Space Tourism: What’s the Big Deal?

Written by: Jason Garoutte

Privatized space travel or space tourism has become the new frontier in adventure and exploration, especially since NASA’s space program isn’t quite what it used to be. It is expected to become a billion dollar industry within the next decade, even though the cost of one of these adventures is as high as 40 million dollars.

So, what kind of adventure can you expect with that kind of money? Depending on the company, that kind of money will earn you an eight to eleven day trip to the International Space Station. Sounds great right? Sure, the view is one in a million, but if I’m going to spend 40 million dollars, I’d better be sipping Mai Tai’s on one of Saturn’s rings!

That will not happen. Not in my lifetime, especially not a journalist’s salary. For those that are ultra-wealthy, a trip to the heavens may just be the ultimate adventure. But would it be worth it?

Space Tourism

Only one spacecraft has ever traveled to the outer planets and it is unmanned. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which was launched in 1977, is still traveling the outer limits of our solar system to this day. It is traveling at a speed of 3.6 Astronomical Units per year. An Astronomical Unit is defined as 92, 955, 807 miles or roughly the distance the Earth is from the Sun. Once the numbers are crunched, Voyager 1 is traveling at a staggering speed of 38, 179 m.p.h. Wow!

Companies like Space Adventures only have aircraft designed to travel up to speeds of Mach 3, which equates to approximately 2,250 m.p.h. So, should you want those Mai Tai’s with Saturn as your backdrop, it would take 50 years just to get there. And you thought the flight from Los Angeles to New York was long!

There is a bit of hope, should you just want to brag about traveling into space. These privatized companies are offering suborbital flights at only $200,000 per passenger. With that you will receive a two hour flight above the Kàrmàn Line, which is defined as the boundary of space at an altitude of 62 miles above Earth’s sea level. You will also experience three to six minutes of weightlessness and that one in a million view of our blue planet. Just don’t forget your camera.

If that sounds like an appealing adventure, then by all means, spend that hard earned money, travel to the heavens, and return with some amazing vacation photos. For those of us with meager salaries and average jobs, the closest we’ll probably ever get to the planets is through the lens of our backyard telescope.

Tourists experiencing zero gravity.

Tourists experiencing zero gravity.


World Cup 2014 Brazil Travel Destinations

Written by: Brendan Nienhaus

It’s still two years away until the FIFA World Cup descends on Brazil but travelers hoping to witness their favorite national teams ascend to World Cup Champion are already planning their trips. Aside from watching their favorite teams play in one of the twelve host cities, what else could a traveler do to pass their time in the largest country in South America? After perusing many travel websites I have made a list of popular destinations and some brief descriptions of them that an adventurous World Cup fan could use to plan an excursion(s) to fill the time between matches:

Rio de Janeiro: One of the largest cities in Brazil, as well as a World Cup Host City, this city in southeast Brazil is renowned for its pristine beaches and amazing views. The Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema beaches are very popular tourist destinations as are the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado mountains and the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. There are options for hang gliding, para-gliding, and hiking as well as lots of options for music and an eclectic nightclub scene.




Amazon Rainforest: Spanning across nine-countries in South America and encompassing the second-largest river in the world, the Amazon River,  the Amazon Rainforest has the highest levels of bio-diversity in the world. Manaus, another World Cup Host City, is a great starting point for any excursion into the Amazon, as well as a destination in itself. Travel lodges, located along tributaries, and river boat cruises offer excellent options to explore this must-see geographical location and its diverse plant and animal life, many species located nowhere else in the world.



Foz do Iguacu: One of Brazil’s top tourist destinations, the waterfalls here are an astonishing sight. Situated on the border between Argentina and Brazil, there are numerous catwalks located on both sides of the waterfalls to offer panoramic views. There are also numerous boating and aerial tours to offer unique views of the majestic waterfalls.




Bonito: Located in mid-west Brazil,this town sits amidst crystal-clear rivers, dense vegetation, and numerous natural caves to make it perfect for the eco-tourist World Cup fan. With numerous opportunities to explore the area’s natural beauty, whether by horseback, snorkeling, cave-diving or any of the many other options, Bonito is ideal for the nature lover.




Pantanal Wetlands: Located south of the Amazon Basin and east of the Andes Mountains, the Pantanal is considered to be the world’s largest freshwater wetlands system. Featuring hundreds of diverse wildlife species including the increasingly rare jaguar, Hyacinth Macaw and giant river otter, the Pantanal is an ideal destination for the wildlife lover.





Fernando de Noronha: Located over 200 miles east of mainland Brazil, in the Atlantic Ocean, Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago consisting of 21 islands and islets. Oppurtunities to view the local marine life, such as sea turtles, dolphins and sharks, and the pristine beaches set upon turquoise seas make Fernando de Noronha an ideal escape from the hectic stadiums of the 2014 World Cup.




Chapados de Veadeiros: Located in the central western region of Brazil, Chapados de Veadeiros is resplendant with breath-taking mountains, water falls, and rivers. It also boasts over 100 types of plants and birds making it ideal for the nature lover.





These were just a few of the many exciting and beautiful destinations that Brazil has to offer the World Cup traveler in 2014 and only a small taste of what you can expect from each. I encourage any travelers to do their own research into these magnificent areas before planning their own World Cup excursion to ensure they don’t miss out on some of the most beautiful and exotic destinations Brazil has to offer. Good luck to all of the teams that make it to the World Cup and, more importantly, safe travels to all of the World Cup fans visiting Brazil in 2014.


Top things to do and see in Beijing

Written by: Suleman Sultan

Beijing, a city 13 times the size of New York City, with a population over two times that of the Big Apple.
In a city that large one often wonders what to do, especially if one is limited on time.
Beijing not only offers a modern city life but it has many sites that offer traditional Chinese culture. After all it is the capital of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

The Forbidden City
Built between 1406AD and 1420AD the Palace was home to China’s emperors until the Twentieth century. A major tourist attraction, many would recommend visiting the palace during the weekdays in order to avoid the huge crown of tourist and visitors that fill up the Palace on the weekends and holidays.
Entrance fees are quiet cheap ranging 40-60 Yuan, roughly 6-10 US dollars.

The Great Wall
Of course the most iconic image of China is the Great Wall. Located to the north of Beijing, it is one of the most visited sites in the world.
• Go during the weekdays
• If you’re planning to hike, bring good shoes
• Bring a map of someone who knows their way around ( yes it’s a road and you can’t get lost, but if you walk for miles and then get off at a certain point to venture off somewhere else, you’re going to regret it if you are lost in a wooded area)

Panjiayuan Flea Market
Located in the south east region of Beijing, the Panjiyuan Flea Market is home to over four thousand shop owners selling all kinds of hand crafted goods and merchandise. For those who want something unique and special to give to friends, family and coworkers this is the best place to find it.
Open Monday through Thursday 8:30am to 6:00pm and on the weekends 4:30am to 6:00pm, its one of the best places for both shoppers and tourists to spend their time, representing Chinese culture and craftsmanship.

Other locations

All though those mentioned above are rated as the most visited and memorable locations in China, there are still many other interesting places.

1. Tiananmen Square (known more for its infamy than anything else).
2. The Lama Temple (known for its Buddhist architecture)
3. Temple of Heaven (built around the same time as the Forbidden City it is decorated with Taoist symbolisms)
4. Niujie Mosque (the oldest mosque in Beijing built in 996AD)
5. Recently the Olympics Stadiums have become a tourist attraction (mostly just to take pictures of than anything else)
6. The Capital Museum (houses numerous collections of ancient Chinese arts and technologies)
7. 798 Space (a former military factory turned into an thriving artistic community)

Which Way do I Go?

Trying to navigate an airport when you have never done it before takes skill, or you will end up asking “where do i go?”. Airports are scary to the untrained eye. Everything is constantly changing and if you are not paying attention you will get left behind. LITERALLY! From the gate numbers changing on your flight at the last minute to not knowing which way the bathroom is, things can get confusing.  It takes cat like reflexes, an attitude of carelessness and quick wit to make it look like you know what you are doing.

Today was such a day. For the first time I had to navigate the airport by myself. It was the most nerve racking thing I have done since I applied to colleges. Trying to make it look like I knew what I was doing was harder than I expected. It was hard enough trying to book my flight let alone actually navigate the airport. Seeing people walk around will such confidents just made the awkward and shy tendencies more prevalent.

There are a few things that will help make this experience more enjoyable for you.


> first thing that a person should do is look up the gate and terminal section before they get to the airport. It will save you time which is valuable when you aren’t quiet sure what you are doing.

> give yourself plenty of time to get through security! There is nothing worse than being stuck in security because somebody forgot to remove there pocket knife and it becomes a major motion picture just to get through.

> keep everything with you at  ALL TIMES! I witnessed this guy trying to take this woman’s purse she had out on the counter at Starbucks. Luckily this woman had cat-like reflexes and grabbed her purse before the situation got to far out of hand. However, you may not be so “quick”.

>always listen to the announcements. I almost missed my flight because I was talking on the phone, eating a scone, and drinking coffee. My flight had switched gates and I had no idea. They were already boarding my flight before I even realized it.

>have fun! I flew for the first time by myself and I flew first class. It was a blast. I smiled the whole time and would do it all over again if I could! Enjoy the experience and try to relax. You have to come back on a plane so you MIGHT as well make the most of it!


What Happened to the Commercial Airplane – Antique?

Written by: Mary Shull

Ever flown in a commercial airplane? If you’re one of the 637 million (U.S. statistics for 2011) who fly each year, your answer would be “yes.” People do love to fly. I mean, come on, what other choice do we have? It’s the fastest mode of transportation available to us. It’s said that flying in an airplane is even safer than driving your car! Statistics show that 1 out of 6,800 drivers die in an auto accident each year, while only 1 out 1.6 million die of an airplane crash.

But let’s take a look at the airplane. While it may be safer than a car, what has been done to modernize the speed of a commercial airplane in the last 20 years? The first powered flight by the Wright Brothers was in 1903. We had the first commercial jet airliner reach production in 1949. Then in 1969, the Boeing 747 was produced and has remained one of the most successful aircraft produced. However, its normal cruising speed is only 550 miles per hour. Sadly, one of the fastest commercial airplanes, the Concorde, was retired in 2003. It was able to fly at Mach 2.02 or 1,330 miles per hour.

Concorde Airplane

The Concorde airplane - retired in 2003

So, it’s said that we can’t have a commercial airplane go faster than it currently does because we would then create a sonic boom which is what the Concorde produced. But the Concorde produced this over the ocean so as not to disturb the public. So the question I still ask is, “Why have we stagnated? Why hasn’t man been able to develop a breakthrough in the last 60 years in airplane design or its effect on the speed of sound?” Am I the only one that finds this amazing? I feel like we are standing still in time. Where are our scientific breakthroughs? Sixty years is a long time!

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has said that business jets may lead the way in 2015 with passenger air travel at speeds faster than sound. And in 2025, a small supersonic airliner may follow that could transport around 75 people. However, a larger one could follow in another five years.

So, let’s see…in another 18 years we may see a commercial airplane that could get us to our destination faster? I guess I just expect more from humankind. I would like to see humans reach their full potential. We have such a long way to go and it seems we have taken many steps backward in the last 11 years. Let’s go forward. Let’s stretch ourselves. Let’s reach for the stars again! We may discover many great things along the way!

Sterling Vineyards – Wine Tasting in the Napa Valley

Written by: Mary Shull

Enjoy wine? What better place to sample the multitudes than in the Napa Valley! A world-wide destination for wine tasting, Napa Valley is home to hundreds of wineries. Take a few weeks and you might be able to sample all their fares.


Vineyard - from grape to glass at Sterling Vineyards in the Napa Valley

Nestled outside the small town of Calistoga, Sterling Vineyards sits 300 feet above the valley floor. The entrance is graced by a gorgeous tree-lined driveway and surrounded by row upon row of magnificent grapevines. The road leads to the visitor area where beautiful rose bushes await your compliments. Then, you must make your way to the winery which is accessed through an aerial tram ride! Yes, a unique four-person tram whisks visitors away (for a small fee) and deposits them atop the hill for their self-guided tour and wine tasting journey. Make sure to take in the sights as you glide along. The splendor only increases as you near the top and prepare for your special treat. The views are simply amazing as you stroll through the wonderful winery buildings that were designed after the architecture on the Greek island of Mykonos. Listen to the tower bells toll their lovely melody as you begin to sample your wine selections. Your tour takes you through the inner workings of the winery and explains its history and the vinification process. Motion-activated flat screen televisions help explain the processes involved in taking a grape and making it into wine. Wine tasting stops are strategically located to showcase the best views as you sample your wine and bask in your surroundings. Sterling Vineyards’ wines include:

  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Eventually, you find yourself at the Main Wine Tasting Room where you will sit down and relax while you enjoy your final tasting of wine selections. Winery staff assist you in final wine selections as you soak in your experience and let your mind wander.

Your final steps take you through the wine shop where you have the option to purchase any new favorites for home enjoyment. You then board the tram and let the view wash over you as you journey back down to the valley floor.

Sterling Vineyards is an experience you won’t soon forget. It has been called one of Napa Valley’s gems and has earned bragging rights. So next time you plan a trip to Napa Valley for wine tasting, visit Sterling Vineyards and prepared to be impressed.

Pat’s and Geno’s: Two Philadelphia Food Landmarks

Written By: Sarah Clausen


Philadelphia. It’s a city brimming with history: Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are two of the most famous landmarks of the city. While all may agree that these are important historical icons, one things that Philadelphians and visitors alike have a tough time agreeing on is where to go to get the best representation of a Philly food icon: The Cheesesteak. Two landmark restaurants, Pat’s and Geno’s, are consistently in the running for the best cheesesteak.


Visitors to the City of Brotherly Love, eager for an authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak experience, usually head down to South Philadelphia. There, at the intersection of South 9th Street and East Passyunk Avenue, across the street from each other, stand rival cheesesteak emporiums: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks.


Pat’s King of Steaks claims to be the first vendor to sell steak sandwiches. Founded by Pat and Harry Olivieri in 1930, the brothers first sold hot dogs. The in 1933, after deciding to try something new, the brothers grilled thinly sliced steak with chopped onions, put it on a roll, and sold it for ten cents. The steak sandwich was born. Pat’s is currently run by Harry’s grandson, Frank Oliveri, Jr.

Pat's King of Steaks

Pat's Steaks, serving Philadelphians steak sandwiches since 1933.


Geno’s Steaks was started in 1966 by Joey Vento. He chose the name Geno’s because Joe’s Steak Place was already taken. Geno’s is a modified version of the word GINO that Vento saw painted on a broken door. Geno’s ran into controversy in 2006 because of a sign placed on the front window that read “This is America: When Ordering Please Speak English.” The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations filed a discrimination complaint.


Geno's Steaks

Geno's Steaks has been in business since 1966.

Both Pat’s and Geno’s have similar menus. Both sell steak sandwiches “wit” or “wit out” cheese, as well as fries and drinks. Both restaurants have walk-up windows with limited outdoor seating and both are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Regardless of your preference for Pat’s or Geno’s one thing is clear: A visit to Philadelphia is not complete without sampling its most famous dish.

Nightlife in Paris

Written by: Michael Arnold

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower at Sunset

Every year thousands of tourists flock to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, trek through the decorated halls of the Louvre, and marvel at the fantastic gardens of Versailles. The “city of love,” however, contains much more than meets the eye. Paris has a wild nightlife that is often overshadowed by its famous museums and monuments.

For a rather low price, one can easily find a venue that combines the glam of New York and the ease of the Greek Islands.

Le Duplex, a 2-floor underground club just a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe, hosts different themed parties every night of the week throughout the year. One can expect crowds to arrive around 11:30 p.m. and party until the sun rises.

The lines move quickly, the staff is always friendly, and the entrance fee – which includes 2 drinks – is usually only 10 euro! Inside of the club one can find several DJs playing all different genres of music. Awesome light shows illuminate the place throughout the night creating a mind-blowing atmosphere.

Another gem on the outskirts of the city is Café Oz at Denfert Rochereau. This Australian themed bar turns into a bass pumping club when the sun goes down.  At around 11 p.m. the staff moves the tables in the center of the room creating a dance floor, and by midnight the Aussie bar is, quite literally, packed.

Café Oz

Party at Café Oz

If the typical nightlife experience is not enough, Paris has plenty of clubs that are off the beaten path. Les Chandelles, a club with the facade of a dungeon, admits an unusual clientele. Ordinarily women arrive in lingerie or provocative outerwear. Men are encouraged not to come alone, as this club is known to be one of the more selective in the city.

The interior lives up to its name – translating to “the candles”- as the room is strewn about with hundreds of candles. It is adorned with chic bedroom furniture that creates an intimate ambiance.

While venues like Les Chandelles are certainly not for everyone, some prefer not to attend clubs at all. Luckily for these types, Paris itself transforms into a different place at night. During warm weather months, Parisians congregate along the River Seine with wine – which is often cheaper than bottled water – and cheese.

Friends gather to eat and drink and watch street performers or admire the magnificent architecture on all sides of them. In the summer, high class Parisians commandeer boat parties that circle the Seine all night long, as commoners look on from bridges and streets.

Regardless of the season, Paris is a wonderful and multi-faceted city. Its incredible cultural attributes need no explanation, and its nightlife scene far surpasses that of many other cities.

No wonder it’s the most visited place in Europe!

A couple drinks on the River Seine

Drinks at sunset

Cuban Dissidents Support Bill to End Travel Embargo

Visit Cuba

Cuban leaders are working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson to pass a bill ending the United States travel and agricultural export embargos against their country.  Seventy-four prominent Cuban political dissidents have endorsed this legislation because they believe it will help alleviate hunger in their country and assist with human rights issues.  These pro-democracy Cuban leaders have expressed their belief that an increased presence from United States citizens could help facilitate a potential future transition to a democratic state, a change that is greatly desired by many Cubans.  The United States has imposed different levels of travel and trade embargos against Cuba since the 1960s when Cuba aligned itself with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. 

The current US embargos have been criticized because of Cuba’s dire need for additional food, medicine, and clean water.  Cuban dissidents have stated that easing restrictions on agricultural imports from the United States would have an enormous impact on food shortages suffered in their country.  Some Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee oppose this bill because they believe assistance to Cuba and increased income from tourism and travel will actually assist Castro’s government.  A recent poll done in the United States indicates that 40% of Americans are in favor of ending the embargo.

Companies Won’t Reimburse Employees for Airline Wi-Fi Access

In-Flight Wi-Fi Access

In-Flight Internet Access

A recent survey completed by Business Travel News has found that only 34% of 230 companies polled are willing to reimburse employees for in-flight internet access on domestic flights.  While the percentage of companies willing to pay for internet access on international flights increases slightly to 41%, most employers view in-flight internet access as unnecessary and too costly. 

Many business travelers argue that the ability to stay online during long flights will make their hours onboard more productive.  These road warriors will able to stay up-to-date on emails and not be backed up with a full inbox upon landing.  Despite this potential increase in employee production, however, companies remain cautious about paying for the service.  Reasons behind their hesitancy include the purportedly disproportionate quality of the internet access to its price tag.

A second reason some companies are against their employees being “plugged in” while flying is because flights are one of the few opportunities for these business oriented travelers to mentally and physically unwind and refresh.  These companies see their employees’ ability to take advantage of a break by remaining “off-line” and be revitalized for their meetings or work in each destination as a greater value than time spend on-board keeping up with email.