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

 

How to pack for business and leisure – my Asian adventures

 

Packing for both business and pleasure is often seen as difficult – I solve the problem by using different packing cells for the 2 different parts. One for business, one for leisure.

One or 2 items may belong both bags, in this instance, it’s a white T-shirt that, once the 5-day business meeting is over, it will be moved into my leisure cell for the month-long exploration in SE Asia at cheap and cheerful destinations and accommodations.

My travel is in Southeast Asia, so will have the extreme heat of July and August, and I suspect, the over-cold meeting rooms in the hotel. This just seems to be what they do in Asia – overcompensating for the heat.

I’m taking 2 pieces of luggage, my trusty red suitcase in the hold, and a daypack no. The suitcase will be left behind in Hong Kong with all my business stuff in it, while the backpack will be my luggage for Taiwan, Cambodia, and Vietnam. My red suitcase will be about 10kg max. (22 lb) while my backpack will be under the regulation 7kg. (15lb). What

carry-on luggage

It’s always a treat to just have carry-on luggage when travelling – no waiting at the luggage carousel for my red case to appear. I will also use my backpack as my carry-on luggage when I leave New Zealand for Hong Kong. It will contain vital business papers, my camera and tablet, as well as medication, Kobo e-reader and phone.

So what are in those cells? Two trouser suits – a white one with 2 tops to wear with it, and a yellow one with the white T-shirt. So over the 5 days of work, I have 3 different outfits, so one will be repeated, and if I decide to, I could wear my black travel trousers with one of the tops. One pair of black shoes will accompany them all :-).

business clothes cell

All these will remain in HK storage when I leave for Vietnam, Cambodia then onto Taiwan, before returning to Hong Kong for a couple of days and pick up my red suitcase, and go home to New Zealand’s late winter weather – and where my daughter will meet me at the airport with a warm coat 🙂

My red leisure cell contains a long sundress, a loose pair of trousers, 3 tops and my trusty Teva’s while the blue one has underwear, swimming costume, and nightwear. So that’s how I pack for a combined trip that is both official and laid-back – very different needs clothes-wise

I hope this helps you keep your clothes to the minimum -after all, we don’t have to dress to impress when we’re on holiday, you will, mostly, see a person only once, so even if you are in the same clothes daily, most of them would not even notice. We, humans, are pretty self-centred and concentrate on ourselves.

 

I’m given a very small umbrella for sun protection
ready for the airport

When a heatwave strikes, this tip will help

An umbrella lowers my temperature as I struggled up a hill in Cambodia.  People struggling with the heatwaves in Europe right now would benefit from an umbrella too.

Cuba Street Wellington, NZ -framing my apartment block at the end of the street

Here is an excerpt from my book, Naked in Budapest travels with a passionate nomad, which explains how I learnt to always carry an umbrella in hot places.

See, others carry them too … being out of the sun lowers my temperature by about ten degrees it feels

‘You go ahead. I can’t walk up here. It’s too steep, too hot.’

‘Yes you can. We’re nearly there. You will love the waterfall.’

‘We have waterfalls in New Zealand; I’ll give this one a miss.’

‘Come on. You can get up here. Just around the next corner is the last steep bit – you can make it. Just take it a step at a time. We’re in no hurry,’ Rob tells me.

‘No, I’ll sit here in the shade and wait for you all to come back down. I won’t go away from the track.’

‘Here, I’ve got an umbrella, use that, it will reduce the heat for you.’

‘I don’t have the bloody energy to hold a damn umbrella.’

‘Well you walk and I’ll hold it,’ says Rob and step by slow step I get up the mountain, feeling like a cross between a missionary with her servant and a stupid, overweight, unfit, old fool.

I’m the first to fall into the cool water – my T-shirt, shorts and sandals are off in seconds and in my underwear, I’m wallowing like the buffalo. Later, back in the boat, we make a list of the 20 different creatures we’ve seen: leeches are not on the list. The others return to Sihanoukville leaving me in this small village to find a bed for the night.

Next day I’m the only foreigner in the taxi when I travel through the mountains towards Thailand. We get pushed through sticky orange clay and cross four rivers by ferry and at each one, I’m the centre of attention – few westerners have used this road that opened two months ago: no one in the taxi speaks English.

 

Monday morning in Wellington, New Zealand

My Monday morning walk today became less walk and more cultural and coffee as the temps are low!

We visit the Academy of Fine Arts on the waterfront and Wellington’s Civic Gallery as well as having coffee at Legato.

How I ran away to travel the world – solo

 How to run away from home & reinvent yourself by travelling: a personal recipe

  • Start as a child with a love of reading. For me, this involved hiding under the blankets reading of far-away places that created a desire for travel: I was Anne Frank in her Amsterdam attic; and, I was Heidi on the mountains of Switzerland: I was the hero between the covers of every book!
  • Add listening to far away, static-crackling voices in languages I didn’t understand on my brother’s crystal radio, and dream of exploring those lives! An idea, the yeast of a dream, began bubbling below the surface of my conciseness. The first, most basic ingredients for my developing recipe were lined up on the kitchen bench of my mind.
  • Cover and leave that bowl of imagination to infiltrate through life’s ups and downs, keep reading, keep dreaming until life and circumstances add more ingredients. These extra components are where your individuality, situation, and conditions, add to the recipe and finally, the end result! (NOTE: Unlike many recipes, this one is totally tailored to your individual circumstances.)

My extra ingredients included: the deaths of my 20-year old son and my 35yr old husband, recovery from alcoholism, and, after too many birthdays, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up!

Perhaps I could play catch-up with the traditional Kiwi penchant for travel. That germ of an idea, like all living things, divides and multiplies as it sits on the sometimes-messy kitchen bench of my mind.

Now, add more ingredients so you too can reinvent yourself – mine were:

  • Travel solo
  • Travel for a year
  • Make no plans or bookings, just travel

On returning, after a year, I added:

  • Two years of work & saving
  • A short writing course
  • Have an article about canoeing down the Zambesi published
  • Sell more travel stories; add those dollars to my travel fund
  • Buy another international airline ticket
  • Travel for another year in different countries
  • Publish a book about your travels

    The print version was published in 2007 – avail as an e-book on  Amazon

This recipe is never finished yet you can cook it, eat it, and share it daily. The flavours and textures change frequently – depending on if you have used the high heat of Thailand or the coolness of a northern hemisphere winter, and, of course, your choice of spices.

So, if you too want to run away from home or reinvent yourself, pick your ingredients from the lists above, add your own, use your imagination, mix well, and as ‘they’ whoever they are, say, “the world’s your oyster.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding pink flamingo electric scooters – fear on the streets for some

A pink Flamingo electric scooter – not parked quite safe! Parallel to the road is best 🙂

Many of my peers are afraid of electric scooters on our city streets – or rather, the footpaths.  As someone who lives in the inner city, in fact, at the top of Cuba Street, Wellington, or as I call it the funky part of town, I’m used to skateboards, rollerblades, electric skateboards and many others sharing the footpath with me – as well as on Cuba Street itself.

For me the rule is very simple, if they are behind me, ignore the noise of a skateboard or such like speeding towards me – I just stay on my trajectory and trust that they will avoid me.  So far, that’s what’s happened.  I’ve had no near misses, I just stay on the left as I know if I try and get out of their way they will have no idea where the or which way I (or YOU) are going to move and you are likely to be hit or have a near miss.

As my daughter reminded me, it’s like skiing, it’s the skier that is behind you that has to avoid you, not the other way round.  E scooters are the same.  You just keep going about your business, staying on the left – as we always should – not walking 3 abreast, and all will be well.

Will there be accidents?  Of course, there will be but if you adhere to staying on your own trajectory chances are you will not be involved.

Will the E scooter riders obey all the rules – of course not!  Only yesterday I saw 2 teenage girls riding, wobbling, one of the orange uber ones (Jump) does everybody parked them considerately – hell no!  Common sense is not very common and many scooters are parked at a 45° angle or more from the curb -creating a real hazard for those who are sight impaired.  If you are a scooter rider reading this, please think of those people who are likely to trip over your toy.

Most E scooter riders are considerate and value being able to get around the city speedily. sometimes on footpaths sometimes on the road. sadly many do not use a helmet – this may change, just as skiers have.  We do have to get the cars off the roads,  and scooters are part of the solution AND we do need more people on public transport and we will just have to be considerate of each other

Have I ridden an E scooter – no – but who knows, it could be one of the ‘yets’ in my life.  I’m very aware I’m way more risk-averse since I broke my arm on a walk out to Red Rocks in the seal colony in Wellington. ( if I did I  would use the pink Flamingo as it’s a New Zealand company)

So, watch this space, but don’t hold your breath :):)

safety suggestions from the flamingo guys

 

 

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

 

 

How to take better photos – simple tips

How can I take better photos you ask?  Composition is everything, so use your camera settings to display the grid lines – remember the rule of thirds and focus the subject on one of the cross-lines to catch the viewers eye. It’s a good rule of thumb for all art.

Travel sharpens awareness of our surroundings; the different, the unusual and it’s these things, the view of a new eye that makes great photos. As a travel writer and author, I take many photos during my first few days in another country, a different culture.

Drummer boy, Ernakulam, Kerala

If you want your photos to be more than a mere record of your travels try these simple tips.

  1. Keep your camera with you: some of my ‘best photos’ are the ones I missed.
  2. Filling the frame adds impact to many pictures
  3. Eliminate the unessential, cut the clutter. Don’t try to grab it all.
  4. Early morning and late afternoon have the most favourable light.
  5. Avoid midday as overhead sun drains the colour.
  6. Simple blocks of bright colour make bold statements
  7. Look at other people’s photos to see what works, what catches your eye.
Malaysian Borneo

Open letter about NZ rugby – sent to the NZRU

I sent this letter to the NZ Rugby Union Board 24th April 2019. The topic line said to the Rugby Union “Please forward to the Board Chair (Brent) and Crusaders (Grant) and all board members”

To Brent Impey, Grant Jarrold and your boards,

This is an open letter to you and other rugby fans.

I am 73-year-old All Blacks, Canterbury and Crusaders fan. I’ve been a one-eyed Cantabrian since I began, as a child, listening to the games on the radio and/or standing on the embankment at Lancaster Park with my Dad. I also expected my younger son to play for Canterbury – he played for Shirley, and once, in a junior team, played for Canterbury. Sadly, his coach-father died when he was 12 and then, at 15, a motorbike accident saw his leg being ripped off at the groin – killing his dreams and expectations of a rugby future.

The reason I’m writing is that I want to have my say as I’ve not signed any petition or been included in any poll. I also believe a letter is of more value than a signature.

I want the name ‘Crusaders’ to change. I’m glad the extras have been stopped and I hope the horse and knights will never return – in any form. I was disturbed, no – actually I was horrified – when the team was named in the mid-90s but put it down to ignorance of history and assumed most people/fans would be ignorant too.

That passive acceptance on my part changed in an instant when the white supremacist terrorist killed Muslims in my home city. (I live in Wellington now but you can take the girl out of the city but not the city out of the girl).

You don’t need a history lesson from me, others more qualified will have advised you. I also don’t believe a nation-wide poll should drive your decision either. Just do the right thing for all of us – a decision you will be able to capitalise on, as proof of a team of honourable, inclusive, diverse, people.

Please do not consult the local mosques unless the first question is – do you want to have a say about a name change? You would just be setting them up for more vitriol when you change the name – people not wanting a name change will blame them entirely.

Without a name change, this topic will come up every year. Will fans like me be able to wear our jerseys with pride? Not really. We will still love our team no matter its name or rankings but keeping the name and branding will cause issues for us fans too. If we can’t wear our red and black with pride, I suspect many will lose interest.

Please consider these points when you vote about the name change . . .  long before the new season starts, so we, and you, can buy the new red and black kit!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Heather Hapeta

Here’s their bounced back reply: 24th April – I’ve received nothing more.

Kia ora,

Thanks for contacting New Zealand Rugby.

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to email us, we’ll do our best to respond to you as soon as possible, however we are currently experiencing a high volume of emails and may require an extra few days.

If your email is about All Blacks schedule, public appearances, tickets or for signed memorabilia for charity, please go to http://www.allblacks.com/Contact

For all other questions and queries, we’ll come back to you as soon  as possible.

Nga Mihi

  Info
  NZ Rugby Info

 

I’ll never use that ever again I proclaim in Cambodia

Only weeks away from 5 weeks of travel in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Cambodia, this morning saw me laughing at myself as I walked back home from my local Asian supermarket with a small bottle of Thai fish sauce.  The very ingredient that, in 2002, during my first trip to Cambodia, I swore I would never use again.

However, it’s not possible to cook Asian food without a good fish sauce, and today I’m making a sauce that requires it – and my current bottle is well past its use by date.

Travelling around the Battambang area on the back of a motorbike (as all 50 plus solo-travellers do, surely) my young guide took me to a village that specialised in fish: drying fish as well as making fish sauce.  It was the smell of these tiny fish, layered, in barrels that made me think ‘I will never use that again.’  Like many things I’ve said ‘I’ll never do again’, I of course did, and like today, do, do them, or use them, again and again :-).

fish sauce being prepared
fish drying in the heat from the sun