Gypsy Bits and Bytes

I’m nursing a serious headache tonight.  Everyday a new thread is woven into my travel tapestry.  My brain is exploding with constant ideas as each one arrives.  While some of this is old news to a few of you, much of it are newfound discoveries to me.  I decided to pull a few bits and bytes of the week into one post, in an effort to keep it straight in my head, if not yours.

Bits and Bytes

  • First off, I’m famous!  Ted Beattie, a writer for Rolf Potts’ site Vagabonding, zoned in on the concept of post-millennium travel in the article A Parrot in Your Pocket Who Twitters in Your Ear.  Ted wrote about Twitter, a platform that melds community and technology into one.  So true.   I’m an eighties child, so technology included fat, clunky keyboards with a green screen and Atari video games.  Remember those?  Ted’s article reminded me how I live in both worlds.  I enjoy writing in a journal just as much as participating in our hashtag team #RTWsoon.  Naturally, my little photo appeared along with Travels of Adam, The Adventures of D, and Twenty-Something Travel.  Didn’t someone on Twitter say that travel bloggers aren’t humble?  Possibly.
  • After reading Catia’s post about why she decided to go round-the-world, it brought me back to my moment of clarity.  It’s akin to a switch in your head turning on.  I took a stark look at my desk one morning at work – it hit me bloody hard – this is not where I want to be in the next five years.  Maybe some of you experienced the same.
  • Speaking of leaving, The Aussie Nomad just gave notice at work.  I’m looking forward to that post, since my turn will come in June.

Nomadic Chick News

  • The theme of my site is likely going to change.  I know!  And you just met me.  My desire is to bring you information in a quicker, more orderly manner.  If you adore my site as is, express vitrol over my decision in the comments.  Kindly be patient as I coordinate design changes.  The great content and laughs (there’s that humble again) won’t alter, just the look.
  • Cross your fingers, I also hope to add a regular contributor, a sassy writer who’ll give you tips like it is – straight up, no frills.  Let’s pray scones and Italian coffee are enough to secure her.
  • To please the crowd aching to bolt from the starting line, I’m planning a series about unplugging from the cubicle.  As I go through the process, why not share with you?
  • Finally, next Tuesday, yours truly is having her first tweet-up.  Took me 15 minutes to figure out what that was, but it’s all good now.  My first victim will be rerunaround.  You know, the guy who might pick a perfect taco over  a perfect woman.  We plan to shoot the breeze and Canadian geese over perogies.  If only you could be that lone fly on the wall.
By |January 29th, 2010 |Categories: Life |19 Comments
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Gypsy Wednesday – iPhone Love

Welcome to Gypsy Wednesday!  Every Wednesday, I’ll strive to highlight all the juicy morsels related to travel and beyond.

One night my girlfriend pulled out a Christmas gift to herself – an iPhone.  She began showing me the functionality, flipping through apps, talking excitedly.  Meh – I was unmoved.  A cell phone is a mobile tool that I can use to text, talk, or have close by in case of an emergency.   That’s all.

We dropped the subject and moved on.  The next time I saw her, she extracted it from her coat pocket to demonstrate another new app.  I actually paid attention.  The screen responded to her light touch, “Uh, look at this one, if you’re lost you can use the compass.  Or this wifi finder, in case you want to surf.. ”  At the end of our social outing, I almost snatched her phone and stuffed it down my pants.  An iPhone is the equivalent to electronic masturbation.  My lust for this gadget was cemented.

Why I Love It

The truth?  I seriously get lost easily.  Of course, on this journey I intend to get lost on purpose, but if I end up directionally challenged in Bangkok, a compass could come in handy before I’m ravaged by mangy dogs.  Another reason, my fears about staying linked to the world or friends has run out of steam.  Here is a product that offers me options in a singular device.

Basic iPhone Features

Without even touching upon apps, a basic iPhone 3G exhibits a terrific starter template for the tech-savvy traveler:

  1. Video Camera: I can shoot, edit, and share all from the phone.  Wow!
  2. 3-megapixel camera: My informants tell me the camera lacks a flash, and is not high end, but it could work if my camera suddenly died.
  3. Compass: Ooh, this feature makes me squeal with joy.  It will automatically reorient a map to match the direction I’m facing.
  4. Messages: I can send messages in various forms (text, video, pictures) with the option to send to one or several contacts.
  5. Voice Memos: An audio recorder to capture an observation or interview.  Great for the freelance writer or intrepid journalist.
  6. ipod: Music is a must.  This saves me from carrying 3 devices –  phone, ipod and laptop.  2 out of 3 are decent odds.
  7. SIM Cards: All phones operate with SIM cards nowadays; what makes this potentially special is I can swap out cards during my travels.
  8. Mobile Phone: One complaint with iPhones is the poor reception.  The 2.0.2 software update allegedly addressed bugs.

Cheap or Free Apps that Make Me Swoon

1.  WorkSnug

Will scout all the wifi hotspots in a city, giving you locations and ratings.   Cost – free.

2.  Google Maps

A triple threat.  Google Street View, public transportation options and walking directions adds up to heaven.  Cost – free.

3.  Urbanspoon

If I’m exhausted and want dinner quickly, this app can locate restaurants in my area based on location, cost and food type.  Cost – free.

4.  Tripit Organizer

Since my itinerary is flexible, this app could be a godsend.  Tripit is an advanced itinerary planner boasting integrated maps, local restaurants, driving directions, sightseeing spots, weather, and so on.  The beauty of this app, it can be accessed online, but if you can’t tap a wifi spot, an itinerary is still viewable without one.  Cost – free.

5.  Skype

Free Skype-to-Skype calls based from a wifi zone.  Also, call and text mobile phones by a pay-as-you-go credit.  Cost minus mobile phone access – free.

6.  XE Currency

Unbelievable, there are over 180+ currencies to access with the ability to monitor up to 10 at a time. It’s easy to switch to my base currency as well.  Cost – free.

7.  iTranslate Plus

A universal translator with speed control from text-to-speech.  Cost – $1.99.

Viola, there’s no excuse not to plan a trip today.  You can choose to stay tapped in via technology, or trust in a paper map and guidebook.  Obviously, there are no rules, the iPhone grants a traveler another option to take off, be free, and be connected.

With the release of the iPad today, Apple products continue to vie for my attention.

The iPhone could be my perfect partner.  He won’t talk back, whine, burp, and will immediately respond to my magic fingers.  What more could a gal ask for?

Photos: giglamesh under Creative Commons.

By |January 27th, 2010 |Categories: Travel Tips |20 Comments

Why Haiti Matters

I’ve been remiss in not reporting anything about Haiti.  My boss reminded me acutely the other day.

“A bunch of structural engineers might head down there to assess if buildings are safe for occupancy.”

“Oh, are you going?”

“I would.. but.. I’m not worried about crumbling buildings falling on me, I’m more worried about the violence.. you know, if they think I’m rich they might get aggressive.. it just doesn’t seem safe.  So no, I’m not going.”

I typically enjoy my boss.  My entire department is generally good humored and less conservative than one might assume.  Instead of ignoring his comment, it nagged me, sat very wrong in my belly.

That’s when Malcolm X sprang to mind:

“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”

My boss’s stance differs from what I’ve witnessed in the travel blogging community.

Julie Schwietert, current managing editor of Matador, has worked tirelessly to piece together updates on how people can contribute.  Key posts are Haiti Volunteer Trip and What You Can Do to Help.

Shawn of rerunaround, purposefully derailed a pleasure trip to Japan to devise a relief project.

The most inspiring has to be GotPassport’s article Clarity.  Aye is forceful with her position, “Are we losing followers because we are tweeting nothing BUT Haiti Issues?  Then so be it!  Go walk out the door, you’re not welcome here anymore.”  Finally, a woman willing to stand strong because the value of helping others outweighs racking up followers on a social networking site.

My boss, who is a qualified professional, clings to alarmist fears instead of seeing past them to realize a bigger picture.

Last week, I was engrossed in How to Burst the Tourist Bubble at the behest of SoloFriendly’s recommendation.  Travelers are always on the hunt for an authentic interaction with locals, to break from that tourist loop of socializing with other backpackers.

It seems we could apply that analogy to my boss.  What about breaking that first world bubble?

I have a degree of empathy for him.  He’s got a family to support, yet so does Aye.  He stated that most natural disasters don’t have impending violence hanging in the air.  Perhaps not.  My opinion on that, I’ve traveled solo to some crazy destinations, and nothing happened to me, yet my apartment was robbed, my car was broken into 3 times, and my wallet was stolen in a busy restaurant – all in my hometown.  What my boss also forgets, Vancouver is right in an earthquake zone.  What if the situation was reversed?  How would he feel if a foreign structural engineer decided his country wasn’t worth helping?

I would contend the first world bubble is a belief that whatever happened in Haiti is far removed from our smoothly paved roads, big box stores, and tree lined streets.  An alien, hostile land rife with low GDP, wealth gaps, and staggering poverty that leaves most uttering, “Forget it, they’re too far gone.”

In researching this article I hit upon the concept of commonality in balancing diversity.  Cultural norms are instilled in us since birth, but what connects the dots from African to German to American to Canadian are fundamental needs.  Haitians cherish human life, treasure family relationships, and desire a sense of security, like all of us do.  Whether significant to solving conflicts, cultural understanding or disaster relief, peeling away differences reveal truths – we are more interconnected than not.  Any traveler will second that notion.

My anthropology professor once said, “Underneath our symbols of status, we are all the same –  flesh and bone.”

Instead of leaving me depressed, I felt buoyed, thankful to be part of such a wonderful group of travel bloggers, secretly plotting some kind of travel blogger serum, if injected into the general population would make the world that much better, don’t you think?

For a comprehensive list of organizations taking donations, visit: www.cbc.ca/haitirelief/.

Photo: IFRC under Creative Commons

By |January 26th, 2010 |Categories: Culture |9 Comments

Decluttering Update

I am elated to announce the loft bed sold!  Here is the beast:

You have no idea, the trials I went through.  Ad after ad, a fleeting promise when someone came to view it. toying with me.

“Oh, it’s perfect.  I love the wood.  It’s a twin right?”  Sister, the ad said double!  Don’t you read English??

“I want it for my son’s room, and from the pics it looks spacious underneath.”  So close.. yup, it’s ginormous – take it!

“Ohh, but it’s too large for his room.”  Insert appropriate %*&@ here.

It can’t be that difficult to sell one item.  Maybe it’s Vancouver, could be post-recession guilt to spend money.  At this rate, I’ll be selling stuff from my hut in Goa.

Now I’m working on unloading an antique chair and an Asian inspired coffee table.

Photobucket

If you know anybody that adores ancient furniture drop me a line.

My life is composed of sale items now.

  • Books.
  • Clothes.
  • Couch.
  • Donate old computer.
  • Television and DVD player.

What’s most surprising is my emotional reaction as each piece departs.  That antique chair, I use to fawn over it, couldn’t imagine parting with her.  Today, my attitude altered to a nonchalant shrug.  I can buy a new chair someday.  And why am I assigning gender labels to objects?  Frankly, I never sat on the chair, it’s shoved in a corner, used primarily for storing books, bills and bags.

Each sale lightens my spirit, every cent earned leaves me tasting freedom.  It’s nothing short of fantastic!  If you’re currently undergoing a declutter, are you experiencing the same emotions?  Tell me in the comments.

By |January 24th, 2010 |Categories: Life |6 Comments

10 Reasons Why I Suck As a Travel Girlfriend

There could be good reason why I’m single.

  1. I always pick nonsensical, dangerous destinations where you could be decapitated or kidnapped for ransom.
  2. I snore.  So loud you’ll open your eyes expecting a 300 pound truck driver next to you.  It’s ten times worse when I’m inebriated.
  3. I’ll always make you taste a dish first, in case of parasites or hair.
  4. If I even catch a glimpse of a rat, and let’s face it rats multiply across continents, I will shatter glass with my screams, thereby embarrassing the crap out of you.
  5. I’ll force you to carry the heavy gear.  Cause I’m cute and can get away with it.
  6. My sense of direction is tragically bad, which leads to hilarity and serendipitous encounters – NOT.
  7. My bladder is the size of a kidney bean.  Example: I demanded that a Thai bus driver stop in the middle of nowhere so I could take care of business during a precarious ride towards the Cambodian border.
  8. If you hanker for an erotic massage after a long day of traveling, forget it.  My ex use to call my fingers bone spurs.
  9. I tend to wander aimlessly in markets.  Welcome to two new emotions – annoyed and frustrated.
  10. Self-catering?  What’s that?

Photo source: Perfect Getaway (2009).

By |January 22nd, 2010 |Categories: Life |26 Comments
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Panic Attack


Some days I court the dark waters of panic.  Last night was a doozy.

This might crash and burn.  Back to the cubicle.

What if monetizing my site is a fool’s errand?

Sure I’ve been previously published (not paid), played with writing since teenage-hood.  Frack – what if nobody hires me??!!

I could be too old, unable to hack long days and nights on the road.

I really really really need more savings.

My god, I could end up adrift in Burma with two cents to my name!

And… begin hyperventilating.

My intentions with this site is to pump you up.  Then why am I admitting all of this?  Because I’m human.  At times I must check in with myself.

Our current world is cluttered with apps, digestible articles at 500 words or less, and time limits.  This kind of environment leads to reactive decision making.  Pressures surround us, so mindless actions follow in a snap.

The last thing I should do is proceed based on hate.  Abhorring my job or criticizing people for purchasing homes or cars is wrong.  Knee-jerk posturing is pointless and eventually harmful.

As I forge new friendships and am flummoxed that Nomadic Matt asked to be my friend on Travel Blog Exchange, I live with doubts, swim in fear.

Just when I contemplated throwing in the towel, a new reader sent me this email:

“I understand completely.  I am also older, yet keep thinking I need to get out of my job and travel.  I admire that you had the courage to do this.  The North American cube routing seems hard to give up.  Nice, safe bland life that it is.  I feel I would regret leaving it, but may regret not leaving more!  The social pressure to just stay till retirement from pension plans, family and friends is real.  Good luck on your travels.”

I’m flattered this reader calls me brave.  I wouldn’t.  I call it “hitting the wall”.  It was cumulative mind you, but one day it all added up – I could scrape and bear down as others have, incite all my magical powers, but no matter what, I can’t catch up to North American standards.  For me to try, will take years and years.  It was such a relief knowing this.  After this discovery, other aha moments came.  I probably wasn’t meant to, even more so, don’t know if I want to.

Hitting the wall meant leaving regrets or the past behind.  I was able to shut that door to failures, thus opening myself up to new possibilities. 

Another thing – déjà vu – that intangible, prickly sensation lighting up your body when a stranger shakes your hand, but you’re so certain this isn’t a stranger.  You can’t help but mention, “I know you from somewhere… ”  He or she laughs nervously, responding with amusement, “No, I’m sure we’ve never met before.”  You want to grasp at it, this window into a third dimension, an essence of connection or knowing, yet it shifts and dissolves, a powdery substance choked by water in a tumbler.

Every time I write, any occasion I embark on an impulsive solo trip, pieces of that window click into place.  It’s difficult to lock into words, but I truly feel like I should be living another life.  These thoughts are not fleeting, but full blown – present 24 hours a day.

Am I scared?  You better believe it.  However, I’m ready to embrace it.  In my radio days, I interviewed a friend once, a sassy woman who took up activities like flying a plane or piano playing with apparent ease.  I asked her on-air, “Are you always confident?”

“No, absolutely not.  Anything new I try could fail.  So, I try to believe this: if something scares you, it’s probably because you’re getting close to what you want.  Maybe even what you should be doing.”

Bingo.  This is my pledge, when I freak out, don’t judge or run away.  Simply observe, then take note with respect and awareness.  What frightens me could be the very jolt I need.

By |January 21st, 2010 |Categories: Life |16 Comments
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