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)
What Brought Me There
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
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.
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.
What Brought Me There
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just recently I participated in an internet challenge seeking the advice of seasoned travelers as to what it is that we like wear while galavanting about the planet. I consider myself a seasoned traveler. I’m also kind of fat. So I decided to share a post about my ideal “wanderlust wardrobe” from the perspective of someone whose total number of miles traveled is nearly on par with their daily caloric intake. In other words, the kind of guy you hope you’re not seated next to on the plane.
For me, the greatest trial when traveling isn’t the foreign languages or jet lag. It is all about trying to stay comfortable when crammed into a tiny airplane seat for ten hours or waiting for a train with a humidity level of over a million. Travel logistics can be uncomfortable and/or fatiguing even under the best of circumstances. Tight shoes and a rigid waistband don’t help matters. Below I’ve listed some elements of my ideal “wanderlust wardrobe” for achieving both comfort and style. Feel free to comment with ideas of your own.
1) Pants with an elastic waistband
I guess you can say I have a classic hourglass figure with between twenty to twenty-five minutes shoved in somewhere around the middle. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating (about the hourglass part), but for those of us with a little ‘cushioning’ located around the equator, an inflexible waistband makes the already-challenging act of finding a comfortable position while on a transcontinental flight a real nightmare. Loose pants may sound appealing, but unless they’re accompanied by a sufficiently-strong belt, they can make for some very embarrassing moments while running through the airport. And if you have to wear a belt (and take it off getting through security) you’re back to square one. With elastic waistbands, those who carry their share of famine insurance around the midsection can have the anti-gravitational support they need while still being able to properly contort into a coach class seat.
2) Moisture-wicking shirts that breathe
When traveling to tropical or warm weather locales, I have long suffered from being drenched with sweat – often on my way between getting off the plane and the terminal. With today’s technology, synthetic materials can wick away some of that self-produced moisture and allow your overheated torso to breathe without taking your shirt off. If, like me, you fit the description listed in the point above, then you’re probably doing everyone else a favor by keeping it on.
3) Slip-on shoes with comfortable insoles
Since I’ve already substituted my belt with an elastic waistband, I see no point in having any delays at airport security due to my shoes. Being able to slip them on and off at will also comes in handy while on the plane or upon arriving at the beach. As for the comfortable insoles, just consider the long walks between the terminal and baggage claim in your average international airport – and that’s before you even take a step outside. And if you’re traveling to a place with great vertical range, such as the Amalfi Coast and its endless stairs, buying comfy insoles will cost you less than a visit to the podiatrist.
4) The right t-shirt
When it comes to buying a souvenir t-shirt I admit to being a bit OCD. As I mentioned before, the right t-shirt would not be 100% cotton due to stickiness and shrinkage issues (I mean the shirt, of course), though it is in this arena that form outweighs function. The design should indicate where the shirt was purchased without looking like it was picked up out of the clearance bin. The image should represent a distinguishing element of the place visited without being tacky or overly-busy. Understatement works well in this tiny, under-served niche of the fashion industry. I’m actually quite proud of my collection of t-shirts from around the world, and in almost every case their purchase was the result of a protracted search and intense elimination process. Those who have traveled with me can attest to my scrupulous efforts to seek out the right t-shirt. They can also attest to the validity of points 1-3 while waiting for me to choose.
5) A wide-brimmed, crushable hat
My travel hat is one of my most prized possessions. Not only is it a vehicle to showcase my exhaustive travel pin collection, but it serves any number of useful purposes; like protecting my eyes and scalp from the sun or covering up my messy hair. You can also throw in looking like an experienced traveler to dissuade any charlatans who might be thinking about running one of their scams on the wide-eyed foreigner. Just be sure that your hat is wide, weathered and stylish enough that you come across as a traveler, not a tourist.
Form Vs. Function
Naturally, there’s a form versus function aspect to all this. A shirt can be the most comfortable article of clothing in the world, but if it looks hideous, I still have enough vanity not to wear it. And those mud-stomping, gel-filled, air-cooled, super-dope-looking hiking boots with 4.7 miles worth of laces certainly do have their place, but that place is not in the airport security line. I guess it all depends on the nature of the trip, how much you want to lug around, and of course, who you’re looking to impress. Personally, I go for the Indiana Jones & the Temple of Comfort look – part adventurer; part lazy bum – on travel days. After that I seek to return to my normal, style/weight-conscious self, who is happiest when filling in immigration forms and stretchy t-shirts around the globe.
Do you have an item of clothing that you won’t leave home without? Share it by leaving a comment below!