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The most spiritually interesting places to visit

We’re here to suggest you do something with your vacations that you might not have previously considered in your pursuit of hedonism under the sun. We’re here to suggest you visit the world’s most spiritually interesting places.

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Heading to a country because you’re interested in it’s beaches and food is a pretty positive outlook on tourism. It could be considered quite limited, however. If you’re not used to traveling to a culture in order to sample it’s locations of spiritual interest, then boy do we have the article for you. We’re here to suggest you do something with your vacations that you might not have previously considered in your pursuit of hedonism under the sun. We’re here to suggest you visit the world’s most spiritually interesting places.

IMAGE SOURCE: Pexels

No matter you religious belief or lack thereof, you can glean some immense value out of doing this. You might feel that religion is a sham for the masses, and one of the biggest mistakes of human civilization. That doesn’t lessen the emotional truth and passion it takes for someone to hand craft a temple in centuries old. To disregard the pure emotion and love behind that effort is to lose out on experiencing something culturally significant. We’re not here to make a state on anyone’s religious preferences, of course everyone is free to believe what they do or do not wish, and the world is healthier as a result of that free choice.

However, we’d argue that visiting these spiritually interesting places the following article will explore can lend you some wonderful insight and interest regarding your general human experience. It can certainly culturally enrich you. Seeing religious iconography, architecture and cultural celebrations often informs you of the best of a people. Again, you needn’t agree with the beliefs, but marveling at the artistic integrity of some of these places is a universal allowance.

After all, even the most devout atheist would have a hard time looking up at the Sistine Chapel and not being floored with its beauty.

Vatican City

Vatican City, known the world over for being the home of the Catholic Pope, is one of the most beautiful places in modern Europe. A place of cultural, religious and historical significance, the Vatican City has stood since the fourth century AD. Rumored to be located above the tomb of St Peter, the Vatican City also takes pride in being named the smallest country in the world. Despite common perception, the Popes only began living in the Vatican during the 14th century, and not before.

The Vatican City boasts a citizenship of around 600 clergy members, but most live overseas in religious diplomatic positions around the world. If you’re in the area, visiting the Vatican is one of the must-dos of your Italian tourist checklist. Over five million tourists visit the Vatican each year, but that doesn’t cheapen the experience one bit. Home to the beautiful and aforementioned Sistine Chapel, featuring famous and world-known artwork by Michelangelo (no, no the ninja turtle,) this place serves as a real place of reverence and pure spectacle.

It’s hard not to enter the hallowed halls of this beautiful construction and not marvel at the power of belief which permeates its halls. Think of the last time you entered your holy place, be that a Church, Synagogue, Mosque or other. Times this by a thousand when entering what many consider to be the hub of their religion, and you’ll understand just how much power this place wields, both artistically and spiritually.

Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, especially from a cultural perspective. It’s home to the Malay, Indian and Chinese people, meaning that a blend of all religious beliefs make their way here. The culture is populated with both intricate and wonderful mosques, jaw-dropping Buddhist temples as well as incredible statues of the Buddha. While Island is the official religion of the state here, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism and Hinduism make their nest here also.

This allows for a great amount of cultural and spiritual diversity, and for the most part (unlike other places,) each religion is tolerant of the other in this country. The constitution of the country allows for freedom of religious expression. This country delivers that in droves. From Buddhist monks to Muslim elders, this country boasts some of the most variant wisdom to be found in the East.

This diversity makes the country so interesting to occupy. Not only is the food, populace and history so rich and interesting, but the peace that these religions preach and practice with one another do a lot for the moral backbone of the country. In fact, an extended stay here soaking in the variant spiritual disciplines on show will lead you to desire reading the complete guide to obtaining a mortgage loan for property in Malaysia.

We’d recommend checking out the Batu Caves in Selangor, as one of the most amazing and recently built Hindu temples is chiseled into the rock. It’s a truly unique and sheltered religious arena, one which demands exploration and slow study of it’s beautiful structural embossing. We’d also recommend seeing the Jamek Mosque in nowhere other than Kuala Lumpur, as it serves as one of the largest and most prominent mosques in the country. Despite being built by the British in an effort to expand the cultural and religious significance of the then small city, it retains its architectural authenticity and still serves as the primary hub of worship for many Malay muslims to this day.

Camino De Santiago

Popularized by Martin Sheen’s movie ‘The Way,’ the Camino de Santiago serves as one of the longest standing pilgrimage routes in the world. Also known as  ‘The Way of Saint James,’ this Spanish route of pilgrimage leads to the eventual shrine of Saint James the Great in the Santiago de Compostela – situated in Galicia. This route is a popular route to walk for those searching for quiet and meditative spiritual reflection, and serves as a wonderful activity to experience.

Excellent hostels and hotels line this walk now, but so do beautiful, historical building converted into hospitality points for travelers. Restaurants, cafes and incredible camping spots line this way, but it’s important to respect the significance of this route if traveling it and practice the same quiet respect afforded to you if walking it.

This significance is hard to understate. In the middle ages, this route served as one of the most important and discussed pilgrimage routes in the world. You can gain a modern day certificate for completing this route yourself, but in order to gain your certificate you need to walk a minimum distance of 100 kilometers into Santiago from the French or Spanish path in. If cycling, this distance is doubled. Of course, if you’re doing it out of a pure interest in the cultural significance and have zero interest in the religious side, you can receive a difference certificate of welcome, without the spiritual congratulation laced on top.

This route is not one which has faded into obscurity. Those who know about it really do know about it, but try to keep it a secret thanks to its natural beauty. We guess that makes us discussing it part of the overtourist problem, but the place is simply too beautiful for you to be unaware of. Over 250,000 walkers attend this pilgrimage each year, all for various reasons. If you feel interested in the slightest, you can be sure that this is much more than a tourist destination, but can serve as many things. Some use it for religion, some for a right of passage, and some for an adventure. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that your time here will be well spent.

Visiting these locations will not only stimulate your cultural interests, but it will lend you perspective about the role religious belief has had in the storyline of mankind. Appreciating this can be a humbling experience, regardless of your personal beliefs.

We hope you find some value in attending these wonderful locations.

Travel

Airbnb data shows how tourism has dispersed post-pandemic

In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

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As the travel rebound continues to unfold, the benefits of tourism are spreading across the Asia Pacific. In Southeast Asia, new analysis by Airbnb reveals that the resurgence in domestic and inbound tourism is empowering locals to earn a living and make ends meet.

With people continuing to embrace flexible new approaches to travel and living, communities that have traditionally missed out in the past are increasingly well-positioned to secure a bigger slice of the tourism pie, according to new Airbnb report Further Afield: Spreading the Benefits of the Travel Revolution’. Across the region, this has presented fresh opportunities for locals looking to supplement their income as they grapple with rising costs of living.

Across the Asia Pacific, Airbnb nights booked in non-urban areas have increased in South Korea (up more than 180 percent ), India (up about 140 percent), and Australia (up about 60 percent) in Q2 2022 as compared to Q2 2019. In Southeast Asia, searches for stays in Siquijor in the Philippines surged by more than 280 percent while searches for Marang in Malaysia almost doubled.

The typical earnings for non-urban Hosts increased correspondingly in the same period for a number of destinations. In Australia and South Korea, typical host earnings have more than doubled as travel returned in full force. In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

Not only are travelers eyeing destinations off the beaten path, they’re also looking to stay longer. Notably,nights booked for long-term stays (stays longer than 28 days) in non-urban areas approximately doubled in popular travel and remote working hotspot Thailand in Q2 2022, up from Q2 2019 pre-pandemic.

In Southeast Asia, a number of destinations outside major metropolitan hubs were popular  among travelers on Airbnb for long-term stays in Q2 2022. Examples included:

  • Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang in the Philippines
  • Ipoh, Kuah, Semenyih, and Port Dickson in Malaysia
  • Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Lanta and Krabi in Thailand

Mich Goh, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said: “More than two years since the start of the pandemic, we continue to see fundamental shifts in travel that are creating new opportunities for off-the-beaten-track communities. It’s incredibly exciting to see travelers so enthusiastic about exploring new destinations, as well as the positive economic impact cascading to locals.

“The increasing popularity of Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang reinforce the importance of the Department of Tourism’s plans to drive tourism development in the countryside and promote lesser-known destinations.  We are committed to continuing to work together with governments and stakeholders to keep inspiring travelers to step off the beaten path, and help ensure more communities can share in the benefits of tourism.”

In addition to encouraging travelers to explore further afield through innovative search tools such as Categories and I’m Flexible, Airbnb remains committed to partnering with governments and communities in Southeast Asia, including in the Philippines. The company has partnered with Thailand and Indonesia’s tourism authorities on a range of ‘Live and Work Anywhere’ initiatives to attract global digital nomads and remote workers, as part of broader efforts to drive inbound tourism as travel returns.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 about us and our industry that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this press release, including, but not limited to, statements regarding travel trends, the travel industry and the future of travel, the behavior of Hosts and guests and about our future performance, prospects, plans and objectives are forward-looking statements.

In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements because they contain words such as “may,” “will,” “plan,” “expect,” “could,” “potential,” “objective,” or “continues” or the negative of these words or other similar terms or expressions that concern our expectations. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this press release, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur at all.

Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions, and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from the objectives expressed or implied in this press release. Therefore, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the effects and duration of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on us, the travel industry, travel trends, and the global economy generally; any further and continued decline or disruption in the travel and hospitality industries or economic downturn; changes in political, business, and economic conditions, including current geopolitical tensions and regional instability; and the other risks listed or described from time to time in Airbnb’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including Airbnb’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2022 and subsequent Form 10-Qs and Form 8-Ks, which are, or will be, on file with the SEC and available on the investor relations page of Airbnb’s website.

All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release and are based on information and estimates available to us as of the date of this press release. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update or revise any information contained in this press release, except as required by law.

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Destinations

Exploring the largest cave system in the Philippines

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

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By Gregg Yan

The Philippines has over 3100 known caves. Featuring 12 chambers over its seven kilometer span, the Langun-Gobingob Cave in Samar is the king of them all. Discovered by Italian Guido Rossi in 1987, it was opened to the public in 1990.

We recently explored it to celebrate the Year of the Protected Areas or YOPA, which aims not just to convince people to conserve the country’s 246 protected areas, but to encourage them to visit the sites themselves.

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

Unique But Threatened Biodiversity

Samar Island, overshadowed by more popular places like Palawan and Boracay, isn’t usually considered a top tourist destination, owing to its long history as a hotbed for insurgencies and a punching bag for typhoons. Though the Philippines’ thirdlargest island exudes rugged beauty, its real value as an ecotourism destination lies beneath the earth.

“Samar is unique because it is a karst landscape made primarily of limestone. Millions of years of weathering has created numerous caves and sinkholes on the island,” explains Anson Tagtag, head of the Caves, Wetlands and Other Ecosystems Division of the DENR. “Caves are special ecosystems which harbor highly-evolved fauna, most of which have adapted to darkness.”

Birds, bats, spiders, snakes, crickets and even blind cave fish thrive inside the Langun-Gobingob Cave. The lack of light confines plants to entrances, but mushrooms and other types of fungi cling to life as discreet denizens of the dark.

“The speleothems or rocks in caves are in a very real sense ‘alive’ – they just grow and move at timescales difficult for people to comprehend,” explains Dr. Allan Gil Fernando, a professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences in UP Diliman. “The constant dripping of water for instance leaves minute traces of minerals like calcite. Over time these traces pile up to form hanging stalactites and their inverted kin, stalagmites. It takes about a century for a stalactite or stalagmite to grow one inch.”

It is because of their surreal beauty that many caves are sundered.

“People used to enter the Langun-Gobingob Cave to break apart and mine stalagmites plus white calcite rocks for collectors,” says Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) Assistant Superintendent Eires Mate. Our guide Alvin confirms this. “Locals used to mine the cave for Taiwanese businessmen, who paid a paltry PHP7 for a kilogram of rock. Balinsasayao or swiftlet nests were plucked out too, to be shipped to Chinese markets.”

The cave was finally declared a protected area in 1997. “Thank God for legal protection. Mining was effectively stopped,” says Eires. The Langun-Gobingob Cave is just one of many natural systems benefiting from the country’s protected area system.

“Declaring key biodiversity sites as protected areas is one of the best ways to ensure that future generations can continue enjoying their beauty,” says United Nations Development Programme Biodiversity Finance Initiative (UNDP-BIOFIN) Manager Anabelle Plantilla. “Visitors should positively support local communities but be mindful of the environmental impacts of their travels. They should for instance, avoid taking wild plants or leaving trash in tourist sites.”

Year of the Protected Areas

Launched in May of 2022, YOPA hopes to generate funds from tourists to ensure the continued management of protected areas hard-hit by COVID-19 budget cuts.

The Langun-Gobingob Cave is part of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), one of YOPA’s six highlighted parks, the others being the Bongsanglay Natural Park in Masbate, Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, and Mt. Timpoong Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument in Camiguin.

The country’s caves are now open for tourism, but visitors should know what not to do inside them. “Cave tourism should be well managed and there are cave do’s and don’ts,” says Buddy Acenas from the GAIA Exploration Club, a Manila-based caving and exploration group. “A comprehensive assessment should be conducted before a cave is opened for tourism. Trained guides and set trails should be used to minimize human impacts. Like so many of our fragile wilderness areas, caves must be stewarded by those visiting them.”

For its part, the Philippine government is doing what it can to promote responsible tourism. “Our caves, mountains, beaches and other protected areas are now open for tourism. We invite both Filipinos and foreigners to come and visit, but to do so in an environmentally-responsible manner,” adds DENR-BMB Director Natividad Bernardino. “By practicing responsible and regenerative tourism in PAs, we’re helping our national parks flourish and recover from the economic blow they suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Travel

3 Ways to travel during hurricane season like a pro

Typically, hurricane season is June through November. If you’re planning on traveling to a coastal region soon, Yonder Travel Insurance has created a list of three expert tips to help make it a bit easier.

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Photo by Thom Holmes from Unsplash.com

Weather is a factor most travelers take into consideration as they plan their trips. Although traveling during hurricane season shouldn’t make you rethink your plans, being informed before you depart is wise.

Typically, hurricane season is June through November. If you’re planning on traveling to a coastal region soon, Yonder Travel Insurance has created a list of three expert tips to help make it a bit easier.

Be Weather Aware

Staying on top of the weather radar can help you mitigate changes to your trip. An easy way to be alerted if there’s a hurricane brewing is to check the National Hurricane Center or enroll your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). That way, you’ll automatically be alerted about safety conditions and your family will be notified of your whereabouts if you get caught in a storm during your trip.

Buy Travel Insurance Early

Luckily, most travel insurance policies include coverage in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. The key here is to purchase travel insurance early before a storm arises.

“We recommend purchasing travel insurance after you’ve booked your trip. If you wait until the news brings up adverse weather and you decide to cancel your trip, it may not be covered under your policy,” says Terry Boynton, Co-Founder and President of Yonder. In addition to cancellation coverage, your baggage could be covered if it’s lost or damaged amongst the shuffle of delayed or canceled flights during your trip.

Pack & Plan Smart

Even if the forecast looks promising for the duration of your trip, packing a few emergency essentials and having an emergency departure plan in place shouldn’t be thrown out the window. Adding items like a mini-battery powered flashlight, a small first aid kit, a few granola bars, and extra cash won’t take up precious luggage space, but could be a life-saver in an emergency.

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