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Raising Responsible Travelers

Intelligent Travel’s Leslie Trew Magrew recently interviewed author Elizabeth Becker. Becker’s Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism examines our impact as travelers. In the interview, she sites France as a model of sustainable tourism, embracing the culture that people go to France to see. Cambodia exemplifies the worst case scenario, exploiting the sites and people to make more money. Governments and tourist offices are burdened with finding ways to balance the influx of tourists with the local resources. However, it is not just their burden. Responsible travel is our burden. As parents, sharing our love of travel with our families, what can we do to make sure that the places we visit now will still be an authentic experience for our children’s children?

paris

Sacre Coeur, Paris.

Responsible Travel: Proper Preparation

Using a Staycation to Better Understand a Vacation

One way Becker suggests approaching the issue of responsible tourism was taking a staycation.

My advice is to first be a tourist where you live. Explore the museums, the farms, the churches, the night life, the historic monuments–and then read up on local politics and history. If you’re interested in volunteering overseas, first volunteer at home. Then when you’re planning your next trip abroad, use that experience as a template and study up on the destination you’re about to visit.

I admit, other than a lower carbon footprint, I didn’t quite understand how this would help. Then I read a little more about responsible travel in Cambodia and the idea of visiting orphanages was brought up. In bold letters the site asked

THINK TWICE BEFORE VISITING AN ORPHANAGE …Would you go to visit an orphanage in your home country? Would somewhere that puts the best interests of the children first allow random visits from strangers?

This helped me put it in perspective. The way we would approach travel where we live, that’s how we should approach travel somewhere else. How do locals like to be treated? What types of things are off the tourist radar, but worth the visit? How do we connect to the community?

With children, seeing what their own community offers helps them make a connection outside of their community. An added benefit to staycations? Learning more about our family’s travel style.

Research

Becker mentions the Baedeker Travel Guides from the late 1800s and early 1900s. These “were written in consultation with historians and archaeologists who presumed the tourists wanted to immerse themselves in a country.” As opposed to many of today’s guides, the Baedeker Guides focused more on the history, culture, politics and even language of a country and only a small space for hotels and restaurants.

Keep this in mind when preparing for a trip. Make sure the amount of time searching for the perfect hotel is matched with taking the time to gain a greater understanding of the country itself. Include children in this preparation. Whip up relevant meals, read stories set in the location, look up phrases and photos online, and do a search on youtube for videos. This knowledge gives everyone, kids included, a better appreciation for the country and compassion for its people.

Responsible Travel: The Local Impact

It’s important to understand just how travel impacts the local community. Becker’s Cambodia example shows that their shortsightedness is actually destroying the very reason people started traveling there in the first place, “In Angkor, a thicket of new hotels has outpaced infrastructure and is draining the water table so badly the temples are sinking.”  And that’s just the beginning. The greed exhibited there has made Cambodia popular for sex tourism and even profiting from tours to the killing fields.

This is an extreme, but unfortunately, small example of the effects of tourism. An influx of tourists will have both a positive and negative impact to the local community, in every community. Responsible travelers, educating future travelers, must find an appropriate way to travel  with minimal negative impact.

The Ethical Traveler suggests to

Be aware of where your money is going, and patronize locally owned inns, restaurants, and shops. Try to keep your cash within the local economy, so the people you are visiting can benefit directly from your visit.

Fortunately, according to a list by Conde Nast’s Wendy Perrin of what kids say they really want, this should coincide nicely. They want a place that is completely different from home, preferring the experience of a local market where they can the varieties of food then going on a picnic at a park later, and purchasing souvenirs directly from the maker.

This topic is far larger than these simple points I mention above. Acknowledging our impact is the first step. By educating ourselves we can find the balance to make more right choices for our families and the places we visit.

This is definitely a subject I will return to again. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on responsible tourism and any challenges you might face as a traveling family.

If you are interested in other articles about this topic, please visit the following sites:

International Center for Responsible Tourism

The Sustainable Tourism Gateway

I-to-I Volunteering

This post is part of Friday Daydreaming at R We There Yet Mom?sexe vibrognail

Wordless Wednesday: Graffiti

graffiti

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Five Tips for Using the German Rail with Babies and Toddlers

 

rail updateFor the first two years of my son’s life, we relied solely on public transport to get from one place to another. We learned a lot using the German rail system both locally and nationally. Here are 5 cost-savings and/or sanity-savings tips for conquering the trains in Germany.

german rail with kids

Here we are using the Kinderabteil room for the first time. It was nice to be able to keep W safely buckled in his stroller while on the train.

1. Kids under 6 travel free. So do their strollers. The German Rail website sells a pass for 4-11 year olds, but if the child is under 6, they are free when traveling with an adult.

2. Some trains allow reservations. On those trains, try to book a “Kinderabteil”. This is a kid room. Instead of the typical 6-seat configuration, there are 4 regular seats and two-fold down seats. Strollers go where the seats fold down. On some trains and in first class the Kinderabteil is even larger than the regular 6-seat configuration areas, giving kids some space to move around without bothering others. If the Kinderabteil is not available for reservation, then it is first-come, first-served.

german rail with kids

On this train we noticed (see where the arrow is pointing) that the seats lift up to make space for things like strollers. Be on the lookout for that sign if you need the space. It’s usually at the end of the car.

3. Many tips for flying with kids are applicable for riding the train with kids. There are three things to consider about train travel that differs from plane travel: train seats don’t have seat belts, there are no liquid restrictions, and the train often stops. For children who are easily distracted, try to schedule train trips to avoid their nap times. I know anytime I thought my son was going to fall asleep, the upcoming stop was announced. If that didn’t wake him up the group of people exiting and entering the train sure did.

german rail with kids

This time we weren’t able to secure a Kinderabteil. Even though kids under 6 travel free, they can still get a seat reservation. We put our suitcase in the area in front of him for added protection.

4.  Kids love to snack. Unlike airports, train stations sell food and drinks for prices similar to what they are at regular stores. No need to shop at the grocery store to save prices before going to the train station! Snacks are also available on a lot of trains. They are sold by an employee walking the aisle and/or at the restaurant car. These snacks are a little pricier, but still reasonable.

5. In almost all cities in Germany shops are closed on Sundays and holidays . Main train stations (Hauptbahnhof) and airports are the exception. If diapers are running low on a Sunday, head to the Hauptbahnhof to replenish stock.

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday. Click the link to read more great tips.

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What now? Organizing Photos, Part 1

Memory Keeping Monday

When I travel, I often have at least three cameras with me: phone, point and shoot, and dSLR. It’s easy to take a lot of photos. How do I handle these when I get home?

I’m a strong believer in living with our photos. By that I mean, take them off of the computer or memory stick, and find a way that the whole family can enjoy them easily.

This three-part series is going to offer tips on how to choose from the hundreds (or thousands) of pictures taken on a single trip and turn them into a beautiful souvenir that your family will enjoy for years.

For this three-part series, I’m going to join in and tackle a large group of pictures I have sitting in my hard drive. In 2011 we went to Paris for 6 days for my sons first birthday. I haven’t done anything with those photos and will use this opportunity to create something(s) for our family.

Keep in mind, these tips are mostly focused on the photos. Future posts for Memory Keeping Monday will look at ways to organize journaling, ticket stubs and other odds and ends we collect while we travel.

Part 1: Organizing Photos

There are many reasons people take pictures when they travel.  It’s not always just to remember what we did. Some people want to take pictures to practice their photography techniques. Others use photography as a creative outlet. Still others use it as a way to connect with people. As family travelers, we often photograph our subjects in front of sites as proof that they were there. More often than not, we do a combination of all of these photos. I know I do.

Because we have so many reasons we take photos, it can be overwhelming when it comes time to sort through these photos. However, we have to sort through these photos. Unless we are good at taking exactly the perfect photo and only keeping the perfect photos, and never taking too many photos, there are a lot of photos on a single trip that we just don’t need. Let’s say, for example, we come back from a week’s vacation with 600 photos. That’s a lot. It’s not even 100 a day. If we were to make a slide show, allotting 1 second per photos, that would be a TEN minute slide show! If we were to make a book allowing 4 pictures per page, that would be 125 PAGES! Filling that space with photos that don’t contribute to the story of our trip is a waste. That’s why we have to curate our travel photo collection.

Before looking through the photos, take a few minutes to think of the final product you want to create. Do you want to spotlight your best photographs? Do you want an album of the things you did ranging from the smallest details to the biggest moments? Do you want to tell a story, or several stories, of the best parts of your trips? Will you possibly want to do a few of these things?

organizing photos

 

 

While going through your photos and reliving your memories, you may change your mind and want to go in a different direction than what you originally planned. That’s ok.

What I’m doing: We went to Paris for my son’s first birthday, which is close to Halloween. Since Halloween isn’t celebrated in Paris (except for some nightclubs which aren’t really appropriate for a one-year old) we spent his first Halloween at Disney. So, I want to create some kind of memory piece using a lot of the photos, but I know I will also want to use some of my favorite photos for other things (to put in frames, his birthday album…)

Now that we have an idea of what we want to do, let’s look at our photos. (If you haven’t already, upload all of your photos from all of your cameras into one folder on your computer.)

1. Delete bad photos. The first round of deletes will be to delete all the blurry photos, too dark photos, accidental picture photo, or any you just know you don’t want. If this is too hard, save all the photos in a separate folder that you can access later if you want to. You probably won’t access them.

What I’m doing: I started with around 400 photos.  I only deleted about 15 photos.

2. Group the remaining photos by a theme  into folders. If you have more than 100 photos, you will want to break them down into smaller sections. Look through the photos to see if any natural stories can be told from this. Some trips lend themselves more to a day by day story. Some stories are told better by themes. Figure out what works best for you and your trip. Keep each folder group to around 50-100 photos (unless it’s day by day then each folder will just have the day’s photos). Every photo should belong to a group. If you have a few stray photos either make them their own folder, put them in with another folder, or delete them altogether if you discover that there isn’t really any value to them.

What I’m doing: I have them categorized chronologically in sections. There are three folders: regular Paris photos, Halloween and Disneyland, and Birthday.

3. Work through individual folders to delete multiples. Now’s the time to fine-tune your individual folders. Delete any multiples that don’t tell a story. Don’t feel that you have to delete all multiples, though. If a grouping of photos tell a great story, keep them! But you don’t need 10 photos of front the Taj Mahal to know you were at the Taj Mahal. (My rule of thumb is to limit a grouping or series of photos to 3 photos.)

Added tip: Take notes to why you are keeping the ones you are keeping.

At this point, I always like to make sure that at least each person in my family has one photo from the day, so even if I don’t have a great picture of myself, I will keep one in.

What I’m doing: Since I know I want to end up with some kind of album, I am still going to keep a lot of photos. For the Halloween/Disney part I started out with about 80 photos. That’s really a lot for 1 day, even a Halloween/Disney/Paris day. Looking at these 80 photos I know that I want to have pictures of the theme park, signs of Halloween, signs that we are in France (and not Orlando or California), and my son meeting some Disney characters. After deleting a large group, I was left with about 60 photos. For me, that is still too much for one day. I realized that a large chunk of photos I was keeping were from a 5 minute interaction my son had with Goofy during lunch. After deleting more photos, I was left was around 43 photos that I feel give a good representation of the day with not too many theme repeats.

organizing photos

 

 

If you feel like you aren’t deleting enough, it’s ok. I know this is hard to do and we will have plenty of time to narrow down the pictures again. But for now, delete the ones you know you do not need.

4. Now pick out your favorites. Within your theme/individual photos create a folder called “favorites”. Put copies of your top 5-10 photos (or less!) into that folder. There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason to this. It’s just your favorite photos.

What I’m doing: I kept a picture from the beginning of the day, the end of the day, a picture of my son in his costume and one with him and pluto, and a photo of all 5 of us.

organizing photos

 

 

5. Repeat with each theme/individual folder until you have gone through all of your folders.

NOTE: While going through this process, it’s a good time to copy into their own folders any photos that you may use for other purposes completely. For example:

  • A folder for blog photos, facebook photos, or tripadvisor reviews.
  • Any photo projects you may have that are not trip-specific. For example, I keep track of “where we sleep“. If I have a photo in a hotel room, I put it aside so that I at least one photo from each hotel we’ve stayed at separately. I also put aside one picture of each of my children from each trip we take. I also want to have a separate record for his first birthday, so I’m keeping copies of those in a separate folder to sort through later.

What I’m doing: I went through all of my separate photos for my Paris 2011 trip. My kids were sleeping when I went through the “Halloween/Disney folder” and I was able to concentrate on the photos. They woke up by the time I was going through my other two folders, so I didn’t delete as much as I wanted to because I didn’t want to accidentally delete something. This is our reality. This is why organizing photos is so difficult. That’s ok, just do what you can do.

Also, while I was going through my regular Paris folder, I discovered so many pictures of my son that just show his one-year old personality so strongly. I didn’t want to delete all of these, even though there are repetitions. Not sure what I’m going to keep, but I want to have the choices there for later. I also made sure that I had at least one photo of the sites we saw, usually the photo was of one of us in front of the place (or inside), but if I liked a picture I took of the building, I kept it.

I started with roughly 400 photos and I was able to get to around 200 photos, 35-40 a day.

Now that we have the first step towards creating a souvenir of our trip, having the photos organized, come back next Monday to see what we have to do next.

 

 

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Sakura

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I don’t normally post over the weekend, but I wanted to share a picture of the cherry blossoms we have in town.

I lived in Okinawa a few years growing up. One of my favorite memories was the annual cherry blossom festival. Cherry blossom in Japanese is SAKURA. It’s one of those things, since I was so young when I lived there, that’s just part of my vocabulary. When I was older I learned of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. These trees in D.C. were a gift from the Japanese and a sign of the friendship between the US and Japan.

I always equated “cherry blossom” with Japan. Imagine my surprise when I moved to Germany and saw these pink trees one spring day. Even then I was in denial that these were cherry blossoms. I think I even told my husband that these are really similar to the cherry blossoms we saw in Okinawa’s Sakura festivals. I eventually learned that cherry blossom trees exist both outside of Japan and outside of Washington D.C. Japan often gifts cherry blossom trees to other countries and cities.

I wonder now, what brought these cherry blossoms to this small section of my town in Germany. Was it also a gift? Dusseldorf  Germany has the largest Japanese expat population in Germany and is a bit south of where I live. Did someone from Dusseldorf transport them over here? I like to think that my closest cherry blossom street was also a gift from a passing Japanese business person. Perhaps they knew that these trees would bring someone right back to their childhood and the Sakura festivals. Whatever or whoever brought them here, domo arrigato.les plugs anauxsous vetement sexy femininwest palm beach real estate news