#10 #Beaches to See Before You #Die

When aren’t you in a tropical state of mind? Even as snow storms pummel the northern hemisphere, images of sandy beaches and sunshine continue to pop up on our phones, beckoning us to get away. And while we love the mountains and city, there’s something about the beach that screams “vacation time.”

If you’re thinking about escaping to the beach in the future, I recommend going big or staying home. TripAdvisor just released its list of best beaches in the world. The ranking is based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected about the world’s beaches over a year.

Pick one of these, and remember to leave your coat at home — you won’t need it where you’re going.

1. Baia do Sancho, Brazil

Located on the small island of Fernando de Noronha, Baia do Sancho was rated “excellent” by 91 percent of reviewers. People love this beach for its beautiful, bright waters and its isolated, tropical surroundings. In fact, the beach is part of the national park Parque Nacional Marinho de Fernando de Noronha, so while you have to pay an environmental tax to get in, the end destination is totally worth it. If you can hold out a little longer, the best time to visit the secluded beach is during the rainy season, from April to June, to catch a glimpse of two waterfalls forming off a nearby cliff.

2. Varadero Beach, Cuba

With steady weather ranging between 60 and 80 degrees Farenheit, white beaches and calm waters, it’s no wonder Varadero Beach makes it to No. 2. The beach is simply stunning, and the water is warm and soothing, almost like dipping into a bath. Covering 13 miles, Varadero Beach offers the perfect respite for the busy traveler.

3. Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach is exactly what you picture when you think of a Caribbean beach. Complete with white sands, cerulean waters and Aruba’s famous divi divi trees, it looks like it was plucked from a travel brochure. This highly-rated beach is so large it rarely feels crowded, feeling like a private beach wherever you post up. The beach is also the prime spot for Aruba’s nesting turtles, who make their way to the ocean from May to November.

4. La Concha Beach, Spain

The crescent-shaped La Concha Beach separates the sea from the Spanish city of San Sebastian. Its urban border makes it easy to transition between the city and the natural beauty of the bay. One traveller called it “This is a gorgeous stretch of beach with the background of mountains and a lovely promenade beside it.” Whether you’re strolling along the sand or hiking for views in the mountains surrounding the bay, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space on your camera for all the photos.

5. Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay Beach is known for its soft stripe of white sand bordered by thickets of trees on one side and those crystal blue waters you always want to see on your beach vacation. This beach in Providenciales stretches 13 miles and has some of the softest sand in the Bahamas. Though resorts and restaurants are easily accessible, the beach feels isolated and tranquil, creating a relaxing haven just for you.

6. Clearwater Beach, United States

The only U.S. beach to top the list is, no surprise, in Florida. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the warm waters of Clearwater Beach offer a safe haven for those fleeing their daily life. Dolphins swim so close to the shore you can usually spot them from where you’re sunbathing on your towel. Plus, all the nearby restaurants make it easy to spend your entire day here.

7. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Italy

Surrounded by a rocky cliffs and outcroppings, Spiaggia dei Conigli in Siciliy feels like your very own little secret. Translated as “Rabbit Beach”, this spot features a rugged coastline that spills into a narrow sliver of sand.  You can surf waves with schools of fish, or hike to the top of the nearby hills to drink in the whole scene. It can be hard to believe, but pinch yourself — it’s real.

8. Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Seven Mile Beach is the place to go if you want to get a little adventurous in paradise. Try parasailing in the bright water, or watch the sunset on a dinner cruise. If you get tired of the ocean (as if that’s possible), you can make the easy switch to the pool at your resort for a slight change of scenery. But I doubt you’ll need it. One reviewer called the Seven Mile Beach “heaven on earth.”

9. Playa Norte, Mexico

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres makes it easy to feel like you’re far, far away from your regular life. Featuring beautiful water, fine sand, and a ban on motorized water activities, Playa Norte puts an emphasis on the peaceful tranquility of the ocean. Nearby food and drink options will keep you satiated but you’ll still enjoy minimal crowds in this oasis.

10. Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica

Not to be confused with the other seven-mile beach on this list, the Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica has something to keep you busy at every interval. Loungers are available right on the sand, and bars, restaurant and entertainment are in no short supply. Walk along the beach between venues and soak up the sun you’re probably missing back home.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

6 #College #Towns You Don’t Need to Be a #Student to #Enjoy

Who doesn’t love a good college town? Their youthful population means they’re inherently full of things to do from sporting events to bar crawls. However, for those outside the student demographic, some university-centered cities can get old fast. There are some destinations, however, that appeal to all ages regardless whether you’re an undergrad, Ph.D, or just someone looking for a great weekend away. Here are 6 college towns you don’t need to be a student to enjoy.

San Luis Obispo, California

San Luis Obispo, located on California’s Central Coast, is a hidden gem. Home to California Polytechnic State University, the city boasts more than just a great school and gorgeous beaches. It’s also a killer stop for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can take a guided kayak tour of the nearby Morro Bay and enjoy outdoor rock climbing, surfing, overlanding, zip-lining, hiking, biking, botanical gardens, horseback riding, ATV riding and boat tours. Avila Beach also offers whale watching and an opportunity to see adorable elephant seals.

Unique to San Luis Obispo are the sticky-but-sweet Bubblegum Alley and the scenic coast where you can explore the historic grounds of Hearst Castle and the Point San Luis Lighthouse. If you want a truly quintessential place to stay during your trip, look no further than the famous Madonna Inn, which boasts numerous rooms with their own ultra-kitschy charm. It’s also not too far from Wine Country, with neighbor Paso Robles playing host to dozens of vineyards.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Colorado State University is nestled in Fort Collins, Colorado and there’s plenty more to do in town than hang out on campus. Adventurers and nature fans can hike nearby in Roosevelt National Forest, while Lory State Park also offers a wide range of available activities including hunting, boating, rock climbing, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, geocaching, volleyball, biking, and hiking trails. When you need to refuel and unwind after a day full of exploration and exercise, check out the Old Town district, on which Disneyland’s Main Street, USA’s architecture is based. Rest up in a number of charming lodging options, dine out at local eateries, and enjoy a number of festivals throughout the year. The town is a Certified Colorado Creative District thanks to its wide range of galleries, artisanal shops, live music, and performances.

Fort Collins is also a great place for those with a taste for craft beers. The town is known as Colorado’s craft beer capital and features more than 20 breweries, which produce 70% of the state’s craft beers (and 7% of America’s).

Athens, Georgia

Located two hours outside of Atlanta, Athens, Georgia is home to the University of Georgia and so much more. The city is a music fan’s dream with a slew of live venues and even a Music History Walking Tour. Theaters, art galleries, and even a zoo provide entertainment for days. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Sandy Creek Nature Center, and Georgia Museum of Art are free to visitors, as are its many biking and hiking trails. You can also take a North Oconee River trip in a kayak or canoe. Who said small towns are sleepy?

Fort Worth, Texas

Though many tourists flock to nearby Dallas, Forth Worth, Texas is worth the 30-minute trip. Home to Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, and other institutions, this cowboy town owes its Texan charm to the Fort Worth Stockyards, which lets visitors experience cattle roundups and rodeos. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this college town is only ranchers and cattle. There’s also a thriving art district, with museums like the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Kimbell Museum hosting rotating exhibits alongside impressive permanent collections.

The Water Gardens in Fort Worth should also be on your itinerary. This terraced fountain is 38 feet tall and looks stunning lit up at night. Plus, check out miles of bike trails along the Trinity River, stopping into a BBQ joint or cool riverside eatery as you go.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Northern Arizona University students sure are lucky. Though it’s only an hour and a half drive to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff, this college town has its own array of geological landmarks nearby, including those stunning red rocks you’ve come to expect in northern Arizona. Avid hikers and adventurous mountain bikers will love exploring Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a dormant cinder cone volcano. You can also ski in Flagstaff at the Arizona Snowbowl, which is nestled in the San Francisco Peaks at 9,500 feet. The outdoorsy are bound to feel at home here.

Annapolis, Maryland

Residents of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore might have the perks of a buzzing metropolitan filled with politicians, journalists, and diplomats, but Annapolis, Maryland embraces a much more relaxed atmosphere. The University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins make Annapolis a gathering place for aspiring doctors and intellectual academics, but this city also includes charming row houses along downtown Main Street alongside seafood restaurants, art galleries, and shops. Stopping by to experience the United States Naval Academy perform the “noon meal formation” is also a unique form of entertainment and comparing the massive yachts at Ego Alley is a true spectacle.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

6 #Travel #Destinations #Perfect for #Introverts!

It’s a common misconception that introverts are quiet, socially inept types who like to stay at home. Wrong! Introverts enjoy traveling and exploring, they just prefer to take in things on their own terms and at their own pace. While they welcome opportunities for solitude and reflection, they also enjoy stimulating experiences and making connections with fellow travelers or locals.

Many travel destinations offer something for every type of temperament, so it’s often a matter of choosing particular sights or activities that can best deliver on individual preferences. That said, here are 6 travel destinations particularly well suited for introverts, whether you like to travel alone or with a like-minded friend.

Sedona, Arizona, USA

Sedona, Arizona, USA

Known for its stunning red rock landscape and energy vortexes, Sedona has a uniquely calming, yet energizing effect on its visitors. Rarely crowded, the area offers an overabundance of things to do, but the most popular activity is simply hiking one of the hundreds of trails and enjoying the splendid surroundings at your own pace. For an extra dose of solitude and magic, head out early in the morning to witness the sunrise or stay out late in the day to catch a sunset. At night, you can chill by a fire pit with a glass of wine or enjoy stargazing. If you prefer organized activities, there are many yoga, meditation and healing retreats, well suited for introverts.

Camino de Santiago, Spain

Camino de Santiago, Spain

This network of walking paths in the northern part of Spain was once one of the most important Christian pilgrimages. Thousands still make the epic 500-mile journey through stunning countryside every year. Aside from its religious significance, Camino de Santiago also attracts hiking and cycling enthusiasts, nature lovers and those who seek a spiritual retreat from modern life.

There are several different trails referred to as “ways”: the Original, French, Portuguese, Silver and a few others, but they all lead to the shrine of apostle St. James the Great at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. You can make your way as part of an organized group or with a friend, but it is also perfectly fine to make the journey completely on your own. Many do, relishing the solitude and the chance to unplug, connecting with other pilgrims along the way when and if they feel like it.

Iceland

iceland

Iceland is probably an expected contender on this list, but for good reason. Despite its hugely increased popularity with tourists over the last few years, this country is still a relatively remote place with ample opportunities to get lost and leave the crowds behind. Incredible landscapes full of hiking trails, roaring white glacier rivers with multiple waterfalls, black volcanic desert sands and hot springs are just some of the items from a long list of its natural attractions, best suited for outdoor enthusiasts. Another draw is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. If all this is not enough to convince you, Iceland is listed as one of 10 most introverted countries in the world, offering more proof that introverts will feel at home here.

Slovenia

lake bled, slovenia

Lake Bled, the country’s famous fairy tale-like destination is synonymous with tranquility and serenity. But there are plenty of other reasons introverted travelers will love Slovenia. Not far away is Triglav National Park, whose incredible mountain peaks, tiny lakes, beautiful waterfalls and sheep herds quietly munching on alpine grass will leave you in awe. The nearby Soča Valley captivates with its peacefulness and the greenest crystal-clear river you have ever seen. Stay at one of the off-the-grid mountain huts or choose glamping, either will be a special experience. Equally charming is Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, one of Europe’s most underrated cities and perfect for leisurely exploring on foot. If you need more ideas, there are vineyard tours, spectacular underground caves and the coast dotted with small picturesque towns and villages, slender cypresses, colorful oleanders, fig trees and fragrant rosemary bushes.

Paris, France

paris, france

One of world’s top tourist spots and brimming with endless energy, Paris might not feel like a logical choice, but the City of Lights is a perfect city destination for introverted travelers. Think long peaceful walks along the Seine, a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens or Champ de Mars or a small group bike ride through the city exploring some of the historic sites. Stay at one of the smaller, boutique hotels or an apartment. Get lost in one of the city’s fantastic museums, charming neighborhoods or antique stores for as long as you want. Sit down on a bench with a book in hand or at one of the city’s lovely cafes with pain au chocolate and people watch. The French capital has that special power of allowing you to feel alive and present or miles away, quietly contemplating in your own world. Oui oui!

Kauai, Hawaii, USA

aerial view of Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Kauai is nothing like Oahu or Maui, two of the most popular islands of the Aloha state, which can sometimes feel a touch too urban or packed with tourists. Known as the “Garden Island”, Kauai is covered with green valleys, lush rainforests, magnificent mountains hiding jaw-dropping waterfalls, coconut groves, orchid farms and coffee plantations. Several parts of the island are only accessible by sea or air and offer views straight out of Jurassic Park (which, coincidently, was filmed here). For an unforgettable experience, hike the 22-mile-long (round trip) Kalalau Trail on Na Pali Coast, one of the toughest and most spectacular hikes on the planet. Or, simply relax, enjoy the sound of the ocean, gentle breezes and spectacular sunsets on any of the islands pristine beaches. Introverts will love the small town feel and laid-back vibe of this island.

CREDITS: thediscoverer

How #habits #affect your #mental #health?

New research reveals a list of everyday activities that can bring on feelings of isolation or lift spirits

Depression affects around 10 per cent of the population at any given time, according to the Office for National Statistics, and is now second only to high blood pressure among the most common conditions recorded by GPs.

But while bereavement, unemployment and illness are common triggers for low mood, experts say everyday activities — from what we eat and drink to spending too much time online — could also contribute to leaving you feeling down.

So what’s affecting the way you think? Here are some possibilities, and what can you do about the impact they have on you.

Taking antibiotics

Certain groups of antibiotics, including quinolones and penicillin, are linked to depression, say scientists.

A large Tel Aviv University study of British patients found that taking just one course of antibiotics can raise the risk of depression and anxiety by around a quarter. And taking between two and five courses raises the risk by nearly half, they reported in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It’s thought that disrupting the balance of bacteria in the gut can harm the way in which the brain cells communicate.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

A major proportion of your immune system actually lies in your gut in the form of friendly bacteria, and antibiotics can wipe these out — automatically weakening your immune system.

Restore the balance by promoting the production of good bacteria when taking antibiotics by eating live yogurt (containing lactobacillus, for example), or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and miso.

Always online?

Swedish researchers found that those who spend long hours in front of a computer screen or on their phones (up to 150 hours a week) reported more depression, possibly due to sleep deprivation and lack of face-toface communication.

And a separate study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found a direct correlation between time spent on social media and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Don’t visit a social network when feeling sad or dissatisfied with your present situation as, chances are, it will only make you feel more sorry for yourself and more depressed. Consider deactivating your account temporarily or unfollowing those who make you feel worse.

Pick up a bestseller instead. Those who read books regularly are, on average, happier and more satisfied with life, according to a study by reading charity BookTrust.

Too many coffee breaks

In the same way that sugary and fatty foods can leave you on a rollercoaster of emotion, coffee and high-caffeine energy drinks, too, can impact the way you feel, warns nutritionist Patrick Holford, author of Feel Good Factor.

Consuming caffeine sets off a stress response in your brain, which then stimulates the production of adrenaline, making you more alert, he says.

“In the long term, however, too much caffeine throughout the day causes constant adrenal overload,” he adds. “As a consequence, an increasing number of people are suffering from chronic anxiety, panic attacks, low mood, insomnia and stress-related weight gain.”

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Cut back on caffeinated drinks and eliminate them completely after 4pm. Instead, try herbal teas.

Not eating your greens

Those who eat the least fresh fruit and vegetables are most likely to become depressed, according to a University College London study.

The high levels of antioxidants found in fresh produce help prevent free radical damage to cells, including those in the brain.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Find ways to sneak extra fruit and vegetables into your meals.

Eating just one extra portion of berries, greens or salad boosts one’s mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional 10 minutes for seven days a week, over four weeks, say researchers.

And, adding 10 additional portions of fruit and vegetables to your daily diet has the same effect on emotional wellbeing as going from unemployment into a job.