5 most unique surf spots

You've heard about San Diego and Hawaii, but did you know you can surf in Michigan?

Whether you're a beginning surfer or a seasoned pro; ready to trail a tanker, edge an iceberg, or eager to stay stateside, we've got a surfing surprise is in store.

Surfing in Ireland

It may not be as obvious an association as Guinness and Jameson—which you can warm up with after a gnarly session—but the Emerald Isle boasts nearly 2,000 miles of coastline. And what a picturesque coastline it is. Think: beaches that offer long stretches of golden sand, colorful reefs, and scenic coves. The western shore comprises some of the most popular surf spots, including Tullan Strand and Strandhill, but even the east coast offers a gem (check out Tramore, Co Waterford). Beginners will be especially welcome surfing in Ireland, where beaches are dotted with surf schools. And did we mention how appealing a visit to the local pub sounds after?

Tanker Surfing in Texas

Locals say tanker surfing in Texas's Galveston Bay has been around since the 1960s, when fishermen and sailors began to ride the waves in the wake of cargo and tanker ships. But since his appearance in the 2003 documentary Step Into Liquid, which introduced tanker surfing to the wider public, James Fulbright is known as the unofficial godfather of the sport. Experienced longboarders can charter a ride with Fulbright's company, Tanker Surf Charters; he doesn't take beginners, and the sport has a somewhat exclusive, members-only vibe. There's even celebrity clientele, like ultimate beach fan Jimmy Buffet himself, who called tanker surfing "a surfing experience you will never forget." Indeed, playful dolphins have been known to leap alongside tanker surfers in the waves. Of course, traditional waves are on offer in the Lone Star State, with South Padre Island boasting the best waves in the warm, shallow waters of the Gulf.

Surfing in Iran

In the small Iranian village of Ramin in the remote region of Baluchestan, women are pioneering a surfing movement. Five-time Irish surfing champion Easkey Britton and two Iranian women, Mona Seraji and Shahla Yasini, were among the first people to surf in Iran, and the subjects of the film, Into the Sea. They've brought not only a sport to Ramin but a way to break down social and cultural barriers; as the women attracted attention, they began to teach surfing to boys in the local villages. Sports in Iran are generally open to women, but their bodies must be fully covered and their hair cannot be visible. The lack of sportswear suitable for Muslim women in water sports is a challenge for female athletes, Shahla Yasini told Huck Magazine. "The lack of freedom in movement prevents women from moving quickly and feeling comfortable in the water. It's also further distancing other women who are not used to sports, stopping them taking their chance to get close to water. Moreover, a very male dominated mentality is the greatest obstacle, especially here in Baluchestan. Myself and the other women involved in the surfing movement have to face and fight against." There are now a number of nonprofit organizations to encourage surfing in the region, including We Surf in Iran and the Surf Seeds Project.

The Great Lakes

A GI returning from Hawaii with a longboard in 1945 was the first to surf the Great Lakes—what some have called America's "Third Coast"—but surfing didn't really take off on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan until the 1960s. There are only about ten surfable days a year and the frigid water requires a thick, hooded wetsuit—and sometimes even that's not enough. "Winter swells mean 30-degree water temps and sometimes subzero air temps; sometimes you get frozen into your wetsuit," a Duluth, Minnesota surfer told the Adventure Sports Network. Still, boosters have been known to call Sheboygan, Wisconsin "the Malibu of the Midwest" for its freshwater surfing, and you can't beat the friendly vibes of the local communities. "Don't be surprised if everyone in the lineup chats you up or invites you for a post-session drink," the magazine advised.

Surfing in Iceland

The Guardian called Iceland "Europe's last surfing frontier," and surfing veteran Atli Guðbrandsson called the arctic waters, "cold, beautiful and unpredictable." Midsummer in Iceland means long days of daylight and empty waves—as long as you can take seas that "strike like a slap in the face." The waves around the Reykjanes peninsula break over a rough volcanic reef—wetsuits and foot protection required. Imagine a lunar landscape that is only an hour from cosmopolitan Reykjavik. If hostile weather and tricky logistics sound like fun and you are willing to do your homework, than the glorious scenery onshore can more than compensate. Or skip the cram session and book your adventure with Arctic Surfers, founded in 2011 by Ingó Olsen, one of Iceland's surfing pioneers, who remembers the early days. "I was, like, 'Surfing? In Iceland? Are you kidding me?'" Olsen told the Guardian. "I went one summer evening with a really old borrowed wetsuit, wool socks with plastic bags over them, and sneakers – and it was so much fun."

Surfing in the Netherlands

From April to October, Holland has its own surprising surf-scene on the North Sea that is "absolutely epic." Summer is the most welcoming time for beginners—seasoned pros will get their kicks in spring and autumn. And you won't have to venture far from Amsterdam. One of the Netherlands' best surf spots is Wijk aan Zee. Sign up for a lesson at Ozlines surf school for surfing lessons. Or head to Zandvoort, where surf schools Surfana and First Wave can help you ride the waves. In Bloemendaal there's a surf camp in the summer months. But locals call Scheveningen in The Hague the Dutch surfing mecca. Wherever you go, supplant visions of sun, sea, and palms with one that is windy, cold and gray. But as surfers say: that can make for an ideal day of waves.

Any one of these adventures could you leave you feeling like Wilma Johnson, author of Surf Mama: One Woman's Search for Love, Happiness, and the Perfect Wave. "In a moment I might be under the wave swallowing seawater and small jellyfish, but right now I am an ancient princess of Hawaii, I am a bikini model, I am a goddess before the crest of a monster billow."

To which we say, right on.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker