Film and the World

geek, History, musings, Travel

Everything about the magic and history of movies has tied it to opening portals into other lives, other times, other places, and completely fabricated lands. Photography opened these doors in the 1800s when the first photos were taken of places and distributed around the world. They not only captured a fleeting time, but they also shared new doorways to other places. In less than one hundred years the world would move into wanting more and more of these portals to better view ourselves and others.

From the earliest of movies we played with concepts and story lines that represented ourselves but also others. In the perspective of travel, men and women went around the world with their cameras and equipment and they documented what they witnessed. National Geographic became what it is and was because we could open more doorways than ever before.

A Young Kenyan Woman Holds Her Pet Deer In Mombassa, March 1909
A Young Kenyan Woman Holds Her Pet Deer In Mombassa, March 1909

These stories along with thousands of others, images, and film, have been an undeniable driving force for my own identity and desire to see the world. As I have said before, National Geographic has been a huge influence on my life and desire to travel. Yet, it has not been the only one.

Recently I have been rewatching movies I loved as a child and I have noticed a very important ache in my heart as I adventure with beloved childhood characters, an ache to experience and see what is being shown.

Today I watched Mulan probably for the 100th time since seeing it in the theater at seven and falling madly in love with Chinese culture. Through the scope of a child she was this amazing warrior that saved everyone but also beautiful and smart and inspiring. The perfect blend of everything I wanted to be as a girl. But she lacked fear, and had more determination than anything. She wanted to be a girl worth living for herself and to this day I know her persona has influenced me to live life even if I am scared.

Chinese woman – Tartar or Manchu – John Thomas 1869

This week I also watched The Mummy again, probably for the first time in at least a decade, and I also felt that familiar ache. I wanted to be Evelyn running around the desert reading ancient manuscripts and fighting baddies. Once again I admired her spunk and tenacity, her intellect and determination. Her ability to face fear and move forward.

No doubt neither movie is an ideal exploration of a culture or a time. Lord knows the Mummy has a white savior issue. However, they have a central theme that I think is vital for girls to know, that it’s important to be brave and it’s important to do what you know is right for you. I think of what my life would be like if I had not been exposed to these movies, or other not so great movies like Cutthroat Island, I would not be the same me.

See, when I could see through these portals into other worlds I realized that I too could be something of note. I too could get out there into a man’s world and be all I wanted to be. I did not have to set in the mold society, or my conservative family, or the patriarchy had decided to make for me. I could break that mold and make my own journey. That is huge for a child that is growing up in a rural area with limited means. It is huge for any child just trying to understand it is okay to be them.

While I think movies and media can be double-edged, where people travel based on myths and stereotypes and miss the real story, I also know that these stories have launched a thousand courageous people into the world. And I hope that these stories have also allowed people to open their hearts and minds to others in ways that other media has not.

I think a lot on the significance of representation in stories and how vital it is that we see a wide variety of people in media. If all else, there needs to be a statistically even representation of all peoples in the media. This is vital to the long term health of the world.

As we become more global we need to share the platform with more and more people to more fairly share our lives and times. Having more women play the heroine has benefited my confidence in living my life. Having women of color share their stories creates compassion and understanding no matter the distance in time, space, and cultures. Having queer characters allows for them to be understood, humanized, and loved. Having differently abled characters opens up the eyes to better reflection on our society and our compassion. Doorways open many routes for us to grow as a culture.

What I hope for the future is to continue to see these inspiring tales and stronger sharing of differing stories and cultures. I hope that more doors open so we can respect and love one another more whole and I hope that all of us will take the time to look and listen.

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Planning for the Unknown

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, France, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

We live in an exciting time of where we have endless information at our fingertips through social media, news sources, books, and endless other methods. At any given second I can go on my phone or online and see what is happening in many areas of the world. In real time I can explore what is happening at a place I plan on visiting.

This is awesome and equally problematic.

From a travel planner perspective, we use the most up to date, thorough and well-researched information at our disposal. Coming from reliable sources like travel guides, national tourism boards, official websites, rail aggregators and other “first hand” knowledge sources. For the rest of the public, their perspective on a new place comes from a video or social media post, perhaps a news article from a well-reputed magazine. Guess what fails to be in the articles and videos? Thorough information on how to get to, explore, or enjoy a specific region.

No doubt this is not a problem that content creators have to fix alone. Because when well-meaning Conde Nast makes a list of places to see before 2020, they don’t expect people to just cherry pick and randomly show up to Machu Picchu. They do think that people research or look into the complexity of getting to Machu Picchu on train, or foot, or bus. But many don’t, because in our world of instant gratification people don’t always understand that other parts of the world have more layers to their exploration.

Like any good history geek I love researching an answer for myself or my clients. I look at the stories that made up a place. I look at train schedules. I call locals to get information on schedules that I can’t find online. I look at sunset and sunrise times to explain to a client when they can get that perfect view. I check weather patterns to explain what they should pack. I love this research. Granted, I get a little more in the weeds than is necessary, thus, I encourage you to find a balance as you set off into the world.

Here are my tips for researching unknown place.

  1. Go to the library or book store and buy the most recently published guide on the area that you are interested in.
    • Pro-tip: ask the bookstore clerk if an updated version of that guide is coming out BEFORE you travel and ORDER it so that you have the best vetted information for your actual trip.
  2. READ the crap out of that book. Make copies, take pictures with your phone, make notes. Learn everything you can so you know what needs to be done when you’re boots on the ground in Argentina headed to Patagonia.
    • Pro-tip: I use sticky notes in a color coordinated pattern to mark places of interest or areas I am headed to. That way I know where to get information quickly. For example, I will use a large sticky note to mark a region and write the name above the edge of the page. Then I know green stickies are dining in Delhi, pink are activities, etc.
  3. Ask Around to people that travel and see if someone you know has been to such and such place and ask them for recommendations. This might save you time, money, and stress when you know someone else was able to enjoy the same vacation or trip you were planning.
    • Pro-tip: vet all the information you get to make sure it’s accurate and safe. Make a list of suggestions and then read up on what your friend/family suggested.
  4. Read reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews offer TRUE experience feedback, but remember that people are more likely to complain online versus compliment so sometimes complaints will reflect a slanted view, good or bad, of a company.
    • Pro tip: if you see complaints ask yourself if it matters if “the room is small” “if the restroom only had a small shower” or if “the price was insane” because sometimes what bothers someone else will not matter to you.
  5. Utilize hotels and locals by asking questions on dining, activities, weather, and how to enhance your vacation! No one knows better than locals on where to eat, drink, and enjoy your best life.
    • Email your hotel, tour guide, or organizer well in advance so that you have time to get a response and make arrangements to enjoy the best parts of wherever you are going.
  6. Plan for emergencies and extra time. There is nothing more frightening to me than having someone with a schedule that has no extra time built in. Why? Because if one thing goes wrong, like a train delay or a volcanic eruption (true experience from yours truly) you won’t have any time to make up for time lost. I always suggest having at least one back up flight or one back up train between you and when you need to be somewhere. YES you may have more wasted time, but you WILL be less stressed about your travels. Cool bonus: people watching is always enjoyable.
    • Pro-tip: don’t cram everything into one trip. Pick your favorite options and stick to a simpler plan. You will feel less stressed and exhausted, and when you slow down truly magical things happen! There is a reason why EVERY tour company offers some free time on varying days and afternoons because they need extra time for the unplanned and everyone needs to slow down.
  7. Teach yourself the customs, some key phrases, social norms, and other details before you go. Nothing will make you feel more insecure than thinking you have pissed someone off or that you are awkwardly getting through life. Read up on dos and don’ts and mentally note how to behave.
  8. Most importantly, have fun! Laugh off your mistakes, learn as much as you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In my experience, things work out and you always have a phenomenal time!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Girl Scouts Celebrates the Sense of Adventure

musings

If I have learned anything in three and a half seasons of Girl Scouts, it is that Girl Scouts embodies the sense of adventure that I feel every woman should crave. Which is extremely important for the development and future of girls from any and all backgrounds.

Most people know Girl Scouts for the wild cookie season of spring, where girls go door to door or stand outside attempting to sell several hundred boxes of Thin Mints and Samoas. What most people don’t realize is that the cookies are a gateway to much more than earning money, they’re keys to a world of opportunity. In cookie sales the girls make marketing plans, they create sales strategies, they pull on past experience to improve year over year, they learn about overhead and profit margins, they vote on choices and budgeting. Ultimately, the girls vote on how to use the money, where to donate Hometown Hero cookies (donated money/cookies) and what is a fair way to work on their goals.

Do you know WHAT the girls choose to do with their money?

Year after year, my girls, along with thousands of other troops and girls, choose to travel. Sometimes far, sometimes near. They figure out the coast and set goals to TRAVEL. They want adventures and new activities, they want to see new things and learn something. They seek adventure!

Girl Scouts has always been the type of organization to foster adventure and challenges for girls. Whether it was to learn outdoor skills and camping, or to learn vital household skills, Girl Scouts has moved millions of women from generation to generation into becoming the best they can be. Girl Scouts has turned girls that limited means into CEOs, Politicians, Thought Leaders, and much more. Girl Scouts has encouraged girls to expand their horizons, educate themselves, learn about their world, advocate for positive change, and so much more!

By these standard and these longterm goals girls are able to truly fulfill more of their full potential, and be all they can. The truth is that these young and amazing girls learn so much just by their own exploration and goal setting that they make themselves into the adventurous and successful women they become.

Celebrating the sense of adventure that Girl Scouts does is a goal and lifestyle we can all celebrate.

Why I’ll Always Travel Solo

family, love, outdoors, Travel

A lot of people seek out someone that is a reflection of them in a relationship. Reflections show you…well you…they don’t always help you examine your own back. Instead, I have the spotlight relationship, a person that shines light on where I can improve, and helps me build myself into a better person.

It’s fun to have someone that loves all the same things as you, but it’s equally fun to have someone to teach you new things and visa versa. My husband is someone that would prefer a night in to a night out. A day of video games to a day of hiking. A staycation to a camping trip. If you can guess, I like the opposite.

We have done plenty of trips together such as cruising, Santa Fe Road Tripping, and our Honeymoon to Mexico. However, there are journeys and activities Mr. Stillway will never be as keen on and that means I get to do one of my favorite things, traveling solo.

I love traveling with Ryan, but I also love being on my own in the world. I love the thrill of being independent and free to travel and do as I please. I love the opportunities and strength and wonders that it brings. I will always continue to travel by myself as long as opportunity allows.

I plan on, in 2020 to hike the Inca Trail. I plan on taking work trips with or without my colleagues. I plan on going to places like China and India as Ryan and many friends don’t hold the same interest in them as I do. In the decades to come I plan on checking off places like Antarctica, Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, Jordan, and many other places.

Traveling solo means time to reflect and learn the deepest parts of myself. It makes me stand taller and hold my head higher. It encourages me that if I can plan a trip halfway around the world, I sure as hell can kick ass at work and school. It helps me encourage my fellow woman and girl to dream of all the possibilities they also have in the world!

Where are you going?

Happy Travels!

There is Always a Cost

Travel

Here is a cold hard tip for travel.

It costs.

It costs money to go.

Or points that came from spending money.

It costs fuel, gas, electricity.

It costs for your food.

It costs for someone to clean up after you.

It costs for someone to make you food.

It costs for someone to fly the plane, to run the train.

It costs money to travel.

I don’t mean to sound like a jaded children’s poet, but I think there is a disconnect from the thrifty and the reality of expense.

While I love saving money, just like most people when I travel, I think it’s also important to understand that there is a minimum cost of everything. This minimum costs has to come from somewhere.

I say this because I notice trends in the travel industry that look like something too good to be true, and really are too good to be true.

For instance, one may see amazingly cheap resorts in Mexico. Which is great for those of us with limited means. Yet when you break down the real cost of some of these vacation packages, there are added costs. There are costs to how well the people are paid, less profit can mean lower or stagnant wages.

Then there is the AirBnB mess that i constantly hear about. Someone books a house to save a little money, and then they find out that the place wasn’t what they thoughts, gets cancelled at the last minute, or the locations ends of being some type of illegal renting situation. It’s not that every AirBnB is bad, but that sometimes the “discount” isn’t really a discount.

From my work in the travel industry the best deals and most security come from doing the following:

  • Joining loyalty programs for hotels, airlines, resorts etc.
    • These are usually free and they often offer things like better rates, free Wi-Fi, discounts on future bookings, points accumulations etc.
  • Book a package
    • Companies like FunJet work with airlines like Southwest to create better rates for flights to popular areas like Cancun, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. This doesn’t always save a significant amount of money, but it can have bonuses like resort credits, spa credits, free transfers from the airport etc.
  • Go in the off-season
    • research pricing in advance to find the seasons that are lower. This can sometimes save 50% off air and hotels, versus going around Spring Break or winter holidays.
  • Book Ahead
    • If you DO have to go in the high-season, then make sure you book as early as possible. This usually can save you a significant amount on your rates, and ensure availability.
  • Book Last Minute
    • If you wind up with some extra vacation time to burn, a last minute booking can prove to be really economical and get you into places wanting to fill a spot. This works best in shoulder and off-season time-frames.
  • Find Hidden Gems
    • Sometimes the best experiences are away from the crowds and the chaos of popular areas. For instance, instead of high-end lodges in Africa for $1,000 per night, one could have a similar experience at a lesser-known lodge for closer to $300 per night. Sometimes the lodges don’t have the luxury pools and details of the luxury lodges, but they do have fantastic views, wildlife experiences, and animal viewing that is sure to amaze.

What are your budget finds that don’t risk losing out?

Happy Travels!

Support Women on Your Travels

Travel

As I look at my next adventure around the world I often take moral and ethical choices to heart. When I have to go with a guide or a group, I want to make sure that company supports women domestically and internationally and that my money goes to lifting women up.

I have talked about in previous posts the importance of acknowledging workers and people in other parts of the world. Today, I want to draw sharp focus on how you and I can support women better when we are on the road.

  1. Bring supplies that go to schools, and if possible, to schools that focus on girls.
    • Pack for a Purpose organizes donations for local schools in developing regions around the world. Their comprehensive list makes drop offs easy, and even resorts in places like Riviera Maya offer drop of spots. This includes where we honeymooned in Mexico, Sandos Caracol. There are also drop points in the United States, or you can send some stuff with a traveling friend!
  2. Choose tours that support women’s arts and initiatives
    • Companies like G Adventures offer tours to women’s weaving co-ops in Peru, or cooking classes in Spain. Ultimately this connects travelers to life-changing experiences, and supports local non-profits. Make sure if you are visiting crafters to buy a small purchase or two as a phenomenal souvenir and to continue the initiative.
  3. Do some voluntourism
    • If you have extra time a little can go a long way to support a cause that supports women. A few days to a few years can leave positive impacts. However, make sure you do your research and your mind is in the right place for aiding the country you’re visiting, not yourself.
    • An example is working directly with girls and women in India, or working with kids in South Africa to have nature experiences.
  4. You don’t even have to travel
    • If you are planted for a while, the simple truth is that you don’t need to travel to help people in need. Your community probably has numerous organizations that could use some help.
    • Think of women’s clinics that just need a loving hand, or a domestic violence shelter you could sew blankets and scarves for.
    • Maybe take some time to help a Girl Scout troop learn a new skill or volunteer at your local school.
    • Even simple things like food banks, diaper banks, and medical clinics could use some additional kindness and helping hands.

While these are just a few examples of how to get out there and support women, remember the biggest and most important goal is lifting each other up and supporting those around you. We don’t need stickers or shirts or roses and candy for that matter, we need all people to value all people as equals. Feminism is the radical notion that all women are people ~Marie Shear.

Women in Travel

History, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Even in 2019 I sometimes get a second look when I gush about my love of traveling alone. While it’s no lie that there is an inherent risk to traveling solo, male or female, it is not enough reason to scare me home.

Any and all life is an inherent risk and I know my fellow women travelers have acknowledged this as they have adventured into the world. At the end of the day, it’s more worthwhile to take the risk and fail, than to stay home and do nothing.

Amelia Earhart would not have flown and been the first woman to cross the Atlantic with a plane had she decided to follow the naysayers and stayed home. Sacagawea would not have been immortalized for her lifesaving translation and support to the Lewis and Clark expedition, and they would not have survived without her.

Nellie Bly helped change the face and conditions of mental health but she also broke the notorious record of “Around the World in 80 Days” and did it all in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds to be precise. All of this was accomplished in 1889 before the modern comforts of travel that we know today. Bly traveling by train, ships, horseback, rickshaw, mules, and maybe some luck! She broke a record at the time, and for countless generations she has inspired women and girls to push themselves into records and goals.

Jeanne BarĂ© was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 1700s. She did this hiding as a man and with her lover working as botanists as they sailed the world working for the French government. Eventually she was found out, but instead of nasty repercussions the Navy saluted “this extraordinary woman”  with a pension and encouragements.

Countless other women broke the mold to live the lives they wanted. Some simply did work in their home towns and did some travel on the side, like Margaret (Molly Brown).

Let’s not forget Mary Wollstonecraft and her writings on Switzerland in the 18th century. Then there is her daughter, Mary Shelley, who lived abroad for many years, and had her own mishaps and adventures in Europe. They did the best they could in their time to bring their own lives depth, and share their growth with others.

My own love for travel started with books and stories of these such great individuals. They defied everything that they had been brought up to believe they should be. It’s not just for them that they lived their lives but for countless others that they inspired. It is because of them that millions of women have decided to move forward on their dreams, their goals, their fight for rights.

Traveling is not just about seeing the world. It is about learning oneself along the road. It is about finding confidence and inspiration. It is learning that you can in fact do everything for yourself. You can in fact be safe and stable. You can in fact be a solo woman traveler and explore the world on your own.

Happy Travels!

Spring Break – To Be Avoided?

Caribbean, Florida, Travel, United States

Spring break is coming up for most Americans this month or next. Sometimes known as Easter Break, this annual tradition gives students and their overworked teachers a break from each other.

For the rest of us, we scramble to find care for our children and stumble into our jobs. And others of us are lucky enough to escape with our kids to tropical locations.

My advice, stay home.

Why?

Well unless you have a really good incentive for a break, it’s such a busy time of year that running away may not actually be enjoyable.

The Caribbean and Florida are the top locations for Spring Breakers, and if that awful movie sharing the same name is an indication, there is mayhem in them parts. Not that hotels and resorts don’t avoid spring break vacationers, but it’s hard to inhibit.

No doubt, at about every resort, will be those having too much fun and puking in the pool. No doubt. And on top of that rates are insane at most places in March and April, at times they can be almost double due to popularity.

At some point the vomit inhibits the fun. And let’s face it, do most college and high school aged people REALLY know how to hold their liquor?

If you do have a longer break, or decide to make it longer, there is a chance to hit the road to Europe or further afield. My only suggestion is to remember the travel time to get to and from, and how that can eat into time on the ground. A “week away” quickly can turn into only five says doing anything. And for around $1,000 a round trip plane ticket, you want to make sure it’s worthwhile.

This isn’t to say that fun can’t be had. For instance, many other locations are divine in spring, such as the Carolinas or the Bay Area. These places may not offer the surf and sand, but they can offer an enjoyable escape.

While I know all of you are itching for warmer weather, remember that sometimes good things come to those who wait.