Improve Google Page Rank With These Tips

Social media is key to driving traffic to your travel blog, but search engines are another incredible tool for generating visitors. Google is the largest search engine on the internet, receiving more than three billion search queries every single day. Everyone wants to be on the first page of Google search results (or at least that should be your goal), but they’re not always sure how to improve their Google page rank.

Improve Google Page RankI’m guessing that’s exactly why you’re here right now — you want help. Well, I have some simple tips that will help improve your Google page rank.

Google will never share their secret formula (and it apparently changes all the time), but they’re more than willing to give you a few clues. If you’re looking to improve your page rank you need to know a little bit about search engine optimization (SEO), and this is a great place to start. I ran into this video a while back and thought it would be good to share it with you. This is Google’s Matt Cutts sharing five basic, common sense SEO tips that can get you on the first page of Google search results:

Here is a quick recap with some helpful links and other tools that can help improve your Google ranking:

–  Think about what people are going to type to find your travel blog, and then make sure those keywords are all over your page. If you want to appear in a search result for “Costa Rica beach vacation,” make sure those exact words are utilized on your pages. You can actually find out exactly what people are searching for by using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. We use this tool all the time (click here to learn how to use it), because it’s free and it really works!

Improve Google Page Rank

Click to enlarge
Title and meta description tags

–  Title tags matter! That’s the very first impression people have of your travel blog in a Google search. Don’t waste your time with keywords tag (Google hasn’t used those in years), but you should definitely utilize meta tags. You want to pay special attention to the description tag (a short summary of what your site is all about), because it’s the first thing people will read when they find you on a Google search.

– Links are important to improving your Google page rank. The more people who link to your travel blog, the higher you’re going to be ranked in search results. The easiest place to begin is simply starting a blog (especially if you have a static website). That will help with keywords and it should also generate links from other websites. There are other great social bookmarking websites that you can use to post your links. Delicious and StumbleUpon are great places to start.

– One of the biggest misconceptions is that you can pay to improve Google page rank. There is no truth to that. You don’t have to pay Google a penny to appear on the first page of their search results. Buying advertising on Google doesn’t help either. You’ll be ranked the same if you advertise with Google or not. In other words, don’t waste your money.

– Google refreshes its index every month, so your site will be found quickly. There are ways to hurry the process though. The first step you can take is inserting your URLs here –> http://google.com/addurl.html. It’s really important to share your root URL (e.g. catchthewinds.com) once your travel website or blog goes “live.” You should also check out the Google Webmaster tool. This allows you to submit a sitemap (basically a list of all the URLs, images, etc., on your site) to Google. You should start to appear in search results in days — not months — if you use these tools.

I really hope this gives you a better understanding of how to improve your Google page rank. Once you grasp these simple concepts, you can start to dig deeper into search engine optimization. You have to do some extra work to make sure you appear in search results, but it’s totally worth it if you want extra visitors. It’s amazing how much organic traffic we get from search engines.

Do you have any simple tips to help improve Google page rank? The more we share — the more likely we can all reach our blogging goals. Please feel free to leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can also find us on Pinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out http://catchthewinds.com for more social media and travel tips!

Improve Google Page Rank

The Rose Festival in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

The holiday of love (a.k.a Valentine’s Day) is just around the corner. Millions of roses will be delivered to [mostly] women across the country from their lovers and secret admirers. While most of the roses delivered across the United State come from South America, there is another country making waves for its roses. Did you know Bulgaria is another big producer of roses? The Eastern European country is famous for its rose oil and celebrates the flower during the annual Rose Festival in Kazanlak.

Bulgarian girls handing out roses at the Rose Festival.

Kazanlak is at the center of rose oil extraction in Bulgaria and is located in the famous Rose Valley. The hills surrounding the city are covered in pink and red Kazanlak roses in the spring and early summer, when the flowers are in bloom. Our tour guide told us the rose gardens in Kazanlak are the largest in the world. It was incredible to see so many flowers in one place. Kazanlak was easily one of the prettiest and best smelling places I’ve ever seen.

At the beginning of June, Bulgarians and tourists from around the world celebrate the roses and the oil they produce in the annual Rose Festival in Kazanlak. I was fortunate to be traveling through Bulgaria when the festival was in full swing. The festival takes place over a few days and there are many different events scheduled during the Rose Festival. You can check out traditional harvest rituals in the morning, watch traditional dancing, tour the gardens and watch parades that take place in town. On the last day of the festival there is a beauty pageant where they crown The Queen Of Roses. And of course, there’s plenty of time to stop and smell the roses.

What I loved most about the Rose Festival in Kazanlak was how happy everyone was. You can tell in the smiles and laughter of the Bulgarians how proud they are of their country, their traditions and their roses. Many are dressed in traditional clothing, and there is a lot of singing, a lot of dancing and a lot of celebrating. There was a group of girls who walked around handing out roses and tossing rose pedals to everyone. It’s not just a celebration of roses, but it’s a celebration of Bulgaria as well.

Rose Festival in Kazanlak

A rose in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

Bulgarians have a lot to be proud of. Kazanlak roses produce a large amount of oil, which is nicknamed the liquid gold of Bulgaria. The rose oil is very popular and is a large industry for Bulgaria. The roses are all picked by hand and more than 2,000 people work in the gardens in Kazanlak during the harvest season. The rose oil is used to make things like chocolate, perfumes, jam and liqueur.

Have you ever traveled to Bulgaria and experienced the Rose Festival in Kazanlak? We would love to hear all about your experience. You can leave a comment below or connect with us on TwitterFacebook and Google+. We are also on InstagramPinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out more of our adventures right now on http://catchthewinds.com! —TT

Rose Festival in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

Bulgarian boys dressed in traditional outfits for the Rose Festival.


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The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen = A Big Disappointment

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen topped my list of things to see and experience when I visited Denmark’s capital.  As the title eludes, it is a statue of a mermaid sitting in the harbor. It also happens to be one of the most famous statues in Europe. I’m going to be honest with you though: I was disappointed when I saw The Little Mermaid in real life. It was not as grand as I envisioned, but that’s probably my own fault. I should have paid more attention to the name. “Little“ definitely describes the statue.

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.

This picture is a close up of The Little Mermaid, so it looks much larger than it actually is. The statue is positioned on a rock off the harbor in Langelinie Promenade. As I mentioned, I was really excited to see The Little Mermaid statue, because it’s based on the fairy tale The Little Mermaid by Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen. The story of The Little Mermaid is one of my childhood favorites, so being in Denmark, where Andersen is from, and seeing the statue in person was like a fairy tale coming to life. In my head, I had this statue built up. I envisioned a huge, beautiful and graceful mermaid. While The Little Mermaid statue is beautiful, it only stands about four feet tall. I was that tall in elementary school. Maybe they should have called it The Kid-Sized Mermaid.

I know I am not the only one who was surprised by the size of The Little Mermaid. I could hear other tourists whispering about how small it is. The friends I was traveling with were also surprised by the size. I think a lot of people disregard the ”little” in the name and just assume it’s a large statue. Even though many of us were disappointed with the size of The Little Mermaid, I’d still recommend stopping by if you ever travel to Copenhagen. The statue is located right on the water, close to many parks and Copenhagen’s Amalienborg Palace. The scenery and architecture in the area is beautiful. There are also lots of small cafes within walking distance of The Little Mermaid. A stroll through this part of Copenhagen is a perfect way to spend an afternoon on a sunny day.

Have you ever visited The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen? What did you think? We’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment below, or you can connect with us on TwitterFacebook and Google+. You can also find us on InstagramPinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out more of our adventures right now on http://catchthewinds.com.


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The Best Travel Tip of All Time

The Best Travel Tip of All Time

I stopped in the middle of Venice just to scribble down a few thoughts.

There are millions of travel tips out there — pack light, plan ahead, bring a map, don’t forget your camera, read this book, stay at that hotel — the list goes on and on and on. But there’s one travel tip that you should remember over all the others, and I highly recommend it to everyone. In my opinion, it is the best travel tip of all time. Are you ready for it? Write it down.

Write what down? Everything! We all wish we could travel all the time (as least, that’s what we wish at Catch the Winds). However, reality is different. We can’t travel all the time. You plan a trip, go on it, have the time of your life, and when you get home, you always intend on planning another trip soon. Instead, you settle into your daily life. Weeks turn into months and months sometimes turn into years. All of the sudden, you look back at your last adventure and the memories are a little fuzzy. The details slip through the cracks. But, if you follow the best travel tip of all time and write it down, you can easily go back and re-live your trip anytime you want to. I promise in 20 years (even in six months) you will be grateful you took the time to document your trip.

When I say everyone should write it down, I mean everyone. I don’t care if you’re a seasoned traveler or on your first trip, or if you have an unlimited budget or you’re traveling on a shoestring. Whether you are young, old, male or female, I want you to write it down. I know it can be a little extra work at times, but in the end the reward is well worth it.

The Best Travel Tip of All Time

Taking a moment to write it down at the Colosseum in Rome.

There are a few different ways to execute the best travel tip of all time. I like to bring a regular old paper journal with me. Each trip gets a different journal.  The journal is typically slim and small so it is easy to pack. I like to write a few times a day. Sometimes I write long posts at night or when I’m on a plane or train and have more time. But often times, I just write a few sentences, describing what I just did, what I’m about to do or what I am doing at that very moment. Sometimes I’ll write about a stranger I met, a new food I tried or something I saw. When I visited the Coliseum in Rome, I took a few moments to write in my journal so I could capture what I felt at that exact moment. When I was in Venice, I didn’t want to forget anything about the trip, but I left my journal at the hostel. I tracked down a pen and a scratch piece of paper and quickly jotted everything down so I could transfer it back into my journal later.

If you aren’t big on writing, try bullet points. It can be as simple as listing the date, location, a line about what you did in the morning, afternoon and night. If you are the ultimate packer and don’t like to carry extra stuff with you, try buying post cards in every location you visit. Write down a few sentences about what you did in that place and mail it to yourself. When you get home, you’ll receive your one of a kind journal in the mail.

The Best Travel Tip of All Time

Journaling in Corniglia, Italy.

If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t want to spend the extra money on postcards and stamps, write yourself emails (or maybe write a loved one emails).  Often times, if you email a loved one, they will ask you questions about your trip or an experience that you may not have thought to write about. That will bring out even more memories to document. Of course, this will only work if you have access to internet.  If you like going the tech route, try taking notes on an iPad or on your cell phone.  That’s what Tim did when he traveled through Europe. If all else fails, there are always small 90-cent notebooks you can pick up at the local drug store on your way out of town.

My final word of advice about the best travel tip of all time is to keep whatever it is you use to document your trip very close to you. On my way home from Tanzania, I lost my journal. I gave the journal to someone else to look at and they accidentally left it on the airplane. I was devastated. I wrote in it multiple times a day on that trip. I cried and cried and cried (I know, a bit dramatic). I called the airline multiple times the following weeks, hoping it would pop up somewhere. It never did. Eventually those tears dried and I frantically tried to write down every moment I could remember on that trip in a new journal before it all slipped my mind. I’m glad I did that, although I really wish I had my original. So, always, always, always keep a very close eye on your journal.

How do you write it down and document your trips? What is your best travel tip of all time? We’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment below, or you can connect with us on TwitterFacebook and Google+. You can also find us on InstagramPinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out more of our adventures right now on http://catchthewinds.com. — TT


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Unconventional Places to Sleep While Traveling

It’s inevitable that you’ll find unconventional places to sleep if you plan on traveling. While traveling is extremely exciting and fun, it can also be very exhausting. I like to getting up early, spending the entire day seeing everything and staying up late to see everything again at night (unless I’m visiting a beach, then I like to just relax and swim). Since I am constantly on the move when I travel, I’ve learned how to fall asleep in nearly every situation. Whether it is a bench in a train station, an actual train, an airport floor or a moving bus, I’ve managed to doze off for a few anywhere and everywhere. Enjoy the evidence below.

Sleeping in the Copenhagen Train Station

This is me sleeping in the Copenhagen train station. To save money, I skipped reserving a bed at the hostel the last night I was in town. Instead, I stayed out late at the bars and arrived at the train station extremely early for my train out of town. This was taken probably around 5 or 6 in the morning. You can see, I used my scarf as a blanket and my purse as a pillow.

Sleeping on the Train from Copenhagen to Oslo

This is actually later that same day. Since I stayed up all night, I slept  nearly the entire train ride from Copenhagen to Oslo. One downside of sleeping on the train is not seeing the scenery. Luckily, I had taken this same train before and had already experienced the trip.

Sleeping on the train from Oslo to Bergen, Norway.

This is another picture of me sleeping on a different train. However, this was a much shorter nap. I spent the weekend on the coast of Norway in Bergen. This was taken on the way back to Hamar, Norway (where I was living at the time). Here, I blocked out the loud sound of the train and people talking around me with music and used my jacket as a pillow.

Sleeping in Milan Airport

This picture was taken of my friends and me sleeping on the ground at the airport in Milan, Italy. We arrived in Milan via train very late that night. Our flight out was in the morning, so to save money we decided to skip the hostel and crash at the airport. We actually were not the only ones who had this idea. The guards at the airport shuffled us into a huge room packed with tourists sleeping on the ground for the night. Again, you’ll notice we put down scarves to sleep on and used our coats as blankets.

Sleeping in Bus in Tanzania

This picture was taken on a bus traveling on a dirt road through Tanzania. I was on a safari through the Serengeti for a week. We’d wake up very early in the morning to go look for animals, which resulted in a couple of afternoon naps on the way back to camp. My head is leaning on my friend’s arm. This is another great way of using what you have to help you doze off for a few. However, I would suggest only using this trick with someone you know, and not a stranger. :)

Where is most unconventional place you’ve ever fallen asleep? Do you have any tricks to help you fall asleep? We would love to hear all about it! You can leave a comment below, or you can connect with us on TwitterFacebook and Google+. You can also find us on InstagramPinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out more of our adventures right now on http://catchthewinds.com. — TT

Watching Baseball at Historic Wrigley Field

I’m crazy about sports. They’re a huge reason I choose to make trips when I do. I’ll always check the schedule for local professional sports teams before I book my ticket. If the teams aren’t in town — there’s a good chance I push my vacation back until they are. I’ve always dreamed of watching baseball at historic Wrigley Field in Chicago, so my dad, brother and I made it happen last summer.

Wrigley Field | Chicago

Wrigley Field

The whole purpose of the trip was to actually watch a three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field (home of the White Sox), but we flew into the Windy City a day early to see the Cubs host the Boston Red Sox at Wrigley Field. You can’t find a more amazing matchup than that. The Cubs and Red Sox are two of the most storied franchises in baseball history. It was actually only the second regular season series between the two at Wrigley Field ever.

Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. It opened for business in 1914. It doesn’t have any of the amenities of today’s modern stadiums, but that’s what makes Wrigley Field so special. You literally feel like you’ve gone back in time when you walk into the place. The concession stands don’t offer sushi, crab cakes or anything fancy, the bathrooms are small and uncomfortable, and there’s no beer garden or crazy aquarium in the outfield. There’s nothing at Wrigley Field to take your focus away from the game itself, and that’s really the way it should be at a ballpark.

My dad, brother and I got to Wrigley Field early to take in some of the pregame atmosphere. There are tons of awesome bars in Wrigleyville (the neighborhood surrounding the stadium). We spent most of our time at the famous Murphy’s Bleachers. I actually got to meet former Chicago Cubs reliever Lee Smith and have my picture taken with him (yes, even sportscaster enjoy moments like that). I’ve been to several different ballparks, but nothing beats the pregame atmosphere than Wrigley Field.

Wrigley Field | Chicago

First pitch between the Cubs and Red Sox

When you look around Wrigley Field, it feels like the stadium might fit all of 20,000 people, but it actually seats 41,159. With that said, it’s a really intimate experience. My dad, brother and I sat down the third baseline for the game. They were great seats, but I can only image that every seat in that place is pretty good (just because they all feel like they’re on top of the field). Let’s be honest, just having tickets to a game at Wrigley Field is good enough — no matter where the seats are in the stadium.

The Red Sox wound up beating the Cubs 7-4 that night. Chicago fumbled away the game with costly errors in the seventh inning. The game was highlighted by a David Ortiz home run in the fourth, Starlin Castro almost hitting for the cycle, and Lee Smith singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch (they have a celebrity guest sing at every home game). Click here to watch my video of Smith singing at Wrigley Field (he did a terrible job, in my opinion).

After the game, we did what many other fans do at Wrigley Field – we took pictures in Steve Bartman’s seat. For those of you who don’t know who Steve Bartman is — click here. You can tell the employees at Wrigley Field can’t stand people taking pictures in the infamous seat. I even saw a member of the grounds crew roll his eyes at the crowd. One of the ushers told me that people gather at Bartman’s seat after every game, but the crowds are bigger during interleague play. That’s because so many fans of opposing teams come to Wrigley Field who don’t normally visit the stadium, and they want their picture taken in the fabled location.

Lewis Boys at Wrigley Field

My brother, dad and me at Wrigley Field

I really hope Wrigley Field is around forever, but I know it won’t be. At some point the historic ballpark will be torn down and turned into a parking lot like Comiskey Park, old Yankee Stadium and others. I’m happy I can say that I’ve seen a game there, and I encourage any baseball fan to visit the stadium as well. From the big red sign in front of the stadium, to the famous ivy on the outfield wall, to the hand-operated scoreboard in centerfield — Wrigley Field is a piece of living history that you need to see first-hand. Trust me, it’s well worth the trip.

Have you ever watched a game at Wrigley Field? We would love to hear all about it! You can leave a comment below, or you can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can also find us on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out more of our adventures right now on http://catchthewinds.com. — TL


Red Light District in Amsterdam

A walk through the Amsterdam red light district is a must when you’re in The Netherlands, simply because you won’t find anything else like it in the world. Before you pass judgement on me as a pervert, let me make this very clear: the Amsterdam red light district is a major tourist attraction. I strolled through the area with my mom, who is one of the straightest arrows on the planet (luckily, we have a cool relationship). You might not agree with what happens in the red light district, but it’s an interesting sight to take in.

Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam red light district

The Amsterdam red light district looks like any other area in Amsterdam, except for all the glowing red lights (hence the name). The red lights highlight where a woman/prostitute is offering her sexual services. The women stand in front of glass windows and try to lure customers in. The prostitutes aren’t naked in the windows, but they aren’t wearing much clothing either. They dance, wave or do just about anything to lure you in. I saw one woman spraying guys with a water bottle as they walked by.

Many Americans feel slimy when they walk through the Amsterdam red light district. I even have a friend who cried when she was there, because she felt so bad for the prostitutes. The United States has strict laws against prostitution — that’s why tourists feel creepy strolling through there. But, prostitution is a legal and lucrative profession in Amsterdam. Some of the prostitutes make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. They’re actually licensed workers, just like anyone else in the country. It’s such a normal scene that I actually saw two local children (probably no older than eight) playing soccer on the sidewalk just feet away from a prostitute selling herself in the window.

Amsterdam Red Light District

A slower alley in the Amsterdam red light district

The Amsterdam red light district was actually the most happening part of the city when I was there. There were hundreds, if not thousands of people, roaming the streets that night. Aside from the sex shows, sex shops and prostitutes, there are bars and restaurants in the red light district as well. I saw plenty of dudes gawking at the windows, but most of the people in the red light district appeared to be like my mom and me — just taking in the atmosphere of the Amsterdam red light district. We were there when it was dark, but not especially late, so the scene might get creepier as the hours pass by (like any bar in America), but I’m not sure. I wasn’t exactly willing to find out.

The Amsterdam red light district doesn’t come without its faults, but I think it’s definitely worth seeing (for men and women alike). It’s one of the areas that makes Amsterdam Amsterdam. It’s different from any other city in the European Union. The red light district is the first thing people ask me about when they find out I’ve been to Amsterdam. Everyone wants to know all about it. Well, that and “coffee shops”, but that’s a topic for a whole different blog post. Stay tuned!

Have you ever seen the Amsterdam red light district? What did you think of the area? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://catchthewinds.com for more on Amsterdam, Europe or any other destination you’re looking for! — TL

Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam Red Light District


Apollo 13: Mission Control

Apollo 13: Mission Control

Watching Apollo 13 take off.

Lift off! I just spent my evening reliving the Apollo 13 mission and it wasn’t through a movie, TV show or book. It was through a new, interactive show called Apollo 13: Mission Control. As kids, we all dream of becoming astronauts and traveling to outer space when we grow up. Tonight was probably the closest I will ever get, and it was amazing! I went into Apollo 13: Mission Control thinking it would be “okay” to “pretty good,” but now I’m looking at my calendar to try to catch another show before it leaves town.

For those non-history buffs (such as myself), Apollo 13 was the third U.S. mission planned to land on the moon. The craft launched on April 11, 1970. Plans to land on the moon were quickly aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days after take-off.  The crew faced several problems trying to get back to Earth. Tonight, as an audience member of Apollo 13: Mission Control, I was part of the mission control team that sent the space shuttle into space, and then helped it and the crew make it back home safely.

Apollo 13: Mission Control started off the show by looking for a third astronaut to go on the space ship. They called up three audience members and “auditioned” them.  At tonight’s show, they selected my dear friend, Chris (from Captain and Clark) to be the third astronaut. He disappeared to get ready for lift off, while the rest of the audience made its way into mission control.

It’s hard to explain exactly what happens next at Apollo 13: Mission Control other than it’s a full-blown, real life experience. With the help of a few actors leading the way, the audience relives what it was like to be part of the mission control team that brought back Apollo 13 and its crew back to Earth. Take a look at this video to get a better idea of what it’s like:

Apollo 13: Mission Control

My workstation in mission control.

Each member in mission control has a different job title and responsibility, which is assigned to you based on where you sit. My job was the FIDO (Flight Dynamics Officer) Monitor. That means I was responsible for the flight path of Apollo 13. There are two sections for the audience to sit. The middle section has long desks with consoles on top. This is where I sat and tickets cost $52.50. There is also a few rows surrounding the middle section without the consoles. Tickets for this section are $37.50. I would highly suggested spending a few extra bucks to sit in the middle section. It is where all the action happens and it’s well worth it.

Everyone around me in the audience had a different job. Some people were on the phone, others had to take notes, while others were delivering messages, solving problems or developing protocol. I had to pass around packets to everyone, help a small team figure out where the space shuttle should land back on Earth, and deliver messages to the right people. Sometimes it felt like total chaos because people were running around all over the place.

Apollo 13: Mission Control

Two 8-year-old boys help bring Apollo 13 safely home.

In between the chaos of Apollo 13: Mission Control, the actors (who were also leading the chaos) had great dialogue between each other. People would quiet down and listen to every word they were saying. I am told the writers looked at transcripts of the actual event to help with the script.  At times it was really funny and other times it was exciting. There was also a lot of suspense and urgency. Periodically, we’d check in with the astronauts on a big TV screen. They were located backstage in a space shuttle which had video cameras located throughout the craft. An actor playing Walter Cronkite would even pop up on the screen to give us the latest “news briefing” on the shuttle mission.  In the end, we were able to safely bring the three astronauts home from outer space.

After the show, I had the opportunity to go back stage and see the space shuttle in person and speak to the actors and creators of Apollo 13: Mission Control. The writers are actually all from New Zealand and have toured the show in New Zealand and Australia for the last four years. It has been very well received overseas, so they thought it was time to bring it to the states. Spokane, Washington is only the second city in the United States to get the show, so I feel pretty lucky to get such an exclusive sneak peek at this new type of show.

What I enjoyed most about Apollo 13: Mission Control was how many different types of people were there. Little kids, older people, and everyone in between made up the audience — or should I say – master control.  Everyone was involved and having a great time! I also really enjoyed learning more about the Apollo 13 mission. I’d recommend Apollo 13: Mission Control to everyone. If you live near Spokane, there are still many shows scheduled over the next couple of weeks. Check it out!

Have you seen Apollo 13: Mission Control (or a similar show) before? What did you think? We would love to hear from you! Leave a message below or connect with us on TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and YouTube. Don’t forget to also scope out http://catchthewinds.com for more on things to do and see in the Pacific Northwest and all over the globe!

The Big Five in Africa

If you travel to Tanzania and go on a safari in the Serengeti, you will likely hear a lot about the Big Five in Africa.  The Big Five originated from hunters, and it refers to the top five most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot in Africa. The Big Five include the African elephant, black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, lion and leopard.  Today, tourists from around the world travel to Africa for a chance to see the Big Five in thier natural habitat. The first leg of my trip to Tanzania was spent in the Serengeti, looking for the Big Five.

African Elephant

The African elephant was the first Big Five animal I spotted on my safari. Our tour group actually came across a huge herd of elephants (including a few newborn elephants) just a few minutes after we entered the Serengeti. Even though elephants are such large animals, they are still very graceful. Elephants were all over the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, so we ended up seeing them all over the place.

Cape Buffalo

The Cape buffalo was the next Big Five animal we saw. In fact, we saw hundreds of cape buffalo and they were all running! Our tour guide explained they were migrating. It was incredible to see these guys moving so fast. Later, we saw a group of Cape buffaloes grazing in the grass. We sat for quiet awhile just watching these animals. They reminded me of cows.

Leopard

Next, we spotted the leopard. Actually, our tour guide saw the leopard and pointed him out to us. There is no way I would have noticed the leopard if the tour guide wasn’t there. The leopard was sitting in a tree, more than a football stadium length away. You can barely see him in the picture above. He is sitting on a branch on the right side of the tree. If you look closely, you can see his tail hanging off the branch. Our tour guide said leopards are the hardest of the Big Five animals to find in Africa, and often people don’t end up seeing all five because of the leopard is so elusive.

Lion

Then we found the lions. The picture above is actually of a pregnant female lion. Our tour guide said she was probably only a few days away from giving birth. The day after I took this picture, we spotted a male lion lounging with a few female lions. We watched them for at least an hour or two. The male lion slept for most of the time, while the females were up and about, walking all over the place. Eventually, the male lion got up and had sex with one of the female lions (it lasted a total of 9 seconds) and then went back to sleep.  It was something I will never forget.

Black Rhinoceros

The final Big Five animal we came across in Africa was the black rhinoceros which we saw in the Ngorongoro Crater. The rhino is not as large as the elephant or hippo (which we also saw earlier that day), but our tour guide said they are just as dangerous. He told us if the rhino wanted to, he could easily tear our car in half. There were a few times I didn’t think we’d see all Big Five animals, especially on the morning before we spotted the rhinos. It was the final day of our safari and we were headed into the Ngorongoro Crater. Our tour guide said our chances of seeing the rhino was good, but nothing is for sure.

This picture was taken right after we saw the fifth and final Big Five animal with my friends (L to R), Joslin, Michelle, Me, Jenn and Tawny.

It is important to note that a safari through the Serengeti isn’t all about the Big Five in Africa. We saw loads of animals! Including giraffes, gazelle, zebra, monkeys, cheetahs, wildebeest, hyenas, ostriches and more. Though I had seen many of these animals at the zoo, seeing them in their natural environment was something else. When I mentioned this to my tour guide, and told him he is so lucky to live so close to these animals, he laugh and said, “Yes, but I have never seen a deer and I bet you have seen many coming from Seattle.” He was right. I should be thankful to live in a place surrounded by deer, whales, bald eagles and more. I guess it is all about perspective.

Have you ever seen the Big Five in Africa? What is your favorite animal? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below, or connect with us on TwitterFacebookGoogle+Pinterest, and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out http://catchthewinds.com for more travel adventures!


Queen’s Guard Marching From Buckingham Palace

My mom and I were unintentionally (believe it or not) in London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June. It was an amazing event to be in England for, but it did have its limitations. Buckingham Palace was completely blocked off, so we never got a good look at it. To make up for that, my mom and I got to see other things that other people don’t normally see in London, including the Queen’s Guard marching from Buckingham Palace.

Queen's Guard Marching

Queen’s Guard marching from Buckingham Palace

After my mom and I found out that Buckingham Palace was completely blocked off, we decided to stop for a traditional English breakfast at a nearby restaurant. After we were finished, we walked back outside and noticed that people had lined up on the street. We figured something cool must be happening, so we decided to check it out.

Not long after we posted up, we saw the Queen’s Guard marching from Buckingham Palace. I figured this was a pretty rare occasion, so I grabbed my cell phone and started to get video of them. My mom and I had seen the Queen’s Guard and other troops rehearsing earlier in the day for what I assumed to be a special event for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. When I posted the video of the Queen’s Guard marching on YouTube, I was corrected and told that the Queen’s Guard was marching back from a rehearsal of the annual Trooping the Colour (the Queen’s birthday parade). Either way — it was really cool to see, especially being so close.

King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery

King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery

The troops featured in the video are technically members of the Foot Guard Regiments. I’m told that the term “Queen’s Guard” actually refers to the troops who are guarding the London royal residences on any particular date. My mom and I actually got to see the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (a different regiment of the Household Troops) march through London on the same day. We just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. It was a really unique experience, and one that I’ll never forget.

Have you ever visited London? Have you ever seen the Queen’s Guard marching from Buckingham Palace? We would love to hear your stories! Please feel free to share them in the comment section below, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and/or YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out http://catchthewinds.com for more on great travelling adventures! -TL


Photo Gallery | Kilkenny, Ireland

These are some of my pictures of Kilkenny, Ireland. My mom and I took a day trip to Kilkenny from Dublin (there’s about an hour and a half train ride between the two) in May of 2012.

This biggest highlight of Kilkenny, Ireland is Kilkenny Castle, but there are also colorful buildings in the city center and medieval churches all over the place. On top of that, there’s the Smithwick’s Brewery at St. Francis Abbey and plenty of restaurants and shops.

The people of Kilkenny are some of the nicest I came across when I was in Europe. Not only would they go out of their way to say hello to each other, they also say hello to you (that’s not always the case when you travel abroad). They were extremely helpful in helping us find the train station when we were sprinting through Kilkenny to catch our train back to Dublin (pictured below).

Check out some of my pictures of Kilkenny (click on an image to open the slideshow)!


What do you think of my pictures of Kilkenny, Ireland? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below (or maybe even share your pictures from Kilkenny), or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+! Don’t forget to check out http://catchthewinds.com for more photos, videos and travel tips!


Top 5 Holiday Travel Tips

Top 5 Holiday Travel TipsTim and I both have a lot of experience traveling around the holidays. Whether it’s a last-minute trip home or a planned vacation, we think every traveler should know our top 5 holiday travel tips before they head to the airport (we think it’s good to keep these tips in your back pocket anytime during the year too).

Top 5 Holiday Travel Tips

1. Pack Light: The last thing you want to do while traveling during the busy holidays is to haul around a lot of stuff. Check the weather of your destination so you know what to pack. Think about what you will wear, so you don’t over pack. Bring layers so you can mix and match your outfits. If you are staying in a hotel, call ahead and ask what type of complimentary services they provide (such as hair blow dryer, razor or shampoo). It will be one less thing for you to pack. If you are staying with friends or family, don’t hesitate to ask if you can borrow things while you are visiting.

2. Be Early: With so many people heading home for the holidays, it is important to remember the airport will be busier than it normally is. The lines will be longer and it will take more time to get from one end of the airport to other. Give yourself plenty of time to check into your flight and get to your gate. The holidays are supposed to be fun. Don’t ruin it by feeling stressed about catching your flight.

3. Come Prepared: Double (if not triple) check when your flight takes off. We recommend checking online before you get to the airport. This will give you one less thing to do before you get on the plane. If you aren’t a frequent flyer, look over TSA’s guidelines so you aren’t surprised by anything. It is also a good idea to keep your Christmas gifts unwrapped. Even though wrapped Christmas gifts are allowed, some TSA security check points may end up having to open the gifts to ensure nothing dangerous is inside. Also, don’t forget to bring a snack (or in Tim’s case — lots of snacks). Traveling can make for long days and any extra boost will help keep you going.

4. Stay ConnectedLike I mentioned before, check your flight status before you leave for the airport. Follow your airline on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest updates. If the airline has an app for your mobile device, download it and use it. Being from the Pacific Northwest, we travel on Alaska Airlines a lot. They have a great app for the iPhone. You can check into your flight on your cell phone in less than 45 seconds. There is no need to print off a boarding pass as the app will give you a bar code you can scan when you are at the airport. I love having the boarding pass on my cell phone because it is one less thing to keep track of. Also, don’t forget to bring a cell phone charger.

5. Remain Calm:  Don’t let traveling around the holidays be stressful. Understand that something will most likely not go as planned. When we travel, we like to remain positive. Remember everyone else is trying to get someplace, too. Don’t become that obnoxious traveler who thinks they deserve special privileges because their flight was delayed. Stuff happens and its best to not let the small things get to you. Also, be kind to those airline employees. They’re dealing with a lot as well.

Do you have any holiday travel tips of your own? We’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave your tips in the comment section below. You can also connect with us on FacebookTwitter, Google+PinterestInstagram and YouTube. Happy holidays!!! — TT