Studying? A Beginner’s Guide to Chilean Wine

Studying? A Beginner’s Guide to Chilean Wine

WHAT’S ON THE LABEL

[Photograph: Matt Wilson]

Like in other new world wine regions, such as New Zealand and South Africa, a Chilean wine will boast its grape front and center on the label.

Chilean law requires that that the stated grape, vintage, and geographical area (Denominación de Origen) make up 75% of what’s in the bottle. That’s right, up to a quarter of the bottle’s contents doesn’t need to be disclosed. But in practice, most Chilean wines will contain at least 85% of what’s claimed on the label, so the bottles remain legal for distribution in Europe.

One heads up: some terms on Chilean wine labels aren’t that helpful. For example, Reserva or Reserva Especial indicates that the wine is at least 12% alcohol. Reserva Privada and Gran Reserva bump that requirement up to 12.5%. Additionally, Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva can be used if the wine has seen at least a little oak. But none of these terms will actually give you any sense of quality: for example, you could buy great Sauvignon Blanc from a chilly vineyard that doesn’t meet these requirements, and crummy Cabernet Sauvignon from a hot area that does.

THE LAY OF THE LAND

One glance at a map and you know that the geography of Chile is truly unique. While it would take you a week to drive north to south, you could explore the widest point from east to west in a single afternoon. The Andes divide the country from Argentina—whose famous wine region of Mendoza is just a couple hundred miles east of Chile’s capital, Santiago.

Though the country is quite narrow from east to west, you may soon start to see some wine labels clarifying where the vineyards fall: Costa (near the coast), Andes (near the mountains), and Entre Cordilleras (in between).

Thirsty yet? Let’s take a look at the major grapes you’ll find in Chilean wine.

SAUVIGNON BLANC

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[Photograph: Jake Pippin]

Bright, herbal, and tart: much of the best Chilean Sauvignon Blanc comes from the coastal Casablanca and Leyda valleys. These spots receive chilly ocean breezes, keeping the grapes fresh-tasting while they ripen in the warm sun.

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[Photograph: Jake Pippin]

If you enjoy zippy Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, try the Anakena Enco 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($11) from the Leyda Valley. The aromas of parsley, jalapeño, and grapefruit burst from the glass. The vibrant acidity makes it a great pairing for anything you’d squeeze a lemon on—try it with seafood.

CHARDONNAY

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[Photograph: Shutterstock]

Much like coastal regions of California, like Sonoma and Santa Barbara, cooler climates around Chile allow Chardonnay to shine, retaining acid and avoiding overripeness. Look for wines from the sea-influenced Casablanca and Limarí Valleys or the southern, wind-blown Malleco Valley.

One bottle we love: Viña Aquitania’s 2009 Sol de Sol Chardonnay ($28) is fermented in oak, yielding a rich texture (and hints of roasted hazelnuts) beautifully balanced by lots of acidity. Each sip offers a taste of crisp red apple, bright lemon, and sour cream.

OTHER GREAT WHITES

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[Photograph: Nicolás Aguayo Fuenzalida]

The northernmost region of Coquimbo is more known for its pisco than fine wine. But some producers here are making great wine from grapes once considered only fit for distilling. Try Mayu’s 2014 Pedro Ximenez ($13) from the Elquí Valley. It’s perfect for a summer picnic, full of tart lime and white grapefruit flavors—nothing like the sweet, viscous Spanish wines made from this grape.

Up for more exploring? One of my favorite Chilean whites is Casa Silva’s 2012 Sauvignon Gris ($16 ) from Colchagua. The vines for this bottling date back to 1912—it’s a reminder that Chile is no newcomer when it comes to wine. The grape name may be unfamiliar, but the wine is delicious, with a rich texture and peachy-honeydew flavors that make it more comparable to an Oregon Pinot Gris than your average Sauvignon Blanc. It balances a creamy texture with tons of freshness; serve it with picnic charcuterie or a nice plate of seared scallops.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

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[Photograph: Jake Pippin]

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the sun-drenched Central Valley, a large area around Santiago that is made up of four other valleys: Maipo, Rapel, Curicó, and Maule.

If you regularly find yourself drinking Cabernets from Napa or Washington State and you’re looking for something a little more affordable, start with Maipo. This is where you’ll find many masters of the grape, including familiar brands like Santa Rita, Concha y Toro, and Cousiño Macul. The area’s warm sunshine yields ripe grapes that produce powerful, concentrated wines filled with ripe blackberry, chocolate, and tobacco flavors. For $15, pick up Veramonte’s 2011 Primus Cabernet Sauvignon to serve with roasted chicken (or pour at a party.)

If you are a looking for the best of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (and you have deep pockets), seek out bottles from the renowned district of Puente Alto, known for gravel soils that some compare to the vineyards of Bordeaux. Famous bottlings from this region include Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon blend ($75) and Errazuriz’s Viñedo Chadwick Cabernet Sauvignon ($160).

CARMENÈRE

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[Photograph: Jake Pippin]

Chileans have grown Carmenère for over a hundred years, but it was long mistaken for a type of Merlot. It wasn’t until 1994 that the grape was correctly identified. You can also find it in southwest France and Italy, but Chile has been flying the Carmenère flag the highest of all.

Carmenère has a lot of ‘green’ flavors—think tomato leaves and green bell peppers. Some might call them a turnoff, but when these traits are balanced with acid and freshness, an herbal, vegetal wine can pair quite well with food, especially—you guessed it—herbs and vegetables.

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[Photograph: Jake Pippin]

“It’s like hoppy wine,” Chris Raftery, a sommelier in New York observes.

If you’re a fan of, say, Cabernet Franc from Chinon in France, these are wines you should seek out. And if you love IPA, these herbal, green aromas might not be new to you: “It’s like hoppy wine,” Chris Raftery, a sommelier in New York observes.

If you’re just getting started with Carmenère, you might as well go to the source: De Martino was the first to bottle the grape on its own, back in 1996. The De Martino Legado Reserva Carmenère 2012 ($12) from Maipo has the grape’s characteristic tobacco and bell pepper flavors, but they’re well balanced with black cherry and a hint of smoke.

SYRAH

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[Photograph: (c)Matt Wilson courtesy of Wines of Chile]

Syrah lovers will find that Chile has a bunch of great wines to discover: wines that highlight ripe, supple fruit flavors while letting Syrah’s classic peppery, bacony flavors shine through. High altitude and coastal breezes help moderate the heat of the northern valleys of the Elquí and Limarí, where Syrah thrives. I love the combination of ripe plum and savory black olive flavors in Merino’s 2012 Syrah($16) from the Limarí Valley, which is made with a splash of Viognier, just like they do it in the Rhône.

CARIGNAN

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[Photograph: Jake Pippin]

Growers in the Maule Valley have a treasure-trove of old-vine Carignan that is just coming into the spotlight today. Carignan vines were planted after a devastating earthquake in 1939 that left growers with scant crops. The grape thrives on the dry, hot climate of the Maule Valley—a climate not too different from that of Southern France or Spain, where the grape is called Mazuelo and Carineña. These old vines produce tannic, high acid wines that mingle fresh raspberry and black cherry flavors with an earthy, cedar-wood edge.

You may spot bottles with ‘Vigno’ on the label: this stands for Vignadores de Carignan, a group of growers in the Maule offering wine from vines that are at least 30 years old and dry farmed (that is, grown without irrigation.) One favorite: Garcia + Schwaderer’s 2010 Maule Valley Vigno Carignan($40). Brambly blackberry and white pepper flavors, significant tannins, and lots of acidity make this a fantastic match for a fatty steak. Other producers to seek out include Gillmore and Garage Wine Co.

PINOT NOIR

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[Photograph: Shutterstock]

Drive toward Antarctica and you’ll hit the the valleys of Itata, Bío Bío, and Malleco. Thanks to the cooler temperatures in these regions, Pinot Noir can ripen slower over the growing season, which helps the grape keep its nuanced aromas and fresh acidity.

Up for an adventure? The Clos de Fous Latuffa 2012 Pinot Noir ($30) from Traiguén in Malleco is unlike any wine I’ve tasted. One of the partners in the project is Pedro Parra, a wine terroir consultant who is really pushing for the discovery and appreciation of Chile’s soils. There are classic pinot flavors of black cherry and rose petals, but it’s all wrapped in an intriguing combination of gentian, sage, and pine that’ll have you thinking of your favorite amaro.

Note: Casa Silva, Clos de Fous, Merino, Sol de Sol, Garcia + Schwaderer, and Mayu were provided as tasting samples for review consideration.

List Of Must See Things Do When In Austin

List Of Must See Things Do When In Austin

View of downtown Austin, TX

Austin is known for its incredible music, delicious restaurants and food trucks, excellent university, and vibrant tech scene. It’s a city on the move, where people who love the outdoors, warm weather, and succulent BBQ flock to live. And with its never-ending conferences and music and sports events, it’s one that attracts people from around the world. Austin is a weird little big city that I have yet to see someone not love.

I’ve been living here since May, and in the last couple of months since taking a break from my travels, I’ve buried myself in two things: writing and keeping active (OK, copious amounts of eating and drinking too).

Since you’ve already seen the writing (it’s all the previous blog posts), I want to share some of the favorite things I’ve done in this amazing city (for when you visit — come stay at my hostel, HK Austin, when you do!). I hope they’ll help you fall in love with it just a little more quickly.

Barton Springs

People relaxing at Barton Springs in Austin
Barton Springs is a pool/creek that everyone flocks to in the warm summer months. Fed by a natural cold-water spring in Zilker Park (see below), the city-run Barton Springs Pool features manicured lawns that are great for lounging on and relaxing with your friends. The wide pool gives you plenty of room to float around and cool off, as the temperature can hit 100 degrees in the summer. The pool costs $3 to get into (for residents, but they never ask for proof), and while there’s lots of space around it, I often prefer to lounge on the creek itself. While the banks are rockier and there are fewer places to lounge, it’s free, it’s the same water, and you can drink and eat along it (something that is prohibited in the pool).

Zilker Park

Gardens in Zilker Park in Austin
Zilker Park is in the heart of South Austin and offers many different types of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, jogging, and anything else you can do in a park. Barton Springs (see above) is here, and there’s a botanical garden and the ever-awesome outdoor Umlauf Sculpture Garden, centered on the artistic works of Charles Umlauf.

The Greenbelt

A trail on the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin
Located in south-central Austin, the Barton Creek Greenbelt contains 12 miles of gorgeous trails where you can bike, run, or walk. There are even beautiful limestone bluffs for rock climbing and,—when there’s enough water in the creek — several swimming holes to cool off in. If you are looking to get out and enjoy the nice weather, this is one of the best places to do it. It’s a favorite of everyone in the city and one of the best things about Austin!

Two-stepping

Performers playing at The White Horse in Austin
When in Rome…err, Austin, two-step! Country dancing is all over the city, with the White Horse being the most famous spot (if you go on Wednesday, they give free two-step lessons). The Broken Spoke is another popular place too.

Movie at the Alamo Drafthouse

The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX
The Alamo Drafthouse is a local institution with multiple locations, where you can watch a movie, drink beer, and order food. Besides showing mainstream movies, they also screen quirky movies and weird previews, host the local Rocky Horror event, and play many classic and cult films throughout the month. This place is more than just a theater, it’s a place for those who love and appreciate film.

LBJ Library

Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin
Lyndon B. Johnson was one of the most powerful US presidents of the 20th century. A complex man, he helped push forward the Great Society, expanding civil rights and the social safety net, while at the same time expanding the war in Vietnam. His presidential library is in Austin, and while it’s not a “hot” thing to do, I highly recommend a visit to learn about one of the most colorful and controversial presidents the country has ever seen.

Rainey Street

Rainey Street in Austin, TX
This nightlife area is filled with old houses that have been converted into bars. Originally the “hipster” part of the city, it’s now mainstream and teems with people on the weekend. Personally, I hate coming here on the weekends: it’s too crowded and there are too many bachelor/ette parties. I find the scene a little too wild for me (though you may not). Instead, my favorite time to visit is for after-work drinks, when there is just the right amount of people to feel busy and exciting but not overwhelming. From Banger’s for Sunday brunch to Clive Bar, Half Step, and Bungalow for drinks, and Craft Bar for craft beer, Rainey is an eclectic and fun place to hang out — as long as you avoid the weekends.

First Thursday

People celebrating at an event in Austin, Texas
One the first Thursday of every month, the South Congress Hotel hosts a huge event with musicians and an all-night happy hour. It’s one of the biggest nights of the month for young professionals and a wonderful a place to have fun, meet new people (Austinites are very friendly), and drink cheap. You don’t want to miss this if you’re in town. It’s one of my favorite monthly social activities.

Drink a cocktail

Drink a cocktail in Austin, TX
While beer and cheap drinks are still king here, there is a growing cocktail bar scene in the city. I’d personally rather drink a cocktail than be at a noisy bar. If you’re looking for the perfect cocktail, try Firehouse Lounge, Floppy Disk Repair Shop, Midnight Cowboy, Garage, Whistler’s (see above), and Weather Up (but only for happy hour, as their drinks are slightly overpriced).

Whistler’s

Lots of whiskeys
This bar on the east side of the city is one of the coolest in town, and when I’m in Austin, you’ll probably find me here (it’s also pretty close to my hostel). You’ll also find a robust whiskey selection, knowledgeable bartenders, a cool crowd, and a giant outdoor patio space. On the weekends, an upstairs mescal bar opens. Whistler’s also hosts one of the most famous food trucks in Austin, Thai Khun, which serves some of the city’s best Thai food (the khao man gai (chicken with rice) is spot on). This is a must-visit bar!

Music

A crowd enjoying music at Stubb's in Austin, TX
Austin’s music scene is world-renowned, and there’s always some live music going on or a big musician in town. You’ll find a lot of music on Sixth Street and in the downtown area. Most of the bars host musicians. Stubb’s is a world-famous music venue downtown and hosts a lot of big-name musicians in its outdoor venue. Try to see a show there if you can!

Eating

Delicious Austin, TX BBQ
Austin’s food scene is damn good (though it needs a few more ethnic places). From BBQ to American to organic to Mexican, you can’t go wrong here. Here are my some of my favorite spots (longer list can be found here) that will help you put on 10 lbs. before you leave:

  • Bar Chi (206 Colorado St., (512) 382-5557, www.barchiaustin.com) – Decent sushi but an unbelievably affordable happy hour (5-7pm each day). My friends and I come here because it satisfies the sushi craving on the cheap!
  • Wu Cho (500 W. 5th St. #168, (512) 476-2469, wuchowaustin.com) – This is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Austin. It serves a very popular dim sum brunch on Sundays. Be sure to come early as it gets packed during dinnertime and Sunday brunch, and the wait for a table can be up to an hour.
  • Launderette (2115 Holly St., (512) 382-1599, launderetteaustin.com) – Located in an old laundromat, this restaurant is one of the hottest spots in town and serves an amazing menu of Americana and seafood, as well as a decent selection of wine. Some of my favorite dishes include crab toast, burrata, okra, Brussels sprouts, and grilled octopus. If you’re coming for dinner, come early, as it fills up fast.
  • Truluck’s (400 Colorado St., (512) 482-9000, trulucks.com) – This is my favorite steak restaurant because it’s one of the few places where you can also get fresh seafood (crab, oysters, lobster). It’s not cheap, but if you want an upscale steak house, try this.
  • Péché (208 W. 4th St., (512) 494-4011, www.pecheaustin.com) – A New Orleans–inspired restaurant serving Bayou food, with a very friendly staff, tasty cocktails, and an extensive whiskey list.
  • La Barbecue (1906 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 605-9696, www.labarbecue.com) – BBQ is a matter of perspective. A lot of people say Franklin’s is the best, but La Barbecue is #1 to me. It opens at 11am. Expect two-hour waits during lunchtime, so get here early.
  • Veracruz (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 981-1760, veracruztacos.com) – The best food truck in town (conveniently located across the street from my hostel). It makes wonderful breakfast tacos, and the migas was voted #1 in the country. There is never really a line, but service is slow.
  • Torchy’s (multiple locations, torchystacos.com/in/austin) – World famous (and another spot where the president ate), this taco restaurant has multiple locations around town. It lives up to all the hype! The food here is pretty spicy. I’m a big fan of the fried avocado and “trailer park” tacos. Every location is always packed, so expect a wait, especially on the weekends.
  • P. Terry’s (multiple locations, pterrys.com) – This is the best burger bar in town. It’s delicious and cheap (you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for $6 USD), with filling portions. This is one of my all-time favorite spots in Austin, and since it’s close to my house, I tend to eat here too often!
  • Leaf (115 W. 6th St., (512) 474-5323, leafsalad.com) – This new lunchtime salad place is incredible (also the line is long). Its gigantic salad bar has anything and everything you could ever want to put in a salad. It’s one of my favorite places for a healthy meal in Austin.
  • True Kitchen (222 West Ave. #HR100, (512) 777-2430, truefoodkitchen.com) – This new restaurant is incredibly popular with people after work. All its food is natural and organic. You’ll find healthy wraps, salad bowls, sandwiches, and fresh and flavorful seafood, as well as an incredible selection of wine and cocktails.
  • Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar (1400 S. Congress Ave., (512) 291-7300, www.perlasaustin.com)Some of the best seafood and oysters in town!
  • Home Slice Pizza (1415 S Congress Ave., (512) 444-7437, www.homeslicepizza.com) Hands down the best pizza around!
  • Clark’s Oyster Bar (1200 W. 6th St., (512) 297-2525, www.clarksoysterbar.com) – Another awesome spot for seafood, with an incredible oyster happy hour from 3 to 7!

Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market in Austin, TX
Why visit Whole Foods? I mean, they have those everywhere, right? Well, this one is special. This is the original store — and it’s massive. Its salad bar goes on seemingly forever, there are very good restaurants in the store, the rooftop features patio seating, and musicians play on the weekends. It’s an amazing place that is also a popular spot for after-work drinks and Sunday brunches. Stop by at least once to get your fill (and enjoy the walk in beer fridge).

***
Austin is a perfect little city, offering visitors a plethora of activities to fill the 3-4 days most people spend here. It’s a city to live in. You don’t really sightsee here; you get active. You go out, hang out, and eat out. Skip most of the local museums, get outside, enjoy the food, the drinks, and the music, and get the most out of one of the best cities in the United States — and the place I call home!Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

An Inside Look At Living and Working in Saudi Arabia

An Inside Look At Living and Working in Saudi Arabia

Teacher in Saudi Arabia poses on sand dune

Saudi Arabia is a country of mystery: it’s not easy to visit as a tourist as tourist visas are rarely approved, non-Muslims can’t visit the holy sites like Mecca and Medina, and most workers live on special compounds. My friends who have lived there have told me that’s a weird life – you stay mostly on the work compounds, you can’t really travel many places, and it’s often suggested you don’t wander the streets alone, especially as a woman.

So when Ceil write me explaining that she was a Jamaican woman teaching English in Saudi Arabia, I was instantly curious! “What would that be like?!” I wondered. Saudi Arabia is a lucrative place to teach but what is life in the country actually like? Is it worth it? Ceil gives us insight:

NomadicMatt: Tell us about yourself.
Ceil Tulloch: My name’s Ceil Tulloch and I’m 44 years old. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in New York City. I’ve been teaching ESL/EFL abroad for the past 11 years – first, in the Far East and more recently in the Middle East. Currently, I’m teaching at a university in north-western Saudi Arabia and have been in the Kingdom for a total of two years. I’m a global adventurer who has traveled to 41 countries, a travel blogger and also the author of the nonfiction book, Remembering Peter Tosh (2013).

What is life like as a foreigner in the country? Sum it up as best as possible!
First, it’s conservative and provincial. This is the first country that I’ve resided in where the genders are segregated so severely and there are numerous restrictions on mobility. Since I’m accustomed to interacting and socializing with males, plus coming and going as I please, it was initially difficult coming to terms with the policy of not associating with men who aren’t relatives in public, the separate entrances to public establishments for males and females, or being denied total access to a facility due to my being female.

Second, it’s quiet and secluded. Due to there being no social venues (amusement parks, clubs, movie theaters, bars, public swimming pools, etc.) in the Kingdom, socializing is confined to the compound. So, unless somebody decides to throw a party, or extend a dinner invitation, life’s very quiet here.

Third, it’s diverse. The expat population is approximately 20% of the total Saudi population; therefore, foreigners have the chance to meet people from the four corners of the earth right here. That’s pretty special.

Interesting. How did you end up teaching there??
Quite by accident. Although my master’s degree is in Education and my BA in English Literature, I never wanted to teach. While working as an admin at a firm in Manhattan, I saw an ad for becoming TESOL certified and decided to contact the Director of the Institute. He spoke so enthusiastically about his personal experiences of teaching ESL for a decade in South America, I decided to enroll in the course. The instructor was excellent and after I’d completed the program, I decided to go to South Korea and teach there for two years. I had so much fun I ended up staying for seven years.

The opportunity then arose to teach in Saudi Arabia – and I was curious about life in the Middle East – so I accepted the contract. Afterward, I worked in the Sultanate of Oman for two years. Now, I’m been back in Saudi Arabia for one final contract.

ESL teacher in South Korea with her elementary school students
What kind of work do you do in the Kingdom?
Since relocating to the Middle East, I’ve been teaching students at the collegiate level in what’s called the Preparatory Year Program (PYP). The English language PYP is a prerequisite for students prior to them being able to study their major. Its aim is to provide students with the rudiments of the four English language skills that will enable them to express themselves in English at the Freshman level.

Is it easy to find work as a teacher in Saudi Arabia?  What is the process like?
Understandably, retention is problematic here, so there are many teaching opportunities available in the Kingdom throughout the year – especially for males. The minimum credential required for native teachers here is a Bachelor’s degree. The preferred disciplines are: English, TESOL, or Applied Linguistics. Additionally, two or three references are usually required. If a candidate wants to teach at a secondary or an International school, a teaching license from his/her home country is mandatory. Applicants for university positions almost invariably need a Master’s degree or higher in one of the aforementioned subjects, plus a CELTA or TESL certificate with over 100 hours. Naturally, having prior teaching experience in the region is advantageous. Currently, the age limit for teachers here is 60 years old. The Kingdom doesn’t accept online degrees either.

Upon arrival into the Kingdom, the employer will request a notarized and authenticated copy of your university degrees, two color photos, and your passport in order to apply for your resident permit/work visa which is known as the iqama. It took me two months to get my iqama, but can take several months. Once an expat has an iqama, s/he is now able to conduct business transactions such as banking, getting phone service and internet, and mailing packages at the post office.

Due to the recent economic crisis and drop in oil prices, it’s becoming more challenging to find plum teaching positions here. In the past, I could pick and choose from several offers, but this last time, I only received one and the package offered wasn’t as lucrative as it was four years ago. My friends at other universities across the Kingdom have also shared similar experiences. They’re being offered less attractive packages and if they want to renew their contracts, are being asked to take a cut in salary.

Why did you take the job in Saudi Arabia?
To be quite frank, I wanted to do some more traveling in the Middle East and Africa. Saudi Arabia is the perfect location for me to achieve my goals because I can also save the most money here.

As a woman, how do you feel working and living in Saudi Arabia? It must be quite a different experience.
It’s been quite challenging being an expat here. As you already know, females aren’t allowed to drive or cycle in the Kingdom and many places such as parks, gyms, and eateries are off-limits to us. Plus, once I’m outdoors, I must wear the abaya – which is rather encumbering. So, being a very independent and liberal person, it took me a while to adjust to the Saudi lifestyle.

In terms of teaching here, it’s a bit frustrating because education isn’t really valued and most students aren’t interested in learning. They basically come to school because their monarch gives them a monthly stipend (approx. $265 USD) to attend an institution of higher learning. Additionally, due to the culture, fun learning activities with music and film that can be implemented in the classrooms in places such as South Korea are prohibited here. So, the teaching experience for me hasn’t been as rewarding as it was in other places.

What advice do you have for people who want to live and work in Saudi Arabia?  Are there other jobs open to foreigners there – or is it mainly teaching positions?
I’d recommend that people who desire to come to the Kingdom do a bit of research on the culture to ensure that this is the right place for them. If they opt to come, they must remember that the only thing that matters here is Sharia law… To survive here, they’ll need to leave their Western moral sensibilities behind.

Other employment opportunities in the Kingdom are in the fields of Energy, Health, Construction and domestic work, but tend to be restricted by nationality. I’ve noticed that the male engineers at the oil companies such as Aramco are from the USA, the UK, and South Africa. The doctors and pharmacists are predominantly Egyptian, the nurses are females from the Philippines… The laborers/construction workers are primarily from India and Pakistan; while the housekeepers hail from Africa and Indonesia.

Woman teaching in Saudi Arabia at a camel farm wearing Middle Eastern clothes

How does one get a job teaching if you aren’t in Saudi Arabia?
The best way to job hunt here is by networking. If you don’t have any contacts, the next best option is to use websites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe and Serious Teachers. They were very helpful when I was job hunting. Going through a recruiter is also an option since many institutions here seem to be leaning more towards the third-party method instead of the traditional direct-hire method. Once you’ve been offered a contract, you’ll have to return to your homeland in order to start the application process that I mentioned earlier.

I tend to prefer schools that are well established as opposed to start-ups. If I’m unfamiliar with the universities that I’m interested in working at, I’ll do a Google search of teachers’ reviews of those institutions to learn their experiences and opinions. The three things that matter most to me when considering a university offer are:

  1. The length of contract – I prefer one instead of two-year contracts because if it isn’t working for me, having a commitment for more than a year will be very painful.
  2. The promptness in paying salary – There have been many horror stories of institutions here not paying teachers on time or in full. So, I want to ensure that isn’t an issue at the university I elect to work.
  3. The standard of accommodation –  I like to see photos of the compound / hotel where I’ll be residing. I’ve been lucky to have decent housing, but other teachers haven’t been as fortunate. Some live in decrepit spaces and have to share rooms.

Why do you think teaching is a good option for people looking to live abroad?
I believe that teaching overseas is an excellent way for people to immerse themselves in a new culture, plus hone their teaching and communication skills. Since there are numerous teaching positions around the globe, this is a wonderful employment opportunity for people who enjoy traveling and want to stay in a particular country for several months or years. Most teaching contracts offer generous vacation/leave days during the school year and summer break, which is ideal for teachers to indulge their wanderlust.

For someone looking to live and work in Saudi Arabia (in general, not specific to teaching), what are three pieces of advice you would give them?

  1. Bring as much Saudi currency (riyals) as possible with you to tide you over until you receive your first paycheck. Depending upon your arrival date and the employer’s policy regarding payment, an expat might have to wait a couple of months before receiving his/her first wages.
  2. Expats need to understand that contracts here aren’t as binding as they are back in the West. Sometimes benefits that are initially promised don’t materialize. For example, relocation allowances and bonuses.
  3. A positive attitude and sense of humor are essential for enjoying your experiences in Saudi Arabia.

If you want to read more about life in Saudi Arabia, check out Ceil’s travel blog.

Become the Next Success Story

One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way, but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world. I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who gave up living a typical life to explore the world:

We all come from different places, but we all have one thing in common: we all want to travel more.

Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

10 Awesome Destinations for Solo Female Travelers

10 Awesome Destinations for Solo Female Travelers

amazing glaciers in iceland

Every month (most of the time), Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes a guest column featuring tips and advice for solo female travelers as I obviously can’t talk expertly on the subject! She’s back this month with an awesome list of destinations for female travelers!

Traveling solo is a unique opportunity to find out exactly who you are in completely new surroundings and without anyone around from your past to influence you. That can be a scary prospect, but the good news is there are plenty of places out there that can make you feel safe and welcome. And when in the right place, a solo trip — regardless of how long it is — has the power to benefit you for years or even a lifetime thereafter.

Before I traveled alone, I was pretty terrified, mostly because I didn’t think I’d like my own company enough to be solo 24/7. I was delighted to find that I met new people constantly (something that’s true for solo travelers in general). When on the road, people are social.

While it was possible to feel inspired and delighted everywhere, a few places in particular stand out as great options for women traveling alone. Below are 10 solo travel destinations that you probably didn’t expect to be awesome for solo female travelers in particular, whether for their women-oriented businesses or for their safety, solitude, spirituality, or sociability:

1. The Karoo, South Africa

Overlooking view in The Karoo, South Africa
Most people who visit South Africa head right to Cape Town or Kruger National Park, and while those spots are both popular for good reasons, why not take a look at the orange, rocky, rugged bush called the Karoo as well? It’s safer than Cape Town and less crowded than Kruger.

It didn’t take long for the Karoo to feel special to me while I was staying on a farm there, appropriately called The Rest. As a solo traveler, a great way to get to know the area is to do some kind of workaway program at such a place.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: South Africa, with its high levels of crime, might not initially seem like a logical destination for solo female travel. However, the rural parts, like the Karoo, are so isolated and far from the sometimes-dangerous bustle of the cities that staying with a family there and learning how to work the land can be both a safe and character-building experience.

Plus, with all of that space and time to feel and think, it can promote a lot of personal growth. Such a desolate landscape, with almost nobody and nothing around, can give you much time and freedom to think and feel, which is one of the greatest benefits of solo travel.

2. Yubeng, China

Flags in Yubeng, China
Yubeng is a remote village in the Chinese Himalayas that can only be reached by foot or mule. During the hike in, I saw Tibetan prayer flags strung from tree to tree, snow softly falling, and animals roaming freely all throughout the town. There are stupas (mound-like structures containing relics and used for meditation) everywhere.

Yubeng is peaceful in a way that much of the rest of China isn’t. The feeling is hard to explain, but it’s felt by all who pass through. If you’re overwhelmed with the rest of China, seek refuge in Yubeng.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: In the big cities, scams often target young female tourists, but in the Himalayas, you’re more of an esteemed guest. The friendly people of Yubeng are so relaxed, patient, and welcoming, as are the younger tourists who flock there, often with some English-language ability and curiosity about foreign visitors.

As a solo traveler, I was worried that I would be completely going this one alone, but I was surprised and delighted to find that young and friendly Chinese people take this route too, seeking the same sacred place.

3. Maui, Hawaii

Getting ready to catch waves in Maui, Hawaii
Maui isn’t typically what comes to mind when most people think of a solo trip, but with all its activities — from surfing and hiking to driving the road to Hana and taking boating and snorkeling tours — it’s actually a great place for those flying solo.

With its constantly changing microclimates, the beautiful island has pockets of sandy sunset beaches, sprawling resorts, quaint little camping spots, and hikes through the valley.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: The cool thing about Maui is that it feels like a different country than the States, what with the tropical weather and Hawaiian culture, but you don’t need a passport, an RTW flight, or to learn a different language to enjoy it. Plus, there are female-focused activities — like the Maui Surfer Girls camp, designed specifically for solo female travelers who are looking for a supportive group of women to take up a new sport with. It’s an experience that is both empowering and fun!

4. El Chaltén, Argentina

Incredible view at El Chaltén, Argentina
If you love nature, there’s almost no better spot in the world to enjoy it fully than in Patagonia. Much of the region can be quite remote, but El Chaltén is Argentina’s trekking capital, and as such there are plenty of hostels there, and the whole town is totally chilled out. It also draws plenty of solo travelers who are open and happy to meet others to share the trails with, some of whom I met and hiked with when I was there (albeit not solo myself), and we left as new friends.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: With its constant catcalls, South America can sometimes feel stressful for solo female travelers, but this trekking town is different. It’s full of nature-loving artists and hippies who are welcoming, as well as hikes that are full enough of people that even if you show up solo, you can easily meet others on the trails. So, you could spend time in town just chilling and relaxing, or you could join glacier hikes, learn how to rock climb, or go on camping excursions, all of which accommodate solo travelers.

5. Iceland

Reveling in nature in Iceland
It hit me as I was staring up at the Northern Lights in Iceland, watching them swirl and snake across the sky in flashes of green, that this has got to be, hands-down, one of the most unique and drop-dead gorgeous places on this planet, with its black sand beaches, icy fjords, and those huggable, iconic ponies. Where else can you see the northern lights, geysers, and incredible land formations all in one spot? I saw so many waterfalls, I stopped counting anymore or even paying attention. That’s how abundant the natural beauty is!

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Iceland is the safest country in the world. Seriously, people leave their cars running, with the keys inside, when they go grocery shopping. That’s how high the level of trust between people is! Plus, the capital draws so many solo travelers on layovers from the US that it won’t be hard to meet someone cool at your hostel to split a car rental with for a day trip like the Golden Circle or even a longer journey like the Ring Road.

6. Ylläs, Finland

Snowcapped trees and a beautiful sky in Ylläs, Finland
When thinking about an escape, heading to the Arctic during the winter was not exactly at the top of my list, but after experiencing how amazing the Arctic could be in Iceland, I went for it: Lapland, Finland, in January.

I found that when the weather is so cold that it drops to 30° below freezing, the air becomes incredibly crisp. Also, that far north, the sun barely sits on the horizon during the short time that it’s out, creating an an unusual combination sunrise/sunset.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: The locals are so darn amiable that you’re sure to make a few friends, especially if you head to the female-owned-and-run Aurora Estate, where the owners can help you plan some awesome excursions snowmobiling and snowshoeing. The region is also home to the only ski slopes in the country, which tend to draw solo travelers. Head to an after-ski bar, join a husky safari, or talk to the locals in Snowman World (ice bar and restaurant). Who knows? You might catch the Northern Lights, too!

7. Big Sur, California

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California
I call California home, but for some reason it took me until I was 29 to finally visit Big Sur — and I couldn’t believe what I had been missing: the rocky coastline, whales breaching in the distance, dolphins just about every time I looked at the horizon, and waterfalls in the state parks. It’s no wonder that the Central Coast has long enchanted actors, poets, and writers (just crack open any book by Jack Kerouac and you’re bound to read at least a little bit about coastal California, particularly Big Sur).

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Camping in Big Sur is the perfect opportunity to meet others, because campers are friendly. Chances are good you can make a pal at the very next camping spot, especially if you offer them a locally-brewed beer. The hustle and bustle of Los Angeles turns some visitors off, so if what you’re seeking is some incredible nature, just head five hours north and you’ll be in paradise. How can you stare up at a redwood tree (some of the largest and oldest trees in the world) and not feel moved?

8. Bayfield, Wisconsin

Incredible caves in Bayfield, Wisconsin
Those who have never been to Bayfield might be scratching their heads, wondering how Wisconsin made this list. But trust me on this one, because it’s a unique Midwest gem.

It’s a tiny town full of artists, and people are incredibly friendly, living up to that Midwestern charm. Just about every person I met there seemed to have the time to stop and talk to me.

And you absolutely cannot beat the amazing sea caves! There’s something really special about kayaking through them. Or jump on a boat, sail around Lake Superior, and live a bit like Robinson Crusoe.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: I was afraid that Bayfield might be lonely since it initially seems like a family destination, but I made friends easily on kayaking tours around the caves, which accommodated me as a solo traveler, and found it easy to speak to people working in the restaurants and even on the sidewalk. Plus, it’s a safe place with low to no crime, so as a solo female traveler, you can even camp alone and enjoy the solitude.

9. Sossusvlei, Namibia

The desert in Sossusvlei, Namibia
It might seem like a barren desert isn’t the place to enjoy by yourself, but I have found it to be quite the opposite. That kind of space to think and feel can really be incredible for personal development. Plus, in Namibia it’s warm and dry, so the sky is absolutely incredible for stargazing.

Climbing up and around Dune 45 at sunrise was a beautiful experience for me. After everyone else descended, I stayed up top to explore a bit more — and I had the whole view to myself. Can you imagine sitting in one of nature’s biggest sandboxes and having it feel like it’s all yours? My inner six-year-old rejoiced.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Namibia is adventurous and social without feeling dangerous. All of the backpackers and camping accommodations have pools and other common areas, which makes it easy to meet others if you’re solo. It’s also a gorgeous destination in Africa that isn’t crowded and chaotic, and is more about the peace and space than anything else. In a country of only two million people, your biggest worry is the scorpions (for real, though — watch out for those!).

You can also join a tour or safari and meet plenty of other solo travelers. It’s what I did, and what Matt did too when visiting the area.

10. Berlin, Germany

Gritty street art in Berlin, Germany
How did a big city make this list? Well, Berlin is not just any city; it’s full of artists and has been for the past 30 or so years. It’s hard not to feel inspired in a place where so many people make their living by creating and honoring their passions. This is why I’ve also made it my home base and became a resident of Germany. I just couldn’t be without this funky place for too long!

Though it’s the capital, Berlin doesn’t feel crowded because it is so spread out. And with so many big parks in just about every neighborhood, peace and quiet is easy to come by.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Berlin draws many solo travelers, and it’s easy to meet others. It’s also a socially progressive city with a low violent crime rate that’s simple to navigate and easy to love. Take a street art tour and combine everything at once! There are also tons of expats, so check out a Meetup.com group or a Couchsurfing event to get a mix of visitors and those who are more familiar with the city.

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While solo traveling and soul-searching don’t lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all approach, generally the places that draw solo travelers are the ones that are the most interesting and unique, provide opportunities to enjoy nature and connect with others (and with yourself). Regardless of which place you’re targeting in the world, with these options covering just about every continent and style of travel, you can find a place that suits you.

Conquering Mountains: The Guide to Solo Female Travel

conquering mountains: solo female travel by kristin addisFor a complete A-to-Z guide on solo female travel, check out Kristin’s new book, Conquering Mountains. Besides discussing many of the practical tips of preparing and planning your trip, the book addresses the fears, safety, and emotional concerns women have about traveling alone. It features over 20 interviews with other female travel writers and travelers. Click here to learn more about the book and start reading it today!

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.

Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

How To Plan a Trip to a Place Your Know Nothing About

How To Plan a Trip to a Place Your Know Nothing About

Hindu temple in Sri Lanka
This week I am going to Sri Lanka and, outside a few facts I’d picked up by reading the news and talking to friends over the years, I recently realized I knew shockingly little about the country. I knew it was once ruled by the British, there was a long conflict between the Tamils and Sinhalese, the country produces a lot of tea, it has beyond-delicious food, its capital is Colombo, and there are some amazing jungles and beaches to explore.

But, beyond that superficial understanding, I knew nothing.

I couldn’t tell you if the country was cheap or inexpensive, what to see, one famous ruin, safety issues, where is popular, how to get around, what their currency or culture is, or anything in between.

Sri Lanka was a blank slate to me.

That made me nervous.

While I have no intention of ever planning trips day-by-day or moment-by-moment, I never like to go somewhere blind — it’s a sure-fire way to get ripped off, eat the wrong thing, get sick, make a cultural faux pas, and generally have something go badly. Knowledge is power, and given that so much information about is available online, I feel like going somewhere without any understanding of that place shows a laziness in planning and a sign of an unskilled traveler.

(Read more: 12 Things Not to Do When You Travel and 27 Rules for Not Ruining Your Trip)

So, before I flew to Dubai two weeks ago, I sat down to plan my trip to this brand-new destination. Normally, if I have enough of a basic understanding of a place, I just wing it — I’ve been to neighboring countries, know people, or have read enough to have an idea. Sri Lanka required some work.

How I planned my trip to Sri Lanka
Sigiriya rock fortress in Sri Lanka

Faced with a knowledge gap, here’s what I did to fill it:

First, I bought the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka. I think guidebooks are still important for travelers. Even though their practical information is often out of date, I love looking over them to get an overview of how to get around, form ideas on what to see and do, suggest itineraries, and look at the maps and featured places. It helps me put together the foundation of my planning. Besides, there’s just something enjoyable about holding a book and highlighting places that reading a blog on Iceland doesn’t offer!

Second, speaking of blogs, I went searching for them, too. Guidebooks are a good foundation, but blogs can fill in a lot of gaps. You can find more up-to-date information and off-the-beaten-path destinations, and ask questions of the bloggers. I searched, read, and searched some more for content and stories that gave me a sense of the destination. For reference, these are the blog posts I read:

Third, I asked friends and family for their advice (or if they knew anyone who could give me advice). It turned out I had a few friends who had been there recently and a few with family there. They gave me advice, tips, and suggestions on hotels and restaurants, and they connected me to family members. Now when I land, I have some people to stay with, show me around, and help me get situated. Nothing beats a local host!

Fourth, I asked this community. With so many people reading this blog, I figured some would have been there. Tweeting, Facebooking, and my blog posts produced a flurry of messages with tips and advice, and some from locals looking to meet up. It was incredibly helpful, and now I have some people to hang out with when I go!

Since not everyone is a blogger, I would suggest Couchsurfing as an alternative. This website exists to connect travelers and locals, and there is a very active community in Sri Lanka.

Finally, I bought books. As I’ve said in the past, you can’t know a place if you don’t know its history. So with a long flight ahead, I bought two books about Sri Lanka’s history so I can get a better understanding of the country’s rich history:

(Note: I just started reading these books so I can’t tell you how they are yet! But, besides buying books, I also read the Wikipedia of a country and the history sections in a guidebook. They aren’t comprehensive but, for a general overview, they do the trick!)

Talking to friends, family, readers, and bloggers has now given me a sense of the destination: an affordable, safe place with friendly locals, delicious food, and slow transportation. “Everyone is incredibly nice and helpful, but don’t expect to get anywhere fast unless you rent a driver” was the common refrain.

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Beautiful view overlooking Sri Lanka
For the first time in a long time, I am going to a place I know nothing about. I am going to be a fish out of water… and I’m thrilled! I can’t wait to try to backpack and figure things out on the way again! Sri Lanka sees a lot of tourists and it’s not completely “off the beaten track” but it’s different to me.

I’m sure my plans, route, and ideas will change when I hit the ground. But as of now, I feel I have a better idea as to what I am getting myself into. I have a sense of what to expect and that makes me more slightly comfortable about visiting. You never know what a place is really like until you go, but now the picture of Sri Lanka is not a complete blur – it’s come into a lot more focus.

Visiting a place you’ve know little about in a region you’ve been can be somewhat intimidating. To go some place completely different pushes you out of your comfort zone and that can be a tricky thing. Even after ten years of travel, I still have a small amount of trepidation before I go. Sure, it disappears right when I land and I think “What was I so worried about?” but there is that voice in the back of my mind that sometimes goes “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Doing a little research to get an understanding of a place mutes that voice.

This is not about scheduling all your days and all your activities. That stuff should be done after you touch down based on how you feel each day. This simply is about being a more informed about the destination you are visiting.

Because a smart and informed traveler is a better traveler.

There’s still much to learn about Sri Lanka but now I don’t feel as if I’m completely at a loss or ignorant about the place.

P.S. – If you’re in Sri Lanka and you’d like to meet up with me while I’m there, e-mail me atmatt@nomadicmatt.com!

Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/