Tag: Yvonne AK Johnson

How to Plan Your Trip to a Place You know Nothing About

Yvone AK Johnson: How to Plan Your Trip to a Place You know Nothing About

How to Plan Your Trip to a Place You know Nothing About

One of the best things about traveling is experiencing a place and a culture that you know nothing about. There is no better way to learn about this planet and the people we share it with than to leave behind all your preconceived notions and go exploring. Putting myself in an entirely new situation and embracing my surroundings has lead to some of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Of course, the trick is knowing how to plan the right kind of trip for you. When you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, it can be hard to know where to start. How do you plan a trip to somewhere you know nothing about?

Whether you’re the kind of traveler who likes to make detailed itineraries or wait and see what takes your fancy when you land, you’ll have to start somewhere! Here’s a crash course in planning your trip when you’re starting from a blank slate.


Wiki It

Seriously, look up your destination on Wikipedia. It might sound silly, but when you’re really going in blind this can be a great way to get an overview of the country and its history. Pay attention for any tidbits of information that pique your interest. If something catches your attention, do a little more research and you may just have found an awesome destination or activity that isn’t part of the standard guide-book fare!

Get Guide Books

If you’re pinching every penny for your upcoming trip, you can even visit you local Barnes and Noble and sit in the coffee shop with a stack of books, or your local bookstore with the comfy armchairs. You’ll probably want to take at least one or two of your favorites home with you, though, so that you can mark them up and dogear the best pages. Reading guide books is a fantastic way to get a sense of the sights you won’t want to miss, and many offer great tips for safety and cultural sensitivity.

Ask Around

Once you have an idea of what kind of questions to ask, start asking around among your friends and family to see if anyone else has already been to your destination. Where better to get advice than from those you trust? Make sure you ask not only about their favorite days, but also about their least favorite parts of the trip, things they wish they had know before they left, and what they would have done if they had more time. Keep in mind what you know of the person, however. If they like to travel in style and luxury and you like to rub shoulders with the locals, you may not want to take their word as gospel.

Find Bloggers

And no, it’s not just because I run a travel blog! Blogs that center around your destination can often fill in the gaps and suggest neat things that aren’t common knowledge. The best part is, you can reach out and ask them your questions directly! Get googling.

Crowdsource Your Plans

If you are comfortable with putting your trip in the hands of others, don’t underestimate couchsurfing as a resource. You’ll get a real taste of local flavor staying with locals, and many hosts will be happy to take you around their city. There are even some people who sign up simply as guides without offering a bed. It’s hard to know exactly what you’ll get, but you’re guaranteed to have experiences that you couldn’t find in the guide book!

Safety Tips for Solo Travelers


Yvonne AK Johnson Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

Yvonne AK Johnson Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

Traveling and immersing yourself in new cultures can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, and doing it alone can be a very different and powerful experience. You will meet interesting new people, see incredible sights, and get to know yourself better. If you’ve travelled enough, chances are you have a horror story or two about the time you got lost and couldn’t find your hotel, showed up for your flight on the wrong day, or were even pick pocketed. It’s almost a rite of passage – but certainly one you should do your best to avoid!

No one should let fear and anxiety keep them from having the trip of a lifetime. If you’re careful, away, and rely on your common sense, you’ll have a fantastic time and come back overflowing with exciting stories to tell. Just take a few basic precautions, and go book that trip you’ve been dreaming of!

  1. Copy, Copy, Copy

Don’t leave without multiple photocopies of all your important documents — your passport, driver’s license, visa, traveler’s insurance, and health insurance. If you get into any trouble, you’ll be glad you protected the most important things! Keep one copy easily accessible at all times, one in your hotel room, and one permanently online on a service like google docs or dropbox, or emailed to a friend or family member. As for the originals, they should always be in the safest place available to you. If your hotel does not have a locked safe, keep your most important documents on your person.

  1. Keep a Secret Money Stash

Duh, right? But the important point here is to hide it in several different places. Keep only a few small bills in your wallet, enough for one day’s worth of shopping or mail. That way you’ll never accidentally flash a wad of big bills when you’re hurrying to get change for the bus. Not only would that be a tempting target for crooks, it could also show vendors that it would be worth their time to overcharge you. Just in case your main bag is snatched or left behind, carry an emergency stash of money in a hidden place, like a shoe, concealed pocket, or undergarment. Make sure you always have at least enough money hidden on you to get back to your hotel if you were to need it.

  1. Hug Your Bags Close

Hopefully, of course, you’ll never have any need of that emergency stash! To protect yourself from thieves, never let your bag out of your arms in public. If your bag has a shoulder strap, put it over your head so that it is harder for for someone to snatch and run off. If you’re worried, consider investing in a slash-proof bag with reinforced straps. Backpacks are practical, it’s true, but it’s easy for a pickpocket to get behind you in line and ease those zippers open without you feeling a thing. On public transportation, don’t just set your bag on the seat beside you, loop an arm through the strap and hold it in your lap if possible. Finally, if you’re distracted pulling things out or talking to a cashier, keep your bag between your legs or between you body and the counter to make it harder to grab and run.

  1. Call Mom

No matter who it is, make sure you leave a full copy of your itinerary with someone back home, and schedule a regular check in time with them. Someone should always have a general idea of where you are, and no when you’ve arrived there safely. If phone calls for skype don’t make sense, Whatsapp can be counted on almost anywhere in the world.

  1. Keep your Maps a Secret

If you lose your way, no problem — you brought maps! But be careful to never take out a map or check your smart phone in the streets. It just screams “I’m a tourist, I’m vulnerable and I’m not paying attention.” Instead, duck inside a cafe for a few moments while you get your bearings and head back out with confidence.

  1. Register

Finally, it’s a good idea to register with the U.S. Department of State. If anything important happens back home or in the country you’re visiting, they’ll give you the information you need ASAP. They even have a handy Smart Traveler app.


You can check out some more tips here. Most of all, remember to have fun! Be careful, but also know that sometimes the unexpected or even scary moments will become your best stories and your favorite memories. Bon voyage!


Our neighbor to the north, Canada is an amazing country filled with culture, delicious food, beautiful sights and very friendly people. It’s a great place to escape to on vacation. Certain places in Canada, like Montreal, can make you feel like you’re in Europe. With lots to do Canada is a great place to vacation in for not too much money. Everyone who goes highly recommends it!


The third largest city in the country Vancouver is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life. The city is located on the western coast of the country. It’s a beautiful city located right on the water with the mountains as a backdrop. The city is filled with culture. There are many theater and dance companies throughout the city. It’s also filled with many museums that you should definitely check out. Vancouver has become a major film location, giving it the nickname, Hollywood North. At night Vancouver doesn’t disappoint. It has a very fun nightlife. Whether you want to go out for a drink, see a show, listen to some live music or go dancing there is never a shortage of places to go.


Located very close to Buffalo, New York, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario Toronto is the largest city in Canada. The city is in a unique location being intersected by a network of rivers, ravines and urban forests. Like Vancouver, it’s a major city for music, theater and film and television production. A very modern city, Toronto is well known for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings.


One of the most interesting cities in Canada, Montreal is a must go to! Certain parts of the city are very modern. Others, though, will make you feel like you’ve traveled across the ocean to Europe. With cobblestone streets, beautiful stone buildings and many people speaking French, you will truly be immersed in the unique culture of the city. Another thing that makes Montreal great is the food. Be sure to try the poutine when you’re there!

Niagara Falls

The world-famous Niagara Falls is incredible. It’s a sight that everyone should see in their lifetime. Be sure to take a boat tour down under the falls. Not only are the falls incredible but throughout the years a great city has boomed up nearby. With a population of just over 80,000 the city of Niagara Falls is truly dominated by the falls itself. After checking out the falls head into the city up to an observation tower to check out some different views. At night you can enjoy one of the many casinos and theaters in the city. You can also head just outside the city for some great golfing. It’s a perfect place to go to on your next family vacation.

How To Travel The World With Almost No Money

Traveling is something that almost everyone, if not everyone, loves to do. We can explore new places, try new foods and things, meet new people, and just escape from our everyday lives. Travel is something that everyone should do. Research has shown that people who spend money on experiences rather than on things are happier. But what about if you don’t really have any money to spend on travel? This amazing TedX Talk will show you how it’s possible for anyone who wants to travel to do so.

How to Pack a Carry-On

Preparing for a trip can bring up a lot of emotions all at once: excitement, stress, happiness, worry etc. It’s a mix of good and bad. You’re extremely excited to be getting away and exploring a new place or going back to a favorite place you’ve been before. But the actual act of traveling can be stressful. What if your luggage gets lost, you miss your flight or you flight gets delayed for a really long time? Packing a carry-on bag instead of checking a bag can help relieve some of these worries. You’ll never have to worry about your bag getting lost or getting stuck on the check-in line to give in your bag, possibly making you miss your flight. The only issue with packing a carry-on bag is fitting everything in. Travelchannel.com is here to help you efficiently pack your carry-on!


The Four Most Incredible Travel Destinations in the Pacific Northwest


The Pacific Northwest may not be the first place we think to travel, but this untouched nature of the region makes it a particularly beautiful travel destination. The Pacific Northwest is a testament to how awe-inspiring nature truly is. There are many beautiful places to explore in this area, but here are some of the most worthwhile:

1. Seattle

As the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle more than begs a spot on this list. A trip to Seattle means surrounding yourself with natural beauty while also engaging in the metropolitan charm of the city. Visit the Pike Place Market, where one can interact with all of the vibrant people, from the street performers to the fishmongers. Seattle, also known as the Emerald City, is home to a vibrant culture, from its cafes, to its music to its art.

2) North Cascades National Park

This beautiful park receives fewer than 27,000 visitors per year, meaning that any visitors are bound to have a lot of space to themselves. The wild and rugged terrain possess a spellbinding beauty that is sure to leave anyone in awe. Not only is this park home to the highest number of glaciers outside of Alaska, but it also has an incredibly diverse ecosystem. Within the lush forests, one will find bald eagles and ospreys, and the rocky slopes are home to a number of other beautiful creatures. Wolverines, gray wolves, fishers, moose, black and grizzly bears, and cougars are all inhabitants of North Cascades National Park. A trip to this park won’t soon be forgotten.

3) San Juan Islands

It turns out you don’t have to travel all the way to the Caribbean to enter a stunning archipelago. In fact, the San Juan islands are easily accessible from Seattle. To get to the islands, one takes a ferry that weaves its way through enchanting forest islands. The second largest and most populous island in the archipelago is called San Juan Island, and it is not to be missed. It is a great place to relax while also exploring the scenic seaport town of Friday Harbor and immersing yourself in its history. The island is also home to a number of shops, museums, art galleries, and eateries. The cuisine is the real deal, with restaurants serving local ingredients, such as fresh produce, herbs, and seafood.

4) Mount Rainier National Park

Peaking at 14,411 feet, Mount Rainier’s impressive stature makes it easy to see from a number of points throughout the Puget Sound area. However, going to Mount Rainier National Park will provide visitors with an even more memorable impression of the structure by allowing them to see it up close. The mountain is completed with alpine meadows, colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, glaciers, and of course a beautiful snow-capped summit. If you’re looking to get an a truly breathtaking view, Tipsoo Lake is a must-visit. At Tipsoo Lake, photographers are able to capture a reflection of the mountain in the lake’s waters.

The Pacific Northwest is one of the most incredible parts of the country with its natural beauty and its quaint charm. If you’re thinking of heading over to the Pacific Northwest for a vacation, be sure to look into these destinations. You won’t regret it!

Croatia: The Epic Waterfalls of Krka National Park

Croatia is a very underrated country to visit, especially for Americans. This country offers so much and the cost is so cheap, it’s no wonder that the tourism is picking up.

Croatia is a fantastic country to visit full of jagged coastlines and rivers, mountains, beaches, and waterfalls.

One of the most beautiful locations for an epic waterfall is at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Most of the photo you see online of jaw-dropping waterfalls are most likely taken here!

The two waterfall locations in Croatia, Krka and Plitvice, are the country’s most coveted tourist attractions. Here’s a few points on each:

Plitvice: An iconic Croatian destination with magnificent lower lakes that have spectacular waterfalls. This location is a UNESCO World Heritage destination. However, it is very crowded and in an isolated location.

Krka: A much more relaxed and quiet scene where you can sit back and have more fun without feeling rushed. The weather is mostly sunny here because of a certain mountain range which plays a big role in how much sun there is on a given day. You can swim in the lakes at Krka which is forbidden at Plitvice.

Krka also has beautiful trails to explore and a small town called Sibenik. Sibenik also as a UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral and a very beautiful coastline.

If there is time for both, it’s best to see all that you can! Bu Krka would not be a mistake to pick over the crowded Plitvice park!

Travel to Turkey

Yvonne AK Johnson

Turkey is a very interesting and cultural diverse place. Being a very popular vacation spot for many Europeans, Turkey is actually not very popular to visit when it comes to Americans.

The truth is – it is very safe and the people are extremely genuine. Turkey is technically out of the “eurozone” but has coasts on the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. The country offers so much to it’s people and it’s visitors. The country is so vast and beautiful, even if you spent many lifetimes exploring you probably wouldn’t see all of it.

Istanbul, in itself, is the pinnacle of Turkish culture, art, beauty, and history. Similar to New York not really being America, Istanbul isn’t really Turkey, however a state in it’s own right. It has a a mixture of victorian beauty, modern innovation, cleanliness, inspiring hills and blue waters to inspire any traveler. Istanbul has 3,00 years of history. It’s build on the same latitude as rome and is also built on seven hills.

From the Romans, to the Byzantines, to the Ottomans. The Ottoman’s empire strutted from Vienna all the way to Mauritania in Africa. It’s a traditional legend that the great Hagia Sofia Mosque has a dome that was suspended from heaven by a golden chain. The city of Istanbul is adorned with beautiful buildings, churches, mosques, synagogues, and other historical architecture.

A typical day in Istanbul: Wake up early, have a light Turkish breakfast, head out to Rumelihisari on the Bosphorus (ruins of an old fortress turned into a tea garden) and have proper breakfast and tea. Then, walk down the Bosphorus and visit the town of Bebek and Ortakoy. From there, take a ferry across the Bosphorus to the Asia side for another round of gorgeous Turkish tea. Arrive at the Princes’ Island’s for a delicious seafood lunch and get around the island with the many horse carriages that live on the island.

There are many beautiful places to see in Turkey. If you travel south of Istanbul, you’ll see the beautiful city of Izmir which is known for it’s grapes and olives. From there, Foca is a beautiful little fisherman’s town and is a must to visit. There are several Mediterranean islands on the coast of Turkey such as Bozcaada and Gokceada. Datca peninsula is one of the most beautiful places to visit as it is quite, full of lush farmland, and turquoise waters.

The great thing about Turkey, is that Turkish people are very proud of their culture and their country. The food is of the most delectable cuisines in the world and their language, a very beautiful and interesting sound to hear. All the Turks welcome their visitors wit open arms and kindness, as they love having visitors experience the splendor of their country.

California Trip with my Mother

A few pictures to share from my California trip with my beautiful Mom.
I thoroughly love the Bay Area and Mom’s #1 pick to see and tour was the Japanese Tea Garden. We journeyed North over the Golden Gate Bridge and stayed at the Old Crocker Ranch in Sonoma for a few days. Pictured are a few of the many wineries in the Sonoma Vally and the Armstrong National Park. Mom’s goal was to hug a Redwood tree and that we did! Her favorite was called “The Parson” which is fitting from being a minister herself.

We also took a winding drive over to Mendocino to see the ocean and to have lunch at a quaint seaside French restaurant called Cafe Beaujolais. Fine cuisine and the drive and scenery are breathtaking. However, if you have a weak stomach for switchbacks and curvy roads this may not be the adventure for you. One of the highlights for dining in the Sonoma area was at the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. The salmon melted in your mouth (pictured) and the dessert (pictured) was worth the indulgence. Mom and wrapped up the trip with a drive down to the Palm Springs area to visit friends. We stopped enroute in Santa Barbara. Lovely!

The last night in Frisco we had dinner at Benihana which is always a fun place. Our favorite hotel to stay at near SFO is the Embassy Suites Waterfront. Two separate rooms, complimentary happy hour, full breakfast including omlettes to order and a shuttle service to the airport. First class service for travelers of all ages!


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