Kathleen Rellihan reaches the summit of Kilimanjaro, moments before sunrise, with a full moon lighting the way. (Credit: Kathleen Rellihan)
The months leading up to my Mount Kilimanjaro climb were filled mostly with making countless trips to REI to stock up on gear and promising others that even their grandma could do it. Yes, before I had even stepped foot onto Africa’s tallest peak, I already was reassuring friends and family, “No, no … anyone can do it. It’s not Everest. There are 80-year-olds who climb it all the time.”
While it’s true that you don’t need to be an Ironman to climb Kilimanjaro, it was obvious that I wasn’t so much reassuring my friends, my family and the guy fitting my hiking boots that I was fully capable of trekking to an altitude of 19,341 feet — I was trying to mask my own doubts. Sure, I had read every Kilimanjaro packing list that I could find and scoured reviews on the best moisture-wicking, wind-resistant, fleece-lined, solar-paneled, this-definitely-will-help-you-not-die gear out there. But in terms of any mental or emotional preparations, the only thought I could allow to enter my mind was: “Just make it to the top. Even if someone has to drag you.”
Photo Courtesy of Julia Dimon
She’s a travel journalist, TV personality and hard-core adventurer, and if you ask Julia Dimon, she’ll happily tell you she’s a travel junkie, too. Her travels have included experiences that some of us can only dream about, such as snorkeling with whale sharks in Mozambique, attending gladiator training in Rome, dogsledding in Greenland and eating deep-fried guinea pig in Ecuador.
In addition to writing her new book, Travel Junkie: A Badass Guide to Travel, Julia has been featured as a travel expert on TV and in numerous publications, including Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Forbes Travel, Budget Travel, Outside Magazine and the Chicago Tribune.
Julia continues to travel the world, but she also takes time to offer words of wisdom to eager travelers at events such as the New York Times Travel Show, which is where I met her. I decided to not only get the scoop on what drives Julia to travel, but I also wanted to get her advice about saving money when planning trips, solo travel for women and much more.
Last night on the 2-hour season premiere of the all-new Travel Channel series Expedition Unknown, host Josh Gates embarked on an expedition to investigate what might be the most iconic unsolved case in history, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
Josh began his exploration in Papua New Guinea, the last takeoff point for Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan’s plane. Before heading off to Fiji, Josh connected with a remote tribe, which helped lead him through the jungle in an attempt to recover potential pieces of evidence.
Once he arrived in Fiji, the real adventure began. Tracking down the latest and most shocking piece of evidence to date, Josh turned his attention to a small piece of aluminum that washed up on the remote island of Nikumaroro in 1991. Historians believe this could be a unique piece of sheeting installed on Earhart’s plane before her ill-fated flight.
Could Josh’s find, which led to a new article in this month’s issue of Smithsonian magazine, be the key to determining what happened to Earhart?
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WHOA Travel founders Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton on Mount Kilimanjaro. All photos courtesy of WHOA
No one climbs Mount Kilimanjaro alone, and no one knows that better than the founders of WHOA Travel. Women High on Adventure creators Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton are travel-loving friends who met while climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, in February 2013. Tackling one of the world’s toughest summits together was so life-altering, they knew they wanted to share the experience with others. So upon returning to New York, they quit their jobs and started an adventure travel company with a mission to motivate women to step out of their comfort zones … and onto the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
In the spirit of empowering women, WHOA Travel led a group of 28 women from 9 countries to the roof of Africa on International Women’s Day earlier this year. Not only did all 28 women make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but they even danced their way to the summit. Led by the mountain’s first local female guide, the group raised more than $10,000 to support women’s educational programs in Kenya and Tanzania. Now, Allison and Danielle are gearing up to lead another group of women to the summit on International Women’s Day in 2015.
We caught up with daring adventuresses between climbing mountains to find out what other WHOA-inspiring trips they’re leading, how their high-altitude dance-party tradition began, and the surprising item they never head back to Mount Kilimanjaro without (hint: it’s not a power bar).
Reese Witherspoon stars in film adaption of Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’ memoir. Fox Searchlight
Don’t walk alone. It’s a familiar warning for all travelers heading into dangerous, crime-ravaged countries — and for female travelers when they go … well, anywhere after sundown. Cheryl Strayed makes a daring move by walking alone somewhere dark, terrifying and ultimately unknown: the wilderness.
From the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, all the way up to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington state — a full 1,100 miles — Strayed hikes solo in her best-selling, Oprah-approved memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. And now, only 2 years after the book was published and then translated into 30 different languages, her words come to life on the big screen in the highly anticipated film Wild. Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon loved the story so much that she not only signed on to play Strayed, but she also is a co-producer after optioning the film even before the book’s release.
Hollywood stars aren’t the only ones attempting to re-create her journey; throngs of fans inspired by Strayed’s story are hitting the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s longest and wildest thru-hikes, in record numbers. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is embracing the growing interest — about a 30% increase in the number of hikers this year alone — by sharing Strayed’s exact route and inspiring Wild stories.
Saturday marks Alaska Day, commemorating the transfer of the territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867. While most of us won’t be on hand in the beautiful, seaside town of Sitka to celebrate, we thought we’d take the opportunity to marvel at Alaska’s glaciers, fjords and otherworldly scenery, as shared with us by Travel Channel fans on Instagram during the ideal summer season. The vast and largely untouched state beckons with lush landscapes, natural wonders and amazing wildlife, waiting to be explored by air, by land or, as the trend goes, by sea on an Alaskan cruise. These photos may be just the inspiration you need to plan your journey to “the Last Frontier” now.
“We’re headed to Aialik Glacier, the biggest in Kenai National Park.” – @marksbucket READ MORE
Recently back from filming an episode of Expedition Unknown in Peru, global explorer and host Josh Gates shares his tips for traveling to a country best known for its iconic ruins.
What brought you to Peru?
We’re here filming an upcoming episode of Expedition Unknown for Travel Channel. The series deals with historic mysteries around the world, and in this case, we’re diving into the grand culture of the Inca and the legend of one of their lost cities. It’s a thrilling story, and documenting the rugged beauty (and rugged challenges) of traveling into the jungles of Peru is going to make for an awesome episode!
What were your expectations while filming/visiting Peru?
Due to Peru’s largely “vertical geography” (a whole lot of mountains), each part of the country is wildly distinct from the next. One day you’re enjoying the warm ocean air in Lima, the next you’re shivering and trying to catch your breath in the high-altitude city of Cusco. Tomorrow, you might be kicking snow off your shoes in the Andes or sweating bullets in the verdant jungles of the Amazon. In other words, you never know what to expect here!
A great example is Lima, which, on the surface, is an easy place to dislike. After all, it’s essentially a desert — a city teetering on dusty cliffs with gridlocked traffic and a perennially gray sky. After centuries of earthquakes, Lima is also a maze of tumbledown buildings that seem to be in a constant state of disrepair. But then, you round a corner and get stopped in your tracks by a stunning colonial cathedral or a spirited local festival. A little exploration will take you into charming neighborhoods such as Miraflores. Great restaurants, live music and a pulsing nightlife are just waiting to be found. Like all of Peru, Lima is full of amazing surprises. READ MORE
Planning a cruise to the Galapagos can be overwhelming simply because there are hundreds of ships and tour companies to choose from. Once you’ve decided when you want to visit the Galapagos Islands, taking a cruise on a small yacht is the best way to see the more remote islands and wildlife.
Don’t let the word “yacht” give you the impression that you’ll spend your days lazing in the sun as you drift among the islands — tours to the Galapagos come with itineraries calling for early-morning wakeup calls, challenging hikes and multiple excursions daily. Translation: You’ll be spending most of your waking hours exploring the islands rather than relaxing on the ship. But you wouldn’t want it any other way when given the chance to visit a destination known for wildlife so epic that it inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
I opted to cruise with Adventure Life because this sustainable travel company is a member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) and helps fund conservation projects to protect this double World Heritage site. As a guest on the M/Y Galapagos Grand Odyssey, I saw first-hand the benefits of traveling on a smaller luxury ship because it made the expedition experience both more intimate and comfortable. Here are some things I learned from traveling the Galapagos by ship:
Photography by National Park Service
On August 25, the National Park Service celebrated its Founders Day, marking the day in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, which created the Park Service.
In this week’s throwback Thursday, President Theodore Roosevelt and famed naturalist John Muir — considered the “Father of the National Park Service” — are pictured riding horses in California’s Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome standing in the distance, in 1903. Without Muir’s influential writings on Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park — one of America’s first wilderness parks — may not exist today.
In honor of the Park Service, plan a family fun trip to explore the natural beauty and wildlife of one of the 401 national parks in the US — say, Yosemite. Known mainly for its waterfalls, Yosemite offers a plethora of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and fishing for park visitors to enjoy. Plan ahead and visit on one of the Free National Park Days throughout the year!
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The Galapagos Islands are a natural wonder unlike any other place on the planet. The islands are a volcanic archipelago teaming with one-of-a-kind animals and plants, thanks to a very remote location more than 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, and the fact that many species uniquely evolved since it’s difficult to migrate from one island to the next. (Each island has its own distinct landscape—the destination is, after all, the spark that fueled Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution).
Travelers are flocking to the Galapagos Islands largely due to the awe-inspiring animals (think: playful sea lions, century-old giant tortoises, and prehistoric-looking marine iguanas) and easier travel to the remote destination in recent years (there were only a few flights to the islands a week in the 70s, and today there is an average of about six a day). In fact, visitors to the Galapagos surged from only 11,765 in 1975 to a whopping 204,395 in 2013, according to the Galapagos National Park Service.
This tourist boom is impacting the delicate ecosystem by keeping the demand for flights high and causing a bigger carbon impact; requiring more cargo ships to up the odds of oil and other fuel spills—not to mention ocean contamination from boat paint; increasing trash with limited ways to dispose of it; causing degradation to natural environment with more people visiting fragile habitats; draining the already-limited fresh water supply; and increasing the risk of invasive species hitchhiking to the islands on ships and planes carrying tourists. Sadly, the Galapagos Islands were added to the list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2007.
Even though an influx of travelers is putting this delicate eco-system at risk, there are ways you can use travel to help preserve rather than destroy this double World Heritage site.