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Health and Fitness Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Health and Fitness

Asen’s Fortress Is A Hidden Day Trip In Bulgaria

asen's fortress

More than a few visitors coming to Sofia or Plovdiv tend to miss Asen’s Fortress, an easy day trip from either city tucked away in Bulgaria’s mountains. Likely built by the Thracians roughly 2500 years ago, its unassuming remains obscure the fort’s interesting past. Only two hours away from Sofia and less than 30 from Plovdiv, there are several tour operators running shuttle buses here but if you’re up for it, renting a car gives you more options with fewer crowds.

asen's fort bulgaria

During the fall, winter, and colder days of spring you’re likely to be the only visitors around, having the entire fort to yourself. Walking around the grounds though might not be for everyone, there are a lot of stairs and steep climbs to be aware of. Even so, just stepping out to the front entrance can give you nice views of below.

asens fortress church

Well preserved and restored if you do make the climb up you’ll see the Church of the Holy Mother of God. Built in the 12th or 13th century, it was the only remaining part of Asen’s Fortress which was mostly destroyed in the 14th century.

asen's fortress

Asen’s Fortress was strategically located close enough to the Ottoman capital Istanbul to be a viable staging ground for competing brothers warring to become sultan. Fratricide was common through this era of Ottoman history meaning brothers would murder one another to become sultan.

Church of the Holy Mother of God

Seeing the obvious issues a place like Asen’s Fortress might cause, it is thought Sultan Suleiman destroyed it to prevent a figurative thorn in his western side.

bulgarian flag

You can often catch wonderful views, even on a cloudy day as the winds tend to carry breaks in between the mists of the mountainside below.

asens fort

Asen’s Fortress is open Wednesdays through Sundays from early in the morning through later in the day (8am-5pm). There’s a nominal fee to enter this beautiful place to explore. During the colder months remember to wear good shoes, watch your step, and make your plans around any potential snow.

Further north you can find Belogradchik, a fort built into the natural rock formations, climb Vitosha if you’re staying in Sofia, while all the time keeping in mind they nod backwards here. So when ordering one of these local dishes at a restaurant, they will be bringing you a coffee – unless they’re nodding up and down.

The Best Filtered Water Bottles For Travel

filtered water bottle

Water is essential for biological life but also the biggest ripoff in an airport. Not to mention it’s usually sold in plastic containers so a filtered water bottle can not only save you money but creates less waste as well. There are a variety of options for travelers making a straightforward accessory a potentially complicated decision.

To make it easy, there are basically two types of filtered water bottles to be aware of and these are the best filtered water bottles of each to travel with.

In Short, Two Types

Basically there are two primary types of filtered water bottle – those designed for hikers and those for tap water. For most travelers, the latter is what you’re looking for. The majority of filtered water bottles are made to purify tap water, which is useful at airports, new cities, or at the gym. Essentially, they improve the taste of and eliminate the most common bacteria (down to 0.01 micron) you might come across in already treated water.

The SurviMate won’t filter heavy metals or viruses meaning you can’t just fill it up from a lake and chug. But it can help you get cleaner water from drinking fountains at airports plus has replaceable filters.

Straight Outta Nature

On the other hand if you’ll be hiking or know you won’t have access to treated water, the GRAYL filters out nearly all bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals. GRAYL uses a manual pump system that can remove larger sediments as well. It might be a bit overkill depending on where you’ll be traveling but for the best portable water protection, the GRAYL is worth the investment.

More Options To Choose From

Of all the filtered water bottles I tested, the primary differences between the types were small. Tap water filters generally have a .01 micron limit and many SurviMate knockoffs don’t have replaceable filters. (Many claim the filters are “coming soon” but SurviMate’s been around a while and have filters that last a year under regular use of 4 liters/1 gallon per day.)

As for the wilderness water filters, the prices generally go up based on the amount of water being filtered but for backpackers a typical water bottle size is ideal. Other options like UV pens I’ve found aren’t as reliable since they can’t remove large particles or heavy metals from water like the GRAYL. You can check this map to see where you can and can’t drink the local water, filter tap as you go, or GRAYL for the great outdoors.

How To Travel With CBD

You’ve probably been hearing more about CBD lately since changes in hemp laws are making it available in a growing number of countries worldwide. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis that doesn’t have psychoactive effects and many claim it’s a remedy for a variety of issues, including jet lag.

Aside from its effectiveness there’s still a lot of confusion among travelers around if CBD is legal and how to travel with it. If you’re one of those travelers you can watch the video above or read on to learn more.

What Is CBD?

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, one of the two main compounds in marijuana. The other compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the one that gets you high if you smoke or ingest it. CBD doesn’t get you high (unlike khat) and its popularity is based on its potentially therapeutic effects. Being sold in familiar foods such as chocolates and gummies also makes CBD easy to market. CBD oil is also sold separately which you can use to add to tea, for example.

CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, then the THC removed yet many CBD products have trace amounts of THC. So long as the CBD contains less than the local permitted amount of THC, it may be considered legal. In the United States CBD extracted from hemp is legal if the THC content is below .3% – at least in most states. Because CBD is not regulated, the amount of CBD as well as trace THC often varies from what the label says.

Depending on the legal status of marijuana where you are, CBD with THC may also be available. This is an important distinction in a lot of places and for this post, we’ll focus on just CBD. If you’re curious what the local marijuana laws are around the world, you can check this free map or download GrassFox on iOS or Android.

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
How To Travel With CBD

Obviously a lot of these rules will depend on jurisdiction but for now the best advice is not to travel with CBD internationally. The rules regarding CBD and marijuana are a complicated mesh which may or may not be well understood, even by those enforcing them. Marijuana possession is a very serious offense in a lot of places and CBD branding or oil droppers can easily be mistaken for it. (Or just no distinction made between the different cannabinoids.) Don’t put yourself in unnecessary risk by bringing CBD on an international trip but it won’t hurt to have some before you head to the airport.

cbd airplane

Within the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently clarified CBD derived from hemp (without THC) is legal to fly with. It’s important to note if you’re flying to one of the few states where CBD is not legal, you might run into trouble if you’re found with it. (At a traffic stop for instance.) National parks within the U.S. don’t allow CBD either because they are federal lands. Many theme parks as well as cruise lines prohibit CBD as well.

CBD is available in several European countries but again, since the rules may vary across international borders even within the Schengen Area, don’t go abroad with it.

Does CBD Help Jet Lag?

There is no cure for jet lag which is the result of a bombardment of things that muck up your sleep and body cycles. You can try shifting your body clock with peanuts or using these expert sleep tips but in both cases, the goal is to get good sleep at the right times. Although there’s not much clinical evidence of CBDs benefits, anecdotally it does help many people sleep better. Consumed in food, taking CBD an hour or two before you fly might help you doze off better.

CBD can’t make jet lag vanish but it has some promise for giving you improved sleep so you can more rapidly adapt to a new timezone. A lot is not known about CBDs benefits and side effects so be sure to do your own research and talk to a doctor if you’re unsure about trying it.

SafetyWing Travel Insurance Review: A Good Plan For Travelers Without One

bogota fruit market

Travel insurance is the type of add-on to a trip you don’t know you need until what is invariably a bad time. A sprained ankle, appendicitis, the kind of medical emergency you don’t want anywhere, especially without some kind of insurance coverage.

Often, you’ve got to apply for travel insurance with a set itinerary in mind: where you’re going and when, all in advance. Travel enough though and you’re likely to change plans at some point, possibility invalidating insurance coverage. SafetyWing operates differently, with options for frequent travelers, long-term trips, and all of the increasingly common, uncommon digital nomad categories you may fall into.

The best way to review travel insurance is to actually use it. When SafetyWing got in touch for a potential review, I didn’t have the right trip planned but my friend Jessie on a Journey was off to Nepal. She shares her experience with SafetyWing below.

jessie festa

What SafetyWing Covers

Here is their policy at a glance:

  • Robust Coverage – With SafetyWing nomad travel insurance, you’ll be covered for unexpected illness or injury. This includes hospital, doctor, and prescription drug expenses (where eligible). Additionally, you’re covered for travel delays, lost checked luggage, lost/stolen passport, non-professional sports and activities, if you need new accommodation due to a natural disaster, accidental death or dismemberment. I know, not fun to think about, but important.

Note that the above is just a small sampling of what is covered. It’s important to review their policy to gain a full understanding of exactly what is or isn’t covered.

  • A Large Network – You’ll be covered in any country in the world outside of Iran, North Korea or Cuba. Additionally, you’re not covered if you hold Cuban citizenship.
  • $250,000 of Coverage – Their deductible is very low at $250, too.
  • No Time Limit – If you’re a digital nomad who plans to travel for many years, you can continue renewing your SafetyWing subscription.
  • One Deductible – Instead of needing to pay a deductible for every claim, you have one low overall deductible of $250 per year.
  • Access to Private Health Care Providers – If you’re in a destination where the public healthcare system isn’t great, this is an important option to have.

One really unique feature SafteyWing includes is limited coverage in your home country as well, so long as the visit isn’t for an appointment to treat an ailment that began on your trip. So if you’re home and an accident happens, you have 30 days of at-home coverage (or 15 days in the United States) during every 90-day cycle.

SafetyWing Limitations

Travelers who are over 69 are no eligible to purchase plans and visitors to the U.S. will need to get a new plan before their trip. U.S. coverage is a different plan altogether, which can’t be added on later. This means you’ll need to cancel and re-purchase a new plan, and your deductible will reset.

How Sign-Up Works

As you can also see above, it’s possible to purchase the travel insurance for less than one month to get a pro-rated policy. One small problem I ran into had to do with me being a New York resident. If you live in New York, Maryland, or Washington, you can’t physically be in your home state when you purchase due to local laws. [Anil here, a VPN will help you get around this restriction.]

safetywing

The Future Of SafetyWing Insurance

The company already has a great product, though they are currently working to launch the following features:

SafetyWing are also looking at potential comprehensive coverage (for your home country), a disability, and pension plans as well.

Flat-Fee Plans

Unlike most travel insurance companies where you need to provide a number of details before speaking with someone and getting a quote, SafetyWing works like a subscription. That is because instead of offering 10+ plans, they offer one robust policy solution. You’ll pay $37 per month for worldwide travel medical coverage (for travelers aged 18-39, though other ages are available).

  • Note that travel to the USA adds $31 per four weeks.

Quite often, companies charge $100+ for one month of coverage, so this is a great deal. While writing this article I actually went and got quotes from a number of other companies to confirm this. Unlike most travel insurance providers, you don’t need to purchase their insurance before your trip, either.

Taking The Headache Out Of Travel Insurance For Digital Nomads

What I really appreciate about SafetyWing is that I don’t need to answer a ton of questions and add up all of my travel expenses just to get taken to a page where I then to need to sift through numerous plan options. Instead, everything is included in one affordable price.

Thanks Jessie for your review! You can read Jessie’s full review here, catch up on her trip to Nepal, and learn more about SafetyWing here. All photos in this post (except the first one) are courtesy JessieonaJourney.com.

The Galapagos Are A Camera’s Dream: Here’s The Photo Evidence [Part 2 of 2]

The first part of this series was a close look at the Galapagos but here in Part 2, I’m zooming out a bit to put the background in focus.

nazca booby

What one of the most iconic shots from the Galapagos Islands lacks in color it makes up for in contrast.

galapagos islands

When you get to the top, take a look back.

galapagos trail

The number of visitors to each area is strictly limited to preserve the environment.

galapagos andando

These iguana are surprisingly good swimmers.

galapagos iguana

Bacteria in their gut aid digestion, giving the iguanas impressive bellies.

galapagos iguana

🙂

galapagos iguana smile

On islands where they have no predators, the cactus have soft spines. Otherwise, better watch your step.

galapagos cactus

This young rebel was hanging out in a tree, very rare for any age iguana.

galapagos iguana

Can’t really see, can’t really hear, don’t really care since they don’t realize you’re near.

galapagos tortise

Someone doesn’t skip leg day.

galapagos lizards

It’s hard to believe these palm-sized tortoises will become 180 kilos one day.

galapagos tortise babies

Look closely and you’ll see mom keeping an eye on the little ones.

sea lion pups

One of the harder birds to capture on camera, a Galapagos hawk.

galapagos hawk

Now, test your eyes, how many do you see?

galapagos mockingbirds

Even the bird poop is majestic.

galapagos islands

Hey bro, take a few so I can choose my favorite.

galapagos photos

We’re all friends here.

galapagos iguana

Like wildlife, so many photos…

galapagos animals

…like this former volcano crater. (Droning in not allowed in Galapagos and it’s not easy to get a permit but this view from above would have been amazing.)

galapagos volcano crater

I’ll link to the full galleries.

galapagos sunset

Right here, plus the best places to eat in Puerto Ayora, and short movie trailer for the Galapagos sea lion pups who can’t get enough attention.

The Galapagos Are A Camera’s Dream: Here’s The Photo Evidence [Part 1 of 2]

galapagos trails

There are more than enough photos of the Galapagos Islands on the Internet and whether you’ve been there or not, most people can’t take or see too many pictures of this remarkably well-preserved environment. Although sea lion pups are certainly the main celebrities in Galapagos, it’s hard to describe how many animals are literally everywhere.

For those who have the opportunity, I would recommend seeing as much of the Galapagos, which is spread over 21 islands as you can. Yes, it’s an expensive place to visit but worth saving the money and time if it’s a possibility; in fact if I were limited to only one place to travel in a lifetime, it would probably be the Galapagos.

Nothing I had read or watched prepared me for the wildlife density all around. The picture of this blue-footed booby is deceptive – when I glanced down at the water, there were baby sharks, rays, turtles, all swimming around this natural nursery.

blue footed booby

Hello.

galapagos ray

Don’t mind me, passing through.

galapagos crab

Baby version.

baby swallow tailed gull

Grownup swallow-tailed gulls.

swallow tailed gulls

Keeping 2 meters away (as is the rule), modest zoom for the rest. This is a nazca booby.

nazca booby

They’re all called boobies not because they have nice bird cleavage but it’s thought it comes from the Spanish word for fool, “bobo”, or clown “bufon” – because all of them are look really silly walking.

nazca booby

And when they don’t know what to do, they stare at their feet. Personally, I think they’re just camera shy.

galapagos birds

They’re not entirely graceful at takeoff either.

galapagos boobies

Did someone say seal lion?

galapagos sea lion

Rolls eyes…

galapagos wildlife

Occasionally they’re in the trees but I had to watch my step, the ground was full of birds walking around without a care in the world.

galapagos boobies

Mockingbird selfie.

mockingbird galapagos

Not impressed.

galapagos owl

Flashy crab.

red crab galapagos Grapsus grapsus

This workout brought to you by a former volcano.

volcano galapagos

Make sure you get my good side.

galapagos sunset

Got down to the coast and there were shark fins right off shore. A beautiful nightmare.

galapagos coast

I like your exterior designer, Galapagos.

galapagos red plants

Nobody will ever notice me.

galapagos lizard

We’re cute.

galapagos crabs

I’m cuter.

sea lion pup sleeping galapagos

A debate which will go on at least until Part 2, coming later this week. Subscribe here so you don’t miss it or follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More


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