Thursday, February 23, 2012

Traveling with Friends

Two friends joined us on our recent trip to Hawaii. We're all under-employed, we've all known each other for some time, and when we started talking Hawaii, one of them had this to say: If I don't get a beach vacation soon, I'm going to have to kill someone. (The someone was very specific, and he did make himself available for the beach vacation, saving everyone from character references and prison time and claims of insanity. A-hem, I digress, as usual.) I've traveled with one of these friends before; we had a great time on a weekend up in Vancouver, Canada, so I was fairly confident that we could all travel together. And apart from some picky eating issues and a minor airport meltdown,things worked out swimmingly.
Traveling with friends is tricky, I've had it go very badly when all signs pointed to it going perfectly, I've had it go perfectly when my sense was that it wasn't going to work. I've traveled with friends in Alaska and Costa Rica and Spain and Washington State and Vietnam. The destination doesn't determine if it's going to work, only the chemistry does. And planning, good planning. Here are a few posts with great advice about how to travel with friends.
Wet Noodle Posse posts on traveling with your gal pals.
Before you head to the airport or get in the car for your girls’ weekend, establish how you’ll handle meals. How many meals will you eat in your rental? How many dinners out? Will you split the grocery bill, or should everyone get their own food? Who’s going to the grocery store when you arrive and what’s on that list? My friends and I usually shop together and split the bill. I bring a few things necessary to my existence that I don’t expect them to chip in for, but I am happy to share—coffee. I like to grind my own dark roast beans. Communication is important—especially if some friends have to watch their pennies more than others.
Travel Muse has a great post on how to "Stay Sane While Traveling With Friends" that includes this piece of advice and more:
Plan alone time. Even though you’re traveling with people you like, everyone needs some time to themselves to decompress from the group. Make sure you plan for alone time on a daily basis.
I also liked this post on Divine Caroline:
Take a trial trip.A short-term practice round such as a weekend road trip might help you recognize whether you’ll be compatible travel partners. Spending time together without your everyday concerns and comforts will give you a chance to see how patient and compatible you are with each other. You may discover whether or not your prospective partner is able to get through trip delays and brief misunderstandings without getting distressed. Though temporarily stressful, those are the situations that can usually make the best stories.
On our trip, we did really well when we had clear goals for the day and a schedule to follow. We also allowed for days when we split up and did things separately -- one day we got an extra car, one day the husband and I stayed in while our friends took off for the better part of the day. A few times we had a late start -- we're early people, our pals get going late -- but we were able to take everything in stride. I'd say the most difficult thing we had to deal with was our vegan pal, but it was very clear that it was about him, not about us, and it would not have been a big deal if we'd abandoned him to go eat on our own -- we agreed upon that early on. We worked out our budget and our accommodation needs before hand, so there was no tension around too expensive or not enough bathrooms.
by  in Travel

Read more of Pam's Travel with Friends at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Six Things You Need to Know How to Say in Any Language

It’s hard to generalize about such a multifaceted swath of the world, but suffice to say that certain commonplaces apply across the Muslim parts of the region (extreme modesty, politeness, and hospitality) that have no bearing on the rest. Don’t, for example, expect any ceremony from your cab driver or business associate in Israel. Compared with that other global tongue—English—the Arabic language is at the same time more uniform (books and newscasts across the region are in the Standard style) and far more diverse (dialects diverge almost into entirely different languages, each with its own pronunciation, vowels, and sometimes even grammar). Too much Standard Arabic will make you seem ridiculously formal, while speaking Gulf Arabic in Egypt will summon nothing but blank stares. When in doubt, do as the Egyptians do—it’s their pop culture that dominates the rest of the Middle East, so they’re most likely to be understood.
A Note on the Details: Variations in Arabic dialects can get complicated fast, but essential greetings are fairly standard. Still, we’ve done our best to note the differences in how phrases sound in Dubai, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. In Israel, English will do in many situations, and in South Africa you can pretty much use it anywhere. The Afrikaans we’ve provided is most useful outside the big cities, especially in the Afrikaner–dominated west.
Hello Formal: Assalaamu alaykom, sometimes assalaam wa rahma, or simply salaam. Less formal: Marhaba, followed by kaif halak (“how are you?”). When one Arab greets another, the usual gender rules apply—only more so. Gulf Arabs get close: kisses between women and sometimes nose touches for the men. Handshakes may be followed by a right palm pressed to the heart, to express the strength of the bond. But this physicality stays within genders. “Kissing the opposite sex is not even an option,” says travel writer Mohamed El Hebeishy, who grew up in Egypt and now lives in Dubai. “And do not be the first to reach out for a handshake.”
Good–bye Ma’assalama or, if you’re the one staying, allah yesalemek. Salaam is also common.
Thank you Shukran (add jazilan for “very much”)—but hayak Allah (which also means “you’re welcome”) is more commonly heard in Dubai.
Excuse me A’afwaan as a light apology; ismahli to get someone’s attention (ismahili to women). For “I didn’t catch that,” low smaht (to a man) or low smahti (to a woman).
Help me Mumkin tesa’adni (tesa’ade’ani if you’re a woman).
Please Men fadlek (to men) or men fadlik (to women).
Hello Assalaamu alaykum; for extra credit, change the suffix to ka for one man, ki for one woman); salaam in more everyday situations; or marhaba, especially if you don’t know the other person’s religion (Coptic Christians generally prefer it). Within genders, close physical contact is the norm, so don’t be shocked by a kiss on the cheek, a hand tapping the shoulder, or even a hug. Handshakes are standard but tend to be much gentler than the American variety. Across genders they’re inadvisable, and the more veiled the woman, the less likely she’ll want to shake a man’s hand. Just nod and smile. (And never offer your left hand, which is considered unclean.) Keep others from seeing the palm of your hand when hailing someone, or the soles of your feet when seated at a meeting—both could be insults.
Good–bye Ma’assalaamah, or just salaam.
Thank you Shukran (add jazilan for “very much”); less formally, mishakeer if you’re male or mishakeera if you’re female. Or on very special occasions, baraka allahu feek (“God bless you”).
Excuse me Asef as a light apology (with the prefix al–, it means “you’re welcome” as a simple response to shukran). To politely get someone’s attention, low samaht to a man, samahti to a woman, samahtu to a group. Lamuakhza or baad eznak just to pass by someone.
Help me Tesa’idni is simplest, but the full phrase would be: low samaht, mumkin it–sa’idni to a man (idini to a woman); el ha’uni for emergencies.
Please Min fadlek (to men), min fadlik (to women), min fadloku (to a group).
Hello/Good–bye Shalom. Alternatively, boker tov (“good morning”); achar tzahara’im tovim (“good afternoon”); erev tov (“good evening”). Even though most Israelis know a good deal of English, “an attempt to speak Hebrew is always appreciated,” says Nancy Schwartzman, director of the Israel–set documentary The Line.
Thank you Todah, or todah rabah for “Thank you very much.”
Excuse me To apologize, use ani mitzta’er for men and ani mitzta’eret for women. For everything else—when trying to get the attention of a waiter or shopkeeper, for example, or to signal someone to step out of your way—slicha (with a hard h sound) is common.
Help me Tuchal la’azor li? (“Can you help me?”), or, in an emergency, hatzilu!
Please B’vakasha, which also means “you’re welcome.” Tack it on to the end of a request.


Friday, February 17, 2012

A surprising trend in affordable luggage

Luggage makers always strive to respond to the growing demand from travelers for lighter and tougher suitcases. Their latest solution is baggage made of an ultra-lightweight yet highly durable material: polycarbonate resin.
The big surprise is that hard-sided cases have suddenly become popular again, now that they're as light as soft-sided bags. A 22-inch carry-on made of polycarbonate weighs a mere four-and-a-half pounds, the same as a traditional soft-sided piece made of nylon, and much lighter than traditional ABS hard-sided material. How light is four-and-a-half pounds? That’s light enough to hold a bag with your forefinger, when the bag is empty. Yet the plastic is still tough enough to avoid getting dented.
The glossy material isn’t new: Polycarbonate has successfully been used in motorcycle helmets, bulletproof glass and riot-police shields for a couple of decades now. In 2000, German luggage maker Rimowa introduced the material into luggage. Ironically, travelers were unnerved by how lightweight the luggage felt, worrying that it would prove to be flimsy, and the product didn’t catch on right away.
Yet sales of polycarbonate luggage recently began to take off in a big way, according to the Travel Goods Association. These suitcases are replacing old-fashioned cases at higher prices. Even Zero Halliburton, a luggage maker that’s famous for selling aluminum cases, says it is experiencing its strongest sales for its line of polycarbonate suitcases, such as the 19-inch Z-TEX (about $325).
Here are a few reasons to explain the current sales boom: Enough manufacturers have designs made of polycarbonate resin now that competition is bringing prices down from $800 a decade ago to as low as $140 now. Additionally, airlines have ramped up their fees for oversize and overweight luggage, so fitting everything into a single compact bag has become increasingly crucial.
Changing fashion is another factor. The polycarbonate material is eye-catching, because it can easily be dyed in brilliant colors, such as shiny tomato red, cobalt blue, and gleaming silver. Travelers seem to have become more willing to explore bold colours in their baggage. Black, which was the near uniform color choice of a decade ago, is today mixed with a wider array of hues and patterns, probably for the practical reason of speeding up identification of a bag in a pile at an airport carousel.
Budget Travel found a few types of the new luggage that are stylish, lightweight, sturdy and affordable:
Samsonite, the world’s largest branded luggage maker, showcases the Gravtec line of polycarbonate suitcases, imprinted with a raised-edge pattern. A 24-inch size model runs was recently for sale at $180 from
Britain’s Antler brand creates the Liquis 4 Wheeled Super Lightweight 22-inch carry-on, with a shiny and grooved polycarbonate outer shell in blue, red, or silver, with four multi-directional wheels at its base, recently from $299 at ebags.
Rimowa developed the technology to make polycarbonate luggage and today makes some of the chicest models, such as its Salsa 22-inch Globetrotter ($450 recently at Zappos). A zipper joins the two luggage halves in an improbable design, with four multi-directional wheels at the base.
All this news reminds me of the movie "The Graduate." Today, adults might tell kids that the future will be in polycarbonates.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


By Margaret Ulrich, Teacher 
Today we’re talking about Pooh—and not the Christopher Robin kind from the Hundred Acre Wood.
If you’ve traveled, you understand. Some people call it food poisoning, traveler’s sickness, Montezuma’s revenge, the runs, or some other variation of a lovely name for the not-so-lovelies.
Whatever you call it, it’s going to happen.
After two months of living in Phnom Penh, I had my first sick day last Tuesday. I survived, obviously, but I realized it would’ve been helpful to be a bit more informed and prepared.
I’ve come up with a list of things I found helpful/wish I had known, so that when it’s your turn to make love to the bathroom for 36 hours you’ll be ready.
1. Always know your surroundings.
Whether you’re in a place for a week or a year, you should know where some basic things are: a reliable ATM, a place to get food, and a pharmacy. The first two are pretty obvious as to why, but knowing the location of a pharmacy helps you get to one faster if it’s an emergency and allows you to give directions if you’re unable to go there yourself.
2. Have the 3 F’s: Friends, Fluids, and Fedicine—I mean medicine, but it doesn’t start with an f so we’ll just pretend.
If you’re traveling with one or more people, make sure you have a way of contacting someone in an emergency so they can bring you supplies *if you haven’t read this blog yet* or take you to the hospital if necessary. Keep their number in your diary iPhone or address keeper-tracker book.
If you’re traveling alone, make friends. Talk to the person at the front desk if you’re staying in a hostel and make sure you have the number in case you need to call from your room. People are always willing to help if you’re sick, so don’t be afraid to ask.
In addition to having purified water at all times—I can’t stress that enough—make sure you have a back-up supply of a Gatorade-type drink. This is the only time I will agree with the movieIdiocracy and say it’s good for you because it has electrolytes.
They sell them at every convenience store and they’re usually only a few dollars. Keep one on hand because if you have to buy one when you actually need it, it always seems like a little gremlin has gone around and hidden them all from you.
I had never heard of Ciprocin (Cipro) before traveling, but I guess that’s because it’s not commonly used in the states. So, proceed with caution. It is a very strong antibiotic that kills all the bacteria (good and bad) in your intestines.
I recommend buying this before you travel so your doctor can explain the dosage and warnings to you. I took one 500mg tablet every 12 hrs for three days, but check with a doctor or pharmacist to see what you should actually take. It’s only a few dollars here and you can buy it at any pharmacy without a prescription—only in Cambodia.
3. Toilet paper!
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this before now, but there is a little device here that we refer to as the butt-sprayer.
Instead of using toilet paper, the people of Cambodia spray their nether-regions with this fire hose and then go about their day. Let me just say that it is a very wet, very questionable experience and if you’d like to avoid this, make sure you have enough toilet paper to get you through a bout of traveler’s sickness.
4. Rest and recover.
After you’ve loaded yourself up on meds and liquids, all you can really do is rest and wait until you feel better. My suggestion during this time is to have a sleeping mask and ear plugs.
This is the inspiring one that I brought—don’t judge me, it was free with a purchase. You never know when or where sickness will strike, so it’s always a good idea to be comfortable when you’re trying to recover.
Also, when you start to feel a little better, I recommend eating plain crackers or white bread. It’s easy on your stomach and sustains you enough until you can handle real food.
Good luck and feel better soon!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Experiential travelers crave authenticity

Our analysis of trends in tourism patterns that impact our industry covers a number of tourism profiles, all of which highlight the key drivers for these segments of visitors. These profiles often run across income brackets. One profile that we anticipate will continue to strengthen through 2012 is the “Experiential Traveler.”
Tim Peck
One of the challenges of globalization and the associated democratization of travel is that what was once a romantic experience coupled with a wonderful sense of adventure has now become mundane and often tedious for many travelers. Destinations have become commercialized and the excitement of arriving in a new city has been replaced by the challenge of cramming the exploration of the city into one day or at the most two, with a whistle-stop tour of museums, galleries, churches and castles—all becoming notches on the traveler’s money belt.
This level of experiential travel continues to be important in broadening horizons, but for many is not offering the depth of experience they are yearning for. Seeing the sights is not enough, and there is a move from simply seeing to truly experiencing and making the event transformational by being absorbed in that experience. There is a burgeoning desire to stray from that beaten path and understand how the locals live, work and play, and perhaps give something back in exchange for that understanding. The website for AFAR, one of the organizations targeting this sector of the tourism market, has an excellent definition of this type of experiential travel:
“What is experiential travel? Experiences that connect you with the essence of a place and its people … simply seeing the sights is no longer enough. Experiential travelers want to venture beyond the beaten tourist paths and dive deeper into authentic, local, culture, connecting with people from other cultures in ways that enrich their lives and create lasting memories.”
For many, this focus might require a transition from the increased speed of travel, driven from a yearning to see the world, to slowing down the process. This has moved the emphasis to the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of experiences. These “real” experiences are all-inclusive, mesh good with the bad and might even take you out of your comfort zone and encompass some negative aspects of life, most of which are generally avoided in the traditional tourist program.
The participation continuumTrue experiential travel can take a variety of forms that encompass experiences that cover a continuum from active participation by the traveler through to a more passive participation. This participation has traditionally related to four ranges of experiences: education andentertainment as activities that engenders a level of absorption from the participant, through to the more immersive activities that relate toaesthetic appreciation, such as visits to museums or galleries or theescapist activities, which at one end of the spectrum might be an activity such as golf and at the other end of the spectrum encompasses adventure tourism. These four levels of categorizations have been further broken down into five components of the experience process: sensing, feeling, thinking, acting and relating.
There is a shift to a more radical, all-encompassing, transformational experience that appears to be tied to a desire to move the vacation needle to an experience that is more enriching and offers more value at a level of self worth. This appears to tie in all of the five components of the experience process but with an emphasis on “relating” at a very personal level. There are a number of values associated with this approach, but two that stand out are authenticity andintegrity.
Fundamentally, experiential travel should be transformational at a number of levels and can be scalable. The transformation can be through a structured educational program such as a cookery class or meditation retreat, or though living and immersing yourself in a community and culture. At the higher end, the programs can be delivered through the comfort of your 5-star resorts or, at the more economical end of the market, the experience can be sought out with a backpack and an adventurous spirit.
Experiential travel will continue to grow as a market, with travelers seeking to enrich their lives with a collection of experiences. This is becoming part of their individual sense of sustainability, improving their sense of self worth through acquiring skills, education, knowledge and personal wellbeing whilst contributing to the lives of others. It is critically important to understand this market and stake a position in this value system.

By Tim Peck columnist
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