Bite Size Destination Throwback: New Zealand 2005

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

It’s been nearly 16 years and 45 countries ago since I visited New Zealand, yet it still retains its top billing in my mind as the all-time most beautiful place on Earth. In the spirit of a throwback, I thought a stroll down Memory Lane, New Zealand would evoke some fond mental images of natural beauty in its most compelling state. Turns out I was right.

Destination: New Zealand (South Island circle tour)

Year: 2005

What Brought Me There

The Pancake Rocks, New Zealand

What Brought Me There

In the 2000’s New Zealand was well on its way to becoming a hip and popular destination thanks to its spectacular scenery being broadcast to worldwide audiences via several blockbuster movies of the time. But even before that I had heard rumor of incredible, natural landscapes that had even well-traveled adventurers gushing like schoolchildren. Somehow I sensed that this would be “my kind of place.”

Using airline miles accrued through a combination of credit card rewards and actual travel, my wife and I joined my parents on an ambitious 3.5 week journey Down Under, visiting Australia and New Zealand’s South Island. While I enjoyed both destinations immensely, it became readily evident that it would take more than just the 1 week allotted to appreciate the ubiquitous splendor of New Zealand’s incomparable scenery.

What I Loved

Hiking Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

Our whirlwind tour started in Christchurch, took in an afternoon at majestic Mount Cook, then lingered a few days in Queenstown before working our way up the wild West Coast and coming round to Christchurch again. The highlight was Milford Sound, in Fiordland National Park. Despite the many travels I’ve had since then, I still consider it to be the most beautiful place on Earth.

Another personal favorite was a hike on the Fox Glacier, mostly because of the incredible sense of scale when watching tiny dots clambering their way across a thousand-foot deep block of blue and white ice. In fact there several occasions when the sheer enormity of the landscape I was contemplating literally took my breath away.

What I Would Do If I Went Back

Even though by most accounts the South Island is where the most jaw-dropping scenery resides, there are several places on the North Island that I would like to see firsthand: The geothermal features of Rotorua, Tongariro National Park, and most of all, taking a blackwater rafting trip down an underground river in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Yes, you heard right – glowworms.

Have you been to New Zealand? Share your favorite moment in the comments below. And if you want a great New Zealand souvenir, check out the New Zealand Rugged Country Code Tee in the Custom Travel Art Shop.

New Zealand Rugged Country Code Tee by Custom Travel Art

Bite Size Destination Throwback: Brazil 2013

Cove on Ilha Grande, Brazil

Sometimes a trip is all about relaxation. While the majority of my adventures are a little too active to fall under that category, there are a precious few whose primary purpose was simply just to get away and decompress. My 2013 jitney to Brazil was just such a trip, and I’m happy to share and relive the highlights with you now.

Destination: Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and the Costa Verde)

Year: 2013

What Brought Me There

Paraty Bay, Brazil

The winter of 2013 was a rough one for my wife and I, culminating in my father-in-law’s passing away. Between the stress, loss and freezing cold, never was it more apparent that we needed a break. Fortunately, we were able to use airline miles to book flights to Rio, which was the perfect gateway for the relaxation that lay ahead.

We started with a brief two days touring the city’s main sites such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the amazing beaches, before moving on to the gorgeous, pedestrian-only island of Ilha Grande. Next it was the too-charming-for-words cultural town of Paraty, situated in a paradisaical nook of the Costa Verde coastline for a few days until the inevitable return to Rio, home and a New York winter.

What I Loved

Streets of Paraty, Brazil

I’m not a big fan of city living, but my time in Rio, with access to such incredible beaches, made it more appealing. But even better were the lush mountain landscapes that stretch down the coast toward Sao Paolo state, with emerald green bays, abundant waterfalls and beaches galore.

On Ilha Grande I loved the sandy streets, dining on the beach by candlelight and the shady lane through the jungle leading up to our pousada. In Paraty, the whitewashed buildings trimmed with bright colors and festive lighting made every night feel like a fiesta. The comfortable accommodations caught between the mountains and the sea was the perfect place to be for the aforementioned relaxation we had come for.

What I Would Do If I Went Back

My travels in Brazil were limited to one tiny region. That is way too little time and range for a country so richly blessed with so many natural and cultural treasures.

If I were to return, I’d love to expand my explorations, from seeing Iguazu Falls in the South, the picturesque adventure town of Bonito on the border with Bolivia, and most of all the remote Atlantic island of Fernando de Noronha.

Have you been to Brazil? Share your favorite moment in the comments below. And if you want a great Brazil souvenir, check out the Brazil Rugged Country Code Tee in the Custom Travel Art Shop.

Brazil Rugged Country Code Tee

Bite-Size Destination Throwback: Zimbabwe 2014

Sometimes it’s a good idea to look back and reflect, unless of course, you’re driving. When it comes to travel, those glances into the rear-view mirror can do more than show you where you’ve been, they can bring back the feelings you experienced while you were there. In this first installment of my Bite-Size Destination Throwback series, I’ll be spotlighting my epic trip to Zimbabwe and Southern Africa in the summer of 2014. In it, I will follow a simple formula: what brought me there, what I loved, and what I would do if I ever went back. So let’s get started.

Destination: Zimbabwe

Year: 2014

What Brought Me There

Mukuvisi Woodlands in the middle of Harare

The primary reason for my visit was to attend an international convention being held in the capital, Harare. But there was no way I was going to miss out on seeing one of the seven natural wonders of the world (Victoria Falls) while I was in the ‘neighborhood’. As my plans solidified, after a week in and around Harare for the convention, we were off to Victoria Falls with excursions into Zambia, Botswana, and even just barely into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.

What I Loved

The people of Zimbabwe are the real national treasure
The people of Zimbabwe are the real national treasure

Foremost among the things I loved were the people. Despite abject poverty, political insecurity and little prospect for improvement, the Zimbabweans I met were welcoming, courteous and even outright generous. I’d be willing to say that most were actually happier than your average person in a developed land, which is saying a lot in view of the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

I also loved the African landscape, with its abundant wildlife, rugged interior and breathtaking sunsets evening after evening. Africa has an entrancing effect on me, and memories of sipping a sundowner while the sun sinks in a blazing orange sky to a symphony of insects while the stately silhouettes of elephants graze in the distance is truly a mental ‘happy place’ for me.

What I Would Do If I Went Back

Sunset on the Zambezi - No Filter Needed

My limited timeframe forced me to fly directly to Victoria Falls from Harare. Given another visit to the country, I would rather take the rails down to the Motobo Hills to enjoy the unique landscape of stacked boulders that characterize this corner of the world. I would then make my way back toward Victoria Falls via Hwange National Park, with its healthy elephant populations in full display.

Have you been to Zimbabwe? Share your thoughts by commenting. And if you want a great Zimbabwe souvenir, check out the Zimbabwe Rugged Country Code Collection unisex t-shirt by clicking here.

Zimbabwe rugged country code tee

7 Must Have T-Shirts for the Savvy Traveler

No trip is truly complete unless you’ve got the souvenir tee to prove it. My own personal travel t-shirt collection spans back decades, with beloved (and faded) iterations brought back from Alaska, South Africa and Japan. It is with this devout sense of love for the field of souvenir t-shirts acquired on travels abroad that I’ve compiled this list of 7 must have t-shirt designs for the savvy traveler. Perhaps by the end of the list, one of these might be your own.

For each t-shirt I’ll first explain why it should be on your list of gift ideas for  travelers, but also why I personally feel that they’re worthy of consideration for those who live, eat and breathe travel.

1) The Custom Airport Code Tee

If an unlikely jumble of three seemingly random letters gets your travel adrenaline pumping, then you’ll love the Custom Airport Code Tee. The process is really simple: you provide the departure and arrival codes of your choice – such as those from your favorite trip of all time – and the finished product will be a custom shirt in a travel aesthetic where you can both show off and relive that memorable trip.

I like this design because of its simplicity and the personalization factor. In just 6 letters you can tell the story of your favorite trip, and literally carry that experience around with you. Order your own Custom Airport Code Tee here.

Make your own Custom Airport Code Tee
Airport Code Tee

2) The Bucket List in Progress Tee

Imagine having a souvenir t-shirt from not just one, but 18 of your favorite destinations. In effect, that’s what’s on offer with the Bucket List in Progress Tee from Custom Travel Art. Again, you can customize your own shirt by choosing 18 bucket list destinations out of a list of 42 of the world’s most amazing places. Each destination has a gorgeous hand-drawn graphic surrounded by the destination name and coordinates. Once selected, you can then have them “check off” the destinations visited in the boxes provided. That way you can both showcase your extensive travels and inspire yourself to visit the ones left unchecked. 

And if bucket lists are your thing, the same graphic style is available as print or canvas, both in the form of a world map (28 destinations) or a chart (42 destinations). In either case there’s a provided space for you to mark off once you’ve been there, creating a global game that will likely keep you occupied for the rest of your natural life.

What I like about this design – again, besides the personalization factor – are the beautiful graphics and the implied statement that traveling is a never-ending activity; one in which there’s always more to see, even if you’ve been just about everywhere. To customize your own Bucket List in Progress Tee, click here.

Bucket List in Progress Tee
Bucket List in Progress Tee

3) The Rugged Country Code Collection Tee

Even among the ranks of dedicated travelers, it’s the adventure traveler who often owns the advantage when it comes to bragging rights. Nothing conjures more ‘street cred’ than those who’ve been way, way off the beaten path to destinations that still carry an aura of mystery. The Rugged Country Code collection pays homage to those adventure travelers, with a simple design consisting of a scratched up country code sticker such as can be found on the back of any 4 x 4 heading into the bush, along with the silhouette of the country itself.

I personally love this “rugged”, understated design because in just two letters it tells the world that you’re not just a tourist, but a traveler, adventurer and explorer. If that’s how you view yourself (& I know I do) then pick up one of these inexpensive tees, which despite the name, are ironically quite comfortable. See the entire list of available countries here.

Rugged Country Code Tee
Rugged Country Code Collection

4) The Passport Stamp Collection Tee

One of my favorite travel souvenirs is one that comes for free – a stamp in my passport! Something about that combination of bureaucracy with a touch of artistry provides a vintage travel aesthetic that’s hard to resist for any seasoned traveler. The Passport Stamp Collection Tee features 8 passport “stamps” from each continent and one region, indicating that the wearer is on a quest to stamp them all. 

I like this t-shirt design not only because I’m enamored with having my own passport stamped, but because there’s lots of people who can relate to that same aspiration, regardless of how widely they have or have not traveled. Choose a Passport Stamp Collection Tee in your size and color here.

Passport Stamp Collection Tee
Passport Stamp Collection

5) The Been There Done That Tee

Sometimes the best travel tees aren’t tied to a destination at all. As a case in point, the Been There Done That Tee isn’t destination specific, but the lettering, displayed in a vintage departure board design, harkens back to the early days of travel and the travel aesthetic says more than just the obvious statement.

What I like about this design – beside the very clear message that its wearer is a traveler with some experience – is that 1950’s airport departures hall motif that truly suggests that you’ve been there, and done that. Get your Been There Done That Tee here.

Been There Done That Tee

6) The Wandering Senior Tee

One of the few perks of growing older, is the right to start razzing other people about how old they’re getting. The Wandering Senior Tee is a gag gift that the traveling senior can wear with pride. The witty statement that the wearer is a senior that tends to “wander off” is complemented by a packed suitcase studded with stickers from around the globe.

I love it when art and humor combine, and while I don’t yet consider myself in the wandering senior category (though I’m well on my way) I have purchased this t-shirt as a gift for a senior who has the age, travel experience and sense of humor to appreciate it. Buy one for the traveling senior in your life here.

Wandering Senior Tee

7) The Senior Moments Tee

Continuing the theme of funny gifts for seniors, this t-shirt offers a tongue in cheek rendition of the term ‘senior moment’. With beautiful depictions of some of the world’s most famous destinations, this is a great way for a senior to display their travel experience with a touch of pride and humor.

Again, while not yet in that category myself, I would seriously respect any person of ‘a certain age’ who has both the experience and life and travel to pull a shirt like that off. See the Senior Moments Tee details here.

Senior Moments Tee
Senior Moments Tee

 As was mentioned before, there are souvenir t-shirts aplenty. Hopefully this rundown has given you some inspiring ideas on how to find the right t-shirt for you or the traveler in your life.