My Top 10 Favorite Places in the World

I’m fortunate and extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to explore a significant amount of the world in my lifetime thus far; having been to all six habitable continents. People will often ask me where my top 10 favorite places are in the world. Anyone who is a traveler would understand it is ultimately an impossible endeavor. In essence, your favorites are a moving target. What you loved backpacking in Thailand 20 years ago might not be what you would put on your top list today. And the more you continue to travel, the more the list will shift. Also, is “favorite” based on nature and natural beauty? Adventure? Art and Architecture? Food? History? The warmth of the locals?

Given that laborious task, I began jotting down places while riding a  4+ hour shuttle in Costa Rica. I had a little time on my hands with no WiFi and painfully slow-moving traffic on the international highway which runs through the country – connecting to Panama in the south and Nicaragua to the north.  The problem was the list kept growing as I thought back fondly of so many incredible memories spanning multiple decades. I managed to cull it down, with a few honorable mentions of which I could not let go.  And may I remind you, this list IS a moving target?

Perth, WA, Australia

 

It has been many years since I have been there, but this city on Australia’s SW coast (and the surrounding region of Freemantle and the Margaret River Valley wine region) has an unmistakable “cool” vibe I have not quite found elsewhere in the country. The year round, near-perfect weather negates the need for heating or air conditioning. Outdoor sports can be found everywhere, from the Australian rules football fields to sailing on the Swan River to snorkeling around the azure waters of Rottnest Island.   Looking for wildlife you just don’t see back home? Black swans roam the parklands by the Swan River and Lake Monger and quokkas fearlessly approach you on Rottnest Island looking for a sip of water from your cup. It is worth the flight to this hip city on Australia’s other coast.

Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

 

Up until a few decades ago, Tamarindo was a sleepy village on Costa Rica’s NW Pacific coast where surfers would come for the great breaks.  Since tourism has discovered this gemstone, it has grown up into something international, yet still keeping its exotic roots. Even post-discovery, the population averages only approximately 3,000. The mix of tourists, expats and locals add unique threads of color to the tapestry of this chill beach town. It is the smallest place I know where you can walk down the street (or the broad, beautiful beach) and hear 5 different languages any given day.   And the food? Don’t let the tiny population fool you, there are over 100 area restaurants and bars to satisfy the foodie in you! Plus, you can SUP, surf, golf, fish, horseback ride, ATV, or just photograph wildlife to your heart’s content all within 20 minutes. With the least amount of rain in the country, there is never a bad time to visit.

Goa, India 

 

The small state of Goa on India’s west coast consists of 101 kms of coastline and has a distinctive personality blending east and west, Hindu and Catholic, curry and seafood. It is decidedly India, yet heavily influenced by the Portuguese for almost 450 years.  In my travels to Incredible India, I find myself returning each time to Goa. I cannot put my finger on it. The air is different there.  Perhaps there is just something exotic about swimming in the Arabian Sea and legally being able to wear a bikini in India with no one judging you as you throw back a cold Kingfisher beer! There are dozens of beaches, some boasting crowds of tourists and others are quiet hideaways. Portuguese fortresses dot the shoreline. The food is endless, from beach shacks to upmarket restaurants perched on cliffs watching the sun sink into the sea at the end of the day. And no trip to Goa is complete without a visit to the all-night Saturday hippie market – Arpora.

Austin, Texas, USA

 

The capital of Texas has made a name for itself flaunting its live music-food trailers-high tech-gay pride-hipsters-cowboys-starving artists-tolerant vibe.  A pretty remarkably harmonious blend, given all the ideological differences.  Home to two of the country’s largest music festivals (Austin City Limits, South-by-Southwest) , the only Formula 1 track in the country (Circuit of the Americas),  and a great university (University of Texas) -with a massive amount of football followers, this little powerhouse city had put itself on the international map. But it isn’t all music, cars, and football.  One must visit the prettiest capital building in the country, the only one standing taller than the USA capital. Austin is located where the farmland to the east meets the scenic hill country to the west. There are delightful day trips to central Texas treasures like swimming holes and a massive pink granite dome (called Enchanted Rock) and dozens of wineries.  A weekend is simply not long enough!

Fira, Santorini, Greece 

 

The moment you step onto your whitewashed terrace overlooking the caldera, the “wow factor” will engulf you. This crescent shaped island of Santorini (or Thera) is actually a volcano which erupted thousands of year ago.  The city of Fira is built on the side of the volcano overlooking the sunken rim into the sea. You can take a gondola ride to the bottom, or if you are adventurous take a donkey. From there you can catch a boat to the center where you can swim the ancient volcanic waters. For history buffs, you will not want to miss the Akrotiri Ruins.  And if you like wine there are multiple wineries to tour. There’s nothing like a good Greek wine to accompany that fresh feta cheese and kalamata olive plate. Santorini is beyond charming and a truly iconic Greek island. Foodies will also celebrate the family owned Greek restaurants at every turn.

Cape Town, South Africa

 

This international city sits near the bottom of the African continent on the Western Cape where the frigid, turbulent waters of the Atlantic meet the warm, caressing waters of the Indian ocean. You can occasionally see a line at Cape Point where they meet. The Cape Town area boasts everything from international dining and shopping, to gorgeous beaches, to nearby world renowned wine regions, to beautiful museums, to a fascinating and yet difficult history of apartheid.  Must do’s include going to the top of one of the cities natural symbols, Table Mountain where the views are spectacular. As well as hanging out at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. You can ride a double-decker city sightseeing bus which is a fantastic way to hop on and hop off seeing all the major sites. The locals are friendly and the natural beauty is unparalleled.

Rome, Italy

 

For anyone interested in the incredible history and architecture of the  Roman Empire, Rome is certainly a fantastic place to commence.  It is an easy city to navigate on foot, just make sure you have good walking shoes! It was my first European city to visit and I can attest to the fact that throwing a coin in Trevi Fountain does actually work, as I returned multiple times. My top historic places to see are The Vatican City,  The Coliseum, The Pantheon, the carnivalesque Piazza Navona, and The Roman Forum. However, there is a multitude of hidden treasures beyond the touristy historic sites. Don’t be afraid to roam the narrow streets of Rome to find little pizzerias and antique shops and neighborhoods still preserved as they were in the Middle Ages. Surprises abound. I once had a waiter kiss me (briefly but passionately) in Piazza Navona whilst leaving his restaurant after dinner. A thrill for a teenage girl! Shhhhh, don’t tell my mother.

Rio de  Janeiro, Brazil 

 

If you like Samba and an easy sexual culture and caipirinhas and beaches and Brazilian steak houses and unique art and a vibrant all-night-party city, this place it for you!  I visited Rio on my honeymoon with my “starter husband” and have found myself returning again each decade.  Since the recent Olympics there, they have cleaned up the beaches and the city to help visitors feel safe (I have never had any safety issues). A day at famous Ipanema Beach is a bucket list item.  And the sights are endless. One must go to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain via cable car to take in the sweeping views of the city. And seeing Christ the Redeemer statue will give you goose bumps, even if you are not Christian. You can hire a driver/tour guide or take the subway with new stops being added. It is a massive city and challenging to navigate, otherwise.  Carnival is not for the faint of heart, but certainly a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

 

Bora Bora earns my title as the most romantic place in the universe. I recommend you take a lover when you travel there.  From the moment you fly into the tiny WWII airstrip to taking a water taxi to your over-the-water bungalow, everything is absolute magic. The landscape is so spectacular it almost looks fake. The azure water is incredibly clear and the sand is soft and blindingly white and the green mountains are a shade of green not found on the color wheel. It is the kind of place that makes you want to swim naked! Be sure to book a room with a see-through floor so you can watch the sea life swim by. And if you can carve out time to leave your love nest, rent bikes to take in the astonishing beauty of this tiny tropical island or book a traditional Tahitian dance show. Join the throngs of rich and famous who have dined at Bloody Mary’s Or simply lose yourself on a hammock.

Honorable Mentions:

Halong Bay, Vietnam

 

A UNESCO national world heritage site in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Godsmack beauty at every vista.  Take the 2-day cruise on a traditional junk boat.

London, England

 

I have always had an affinity for this lovely, historic and vibrant city. After attending school nearby, I desperately wanted to live there. But oh, the weather.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA 

 

The largest national park in the USA  at 5586 square kilometers (3471 square miles) is a stunner with dramatic canyons, bubbling mud pots, shooting geysers and roaming buffalo. Natural and unusual beauty in the wild west.

Luxor, Egypt 

 

History, history, history. No, not American history. No, not European history. ANCIENT history which truly defines “wonders of the world.”

Masai Mara, Kenya 

 

The best place on earth for a safari and glamping.  There is nothing as thrilling as seeing these magnificent animals the way nature intended them to be seen.

And the adventure continues. Stay tuned!

 

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Top 10 Tips to Avoid Job Burnout

I worked for “the man” in Corporate America for over a quarter of a century both in commission-only media sales and, for a short time, in middle management.  I eventually left an ample paying position with health care benefits, a nice expense account, and 401k matching to pursue a different dream – releasing myself of the golden handcuffs.

Why wouldn’t someone want to stick it out for the proverbial gold watch and the pension? In my case, there was certainly no pension; or even a gold watch. However, stress was the corporate gift that kept on giving. The stress levels rose each year with every corporate buy out or merger and with each management team’s new “vision”. Eventually, it began to cause health issues.   Funny how your doctor tells you to avoid stress. Like he/she doesn’t know your job, right?work stress

The workplace, to me, had become more stressful and less user-friendly with each passing year. Perhaps due to the immediacy of technology and everyone (outside and inside the organization) expecting results in a nano second. Possibly it is the people sitting at the corporate office in their ivory tower having to massage the numbers to answer to the Wall Street stockholders.  Or maybe greed and the desire for power has overtaken the way we do business on every level.

My purpose today is not to figure out the why, but to help you with a few survival skills to avoid job burnout in this corporate landscape.

1. Use every minute of your vacation time. 

Yes, there actually are people who do not.  I was once interviewed by a manager who was so proud he had not taken a single vacation day for something like 6 years.  I looked at him closely for signs of the inevitable heart attack approaching.  I could not imagine working in an environment which frowned upon taking the vacation time you earned. Needless to say, I didn’t take the job. vacation calendar.jpg

Time off clears your head, allows your internal system to truly relax and gives you time to make cherished memories with family, friends or alone time.  “Vacation” does not mean you have to go somewhere and spend a bunch of money. Perhaps you plant a garden or go fishing on a nearby quiet lake. The point here is to check out.  Unless you’re a rocket scientist, the world won’t end, nor is anyone is going to die without you at your desk for a week or two.

2. Be kind and respectful to all employees at your company (not just the boss).

Most career folks spend 40-50-60 hours a week in the presence of a staff at work. They may be higher or lower on the totem pole, but all of them can make or break your day.  I have found that respecting their positions and working as a team goes a long way to keeping the corporate engine purring along. And takes your stress levels down.

3. Work from home whenever possible.work stress work from home

Many companies are now creating flex time and “work from home” options for employees. Being at home typically reduces stress levels. You are in your safe space. You don’t have road rage from sitting in that morning commute for an hour.  You might be in your comfortable loungewear.  Your sweet dog is at your feet wagging its tail each time you look down.  Since so many people now work with their computers, it is not unrealistic to work from home, even if it is for a couple of days a week. If your company does not offer this option and you have a good relationship with management (see #2), perhaps now is a good time to suggest exploring alternatives.

4. Balance work with family time and hobbies.

The most successful and interesting people I have met in the corporate world also have a passion for life outside of work.  It can be something as simple as date night with your spouse or taking the family to the park on Saturdays. Or a golf group or painting class or a happy hour with old friends.  Whatever your other passion is, do it. Even if you are not that good at it. The key is to take your mind off work,  ignore your smartphone and enjoy a less stressful atmosphere.

5. Do not check your messages after “quiet time”.

We all know these people. Hell, you may even be one of them.  They work all day. Then they work all night as the messages on the phone keep pinging in till bed time. Priding themselves on being available 24/7. Sure sometimes we have a project past deadline and it needs immediate attention. But realistically, how often does it need to be done NOW? Reserve evenings and weekends for your other passions whenever possible.  Most technology allows us to set a “quiet time” to make the pings stop sounding. Your significant other will thank you.  So will your blood pressure.

work stress smartphone.jpg

6. Use “out of office” Messenger when away from your technology.

I mentioned earlier in this article that people seem to want results in a nano second these days. An email is received and then within a couple of hours a second one appears, “Did you get my previous email???”  Some people no longer take into account an employee may be in a meeting, or focusing on a different proposal or are driving and don’t want a $500 texting fine, for Pete’s sake. Who was Pete anyway?

I have found the “out of office” bounce back message to be an effective tool.  Create a response telling the recipient how long you will be away and who to contact for immediate attention.  I found it takes stress levels down when you do not have to worry about the immediacy of emails and voice mails. Obviously, it is handy for vacation time, but you can use it when you have appointments out of the office or if you have long meetings/conferences.

7. Change jobs.

What? You love your _______ (prestige, paycheck, manager, title – fill in the blank).  But the dirty secret in the corporate world is your company ultimately does not care about you.  They care about your production for “the man”.  Will they miss you when you are gone?  Sure, maybe.  Especially if you took care of #2. But the reality is that you are, most likely, replaceable (with the exception of rocket scientists). So why should you be concerned about leaving if you want a different/better opportunity?

When you feel that stress coming on it may be time to make a change. You know what I am talking about. Sunday night rolls around and you are dreading the next day. You have a sinking feeling when you read your email and your manager has called a special meeting. You know it is going to be a sales “beating” not a “meeting”.

There may also be ways to change jobs within the company to a different department. That way you will not lose your accrued vacation time (see #1).

8. Be honest.

It seems we see the honesty quality less frequently these days.  Honesty goes a long way keeping stress levels down. Admit your mistakes and own them upfront.  Don’t try to play the blame game. Most people do not get fired from admitting a screw-up and apologizing. At my last company, I was written up by HR several times (loud music at my desk, posting a seductive photo of myself on social media, blah, blah, blah).  I would love to see that file today. And laugh.  But seriously, when the team knows you are a straight shooter, honest and dependable, and not sneaking around causing drama, your job will be easier to not only survive but to thrive.

9. RUN from office drama and gossip.

work stress water coolerWe have all been in a work situation where you know the one who loves to create drama. Do your best to stay away from these people or least do not get involved. They will ultimately cause undue stress you never anticipated or invited.  Same goes for gossip. It eventually bites you in the ass!

10. Never lose your cool.

During personal time it might feel good to cry or scream. But in the corporate world, you are much safer showing minimal emotions. There are even counselors and corporate mentors who can help you get there if it is a challenge.  The guy who often goes ballistic over some office nonsense is most likely the next one on the chopping block. Unless he is the big boss, of course. Then you are screwed and might want to put #7 into place.

Here’s wishing you the best in today’s corporate world!