Three International Celebrations to Check Out this Fall

There is no better time to travel than fall. The cool weather makes it a perfect time to attend an outdoor celebration or festival. Fortunately, there are many attractive options to explore all around the globe. Here are three international celebrations you should check out.

1. Epcot Food & Wine Festival
Date: Ends November 23rd
Location: Orlando, Florida 

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is an 87 day long celebration of global cuisine. It’s hosted by Walt Disney World and features more than 30 marketplaces that hand out dishes and beverages from places all over the world. The festival pairs food with live music during their “Eat to the Beat” concert series and also offers multiple culinary demonstrations, seminars and presentations.
(For more detailed information on planning a trip to the Epcot Festival, click here.) 

2. Diwali (Festival of Lights)

Date: October 27-30, with the main celebration on October 27th
Location: India, Singapore and other southern countries of Asia

The Diwali Festival is an annual, traditional holiday that celebrates the victory of light (which symbolizes “good”) conquering darkness (or “evil”). Participants clean and decorate their homes and work spaces, and wear their finest clothes in reverence. Diyas (clay lamps) and candles are lit during nighttime, on the day of the new moon. Because this celebration takes place on the darkest day of the month, the display of lights and fireworks that illuminate the night create a breathtaking sight. The festivities sometimes include feasts (especially sweets), gift exchanges, and prayer offerings. Diwali is a cultural and spiritual festival in many faiths but is an official holiday in several countries and can be respectfully observed by those who wish to learn more. 
(For more information, click here.)  

3. Thai International Cultural Lantern Festival

Date: November 11-12
Location: Malin Park Chiang Mai

The Thai International Cultural Lantern Festival, also known as Loy Krathong, is the second largest in Thailand. It is celebrated by expressing optimism for the year by ushering in good luck through a special practice. The locals take boat-shaped banana leaves that are decorated with flowers, place a candle inside and send their bad luck floating away in the river. Under the light of the full moon, wearing costumes that are traditional to the region, participants have the chance to experience the beauty of this ceremonial lantern release. Malin Park also boasts; a performance stage where dancers will perform every 30 minutes, free local food, an art zone and a floating market with creative shops. To top off all the fun, Buddhist monks will be on site to lead chanting, meditation and prayer before the peaceful release of the lanterns. 
For more info on tickets, maps, highlights, and the schedule, click here.

From Florida to India, there are exciting ways to enjoy the fall season all around the world.  Experiencing new foods, learning about other cultures, and marveling at the bright lights are all ways to indulge in the festivities during this time of year. Start planning now so you don’t miss out!

Brad and Julie DuncanThree International Celebrations to Check Out this Fall
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Three Adventurous Wellness Retreats You Need to Try

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Pursuing adventure has a certain way of reinvigorating our lives and putting things in perspective. It’s freeing to identify our fears, only to stare them down and challenge them. So much so, that people have built whole retreats around doing just that. These fear conquering getaways have been dubbed adventure retreats: designed to test the body, strengthen the mind and renew the soul. Here are three examples of different wellness retreats you need to try:

Run Mindful

This running retreat allows participants to push their cardio to its limits while enjoying all the beauty that nature has to offer. Organizers carefully choose both challenging and gorgeous trails that physically and mentally test your level of endurance, fitness and determination. These retreats don’t only emphasize running but focus on bettering your whole self. You’ll eat healthy foods that will nourish, support, and replenish your muscles. You’ll learn the importance of mindfulness and meditating while running. Lastly, you’ll have a chance to connect with other runners like yourself, giving you a chance to build your network of like-minded individuals.

Outdoor Survival Training & Yoga Getaway

This adventure retreat mixes outdoor theory and application with the calming nature of yoga and meditation. It was designed to be enjoyed outside in the beautiful setting of the Forest of Dean in Glouchester, UK. You will be faced with challenges on both land and in water, and will be assessed on your ability to lead and survive as a team member. Outdoor rescue training, emergency scenarios, rappelling, situational awareness, and basic survival skills are also built into the retreat. At the end of each day, you’ll have a chance to center your mind and body with yoga and stretching. After three days in the forest, the retreat moves indoors and wraps up with two days of massages, dinners, touring, classes, and socializing.

River Soul Journey

River Soul Journeys are adventure retreats along Idaho’s rivers, led by skilled rafting guides. Along the way, participants have an opportunity to fly-fish, hike, journal, and learn about local wildlife. You’ll have a chance to unplug, practice self-discovery and awareness, and tap into the healing arts yoga and meditation. River Soul Journey is about much more than the adrenaline rush that comes with rafting, it’s meant to be a deeper spiritual exploration to connect with what it means to truly be present, alive, and balanced. You can expect a health mix of journaling, yoga therapy, hiking, camping and plenty of time in the water. 

Bonus: Women-Specific Adventure Retreats

Increasingly, women-only adventure retreats are gaining in popularity. Many speak to the wellness aspect, emphasizing staying in tip-top shape, but doing so by traveling to some of the most beautiful destinations on the planet. Others stick to driving home the point of adventure and nothing more. The last group of women-only travel adventurists seems to highlight lifelong sisterhood. Whatever the selling point, it’s working. More and more women are jumping on board, hopping on flights (and jumping off planes), all in the name of adventure and unity. Here are a few women-only travel groups to check out:

Adventure retreats open up a completely new avenue for travel and vacations. This year, instead of taking a week for your typical trip to a resort, why not take one for your mind, body and soul? There are countless selections available, covering an array of sports and adventures, just waiting to be explored! These three options are just the beginning, so do your research and find the perfect adventure retreat for you. 

Brad and Julie DuncanThree Adventurous Wellness Retreats You Need to Try
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Three Travel Tips to Take Better Pictures on Your Next Trip

We’ve all returned home from an amazing trip, looking forward to posting pictures on Facebook or Instagram, only to discover they aren’t “post-worthy.” No one wants to show off a dull sunset, scene-ruining photobombs, or wayward thumbs that accidentally find themselves in front of the camera’s lens. So how can you avoid these common mistakes? Here are three travel tips on how to take better pictures on your next vacation.

1. Maximize What You’ve Got

Most tourists travel light, bringing nothing more than their cell phones, and that’s perfectly fine. Many professional photographers are quick to admit that it’s not the camera, but technique that creates the best results. So if all you’ve got is your phone, don’t count yourself out.

  • Cell Phone Photography
    Start with the basics. We unintentionally smudge both the front and back lens through normal use of our phones. So before you take a picture, pause to wipe off your camera’s lens. Now that your lens in clean, it’s time to focus on your screen. Go into the camera app’s settings and turn on the grid feature to help you better frame your scene. Last, use the advanced features to your benefit. Modern smartphones are packed with photo features. Play around with your settings, or head over to YouTube for a tutorial on all your phone has to offer.  

2. Plan Ahead

The second way to become an enviable vacation photographer is to plan ahead. There are many factors that go into bringing your photos to life. Most can be controlled with a little planning. 

  • Time of Day
    First, consider your location of choice. Getting the perfect shot, in popular area, during peak visitation hours is extremely difficult. But if you show up early in the morning, or later at night, your chances of success increase exponentially. Also remember to be mindful of nature. Lighting is one of the biggest factors that play into how a photo turns out. If it’s too bright, the photo will be overexposed. If it’s too dark, you won’t be able to clearly see your subject. So before you plan your trip itinerary, make a list of the locations that you want to photograph and schedule your visits accordingly. 
  • Be Patient
    Even in the best of conditions, it may still come down to being patient (with yourself, your scenery and your camera). Sometimes you’ll need to take the same picture more than once, at different angles, in various light, after adjusting your camera settings multiple times. Don’t let the process deter you from getting your shot! Know that everyone has faced the same challenge and what matters most is the end result. If you get frustrated, take a deep breath, or pass your camera off to someone else for a while, but don’t give up! 

Upgrade

One of the most effective ways to take better vacation pictures is to make a few upgrades! 

  • Knowledge
    Upgrade your skills! Although things can get technical pretty quickly, investing a bit of time into mastering aperture, shutter speed and ISO can quickly improve your photography skills. Fortunately, there are many videos, articles and books that offer detailed explanations of each. Before your next trip, set aside time to study and practice so you’ll be ready to jump into action with no hesitation.
  • Equipment 
    The last, and most expensive step, is to upgrade your equipment. Cameras and lenses today are manufactured to conveniently accommodate the trickiest of conditions. Even the accompanying accessories can make all the difference in capturing impressive vacation pictures. If you are open to making a financial investment, it’s worth the effort to research tripods, DSLR and mirrorless cameras, lenses, and even editing software like Lightroom or Paintshop Pro

Pictures are a physical reminder of the memories we’ve created over the years. Having the ability to capture perfect photos with your loved ones is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Why not work on living up to your full vacation-photographer potential? Next time you are ready to plan some time away, remember these three photography tips to ensure you’ll return home with memories worth posting. 

Brad and Julie DuncanThree Travel Tips to Take Better Pictures on Your Next Trip
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4 Stress-Relieving Adventures to Pursue this Summer

You’ve worked hard for the first half of the year, and now it’s summer. What a perfect reward! For most, the summer months are enjoyable because of the warmer weather, water activities, freedom to wear lighter, more comfortable clothes, and flexibility to vacation. However, the fun isn’t limited to just those few perks. Here are four stress-relieving adventures to pursue this summer. 

Book a Quick Staycation

The best things about vacations are obvious. Unwinding with your friends and family, touring new areas, and taking in unseen sights are all great reasons to excitedly book a flight. But the downside of traveling is equally obvious: travel expenses, securing vacation days away from work, and finding the time to plan a trip. If you want to avoid the high airfare and extended rental car fees, try booking a staycation! Keep it local and schedule some fun at a resort near home. Staycations are flexible, can save money, and are ideal for those who are in need of rest and relaxation but are short on time. So, if you want to eliminate a bit of travel stress, a staycation is your best bet. 

Pursue a Passion Project 

When we think of summer learning, children are usually the first group who come to mind. Fortunately, summer classes are for adults too! With all of the stress of life, investing time in yourself can fall to the bottom of your priority list. So push the reset button this summer and take some time to pursue a passion. There are many great opportunities for adults to experience structured sessions to enjoy a hobby or learn a new skill. If you’re having trouble choosing a subject, consider what you find enjoyable, calming, or entertaining. To find classes, a little online research goes a long way, but if you want to be more hands-on in your pursuit, visit or call your local library, art museum, or community/recreation center to learn which classes are available. Not only will pursuing a passion help fill your time, but it will also provide a sense of productivity at the end of your summer. 

Tackle a Fear

For those willing to exercise their courage and strive to be better, this one’s for you. Take some time for self reflection to identify the fear you feel most ready to pursue. Maybe you want to finally be able to speak in front of a crowd, squash your fear of heights or dance like nobody’s watching. Whatever the case may be, make it your goal to tackle your fear this summer, so you’re able to take on the rest of the year with your head held high and your fear proudly conquered. 

Attend a Festival 

Summer can be a great time to be outdoors while being a part of an exciting event. Throughout the summer you will be able to find different types of festivals to enjoy with friends, your spouse, or even your little ones. Kid-friendly festivals centered around art or animals are popular throughout the summer, making it possible for your kids to join in on the fun. Occasionally, family festival tickets are offered at a discount at your local grocery store. If you decide to leave the kids at home, adult events can include full weekends of music and high-end culinary and wine festivals. 

There are endless ways to make the most of the summer time. Don’t let the long days full of sunshine and good weather go to waste. Use these four stress-relieving activities to take a much needed break and make new memories.

Brad and Julie Duncan4 Stress-Relieving Adventures to Pursue this Summer
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Quick Tips To Effectively Work While Traveling

For some people, traveling does not really signal a time-off from the daily grind. Instead, the opportunity to visit new places comes with career related tasks and responsibilities. Juggling traveling and working is not unusual nowadays, as technology has made it possible to have remote jobs too. The idea of not being confined to a physical office in order to grow a career feels empowering. At the same time, knowing you don’t have the full liberty of just lazing around while in a new destination can be a burden. So how do you balance your schedule and personal time so you get the most out of your trip and still excel at your work? Keeping the following tips in mind can help you experience the best of both worlds:

Complete pending tasks.
One of the best things you can do to make your work trip as stress-free as possible is to finish all uncompleted tasks prior to your trip. Save yourself the burden of having pending work hanging over your head while traveling. To enjoy a lighter workload while out and about, you may want to devote extra effort to finish the work you can do in advance. Without pending tasks in the way, you can easily lay out an effective work plan and schedule.

Pack-up with necessary tools and gadgets.
If you are serious about getting jobs done while on the road, you have to be ready with tools that will help accomplish your tasks. Make a list of gadgets and devices you will need and be sure to pack them all in your bag. Some of the essentials are mobile phones, laptops and chargers. You may also want to bring extra headphones, portable keyboards and flash drives. It also pays to research if the gadgets and tools you will bring will work in your destination (or the configuration steps you may need to do for it to work).  Those who are concerned about security and privacy and do not want to connect to public Wi-Fi can set up a virtual private network (VPN). You can also prevent unexpected laptop troubles by deleting unnecessary files.

Have a contingency plan.
The perennial goal is to have a smooth, productive trip but you are out on an adventure where anything can happen. For your peace of mind, it pays to have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. It can be as simple as saving your files in a hard drive in case your laptop refuses to boot up. A hard drive copy of the contact details of people at home or in the workplace may also come in handy, in case your cell phone starts acting up. You may also want to read up some information about the local emergency contact numbers in your current destination.

Study your destination.
Every traveler knows the importance of doing some research before a trip. Gaining valuable information about your local destination is doubly important when you have official work to do as well.  You do not want bad weather conditions to ruin your trip, so check out the best time of the year to visit a place. Most probably, you will need a Wi-Fi connection and a working space, so make sure to inquire whether the place you plan to stay offer those amenities. Moreover, reading about travel tips and recommendations will give insights about the best places to go to

Make good use of travel time.
Travel time can be long and direct flights are not always possible. Make good use of stop-overs and other free time while traveling, by finding a good spot where you can plug in your devices and do some quick work. You need sufficient rest to function at your best, so you may also want to steal some sleep while in transit. With proper rest, you will be more than ready to tackle work once you arrive at your destination.

Today, it is possible and easier to earn money while exploring amazing places. Though this great privilege continues to be just a dream for many. If you are one of the few who are lucky enough to get paid while traveling, savor the great chance to quench your wanderlust and advance your career at the same time!  

Brad and Julie DuncanQuick Tips To Effectively Work While Traveling
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Travel Like a Millennial

Travel has changed. With the increase of technology and a shift in financial habits, the annual summer vacation of time’s past has been replaced. As millennials entered adulthood they rocked the travel industry with their rebellious nature and demand for new options. They slowly changed what it meant to vacation by ditching the kinds of trips that filled their childhood scrapbooks. While there is no right or wrong way to vacation, there are stark contrasts between traditional and modern travel behavior. Here are three ways to travel like a millennial.

Frequent

The newest generation of young adults travels frequently. Just a few decades ago, many travelers planned annual vacations that centered around time-off from school. Holidays, winter, spring and summer breaks have long been the go-to times to explore the world. In recent years, ‘home state explorations’, day trips and staycations have seen an uptick in popularity. Millennials prefer to save money by taking smaller, shorter trips. Doing so also allows them to travel more freely. Without an extensive travel budget to save for or the need to book far in advance, it’s much easier to partake in last minute adventures or even travel when funds are low.  

Travel Companions

Traditionally, vacations were a family event. But with many of today’s young people deciding to marry and have children later in life than their parents, the tide has changed. While millennials do still value traveling with family, they are more willing than past generations to travel alone or with good friends. Friend groups from all walks of life reconnect through annual girls trips, jet out-of-state to celebrate upcoming nuptials or even to meet up with friends they’ve made online. If their friends lack the time or funds, millennials are willing to venture out alone. According to SoloTraveler’s statistics, 96% of people aged 25-34 are likely to travel independently. With overwhelming data like that it’s easy to see why traveling trends have headed in a new direction.

App Dependent

In 2008, technology tycoon Apple launched its App Store to accompany its latest iPhone, changing the world as we knew it. Like almost every other aspect of life, apps quickly began to affect travel. To start, instead of needing to hire a travel agent or pour hours into researching the perfect vacation package, travelers gained the ability to book trips directly from their phones. The introduction of apps also ushered in the popularity of social media. Many millennials spend a significant amount of time scrolling through feeds that are filled with their friends’ and family’s vacation pictures, sparking their desire to take a similar trip of their own. Lastly, apps opened the door to ride sharing services, review sites and coupon applications that make both planning and enjoying vacations (nearly) effortless. Today, travel and technology go hand-in-hand.

It’s no secret that millennials are known for their departure from tradition. They travel alone, use their phones to hunt down deals and are passionate about exploring without restrictions. They love being on the go and documenting every second of their adventures. Millennials have carved their own lane into the travel world and the industry has taken note. Before setting off on your next trip, keep these three millennial travel trends in mind. You just may discover that doing things differently isn’t a bad thing.

Brad and Julie DuncanTravel Like a Millennial
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