Diplomats vent frustration at Tony Blair’s ‘manic’ travel demands

The unnamed official goes on to express concern in the email over the toll on staff who are being diverted from regular duties.

“Mr Blair has added another stopover before heading to Cairo a day later than announced at the end of last week. I appreciate the comments you have made on the demands these changes have also made on staff time at posts,” wrote the official.

In an email five days later, sent from the British embassy in Cairo to counterparts in Tel Aviv embassy, a diplomat asked if Mr Blair was going to appear after all. “Who knows? A mystery, the whole thing,” was the response.

Another diplomat wrote: “They haven’t got a meeting with Fawzi, unless something weird is going on …”

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/30/diplomats-vent-frustration-at-tony-blairs-manic-travel-demands/

Your own Motorcycle Diaries: touring Cuba with Che Guevara’s son

It’s a sunny morning in Trinidad, Cuba, and in front of a row of brightly painted colonial houses, a vintage Harley Davidson is attracting admiring glances. But a newer Harley parked behind it, outside a guesthouse, probably has a more interesting story: it belongs to Ernesto Guevara, son of revolutionary hero Che.

Ernesto runs motorbike tours of Cuba and today, before setting off for the mountains and beach, he’s having breakfast in the guesthouse courtyard with his group. Wearing a black Harley T-shirt and wristband, he looks younger than his 51 years.

He says he inherited his passion for motorbikes from his father and has loved them since he was a child. “I have had a Harley since I was 21,” he tells me. “After so many years they become part of you.”

He started La Poderosa Tours over a year ago, to share his love of Cuba and motorbikes. The name is a tribute to La Poderosa II (the name means powerful), the Norton bike on which his father and friend Alberto Granado rode for nine months across South America in 1952, a trip recorded in Che’s book The Motorcycle Diaries.


Harley trips can include a few days on the beach at Cayo Santa Maria Photograph: Alamy

There are two tours. A seven-day (six night) trip heads east from Havana to Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara, with a visit to Che’s mausoleum, staying at small hotels or private homes. A nine-day (eight night) tour adds a few days on the beach at Cayo Santa María.

“We can’t go as far as Santiago – the road is terrible,” says Ernesto. “But we do custom trips. If clients want to go west to Pinar del Río and Viñales for example, we’ll go. And we take in some places tourists wouldn’t normally go – like an old Harley workshop.”

There are 10 Harley Davidsons for guests – including Touring Electra Glide, Sportster 1200 and V-Rod models – with two people per bike. Most tours are booked by groups of friends, but individual bookings are taken. The driver, but not the passenger, must have some motorbike experience. The last group was from New Zealand and there’s a Chinese group on the way.

Ernesto grins: “That should be interesting. Chinese motorbikes are probably different from Harleys!” Then he revs up his own bike and takes off down the dusty road.
Tours cost from $3,250pp (two sharing a bike and a room), including accommodation and meals, lapoderosatours.com

MORE CUBAN TOURS FOR …

Explorers


Behind the scenes at the Cuban National Ballet. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Journey Latin America’s self-drive tour of western Cuba starts in Havana and takes in the Viñales valley, forested Las Terrazas, historic Cienfuegos and colonial Trinidad. Optional extras include a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gran Teatro, the home of the Cuban National Ballet Company, plus salsa lessons and horse riding.
From £1,086pp for 12 nights BB, including car, excluding flights, journeylatinamerica.co.uk

Families


Salsa lessons in Havana Photograph: Alamy

Stubborn Mule introduced a Cuban family adventure last year, sourcing child-friendly hotels with interconnecting rooms (rare in Cuba). The programme starts in Havana and includes bike riding, zipwiring and two nights in Cayo Las Brujas, a resort with 2km of white sandy beaches.
From £1,250 per adult for 14 days, including BB, private transport and an internal flight, stubbornmuletravel.com

Nature lovers


Snorkeling in the Bay of Pigs Photograph: Alamy

Rickshaw Travel has a new trip to Playa Larga in the Bay of Pigs, a great area for nature walks, snorkelling, diving and hanging out in a hammock on a sandy beach. Accommodation is in a homestay.
From £115 for two nights/three days, rickshawtravel.co.uk

Cyclists


Cycling by the lake in Las Terrazas, Cuba. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Global Adventure Challenges is organising a 225-mile tour of Cuba by bike next year. Highlights include Havana, colonial city Sancti Spiritus and Santa Clara, where the revolution’s last battle took place at the end of 1958.
From £1,974pp for nine days full-board, (or £399 plus a fundraising minimum of £3,150 for charity), including flights, globaladventurechallenges.com

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/apr/30/ernesto-guevara-motorbike-tours-cuba

Travel Question of the Day: Simon Calder on what to see in New England

Q We have arranged a two-week holiday to New England in October to see the Fall. Can you recommend six must-see locations?

Kevin Pugh 

A You may well be flying in and/or out of Boston, which is one of America’s greatest cities. The Massachusetts state capital is where the US was born. You can immerse yourself in the story of America’s 18th-century struggle for freedom from its British colonial overlords, or simply indulge in cuisine and culture. Our most recent 48 Hours in Boston is here: bit.ly/48Boston.

Next, visit Spectacle Island in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, which provides you with a boat trip from Boston as well as some good hiking trails and beaches; the Atlantic should still be warm in September, though cooler in October.

Heading south, Rhode Island is an adorable little state; the city of Providence is a smaller, more manageable version of Boston, while Newport is fascinating for its “old money” extravagance in lovely natural surroundings.

New Haven is the home to Yale, an “Ivy League” university with superb museums and galleries. It is also the birthplace of the hamburger, at least according to Louis’ Lunch (established 1895).

My final two recommendations are both in southern Maine, near Portland. Old Orchard Beach is a classic US seaside resort, with superb food on offer as well as a good old, fashioned pier and funfair. And Chebeague Island, accessible by ferry from Portland, is a magical combination of beaches, lobster huts, woodland and quiet charm. 

Every day, our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles readers’ questions. Just email yours to s@hols.tv or tweet @simoncalder

  • More about:
  • New England
  • Boston
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Article source: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/new-england-travel-tips-what-to-see-simon-calder-advice-a7001171.html

SME profile: Dubai travel company up to challenge booking holidays for the adventurous

Casting around for ideas for a new career choice after leaving a well-paid career in banking and taking two years out to teach in India, Kripa Hadani drew on her slightly unusual approach to taking a holiday for her new business venture.

“I would look for three main things when I planned my holidays,” she said.

“Firstly, I was often a solo traveller so I’d look for a group that I could join. Secondly, I liked to travel to places where you could meet and interact with the local population. And thirdly, I like active holidays where you’re actually doing something rather than just seeing the sights.”

After planing several holiday adventures for herself that ticked all of these boxes, it occurred to her that there might be others interested in spending their holidays doing more than sitting on a sun lounger all day.

“I remembered really enjoying the trips I made with adventure travel companies, and I really wanted to bring those experiences to more people in the UAE and the Gulf region. So that’s what triggered the idea for the business.”

Ms Hadani co-founded I Love Adventures in JLT in Dubai with her sister in late 2014. The company works with five global travel firms – including Exodus Travels, Grand American Adventures and Intrepid Travel – that offers adventure travel experiences in over 120 countries worldwide.

Such experiences cover a wide range of themes, ranging from cycling and climbing holidays designed for fitness fanatics, to more gentle yet no less adventurous trips to the Amazon jungle, the forests of Borneo, or a culinary tour of Dehli.

And while many of us have gotten used to booking our holidays online with the likes of booking.com, Ms Hadani says that people still value being able to speak to someone to help them organise their trips, especially within the field of adventure travel.

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“People in this market are still getting used to the idea of adventure travel, particularly if they’re looking for a more active holiday and wanting to join up with a group,” she said.

“We’re finding that people really like to speak to someone with someone who can help them plan their holiday and really tailor their experience to their needs.”

“If you’re taking on a challenging trip like climbing Kiliminjaro, people want to be able to have a discussion about the kind of equipment and items they need to take with them and what preparation they need to do beforehand. All of this information is available online, but we provide a local contact point that you can chat to on the phone or come in and meet with in person if you need some assistance.”

I Love Adventures services have proved particularly popular with solo female travellers who are keen to find a holiday experience off the beaten track but are reluctant to travel on their own, according to Ms Hadani.

“The security of the group setting is something they really like and that’s why they want to pick a trips where they can go with others.”

The company has found itself particularly popular with teachers who are looking to make the most of their time in the UAE by exploring adventure holiday destinations in Africa and Asia.

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has so far proved to be one of the company’s most popular destinations, as well as cycling trips in South Africa that coincide with the country’s annual Cape Argus Cycle Tour in March.

I Love Adventures has had a steady uptick in business since its launch about 18 months ago, booking trips for around 100 customers this year. Much of the company’s marketing has been achieved by word of mouth referrals and social media, its Facebook page having received over 3,600 likes so far.

“People that have been on the holiday with us have loved their experiences and come back with excellent reviews,” says Ms Hadani.

“We have a number of repeat customers coming back for their second and third trips.”

The company has also participated in a series of community fairs and school events to publicise its services, and also sponsored last year’s RAKBank Ride cycling event.

Ms Hadani and her sister funded I Love Adventures from their own personal savings, without having to take out large loans for the start-up phase. The company, which expects to break even later this year, is still considering its funding options as it seeks to expand, and has already received five expressions of interest from would-be partners.

“For the first year we really wanted to just test the concept out and see if it was one we were happy with,” said Ms Hadani.

“We haven’t taken anyone on board yet but it’s encouraging that there is a community out there that’s looking for new business ideas and are willing to fund the right people.”

jeverington@thenational.ae

We are on the lookout for SME success stories. If you want to have your business profiled, contact us at business@thenational.ae

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Article source: http://www.thenational.ae/business/travel-tourism/sme-profile-dubai-travel-company-up-to-challenge-booking-holidays-for-the-adventurous

Tips for independent travellers to Cuba

If you’re travelling independently, don’t even think about arriving in Cuba without your first few nights (or entire holiday if you want a smooth ride) booked at Cuba’s BBs (casas particulares) or hotels. The Cuba Travel Network website offers live availability for hotels. For BBs use hostelsclub.com, cubacasas.net, airbnb.com, and guidebook recommendations, or try homestay.com for stays with locals.

Online bookings for the country’s only scheduled tourist coach service, Víazul, can only be made seven days in advance, so you need to plan ahead. You must print your reservation to receive your ticket at the bus station. Many routes are oversubscribed. If your travel plans aren’t fixed, turn up early at the station and join the queue.

If you can’t get a seat, persistent private taxi drivers (boteros) outside all bus stations will gather up travellers and charge them the same as or less than Víazul. It’s a door-to-door service but nervous passengers should be aware that they drive like the wind.

State agency Cubanacán’s Connectando Cuba is a coach transfer service that runs from hotel to hotel for the same price as Víazul; book at Cubanacán hotel desks.

Taxis in Havana are getting expensive. Ask your BB owner to show you how to take a almendrón (a collective taxi – a cheap and fun way of riding in the classic, battered American gas guzzlers that are synonymous with Cuba) for between CUP10 (30p) and CUP20 a ride across the city.

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/apr/30/cuba-travel-tips

Turning the laggard pace of travel upside down

The year is 2025. A snazzy pillar of public transport, the Chennai Metro Rail network, has completely refurbished the concept of hardwired city commute. It’s an era where time is money, and for residents on the city’s periphery, the Metro is proving to be a mighty boon.

Picture this. A travel time of 1 hour 45 minutes from Chemmenchery to Ambattur can now be cruised in about 40 minutes aboard the Metro Rail. For many, Metro Rail has turned the entire concept of laggard pace of travel upside down.

That will be when Metro Rail will be a force to contend with in addition to the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS), some 10 years from now

The noveau network will be a novelty for daily commuters like Balaji Chandarasikharan, whose day currently is spent commuting to work and back. Every day, he covers a wearisome 35 kilometres, each way, between his house in Chemmenchery and workplace in Ambattur.

Besides the time consumed in travelling 70 km every day, he also spends a bomb on fuel — about Rs. 10,000 a month.

“I don’t have much of a choice but to travel by car. If I have to take a bus, I have to change three buses and at every point I have to wait for at least 15-20 minutes. The city badly needs to make mobility better for people living in the suburbs,” he laments.

He is not alone. There are many others undertaking such arduous journeys every day from one corner of the city to another, for lack of a robust transport system that is seamlessly integrated.

It is for these people and others that the Phase II of Chennai Metro Rail holds a lot of promise and pomp.

For one, it connects several parts of the central and north Chennai to the southern fringes. The Phase II network covering 88 km has over 70 stations, a factor that could enable easy integration with other modes of transport.

Mr. Chandarasikharan says that when the Phase II gets operational, he would be able to board a train at New Kumaran Nagar to reach Anna Nagar and then take a bus to Ambattur.

“It will substantially reduce time and money spent for me,” he adds. It does sound like a great plan, except that he has ignored a vital component.

By the time the Metro reaches his neck of the woods, the city is likely to have a robust Bus Rapid Transit System too and he could hop on to a BRTS line and land at a Metro station.

Going by the proposed BRTS network for the city, there will be a BRTS line from Thirumangalam to Ambattur. If this corridor is integrated with the Metro, residents like Mr. Chandarasikharan would not be taking the regular bus to Ambattur, but one on the BRTS line.

Calling for seamless integration of the Metrorail network and BRTS lines, Raj Cherubal of Chennai City Connect, an NGO, says it may not be enough to just have a Metrorail network, the proposed BRTS should be integrated with the Metro Rail to make travel easier for commuters.

For instance, Metro Rail will go up to Shollinganallur where it will connect to BRTS. The BRTS will continue beyond and go up to Siruseri. So, if this integration is effected, thousands of software professionals travelling from the city will be benefitted, he says.

“In some places, they can be integrated with MRTS too. Metro Rail cannot serve independently; there has to be integration and last-mile connectivity,” he says.

People should be able to travel comfortably by switching between various modes of public transport, that is how meticulous the planning should be, says Mr. Cherubal.

Article source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-metro-turning-the-laggard-pace-of-travel-upside-down/article8540051.ece

How to quit your job and travel for 2 years – Las Vegas Review

Years ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I sat across from my wife Gayl in a taco stand and told her that I thought we should sell our house, quit our jobs and sail to Tahiti. “Terry, we don’t know how to sail,” she said.

She had a point, but I was much more worried about the financials of how we would bail out of society for two years and not end up begging in the streets of a foreign country. I was a magazine editor making less than $50,000 a year; she was a surf industry production manager making about the same. To make matters even more complicated, we had just bought our first house and had no savings.

Yet while she dreamed of starting a family, I dreamed of starting an adventure — anything that got me out of my cubicled existence. It took a hard sell, a lot of beer and promises of future parenthood, but somehow I convinced Gayl of the plan. Three years later, after taking everything from basic sailing to advanced anchoring, we quit our jobs and set sail in an old, leaky boat on a two-year, 6,000-mile journey to Mexico and the South Pacific.

Financially, the most difficult part was getting away; once Gayl and I were traveling, without even attempting to be frugal, we spent only $600 to $1,000 a month. That was less than our mortgage alone had been.

The trip, and preparing for it, convinced me that, when properly motivated, anyone can take two years off to travel the world. Here are the 10 top things we did to make our dream adventure a reality.

1. Get or Stay Debt-Free

The one thing Gayl and I had going for us is that we were debt-free — if you don’t count a $225,000 mortgage. We used credit cards sparingly, usually to get the rewards.

Most financial advisors will tell you that paying off high-interest credit cards should be your first move toward financial freedom. Unfortunately, Americans are not so great at that, with the average indebted household holding approximately $9,600 worth of credit card debt, according to a 2015 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Even with a relatively low interest rate of 15 percent, it will take you more than 16 years of paying $300 a month to pay that off. You’ll also pay nearly $16,000 doing it.

So ask yourself whether you’d rather spend that $300 on “stuff” like big-screen TVs to watch other people’s grand adventures, or on scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or hiking to Machu Picchu yourself. The point: Before you do anything else, pay down credit cards.

2. Downsize Your Life

Gayl and I did the ultimate downsize, from a house on an 8,000-square-foot lot to a 32-foot sailboat with about 200 square feet of living space. We sold the house and anything that wasn’t useful at sea — i.e., everything. The house netted us the money to buy our boat — a swap to give any financial planner nightmares. The yard sale chipped in more than $1,000, much of it for things we hadn’t used in years.

We moved into a small apartment for a year before we left to save money and prepare the boat. By doing this, we saved about $450 every month. Before we left, we also sold our cars and netted close to $10,000 more for our travel fund.

If you rent, chances are you can always move into a smaller apartment and save money. Either way, downsizing sooner rather than right before your jump will not only save you money, it will also help you see how much unnecessary “stuff” you have been collecting and give you practice in living with less.

3. Never Eat Out, Ever

Everyone enjoys eating out. Maybe that’s why, in 2015, for the first time, Americans spent more on dining out than on groceries. Unfortunately, eating out will kill your world-travel dreams faster than a dengue fever outbreak.

To see why, consider a study by marketing company Restaurant Marketing Labs about the dining out habits of millennials, Americans born between 1980 to 2000. On average, they spend $174 per month on dining out, whereas other adults spend about $153 per month, the study found. That $150 will buy a lot of tacos in Mexico.

For this reason, Gayl and I stopped dining out a year before we set sail. We weren’t big fine diners to begin with, but the decision still saved us about $200 a month. Whenever we were tempted by the thought of white linen and a $15 glass of wine, we reminded ourselves that for every hour at a fine restaurant, we could spend about four days in a tropical port instead.

4. Commit to Your Goal 100 Percent

There’s a reason just about everyone dreams of quitting their jobs and bolting for the horizon, but so few do: It requires total, 100-percent, long-term commitment. The fact is that in our impatient, consumer-driven society, it’s easy to lose the ability to stay focused and stop impulsive buying. But to accomplish this goal, you’ll need to cut down on more than just dining out.

Like most people do when worried about money, we looked at our monthly expenses and found many surprising places to slash. We went to the library instead of bookstores. We never bought coffee, or water or other convenience items out. We cancelled the gym. We stopped buying any clothes that weren’t suited to the tropics. We always, always considered the opportunity cost to even the smallest purchase before swiping our debit card.

I even calculated how much we could save by turning vegetarian and giving up alcohol. The answer was a lot — about $240 a month. So I tried. But I confess, it lasted only a few months. Turns out that the stress and manual labor involved in preparing to sail into the sunset requires copious amounts of both protein and alcohol.

I did compromise with myself, however, and cut down to four vegetarian days a week and wine only on weekends. I estimated that saved about $1,200 in the final year before launch.

5. Travel Modestly

When most people think of traveling the world, they picture hotels, pools and fine dining. Best get those splashy images out of your head right now; traveling is different than vacationing.

In our case, our modest boat gave us free transport when the wind blew and free accommodation, not counting the $47,000 purchase price of the boat. Many times, we anchored for free only a few hundred yards from $2,000-a-night, over-the-water bungalows. Same view, same fish.

If you’re not the nautical kind, there are many other options. Four years before our sailing adventure, Gayl and I quit our jobs and traveled Australia for four months. We bought a $200 tent and paid $4 to $10 for oceanfront campsites each night. When acquaintances Brad and Sheena Van Orden decided to quit their jobs and travel, they took off in a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon they named “Nacho.”

The point is, there are usually inexpensive options to hotels. Embrace them by remembering that even the dingiest hostel beats your cubicle most of the time.

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6. Eat What the Locals Eat

Unless you’re planning an expedition to the South Pole, there will be other humans at your travel destination. They eat, and usually pretty well. So embrace the local customs. This will not only lower your food bill, but because food is such a vital part of understanding any culture, it will greatly enhance your travel experience.

Eating what the locals eat is also quite easy. One of our favorite destinations was French Polynesia, or Tahiti and her neighboring islands. We worried about the cost of food in Tahiti, as it’s a notoriously expensive place to travel.

What we found was that our diet not only improved, but cost a fraction of what it did back home. When I failed to catch or spear dinner, we bought fish like ahi and mahi-mahi from local fisherman for a fraction of what we paid here in the U.S.

We stuck to local fruits and vegetables and French bread loaves, or modest, family-run restaurants when we wanted to splurge. Doing that brought our daily food bill to below what nearby resort-goers paid for their morning pot of coffee.

7. Say Nay to the Naysayers

When you tell your friends and family of your two-year travel plan, most will tell you that you are absolutely bonkers. Brad Van Orden’s boss asked him to consider seeing a psychiatrist. In our case, our friends were probably right — after all, when we decided to chuck everything and sail away, we didn’t even know how to sail.

But that’s sort of the point: If we had listened, we never would have learned to sail in the first place. The naysayers will point to things like your career, building financial security and retirement savings.

Those are all valid points. But the fact is, if you do it right, landing on your feet again can be easier than you might imagine. The first time I quit and left to camp through Australia, I returned to a promotion. The second time I quit and left to sail the South Seas, I had a better position within three months after returning. So we say: Listen to your own passion, not others’ logic.

8. Go Now, With What You Have

Traveling for two years is like having a baby: You will never, ever be ready. In the years that Gayl and I prepared to take off, we met many couples far more prepared than we were who felt they needed more time before cutting the dock lines.

They would point to systems on their boats that we hadn’t even thought of yet and bemoan how much more work they needed. They would tell us we needed a new headsail, a better stovetop or newer rigging … the list went on.

One day, for work, I interviewed a businessman and sailor who said he, too, wanted to go cruising. He was single, a better sailor than I was, had a cruise-ready 60-foot yacht and a net worth of about $50 million. I asked him what he was waiting for. He grimaced, looked me right in the eye, and said, “If I wait five years, I’ll have a better boat, and my company will be worth $500 million.”

Later, in the Marquesas Islands, I met a man who had just sailed his 21-foot, engineless sloop 3,000 miles from Cabo San Lucas. He was smiling and happily chasing a wild chicken for dinner. I guessed his net worth to be about $4, but he was there.

9. Work While You Travel

Fortunately, the sale of our house provided the funding we needed to travel modestly for two years. I did some writing, but not much — avoiding writing is what writers do best. However, many travelers we met were funding their trips by working as they went. Whether they were computer programmers, graphic designers or business consultants, it wasn’t hard for many to earn the little money they needed to keep their dream alive.

It seems to be getting easier to work remotely all the time. Sites like Upwork.com are creating opportunities for travelers to find employers from wherever they can get internet reception. Upwork alone lists 2,700 skills, or types of work needed.

Many countries also offer working holiday visas. These are mainly available to 18 to 30-year-olds and do have other restrictions. But they can allow you to travel and work in countries for up to two years. Countries offering these include Australia, New Zealand, Chile, France, Italy, Japan and many more.

10. Have a Return-to-Reality Fund

On the cold November morning after my return from cruising, I woke up on a blow-up mattress in a friend’s den next to a pregnant wife — yes, mine. Looking back, I wish we had a little better plan for how we would return to our landlubber life.

The one thing we did right is not spend all our money during the two-year period. Not because of a plan, I admit, but because traveling didn’t cost nearly as much as I had anticipated. Call it our return-to-reality money or a rainy day fund, it bought us time to get back on our feet.

Kate Homes, a certified financial planner and founder of Belmore Financial, as well as a frequent traveler, recommended putting 20 percent of your pre-travel income toward a fund for your return. “I would advise people to have enough money to get them by for six months on their return,” she said, likening it to an emergency fund.

Remember, she added, you’ll need to find a place to live, possibly buy a car and look presentable for job interviews. True enough, and probably just scary enough to have you thinking of taking to the road for another few years.

From GoBankingRates.com: How to quit your job and travel for two years

Article source: http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/money/how-quit-your-job-and-travel-2-years

Why is Jordan restricting Palestinians’ travel? – Al

Why is Jordan restricting Palestinians’ travel?

Author: Daoud Kuttab

Like so many accomplished students, Benaz Someir, a Palestinian from Gaza, chose to attend Birzeit University.

While pursuing her degree in journalism, Benaz met and later married Walid Batrawi, a fellow BA journalism student from Ramallah. For family and professional reasons, Benaz, a resident of Khan Yunis in Gaza, requested and was given permission to change her residency to the West Bank.

Having successfully convinced the Israelis to change her residency to the West Bank, Benaz was now able to travel to different parts of the world using the King Hussein Bridge, which was easier than returning to Gaza. The choice was hard, but Benaz felt that it was best for her and her career as a media trainer and for her new family in Ramallah.

That decision was made more than 20 years ago. But despite being married to a Palestinian and having proper residency in Ramallah for two decades, Benaz is being treated by Jordanian border control officers as a Gazan. Like all other West Bank and Gaza residents, Benaz holds the same Palestinian passport, yet she is treated differently than her husband.

Walid is allowed to travel to Jordan or via Jordan without any restrictions, while Benaz needs to get prior Jordanian approval. This practice began when Gazans carried Egyptian travel documents and West Bankers carried Jordanian travel documents.

However, since the 1993 Oslo Accords, this changed, and all Palestinians have the same passports. Nevertheless, Palestinians deemed by Jordan as Gazans (namely, if they were born in Gaza or are children of Gazan parents) must apply for a special permit called an adam mumanaa — a no-objection document — issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior.

This is costly, nonrevocable and time-consuming. The process takes weeks and sometimes months without any clarity of the rules.

Despite this inconvenience, most Gazans with a legitimate reason to travel are granted this permit — until recently.

Wafa Abdel Rahman, founder/director of Filasitynat, a leading women’s nongovernmental organization, is also a Gazan who has been living in the West Bank for decades. Abdel Rahman told Al-Monitor that the Jordanian authorities have in the past three months almost completely stopped approving these coveted permits. “They have turned down almost every application without any explanation or justification.”

Abdel Rahman, who married a Jordanian citizen, was able to make it to Jordan this week and has launched a series of meetings with Jordanian parliamentarians and government officials. She has also been speaking in the media about the problem.

“Living in Ramallah as a Gaza-born means you are stuck, you can’t return to see your family in Gaza, and now you can’t travel outside the West Bank for work or pleasure,” she told Al-Monitor.

Students, workers, individuals invited to conferences and businesspeople are among the many types of people who have been unable in recent months to obtain permits to enter Jordan, said Abdel Rahman. She estimates that about 50,000 Gazans are now residents of the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian government is pursuing the case of Gazans with their Jordanian counterparts. “We are in constant touch with our Jordanian partners, and we have excellent cooperation at all levels,” he told Al-Monitor.

Abdel Rahman and others affected are not convinced of the ability of Ramallah to do anything and have created a movement called Haraka with the express goal of pursuing “the freedom to the right to travel and to choose your residency.”

While in Amman, Abdel Rahman joined forces with a group of Gazans living in Jordan who also face different kinds of discrimination in work and employment. They will meet with senior Jordanian officials to seek a change to the current policy.

Jordanian sources are extremely quiet on the subject. A reliable security source told Al-Monitor that in Jordan the bridge policy is a “sovereignty issue” and is considered a red line not open for discussion. The problem is further complicated because Jordan is trying to organize its huge migrant population and deal with the international pressure to allow Syrian refugees to work in Jordan. Syrian refugees have been recently allowed to take up jobs in Jordan, and thus the opportunity for Jordanian workers is narrowing. The concern (although unsubstantiated) is that somehow if Gazan Palestinians make it to Jordan, they will drive unemployment among Jordanians even more.

Abdel Rahman told Al-Monitor that some Jordanian officials have indirectly hinted that some Gazans come to Jordan and never left.

The lukewarm relationship between Ramallah and Amman has also meant that there are few top-level meetings between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah during which such sensitive issues could be dealt with.

This week, Benaz was invited to a family wedding in Jordan. She had to stay in Ramallah while others were able to attend the celebrations because she was unable to obtain the permission that Palestinians of Gazan origin need in order to enter Jordan.

For years, Palestinians have been fighting repressive Israeli travel restrictions. But for Palestinians who have fought and succeeded in finding an alternative by moving to the West Bank, to get restricted now from traveling by a nearby Arab country is hard for many to fathom. What is further frustrating is that they are being discriminated against based on their birthplace, even though they carry the same passport as their fellow Palestinians.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/palestine-israel-jordan-travel-restrictions-west-bank-gaza.html

Article source: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/palestine-israel-jordan-travel-restrictions-west-bank-gaza.html

Top Destinations for LGBT Travel in 2016 Revealed

As LGBT tourism continues to grow, travel-planning app and website Gogobot just announced its 2016 top destinations where the specialized sector is expanding. Atlanta topped the list this year beating out Minneapolis and Boston—Dubai even cracked the top 10 briefly before being removed considering homosexuality is illegal in the region.

“Gogobot’s LGBT Tribe is exploring exciting new spots that transcend traditional LGBT travel destinations like Miami, San Francisco, and Provincetown,” Krista Canfield, Gogobot’s Getaway Expert told Travel + Leisure via email. “Sadly over the past year Gogobot has had to issue disclaimers here in the U.S. about travel safety related to discrimination and anti-LGBT legislation. On the flip side, we’re excited this year to be able to celebrate cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis and Tampa where there are many restaurants, nightclubs, and neighborhoods that are LGBT friendly and a number of organizations that help support and promote those businesses’ growth and success.”

To come up with the top 10 list, Gogobot took a number of different factors into consideration when including reviewing data across more than 60,000 destinations in its database. Both lists are based on the number of reviews from distinct travelers visiting the destination, the number of people creating trips on the site for these destinations and real travelers recommending these spots to the LGBT Tribe in 2015.

“Our data tells us that LGBT travelers—like travelers from our other tribes—are keen to experience places first hand where the cultural norms, and even the laws, are not necessarily welcoming,” added Canfield. “These findings come at an interesting point in time since travel even within certain U.S. destinations is not LGBT friendly.”

In fact, Dubai was initially number nine on the list as the data showed that the LGBT community was increasingly interested in visiting the city. “We decided to remove Dubai from our list because homosexuality is still illegal in Dubai,” note Canfield. “As a company, we can’t in good conscience recommend Dubai as a great destination for LGBT travelers, since the punishment for homosexuality in Dubai can include prison, fines, deportation, and even the death penalty.”  

Check out the full list below: 

1. Atlanta
2. Minneapolis
3. Boston
4. Austin
5. Dallas
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Hong Kong
8. Toronto
9. Dubai (as explained above, Gogobot removed it from the list since homosexuality is illegal in Dubai)
10. Tampa

Article source: http://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/lgbt-travel/top-destinations-lgbt-travel

Totally awesome travel totes for mom that won’t break the bank

What’s in your bag?

If you’re a mom on a trip with her kids, you probably feel like you’ve got everything you might need, whatever happens — minor injuries, delays, hunger, thirst, meltdowns — not to mention your electronic devices, passports, if you’re leaving the country, toys, itineraries and maybe even a guidebook. That’s not even accounting for all the extra supplies you need when traveling with a baby or toddler.

That’s why that bag is so important. (Are you listening dads and kids?) You don’t want to end up like I did on my way out of the country with a bag that broke at the airport.

With Mother’s Day a week away, there’s no better time to splurge on a new tote for mom. I’ve become a fan of the large MZ Wallace Metro Tote($225) because it is lightweight, made of quilted stain- and water-resistant nylon, foldable, rollable, packable, zips up and includes three detachable travel pouches.

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(MZ Wallace)

Another good bet is the new stylish Kinzie Street tote also made of a high-performance fabric that debuts May 1 fromBriggs and Riley. It’s designed with a special padded, fleece-lined tablet pocket and RFID blocking pockets to protect against identity theft and credit card theft. I like all of the other organizer pockets and a “SpeedThru” pocket for storing travel belongings. It’s$229.

The camera-toting mom will love those designed by Louisiana -based photographer, designer and mother of three, Kelly Moore. They are durable (made of Cambrio, a new material produced exclusively for the company, that is water resistant, abrasion resistant and vegan friendly), affordable ($139 to $249) and include a signature removable basket that can hold a camera body and lenses, adjustable dividers and plenty of pockets. The Monroe model has a detachable clutch; The Collins model can hold up to a 10-inch-long lens and has an outside zipper pocket for credit cards and more.

Since 1944, traveling moms have sworn by L.L. Bean’s Boat and Tote Bagsthat continue to be handmade in Maine. Originally, their big selling point was that they were strong enough to carry heavy ice blocks. Today, the company boasts that these totes are the strongest available, tested to hold 500 pounds. I’ve seen people toting puppies in them! As the large bag retails for less than $50, splurge on a monogram for mom!

Now that you’ve got that all-important bag, you need to fill it up. An extra lightweight, moisture-wicking layer is always nice to stash in that tote. What’s mom’s favorite color?

I don’t leave home without my Camelbak Forge, the first travel mug with a self-sealing cap and lock-open button. My coffee stays hot for hours and there are no spills or leaks — a bargain at under $30. If the mom in your life always has a water bottle in her tote, check out the new colorful National Parks collection from Camelbak – get one to remind mom of a favorite trip — blue from Acadia; orange from theGrand Canyon, green for Great Smoky Mountains with iconic images. They’re just $15.

A new tablet is always nice, as they possess ever more versatility, longer battery power and are as small as seven inches. Tech Radar offers a list of the top 10 so far in 2016, including the iPad mini 4 that they say is the best small-screen tablet on the market, and it can be had for under $75.

Certainly mom doesn’t want to run out of juice — not when the kids want to play games on her phone. I never have, since I started using my Mophie battery case. For the iPhone 6s/6 the case is smaller and lighter weight, under $60 (I got one for less on eBay), and will give you 60 percent more battery life. There’s a more expensive waterproof one. They come with an integrated standby switch, allowing you to either charge your phone or save juice. Nice! You can also find back-up portable chargers that are inexpensive. Some can even charge two devices at once.

Mom may not want to carry a guidebook with her, but she’ll enjoy reading about the places she’s planning to go this year. If she’s a hiker, there’s “The Backpacker National Parks Coast to Coast 100 Best Hikes“, by Ted Alvarez. The book offers everything from easy day hikes to multiday trips. The photos are great too! ($26, or $24.99 for the ebook version.)

A novel set in a place you have vacationed or plan to go would likely please a mom who loves to read. Better yet, ask your librarian for some suggestions that you can give to mom with a gift certificate for her eBook reader.

Every mom I know would appreciate a small organizer bag (I love the inexpensive ($10.95) Pack-It Sacsfrom Eagle Creek that you can fill with small containers of sunscreen, lip balm and hand lotion, so she’ll always have it at the ready. (If your mom flies, you’ll want to get a clear bag and remember you are limited to 3.4 ounce containers!) Ditto for her favorite energy bars or the candy she reserves for a special treat. (Maybe a bar of decadent dark chocolate?)

Should mom get that rare chance to take a nap on a plane or in the car, a travel pillow would be nice to have. You can find them everywhere — look for one that’s compressible like the self-inflating neck pillow from Brookstone. Just don’t steal it from her!

Time to start shopping? I hope my family is

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.

Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2016/04/29/totally-awesome-travel-totes-for-mom-that-wont-break-bank.html