Archive for July, 2010

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Do Canadians Really Want “Nakations”?

July 30, 2010

According to one of the travel newsletters I subscribe to, Canadians love to take their clothes off on vacation. They want nudist beaches, nudist campgrounds, maybe even nudist libraries.

(I made that last one up myself, although it probably does exist somewhere.)

Is it true though? When you plan to get away, do you think more about what you aren’t going to wear than what you are going to pack? Somebody must be into it or they wouldn’t have made up that word: “nakations”. Just saying it makes me feel a little underclothed.

See what the Montreal Gazette has to say, and let me know if I should be writing about more clothing-optional student travel destinations. Or does “clothing-optional” describe student travel in general? Hmmm.

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Comic Con 2010: Highlights

July 28, 2010

Ok, so the live blogging didn’t really work what with the tens of thousands of people there trying to all use the wi-fi at once. Also, I was just having too much fun to stop and type.

So here are what I consider the best bits of this year’s Comic Con, based completely on my preferences and biases:

The USA block of panels (“Burn Notice”, “White Collar”, “Psych”). first, they had Bruce Campbell, who’s always full of swagger and good stories, then there was Matt Bomber who’s just ridiculously good looking, and then the “Psych” guys kicked off their panel by bringing out Curt Smith from 80s pop band Tears for Fears and performing “Shout” with him. Too awesome. Watch for yourself:

The Big Bang Theory panel. I just started watching the show this year but heard that last year’s panel was good, so I waited in line with a couple thousand people wearing “Bazinga!” shirts for my chance to see the biggest geeks on TV. I’m really glad I did, because not only did we get Wil Wheaton as moderator, we got the Barenaked Ladies as an opening act. They performed the theme song and we all got to sing along, like this:

The swag. My suitcase came home about twice as heavy as it left and most of that was free tshirts, posters, giant bags, autographs (ok, those aren’t heavy, but they are cool), magazines and, since it is Comic Con, a few actual comics. Anybody want a huge Green Hornet bag? Leave a comment.

The adorable kids. I’m not someone who really likes kids, but there’s a certain amount of wonder and joy and magic that a child experiences when faced with superheros and cartoons and toys come to life, and seeing a kid go gaga over something made me enjoy it even more. I don’t know much about Green Lantern, for example, but this was a favorite moment of mine:

The people watching. The one nice thing about waiting in line for something is that you get to stand still and watch the parade. Because that’s what Comic Con is: a four-day-long parade. From steampunk to anime to alien, I saw costumes that were unbelievable just for the amount of workmanship that went into them, as well as costumes that were simple but crazy creative.

The props. Hollywood doesn’t do anything small. You want to promote your military action film? Don’t just give out keychains, land a full-on helicopter outside of the convention center. And billboards? Ha! Puny. The only sign worth having is a 20-story high one on the side of a hotel.

The flight home. After five days of walking, waiting, shopping, lugging swag and getting almost no sleep, I was pretty thrilled to pack up and say goodbye to San Diego. I love it, but I love missing it even more.

See you next year, Comic Con!

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National Geographic Tours Disneyland

July 16, 2010

Usually I look through National Geographic and sigh at all the fancy trips I can’t afford, then I plot to figure out how I can do something equally cool, but cheaper.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, left, inspired Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Today though I came across this article about how famous landscapes around the world have influenced Disney rides and architecture. So if you don’t have the time or money to visit Utah’s Monument Valley, and some castles in Austria, and Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, and New Orleans, and, well, space (or the future), at least you can go to the Happiest Place on Earth and see versions of it all.

See the Geography of Disneyland slideshow.

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Are You Ready for Comic-Con 2010?

July 14, 2010

Accio Weasleys!

Last week I offered tips for surviving Comic-Con, or any other con you might be going to. As the event gets closer – just a week away now! – I’ve got a few more tips on getting you ready.

Plan ahead. The full schedule is available so you can print it out and figure out where you want to be each day. Keep in mind that panels in the Ballroom and Hall H can fill up way ahead of time, so if you really really have to see “Glee”, get there at least an hour before it starts to get in line. Two hours might be better, since a lot of people get into those rooms early in the day and stay for everything.

They don’t clear the room before a panel, so if only 1000 of the 4000 people in the room leave, that means only 1000 of the people in line will get in. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but you’ll be amazed at how huge the lines can get for the really popular panels.

Or don’t plan. Just go. Sometimes the most exciting things are the ones you don’t expect at all, like wandering through the exhibition hall and seeing Seth Green walk by, just checking out the booths. Or standing in a hallway in line and seeing a favorite celeb stroll past on their way to something they want to see. Just keep your eyes open.

Make the most of technology. Comic-Con? Yeah, there’s an app for that. If paper schedules aren’t your style you can go to their website, create your own personal schedule and then export it to your phone.

Don’t just rely on the official schedule. Comic-Con will tell you who’s appearing on panels and in their official autograph area, but a lot of the booths also have celebrities do signings, and those aren’t always listed anywhere. (This is where keeping your eyes open helps. I almost walked right by Leonard Nimoy without noticing him.)

If you have a favorite artist or actor or writer who you think might be there, check their own website or follow them on Twitter to get their schedule. Dark Horse Comics, BBC America, DC comics and other booths should also have their own schedules.

See what’s happening outside the convention center. Studios and agencies rent out bars, movie theaters and other venues to host parties, screenings and “happenings” in the neighborhood, so keep an eye out for free events.

If you missed it, here are my posts from Comic-Con 2009, including my photo shoot with Nathan Fillion, panels for “Chuck”, “Burn Notice”, “Psych” and other favorite shows, and one of the greatest thrills of my life, David Tennant’s two appearances. Pause. Swoon.

Let the geek games begin!

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How to Stay in a Hostel: Tips for the Uninitiated

July 13, 2010
How about staying in a boat/hostel for a few nights? Try the Eastern Comfort hostel in Berlin.

How about staying in a boat/hostel for a few nights? Try the Eastern Comfort hostel in Berlin.

If you’re headed out of town for a short-term stay, say two weeks or less, a hostel is an ideal place to crash. There are plenty of other travellers to socialize with, generally clean restrooms, a kitchen for preparing your own cheap meals, and sometimes they offer perks like television, free Internet access, laundry or sightseeing discounts.

In a large city you’ll likely have a dozen or more hostels to choose from, ranging from huge hotel-like structures with their own bars and restaurants, to the smaller, mom-and-pop places that may not offer as many amenities, or even hot water. In smaller locations, say deep in the Australian outback or in out-of-the-way South American villages, your choices will be more limited, but not necessarily less comfortable. One of the nicest hostels I’ve ever come across is the Prarie Hotel in Parachilna, South Australia; population: 7.

Your best bet for finding a good hostel is to ask other backpackers for recommendations. If you don’t have time though, go through Hostelling International, as they only give their seal of approval to places that meet their standards. (Although those standards do seem to vary here and there.)

You need to have a HI card to get a discounted price, but if you’re going to be traveling for more than three weeks during a year, it will pay for itself in discounts. You can pick one up at any Travel CUTS shop, or online. The HI website has a list of hostels by city, so you can get addresses and plan ahead. There are other discount cards for other chains, like VIP Backpackers, so you do have options.

When packing for your hostel stay, there are a few essentials:

  • Plastic bags, both big and small, are perfect for packing any shower items that might drip or leak, as well as dirty clothes, muddy shoes or snacks.
  • Flip flops make great shower shoes (as in going to and from, or during if the floor’s too creepy).
  • Most hostels give you bed linens, or let you rent them for a few dollars, but it can’t hurt to bring along a simple sheet. Check your local thrift store and get something you won’t mind throwing out before you return home. You can sew the sides of the sheet together to make a sleeping bag out of it, or leave it in tact to use at the beach, out camping, or on a bus or train ride.
  • A small flashlight is ideal for late-night trips to the bathroom. Try to find one of those small things that attaches to a keychain.
  • Finally, a clothesline is compact and can be hung just about anywhere so that you can handwash and dry clothes.

When choosing a place to stay, also remember that you have the right to look a hostel over and see a room before you hand over any money. If you walk into a place that feels sketchy or makes you uncomfortable, walk back out and look for something else.

The hostel culture is perfect for travelers who can eat, sleep, and shower anywhere. But even if you’re not sure that sounds like you, give it a try for a few nights. It’s laid-back, friendly, and you’ll meet people and have experiences that you’ll remember forever. You’ll probably get some great stories out of it too, so share the best, and worst, of what you find.

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Sail Abroad With Semester at Sea in 2011

July 8, 2010

Semester at SeaI know, 2011 sounds like it’s sooo far away. But when it comes to academic paperwork you can never start too soon.

Does travelling the globe for three months without falling a semester behind sound like a good deal to you? I thought so. Apply now for the Spring 2011 Semester at Sea voyage and you can get your travel kicks and your university credits too.

Why pick one destination for your semester abroad when you can pick a dozen? Let your friends do a few cold months in London while you hit Cape Town, Chennai, Ho Chi Minh City and Hilo.

This is your classroom.

The Semester at Sea program has been around for decades, and it’s a great way for a student to travel around the world while working toward a degree. There are programs for teachers and seniors as well, so even if you’re out of school you can still do a sail around the world without paying the outrageous price that most cruise lines would charge for the same itinerary.

The program is run by an American university, but it’s open to international students (see the admissions requirements). Talk to your academic adviser to find out more about how you can make a semester sailing the high seas work into your graduation plans, then get your passport and visas and your ISIC. (It’s good all over the place!)

Start preparing for the Semester at Sea application deadlines and say bon voyage to academic boredom!

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Travel Canada for Cheap with Hostelling International

July 6, 2010

At this point in the summer you’re either back from vacation, getting ready to go, or you’re thinking that here’s another long, hot summer with nothing to do and nowhere to go and your friends are lame and you should have planned something but didn’t and you’ll definitely plan something for next year because no way are you going to work at a shoe store again while your friends are backpacking Southeast Asia.

If you’re that third, bored, long-winded person, then snap out of it! Summer isn’t over yet, and there’s plenty you can do, even on a budget and even if you only have a weekend.

Check out Hostelling International Canada. They’ll show you how you can:

Get an ISIC and a hostel membership from Travel CUTS and save $4 a night at a hostel and get discounts on lots of other things, too.