Traveling around the world for Live Action Roleplaying

Long time readers may recall that one of my hobbies is live action roleplaying (LARP). I’ve never traveled more than a few hundred miles for a LARP, road trips from Atlanta to Gettysburg and from NY to Ohio and West Virginia are as far as I’ve gotten. But some people get much further from home for their gaming fix.

There’s an ad here, about a LARP in Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Though lacking in detail, the page says the LARP draws on the region’s culture. Players “join a Pearl Tribe where you will be part of a clan-family and will learn the rituals and traditions of one of the five tribes.” It sounds pretty cool, but also very hands-off compared to some LARPS – there is no mention of character creation or roleplaying themes on the site.

For example, this story mentions a guy from Brooklyn who went to Poland for a LARP. It sounds like a long trip to play a game, but this game took place in a castle, which sounds pretty amazing. It’s kind of like being a tourist who gets to visit the castle in addition to being a LARPer who gets to play a game.

The LARP I play with my friends is called Alliance. It’s more than just a game. It’s a camping trip. I don’t get to enjoy nature much while working on my dissertation so I really enjoy spending a weekend outdoors – usually you sleep in cabins although 20 years ago I used to sleep in a tent at LARPs. Last year I went to a LARP in Gettysburg in October and realized it was a great way to spend hours surrounded by Autumn leaves.

But even better than spending some time in the great outdoors is I get a chance to hang out with friends I have known for years and don’t usually see.

Where should I look into cashing in a few dollars for pounds?

Reader submitted question: I am going to London for the New York Giants football game.Where should I look into cashing in a few dollars for pounds?


The best thing to do would be to plan to take money out of an ATM while in London as you will get the best exchange rate. Some American banks have British counterparts (decreasing or eliminating fees). For example, Bank of America has been affiliated with Barclays in the UK but I am not certain if that relationship still exists (I will be finding out). Also, be sure to let your bank know that you will be traveling abroad so they don’t freeze your ATM or credit cards while you are traveling.

You may want to arrive with some British pounds in your pocket and you have several options for acquiring those before you leave. Several banks offer currency exchange. I am using Bank of America again as an example because I am a customer – I plan to get about £100 before I leave through BOA. As of today, their exchange rate was $1.3488, which is not great but not the worst exchange rate I’ve seen (Currency Exchange International quoted me $1.3679 today). If you are a member of AAA, their stores offer (or at least used to offer, I haven’t checked lately) packets of small change – probably around £50 worth) but the exchange rate is not usually great and you will want to pay in cash or with a debit card. If you pay for it with a credit card, it will be treated as a cash advance. However, the AAA option can be the most convenient way to get some small change foreign currency before traveling, especially for those who don’t live in a big city.

Anthony Bourdain, TV, food, and travel

A friend of mine in the food business recently asked me my opinion on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

It’s a show I’ve watched, but not watched recently. After my friend told me what a fan he was of the show, I may have to check it out again. Being in the food business, he relates to it a lot more than most. However, he thinks most traveler would enjoy the show.

Bourdain seems to lean towards the far east and he sprinkles culture into it. Like the fact that he does not go to a country and go right to the five star locations that are not indicative of what the regular folks in that country would experience. He eats a lot of “street food” which also infuses more culture.

So if you’re looking for a show with food, wine, history, culture, and politics, Parts Unknown might be substantive enough for you. The show is well produced as well.

The only criticism I have heard is that Bourdain may be taking himself to seriously in his more recent work. Another friend of mine thinks that the guy who wrote Kitchen Confidential would recoil at some of the self-indulgent sequences in the later episodes of No Reservations and Parts Unknown.

What to you all think about Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows?

Quick travel planning tips for India

With its rich cultural history, magnificent temples, and great people, there’s something enchantingly unique about India. So you’re all set on that mystical trip you’ve been planning for years … ready to take the plunge? Here’s a few quick tips to consider.

First, know your home country currency versus the value of the Indian Rupee. Since the Indian Rupee has dropped in value as a world currency over the past few years, you might be able to create a more memorable trip! You should plan accordingly when scoring cheaper airline tickets, budget hotels, apartment rentals, and discount transportation as a result.

Next, when planning out where you’re going to stay. Think about the diversity of Indian cuisine as it varies from region to region. Also consider in advance how much traveling you intend to do, since India is historically well known for its central role in the spice trade. That means you will find a various assortment of colorful, fragrant, spicy dishes during your travels.

As for hotel accommodations, you might consider Tripadvisor‘s top ten list of upscale hotels such as the Parakkat Nature Hotels and Resorts, or the Oberoi Vanyavillas for an amazing experience. Though if you’re already on a budget, one of the most highly rated hotels to stay at versus price point is the AkashDeep.

If you’re opting for a more traditional stay, then you’re probably not looking for a hotel unless you’re traveling in a big group. Some consider staying at hostels, but typically they’re not worth the expense unless you’re making a point of staying in one since budget hotels will often cost the same.

One way to get around staying at hotels, while saving extra cash, is by looking directly for Indian families who will host you on the various hospitality exchanges. For example, the popular website Couchsurfing is one of the largest networks in India and comparable to Airbnb.

At the site above, there’s well over 100,000 hosts and growing. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with Indian culture, though if you’re new to the country you’ll find most Indian families are gracious and will appreciate your interest in their culture.

As for transportation, you might want to rent bikes and take trains. Check out a few styles offered by Brooklyn Bicycle Company, as these are the types of city bikes you’ll want to look for in terms of tires and comfortable seating.

Don’t expect speedy travel arrangements when you get there, and don’t expect your airline departure and arrivals to be exactly on time. The same goes for buses and trains. It’s helpful to research a map of India and consider the sheer size of the territories you are wanting to see and plan out your travel route in advance.

Lastly, a few safety tips for women travelers. Remember you should be dressing appropriately with the customs while you’re travelling through the country. This includes shoulders, legs, and cleavage because India is still a conservative country when it comes to female expression.

Also, consider the ramifications of being female and travelling alone. One of the most important tips is not to arrive at your destinations at night by yourself. Always exercise caution and judgment while abroad while paying attention to your surroundings.

Above all, have fun and enjoy your well-planned trip!

Book Review: Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly

When they invited me to review Cosmos Screen, I agreed because there were a few things I thought would be interesting.

Since this is a travel site, I first flipped to page 115 and the description of a tour through Europe in 1958. Travel by ship was normal then and at least on the Greek Queen Frederica, the parties on the lower levels went all night long (kind of like in the Titanic movie I guess where the richer people on the higher floors go to bed early).

Another interesting note is that people took time to tour 12 countries in six weeks. These days you wonder how many people would make time for a six-week tour. And how much would it cost if they did make the time? Here is one trip’s itinerary:

New York, Barcelona, Genoa by ship. Then Rapallo (day trip to Portofino), Grosseto, Naples (day trip to Capri and the Blue Grotto), Rome, Florence, Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, Venice (day trip to Lido Beach), Trieste.

And then on to Austria: Klagenfurt, Valden, Portachach, Vienna (day trip to Vienna Woods), Salzburg.

Then Germany and Switzerland: Munich, Zurich, Baden-Baden (Germany), Assmannshausen (for a Rhine River cruise to Bonn), Cologne.

And to save me from listing countries, the rest of Western Europe: Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (day trip to North Zealand, Elsinore castle, Danish Riviera), Stockholm, Oslo, Newcastle, London, Paris, Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Gibraltar.

Then back to New York by ship.

While reading about the travel experience is enjoyable, the book seems to be a memoir first and some of the details may not interest everyone – the college boy who wants to dump his girlfriend on tour, the woman who sees the ship doctor for menstrual pains, etc.

There are other travel experiences too, like China in 1988 and Brazil in 1989. But the travel experiences may not be the most interesting part of the story. The author grew up on a farm in Alabama in the 1930s. He “gave up” on being heterosexual in 1968. In the end, I decided to save some of the travel experiences for later and learn more about a kid’s experiences growing up during the Great Depression.

In conclusion, if you like memoirs and travel, then Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly may be a good book for you. The writing seems matter-of-fact to me. I never laughed but I did sometimes nod my head and think to myself that this detail or that detail was interesting. Not all of the author’s memories resonated with me, but Cosmos Screen did give me a glimpse of a world that I had never seen before and never could have glimpsed on my own.

Which type of visitor to Yellow Stone would you be?

So I recently asked a friend who lives near Yellow Stone National Park if he had any travel tips. He said it depends on which of the three types of Yellow Stone visitors you are. Different tips for different folks.

Retirees in RVs – they drive around, take pictures, and only leave their RV for fly fishing.

Younger crowd – they camp, hike, rock-climb, and raft. They sometimes hitchhike their way in.

Families with young children – They do whatever it takes to keep the children amused/entertained.

I might fit into the third category if I were traveling with my dogs (see Sharon’s excellent article on camping in dog friendly national parks from 2 years ago.) But without my dogs, I don’t know if I fit nicely into one of the three categories. I guess I would want to be like the younger crowd. But maybe I’d be closer to the retirees.

A few tips anyway:

Day hikes: As opposed to the longer backcountry hikes.

Outside the Yellowstone entrances are some “touristy” type locations where you can buy pricey souvenirs and have a beer, visiting with locals and others. I’m partial towards West Yellowstone, since I enter the park from the west.

You will love Jackson Hole – which is on the east side of the Tetons. Lots of great fun there, particularly if you have some money (it’s very expensive). I’ve been up to the top – it’s a three day event – hiking to a base camp day 1 and 3, with a rise to the summit on day 2. You have to get permits for anything backcountry which is some work in advance. If you just want to see beautiful country and enjoy yourselves in the great outdoors around wealthy people you’ll really enjoy Jackson Hole.

I can’t emphasize enough how much fun you can have in Jackson Hole if you have some money. I don’t know what your budget looks like, but if you can afford it they will take you up the mountain on a helicopter and drop you off for you to hang-glide down. You can rent ATV’s and have a blast going off-road. You can hire a guide to take you out on the water and catch fish. You can find great dining, including a really nice pizza shop in town just off the main square. They’re busy all the time.

The town square has all kinds of cool boutiques for shopping with artists and craftsmen selling their wares. There are cool looking antlers to check out as well.

If you like hiking you’ll like Glacier, but aside from the hiking and being able to say that you were there and touched the dirty icey glaciers, it’s a long detour.

Yellowstone of course has all the diversity and beauty. It’s just overwhelmed with people everywhere, but that’s kind of the fun as well.

5 day travel plan to Lapland

Lapland is the northernmost part of Finland. A stretch of land bordering Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea, Lapland is known for its breathtaking wilderness, amazing ski resorts and fascinating natural phenomena ranging from Northern Lights to the unbelievably long, 24-hour summer daylight. The region’s capital, Rovaniemi, is the best place to start your exploration of the area. Here’s a 5 day travel plan to help you get to know Lapland and make the most from every single day you spend among its stunning natural setting.

Day 1

Santa Claus and Rovaniemi

There’s nothing more satisfying to do on your very first day in Rovaniemi than visiting its most famous resident – Santa Claus. It’s enough to travel a bit and crossing the Arctic Circle you’ll arrive at the Santa Claus Village – as you can imagine it’s a real delight for children. Visitors can send postcards from Santa’s main post office or dabble in some leisurely shopping at the many souvenir stores that offer a handful of beautiful handcrafted goods.

Devote your afternoon to exploring the city of Rovaniemi. Walk around to get a feel of this place and make sure to visit to the Arktikum museum. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Arctic – the history of its exploration, stories about Lapland and the current state of its natural environment.

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi on a cloudy day in January 2015. Christmas tree decorated with flags of the countries.

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi on a cloudy day in January 2015. Christmas tree decorated with flags of the countries.

Day 2

The Sami Reindeer Farm

Eat a hearty breakfast and you can begin your day with a real adventure – a guided snowmobile trip to a reindeer farm! There are many providers in Rovaniemi, so ask around and join a tour that looks best to you – usually one snowmobile is shared by 2 people who can take turns driving it. Getting to the reindeer farm is always lots of fun!

The reindeer farm is where you can learn about the Sami culture and its tradition of reindeer herding. Visitors can take a ride in a reindeer sleigh or participate in the special Lappish ceremony of crossing the Arctic Circle. Take part in this event and you’ll have an amazing story to tell back home.

Day 3

Ranua Wildlife Park

One good day trip idea is a visit to Ranua Wildlife Park. This is the most northerly zoo in the world, offering its visitors opportunities for observing arctic animals throughout the year. This park was created to provide as authentic natural environment as possible. It’s open year-round and great to visit practically any time of the year as each season brings new dimensions to the natural landscape.

You’ll find here almost 50 wild animal species such as lemmings, polar bears, brown bears, raccoon dogs, mink, Arctic Foxes and many more. If you love being outdoors, you simply must visit Ranua Wildlife Park.

Arctic Fox

Day 4


In the middle of the Bothnian Arc, you’ll find an area called Kemi which is famous for its SnowCastle that features a SnowRestaurant, SnowChapel and Children’s Land. It’s one of the most exciting attractions in Lapland, so make sure to visit this snowy paradise.

If you’re staying at the hotel near to SnowCastle, make sure to protect your private data while surfing the web within open wifi networks.

But that’s not everything Kemi offers. You can also participate in snowmobile tours or even husky safaris! You might be able to spot Northern Lights as well. There’s plenty of choice here, so make sure to plan your visit to Kemi really well.

Day 5

Moving around Lapland

Now that you’re in the area, you should head over to the Ajos Harbour for a cruise on the Icebreaker Sampo ship. It’s not one of these long and boring cruises – in fact, you’ll have quite a lively program to enjoy. Participants can learn about the ship’s history, visit the control room and the impressive engine room, and see a fascinating presentation about ice-breaking techniques.

Have lunch in the ship’s cozy restaurant, and then jump into the water. We’re not kidding! The arctic swim is a great experience, and you’ll be given a special survival suit will keep you warm and afloat. Needless to say, it’s a life-saver as you dip into the 0-degree waters of the Baltic Sea! At the end of the tour you’ll receive an “ice-breaking diploma” from the crew.

Lapland is a remote region which definitely has a lot to offer. If you decide to make it into your next holiday destination, you’re simply bound to bring back home some great memories and a fair share of unique experiences that will make up for some amazing travel stories.


Will Norquay is a passionate traveler and blogger at HomeAway, who often goes for the less famous destinations, hoping to discover their magic and beauty. When he isn’t traveling, Will might usually be found trying to learn new useful skills or just reading.

How to sell a timeshare or at least get rid of it without losing too much money

In the past, I’ve written about a few cases where people wanted to get rid of their timeshares. Manhattan Club may be the worst, but there are plenty of reasons not to buy a timeshare. But some people love them and even more people buy them.

So recently I got this question: My mother-in-law has an RCI timeshare she wants to dispose of. She offered it to my wife and I, but we don’t want it. Does anyone know of a reliable service that handles these sales? Are there significant costs involved in unloading it? Any info would be appreciated. I just don’t have any experience in this area and I can use your input to help jumpstart my research. Thanks.


1. The timeshare store in Orlando. They specialize in Disney but handle all others as well I believe. My friend Chip has bought and sold using them and had no issues.

2. Another friend had to unload his dad’s timesharee after he passed. “After a lot of work I finally convinced them to let me “deed it back” to them, which cost me a few hundred bucks. Took multiple calls and pretty major escalation to layers of management. Yes, I had to pay to unload it. couldn’t give it away, no one would even accept it as a donation. Be careful with any of the sites that claim they can sell it, in most cases you’ll pay money to them and get nada.”

3. Century 21 has a timeshare dept. They are as reliable as anyone. You may also want to contact the home base office as they may be willing to negotiate a resale.

Q: Can CENTURY 21 Real Estate help with timeshare properties?
A: Depending on his or her level of expertise and preference, and pursuant to state real estate licensing laws, a CENTURY 21 Broker or Sales Associate may be able to help you buy or sell a timeshare. For information on a specific location or property, please contact a CENTURY 21 Office directly for assistance or a referral.

Do you carry emergency cash when you go to a foreign country?

When I travel, I rarely have any local currency before arriving in a foreign country. I go to an ATM in the airport and get some. However, I recently heard this from a friend:

As a banker I advise customers to obtain a small amount of currency before leaving as “just in case” or convenience cash. Your bank should be able to provide it to you but it will depend on the bank as will the timing and fees. Try to request at least 3 business days ahead of departure if possible in case your bank doesn’t carry that currency on hand at your location.

The rate you will get at your bank will be OK, but not the best, and you may pay a fee for the transaction as well, again depending on your bank. But it is likely to be better than the rate you would receive at an exchange at the airport. Note that the rates you see on the internet are estimated wholesale rates and are not reflective of what you should expect for a small retail transaction.

The best rates are generally provided by Visa for your card purchases and withdrawals while overseas. Whether your bank charges you a fee for ATM withdrawals from other banks varies; you may have an account or option which waives such fees which would make foreign ATM withdrawals your best option.

Do you carry emergency cash when you go to a foreign country?

93 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida

As of 4/22/16 there were 93 confirmed cases in Florida, all from returning travelers. Zika used to be found only in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Now there are travel warnings for most of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The CDC list is at

Zika is transmitted through mosquitoes and there is also evidence that the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted from a man to their partner(s). Most of those infected with Zika virus (80%) are without symptoms. Symptomatic disease is usually mild and symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant are advised to postpone travel to areas with Zika virus transmission due to harm the virus may cause to an unborn baby. All travelers should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, such as those found at, if going to any of these high risk areas.