Norway world’s best place to live

I’m not sure if everybody wants to live in Norway, but it’s certainly at the top of the global list. The United Nations Development Program determined this based on data GDP, education and life expectancy – among other metrics – to find the best of the best, as well as the other end of the spectrum. The data’s from 2007, though, so it doesn’t reflect a post-financial crisis world.

Joining Norway are Australia and Iceland, the latter of which was a hot location until a year ago, when the entire country got an International Monetary Fund package normally reserved for the third-est of third-world countries. Yet, even with the recession in mind, Iceland (a favorite destination of mine) is still far better than Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, which sit at the bottom of the list. Several other sub-Saharan African states also ranked toward the bottom because of ongoing war and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The spread is most evident in life expectancy, where a mailing address in Norway would add 30 years relative to Niger. In Niger, the current average life expectancy is 50. And, for every dollar that someone earns in Niger, the same person would pick up $85 in Norway. In Afghanistan, one can expect to live only 43.6 years.

Money matters, still. Lichtenstein continues to boast the world’s highest GDP per capital at $85,383. The 35,000 people who live there share the small principality with 15 banks and more than 100 wealth management companies. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest income in the world: $298 per person per year.

The top climbers on the list for 2007 were China, Iran and Nepal.

Taking the "Mad Way" South

There are many interesting and different ways to travel and see the world. For instance, some love to take a cruise through the Caribbean or a slow train through the Alps. Others prefer to zip through the streets of Bangkok in a tuk tuk, and some enjoy rafting the Grand Canyon. But what is the best way to see the Sahara? Some would argue that it would be from the back of a camel, but they haven’t met the Mad Way South team, four guys who are gearing up to cross the world’s largest desert in buggies pulled by kites.

Beginning next Monday, August 3rd, two Aussies, Geoff Wilson and Garth Freeman, will join forces with two Kiwis, Steve Gurney and Craig Hansen, to begin a journey that will take them over more than 1500 miles of desert as they travel from Northern Morocco, across the Western Sahara, Mauritania, before finally ending in Dakar, Senegal, in what is being called the first trans-Saharan crossing by wind power alone.

Yep, that’s right their little dune buggies will be pulled along by massive kites, which will catch the wind and propel them over the sand. This method of travel is known as “kiting” and it is often used in Polar regions, with explorers being pulled along on their skis. It has been used in deserts before however, and this crew intends to make the technique work all the way across the Sahara.

The team is in the final stages of their preparation now, and are on track to get underway next week. Check back on their blog regularly for updates on their progress and to follow along on the adventure.

Mixing Business with Adventure

The New York Times had an excellent article a couple of days back offering up some great tips on how to mix business and adventure for travelers who are frequently heading over seas for their jobs. Often times those travelers are short on free time, and may only be visiting a country for a few days, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of that time to still take in the local sights and soak up some culture.

The article is written by Sue Brush, who is the Senior Vice President for Westin Hotels and Resorts, and for the past 20 years her job has taken her all over the planet. In that time, she’s seen a lot of changes in the way that we travel, and had the opportunity to explore dozens of foreign lands.

For business travelers, the key is to be efficient and take advantage of what ever amount of time is at your disposal. Sue says that when she was in Egypt back in 2007, she immediately switched into casual clothes upon her arrival and went to see the pyramids and to ride a camel in the Sahara. In total, she estimates that she spent no more than an hour taking in the sights, but it was still worth the effort.
The frequent flyer also recommends getting as much work done on the long flights as you possibly can. Many people relax, read, watch the inflight movie, or sleep while in transit. But if you take advantage of that time, and get some work done before your arrival, it may afford you the opportunity to enjoy the destination to a much larger degree.

With a little foresight and planning, the opportunity to mix in a little adventure can make those long business trips more rewarding and pleasureable.

From London to Timbuktu in a Flying Car

British adventurer Neil Laughton will begin a unique odyssey tomorrow. The former special forces officer will depart from London on his way to Timbuktu, located in the African country of Mali, and while a journey like this one is interesting in and of itself, it is Laughton’s mode of transportation that really sets it apart.

Laughton will be traveling in a specially designed dune buggy dubbed the Skycar, which is a cross between an off-road vehicle and a paraglider. Utalizing a giant parachute and a large fan mounted on the back of the car, the driver is able to take flight, transitioning from the ground to the air in just three minutes. While in flight mode, it typically cruises between 2000 and 3000 feet, but can reach altitudes as high as 15,000 feet. All the while running on biofuel, making this an environmentally friendly endevour.The 4000 mile expedition is expected to take roughly 42 days, traveling from London to France, Spain, Morrocco, Mauritania and of course Mali. The return trip will also pass through Senegal as well. Much of that distance will be covered on the ground, where the Skycar can reach speeds of up to 108 mph, but Laughton will pilot his flying car over the Pyrenees, followed by the Strait of Gibralter, and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, although Laughton hasn’t ruled out taking to the sky at other times as well.

The team behind the Skycar sees this adventure as a shakedown cruise to test out their little toy. If all goes well, they intend to sell the vehicle to the general public, hoping to get as much as $75,000 for a car that can literally take you just about anywhere.

You can track the expedition’s progress on the official website.

[via the BBC (video included with story)]

Find Carnival Costumes Online!

Sunset CostumeLast year around this same time I was busy scouring the web for all Trinidad & Tobago Carnival sites and band sites. I was mainly on the lookout for costumes and without the help of a friend of mine I would have been utterly lost. For an event an entire country spends the entire year preparing for I would have expected more information on the tourism site or in one central location on the web, but I couldn’t find one. This year I’ve stumbled upon this groovy PlayCarnival.com website which seems to have it right! Jammin’ island music, flash animation of winin’ ladies and all the mas band sites with costume information. Jackpot! It looks as if PlayCarnival has been around for a wee-bit and I just didn’t catch on last year, but if this should be your first time going to TnT’s carnival – check them out.

Like last year, I’m really feeling Island People’s theme this year – Sahara. Imagine parading Port-of-Spain’s streets half-clad in your beaded feathery attire pretending to be in the Sahara as you dance under the sweet Soca sun. (Though Tribe is looking pretty nice too.) Oh, Trinidad – how I wish to play next year again!