Dare to bare?

Dare to bare?

When travelling there is always a fine balance to be found between respecting local customs and living out acts of self expression. A perfect instance of this is the act of posing in the nude at famous sites around the world – the latest travel trend to hit the headlines. The hottest spots for the act of exposure are Machu Picchu in Peru and at the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

But this bare skinned affair has become a controversial one after the stunt caused quite a hoopla in Sabah in the northern half of the island of Borneo, part of Malaysia. Photographs of ten backpackers posing in the buff on Mount Kinabulu, including a 33 year old Canadian known as the ‘notorious nudist’ were posted across social media sites angering and upsetting local authorities who accused the group of indecent exposure and indecency.

The mountain has specific holy significance to the indigenious Kadazan and Dusun tribes of the area and feelings of ill-will towards the group quickly spread around the local community. Subsequently five out of the accused ten have been arrested by Malaysian authorities and if found guilty, could face three months in jail.
The British press have, true to their usual fashion, sensationalized the story further by claiming the authorities are charging the group with angering the mountain and thereby causing an earthquake that took place on the mountain last Friday. However, this claim made by the British press is unsubstantiated. Earthquakes in this part of Borneo are rare and tragically twenty-four people lost their lives when the quake sent massive boulders tumbling down the 13,435 ft high mountain.

Photo taken from mynakedtrip.com

The Venice Carnival: Ten Experiences Not to Be Missed

The Venice Carnival: Ten Experiences Not to Be Missed

To one side of you stands a cloaked man, cheering jovially, to the other a woman resplendent in sequins and satins and feathers, dancing to the beat of the music; and beyond – thousands of similarly masked revellers. Where are you? Venice, of course, at its most vibrant and theatrical and romantic of world carnivals.  Author and seasoned reveller – Hannah Fielding shares her top ten Carnival experiences to add to your ‘must do’ list.

Top Tips for Venice Carnival

  1. Book tickets for one of the many Carnival balls – with themes from burlesque to masquerade to enchantment, there’s a party to suit all tastes.
  2. Visit Ca’ Macana, the shop of the best mask maker in Venice. All masks are handmade, and the artistry is exquisite. Buy for yourself one of the classic Carnival masks, such as the Colombina or the Bauta.
  3. Sample a Carnival speciality from one of the street vendors whose wares perfume the air such to make your stomach rumble. The cakes are divine, especially the warm and sweet frittelle Veneziane filled with zabaione cream.
  4. Watch a local beauty pageant winner zip-wire from the Campanile bell tower in the traditional Volo dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angel).
  5. Visit the Arsenale to take in a historical show, live music concerts, street artist performances and, it’s promised, ‘dancing fountains’!
  6. Head to St Mark’s Square to see the parade for the daily Best Masked Costume Competition (enter yourself, if you’re so inclined; the theme is ‘La Natura Fantastica’).
  7. Drink in the romantic atmosphere in St Mark’s Square as you watch sultry tango dancers perform on the Gran Teatro stage.
  8. Brush up on your art history with a free guided tour and talk at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection art museum. This year’s Carnival exhibition is ‘The Empire of Light’.
  9. Embrace the last vestiges of winter with ice-skating in the Campo San Polo. Costume optional!
  10. Join the throngs alongside the Grand Canal for the closing event of the Carnival: a water-borne procession of costumed Venetians on decorated boats and classic gondolas. Be sure to take a camera – this is one spectacle you’ll want to record. (more…)

A Conversation With Globe Trekker Presenter Megan McCormick

A Conversation With Globe Trekker Presenter Megan McCormick

Whenever I need a little escape but can’t get out of town, I fire up an episode or two of “Globe Trekker” so I can live vicariously through the adventures of travellers like Megan McCormick. Since she started hosting the show in 1997, she’s taken viewers to the Greek Islands, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Micronesia, India, the Silk Road and a host of other exotic locales.

“Globe Trekker,” shown in the U.S. on PBS, is my favourite travel show because it focuses on real travellers experiencing slices of local cultures, not sightseeing. McCormick is my kind of traveller. Her enthusiasm for the places she visits is infectious and you can’t help but conclude that she’d be a fun person to travel with. She got the travel bug in college and has found a way to make a living out of her wanderlust.

McCormick has lived in three U.S. states plus Argentina, Japan, Spain and the U.K., but says she’s now settling down in New York. We spoke to her this week about her favourite places, how she balances family life with her nomadic lifestyle and how she landed her dream job.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Ohio but I was mostly raised in Florida. I first came to New York when I was 12 and I remember feeling this tremendous sigh of relief because I didn’t really fit in in Florida. I was this gawky, ballet-dancing geek who never went in the sun.

Megan-McCormick-in-PortugalWere you a traveler growing up?

I grew up with a giant map of the world and a subscription to National Geographic. That was my mom’s influence. She had this wonderful wanderlust but we didn’t have the resources to travel very much. I studied abroad in France and after I graduated (with a degree from Boston University in philosophy and political science), I taught English in Japan through the JET program. And that was my first foray into traveling independently.

That was in the mid-’90s after I graduated from college. Then I stayed in Asia and backpacked around the region for almost a year and then I moved to New York. I saved a lot of money teaching in Japan and my dad said I should save that money and come home, but I didn’t do that dad, I didn’t! It’s been very hard for me to grow up and settle down.

Do you have a family?

I do. I’m married with kids now so that’s changed a lot. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son.
My daughter traveled with me when she was really little and I just kept doing the show. My husband is in television as well, so we would alternate jobs to keep traveling. Then about two years ago, we alighted in Brooklyn and decided to put down roots here for a little while.

What does that mean?

I don’t know. It means we’ve stopped being peripatetic and moving from place to place. When “Globe Trekker” sent me to a location, especially in the early years, I was so excited; I would just stay. The crew would move on after we finished taping but I would stay. I was consistently away. In 2001, I was based in Barcelona and I thought I was missing too many moments in people’s lives, so I moved back to New York. Then I was in Argentina in 2008 for three years.

Megan-enjoying-a-sunset-camel-ride-across-the-Flaming-Moutains-Turpan

Wait a minute. I’m lost. Now you’re in Argentina? Your resume might be even more of a mess than mine.

I more or less backpacked most of the year until 2004 when my daughter was born, but I kept traveling for the first few years. In 2008, we went on vacation to Argentina for six weeks, but decided to stay. We ended up staying (in Mendoza) for three years but that wasn’t really the plan. That’s the beauty of working for yourself.

So how did you transition from backpacker to “Globe Trekker” host?

I had just moved back to New York and I was applying to grad schools for East Asian studies. I was a production assistant for “The News with Brian Williams.” I had some high level duties such as photocopying, ordering supplies and sending faxes. The whole time I was scheming to get out of there. I had a friend who was an actor and he saw this ad in an actor’s magazine announcing an audition for someone who loved to travel.

I’d never been on camera and had never been an actress, so instead of sending a headshot, I sent a collage of photos, kind of like an 8th grade book report. And I wrote a poetic, it’s-the-journey-that-matters kind of thing on the back of it. The director said she had never received a collage before and gave me an audition.

The first audition was great, but on the second one everything went wrong. We were wandering around Chinatown. A cat peed on me. I knocked over a fruit bin. I stumbled across a guy who was painting and he shouted at me like a crazy person and said I was stealing his soul.

It was a disaster but they called and said, “If you can leave in ten days, you’ll have one show and it’s in India.” This was in 1997. I think I’ve done 30-35 shows since then.

Do you know how many countries you’ve been to?

I should know that. My husband and I have a competition to see who’s been to more countries.

Who won?

He’s slightly ahead. He had some hard-to-get-to ones, which was very annoying. He did this great trip from Morocco to Mauritania, down to Nigeria. But I’ve done shows on six continents.

How long do you spend in-country when you’re filming?

We used to shoot for nearly three and a half weeks. But times have changed and budgets have changed. Travel has gotten easier. Now, depending on location, it might be two to three weeks.

And you take your family with you?

My daughter traveled with me until she was older. I’ve only done a few shows since my son was born. My husband would watch the kids while I was working but now he has a grown up job, so the kids stay here. Now that my daughter is in school the nomadic lifestyle is a little more challenging but I still go away every summer. I can’t stay still in the summer.

Megan Diving in MicronesiaOn the show, you stay in a mix of places. Sometimes it’s a $5 per night hostel, other times you’re in a really nice place, right?

It depends on the location. Generally we try to find unique places to stay that are affordable for most people. And those are usually the places that have the most character.

Tell me about one of the dodgier places you’ve stayed in?

A bed is a bed as long as there is nothing crawling in the mattress. I travel with a silk sleeping bag liner, just in case. But I did stay in a very strange, concrete hostel in the middle of nowhere in Inner Mongolia. The bathroom was outside and I went to find it in the middle of the night and I had to dodge two sheep and the bathroom was a hole in the ground over some pigs. There were pigs underneath; there were pigs! That was not a pleasant experience at all.

What are the countries you’re most passionate about?

I love Lebanon so much. And I’m also a big fan of Colombia.

What places do you recommend in Colombia?

I love cities, so I would check out Bogota and Cartagena. And from there, I would go to Santa Marta and then inland up into the mountains. If you like hiking, there is a five- or six-day hike into La Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City. You’re into the jungle and there are indigenous people there who are incredible. And then there’s a beautiful island called Providencia, just off the coast with great beaches.

When you get bad weather do you wait it out or keep shooting?

Sometimes we wait 5-6 days for it to stop raining; other times, we work around it. Ian Wright was in Ireland recently and he said it rained 24 hours a day for days, but they just kept going though. I was in Myanmar for the show about three weeks ago. It’s an amazing country that’s in transition. The people are so lovely. We were there for Burmese New Year. They celebrate by shutting down the country for five days. They have a water festival, where they spray people with water or dump buckets of water on people. You have to have rain gear on because you’re going to get wet.

How many hours a day is the camera trained on you when you’re traveling?

It’s not a reality show so the camera isn’t on me all day long. But we film from sun up to sun down.

Have they ever asked you to wear something or do something that was a little too hokey?

Yes! I would say the entire South-eastern United States program. I think I wore more embarrassing outfits there than everywhere else but it was fun. I was decked out in an antebellum gown walking down some stairs, a Civil War dress, and I was in a cotillion dress dancing with a 16-year-old.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m going to Hokkaido in Japan for “Globe Trekker” and I also tried to make my own program, “Sea Nation.” We had a 12-part series where we gave up our normal lives in New York to live on a boat sailing around the Caribbean. It was incredible! We went to 25 different islands and met people from all walks of life. It was 2008, right at the beginning of the economic downturn, and we explored the idea – what can make you happy besides all the things we think will make us happy.

Megan-ChinaYou did this with your kids?

With my daughter, she was 4 at the time. She loved it! My son wasn’t born yet. We were at sea for about four months.

The show was on the Discovery Channel in Asia and a few places in Europe but it never found a home in the U.S. It’s with a sales agent now, so maybe something will happen with it. But there are 11 episodes available online or you can buy the DVD.

Do you consider your job a dream job?

If someone is organizing an opportunity for me to travel and paying me a small amount of money, I will never, ever complain about that. It’s been such a gift. Even the worst days, the day when they made a left instead of a right and we had to stay in the car in a desert for 14 hours, you still get funny stories. I can’t argue with anyone who says it’s a dream job

by Dave Seminara
(Original article appeared in http://www.gadling.com/2013/06/24/travel-dream-jobs-a-conversation-with-globe-trekkers-megan-mcc/)

9/11 Memorial & Museum

9/11 Memorial & Museum

The new 9/11 memorial and museum on the site of the Twin Towers in New York is nearing completion.

Situated in a newly planted park in the shadow of the soon to be opened Freedom Tower, the memorial takes the form of two giant water features constructed on the site of the foundations of each tower.Water cascades down the sides of the features and then falls into darkened square chasms in the centre.

Embedded on the viewing platform railings on the perimeter of all four sides of each feature are the names of more than 3,000 victims of 9/11. Visitors are encouraged to leave flowers , notes and other mementos.

It remains unclear for now how much it will cost to enter the 9/11 museum but visitors to the 9/11 Memorial are able to for free. However, visitor passes must be reserved in advance on the website.  You can enter the Memorial and also visit a nearby museum which features accounts of 9/11 and relics which include buckled and distorted blown out aircraft cabin window frames.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center
One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10006
Tel: 212.312.8800

For information about visiting, email: reservations@911memorial.org, or call 212.266.5211; TTY: 212.266.5212.
For general information, email: info@911memorial.org.

9-11-Memorial-Museum-by-Wally-G-Flickr-creative-commons

 

9-11-Memorial-by-Becksta-flickr-creative-commons

 

9-11-Memorial-by-Tara-Dulva-Flickr-Creative-Commons

 

 

The 10 Most Common Travel Phobias

The 10 Most Common Travel Phobias

I’ve been working in travel for 30 years and have become accustomed to the most common travel phobias! The phobic traveller will always worry that “something” could go wrong! Are you one of them…?

Words: Neda Dorudi – The Forensic Traveller series

 

Here are 10 of my picks for the most common travel phobias, and how to overcome them!

 

1) Checking in online has caused the traveller great worries.

This travel phobia is very common. Why? Because the traveller thinks if a problem occurs while checking in online it means they won’t be able to get on that plane. Never fear, as this is really not an issue. Checking in can still be done at the airport and bags can be dropped at the bag drop area, and you can still get your boarding pass at the airport – all this is still possible, it is just a bit more time consuming.

 

2) The next most common phobia is the worry that bags will be lost, arriving sans sacs.

The answer to this is simple. Should your bags not arrive, you go to the airline customer services – these would be located at the arrivals area, and even in the baggage claim area. You give them your luggage tag and they will have to locate your bags, as it’s very possible the luggage has gone on a flight bound for  a different destination than yours. The airline will give you a tracer reference and take your details to get the luggage delivered once found. You can claim compensation for the items you have had to purchase within a certain time-frame (to be advised by the airline); if you have travel insurance you can make a further claim with your insurance company.

 

3) What if my flight is delayed?

Air congestion is a modern-day travelling issue, as there are so many elements to battle against. The biggest problem is usually the weather, or strikes at airports. It can also be due to the airline losing their slot, so having to wait to get back in the take off queue. Stay calm, and keep checking for updates; don’t let the airlines fop you off, as if the delay goes into the next day, they are obliged to put you up at their expense. Never cancel your reservation, wait for the airline to do that and re-route you, this is referred to as “involuntary change”, meaning not at the traveller’ s request. Once again you can claim for delay from your insurance company, but be sure to have read all the cans and cannots when taking out the policy.

 

4)The phobias continue, into the realm of seating.

The worry of not getting a good seat. I know the seat I want, but my travel agents have not pre-assigned the seat that I asked for! The seating issue really upsets the traveller, as they cannot understand why a simple request such as this could not have been completed. Well, here are some answers which may help you to understand the nature of pre-assigning seats:

Most Airlines prefer the traveller to assign their seats with online check-in. British Airways, for instance, allows pre-assignment only 24 hours prior to departure, and if you want to pre-assign a seat before the 24 hours then expect to pay a steep fee if you have purchased a cheap ticket and have no executive card of a certain tier. Seating can never be guaranteed, as if the type of airplane changes, so does the seating configuration; this is a common feature. Don’t worry about the seat you never got, just make sure you are the first to get online and get that seat in the future, before anyone else does!

 

5) What if the weather is bad, and I go back home without a tan?

Yes the weather has reached number five in the worry chart of the phobic traveller. I am afraid there is no quick fix here. It is always best to check the best season for travel to your chosen destination, but Mother Nature may have her own idea and you might not always get the weather you are meant to. My advice is to take excursions and explore your surroundings; before you know it, you will be lying on that beach – don’t ruin your vacation worrying about this. There’s always plenty more to do and appreciate on your time off.

 

6) Oh no, I paid so much more for my seat than the guy sitting next to me!

Questions running through their minds, why, how, and could I have got a better deal?

Here is some advice: you can all get the best deal at that time that you book and pay for your trip, and it’s possible that someone else somewhere may stumble on a last minute deal, and pay less for more. Airlines are constantly releasing and closing seat availability into systems and they always overbook, because of the no-show factor. And in varying markets there are different availabilities, so it’s all about timing. Go on, enjoy your trip – you did get that best deal.

 

7) The phobic traveller has arrived at their hotel, and is very unhappy about the room.

They were promised a great room overlooking the sea, instead they have a courtyard room overlooking the hotel kitchen. The phobic traveller is seized with panic at having to endure this room for two weeks.

 

My advice here is don’t put up with this room, especially if you were promised a large sea-view room.

 

Hotels are notorious for this, so put your foot down and ask to see the manager, make sure they know you are not happy with this, and you want to be moved to another room. Hotels don’t like bad publicity, and they will find an alternative.

 

Tips for getting the best deal

Always be one step ahead of the next traveller; keep a chart of all school holidays and bank holidays. The only way to get the best fares is to book in advance. It’s a known fact that close to travel dates air fares skyrocket. Make sure you read the rules and ticket restrictions ensuring that you are covered for a non refundable ticket. Follow these simple steps and you are sure to get the best deal. But be certain of your dates, as when you press the final button, you will have to pay to change your ticket plus any additional costs in the air fare. With online booking so wide open, don’t leave yourself exposed to expensive seats; be smart, and create that holiday chart.

 

8) Another big phobia for the traveller is around exchange of currency. I hear so many stories of travellers’ woes surrounding currency exchange!

I was ripped  off by this man in the market who told me I was getting a really good rate, but when I checked the rate of exchange in the local bank, I realised what a mistake I had made and how much money I lost“.

 

Never trust anyone with your exchange other than bonafide banks or bureau de change, and where possible, change your money at home before your journey. There  are many outlets, such as banks, post office, bureau de changes, and even department stores. Do some research and check out the best deal, it’s less hassle and your money will be covered by your travel insurance.

 

9) The fear of missing a flight

This causes great anxiety for the traveller, so much so that some phobics will actually get to the airport as much as five hours before departure, and some even book a hotel near their intended departure airport to protect themselves against this possibility. This phobia is very common, as it’s every traveller’s nightmare. There is good advice at hand here:

Make sure you create a check-list, and run through the list before going to bed. If your flight is early morning have two alarms – one as a back-up in case the other never goes off. Also make sure you have got transportation ready – call the cab company, check the trains are running on time, and be aware of any adverse weather that may mean you should leave earlier.

  • Make sure you have got everything ready so when the cab arrives there is no panic.
  • Have your travel documents and passports in eye’s view then ensure they are deposited in your handbag. You don’t want arrive without them.
  • No need to get to the airport five hours before as the airline check-in wont be open then anyway.

 

10)  Have I got enough validity on my passport, and do I need a visa, I forgot to check this!

Many phobics do not give this a thought when booking and paying for their tickets, as most websites possibly don’t highlight this clearly or not  at all! The phobic traveller will merrily book seats and not give these matters a second thought.

Then “PANIC” sets in as they realise they have only three months left before the passport expires; or a visa is required, which may take longer than the time prior to departure. What if they can’t give me  a new passport in time, what about that visa? What will I do now?

  • Rule number one, when making plans and researching, before booking, check all visa requirements for your destination of choice, and ensure there are no current political problems. E.g. the Foreign Office is a good source of information for British Nationals.
  • Always check the validity of your passports, most countries will refuse you entry if you do not have six months plus on your passport.
  • Other Nationals can check on various websites regarding visa requirements, e.g. Visa list.

 

This is the phobic traveller advisory source, please get in touch with any questions, and we will be sure to get you on the right runway.

–>More from The Forensic Traveller: How To Get Your Visa Application Right

Feature image by Hartwig HKD (Flickr Creative Commons).