Skyroam: Everything You Need to Know About The Global Hotspot

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As a travel writer, it is crucial for me to stay connected to my audience on social media while traveling. Skyroam has been a life-changing device for me when I am traveling the world. 

What Is Skyroam?

Skyroam is a global hotspot that allows you to access the internet from your phone and computer from nearly anywhere on the planet with a phone signal. It uses 4G & 3G to provide "unlimited" data. It's a great way to avoid unwanted roaming and data charges from your wireless provider.

Skyroam has the ability to connect up to 5 devices. Although, I don’t suggest giving your password to friends because you won’t be able to get them to log off your device and it will bog down your connection speed. This little device is only about the size of one of the original iPods (remember those?), but it packs powerful punch!

What Does It Cost?

There are two ways to use Skyroam. You can rent the device free of charge or buy the device for $99. The service works in 24 hour periods.

Cost of Service:

  • Rent- 9.95/day
  • Own - $99 +$8/day

Buying the Skyroam device is the best option for frequent travelers. If you don’t travel often, then renting may be the best option. The break-even point for renting vs. owning is aproxamately 51 days of use. So, if you plan to travel more than 51 days while using Skyroam, it would be best to purchase the device.

Does it Work?

I have had excellent luck with Skyroam. It has worked in almost every country I have traveled to, (with the exceptions being Myanmar and Cuba). The battery has been great, as one charge lasts an entire day of using social media, uploading photos and checking emails!  

Where Does It Work?

Skyroam currently works in over 100 countries world wide. To see a list of covered countries, click here.

Why You Need Skyroam

  • With Skyroam you won't have to deal with overage fees from sneaky wireless providers, where oftentimes it's unclear how much data you are using and what your bill will be.
  • Skyroam allows users to access the wifi as needed. Only use it when you need it (in 24 hour increments) and then you only pay for what you use!
  • Now there is no need to hassle with your wireless provider before a trip. No need to tell Skyroam when you are leaving the country and where you are going. Simply turn it on when you get to your destination, and hit start! 
  • Skyroam will give you unlimited data. It will only slow the speed down slightly when you use a lot of data.
  • No need to change to a local SIM card ever again, which is great because half the time they never work for me, even though I have a globally unlocked iPhone.
  • Skyroam is secure and your hotspot is password protected. This is a much more secure option than using public wifi where you are subject to vulnerabilities! 

I use Skyroam on my travels all over the world. It has made staying connected easier, more affordable, and more reliable! It has been a game-changer for me, and they have certainly earned my stamp of approval!

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3 Travel-Inspired Meals Easy Enough to Make in Your Airbnb 

Staying in an Airbnb can often be a better alternative to a hotel when traveling. One of the benefits is that an Airbnb will often have a kitchen. The problem is, unless your Airbnb host is extremely generous, you will most likely have no spices or ingredients to work with. This means you will need a few simple recipes up your sleeve to make a delicious dinner with little ingredients or fuss.

I reached out to Chef Bo and Chef Dylan of Bo.Lan Restaurant in Bangkok to get some easy and delicious recipes inspired by one of my favorite foodie destinations, Thailand! These recipes are easy enough to be made in your Airbnb, and delicious enough to give you a little wanderlust for a trip to Thailand. 

Tuk-Tuk in Bangkok

Tuk-Tuk in Bangkok

Summer Salad:

Ingredients: Cucumber, jicama, mint, coriander, shallot, cooked prawn, chili, fish sauce, lime juice, unpolished sugar. 

Step 1: Slice chili and place in the bowl, add sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Taste.  

Step 2: Slice cucumber, baton jicama, pick mint and coriander. Blanched or grill prawn.   

Step 3: Toss everything together. 


Herbal Mussels:

Ingredients: Fresh Mussel, lemongrass, galangal, shallot, kefir lime leave and Thai basil; Beer or white wine 

Step 1: Make a seafood dressing by blending to taste the following; garlic, chili, lime, fish sauce, sugar

Step 2: Braise mussels. Turn on high heat and place mussels in the pot. Cover the pot Pour in small amount of wine of beer to prevent it from burning. Finish with Thai basil. Steam until open and cooked.  

Step 3: Blend all ingredients together. Make it spicy and sour!


Stir-Fried Young Pumpkin with Prawn:  

Ingredients: Fresh coriander, garlic, prawns, fresh pumpkin, fish sauce, and cooking oil

Step 1: Pound coriander roots, garlic & white pepper, add fish sauce to make a paste.

Step 2: Peel pumpkin and prawn.

Step 3: In the pan, add a bit of oil.  Fry the paste with pumpkin. Cook till the pumpkin slightly cook add peeled prawn and seasoned with fish sauce to taste. 


Chinatown, Bangkok

Chinatown, Bangkok

If you want to try some of Chef Bo and Chef Dylan’s cooking, they are going to be in San Francisco May 27 at the Chang Sensory Trails, offering tasty bites from their own memories of cooking. 

Other local San Francisco Thai restaurants will also be there selling other bites famous in Thailand. For more information on the event, you can check out the Facebook page here.

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Mongolia: What to Know Before You Go

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Mongolia… even the name conjures images of Genghis Khan and his warriors galloping across the endless steppe.  I have been dreaming of visiting Mongolia since I was a little Girl and in the autumn of 2016 those dreams became a reality.  Tourism in Mongolia has been extremely limited until the early 90’s when the fall of communism finally allowed a trickle of adventures to venture into this mysterious country. Over the years Mongolia has enticed “off the beaten track” travelers due to its unique and relatively unexplored nature, a wide variety of untouched landscapes and wildlife, nomadic life style and culture.  

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Over the years I have kicked myself for not getting to some of those untouched places before they became too touristy. Like Ethiopia and Burma. I had opportunities to visit both countries several years back before they were on every photographers bucket list but sadly missed out.  I had no attentions of letting Mongolia join that list of “I should have” destinations.

Luckily for travelers in the future, I think Mongolia has many years before it turns into an easy accessible tourist destination. Because of its remote location it’s like nowhere I have ever traveled to before.  Being a nomadic culture it does not have some of the monuments and temples that many other countries have which is usually my starting point.  When I started to plan my trip it was difficult to know where to start and what not to miss. The more I read about Mongolia the more I was inspired by the people and the faces, and I knew I just really wanted to sap up as much culture as I could.

Here are some of my suggestions if you are planning a trip to Mongolia in the near future.

What to See and When to Go

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The weather in September was perfect with chilly nights and days in the 70’s but over the course of a month that would drop severely to 16 and snowy at nights.  A warm sleeping bag is a MUST because the weather can literally change overnight. The weather is tricky in the winter it’s brutal, -40 brutal! And in the summer it can be very hot and filled with mosquitos.  August and September are generally the best months to go.  Come prepared for the weather. Boots, hat, jackets and warm sleeping bag did not go unused.  Waterproof clothing is a must.

Budget. 

I found this part to be very difficult and like always I spent more money than I anticipated. Mongolia is not South East Asia and don’t expect to find those prices and deals. Mongolia is changing at a rapid pace and I felt like my beloved lonely planet was very out of date on prices and some all around things on Mongolia.  Mongolia is not really on the main tourist trail as of yet but I think that is changing fast. For this reason the travel infrastructure outside the cities and major travel destinations is minimal at best.  If you are not going on a organized tour (which is not my style, but they sure make things easier) then you will be hard pressed to find hotels, restaurants and even roads in some of the areas I was in. Outside the cities it is very tough.  So as an independent traveler this makes thing difficult.  I did meet people doing it. Taking local transportation, camping and so on but you will need a lot of time. Now if you had your own car and you were camping that would be pretty easy and cheap if you had a good GPS. 

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Finding A Local Guide

I don’t normally use guides, mostly because of budget but Mongolia will forever change my mind on this matter. As a photographer a guide can really take you to places where you could not get otherwise.  I met people and had incredible experiences that would not be possible without a great guide. I paid about $100 a day.  If you share this with a few people it’s not very expensive at all. Worth every penny. Then you would also need to hire a driver which is around $50 a day. Again things in Mongolia are changing fast, so this may not be the case forever. Of course there are so many guides. Having had a fantastic guide for some of the trip and then a really terrible one later on it’s important you do your research and try to find a great guide.

What to See

My favorite part was the Ulgii region (in the north with the eagle hunters) the mountains up there are incredible.  There are a lot of national parks and wildlife areas so if you like to hike this is a fantastic area.  I spent 4 days riding horses, which is a must.  I can’t tell you how amazing it is to ride all-day and camp at night.  Besides that it’s really all about the culture and meeting people and again this is where a guide can really help.

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Hotels & Transportation

Outside the cities and major tourist areas…good luck. I spent a lot of time camping which is completely safe and you can camp most places. I also did a few of home stays which was one of the highlights of the trip. We organized a few days stay with the eagle hunters in the north which was incredible.

The More Time, The Better

Like always the more time the better, but Mongolia can be tough. Flights can book up early sometimes 6 months ahead of time during holidays and festivals and there are very limited seats on their domestic flight. Flights like ours can be canceled with no warning or fee so it’s good to have some extra time if you need to change things up a bit. Roads can be terrible and it can really take 5 days to drive some places.

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Female Travelers

I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable at all. I was traveling with my husband but I would do that trip again without him. I did meet many independent female travelers. Mongolia has a long history of some pretty bad-ass women so for the most part I think it is very progressive and violence against woman travelers is very rare

If you are up for an amazing adventure Mongolia will not disappoint.  It’s a beautiful country with much to offer. Whether you are into horseback riding on the Mongolian steppe, hiking in some of the more remote places on earth or experiencing untouched culture, Mongolia is one of those places that should not be missed.

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Contributor: Amy Vankanan

author

Some girls dream about their wedding day, Amy dreamt about a safari and the ruins of Machu Picchu. She left home with a backpack and a camera when she was 20 years old and has been traveling the world ever since. She has dedicated these travels to tell the stories of threatened cultures, people, wildlife and environments through photography. You can follow Amy's adventures on her website AdventureCalls.us and her instagram @amyvankanan

 

READ NEXT: THIS BANGKOK BUCKET LIST WILL TAKE YOU OFF THE BEATEN PATH

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Did United Just Become America's Best Airline?

Last night, I received an interesting email from United Airlines. It seems that they are dedicated to improving their reputation and customer service. Since US based carriers love to take privileges away from their customers, United's only way to rise above their poor reputation is to start giving back at every opportunity, in a big way.

In the email I received, CEO Oscar Munoz announced the following:

  • Incentives for voluntary rebooking will be maxed out at $10,000
  • Permanently lost baggage will have a $1500 no-questions-asked reimbursement
  • Employees will have a new app to be able to provide goodwill gestures to passengers, such as miles and travel credit, when United misses the mark
  • Law enforcement will no longer be removing customers from planes and passengers will not need to give up their seat, unless it is a matter of security

The proof is in the pudding, and actions speak louder then words. I will be interested to see how committed United is to their new policies. I personally have stayed away from this airline for years. My overall generalization (and this isn't true in all situations or of all employees, as I personally know some wonderful United flight attendants), they have rude crew members, they have lousy planes, and they have poor policies. I would love to see this change and for United to be successful. The more competition among the US carriers, the better the policy adjustments will be for consumers like you and I, across the board.

A copy of the email is below. What are your thoughts on the recent airline scandals and United's alleged dedication to improving it's passenger experience?

Dear Ms. Wilson,
Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It's not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.
Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.
For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?
It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.
Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it's my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.
That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.
We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.
We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new "no-questions-asked" $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.
While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.
I believe we must go further in redefining what United's corporate citizenship looks like in our society. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.
Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, "I fly United."
Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfill our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.
We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.
With Great Gratitude,
Oscar Munoz
CEO
United Airlines
 
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Kirkwood Mountain: Tahoe's Best Kept Secret

Love At First Sight

After traveling to some of the best North American ski locations last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kirkwood Mountain, but I was excited to discover what this mountain had to offer. Their Communications Manager and honorary mascot “Coop” talked a big game when we met in the early part of the season, but I was still waiting to see the terrain for myself.

I arrive at Kirkwood in the evening and begin to take it all in before the first day of my avalanche training starts. The ski day is over, and as I am walking back from the General Store, I realize it is quiet. Extremely quiet. It feels as though I could hear a pin drop from half a mile away. I take a deep breath in, a smile forms on my face, and I think to myself how much I already love it here. The peace and quiet and the mountain air is a nice vacation for my senses from the noisy polluted air of Los Angeles. There is something else special here, however, I can’t put my finger it on yet.

Coop showing me all Kirkwood's terrain has to offer

Coop showing me all Kirkwood's terrain has to offer

Doesn't Feel Like Vail

Kirkwood is the rebel of Vail Resorts, the pirate and the outlier within the pristine Vail brand. But that's exactly what is amazing about Vail Resorts, they have been able to incorporate and improve the ski resorts that they acquire into the Vail brand, while simultaneously letting the resorts be themselves. Each resort boasts its own personality, and Kirkwood is nothing other than a skiers resort.

Small Town Vibes

Kirkwood is a local’s mountain. It is small, unbelievably small. There is no shopping, no nightlife, not many places to eat, and no busy town like Heavenly or Breckenridge. There are a couple of restaurants/bars, a general store, and small section of condos that are literally a stones throw away from the lifts. The lack of distractions leaves room for the mountain to be the star of the show. Kirkwood is for skiing and riding, and that alone. This is what makes the skiers at Kirkwood some of the most talented I have seen. It is place that you visit to ski, not a resort where you come to ski and do 100 other mildly-related winter activities. This is just the beginning of why this place is a true gem.

To say that Kirkwood has been getting dumped on this season would be an understatement. The terrain is steep and the snow is deep. With all of that steep and deep, Kirkwood has the perfect avalanche safety training ground. This is why I chose Kirkwood Mountain specifically to advance my skiing skills by taking the AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) taught by Expedition Kirkwood.

Going Out of Bounds

As someone who has skied for 25 years, I felt that I had done it all. I was a ski racer in high school, I have booted my way up to the top of the Imperial lift at Breckenridge and skied the “expert terrain” of the Lake Chutes, and ten years ago I hit the back bowls at Vail on a powder day. As an adventurous traveler, and like most avid skiers, I am always asking myself “whats next”?

The answer is, The Backcountry.

Skiing is a personal sport, where you are always trying to push the next limit. Today’s skiers are looking for more. More adventure, more fresh pow, more vertical, more of a workout, more, more more. They are also looking for less. Less skiers to share the mountain with. This is why backcountry skiing has been growing exponentially over the last decade or more. I spoke with Geoff, my AIARE instructor at Kirkwood, about the growth of Backcountry skiing. He has seen growth at a rate of at least 25x since the late ‘70s when he became an avid backcountry skier. Just over the past several years, its popularity has really picked up speed.

If you are an adventurous skier, you know that backcountry skiing has been gaining popularity over the past several years. Just look at the adventure influencers that are all over social media outlets like Instagram. Influencers and bloggers have an influence on the decisions of their audiences' future travel plans. These influencers have helped increase the awareness of adventurous activities, specifically skiing in the backcountry. 

With all that fresh pow out of the ski resort’s bounds, Backcountry skiing is here to stay. The problem is most people that decided to start backcountry skiing are not properly trained. This can get them (and others around them) into a whole lot of trouble. Just because you are a great skier when you are at the resort does not mean you have a clue about the dangers of the backcountry. The backcountry is a whole different animal. This is why it is so important to be educated on the hazards of the backcountry, and why I chose to take the AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course.

What is AIARE?

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The AIARE Level 1 course teaches decision making, and teamwork. Our small group of 9 at Kirkwood worked together to ask questions and solve problems. We learned what causes an avalanche, and what to look for. Together, we learned to use receivers and practiced rescuing in an organized fashion. We communicated, we dug through snow packs to search for weak layers, and we challenged each other and our instructor with difficult questions. We skied around the mountain discussing slope angles and escape routes of avalanche terrain.

Kirkwood is the perfect place to take a course like this because the terrain that you are working with is avalanche terrain so you can see the different types of zones in real life as opposed to just in a classroom. This hands on approach will help understanding and improve confidence upon completion of the course.

With this course under my belt, I now feel confident in my abilities to make safe group decisions in the backcountry, as well as successfully carrying out a rescue should an avalanche ever occur.

Finding Avalanche Beacons during my AIARE class at Kirkwood

Finding Avalanche Beacons during my AIARE class at Kirkwood

Beyond The Backcountry 

Kirkwood isn’t just about the backcountry, the skiing and the avalanche prevention. Kirkwood is incredible because of the people who built the resort. The people who visit time and time again, and the close knit community that has just as much significance to Kirkwood as the mountain does. Kirkwood is a community, one that will welcome you with open arms. The terrain will challenge you, the people will teach you.

When you arrive at Kirkwood, you aren't just arriving at another ski mountain. You are arriving at a home. The locals will welcome you as apart of the family and not as a tourist. The mountain will greet you with sunshine and present some of the most exciting ski terrain for you. The classes at Expedition Kirkwood will teach you skills you will have for a lifetime. The Kirkwood family will tell you stories of how the trails earned their names, and speak of the ones who came before you to build this mountain, with nothing more than a love for the outdoors and a passion for skiing.

This Isn't Goodbye

Visiting Kirkwood isn't a one-time, notch in your ski bibs type of trip. Kirkwood is a place you will want to return to more than once. This place will leave marks on your soul that will force you to revisit again and again.

As the car taking me away from Kirkwood drove through the mazes of oversized snowbanks toward Lake Tahoe, I knew I would be back before I knew it!

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