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Do I Need a Walking Pole for My Trip?

May 27th, 2014 by

1199669_36648502One of the most frequent questions we’re asked prior to embarking on an adventure is, “Do I need a walking pole?” We like to tell people simply, “Yes, if you enjoy walking with one.” But a lot depends on personal preference.

Sometimes called a trekking pole or hiking staff, walking poles are, at their most basic level, a tool to provide support and increase balance while on the trail. They can lessen the impact on your joints and distribute stress to your arms and shoulders so it’s not concentrated solely on your legs.

Walking poles range in price from just a few dollars for the most basic models to hundreds of dollars for ultra-light versions with built-in shock absorption to aid those with weakened knees or ankles. There are compact walking poles with a more slender grip for people with smaller hands and youth poles for the very smallest hands. For travel, many people prefer a lighter pole with telescoping sections; not only are they easier to swing on the trail and therefore gentler on your arm muscles, but they also squeeze into smaller backpacks when space is at a premium.

Our Breakaway Adventures owner, Carol Keskitalo, says that on her more leisurely walks, she’s been known to grab a large branch to use as a makeshift walking pole–whatever can help her gain traction on the path. But sometimes you’ll need more than a branch, and even more than just a single walking pole.

On our more difficult walks with significant changes in elevation, two poles might be useful. Choose any of our independent or guided walking tours, and on the individual page for each getaway, you’ll find a link to download a detailed trip dossier. In the Day by Day Walking Guide at the end of every dossier, there’s an elevation guide and recommendations for walking poles and boots. On the Amalfi to Sorrento Walk, for instance, the dossier strongly recommends walking poles for descending the stone steps along the coastline.

Before you purchase a walking pole, though, it’s a good idea to check with us to see if any will be available when you arrive at your destination. On our Secrets of Andalucia Walk, for example, the hotels keep a supply of items left behind by other vacationers, like walking poles, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, and even walking boots. Owner Carol Keskitalo tells us of a time a few years ago when a Breakaway Adventures staff member left behind like-new boots that she thought were a little tight. Talk about trail magic!

Visit Powerful Arenal Volcano on Our Costa Rica Wildlife Walk

May 14th, 2014 by

Costa RicaDon’t be fooled by the lush greenery surrounding its base and the serene lake reflecting its towering peak. Arenal Volcano is a sleeping beast that’s still very much an active part of the Costa Rican landscape. Tour the area and gaze upon this force of nature right from your hotel room when you join us on our Costa Rica Wildlife Walk.

Thousands of years ago, Arenal began as layers of lava and ash leftover from a neighboring volcano that’s now extinct. Leading up to the turn of the last century, it was so well-behaved that locals thought of it as a mountain. But Arenal was a bomb waiting to go off, and 1968 saw its most ferocious eruption. Early in the morning on July 29th, the volcano exploded into a fit of molten lava, hurling ash and rock at the nearby towns. Days later, when it finally calmed down, villages had been buried and nearly 100 people had died in the wake. Starting then and continuing until just recently, Arenal ejected parts of its innards into the sky almost daily. The adjacent towns and hotels have since been built at a safe distance, but no one will ever mistake this for a mere mountain again.

Over the course of our 13-day guided Costa Rica Wildlife Walk, you’ll have the chance to get personal with Arenal Volcano. On Day 5, you’ll walk eleven miles through the farm-studded countryside to Lake Arenal, where you’ll take a boat to the western shore of this 33-square-mile body of water for breathtaking panoramic views of the volcano. You’ll be taken by the spectacle of Costa Rica’s youngest and most active volcano in the background of this shimmering lake known for its perfect windsurfing conditions and its opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and boating.

While visiting the area, you’ll stay at the acclaimed Arenal Observatory Lodge, a three-star hotel that receives the highest marks for its location right in Arenal Volcano National Park. Hidden away in the jungle, the Lodge enjoys incredible views of both the volcano and the adjacent lake. You’ll be a part of history as you stay in the same accommodations that were originally built for the first scientists who came to study the volcano and the incredible biodiversity of the environment almost 30 years ago. You’ll wake up to the sounds of the rainforest–the calls of birds, frogs, and monkeys–and draw back the curtains to reveal terrain so beautiful you might forget how deadly Arenal Volcano once was.
Take a hike on one of the miles of trails or simply relax in the hot tub after dinner in the Arenal Observatory Lodge’s restaurant. No matter what you choose to do, the backdrop of Arenal Volcano makes every moment in this Costa Rican paradise a remarkable one.

Plein Air Painters: Tips on Traveling

May 5th, 2014 by

Tammy Watercolor demoPlenty of travelers ask questions about details of overseas travel or of our particular trips—and we’ve pulled together answers to some of the most commonly asked questions in our FAQ section. But we recently came across a question we don’t see too often, but we thought the answers were enlightening enough we thought we’d share just in case another traveler had a similar question. Here it is:

I’d like to bring my paint with me and paint plein air. Is this difficult to get through customs? How will I transport my finished painting home?

Painting “en plein air,” that is, painting outdoors, is a long tradition. Painters have always enjoyed natural light, but particularly around the 1870s, around the time portable paint tubes were invented, painters began spending even more time outdoors with their work—and the French Impressionists, including Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. So it’s no surprise that travelers who paint would want to bring their art supplier with them when they take a trip abroad, especially if they’re planning an independent tour where they’ll be walking in beautiful open air.

All that said, when you travel with paint, the most important thing to be clear about is that your paints are not flammable.

Here are a few tips that are specific to the artist’s medium you use:

Oil Paints and Watercolors:

  • Double bag your paints in zippered plastic bag and put them in your checked luggage with your clothing. If you carry them on, you will be subject to the liquid restrictions.
  • If asked at customs, it’s best to say you’re carrying “artist colors.” Be clear that your paints are not flammable.
  • Oil painters: Leave your mineral spirits behind—they are flammable, so you cannot fly with them. You will need to buy them at your destination.


  • A good way to travel with pastels, if you don’t have a pastel box carrier (two popular brands are Hellman or Dakota Traveler), is in a Tupperware container with rice. It may be best to carry your pastels as carry on luggage, as your suitcase may get tossed around a bit on the tarmac.

Painter3Transporting watercolor or pastel paintings

You will need two pieces of foam core board (or cardboard) an inch or two larger than your finished watercolor or pastel piece, masking tape and wax paper

  • Once you finish your painting and, if it’s a watercolor, it has dried, tape it to the foam core board, cover it with wax paper, and secure with tape. As you finish additional painting, simply add them to the stack.
  • For your trip home, cover with the second piece of foam core board. This type of “art sandwich boards” will fit in the bottom of a suitcase or you can carry onto the plane.

Transporting finished or partially completed oil paintings

  • The easiest way to travel with wet oil paintings is with a wet panel box (for instance, those carried here:


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