Category: Travel discussion

How nice are you when you travel?

I still remember hanging out with some homeless kids in New Orleans when I was there for Mardi Gras in 2000 or so. I considered myself a budding sociologist at the time and figured I had a chance to learn about a new culture. Plus I was sleeping in my car each night and not really eating in order to save money so I fit right in anyway.

Except that I could only watch them beg for money, being far too shy to try it myself. And I wasn’t interested in bragging about track marks from the previous night’s drug use.

Anyhow, something happened that week in New Orleans that made a lasting impression on me. When one kid asked a guy for money, the guy responded by buying us a loaf of bread and a package of baloney or something. It wasn’t delicious, but still a great meal I’ll never forget.

This press release I received recently sort of reminded me of the kind traveler I want to be. And I can’t help but be reminded of the opposite of New Orleans kindness during the 2009 Mardi Gras shooting.

When traveling, we often become consumed by thinking of what souvenirs we can collect to bring back home. Why not change it up and leave some kind behind!?

Start by bringing along your Boom Boom! Cards, intentional acts of kindness cards, to play it forward with the locals wherever you go! Help spread the Boom Boom! love near and far!

Each card contains an act of guerilla goodness for you to perform, then pay forward, helping you to spread kindness and positivity throughout your home, community, and life (wherever it may lead you!). From there, engage with the Boom Boom! community at by posting your kindness stories, photos and videos, and follow your cards (each has a unique ID) on the Boom Boom! map, so you can see how your acts of kindness create a positive ripple effect!

Sounds fun enough but the two samples I saw on their website were very underwhelming:

“Wish someone a happy half birthday. If you are feeling especially festive, buy them a card and maybe a small gift.”

“Commit the radical act of kindness of your choice. Be daring. Be outrageous. Be whimsical. But above all, be kind.”

OH well. At least it’s a cool idea, even if the implementation seems a bit weak.

How hard should it be to climb Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome?

Interesting article here on an effort being made to restrict access to Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome.

One argument goes like this:

“At the end of the day, if the visitors and users of wilderness aren’t willing to make sacrifices to preserve the wilderness character of these areas, then we just won’t have wilderness. We’ll have some Disney-fied version of it,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch.

The other argument goes like this:

“Once you get up there it’s like ‘holy cow.’ It’s just one of those moments in your life when you go ‘wow’ and you question your existence and space and time and everything else,” said hiker Townsley, who thinks everyone should be allowed the experience.

Where do you stand?

Is Cancun a famous honeymoon spot?

I was talking to a student today and the subject of Cancun came up. When I said I had been there she replied that she was jealous. I’m not a big fan of Cancun so I asked her why. She said because it was such a popular honeymoon spot with American couples.

If she’s right, it’s funny that a Korean college student would know Cancun’s reputation better than me since I’m an American who has been there. I got the feeling that American college kids go there to party although the front desk staff did mistake my sister and I for a honeymooning couple since we had the same last name.

Also, I do remember we went on a snorkeling tour and one young woman had lost her engagement ring. The Mexican snorkeling tour leaders were diving to search for it and coming up empty-handed. She obviously didn’t believe them and thought they must have found it and pocketed it. Yet, she never volunteered to help them search for it in the first place.

Anyhow, what do you think of when you think about Cancun?

How do you estimate the value of your next vacation?

My wife and I have been going back and forth the past few days on whether or not we should go to Hawaii in February. We both want to, of course, but we’re not sure if it’s worth the money. And we’re not sure how to decide.

We figure we’re looking at at least $4,000 if we do things as cheaply as we’re able. That includes getting a friend to pet sit for us – otherwise add another $900 for the pet hotel. Obviously we prefer to save the money but our friend has a job and dogs can use extra attention because one of them is pretty old and has to eat three times a day at the same time every day. Even with a friend pet sitting, we figure about 5k if we don’t count pennies, and while I am somewhat cheap, I don’t like being super cheap on vacation because it stresses me out.

And while we’d like to see Hawaii, we’d also like to save more money to move to Hawaii or somewhere else while I do a PhD. It would be nice to save up some money before becoming a poor student again.

Plus, we could be happy staying in our apartment with our dogs, possibly visiting a few places in Seoul or elsewhere in Korea – a staycation or a close-to-home vacation. Probably staying in Korea with the dogs would not make us as happy as being on a beach in Hawaii though. And we could seize the moment, live for today, follow our bliss, etc.

Anyone else have / had a similar dilemma? How did you decide to vacation or not?

What’s the appropriate punishment?

What’s the appropriate punishment, if any is warranted for an honest mistake, in this situation:

RJ Diving Ventures of Miami Beach took a group of 30 people, including Paul Kline and Fernando Garcia Puerta, in a boat to scuba dive in the open ocean.

When Kline and Garcia surfaced, however, they found that the boat had gone. They had to cling to buoy for 2 hours in shark infested waters before a private yacht rescued them.

Hidden hotel fees and charges / First day of Autumn / Haunted Prison / Most Traveled Person Update

We are all familiar with hidden airline fees, those annoying extra fees and charges added on to the ticket price for everything from an extra pillow, to a pre-reserved seat. However, a recent trend seems to be hidden hotel charges, although I have yet to encounter any of these. I am guilty of always paying hotel and restaurant bills without actually looking at them, which of course is not what you should do. Some hotels have been charging between $5 and $8 for a packet of tea or coffee, and some charging between $20 and $50 for early check in – things which most of us assume should be included in the basic room price. In fact, it is estimated that hotels stand to make $1.8 billion a year from these extra fees and charges. Experts say that if you are hit with these unfair charges, you should complain in person when you check out, before paying your bill, as after the fact, it is often difficult to get reimbursed for anything.

It was the official first day of Fall / Autumn a few days ago and if you live in the United States and need some ideas for places to see the leaves changing color, this site may give you some ideas. I moved to New Jersey about a year ago and did not really realize there were mountains here, although apparently there are in a region of the state known as the Skylands. In fact, people go skiing up there too and I certainly didn’t think of New Jersey as a skiing destination. Of course, it is almost the time for haunted houses and ghosts and I was intrigued to learn that I live near one of the most haunted places in the country, the Eastern State Penitentiary. This was once one of the strictest prisons in the United States, and home to Al Capone among others. Their website makes it sound as though visiting at Halloween would be more than just a little bit scary.

In addition to Halloween, October is also the month for state fairs and I as I always used to go to the NC State Fair and eat overpriced sickly food, it got me wondering which is the largest and best state fair? The largest apparently is Texas, (although not necessarily the best) and the Texas State Fair takes place this year from September 30th to October 23rd. In fact, it describes itself as the greatest state fair in the world, although I’m not sure other countries have state fairs. Perhaps Charles Veley, the world’s most traveled person, should add state fairs to his list of places to visit if he runs out of countries. Since I last mentioned him, Mr Veley has been busy traveling and now only has 50 countries, states, provinces and islands to go until he has visited them all. This means he has to go to such remote places as the Desventuradas Islands and Karakalpakstan. I’m not quite sure how anyone has the time and money to do that, but it must be nice!

Guest entry by Mancunian

Pan Am / Travel Bookshop / Packing Light and Baggage Fees / TSA Procedures for Children

I have complained about the lack of travel shows on American TV several times on these pages and although things have not really changed much, there is at least an airline themed new show coming on ABC on September 25th. It is called Pan Am, and judging from the previews looks to be a little bit like a soap opera, although it is set on and around the now defunct airline at the beginning of the 1960s. According to the network’s site, the show will take in such exotic locations as Berlin, Paris, Jakarta and Monte Carlo. I would be surprised if ABC had the money to film in all those places, but we shall see. I have noticed that in many TV shows and films, Montreal often stands in for Paris. Also on the same evening, one of the best reality shows, the Amazing Race, returns, in which teams race around the world and perform various tasks.

I think its a shame when any bookshop closes (I will probably be the last person in the world to buy a Kindle, or whatever the other thing that you can read electronic books on is called) but particularly sad is the story that the Travel Bookshop, that featured in the 1999 movie Notting Hill which starred Julia Roberts, is set to close, according to this UK newspaper. I remember going to the shop occasionally when I lived in London, although there is always Stanford’s, also in London, and said to be the world’s largest map and travel bookshop. I spent many happy hours in there too, poring over maps to places I will probably never go to.

This site has talked before about high airline fees for just about everything, including of course, those for excess baggage. The excess baggage fees can certainly make some money for the airlines, as apparently during the first 3 months of this year they collected around $780 million in bag fees. I have never paid an excess baggage fee, and would rather just pack lightly, and if I am going to England for just a few days can almost get away with just a carry on bag and no checked luggage. The travel writer and TV presenter Rick Steves points out that he spends several months in Europe every summer with just a regular carry on size bag. I suppose if you don’t mind having a limited wardrobe and doing a lot of laundry, that would be realistic! In fact, if you take one of Rick’s tours to Europe, you are only allowed to take one carry on bag, measuring the standard 9 by 22 by 14 inches. How do other people pack, and would this limitation be something you could live with?

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 behind us, the TSA here in the United States has decided to ease the rules on children traveling. Children under 12 will not have to take their shoes off and a physical pat down will only take place, if there seems to be a good reason for it. Also, once on the plane, all children under 12 will be required to sit and read quietly for the duration of the flight and not constantly ask: Are we there yet? Can I use the bathroom? When do we get fed? Can I have a soda? I don’t like this food! Can I get something out of my backpack, which has been crammed into the overhead compartment, so that it inconveniences as many people as possible?

Guest entry by Mancunian

Garuda Indonesia searching for breast implants and tattoos when hiring female crew

This story recently became news in Korea: Garuda Indonesia wanted to hire some Korean cabin crew and as part of the hiring process had a male Indonesian doctor check the women who applied (I don’t know if any men applied) for breast implants and tattoos.

Tattoos they don’t like for religious reasons and breast implants they say are a health hazard (a loss in cabin pressure hurts people with breast implants or something).

Defending themselves, Garuda Indonesia quotes (they say the original quote came from Korea’s Chosun Ilbo) one of the people they examined (and hired perhaps?):

We are not fools. If the doctors really touched our breast, don’t you think all 27 ladies would have done something about it? All the applicants that underwent the physical check-up were told to keep their bras on and wear an examination gown, and during that time, doctors only examined their chest.

The Huffington Post also quotes a Korean newspaper:

One applicant told Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh that during her exam she “removed her brassiere while covered in a blanket, lay down, and had her chest palpated with a medical instrument by the male doctor.”

“Had I known what kind of examination it would be, I would not have agreed to it,” the applicant told the paper. She added that she agreed to the check-up because she was told it was required and was not given any other details before hand.

What do you think about examing women for tattoos and not hiring the people who have them for religious reasons? Would it matter if the exam were done by a man or a woman?

What do you think about a breast exam required of female applicants (because the airline can say the women gave consent, but really if they want the job what choice did they have?) in which the doctor uses a medical instrument to check for implants? Is it Garuda Indonesia’s responsibility to have a female doctor on staff? Is the exam wrong without considering the sex of the doctor?

Dangerous beaches? Are sharks your primary safety concern?

This article about beaches where you’re more likely to get bitten by a shark caught my eye when it reached Yahoo’s front page. Naturally, my first reaction is to not swim at those beaches where attacks are more likely, but shark attack stats don’t tell the whole story.

For example:

Stephen Schafer was kitesurfing 500 yards off an unguarded part of Stuart Beach, in Martin County, Fla., last February when he was attacked by a swarm of sharks.

doesn’t really apply to me because I don’t think I’ll ever end up 500 yards from land unless I’m in a boat. So before you judge the safety of a beach you have to look specifically at the water you’ll be in. So far as I know, sharks are a lot less likely if you don’t go in water over your head (just for example). Also, I feel safe when I go for a swim in the middle of a crowd – why would a shark pick me (and what are the odds?) when they could go for someone on the edge of the swimming crowd?

The other thing is that sharks aren’t the only danger you ought to consider. A beach with no shark attacks could theoretically be more dangerous because of the currents or for other non-shark related reasons.

Are there any beaches you refuse to swim at? If so, what makes the beach dangerous?

Talking about travel = sexier you & good date material?

This excerpt from a Lonely Planet blog by Robert Reid got me thinking about how my wife seduced me by talking about how she lived in Rome for a while and walked by Il Colosseo every day. Here’s the excerpt:

Travel makes you sexier

It’s not just a tan you return with, but stories. According to one recent survey, the best first-date conversation topic was hobbies, with travel following second. Somehow manage to combine the two, and brace yourself Romeo.

And people who read a travel blog are certainly not a representative sample, but, just for fun, do you agree that travel makes you sexier?