Awesome Family Summer Travel Destinations

The world is full of amazing and awe-inspiring sights and sounds. To squeeze all of Mother Nature’s extravagance into the top ten great summer travel destinations for families is a daunting task. Summer brings everything outdoors; the furniture, toys, children and every kind of outdoor activity one can imagine. However, one of the best ways to enjoy one’s summer vacation is to pack up ones family and go discover the world. Now, you may be wondering, isn’t that what the rich do? Well, today you can find cheap flights to almost anywhere, and once you arrive you can rest assured there are one or two reasonably good cheap hotels to stay in. That said; spoil your family with a vacation to one of the following great summer travel destinations for families:

Costa Rica
This beautiful south Caribbean tropical paradise is located in Central America and bounded by the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea to one side and Nicaragua and Panama on the other. Amazing white beaches and tropical flora and fauna adorn this country making it the perfect tropical paradise to visit. What’s more, many budget airlines that fly to Costa Rica offer discount airfare rates especially when advance bookings are made.

The Hamptons
Located conveniently on the east end of Long Island, NY, this historical summer getaway is great for domestic tourism. Accessible via domestic couriers that offer cheap airline tickets to locals, enjoy the long stretches of beach, sprawling vineyards and magnanimous estates. In addition, experience the unique historical seaside villages that dot the Hampton coastline and make for a great family travel vacation.

Madagascar
This prehistoric island off the Southeastern coast of Africa has some fantastic and extraordinary creatures and plant life. Perfect for a summer vacation eco tour, this country has all sorts of great flora and fauna to keep everyone excited. Popularized by the Hollywood movie, Madagascar, this destination will definitely live up to your expectations. Hospitable locals, exuberant landscapes and cheap hotels all go towards making this a perfect summer vacation destination.

Abu Dhabi, UAE
Tipped ‘the richest city in the world’ (Fortune and CNN) this rapidly growing capital of the United Arab Emirates is fast becoming one of the premier destinations for summer vacationers. Multicultural and super urbanization features characterize this area. As the Emirati begins to diversify the economy of the area, tourism has become a key building block for the developing economy. With cheap flights from the numerous carriers plying the Middle East, experiencing this new city f the world has never been easier.

Cyprus
Located in the Eastern Mediterranean sea, Cyprus is a great summer vacation destination for all. With an excellent economy to match the excellent Mediterranean climate, Cyprus has a booming tourism sector and great packages for the interested traveler. The Mediterranean climate provides warm to hot weather all year round and the azure waters surrounding the island are a great way to kick back and relax.

Australia
This continent ‘down under’ has a great adventure awaiting the intrepid traveler. Arrive in style in either Sydney or Melbourne and embark on an Aussie adventure in this expansive country. Camel hikes, dune bashing, or seaside holidays are all on the itinerary. Once in the country, get some cheap airline tickets form one of the budget airlines in the country and hop from one area of the country to the next, you’ll have a whole continent to explore to your heart’s content.

Kenya
Home of the safari, travel to the renowned Maasia Mara or recline on the white sand beaches enjoy that perfect summer vacation. Hospitable locals, a vibrant, cosmopolitan capital and numerous options available to access, a summer vacation to Kenya would be a different experience altogether.

Scandinavia
Well, you may be wondering, Scandinavia is not a country; exactly the point. Take a summer vacation to one of the Scandinavian countries and simple hop onto a bus, train or cheap flight and in no time, you are in the next Scandinavian country. Offering great summer travel destinations for families, the kids will get a lesson in European geography as well as have a great time.

Tuscany, Italy
Home to the true Italian Renaissance; walk in the neighborhood of great artistic leaders such as Dante, Botticelli, Leonardo De Vinci, and Galileo Galilei amongst others. Breathtaking landscapes add to the rich artistic legacy to create a holiday vacation like no other.

China
Two billion people call this country home and so there must be something to it. In deed there is; from the Great Wall of China to the Yangtze River, China has such diverse landscapes it will leave you wondering if you were in one country or ten. The top vacation destination in Asia, China offers eco-cultural tours like no other.

10 Business Building Lessons – From My Dad’s Legacy

My knowledge on property construction and management comes from my late father (Elimon Tagwireyi Mapuranga) who was a handyman, an architect and construction manager. My father had not been to university but he single handedly built most of the classrooms and dormitories at the school that his own children attended High School. Of his twenty four children, only one son (David) caught the vision of construction and vocational work and to this day, even with no formal education on construction, David built has his own house in South Africa. I am among the twenty three who became more inclined towards academics. However, as I observed my dad doing his work, even as he built all the houses in my rural homestead, I noticed in greater detail how property management is as important as its construction detail. The advice I received, directly and indirectly is valuable for both a home owner and even one who is renting another person’s property. The goal of property management is to ensure the asset you have keep appreciating in value.

1. Build you property with the future in mind – I have watched how the structures my dad put together over thirty years ago still stand strong to this day. He would tell me the amount of cement and other input that would go into the construction process without compromise. I have watched house that have developed major cracks or where walls have actually come down owing to shortcuts by builders. If you are building a temporary shelter then you are exempt from investing in building strong and lasting buildings. If you are going to have someone else build for you then ensure that all the material you provide is used on the building.

Lesson – Businesses are not built just to meet today’s need but with generations in mind. Pay attention to all the critical elements of business and not “cut corners”.

2. Build according to the plan – every meaningful structure or building has to have a plan. A builder who sets out to build from him/her head is not only dangerous to those who will occupy the building but he/she will always be frustrated by what he/she comes up with. A plan must make sense and it must certainly answer beyond doubt any questions the owner of the house has. Based on the purpose of the building, an architect is able to emphasize parts of the structure that define the purpose of the building. My dad had plans of each dormitory and classroom block. This is how he managed to make them identical. He made simplified diagrams that any builder could interpret. He would say “Son, I know I may not have attained the highest level of education but I appreciate the importance of having a plan. No plan, no building”.

Lesson – A business is as strong as the business plan. If it does not make sense on paper, it may not be worth pursuing.

3. The Finishing touches are as crucial as the super structure – It is quite sad that sometimes a lot of investment is put into the super structure, the main pillars, foundation etc such that when the building is complete, there is not enough energy to “touch up” the building and make it look good. Wrong choice of paint, wrong quality of flooring, a shoddy quality of plastering are all reasons why one building would outshine the other even with the design being identical. My dad always emphasized that whilst the start was important, it is the finish that bring a “wow” effect hence the importance of that detail.

Lesson – the things that look insignificant in business are as crucial as the overtly big things. The color scheme of your logo may seem insignificant but it affects a whole lot more than you think.

4. Property Management is about managing risks – Buildings require safeguards from vandalism (theft), flooding and fire. When the building is put together, the thoughts which should be processed and questions seeking answers are “what is the worst thing that could ever bring the building’s value down? What are the major threats to the building’s value?” I noticed with great interest how my dad always emphasized that every building carry a fire extinguisher, drainage around each building was meticulously put in place to reduce the risk of flooding, To reduce the risk of thefts, every window had burglar bars. The building was put in place with the knowledge that the contents were at risk from intruders right from the onset.

Lesson – Building a business also entails managing the risk of losing it. You should always look at the threats that seek to decimate life out of your business and build the relevant safeguards. It is risky to be in business but there are rewards if one can only step out and do.

5. The garden makes the property even more valuable – My dad always emphasized the fact that the buildings were supposed to leave enough space for proper gardening and landscaping where water features and other garden enhancements would be put. He didn’t use to do the landscaping himself but he has an appreciation of it. Whenever I now look at a building, I don’t stop on observing the walls and roof strength; I am now cognizant of the way the garden is looked after. When you have neighbors’ who throw trash in the garden and leaving grass to grow tall, this actually affects the value of your properties around. When all neighbors look after their gardens including the area that people can see from outside, value is added to the houses.

Lesson – The seemingly small things in business do matter. Your business is probably not known for the big things it does but for the small things you do not do well

6. The way to build the first model is very important to your expansion – Each building is different in the sense that you encounter different soils, different obstacles, different slopes etc. When you are building a series of buildings which are identical, you use lessons from your first building as you duplicate or propagate the buildings. You will know what to avoid. It will actually get better as you build more similar buildings. As the contractor, you have to develop a learning culture such that experiences from one site are recorded as learning points for future projects. All the successes and even failures should be recorded to make the history of building. You will be able to tell a “before” and “after” on the sites you have built.

Lesson – How you build your first business has a bearing on your branch network. Your first project therefore becomes pilot project showing you how identical each of the new branches will be to the prototype created.

7. Consider safety and waste management of each building – The reason shelter is created is for the safety of the occupants. With each brick being laid, the builder must be focusing on the safety of the workers and of the ones to occupy the house in the future. Each building must have a sewerage management system as well as water and other sanitation issues hence it addresses hygiene and health issues as well. Each building has ablution facilities and bathing facilities.

Lesson – You cannot ignore the Safety, Health and Environment issues of your business. In what way is your business taking care of it employees’ welfare in this regard as well as that of the beneficiaries (your customers).

8. Make the best building within the budget given – My dad would tell me of the fact that sometimes he would be asked to stretch himself in as far as making excellent buildings even under budgetary constraints and challenges. His approach was to find means and ways of achieving excellence while managing the capital employed by the school effectively. In some instances I remember him having to use a strategy of focusing on one building a time than spread himself too thinly. He would find it hard to run the construction of 4 similar projects at the same time but considered running them in succession.

Lesson – Your excellence in building your business must not be compromised by the capital at hand. Managing costs does not entail compromising on the crucial matters of the business. You can be excellent without over spending. A firm grip on finances is important. Build one branch at a time following the pattern and lessons from the main building.

9. Maintain the buildings as appreciating asset – One thing my dad would do is maintenance of each of the structures that were there. Sometimes it meant bringing a fresh look with another coat of paint. In other instances he would take out pipes that were rusty and put new ones, he would attend to leaking tapes, blocked sewer pipes just to mention a few. The goal was to ensure that each building he had made was always looking new, fresh and valuable. The gardeners would bring different kinds of new flowers to decorate the exterior part of the building. Inside each building all broken glass would be replaced and old doors would be removed and replaced with new ones. You could always feel the school had a fresh valuable look and feel making it exciting and a marvel for parents who sent their children to receive education from there.

Lesson – Your business image is important; you must always re-look at the things that need maintenance or total removal from your business to keep it looking valuable to investors and customers. Your fresh paint can be re-branding which is necessary from time to time to ensure that you appeal to the market as an appreciating, more focused business.

10. Building efficiency relies on the construction procedures and systems – Every process that my dad’s team was following was documented. From the proportions of cement to sand for the mortar to painting guidelines. He had a construction booklet, written in not so complicated steps but something that was easy for his team to follow. My dad’s literacy was up to “Standard 3” which was almost primary school level and yet he could create and document systems centered on construction and property care. His thinking was that it would be easier to induct a new builder if the systems were in place.

Lesson – A business is as strong as the systems and procedures it creates and relies on.

The History of Landscaping – Quite a Story

Up until about a hundred years ago, the average person didn’t have a lawn to worry about. They were too busy going to work, putting food on the table, and trying to educate their children. It was only when people started leaving the farming life for the life of the cities and suburbs that single-family houses sprang up in droves, and people had the money to spend on such luxuries as landscaping.

Which is not to say that landscaping is a brand new profession. As early as the 1800s, the wealthy of practically any country were able to employ professional artisans to build gardens and landscape their homes. Of course, they weren’t average people, but nevertheless it’s fun to learn about the forerunners of today’s landscape designer.

The most famous is the British landscape designer, “Capability” Brown. His real name was Lancelot Brown, but it was his habit to look at a piece of real estate and say, “It has capabilities,” and t hat is how he got his nickname. Brown has been called England’s “most famous gardener.” He was born in 1716 and died in 1783, and yet over a hundred years later his legacy lives on. Over 44 of his gardens are still in existence today (he designed over 170). Of course that’s because he designed these gardens for the “landed families”, or nobility, who were not about to sell their mansion every ten years and move up to a bigger one.

Prior to Capability Brown, the landed families had huge “formal gardens.” Brown changed all that, encouraging his clients to make use of a more naturalistic design, with compositions of grass, clumps of trees, and pools and lakes.

England has Capability Brown, the United States has Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was born in 1822 and died in 1903. He went to Yale and studied agricultural science and engineering.

In 1853, the New York legislature decided that they’d have to create a park in the middle of the city, for their many inhabitants. They held a contest to decide who would design it, and Frederick Olmsted and his partner, English architect Calvert Vaux, were awarded the contract, to create a “greensward,” as Olmsted termed it. ” The park was not created on barren land, however – many poor people and free blacks were evicted from their homes under eminent domain so that the park could be placed there. (Not that that was Olmsted’s fault – that’s where the legislature wanted the park, and that’s where they were going to put it regardless.)

Olmsted went on to make a career out of creating city parks – indeed he conceived the system of parks and interconnecting parkways. Two of the best examples are the park system he designed for Buffalo, New York, and the system for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Olmsted and his partners also designed over 355 school and college campuses.

So as you walk through your city and see all the greenspaces and landscaping, spare a thought for the landscape architects who brought all this beauty to you. Studying the history of landscape architecture is fun and informative.