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Travellers Voted For The 10 Best Cities In The World

Travellers Voted For The 10 Best Cities In The World

The influential Travel + Leisure website has announced their list of the 10 best cities to visit in 2015, and there are a few surprises. London is lovely, Paris is peachy, New York is neat, but it’s a big world out there. The site compiled the list as a result of their reader’s votes, and so while it was a fairly democratic process, there’s also a fair amount of subjectivity. All ten cities are remarkable destinations in ways that are obvious, and can also feel intangible – the place just gives you a magical feeling.

10. Jerusalem, Israel

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    While both Israelis and Palestinians lay claim to the holy city of Jerusalem, it’s the official capital city of Israel. This is a relatively recent development in an ancient city that dates back almost 6,000 years. Contemporary Jerusalem is a bustling modern city that has a skyline of tall gleaming office buildings right next to sites of profound holy significance. Religion is intertwined with day to day life in the city, and this is evident when you visit the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, which showcases species featured in the Hebrew Bible. The Israel Museum is also worth a visit to take in their most popular attraction, the Dead Sea Scrolls. If your time in the city is short, spend as much time as possible walking the streets of the Old City. It’s here that you’ll find the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you’ll find the experience to be profoundly moving.

    9. Cape Town, South Africa

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      Cape Town, and indeed all of South Africa, received a significant smartening up for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Naturally, stadiums across the country were upgraded, but the lingering effect that is of most benefit to visitors is the improvement in public transportation. Cape Town is the most popular destination for visitors in South Africa, and it’s easy to see why. Start your Cape Town day with a visit to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, which is the city’s primary harbourfront attraction. It’s a shopping complex that has both established retail outlets and temporary market stalls. The food is astounding, and much of it comes from the fishing boats that dock here. You also need to take a leisurely stroll along Long Street, where the cool kids come to spend their days in the bars and book stores.

      8. Barcelona, Spain

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        It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, you’re going to have to share Barcelona with a lot of other travellers. Start with a walk along the Ramblas – a long and rambling pedestrian mall that stretches from the central city to the harbour, which is always teeming with people. Much of the Ramblas is geared towards tourists, with street performers and caricature artists earning a living. Climb up Montjuïc, which is a small hill that overlooks the city and is the home of the 1992 Olympic stadium. The views are worth the minor effort, and you can also catch a cable car that will take you out over the harbour itself. You also have to see Sagrada Família, the (as-of-yet unfinished) cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí. You have to pay to go inside, but it’s enough to admire its exterior. It looks like a mammoth sandcastle.

        7. Krakow, Poland

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          Poland’s second largest city is often visited by backpackers on their way to or from Italy or the Czech Republic. It deserves to be the focal point of any European trip, although even when it comes to Poland, Krakow is often overlooked in favour of Warsaw. It’s a major city, and yet almost feels like a hidden treasure. It has the biggest medieval square in all of Europe (known as Rynek Glowny) and it’s remarkable to think that traders have been hawking their wares there for centuries. The square is the gateway to Krakow’s Old Town, which is remarkably well preserved. Look for the entrance to the Rynek Underground Museum, which is located beneath Rynek Glowny. It shows you more than a thousand years of the city’s history, much of which was only discovered when excavating the ancient parts of Krakow.

          6. Bangkok, Thailand

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            Every now and then, Thailand will receive some negative publicity when its government is overthrown by the military. This has happened 12 times since 1932, with another 7 unsuccessful coups. The country is used to it, and quickly stabilises. Bangkok can blow your mind unlike any other city and you will find yourself staring out the window as you drive from the airport to the city. Traditional buddhist temples stand next to ramshackle apartment buildings that look barely inhabitable and yet are all lit up. Further into the central city, there’s some obvious wealth and opulence, particularly when you visit the Siam Paragon shopping mall which has a Ferrari dealership on its upper levels. Traditional life meets capitalism at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can buy a live chicken to take home for slaughter, or a pair of fake Levi’s. It’s probably not a good idea to buy a snake to take home, though.

            5. Rome, Italy

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              While Rome attracts fewer visitors than other European cities, it really is the Eternal City. There’s a magic to the city, particularly during the warmer months when an extended dusk bathes the city in an achingly beautiful soft light. Of course you need to see such landmarks as the Colosseum, and you should arrive early if you don’t want to be waiting for hours to get inside. Ignore the men dressed as Roman Centurions who look like they’ve just come from an Asterix costume party. They will annoy you into having your photo taken with them… for a fee, naturally. Rome attracts so many people that many restaurants and stores can feel a little “touristy” with prices to match. Head for Via del Governo Vecchio – a shopping street that is less upmarket but infinitely more lively and authentic.

              4. Florence, Italy

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                You can look out across Florence and see a city that doesn’t seem to have changed much in centuries. Modern intrusions are rare, and it’s possible to imagine the city as it used to be. It’s easy to do this by climbing to the top of the Duomo for a 360 degree view of Florence. Linger in Piazza della Signoria – a square with so many statues that you’ll feel like you wandered into an open air gallery (not that there’s a shortage of galleries and museums here). One of the most curious things about Florence is how the city survived, despite the fact that much of it was built in medieval times. It’s not as though the loveliness was destroyed in the vague name of progress, so that a wide highway or something similar could be built to accommodate modern life. The ancient city simply exists, and modern conveniences were added if it was possible. This is obvious when you take a stroll along Costa San Giorgio, a street where many houses date back to the 1600’s.

                3. Siem Reap, Cambodia

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                  You’ll probably arrive in Cambodia via a flight to Phnom Penh, and this city is a true gem. Siem Reap is where you will want to spend most of your time in the country, and you can even catch a boat here from Phnom Penh. Siem Reap is where ancient history meets modern comfort, and is the gateway to the ancient cities and temples of Angkor. Due to the number of visitors who come here, there are a huge number of accommodation options from backpacker hostels to 5 star luxury. Siem Reap combines traditional Cambodian architecture with French colonialism, which is a throwback to when the region was part of French Indochina. Spend an afternoon browsing in the Psah Chas market where the price of produce will be a pleasant surprise (and will make you wish you had a kitchen to use). You should also visit one of the floating villages on the Siem Reap River, where entire communities live and work on a succession of boats and barges, all roped together.

                  2. Charleston, USA

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                    Charleston in South Carolina is not often spoken about in the same terms of other global cities, and yet it made the number two spot on Travel + Leisure’s best cities of 2015, with good reason. There is something alluring about the southern states of the US, and it’s easy to imagine sitting on a porch, sipping a mint julep while watching the wind rustle through the magnolia trees. I imagine you could do this in Charleston, but there are better ways to spend your time. To sip that mint julep, you should get up high to enjoy the views. There’s a rooftop bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel, and you can look left towards Mount Pleasant, right towards James Island or Morris Island, or out across the harbour to the Atlantic. You should also line your stomach, so go to Shem Creek. This is where the shrimping boats dock, and many of the local restaurants serve seafood that was nonchalantly swimming through the water just a few hours before.

                    1. Kyoto, Japan

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                      To see the birthplace of Kyoto, and perhaps even the birthplace of Japanese society, you will need to visit the Shimogamo Shrine. It’s the first Shinto shrine in Japan and dates back to the 6th century. It’s possible to have feelings of romanticism in Kyoto, and think of a clichéd Japan where Samurai warriors roamed the hills. These thoughts are reinforced if you walk the streets of Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka, where you might wonder if you’ve been transported back in time. Kyoto was Japan’s capital city from 794 until 1868, because this is where the Emperor lived. There are still some royal palaces that can be visited, namely the Kyoto Imperial Palace. When the sun goes down, it’s time to see Pontocho. This alleyway used to be where gentlemen would find a geisha companion for the evening, but is now where ladies and gentlemen find a cool bar for the evening.

                      Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via download.unsplash.com

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                      Last Updated on September 10, 2019

                      7 Morning Rituals to Empower Your Day And Change Your Life

                      7 Morning Rituals to Empower Your Day And Change Your Life

                      Most of your reality is not a given. It is shaped by your expectations, beliefs and thoughts you have formed about it. A big chunk of these beliefs and expectations are encoded into habits you integrate in your daily life.

                      Yes, some of these habits are formed unconsciously and can be counter-productive or limiting but conversely, you can consciously form positive habits that will transform and empower your life significantly.

                      This is a powerful point of departure that more and more people are becoming aware of. The most common trait of highly successful people is the recognition of the power they have in co-creating their reality through changing the way they think, believe or expect their reality to be.

                      One of the most effective ways of changing our belief patterns is through practising and maintaining daily rituals. Ancient traditions had clearly understood the power of rituals in reinforcing habits and changing the way we see and create our reality a long, long time ago.

                      Once again, if you look into the life history of any highly successful individual, you will find some form of ritual in their daily routine. Some of these rituals may seem banal or eccentric but don’t be deceived by appearances. Rituals are one of the most effective self-empowering tools freely available at the practitioner’s disposal – that is, you!

                      Below are some the easiest yet life-changing morning rituals you can do every day. Of course, you can have your own afternoon or bed-time rituals but morning rituals are extremely effective in empowering your day since they help you charge yourself before it all starts.

                      1. Gratitude

                      Feeling gratitude and appreciation for those little signs and moments of joy happening in your life is probably one of the most overlooked or underestimated rituals. It is a perfect morning ritual to start your day on a very positive key.

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                      The real power of gratitude is that it makes you pick out and focus on what is working in your life – what is in tune with your being as a whole. It is selectively positive. It reinforces happiness and positivity by shedding light on those awesome things, small or big, that grace your everyday living.

                      Quite often, we just pick out the pain points, the problems, the bottle necks, whatever it is that is not working in our life and causing friction, anxiety and unhappiness. This is like constantly rewriting the script of your life with a negative or tragic overtone. Your subconscious mind follows faithfully that script you write whether it is a negative or positive one.

                      So feeling gratitude is undoubtedly an immensely empowering ritual. Start your day by being thankful for those positive things that happened the previous day or throughout the week. It could be something really petty and small. It doesn’t matter. You might be grateful for an unexpected visit from an old friend, a beautiful encounter with a kind stranger, a new opportunity or whatever it is that shines your way. Do it every morning and see what happens during the day.

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                        2. Writing Down Your Most Important Tasks

                        This is a very practical ritual. Start your day by identifying and writing down from one to three of the most important tasks you need to complete during that day. These tasks are ones which support important long term goals that are aligned to your purpose, passion or general direction in life.

                        For example, if writing a book or building an online community are important long term goals which are aligned to your personal growth, then an important task for the day might be finishing off a particular page or two of the book or coming up with fresh content ideas for the online community.

                        What is important with this ritual is that you identify these tasks and complete them as early in the day as possible. Of course, you will have other tasks apart from the ones you will write down but, these are tasks which can be tackled later or batched up and carried out in one go.

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                        Writing down your most important tasks in the morning helps you focus your day and life according to what is essential. It helps you prioritize and manage your time better. As a result, you simplify your life by applying your focus and energy on what really counts for your overall life progress.

                        3. Affirm Your Goals in Writing or Drawing

                        This is similar to the previous idea but different in its application and purpose. Writing down your most important tasks of the day is a way to have a concrete structure of action to follow. Affirming your goals, on the other hand, is a very powerful way of crystallizing your vision and goals in life into your everyday mental space.

                        Writing down or doodling your goals on a piece of paper helps you externalize those goals by giving them form. In return, they are reflected back in your subconscious mind and thus, reinforcing them and integrating them more wholly.

                        An example of this would be writing down “I am achieving greater success in my career” or “I am becoming healthier and stronger through my exercise.” Notice the present tense being used as a way to tell yourself you are in the process already. Remember the life script we subconsciously follow? You are basically modifying the script to be applied now in the present.

                        Drawing or doodling can be equally, or even more, effective  (if you are more of a visual person) as it summarizes a graphical representation of your goals. For example, if your goal is to build a new house or live in another country, you can draw the house or draw things that symbolise the country you want to live in.

                        write down goals

                          4. Practice Qi Gong Exercises

                          According to Chinese philosophy, Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’) means the life force or energy inherent in all things;[1] and Qi Gong is the practice to cultivate and circulate that energy in your body. This may sound esoteric or complicated but actually, Qi Gong is really a set of simple exercises aimed at increasing your health and vitality.

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                          There are numerous forms and practices available for free through the online media. As a morning ritual, I recommend following these simple exercises by Qi Gong master Lee Holden:

                          5. Drink Hot Water with Lemon

                          Simply add a slice of lemon in a glass of hot water and drink one every morning. This is a very simple ritual I follow faithfully every morning.

                          Apart from being a good source of vitamin C and a great way of flushing out toxins in the morning, it balances and maintains the PH levels in the body, reduces pain and inflammation in joints and knees and helps nourishing brain and nerve cells. Here are some more benefits of drinking hot water with lemon.

                          6. Rise Earlier

                          The practical advantages of waking up early are obvious.

                          For example, you gain more time for doing exercise such as walking, cycling or Qi Gong as suggested above. You gain more time to be with yourself to reflect, meditate or, more importantly, carry out the other morning rituals.

                          So rising early can be seen as a foundation for all the other morning rituals. Many, like myself, find that they are more productive in the early hours of the day.

                          Also, various studies have shown that there are many other benefits from waking up an hour or two earlier in the morning. Sleeping early and waking up early helps the body attune with the earth’s circadian rhythms thus, promoting more restorative sleep. Other curious results from such studies show, for instance, that early risers tend to be more optimistic and can anticipate and solve problems more efficiently than the norm.[2]

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                          7. Listen to Uplifting Music

                          Uplifting music can have a direct impact on our mood, especially in the morning. It charges us emotionally and tunes us into a more positive outlook of the day ahead.

                          Most people wake up to music or listen to music as they commute to work. Very often, however, they tune in to a radio or randomly pick a playlist from their device. Being more selective and conscious of the music you listen to in the morning can have a great impact on your day and life in general.

                          It’s funny how we try to choose music according to our mood. For example if you are feeling down or disappointed by something, you are more prone to listen to music that reflects that mood – for instance blues, sad songs or downtempo music. This has the effect of reinforcing that mood. What you need to do is the exact opposite and retune your mood by listening to music that beats to a different tune than that mood.

                          Try to listen to more uplifting music in the morning even if, or especially if, your mood does not dictate so.

                          More About Energetic Habits & Rituals

                          Featured photo credit: Carli Jeen via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Live Science: What Is Qi Gong
                          [2] Harvard Business Review: Defend Your Research: The Early Bird Really Does Get the Worm

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