Category Archives: North America

Driving on the edge: A guide to some of the world’s craziest road trips

Written by Jessica Langlands

Although road trips may have originated in America, the rest of the world has quickly caught on. Now with car hire companies offering their services in thousands of locations worldwide no destination is unreachable. You quite literally have the world at your fingertips!

Whilst the thought of driving for hours on end along an endless highway may conjure up memories of being cooped up in the back seat of your parents un- air conditioned car, wedged between a suitcase and the kitchen sink that your mother insisted on bringing, road trips today have evolved into something truly extraordinary.

Nothing gives you freedom like the open road, whether you’re driving fast or slow, have a destination in mind or are simply following your nose, or should I say bumper? road trips are the ultimate example of independent travel. Without having to rely on public transport timetables and guaranteed you’ll always get a window seat there really is no better way to see the world your way.

So, if you are looking for a thrill then look no further then these fantastic driving experiences.

1. The Pacific Coast Highway, USA.

road trip

Although it is one of the most well-known road trips it is by no means any less exciting. Navigating the winding two lane highway, with imposing rocky hills on one side and sheer cliff drops into the ocean on the other, makes for an interesting drive to say the least. The 200km stretch of highway should take around 5 hours to complete and with features such as the Bixby Creek Bridge it is a truly exhilarating experience. Simply wind down the windows,
feel the wind in your hair and soar over the Santa Lucia Mountain Range as it plunges into
the sea.

2. Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway.

road trip

This coastal road is something of a worldwide architectural accomplishment. An 8km stretch of highway made up of a series of bridges that hop from island to island, the Atlantic Ocean Road is without doubt a unique experience. Passing through the incredible Hustadvika coastline, which is renowned for being exhilaratingly dramatic when in storm and the perfect spot for fishing and whale watching in calmer weather. This road has been awarded the status of national tourist route. The almost rollercoaster like peaks and curves of the bridges give the impression that you are teetering on the edge of the ocean. A feeling that is only enhanced by stopping at one (or all) of the four panoramic view and rest areas incorporated into the design of the road. These viewing points offer spectacular vistas so be sure to stop and experience the expert harmony of the natural world and this man-made construct.

3. Icefields Parkway, Canada.

road trip

The Icefields Parkway is not only one of Canada’s national treasures but one of North America’s most impressive landscapes. Drive through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains amidst a world heritage site and two national parks. This is truly a world-class experience that offers access to a breath-taking wilderness of majestic sweeping valleys and glassy, turquoise blue mountain lakes fed by ancient glaciers. This route is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal to one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. It is in fact one of the only places in the world where you can drive right up to a glacier. With highlights such as Bow Lake, Panther Falls and the Ice fields themselves, every turn through this unique landscape is an ‘Oh my gosh!’ moment.

4. The Savannah Way, Australia.

road trip canada

Also known as Australia’s adventure drive, The Savannah Way stretches across the country’s north region from Cairns to Broome. Whether you choose to traverse just a section or cross the continent from coast to coast, drivers on this route are never short of views across striking landscape. It is a journey rooted deeply in the Aboriginal and pioneer heritage and links 15 national parks and five world heritage areas, guaranteeing you wide horizons, ancient gorges and abundant wildlife. As you head west from Cairns’ rainforests and reefs you will have the chance to see iconic waterfalls, embark on your own pioneering adventure on a bush walk and explore the caves of Undara Volcanic National Park. But be warned this route can be dangerous. As you drive through its remote centre, don’t expect to see a gas station or another person for several hours. Make sure you leave well prepared with plenty of supplies.

The natural world is a thing of great beauty and picturesque scenery is not that hard to find, but for truly unforgettable experiences and memories that will last a life time these road trips are a set of adventures that will get your heart racing with views that will make your stomach drop.

Secret Treasures in Clearwater, Florida

Freelancing isn’t easy work, but sometimes the rewards are great. This guest post comes from Denise, a freelancer in Clearwater, Florida

I love finding blogs like this one, where someone has actually made the conscious decision to go against the ‘norm’ in life and make a way for themselves, and their family, that is both educational and adventurous at the same time. After all, how can you learn more about the world than by experiencing it first hand?

I’ve always been a corporate geek, right up until the U.S. economy’s latest downturn. Things to do in Clearwater, Florida
Out of work through no fault of my own (other than my hefty salary) and faced with the prospect of finding a job that pays 25% of my last position, I decided this was the perfect time to start my own business. I figured I could make as much starting out on my freelance business as I would driving for an hour each way on snow-covered freeways to get to a job where my boss will be younger than my grown children!

In the past three years, I’ve learned so much about social media, SEO, and internet marketing, and found out that excellent writing skills are in extreme demand globally. I’ve worked for clients right here in my town, and all over the globe. With the ease of communications nowadays, it truly is a small world. I can write an article and snap some photos of any interesting person, place, or thing I come upon- and quickly upload them to share with the world.

Map of Clearwater FloridaThis winter, my husband and I have the luxury of spending an extended period in Florida. He works for a construction company in Northeast Ohio, and many projects are halted when the snow flies. We have always vacationed in Florida, but this year we’ll have time to explore some of the areas in depth and live among the locals.

First stop, we booked one of those \Clearwater holiday packages we’d heard about. The beach is well known as one of the cleanest, white sugar sand beaches in the world, and the Gulf of Mexico waters stay warm through most of the winter–paradise for sun worshippers.

However, there is so much more to do in this area. Here is just a short sampling:

Pinellas Trail: This 48 mile long, twelve foot wide paved trail is perfect for joggers, rollerbladers, and bikers alike. It winds through some densely populated areas but retains a rural feel and offers awesome views from almost any point.

Clearwater Florida, Honeymoon IslandHoneymoon Island and Caladesi Island: Two beautiful state parks, one only available by ferry or private boat, are located off a spur of the trail.

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary: This sanctuary was set up to rescue primates and other animals from deplorable conditions, and is open to the public and manned mostly by volunteers.

Boating: With all of the beautiful water to explore, renting a boat can be an excellent way to spend some time. From sailboats to power boats and pontoon party boats, there is a wide selection in varying price ranges.

Fishing: Rent a boat of your own or take a charter fishing trip for some great deep sea fishing. Or, grab your fishing pole and head to one of the local piers. My son caught a sting ray at Clearwater Pier 60 when he was just six or seven.

clearwater Florida KayakingKayak trails: There are kayak trails that will take you to remote islands, and through tunnels in thick mangroves so that you can see all sorts of wildlife up close.

Tarpon Springs: This small town is a Greek settlement that was long the sponge capital of the world. Today, it boasts lots of structures on the National Register of Historic Places, the largest Greek-American population of any city in the United States, and some of the best Greek restaurants in the western world.

Clearwater Florida TravelSunsets at Pier 60: For years, Clearwater Beach has hosted an outdoor festival daily at sunset. Nature brings the beautiful sun melting into the Gulf of Mexico, and musicians and crafters, mimes and jugglers set up on and around the pier to entertain. The newest addition is Sunset Cinema-a family-friendly outdoor big screen. Bring your beach chairs and blankets to relax on the sand and take in a movie.

Denise Gabbard, a freelance writer and photographer with a passion for travel who is financed mostly by her work for Dixons.co.uk discount vouchers .

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Traveling with Kids in Cuba – Pure Heaven!

Vagobond exclusive story and photos by Jennifer Merrick

traveling with kids in cubaI knew the moment the customs officer commented on how cute our children were that Cuba would be a kid-friendly destination. I wasn’t mistaken. Almost everywhere we went on our all inclusive holiday to Cuba, my son and daughter were doted on. They were given gifts, sang to, kissed and altogether spoiled.

At first they were a little shy about the unexpected attention but they warmed up quickly. My son, especially, thrived on the attention.

“Do you want to see how much snow we have in Canada?” he would ask and show people a picture of our house with a 6-foot mountain of snow in front of it. After they oooed and aaaahed, he’d then ask,

“Can I take your picture?” And in less than two minutes we had made a new friend.

The Cubans genuine affection and appreciation of children endeared us to the island and ensured that this would be a family holiday we’d cherish for a long time to come.

kids in cubaWe decided on Guardalavaca in the province of Holguin because we wanted a quieter place away from the party crowd in Veradero. It proved to be a good choice with its stunning white beaches, crystal-clear turquoise water and laid-back atmosphere.

A highlight of our trip was a horseback riding excursion in Roca Azul Bio-Park. I was a bit nervous as neither of my children had been on horseback before apart from a pony ride and my previous experience on a horse ended up with me on the ground and a very sore hip for a month. But our guide, Alejandro, quickly put us at ease and proceeded at a slow pace. My daughter proved to be a natural, moving with the horse like she was born on one. Her brother, too, quickly got the hang of it. And I managed to stay on.

With the rhythmic clip-clop of hooves and the sun shining down, my apprehension dissipated and I took in the remarkable scenery surrounding us. Desert and tropics seemed to overlap here with sand and cacti in some places and lush tropical plants and trees in others.
We stopped at a tranquil lake, known for its good fishing. This secluded spot felt a million miles from the resort and we encountered only two other tourists and their guide. Back on the horse, we trotted along until we came to a gate. On the other side was an odd assortment of animals roaming freely – horses, goats, cows, pigs and two zebras.

zebras in Cuba“Where did the zebras come from?” I asked.

“Africa,” our Cuban cowboy replied.

What could I say?

We made our way back and Alejandro worked on turning our kids into cowkids.

“Yip,Yip,Yeeeeeeep!” Cowboys here apparently don’t say ‘hee haw’.

My son repeated the call till he got it to perfection. Then the singing began. Music is everywhere on the island and Cubans often burst into song. The guide sang a melodic Spanish ballad as we rode at a leisurely pace.

Cuban MusicNot to be outdone, our kids then sang their Christmas concert song much to our guide’s delight. The warmth of the sunshine, the music, beautiful views and a real connection made it one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

There were many others and almost every one of them involved an encounter with the people.

When we arrived at Toronto Pearson, my son’s face still had lipstick marks from the kisses the dining room staff had bestowed on him.

“Do you want to see a picture of the horse I rode?” he asked the women behind the counter at the airport.

Getting a blank stare in return, I had to remind him, “Honey, we’re not in Cuba anymore.”

But we’ll be back.

After travelling the world teaching ESL, Jennifer is now ‘settled down’ in Toronto, but continues to indulge her passion for travel as a family travel writer. Her blog www.justkidstravel.com helps kids plan and get excited about their travels.