Pooping In Public, The Newest Hotel Trend

They say traveling together will either bring you closer together or destroy your relationship, and the latest hotel design movement is certainly putting that concept to the test.

According to The Guardian, open-plan bathrooms are a growing trend in luxury hotels. Instead of hiding in a separate room, showers, baths and even toilets are now being placed right inside the bedroom. Occasionally, you’ll find walls separating the wet areas from the bedroom — although see-through glass does little to shield you from the eyes of your travel companion.A few hotels that have embraced this concept include the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel and the Ecclestone Square Hotel in London (though at least here you can flip a switch to turn the glass walls opaque).

While some couples might get a kick out of the less-than-private baths or showers, the placement of the toilet leaves a lot to be desired. After all, no matter how close you are with your partner, do you really want to be in on each other’s bowel movements? And what exactly do you do if you’re traveling with a relative, friend or business partner?

Making matters worse is the fact that some of these open-plan bathrooms are not just “open” to your roommate, but also to the public. At The Standard Hotel in New York, one suite features a floor-to-ceiling glass wall in the bathroom that faces out onto the street. And yes, people are watching. One hotel specialist told The Guardian that while staying at a different hotel in New York with a glass wall that faced the outside, she “could see a guy standing in a building looking at me having a shower.” Creepy or what?

Would you stay in a hotel with an open plan bathroom?

The Museum of Broken Relationships finds permanent home

Way back in 2007 we reported on the Museum of Broken Relationships, a traveling exhibition of mementos from love affairs turned sour. Well, the idea has been gaining steam, and now the museum has opened up a permanent exhibition in Zagreb, Croatia.

The museum is perhaps unique in that all of its collections come from individual donations. They come with a story too. Take this teddy, for example, donated by a woman who wrote, “‘I love you’ – WHAT A LIE! LIES, DAMN LIES! Yes, it’s like that when you are young, naïve and in love. And you don’t realize your boyfriend started dating you just because he wanted to take you to bed! I got this teddy bear for Valentine’s. He survived on top of my closet in a plastic bag, because it wasn’t him who hurt me, but the idiot who left him behind.”

Ouch. Love hurts. The museum contains hundreds of stories like this. There’s the wedding dress from a failed marriage, the artificial leg of a man jilted by a nurse, and a guy’s cell phone he gave to his girlfriend so she couldn’t call him anymore.

Is there anything you’d donate to the Museum of Broken Relationships? Tell us in the comments section! Is there anything I’d donate? Nope, I threw it away years ago.

10 ways to deal with a bad travel partner

I tend to make reasonably good travel decisions. I pack appropriately (and always bring a sweater), I consult maps, and I tend not to eat anywhere that includes the phrase “o-rama” (i.e., “Bob’s Fish-o-rama.” So NOT a good idea).

But even those of us who make great (dare we say, flawless?) travel decisions falter now and then. Especially when it comes to picking a travel companion. For some reason, people tend to change dramatically when on a trip. It might be that the oxygen-rich recycled air has gone to their brain. Or that jet lag, combined with one-too-many in-flight drinks, has brought out their inner crazy. Maybe it’s the stress of being somewhere new and strange. Whatever the reason, you may have the misfortune to find that, no matter how great you are at making decisions for your trip, you’ve managed to pick a travel companion who … well, who just plain sucks.

Perhaps they snore incessantly, or chew with their mouth open. Maybe they’ve used your last clean shirt … as a handkerchief. Whatever the reason, you are not getting along. As the trip progresses, you feel tempers running short and a screaming match between the two of you looms on the horizon. But you’re stuck together. You might be thousands of miles away from home. You might have no one else to talk to. You might even be sharing the same bathroom.

First off, take a deep breath. Having a miserable travel companion doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a miserable trip. These tips and tricks will ensure that you’ll both get home in one piece, and, with any luck, you’ll still be talking to one another, too.

Kill them … with kindness.

You will notice I said WITH KINDNESS. As ridiculous as it sounds, being excessively polite and kind to your loathsome travel mate will probably help ease tensions (I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will help). Plus, they’ll find it exponentially harder to stiff you on the bill or be an all-around snot to you when you’re acting so darn nice. And in the end, you’ll come across as the good guy — because a travel companion who’s “being too nice” isn’t really something they can complain about.Don’t lose your cool.
You may feel a scream bubbling up in your throat, your hands clenching into fists, and know that a fight is mere moments away. Whatever you do, keep your temper in check. Count to ten, grab a snack, or do something else to get your mind off the situation. Blowing up at your travel mate isn’t going to make you feel any better — it’s actually more likely to make you feel worse. You could end up saying something you regret (“I wish you were never born … MOM!”) making for a very awkward flight home.

Spend some time apart.
Even someone you adore can grow a little tiresome after 6 days/7 nights together. If your travel companion wants to spend the day at by the pool, and you’re dying to explore the museum, why not go your separate ways for a few hours? It will give you both time to relax and cool down, and you might actually start to miss each other. Maybe. Or, at least, hate each other less.

Speak up before something becomes a problem.
If you suddenly find yourself traveling with a morning person, and you’re a night owl, let them know before you’re too sleep deprived to be civil about it. Bringing issues up before they bother you means you’ll be calmer — and less likely to have a vicious, hair-pulling fight about what time to set the wake-up call.

Select activities that involve little interaction.
Sometimes you might not be able to get away from your travel buddy, no matter how hard you try. When you’re absolutely stuck, try activities that don’t require a lot of teamwork. Instead of sharing a canoe, grab individual kayaks. Go see a movie (or if you can’t agree, see different ones!) Avoid ballroom dancing at all costs. It will end badly.

Make new friends.
If your travel partner is turning out to be a dud, why not try befriending some other travelers? You’ll have new people to talk to, and possibly commiserate with! You might meet someone who’s sharing an hotel room with an ex-con — or worse, a lousy tipper. It will make your situation seem like a dream by comparison. Can’t find anyone to talk to? Chat up the bartender. You might even get a free drink out of the deal.

Get some exercise.

Not only will a quick jog or swim give you some much needed alone time, but it will also help burn off all the pent-up anger and stress you’ve been lugging across three timezones. Plus, those endorphins can help calm you down and make you forget all about that fiasco with Homeland Security.

Remember: You aren’t exactly perfect.
Your mom might find your little quirks endearing, but not everyone does. Odds are, your travel partner could be just as fed up with you as you are with them. Keep this in mind, and you may suddenly find a new wealth of patience when it comes to dealing with your travel buddy’s flaws (“Well, she didn’t get angry when I borrowed her sweater, so I guess I’ll forgive her for puking in my suitcase.”).

Avoid contentious topics.
Maybe you’re a Mets fan, and he loves the Yankees. Or perhaps he watches Leno, and you’re with Coco. Whatever the case, try to avoid topics on which you disagree, not matter how tempting. It will only stress you both out, making future altercations more likely. Instead, stick to subjects on which you share an opinion: like how unicorns and cake are awesome.

Think of what a great story it will make later.
So you plan a trip to the Bahamas with an old college friend, only to discover he has a crippling case of eremikophobia (a.k.a., fear of sand. Seriously. Look it up). While seemingly disastrous now (because he doesn’t want a single grain of it in the hotel room) it will make a great tale to tell later. Try to see the humor of a dismal situation.

Rotten travel companions have happened to the best of us. Share your story — and how you lived to tell the tale — in the comments section below!

Read more:
What makes a good travel companion?
Uncommon traits of a good travel companion
Coping with a travel disaster

[Photos: Flickr | Evil Erin; W. Volk; jrodmanjr; StrudelMonkey]

Do solo adventures break up relationships?

Outside Magazine has an interesting story on their website entitled Never, Ever Let Her Go (On a trip overseas. Alone. Especially to Africa.) The article begins with author Eric Hansen recounting a tale of a married couple who were friends of his, and seemingly had an idyllic marriage. But when the wife went off to Botswana on a volunteer trip for a month, she returned home and announced that the marriage was over, and she now longer was attracted to her husband.

When telling this story to others, Hansen discovered this wasn’t an isolated tale. He uncovered similar stories from a number of people who had their significant others go off on a big, adventurous trip, only to have their relationship end once they came home. Even more confounding was the fact that many of the travelers were women and many of them had been traveling in Africa. The article goes on to get quotes from several guide services and travel companies, who say that this is indeed a common tale that they encounter on a regular basis themselves. A marriage counselor also weighs in on the topic, saying he sees at least one marriage per month break up after an adventurous solo trip.This of course begs the question as to why this occurs. The story speculates that it is due to the person traveling expanding their horizons and having a life altering experience on their journey, something we can all relate to from our own travels I’m sure. The same counselor mentioned above says that generally the issues were there before the solo adventure, but the travels bring them more the forefront.

Outside‘s article concludes with the advice that you don’t let your significant other travel alone. Go with him or her. Experience the life changing moments together, and share the journey. If you break up when you get home, at least you got a great trip out of it, right?

So, has anyone experienced this phenomenon first hand? Have you been the dumper or the dumpee?

10 Ways to Get Yourself Labeled as an Ugly American

For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They’re loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they’re frightened and defensive, or maybe they’re not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance.”
-Burmese journalist in the 1958 novel “The Ugly American” by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

The stereotype must have come from somewhere. Few Americans traveling abroad will admit that they are of the ugly-acting members of their nationality. Yet the stereotype persists. Loud, obnoxious, arrogant. Where did it come from? Is it actually true that residents of the United States have a hidden personality that only comes out once they have traveled outside of their borders? True or not, much of the world believes in the Ugly American phenomenon.

Not every US passport holder falls into the stereotype, however, it doesn’t seem to disprove anything in the eyes of people from other countries. You may get an incredulous “You’re American?” when you reveal your point of origin. Congratulate yourself if you are from the US and you hear such exclamations of surprise. You are not an Ugly American.

How can you avoid having such a negative adjective placed before your nationality? It easy. Just avoid the following actions:
1. Responding to someone who doesn’t understand English by repeating yourself word for word in a much louder voice. It’s not so much the fact that they are speaking at higher volume that is amusing, it is the expression of frustration on their faces when the louder sounds do not produce the desired level of understanding. Oops, your ethnocentricity is showing. “Everyone must understand some English. Maybe if I speak a little bit louder.” The whole we-don’t-speak-the-same-language dimension hasn’t even enter your head.
Of course, there is always the chance that the person you are trying to communicate with is pretending not to understand English because they don’t want to talk to you.

2. Constantly comparing a country’s government or infrastructure to the US. I’ve heard this many times: a statement complaining about some aspect of a country (usually the food, cleanliness standards or transportation) prefaced with “Well, in the US…” The reason you travel is to see something different, have some cool experiences (whatever that entails) and gain some understanding, right? Does anyone really travel to other countries for the sole purpose of loudly comparing their destination to their home country? The whole comparison thing is just another way of telling local people that you think their country sucks. How endearing.

3. Talking too loudly. This has nothing to do with being understood. For some reason, perhaps some subtle, acquired cultural trait, some people just start talking louder once they are outside the border. There is always some guy who seems to think that he is in a bar and he has to talk over the loud music. But there’s no bar and no music. If he happens to be in a bar, he adjusts the volume upwards further. Find this guy and ask him where he’s from. 90% of the time, he’s from the states.

4. Seeking out other ugly Americans to hang out with for the duration of your trip. Lots of people travel in groups. Fair enough. You’re in an unfamiliar place and perhaps a little on edge. You feel more comfortable having other people with familiar customs and habits around. That’s absolutely fine, unless the others in your group make it easier to perform the other nine actions on this list.

5. Wearing any sort of over-the-top patriotic apparel such as a t-shirt with an eagle holding the American flag in its beak. Come on, this is self explanatory. I get it. You are proud of your country. Fine. Nationalism has its place. But people are sensitive to fervent displays of American nationalism. Something to do with our willingness to flex military muscle.

6. Not interacting with local people unless you want something from them. This is, more or less, an issue of respect. Conversing with local people in a way that doesn’t bring to mind the uncomfortable memories of colonialism is always appreciated.

7. Acting like you can score with the local women (or men) because of your nationality. You’re ugly (physically) in the US and you are still ugly when you leave.

8. Not caring that you are totally unaware of the political or social situation in a country. For many people, this is the biggest one. Literature’s ultimate Ugly American, Pyle, from Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, is a perfect example of not understanding, or caring to understand, what’s going on in a country. Use the BBC to keep up with the news. If you can talk intelligently about the current events of a country you are visiting, no matter how obscure they are, you might even be able to cancel out one of the other nine nasty habits on the list that you indulge in.

9. Constantly breaking norms and customs. All you have to do is get the little travel book that tells you not to wear your shoes indoors or touch people on the head or whatever. It takes five minutes to read. Five minutes to learn how to not make an ass out of yourself.

10. Protesting any wrongdoing by saying “I’m an American.” Or worse, using that same phrase as an excuse when you are the one in the wrong. Yikes. You have just admitted that you think you deserve special treatment on the sole basis of your nationality.

Still worried about being labeled an Ugly American? Try wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a red maple leaf, the national symbol of Canada.

So, for the sake of all American travelers who, while perhaps physically ugly, do not exhibit the above-mentioned ugly behaviors, let’s try to change the Ugly American stereotype.