flights, they are quite expensive. Many visitors opt for comfortable overnight buses from Buenos Aires or São Paulo (18+ hours). 80% of the falls lie on the Argentian side, with only 20% on the Brazilian side. However, both sides are well worth a visit.

Views

The views offered at Iguazu Falls are unmatched by any waterfall in the world. From the Argentinian side, you can see the falls up close from the top (just feet from the edge) and the bottom via an excellent network of trails in the national park. The views from the Brazilian side are incredible in their own right. You can see views of the falls from high above and then experience panoramic views with water falling on three sides of you (260 degrees) inside the “Devil’s Throat” (Portuguese: Garganta do Diabo). The trail networks do a good job of providing countless incredible viewpoints without being too obstructive or distracting from the natural beauty.

Activities

While Iguazu Falls can’t match Victoria Falls in terms of adrenaline activities, there is plenty to keep you busy. Odds of seeing wildlife around the falls on any given day are quite high. Coatis, Capybaras, Caimans, and other animals are common. One of the best parts of Iguazu Falls is that you can access the bottom of the falls via boat. For less than 20 USD you can catch a powerboat from the Argentinian side directly to the bottom of the falls. The boats are agile enough to navigate the rapids and get you right underneath some of the drops. Getting soaked to the bone is inevitable, which isn’t so bad considering it’s usually sweltering hot (swimming isn’t allowed).


 

Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side

Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side

Devil's Throat from the top (Argentinian side)

Devil’s Throat from the top (Argentinian side)

Devil’s Throat from the Brazilian side

The boat rides are a great way to see the falls up close

The boat rides are a great way to see the falls up close

The Brazilian side offers great "big picture" views

The Brazilian side offers great “big picture” views

 


Verdict

Both Victoria and Iguazu Falls are incredible, but each one caters to different desires. If you are looking for the biggest, baddest waterfall imaginable with a deafening roar and mist so strong that it’s raining upwards, go to Victoria Falls during the rainy season. Likewise, adrenaline junkies have more options at Africa’s contender. If you are a photographer looking to get the best possible waterfall pictures or just like being surrounded by natural beauty rather than above it, Iguazu is a better bet. Considering the fact that views are the best part of visiting waterfalls for the majority of people, I have to give the nod to Iguazu Falls, just because the viewing options are unparalleled.

 

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15 ways to reduce the risk of being robbed while traveling

Nobody likes to be pickpocketed or mugged. Unfortunately, travelers are easy targets for thieves. Here are some tips to help you avoid being a victim, and to minimize your losses if you do get robbed. The world isn’t a dark scary place, but following these simple tips can reduce the small risk and give you peace of mind.


1. Never travel with anything that you aren’t willing to lose.

2. Guys: Your back pockets don’t exist. Keep your wallet in your front left pocket.

3. Girls: Use a zippered purse that goes over your shoulder and let it rest forward of your hip, not behind. Bonus points for choosing thick material, such as leather, that can’t easily be slashed with a knife.

4. Separate your credit card and debit card. Never carry both. Accessing your money abroad becomes a serious problem if you lose both.

5. When going out, bring only cash and one form of ID. An easy trick is to have a money clip just for going out that is separate from the rest of your wallet valuables.

6. In crowded places (such as train stations), wear your backpack facing forward.

7. When standing in packed buses and subways, keep your hands in your pockets.

8. In semi-crowded areas that seem risky, let your thumbs graze your side pockets as your arms swing naturally while walking. This way you feel your phone/wallet/keys with every step and will immediately notice if something goes missing.

9. Get TSA approved locks for at least one compartment of your backpack (make sure your backpack has double zippers or you can’t use a lock!)

10. Hostel lockers. Use them.

11. Put your cash in your shoes after an ATM visit.

12. On planes and buses, always carry on your valuables (especially overnight buses with multiple stops!)

13. Act like you know what you are doing. Never stop in the middle of a plaza to look at a map. Move into a less obvious place and lean against a wall so nobody can sneak up behind you.

14. Don’t leave your electronics unattended in hostels. Leaving your laptop on your bed or in a common area to charge makes it easy for someone to swipe on their way to check out.

15. Lock your passport in your room. Many people refuse to let their passport out of their sight, and even carry it on a money belt at all times, but personally, I think the odds of someone smashing your lock with bolt cutters in your hostel room are much smaller than the odds of your passport slipping out of your pocket or you forgetting your money belt after taking a swim.

 

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20 Things to know before taking a Great Lakes roadtrip

Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

1. Since 2009, travelers of all nationalities will need a passport to travel between the USA and Canada.

2. If traveling during summer, book in advance. August is high season around the Great Lakes and nearly every campground close to the lakes will be full. The same goes for hotels/hostels in Chicago, Toronto, etc. Make reservations!

3. Gas prices vary considerably by state, but gas anywhere in Canada will be more expensive than the USA.

4. Camping is extremely popular around the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, that means it is expensive as well. Even basic tent sites can run 30-40 USD a night! However, this is still the way to go if traveling on a budget–especially if you can split the cost with a friend.

5. In general, most Americans agree that driving 10mph over the speed limit or less will be slow enough to avoid a run in with police. In Ontario, 15-20kph over is the equivalent standard.

6. The Great Lakes are always cold. If you plan on swimming in the crystal clear waters, bring a wetsuit or have a towel and a change of clothes ready. (You can check water temperatures around the lakes here)

7. Be sure to check the current USD/CAD exchange rate

8. Many towns around Lake Huron and Superior are tiny by most standards and therefore competition can be limited. Attraction prices (ex. kayak rentals) can be much higher than places with numerous options.

9. Almost all of the Great Lakes are on Eastern Time, with the exception of western parts of Lake Superior and the western shore of Lake Michigan. Map

10. Niagara Falls can be visited from either the US or Canada. The US side allows you to be up close to both of the falls, but offers limited views. The Canadian side is hundreds of feet from the falls, but offers spectacular views of both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls.

Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side

Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side

11. Be sure to bring plenty of cash for tolls.

12. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and is therefore generally the warmest in the summer, and the most frozen during the winter.

13. The Great Lakes technically have tides, but they are unnoticeable. The water levels never vary significantly during the short term.

14. Be mindful of the weather. Winds out of the wrong direction can lead to massive ocean-like waves that could cancel kayak tours and boat cruises. The wind blowing off the lake can also have a significant effect on the surrounding air temperature and snowfall amounts during winter.

15. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is commonly abbreviated as U.P. leading to the nickname “The yoop” and “Yoopers.”

16. The U.P. is famous for their meat pie variant, called the Pastie (pronounced pass-tee)

17. If you are looking for fresh local fish, try Whitefish. Lake Superior is full of them.

18. Be mindful of wildlife. Take precautions to avoid encounters with bears or other wildlife at your campsite or car.

19. There are many shipwrecks around the Great Lakes. With the proper cold water equipment, this is an excellent scuba diving area.

20. There are four National Lakeshores in the USA. Two are located on Lake Michigan (Indiana Dunes/Sleeping Bear Dunes) and two on Lake Superior (Pictured Rocks/Apostle Islands). They are all popular destinations and well worth a visit.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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VIDEO: Around the World in 100 Days

14 Countries
5 Continents
18 Flights
19 Hostels
40,000+ Miles

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The Greatest Lesson I Learned From Traveling

Colonia, Uruguay“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.”

-Saint Augustine


 

Traveling is a learning experience. You meet different people, see new things, and work through new challenges. Your mind is stretched and your beliefs are challenged. There is one lesson in particular that has stayed with me throughout my travels:

Nobody cares.

Outside of your little bubble in your little corner of planet Earth, nobody cares about your upbringing, your accomplishments, your social standing, or who you know…and that’s awesome.

We get so wrapped up in our own world, when the truth is that most of the things that occupy our thoughts are laughably insignificant. In college, students place a huge emphasis on which fraternity or sorority someone is in, which bars they frequent, the clothes they wear, and who they know. People actually form an opinion of someone based on these superficial habits and traits.

Think I’m just talking about high school or college students? This misguided thinking only intensifies as we get older. We get caught up in job titles, which college our kids are going to attend, or who has the newest car on the cul-de-sac.

It’s engrained in our minds. How many times have you watched a movie and become completely caught up in the characters and their world? With movies, we either snap out of it when the lights come on, or the strong emotions fade as we reenter our own reality. But we don’t regularly escape our bubble and see the bigger picture. Travel, especially solo travel, provides this dose of perspective.

Nobody in Germany cares about what sorority you are in; they might not even know what greek life is. Your new friend in India doesn’t care that you know Cam Newton. Even if you explain that he is a famous athlete, they don’t care about American football just like you probably don’t care about Indian cricket players. A farmer in Papua New Guinea doesn’t care that you developed an app that syncs Outlook with your car’s bluetooth system. That doesn’t help him sell more coffee beans. As you struggle to express the importance of the things that are valued by people you would interact with at home, you’ll experience a sense of frustration. They just don’t get it. Even if it’s a good friend that shares your interests, trying to explain the joy of “tailgating” won’t ever do the experience justice.

The end result of all of this not-caring, is that you become free. You’re liberated from the societal norms that define you without your permission, you’re freed from doing what is expected, and barriers break down–nobody is out of your league. The only thing that defines you is what you do and say in that moment. Everything else is irrelevant. Isn’t that the way it should be?

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