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Island of No Natives

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It’s not often you find a country that no one is from; where the only ones indigenous are the plants.  However in Mauritius the equal non-nativeness  of the island may be part of the reason the place works so well.  Off the coast of Africa, a continent plagued by the lasting effects of different peoples stepping on each other throughout time, Mauritius sits as an appealing alternative; a more harmonious way different cultures can share a space.

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What da What in Da Lat

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Where was Rumpelstiltskin?  Where were Hansel and Gretel?  All I could find were Ha and Hang and Hung, all Nguyens.  Something didn’t match.

In Da Lat everything you think you know about Vietnam is wrong.  There are pine trees instead of palm.  There are hills instead of beaches.  People grow flowers instead of rice.  And it’s cold.  Actually cold.  Ok, more like cool but definitely not brow-dripping hot like the rest of the country.  Da Lat makes you stop and wonder, “What da what is going on?”

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Mui Ne: Dunes, Kites and a Kremlin of Russians

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Red meets white at the strangely diverse Vietnamese town of Mui Ne.  This small fishing town was introduced to backpacker hostels and kitschy souvenir shops after two notable discoveries were made: surfers found the wind conditions perfect for kite surfing and Russians just plain found it.  Suddenly this lazy, lapping village, with its notorious backdrop of red and white sand dunes became front and center in Vietnamese tourism.

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Happy Hippos (Togetho)

road trip through Africa

I am spoiled by summer.  It is as miracle-embraced  for me now as it was for most of us when we were six and had our first long, uninterrupted break from school; a break we’d previously been living but never fully appreciated until Kindergarten sounded the alarm and gave us a Monday-to-Friday routine.  As a teacher, I still get that luxurious stretch of time.  But now, instead of spending hours climbing trees, I’m climbing planes and getting the absolute thrill of seeing a different part of the world each year.

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Butterflies, Dense Jungle…and Caving

caving in Vietnam

The caves were a-callin’.  For years JD and I had heard about, and been interested in, the Phong Nha caves.  The world’s biggest network of nearly untouched caves surrounded by dense jungle and Ha Long Bay-esq dramatic mountains, with a sprinkling of indigenous tribes sounded too exotic to resist.  So we didn’t.

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Fantastic Filipino Festival

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Belinda Carlisle was right; heaven is a place on Earth.  It’s in the Philippines.  Among no less than 7,000 islands that make up this skinny, snakey country is paradise.  Here are the white sand beaches of postcards and the perfectly clear blue water of movie sets.  This is the Ultimate in beach holidays.  Sorry folks, there is no way to avoid clichés here.  The people are friendly and lively.  The islands are never-ending and offer everything from tranquil isolation to rummed-up good times.  Snorkeling lays out the most stunning coral I’ve seen and scuba diving takes you into WWII sunken ships.  Our recent Filipino Festival might well be the best trip of my life.  And, since there’s no way words can do justice to a place such as this, here are a few pictures to make my point for me.  Go!

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The Wow of Laos

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Laos exceeded all expectations.  It was at once bustling but authentic, comfortable but unspoiled.  I thank my lucky stars to have stumbled into this wonderful country right at the crux of Now, before our tourist demands overshadow years-old traditions, but also after certain travel conveniences have been installed.  Now is the time to see Laos.

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Oh by Golly Have a Holly Jolly Bali Holiday

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Some places make you happy.  Some even make you downright giddy. Bali is such a place.  It refuses to be anything less than an annoyingly cliché travel brochure of sunshine pictures that make you smile.

Although I claimed to have no expectation for visiting Bali, I secretly did.  In fact, it was the number one place I wanted to see when I moved to Asia.  Bali is just so…Balinese.  It always looked like it had it all – volcanoes, rice terraces, jungle, gorgeous water, culture and that infamous architecture I’d seen glimpses of in every yoga studio ever designed.  So while I didn’t quite know where we’d we go or what we’d do in Bali, I figured it’d be good.

It was.  In fact, it was incredible.

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A Trip Out of Bounds

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Boundary Waters is the world’s most welcoming and laid back border crossing. Instead of guards and guns are seemingly endless, slow lapping lakes, rivers and bays decorated in the wonderful rarity of complete isolation. Here you are among only a handful of adventurers allowed in each day. You pack out your own rubbish, make plans only when the weather tells you that you can, and do whatever you need to do right in the bushes. Here showers are freezing swims and all food becomes property of the surrounding co-op, cheeky chipmunks welcome.

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More than Meets the Mitten

michiganMichigan is the best place in the USA.* While the Midwest is easy to describe in corn fields and mud boggin’ red necks,  Michigan has more going on than what first meets the mitten.

Michigan has more coastline than the entire eastern seaboard of the USA.  I’ll say it again, this time in all caps, MICHIGAN HAS MORE…you get the idea.  But really, think about that for just a sec.  That’s a whole lot of moody rocky shore, white sand stretches and Normandy-esq coastal towns that seem to specialize in strange art and microbrew beer.  It’s intense.

Nestled within the world’s largest fresh water source, that just happens cozy up next to Michigan, are countless islands blessed with even more coast and pines.

Michigan has so much forest that we rebuilt Chicago.  All of it.  Trees are in no short supply, which creates nearly unlimited opportunities to camp everywhere, all the where and roast marshmallows a-plenty.

We have had have cars but have learned from recent events to diversify.  Alongside hubcaps and mufflers we also have home-grown wine, home brewed coffee, co-op produced clothes and Petoskey jewelry.  We have a force–to-be-reckoned with Revive Detroit movement that’s producing the coolest designs, bicycles and dog tag inspired necklaces.  Who knew?  We have authors, musicians, corrupt politicians and education reformers.  We’re so good at sports that we’ve even managed to make ridiculous camp counselor-style necklaces cool in our take-me-out-to-the-ball-game passion.

Here’s where to visit along the west side of the state.

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