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Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX Hiking Shoe Review

errell is no stranger to the outdoors, having produced highly-acclaimed hiking shoes and boots for many decades. In recent years, hiking footwear has trended toward trail runners, and Merrell has answered the call with options like the Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX.
Now in its second iteration, the hybrid hiking/trail running shoe has been updated with features to make it a fast, protective shoe. This model is offered in both a waterproof and non-waterproof version and includes many attractive features that make it a solid choice for outdoor adventures. ...

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My Shortest Solo AT Section Yet was also my Toughest: 55 Miles of Northern Virginia in November

It was Wednesday, November 11th, and I felt the sweet relief I had been noticing the past few days at the moment I opened my eyes and realized it was light out. Restless nights of sleep will do that, especially when the sun goes down around 5 PM and doesn’t start showing its presence again until sometime between 6 and 7 AM. As much as I tried to befriend the extra darkness in the evenings, I didn’t welcome the extra time I had been spending with it as I tossed and turned every couple hours at night, ...

The post My Shortest Solo AT Section Yet was also my Toughest: 55 Miles of Northern Virginia in November appeared first on The Trek.

Life of Kai | Watch Red Bull’s Epic New Series About Big-Wave Surfer Kai Lenny

Kai Lenny is one of the most prolific watermen on the face of the earth. While he is well-known for his fearless big-wave surfing at spots like Jaws, Mavericks and Nazaré, Lenny can do a lot more than chase big waves. Whether it’s standup paddling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, shortboarding or his latest obsession––foiling–––Lenny does it all […]

A Holiday Spirit Worth Sharing

Just in time for this season of giving comes Lobos 1707, a brand new tequila and mezcal brand being backed by none other than NBA World Champion LeBron James. This premium spirit pays heritage to a centuries old distilling process, providing an unique taste experience you’ll want to share with friends and family this holiday […]

Useful Things to Know Before You Travel to China

Travelling to China can be a rather memorable experience. It's a destination that feels like you're travelling to a whole other planet. 

Whenever I get asked, have I travelled to China, I'm always reluctant to say yes.
 
I have a love/hate relationship with visiting China as it's not a comfortable place to travel around.
 
But please, don't let this put you off your trip entirely, it's a good thing. 
 
I guess I love it more for this very reason, that it is a challenging country to travel around. 
 
And it is for this very reason I've put together this blog post as I wanted to share my top Useful things to know before you travel to China. 
 
If only I had known these few things before I departed on my first trip to China, I feel I would have enjoyed my first trip a lot more. It is a country that grows with you over time. 
 
I do hope that this information helps you to navigate around China A lot better from the get-go.
 

China offers many incredible destinations to travel too, such as: 

- See pandas in Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center, 
- Exploring the forbidden city of Beijing.
- Taking on the dangerous challenge of the plank walk on Mount Hua.
- Unearthing the Terracotta Army outside of the ancient city of Xi'an, 
- Walking along the Great Wall of China, 
- Exploring the busy hustle of Shanghai city
- Relaxing on the tropical island paradise of Hainan. 
 
Simply put, China covers a lot of ground for travellers with much to see and do. 
 
After all, China is one of the world's most populous countries. Did you know that you can find 102 cities in China with a population of over 1 million people? Now that's a lot of people. 
 
Nothing wrong with a challenge, In fact, I would prefer a challenge whilst travelling, It's always a nice change to get lost on your own without an understanding of where you might end up.  
 
Always be prepared before you travel, jump into the deep end and most importantly, have fun. 
 
However, I can give you a few tips I wish I knew before travelling to China. 
 
You will have moments throughout your trip to China when all you can simply say is "oh China"! It is a special place, and you will stumble across the most bizarre of situations. 
 
And a brief word of warning, health and safety is a whole different ball game in China. So do be on guard where ever you go and be sure to take out reliable travel insurance before your trip to ensure you're covered. 
 

You will need to arrange a VPN before your trip to China 

The great firewall of china, nothing gets in, nothing gets out. 
 
It doesn't bother locals that much that everything is blocked, as they have their own Chinese versions of popular services and apps. 
 

Blocked websites in China:

– Facebook
– Google (Gmail, Maps, translate)
– Twitter
– Flickr
– YouTube
– Instagram
 
ALL BLOCKED! You have been warned. 
 
Need not fear; you can quickly get around this blocking problem by downloading a popular virtual private network service called a VPN. 
 
It's essential that you find a VPN that works in China, and you set it up on your laptop and mobile smartphone before you arrive. 
 
Once it's set up, you can access all the above-blocked sites easily in China. Meaning you can stay connected with the outside world and carry on like usual. 
 

Don't damage your electronic devices 

Make sure you have the correct voltage and adapters to charge your electronic devices. It's a good idea to get a plug with a surge to be on the safe side. You have been warned. 
 

Stick with tea and bottled water in China

Coffee is not a good idea in China; after all, they do so well as a nation to create incredibly tasty tea, why would you drink coffee? 
 
Coldwater isn't a thing; you're more likely to see hot water on offer around China as many locals like to either add tea leaves or drink it on it's own hot. 
 
Avoid drinking tap water at all costs and purchase sealed bottled water when you need. 
 
Instead, Switch your coffee for tea, and you won't be disappointed. 
 
For an emergency brew, China does have Starbucks. Not that Starbucks is a great coffee, it's just available just in case you do need your caffeine fix in the morning. 
 
Otherwise, I would get a flask to fill up with hot water to add your tea leaves to in the morning. Do as the locals do and enjoy the excellent tasting tea on your trip to China. 
 

You don't need a Visa to enter China

Did you know that you don't need a visa to enter China? I didn't know this either, but British tourists flying from London to Hainan directly can enjoy a 30-day visa-free entry. 
 
For the majority of trips to China, you are required to apply for a tourist visa to enter. 
 
But there are few exceptions where UK passport holders don't need a visa. 
 
Another example is an international traveller who is transiting through China within 72 hours. You need to reach another country within 72-hours to be eligible for the transit visa. 
 
I used this transit visa whilst on a trip from London to Bangkok via Beijing, and I went hiking along the Great Wall of China within 72-hours and was able to enter China without the need for a visa. 
 

Eat first, ask later, China will remain a mystery when it comes to food 

My best advice for eating food in China is to order the set meal or the recommended dish and then eat before asking what it is. 
 
Food in China can be an adventure in itself; the best advice is not to ask what you're eating and just eat it. Eat first, then ask later. 
 
You might be surprised by what you're eating. China is a fun culinary destination, and I've enjoyed some incredible dishes having no idea what it is. 
 
Also, Mock food is popular in China, such as Mock Duck or Mock Chicken as China perfected fake meat way before the impossible burger.  This is mostly down to cost as meat can be expensive for locals and the mock version is much cheaper and has a similar taste and texture. 
 
If you happen to have a dietary requirement, preference or allergy, it might be a little tricky to get across your requests in China. 
 
A good idea would be to translate these words in advance so you can have them on hand to work out with the restaurant what's in the meal before eating. 
 
I must warn you that they may say that the dish doesn't contain an item when it does. This is entirely down to the language barrier and the ingredient being more used for a stock than being a key ingredient. 
 
Jodi from Legal Nomad has put together some useful cards for those looking for Gluten Free options that will help with the translation issue. I'd highly recommend sorting this out before you travel to China. 
 

Make sure you carry cash whilst travelling around China

Most payments in China are made through QR payment with digital wallets using apps such as WeChat Pay or Alipay. 
 
It's challenging to get a local sim card and activate these apps; travellers should withdraw local cash from an ATM as card payments such as American Express, Mastercard or Visa are not a common form of payment, especially for smaller transactions with local vendors, cash is your best option. 
 
I'd recommend trying to locate and find an HSBC ATM to withdraw your cash in China and be sure to inform your bank ahead of time that you're travelling to China to avoid your account being cut off. 
 

Gobbing, Spitting and farting are all common practices in China

Trump, toot, bottom burp, One-Cheek Squeak or how about a Breezer? Fart to your hearts contents in China as locals don't seem to mind openly in public. 
 
I don't think I will ever forget the moment a local dropped a tune whilst standing next to me. It was like getting permission to finally allow my body to unleash the orchestra performance of a lifetime out in public without any shame. 
 
Please don't get offended as it doesn't fix anything, you're in China now. Join in with the local customs. 
 
However, it was the sound of the gobbing noise on almost every street corner of China that got to me. It's again, relatively common practice and one that can't be avoided. 
 
Welcome to China, Spitting is relatively common; you will simply have to get used to it.
 
Another custom to get used to is the art of queuing. It doesn't exist really; you might end up waiting a long time if you get in line.
 
A word of warning, Some toilets don't have doors. Always carry a packet of tissues for when nature calls and practice the art of squatting before your trip to China, you will need to learn. 
 

You will stumble across a language barrier in China

Good luck trying to speak English, you will have to learn Chinese; after all, you're in China now.  
 
Even some international hotels will struggle with language barriers so be prepared.
 
I've also noticed that some Chinese signs with English translations, usually don't make any sense at all. You will be on your own when it comes to understanding the local language. 
 
My best advice would be to download a translation app before your trip to China. Write down essential landmarks and the name of your hotel on your phone to show to taxi drivers just in case you get lost.
 
Another idea to understand your destination a lot better, would be to hire a local guide to help you navigate around the language barrier and understand China a lot better.
 

Most importantly, Chinese locals are super friendly 

I first heard horror stories about how locals in China were mean and not friendly towards tourists; this was simply not the case from my experience.
 
I found China to be a friendly place to travel around and found locals filled with curiosity and interested in finding out more about your personal trip around China. 
 
Especially in the remote areas of China that hardly see any tourists at all, locals will want to know what you're up to and stop to take a photo with you.
 
Embrace your visit to China, take photos on every occasion, learn a few essential words to allow a connection and a smile, randomly hold babies for selfies (This is a thing!) and be prepared for friendly nods and smiles all round.
 
China is incredible, and you have to take it for what it is. After all, this is China.

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Backpacker Radio 87 | Paul Barach on Japan’s Shikoku Pilgrimage + Murphy’s Law

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Paul Barach.  Paul is an avid adventurer, but today, we focus in on his trek along Japan’s Shikoku Pilgrimage, a 750-mile route that visits nearly 90 temples.  This was Paul’s first backpacking trip, as evidenced by everything that went wrong, including suffering from heat exhaustion, dehydration, being charged by a wild boar, breaking a piece of an ancient temple, getting a leg infection, ...

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The Best Adrenaline Adventures in Catalonia

Catalonia is an excellent place to live or travel to thanks to its varied terrain, with the mountainous Pyrenees to the north, and beautiful Mediterranean Sea to the south.

For those that love to get their heart racing and adrenaline pumping, Catalonia is the place to be! From abseiling the mountains, flying through the sky, racing down a rollercoaster drop, to jumping off a bridge into the canyon below, this exhilarating Spanish region can provide.

 

Here are the top adrenaline adventures in Catalonia

White water rafting

Spain is one of the best countries in Europe for white water rafting thanks to the excellent weather conditions, and the Pyrenees the best location within the country with a better volume of water and a great variety of canyons. Depending on the difficulty of the river, this activity can be suitable for families, or for those wanting a white-knuckle ride!

This activity is still extremely safe to do, the worst injury you’re at risk of is sunburn! There are different companies that offer white water rafting, and experienced and professional guides will accompany the group to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. The best time of year to go white water rafting is in the Springtime of April, May and June, but you can still head out until the end of summer.

 

Ferrari Land

Part of the PortAventura Theme ParkFerrari Land is a unique theme park to Europe that is inspired by the legendary Italian brand and its creator, Enzo Ferrari. The best ride for thrill-seekers here is the Red Force rollercoaster, the highest and fastest vertical accelerator in Europe. The rollercoaster accelerates from 180kmh in just 5 seconds, one that’s not for the faint hearted! Another adrenaline inducing coaster here is the Thrill Towers, a 55-metre-high free fall that’s sure to leave your heart in your mouth.

Access to Ferrari Land is included in the general ticket for the PortAventura park, and also gives you a chance to experience the other exciting rides in the park too. This activity is suitable for any age to go to, and costs €56 for adults for the day, and a reduced price of €49 for kids and seniors.

 

Canyoning in Pallars Sobirà

If you’re an adrenaline seeker, then canyoning is the best activity for you! A day of descending canyonsswimmingjumpingsliding and abseiling is sure to get your heart racing. The experience can be customised depending on your skill level and what you would prefer to do, for example if you’d prefer to do more swimming and sliding natural slides instead of the exhilarating pond jumping.

The canyoning tours are subject to weather conditions but can be booked for any day of the week. It’s essential to know how to swim for this one, but no prior experience is necessary. Pallars Sobirà is located in the central Pyrenees, so makes for some stunning scenery, but travelling here will require some pre-planning and will most likely require a car to get to.

 

Hot air Balloon tour

What better way to get to know Catalonia than by a hot air balloon flight through the sky? See the Mediterranean coastMontseny Natural ParkMontserrat mountain, and Barcelona all within the space of an hour! This activity is the perfect combination of thrills and relaxation, perfect if you and your group can’t decide on what to get up to in Catalonia.

A pricier option of the list, a Catalonia hot air balloon tour costs €180 per person, but this price also includes transportation to and from Barcelona and a local brunch too. This one is very weather dependent because of the nature of the activity, and safety is always paramount, so it bear in mind that it may have to be refunded or rearranged at last minute.

 

Mountain Climbing the Pedraforca

Pedraforca is one of the most beautiful mountains in Catalonia, meaning ‘pitchfork of stone’ in Catalan as its two main peaks look like a pitchfork when viewed from the East. The normal hiking route here is a popular one in summer as its relatively easy, a good option for those with children. For those looking for a bit more of a challenge, taking the route by Coll de Verdet up to the summit takes around 5 hours with a slope ascent of 900m, it’s not for the inexperienced hiker!

The mountain can be climbed in all seasons, but in December to April there’s usually snow so the ascent at this time is a little more difficult. If you’re after a cheap day out, heading to Pedraforca is a great idea as there is no entry fee to the area, it is however a protected area so just remember to be respectful to the animals and plants!

 

Bungee jumping in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia

Defy gravity and get your adrenaline kick by bungee jumping thirty metres off the Sant Sadurní d’Anoia bridge! 30 metres doesn’t sound too high until you’re stood on the edge ready to go, but it’s the perfect activity for those that want to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

There’s the option to buy a ticket for a solo jump either once or twice, or to take the tandem jump and go down with another person! The price starts at €35, and anyone can take part in this as long as they’re brave enough to take the plunge.

 

Caving

If you’re an outdoor lover, exploring Catalonia’s caves and caverns is the perfect choice for you. Take a descent tour through the darkness of the cave and discover the natural beauty of the region from a different perspective.

There are lots of different caves to explore here, and tours will include a professional team of mountain guides who can safely allow you to carry out the activity. This is another weather dependent activity, and guides will only allow the caving to be undertaken in safe conditions.

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Watch This Car Transform into a Plane and Take Its Maiden Flight

Let’s be real, 2020 has been filled with bad news. But instead of getting overwhelmed by the barrage of doomsday headlines, it’s important to seek out those nuggets of positivity. For example, did you see that flying cars are now a reality? If not, check out this recent video from a company called KleinVision. The […]

Bikepacking Tips Learned the Hard Way

Darkness set in just a few miles before we reached Lake Powell. We closed in our targeted camping spot for the night after riding 70-odd miles on rough and rocky 4×4 roads. Through nine hours of heat and sun exposure, and a few falls on technical climbs and challenging descents, I thought, “What’s the worst […]
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