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Travel Tips Around The World

May 5 2015

India: Dina Yuen’s Trip that Made a Difference

Trips that Made a Difference is a series that features travel industry leaders and the trips that have changed their lives. Dina Yuen is a lifelong traveler who has made a career of writing and interviewing others about cross-cultural experiences. She is CEO of Asian Fusion, a food and travel website, and the author of Indonesian Cooking and the upcoming 8 Secrets of Success: The Asian American Way. We spoke with her recently about a trip that made a difference in her life. 

travel42: Where did you go and what brought you there?

Dina Yuen: I volunteered to bring food and cook for people in the slums of Mumbai and other cities around India. It was the result of a long-held obsession I’ve had with the culture there, the history and the food. I was also at a crossroads in my life, having just broken off an engagement and having had major career decisions to make. The trip was emotionally difficult in the sense that it's overwhelming  to see how many people lack the basic resources for survival – they barely have enough food and water and only the most basic shelter, if you can even call it that. But it was also incredibly fulfilling to be there.

travel42: What were some particular moments that made this trip so special?

Dina Yuen: On days when I wasn't doing work and cooking, I was invited into homes to share family meals. These people had so little by U.S. standards, living on a few dollars a month, if that. There were usually several generations living together in a house with a tin roof and dirt floors, but they would invite me in for a meal, happy to share what little they had. That kind of experience changes your heart, and it changes your perspective on what really matters in life.

One particular occasion in Mumbai stands out. Sitting on the floor, we had a meal of rice and very sparse, watered down curry with an egg. It's very different from what people in America think of as curry. I was looking at the children and the older people, noticing how their bodies looked malnourished by our standards. I was so grateful to be there but it was also heartbreaking. I wished in that moment that I had a magic wand I could just wave to make it all better for them.

travel42: How did the trip change the way you approach your life and work?

Dina Yuen: My volunteer experiences in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Delhi and several smaller towns around southern India led me to think about setting up my company so that I could come back someday with the means to help people more, so that I would have the financial power to make a significant difference. There are so many children who are in need of a nutritious meal, shoes that don't fall apart and a decent education. I needed to get away from my own reality and see the world and how other people were living, and to remind myself that even in my own darkest moments, I needed to be of service to others who were in worse off conditions.

 If you'd like to share your "Trip that Made a Difference," please email us at [email protected]

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May 4 2015

travel42 Best Of: Top 10 Hotels for Business Travelers

Category: HotelsMegan Leader @ 10:11

Travel agents know better than anyone that booking leisure travel and business travel are two different beasts. All travel planning requires attention to detail, but for business travelers, timing can be crucial, and certain amenities come to the forefront. Especially valuable for business travelers are convenience to a city's business district, 24-hour gyms and room service, plenty of natural light to combat jet lag, free Wi-Fi, well-designed in-room work spaces, and well-equipped meeting facilities and lounges for client meetings.

We've rounded up our top picks in 10 big business cities worldwide. The amenities, style, location and meeting facilities at these properties give them a leg up on the competition, and we expect that business travelers will choose these properties time and time again.

ANdAZ Wall Street, New York City. This hip hotel strikes all the right notes for business travelers. It's located right More...

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Apr 30 2015

New on travel42: Introducing SPG Pro

Category: Hotels | On The Scenetravel42 editorial team @ 09:11

travel42 and STAR Service Online users, have you noticed anything new this week?  We've partnered with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to give our subscribers easy access to SPG Pro, a program that allows travel agents, meeting planners and corporate travel planners to earn personal benefits for professionally planned travel.

Here's what you need to know about travel42, STAR and SPG Pro: More...

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Apr 30 2015

Glamping in South Africa: Our favorite luxury safari lodges

Category: Destinations | Hotelstravel42 editorial team @ 05:30

South Africa is renowned for its natural beauty, not the least of which can be found in the country's national parks and game and nature reserves.  A highlight of any trip to South Africa is the opportunity to see big game—lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras and antelopes—and the best way to do so is by staying at one of the many fine safari lodges that specialize in big game drives and guided bush walks. Your surroundings can be as wild or as genteel as you want—or both.

These are three of our favorite luxury lodges from which to base your glamping expedition. All lie in superb game-viewing territories, with all of the so-called "Big Five" (rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and elephant) present, alongside a wide variety of other mammal and bird species.

Photo credits: http://www.andbeyond.com/phinda-forest-lodge/photos.htm#0

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Apr 28 2015

European destinations that won't be packed this summer

Category: DestinationsMegan Leader @ 05:42

Summer in Europe can certainly be magical, but for many travelers, it can also be overwhelming. A LOT of people plan summer trips to Europe, and while the crowds certainly don't ruin a trip to Paris or Florence, they can make things more difficult, and they can result in hours of lost time waiting in long queues for museums, attractions, train tickets, and tables at restaurants.

(This is where I can't help but mention that working with a travel agent can all but eliminate many of these wait times and make your logistics run like clockwork!)

Anyhow, for those who prefer to enjoy cities at a quieter pace without the crowds—even during the summer high season, these five destinations deliver beautiful sights and loads of charm without increasing your blood pressure.

Helsinki, Finland. Whereas Reyjkavik and Stockholm are definitely having a travel moment, Helsinki is very up-and-coming but More...

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Apr 22 2015

Exploring Paris' Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter of Paris is known as the heart of bohemian intellectualism—this is the area where you could once find Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus sipping Pernod and talking philosophy. Though it is now largely a tourist area, it still bustles with the activity of students and free spirits, and it should not be overlooked by serious travelers. It is best to explore this section of the city as a flaneur—wander the streets, see the people, stop into any cafe or bookstore that interests you. This is one of those areas that is meant to be seen without the heavy burden of sightseeing—though it is close to Notre Dame and the excellent Archaeological Crypt of Parvis of Notre Dame. Try to spend at least an afternoon in the Quartier Latin. To get you started, here are a few of our favorite spots.

The Cluny Museum. This museum focuses on all things medieval, and that goes for everything from its structure (it's a former cloister built in the 15th century atop the ruins of the former Roman baths) to its contents. A standout museum in Paris, it is the perfect spot for art and history lovers. There you can see The Lady and the Unicorn, perhaps the most famous tapestry ever created.

                           

                                 The Lady and The Unicorn tapestry; photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Apr 20 2015

travel42 Best Of: 6 Top Honeymoon Hotels

Category: Best Of | HotelsMegan Leader @ 10:53

Wedding season has officially begun, and that means love is in the air! And we mean that literally—spring newlyweds are jetsetting to all kinds of exciting new adventures to celebrate their nuptials. We love a beautifully planned honeymoon, which is why we've rounded up 6 of our favorite hotels for romantic getaways.

For a romantic Italian honeymoon, it doesn't get any better than More...

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Apr 16 2015

4 cruises that come with bragging rights

Category: CruisesMegan Leader @ 04:37

River cruising has experienced a surge in popularity in the past few years. With multigenerational travel on the rise, as well, cruising is having a bit of a renaissance. And it should! Cruising is a great way to get a sampling of a variety of destinations without having to worry about packing up every night and losing precious travel time in airports and train stations. It's a great way to travel.

But while many clients might be exploring their options for their first European river cruise, or their first big Caribbean getaway, long-time cruise lovers might be looking for a way to separate themselves from the pack. These four cruises certainly accomplish this goal. Not only will you come away with once-in-a-lifetime memories, but you'll also appreciate the magic and peace of mind that come with taking a great cruise.

The Uniworld River Tosca lounge, photo courtesy of Uniworld

The downside of some cruises is that you don't get to experience an area in-depth. Not so with More...

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Apr 13 2015

Exploring the great outdoors in Portland

Category: DestinationsMegan Leader @ 11:33

Portland has become a Pacific Northwest hot spot in the past few years, and it fully deserves to be in the spotlight. This city is packed with trendy restaurants, boutique-hotels and eclectic shops. But for visitors who need a little break from the hipster action, Portland is perfectly poised for a variety of outdoorsy day trips. Here are some of our favorite spots to enjoy the area's natural scenery.

Photo by Abhinaba Basu

Take a trip to the Pacific Coast. More...

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Apr 7 2015

The best private restaurants in Havana

Category: Best Of | Destinations | Dining | Favorites | ListsChristine Norris @ 08:52

Things are changing in Cuba: President Raul Castro has made some sweeping reforms, and the U.S. is preparing to extend a hand of diplomacy to the long-shunned island nation. There's a lot of good news for travelers in all these changes, and the best and most important concerns the food. Cuban cuisine has never been anything to write home about, usually served poorly cooked and in a once elegant but now run-down government-owned restaurant; and surprisingly for an island, you really did not want to order any fish. Luckily for foodies, private, family-run restaurants have slowly been building a presence, especially in the capital, serving world-class cuisines in a myriad variety of styles. Here are some of our favorite paladars (private restaurants) to try in Havana.

La Corte del Principe. Without a doubt the best Italian restaurant in town, this unpretentious and off-the-beaten-path restaurant is beloved by Havana's expat community. Sergio, the Italian owner, has created a piece of home away from home, down to the red-and-white checkered tablecloths. The fare depends on Sergio's daily whim; the waiter will tell you what's on offer. Every dish is divine. Be sure to try whatever pasta is available.

               

                                Elegant seating at Le Chansonnier; photo courtesy of the restaurant

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