Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Outside views of the US

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Whenever I travel to another country, one of my favorite things to read about is the cultural practices that may be surprising to Americans (e.g. how late people show up to things, what topics to avoid in conversation, etc). The Atlantic has an interesting article about how guidebooks in other countries portray the US. Some of our practices look rather silly when written out:

When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.

Also, Quora users were asked the question What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America? which got responses on similar subjects. One thing someone found surprising:

Immediate check and taking away empty plates. For me this was incredibly rude as back home you never take the empty plates before everyone who’s dining has finished their meals. Also, back home one asks for the check, so when waiters bring you the check here without you asking can feel very much like you’re being rushed.

The inverse phenomenon always takes some getting used to in other countries. The biggest surprising thing for me in Germany/Austria/Czech Republic was their distaste for tap water. In Munich, the water comes from the Bavarian Alps and is certainly drinkable, but it’s almost never served. For a country that seemed to be doing so many green things, their dependence on bottled water was a surprising omission.

Phuket Breathing

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

A Russian wedding videographer made this beautiful video from a visit to Thailand:

Phuket Breathing // Thailand from artisland on Vimeo.

It’s a four-minute vacation.

Vacation Time

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Collecting a bit of data today, here’s my usage of vacation days over the last few years:

I used less than half of my typical amount of vacation time last year, even though my rate of accrual actually went up in February. This trend will reverse in 2011.

Opting Out

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I opted out of the the full-body scan at the airport today.

For some reason, the line I was in had the body scan, but the one next to me didn’t. I was directed toward the scanner, and at the last moment I decided to ask the TSA employee if it was too late to opt out. She informed me I could opt out, but I’d have to get the full pat-down, which I acknowledged. I don’t care too much about my privacy in this context, but these scanners strike me as the epitome of the security/industrial complex, and I figured that I would just be supporting it by going along with them. I think this strategy actually makes some sense, as when I opted out, the TSA employee asked me why I was opting out. I hadn’t really thought about it, so I just said “because I want to”. Hopefully that didn’t come off as too rude. Importantly, after hearing my answer, she wrote down some sort of note on a piece of paper and checked a box, presumably marking that another person had opted out and putting my lame reason in some category. Anyway, the pat-down was pretty invasive, but the people were very professional, so it wasn’t so bad.


Monday, January 4th, 2010

I’m trying to learn some Italian, in hopes of visiting Italy this year or soon after. I’m well aware that I could visit Italy without knowing much of any, but I’ve found travel to be far more enjoyable when I can at least attempt the language. Italian is rather close to Spanish, so I’m hoping it won’t be as difficult as learning most other languages would be, However, I stumbled upon this sentence in a phrasebook:

If you speak Spanish or even Portuguese, be careful as there are a lot of words that look and sound almost the same in these languages, but convey very different meanings. I.E: Spanish guardar (“to store, shelve”) vs It. guardare (“to see, watch”) and salir (“to get out”) vs salire (“to go up”); Spanish caldo (“soup”) vs It. caldo (“warm”)

I’ve heard this from others, too. I still think Spanish will help more than it hurts, especially since it gives me a better chance at guessing the meaning of an unknown word.


My year in cities, 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

See also: my 2008 list.

Here’s my 2009 list, not in any particular order. Cities written in bold are ones I hadn’t been before (as far as I know).

  • San Francisco, CA
  • Mountain View, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Berkeley, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Stamford, CT
  • Avon, CT
  • Boston, MA
  • Plymouth, MA
  • Bethlehem, PA
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • Tahoe, CA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Fresno, CA
  • Santiago, Chile
  • ViƱa del Mar, Chile
  • Santiago, Chile
  • Vaparaiso, Chile
  • Punta de Choros, Chile
  • La Serena, Chile
  • Valle de Elqui, Chile
  • Dallas, TX
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Paris, France
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Toledo, Spain
  • Cordoba, Spain
  • Granada, Spain
  • Badger, CA (King’s Canyon National Park)
  • San Diego, CA

(Criteria is that I have to spend a night or a significant portion of a day in the city for it to count. Suburbs rounded up to the nearest city at my discretion)

This has been an amazing year of travel for me. I don’t forsee matching that in 2010, but who knows.

Some places I’d like to go next year, off the top of my head:

  • Washington, DC
  • Portland, OR
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Italy
  • UK
  • Ireland
  • Santa Monica, CA

All these are possibilities in addition to trips to Avon, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, Boston, and maybe New York. I haven’t actually made any travel plans for 2010, though.

Brian in Chile

Friday, February 27th, 2009

My brother just arrived in Chile and will be there until July. He just started a blog, which may interest some of you. He writes blog entries a bit like emails, but that’s OK :)

Obama mural in Denver

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Late at night during my Denver trip in November, we found this Obama mural in a parking lot:

(click for full size)

It says “PREZ” on his ring.

From the Bradley Airport security checkpoint

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Guy in line: Do I need to take my hat off to go through security?
TSA Guy: What team is it for?
Guy in line: Giants.
TSA Guy: Yes.

That amused me.

My year in cities, 2008

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Following kottke’s post by the same name, here’s my list (not in any order):

  • San Francisco, CA
  • Mountain View, CA
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Bethlehem, PA
  • Washington, DC
  • Manassas, VA (or somewhere around there)
  • Denver, CO
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Yarmouth, MA
  • Avon, CT
  • Newark, NJ
  • Anaheim, CA
  • New York, NY

Criteria is that I had to either spend the night or a significant portion of a day there.

Some possibilities for next year:

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Chile?

Plus repeat trips to Cambridge, NYC, Avon, and Bethlehem. There’s a chance of making it to Santa Monica or LA at some point, too. I have vague ambitions to visit New Orleans or Chicago at some point, too, but neither are really on the horizon at the moment.