Travel Goals Master Checklist: Part II – South America and Antarctica

In this second installment of the Travel Goals Master Checklist series of blog posts, I’ll cover the destinations from South America and Antarctica that made the list, along with the reasons why. If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to read Part I – North America & the Caribbean, which will give you more of the backstory. But if your attention span is as tiny as mine, suffice to say that the destinations and imagery to follow are taken from the list of 72 world-class bucket list destinations that make up my signature design: The Travel Goals Master Checklist, available exclusively from my online and Etsy stores.

Angel Falls, Venezuela


As the tallest waterfall on the planet, I couldn’t leave off Venezuela’s Angel Falls from the list, even if the country has been so unstable in recent years that visiting it is a no-go. It’s hard to pity myself for not being able to visit when the residents of Venezuela are suffering so badly despite having more natural wealth and resources than most countries combined. But if the political disaster ever gets reversed, don’t be surprised to see a check mark next to this remote but worthy entrant on my own copy of the travel goals master checklist.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador


The Galapagos, located off the western coast of Ecuador, are a unique ecosystem with many natural wonders. Though a trip here involves a hefty price tag and the environment is under threat, there’s no question that it is a world-class destination, and therefore deserves a place on the list.

Amazon Rain Forest, Ecuador/Brazil


Making up the bulk of the South American continent, the Amazon basin and its namesake rainforest spans across many national borders. The flooded jungle and myriad tributaries are still full of mystery, and you never know what you’re going to come across with every bend of the river. This massive natural feature is a world treasure and easy winner of a place on the list.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil


Occupying a spot on my own bucket list, the remote Atlantic island of Fernando de Norohna is an island enthusiast’s dream. From its pristine reefs, a barely touched landscape, and one of the world’s best beaches, this little-known destination has found its way onto the master checklist ahead of locations with greater star power.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil



Of the 72 destinations on the full list, only a dozen of them are cities. Of these, only one is found in South America, but there’s no question that Rio de Janeiro, with its stunning harbor, iconic landmarks and festive vibe, is the city to see on the continent. Rio checks all the boxes for an elite world-class destination, so it was a no-brainer to include it on the list while trying to capture the dazzling energy superimposed over the city’s dramatic natural setting in the artwork.


Machu Picchu, Peru


Few images of South America are as recognizable as the ruins of Machu Picchu, perched high up in the Peruvian Andes. Though bad weather thwarted my own attempt to see it firsthand, the entire land of the Incas – from the Sacred Valley to the capital of Cuzco – is a breathtaking panorama and feather in any world traveler’s cap.


Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


This massive salt pan is the largest on Earth, though the desolate landscape would seem more at home on the moon. This is a major tourist draw for visitors to landlocked Bolivia, and if I ever get the chance, I can’t wait to take in the stark beauty of this immense (over 3,900 square miles) natural attraction.


Iguazu Falls, Argentina


As one of the Top 3 waterfalls in the world, Iguazu Falls, separating Argentina from Chile in a raging collection of frothing cataracts, was an absolute must-have on the travel goal master checklist. I haven’t personally been there yet, and it’s the kind of place you have to go out of your way to see, but by all accounts this is a breathtaking natural wonder that earns its spot in the top 72.

Torres del Paine, Chile


Though I’ve been to Chilean Patagonia, I didn’t have time to visit this iconic mountain destination in the lower reaches of the South American continent. But from photos I’ve seen, it is definitely a landmark worthy of inclusion on the travel goals master checklist, and well-encapsulates the alpine scenery that typifies the region.

Gerlache Strait, Antarctica


This narrow channel of water between the Antarctic Peninsula and a series of icy coastal islands is a common feature on Antarctic cruises, and therefore more “accessible” than other spots on this exceedingly difficult to visit continent. My fondest memories were of icebergs hued in shades of electric blue, and the antics of penguins who used them as their personal jungle gym, so coming up with the artwork was a labor of love.

How Many Have You Visited?

Order your own Travel Goals Master Checklist today!

So far I’ve covered 24 out of the 72 destinations on the master checklist. How many can you check off? Even if that number is zero, the beauty of the checklist is that it inspires a person to new adventures and specific travel goals. If you’ve enjoyed the artwork and want a Travel Goals Master Checklist to display in your home or office, please visit my Custom Travel Art store, or my Etsy store to order a copy for yourself or the traveler in your life.

Stay tuned for Part III . . .


Have you been to any of these destinations? Or do you have a favorite in South America and Antarctica that you feel should have made the list? Share it with your fellow travel lovers by leaving a comment!

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

2015 Trip Accomplice Year in Review

Well, another year has passed. Another chance to look back and see what we’ve done with the time available to us. Here at the Trip Accomplice blog, I’ve used that time to produce 32 posts dedicated to locations in 8 countries on four continents, along with quite a bit of information about various travel tips and philosophies. In case you’ve missed anything, here’s a recap of the year’s journeys….

The Book is Here!

ebook You can Keep Your AdventureFor me, the highlight of the year was the release of my witty travel guide You Can Keep Your Adventure, Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper. If you haven’t yet bought a copy, c’mon already…where else can you tour the world for under five bucks – and have some laughs along the way? It’s available on all major online book retailers. Click here for links.

The U.S. of A

DSC_2707
I can’t shake the feeling I’m not remembering something. That’s right: the basement!
More than any other period in this blog’s history, I focused on quite a number of U.S. destinations. Having moved from Long Island to Texas early in the year, I paid tribute to my former hometown in the post Reflections on Shirley (And Don’t Call Us Shirley) before a series of posts about my adopted state. In Houston as the Center of the Spacefaring Universe I talked about the main attraction (NASA’s Johnson Space Center) of my new home base. I also shared insights on nearby locales in The Alamo Has No Basement & Other San Antonio Facts and my most viewed post thus far Dude, Where’s My Ranch? Review of Rancho Cortez, Bandera, Texas. I paid tribute to the Windy City & 1980’s in the post (Insert Your Name Here)’s Day Off in Chicago. I also reviewed the somewhat out-of-the-way destinations of Southwestern Arkansas in Crater of Diamonds State Park – a.k.a. the Arkansas State Lottery and Hot Springs Will Melt Your Heart (& Your Fingers).

South America

Sugarloaf
A cable car ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is a rite of passage and great place for city views
Though I had already covered some of my favorite places in Brazil in earlier posts, I finally got around to covering my favorite foreign city in the post In Rio de Janeiro Save the Drama for the Scenery. I also covered the intangibly cool Argentinian capital  in the post If You Suffer from Low Self-Esteem, Don’t Go to Buenos Aires.

Asia

Agra Fort Entrance
Seeing Red at Agra Fort
I didn’t focus a lot of direct attention on Asian countries this past year, though I did mention them in other context. My sole post was about the other attraction in the Indian city of Agra in Second Fiddle in Agra is Still A Show Worth Seeing.

Europe

Walking Flam
Walking the trails above Flåm
2015 saw my return to Europe, with a whirlwind tour of Scandinavia and Italy. I shared my brief impressions of Sweden in the post The Swedish Chef Was Asian & Other Surprises from Gothenburg. I next proceeded to gush over the magnificent sites of Norway in the post Norway Beyond “the Nutshell” before zeroing-in on specific sites such as incredible Flåm in Take A Ride on the Flåmsbana. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200, and the surprisingly charming city of Bergen in Bryggen of Bergen – Character & Charm That is Way Off the Level. I documented the mixed feelings I had about my return to the magical Italian Island of Ponza in the posts Ponza Revisited Parts I & II. From there I went on to wax poetic about the stunning Amalfi Coast in Have Your Cannoli & Eat it Too in Positano, raving about this heavily-touristed but still worthy Italian destination. Lastly, I recounted my impressions and insights about Holland’s premier city in Amsterdam: Advice Without the Vice.

The Miscellany

This year saw a lot of posts touching on my own travel goals and philosophies. I continued my streak of made-up terminology in Tranticipation: Defining the Joys of Trip Anticipation, revealed my personal travel goals in Snapshot of My Bucket List: Where and Why, and reminisced about my favorite travel experiences in Been There, Done That (But Would Do It Again). I also took aim at reluctant cruisers with my posts Cruising Advice For People Who Don’t Like Cruising – Tip #1 and Tip #2. To round things out I outlined my ideal traveling digs in A Wanderlust Wardrobe for the XL Seasoned Traveler.

2016 Preview

So what can you expect to see on the Trip Accomplice blog in 2016? Beats me! I have no firm plans for the year to come, and that’s all part of the excitement. But you can be sure that I will continue sharing the wonders of world travel with you, my faithful followers (I mean that in the least cult-leader-like way) in a way to make you marvel and smile. See you next year!
Is there anything you want to see more of in the year ahead? Leave a comment and I’ll be glad to take it under consideration.

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In Rio de Janeiro, Save the Drama for the Scenery

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In Rio, it’s all about the drama. Not the ‘I can’t believe you kissed my boyfriend when he was taking a paternity test for cheating on my sister’ type drama; but rather the kind of drama found in the breathtaking setting that easily exceeds anything you’ll see on daytime TV. I’m sure even Jerry Springer would agree that the forested hills and dramatic peaks clustered around Brazil’s Guanabara Bay (considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World) make for a far more interesting spectacle than even his most ridiculous guest.

Say the name Rio de Janeiro and no doubt you’ll conjure up images of scantily-clad sunbathers jammed thong to thong on crowded Copacabana Beach. Or if you’re a ‘glass half-empty’ type, perilous shantytowns and prowling street urchins waiting to take a swipe at your wallet. Truth be told, you can find them both, but the reality of Rio is really so much more.

The Zona Sul

At the Copa...Copacabana
At the Copa…Copacabana

Most visitors to Rio de Janeiro spend their time in the Zona Sul (Southern Zone) part of the city. Situated around a natural angle, you’ll find the city’s mostly widely-recognized neighborhoods: Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. It is here that you will find those powder soft beaches of white sand made legend in films and in song. It is also here that you will find the bulk of accommodations and nightlife. I suppose there’s also a pretty good chance that you can find some drama too, especially after dark.

Copacabana, with its signature wave-design sidewalk edging its entire length (nearly 3 miles), is densely populated and a generally more affordable place to stay compared to its sister beaches.  There’s activity here night and day; whether it be sunbathing, volleyball or soccer by day, and all sorts of parties by night, you won’t get bored in this eclectic part of town. All that activity means all sorts of people, so don’t bring anything valuable with you to the beach. Honestly, I never once felt threatened, but better safe than sorry if you’re hoping to leave the drama to the scenery.

Rounding the corner to the southwest is more-upscale Ipanema which eventually morphs into Leblon. Here you will find hotels, shops and restaurants catering to a more affluent clientele. The beaches, while spectacular, are less of a party scene, so if you’re seeking a little less drama, this is a more tranquil option. Personally, I liked it better than Copacabana, but don’t tell them that, as I wouldn’t want to set off some drama of my own.

Corcovado & Sugarloaf

A cable car ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is a rite of passage and great place for city views
A cable car ride to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is a rite of passage and great place for city views

Rio has two genuine ‘icons’ that are recognizable the world over. Of course there’s the statue of Christ the Redeemer perched atop Corcovado Mountain. Getting there on your own is a bit of a pain in the neck, so I would recommend taking an organized tour. If you don’t actually get the chance to get up there you can still see its distinctive silhouette from nearly all corners of the city. In Rio, the term ‘finding Jesus’ takes on a whole new meaning.

The second principal icon is Sugarloaf Mountain – a pinnacle of rock jutting out into the surrounding harbor. The famous cable cars are located in the leafy neighborhood of Urca and whisk you first to a station on a rock called Morro de Urca, which has a walking trail but mostly just whets your appetite for Sugarloaf itself. Riding the cable car is a rite of passage and the 360 degree views beat all others – even Corcovado, because from this vantage point you can see the lumpy silhouettes of the entire setting, which I believe I already mentioned, is extremely dramatic.

The Natural Side

The path to nature is open at Rio's Botanical Gardens
The path to nature is open at Rio’s Botanical Gardens

If you prefer your drama in more natural terms, Rio boasts a national park within its borders. The Tijuca Rain Forest is a hefty slice of green in a densely populated city, home to all sorts of wildlife in one of the few remaining portions of Brazil’s once vast Mata Atlantica. Tours are available around the park, but if you’re short on time, at the northern end of the Lagoa neighborhood – named for the lagoon just inland from Ipanema and Leblon – is the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens. Here you can stroll around well-manicured paths of local flora, including some impressive palms and an orchid house. Watch the trees for toucans and other exotic birds who don’t care that they’re actually living in a big city. After an hour or so here, you might not believe it yourself.

Getting Around & Staying Safe

Most international visitors arrive at Galeao International Airport (code GIG). I’d advise arranging a transfer on your own ahead of time, but a taxi would also do the trick. It will take over a half hour minimum to get to the Zona Sul, so make sure you leave plenty of time for your return.

Rio has an efficient subway system, which is an efficient way to get around the throngs of traffic on the streets above. Taxis are plentiful and by all accounts a better (and safer) option than walking if you’re headed to less-accessible areas.

The majority of Rio’s infamous crime takes place in the many favelas (or slums) impossibly perched on surrounding hillsides. Unless you’re on a guided tour DO NOT enter into one of these on your own. Avoiding such places means that you just have to use the same common sense you’d use in any big city. So while the crime drama is real, it need not be yours.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attractions in Rio. And don’t even get me started on the amazing side trips that abound in the surrounding area such as Ilha Grande and Paraty. With so many world-class sights vying for your attention, the potential for drama is real. So if you start feeling overwhelmed, just find yourself a nice spot on the beach, grab yourself a tasty caipirinha, and stare out at the scenery. You’ll see there’s plenty of drama out there without you having to add your own.


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Just a reminder that if you haven’t already done so, you really should download my new travel/humor guide You Can Keep Your Adventure, Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper. Don’t just take MY word for it. Fellow travel blogger Kate Denny posted this review on her awesome site Travel Far, Eat well, which as you know are two of my favorite activities. Be sure to check it out.

Share Your Love For All Things Travel With A Gift From Customtravelart.com!

Whether it’s a custom tee, bucket list design or personalized departure or arrivals board, Custom Travel Art can create the perfect gift for the traveler in your life – even if that traveler is you! Browse our collection now for the perfect travel gift.