Since November of 2016 when I first set foot in Cuba, I was hooked. Finally, a place in the Caribbean I found full of culture, excitingly different, vibrant with culture, abundant in architecture and natural beauty. A break from the typical Caribbean Island visit. A place like no other on Earth. A people resilient and kind. It also happened to be the "forbidden fruit" that as a professional traveler makes it extremely enticing.
President Obama relaxed rules on travel early in his tenure. He also demonstrated a willingness to engage and forge relationships, along with private investment and the promotion of human freedoms. U.S. and Cuban relations hadn't been better in 50+ years since the Revolution. Tourism flourished, and living standards rose. People learned about the history of Cuba, what it was and is today. Cruise Lines were permitted, and there was an audible hum of optimism in the air. Those were the good old days that were not so old. In a matter of a few years, we were headed in the opposite direction.
Why is Cuba what it is today? What happened to create fertile ground for a revolution and what lays ahead in the coming years and decades? These are all important questions, and like most things of late, it depends on what political party you ask. Cuba is the third closest neighbor to the United States, and we’ve been feuding for decades. Here’s a little background to sum it all up.
Starting in 1940 and running through to 1952, Cuba had a democratic government. It enjoyed a healthy middle class in the cities, 75% of the population were literate, the number of doctors per capita rivaled the most developed of nations, and its Capitol, Havana was a shiny and bustling city. Often referred to as “The Paris of the Caribbean”, Cuba had reason to be proud. Development was occurring at a rapid pace, and American tourists came in the droves.
There were also downsides. The U.S. government had unleashed the mafia in Cuba, making it their new playground. Casinos, Hotels and Resorts sprang up everywhere. Money was being made hand over fist. While mafia gangs, big corporations and government officials made enriched themselves, rural Cuba was a different story altogether. Racism was prevalent, movement restricted, poverty abundant and education poor. You’d be lucky to have made it through the second grade before being put to work in the fields. On the one end you had the living standard of a modern European country in the cities and the other, no better than plantation life. Herein plays the drumbeat of a revolution.
Sound familiar? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. You don’t have to look very hard to find some of the mightiest of nations have fallen due to this disparity. History sorts out who’s to blame, and I’ll do my best to make it clear in this particular circumstance. Let me make it plain as to who is responsible for the rise of a socialist/communistic society in Cuba. It is U.S. Government and the corrupt politicians that took their orders from Washington.
In 1952 President Batista took over in a coup, destroying the democracy he worked for so many years to create. Cast aside were the ideals of freedom for the people. Treasured Institutions were no longer regarded, and consolidation of power was the order of the day. This was the beginning of the end, and right under the nose and with the participation of the U.S. That’s right, Batista was propped up and mafia rule was endorsed by JFK and Washington. A daring young lawyer was about to take the island, and although the odds were stacked against him, the countryside was not. His name is Fidel Castro.
The U.S. had missed an opportunity to encourage stability and economic development for all Cubans. Since the revolution the American Government has tried to topple Castro with an invasion as well as multiple failed assassination attempts by the CIA. The wealthy and middle class had just been overturned with their businesses and property now nationalized. A new era begins in Cuba.
Tens of thousands of Cubans fled the island for the United States, and an embargo was imposed. Decades go by, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Cuban economy cause a great deal of suffering. One thing that remains is the embargo, crippling the people of Cuba to no end. They make it through however and continue to defy the United States to this day, which brings us to the more present time.
With tourism thriving in Cuba from the changes of the Obama administration, the middle class again begins to grow, and opportunity is everywhere. I took full advantage of the situation by visiting the island and spending money in privately owned restaurants, homes and businesses. The race was on to see Cuba the way it is, not the way it might become. Years later, and once again, the relationships take a turn for the worse when then President Trump was elected.
While visits to North Korean President Kim Jong Un are being promoted and supported, regulations tighten on Cuba. While genocide takes place in China, and we continue enormous trade with this communist nation, relationships with Cuba sour. Travel to Cuba becomes more difficult, and eventually cruise ships are banned from doing business with the island.
Why? Power and special interests. If anyone thinks that the embargo is designed to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba, they are sadly mistaken. The tens of thousands of Cubans that fled Cuba are now throughout the United States, but primarily in South Florida. The minds of those Cubans are to be fought over by each president since JFK. Those initial immigrants have now had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Stories of Cuba are passed on down the line from those that had their homes and businesses taken. Their votes belong to the candidate willing to keep a hard line against Cuba. Trump was no different, and most Cubans identify as Republicans due to the rhetoric and propaganda promoted by the party. This rhetoric has influenced local and national elections. It’s elected Presidents. Meanwhile, the Cuban people continue to suffer at the cost of power from both the U.S. and the Communist Party in Cuba.
The stance against Cuba has nothing to do with individual freedom or democracy. Its roots are in revenge, anger, power and the grand prize of Florida’s 29 electoral college votes. The sweet smell of Presidential victory is thick in Florida and becoming even thicker. Trump exits stage right and on comes the Biden Administration. Offering hope of change again, Biden promises to reset relations with Cuba. I just put promises and a politician in the same sentence, so what do you think is going to happen?
There’s a pandemic raging, and economy tanking and a new sheriff in town. Biden has a lot on his hands and the promises to reset relationships gets pushed to the background. The left wants the reset, the right doesn’t, and the independents are mixed. The midterm elections, which usually go bad the first time around for a newly elected President are already under way.
Meanwhile, the situation in Cuba gets worse. Food shortages from failed crops and the inability to import what it needs causes anger in the population. Tourism is reopened in Varadero and the COVID cases begin to rise. Three vaccines are created by laboratories in Cuba, with “Abdala” having a reported 92.2% efficacy. Protests understandably begin and become deadly. Cuba looks to be having its own insurrection, which leaves President Biden forced to make a decision.
Does he help or hinder the relationship with Cuba? After 40 years in politics, Biden is no stranger to tactical moves designed to keep power, and this is the path he takes. Rather than helping our neighbor with critically needed medical supplies, food and humanitarian aid, he looks toward the outcome of the midterm elections. Doing what is right no longer matters, but how is that any different than what we’ve seen for so long? People are shocked of the demonstrations and the Cuban governments response. Shouts of freedom can be heard from coast to coast. Individuals are repeating what has been said over the last 60 years, which is to topple the regime, keep the embargo and force the government to provide more freedoms to its people. Ironically the U.S. Government is punishing Cubans for a situation it created.
Cubans do deserve more freedom and opportunity. There are many problems with the government of Cuba, but we only need to look in the mirror and find the same. Biden has made a huge error in not tackling the issue of Cuba earlier. He actually used the pandemic and economic hardship of the people in Cuba to once again stoke the flames of anger. Looking at this from an objective point of view I find it deplorable.
Biden turned his back on an opportunity to greatly improve relations through building bridges and rather decided to burn them. I’d love to see change in Cuba, but the answer is not by punishment. The government of Cuba suffers little. It’s the people that get caught in between this battle, and therein is the problem. The United States has been the only 1 of 3 countries in the United Nations to support the embargo. Everyone else knows what this is about, while the American public is lied to from both sides.
All the while other actions are at work. When the U.S. steps out from diplomacy, somebody is always willing to take its place. Those countries are China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and more. If your neighbor makes it clear they’re dead set on making life difficult, then one seeks out other friendships. This is what we’ve done. We’ve caused untold suffering of the Cuban people and opened the door to our adversaries. Congratulations to the Biden Administration for an epic failure, and hypocritical move when a gigantic opportunity was available.
Open relationships with the Cuban government would lead to more personal freedoms, economic development in both Cuba and the United States. It would create more jobs, support stability and prosperity in the region and raise the standard of living for the average Cuban citizen.
I don’t write this article in support of the Cuban Government. I write it because we’ve got it so wrong, and someone needs to speak out. Very likely, many Cuban Americans reading this article won’t respond so kindly, and I understand that. The point is not everything is as it seems, and it’s time for a real change. Where are those adults in the room?
Please take a moment to write President Biden and remind him about his promises. Promote Cuban Freedom by supporting its people. www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
The Black Hills (Paha Sapa)
Roaring out of the Earth in Great Plains of South Dakota are the magnificent Black Hills. Over 60 million years ago, through a great uplift the Black Hills rose high above the land, but their creation began deep within mother earth. Their origin began in the Precambrian Period, some 2 billion years ago. At one point it is estimated the Black Hills attained a height of 15,000 feet above sea level. Now, after millions of years of erosion, the highest point, Black Elk Peak reaches 7,244 feet. Although half the original size, the Black Hills are still the highest point from east of the Rockies to the Swiss Alps. Most of the Black Hills are composed of granite, along with quartz, feldspar and mica. Wondering through the area, you'll notice the ground glitters as if being surrounded by jewels in every direction.
The Native Americans of this region called this mountain range Paha Sapa, meaning The Heart of All Things. This was and is considered a sacred area by many, including the Lakota Tribe. The Lakota are made up of seven bands or tribes. These are the Sichangu, Brule, Oglala, Itazipcho, Miniconjou and Sihasapa. The Black Hills is considered a part of their origin story, with the rights of ownership in dispute to this day.
Significant points of interest for visitors to this area are the Cathedral Spires, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Iron Mountain Road, Needles Highway, Sylvan Lake, Crazy Horse Memorial, and further to the East, Badlands National Park. This area is popular with nature enthusiasts, rock climbers, sightseeing, hiking, horseback riding and much more. The mountain range is 110 miles long and 60 miles wide generally being divided between two areas, the Northern and Southern Black Hills. In the Northern Black Hills, you'll find majestic Spearfish Canyon, filled with hiking trails, waterfalls, the nearby Wild West City of Deadwood and one of my personal favorites, Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary. In my experience, the Northern Black Hills plays second fiddle to the Southern Black Hills to tourism, but this shouldn't be the case. The Northern Black Hills are a place of beauty, healing, history and recreation.
The Southern Black Hills are very special for a number of reasons. Generally, when people think of the Black Hills of South Dakota, they conjure up images of Mount Rushmore, with the faces of four great Presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. This is certainly quite an accomplishment and beautiful work of art. There is a great visitors center with a short film, and exhibition hall documenting the idea, construction and impact the monument had on the area. Doane Robinson and Gutzon Borglum set out to create a monument that would inspire the nation, and more importantly bring much needed tourism dollars to the region. They succeeded, and now over 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore each year.
While Mount Rushmore stirs up pride and patriotism in many, the Native Americans of this area feel differently when gazing upon the monument. For them and others, it is viewed as a desecration to a sacred mountain. Mount Rushmore was named after an east coast attorney sent here to survey mining claims. Those he asked had no idea of the name of the mountain, so it was named after him - Charles E. Rushmore. Before this the mountain was known to the Lakota as Tunkasila Sakpe Paha, or Six Grandfathers Mountain. The Six Grandfathers are North, South, East, West, Above and Below. This was a place the Lakota came to pray, carry out ceremonies and considered the center of the universe. Protests, petitions altering the mountain and disputes over the land continue on into the unforeseeable future. It's my belief that we understand as much as possible, and from both sides the history of this special place.
If you make a visit to Mount Rushmore, you can't miss the drive on Iron Mountain Road. Construction of this road was meant to compliment the mountain, cause as little disruption to nature, offer spectacular views and provide a playground for automobiles. Iron Mountain Road winds through forests and tunnels which, when looked through align perfectly with Mount Rushmore, offering great photo opportunities. The road covers 17 miles, has 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails, 3 tunnels, and two spits. It runs from Mount Rushmore, and terminates near Custer State Park.
Cuba is an exotic destination that's beginning to reopen, and we're going to be there when it does.
Ask my friends, Cuba is one of my favorite places in the world. Inevitably I'm asked why. It's simple to explain reasons but not feelings.
Cuba is one of the most controversial places to choose for a travel destination, which is initially what brought me to the island. It was 2015, and while travel was opened, you could only visit by boarding a ship in another country. In my case it was Jamaica. We sailed around the island to Santiago, Havana, Cienfuegos and Maria Del Gorda. Since flights have opened, I've been there a number of times, with the last being Havana Heartbeat March 12-17 2020. Yep, our group was there when the U.S. declared a National Emergency, and it was fantastic.
What you learn here are the things that matter in your life, and from the example Cubans provide, thats in relationships with one another. A simple game of chess, a bottle of rum and a conversation is highly valued. Architecture abounds, some restored and some crumbling. Both equally beautiful and a photographers dream. The people of Cuba are outstanding and resilient. Unfortunately, the embargo has really done nothing to improve the situation there and its the people that bear the brunt, not the government.
Cuba is about the size of Florida, which means there's lots to see. Artists, textile makers, farms, newly opened businesses, beaches and more. It truly is a step back in time that exists nowhere else, and may not even exist for much longer.
As I write this letter, Cuba is already administering its own vaccines developed on the island. The expectation is to have most of the population vaccinated by the end of summer, which is heartwarming news. Slowly, business is beginning to reopen, and tourism will return shortly. The Cubans are waiting for us with open arms, and as their closest neighbor we should pay them a visit.
It's legal to travel to Cuba under the "Support of the Cuban People" OFAC category, and relatively simple. myXOadventures.com takes care of the details for you, answers questions, guides you through the island and introduces you to a place you should have been able to visit long ago. If you had a chance to visit Havana on an overnight cruise ship, you've not experienced Cuba. You've been given a tourism taste, and not a truly authentic experience. We can help.
Speaking of experience, we've made our inroads and relationships to provide you with a high quality, affordable option, and personalized small group experience. I invite you to come along with us in November for our upcoming Havana Heartbeat trip. It'll be beautiful, and its the best place to visit in the Caribbean, hands down.
Right now we've decided to offer a $100 per person discount for new bookings made from now until the end of June. Simply make your reservation online and use the code HAVHRTBT and click HERE.
Daniel Milks is the owner of myXOadventures.com and has been traveling the world with a passion since 2011. Always doing his best to open the mind and spirit through cultural exchanges, each destination has its own personal touch and feel. Never creating a "cookie cutter" experience, he hopes to show how travel can change each persons life by better understanding the world in which we live.
Tens of thousands of people are looking towards the National Parks to satisfy the adventurer within, and it's a great idea. The National Parks System is something we should all be proud of, in so many ways. In total, there are 63 National Parks, but 423 "National Park Sites" in the United States. On my travels, I've come across adventurers chipping away at the goal of visiting them all.
What a life eh? I can tell you from experience that there's so much to learn from each and every park. So many programs, guides, maps, locations, trails, routes, rules, permits and so on. I've been able to see the mistakes that most people make, and wanted to take some time to share them so you can avoid these pitfalls.
Your journey should begin with visiting the National Park Website, www.nps.gov. Here you'll find an almost overwhelming amount of information on each park. Be sure to check the calendars and events section, along with admission fees and restrictions. The next thing to do is download the App recreation.gov on your smart phone. Here you'll be able to make reservations for shuttle tickets, accommodations and much more.
After taking some time to explore these areas the best thing to do is get on a guided tour of some kind. These fill up way in advance, so the sooner you plan the better. Apps are great, but nothing compares to the experience of a professional guide. You'll be able to absorb so much more than trying to figure it out yourself. Yes, you're clever and savvy, but trust me, this is the best way to go. Get a private tour if a group setting isn't your thing. These are popular now and commonplace to offer.
Not a morning person? You really need to adjust. There's plenty of reasons the morning time is best in the National Parks. First and foremost, there are way less people meandering about. This alone should be motivation. There are other advantages though such as the animals. They mostly frolic at dusk and dawn. You'll have a much better chance seeing these great creatures at sunrise and sunset before they go into hiding. Speaking of sunrise and sunset, photography plays a significant role here. If you want good photos, these are the best times. Midday, you'll be fighting with glare, and potentially a washed out look with the sun coming from above. Colors abound in the morning and evening.
Local operators know these things, and they'll take you to the best places. Locals know the park, both inside and OUT. If you think all the magic happens in the park, you'd be mistaken. Thousands of miles of canyons, trails and overlooks exist outside the park system and can be made accessible, if you have the means, knowledge and permits!
I hope this provides a little insight into visiting the parks, and should you want the best adventures there are to offer, just CLICK HERE to fill out the form for a private organized tour for you, your friends, family or whomever you enjoy traveling with!
I was sitting across the table from a friend just the other day when I realized how much I missed personal conversations. I find it so therapeutic to talk about matters of substance. We were just finishing setting up for the backdrop of a new travel video for Project Pride and she made me some coffee. We sat down and just talked. We asked how each other were, what we've experienced since the last time we saw one another, and enjoyed our time together. Part of what we talked about (or I did) is how interesting it's been to observe so many people across this country, from one end to the other. How diverse we are from 1 mile to the next. I mentioned how different it was to be outside the country looking in.
A ton of perspective has been gained this year. I can't express how huge that is for me. It had been a month since we talked, and I really appreciated both her company and the delicious cup of coffee she prepared. Somewhere in between that coffee and my friend existed something of great value. It's called connection. When it's removed we become different people. We behave differently and we adapt to isolation. That may be good to prevent transmission of a virus but it's insidious to our mental health. What would the year have looked like if we could talk, touch, love, hug, kiss and play together. I guess we'll never know. I just know how much I love and miss it.
That's also why I love my job. It does all those things. I can remember standing outside a ship of thousands of people with a "Free Hugs" sign and gave everyone a hug who wanted it. CAN YOU IMAGINE? Would you give me a hug? Maybe soon, and I'll take one from ya!
Listen my friend, I love what I do because I love travel. I'm really not sure when or if I'll ever settle down. One day I might be writing from South America and the next from Glacier National Park. That doesn't sound so bad to me! Travel has an enormous power to heal and grow. It's way more than a "sector" of the economy, it's something we've done since we could walk. It's inherent to our nature. This as well as curiosity, connections, the desire to learn, explore and so much more. I can't wait until it's the right time for YOU to travel.
For those of you wanting to get out and explore, I have something for you. A new departure. It's the MIGHTY FIVE on April 12, 2021. Five of the most magical parks I've ever explored. Check it out and give it some consideration.
It's been a long time coming. We aren't out of the woods yet, but I've managed to navigate the pandemic pretty well. Last year was devastating for the travel industry, but for those of us able to maneuver, grow, and survive we've come out better than ever. For me personally, my life has changed completely and for the better. I've been able to establish solid connections and learn about so many places I've never been before. Some of the highlights are Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the American West. During this time I've offered some extraordinary rates to destinations and have been fortunate to have loyal guests join me. On February 11, we head to Costa Rica with a great crew!
What I've been witnessing in the meantime is a trend in the right direction. 1 out of 10 travelers have made their reservations already for 2021, and the rest are on the fence figuring out when the best time will be to book. I have to say, the better question is not when to book, but when to travel. So many out there are looking to the summer and fall. I've been busy updating the website for more departures to Havana, new departures for Xpedition: Ecuador in September, and preparing for ROMANIA in August. There's a lot of interest, and I hope you're one of them. I do currently have one trip in the oven, and thats Iceland. This will likely be in October so we can enjoy the Northern Lights. I'm looking into making two trips out of it. One for the adventurer which may be on motorcycle, and the other will explore the outer edge in comfort.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, I'm giving you a heads up that the prices offered in the past are returning to normal. Low pricing was fun, and it helped a lot of people travel at a great rate. It's time now to return to a point of financial predictability and profit. Through this weekend, I'll be honoring existing rates. After Sunday, January 31st, tours will rise between 20-40%. This won't just help my bottom line, but also the vendors who have worked so hard to stay in business over the last year. If you'd like to make a reservation and maintain current pricing, all you have to do is add the promo code of GOODTIMES at the end of the booking online, and you're all set.
Happy Travels and see you on the trail!
I'm not really sure where to begin. Over the last couple of months, I've been traveling through Ecuador. Creating vacations isn't new to me, but the way I'm doing it is. Last year, I've spent most of my time visiting the areas I'd always wanted to, but never had the time. Well, last year there was time, and I had to make the most of it.
Costa Rica, the American Western states, and finally Ecuador. I never knew what an incredible experience I was about to set out upon, and how it would rock my world. November 19th was the date. I sped across the southern United States heading towards Miami. The country had opened, my ticket date was valid, and I was on my way.
Two months later, I'm writing to you from Ecuador, and have found the country to be a second home. The people, culture, economics, natural beauty and abundance of wildlife makes for a great destination. Something happens when you go south of the equator, and it’s as if life is quite literally turned upside down.
I've become part of a second family, made incredible connections, had wonderful experiences, and changed the course of what I'll offer going forward. I've committed myself to never again create travel without it having a positive impact on those we visit, and those who will come along for the adventure. A trading company is in its beginning, my attitude has shifted, and I'm ready to share my vision with you.
Soon, (over the next few weeks) I'll be sharing this vision with you as I roll out Xpedition Ecuador. It'll be at least a 12-day experience, focusing on the arts, culture and mother nature. Xpedition Ecuador will include workshops, arts, crafts, music and a feel-good opportunity with real results. I'll be talking about this over the next few weeks, and I hope you decide to follow along. Our experiences will be worthy of your participation and honor my dream.... to create meaningful experiences.
Let's focus on healing. Let's look towards the future and let’s begin planning now. If you'd like to get on the waitlist for Xpedition Ecuador, I'm beginning to take initial reservations of interest. It costs nothing and puts you first in line for the series rollout. All you have to do is reach out, say hi, and tell me your name. Email me at [email protected]
See you south of the equator!
We've almost made it through the Fire Swamp, and have encountered some rodents of unusual size, but we're here. We stand on the precipice of a new time. Politically, practically, and generationally. With the election seemingly behind us, and more now than ever our nails begin to pierce the armchair as we look towards the future. How fast, when, where, what and why? It's all going to happy in due time, and most of it is out of our control.
For the travel side of the equation, we are experiencing what it must be like for the runner waiting for the gun to go off in an Olympic race. When is the right time to release a trip? Will customers travel? When will the vaccine be enough to lower restrictions? It's tough for us but let me say there are so many professionals involved in this industry that have stuck it out. Changes have been made behind the scenes for the future of travel. Good ones. Changes that have needed to be made for a long time, and this pause provided the room for it to happen. Changes that are permanent, and I for one am for it.
I've had to reevaluate everything. Resizing trips, when to offer them, pricing, places, partnerships and most recently adding imports from the places I visit. Here's a few buns in the oven:
A.) Moving ahead, any new trips created will contain even more purpose. We'll be searching out ways to connect cultures and worlds.
B.) You can expect to see more of the arts involved in all regions we visit. Whether it be hands on, observationally, auditory or otherwise.
C.) By the time we leave there will be a positive impact on both the community we visit, and those involved on our trips.
This year has changed the way I see the world, and I believe the change is profoundly good. We're going to make a difference, and should you decide to come along, so will you. A not-for-profit is in the works to sponsor youth travel, promote cultural heritage, and education. A new Fair-Trade Import-Export business has begun, and is only at the very beginning stages, with the name and domain obtained. These things aren't in conflict, but in harmony, and it's my hope that through travel we make a meaningful difference. I'll be updating you throughout the process by live video and more blogs.
Between now and then, I wish you a Very Happy Holiday. If anything, this year has taught us how Important the bonds we have between us really are. I'm grateful for the ones I have with you. Let's bring in the new year with a sense of optimism, hope, healing and gratitude that we have survived! Until next time!
As the incredible visit to Ecuador comes to an end, it's time to focus on what's ahead, and it's right around the corner. Earlier in the year I had put out a few departure dates for Costa Rica Exotica, but I've decided to focus on one, February 11-21. I did this because its a special time of year (Valentines), and because the vendors in Costa Rica were willing to sharpen their pencils, and I was too.
I know many of you out there are just waiting for the right moment to travel, and I can tell you this is it. Quite a bit of work goes into putting together an awesome Adventure, and this is one of them. The people, vendors, accommodations and tours are just part of a bigger picture. Right now is unique in many ways as you know, but for this trip it's a jump start in renewing travel and what I call Vacation Revenge.
It's beginning to happen, and I prefer to be ahead of the curve. Many Americans are making plans to get out and explore the world. Already, there have been exceptional deals out there, but this one stands out above the rest. I'll replicate it for next year, but likely at almost double the cost. It really is the last chance to take advantage of low pricing due to the lack of travel. In this package, every part is special. It includes extremely luxurious accommodations in El Castillo overlooking Mount Arenal, Treetop like housing in the Cloud Forest area of Monteverde and Ultra Luxurious accommodation in Quepos with Manuel Antonio National Park along the coast.
I've secured a private chef to travel with us, private transportation, all your tours, meals, welcome and farewell dinners prepared in our homes, thermal baths, beach days, time on your own, and visits to some of the most outstanding biodiverse places in the world. It's all online. This trip is not a money maker for me personally. It's designed to provide a safe visit to Costa Rica, an extreme value to you, an opportunity for me to meet new clients, and a way to help the people of Costa Rica. I assure you, its safe with many protocols in place , mostly outdoors and includes the special touches that guests have come to expect from myXOadventures.com.
I encourage you to seriously consider this offering, with $500 off per person if booked before December 31st. Costa Rica Exotica is the best way I know how to kick off the year with a big bang. Currently we are half full, and this will be a maximum of 10 guests. Check it our, and come along. You'll love living life again. Pura Vida!
Quito, Baños, Riobamba, Latacunga, Cotopaxi, Sangay, Chimborazo, the Amazon. For the last of the international journeys of the calendar year this has been quite an eye-opener. It also has a real chance at charting the course for my future. Before we get started on that, let me say that I've found Ecuador to be full of beauty and surprises. Ecuador beyond just another vacation destination on the list of places to consider visiting. It is alive, breathing, mystifying, vibrant, rich, TASTY, ever changing and popular with expats for good reason.
Take a second look at the picture above. I'm standing at the base of Chimborazo Volcano. Looking out over the sunrise I have "The Alter" to my left and Sangay to my right. The Alter is what remains of a great volcano that after7 years of activity finally collapsed. What remains are the four peaks that locals say are monks, thus the name. To the right is Sangay, one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is overdue for a major eruption. The setting is perfect. Rarely does it happen that you can see both sites on the same day with such clarity. I felt honored. On top of that, one of the most famous Volcanoes you cannot see but is directly to my left, fully lit by the sun, and called Chimborazo.
Most people hear Ecuador, and the first thought is the Galapagos Islands, but if you came here to see just that, you would be making a great mistake! Quito is a colonial city and drastically different from the Coast. Riobamba is at the heart of the country and just about every type of food or product passes through. In the Amazon, your thought of life and living is turned completely upside down. In between you see geography like nowhere else.
As of this writing, it's almost 3 weeks of exploring here. Staying in modest accommodations, meeting friends along the way, eating some of the best fruits and veggies, and experiencing an ancient Shamanic Ceremony in the Amazon. I have 5 days remaining, and for these I intend to make the most. I'll be visiting Otavalo, a market to the north of Quito. While there I'm going to visit an authentic family owned textile operation where Alpaca blankets, scarves, hats, indigenous socks, leather products and Tagua jewelry are made and sold. I'll be bringing back as many items as I can, and perhaps this is the beginning of an import/export business in Ecuador. I'll find out and will be taking photos and videos of the process. Once completed the products will go up on the website and Facebook for anyone to purchase.
As for a group visit, this one is more active for sure. I'll be putting together a visit for those of you that like the great outdoors, are in good physical shape, and the thought of climbing mountains flips your switch.
Last, I want to note that I have been following along with the current state of the vaccine, and all the politics that go along with the health of the Nation. With that said, I have been in discussions with my partners in Costa Rica and have negotiated better pricing for February of 2021. This is a Valentines Getaway on Costa Rica Exotica Extraordinary. The normal rate is $2599, and I have been able to negotiate down to $2099 per person. You'll need to make the reservation by letting me know directly, so I can avoid unnecessary merchant fees. I've also worked with them to make this happen and have brought down my cost as well.
It's going to be a group of no more than 10, and include two locations of luxury accommodations, one of a more Treehouse feel in Monteverde, tours included, transportation while on the ground, meals, etc. Currently there are no testing requirements to enter Costa Rica, however it is something I must insist on in order to protect the group. I'll need a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure and a verbal agreement to keep as isolated as possible before leaving.
I assure you, there will not be another opportunity like this in the future. Check it out and let me know!