Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.

Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

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Posts about Adventure travel

Seal of approval

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: April 14, 2015 - 12:36 PM

We were at Point Dume in Malibu, where we'd just finished a hike around the cliffs of this western tip of land that stretches into the Pacific. Back down on the sand, wind whipped, waves crashing and at the tumble of rocks splashed with salt water, my daughter declared: "Seal!"

I saw nothing but boulders, but waited a beat. Then the head popped up between the rock.

We settled in for a good 20 minutes of up-close wildlife viewing, as the seal reached his head forward, awkwardly pushed off his flippers and flopped his body until he was positioned in the sun. He was so close, we could see his eyelashes. That's when I realized I didn't have my camera, or even a phone.

Soon enough, others made there way to this rocky side of the beach, and I struck up a conversation with a young man in a Wisconsin sweatshirt. He had a phone and was snapping pictures, so I just had to ask. Within two hours, when he was back in range, he'd texted me photos of the seal my daughter named Ribsy, because she could see the contours of his ribs.

My husband's wise line: "You can always trust an earnest Midwesterner."

Visas for India -- it all worked out

Posted by: Catherine Preus Updated: April 9, 2015 - 1:27 PM

It turns out that all that worry (I wrote about it here) about how to procure a visa for India was unnecessary.  

Before we left on a family trip a month ago, I researched and debated using a fairly new system, called Tourist Visa on Arrival, rather than the standard method of sending your passports to a third party and paying them to process and deliver your papers to the Indian consulate. This third-party process was quite expensive (for the four of us it would have cost about the same as buying another plane ticket) and time-consuming, and I had heard horror stories from travelers about not getting their papers back in time.

We went with the simpler, cheaper ($60 per visa) online process, which involves uploading photos and passport images at the Indian government's TVoA website, and then printing out the e-mail that says your visa has been granted. This becomes your visa, which we showed to the agent at MSP when we checked in.

When we arrived in Delhi at 2 in the morning with our two young children, we simply got in a separate line, clearly marked Tourist Visa on Arrival. The agent took our papers, took our fingerprints, and then stamped the visa into our passports. The process was somewhat slow – each person took about 10-15 minutes – but otherwise efficient and simple.

I would highly recommend this route if your travel fits the visa's guidelines: you're staying for less than 30 days, you only need a single entry, you're visiting as a tourist, and you have a return ticket. 

Making travel better

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: March 16, 2015 - 10:10 AM

Minnetonka native Doug Lansky has been travel the world for years. Clearly, he has done much thinking about a traveler's experiences, too. Check out his quick and fascinating TED talk/Stockholm on how you can find authentic destinations and make your travel experience better.

Procuring a visa for India

Posted by: Catherine Preus Updated: March 8, 2015 - 10:47 PM

When we planned a family trip to India, we saved up for the big plane tickets, lodging and internal travel. We spent a lot of time dreaming and reading books and trolling sites about where to stay in Goa; when to visit the Taj Majal; the history of Delhi; train travel in India, and many other interesting subjects. We renewed everyone’s passports.

One thing I didn’t realize was how much time, cash (to the tune of nearly $800 for the four of us) and planning it would take to get a visa, required for Americans visiting India.

There seem to be two ways of procuring a visa: through a third-party company that processes and bundles applications, at a tidy markup, and forwards them to the Indian consulate in Chicago (the closest one to Minneapolis), or through an Indian government website  that processes everything – photos, passport images, lengthy questionnaire – online. The latter, called Tourist Visa On Arrival (TVOA), was far cheaper and simpler.  

But I didn’t know anyone who had tried it – it’s fairly new for U.S. users – and that made me nervous. Frequent travelers to India were not encouraging, urging us to use the tried-and-true method.

Then I reconnected with a friend who takes student groups to India every other year, and he gave me the low-down: several kids in his latest group had used TVOA, arriving in Delhi on New Year’s Eve, and it had worked perfectly.

We have the TVOA “Visa Granted” e-mail in hand, and we’re leaving in a few days. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Selling Duluth to Europeans

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: January 22, 2015 - 10:54 AM

Tour company the Duluth Experience and Visit Duluth, the city's convention and visitor's bureau, are teaming up to introduce Duluth at biking and hiking expos in Amsterdam and Antwerp.

The two-year-old tour company has given Twin Citians, Iron Rangers and Canadians a deeper appreciation of Duluth with its history tours of the port city, mountain and road bike tours, kayak experiences in Lake Superior and brewery tours. Most of its customers come from the region, and some are from Duluth itself. By exhibiting at the two expos, they hope to bring in another crowd: adventure-seeking Europeans.

The two expos are expected to draw a combined 35,000 people.

"We're looking forward to showing off Duluth on an international stage," said Dave Grandmaison, of Duluth Experience.

Grandmaison's company is creating a new tour to entice Europeans interested in biking and visiting our unique patch of the United States. Called the "7-day Lake Superior Bicycle Adventure Package," it includes a cycling trip along the North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais, stays in cabins and a tour of Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors.

Minnesotans are welcome, too. More info here.


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