Posts Tagged ‘International Travel’

By Lore Bilbao

This past May, I set sail aboard the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas for a ten day trip, visiting four different islands.

The cruise experience itself is an unforgettable one. Some of the activities for the guests were: surfing, sky diving simulations, rock climbing and trapeze lessons, just to name a few. I made sure we did as much as we could.

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the SeaOur first stop was Bermuda. Being my second time here, we knew our plan of action was to relax on a beach nearby where our ship docked. A main attraction is Horseshoe Bay Beach, which is further inland. There you can climb the rocks to get a higher perspective of the island. Bermuda is known for their rum swizzle, a sweet tropical drink, which you can find at many places on the island. Another main attraction is Bermuda’s rum cake and glass blowing factory. It sounds like an odd combination, but being that they are both under one roof, many guests find themselves there, getting to witness the island’s traditions and purchasing souvenirs to bring home.

Before we knew it, our time was up in Bermuda and we were back on the ship. Next up was Saint Marteen’s, another beautiful island. Despite the overcast and showers we dealt with, we were eager to explore what the island had to offer. Initially, our plan was to snorkel, but since the waters were too rough we took the shopping route. There were so many stores on the island for souvenirs – even brand name shops.

Next, we spent half the day in Puerto Rico on the beach. There isn’t too much I can say about the island because we went straight to a club where we spent the day on the beach. It is crazy to think about how I was there a few months ago and now they are experiencing such devastation from hurricane Maria.

Haiti Dragons Flight Zip LiningThe last island, and probably my favorite, was Haiti. We visited Royal Caribbean’s private island of Labadee. There we found my most favorite activity of the trip, ziplining! It’s called the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line. The way this excursion worked was that the instructors initially brought you to a practice zipline. We were all instructed to sit upright with our hands on the bar as we coasted to the bottom of the zipline. After the trial run, we rode on a bus up to the top of the official Dragon’s Breath Zipline which just so happened to be the largest zipline over water. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking – the most picturesque scene I’ve witnessed. We put what we learned to the test, and literally sat back to enjoy the ride.

This trip overall was one I could not forget. Cruises are great; not only do you get the most for your money, but you have the opportunity to see a few different places in a short amount of time. For me, I like to spend money on experiences and creating memories as opposed to material objects. One quote I stumbled across that I like is, “Travel while you are young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.” When we travel, we are reminded of our small role in this big, big, world.

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By Terry Mullen, MBA

A single viral photo on Twitter of the Blue Lagoon gave me the epiphany of planning a trip to Iceland.

After a few months of planning and a little effort in convincing friends to accompany me on this journey, the wheels were in motion. I was lucky enough that our Business Development Executive, Jennifer Barrows, knew an acquaintance from Iceland that gave me plenty of helpful tips before setting out on our adventure. Six friends, two cars, and lots of PB&Js lead to one epic road trip. Strangely, the Blue Lagoon wasn’t even the best part.

The Views

Iceland views

TLC was wrong when they told us not to chase waterfalls. Of which, Iceland has plenty. By far the best way to explore Iceland is The Ring Road. Route 1, which is referred to as The Ring Road, goes around the entire island circling to about 828 miles. We saw the beautiful rainbow above as we were in the last leg of our trip through the western side of the island, heading back to the main city of Reykjavik.

Towards the end of spring, the sun is up almost 20 hours each day and even in those four hours of night, it was never truly “dark”.  The island itself is made from volcanic rock that looks like black lava that has hardened over many years. Most of the civilization resides in the southern part of the Ring Road which houses waterfalls off to the side that you can park your car and walk up to. While driving past all of the farmland, you can see herds of wild horses and goats moving up along the eastern side of the island as it becomes more of a dirt road roller coaster. Never knowing what beautiful site we may see next, we kept our cameras handy.

The Dos

Reykjavik Iceland

In addition to the large selection of waterfalls, all unique in their own way, there’s an abundance of things to do and see. Geysers that shoot boiling hot water up unexpectedly, the Harpa Museum, Jökulsárlón and Laugavegur, the main street in Reykjavik, are all hot spots. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is filled with marble like glaciers that never melt and you may even spot some otters. The street of Laugavegur has everything from shops to bars, and it even includes the famous Hallgrímskirkja Church where you can capture an amazing view of the city from the very top (pictured above).

Find a hot spring. The Blue Lagoon is luxurious, but if you’re not trying to spend all of your money, general entry to sit in this man-made lagoon is about $60+. Don’t get me wrong, it is breathtaking and I would definitely recommend it, but it comes with a cost. On the other hand, there are hot springs that you don’t have to pay for. Reykjadalur, a hot spring river that requires a 2.5 mile hike, is only 40 minutes from the main city. The manner the pathway runs along the river is quite the site to see.

Lastly, make your way to the Svörtuloft Lighthouse. It’s a bumpy ride, yet totally worth it. We were on the hunt to find puffins off the coast and were fortunate to spot a few while out on the ledge. Their multicolored beaks help them stand out among the other penguins. Don’t be alarmed if you see them listed on the menu at some restaurants. however. They are cute, but tasty.

The Foods

Icelanders generally complement their fermented shark with a side of Black Death. Definitely an acquired taste, the fermented shark that is. Black Death is a shot of Brennivín vodka. The consensus with our group was that this Icelandic vodka is smooth to the core and easy to take.

While in the city of Reykjavik, you can’t leave without getting a famous Icelandic hot dog better known as a pylsur. If you can, get it with Cool American Doritos (aka Cool Ranch), Icelandic sauce and cheese. Sounds crazy, but it is phenomenal. Do not get a hot dog from a convenience store, it may ruin your hot dog experience and Iceland certainly has the best I’ve ever had.

Most goods are imported onto the island so it was pricey to eat out, but the seafood is fresh and flavorsome. Langoustines, whale and reindeer are a few additional items available that are far from the American norm.

Closing Remarks

Bring a backpack and an open mind. Always have it packed with an extra pair of clothes and a bathing suit. I was so grateful to have my Withum backpack with me as some of our adventures were completely unexpected. If you don’t already have a good pair of hiking boots, buy some. Pack for the season and be prepared to be amazed.


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Business-CardIt has been several years since I last went back to Taiwan to visit my relatives. During my recent trip there, I felt more like a “foreigner” than before. I observed many differences between the Taiwanese and American culture etiquette. For example, during a so called, “family banquet,” where I did not know 95% of the people, I had an opportunity to reacquaint with one of my cousins whom I had not seen since he was in elementary school. I asked for his business card so we can keep in touch in the future. He presented me his business card with both hands and a slight bow. While he bowed to me, he also spoke a short phrase which meant to please provide him feedback to help him improve. I was intrigued since I saw this done during the business environment, but not during a social event. In addition, since we are closely related cousins, I did not realize that this etiquette also applied to us. After a long conversation with my cousin, the following are what I found out about the business card exchange etiquette in Taiwan, which is very similar to Japan:

  • When presenting your business card, you hold the card with both hands. Make sure you hold the card facing your contact so he/she can read it.
  • A small quick bow to show your respect.
  • It is best to stand up when exchanging cards.
  • Exchange cards one-on-one, so don’t distribute your cards like dealing cards in a casino.
  • Don’t put your cards in a stack on a table and offer others to take your cards.
  • When receiving a business card, take the time to read the card in front of your contact. Don’t just shove the card into your pocket, especially NOT into your back trouser pocket.

And yes, in any event, regardless social or business, always bow back if someone bows to you to express their thanks. Don’t just nod and say, “you are welcome,” thinking you did good.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact your WithumSmith+Brown professional, a member of WS+B’s International Services Group or email us at international@withum.com.

By Phyllis Tsai, CPA, MBA, CGMA | 609.520.1188 | ptsai@withum.com

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