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TRAVEL

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

The desert is clean physically & spiritually because the sun shines in every place and bakes it sinless. Nothing can hide from its righteouRead More...

FAITH

The High To Keep You Satisfied

The High To Keep You Satisfied

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in May 2014. Not every difficulty is a storm: sometimes life is a drought. We do not aRead More...

INSPIRATION

Home Sounds: Ryan Bingham

Home Sounds: Ryan Bingham

If you love the voice of Ryan Bingham, then you love it out of the blue. At first it sounds raspy, discordant--then you hear that note of truth. IRead More...

WORLD

Why Does the Devil Get the Art?

Why Does the Devil Get the Art?

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in 2013. For a long time, I’ve had a lot of unanswered questions about art–such as, why Read More...

Entries Tagged as 'Travel'

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

Posted on: Saturday, April 1, 2017

Israel desert

The desert is clean physically & spiritually because the sun shines in every place and bakes it sinless. Nothing can hide from its righteous eyes.

After a week in various wet cities where the rain matted down globs of wet trash on the sidewalk, to be strewn in goopy crumbs by people’s feet, I was thankful to be in such a hot and holy place.

I love the austerity of the cliffs, so severe and immutable they do not look real, they look like paintings of themselves.

The sand is washed out and the sky is blanched around the sun’s broad halo, only turning blue right before disappearing behind the sand cliffs to the west and the sloping mountains of Jordan to the east.

Between them, the Dead Sea catches the sun and shimmers dolphin blue, spitting intricate, lace-like sand deposits on the shore and then loping back in a gentle, glutted tide of weighted water.

That sun changes everything. It makes some hard and others humble. It bleaches your bones and your soul. In the leaves of Eden, Adam and Eve believed they could hide from the eyes of God. In the desert there is no hiding, which inevitably brings mans’ mind to God. That’s why the desert is full of temples.

Judean wilderness

Judean desert

Masada in Israel

Israel desert

Masada

Chalk cliffs in Israel

Ruins of Masada

View from Masada

Israel desert

Masada in Israel

Israel's wilderness

Driving in the Israeli desert

There are a lot of posts on this blog about traveling in Israel. Click here for more.

 

Top 10 Accessories to Make You a Travel Pro

Posted on: Thursday, March 10, 2016

Packing is a fine art. Learning how to bring just the right things for your trip is an exercise in moderation and foresight. If packing where an Olympic sport, overpacking–being weighed down by bags and bulk and extra sweaters and tangled cords as you run through the airport–would be a foul.

Packing can be a pain, but it’s a great feeling when you get where you’re going and realize you won the packing game by achieving the perfect combination of essentials and the luxuries that make you feel comfortable halfway across the world (or the state). The great thing is, there is always room for improvement, and there are always smart people out there inventing new and better gadgets to make travel even more streamlined.

These are just 10 of the things I personally think make packing easier and simpler. When I made this list, I kept my readers in mind–most of you guys are (like me) young people without extravagant budgets, who probably aren’t flying First Class or looking to spend $300 on an aromatherapy eye mask. I also kept flight travel in mind (I’ve written before about camping gear). This list isn’t elaborate or exhaustive, just some simple ideas for getting from Point A to Point B with a little less stress. Plus, they make for great gift ideas! 

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Review of the World’s Best Budget Airline: Norwegian Air

Posted on: Thursday, February 4, 2016

Last year I read an article about Norwegian Air, the top budget airline in the world. NA offers super reasonably priced flights out of many of the world’s major cities–this includes round-trip fares for under $500. Understandably, the airline got a lot of press, and has since won a bunch of awards including World’s Best Low-Cost, Long Haul Airline from Skytrax. So I was excited when I got the chance to test NA out on a flight from Rome to Los Angeles (with a London layover).

First Of All, The Price.

I bought these tickets about three months in advance. I used Kayak to search for the best prices, and my results made me do a double take: The NA ticket cost $381, the next cheapest was somewhere in the range of $1100! It seemed too good to be true; I had to do a little extra research just to make sure I wasn’t missing something! So yeah, the price is awesome. I even checked the flight again about a month before we left and prices were still under $500.

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What’s the Catch?

This is a budget airline; you’re not gonna get any perks with your ticket. Seriously, none: No meals, no blanket / pillow, no headphones, no drinks (except water). All of these are available but you have to pay, and prices are a little exorbitant.

Personally, I like this. I would much rather save hundreds of dollars on a ticket and bring my own dang food and headphones. Airline food is gross anyway. But yeah, it’s good to be aware of where the airline is cutting costs. For people who want to show up on the plane and not have to worry about pre-packing or swiping a credit card for snacks, the extra planning could be annoying.

What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect on a Norwegian Air Shuttle:

  • Food — Somehow, we accidentally ordered meals on our trip. I had already brought food so I gave mine to my brothers, but it was pretty standard-issue. The first meal was hot, the second, right before we landed, was cold (a sandwich, juice, and cookie). I’m not sure how we all ended up ordering meals with our tickets, but I’d try to avoid this in the future. Like I said, I hate airline food and would rather bring my own. But my brothers say is is decent for airline food, so there is that option if you want to save yourself the trouble of bringing stuff onboard.
  • In-flight entertainment — I was worried that in-flight entertainment would also cost us extra $$, as is the case on most American airlines, but thankfully it was free. Good selection and nice, streamlined system.
  • Flight crew — I’d heard some people say that they had bad experiences with flight attendants being rude on their NA flights; I didn’t experience this at all. Maybe people who expected regular service thought attendants were impolite not to give them drinks or whatever, but if you know not to expect those little perks going in, it shouldn’t be a problem. I thought the flight crews were really friendly and pleasant on both my flights.
  • Plane — The Air Shuttle has some new features such as cabin lighting designed to imitate the sun’s cycles and a “sunglasses” effect on the cabin windows that replaces pull-down shutters. Overall, the cabin felt very modern and clean and the new features were cool; in terms of space, it was about average. My seat buddy was my brother Joe; he is a lot taller than me but approved of the seats too (as much as anyone can approve of a tiny airplane seat after sitting in it for hours anyway!).

Overall, the trip is above average, and if you remember to plan around the little “perks” you might be used to in most economy class flights, you won’t miss them.

Where to Buy

OK, so if you want to book a flight with NA, where do you go? You can book directly on the Norwegian Air website, check this page on Cheapo Air, or run a quick web search. Generally speaking, my favorite sites for finding plane tickets are Kayak and Momondu.

Good luck & happy trails! xx

Top Tips for Staying Comfy On a Long-Haul Flight

Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hello! Back from a little hiatus: My brothers and friend Whitney and I went on a fun trip over New Year’s. I’m gonna do a couple of travel posts while this is fresh on my mind! And the first one is about flying overseas.

Long flights in economy class are NOT my favorite. You probably feel the same way. Our flight home from Rome took about 40 hours and included a 13 hour stint trying to sleep in London Gatwick Airport on a Costa Coffee bench (traveling makes you real humble, real fast). So I’ve made a science out of making these journeys as un-miserable as possible. Here’s a list of things I do; hope they’ll work for you too! xx

When you are booking your flight, here’s a couple things to keep in mind.

Pick the Right Seat

As much as I love window seats, I choose aisle seats on major flights so that I can walk a lot without disturbing the person next to me. If you’re tall, you may want to choose a seat in an emergency exit row or a front row for a little extra legroom (some airlines are charging extra for these spots now, but it may be worth it for you). You can also use a service such as SeatGuru to check the seat map for your specific flight. This site tells you which seats on your plane are the best and which to avoid.

Tips for Meal Selection

I also make sure to choose the special meal request option, and then pick whatever the airline offers that looks the freshest. For example, low calorie, vegan, or gluten free choices usually mean I’ll get more fresh options, such as fruit and salad. This is really the only stuff that feels good on my stomach on a long flight. (More on nutrition in a minute.)

OK so the flight is booked. Here’s some things to remember before you leave.

Buy a Memory Foam Neck Pillow

Most U-shaped (or “horseshoe”) pillows are NOT comfortable. Plus, I don’t really understand how the traditional way (with the gap facing forward) works for anyone?! I have this one, which is made with memory foam and has a drawstring so it is much more supportive. BTW, I sleep with it “backwards” with the gap at the back of my neck and the fuller part of the pillow supporting my face and neck. It makes a lot more sense if you think about it. If you want to get really fancy, put some lavender essential oil drops on the pillow to help you sleep (and block out weird plane smells, haha).

Wear Over the Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones have three major benefits over earbuds, in my humble opinion. First of all, they are way more comfortable. Earbuds (especially the scratchy free kind the airline gives you) are not easy to sleep in. Secondly, a good pair should be noise-canceling (planes are loud). And finally, no matter how conversational you are, sometimes you just need to take a nap, but that can be hard if you have a really talkative seatmate. Something about big headphones magically creates a little space when you need it (and in coach, we ALL need it!).

Dress Right

Yoga pants are the name of the game, girls. Also, wear comfy shoes that slide on and off easily (ideal for security checkpoints) and thick socks (bring a clean pair with you to put on once you’re seated). We all know that plane cabins can be freezing, but it also sucks to be overheated when you’re trying to sleep, so dress in layers. Wearing the biggest jacket you’ve packed makes sense for your packing, and it can also double as an extra “blanket” or pillow. Oh, and the guys I’ve talked to recommend athletic shorts with Dry Fit leggings and slides with socks.

Now that you’re on your flight, here’s how to stay feeling your best!

Drink Water

Jet lag is the WORST. And a big factor in jet lag is dehydration. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up once you are past security. Not only will drinking loads of water help you feel amazing when you get where you’re going, it also serves the double purpose of keeping you moving on your flight since you will presumably have to use the bathroom a lot more, which leads to my next point:

Move!

It’s really rough on your body to be sedentary for hours and hours. It can even cause health problems. So moving is really important. Like I said, I like to choose aisle seats for long flights and I make sure to get up every couple hours or on the hour. I’ll walk the length of the cabin, stretch a bit, do 100 calf raises in the bathroom, whatever keeps me moving. Plus, on layovers, I try to spend as much time walking through airports as possible, no matter how tired I am. If I can find an empty spot in the airport, I’ll even stretch or do some yoga. Moving as much as you can is really important and will help you feel a lot better during your flights and once you arrive at your destination.

Moisturize

I always bring lotion and chapstick with me on flights because my skin gets really dry really easily at that elevation. Start by moisturizing before getting dressed (avoid strong-smelling lotions so you don’t bother your neighbors) and then keep reapplying throughout the flight. Creams are better than lotions; avoid exfoliants and other harsh products (including those containing Retinol) before a flight as well. P.S. A little red lipstick before you land will make you feel a lot better. ;)

About That Airline Food…

You don’t need loads of calories while sitting on a long flight. You still need to eat, obviously, plus it’s probably the most entertaining thin to do on the plane (lol), but just remember that digesting heavy meals isn’t easy when you’re gonna be sitting for hours. So it’s important to aim for eating a little less and also choosing the right stuff.

Airline food is bad, almost always. Even the smell makes me feel gross. Like I mentioned, I usually order special meals such as vegan or low calorie meals when I book my flights, since I’ve discovered that these choices have the freshest stuff like fruit and vegetables (the very thought of eating airline meat freaks me out). Also, limiting carbs and focusing on fats and proteins (i.e., eat the peanuts, skip the pretzels) will help you avoid that unpleasant bloated, swollen feeling that lots of travelers experience.

If you have time before takeoff or access to a nice shop during your layover, bring “outside” food with you on the plane. A salad, cup of fruit, vegetable juice, dark chocolate bar, healthy sandwich; trust me, these choices will make you feel a thousand times better! I’ve never had a problem getting through security with food, but obviously you will have to buy drinks and liquids in the airport once you are past security. Also, a little bottle of airline wine is pretty effective if I’m having trouble sleeping (I’m no sommelier, lol).

How to Sleep on the Plane

It helps to follow your normal sleep routine as much as you can. Bring your own decaf tea bags or have a cup of tea offered by the airline. Brush your teeth, take off your makeup, whatever. Buckle your seatbelt over the airline blanket so flight attendants don’t wake you up. Recline your seat. Fold the headrest flaps in so you have something to lean against (nobody wants to wake up on their neighbor’s shoulder!). If that isn’t comfortable for you, you can also try folding down the tray table in front of you and resting your head on your arms or use your jacket for a pillow.

Here’s some ideas for how to use that weird little coach pillow: Try rolling it up and putting it just beneath your shoulder blades to relieve pressure off your back. You can also put the coach pillow on your shoulder if you don’t have a U-shaped pillow, or on your seat so that you sit at a slight angle, relieving uncomfortable pressure from your tailbone. AKA, you need more coach pillows. And be sure to make a sleepy playlist to listen to before takeoff!

Finally, if you can’t fall asleep, don’t sweat it. Watch a movie or read a book and don’t worry. It’s not gonna ruin your trip!

Take a Jet Lag Pill

I know some travelers swear by taking prescription sleep aids during a flight, however I am not big on taking pills where they can be avoided so this isn’t something I can speak to. I have had success with these homeopathic “No Jet Lag” pills, which I bought from REI for my last trip. I took a tablet before takeoff and then every 2 hours during the flight and it made a difference. I felt tired but not foggy, dizzy, disoriented, or any of the other jet lag symptoms I’ve felt before. Try it and see if it helps you!

Be Super Nice!

As cheesy as this sounds, I have to mention it. Traveling is really stressful for a lot of people. Kindness and understanding go a long way. I always try to be really appreciative and friendly to flight crew members; they have a stressful job and a lot of people to keep happy. It’s amazing how appreciative flight attendants are of just a little kindness and humility. Makes me think that a lot of people must be pretty rude to them. It’s also really important to be kind to others on the plane; gentleness can de-escalate a tense situation, and understanding can make people (especially parents with little kids) feel a lot better in unavoidably tough situations. Besides, kindness to our neighbors is just part of being a Christian, right? And you will probably never get more neighborly with anyone than those strangers sleeping two inches from your face on a 16 hour flight. LOL.

OK those are my tips! Now I know some of my readers are rockstar travelers; what advice have you got for us? Let me know in the comments. I wish you all happy, comfy flights, and the good fortune to seize an empty row so you can stretch out like a dang rich person in first class. xx

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