12 12 12 Is Coming, Like It Or Not

12 12 12

12 12 12 is more than just next Wednesday and an unusual calendar date. The Mayan calendar has it as a time of transformation and evolution. Basically the end of time as we know it, Mayan’s believed 12/12/12 was also the beginning of a new cycle of evolution for planet earth, humanity and the cosmos. With a focus on the planet surviving, a number of events and promotions are planned by organizations and travel service providers.

12/12/12, The Concert For Sandy Relief
An all-star roster of who’s who in music will be on hand for The Concert For Sandy Relief.

Appearing via free simulcast in hurricane-affected area theaters will be Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and others. An estimated 1 billion others worldwide will view the Madison Square Garden concert via television and live streaming video.

A variety of corporate sponsors are hosting the event to raise money for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, providing financial assistance, material and know-how to organizations helping victims of Hurricane Sandy throughout the affected area.

$12 Hotel Stay
At the B Ocean Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, 12/12/12 is a time to take advantage of exclusive $12 promotions, from room rates to food and beverage offerings. Travelers making reservations on December 12, 2012, for stays through September 30, 2013, will receive a third night at $12* (with the purchase of two nights at the best available rate), daily breakfast buffet for $12 per person and two signature cocktails for $12 when using the promotional code 121212.

They have the right attitude too. “Offering an added perk surrounding this fun, highly anticipated, one-time event is the perfect way to cap off an exciting year filled with accolades, new opportunities and optimism,” said B Ocean General Manager Eduardo Fernandez in a statement.Marry Me at 12 Event
Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel lets couples ready to take the plunge or those renewing their vows do so in a very special way. Called the Marry Me At 12 event, the landmark hotel will be setting up a wedding chapel in the historic Barbershop on December 12 at 12 p.m., complete with an officiate to marry couples or renew vows.

Celebrating couples will get flowers, Champagne toasts, and upgraded wedding night accommodations for $99 a night.

$12 On Board Credit Per Day, Per Stateroom
Royal Caribbean International has a special offer for those who book a cruise vacation on 12/12/12, Book any cruise in 2013 on any ship, to any destination and they will give you $12 on board credit per day, per stateroom. Book a suite and they double the offer to $24 on board credit per day per stateroom.

Third Annual Spirit Channeler’s World Peace Cruise
Speaking of cruises, the Third Annual Spirit Channeler’s World Peace Cruise, named the
12:12:12 Gateway to Ascension Cruise sets sail from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on December 8 on a seven-day Caribbean sailing aboard Holland America’s Eurodam visiting San Juan, St. Thomas, Grand Turk and the Bahamas

Interdimensional channelers, spiritual teachers and healing practitioners will celebrate the new age of peace with a World Peace Ceremony on the beach in St. Thomas on 12/12/12
at 12:12 p.m. as they join “millions praying for peace around the globe!” says promoter AlistCalendar on its web site.

Before we proceed, let’s review some wiki on things Mayan-related:

Channeler- inspiration from extra-dimensional beings or spirits, whereby one is a medium or channel for such an entity.

Skulls- claimed to exhibit paranormal phenomena by some members of the New Age movement, and have often been portrayed as such in fiction.

Crystals- act as transducers, transforming and transmuting energy from one form to another. Quartz crystals in particular behave as capacitors, storing energy in a form, which can later be discharged.

2012 Mayan Marriage of Many
Admittedly, having an anniversary date of 12/12/12 would be a great idea for memory-challenged couples afraid of forgetting the important day. That won’t be a problem with the celebration of love with a marriage en mass for 12 couples in Belize at the Maya ruins of Cahal Pech on 12-12-12.

The Mayan Marriage of Many
has prices starting at $7,530 per couple including transportation,
accommodations, meals, a cocktail and dinner reception, orientation breakfast, adventure tours and more.

Crystal Skull Event
Oracle Stone Productions produces international events that bring together ancient crystal skulls, Mayan elders and people in the metaphysical community “to create a synergy for peace, a higher vibration and consciousness shift for our planet,” says the organization’s website. Hosting events for 09/09/09, 10/10/10 and 11/11/11, Oracle has a 12/12/12 event too.

During the 12/12/12 Extravaganza, vendors will be selling crystals, crystal skulls, crystal bowls, jewelry, self-help books, healing modalities, healing sessions, aura readings and more.




Not only the last of the alliteration dates for 100 years, but also a significant number to the Maya as well, the number 12 is believed to be the number of strength, conviction, absoluteness and finality.

[Image Credit- Flickr User elycefeliz]

Mental Math: Easy Rules Of Thumb For Converting Currency

Being in a new country is full of enough culture shock – trying to remember how many dollars to the krona doesn’t need to be part of it.

After all, constantly whipping out a calculator (well, a cellphone) and spending five minutes trying to figure out if that sandwich is really a good price is a waste of your valuable vacation time.

To make things easier on you, here are some basic rules of thumb to help you guesstimate the exchange rates in a sampling of different countries.

It’s important to note that currencies fluctuate all the time, so these rules of thumb should not be used as actual foundations for financial transactions. They were based off the most recent exchange rates as of midweek on the week of November 5, 2012. If you actually want to know what the exchange rate is for a given country, look it up. And if you want to know again a week later, look it up again.

These rules of thumb are intended to help you quickly do the mental math required to figure out if, yes, that sandwich is a good deal. Or, when you withdraw 400 pesos from the ATM, roughly how much you’re taking out in US dollars.

Disclaimer: this post is admittedly America-centric, but the reality is that’s my perspective as a traveler. I hope this will help others as it’s helped me.

Asia
China: Divide all prices quoted in yuan by about 6 for a dollar estimate.

Japan: Divide all prices quoted in yen by 100 and then tack on about 25% for a dollar estimate.

India: It’s slightly more than 50 rupees to the dollar.

Thailand
: Roughly, divide the prices you see in bahts by about 30 and you’ll get the dollar value.

South Korea: Divide Korean prices by about 1,000 for the USD estimate.

Europe
Eurozone: Add a 25% premium to all the prices you see.

UK: Multiply pound prices by 1.5 and then round up to guesstimate the dollar amount.

Switzerland: Roughly 1-to-1 with the US dollar.

Russia: Divide prices by about 30.

South and Central America
Mexico: Divide the prices you see by 13 for a sense of the USD price.

Guatemala: Divide prices by 8.

Belize: Cut the prices you see in half.

Colombia: This one’s a little tricky. First, divide the Colombian price you see by half. Then divide by 1,000. If you’re lazy and on the go, that’s very rough. For a slightly cleaner conversion, do that and then add back 20%.

Argentina: Divide Argentine prices by about 5.

Ecuador: Trick question. Ecuador uses the USD as its currency, so no conversion needed.

Dominican Republic: Divide prices in the D.R. by 40 for a sense of US equivalents.

Jamaica: Divide prices by 100 and then add back about 10%.

Africa & Mideast
South Africa: Divide prices by a little less than 9 for the US equivalent.

Kenya: Divide by 100, and then add back about 15%.

Morocco: Like for South Africa, divide by a little less than 9.

Israel: Divide by about 4 to estimate the US price.

Turkey: Divide by 2 and then add back 25%.

Egypt: Divide by about 6.

Oceania
Australia: For estimating purposes, roughly 1-to-1.

New Zealand: Take a 20% discount on the prices you see.

[Image credit: Flickr user Images_of_Money]

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly said to “divide by half” rather than the correct “divide in half” or “cut in half,” and has been amended.

Rabies Pre-Exposure Vaccine: Will Not Getting One Come Back To Bite You In The Butt?

dogRecently, a well-traveled friend of mine, whom I’ll call Jules, went to Belize on vacation. While on an idyllic, live-aboard sailing trip, Jules, her husband, and mother decided to explore some cays by sea kayak. What happened next is one of my worst developing nation nightmares.

While poking around what appeared to be an abandoned cay (this is why poking sans guide isn’t recommended, but few true travelers can resist), two semi-feral dogs “jumped out from beneath an overturned rowboat, barking ferociously.” Jules explains, “They were tied up, and we immediately headed back to our kayaks, when we saw a man. He told us the cay was ‘privado (private),’ and I started apologizing in Spanish as we pointed at our kayaks and picked up our pace. The next thing I knew, one of the dogs was let loose, and barreling after us. I started to run, and it bit the back of my right calf.”

The dog released her leg after Jules’ husband waved his arms at it while yelling, “NO, NO, NO, NO!” Then it re-launched itself at her, so she employed the same tactic, and eventually they made their way to their boats and escaped.

As if this story isn’t harrowing enough, the really terrifying part is that they were 10 miles out to sea and had four days left aboard ship. Fortunately, Jules’ mom is a medical professional. Immediately following the attack, she soaked her leg in sea water to flush the wound, then her mom accessed their first-aid kit and cleaned it with hydrogen peroxide, and applied antibiotic ointment. For the remainder of the trip, her mother repeated this procedure, changing the bandages up to three times a day.

dog biteI asked Jules why she didn’t insist upon returning to land immediately and seeking medical treatment.

“That’s an emotionally hard question to answer,” she explained. “The dogs weren’t foaming at the mouth, they didn’t look rabid, but rather in aggressive/protective mode. My mother was on the boat with us and she nursed my wound and kept checking my vital signs for any dangerous symptoms. Luckily, nothing bad came of it. There were no clinics in Placenia where we were, so I made the decision to go to the hospital as soon as I returned home six days later.”

There, she was advised to get rabies shots, which had to be administered through the ER (general practitioners apparently won’t provide them). Jules said the series of four treatments – eight shots the first visit, and one per follow-up – was awful. “I got one in each shoulder, one in each upper thigh, one in my butt, and three directly into the wound. The serum they inject feels thick and made my blood feel sluggish. I couldn’t think clearly and needed to nap every day.” She also wasn’t up-to-date on her tetanus, so that was the first shot she received.

Since Jules is one of the most energetic people I know, the shots really affected her ability to work, and she had to take a number of sick days on top of her two weeks vacation. That, of course, is the least concern in this scenario, and I asked my infectious disease doctor, John Szumowski, a fellow at the University of Washington, what the best course of action would be in such a situation.

“Once a person has symptoms of rabies, there’s little that can be done,” he says. “Only a handful of persons have survived even with intensive care. But the rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis vaccine series is felt to be very effective if administered to a person who doesn’t have symptoms.”

I’ve been telling myself for years that I should get rabies prophylaxis (a series of three recommended vaccinations) because I’m in what’s considered a high-risk group when I travel. I have a lot of exposure to animals, and I spend extended periods in rural areas where a delay in medical evaluation is likely. Thus, it’s a safe generalization to say that most adventure travelers would do well to get the series, even if they’re not animal lovers (for the record, despite my crazy dog/cat lady tendencies, I usually give creatures in developing nations a wide berth for this reason). I know I’m going to do it before my next big trip.

Getting the series, says Dr. Szumowski, “Also allows for a simpler course of post-exposure prophylaxis following a bite: fewer vaccinations and immunoglobin (which may not be readily available or of good quality internationally) isn’t needed. The pre-exposure series is available in travel clinics, but can be easily given in a primary care setting, too. Clinics may not have it immediately available, so calling the office ahead of time is a good idea.”
dog
Dr. Szumowski is quick to point out that getting the pre-exposure series does NOT mean medical evaluation should be skipped after an animal bite. Aside from rabies, bites can transmit other, primarily bacterial, infections. “Thorough cleansing of the bite site is an important step, regardless of vaccination status,” he adds. “Animal bites, even those that took place some time in the past, should be discussed with your medical provider because the incubation period for rabies can be up to years afterward.”

Need more compelling reasons for why adventure travelers should get pre-exposure shots? I’ve witnessed a puppy play-biting (drawing blood) a fellow traveler while we were visiting a Myanmar refugee camp in Thailand. I’ve seen a late-stage rabid dog staggering down the main street of a small village in Ecuador. I’ve been chased down an alleyway by a pack of mangy Vietnamese dogs, and had to scale a fence to escape. Gadling contributor Kyle Ellison has been chased by a dog while going for a run in a developing nation. I’ve been attacked and bitten two separate times by seemingly friendly cats here in the States, and still had to go to the ER, while animal control was required to quarantine and test the animals.

Rabies definitely isn’t limited to developing nations, nor is it restricted to dogs and cats. You should never get to close to wildlife, wherever you may be, for any number of safety reasons. But animals like raccoons, opossums, and bats are also frequent carriers of this deadly disease domestically.

For more information on rabies and other infectious diseases related to travel, the CDC’s Yellow Book is an excellent resource. And don’t let fear of rabies make you paranoid about indulging your fondness for animals when you travel.

Says Jules, “I’m an animal lover, and even after this horribly scary incident, I’ll continue to look for the wagging tails of approaching dogs. This was a minor blip on our trip, and will in no way stop me from continuing to see the world. It’s a part of traveling that makes us stop and re-evaluate taking precautions. We’re very protected in the U.S., and take that for granted. We need to respect the places that we visit and be our own advocates to protect ourselves and fellow travelers. From now on, I’ll also always consider travel insurance when visiting developing nations.”

[Photo credits: German shepherd, Flickr user State Farm; dog bite, Jules; dog, Laurel Miller]

Doomsday Bicycle Tour Lets You Ride To The End Of The World

Tour d'Afrique's Doomsday Tour of La Ruta Maya What do you want to be doing when the world ends in December? If your answer is exploring Mayan temples ruins, gazing upon volcanoes and waterfalls, and basking in Central America‘s warm autumn sun all from the seat of your mountain bike, then Tour d’Afrique has a pretty epic tour for you to consider.

Tour d’Afrique’s Doomsday Ride is a 2,300-kilometer (1,429-mile) transcontinental bike expedition along the “Ruta Maya” timed to coincide with the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. The trek begins in San Jose, Costa Rica, on November 17, 2012, and follows a winding, but well-scouted, route through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. It concludes at the Lamani Mayan Temple outside of Belize City, Belize, on December 21, 2012 – the supposed date of the apocalypse.

Along the way, participants will get to check out Mayan ruins at Tikal and Copan; the great colonial architecture in the city of Granada, Nicaragua’s erstwhile capital; and villages, markets, rainforests, volcanoes, crater lakes and many other slices of life and nature off of the tourist track. If you can’t take off for the full five weeks of the expedition, Tour d’Afrique offers three shorter sections that average between 10 days and two weeks.

To learn more about the tour, the route, rates and schedules, check out Tour d’Afrique’s La Ruta Maya – the Doomsday Ride Blog.

Holistic Healing Practices From Around The World

licorice rootNowadays, it seems like there’s a pill or shot to cure every illness. But do we really know how safe these unnatural remedies are? Throughout my travels and by talking with locals from other cultures, I’ve learned there are many natural treatments that are also effective in promoting good health. For those who’ve ever wondered about the holistic secrets of other cultures, here are some answers.

Turkey

In Turkey, the trick to staying healthy is mesir paste. The concoction was invented in Manisa during the Ottoman Empire, when the wife of Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim and mother of Suleyman the Magnificent became very ill. No doctor was able to find a cure, until one created a unique spice blend that seemed to bring the woman back to life. The mixture is a blend of 41 different spices that form a thick paste, and is used as a general cure-all and tonic. Some of the paste’s ingredients include black pepper, cinnamon, licorice root (shown above), coconut and orange peel. The country is so proud of their natural remedy, they celebrate a Mesir Festival in Manisa each year.lemonUkraine

One effective yet simple remedy that can be learned from Ukraine locals is eating a lemon slice – peel and all. Apparently, the zesty flavor of the peel and citrus of the fruit can help aid digestion, reduce bloat and help breathing maladies.

Singapore

According to Cecilia Soh, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Specialist at Singapore’s Eu Yang Sang, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees “food as medicine and medicine as food.” Since 74 percent of Singapore‘s population is Chinese, TCM is widely used. For example, many Asians will boil chrysanthemum flower tea to clear “excessive yang” from the body. This includes symptoms like sore throat, indigestion, constipation and excessive eye mucus. Peppermint is another herb used as tea that alleviates these symptoms as well as headaches and upper respiratory infections.

perilla leaf Another common remedy is Perilla leaf (shown right), which helps alleviate seafood-poisoning symptoms. It is often cooked with seafood in order to stop the problem from happening in the first place. For cough, healthy digestion and smooth peristaltic movements, Apricot seeds are used.

The most sought after of all holistic medicines, however, is ground up pearl. During ancient times, royal families and wealthy merchants were the only ones who could afford this ancient health and beauty secret. The power can either be ingested or applied to the face for clear skin and anti-inflammation, although a doctor should be consulted before consuming.

honey Australia

The indigenous ingredient used by many Aussie’s to promote health and beauty is not only natural, it’s delicious. Ligurian honey, found in South Australia‘s Kangaroo Island, is very rare and powerful. In fact, it is where you can find the only strand of pure Ligurian bees left in the world. When I visited Kangaroo Island, I actually visited the Ligurian honey farm where they sold an array of honey foods, products and treatments. For beauty, the honey contains Vitamin E to help lighten blemishes and promote clear skin. Moreover, in terms of health, pure honey – like the Ligurian variety – is naturally anti-bacterial, and can be used to treat everything from minor wounds and inflammations to ulcers and arthritis.

There are also many natural remedies discovered by the Aboriginals in Australia. Tea tree oil, which is still common today in many parts of the world, is created by crushing up tea tree leaves and either applying the paste to wounds, or drinking as tea for internal ailments. The concoction works wonders and is thought to be more effective than over-the-counter prescriptions. Moreover, washing cuts and wounds with Emu bush leaves has been found to be just as effective as antibiotics, and more natural.

lizard Aruba

In Aruba, there are two very natural remedies used to cure asthma. The first makes use of the aloe plant. Cut a piece, remove the skin, and slurp up the gel. While it may not smell or taste wonderful, it will help your respiratory system and promote good digestion. The other treatment involves boiling gecko lizards, and drinking the hot broth. According to the locals I’ve spoken to, this holistic trick cures asthma permanently.

Bolivia

Because a common problem experienced in Bolivia is altitude sickness, locals use their cash crop of coca leaves to help cure the ailment. You can either chew the leaves, or boil them for tea. Coca leaves are high in calcium and other nutrients, and can also be used to treat illnesses like malaria, asthma, headaches, wounds and even a low sex drive.

barkBelize

According to Joshua Berman, author of Moon Belize, the people of Belize still use many traditional herbs and plants to treat various illnesses, especially the Maya. Travelers can find “medicinal herb trails” throughout the country, and Maya healers are found in the Maya Centre and in some southern villages in the Toledo District.

Herbal medicine, often referred to as bush medicine, is a big part of Belize’s cultural heritage. Plants are used to treat everything from everyday headaches and coughs to more serious ailments like diabetes and infertility. One popular cure for digestive problems and upset stomach is taking allspice tree leaves and making them into a tea. Moreover, the native scoggineal plant is helpful for relieving headaches and fevers by tying it to the forehead. For the common cold or flu, contribo vine can either be made into a tea or soaked in rum. And, if you’ve got itchy or burning skin ailments, like sunburn or bug bites, relaxing in a bath prepared with gumbolimbo bark (shown right) is very helpful.

Colombia

In Colombia, natural remedies are very popular. For instance, using Rosemary by itself will help clear your lungs, while mixing the herb with ginger, half a lemon and honey is a cure for the common cold. If you want improved blood circulation, combine garlic and honey, and if you have swollen eyes you can put manzanilla (camomile) on your eyelids.

aloe veraTo help alleviate a strong cough, there are two remedies you can borrow from Colombian culture. One treatment is to ingest drops of eucalyptus. The other is placing half a potato near your pillow when you’re sleeping, which will not only help your chest, but will also put you to sleep. Furthermore, for times when digestive problems arise, Colombians will often boil an aloe vera plant (shown right), drink the water, and eat the plant with sugar or honey. Apparently, this cure is very fast acting, although not the greatest tasting.

Mexico

flowerIn Mexico, holistic healing practices are very common, as there is a lot of indigenous heritage there. Before actual medicine arrived, people used many fruits, vegetables and herbs to cure ailments. One very common natural remedy is eating seedless prickle – the fruit that comes from cacti – for diarrhea. For constipation, papaya and prunes are helpful. If you’ve got a case of conjunctivitis, many locals will make a “chicalote” infusion. This refers to a type of flower with thorny leaves, so you must be careful when picking it. Simply saturate cotton balls with the mixture and dab the eyes. In a few days, the problem will be gone.

acaiBrazil

In Brazil, there are many natural remedies used to treat ailments. First there is açai almond (the actual fruit), which provides a dark green oil commonly used as an anti-diarrheal. Found in Pará in northern Brazil, it is thought to have strong energetic properties. The juice has an exotic flavor and is high in iron – excellent for people with anemia. Guaraná powder is another ingredient that is widely used to help intestinal problems, stop bleeding, relieve headaches and improve brain function. To use it, mash up a guaraná until it turns into a thin, reddish powder. The substance is extremely high in caffeine – four times more than regular coffee. There is also sucupira seed, which contains alkaloids used to help fevers, arthritis and acne. In fact, some pharmacological studies have found the oil from the seeds to be effective against schistosomiasis.

cloveMorocco

In Morocco, where Berber Pharmacies, or herbalists, are popular, many locals seek medical help the holistic way. For example, pavor seeds are used to help soothe nasal congestion. Simply put them in a piece of cloth and knot it to form a ball. Then, place the sack under the clogged nostril while covering the other, and sniff. When having a toothache, Moroccans will put a clove on the tooth that is experiencing pain. These are the dried flower buds of the Myrtaceae family tree (shown right).

If dealing with insomnia, one popular holistic remedy is infusing red poppy flower into a tea. And, for fever or itchy eyes, locals will saturate a clean, white cloth with rose water and place it over their eyes or forehead, depending on which ailment they have.

India

In India, it is popular to use turmeric for acne. Grind it into a paste and apply it directly to the skin. You can also do this with sandalwood for the same effect. For an upset stomach, shaved ginger is often put on salads and other foods and ingested. Moreover, congee, or boiled rice with water, is eaten like porridge to promote general wellness.

Are there any natural remedies you’ve learned about along your travels?

[photos via avlxyz, dearbarbie, titanium22, Siona Karen, kthypryn, cyanocorax, Adrian Nier, Pixeltoo, borderlys, Koehler Images]