Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Preparing for the Big Trip

According to my countdown widget, in 45 days I will be leaving for South Africa. So far, my preparations have been limited to getting my immunization shots. Now, I am starting to think about what I'll need to bring along for the journey. Considering I may not have a washer/dryer available to me, I need to make sure I have enough clothes to last me at least two weeks, plus clothes for the six days of traveling to and from Durban (yes, it takes that long). Plus, I'll need toiletries, shoes (at least 3 pairs), books, my journal (can't go anywhere without it), my ipod, vitamins and all the prescriptions I need to take while I'm there. After running through this laundry list of essentials, I started to wonder what the hell I would pack it all in.

And then Daily Candy Travel sent me their weekly article, and my dreams of finding the perfect luggage were realized. There in the article was a list of adorable carry-on bags, perfect for stowing all my necessities for those long overnight flights and even longer layovers. Now, I will admit the one that caught my eye is way out of my price-range (what can I say, I have expensive taste), but it seems to appropriate for my destination based on its style. I mean, the name alone is enough to make me want it: Urbane Village- Doctor's Bag. How cool does that sound? But to the chagrin of my finances, I turned away from the seemingly perfect bag, and considered the others that seemed just as nice, and probably more practical for my trip. The Large Weekender from LeSportSac is a little more reasonably priced and has a ton of outside pockets, perfect for storing small electronics or books or travel documents--anything I need to access quickly. The cheapest bag was the Canvas Overnight bag from JCrew. Basically, it's a duffel bag, which would be fine for someone like me with a limited income. And for an extra $10, I can get a personal monogram etched on the side! Let me think, what should it say? Hmmm...Well, that will have to wait until another day.

Once the bag is purchased, however, the real challenge begins. I have never been the most efficient packer--more often than not I find myself sprawled on top of the suitcase, shoving the contents down as much as possible while battling with the zipper. So how I will fit everything will be interesting, surely a worthy story for a post. I will keep you updated on my preparations as the departure date nears.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How a Vacation Brightened my Mood...

And I haven't even gone on it yet.

Earlier this week, I was feeling completely down on myself. As you remember, graduation is coming up, and I have begun the job hunt. I made a goal of submitting at least one application a day--and usually I submit up to three--in the hopes that shear volume would get me somewhere. However, after almost three weeks of applying, I have only received rejections--3 to be exact. On top of that, I am also trying to finish up my masters and get through my final class. Luckily, the class work isn't too demanding, but it's still there and I still have to do it. Another factor contributing to my sorrow--money. Right now I have a job that pays and one that doesn't. Both are ending in about three weeks time and I will have zero income. My finances are already in shambles, so this will only make them worse. And finally, the project I've been working on for my apprenticeship is starting to come to a close, and people are frantically trying to get everything done, including me. I find myself having barely enough time in the day to get it all done. Not to mention I'm using a website system that has so many bugs and cliches, it's impossible to accomplish anything.

But despite everything wrong in my life, there was one thing that lifted my spirits this week: A trip to Calgary to visit my dad. I won't be going until mid-May, but just the thought of a long weekend in Canada just hanging out with my father made me so much happier. Perhaps it's the knowledge that I'll soon be getting away from all the stress in my life, or maybe that I'll get to spend quality time with my dad, or maybe that the last time I was in Calgary I had an incredible time.

The last time I visited was in 2005, the summer after my freshman year of college. I went on a road trip with my two best friends, and we drove up to Alberta from Colorado. It was one of the best trips I've ever had, and whenever I think of Calgary, I remember the vacation fondly. Now this upcoming travel adventure will be a little different. I have a few more years behind me and no friends to party with. I had always planned to return to Calgary with those two friends, or any of my college friends, or my boyfriend. But that doesn't mean I'm any less excited to go back this time. I'm ready for a great experience. I'm eager to pack a suitcase--I know I'm crazy for enjoying packing;--to get on the plane, sip a complimentary drink, and catch up on my reading; to shuffle off the plane and see my dad waiting for me at arrivals.

Even more exciting than the journey is the destination. Calgary is a modern city less than an hour away from the Canadian Rockies. It reminds me of Denver with its size and fresh downtown nightlife. Some worthy attractions are Olympic Park, built for the 1986 Winter Olympics. The Pedestrian Mall downtown is brimming with local vendors selling clothes, jewelry, art and food. The Calgary Tower offers a panoramic view of the city and the mountains in the distance as well as a glass floor experience peering straight down to the streets below.

One of my favorite parts of the city is the river. In the summer, locals rent rafts--or bring their own if they have them--and float along the gentle current, sipping on beer or wine. My friends and I had the privilege of experiencing this relaxing cruise, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who visits. I may not be able to do it this time around due to weather, but if I do, I'll be sure to report back about it.

It's comforting to know that something as simple as a weekend away is enough to brighten my demeanor. Rays penetrate my darker-than-a-rainy-day attitude, and I feel a sense of relief. If just the thought of a trip can have this effect, I wonder how the actual vacation will permeate my thoughts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Welcome Help for Travelers Affected by Volcano

Unless you've been living in a hole the last week, you're probably aware of the immense amount of ash and smoke billowing from a volcano in Iceland holding up air travel. As I was reading through travel articles today, I noticed a fellow travel enthusiast had posted this on her twitter account:

While it won't help all the stranded passengers, all the ones traveling around Europe will surely appreciate the alternative transportation. Personally, I find it encouraging that Eurostar would pull their resources and offer to help.

I realize this is a short post, but I found this article interesting, and I thought others would too.

Travel Healthy

With the World Cup fast approaching (my trusty countdown widget tells me it's 54 days away) I have to start preparing myself for the trip. Not just mentally--I would leave tomorrow if I could--but physically. And so I had to look into immunizations. This is not my idea of a good time, since I hate needles with every fiber of my being and try to avoid them like the plague. Wow, that was more cliches than I usually like to use, but they describe my emotions perfectly. Anyway I digress, so my boyfriend and I got an appointment at an immunization clinic last week, and I grudgingly entered the hospital, knowing I would come away with a lofty medical bill and a soar arm. I was sure they were going to stick me with two or three shots, but luckily I was required to get only Hepatitis A. (Since we were so on top of things and getting everything taken care of early, we were able to take the Typhoid immunization orally.) But as the doctor was telling us how to take the prescriptions and stay healthy while we were over there, I began to get nervous.

To understand why, I'll give you a quick background story: I've traveled a lot in my life, but most of the time I've gone to developed countries, and I've been with my parents. Only in the past few years have I begun to travel alone, and I've always been smart, safe. But when I was studying abroad in Rome, I came down with shingles, and my health wavered more than it ever has before. I had to take antiviral medicines three times a day for seven days. My appetite decreased to the point where I was faint throughout the day and had trouble standing. I was constantly tired, but I could barely sleep, tossing and turning throughout the night. It was so unbearable that I seriously considered cutting my semester short and going home. But I pushed through the illness and made it to the end. However, it left me paranoid about my health. Every little bump, cough, or ache, and I was in the clinic talking to the doctors. And most of the time, I was perfectly fine. It took me a couple years to get over my short stint as a hypochondriac, but this trip to South Africa has got me a little concerned.

The doctor's words keep repeating in my head: don't drink the water, don't eat any fruit or vegetables without a rind, keep applying bug spray, use bottled water when brushing your teeth, etc. It is so easy to contract a disease in underdeveloped countries if you aren't careful. But I refuse to let my worrisome ways ruin my trip. I will be cautious, of course, making sure to take all my prescriptions, packing any first aid essentials, and getting plenty of rest. However, I will not obsess over the littlest things like I usually do. As long as I take care of myself and adhere to what the doctor said, I should be fine.

I realize I am not alone in my desire for a healthy vacation, so here are some helpful articles and links you can use to make sure you're fully prepared for your next trip: International Travel, CDC, Travel and Health.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tax Day Deals

Tax day is hardly something to celebrate, right? Wrong! April 15 looms ahead, and those tax forms need to be dated and stamped. Once you send them off, it's over. So why not enjoy some sweet deals. I'm accustomed to getting free food; McDonald's and Cinnabon are both contributing to the tradition this year. And personally I'd go for the mini cupcakes over the burgers, but I have a severe sweet tooth. Anyway, moving on. I was browsing around on Twitter and saw an update from Travel + Leisure Magazine:

No Taxation Without a Vacation: Tax-Day Hotel Deals - Carry On - Travel + Leisure

After reading this, I seriously considered the Hard Rock Sand Diego deal. Who wouldn't want an EFFEN cocktail? But this article also got me thinking about something my co-worker Justine told me. There are promotions being put forward by the travel industry--specifically student travel--encouraging people to spend their tax refunds on trips. I thought that was a great idea. So while hotel deals during the month of April acknowledging tax day are great, companies could also look into deals promoting tax refund spending on travel.

For example, the bigger your refund, the bigger the discount you get on a hotel rate. Of course, there would have to be a way to prove what your refund was, otherwise people would probably exaggerate the amount a little bit. (Ok, probably a lot.) The bottom line is that it could be a great way to push the industry, especially with summer fast approaching and vacations being planned. Travel agencies, hotels, airlines, travel media outlets, all of them could capitalize on TAX REFUND DEALS!