Archive for February, 2008

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Need a Place to Stay? Just Ask.

February 25, 2008

Who would have thought it was possible? On a whim last week I posted that my friend, Jane, was stuck in Kuwait with nowhere to go and very little money, and in came a reply offering a place to stay. Unfortunately, Jane had already packed up and come back to California, but it just goes to show that when in need, fellow travelers are often ready to help you out.

I’m not advocating this as the safest way to travel, and if you like to have firm plans before you go, you’re better off making reservations at a hostel, but in a pinch, there’s a good chance that a complete stranger will be willing to lend a hand, just because they’ve been in the same situation once before and understand the trials and tribulations of the backpacker.

If anyone else is thinking about getting stranded in Kuwait, you may want to contact Shirley ahead of time, just to make sure she’s still there 🙂

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Buy Early and Save on Your Summer Eurail Pass

February 21, 2008

If you’re still trying to figure out what to do for Spring Break, then you probably aren’t one of those people who likes to plan way ahead. You might be someone who likes to save money though, so keep listening.

Summer will be here soon. You can spend it at home, working, tanning, watching everything that’s stored in your Tivo, or you can get up and go. Pinch those part-time job pennies for a few months and buy yourself an adventure. And here’s a tip: Some of the best summer adventures involve trains.

Now. You’ve decided to go somewhere. You want to do it on a budget. You want to ride a train. You’re going to need a Eurail pass. Luckily, they’re on sale right now.

Valid for sales from 1/1/2008 to 3/31/2008
Valid for travel within 6 months from purchase

Book a 6, 8 or 10 day Eurail Selectpass and travel up to six months out from the date of purchase. Not traveling alone? Check out the Eurail Early Bird Saverpass for special pricing.

If you are considering traveling through more than 5 countries, check out the Eurailpass.
And if you want to go to just one of these countries, be sure to see our Single Country Passes.
You get:
Unlimited travel on the national rail networks of any 3, 4 or 5 bordering countries out of 22 European countries that are connected by train or ship.
These are the following countries to choose from: Austria, Benelux (includes Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland), Bulgaria/Serbia/Montenegro, Croatia/Slovenia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
Choice of 7, 9 or 11 days of unlimited train travel within any 2-month period.
Travel days may be used consecutively or non-consecutively.

Toot toot! Get planning!

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Keep Your Travel Memories Fresh

February 19, 2008

marketplaceWhen you’re on vacation, you find yourself experiencing incredibly intense or serene moments. There are little restaurants, funny tour guides, and amazing views that you swear to yourself you will never forget.

But you will.

Sure, you might remember that one perfect chocolate éclair, or the gondolier who serenaded you as he guided your boat under quaint bridges. But for every one thing that remains picture perfect in your memory, there are a dozen things that will slip right out within a month of being back home among fast food joints, MTV, and all that is American.

To keep more of your favorite memories alive longer, try one of these simple ideas, or use them as a starting point for your own scrapbook creation.

Photos
Taking pictures is great, whether you use a camera phone, a disposable camera or a fancy-schmancy professional one. But pictures are useless if you wait two months to get them developed and then can’t remember where any of them were taken.

To make the most of your film, keep a small notepad with you to jot down what you’re taking pictures of. It can be as short as “Pictures 1-7, Notre Dame. Pictures 8-13, Latin Quarter,” or more specific, shot-by-shot notes on specific buildings, people, streets, times of day, or whatever you think you’ll want to know later and could possibly forget.

Also, besides taking pictures of the big landmarks, look for smaller details of everyday life to remember the flavor of a city. Maybe the phone booths are remarkable, or the street signs, cars, or shop windows will remind you about everyday life there.

Journals
If you’re better with words than images, a journal might be perfect for you. Use your own style and rhythm to capture each experience. Maybe you want to write in it throughout each day, writing just a few sentences here and there about your thoughts and impressions of each new place. Or you can plan to write in it every night, looking back on the day’s activities. Your journal could double as an address book for new people you meet, or you can carry a separate small book to collect people’s information.

You can also incorporate drawings and sketches into your journal if you’re the artsy type, or tape or glue in matchbook covers, ticket stubs, drink coasters, fliers, and receipts from restaurants, museums, and attractions (which will usually have a date on them). Make note of local and international news headlines and collect newspaper clippings so that when you look back years later you’ll be able to put it all into context.

Postcards
Collect postcards and write notes on the back about where you are and what you’ve seen. You can mail them to yourself if you don’t want to haul them around. Plus, you get a nice collection of stamps and postmarks. Binding them together when you return will give you a great book of memories and pictures.

The Web
Internet cafes are fairly accessible in most well traveled places, and even in some locations you would never expect. If you aren’t too web savvy, that’s ok. Lots of places offer simple, free blogs, so you pick your color scheme or template then start writing and posting photos. Track your journey so friends and relatives can log on to check up on you, and you can look back on it later to read about all the little details you’ll forget over time.

Email is another great way to record your experiences. When you write to friends or relatives make sure you save a copy to your Sent folder. Once you’re home you can print out all of those emails and track your trip through your correspondence.

Talk to Yourself
The most important thing to remember when saving your travel memories is that time is your enemy. As soon as you get home, or even on the plane, train, or bus ride back, jot down as many notes as you can while it’s all still fresh in your mind. One of the reasons we make great memories is so we can relive them, and the more details you remember, the more you’ll enjoy thinking about the places you’ve been and the people you met for years to come. 

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Travel Fun at… the Kuwait Airport?

February 14, 2008

Kuwait StarbucksMy friend, Jane Stillwater, has just about done and seen it all in her 60-some years. She’s traveled all over the world, spent time volunteering with an AIDS organization in Africa, and made two trips to Iraq in the past year to visit the troops and see what’s going on. She’s also been active in politics and civil rights her whole life, even marching with Martin Luther King in 1964.

Jane never seems to get tired of exploring new places or trying something new, and right now she’s trying to get into Iraq for a third time to see the areas she wasn’t allowed to visit on her first two trips. One of her most recent blog posts ended with: 

PS: Today is the day that I’m supposed to fly off to Kuwait to (hopefully) embed in Iraq. Rep. Barbara Lee is actively trying to help get my embed reinstated and a very helpful public affairs officer at the Pentagon is also looking into my case. But in the meantime, I’m a nervous wreck… You would be too. If I don’t get embedded as promised, then it’s gonna be “Kuwait City on Five Dollars a Day” for three weeks for me. Is it legal to beg on the streets in Kuwait?

PPS: I’m at the Kuwait airport Starbucks right now and they STILL won’t let me embed. And United has lost my luggage! Help Help Help!

Will Jane be stranded at the airport for the next two weeks? I hope not. But I do hope that someday I have the courage and spirit of adventure to jump on a plane, not knowing exactly where I’ll wind up. She may claim to be nervous about her journey, but Jane’s got some hard-core travel moxie that I think a lot of us wouldn’t mind sharing. Keep your fingers crossed for her.

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Travel Adventures in the Lost and Found

February 13, 2008

You can’t take a major vacation and come back with everything you left with. Money, travel-sized tubes of toothpaste, a pair of sunglasses, and the feeling people in other countries are somehow foreign and therefore people you have nothing in common with, should all disappear within the first week. Blisters, beer coasters from assorted funky pubs, and a sense of fellowship with your fellow travelers and human beings should take their place.

I’m sure I’ve lost plenty of things while traveling, but for some reason the only thing that I clearly remember losing, and that I’m still mad about, is a pair of black flip-flops that got left behind in a hostel in New Zealand. Queenstown I think. Actually, only one was left behind… fade to black, begin nostalgic music and hazy dream sequence here…

QueenstownIt was a chilly Spring day. I was up early for a 6 a.m. bus departure and trying to quietly pack the last of my things and get dressed. I went out to brush my teeth and when I came back in the dorm room I tripped over a boulder-sized backpack that some jerk had left laying in the middle of the floor. One flip was still firmly on my left foot, but the right flop was gone. I looked all over, under the jerk’s bed, around the backpack of doom, I knew it couldn’t have gone far, but without turning on the lights and waking up eight other people, I couldn’t find it.

My knees were bruised and scuffed from my fall, but still I crawled around, hoping against hope to find the cheap but reliable footwear that had carried me over much of Australia’s Sunshine Coast and around the Kiwi’s South Island, and gallantly protected me from sticking to many a pub floor. It had served me well, and I was sad to think that my poor lone flipop would be tossed out with the rubbish, or just pushed from one side of the room to the other as assorted backpackers said, “Ugh, not mine” and left it for someone else.

I lost good things though too, including my inhibition regarding dancing on tables and my fear of flying in helicopters. And I had plenty of chances to say, “Well I’ve never done that before,” which is another purpose travel serves, giving us opportunities to challenge ourselves. I suppose one rubber thong isn’t a bad price to pay for all that.

And now I’ll head over to Travel CUTS (the people there really are cool, I swear) and see what kind of sales they’re having. I have friends in Japan, England, Germany, and France right now, and Spring is just around the corner. Could destiny be any clearer?

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Ride the European Rails for Less

February 8, 2008

Eurostar“You don’t have to be a student to travel with Rail Europe Youth Eurostar Flexi Voucher Passes. If you’re under 26 years of age you can travel for cheap on the London, Parisian and Brussels railroads.”

So says Travel CUTS, and Travel CUTS doesn’t lie, not even to their mothers about who really ate the cookies in the cookie jar.

There are a few must-have experiences when you backpack Europe. One is staying in a famous hostel, like the Pink Palace. Another is having a whirlwind romance with someone who only speaks a few words of English. The third is riding the rails with some version of a Eurail Pass.

There are 22 European countries connected by train, so if the London-Paris-Brussles route isn’t for you, you can pick a different pass and plan your own route and itinerary. There’s even a Disney Train that will take you from London directly to the theme park in France.

Start planning your summer travel now so that you’re ready to go as soon as school’s out!

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Travel for Good: Volunteer Abroad

February 5, 2008

Your generation isn’t nearly as shallow, apathetic, or clueless as the media makes you out to be. (Right?) Sure you want to have fun and spend some of your holiday sleeping in, dancing on pub tables, and extreme sporting, but you want a little more to show for your time away from home than a sunburn and a few blurry photos taken with your friend’s camera phone.

If you’re looking for an experience that will let you combine good times and good deeds, consider spending time as a volunteer in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, or Tanzania.

Ghana

With the Volunteer Abroad program, you can work with kids in a local school, support conservation efforts, help rebuild homes and schools in regions that have been hit by floods or earthquakes, assist in a medical clinic, or pick out one of the many other worthwhile projects available.

Volunteer Abroad is owned by the Canadian Federation of Students (a not-for-profit student organization founded in 1981 that currently unites more than 450, 000 colleges and students across Canada). As part of this student movement, Volunteer Abroad connects motivated people with not-for-profit organizations, communities and government agencies in need of assistance around the world.”

So get yourself connected. Projects last between 4 and 24 weeks, making it simple to combine a shorter project with a backpacking trip you’re planning, or make the volunteer experience the main part of your itinerary. Volunteer Abroad will help you plan your travel arrangements, including any day trips, weekend activities, or other destinations you want to add to your adventure.

Visit www.volunteerabroad.ca for more information.