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Real Greatness
You experience in yourself the feeling of superior or inferior in view of things that are subject to formation and destruction - This is a big mistake. e.g. Certain people regard themselves as superior in view of the wealth they own, few consider themselves great because of big homes that they possess. Others feel great by wearing fine clothes, while still others proclaim their superiority owing to the high position they hold, one of dignity and respect; there are however few that regard themselves as quite inferior or lowly or insignificant in view of the non-availability of these things. This is a very big mistake. You are yourself an inalienable, sparkling part of God and are consciousness! And you hold yourself superior or inferior in relation to inert gross material things only – this is nothing but inferiority in your attitude! You are the acquirer and enjoyer of these things, knower of their beginning and their end as well. Why yet should you be a slave of such things? Riches come and go, friends meet and part in life. Knowing this simple truth, we commit a mistake by feeling superior or inferior only on their count! Think a little, please, and immediately it would strike your intelligence that if you are great merely because you occupy a high or significant rank or position, then you are really small as you hold dignity and importance only in the office. If we are great on acquiring wealth, then the greatness lies not in us but only in the wealth. We are not great. Sooner we realize this, better it is that we should never feel superior or inferior on the strength of things which are mere transitory or of fleeting nature.Your are yourself immensely great. Ordinarily you are part and parcel of the Supreme Divine Being i.e. God, but in case you ascend to sublimely devotional heights, you are the crest-jewel of Divinity. God himself says :“I am the Servant of my devotees.Devotees my Crest-jewel ! „“Mein to hu bhagatanakaa daas,bhagata mere mukutamani”You are really that whom God calls his crest jewel! When does one become a devotee? The moment one is released from the affinity with grossness (jadataa), that very moment you are a devotee! Therefore you should from this very moment hold in your mind the firm resolve that you would not view yourself in high or low esteem on the basis of petty things that have an origin and ending. You do earn and own these perishables, use and enjoy them, but not weigh your being great or otherwise on their count. The balloon of your ego is pumped full-blown on their airy strength and there lies the rub! What is the difficulty in understanding this simple truth! Tell me! If there is none, then accept the wisdom of this reality just now. It brooks no delay. It demands no preparation, expects no special intelligence, no extra power or stamina, nor any uncommon ability on your part. Accept for God’s sake that you will not consider yourself great because of the belongings of mutable and ephemeral nature. For, such an orientation is nothing but mere subjection or slavery. A slave can never be happy even in dreams - “paradheena sapanehu sukhu naahim” (Manasa, Bala. 102/3). We are God’s and God is ours – if you firmly believe this, then alone you will be truly great in the real sense.Being in body finite (jiva) is faction divine of God eternal! Conscious, pious, ocean of happiness and bliss natural !!” (Manasa, Uttara. 117/1)When does he become really unhappy though being the fount eternal of happiness? Only when he accepts the slavish subjugation of the objects perishable and transitory, he grows sad, morose and sorrowful. You don‟t want sorrow at all, but you systematically pile up the materials of unhappiness only and willfully slip into the slavery of perishable goods. There is no happiness in slavishness, not even in dreams!Listener: More people flock to him who is virtuous? Is that the sign of people’s greatness?Swamiji: If very many go to one because he is a man of virtues, then too you must be clear that virtues are not his real nature. These have also been acquired. If he is emptied of good qualities or virtues, then people will not go to him at all. Please think how can man be great because people happen to go to him. Is not then his greatness dependent on external factors? Does a person become superior or inferior, big or small because many people go to him or do not go to him? This is dependence on others - how can this be greatness?This is nothing but all dependence on others - “Paradheenata” – if we view ourselves as great because of virtues we possess, or because of our better learning and education, or because more people give us more and more honor and hold us in high esteem! Of what avail shall it ever be whether we have or don‟t have virtues or whether or not more people pay regards to us? We remain what we are! For, how can one be really great or otherwise only because more people regard him so? Do people become inferior or small because people treat them so? Can greatness ever be given or taken away by people? How can anyone be happy who regards his greatness or dignity dependent on other ones‟ opinions? Opinions are never stable. A slavery to opinions is no test of greatness. You collect money, pile up bank balances, create a rich store of precious stones, pearls, rubies etc., and begin to think that you are a big man enjoying a high social status! If that be the case, you are certainly mistaken. Make the best use of your riches and put your prosperity in the service and welfare of people. It will be mere humiliation if you are big only by belongings of virtues or wealth you own!God is not subject to coming and going. He is ever present. If you sincerely begin belonging to God, you will be “really” great. If you really grow great, you will never be touched by the pride of greatness, or by the fear of smallness. You lose nothing if others hold you low in esteem. Nor do you gain anything by the praise of others. If you be yourself, identify yourself with the eternal. He the great over lording spirit of the universe, and acknowledge your relationship with God in right perspective, then you will be truly great, great in the real sense. Then you will not be swayed by the so called greatness showered on you or withdrawn from you by other one‟s opinion!It is verily a bondage to hold oneself high or great merely on the strength of things and opinions of ephemeral or transitory nature. Bondage is not an animal! Redemption from this very thralldom is liberation. You are free the moment this bind is cast off. Tell me: don‟t you be self-reliant, free and liberated when you do not depend for your being on fleeting opinions and belongings, that endure not?Listener: You are right, holy sire!Swamiji: If it is all right, then why should we remain dependent? Please, be merciful and from this very moment thoughtfully accept that you will not regard yourself big or high simply because of the chair or the official position you occupy; not even by virtue of wealth are you going to feel yourself great. Neither we are big because very many people praise and honor us nor we shall feel low because people denounce or decry us. Can you in essence accept and believe this truth or not? Tell me.Listener: yes, we can do so.Swamiji: Then why delay at all? For whom are you waiting? For what sort of circumstance are you waiting, for whose particular power or might are you waiting? Which time, whose support or succor, whose instructions you are awaiting now? For whom are you awaiting? Tell me. I pray unto you that from just now you resolve that you would never regard yourself big or small, high or low on the count of petty things of transitory nature. The Lord has said:
“Agamaapayino „nityaastaamstitiksasva bhaarata” (Gita 2/14)
i.e. Things and beings which are perishable and impermanent – bear or brook them. To tolerate them is to be free from the totality of impact, their coming and going out of existence might otherwise cause. In such a state of freedom, there is bound to be a boundless peace of mind and blissful blessedness of heart. Do it and see it for yourself. True it is ! I cast no deception! You will feel extremely unburdened and enjoy supreme bliss as if you have escaped from sinking into death dealing morass.
From "Be Good” by Swami Ramsukhdasji
To read in HINDI:
http://www.satcharcha.blogspot.com

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As always, everyone in this story is eighteen years or older. This is a completely standalone story totally apart from my intricately related other ones.

A heads-up for those with short attention spans: this is long. Look elsewhere for a quick fix. I won't judge you for looking for something shorter and please don't judge me.

A heads-up for the squeamish types too: there are equal parts incest and anal here. Hope that's your cup of tea.

Enjoy.

Words on Skin: A little sister can't say some things out loud

*~*~* Part I *~*~*

Lizzie watched as her best friend Jessica brushed past her brother again on her way through their kitchen. The house was packed full of people and there was plenty to eat and drink in every room but Jess still managed to find a reason to swing through the kitchen every fifteen minutes to flirt with her brother.

"Heya stud," Jessica smiled, "it really is nice to see you back around these parts again. I kinda missed you." She winked, nodded at Lizzie and wandered off again with a few gratuitous wiggles of her curvy hips.

Lizzie's brother leaned into her with the question she saw coming, "Okay, what's with Jess? Does she like me now or something?"

Lizzie smirked and waited until Jessica turned a corner out of earshot. "Let's just say she likes the kinds of things she could do with you."

"And what kinds of things might they be?"

"You're the dumbest smart guy I know but even you're not that dumb. Either take that frisky cheerleader friend of mine upstairs and find out for yourself or stay down here and hang out with your adorable kid sister. Sounds like a close one. Want me to get a coin for you to flip, Scooter?"

"Don't bother dog-girl, I'm going with plan A."

Lizzie watched her brother toddle after Jessica. As consolation, she took a long swig of her beer, swallowed, and howled softly to herself, "Bawoo."

Her brother Richard was a year older and actually was the dumbest smart guy she knew. Sometimes she swore he couldn't see the nose in front of his face. He was pure book smarts from head to toe. He'd steamrolled through high school - racking up the highest GPA in the school's history then nailed a perfect SAT. He'd even be finishing up his undergraduate ahead of schedule. Less than three years for a physics degree at one of the best programs in the country? Who the hell could compete with that?

Lizzie sighed. She was proud of her big brother but sometimes he made her feel small. All she could do was run. Ba-frickin'-woo.

The "dog-girl" and "bawoo" thing? That started when her middle school track coach came to visit their house after school eight years ago. Lizzie and her brother snuck to the top of the stairs to listen to the grown-ups talking down in the kitchen.

"You have a lovely home, Miss Robbins, and I appreciate your agreeing to see me. I know you're a busy woman so I won't take up too much of your time. I'm happy to tell you that you have a very gifted child."

"I'm quite proud of Richard, but I thought..."

"I'm not here to talk about your son. I'm here to talk about Elizabeth. I'm her track coach. I thought you should know that Liz is an excellent runner. In fact, she may just be the best I've ever seen."

"Really? I mean, I guess she has always been quick on her little feet. If I look away for a second she's gone."

Lizzie remembered beaming proudly at Richard upstairs. She took this as a big compliment.

"It's more than just that, Miss Robbins. Look, middle school kids? Even the fast ones? They're a mess when they run, all of them pushing and shoving to get up front, to lead right from the beginning. It's complete chaos. None of them have the maturity or the patience to pace themselves. To hang back and wait for the right time to make their move. Hell, most of them won't even figure that out in high school. But not Lizzie. She's... she's very special."

"How so?"

"You need to come to our track meets. To support her and see what I mean at the same time. Lizzie doesn't run. She... well... she chases." The coach's voice grew more excited, "She does it every race. It's a beautiful thing to watch. Less than halfway through, Lizzie falls in a few yards behind the lead girl. She tracks her. She... she drives her. Heck, she even baits her. Then at the very end, Lizzie simply runs her down. Honestly, I don't think I'd even call what Liz does 'cross-country.' She's not just running. She's hunting. Like a... like a little dingo."

Upstairs, Richard hugged her with one arm and teased her softly, "Sweet, Mom's going to buy you a flea collar, sis."

"Bawoo," Lizzie howled quietly into his shoulder and giggled.

It was her very first bawoo.

Of course, the coach's offhand nickname stuck with Lizzie and "Li'l Dingo" would eventually be stitched across the back of her track uniforms.

As the years went by, Lizzie ran and ran and her body changed. By high school, the quick little blonde pixie became a sleek and slender young woman. Lizzie looked like a gazelle but she still ran like a predator. Chasing. Hunting. Winning. In fact, she would win state finals in cross country each of her four years in high school, a feat unheard of before Lizzie.

People even came to track meets to watch her. And who could blame them? She was hotter than hell in her school's skimpy little track uniforms, long, sleekly muscled legs and bobbing little breasts. Her finishes were always spectacular too. After loping along patiently at the number two spot for three miles, she'd get this crazy little grin. Then her legs would stretch, they'd quicken, and Lizzie would start her race. Without fail, she'd chase that poor last girl down like something small and tasty.

Two months ago, when Lizzie broke through the yellow tape at her last high school race, she didn't have to howl for herself. Her coaches, her family, and classmates were doing it for her, for their favorite little dingo, "Bawoo! Bawoo!"

Lizzie snapped out of her reminiscing when Richard reappeared with Jessica. The curvy, raven-haired cheerleader winked at Lizzie as she led her brother upstairs. One of Jessica's hands was already playing at the bottom of her tight tank top, obviously itching to get it off. Jessica liked to show off her body and Lizzie didn't blame her. Speaking objectively, Jessica's breasts were spectacular and she had every right to be proud of them. Of course, half the guys in their high school class could draw them from memory. Perhaps Jess was a little too proud of her boobs.

Lizzie took the next couple of minutes to finish her beer then she set it down. She chewed her lip again, pondering, then decided to follow them. She was more than a little curious and she knew her brother well. Odds were that he'd be too distracted by Jessica's charms to shut his sticky bedroom door completely.

She crept up towards his bedroom and she was right. There was a quite peekable gap left. She sat herself tipsily down on the floor for a little bit of perving. Okay, a lot of perving.

From the look of things, Richard was having one of the best nights of his life. Jessica had always been that perfect cheerleadery mix of flexibility and eagerness that drove guys crazy.

At that moment, Jessica was topless and cupping her oversized, flawless breasts in her hands with her lips wrapped around half of Richard's cock. Lizzie gaped. Her brother's erection was impressive and while Jess was working her mouth down on it steadily, she was definitely struggling. Her full lips strained to fit around his shaft. When she finally swallowed his entire length, she groaned from her chest and bobbed slightly.

Lizzie had to admit, Jess knew how to please a guy. The curvy brunette never forgot to look up and keep eye-contact with her brother even as her hands slid down from her own tits and under her skirt to quickly drag a small white thong down and off.

Yep, Jess knew what she was doing. Lizzie watched as her gal pal ditched her skirt then scooted onto the bed on her back and spread her legs. Lizzie and her brother's eyes were both drawn to the same place. Jessica was shaved completely bare. Her tiny glistening sex was a perfectly smooth and pink invitation. Scooter paused only long enough to finish getting his pants off and quickly slid on top of her.

Lizzie watched her friend's mouth fall open as Richard eased himself into her. Jess shifted and pulled her legs up very high, limberly hooking them over Richard's shoulders. Yep, flexible and eager. Damn cheerleaders.

For the next half hour, Lizzie watched her brother make love to her best friend. She was appalled and excited at the same time. Jessica shivered through three separate and very satisfying-looking orgasms before Richard groaned his own release. Lizzie assumed they were done.

But they weren't done.

Jessica slipped herself off the bed and did something Lizzie didn't expect -- not from her eighteen year-old friend. Jess stood, turned, and bent herself forward at the waist with her upper body on the bed. She swished her little cheerleadery bubble butt temptingly.

"C'mere Scooter, I've got this other hole you missed."

Out in the hallway, Lizzie's eyes slowly widened. Partly because Jessica had just used Lizzie's nickname for her brother. And partly because Jessica offered what she did - Lizzie had no idea her friend did... well... that.

Mostly though, Lizzie was astonished because her big brother, her sweet and gentle Scooter who used to read her bedtime stories when they were little, didn't hesitate. He simply stood and moved behind Jessica and then gave her just what she asked for, pressing himself into her ass with no more than a nod. Jessica whimpered at the invasion but didn't move away. Worst of all, the bastard was good at it, judging from the very happy groans Jessica made over the next ten minutes.

It was wrong and dirty and nasty and... hot.

Peering through the crack into her brother's bedroom at the gleeful sodomy scene, Lizzie's surprised face slowly spread into the same determined expression she wore at the last 100 yards of every race she'd ever run.

Lizzie would chase. And she'd win. She always did.

Bawoo.

She wandered back downstairs quietly for another beer.

*~*~* Part II -- One year later *~*~*

Twenty-years and two days old, Richard woke to the sounds of sea gulls crying and surf lapping at the beach. But it wasn't either of those things that drew him out of his sleep. It was a slender little finger that did it. That finger was tracing letters across his back. It wasn't all that odd, his kid sister Lizzie liked to wake him up this way - writing words on his skin.

They'd written messages like this for each other since they were children. It was their mother's idea. When they were young, their family went on long car rides to visit their grandparents. Little Richard and Elizabeth would get noisy in the back seat along the way -- two hours of nonstop tickling, poking, fighting, laughing and crying. Normal kid stuff, really. Unfortunately, their father was a bit high-strung and those long drives to see his in-laws only made him more tense.

Their mom did what good moms do. She buffered. She taught her children skinwriting to keep them occupied. "Give her your hand, Richie," his mother nodded at his sister from the front seat. "And close your eyes."

"Okay, now you think of a word, Liz. A small one. But don't say it out loud, honey. Ready? Now spell it on your brother's palm."

Liz nodded and traced each letter of her word with her tiny seven year-old finger. She had to write it twice before he could get it.

"Cat?" Richard finally guessed.

Liz giggled and their mother smiled. "Very good, you two. Lizzie, keep going until Richard guesses wrong. Let's see how many words you can get him to say."

Over the next two hours, their parents listened to the more peaceful sounds of elementary school vocabulary coming up from their backseat. "Dog." "House." "Truck." "Chicken, but you forgot the other 'c'."

Their mother's strange little improvised game was one of the many things that built a strong bond between Richard and Lizzie over the years. They had their tiffs and their struggles but they stuck by each other more than other siblings they knew. That bond grew even tighter when their family shrank a few years later. Their father died of a heart attack. No one was surprised -- he'd always been wound pretty tight. Their Mom missed him but she was leading an active, happy life again.

Richard focused on his sister's finger as it traced the three quick letters of her ritual puzzle before moving on to what she was going to make for breakfast.

The puzzle? He'd never solved it. Feeling what was for breakfast? That was easy.

"Pancakes," he muttered into the mattress.

"Good boy. And the other thing?" she scratched the thick brown hair at the back of his head.

"I still have no fucking idea what the hell 'imu' means."

"Ooh, poor little Scooter. Don't worry, you'll get it someday. You're the smartest dumb guy I know," she patted his back and left him alone to get dressed.

Stupid "imu" puzzle.

Eight years ago, he'd told her that she'd misspelled 'emu' and described the little ostrich-like bird. She'd laughed and shook her head, "Uh uh."

Seven years ago, he'd guessed that she'd cheated and skipped the apostrophe for "I'm U." Some sort of funny poetry thing. This of course made no sense. She'd laughed harder.

Lizzie's hardest laugh came three years ago when Richard, fresh from his first few weeks of high school physics had figured out that "I" was the letter for electrical current and the Greek letter "mu" was the symbol commonly used for a coefficient of friction. Thus, "I mu" meant "current friction" referring to how her finger was rubbing across his skin.

Lizzie had nearly wet herself laughing, "Dumbass, I wrote that for you when I was ten years-old. I barely understood what you just said now. How the hell could I have meant that then?"

She had a point.

Richard sighed into his pillow. He knew he was smarter than average and that he was pretty good at figuring things out. The fact that his little sister had stumped him for so long was a sore point.

Well, Lizzie was right about one thing -- pancakes sounded perfect for their first day at the beach.

By the time he splashed some water on his face and pulled on a bathing suit then made it to the kitchen, Lizzie had already finished cooking and was pouring coffee.

Amend that, pouring coffee in a bikini. Good god, his heart skipped several beats.

Lizzie's back was turned to him and the little black bikini's strings were knotted loosely at the middle of her back, her neck, and each hip.

Richard had long since made peace with the fact that his kid sister was far and away the prettiest girl he knew. Blonde with gigantic, soft, bambi-brown eyes, she was a gifted long distance runner and it showed. Basically, everyone agreed she looked like a gazelle. Her long, slender legs swept up into an equally sleek little ass. Her slim, tight upper body matched her lower half.

Lizzie Robbins was built for speed. And bikinis. She looked amazing in that suit.

He snapped out of his daze when she turned, golden ponytail swinging, and handed him a cup of coffee.

"How late did you get here last night?" she asked as she slid into her seat at the table. The motion made her round breasts sway slightly in her top and he only looked away with effort.

"Oh, a little after two. It took me that long to sober up from the birthday party they threw me at school. I'm going to need a lot of coffee today. Thanks." As proof, he took a long drag from his cup. His eyes flicked down her body again before he could stop them.

This time she caught him looking. "Like my new suit?" she needled him a bit, eyebrow cocked coyly.

"S'not bad," he shrugged. "It's just funny seeing you wearing it in the kitchen. My shy kid sister used to wear t-shirts over her suit right up until we got to the beach."

"That had more to do with Mom being around than being shy, dummy," she half-smiled, "No mom around to harass me now."

They ate breakfast and stepped out the back door and onto a patio overlooking a beach that they had all to themselves. Lizzie said her fiancée's parents rented the beach house for them for the last month of the summer, but he'd gotten dragged away to help with his Dad's company.

Lizzie... and her fiancée.

Wow, it even sounded weird. His little Lizzie, just one year into college, was getting married? And she'd never even brought the guy home to meet her family. She'd always been independent and headstrong but this was ridiculous. He only found out when she called him late one night from school with her engagement news that spring. He'd answered the phone and, before he'd even said hello, she just blurted it out.

"I'm getting married."

"Wah - huh?"

His sister giggled over the phone. "Married, Scooter. I'm getting married."

"Who? When? Why?" A bad answer to that last question popped into his head, "Oh god, you're pregnant aren't you?"

"Relax silly, I'm not preggo. His name is... okay, don't make fun... his name is Chip."

"Chip?!" he laughed, he couldn't help it. "This is some kind of sick joke..."

"You're really going to talk smack about names, Scooter? For real, his name is Chip. And he's a great guy. We're going to get married this summer. At the beach."

"Lizzie, I told you -- pot or tequila. Never both. You really can't mix them and keep a grip on reality."

"C'mon Scooter, I'm sober. Well, mostly sober. But more importantly, I am serious. I really am getting married. He just gave me a ring tonight and everything. Wait until you see it. It's fucking huge."

It finally sank in, she wasn't kidding. "Wow. Okay. So what did Mom say?"

"I haven't told her yet."

"You called me before Mom?"

"Of course silly, you're my brother. And brothers come first."

Brothers come first. That one tugged at his heartstrings because there was some history to it.

Richard had given little Lizzie her first kiss. It had been her idea and it was very innocent. She'd said she was worried about making a fool of herself with her first boyfriend.

"C'mon Scooter, please?" She'd pleaded with him. "I brushed my teeth and used some of Mom's mouthwash and everything. No cooties, I swear." But then she'd looked at him seriously and said something that had never even occurred to him back then, "Just don't do anything gross like put your tongue in my mouth, okay?"

He did like she asked, he kissed her. Their young lips merged hesitantly in a tender way for a long moment. Actually, it waskinda nice.

Lizzie had smiled hugely afterwards. "See, that wasn't so bad was it? Now you'll always be the first boy to kiss me. Cool huh?" She darted in and pecked his cheek in a more sisterly way. "Thanks, Scooter. You know, I think brothers should always come first."

But that would change soon. She'd be someone's wife. It was all happening too fast.

Richard pushed these thoughts away and focused on the now as he and his sister crossed the beach then swam out about forty yards into the surf where the waves just began to curl. They were both comfortable in the water and Lizzie was practically fearless when it came to picking her waves. The bigger the better.

They picked out their respective spots, alternatingly bobbing, waiting and surfing. Later, when Lizzie came back from her last wave, she swam over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Mind if I hang on you, bro? Can't touch bottom here like you," she pouted, "not tall enough. And I see you're catching the nicer rides from here." It was true. The largest waves were just beginning to curl where he could barely stand. Just a few yards further in, Lizzie had to duck under them because it was too late.

 

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The 30 Cheapest Places To Travel In 2017, if your new year resolution is to Travel
Time to start packing your bags: 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for budget travel. The dollar is enjoying historic highs — meaning your money goes much further in many destinations around the globe — and according to an American Express Global Business Travel report, airfares are expected to fall in 2017.



1. Mazatlan, Mexico

Why: The current exchange rate ($1 = 20.69 Mexican pesos) makes Mexico one of the most affordable destinations.
For the frugal traveler who wants to enjoy more culture than they might in the Riviera Maya, my top pick is Mazatlan. As the shrimp capital of Mexico and a foodie paradise, Mazatlan is teeming with awesome eateries and fresh, interesting dishes. Hotels (including all-inclusive properties) are extremely inexpensive and authentic since most aren't part of the huge chains. El Cid Marina has awesome pools that are perfect for families, great food and huge rooms. (Rates are as low as $100 for a family of four.)
You can also enjoy superb dining at a top-notch restaurant like Casa 46 for less than half what you'd pay in the United States.
Side note: Sinaloa (the state where Mazatlan resides) grows the bulk of produce in Mexico, so Mazatlan produce is unbelievably cheap as a result. You see this reflected in top restaurants all the way down to street markets.



2. South Africa



Why: In South Africa, the exchange rate is in our favor, but so is the fact that it's a developed tourist destination with a solid infrastructure. In spending a month in Cape Town earlier this year and relying on Uber to get me to and from meetings, activities and lunches, I averaged under $20 in transportation per day — a major win.
Hotels are cheaper, too: Take a standard room at Taj Hotels & Resorts in New York, and you are out about $786 a night, whereas in Cape Town, a room at a similar luxury property costs $266. Remember, South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are the opposite: Consider going in low season (our summer) when hotels and safari lodges are even less expensive.
Airbnb and private villa rentals are also reliable and cheap options in the major cities. Travelers should also consider booking domestic airfare in advance for the greatest cost savings, since flights on South African Airways can sell out quickly.
The best value of all is the wine: Travelers can order a glass of one of the best locally produced varietals for less than the cost of a can of soda. For more information on travel in South Africa, watch "Michaela's Map: First Timers' Guide to Southern Africa."



3. San Juan, Puerto Rico


Why: The best way to get a deal in the Caribbean is to travel during the low season (end of April through mid-December) to destinations that have direct and frequent fights from your gateway; plenty of hotel inventory; and economies that aren't euro-based.
Puerto Rico fits the bill, and I'm a big fan of San Juan, which I think is seriously underrated as an easy and affordable getaway, especially for visitors from the East Coast of the U.S. Old San Juan oozes charm, and if you stay within the old city's two-square-mile radius you won't need a car rental to access great restaurants, sightseeing and shopping.
U.S. citizens can save themselves the cost of a passport since it's not required to visit, and since the U.S. dollar is the legal tender, there's no money lost on currency exchange. Hotel Casa Blanca and Villa Herencia are two of my favorite high-style/low-cost boutique hotels.



4. Chile



Why: Europe is on everyone's list of value-added trips this year and for good reason — the exchange rate is more favorable for American travelers than it has been in years. But the destinations I most dream about and long to return to are in South America, a destination that has long given travelers great value for money.
In Chile, I love Santiago for its vibrant food and wine scene — think tucked-away wine bars, delicious tapas and hip hotels in a beautifully chaotic city. For a lesser-known and truly special corner of the world, I love the small lakeside town of Puerto Varas. It is part of the lakes district in Chile and the northern start of Patagonia.
It is easy (and cheap!) to rent a car and explore this area. There is a surprising German heritage, so you'll see signs for "kuchen" (cake). With Puerto Varas as a hub, you can explore great places within a two-hour drive from the city: going to the top of a volcano, exploring waterfalls, finding the best cakes and food.
This area sees very few American visitors and everything is CHEAP. It's one of those places I almost want to keep to myself, but it's so special that I can't.



5. Crete

Why: With the U.S. dollar strong against the euro right now and the economic crisis in Greece keeping prices lower than other parts of Europe, it’s the perfect time to visit the beautiful island of Crete. Crete is a foodie dream come true.
A place where farm-to-table isn’t a new fad, it’s a way of life. The people here often live to be well over 100 years old so they must be doing something right! With truly stunning natural beauty (like Balos beach) and locals that welcome tourists with open arms, you are bound to have the trip of a lifetime and save a few dollars at the same time.



6. Morocco


Why: For many, Morocco is the ultimate dream trip, and yet cost tends to keep most from visiting. But what you might not know is that it's one of the most affordable African countries, particularly when comparing flight costs. R
eaching Marrakech from cities such as Lisbon, Madrid and Paris may only set you back $40 to $100 roundtrip with many budget airlines. And this past Black Friday, flights from New York were a mere $400 roundtrip.
Food is by far my main reason for visiting as often as I do, and typical meals can range from $2.50 to $15 for two, which includes appetizers, entree and unlimited mint tea. For vegetarians and vegans, the country is especially great, as veggies are cheaper than meat and fresh fruit smoothies are barely $1.
Souvenir shopping can get a bit intense when you realize leather goods such as wallets, handbags and weekenders run from $5 to $60. (A shopaholics dream!) When it comes to accommodations there's something to fit everyone's budget, my favorite being Riad Yasmine (only $80-$160 per night).
For those looking for Moroccan luxury while still on a budget, my go-to is Riad Kheirredine, which will have you living like a queen without breaking the bank and even provides a cell phone during your stay to ensure guest safety.



7. Belize



Why: Modern conveniences and history collide in Belize. It's a perfect place to take a budget romantic vacation. Many of the four-star hotels offer extras, like bicycle rentals, included in their low rates, as well as Belize's excellent local wines.
Some affordable resorts to check out are George Hardie's Las Vegas Hotel in Corozal (Northern Belize) and the oceanside Royal Caribbean Resort in San Pedro along Ambergris Caye. Both can be booked for under $100 per night.
Meals are also crazy cheap, but delicious. Two can eat at an upscale restaurant for less than $30, and much less at an everyday venue.



8. Vietnam



Why: Affordable upscale accommodations, cheap and remarkably healthy food and beautiful sights make Vietnam a standout among budget-friendly South Asian destinations.
Eat your way through historic Hanoi, kayak in the emerald waters of Halong Bay or relax in ancient Hoi An and the nearby beaches. There are clean, safe accommodations to fit everyone's wallet. In Hanoi, my favorite is the Tirant Hotel, near the old town, where you can bag a room for less than $70 a night.
Don't miss the Hanoi street food tour: For just $20 per person, a guide will lead you on foot or by scooter through backstreets, markets and footpaths.
You will eat like the locals and learn the names and ingredients in the dishes so you can order them again. And be sure to take the time to sip a bowl of steaming "pho" noodle soup in restaurants, push carts and food stalls, where a street meal and a beer can cost the same as a caramel macchiato at Starbucks.



9. Costa Rica


Why: Costa Rica is the one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and to be able to see this on a shoestring is an incredible opportunity.
There's a ton of national parks to explore, for instance, that only cost a few dollars to enter. Once there, you can then enjoy free self-guided walks that won't cost you a cent, but will deliver some great encounters with amazing wildlife like tapirs, monkeys, sloths and macaws.
Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks are two of the best. Public transport is also super cheap in Costa Rica, with buses generally less than $10, even for an eight-hour ride. This makes traveling between destinations in this compact country very affordable and means you can see a lot in a short amount of time.
In addition, budget accommodation in Costa Rica — even at some of the best surf beaches — can be as little as $6 per person. And a "plato tipico" (local dish) can be enjoyed anywhere for as little as $2-3.



10. Portugal



Why: Portugal is a pocket of affordable travel in contrast to the rest of Western Europe, especially if you get off the highways and take the back roads (where you can also avoid tolls).
A bottle of delicious port and a plate of the day with a glass of wine can be found for around €5 each. Nowhere else in the world can its "California Highway 1 meets Tuscany" landscapes be enjoyed on such a budget, especially now that the dollar is strong against the euro.



11. Ecuador



Why: Although Ecuador is not quite as inexpensive as Peru to the south, it’s an easy and affordable destination to travel to, especially if you stay a bit off the beaten path. It’s a short cheap flight from Florida with budget airlines like jetBlue and TAME, and accommodation is pretty cheap.
Shop at your local market and you can get a week’s worth of groceries for $10. And Ecuador has lots of variety; from surf beach towns like Montanita, to the volcanic Banos with famed hot springs at the gateway to the Amazon basin, to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cuenca in the high Andes, there’s a lot to see. The bus systems are good and domestic flights cheap and plentiful. F
ind a free accommodation option like house-sitting or volunteering, and your trip can be even cheaper.



12. Barcelona



Why: Barcelona is ranked right up there with cities like Paris and London as one of the most popular European cities, but it is by far the most affordable. This is thanks to low-cost tapas restaurants, endless free attractions and affordable things to do.
Have a meal of tapas and wine at El Xampanyet for around €10-15. Soak up the rays on the beach at Barceloneta. Get lost in the La Boqueria Market.
And take the tram up to Tibidabo (only €5) for sweeping panoramic views of the city; it's also where you can experience a vintage amusement park and a gorgeous cathedral.



13. Where: Guatemala


Why: Often bypassed in favor of nearby Costa Rica, Guatemala is unique unto itself in Central America. And because it's a bit more "off the path" in the region, it's also easy on the budget and a nice place to splurge.
The villas and hotels rimming Lake Atitlán have all the beauty you could want for a small fraction of the price you'd pay in Europe or elsewhere. From the lake, you can then delve into the country's unique culture by visiting the indigenous markets and villages in the Guatemalan highlands.
Lush Atitlan is a gorgeous, affordable place to stay in San Marcos La Laguna, the prettiest and most culturally interesting of Lake Atitlan's villages.


14. Bonaire & Curaçao


Why: In the deep Southern Caribbean, Bonaire and Curaçao are always out there on the edge of everyone's Caribbean consciousness. Both are known for scuba diving, but also for other water sports, hiking and amazing secluded beaches.
Vacation villas that let you live like a local are plentiful and affordable on both islands, but chain hotels like the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino are an option on Curaçao (great if you're using points).
Bonaire gets its very first chain hotel at the end of 2016 when a Marriott Courtyard opens.



15. Las Vegas



Why: If you can avoid the slots, there are lots of free things to do in Vegas: The Flamingo's flamingo habitat, the fountains and conservatory at the Bellagio and the outdoor movies at the Container Park are just a few.
You can also find many places for cheap eats if you are willing to get off The Strip to do so. Check out the nearby Crown and Anchor, which serves up delicious British favorites, and Ninja Teriyaki Sushi 2 Go for fresh-made amazing sushi rolls in a no-frills setting.



16. Cambodia



Why: Sadly, the average income in Cambodia is about $950 per year. What does this mean for international travelers? Your international airfare might be expensive, but once you are in Cambodia, you can live well. Tuks tuks (a combo bike/taxi) and food cost just pennies. Even international hotel chains and luxury river boats down the Mekong are more affordable than other Asian destinations.
Before visiting, I suggest doing your homework to support luxury companies like the Shinta Mani Resort, whose foundation plays a large role in its community, building water wells, schools and farms and providing the best healthcare in the country to its employees. Culturally conscious companies like Aqua Expeditions sustainably introduce their guests to the communities along the Mekong River, including the floating markets and the farmers in the rice fields; the company can even arrange a conversation with a local Buddhist monk to discuss the significance of his journey from childhood to monkhood.




17. Bali



Why: If you're looking into an exotic long-haul trip, Bali offers a ton of high quality experiences for a great value. You can easily stay in a private villa overlooking stunning rice paddies with a private pool for around $50 per night. (Airbnb is a great way to go).
However, if you want to splurge a bit but not go overboard, a stay at a high-end luxury resort will still cost you less than a stay at a luxury resort, for example, in Maui. Not to mention, spa and transportation costs are quite low relative to other exotic locales, as well as the amazing and healthy food options that end up being a fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world.



18. Greece



Why: The weakened euro has made any trip to Europe more affordable, but this is especially true in Greece. The struggling economy craves tourist dollars and makes it known with affordable pricing on everything from hotels to food.
In Athens, you can book a three- or four-star hotel for well under $100, like 360 Degrees, a nice and modern hotel with a huge breakfast buffet included and an awesome location directly on Monastiraki Square.
Throughout the countryside, prices may be even better. Best of all, you can sit down to an amazing Greek meal with drinks (Mythos or Ouzo?), appetizers (Saganaki, anyone?) and entrees of your choosing for less than half what you'd pay in the States. Heck, you can pick up Souvlaki or a gyro for $1-$2. Souvenirs are insanely cheap, too.



19. Albania

Why: This forgotten corner of Europe is a wonderfully off-the-beaten-track budget destination in an otherwise very touristy and expensive continent.
With fantastic beaches along its coastline, including the fishing port of Saranda, Albania gives visitors the chance to enjoy the Mediterranean waters for a fraction of the usual price. Accommodation starts from as little as $5 per person and fishing trips or boat rides to the nearby islands are similarly well priced.
There's also some fascinating historical sites across Albania that are either free to enter or cost only $2-$5. From the moutainous medieval town of Gjirokastër to the Roman ruins at Butrint, this is a diverse and very different side of Europe, which is definitely worth visiting before the crowds do.



20. San Luis Potosí, México


Picture a perfect class III white water rafting experience through a limestone canyon of turquoise waters, a visit to a living garden of eden, complete with art sculptures, hidden pools, butterflies and waterfalls, a hike to the largest known cave shaft in the world, which you can rappel into, and a series of waterfalls for cliff jumping.
Top this all off with a plate of homemade tacos and a local beer for $2, and you've got yourself a piece of adventure paradise on a budget.
Still very much under the radar to anyone outside of Mexico, San Luis Potosí could be compared to Costa Rica in terms of adventure and Cambodia in terms of affordability. Since Election Day, the dollar has been especially strong in Mexico, offering an even better excuse to travel south of the border.



21. Quebec City, Canada

Why: Take advantage of the weak Canadian dollar and travel north for a 25% discount on prices.
Enjoy a slice of Old Europe without the jet lag or the cost of a transatlantic flight. Indulge in some of the best French food outside France — steak-frites, oysters and pastries at a bargain price. Stroll and shop in the narrow cobblestone streets of the picturesque Old Town and enjoy night parades and ice canoe races during the colorful Winter Festival in January and February.



22. Buenos Aires



Why: One of the world's most intoxicating cities, Buenos Aires has only grown in popularity, but it's still relatively cheap compared to European and Asian capital cities. There are many green parks, French-inspired architecture, late-night dancing, custom leather shops and fantastic food.
Taxis are relatively cheap (around $5-8 a ride), but you should also walk for miles in all of the distinct neighborhoods, like Palermo (try Salon Canning, a super casual milonga, or dance hall, after midnight). Must-try cheap eat in Buenos Aires: anything dulce de leche. It is everywhere — inside crepes, drizzled over grilled bananas and in gelato.
Tip: Bring a ton of American cash and you'll get better deals in many places. For example, I bought my custom leather jacket at a shop called Uru Recoleta (close to the famous Recoleta Cemetery) and was able to buy it for much less than using my credit card because I brought American dollars.
On Sundays, the place to be is the San Telmo market for browsing leather, antiques, watches, jewelry and more.



23. Haiti

Why: While Haiti still remains under the radar as a travel destination, many people have been flocking to the vibrant country, and I can see why: The island provides all the stunning Caribbean characteristics without the high costs. Outside of holiday seasons and the later part of the summer, flights from New York range from $300 to $500, and even cheaper when flying from cities in Florida.
The real gem is how cheap the hotels are, with many starting at $50 to $150 per night including airport transfers. Even the newest Marriott Port-au-Prince will only set you back $130 to under $200 a night for larger rooms.
One of my favorites is Wahoo Bay Beach, which has epic mountain and ocean views from its stunning pool and rooms. You can take small boat tours around the area for a couple of dollars per person. Lobster, conch and crab can be caught right from the water and prepared for you without costing more than $10.





24. Santa Catalina Island, California

Why: Santa Catalina Island is one of my new favorite places. It is way more than a weekend SoCal jaunt. Hotels are quaint and average under the $200 per night mark. The Avalon Hotel is a charming choice. It’s right in the center of town, making it an easy walk to almost any activity. There is plenty to do, like kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, ziplining, hiking or just beach sitting.
The Catalina Island Museum is a must-visit stop to get the full story of the island's fascinating history, including its Hollywood connection. Food and shopping choices are extensive.
And you don’t need a rental car. Getting to the island is easy: Catalina Express Ferry whisks you to there from three different ports, Long Beach, Dana Point and San Pedro. I prefer Long Beach because flights there are often lower priced than neighboring LAX.



25. Indonesia



Why: With 17,000 islands, you are bound to find the ideal paradise to suit your travel and budget in Indonesia.
There are stunning untouched beaches that offer world-class snorkelling and scuba diving in Raja Ampat, fascinating Unesco World Heritage Sites dating back to the 9th century in Yogyakarta and — everywhere you turn — the friendliest locals. In Raja Ampat, we found a homestay that included breakfast, lunch and dinner — plus it was right on the beach for around $29 USD per person per night. For more, see Food Fun Travel's "Bali Food Guide."



26. Bulgaria

Why: The entire Balkans region is an excellent option for budget travel, and if you haven't been before, I recommend starting with Bulgaria.
From wine country to snowy peaks to the Black Sea coast, it's an adventure playground that every budget can afford. In Bulgaria's wine country you can get a full winery tour with multiple tastings plus bread and cheese for about $5 (check out Villa Melnik winery), take a hike through Bulgaria's famous sandstone pyramids and then sleep in a beautiful authentic style hotel like Zlaten Rozhen with breakfast included for about $30.



27. Cusco, Peru



Why: Most people who pass through Cusco are en route to the very popular Machu Picchu, but you should make sure to spend a few days, maybe even a few weeks in this colorful city. Not only is the city absolutely stunning and oozing with culture, most accommodations range from $20 to $100 a night. Peruvian textiles are extremely affordable and the vibrant colors are stunning.
Eating out in Cusco can be extremely cheap, if you know where to eat. Restaurants are quite affordable compared to most American and European restaurants, but street food here is the real winner. I'm personally addicted to ceviche and can't find it cheaper than $15 for a small portion in the states, but in Cusco's San Pedro Market you can find ceviche plus Peruvian fried rice for only $3.
On my last trip, I had steak and ceviche nearly every day and never spent more than $15 for two including a drink and soup.



28. Georgia
Why: Meagen Collins: This ancient European country is starting to grab the attention of travelers from all over the world. Georgia has so much to offer — beautiful scenery, unique culture and tradition everywhere you look, and the food will leave you drooling for more.
Add to that the fact this country lays claim to being the birthplace of wine (winemaking here goes back 8,000 years) and you have the ultimate new travel destination.
In Georgia, you can get a full meal plus copious amounts of wine for two people in a higher end restaurant, with live entertainment and still spend less than $30 — total. But get there fast: Word is getting around about this little gem and it won’t be tourist-free for long.



29. Mozambique



Why: This country is one of Africa's best budget travel destinations, with some extremely affordable accommodation situated along white sand beaches and next to an azure ocean. (Check out Villa Sands or Terraço das Quitandas.)
There's great scuba diving, too, and you can easily feel like a millionaire here for nothing! For more ideas, see Big World Small Pocket's "17 Incredible Budget Travel Destinations Still On My List (That Should Be On Yours Too!)."



30. Dallas, Texas



Why: Dallas is often overlooked, but packed with fun, food and great places to stay at prices far below the national average. (The city was voted the most affordable destination in the U.S. last year by Priceline and continues to remain a great value.) Downtown buzzes with excitement and culture, and the nearby Design District is exploding with eclectic shopping for home décor.
The high-rise Omni Dallas has rooms with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of the city starting at just under $200, putting you in the center of the action. With a rental car, you can fully explore everything the city has to offer. Look at fringe cities like Grapevine and Plano for the charm of small towns of yesteryear with main street shops and eateries.
The Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine is convenient to DFW airport and offers full-out luxury at rates around the $200 mark.

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