Strange place for a vacation

So talk about a vacation with your friends and no doubt the usual destinations will be discussed – Mayan Riviera vs Puerto Vallarta, Bahamas or Hawaii and of course Italy,  Italy, Italy.  How about spiking up your next conversation by telling your friends that you are thinking of going on holiday to these weird and wonderful places.

Tashirojima Island
where?  Just off the coast of Japan – this is home to just 100 people and well thousands of cats.  Really – just look at this –

Nobody really  knows how many cats are there – but this picture is enough to give my husband asthma.  This is definitely a place he could not go.

Okunoshima Island
This would be a bit better – no cats but hundreds of rabbits.

Snake Island (Ilha da Quemada Grande)
Off the coast of Brazil this island is full of venomous snakes.  It is so dangerous that the Navy has forbidden anyone from landing there – so I guess you will have to cross that off your list.
Image result for Ilha da Queimada Grande

Or how about a few days in the Ice Hotel in Sweden.  Check out these rooms.

I dunno…. I’m not feeling this.

No – this was a bad idea. Forget I even included this hotel.  Too much ice and snow in Calgary anyway.  Looks a bit like a scene out of Game of Thrones.

GATEWAY TO HELL (otherwise known as Dallol, Ethiopia)
An old mining site for potash its daily temperature is 45 degrees celsius.  That hot enough for you?   It is pretty much deserted now except for the local people known as Afar.

Come on, I dare you.  Just throw it into the conversation…. very casually.  And remember, don’t laugh when you say it.

Tashirojima Island

The things people do on planes

It’s no secret that flying these days can be stressful – I have written about this in the past.  However the more I fly the more I realise that a lot of this seemingly anti-social behaviour is really not at all intentional.  Having thought about that I guess maybe some of my habits might be annoying to my fellow passengers.  Here’s just a few things I have noticed….

touch screen
Who thought of this stupid idea?  Remember the days when you had the remote in your arm rest?  Now you have to press the screen which, let me tell you, is not that sensitive to your touch.  On my flight from Calgary to Ottawa on Wednesday mine didn’t work at all.  It would pull up the menu and then when I wanted to select one of the options nothing would happen.  It was stuck I guess.  But I did wonder if I wasn’t tapping the screen in the right way.  Everyone else’s screens were working.  Not a problem – I had a good book and sat back in my seat to enjoy 3 hours of uninterrupted quality time.  So in a way it had a happy ending.
touch screen 2
(Just stop it already … tap tap tap)

Except….on my way back to Calgary the person behind me was obviously having the same touch screen problem.  So I was subjected to 15 to 20 minutes of hard tap tap tapping on the back of my seat while the person finally accepted that – yep – they were not going to be watching that film after all.  I was annoyed at first and then I remembered my own situation.  Did I annoy the person in front of me then?  Takes two to tango.

window blind

I usually end up in a window seat and on a sunny day sometimes will need to pull down the blind if I want to watch a film.  Then I will decide to open up the blind to see where we are …. blinding glare of sunshine.  So down goes the blind again.  Am I annoying the person next to me?  Well actually the person next to me is usually my husband so I guess I have that certificate that says
(a) I can annoy him whenever I want
(b) nothing I could ever do would annoy him
But it did give me pause for thought as to my own behaviour.

Wind tunnel
Otherwise known as the germ blaster.  In some of the planes that still have that individual device over your head how about when you want the “fresh” air but don’t want it blowing on your face – so you leave it on full and then direct it away from you.  What about the poor soul in front or next to you who is getting the full blast of the air.  Well here again it could be my husband …. (shame) but what a pain to have to turn around and say to the person behind you “Do you mind moving the air from blowing on my neck?”  You would probably get a dirty look for that.

So I guess the rule is to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.  And I personally have taken note of that too.  (Just hope the touch screen works on my next flight).

More dangerous than sharks

Yes they are…. and I will tell you why.  But first of all let’s look at this whole selfie stick thing and why it has become so popular – and so dangerous.

You don’t need a friend to travel with any more – you just need a selfie stick.  This handy gadget is seen all over the world these days and sometimes it is hard to take a photo of a famous landmark without a selfie stick getting in the way (other people’s selfie sticks that is).

It’s a really good idea actually – how many times have you and your sweetie handed over your expensive camera or iphone to a complete stranger who is going to do you the favour of snapping your shot in front of the Eiffel Tower / Taj Mahal / Buckingham Palace…. only to find he is a snap and run!

Before you can take a good selfie however you do have to practise quite a lot to get just the right pose and also the right facial expression.  Ladies – don’t look down into your camera – it just brings out all those double chins and creases on your neck.  Take some lessons from well practised selfie supporters – head up but not too pouty because we all know about duck face

You also have to be careful as to what is in the background of your photo.  Selfie addicts are so focussed on how they look in their screen that they sometimes don’t notice anything other than… well… themselves.

and this one

It’s a big industry – sales of selfie sticks are increasing daily (up to 100.000 by the end of last year) and you will find them at airports and in markets at all the major tourist sites along with t shirts, bags and hats.  It has become an essential item – but it has also become a dangerous item.  More tourists are being killed while taking selfies.  In fact a recent article in published in Market Watch claimed that more tourists were killed by selfie sticks than by sharks.  Wow – what a thought!

Disneyworld has taken the danger quite seriously and has banned selfie sticks from its theme parks around the world – for quite obvious reasons.  Imagine being on the Tower of Terror with a crowd of people all armed with selfie sticks.  You know when you were a kid and there were sticks around someone sooner or later is going to get hurt.  As my mom used to say “It’s all fun and games and and then someone loses an eye.”

I read it in the guidebook – I promise

Go to any book store and there is a whole dedicated area relating to travel.  Guide books galore on a whole host of topics and destinations crowd the shelves making the choice bewildering.  With rapidly changing cities and transit systems some guide books will be outdated even before printing but some travel advice never changes – even throughout the ages.

Medieval historian Elizabeth Archibald offers up some amusing bits of handy travel advice relevant to the 14th Century gleaned from early guide books.  Such tips include the following gems –

“It is also required of the pilgrim to patiently and discreetly put up with the stupidities and imperfections of his fellow pilgrims and companions.”
(Us air travellers could take a pinch or two of this advice.)

As to shopping…. “niceties of Indian, Persian, and Turkish workmanship that they will show you and that you will want to buy, as much to hold on to the memory of the holy voyage, as to share it with your friends. And what you have bought will give you irritation and hardship to bring home.”
(Mmm – yes people – we have seen you on the flights home with overweight luggage and impossibly large carry on)

And what about seat selection – bearing in mind that the long distance form of transport was generally by ship … so the advice was to choose a seat on the top deck as the bottom one was “ryght smolderyng hote and stynkyng.”  

What would those medieval travellers think of today’s guide book gems of wisdom –

Back up all your documents and keep a spare USB …

Take lots of photos …

And keep a journal to record all your experiences

The  more things change the more they stay the same.

World Leaders on vacation

Well – they are human too you know.  They also need a break from the nine to five (they probably put in longer hours than that).  I would imagine that being a world leader is a pretty tiring job and when you go on vacation you just want to relax and try to escape the photographers….. or maybe not.

David Cameron enjoys Cornwall (as I grew up there I really approve his choice) Cheers Mate!
Politicians on holiday: from Cornwall to the Côte d'Azur

And isn’t this a typically English beach scene…… getting changed on the beach with just a towel for protection

Have you ever tried this little stunt.  It is not as easy as it looks.  One false move and there is a photo that will be on the front page of the Telegraph.  I can sympathise with Mr Cameron.  The beaches of Cornwall where I grew up were devoid of things like changing rooms.  Just look –

Dear old Maggie Thatcher loved Cornwall too although unlike Mr Cameron the Iron Lady kept in character right down to the sensible shoes and rigid hairstylethatcher-

Some leaders have tried more exotic locations – Here Tony Blair looks distinctly uncomfortable on an elephant in Bali
Politicians on holiday: from Cornwall to the Côte d'Azur

But first prize has to go to Putin – his tough guy holiday snaps are famous
Politicians on holiday: from Cornwall to the Côte d'Azur
Much more realistic is Obama on holiday in Marth’s Vineyard.  Note the sensible helmet….. shame about the crowd of security cycling behind although I guess being on Obama’s watch means that you keep fit at least.
So you see World Leaders are just like us – they go on vacation, get sand in their shorts, change on the beach and sometimes don’t look the best in their swimsuit.  The difference between them and us is that if my husband took a photo like this of me and didn’t immediately delete I would kill him!

Shame on you Walmart

Imagine a world where there are millions of refugees – no you don’t have to imagine.   It is real.  The recent scenes on television of the refugee crisis in Europe brings home the message loud and clear.

Two days ago in Macedonia

For those of us who have the good fortune to be able to travel the world seeing poverty is very often part of the whole process.  Sometimes it can be difficult being in a poor country as a tourist, knowing that we come from a privileged environment here in Canada and trying to reason with ourselves that just the fact of being a tourist in a poor country does bring in some value to the whole population.

Tourists on a tour of Mumbai’s slum meet a local resident

That is why I find the current Back to School commercial on Walmart so distasteful.  Let me set the scene…. mom picks up T Shirt for son and then imagines him leaning on wet paint so, being prepared, buys a second identical T shirt.  Another scene – choosing the back pack.  Son chooses one and tosses it into the shopping cart.  Mom imagines son just leaving his back pack on the school playing field so she picks an identical one and puts it in the shopping trolley.

What message of waste is this?  You don’t have to be a world traveller to be aware of poverty and children going without school supplies or back packs.  In fact you don’t have to go outside of Canada’s borders.  Just head out to your nearest Salvation Army or maybe even Sleep Country.  Many companies in Calgary are supporting the drive to make sure that every child has a back pack and school supplies.

I wonder how amazed and excited a small refugee child would be if he found a fully stocked backpack just lying in the middle of the field because the little boy who owned it had so much that he didn’t care if he lost it.  Mom will just replace it.  In fact Mom is expecting him to do that so he is only living up to her expectations.


What to take – what to leave

Don’t you hate packing for a trip.  That is my worst!  I can spend hours, days and weeks researching what to see and the best way to get there.  After all I do that so often for clients that it is second nature to me now when I plan my own trip.  So all the tickets are here – check.  Hotel vouchers – check.  Travel insurance – you bethcha.  Now I have to pack.   Nooooo.  Hate it.  What to take and what to leave.

Ok – so let’s be rational about this.  Just start off by laying everything out on the bed that you think you might need and then you can go through a process of elimination – right?  Easy?


So let’s consider the destination.  Now my next big trip is to India so that will present some packing problems.   I start in Delhi and I am told that I should pack light comfortable clothing that is modest, covering arms and legs.   I wish I could say I would look as cool as Judy Dench

But somehow I don’t think that is going to happen.  I also don’t think I will get there and have a sari made.  That somehow jars.  Makes me think about my days in Swaziland when Peace Corps volunteers would arrive and get so carried away with the local culture that they would dress up in Swazi tribal wear which looks good on a Swazi but not really so much on someone from Ohio or wherever.
No seriously.

The big problem is the “What if’s”.  What if we end up going to a really lovely restaurant – shouldn’t I take some heels.  What if it is really cold when we go to the tiger reserve – should I take my down jacket.  What if it’s too hot.  What if it’s too cold.  I am driving myself crazy here.    So I thought I would do some research online as to the best packing practices.  BIG MISTAKE.  Oh my god.  People actually take photos of their luggage contents in case they lose something.   Believe it or not I found an essential packing list and this was one of the items together with a million other things.  By the time I get all of this in my bag I will be charged for overweight luggage.

I can do this however – I did a 2 week trip through Ireland once just with my carry-on bag.  It was really easy – I took black lulu-lemon with a couple of tshirts and basically wore the same stuff every day and when I got home I burnt everything in a sacrificial fire.  (Just kidding).