Looking for nude beach recommendations this summer? You probably wouldn’t think to consult Xinhua, China’s state-controlled press agency, but here comes editor Yang Yi’s list of their “Top Ten Sexy Nudist Bathing Spots Around the World.” I stumbled across the link to the slideshow while checking out an article about their new English language travel website and had a few good laughs reading the photo captions.
According to Yi, Australia’s Lady Bay Beach “is one of the legitimate nudist beaches announced by the Prime Minister in 70s,” and the entire city of Rio de Janeiro is “the most ‘eye-candy’ beach” where visitors will “find many graceful statures and beautiful faces in beach activities.” In “Cape Down” (sic) South Africa, Yi recommends Sandy Bay Beach because it has “inconvenient traffic,” which makes it feel “away from the world.” Other entries included San Gregorio State Beach in California, and beaches in Negril, Jamaica, British Columbia and St. Martin. The entire state of Hawaii also made the list. Aloha!In recommending Paradise Beach in Mykonos, Yi opines, “Europeans are always full of reverence for human body … In other European countries, restrictions on public nudity are very relaxed. Say nothing of other countries like Netherlands, France, and Spain, even England, which is strict and conservative in some people’s eyes, possesses officially-recognized nudist beaches.”
It’s obviously a pretty half-assed list and some of the stock photos they used look like models from cheap ’70s porn sets. But it’s nice to see that state-controlled media in China is letting its hair down and chasing clicks just like every site in the West.
While much of the world is on royal baby watch, there’s a new arrival in the travel world to get excited about. Arthur Frommer has just announced via the New York TImes that he will again publish guidebooks under a new name, FrommerMedia. The guides will be distributed and marketed through Publishers Group West of Perseus Books Group starting in October. He will also launch a new series called “Easy Guides,” in response to the too-lengthy printed tomes that can’t compete with quick (and free) apps and online content. Mr. Frommer and his daughter Pauline will head up the new company and expect to have 80 titles by 2014.
The Frommer’s brand was sold to Google last year and the print books were to be discontinued, causing many fans to mourn the loss of an iconic brand. Mr. Frommer bought back his name in April and announced he would publish books again, while the old content remains with Google.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had heightened expectations or an ill-informed idea of a destination prior to a trip.
Me too. Many things influence our preconceived ideas about a place: daydreams, prejudice (I’m using this word in its traditional sense), and prior experience, as well as literature, the media, television and film. Example: Most of us entertain certain romantic notions when planning a trip to Hawaii or Paris.
Stereotypes exist for a reason, of course. But with every trip, I’m reminded of why preconceived notions are best left at home (unlike your passport). Besides avoiding the inevitable disappointment if your holiday is more “The Hangover” than “The Notebook,” there are other good reasons to approach an upcoming trip – be it business or pleasure – with an open mind. Read on for ways to recalibrate your expectations, and ensure a richer, more rewarding travel experience.
Lower the bar
When you set unrealistic standards – whether for a hotel room, honeymoon, tourist attraction or country – you may be robbing yourself of fully enjoying the experience. If you’re convinced you’re going to meet your soul mate by parking it at the bar of a tropical resort, you may be bummed out with the outcome. Likewise, don’t assume your business trip to Delhi is going to leave you despairing at all the suffering in the world. Often, the best moments in travel come when we’re not trying too hard.
On a recent trip to Bolivia, I did a four-day tour of the Southwestern Circuit, from the craggy spires of Tupiza to the blinding expanse of the Salar de Uyuni (the world’s largest salt flat). Our small group really clicked, and for three days, it was non-stop laughs. On our final day, when we arrived at the salt flats at sunrise, a young woman in our group was devastated that the weather was dry. She’d spent years dreaming about visiting during the wet season, when mirror-like pools stretch seemingly into infinity.
Never mind that rainy weather means key sections of Uyuni are inaccessible (including the stunning Isla del Pescado, a cacti-covered “island” in the midst of the flats), and that we’d lucked out by missing the last of the season’s storms. This poor girl was inconsolable, and later confided that her trip was ruined. I felt for her, but her dashed dream served as a strong reminder to dial down the expectations. She was so distracted by what wasn’t there that she missed how absolutely captivating the salt flats are when dry.
Push past your comfort zone.
While you should always keep your wits about you and listen to your intuition whether you’re traveling or at home, there’s a difference between trying something new, and being foolhardy. On that same trip to Bolivia, I was presented with an on-the-fly opportunity to try rap-jumping – from a 17-story building.
I’m not afraid of heights, but the idea of climbing out the window of La Paz’s tallest hotel and rappelling face-down to the busy streets below had me shaking. But I trusted the company and equipment (full disclosure: I’d already done prior research, and spent time with their guides). Accidents can still happen but I felt I was in good hands. I had a blast.
Be receptive to changes
As a control freak, it can be hard for me to admit defeat in the face of time constraints or other issues that affect my travel itinerary. For the most part, I’ve learned to roll with it. If not for the monsoonal deluge on the day I planned to take a cargo boat on a three-day trip up the Rio Paraguay, I wouldn’t have ended up at a dreamy agriturismo in the nearby countryside.
On a recent business trip to El Paso (which required me to visit several factories near the border), I was pleasantly surprised by everything. Although my hotel was just 10 blocks from the aforementioned border and adjacent to the rail yards, the neighborhood was perfectly safe and I enjoyed several evening strolls around the nearby arts district. I also learned that El Paso is ranked the nation’s safest city of its size. I could have saved myself considerable angst if I hadn’t let media hype about Ciudad Juarez seep into my imagination.
I had a similar experience years ago in Naples. I’d always longed to visit the city but was put off by fearmongering fellow travelers and (ahem) guidebook writers. I was positive I was going to get shanked while in pursuit of the perfect pizza, but my desire to see Naples trumped my fear. As it turns out, I felt very safe as a tourist, even at night in the notorious Forcella (not as dodgy as it used to be, and the home of some of the city’s best pizza, which I’d take a shiv for, any day).
Obviously, my fleeting impressions of these two cities could easily be debunked, but the point is that I let a lot of rampant paranoia do my pre-trip research for me. If you go looking for trouble, you’re sure to find it. But I also believe in the travel adage that you’re just as likely to get hit by a truck while crossing the street at home. In other words, be smart and be safe, but don’t let fear stop you in your tracks. There’s a whole world out there waiting for you.
Odra Noel is a scientific artist who has just created and released a piece she called “The Map of Health.” The map provides a visual representation of diseases affecting regions of the world. What’s more is that she uses depictions of affected body parts by each disease for each disease. The USA, which struggles with obesity and obesity-related diseases, is speckled with fat tissue. And with HIV being a leading cause of death in many countries of Africa, the continent is covered in images of blood cells. It’s an interesting and insightful map, one that might lend some thought or conversation about the people we meet when we travel and what kinds of illnesses they deal with regularly.
If you’re an avid traveler, chances are you’ve experienced some type of fantastical sight, to which no photograph can ever do justice. Talent and camera quality have no bearing whatsoever on the ability to capture this moment, and so you resign yourself to committing it to memory.
Although I love looking at travel photos, I’m not much of a photographer. But I’m also well-traveled enough to know that sometimes, when you try to shoot something stunning, you inadvertently end up depriving yourself of just enjoying the experience. I see this all the time on trips; the guy who’s so busy running around chasing the perfect shot, he misses the entire point of the destination.
I’ve finally learned when to put the camera down and just be in the moment – at a certain point, sunset photos become redundant. Remembering the other sensory details surrounding the actual event, however, may well be something you’ll cherish forever. I’m not saying you should leave your camera at home when you travel. Rather, I’m advocating incorporating other ways to create travel memories that don’t involve Instagram or tripods. Read on for creative ways to preserve “unforgettable” sights or locales.
Even if writing isn’t something you’re particularly good at, that shouldn’t stop you from trying (not everything needs to be posted to a blog or social media). Whether you scribble in a journal or email the folks back home, the objective is to get your memories written down, without trying too hard.
I strongly recommend writing longhand, as it’s more expedient, practical and, for lack of a better word, organic. So no texting, iPad, netbook or other device. Just you, a pen and a notebook or sheaf of paper. Think about sights, smells, sounds, textures and colors. Whether or not your end result is a list, paragraph or story, you’ll have something that captures a memorable moment from your trip. Not only does this exercise improve your writing skills (which, after all, are crucial in daily life); it helps sharpen your memory and senses, as well.
OK, I know I hinted at ditching the devices, but many people are articulate. If you’re known for being a great storyteller, record memorable experiences soon after they occur. Whether it’s a mishap, linguistic misunderstanding, touching cultural exchange or incredible meal, recount it in vivid detail, as you’d tell it to your best friend, spouse/significant other or kids.
Although I’m a writer by occupation, my favorite way to create travel memories is by collecting small, meaningful souvenirs unique to a place. They may be found objects or regional handicrafts, but my interior decor is defined by these objects. They’re my most cherished possessions (next to, I confess, my photos).
I also love to collect vintage postcards from favorite destinations, as well as items like ticket stubs, peeled-off beer labels (really), black-and-white photos scrounged from street fairs and antique shops, and cultural or religious iconography. As long as it reminds me of a great travel experience and is flat, I keep it. Some of these talismans are tucked inside my passport; others are in a photo album or stuck to my refrigerator with magnets I’ve collected from restaurants all over the world.
Granted, this requires a bit more cash, effort and wall space than collecting shells. But even with a nearly non-existent budget, you can bring home a piece of art as a permanent reminder of a great trip. Here are some inexpensive things I’ve collected over the years:
A custom-made, silk-screened T-shirt depicting indigenous art, made at an Aboriginal-owned co-op in Australia.
A reproduction of an Aboriginal painting that I picked up for about $25USD at Sydney’s wonderful Australian Museum. I had it mounted for a fraction of the cost of framing.
A vintage card painted by a Vietnamese woman’s co-op, depicting war propaganda and purchased at a shop in Hanoi. I’m not actually a communist but the art is captivating.
A 4-by-5 piece of muslin printed with a photo transfer of an image taken at the port in Valparaiso, Chile. I purchased it for about $3USD in the artist’s studio, nearby.
A slender coffee table book on Italy’s Cinque Terra.
While travel itself may not come cheap, memories are often free (the above purchases notwithstanding). I encourage you, on your next trip, to put down your camera once in awhile, and rely instead on your senses. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.