Nicole: The stopover is a MUST for me for long-haul trips. For example, rather than having an exhausting 30+ hour travel day on my way to the Seychelles, I arranged a 24 hour stopover in Dubai, a city I had always wanted to visit. It gave me a chance to relax and recharge after the 16 hours between SF and the Middle East. The best part? I flew Emirates, and they set you up in a decent hotel for free if your itinerary has a layover of more than 6 hours! I arrived in the Seychelles completely relaxed with no hint of jet lag.
Nicole: I am a huge points aficionado! I use the Chase Sapphire predominantly, and transfer points to whichever airlines have the best or more convenient itinerary. If not using points to pay for a trip, I love using Skyscanner to browse price and itinerary options!
Nicole: Several times, I've been called upon to use my training as a Registered Nurse while flying. On a domestic flight in the Philippines, a man became very short of breath. He only spoke Cantonese, so his daughter translated for me while I assessed his condition and provided care. Luckily, we were able to use the oxygen tanks the crew had on board, and we were within 20 minutes of landing! This was the only time I've been the only medical professional handling a situation while in flight, and to this day I'm not sure the outcome for this man.
Nicole: Anguilla. Despite the damage to this Caribbean island from Hurricane Irma, I will be visiting in a few months -- a time in which rebuilding from tourist dollars will be critical. Nicaragua, I am looking forward to the serene beaches of Rivas and the Corn Islands!
Nicole: I have a love affair with the Philippines! The hospitality there was on a level yet to be matched anywhere else I've ever traveled. The stunning beaches, gemlike islands, and incredible street food are deeply impressed in my senses.
Nicole: My husband and I met an Air Canada pilot who flew his private plane down to the Bahamas with his wife. After several days of fascinating conversations at the bar, he offered to take us up in their plane to burn off fuel he next morning before they left in order to burn off fuel. We had the most spectacular scenic flight over the Exumas! We still keep in contact with them!
Nicole: I started traveling after college, when I had more money and time flexibility. I can remember wanting to travel more since visiting my mothers home country of Greece as a child. Though we spent most our time visiting with family rather than exploring, I became immersed in the culture despite speaking very little Greek. The experience was formative for me.
Nicole: It sounds SO simple, but hands down: Garlic Rice in the Philippines! They serve it at every meal, and I can almost taste it.
Nicole: I've been absolutely in love with the idea of Sri Lanka, lately. The beaches of Tangalle, and the tea fields have been calling to me especially loudly lately.
Nicole: My default while traveling is relaxation! I love nothing more than strolling on a beach, or swimming in the ocean. Even when I'm actively exploring, I take things at a slow pace and plan a maximum of one activity per day. For me, traveling 'slowly' in this way gives me a deep sense of appreciation and understanding of a place. For example, I spent 5 days on the tiny island of La Digue in the Seychelles, an island which most people only visit for a day. I rode my bike all the way around the island, and visited every beach, even the ones that required a hike through the jungle. I was able to meet more locals, and discover restaurants and shops that I may have never found because of the time I had and the people I met!
Nicole: Both of them involve consciously choosing to travel light. In Fiji, I was aboard a ferry that was heading back to the main city of Nadi. People were allowed one piece of hand carry luggage, and the rest was checked and put in the hull. When we docked in Nadi, all I could see was absolute chaos as luggage was thrown overboard into carts, and wheeled in dozens of different directions. Because all I had was my 25L backpack, I was able to calmly stroll of the boat rather than contend with a luggage situation that would take hours to sort out. For my second experience, I landed in Melbourne, Australia early in the morning in the pouring rain. My airbnb apartment wasn't set to be ready for hours! Because I just had my small backpack, (about the size of what you'd see a kid wearing to school) I was able to stroll the city under an umbrella, and find a cozy lane way café to relax in until I could drop my things off.
Nicole: I can picture myself being a local in Melbourne, Australia all too easily, and may have seriously contemplated it a time or two. The laid back culture of the beachside St. Kilda neighborhood in particular resonated with me. And the food! Australian food has a complexity and beauty that food in America just hasn't mastered!