Quick guide to exploring Amsterdam

Here are five places you can’t afford to miss during your first trip to Amsterdam:

The first time I set foot on a continent other than North America, it was at the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, Holland. It was the starting point to one of the best trips of my life, a little 14-day excursion into Europe.

I had planned everything for months, zoomed in on the coordinates of my Airbnb from Google Earth, even planned how I would walk to the entrance of the place. What awaited me was a whole new world.

Transportation

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The first thing I immediately noticed was the difference in transportation. In America, there are usually two lanes: one northbound and one southbound (eastbound, westbound). In Amsterdam, it was still relatively linear, but the number of lanes for different modes of transport was astonishing.

Beside the houses were normal sidewalks. Pedestrian foot traffic and bikes took up this space. There was a second sidewalk as well, meant for bikes and mopeds. The car lane was next, and automobiles and mopeds could use the lanes freely. And right in the middle of the street were train tracks for two lanes of train travel. Recognize that this was just for only one side (northbound/eastbound or southbound/westbound). Granted, this was on main streets only, but the same general premise could be seen everywhere.

Neighborhoods

Oud-West

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I’ll start with the Oud-West neighborhood of Amsterdam simply because this is where Jay and I decided to rent out Airbnb. It was on a corner of a busy street but granted us access to the quaint neighborhood. I’ve said it once and I’ll probably say it a million times; getting a cultural experience while traveling abroad is so much more rewarding than playing tourist in hotels. I really felt like a local by staying here for five days.

In Oud-West, you are always less than a half-mile away from a canal. I liked to get up in the early morning and explore the city, and I’m glad I did. The streets were silent and empty and I felt like I had the city to myself. I walked over at least ten different intersections with canals right under them, the waterways making a semicircle pointing in the direction of Centrum.

The houses don’t have spaces between them in most places you go in Amsterdam. Oud-West epitomized the rolling structure system. The steps are steep, the people are beautiful. Hit up Derde Helmerstraat if you go to Amsterdam and say hi to Ivar for me.

Museumkwartier

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Museumkwartier translates to Museum Quarter in English. This is where most of the must-see tourist attractions lie. The Rijksmuseum gives a history of Holland and illustrates how Amsterdam was used as a port city for hundreds of years. The famous Van Gogh Museum call also be found here. This is the collected works of Vincent Van Gogh’s tragic journey from childhood to mastermind to self-inflicted death in the early 1900s.

Other lesser-known attraction such as the Moco Museum – a museum that displays alternative art forms – and the Stedelijk Museum, which provides its viewers modern displays, can also be seen in this district.

Don’t forget about Vondelpark! Between Oud-West and Museumkwartier lies the biggest park in Holland. Think Central Park, only in Amsterdam. This is a great place to bring some food, a boombox, some beer, or a bicycle. Whatever you like to do, you can find somewhere to do it in Vondelpark.

Centrum

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Boobies. Prostitution. Weed. That’s what most people think about when they think Amsterdam. You’ll find all three in Centrum. Home to one of the biggest Sex Museums in all of Europe, Amsterdam’s Red Light District is world-renowned.

Go down to this party community nearest Het Ij – the inlet of water that runs into the Markermeer Bay – and you’ll get to see a bunch of red lights.

Centrum is going to be the most hedonistic place you go to in Amsterdam. From marijuana bars, to regular bars, to naked girls in windows, it’s definitely for a certain crowd. Please don’t buy drugs from the guys slanging on street corners. The goal isn’t for you to get locked up in a foreign prison.

Jordaan

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This community, which lies directly north of Oud-West, is the former home of Anne Frank. If you are interested in Jewish culture or WWII history, this is a must-see. Word to the wise: book your tickets ahead of time or wait in line for five hours.

Jordaan was my second favorite neighborhood behind Oud-West. Traveling north from our Airbnb, it’s obvious in both street layout and architecture that you have walked into a different time period of the city. This is unfiltered Amsterdam and with some careful observation, you can get a real feel for how the locals live. Children play in the streets and on the stoops and students and employees hop on their bikes at 8:00 a.m. like clockwork to make the daily commute.

Littered with canals, another cool part of Jordaan is the number of outdoor cafes. It was summertime when Jay and I went here, but the number of minutes I sat indoors for food was zero. Wait, okay 45. If you like ribs, go to Cafe du Klos – you’ll be glad you did.

Noord

Across Het Ij is Amsterdam Noord. Think of Noord as Amsterdam’s suburbs. The vertical urbanization of Amsterdam’s inner neighborhoods turns into a spread out housing arrangement. Houses, duplexes, and apartment complexes sprawl out like suburban America. There are more cars out here, but still a good number of bikes.

The modern architecture here is quite amazing – it kind of looks martian. Rent a bike and go wandering, find a Dutch windmill or hang out at the famous Oedipus brewpub.

Westerpark

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Westerpark is home to the city’s second biggest park with the same name. The community of Westerpark lies directly west of Jordaan and northwest of Centrum.

In comparison to the most famous iAmsterdam sign in Museumkwartier, a second, less-popular sign can be found at the entrance of this laid-back and relaxed park. This is a great place to people watch, take a nap, or listen to the birds chirp away.

De Pijp

De Pijp is the old school prostitution area and some red lights can still be seen here. De Pijp (pronounced day pipe), is best known as the birthplace of Heineken. Take a tour, get lit, or just take a walk through this area with enough food options to make your head spin.

If you like shopping, De Pijp is also for you. Albert Cuypmarkt – Holland’s largest outdoor supermarket – has a little something for everyone.

Other neighborhoods

The above neighborhoods are where Jay and I spent most of our time. There are countless other neighborhoods that surround Amsterdam that surely have charms of their own.

 

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Five places to see in the Swiss Alps

As the title of my blog suggests, I am a big fan of mountain landscapes. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I am blessed with the Cascade mountain range in my backyard. But as soon as I transplanted from my native Wisconsin, I knew I wanted to see the biggest and the grandest mountain ranges in the world. The Himalayas, the Andes, the Pyrenees, and especially the Swiss Alps.

My friend Jay and I planned our Euro17 trip around the Tomorrowland festival in Boom, Belgium. He wanted to start the trip in Amsterdam, and I wanted to end it in Switzerland. The views I have embedded in my mind will never leave me. The following are some tips to make the most of your trip to Switzerland.

Location

We started our trip in Geneva and ended it in Zurich. The whole country is expensive, but the big cities can easily burn through your cash reserves, so be careful if of the cities if you are trying to travel budget-friendly.

We spent our time in the Alps in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Lauterbrunnen is the biggest town in the region, but we spent our three nights in a waterfall chalet on the valley floor in a small township called Stechelberg. Stechelberg has one grocery store and it is open for exactly four hours each day. There are more cattle than people. The beauty of Stechelberg is that it has two gorgeous natural attractions uncommon to people of the United States (where I come from).

Lauterbrunnen, Swiss

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Pronounced “Lau-ter-broo-nnenn,” this place is dubbed the Valley of a Thousand waterfalls for a reason. At any time whilst on the valley floor, you can spot a waterfall cascading over a nearby cliff.

The city itself is the starting point for buses that run and down the valley floor. The residential homes are spaced out in no specific grid, and the city has eateries, and local shops that give you a real sense of Swiss culture.

Lauterbrunnen is where you can take trains or trams to either Gimmelwald to the east – which is the starting point to Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfrau (Top of Europe), or Murren to the west.

Schilthorn, Swiss

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The three highest peaks that jut out of the sky in this region are named Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. Eiger can be seen above.

Just a five-minute walk from Stechelberg south gives you access to a tram that takes you to the Schilthorn. When Jay and I started out that Wednesday morning, the skies were completely gray. After a 6,000-foot increase in elevation, however, we found ourselves above the clouds. The photo seen above is from Birg, one stop before getting to the Schilthorn. IMG_4894.JPGThe Schilthorn itself is around 9,500 feet above sea level and is the filming location to the 10th book in the James Bond 007 movies – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – filmed in 1969. The Schilthorn commemorates this movie and gives you quite the majestic view in the process.

If you want near unparalleled views of these three peaks, Schilthorn is the way to go.

Jungfraujoch, Swiss

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Jungfraujoch sits on the saddle of the iconic Jungfrau over 11,000 feet above sea level. The train station is the highest in all of Europe and visitors get unrivaled views of the surrounding peaks and Aletsch Glacier.

The train track itself began construction in 1912 and barrels through both the Eiger and the Monch for miles. There are a few stops to use the restroom on the journey to the Top of Europe, with views of the surrounding peaks easily accessible. It’s not a cheap endeavor, but the atmosphere at that elevation is remarkable.

You can step onto one of the largest glaciers in the country and see for miles around. From Lauterbrunnen, take the train to Kleine Schiedegg and get your ticket for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

First, Swiss

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Once you get to Gimmelwald, you can elect to hang out in this touristy destination or hop on a tram that takes you higher still. The end destination is a stop called First, a tiny community spread out on the hills of the Berner Oberland. Not unlike Stechelberg on the valley floor, cattle run the plains here. Yodelers and cowbells can be heard at all times.

The hike we chose to do was to Bachalpsee Lake. About a 4-mile roundtrip hike, the big payoff is to see pristine mountain peaks and glistening mirrorlike lakes. Bachalpsee can be seen above. A herd of cattle walked across the trail as we were approaching the home stretch, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

I remember just sitting at the water’s edge, breathing in and getting chills to what was in front of me. Traveling makes me truly happy, and this hike was definitely a highlight of Euro17.

Trummelbachfalle, Swiss

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This photo of Trummelbachfalle is probably my favorite shot of my time in Switzerland. I definitely tried to save the best for last in this post. Back on the valley floor of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, thousands of feet of elevation below Jungfraujoch, Shilthorn, or First lies Trummelbachfalle, or Trummelbach Falls.

Just a 10-minute stroll north from our waterfall chalet in Stechelberg, the glacier runoff of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau pools into one place. The logical explanation for that much melting glacier is a waterfall. It just so happens that over thousands of years, Trummelbachfalle has cut its path into the side of a mountain, making for this in-rick spectacle.

For fun, I grabbed one of my water bottles and ran it underneath the falls. Better than any water I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.

The hike is grueling at the beginning, about 1,000 feet in elevation gain in about a half a mile. The scenery of the valley floor is magnificent. You then ascend into the guts of the chilly mountain and get 12 viewpoints of this magnificent falls. Best three hours of the trip.

 

Why you need to go to Arches NP in Feb.

Looking to escape the winter weather and go exploring in February? Look no further than Arches National Park in eastern Utah.

I first moved to the Pacific Northwest from a small town in Wisconsin. When I did, I didn’t know oceans, forests, or mountains. All I knew was that I really liked the Packers and that there were a lot of farms in Wisconsin.

When I realized how much raw beauty there was in Washington’s Cascade mountain range, I immediately fell in love with exploring, with adventure, and with pushing the limits of my mind and my body.

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The radius of my exploration grew from Washington state to the entire western United States. I have been to more than a dozen National Parks in just over three years, and I have to tell you, there is a special place in my heart for Arches National Park.

February and March is the perfect time to go!

Most states in our country are cold during the winter months of February and March. (Duh!) In Wisconsin, it is likely that there’s about four feet of snow on the ground. In contrast, the daily highs in southern and eastern Utah creep into the 50s. Once the calendar flips to March, those temperatures get even balmier.

Skip the summer crowds when there are so many people at the parks that it feels like you are walking on top of people. You can realistically have this park all to yourself if you plan your winter trip correctly. The silence of the park in the early morning hours is hypnotizing.

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Place to stay

With zero percent hesitation, my recommendation for a place to camp near Arches is a little gem called Dead Horse Point State Park about thirty minutes away. This state park has a view of the Colorado River and is at such a high elevation that you look up at night and practically touch the stars. Book your spot at Kayenta Campground before time runs out!

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If you’re a nighttime or galaxy photographer, this will be something of a paradise for you. It may be a little chilly up at elevation in comparison to the temperature down in Arches. Easily solution: bring a lot of blankets. If you’re not one for roughing it and dealing with the elements, check out the yurts where you can go glamping.

Other places to stay

Places to see, things to do

Set your alarm clock for nice and early in the morning. Arches is best seen in the early light of morning, and if you need proof, check out my Instagram page for pictures of the beautiful orange sandstone in the morning light.

At the very end of the road lies the Devil’s Garden trail. You’ll see seven arches if you opt for the 4.8-mile loop, and can see up to 10 if you do the full 7.8-mile trail.

Landscape

Two of my favorite sections of the park include the Windows section and Balanced Rock – here you can see some of the most iconic places the park has to offer. Pick up a park map at the gate and do whatever you can to spend a full day at the park.

Side trips

I’m partial to Arches because of the unique geology that is on display. What makes the Moab area such a great destination, however, is that it is home to two national parks. About a 15 minutes away from Dead Horse Point State Park lies Moab’s second National Park – Canyonlands.

This land of tiered and layered canyons is breathtaking in its own right and is home to one of the most famous photos in eastern Utah: Mesa Arch. Get to this gem at sunrise for a great photo opportunity, but get there early to get a good spot. On a clear day, the arch radiates a bright orange, perfect for a landscape shot.

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Moab itself is a destination in its own right. The tourist town is good for outfitters for all kind of extreme sports (skydiving, rafting the Colorado, rock climbing), shopping, and pizza. If you like a lot of pizza, go to ZAX.

Getting to Moab

I like driving to places across the United States. The freedom of the open road, especially in the western and southern parts of the United States is an amazing way to see this great country. That being said, I understand not everyone can hop in a car from where they are and drive to eastern Utah. If flying in, make Denver or Salt Lake City your home base,  and rent a car from there! Check out my favorite way to book flights here.

Arches and Canyonlands are a great destination if you only have three-seven days you can get off from the dreaded 9-5. Grab the tent, a few sleeping bags, and a load of blankets and pillows and just go. Who’s stopping you?

All the photos in this post are mine.

How to get to Tomorrowland 2018

Before my friend Jay and I saw this video I had no idea about Electronic Dance music. I had never been to “a rave,” and I really didn’t have any interest in going to one. But the beginning soliloquy in that above video spoke to me on so many fundamental levels, I started researching the festival and it immediately rose to the top of my Bucketlist.

I finally got the nerve to start working online so I will be able to get back to the Boom festival grounds that changed my life for the better!

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How to get tickets?

The process to get Tomorrowland tickets is extensive. There are multiple steps you need to do before the Worldwide ticket sale, and even then, it’s somewhat unlikely you will be able to push the same button faster than millions of people around the globe.

Pre-registration

If you’re looking to go to Tomorrowland 2018, pre-registration will start on Tuesday, January 9 at 17:00 Central European Time. For my friends in the states, that means 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time or 8:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. The first 10 people from each country will secure their place at the festival just like that. But don’t hold your breath on that one, there’s less than 1 percent chance you will get this honor if you live in countries with reliable internet service.

Pre-registration gives you an access code to get into the Worldwide Pre-Sale, and without it, you won’t be able to enter the ticket portal. Pre-registration will continue through February 2 at 20:00 Central European time (2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific).

Learn how you can work from the road and travel the world!

*UPDATE* After extensive research, I have found more information about getting tickets during the Worldwide Sale! The Tomorrowland ticket portal refreshes on a cyclical loop. The exact refresh rate is unknown, but amongst cryptologists across many disciplines, it is widely agreed the number is whole and a multiple of 2 or 5. 

For this example, we will assume the Tomorrowland ticketing portal refreshes itself on a 60-second loop. Because we know the page MUST refresh at the top of the hour, here is an easy way to have one of the best shots to get Tomorrowland tickets this Friday:

As you should already know by reading the entirety of this post, even if you have one computer or just one IP address, you should have at least three shots at tickets; one on Internet Explorer, one on Firefox, and one on Google Chrome/Safari. BETTER YET: if you have two computers with three browsers each, this gives you six chances.

Going back to the above example and assuming that the Tomorrowland ticket portal refreshes every 60 seconds when the second-hand hits :00. If this is true, what you should do is the following:

Open up the official world time clock on your browser by typing in https://www.timeanddate.com into your URL bar. This is the official time of the world and will give you the most accurate reading. Two minutes before the top of the hour, go through your browsers refreshing them at :58:01, :58:11, :58:21, :58:31, :58:41, and :58:51. The thinking behind this is that by staggering your refresh rates, you account for a 10-second refresh cycle, a 20-second refresh cycle, a 30-second refresh cycle, a 40-second refresh cycle, and a 45-second refresh cycle.

If you want to prepare for the chance that the Tomorrowland ticket portal refreshes every 90 seconds, stagger your browsers by 20 seconds. This assures you a maximum of a nine-second delay of reaching the queue.

Some problems people have by using only one browser, is that, for example, you refresh the page manually at :59:56, and the portal is on a 60-second loop. That means you are 56 seconds late to getting in the portal, get what I’m saying?

Read here for more information.

Worldwide Pre-Sale

The Worldwide-Pre Sale is the first time people who have pre-registered have at securing tickets. Last year, this is how my friend Jay and I got tickets. This year, that date and time is on Saturday, January 27 at 17:00 CET. In a nutshell, everyone who has pre-registered sits around on their computer (or computers) and wait for the clock to strike the top of the hour. All at once, people around the world click the same button, hoping to be one of the 100,000 or so people lucky enough to get to the ticketing site.

But don’t worry if you don’t get tickets in January! There is another chance!

Worldwide Ticket Sale

If you were late to the game and just found about Tomorrowland 2018 after the Worldwide Pre-Sale, you can still pre-register until February 2 for the Worldwide Ticket Sale on Saturday, February 3. This will be your last chance to get tickets for this beautiful event of love, peace, and happiness. The same basic principle applies, and from my experience, the more computers you have, the better.

If you are going to Tomorrowland solo, this may be harder for you. If you have a group of people, get on a Skype call and all push the button together. If one of you gets in, get tickets for the whole group and the other will pay you back (I would hope!).

Global Journey

There is another way to make sure you get your tickets for this crazy festival, and if you are willing to fork over the extra cash, Global Journey may be for you. Global Journey packages include travel from certain cities around the globe either by plane, train, or bus and guarantee your tickets. There are different types of Global Journey packages, so make sure you check the link above for what suits you and your needs the best. These packages tend to be more expensive than “winning the lottery” of the Worldwide Sales but punches your ticket immediately.

Types of accommodations

  • Magnificent Greens
    • Jay and I got Magnificent Greens tickets for Tomorrowland 2017 which basically means you get a patch of grass with your name on it. Think of the Magnificent Greens as a campsite in DreamVille. Buying this ticket will force you to either bring your own tent from home or buy a tent voucher that you can pick up upon arrival into Dreamville. This is a great economically-friendly option for those backpacking around Europe or budget travelers.
  • Easy Tent
    • Easy Tents are located in the Friendship Garden area of Dreamville. These are previously-pitched tents complete with mattress and bedside table and can be purchased in two or four person tents. Easy Tents are more expensive than Magnificent Greens, but are closer to the festival grounds and mitigate the need to pick up tent vouchers. The atmosphere is similar and many festival goers are in close proximity to everyone else. It has to feel nice to have an actual mattress underneath you.
  • Relax Room
    • The Relax Room is set up for two people with a lockable tentlike structure and two beds. These give you access to certain parts of the festival other campers will not have access to. Expect these prices to be higher than the Easy Tent.
  • Dream Lodge
    • The Dream Lodge packages are about $2,000 USD for two tickets the festival and the following accommodations:
    • You get: Access to your own lockable DreamLodge tent; 2 fully equipped bed; 2 DreamVille relax chairs and a table; An USB power outlet, interior lighting, and a locker; 24h reception staff; Separate sanitary facilities only for DreamLodge visitors; Access to The Montague – DreamLodge Chill out zone.
  • Kokono Romantic Suite
    • This is about the same price as the Dream Lodge, but I think this has better bang for the buck. This is probably best for couples, as there is one firm foam mattress and sheets. Think of a four-star hotel in the middle of DreamVille.
    • You get: Access to your own lockable Kokono; Raised wooden deck with canvas roof; Bed(s) with foam mattress; Duvet(s) & pillows; Cotton bed linen; 2 Bath towels; Small mirror; Battery operated lanterns; Jute doormat; A power outlet (220 volt – EU outlet), interior lighting and a locker; 24h reception staff; Separate sanitary facilities only for DreamVille Kokono visitors; Access to The Montague – DreamVille Kokono Chill out zone
  • Mansion
    • If you have about $25,000 USD to blow, check out the Mansions in Dreamville. These mansions can fit up to 12 people and is fully stocked with a kitchen, bathroom, living room, sofas, and a fully-customizable living area. It is at the top of the accommodation food chain and is located in a private area of Dreamville nearest the festival grounds.

Getting to Boom

Getting to Boom can be done a bunch of different ways, the easiest of which is to train to Boom from Antwerp Centraal Station. If you are coming just for the festival and are not a part of Global Journey, I recommend not making Brussels your home base, as there are no great trains that go directly from Brussels to Boom.

Getting a train ticket to Boom from Antwerp is easy: go to a self-kiosk or the counter and find a ticket for your desired time. There are about three or four trains per hour that depart Antwerp bound for Boom.

If you are flying internationally, I would suggest flying into either Amsterdam or London to get the best airfare, and then book a separate domestic flight to Brussels or Antwerp. If you want to get the most out of your travel experience, train from Amsterdam or London into Belgium. You will get to see the lay of the land and you will likely meet people on your journey you will remember for a long time.

Weather in Boom

Although it is summer in western Europe during Tomorrowland – which usually happens on the second and third weekends of July – you will likely encounter some rainy weather during the festival. On Saturday last year, the rain was whipping so violently during Jauz’s mainstage set that most of the festival’s participants flocked to a nearby shelter to wait it out. Luckily, the rain tends to be intermittent and stops rather quickly. In contrast, when the clouds part and the sun shines down it can heat up in a hurry.

A few scattered thunderstorms are a small price to pay for one of the best times of your life.

What to bring to Tomorrowland

Packing minimally will benefit you in many ways. It will save you shoulder and back pain, save your wallet a few Euros to get a smaller storage locker, and will let you enjoy the actual festival instead of always wondering where all of your things are. That being said, here are a few essentials to bring along for the ride.

  • Clothes! Clothes are one of the aspects that makes Tomorrowland a unique experience. There are people from over 200 countries in one place for the weekend, and the styles, color combinations, and themes are fantastic!
  • Sunglasses. Obviously.
  • Sunscreen. Unless you want to look like a lobster after Day 1.
  • Good walking shoes. The festival is a little more than a mile away from DreamVille and you will be very sad if you only pack flip-flops. As awesome as Tomorrowland is, there is trash everywhere on the grounds. I brought a pair of Nikes and my ankles still swoll up to double their normal size.
  • Power bank. If you’re like me and love to document travels and experiences, you will need an external power bank charged up to the brim before you show up to the festival. You can buy an external power bank at the festival, but it will cost you about $20 Euros.
  • Headache medicine. Trust me on this one. Tomorrowland is a huge party and you won’t be getting much sleep. Take care of yourself.
  • Water. See above.
  • Open mind, heart, and soul. If you check your prejudices, preconceived notions, and ego at the door, there is a very slim chance this will not become the favorite weekend of your life.

Food at Tomorrowland

You can literally eat whatever the hell you want at this thing. There are stands from all over the world. I had everything from pizza, to lasagna, to chicken patties, to fried Ethiopian, and many things in between. Stay away from the breakfast chicken bagels, though, they were not good.

Artists not to be missed

If you’re like me and really didn’t have any idea about EDM artists or what to expect, you may want to know about some artists that are at the top of their craft. In my humble opinion, the following artists made the biggest impact on my trip to Tomorrowland:

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10 destinations to pique your wanderlust

The following destinations are places that will give you an experience you will never forget and will get you in the right mindset to see more of this world.

As an aspiring digital nomad, going online to find cheap flights around the world has been somewhat of a hobby of mine for the last four or five years. There’s something exciting about picking your route around the globe and knowing that yes, you could actually see all of the places of your dreams if you just took the leap.

“It’s not about how many breaths we take, but about the moments that take our breath away.”

Learn how to become location independent like me and be able to travel the world!

Marrakesh, Morocco

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Jemaa el-Fnna at nighttime. Photo by USA Today.

Located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in the western African nation of Morocco lies the historic and mysterious Marrakesh – the county’s fourth-largest city.

Marrakesh’s medina – the historic and traditional Arab quarter of town – is littered with authentic and near-ancient gardens, courtyards, and millennia-old architecture. Colors splash from all sides and visitors won’t need to look far for local cuisine or gifts.
Head to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the country’s most popular marketplace, for an Arab experience you won’t soon forget.

Wind your way through the cobbled streets of this preserved area, and you’ll find yourself wondering if you got stuck in a time machine.

  • Europeans or people currently in Europe countries have it the easiest when traveling to Marrakesh. Many nonstop flights are available from major cities across the continent.
  • If you’re coming from North America, find a connecting flight into Boston, Newark, or Miami and take off from across the pond from there. Flying out of JFK or Laguardia in New York City can be a hassle, but can save you money, too.
  • Getting to Marrakesh from Asia on the cheap can be tough. Try the Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore airport hubs for the best rates.
  • For my friends down in South America, flying into Marrakesh is going to be the cheapest from Brazil. Take an intercontinental flight into Rio de Janiero or Sao Paulo first before traveling to Africa!

I like authentic and cultural immersion experiences when I travel. AirBNB is a great way to do this (I am not affiliated with AirBNB in any way, shape, or form.)

Check out this sweet suite!

Best time to go: March-April; September-November. Best for cultural immersion

El Chalten, Argentina

El Chalten is the gateway to some of the most breathtaking glacial mountain views on Planet Earth. Just 10 miles east of the Chilean border, El Chalten makes for a great base to explore Torres Del Paine National Park to the south and the lesser-known Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the west.

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Set in the Andes Mountain Range, glacial runoff from mountain peaks creates lakes all hues of blue and green. Hire a boat to take you through the Chilean fjords for a unique view of the nature surrounding you, or lace up the hiking boots and do one of the most famous hikes in the southern hemisphere, Mirador Las Torres.

The photos remind me of Glacier National Park, only on the other side of the globe.

AirBNB: Fork over the extra dough for this place at the base of Fitz Roy.

Best time to go: November-March. Best for exploring raw wilderness.

Palawan, Philipines

Close your eyes. Fasten an invisible and imaginary snorkeling mask over your face. Without opening your eyes, envision crystal clear waters with no sediment blocking your view as you eye fish of all colors and sizes. Picture tropical fish all colors of the rainbow from the internet.

Now imagine if this didn’t have to be a dream or a fake scenario. Get to the island of Palawan in the Philipines and this can be yours! This is the type of destination where time goes slow, and the fun exceeds expectations. Shipwrecks, reefs, and incredible flora and fauna seen nowhere else in the world can all be yours.

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Dubbed the best island in the world by Travel and Leisure, Palawan’s gorgeous waters can be seen from space and is a great destination for beachgoers if you have already been to or are looking for a different culture than the Caribbean.

Some of the biggest hubs in SE Asia are Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar, and Taipei. Get yourself to one of those airports from wherever you are and take a cheap flight into Puerto Princesa (nonstop from Manila, Singapore).

As I’ve said above, I am a huge fan of AirBNB to get an authentic, cultural experience. Not only can you live like a local, but you can be in the midst of the local traditions as well. Hit up this one, this one, or this one.

Best time to go: October-June. Best for water activities and beaches.

Kathmandu, Nepal

For many adventurists, extremists, and people interested near the highest peak of them all, getting to Mount Everest is as high on the bucket list as you can go. In order to get to base camp, or even to start the climb all the way to the APEX of the highest place on Planet Earth, you need to get to Nepal in the heart of the Himalayan Mountain Range.

I won’t tell you that attempting to summit Everest without the proper conditioning or training is a good idea, although I know that many of you may someday aspire to reach the peak of the world. In order to do so, you’ll need to make your way to the northern end of the Indian subcontinent in central Asia.

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Getting to Everest will best be done from the entry point of Kathmandu. Take public transport or a guide to the best viewing point of the massive crag, which actually makes berth in the Chinese province of Tibet.

The cheapest way to get to Kathmandu is through Dubai. It is easy to get a cheap flight into Dubai and through to Kathmandu from Europe, but harder from the Americas. Expect to pay at minimum $800 one way to get to central Asia from the Americas. Same basic principle applies from Asia: Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei, or Hong Kong will be your best departure points for access to the beautiful Himalayas.

Check out some of these crazy awesome AirBNB’s in Nepal for your base camp to base camp.

Best time to go: September-November. Best for cultural immersion, mountain scenery

Lofoten, Norway

When I was sitting in front of the most beautiful mountain I had ever seen in the Swiss Alps in the Summer of 2017, I heard an older gentleman exclaim that the Alps were indeed the second most beautiful mountain range in Europe – and much more expensive to boot. He said to his comrade at the time; “Switzerland is just the southern Norway.”

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Following photographers based in the northern Norweigan archipelago of Lofoten has become somewhat of an addiction since then. The deep fjords filled with dark blue water looks like a painting. The peaks that jut out of the water seem surreal and can be seen as far as the eye can see.

I think Lofoten would be best seen as a larger tour of Norway itself, but I’m not naive enough to assume everyone has two months to go exploring this beautiful place at a slow pace. My recommendation is to rent a car from Tromso near the Arctic circle and drive to Lofoten at your own pace. Make sure to stop in Hennigsvaer to see one of the most unique soccer pitches in the world, and to Reine for one of the best reflection shots you’ll ever hope to see.

Your best bet to get to Tromso on the cheap is to go to Norweigan Airlines‘ website and find a flight through the capital, Oslo. You can even get the rental car on that site, no problem! Although I am indeed a travel agent, I am in no way affiliated with Norweigan Airlines.

This, though. Sleep here.

Best time to go: April-September for daylight; November-February for Northern Lights.

Zion National Park, Utah, United States

Whereas I have not been to the above destinations, and they are instead bucket list places I someday aspire to get to, I have actually been to Zion National Park on two occasions and would go again without a moment’s hesitation if the opportunity presented itself.

In the summer of 2015, my brother Michael and I went on a western United States National Park tour. We visited seven national parks in 17 days and hiked nearly 100 miles of trails. Our first stop was Zion National Park. From my hometown of Wenatchee, Washington, we drove the 18 hours all the way to southern Utah in one day. We finally arrived in a small town called Hurricane and promptly passed out of exhaustion. What awaited us in the morning was my first interaction with the canyon.

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The view seen above is one of the two absolutely must-dos on any trip to the park: Angel’s Landing. A video of the treacherous hike can be seen here and will make you feel one of two ways: jacked, or terrified. I’ve done Angel’s Landing twice and I would do it again. If you are afraid of heights, get out of your comfort zone! So long as you carry out common sense and don’t flail your body around in strange ways, you will absolutely be fine on this hike.

The second must-do is the Zion Narrows. Head over to Springdale, the small community that borders Zion canyon to the west, and stop at one of the Narrows outfitters to pick up your walking stick, water wicking socks, and shoes.

The hike through the Zion Narrows is in water and is one of the most amazing experiences in Utah. Coupled with the beautiful orange cliffs and a rich history, Zion is my favorite National Park in the western United States.

Best time to go: March-September. Best for exploration and wonder.

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Nairobi, Kenya

Have you ever thought of going on an African safari? Think it’s impossible. Well, it’s not! Of course, you get what you pay for but hop a flight to Nairobi and there are plenty of low-cost safari outfitters to get you access to some of the best Game Reserves on Planet Earth.

Go in August-November to catch a glimpse of the biggest migration on Earth – the stampeding wildebeest. Think the opening scenes in the Lion King, but without the animation.

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Nearly everyone has heard of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, but perhaps less well known is the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in southwestern Kenya. The Maasai is a triangular stretch of savannah that boasts some of the best wildlife sightings on the planet. Check out Big Cat Diary for any additional motivation.

Maasai Game Camp.

Best time to go: March-June; September-November. Best for wildlife.

Bagan, Myanmar

I first found out about the temples of Bagan from Anthony Bourdain and his show on CNN called Parts Unknown and I haven’t been able to shake it since.

The journey to Bagan is arduous. It is difficult to get a visa for the newly-opened-to-tourists country of Myanmar, and the easiest and most cost-effective entry point to the place formerly known as Burma is through its capital of Yangon, in the southern part of the country. The journey is perhaps best done on an overnight commuter train through the rolling countryside of Myanmar, but the trip is a long and rickety one.

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Once to the land of the thousand temples, rent a bike from one of the local shops, sign up for a morning hot air balloon ride, or find an empty temple and soak in your surroundings. It’s unlikely you’ll find much cell service here, and that’s pretty much the beauty of it.

If you want to be within smelling distance of the temples, stay here for the best experience.

Best time to go: November-February. Best for religious exploration and aesthetic beauty .

Vik, Iceland

Iceland is the place where you go to feel like you have somehow been transported off Earth and into a different realm. The setting for some of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings films, Iceland has some of the most unique terrain in the world. This place is easily and cheaply accessible from Europe and the United States, and notoriously difficult to get to from SE or Central Asia. If coming from the eastern part of the globe, search Emirates and Icelandair first.

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Vik is on the eastern side of the island and is best known for its stunningly-unique black beaches. The landscape is dramatic everywhere you look, but Vik is especially strange. Couple a tour to Vik with National Geographic’s top trek in the world, the Laugavegur Trek, and you’ll have an experience to talk with your grandchildren about when you are 80 years old on a rocking chair.

Rent a car through Auto Europe for the best prices and flexibility, and drive until you can’t drive anymore. Get this whole yurt near the water for your stay.

Best time to go: June-October. Best for untamed beauty and backpacking expeditions.

Banff/Jasper National Parks, British Columbia, Canada

Last but certainly not least is the rugged National Parks of Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. If you like fresh mountain air, stunning vistas, and shopping, this is the place for you. The small town of Banff has upscale shopping for its visitors with stunning mountain peaks as its backdrop.

The two parks are combined by the Icefields Parkway – a highway that winds its way through the Rockies and is flanked by glaciers of all shapes and sizes – and can be done in a day, even with stopping at all the jaw-dropping vistas.

Don’t miss Moraine and Peyto Lakes, you’ll be glad you didn’t. The following photos are from my own camera, and let me tell you, if I can get decent photos of this place, so can you!

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Rent a car in Calgary and make sure you have at least a week budgeted for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Best time to go: June-October. Best for: Mountain, lake, and waterfall landscapes

Think I missed one?

Let me know by commenting below or tagging me in a post on Instagram @davidheiling