Archive for May, 2010

Mi Casa es Su Casa

We’re hotel hounds like most living breathing people this side of the globe, but if you’re a writer or a photographer (like many of us), unless we’re on assignment to write about a property, we simply don’t have the dough in these tight times to fork over for fancy retreats; which is why we’re fans of more rustic or off-the-beaten path adventures.

It’s not just Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet who escape their complicated lives by swapping houses and indulging in a new lifestyle. Americans everywhere are taking advantage of difficult times – unemployment, breakups, and graduation – to be part of a new community and experience unknown parts of the world.  The new trend is to exchange your home for a short period of time and do activities that you wouldn’t normally do. For those considering the idea, here are some tips:

What can I do?

Two popular activities are teaching English to children overseas and participating in short-term programs to learn another language. Ideas like applying for an internship, volunteering, traveling through wineries and enrolling in cultural classes such as dance, art or cooking, come to mind and a few great websites to start your search (aside from our own, of course) include:

www.goabroad.comwww.crossculturalsolutions.or and

As we’re often looking into ways to swap our place without worrying about creeps running off with our stove, tables, chairs, pots and pans, here’s how.

How to swap my place?

Apart from the temporary home exchange section of Craig’s List (we’re weary), websites such as:

All offer reliable alternatives to finding the perfect “tenant.”  As always, watch for scams and questionable Web sites before accepting any offer.

What do I do with my belongings?

The best answer to this question is to find a mobile storage unit. In the US, Moishe’s Mobile offers an affordable and convenient moving and storage solution. For as little as $79, Moishe’s can have a mobile storage unit delivered outside your place. You pack the container at their own pace (there are no extra charges if you take longer than needed) and when ready one of Moishe’s professionals will come pick it up and take it to a secure storage facility. There are a variety of sizes of containers, and monthly storage rates start at $60.

Why should I do this?

The experience can lead to amazing surprises, and the knowledge gained during your adventure can benefit your job search.  Not convinced yet? I hear Jude Law and Cameron Diaz are doing it.

Belize: An Eco-First

Well, how about this? Belize’s first oceanfront Green Globe Certified property! That’s right, Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort recently earned the prestigious title of Belize’s first-ever Green Globe Certified beachfront property. Based in Hopkins, the eco-resort has been dedicated to operating at the world’s highest environmental standards since its inception in 2000. “In an effort to avoid the travel industry’s ‘green washing’ label, we felt passionately about being part of a program that was serious and reputable,” said Dana Krauskopf, owner of Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort.  Not only does their new achievement exemplify that Hamanasi puts the environment first; but it also shows the staff, guests and public that Hamanasi is deeply committed to its green/sustainability initiatives.

Hamanasi’s pledge to Mother Nature was followed by the immediate implementation of efforts including hiring and developing local staff, keeping as much of the native plants and eco system as possible, including an 11-acre nature reserve, and designing to ensure maximum natural light and air flow. In fact, Hamanasi plans to introduce solar power in new guest units, invest in a new grey water system, establish an organic garden and implement other earth friendly, energy saving efforts. So we say, in addition to diving, cavorting, and canoodling in paradise, now you can feel extra good about it.

Email: or call 1-877-552-3483

Europe’s Best Oceanfront Camping

This week we came across some of the top European scenic camping picks from The UK’s Observer. After all, not everything has to be five star digs and a butler when you’re becoming one with nature. Extracted from Cool Camping Europe (£18.95) and Cool Camping France (£14.95), this book is a veritable wealth of information if gorgeous views and camping among exotic locales is your thing.

By Keith Didcock

Les Romarins, Cote d’Azur – France

This is as dramatic a campsite as you’ll find anywhere in France, and not one for those who don’t like heights. A few kilometres up from the village of Eze, you can pitch under olive and rosemary trees in a hillside setting on the French Riviera between Monaco and Nice. With fabulous views across the sea from the steeply raking site, Les Romarins is the perfect place to live the high life without breaking the bank.

• +33 4 9301 8164;; from €17 to €20 for two people, tent and car plus €5.50 to €7 for each extra person and €3 to €4 for under-fives.

Cala Llevado, Costa Brava – Spain

Set among ragged cliffs in Spain’s Costa Brava, four beaches run along the stunning coastline. With everything from hidden camps to coves, there’s large bay, but keep in mind, some campsites are removed while others are on top of one of the beaches, giving you a bird’s eye view.

• +34 9 7234 0314;; from €16.50 to €27 for a person, tent and car plus €5.50 to €9 for each extra person and €3 to €5 per child.

Costiolu, Sardinia – Italy

This is a working organic farm – un’azienda biologica- in the island’s hilly heart. There aren’t beaches right on your doorstep, but the gorgeous waters of the Costa Smeralda are within striking distance. Run by the colourful Giovanni, the farm is a proper retreat from the trappings of modern life. Sardinia’s cultural capital, Nuoro, is visible from the azienda but the land around is mainly olive groves, fields of cereal and grazing land full of goats. To top it all, Giovanni does the cooking, too.

• +39 0784 260088; email:; from €15 a night for two people, tent and car. Dinner €25 a head.

Mala Milna, Hvar – Croatia

Hvar is Croatia’s answer to the French Riviera, with exclusive beaches, designer hotels, cafes, bars and boutiques, so if you’ve brought your glad-rags you can always rub shoulders with the moneyed glamour on this island for an evening or two. Thankfully, you won’t be disturbed by Dalmatian WAGs and their designer poodles at Mala Milna, though, as it’s the budget option. There are two pebble beaches (the Croatian coast is notoriously rocky) on either side of the site and the coast is dotted with paths and ancient villages alike, so there’s everything you need.

• +38 521 643531;; about 140kn (£16) for two people, tent and car

Nicolas, Peleponnese – Greece

This southern region is the epitome of ancient Greece, a fancy mix of ruins, myths and classic tales. Nicolas campsite is a 10-minute stroll from the town of Tiryns, which hosts an annual classic Greek theatre festival, staged in its two ancient amphitheatres. So you might be sharing the site with actors rehearsing their lines between mouthfuls of moussaka. The camp is set in a former orange and mulberry grove with pitches in the hollows and under the canopy of the flowering trees and it’s all just a ripe orange’s throw from the waters of the bay.

• +30 275 304 1218;; from €16 to €20 for a tent and two people.

Pay It Forward: Austin, Texas

When you think about it, taking a vacation is a self-centred act and, some might argue, rightfully so. No need to feel too guilty about affording the luxuries in life… if you can. It’s a much-needed time to kick back, catch up on your rest and also fit in some fun.

But, if you’re like us, you’ve probably wished (somewhere from the pool to the spa) that you could give back to the destination that gave you those postcard-perfect memories. Now, thanks to Four Seasons Hotel Austin, you can.

Starting May 1, the Hotel is offering its brand new Pay It Forward package. The deal is sweet and simple: When guests spend a half-day working with one of the Hotel’s non-profit partner organisations, they’ll receive almost 50 percent savings on their room rate. How’s that for Feel Good Savings?

Travellers who are game for generosity can choose to spend their time with either Caritas of Austin, a centre that provides food and supplies to those in need, or Keep Austin Beautiful, a group that focuses on conservation and litter reduction. At the end of their stay, guests can rest assured they’ve enjoyed what the city has to offer, and offered something in return.

Book your room at Four Seasons Hotel Austin to pay it forward, and receive some payback on your bill.  We think it’s a pretty win/win situation, indeed.

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