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How to know if traveling solo is right for you

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Traveling solo may seem lonely, expensive and maybe a little scary to some people. But there are people who would prefer to travel alone. If you want to know if you’re suited for solo travel, here is a list of advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

Freedom. Traveling with a companion is always an exercise in compromise, especially when you can’t agree with your companion on where to go and what to do. By traveling alone, you get to do what you want at your own time.
Make new friends. When you’re traveling alone, you get to make new friends out of fellow travelers and locals. You might not be interested in striking up a conversation with strangers if you had a travel companion.
Self-discovery. You can learn more about yourself when you’re on your own. Traveling solo can pluck you out of your comfort zone and you can understand yourself better; know what you want to do, where you want to go, and what interests you.

Image Source: quora.com

Cons

Security. Traveling solo will make you feel alone and without someone you truly trust. You may feel vulnerable because you think no one has your back.
Sharing experiences. You can tell stories of your travel adventures, and show pictures of where you’ve been but it’s not the same as having someone to share those experiences with.
Expensive. Traveling alone can be more expensive than traveling with a group or a companion. You won’t have anyone with which to share bills for meals and accommodations. There are some places that charge “single supplement,” which can range from 25 to 100 percent of the overall cost.

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REPOST: US real estate an investment alternative

The economic tie between Israel and the US is creating great opportunities for real estate investment. Read this article from Globes to learn more about Israeli investments in U.S. real estate.

Image Source: globes.co.il
Image Source: globes.co.il

Individual Israelis can follow the example of Israeli institutions in taking advantage of the opportunities. The recently-released end of year trade figures underscored once again the thriving economic ties between Israel and the United States, with bilateral trade totalling $35 billion in 2014. The United States remains Israel’s largest trading partner. In particular, huge American interest in Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’ is hardly a secret, while telecoms, chemical and pharmaceutical products remain cornerstones of this prosperous relationship. However, US-Israel economic and financial ties might be a whole lot closer to home than you think. The fact is, that if you contribute to an Israeli pension fund then you are probably investing in US real estate. And what is even less well known is that these very same pension-holders could be investing directly in American property themselves. For many Israelis, while the prices of domestic property continue to climb, there is a perception that US property is the exclusive domain of the mega-rich. And it’s easy to see why. Just a quick glance at some of the Israeli investments Stateside reveal truly eye-watering sums. Billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva for example reportedly paid a cool $675 million to purchase Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel in 2004. In 2013, Colliers International ranked Israel as the third largest foreign investor in US commercial real estate. However, this kind of purchasing power cannot be fuelled solely by Israel’s wealthy elite. In truth, much of it is also accounted for by large financial institutions, including those who control the pension fund purse strings. Harel Insurance Investments for example was largely responsible for the $277 million purchase of the tallest building in Minneapolis, the IDB Tower. Harel has also invested in student dormitories in Manhattan and a retail co-op on Madison Avenue. Just last month, both Psagot and Amitim pension funds completed real estate purchases in New York and Texas totalling tens of millions of dollars. And in a recent trend, these same Israeli institutional investors are taking advantage of a second bite at the US real estate market as well. Israeli bonds have become fertile ground for American property developers. Attracted by cheaper shekel borrowing costs than they would find at home, US real estate giants sold in excess of $14.6 billion worth of bonds during 2014 in Israel, compared to $8.7 billion in 2013. Much of this boom is being spearheaded by some of the most prominent names in US real estate. For example, Extell raised about $270 million last summer while the Witkoff Group and Lightstone Group have followed a similar path, raising $120 million towards the end of 2014. Meanwhile, it was reported last month that Tree Top and Simon Baron will shortly flex their financial muscle on the Israeli bonds market too.

These real estate heavyweights are continuing to raise hefty sums. But who you might ask is purchasing these bonds issuances? The impressive yields (certainly in comparison to local banks) and the opportunity to diversify beyond Israel is feeding the appetite of Israeli institutional investors. For example, Tel Aviv-based Yelin Lapidot Investment House owns a significant portion of Extell’s bonds. With Israeli corporate bonds continuing to do brisk trade, it is clearly a mutually beneficial financial instrument for US real estate developers and Israeli pension funds alike. One of the net results though, is that your pension contributions are even more firmly tied up in US property. Although you may technically be an investor in American real estate already, the chances of seeing a significant return through your pension and investment funds is slim. Such lucrative sums are likely to remain safely tucked away in the funds themselves. Thankfully, you don’t need to rely on the institutional ‘middle men’ to invest in US real estate. Opportunities are increasingly being offered for Israelis to invest relatively modest amounts in American property development projects, with the prospect of a comparatively high-yield return. And with experts predicting that 2015 will see the US economy in its best shape since the 1990s, US real estate becomes increasingly enticing. The idea of your average Israeli purchasing his or her own little slice of America may have once sounded improbable, but it is now a realistic prospect, even in some of the most desirable locations. Some Israeli companies are offering a stake in a luxury condo development in a prime New York borough for as little as a $50,000 investment. Much is made of the special friendship that exists between Israel and the United States. It is worth remembering that this has a very strong economic dimension. The bond endures thanks to mutual interests, including very significant economic and financial benefits. Consequently, there are plenty of profitable opportunities for Israeli investors. And as the pension funds have shown, US real estate is one of them. Moreover, it is an investment that is becoming ever more attainable.

Learn about real estate investments in the U.S.  by following Riyesh Menon on Twitter.

How to do travel photography like a pro

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Even if you’re not a professional photographer, you still want to take great shots that bring justice to the beauty of the place you’ve traveled to. There’s so much beauty in the world and to experience it firsthand is a memory worth keeping. To ensure you get great photos of your travels, here are some simple tips:

Research

Look up the place you’ll be visiting so you know what are the best locations for taking pictures. This doesn’t mean you’ll duplicate the shots that other people already took. You can also use postcards from the place as a reference or ask locals about spots where you can get an amazing view.

Lighting

The best times for taking pictures are usually pre-dawn or early morning so a little sacrifice has to be made in order to avoid shooting in midday light. You can also shoot city landscapes in the early evening so you get a shot with all the lights on and with the help of a bit of light in the sky. It’s important to remember that lighting can make or break a photo.

Travel Photography: A Guide Featured Image
Image Source: gapyear.com

Do something different

Many photographers will suggest that you “get off the beaten track,” which basically tells us to do something different. Whether this means you literally go on the road less traveled by or you just add your own creative flare to the famous landmarks, it is entirely up to you. If you choose the latter, you should experiment with new angles or different vantage points to get a really interesting never-been-done-before shot. It would be quite a challenge to accomplish this but well worth the effort.

Nomadic Samuel taking a video at Machu Picchu
Image Source: nomadicsamuel.com

Hi, I’m Riyesh Menon and I always look forward to getting out to see the world. Connect with me on Google+ to discover more ways to enjoy traveling.

REPOST: Top 5 Ways to Stay Organized While Traveling

Keeping your belongings organized during a vacation can be quite difficult. This article from Travelers Today shares five tips on staying organized when traveling.

Image Source:
Image Source: travelerstoday.com

Traveling can be a headache sometimes. But, it can be even worse when you are digging through your bag and trying to find one slip of paper that you need. Staying organized is extremely important while traveling and here are five ways that can help you.

1. Use your smartphone

Gone are the days where you have to print out every bus booking or hotel reservation. Use your smartphone to your advantage and try to eliminate as much paper as possible. It will not only help you stay organized but will help you be more green. Try using the iPhone’s passport feature or saving all your travel reservations to a specific file in your email. Keeping your phone organized will help you travel more efficiently.

2. Pack your bag the same way, every time

It seems dumb, but packing your bag the same way every time will help you find your things easier. Whether you are packing your suitcase or stuffing a backpack, having a plan can help you remember where your items are. It also will help you to not forget anything when you travel. If you want some advice, try packing things you hardly use on your travel at the bottom of the bag, and things you will use right away near the top.

3. Buy an organizer for your toiletries

There is nothing worse than tearing your bag apart for your small floss container. Although it may seem like a waste of space, having an organizer for your toiletries is really helpful. Not only does it keep everything together, but it also contains spills if anything opens. If you are not finding a bag you like, try thinking out of the box. For example, try looking at jewelry folios because they tend to have more pockets.

Image Source: travelerstoday.com
Image Source: travelerstoday.com

4. Keep your electric cords neat

If you are traveling with a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, computer, or any combination of electronics, you are bound to have an endless amount of cords to carry. Instead of just shoving them in your bag, try to keep them secured and neat. Tie the cords together with ribbon or buy one of these cable managementsystems. Whatever you choose, make sure you keep your cords untangled to lessen stress.

5. Pack less

A simple idea, but not exactly that simple to execute. Overpacking can create unnecessary headaches and stress for travelers. Try to simplify the packing process by getting rid of the things that you “might need.” Yes, things may happen on your journey, but there is always a pharmacy or grocery store somewhere near by. Do not worry about what might happen on your journey. Take only the things you know you will use everyday.

Also, do not forget these tips as the holidays approach. These techniques may help alleviate some holiday travel stress.

Riyesh Menon is an avid traveler. Subscribe to his blog for more traveling tips for a stress-free vacation.

Pearl of the orient seas: Tips to remember when traveling to the Philippines

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Image Source: cba.upd.edu.ph

The Philippines is an archipelago located in Southeast Asia. Composed of more than 7,000 islands, this tropical paradise has been the ideal destination for many travelers. It is not only the sandy beaches and clear blue waters that call to adventurers but also the general atmosphere of the place. Many visitors hail the Philippines for its laidback feel and consider the locals to be very friendly and accommodating. That being said, there are many things to remember when planning a trip to the country.

Image Source:
Image Source: god-nature-love.livejournal.com

What separates the Philippines from other tropical paradises is that much of the land is uncultivated. Many islands still contain much of the same forests and geographical wonders they did hundreds of years ago. Another defining characteristic is the people. Filipinos are very down-to-earth, respectful, and thoughtful. They always seem to be smiling and joking, even despite the many natural disasters that hit the islands.

Image Source:
Image Source: wikipedia.org

But with every advantage is a challenge. Because the land is untouched, exploring the country can be rather difficult. Transportation systems are not yet fully developed and the existing road lines are not spectacular. New travelers will have to get used to alternate modes of transportation, which include the jeepney (a memento from World War I) and tricycle. These transportation options typically go through tighter areas and can access more streets than taxis.

As with most cases, traveling to a foreign land may be difficult in the beginning, but one can always ask for help. Most locals have a basic knowledge of English and are more than willing to help travelers in need.

I am Riyesh Menon, and I love to explore new destinations. Follow me on Twitter for more travel tips.

REPOST: The 20 Most Instagrammed Vacation Spots In The World

HotelsCombined, listed the most Instagrammed destinations in the world. Head to see the full list on this article below.

For some people, one of the best parts of going on vacation is bragging about it on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

HotelsCombined found the most Instagrammed vacation destinations around the world this year by looking at which destinations had the most #vacation hashtags on Instagram.

New York City was the most popular vacation destination, with 1,181 #vacation hashtags. This makes sense, as the city is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, with about 55 million visitors last year. Times Square was the most popular spot to take Instagram pictures within the city, followed by Central Park and then the Empire State Building.

London (1,018 hashtags) and Las Vegas (960 hashtags) came in right behind New York. Most of the top 15 destinations are perennial favorites, like Orlando, Barcelona, and Paris, but there were a few surprises: Moscow ranked at No. 8 with 675 tags, and Jakarta, Indonesia, ranked at No. 12 with 568 tags.

Here’s the full infographic:

#vacation infographic
Image Source: businessinsider.com


Riyesh Menon is a travel enthusiast. Visit this Facebook page to know more about his adventures.

Extreme Thailand: Muay Thai tours and training

Image Source: muaythaitrips.com

 

Every year, millions of visitors flock to Thailand for the beaches, the food, and the party scene. But a small percentage of these visitors go to Thailand as part of their quest for the ultimate “Muay Thai” experience.

Muay Thai, an extreme martial art that involves stand-up striking and clinching techniques, is a physically and mentally demanding sport that dates back to ancient times. It developed a worldwide following in the early 20th century. Non-Thai practitioners of muay thai are often called “nak muay farang.”

Several training camps offer workshops to aspiring Muay Thai fighters from all over the world.

 

Image Source: bookmartialarts.com

 

The Kiat Yongyut Gym/Top Rated Gym is a Bangkok Muay Thai training center that has produced several top-notch fighters over the years, notably Nong Bee, a three-time Lumpinee and World Muaythai Council (WMC) champion. A typical morning session at Kiat Yongyut consists of a 12 kilometer training run, seven practice rounds on the pads, and 50 minutes of clinching. Afternoons are dedicated to sparring. Petaek Kiatyongyut, a Thailand national title holder, is one of the trainers at this facility.

Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket is one of the largest Muay Thai training camps in Thailand. Open to all aspiring fighters, this facility offers classes in four skill levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and fighter, as well as children’s classes. The training camp offers all-inclusive training packages including accommodations and food. Lamsongkram Chuwattana, a two-time WBC Word Middleweight Muay Thai champion, is one of the trainers here.

 

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MMT Tours, a travel company that specializes in Muay Thai fight culture, provides visitors with guided tours and the opportunity to visit and train at six training camps in one week. The concept is to immerse aspiring fighters in the culture and history of Muay Thai, as well as provide them with a taste of what it’s like to train professionally for the sport. The tour also includes ringside tickets to fights and Tuff Thailand training gear as souvenirs.

It should be noted that while larger training camps often have better facilities and equipment, smaller facilties are also a good choice for those who wish to form lasting friendships with their trainers and fellow fighters.

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, so it’s only natural that foreign fighters prefer to train there for authenticity’s sake and for the privilege of training alongside some of the country’s best fighters.

 

Image Source: travelnewsthailand.wordpress.com

 

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