How do you engage with locals? Does technology keep you apart?

How do you make contact with locals? Or maybe you prefer not to, or don’t care?

I first noticed the use of mobile phones separating people from the places they were travelling in on a train in Thailand. A young British couple, were both on their phones were talking to different people back in their homeland.  I found it amazing that they weren’t even looking out the window at the beautiful scenery.

between shows – Bangkok

Of course, there is nothing wrong with keeping in contact with friends and family every now and then – however, it also means you are not living in the now, in the present moment – the very place where life happens.

I guess I’m biased because when I travel, I very rarely contact home – I ‘m always working on the premise that no news is good news :-).

That being so, I’ve noticed in my city, Wellington, New Zealand, that it is harder to engage with locals when you are using a phone to guide you around the streets.  Sure, Google Maps does sort of show you the way, but you get no interaction with the people in the area you are visiting.

South African fan in Cuba Street

Perhaps this doesn’t bother you, but for me, travelling is all about the people I meet; the questions I ask them; the directions I get from them, and knowledge about their lives.

We Kiwi, are considered pretty friendly and when we approach you on the street, especially if you’re looking at a map, we are not trying to sell you anything or take you to our cousins’ shop for instance – we are just trying to be helpful and friendly and help give you a 100% pure Kiwi experience.

(Note: ‘one hundred per cent pure’ was never intended to be about our environment – like everywhere else we too have environmental problems.  The hundred per cent pure was to ensure all tourists got a genuine Kiwi experience and holiday.  Sadly, this was not how it was understood overseas.  Even New Zealanders now claim we are being false in our ‘advertising.’  As an older kiwi – who was travel writing when it was coined – many years ago.  I’m very clear about its original intentions – one of the advantages of age 🙂  )

Lake Tekapo

I frequently ask,  ‘can I help you’ of those who look like tourists and are gazing at their phone or a map.

So, many especially those new into New Zealand I suspect, almost jump back in horror at being spoken to.  ‘Oh no, what does she want!?  Will she rip me off?’  I see it in their faces.  Happily, at least 50% of them value me answering their questions and often thank me for being ‘helpful.’ And hopefully, that little interaction contributes to them enjoying their time in New Zealand and having 100% pure Kiwi experience, and knowing most of us are kind, caring and really want to help – for no reason but to be helpful!

So next time you pull out a phone to find your way from A to B just pause, look around, is there a local to ask instead?

Alaska

This works from Alaska to Turkey, from Thailand to New Zealand.  It’s the brief connections and a smile or a laugh with a local that can make your day.  Don’t let technology separate you from the very people in the country you wanted to visit.

Have a good day 🙂

Local lads in Maheshwar

 

Are you a slow traveller? What is slow travel?

interact with the locals

Are you a slow traveller?  What is slow travel?  I’m sure it means different things to different people.

For me, slow travel means pacing my travel, not having every moment accounted for, and therefore leaving time for the unexpected. The unknown and the unplanned for.  Leaving time to sit in the coffee shop and watch how locals live and interact.

Florida – well caught

For me, the difference is about the difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. I like to think I’m a traveller.  It means going to a country but only visiting one small region, not rushing around so you can take off everything on the must-see or must-do lists.  I like to create my own list with lots of gaps 🙂

A spirit tree in Bangkok
The KiwiTravelWriter checks out the manatee in Florida

So are you a slow traveller?  Tell me, what does it mean to you?  I do understand people taking tours, but I guess I’m selfish and self-centred and really just want to leave when I want to leave, to stay longer when I want to – or to jump on a bus and get the hell out of somewhere. 🙂

In particular, I want to have an early breakfast and get out exploring not waiting for other people to wake up have their breakfast and then join a bus group.  It is easy to see why most of my travels have been solo 🙂

taking off in a hot air balloon – Canterbury, New Zealand

 

 

A travel writer confesses to breaking her own rules and tips

Confessions from a travel writer: I’m not as perfect as my blogs may imply!

No doubt with a book called Naked in Budapest you could assume my confessions will be racy – sorry to disappoint you but these confessions are about packing and any ‘racy confessions’ will stay in my travel memoir – not this blog.

So, confession #1

Despite having written a few really popular and helpful blogs about packing for travel and another about carry-on luggage, or for cruising,  I occasionally fail by not reading my own words of wisdom, and if i do, not heeding that voice in my head that says “Heather, I hope you are listening (in this case via reading’) to yourself”.

My recent trip to the USA saw me break my cardinal rule of don’t take anything for ‘just in case.’ and although I think I wore everything once, there was too much in my bag.

I guess swimming gear doesn’t really count – its hard to use  what we Kiwi call ‘togs’ for anything else but in the water or poolside. (mine were only worn twice, once swimming with the Florida manatee and a very quick dip in the Pacific, despite the heat)

A soiree in Atlanta
A soiree in Atlanta – at the Coca Cola site

Confession #2

I’m now gathering things together for my trip to the Rainforest World Music Festival (#RWMF) and already I know I have way too much to even choose from.  So I’m taking myself in hand by writing this confession and hopefully shaming myself into taking what I need – not what I want, or think I want. I will also, this time, reread my helpful packing tips!

One of the issues around packing decisions is the variety of activities we often have to do in one trip.

The USA trip saw me attending a convention, a couple of parties, shopping, hiking, exploring tourist places and checking out restaurants.

My August trip to the music festival, in Malaysian Borneo, also has its challenges: a fancy dinner reception, surviving the photographers mosh-pit, planting a tree as part of ‘greening the festival’ – possibly in a mangrove area, attending performers’ interviews, meetings with tourism officials, exploring Kuching, AND spending part of my significant birthday in a drumming circle.

So, once again, many occasions, and very hot weather, meaning I need to think layers and interchangeable tops and bottoms and colours that mix and match.

Now to choose what makes the last cut! ( and my next blog will be from the annual Rainforest World Music Festival)

2015-07-27 08.45.56

Now to choose from too many items!

 

Photo of the end result for boarding tomorrow … red bag for checked luggage, plus my carry-on and personal handbag (combined they weigh just under the 7kg rules – and the ‘handbag’ could be put into the grey carry-on which is mostly my electronic gear: of course NONE of which I needed when I first started travelling :):)

20150803_072657

 

 

 

 

Street & travel photography – I learn from Cartier-Bresson

Awaiting to launch the waka again (Waitangi, Northland, NZ)

Street photography & Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson always had his camera with him “even when I don’t plan to take photos” he is reported to have said.  I love authentic street photography – candid, life as it is, interesting,  real.

I know many like to ‘photo-shop’ or  use some other digital technology to manipulate, or enhance their photos in some way to make them more pleasing to their eye. I prefer to show you exactly what I see – including dull skies, power-lines, and other unwanted objects. I want to portray what’s in front of me – as a travel writer I believe that’s my duty: to tell you the truth about what I see and experience so when you go there, you will not be surprised.

So like Cartier-Bresson (but without his skills) I love to ‘walk and shoot.’  This sometimes means I will wait for someone to walk into a frame .. most people don’t know I have taken the photo even though I get as close to the action as possible. When it’s not possible, telephoto lens are wonderful for those candid, unnoticed pics.

So carry your camera, be observant, be patient, and recognise the decisive moment to push the shutter – after all, in photography the smallest thing can be a great subject.  No wonder I’m excited to be traveling to somewhere new soon (Borneo) – where I’ll have lots of new, not posed,  candid subjects to photograph – and no electronic manipulation.

As my tagline says,” real travel, real stories, real photos”

Christchurch accommodation increased with homestay beds

In Christchurch recently to check out Look After Me, a New Zealand-wide web-based accommodation group, I stayed at two of them, the modern Merivale apartment, and Country in the city: I also had the chance to meet some of the other hosts.

With a shortage of accommodation in Christchurch these beds increase places to choose from, and as most are in the suburbs they’re idea for those who are concerned about being in the post-quake city centre now – although this need not be a concern as sadly most of the beautiful old, and many of the new buildings, have been demolished because of quake damage.

Two of the questions I had in mind as I flew south were,

  • Why use this service?
  • What is the difference between this concept and other homestays?

Lois Connelly, a local host and a previous a guest of some North Island hosts told me she ‘liked the feeling of being instantly comfortable and like being at home.’  She also said both she and her husband enjoyed the experience and will use Look After Me again.

The only other homestays I have used were in Malaysia and Hungary and they offered the same advantages as these Christchurch ones do – getting to know local people and having a great room with a different level of hospitality than in other accommodation. As a travel writer I like to try many places and this service is one I can recommend for international travellers as well as locals.

Many women find travelling alone daunting and this provides a great alternative … travelling alone but staying with locals, and in Christchurch right now, local knowledge of what’s open and what’s shifted is invaluable.  This assurance is reflected in the name to ‘look after me.’ The costs are reasonable too – ranging across the different homestay levels which include classic and premium.

The target groups for this concept are not only women travelling alone, but small groups of women travelling to the same destination for a common purpose – they can all book a bed on the website but each will stay in a different room, in a different area, with hosts with different interests.  Julia Charity tells me, during a phone call, that she “expects her idea to be really popular with mature women travelling alone who will like the safety of staying with people.”

As to my question about what’s the difference between this idea and other homestays, well, the biggest difference I noticed is that the majority of women who have signed up are people who have a spare room (often as children have left home) and are interested in others.  Many enjoy walking and are happy to include their guests in their daily walks!

These Christchurch women are also keen on helping their city by providing a bed in an area that is short on accommodation:  and, with this group of people assisting the city, Christchurch, like the Edmonds brand that was born there, the city is ‘sure to rise.’

Thumbnail sketches of the people I met follow:

  • Yvonne and Trevor (Merivale Townhouse) – she is interested in education issues and the politics of education, and Trevor loves music.
  • Sandy and Trevor (Country in the City) love family, animals, hiking, mountain biking, and boating
  • Wilma (Home away from Home) loves embroidery, walking and rugby
  • Annie and Bert (Oak View) are movie and art buffs with a lovely dog called Molly – they also love walking
  • Sandy (Lavender Towers) Lovely cottage garden; has two cats and a dog and says many overseas guests ‘stay here so they can be with my animals’

I laughed when I saw what Te Radar said about the founder of look After Me I thought NZ used to suffer from Tall Poppy Syndrome. Now I reckon we just suffer from lethargy. That was until I met Julia Charity. Look at her. She’s a pocket rocket with as much passion and power as I’ve ever seen. She’ll go places that one.”

An eclectic set of photos for you …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

how to cost your travel? tourist or traveller?

Read more of this article about how to cost your travel – depending in what you want . . . are you a  traveler or a tourist?

“The Tourist:

* Is willing to pay good money for little or no inconveniences.
* Gets detailed itineraries on hour to hour/ day-to-day activities.
* Will be told when and where they will eat on a tour.
* Trusts in package deals as to accommodation or transportation.
* Will be chauffeured to and from most attractions and monuments
* Usually has a very limited amount of time to sight see and take photos.
* Will meet other people with fairly similar tastes and likeness.

The Traveler:

* Wants to be creative with their travel arrangements.
* Can save money by finding their own accommodations online.
* Will not have a set schedule to keep. After all, isn’t it a vacation?
* Has the freedom to extend, cut short or avoid a stay in any particular area.
* Does not wish to be told when, where and how much time they have to eat.
* Can take all the time in the world to do whatever they want. Ex. take pictures, lounge at a sidewalk cafe, soak up the sun or stay in one attraction all day.
* Will intimately experience the world on their terms.
* Will have a better chance to meet, mingle and mix with the local crowd to truly appreciate the culture and lifestyle.
* Is more likely to have an uninhibited, unforgettable time.”