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The Most Underrated Places in the World

The Most Underrated Places in the World

Traveling is one of the most fun things you can do. You get to explore new places, meet new people, and experience different cultures. Best of all, you get a break from your regular life! But instead of visiting the same places as usual, or being caught up in a tourist trap, check out some of the most underrated places in the world.

1. Bolivia

bolivia
    Even though Bolivia is near the equator, there is still diversity in its climate, which means you can experience many different things as you travel from the Andes Mountains to the country’s portion of the Amazon basin. Indigenous people make up 80 percent of Bolivia’s population, which means there is still a strong sense of culture. A variety of festivals are celebrated, and it’s easy to find traditional food and listen to traditional songs and stories. The history is still very much alive as well, so while you’re there you’ll get a good overview of the country’s past and how it has changed. Bolivia has the most preserved land in terms of forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes. This makes the views even more spectacular, and you can hike the mountain trails or go on safaris. Best of all, traveling to and within Bolivia is very affordable – you’ll spend about a third as much as you would traveling in the United States!

    2. Sao Paulo, Brazil

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    brazil

      If you want to explore a monster of a foreign city, check out Sao Paulo – with over 20 million residents, it’s the third largest metropolis on earth! The city is known for its food, markets, architecture, and museums – not to mention it’s pulsing nightlife. The city is spread out so it’s hard to stay in just one area to do all you want, but Sao Paulo boasts 30 kilometers of car-free bike paths to make getting around a little easier. Hundreds of different ethnic groups call Sao Paulo home, including the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so you’ll have no problem finding a variety of cultures to explore to enrich your time in the city. Regardless of your interests, make sure you visit a few of the city’s 150 museums and cultural centers, 420 experimental theaters, and 12,500 (yes, really!) restaurants that serve over 52 different cuisines. Oh, and the nightlife I mentioned? There are over 15,000 places! The city stays awake around the clock, so you’ll certainly find things to do.

      3. Zhangjiajie, China

      Zhangjiajie

        Zhangjiajie is a national park in the Hunan province of south-central China. Three ethnic groups make up 70% of the local population, so there is still a lot of traditional culture to explore, including language, festivals, clothing, and architecture. The locals are very friendly and love sharing their history with tourists, which makes this park a favorite place to visit. Because it is in a subtropical climate, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has a unique “micro climate of forest,” meaning it is cool in summer and warm in winter. There are gorgeous lakes, streams, and waterfalls, along with a wide variety of rare species of animals. Fun fact: a mountain peak here was the inspiration for the visual setting of the world of Pandora in the movie “Avatar”!

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        4. Iceland

        iceland

          Iceland isn’t as far away as you might think – just a five-hour flight from major cities in the northeast US. As a bonus, Icelandair offers you a layover in Iceland on your way to other cities in Europe, which means you can get two trips in one! As far as what to do while you’re there, you’ll have a lot to cram in. You can visit the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. It’s naturally heated water where you can bathe and indulge in massage treatments. If you time your visit right, you’ll have a great view of the Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis. There are a lot of museums about Icelandic history, including the Vikings. If you prefer the city life, you can visit Reykjavik, the capital city, which has a great nightlife, shops, good food, and a big arts and music scene. As a bonus, everyone in Iceland speaks English, so you’ll have a bit of an easier time getting help and information with anything else you might need.

          5. The Philippines

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          Philippines-beaches-Boracay

            The Philippines is one of the largest island groups in the world, with over 7,000 islands. You know what this means? Beaches! Gorgeous beaches with white sand overlooking turquoise waters. These beaches often make a variety of “Top 10 Beaches” lists. There are a lot of rare species of animals in the Philippines, not to mention beautiful nature scenes like waterfalls, lakes, and caves. You can even see Taal, the world’s smallest volcano! The temperature is always even and comfortable, so you won’t have to worry about packing for extreme temperatures, or even layers for changes from day to night. And if you love shopping, the islands boast some of the largest malls in the world. They don’t just have chain stores, either – the Philippines are known for their handicrafts.

            6. Albania

            albania

              Albania is quickly building itself up as a tourist destination after a checkered history of dictatorship and riots, so it’s a good idea to visit now, before it gets so popular you’ll feel overcrowded. While it’s being built up, the exchange rate between its currency, the lek, and American money is the best it can be – less than one cent! That means a hotel room overlooking the beach that costs 1,800 lek is actually less than $17! Your money will go so much further in Albania that you’ll get to see and do it all. You’ll want to spend most of your time relaxing on Albania’s 362 kilometers of coastline, which stretches through the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Some areas near the beaches are isolated, but if you like a busier scene, then you can find some coastal cities with hotels and restaurants along the sand. The cities have great museums, and also some of the best cafés and bars on tree-lined streets with outside patios, so you can enjoy the view. Though it has great beaches, the country is known for gorgeous mountain ranges you’ll want to photograph, along with historic castles and ruins that aren’t even roped off – climb in and explore!

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              7. Sierra Leone

              freetown

                Sierra Leone was known in the 1990s for having a decade-long civil war, but peace was declared in 2002 and the country is now is one of West Africa’s safest destinations. It has great beaches lined with palm trees, or you can visit Outamba-Kilmi National Park to see some amazing wildlife. You can visit an assortment of island groups, like the Turtle Islands or Banana Islands, or the Gola Forest Reserve, located in a rainforest tract. Check out Mt. Bintumani, the highest peak at 1,945 meters, for an amazing view from the summit. If you’re craving the nightlife, check out Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

                8. Mozambique

                Mozambique

                  Are you tired of hearing about beaches yet? I hope not, because Mozambique boasts over 2,500 kilometers of spectacular, secluded beaches, as well as clear dive sites to see rare marine life while snorkeling and scuba diving. There are also channels along the coast that offer some of the best fishing for marlin and sail fish. Mozambique is known for its traditional music and arts, which depict the struggle for independence as well as traditional beliefs. As far as Mozambique’s history goes, you’ll want to learn about their decades-long civil war and struggles with pirates, slaves, and gold and ivory hunters. Make sure you have time for some good meals, too – Mozambique has some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever find!

                  Featured photo credit: fdecomite via flickr.com

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                  Last Updated on September 28, 2020

                  The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

                  The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

                  At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

                  Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

                  One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

                  When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

                  So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

                  Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

                  This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

                  Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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                  When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

                  Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

                  One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

                  Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

                  An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

                  When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

                  Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

                  Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

                  We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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                  By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

                  Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

                  While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

                  I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

                  You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

                  Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

                  When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

                  Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

                  Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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                  Con #2: Less Human Interaction

                  One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

                  Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

                  Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

                  This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

                  While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

                  Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

                  Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

                  This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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                  For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

                  Con #4: Unique Distractions

                  Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

                  For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

                  To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

                  Final Thoughts

                  Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

                  We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

                  More About Working From Home

                  Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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