Bull Attack Kills Tourist In France

bull attack
Wikimedia Commons

A bull attack in France has left one German tourist killed and another injured, the BBC reports.

A man and wife were on a cycling vacation in the Camargue region of southern France when they were attacked while passing a farm where some bulls were fighting each other. One animal broke out of the enclosure and attacked the woman. When her husband came to her aid, he was gored twenty times and killed. The woman survived and is recovering in hospital.

The region is known for its bulls, many of which are raised for bullfighting.

While people are naturally afraid of bulls, it’s important to know that cows can be just as dangerous. In August a hiker was killed by a cow in France, and while hiking in northern England I was nearly attacked by cows. Cows are large, strong animals that can turn aggressive when scared or if they think their calves are being threatened.

The Ramblers hiking society of the UK has a good information page about walking near livestock.

Selling Fake Bomb Detectors Lands UK Businessman In Jail

fake bomb detectors
What Bolton and McCormick really deserve. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Back in April we brought you the story of James McCormick, who was found guilty in a British court of selling fake bomb detectors to several nations, including Iraq. When I was traveling in Iraq I saw his useless products, based on a novelty golf ball detector, being used at checkpoints everywhere. McCormick endangered the lives of countless people, including myself, and I’m glad to report that he’s now serving ten years in jail.

Well, not totally glad. A life sentence would be far more appropriate, but corrupt businessmen so rarely end up behind bars I’ll take what I can get.

Now another UK businessman has been sent to jail for peddling fake bomb detectors.

Gary Bolton, 47, of Chatham, Kent, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling what he claimed were sophisticated electronic devices. In fact, they were simply little plastic boxes with handles and antennae. The prosecution proved that Bolton knew they didn’t work yet his company Global Technical Ltd. sold them for thousands of dollars apiece to numerous security and law enforcement agencies in half a dozen countries, including Mexico and Thailand. Bolton also claimed they could detect drugs, cash, tobacco and ivory.

It appears Bolton may have been inspired by the success of McCormick’s bogus device, as one of them was found in Bolton’s home.

Who’s up for a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering?

Should Pollution Stop You From Traveling?

Shubert Ciencia, Flickr

Unless you’re traveling in the far backcountry, you’re bound to experience some pollution on the road. Go to New York City and there will be grime on your face when you return to the hotel room at night. But does the amount of pollution in a city or country stop you from traveling there?

In China, tourism has seen a serious drop in response to the country’s “airpocalypse.” In January the air was designated as hazardous to human health for several consecutive days, and the travelers haven’t been the same since; from January to June, tourism has dropped by 5%. In Beijing, it’s even worse, with the number of foreign tourists visiting the country’s capital falling by 15%. “… the air pollution trends in China will be difficult to reverse and their impacts will be significantly negative on the tourism industry,” said Tim Tyrrell, former director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.China isn’t alone. In northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has experienced a similar situation, with tourists avoiding the city during the spring when a lot of “slash-and-burn” farming takes place — that’s burning forest in order to make room for fields. And in Rome, you can’t cruise the Tiber river anymore on account of all of the trash in it.

But when it comes to pollution and tourism, it’s a two-way street. The effects of tourism on the state of air quality and beyond is just as big of a problem. Then of course there are those travelers who are moved to seek out the polluted areas of the world. But should pollution stop you from traveling?

In places where pollution is a serious issue, it’s a factor worth thinking about. In India for example, air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death. Not that a visit to the Taj Mahal will inevitably be your last, but if you think that you as a traveler are immune, think again. Check travel alerts and be aware of the air quality of the places you are traveling. Being informed is better than being sick.

Why Ditching Preconceived Notions Can Make For Better Travel

Bora Bora beach
Michael Stout, Flickr

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.

salar de uyuni rainy season
Juan Gatica, Flickr

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.

bungee jump
Peter Bekesi, Flickr

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.

plane tickets and passport
mroach, Flickr

Reduce anxiety
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.

Government Drops Plan To Allow Small Knives On Planes

pocketknife
Flickr via Trevor Manternach

The TSA today announced that they are dropping the plan that would have permitted passengers to carry small knives and other previously banned items, like bats and golf clubs, on planes. These items have been banned since the attacks of September 11, 2001, when terrorists famously hijacked planes using items like box cutters as weapons.

TSA Administrator John Pistole formerly announced the plan to allow small knives (those under 2.36 inches long) and certain club-like sporting equipment back into carry-on luggage on March 5. Pistole had argued that relaxing the ban would allow security screeners to focus on items that posed a greater risk to air safety, such as explosives.

See TSA To Permit Pocket Knives And Golf Clubs On Planes (But Still Not Liquids

Back in April, CNN reported that the TSA was hearing additional testimony about the proposed ban reversal, and, as of today, the plan has officially been dropped.

The TSA had faced strong opposition to the ban reversal from airline CEOs, lawmakers, and relatives, friends and victims of terrorist attacks, among others. In total, nine groups petitioned legally against TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, USA Today reported.

Congressional representatives Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also proposed legislation to ban the TSA from allowing knives and clubs back onto planes. At present, the TSA finds about 2,000 small knives per day during routine security searches.

“We will continue to take steps to improve our ever-evolving security posture while also improving the experience of the traveling public,” Pistole said. “Risk-based security enhances the travel experience while allowing TSA to continue to keep passengers safe by focusing on those we know less about.

Are some groups still unhappy? Sure they are. The knife industry, for example, tried to fight back. But what do you think? Should the ban have been lifted? Leave your thoughts in the comments.