World Geography – Do You Really Know Where you are going on Holiday?

As someone who opted for History over Geography in school, I can identify with those people who do not know where Zanzibar is, what language is spoken in Borneo, and how many miles the Great Wall of China stretches, but what I am surprised to learn, is that a third of all travellers cannot locate their holiday destination on a map!

A survey carried out by latedeals.co.uk, found that we tend to concentrate more on flight times, accommodations, and holiday resort’s amenities, than we do on our actual holiday destination, and of the 13 million that headed abroad during the summer months of July and August, a whopping 34% had no idea where they were going!

Sixty six per cent of Brits believe that Cancun is in the US (not Mexico)… close, but no Margarita!  Fifty two per cent thought Prague was in Sweden, and almost half (48%) did not know that the Alps were in Europe.

When it comes to matching cities to countries they didn’t fare much better, with half of those questioned unable to answer which countries Frankfurt, Milan and Marrakech belong to (38% thought Marrakech was in Dubai), and the other half believed that the Three Valleys were in Austria.

Then we come to languages…  This is something I can most definitely identify with, as when I first moved to Austria and embarked on a German language course, my own brother asked “why on earth wasn’t I learning Austrian! Hmmm

Well, according to the survey, he is not alone – 52% of those taking part in the survey could not name the first language of Amsterdam, and a 56% believe that German is the native language of Brussels!

For me personally, travel is all about learning new things, and as long as we enjoy our holidays abroad, does it really matter if we know where we are going?   I say pack your bags fellow travellers and head off to Nauru, Burkina Faso or Wallachia!

If You Are Not Sure Where to go on Holiday This Year – Check Out the Happy Planet Index!

Did you know that there are certain countries on our planet that deliver longer, happier and more sustainable lives for the people who live there, than others?

No? Well neither did we, but according to The Happy Planet Index (HPI) some countries have happier and healthier residents than others, and they measure this by calculating our life expectancy, our experienced well-being and our ecological footprint.

One hundred and fifty-one countries made it onto the Happy Planet Index in 2012, and so if you are looking for a happy holiday destination, here are the top five HPI countries, and five reasons to visit them:

1. Costa Rica

Could Costa Rica be the happiest country on the planet?  Well, according to the Happy Planet Index, it is, and if you are looking for a stress free holiday destination, this Latin American paradise should be number one of your holiday list. Beautiful beaches, luxury hotels and friendly locals come as standard.

2. Vietnam

Surprisingly, perhaps, Vietnam made the number 2 spot on the Happy Planet Index.  A modern destination for world travellers, it manages to retain the charm of South East Asia, while offering all the luxuries one expects on holiday.

3. Colombia

Colombia might not be your typical holiday destination, but it has so much to offer the traveller that we are not surprised this beautiful country picked up the number three spot.  Stunning cities, beautiful beaches and fine cuisine – Colombia has it all.

4. Belize

Beautiful Belize – a charming Caribbean getaway with unspoilt beaches, mystical Mayan Temples, lush rainforests, and their very own barrier reef, it is no surprise that those who live there are a happy bunch!

5. El Salvador

It may have a turbulent history, but that doesn’t stop El Salvador from being the fifth happiest country on the planet! A surfer’s paradise, El Salvador offers an amazing coastline, pristine forests, sparkling lakes, and throws in the odd active volcano for effect.

So if you are feeling tired or down, book that summer holiday, and head off in search of happiness!

Destination – Fiji

I never thought I would be lucky enough to visit the Fiji islands.  An exotic destination nestling in the balmy pacific waters, Fiji deserves the title of ‘paradise’, and if you dream of pure white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters, combined with some amazing snorkelling/diving opportunities then there is perhaps no better place on earth.

We visited these majestic islands on our trip around the world and I clearly remember the excitement as we set off from Auckland airport – destination Fiji!  The flight in itself was an experience, and as we flew over pristine waters in the direction of this tropical paradise, we realised that we couldn’t possibly be any further from home – a great achievement for any traveller!

Upon arrival in Nadi, we were greeted with a rather beautiful orchid garland, a live quintet playing Polynesian music, and taught the renowned Fijian word – “Bula!” an enthusiastic greeting used by the locals that makes you feel more like a long-lost friend than a brand new visitor.

As you transfer to your hotel, the blanket of heat that wraps itself around you leaves you in no doubt that you have arrived in a tropical destination, and whether you base yourself in Nadi as we did, or head off to one of the more secluded islands, you will be astounded at the beauty around you.

The Fijian islands have something to offer everyone, so if you are looking for five-star luxuries you can head over to Turtle Island in the Yasawas, or for the same island experience in more ‘simple’ accommodation, the Beachcomber Island in the Mamanucas.

We based ourselves in Nadi and took several boat trips to both the Yasawas and Mamanucas. Swimming and snorkelling along Monuriki (where they filmed Castaway) was just one of the many highlights, and when you combine that with a great hotel, the friendliest of people, delicious seafood and ice-cold beer – well, we think this is as close to paradise as we are ever going to get!

 “A Journey is best measured in friends and smiles, rather than miles” so while Fiji is a long way to go; it is closer than you think! Bula!

Is Social Media changing the way we travel?

If you wanted to book a holiday in the 1980s and 1990s, a trip to the high street travel agent was a must.  Holiday brochures, paper tickets, traveller’s cheques and a selection of foreign currency were staple requirements of any trip abroad, and most of us booked several months (or even years!) in advance to secure our favoured holiday destination.

My how things have changed!

Fast forward to 2012 and the social media world we live in today of Facebook, Google, iPad and iPhone, and it is easy to see that the way we research and book our holidays is a whole new story. No longer content with glossy brochures and star-ratings, travellers of today want to explore hotels and destinations virtually before they arrive, read the comments of those who have actually stayed there, and take a virtual tour of the activities available before handing over their hard-earned cash – and who can blame them?

In a world where technology allows us to explore, discover and experience our dream holiday destinations before we even arrive, why would we consider using a high street travel agent and pay extra for the privilege!

Online travel agencies allow us to search for our dream holiday from the comfort of our own home, and provide us with the tools necessary to compare prices, upgrade, and extend our trips before a simple phone call secures our place.  E-tickets give us the freedom to check-in online and download our boarding passes at a time convenient to us, so our holiday can begin the moment we wake up on the day of travel.

Traveller’s cheques are now replaced by safe and convenient credit and debit cards, and as major providers such as VISA and MasterCard are accepted all over the world, we can take advantage of excellent currency conversion rates wherever our travel adventures take us.

So social media is most definitely changing the way we travel, and for the better, so why not pack your passport, credit card, iPhone and toothbrush and jump on the next plane!