Airport layover turned unexpected retreat

1 Dec

As the holiday season encroaches, air travel becomes a commonality among Americans. Along with the mass amounts of travelers come many layovers. When you are first informed that your flight has been postponed, the natural reaction to be had is completely negative. Your tolerance of pricey airport food is growing thin, you can only read so many magazines, and you are tired of screaming little ones seated in the waiting area next to you.

Do airport layovers even have the potential to be positive?

Travel writer Michael Gross thinks so. In the December issue of Travel and Leisure, he explains some of his glorious layover experiences.

http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-joys-of-airport-layovers

“Laying over doesn’t have to mean laying about on hard plastic chairs, shopping at duty-free stores full of the same old scarves, bottles, and belts, or reading yet another Ludlum thriller,” said Gross. “These days, airports come with amenities—they and the towns near them have a lot going for them.”

There is a multitude of things that can be done whilst waiting in an airport. People watching is definitely an option when completely bored. Snacks are always a plus, and airports are often full of food and drink options. Visit a different section of the magazines than you normally would. You never know what you may find! Also, freshen up or walk around.

Honestly, the best layovers may surprisingly be the longer ones. When told that your flight has been delayed until the next day, do not fret. The facts are absolutely out of your control, so you may as well embrace your situation. Your free night off could actually completely relax you and provide you with an incredible time in an unexpected location.

“The distance between travel tedium and makeshift masterpiece, in other words, can be closed with nothing more than an open mind, a willingness to explore,” said Gross.

Internet will be your best friend as you try to research activities for your unexpected time stranded. Investigate everything, from locally praised restaurants to extraordinary tourist attractions. If you are not in a wildly attractive city, stay at a hotel and do nothing but unwind. Even still, do not underestimate smaller cities; often they too can have delectable cuisine.

Whoever said that the journey is more important than the destination obviously never had to endure a long airport layover,” said wikiHow’s page on “How to Handle Long Layovers at an Airport” by Maja Gray.

http://www.wikihow.com/Handle-Long-Layovers-at-an-Airport

Even though you might want to have a nervous breakdown when you find out your flight has been delayed, do the contrary and explore.

Bon voyage this Christmas season, travelers!

A step beyond the honeymoon stage

17 Nov

Something to be keenly aware of when traveling is culture shock. Although you may feel immune to it, most people experience it when they are totally engulfed by a new culture.

“Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse,” said Dr. Lalervo Oberg in the editorial “Culture Shock & The Problem Of Adjustment To New Cultural Environments.”

http://www.worldwide.edu/travel_planner/culture_shock.html

People mostly experience culture shock after being in a foreign land for an extended period of time, but it is possible on shorter trips as well.

“During the first few weeks most individuals are fascinated by the new. They stay in hotels and associate with nationals who speak their language and are polite and gracious to foreigners. This honeymoon stage may last from a few days or weeks to six months depending on circumstances.”

In “Communication Between Cultures,” Larry Samovar, Richard Porter and Edwin McDaniel describe culture shock. It naturally goes through four stages; those stages can be compared to a U-shaped curve, which consists of the honeymoon phase, there is the disenchantment phase, the beginning resolution phase, and the effective functioning phase.

Throughout these phases, there are ups and downs, and many aggravations. You may experience feelings of anxiety and loneliness, and an overbearing pride in your home culture. Certain things about the new culture like poverty, difference in language, schooling, and housing may begin to seriously bother you when you are experiencing culture shock.

If, eventually, you keep pursuing understanding of the new culture, you will most likely move into the phase where you can make some adjustments and better maneuver your way around the new location. At that stage, “events and people now seem much more predictable and less stressful.”

(Communication Between Cultures)

Although you may eventually feel that you have tackled the ups and downs of culture shock, the stages may return, only to result in a deeper appreciation of the new culture. Once you have scraped the surface of the culture, things like deep beliefs, values, and shared assumptions are easier to understand.

“Culture shock ‘gives the sojourners a chance to learn about themselves. In this sense experiencing culture shock has a strong potential to make people be multicultural or bicultural.’”

(Communication Between Cultures)

The promise of adventure

10 Nov

Adventure. The highest place on Earth. Unbelievable scenery. Nepal can promise all of those things.

“After years of turmoil, the magical Himalayan nation of Nepal is welcoming visitors once more.”

http://www.cntraveller.com/guides/asia/nepal/nepal/where-to-stay

It just so happens that fall, along with spring is one of the best times to travel to Nepal. Conde Nast Traveller listed it as one of their prime places to go in November.

“With the monsoon only recently finished, the countryside is green and lush, the air is sparkling clean and the Himalayan views are near perfect. For obvious reasons this is also the high tourist season but in recent years, due to the political problems, even Nepal’s ‘high season’ has been pretty quiet.”

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/nepal/weather

Nepal is one of the poorest countries on earth, and small regions of Nepal rely heavily on hikers and tourists passing through. Tourists are often amazed at the friendliness of the Nepali people, and fall in love with the region.

“…Nepal is an amazingly diverse country that offers something for everyone. One journey through this land is rarely enough. The first thing many people do after a visit is start planning the next one.”

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/nepal

Mt. Everest is more accessible than ever. While there has not been an intense boom in tourism in the area, travelers have not failed to leave their mark. Now it is common to see trash on the trails of Everest, and the environment is somewhat suffering.

“One Nepalese ecologist says ‘There are now three religions in Nepal — Hinduism, Buddhism, and tourism.’ The influx of tourists has had dramatic effects on the environment and on the local communities who come into contact with the tourists.”

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2257986/Nepal-Tourism

Although Conde Nast Traveller and Lonely Planet are encouraging people to make the pilgrimage to Nepal, other sites warn that the region is still unsafe and not yet ready for tourists again.

“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential risks of traveling to Nepal and urges caution when traveling in that country. The Department of State remains concerned about the security situation in Nepal.”

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_927.html

When you find places that sound nice on travel websites, also check sites like travel.state.gov to make sure they are really safe. Thereafter, you can make the informed choice of whether a visit to the location is worth the risk.

Places to see: renovations despite bankruptcy

3 Nov

Greece was once a booming place of economic success, powerful government, and soaring intellectuals. Recently, the country has experienced extreme financial difficulties. But while the country faces bankruptcy, the capitol city is renovating itself and tourists are continuing to travel to Athens.

This month Dwell Magazine featured Athens, Greece in their “Detour” section. I found that interesting considering the country’s economic state. Dwell chose to feature the capitol city because of its world-renowned architecture, and the improvements being made to historical sites are not small scale by any means.

“Athens is home to one of history’s most important buildings, the Parthenon, but how does the city fare architecturally today? A spate of modern development, particularly a new museum that looks onto the Acropolis, suggests that things are looking up.”

http://www.dwell.com/maps/site-specifics-athens-greece.html

The historical sites are being emphasized, and local stores and restaurants are continually opening.

Lonely Planet speaks highly of the influential Greek city.

“Athens is now a conspicuously wealthier, more sophisticated cosmopolitan city. The shift is evident in a gradual gentrification and the new art and leisure precincts around town, and in the lifestyles of the hedonistic, trend-conscious Athenians.”

Although the country may be dealing with tough times financially, that is no reason to scratch it off of your list of “must see” places. Amidst the country’s economic state, new and great things are arising.

“Athens remains a city of contradictions, as frustrating as it is seductive. It is the oldest city in Europe, yet still in a state of transition. It’s one of  Europe’s safest and liveliest cities – a heady mix of grunge and grace with an undeniable urban soul.”

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/greece/athens

I highly suggest you to travel to Athens, and other Greek cities to experience phenomenal food, sight seeing, and culture.

Economic downfall? Yes. Many places to see and things to do? Most definitely.

Communicate with Respect

27 Oct

When you travel, you have to communicate with those around you: on the airplane, at a café, when you ask for directions. In order to engage with a culture, you must be able to communicate in many different contexts.

While every region may not necessarily have their own language, they certainly all have their own method of communication.

Japan’s way of communicating is in many ways opposite of the manner in which Americans communicate.

In “Communication Between Cultures,” by Larry Samovar, Richard Porter and Edwin McDaniel, the difference between American and Japanese communication is discussed.

“Power distance, or how a culture accepts status differentials among the population, can also be exhibited in a country’s language. The United States is a low-power distance culture and organized hierarchy is normally rather flat.”

The Japanese community is largely based upon respect, therefore the people communicate in a manner that reflects high-power distance.

“Japan is a high-power distance culture and titles are a daily part of life, even among close friends and immediate family members.” (Communication Between Cultures)

Many find the respectfulness illustrated in the Japanese culture to be very unique and admirable.

Lonely Planet’s website states, “For many visitors, the real highlight of their visit to Japan is the gracious hospitality of the Japanese themselves.”

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan

One thing to keep in mind when you find yourself immersed in a culture that highly values ranking and status, is that you need treat others with the same respect that particular cultures hold fast to. Bow when others bow to you. Participate, and try your hardest not to offend.

The diversities among cultures and languages is innumerable, but there are some basic ways to communicate cross-culturally.

Although English is spoken across the globe, many who speak only speak a small amount and not very well. “Communication Between Cultures” supplies many tips for engaging in other cultures. They suggest that mindfulness is extremely important when communicating with someone who does not know your native language very well. Use basic vocabulary, speak slowly, be aware of how people react to your words, and ask simple questions to see if they comprehend your statements. Also be careful not to be overboard with your sensitivity, making the individual seem stupid.

Simply pay attention to context clues, and you will then communicate well and travel happily.

Can indigenous tourism help endangered languages?

19 Oct

A flight to a far away desert can be attained with the click of a mouse. Locations that we once didn’t know existed can now be seen on Google Earth whenever you please. You can video chat with friends across the globe any time of day. All of that to say, the world is not so big anymore.

Although seeing the world is now easier, globalization has caused indigenous cultures to become more endangered than they were before. Something that defines culture is language, and that is one aspect of it that is diminishing rapidly.

“Every 14 days a language dies,” National Geographic’s Enduring Voices web page stated. “By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain.”

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/enduring-voices/

Some believe that an answer to the problem of dying languages is “indigenous tourism.” Lakshman Ratnapala, author of “Indigenous Tourism” is definitely a supporter of that idea.

“Travel and tourism offers the opportunity to address some of the challenges faced by indigenous peoples as it provides a platform to exhibit indigenous cultures and bring attention to broader issues such as the extinction of languages, preservation of ancient wisdoms, poverty alleviation, migration of communities and the impact of climate change on traditional lifestyles,” Ratnapala said.

http://www.batw.org/news/industry-news/travel-trends-indigenous-tourism-by-lakshman-ratnapala/

While globalization may have caused many complications and issues, it may also be possible for it to bring attention to many problems that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  Generally, tourism is a huge contributor to globalization, and it can hinder cultures greatly as well.

“Tourism and increasing cultural interaction can help bring not only much needed revenue for the preservation and conservation of disappearing cultures, but also bring global attention to the plight of the indigenous people,” said Ratnapala. “Many countries realize the potential and move rapidly to develop indigenous tourism – often operated and owned by the people themselves.”

The idea is great in theory, but it will be extremely important to carry it out as carefully as possible. Each country may need to create individual rules in order to protect indigenous cultures, and prevent exploitation. The indigenous people need to know how to depend on themselves, and not entirely on outside sources for an income.

While something like a Maori tour in New Zealand “where guests stay and trek with indigenous people,” sounds incredibly exciting, it is important for the public to not view indigenous people as a bazaar attraction, but a people that we could all learn a great deal from. Hopefully people taking part in indigenous tourism will assist areas in saving their precious languages, instead of hampering them.

Deep conflict and gobs of tourists. Can the two be one?

13 Oct

I have always wondered why so many people regularly travel to Israel, but are apprehensive about going to other areas of unrest. How can conflict and tourism live in such close proximity?

It is evident that people keep coming back for more due to deep religious roots grounded in Israel.  The area is rich with history.

“Israel, or Palestine depending on your politics, is one of the world’s oldest travel destinations.  Everyone from Moses to Mark Twain has dreamed of going there… travelers still come in droves, almost magnetically, to this land still considered holy by countless millions.”

(http://www.lonelyplanet.com/israel-and-the-palestinian-territories)

While it is important for people to visit locations where their beliefs originated, people should also acknowledge the risks in doing so.

Travel.state.gov gives some valuable information warning tourists about what to avoid and be aware of during their stay in Israel.

“U.S. citizens, including tourists, students, residents, and U.S. Government personnel, have been injured or killed by terrorists while in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Attacks have occurred in highly frequented shopping and pedestrian areas and on public buses.”

(http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1064.html#safety)

While many people fly to Israel knowing little more about it than that is where Jesus was born, do not be one of those people.  There are facts that back up statements like, “Several groups operating in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the U.S. Department of State.” (travel.state.gov) Accordingly, you should know about those warnings and how to best avoid finding yourself in the midst of political and religious divergence.

Like traveling in many other Middle Eastern countries, you should not be fearful of the location.  You should simply know where to go and not to go.

Lonelyplanet.com says, “contrary to popular belief, Israel is not a war zone to be avoided, and it has such rigid security that travel is surprisingly safe.”

Although Lonely Planet encourages you to make the pilgrimage to Israel, the security level it posts states, “The security situation in Israel remains extremely uncertain, particularly in the border areas around the Gaza Strip and southwest Israel, and along the border with Lebanon.”

Almost all travel destinations have both good and bad areas, so get an intelligent, well-aware tour guide and you will be set.  Enjoy the tourist locations and relish the fact that you are visiting such a prime location, but please, be smart.  Avoid areas that quality travel sites warn you about, and most likely you will be fine.

Traveling in general is a gander, but the adventures are completely worth it. Something could happen to you anywhere, so why not just get up and go?

Cuba and Sex

6 Oct

When one thinks of top sex tourism locations, Cuba is not necessarily viewed as being at the top of that list. Cambodia and Thailand have rampant issues with prostitution, but other areas’ problems should not be ignored. Tourists need to be aware of what locations are even somewhat known for their business of sex.
Havana takes tourists back in time with its authentic vintage vibe. Its Caribbean location and Spanish influence makes for a romantic travel destination. Although now it is looking like Cuba is not only known for their cigars. Havana is a hot city, accompanied by hot nightlife.
“In Havana, the sex trade becomes obvious after sunset. Around 10 p.m., young women in skimpy attire begin gathering outside the main tourist hotels, asking men if they would like to go to nightclubs, where a sex-for-cash proposition is usually made,” said James C. McKinley Jr. in “The New York Times.”  http://havanajournal.com/culture/entry/cuba_sex_tourism_and_cuban_prostitutes/
There are always multiple reasons for why sex tourism becomes popular in a certain area, with the most prevalent cause being growth in poverty.
“A decade after an economic collapse forced thousands of young women and men into prostitution, Cuba has become something of an anomaly in Latin America: a destination for sex tourists where AIDS has yet to become an uncontrollable pandemic,” said McKinley.
Even in places like Thailand, sex tourism is not always necessarily in your face. Tourists need to always be aware of their surroundings, and you should be especially careful about where you go the later it gets. Of course women need to be careful about how they present themselves and where they go, but men traveling alone also need to be aware. There are ways to fully engage a culture without going to nightclubs. Many women, for example in Cuba, are looking for foreign tourists to fund them and take them out of their current situation.
“For the most part, the women who work as prostitutes say they are looking to link up with someone who can take them out of Cuba, or provide them with a steady income. Many are part-time prostitutes, who go out only when their meager state salaries run out,” said McKinley.

The attractive Cuban girl befriending you may not just like you for your nice looks…Do not be ignorant when going into another place, know your stuff. If sex tourism is prevalent, know that going into your trip, and avoid being fooled or conned into anything.

A destination concerned for your happiness?

29 Sep

As eco-friendly vacations become more sought after, use increased scrutiny in choosing a location to visit. One country that is truly living and breathing its values regarding the earth is Bhutan. It is located between China and India, and has deep Buddhist roots that are continually growing. Their Buddhist beliefs are the most influential reasoning for their environmental consciousness.

“Most Bhutanese are devout Buddhist,” said Solange Hando. “Respect for nature and all living things is part of the culture and hunting and fishing almost non-existent.” (http://www.suite101.com/content/bhutan-wildlife-sanctuary-bengal-tigers-and-endangered-species-a289192)

Bhutan is considered a haven for wildlife, such as the black-necked cranes that migrate from Tibet. The bird is considered lucky and their presence is celebrated with a festival. As the country wants to develop, they hope to honor their land and express great patience regarding the process of expansion. For example, the space the birds need requires a long expanse so they have room to take off and land. As the town is growing and needing electricity, obviously they need power lines. Instead of neglecting the birds and throwing up power lines, the town is going to wait until they can get support and afford underground power lines. That choice is just one of many exemplifying Bhutan’s care for their wildlife.

The biodiversity in the country is incredible, and with Bhutan being “tucked away in the Himalayas,” the scenery is nothing less than breathtaking. Therefore, if you are a hiker, a lover of nature, or deeply interested in studying a completely different culture, Bhutan may be the place for you.

Bhutan is unlike any other nation, partially because they measure “Gross National Happiness.” Some countries may be concerned with the profit their country is gaining, but the Bhutanese are surveying their citizens to find out if they are “happy.” (http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/)

While the country takes pride in their land and they want others to experience it, they do not let tourism overtake them. “There are tourists to contend with but numbers are kept in check by government charges and guides are compulsory,” said Hando. They are careful with every aspect of their culture and their land. Their tourism website reads, “We hope that visitors who make the journey to Bhutan enjoy their experience and return home with glowing memories. Tashi Delek.” (http://www.kingdomofbhutan.com/)

For the love of Vietnam

22 Sep

It seems like everyone is talking about it. Recently, tourism in Vietnam has been a hot topic. The number of tourists entering the country has skyrocketed. The country pumped dollars into advertising with hopes of bringing in more visitors. Well, apparently it worked.

This year the attempt to bring tourists in is called “Vietnam-Your destination.” (http://www.vietnam.com/article/vietnam-your-destination-the-second-tourism-stimulus-campaign-2010.html) The government is getting involved to further increase the amount of visitors and they are working with businesses and airlines to achieve lofty goals. It is hopeful that now they will be seen as “a country not a war.” (http://www.gluckman.com/PageVietnam.htm)

“The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has called for comprehensive cooperation of relevant businesses and industries to ensure great achievements,” stated Le. (http://www.vietnam.com/article/vietnam-your-destination-the-second-tourism-stimulus-campaign-2010.html) “In particular, the VNAT cooperates with the Trade Promotion Bureau and Vietnam Airlines to carry out the grand sales program across the big cities and tourism centers such as Hanoi, Da Nang and HCMC during August and September.”

With that kind of cooperation, naturally people will come see the country. With hotel and airline prices dropping, tourism to Vietnam is automatically more accessible. In addition, promotions for the country were done on prominent television stations like CNN, BBC, and Chinese national television. The Vietnamese efforts will not only achieve exactly what they wanted, but also exceed their ambitions.

“Tourist arrivals in Vietnam rose 35 per cent in the first eight months of 2010 over the same period last year… crediting the global economic recovery and the country’s efforts to market itself as a holiday destination.”

Vietnam’s Tourism Administration “set a target of 4.2 million visitors this year but said the actual total might hit 5 million.” (http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/business/news/article_1586206.php/Vietnam-tourism-up-35-per-cent-on-economic-recovery-marketing)

Although the large amount of advertising being done for Vietnam is the main cause of the increase in tourism, it could partially be that now people are just more comfortable with visiting the country. Although the Vietnam War ended about 35 years ago, the only natural thing to think of when someone says “Vietnam” is “Vietnam War.” The aftertaste of war can stain a country or region for years, to say the least. Even still, Vietnam may be using that stain to draw in more people. Tourists see remnants of war when they visit, and some are even visiting just for the purpose of seeing the war “memorabilia.”

Luong Minh Sam, Director of the Tourism Department of Danang, said, “We’re promoting all the war history, but American tourism is really our aim,” adds Luong. “Six million Americans were directly involved in the Vietnam War, and 20 million more were indirectly involved. That’s a big market for use.” (http://www.gluckman.com/PageVietnam.htm)

With the combined efforts to broadcast the country as a tourist destination and the passing of time, Vietnam is back on go-to list for tourists all over the world.