Friday, February 5, 2016

Celebrate Around the World - February Festivals!

2016 is off to a rollicking start and February brings us a whole host of event from the four corners of the globe. Here is an overview of the most colorful!

February 8th - Chinese New Year! The annual celebration of Chinese New Year has grown out of this tradition of superstition. For thousands of years since, the Chinese have hung crimson-colored lanterns to scare away the beast, giving the occasion its iconic color. Especially on the first day of the New Year, loud firecrackers, drums, and cymbals echo through the city, while fireworks and burning bamboo sticks keep the sky ablaze—all to keep the mythical Nian at bay. [Photo and text courtesy of]
Hongkongtourismchinesenewyear   22

February 9th - Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Carnival is celebrated around the world and marks the days leading up to Lent, when Catholics (and some Episcopalians) begin a period of fasting, repentance and denial preceding the Easter season. Meaning French for Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras is the culmination of 2 weeks of celebration before the solemnity of Ash Wednesday. [Photo courtesy of]

February 13th - Tapati Rapa Nui Festival on Easter Island. A celebration of with traditional displays of athleticism, music, and dance. According to the website, the festival is organized by locals for locals but tourists are welcome. Dates change each year and it runs from January 28th to February 13th this year. 
Tongariki 2 sunrise 
 February 20 - Jaisalmer Desert Festival in Rajasthan, India. This is a three-day festival that highlights the culture of the area. It began as a marketing ploy to bring people to the area, it now draws thousands of people from around the world to enjoy the colorful events which include a well-stocked bazaar of jewelry, textiles, and more. Visitors can enjoy contests of turban tying, camel races and mustache robusticity. [Photo courtesy of]

February 28 - National Grape Harvest Festival in the Mendoza province, Argentina. In Spanish it is called the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia and has roots in religious festivals. This modern day celebration began 1936 wand today features parades, parties, and dancing occurring over three months and across all 18 departments of the province. The Central Festivities are held in the city of Mendoza and include the Central Act as well as events like the Blessing of the Fruit. As if those aren't enough reasons to partake, there is the election of the National Grape Harvest Queen and a dazzling fireworks display. Wine, fireworks, and pageantry? Sounds like my kind of party! [Photo courtesy of]
Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia

If you are traveling to any of these regions, there is no better way to absorb the culture than to experience one of these festivals. Whether religious, secular, or commercial each has color, culture, and celebration and that is always a good thing!
peace, love, and travel!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Destination Dash - Albuquerque, New Mexico

Today's Destination Dash features Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place that always surprises me. It is easy to navigate, has plenty to do for people across all demographics, and features art, history, science, archaeology, and plenty of outdoor opportunities. I've had the chance to visit ABQ (the airport code) for client business many times and have always been lucky to have time to explore. This list represents my 'must-do' activities for those of you who have limited time to visit. All of these could be accomplished in one day, assuming you are full of energy and well-nourished on strong coffee. :)
photo found on the Albuquerque Visitor's Center webpage -Getty Images
Name: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Population: 557,169 (2014 est.)
Flight Time: from LAX, 12 hr 55 minutes
Etymology of the name: Version 1: albus quercus meaning "white oak" in honor of Spanish Duke of Albuquerque. Version 2: the Galician word albaricoque, meaning "apricot". The apricot was brought to New Mexico by Spanish settlers. Supposedly, the original settlement was established near an apricot tree and became known as La Ciudad de Albaricoque. As frontiersmen were unable to correctly pronounce the Galician word, it became corrupted to "Albuquerque.
Special Note: This is where Bugs Bunny should have taken a left turn in 1945. :)

My top 5 things to do in Albuquerque:

1. Visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Their mission statement says it all: "To preserve and perpetuate Pueblo culture and to advance understanding by presenting with dignity and respect,
the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo people of New Mexico".
Recommended time - 2 hours.

2.  For something completely different....visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. Here you can learn about the Atomic Age and the influence of nuclear energy on the past, present, and future. A perfect place to take those interested in science, aviation, and history. If you have children, check out the kid-specific exhibits.
Recommended time - 2 hours.

3. Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Garden - If you only one day in ABQ, make this one of your destinations! They have a zoo, a botanic garden, a aquarium, and facilities for fishing and boating. Events throughout the year, family-friendly, and easily accessible. If that doesn't convince you, this place was names as one of the top 12 botanic gardens in the country by the Travel Channel!
Recommended time - 2 hours or more.

4. Petroglyph National Monument -  For the outdoorsy among you, this place offers a great place to stretch your legs and see ruins, artifacts, and petroglyphs. It is one of my favorite places in Albuquerque. Start your visit at the Visitor's Center to get an overview of the locale, maps, and plan your day.
Recommended time - at least 2 hours. 

5. Old Town Albuquerque - Beyond the Indian Pueblo center, it is a bit touristy here, but makes for a great place to have a bite to eat, window shop and get a sense of the culture of the area. A highlight for me is the San Felipe de Neri Church, dating back to 1706 (current version built in 1793).
Recommended time - 1 1/2 to 3 hours.

There is so much more to do in ABQ, including hiking the Sandia Peak, taking the tram over the same, the international hot air balloon festival, taking in a minor league baseball game, and more. Hopefully, this will get your planning in motion. Albuquerque makes a great destination for a weekend or longer so consider adding it to your trip list.

 Peace, love, and travel!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Belated Happy New Year! 2016 Travel Goals

Wow, the month of January is almost over and I am just now getting around to my second 2016 blog post? What a sad state of affairs. I'd like to blame it on preparation for far-flung travels or that I won the billion-dollar PowerBall jackpot, but neither is true. I've just been enjoying  life beyond the PC, iPad, cellphone, television, etc.

January is when a lot of people make resolutions. Not me, I make goals. Resolutions are great, but I find that I have a stronger chance of reaching a goal than sticking to a resolution. Goals are fun for me; I make them SMART and then it becomes a game.

Here is my list of 2016 travel-related goals (in no particular order):
1. Do more local travel - in-town, in-state, regional, etc. I find that when I have time to travel, I rarely consider staying local. This is a shame, because while my city is not D.C., NYC, or SF we do have some great museums, restaurants and unique things to do. GOAL: Be a backyard tourist and visit a local destination at least once per quarter.

2. Organize all the travel ephemera gathered over the past 25 years - ticket stubs, maps, currency, etc. I have two boxes full of cool little artifacts that I've tucked between the pages of guidebooks, into camera bags and pockets. It needs to be sorted and presented in a way that lets me enjoy it from time to time and gets it out of the cardboard boxes. I love this idea from Martha Stewart: travel ephemera boxes (photo at top). GOAL: Create two boxes every quarter. That won't get me finished until 2018 but it's a good start.

3. Look to the North - Canada. As someone who has been to 6 continents, it is almost laughable that I've never been to Canada. Sorry, Mississauga, you don't count. As I start to plan short trips for 2016 and 2017, I've started to consider Vancouver, Montreal, and Halifax as jumping-off points for a Canadian adventure. GOAL: Book a long weekend in Vancouver to occur by November 30th, 2016.

4. Print my travel photos - I am woefully behind in printing my photos from Australia and New Zealand, so to add to our gallery wall, I need to get in gear. GOAL: Select the 5 best photos to print and frame by March 1st, 2016.

5. Take the dogs on a road trip - It has been years since we took the dogs on a road trip so before any more time passes, we'll pack the car, load up the pups and hit the road. The last time we went to Bahia Kino and the dogs played in the waves for hours. Perhaps, this time the mountains beckon? GOAL: Plan and execute a road trip with the dogs by September 30, 2016.

That's a pretty good list, I think. What about you? What travel goals do you have for 2016? Share them in the comments.
peace, love, and travel!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

#Backyard Tourist - Taking Advantage of Local Sightseeing Opportunities

To start the new year and enjoy the last of my time away from work, we've been doing a lot of hiking and walking the dogs. Today was no exception and we spent time at the San Tan Mountain regional park, which is just a short drive from the house. In fact, the only photo I took today was the shot below which is a view of the San Tan Mountain from just beyond our driveway. On the way home it occurred to me I took no photos and, being such a gorgeous day, I thought that was a travesty. So, we pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, I jumped out of the car, turned around, and took this shot. 

It was a lovely day with warmer temperatures and surprisingly few people. Here is what the Maricopa County website has to say: San Tan Mountain Regional Park consists of over 10,000 acres, the southeast Valley park and is a fine example of the lower Sonoran Desert. The park ranges in elevation from about 1,400 feet to over 2,500 feet. Goldmine Mountain is located in the northern area, with a spectacular San Tan Mountain escarpment in the southern portion of the park. The vegetation changes from creosote flats to dense saguaro forest. Various types of wildlife may be observed, including reptiles, birds, and mammals.

One of my goals for 2016 is to enjoy more local sightseeing opportunities. I love to travel and am quite neglectful about taking advantage of all Arizona has to offer. Today was a step in the right direction!  Two days down, 363 days to go!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Dear 2015,
Thank you for the opportunities you presented me, both professionally and personally. While I spent way too much time on airplane for business, you helped me reach a milestone and personal goal of visiting my 6th continent. What a magical adventure! Australia and New Zealand were otherwordly and breathtaking. On the home front, work brought me some great clients, interesting projects, good colleagues, and more travel. It was a great year, filled with health, happiness, and love. I wish you, 2015, good bye. May 2016 be as kind and obliging and bring me more opportunities for travel, continued health and prosperity for me and my loved ones.

My deepest wish is for everyone to have safety, access to healthy food, useful endeavors to occupy the body and mind, and a willingness to accept others. May 2016 shine on all of us with good fortune, tolerance, and wisdom.
peace, love, and travel
the Map Pin Junkie

My 2015 travel recap in a few photos. As a reminder, these images are mine and protected by all applicable copyrights.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry, Happy, Good Wishes To All!

Hot chocolate in my reindeer mug (with mini marshmallows aplenty), loved ones near, and my favorite Christmas movies on the dvd, I feel incredibly fortunate to be safe, warm, well-fed, and healthy. I hope the same for you and yours. May goodwill and peace reign in your world, this holiday, and beyond.
Peace, love, and travel!
The Map Pin Junkie

The Map Pin Junkies 12 Days of Christmas - Gift Recommendations - Day 12

It's that time of year when we exchange gifts to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or just the joy we feel towards friends and family. 

Today, the last day in our 12 Days of Christmas Gift Recommendations, the gift is cash....but not in the 'oops-I-forgot-to-get-you-something' way. This cash gift is for a specific purpose!

Anyone who travels a lot (or even a little) will appreciate the gift of an expedited experience through the airport, right? Right, so give your travel the gift of Global Entry for $100. Of course, you cannot apply for the recipient, but you can creatively package the money in a box wrapped with a world map or tucked inside a globe ornament. There are a lot of creative ways you can designate the cash for the gift of Global Entry. Even cooler, is that approved Trusted Travelers get TSA PreCheck designation included in Global Entry!

To learn more about the program or to show your traveler the great gift he/she just received, click here! Heck, even Santa has Global Entry!
Santa courtesy of   

Thanks for visiting our 12 Days of Christmas Gift Recommendations. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, health, happiness, and a beautiful New Year.
peace, love, and travel,
The Map Pin Junkie