Category: Travel discussion

5 ways you can unwind during a business trip

After a hectic day of meetings, travel and work functions, being able to “switch off” during a business trip is a skill in itself. Down-time might be minimal, so you need to escape the grind when you can. Feeling physically and mentally refreshed for the next day’s activities is vital. Here are five ways you can unwind during a business trip.

Pamper yourself

You mightn’t be able to fit in the four hour deluxe spa package that you probably deserve, but a relaxing 30 minute massage or dip in the hotel Jacuzzi could be just what the doctor ordered. All work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) a tightly wound employee. Many motels and resorts boast their own day spa facilities on-site, so why not join the pamper program?

Take a stroll

Whether your business trip takes you to the centre of a big city or a location way out in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing like a leisurely stroll to clear the mind and stretch out those tense muscles. It’s also a good excuse to engage in a little sightseeing. Get out there and make the most of your surrounds. You never know what you might stumble upon. It certainly beats lying in your hotel room and staring at the ceiling all evening.

Watch TV

An oldie but a goodie, this tip will help take your mind off the day’s work-related events and provide a genuine entertainment option in the process. It might seem contradictory to the advice given above, but it’s good to keep your options open – and there’s no reason you can’t follow all of our tips!

Even the most rundown of hotels has a working television with a decent selection of channels. Sit, back, relax and escape reality for a while! It’s the perfect accompaniment to room service snacks. Speaking of food …

Eat well

It might be tempting to grab the quickest and easiest meal option during a business trip, but it pays to be selective. The ritual of sitting down and tucking into a nice meal – either alone or with company – nourishes the soul and keeps those tastebuds happy! Resorts/hotels such as Kings Park Accommodation, offer delicious, home-style dining – perfect for when you spend extensive periods on the road.


Gifts for the kids, a nice present for your partner, a purchase or two for yourself – whatever your end goal, shopping is a fantastic way to unwind during a business trip. If it’s been nothing but work, work, work, then shopping can provide the ideal distraction. Plus it’s a great way to reward yourself for all that hard work. Retail therapy saves the day yet again!

Business trips don’t have to be a chore. No matter how hectic your schedule is, there is always time to unwind. Follow the tips above and you will gain the most out of your next work excursion.

How do you like to make the most of your downtime on a business trip? Share your suggestions below.

What ethical decisions do you make when deciding to visit Cuba?

Interesting article here subtitled “A visit to the dystopian Havana that tourists never see.” The article is more focused on the hardships faced by average Cubans and goes into some detail on historical context.

To me, one of the more interesting bits is that workers in a Spanish-run tourist hotel take home 67 cents a day of their $8/hour salary. The average Cuban has a maximum salary of $20 a month. A doctor is permitted to earn up to $30 a month. But you know someone is getting the 7.33 an hour taken from all the hotel workers’ wages. What are the moral implications that tourists must consider when choosing whether to support the government that takes almost everything from people working in the tourism industry?

The wage issue is related to another issue – only a few elite Cubans get to enjoy resorts and other tourist facilities. While no longer banned outright from the resorts, most Cubans simply can’t afford to visit them. The article cites Hemmingway’s old hangout, the Floridita bar, where a beer costs a week’s wages. If a tourist goes to Floridita now, does the experience lack authenticity? There are no Cubans drinking there.

But there are ways in which visiting the resorts helps ordinary people. Workers are allowed to keep their tips making tour guides, taxi drivers, and maids in hotels some of Cuba’s elite.

And it is possible to skip the fancy resorts, as one of my former students did when he visited Pinar del Rio to deliver a message to a Cuban family for a motel worker in Mexico.

When different cultures mean ideas don’t translate

I was never an interpretation and translation guy, but when I taught linguistics in the College of English at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, I ran into lots of students and teachers from the Interpretation Department. One of the most interesting lectures I saw came from a group of students talking about Korean phrases that don’t translate well into English and English phrases that don’t translate well into Korean.

So I wanted to share some experience and start a discussion based on words that get lost in translation when traveling abroad. There are some good ones in the article I link to here, like feeling L’appel du vide when waiting for a cruise ship to dock. That’s a French idea for feeling something like homesickness only for a place you have never been.

For a personal example, living in Korea I often heard the word jung. It took a few years for me to get the concept. Jung is sort of a feeling of camaraderie and building jung is important in Korea. It’s still a somewhat foreign concept to me, but from my perspective, jung often involves getting together for drinks. Office workers go out drinking together, college students go out drinking together, professors go out drinking together. Sometimes students and professors take an overnight trip and drink together. We take the bus to some cabin in the country and hang out overnight. That’s called MT (Membership Training) but it’s about drinking and creating jung – not about training.

I’ve seen all sorts of things during MT. There is always a barbecue and there are always drinking games. Students stay up drinking all night, I think. I’m not sure because professors always go to bed before students. Professors might have a 2 room cabin with all the male professors sleeping in one room and all the female professors sleeping in the other room. Everyone gets a thick blanket / thin mattress thing to throw on the floor and sleep on. I have never seen a western style bed (box spring and mattress) at an MT. I assume the students have a similar set up, just two bigger rooms, if they sleep at all.

You might be wondering about privacy, but this is a concept that doesn’t translate so well from English into Korean. For example if you say in English that you prefer to yoga in the privacy of your own home, that privacy seems like a good thing. However it’s hard to translate “in the privacy of my home” into Korean and maintain the same positive connotation. I don’t mean to say that there is no privacy in Korea, but the concept of privacy and the expectation for privacy is a bit different in Korean culture than in American (and I assume other Western countries’) culture. The different cultural concepts of privacy can definitely impact your travel experience.

Here’s another cool article that talks about “hygge” a term that they say doesn’t translate well into English. Hygge kind of reminds me of jung except instead of building camaraderie with colleagues, hygge is more for family and friends:

“Hygge is a deep sense of cosy that can originate from many different sources. Here is a good example from my life: a cloudy winter Sunday morning at the country house, fire in the stove and 20 candles lit to dispel the gloom. My husband, puppy and I curled up on our sheepskins wearing felt slippers, warm snuggly clothes and hands clasped around hot mugs of tea. A full day ahead with long walks on the cold beach, back for pancake lunch, reading, more snuggling, etc. This is a very hyggligt day.”

So what phrases do you know like hygge and jung? What words or phrases have you encountered in your travels that don’t translate well into English?

Are you a trusted traveler and an American citizen?

TSA, in its continuing effort to keep Americans safe while avoiding as much public humiliation as possible, is readying a new program in which select travelers won’t need to take off their shoes, remove their laptops, and so on.

This could make lines at security checkpoints in American airports more efficient. Personally, I would like to be a trusted traveler for the status – I would like to leave my shoes on while everybody else gets their socks dirty.

According to the comments, you pay $85 for this status and to keep your socks clean. Interesting that I was unable to find that bit of information in the article but poor reporting is nothing new, is it? If the comments are correct, I think improved status will continue to elude me because I’m cheap.

From the article: Passengers who are eligible for PreCheck include U.S. citizens of frequent traveler programs who are invited to apply by participating airlines. The airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Additionally, U.S. citizens who are members of a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler program and Canadian citizens who are members of the NEXUS expedited travel program qualify to participate.

TSA, of course, reserves the right to randomly force a trusted traveler to go through the normal security hoops.

Would you pay $85 to become a Trusted traveler? Assume for the purposes of this question that you meet all eligibility requirements.

Travel to investigate something weird (like Korean poo wine)

A feriend of mine found this amusing bit of investigative journalism in which a japanese woman travels to South Korea to learn about an important but sadly forgotten part of Eastern medicine: poo wine. If you’re not very mature, I think the story will make you laugh. I know I laughed. If you are mature, you could skip the video, unless you really are looking for more information about poo wine.

Either way, a discussion question: Would you travel to investigate something weird? Does trying to learn something obscure strike you as a good basis for a journey?

Where have you seen the worst crowds during your travels?

I’ve seen some pretty good crowds while living in Seoul. In New York as well, although I find crowds in Seoul far more stressful. I remember being on the subway during Seoul rush hour and trying to get off the train. Every morning I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get off the train – the secret is you have to push. And since it’s so packed you’re pushing pretty hard; not hard enough to hurt anyone but hard enough to start a fight in America.

In fact I’m reminded of a time in New Orleans on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. It was packed and I was shuffling along, very slowly, with the crowd. Some kids, about my age (21 at the time), started pushing me from behind. Not as hard as I’ve pushed and been pushed in Korea, but we ended up shouting at each other until the threat of violence made the pushing stop. In other words, we almost got into a fight. Yet, similar pushing I experienced every morning in Seoul.

I mention it because of a video a friend pointed out to me. It looks like Beijing would be even worse, much worse actually.

Where have you seen the worst crowds during your travels?

Celebrating the bravery of flight attendants and digressing

This article hits on a few different issues from Asiana Airlines’ flight attendants fighting for the right for women to wear trousers on the job to how important looking good is to work for Asiana (an issue discussed at some length in the comments section on this blog):

Lim, who was 23 when she applied for the job, initially was told she too old. During the interview, she was required to wear a short skirt without stockings. Flight attendant school included sessions on hair, makeup and comportment. During flights, the cabin manager inspected the attendants to make sure they were wearing the right color of nail polish and had their aprons properly ironed.

But mainly the article talks about how important flight attendants are for passenger safety. As first responders they are trained in fire fighting and all sorts of rescue techniques. It’s pretty impressive. One thing I have not heard about was how much (or little) passengers in the emergency exit row helped out the flight attendants.

Be careful when using data or making calls when you travel

I’m about to write about a few people’s experiences with data costs, but first a personal note. I just set up my computer about 6 days after moving into my new home in Tallahassee. That’s why i haven’t been blogging – too many boxes to unpack and I didn’t want to do it on my phone. I have to watch my data usage and all.

Some people are learning that lesson the hard way when they travel. You may have seen the story about Casey Snook in the news, the teen with the $6,000 phone bill. My first reaction is to blast the evil corporate types at the phone company but they actually sound defensible here: “Once they had reached the limit of their data bundle, the customer actively opted out of our roaming data cap so that they could continue to use data, effectively removing the inbuilt protection from large data roaming bills.” Woops. Too bad for the customer.

If you have a kid traveling abroad, you might make sure the tour operator is on top of the phone situation. One traveler recently said, “My 18-year-old daughter just got back from a trip to Greece, and the tour sponsors did a great job in making phone options available to the kids — for $80 for 10 days, she was set up with a phone that allowed X minutes of calls and X texts and stuff like that, back to the US. Also, we had a program called Viber on our phones that let us text back and forth if we were all on wifi, and there’s widely available free wifi in Greece. It worked out fine.

Another person had a kid go to Canada, where the phone was used for navigation: “I got a call from AT&T explaining that his bill was over $3,000. Thankfully, the customer service rep gave me the AT&T international rate after the fact, so I only ended up paying $200. It is something to be aware of if traveling internationally. I’m not sure if all carriers will be as understanding as mine was.” Kudos to AT&T.

Another friend of mine was also happy with AT&T: I went to Toronto for a weekend in April to watch the Yankees and on the way to the airport I called AT&T and asked them to get me on a plan that would allow me to call back to the states and I’d just pay the difference at the end of the month. They said OK and I made a ton of calls and let my friends borrow the phone as well. When I finally got the bill it was at $500, I called to asked them what gives and they admitted to making a mistake switching me over, reversed all of the charges and then gave me a $25 credit on top of it for the trouble.

And it’s not just phones you need to be careful with as we can see from this reader’s story: Went on a Caribbean cruise last year for 10 days. Brought my IPad and left it on because I use it as a E-reader. Got back into Miami and my phone was off. Tracked down a Verizon and they claimed I had used over 2K of data over the last 11 days. Seems that the IPad was roaming the whole time and they wanted to rip me off with it. Was able to get it down to $100 and they told me to just let them know next time prior to leaving the country with it.

Should Carnival pay for the money the US Coast Guard spent rescuing the Triumph cruise ship?

Carnival Corp. says it won’t help the US Coast Guard, even though American taxpayers spent about $780,000 rescuing the Triumph. Carnival’s excuse is that all maritime interests must assist without question those in trouble at sea.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee takes the easy political stance – the big evil corporation should pay or else, “These costs must ultimately be borne by federal taxpayers.” He adds that Carnival appears to pay little or no federal income taxes.

Carnival says its policy is to “honor maritime tradition that holds that the duty to render assistance at sea to those in need is a universal obligation of the entire maritime community.” Carnival claims it frequently aids in rescues at the Coast Guard’s request, including 11 times in the past year in Florida and Caribbean waters.

I suppose Carnival thinks it’s fair. The US Coast Guard doesn’t pay Carnival when the cruise line helps out, so why should the cruise line pay the Coast Guard for any help? On the other hand, Carnival’s ships are not US flagged – CNN said that the Carnival Triumph sails under a Bahamian flag. Is the US required to provide assistance? Sure. Is the US required to provide free assistance to non-US vessels? Maybe not.

The other point worth making is that public opinion is the only leverage the US can really hope for in this case. Clearly the Coast Guard had no choice but to come to the rescue of so many American citizens. Though perhaps next time, they should rescue the people and leave the ship to drift around the ocean. If my car breaks down, I don’t expect a free tow. Why should a huge money-making corporation expect a free tow when their ships break down?

By the way, does anyone know if carnival did anything nice for their employees from the Triumph?

An article on visiting North Korea

Here’s a recently updated article on traveling in North Korea, a timely piece since their new talk of war is sure to boost tourism.

Anyhow, the author makes tourism in North Korea sound not too fun: A 24 hour train ride from Beijing to Pyongyang (Chinese trains are said to be pretty bad). No communication with the locals, which would actually be very interesting I’m sure (I studied Korean briefly with a woman who escaped North Korea and enjoyed trying to learn about her life in North Korea).

And the author reaches a very strange conclusion considering he never got to speak with anyone other than a retired major turned guard / tour guide: “For me, North Koreans seem to be no different than any other people.”

I’m not sure if the people are different, but I think it’s safe to say that people in North Korea lead very different lives than I do. The woman who gave me Korean lessons said she’d study in school a few hours a day and then from 12:30 on they would be playing sports. And, like all women, she spent 8 years in the army. She told me there are no bars in North Korea – people drink at home. And if I ever find my notes from our lessons I’m sure there are more differences I could list. So I wonder about the author’s conclusion and I don’t think I would visit a country if there’s no chance to speak with the locals.

I think the more interesting talk about North Korea can be found in this old post.