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We are sweaty, packed tightly on the crammed bus. Bodies against bodies, sweat drips down our head and necks. Babies are passed from neighbors to friends. We stare out at the dusty ground as each movement vibrates through our bodies. Another world. Emerging to winding streets we are relieved. The sunset casts an orange glow. Traders shout to each other comparing their sales and readying themselves for an evening of trade. The smell of incense is thick in the air. We pass the famous granite carvings. We will explore them later on our trip but even at a glance they make an impression. Impossible to believe they are so old, beautifully carved elephants and an array of vivid scenes. We make our way into the main town, which is not so big, but has a distinct charged energy. Beachside stalls, hippy cafes and hostels. It isn’t hard to see why…
Thursday, 01 September 2016

Oases Inside and Out, India

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In the honking morass that is Ahmedabad, India, two retreats Sabarmati Ashram “Mr. Gandhi will find it takes more than a pinch of salt to bring down the British Empire.” So declared the Viceroy of India, in John Gielgud’s mellifluous tones. Whether a screenwriter’s conceit or not, one can trace the beginnings of this symbolic ‘pinch’ in Gujarat’s hectic capital. In its turbulent sea of chaos and cows, the sub-continent can be trying even while it fascinates and by visiting Ahmedabad I was jumping in with both feet. “Ahmedabad is not for tourists really,” my hotel manager told me. “There’s only industries.” Well, his industries are enjoying a boom these days and the city streets manage, even by Indian standards, to ratchet up the cacophony (the Central Railway Station was a hectare of insanity I shall never forget). By the second day I needed to escape it, but misread my…
14th August Near Keflavík International Airport The dynamic geology of Iceland is intriguing. We drive along the perimeter of this volcanic island in a semi-circle: from Keflavík to Höfn along Route 1. We hope our geological time travel will reveal some events in Earth’s history. We are confounded. We are awed. We are humbled. Nature has her way with us. 15th August Off Route 1 near the village of Kirkjubæjarklauster The mist hangs low, thick, gray casting an eerie glow over the Laki Lava fields that stretch before us. The damp moss is avocado green, soft, pillowy; we leap and bounce nimbly like the winged creatures in a fantasy movie. Otherworldly. On 8th June 1783, the sun had shone brightly on this very pastureland, lush with livestock and wildflowers. When the Reverend Jón Steingrímsson stepped out to deliver his Sunday sermon, he heard a loud crack and noticed a black…
The reflection in the mirror was virtually unrecognizable; the spelling of my name remained obscure; what might happen next had become a perpetual mystery. Before I could make sense of it all, burgundy-robed monks whisked me away, up a dusty spiral staircase, to their secluded 5th floor rooftop. With endearing fervor, the monks excitedly pulled out their smartphones, gathered around me as a group, and began snapping selfies, with me, against the backdrop of the Yangon skyline. Had I stumbled down the rabbit hole, only to arrive in Myanmar? I peered over the ledge to the chaos of once-familiar city life below; I became as dizzy as the moment was surreal. I saw none of this coming, yet it was all going exactly as planned. No guidebooks, no tour agencies, no beaten path; I promised myself this trip would be original. Long removed from my days as a wide-eyed tourist,…
Sunday, 01 March 2015

The Parrots are Back

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It was one of those special moments you remember forever! It was the reason we travel. It happened at the Angkor complex of temples and ruins in Cambodia. We had bicycled from our hotel in nearby Siam Reap to the Angkor sites. It started as a mild, cloudy day, but by the time we arrived it was hot and humid, and we fought to stay hydrated the rest of the day. It was our second day of exploring the complex at Angkor. We had saved three special temples for today. First up was the most popular temple in the complex -- Angkor Wat. It was very crowded and spectacular -- with five gigantic spires, and very sacred. It's the largest and holiest of the temples and we sat outside and talked to a guide who explained a little about Buddhist beliefs and customs. There are 37 steps to the top…
Since I have moved back to New York, I have felt a little lost and disconnected. It takes an adjustment to move and then to move yet again- even if the final territory is familiar. In an effort to make some positive changes in a somewhat muddled and distracted state, I signed up for a weekend retreat. It was easy enough to make reservations for the Yoga and Hiking Weekend at Mohican Outdoor Center. I received my online confirmation and my informational packet. I packed the suggested items on their list in preparation for the upcoming activities and possible weather conditions. No list could have prepared me for that weekend. In hindsight, it is pretty funny. People go to far flung monasteries in Tibet in search of a spiritual awakening. I stumbled upon it in Jersey of all places with no such intentions at all. I am no yogini but…
Mt. Sunday is not one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and the only reason its in most guide books is due to its association with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. However, there is something magical in store for those who go there. After what seems like an eternity on the underdeveloped access road, the glory that surrounds Mt. Sunday begins to peek over the horizon. Further and further you drive down the rabbit hole until finally the sign for Mt. Sunday appears. You breathe the fresh air and with the bang of a car door you are transported to a scene that is hard to believe still exists in this hectic world. It resembles every story and every fantasy you had as a child. This is where your imagination would take you as you played in your back yard and quickly that same innocence is brought back. At Mt.…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The True Meaning of Pura Vida

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I opened my inbox one day to find an email with a peculiar subject line. "Congratulations, you have won a trip to Anamaya Yoga Retreat in Sunny Costa Rica". I promptly deleted it, but a nagging feeling prompted me to retrieve that email and read it thoroughly to be sure it was, in fact, just another scam. Four months later, I boarded a plane for San Jose, Costa Rica and onto the small Pacific Coast village of Montezuma where I would learn an important lesson in life and in living it to the fullest. There wasn’t much going on at Anamaya Yoga Retreat on my 4th day in Montezuma. I had gotten into the routine of waking early and watching the sunrise, reading in the hammock, taking a dip in the infinity pool and checking emails all before breakfast was served; so on this day, I decided to break the…
My grandmother came from a half Mexican background, which became very apparent as the family members filed in to her funeral. My short, tan, black haired relatives had piled in their cars and carpooled from Southern California to Las Vegas to honor their loved one, originally named Claire Alcantara. I marveled at my diverse family as they spoke quickly in Spanish and made my 5'2 (5'5 with my heels on) frame seem simply gigantic. I felt silly not knowing the language that bonded my family members and made me feel like the outsider white girl. My grandmother, and the only grandparent I had left, had just passed away from ovarian cancer and our close relationship made her passing very hard on me. To make matters worse, my mother's sister had recently been diagnosed with a rare cancer of the stomach. Suffice it to say, emotions were running wild. When my…
Dress warmly. Start in Christchurch and drive south to Queenstown in a crappy car that has trouble getting into second gear. Stop at the ethereal blue Lake Tekapo, and Aoraki Mount Cook—New Zealand’s highest mountain. Take frequent breaks in front of undulating meadows specked in yellowed sheep to smoke cigarettes in the low light. Remind yourself this is Lord of the Rings territory: Look for hobbits among the vast, green sweeping mountains and jagged crags. Observe ice-green glacial rivers incise a place along the bottom of formidable ravines. Sigh audibly and often. Stop the car somewhere on the side of the road. Think: “No one in the world knows exactly where we are right now.” Sit in the warm car reeking of cigarettes, and listen to dated rap with a hoodie pulled up snug over your head. Be without movement, just for a moment, and watch the daytime moon, grey…

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