Tag Archives | travel

Five Reasons to Visit Uganda

Yesterday, I was a guest on a radio program talking about our recent juvenile justice work in Africa.  One of the initial questions was about the “perils” of visiting Africa: Is it safe?  Is it a major endeavor?

Life on the outskirts of Gulu

I think most people want to visit Africa at some point in their lives–if not for some humanitarian purpose, then at least to go on safari or see the mountain gorillas.  Africa is indeed an amazing and diverse continent that is not to be missed.  Uganda, in particular, is a great country—I just made my fifth trip this.  If you’re considering a visit to Africa (or you’ve never desired to visit Africa, but might unexpectedly find yourself there one day), it’s a good place to start any journey.  As a matter of fact, Lonely Planet ranked Uganda the #1 travel destination for 2012Rwanda is also at the top of my list–and I recommend seeing both countries on the same trip.  With Rwanda fast-paced development, it’s surpassed some of the “rustic charms” you might expect from Africa.  Kigali feels like a European city–an example of the direction much of Africa is heading.

Here are five good reasons to visit Uganda:

  1. It’s Relatively Safe and Stable – Uganda is relatively.  In the 6 years that I’ve been sending large groups to Uganda, the only incident we had was a stolen laptop once.  I suspect we would be hard pressed to have the same results in Europe.  It’s also relatively stable.  I say relatively because there is the occasional protest—we watch things carefully, but no political situation has yet stopped us from going.  But, if you look around Uganda, it looks like a safehaven.  Congo: basketcase.  Sudan: Basketcase.  Burundi: basketcase.  Kenya: Mixed—as I left Uganda they had terrorism warnings.  The only neighboring country with stability is Rwanda—a personal favorite to visit.
  2. Safaris – Kenya and Tanzania typically get highest marks for safaris in the region.  While I haven’t had the chance to go on safari in either country, the gave drives in Uganda have not left me disappointed.  When I bring groups, we always make the 5 hour drive north to Murchison Falls National Park.  Entering Murchison is like driving into Jurassic Park on red dirt roads through a dense forest.  You finally arrive at the Nile where you have to take a ferry to the delta where the animals make their home.  No trip to Murchison is complete without a boat ride up the Nile to the base of the falls.  If you’ve ever been on Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride, you will feel like what you’re experiencing isn’t real, but some Imagineer’s version of Africa.  I recommend staying at Paraa Lodge—everything you would except from a game lodge.  Then, early in the morning, you rise to go on a game drive.  Elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, and even—this year I finally saw them—lions.  The only missing animal in Africa’s big 5 is the rhino—they no longer live in the wild in Uganda, but there is a rhino farm if time permits.
  3. Diverse Cultures – Uganda has diversity.  We learned from our work with kids that there are dozens of actively spoken languages and dozens of self-identifying people groups.  Northern Uganda is not like Kampala, and it’s definitely not like Karamoja.  Those who live in the south sometimes can’t understand a word spoken by those from the north—they could easily be different countries!  With so much in such a small country, it makes for an interesting visit that will keep you on your toes.
  4. Adventure – Uganda has a growing adventures tourism industry, with a lot of room for more.  My favorite thing to do in Uganda is go whitewater rafting on the Nile River—some of the world’s best Class 5 rapids.  In addition to rafting, there are the game drives, bungee jumping for those comfortable with local safety inspections, visiting waterfalls, climbing mountains, and, of course, simple travel throughout the country is an adventure in itself.  I would bet that the adventure travel industry sector in Uganda is only getting started.
  5. There’s Even More to Do – Despite visiting five times now, I’ve always got more to do.  I want to climb Mount Elgon and the Rwenzori Mountains.  They are fairly serious climbs—no day trip from Kampala.  I learned of some islands in Lake Victoria that I would like to visit one day.  I’ve never been to Queen Elizabeth Park for a safari and I still want to visit Karamoja.  I guess I need to go back–several more times.

As Pepperdine Law professor Carol Chase remarked mid-way through our recent trip, “I would have never thought about bringing my family on a vacation Africa, but now I wonder why not.”  Try it for yourself–you might be surprised.

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A Guide to Air Travel Secrets and Beating the System (Part 2 of 2)

Thanks for following along with Part 1 of my Guide to Air Travel Secrets and Beating the System.  Today is the good stuff — what the airlines don’t want you to know.

If you missed yesterday, we’re learning how to travel before traveling.  We identified that it’s your mileage “score” that counts and opens the doors to comfort traveling.  We learned that the first secret is picking one airline and knowing that your “qualified miles” are the one that truly count. Continue Reading →

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A Guide to Air Travel Secrets and Beating the System (Part 1 of 2)

If you travel with any frequency or hope to start traveling often, you are likely unknowingly making major mistakes.  If, for instance, you make flight decisions based on ticket price alone, you are losing out on benefits you deserve: upgrades, skipping lines, free meals, and, above all, comfort.  In this post, I share what I’ve learned flying 150,000+ miles per year over the last few years.  There are secrets to beating the system and this is the guide I wish I had read.

Traveling right is more like the art of war than anything else.  Airlines want to give you the impression that you are getting all kinds of benefits.  Yet, on the same token, they want to keep costs down, so they can’t give it out to everyone.  Their goal is to incentivize, make you want it, but never let you quite get there.  This is a game, however, that you CAN win, but it takes knowing your enemy and a little strategy. Continue Reading →

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Back from Thailand

It was another great trip.  I'm back on U.S. soil again.

I have two observations following this trip:

First, this was my 6th trip to Thailand and I figure I've now spent close to 1/2-of-a-year of my life in Thailand.  I think every trip is going to be the same, but it never turns out that way.  They are always different and my role is always evolving.  Everytime I leave, I wonder if it will be my last trip.  I figure that I might not return for awhile, but they I do return sooner than later.  This trip was different because it focused less on some of the kids and more on work along the Thai-Burma border.  It's interesting to keep going back to a place and see your role there evolve and change.  You really can't experience that unless you keep going back.  I recommend to everyone that they find one place–a country, a city, an issue–to invest in and adopt.  When I left this time, I don't know when I'll be back yet again or even what the next trip will be like.

Second, it's interesting how sometimes you can be ready to leave and sometimes you want to stay.  To me, it doesn't really seem related to the length of the trip.  My first trip to Thailand was two months and, by the end, I did not want to leave at all.  By the end of this short trip, two weeks door-to-door, I was ready to return to the US and get to work on some next steps.   Although I was ready to return, I was dreaming about coming back and wishing I could be in SE Asia for 6 months to a year.  I'm not sure what the distinction is, why sometimes I want to stay and other times I'm ready to leave.

So, what is next?  Well, I definitely have quite a bit of follow up now that I'm back in the U.S.  I had great meetings at Chiang Mai University and Varee International School that warrant follow up here.  I have some law journal articles that need to be written and a film that I need to produce.  Most important to me now is that I feel we've reached critical mass in Chiang Mai.  We have significant partnerships and great opportunities.  Our law school administration needs to visit and see these opportunities and catch the vision.  Hopefully that will be my next trip.

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