#StopTrump Protest London 2018: A Photo Series

I had never attended a protest before.

Marching in a protest is such a fundamental thing when it comes to political activism. For all my writings about refugees (see here and here) and social inequality, I felt like a bit of an imposter having not stepped away from behind my laptop screen to actually demonstrate my beliefs. So when I discovered that an anti-Trump rally was to be held in London on the 13th of July, there was no way I was not going to be one of the protesters marching down Regent Street.

In what was dubbed ‘the Carnival of Resistance‘, a grand total of 250,000 people protested Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom. It was Britain’s biggest demonstration in over a decade, and the atmosphere was infectious. I’d heard lots about protests – the Egyptian Revolution in particular comes to mind – but fortunately, this demonstration was not violent. From Portland Place to Trafalgar Square, our fists punched the sky and we chanted in powerful solidarity against everything Donald Trump stands for.

“We are asserting our right to demonstrate, our right to free speech… human rights belong to all of us.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s address at Trafalgar Square

Of course, a recap of the event is incomplete without a nod to the ‘baby blimp‘ that took centre stage that day. For those of you who somehow escaped the media hype, the baby blimp was/is a crowdfunded, 20-foot balloon in the shape of an infantile, nappy-clad Donald Trump clasping his beloved phone in a chubby hand. Whilst I unfortunately did not capture any snaps of this inflated delight, you can rest assured that we have not seen the last of baby blimp.

Some of my highlights from the march included a swollen papier-mâché Trump head and a particularly graphic depiction of Donald Trump and Mike Pence engaged in some friendly activities (*ahem*) – but I’ll let you enjoy that for yourself.

I’ll keep this short; after all, a picture tells a thousand words. As always, a vlog is in the works… ✊

To learn more about the Stop Trump Coalition, visit the website.

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● YouTube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter and sign up to our pen pal network!

Continue Reading

The Minimalist Traveler: How to Make Temporary Accommodation Feel Like Home

Maybe you’re renting out an Airbnb for a few weeks. Maybe you’re a student studying abroad for six months. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new country and haven’t the expenses to jazz up your new dwellings.

Sometimes the easiest way to make temporary accommodation feel like home is to break out the credit card, but retail therapy and a minimalist lifestyle make for uncomfortable bedfellows. It was only recently that I really started to appreciate the importance of feeling at home in unfamiliar surroundings, and so lately I have been enjoying exploring what I can do to achieve this without blowing the bank and sacrificing the minimalist habits I have been developing over the past eighteen months.

If you’re been following my movements over the past six months or so, you might know that I have recently up and left to Oxford in the United Kingdom. But one thing you might not know is that I struggled a little to make our apartment from a house, into a home. I know, I know, that sounds incredibly cheesy. But it’s the truth. I pride myself on owning few material items – if I own more than can fit in a suitcase, I start to grow antsy – but there’s no reason why those few material items can’t be special. If you disagree, tell that to the kitsch Darth Vader ornament I’ve been lugging across four continents.

Whatever your situation, here are six ways that you – the minimalist traveller – can make temporary accommodation feel like home…

Stock up on your favourite brew

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote that, “… a cup of tea would restore my normality”. I am not here to argue with such words of wisdom.

A good cup of tea can go a long way. If you have a specific type of tea that you always drink, stocking up so that you can make regular brews can be a nostalgic and joyous way to bring the flavours of home with you. I personally like a strong Melbourne Breakfast first thing in the mornings, and this brew has certainly helped to establish a semblance of familiarity. The homeliness of tea doesn’t just have to be acquired through taste either; the therapeutic effect of brewing it up cannot be understated.

Photograph courtesy of Kira auf der Heide for Unsplash

Bloom

Something that I have noticed contributes heavily to the alienness of moving into a new place is the atmosphere of lifelessness. Have you ever noticed how, well, dead somewhere feels when you first arrive? It doesn’t exactly lend a helping hand when you’re trying to make somewhere feel vibrant and lived in. To boost both ambience and morale, I like to spruce up the place with some fresh flowers.

If you’re staying at an Airbnb – particularly one on the more extravagant side – some hosts will go out of their way to welcome you. You might unlock the door to your new dwelling and find a gorgeous bouquet of flowers waiting for you. However, for those of us that don’t have the luxury of such opulent greetings, we have to make our own joy.

I am by no means suggesting you go to your local florist and spend an arm and a leg purchasing a bouquet of roses. In my case, I like to wander out to the garden and just stick a handful of daisies and daffodils in an unused glass with water. I wake up every morning to this splash of colour on my bedside table, and they make me smile. Nothing more, nothing less.

Depending on where you are – I’m thinking alone the lines of Spain or Thailand – it is also relatively inexpensive to buy a small bunch of flowers at a nearby farmer’s market. Not only does having fresh flowers enhance your home aesthetic, but it is also an opportunity for you to nurture and cultivate something. This personal accountability can do wonders for your mental health in a new and foreign place. Furthermore, as they are living things, flowers do not last forever; ideal for the minimalist traveller.

Photograph courtesy of Nordwood for Unsplash

Bring the familiar to the unfamiliar

I mentioned above that I lugged a kitsch Darth Vader ornament across four continents, and I wasn’t kidding. My mother didn’t hesitate to raise her eyebrows as I struggled to close the zip on my suitcase.

Amongst my darling Darth Vader included a vintage world map, a Vietnamese fan, and a ceramic bowl in the shape of a cat. Throughout my travels, I also accumulated a small collection of postcards and art from across the Mediterranean, as well as a plush camel from the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Because, why not.

I tend to prioritise little things like these over clothing in my suitcase, so I can afford to be a little superfluous in my packing. But even if you haven’t the space to do so, there are still pieces of nostalgia that anyone can fit. Just as an example, if you are often troubled by homesickness, try slipping a birthday card from a parent into your laptop case. It will take up no extra room, and it’s something special to keep close.

It’s incredible just how familiar an unfamiliar space can become if you decorate it with just one or two personal items. I don’t usually encourage materialism (says the girl with the plush camel 🙄) but a little sentimentality never hurt anybody. This method also encourages appreciating what you already have, which is something sorely neglected nowadays.

Photograph Courtesy of Elsa Noblet for Unsplash

Reinstate habits from home

These past few months I have invested heavily in meditation, which has turned out to be an ideal exercise because it doesn’t require any equipment nor space. Throughout my travels and exchange experience, I would always set aside at least a couple of minutes every day to perch cross-legged on my bed, close my eyes, and practice mindfulness. Not only has it dramatically improved my mental health, but because it is something I only do wherever I am staying , it makes me feel at home regardless of where on the planet I am.

If meditation isn’t your kind ‘o thing, then other activities that spring to mind include yoga, watching stand-up comedy, or gardening. Anything would work really, as long as it is an activity that you would perform exclusively at home. Creating a strong mental association with that activity and your living space will help to foster positive associations with your new environment.

Photograph courtesy of Nik MacMillan for Unsplash

Embrace aroma

Not unlike reinstating habits from home, you might choose to reinstate smells from home. This is also not unlike brewing your favourite pot of tea, but instead of engaging your gustation senses, you are engaging your olfaction senses.

There is something so utterly healing about candles, I just can’t put it into words. I don’t know whether it is the dancing flame on the wick, or the soft scent that emanates from the wax, but what I do know is that as soon as I light a match, I calm right the f*ck down. Although this tip might involve some spending, candles are nevertheless an item that can be used. They will not last forever, and I think that part of their appeal is their finiteness.

A lot of places do not allow residents to burn candles indoors, but for those that do, I can strongly recommend finding a candle of your choosing and lighting it when you start to feel displaced. Objectively soothing scents include lavender and chamomile, but even better is if you have a scented candle you would normally burn at home that you can burn in your new lodging to restore the familiarity.

Photograph courtesy of Nathan Dumlao for Unsplash

Get cookin’

Last but not least, make an effort to cook your favourite homemade dishes. When you are in a new country, the newness of the available food can be especially overwhelming; I remember returning home from Southeast Asia and craving nothing more than meat and three veg (this was before the vegetarian phase). As much as I had enjoyed the Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, I swore I could not eat anymore rice for at least a month.

If you are in a similar situation and the local restaurants are not tickling your fancy, try and stock your pantry with ingredients from home, and relish cooking (and of course, eating) food from your own culture. Cooking can really become something special and almost intimate if you see it as more than a means to the end of quelling your appetite.

Photograph courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo for Unsplash

One last note I wanted to make is about attitude. Even if you commit to all of the above, your new place is never going to feel like home if you don’t at least approach it with an adaptable and constructive attitude. People can find themselves in new environments both willingly and unwillingly, but if your priority is to make the most of the situation, a positive attitude is essential. Now, sometimes a negative attitude is necessary to get out of a bad situation, but if you are reading this piece, then I imagine that doesn’t describe you.

Making temporary accommodation feel like home doesn’t have to mean blowing your budget or surrounding yourself with meaningless objects just to make the space feel less empty. Home means something different to everybody, and once you figure out what your home is, well…  that’s when you won’t need to read articles like this anymore.

In February of 2017 (lordy that feels like a long time ago…) I published a guest post on the Travelettes called How to Get Comfortable with Traveling. As I wrote, “I’m not talking about homesickness… at least, not entirely”, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably identify strongly with that unnerving feeling whenever you’re out of your geographic comfort zone. This article addresses that, and I am linking it here because I think that it’s very relevant to what I’ve discussed in the present article.

Let me know your thoughts.

Photographs courtesy of Unsplash.

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter and sign up to our pen pal network!

Continue Reading

Thoughts on the Guardian’s “Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome”

I woke up this morning to an article in the Guardian by Stephen Burgen called Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome: Why Barcelona Chose Migrants Over Visitors. The refugee crisis is an issue I am fiercely concerned about; you may even remember an article I published earlier this year called Invisible Victimisation: The Gender Politics of the Refugee Crisis. Reading the Guardian, some spark of motivation gripped me – something that happens all too rarely of late – and I seized my laptop and began to jot down my own thoughts.

I warn you that this is not a polished, introspective response to Burgen’s piece. Rather, this is a somewhat fragmented collection of my thoughts at 9am on a Monday morning before my first cuppa. I haven’t even finished the piece prior to writing this introduction. But that’s what I wanted: something sincere and barefaced. A conversation with you, the reader – and conversations don’t have the luxury of review.

But without further ado!

If you haven’t read the article of which I am writing about, I strongly recommend you do. Nevertheless, I’ll give you some context. Burgen begins by remembering a protest that took place in Barcelona last year targeting Spain’s refugee quota. Around the same time, graffiti began cropping up around the city that read ‘tourists go home, refugees welcome’. The Spanish media quickly termed the phenomenon turismofobia.

What was driving this outcry? As Burgen writes, “… it is tourism, not immigration, that people see as a threat to (Barcelona’s) very identity”.

I harbour many thoughts about identity politics. A lot of those thoughts are still scattered and only half-formed, and for that reason, I will not offer my full opinion until I am confident that I can articulate it well. But what I will say is that I do not believe identity to be productive – at least not in the sense Burgen is appealing to. This is a position that I expressed in my post In Defence of Cultural Appropriation. To paraphrase and truncate this article, cultural identity is destructive because it divides communities and encourages hostility through an us-them mentality. If we are ever going to enjoy a society where people of all backgrounds are treated equal, then I believe that identity is a construct we need to challenge.

However, the plot thickens when we apply this line of reasoning to Burgen’s article. If we analyse the above quote, we understand Burgen to be arguing that refugees in fact form part of Barcelona’s identity, whereas tourists jeopardise it. Here, we observe that the traditional paradigm – whereby refugees are framed as the problem – is reversed. Barcelona’s identity politics are working towards helping an impoverished group who have consistently been demonised for their own suffering and plights. Barcelona sees embracing ‘outsiders’ as integral to its sense of self.

Thus, can I still argue that identity is a bad thing?

The answer is yes.

Even if in some cases identity encourages group altruism, I do not believe it to be constructive if it still comes at somebody else’s expense. Now, that ‘somebody else’ may be privileged tourists who might have spent more time contemplating what colour bikini they are going to wear on Playa Mar Bella than the refugee crisis, but that expense is still an expense.

I am neither arguing that tourism is always a good thing: as a travel blogger, I may be the pot calling the kettle black, but I am not ignorant to the negative impacts tourism can – and does – hold. In the context of Barcelona alone, the city receives roughly twenty times as many tourists as residents. To quote Burgen, this number is “… driving up rent, pushing residents out of neighbourhoods, and overwhelming the public space”. I do not disagree that these consequences are undesirable and should be addressed.

Is the answer to ban tourism? In my eyes, no. One of the major positive impacts of tourism is that it can expose people to the lives of others and teach them that different doesn’t automatically mean bad. It can teach people that their own experience does not reflect the human experience, and that they can learn so much from those they interact with.

“… immigration has changed the city, but tourism is destabilising it”.

Stephen Burgen

One of Barcelona’s district councillors, Santi Ibarra, further argues that “… tourism takes something out of neighbourhoods… it makes them more banal – the same as everywhere else”. I sympathise with Ibarra, although perhaps for different reasons. I also sympathise to an extent with Burgen, although I take issue with some of his claims. For example, he claims that diversity is to be celebrated rather than condemned, and yet he seems to imply that tourism cannot offer that. Part of me instinctively wants to cheer him on. When I think of the word ‘tourist’, my mind conjures images of homogenous white people wearing sandals and brandishing selfie sticks. I mean, I just googled ‘tourist’, and had to actually scroll before I saw any colour representation. Try it. But the reality is that tourists are no less diverse than refugees, and to insist otherwise will help no one.

Barcelona prides itself on maintaining a large immigrant population without interpersonal conflict, but I fail to understand how, in the same breath, it can also pride itself on breeding conflict between residents and tourists. Travellers need to hold themselves accountable for being educating about responsible tourism, and they need to treat the cities they visit with respect. Those that do not should be penalised in some just way. But they should not be banned from certain cities simply for wanting to experience more of the world.

So… what is the answer?

I don’t know. I’m not writing this to offer a solution to Barcelona’s tourism problem. I’m writing this to share my messy, 9am on a Monday, tea-less thoughts. I am feeling optimistic about the council’s 2015 approach to “… impose a moratorium on new hotels… contain the spread of tourist apartments and devise an urban plan… that prioritises local commerce over businesses aimed at tourists”. I can imagine a similarly optimistic outcome for extending these changes to public transport so that residents can actually move within their own city. What I am not feeling optimistic about is an outright ban on tourism in Barcelona – or anywhere else, for that matter.
In his Guardian article, Stephen Burgen reflects upon the palpable tension between Barcelona residents and tourists. I think it is fantastic that Barcelona is challenging the close-mindedness many communities experience regarding the refugee crisis, but what I don’t think is so fantastic is their use of identity politics to ostracise the tourist population. I sympathise deeply with much Burgen has said, and as someone coming from a country that harbours its own resentment towards tourists, I agree that it is an issue that demands urgent address. But Barcelona’s reasons for ostracising tourists is unjustified. Identity should never have come into the equation, and if the city wants to rationalise its animosity, it would do better to look to concrete logistics such as housing shortages and transport issues that simply cannot accommodate the hordes.
If this opinion piece has whet your appetite, make sure to peruse Airline Inequality: A Social Microcosm of Class. I would also love to hear your feedback on the articles I linked above in this post about the refugee crisis and cultural appropriation. Drop a line to my email below.
Continue Reading

40 Things to Do in Dunedin, New Zealand

Forget Tripadvisor.

I couldn’t return to my home town for a quick visit (or as quick as a visit can be when you’re traveling 12,000 miles) and not pay at least some blog-worthy tribute to this sentimental city. Returning felt a bit like being embraced by a warm hug, and it was certainly nostalgic to revisit some of my old haunts.

Although you’ll find some token touristic attractions here, you will also find a few hidden gems that only Dunedin locals know about. It took a lot for me not to comprise this list solely of food ideas, so know that the ones I have included are – in my humble opinion – on a level above the rest.

So, in no particular order, here are 40 things to do in this little Scottish settlement by the name of Dunedin…

  1. Follow the Dunedin street art trail
  2. Catch a wave in the St. Clair surf
  3. Take a step back in time at Olveston Historic Home
  4. Sip on a Pic’s Poles at Starfish Café
  5. Play disc golf at Chingford Park
  6. Eat fish and chips at the Signal Hill Lookout
  7. Dine on authentic Italian cuisine at the Esplanade
  8. Embrace Dunedin’s multi-cultural heritage at the Chinese Gardens
  9. Take a dip at St. Kilda Beach
  10. Start your weekend off the right way with an order from the Friday Shop
  11. Catch some rays at the St. Clair Hot Salt Water Pool
  12. Enjoy a cheese platter from Carey’s Bay Historic Hotel
  13. Burn some calories by walking up Jacob’s Ladder
  14. Attend a public lecture at the University of Otago
  15. Order an iced coffee at Kiki Beware
  16. Take in some New Zealand landscape at Lover’s Leap
  17. Feed the ducks at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens
  18. Eat an ice cream from Rob Roy Dairy on the museum lawn
  19. Catch a butterfly at the Tropical Forest
  20. Enjoy a lazy Sunday brunch at Nectar Espresso Bar and Café
  21. Enter the pub quiz at the Dog with Two Tails
  22. Stock up on some fresh seasonal produce at the Otago Farmer’s Market
  23. Take a selfie at the Railway Station
  24. Jump from the rocks at Outram Glen
  25. Channel your healthier side at the Good Earth organic café
  26. Cheer for your favourite team at Forsyth Barr Stadium
  27. Visit the Albatross Colony on the Otago Peninsula
  28. Melt at the sight of the puppies at the Nichol’s Pet Warehouse
  29. Scale the sand dunes of Tomahawk Beach (and mind the sea lions!)
  30. See a real Egyptian mummy at the Otago Museum
  31. Admire the interior architecture at Rialto Cinema
  32. Order the pancake of the month at Capers
  33. Brew a pint at Speight’s Brewery
  34. Expand your literary boundaries at the University Book Shop
  35. Inject a doughnut at Nova
  36. Challenge yourself to climbing the steepest street in the world
  37. Start the day with Eggs Benedict at Ironic Café and Bar
  38. Take in the secret ocean views at Second Beach
  39. Play aristocrats at Larnach Castle
  40. Explore the industrial area with a pit stop at Vogel St. Kitchen

Are you a local who wants to to add something to the list? Let’s connect – email me at thegingerpassports@gmail.com or message me over Facebook or Twitter and I’ll hop to it.

Alternatively, if you’re about to touch down in Dunedin, be sure to watch my vlog (and laugh at slow motion footage of me failing to blow a dandelion).

Here are also some of my Dunedin highlights fresh from the blog:

📚 The Local’s Guide to Dunedin

🌊 The Beach Review #1: St. Kilda

⛰ Postcards from Lover’s Leap

🐝 Flight of the Butterflies: Otago Museum’s Tropical Forest

and last but not least, my own personal favourite…

☕ Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix

The surfing and farmer’s market photographs are courtesy of Unsplash. The photograph of Kiki Beware was taken by Naomi Haussmann for Neat Places, and the photograph of Larnach Castle was sourced from Tripadvisor.

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter and sign up to our pen pal network!

Continue Reading

The Green Traveler: 5 Eco-Friendly Destinations to Visit This Year

The principles of eco-tourism are continually rising in popularity as the world becomes more environmentally conscious. Many tourists now seek eco-friendly activities and accommodation during their travels as a way of protecting the communities they visit. You can enjoy a much richer travel experience knowing that your presence isn’t harming the environment nor the wellbeing of the locals.

Certain countries are leading the way regarding eco-tourism, making it a top priority to unite conservation, local communities, and responsible travel. Here are some of the best eco-friendly destinations to visit this year…

New Zealand

Over the years, New Zealand has worked hard to protect its spectacular natural beauty and wildlife by practising sustainable travel. New Zealand offers an abundance of eco-friendly tours and activities, including bird-watching, dolphin and whale-watching, and nature cruises.

One of my favourite places to see wildlife up close is the Otago Peninsula. Located in Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula is rightfully recognised as the wildlife capital of New Zealand, and offers a unique opportunity to see the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross.

I’d also recommend a visit to the Glowworm Caves. Set in the Waikato Region, this tour showcases an incredible light display of thousands of glowworms inside the Waitomo Caves. The experience of watching this light show is truly magical, and one you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Photography courtesy of Alex Siale for Unsplash

Samoa

Samoa is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations in the South Pacific. The islands of Samoa are comprised of gorgeous reefs, beaches, and lush rainforests occupied by crystal waterfalls and breathtaking gorges. Eco-tourism is widely embraced in Samoa, where responsible tour operators are regulated and are proud to protect Samoa’s delicate environment, economy, and marine life. These tours are also supported by many of Samoa’s eco-friendly hotels. The eco-friendly accommodation options in Samoa ensure that tourists have a unique travel experience without compromising the welfare of the environment.

Photograph courtesy of Moon for Unsplash

Iceland

Iceland’s breathtaking scenic beauty has made it a bucket-list destination for many travellers who are enthusiastic about ‘nature tourism’ (look it up!). The dramatic landscape has a form unlike anywhere else on earth, made up of volcanoes, lava fields, hot springs, and geysers.  

Iceland boasts a well-deserved reputation as one of the most environmentally-conscious countries in the world. Over the years, the country’s government has continued to fight against ocean pollution, and actively promotes the use of hydroelectrical and geothermal resources for heat and electricity production, particularly in the nation’s capital city, Reykjavik.

You can find one of Iceland’s most amazing eco-friendly activities in the town of Húsavík, where you can go whale-watching in an electric-powered ship named Opal. Opal was designed and built over half a century ago as a trawler, and has now been converted to operate carbon free and cause the least amount of noise disturbance to the whales. Even though Opal runs on electricity, it is rigged like a beautiful, traditional sailing ship, and can even recharge its batteries at sea when the ship is under sail.

Photograph courtesy of Giuseppe Mondì for Unsplash

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been yet another primary leader of the eco-tourism movement. This small yet captivating corner of Central America currently produces 95% of its electricity from renewable resources, with a goal to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2020. Costa Rica has over 12 main ecosystems, which is said to take up 5% of the world’s biodiversity. With a growing selection of eco-lodges situated in mountains, volcanic regions, and alongside national parks, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for the green traveller.

Photograph courtesy of Max Boettinger for Unsplash

Norway

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Norway is often voted as one of the best places in the world to live. The essence of its appeal lies largely in its natural beauty and outdoor adventures like cliff-climbing, hiking, and kayaking. This Scandinavian country is indeed powered by nature, as its official slogan claims. There is so much to see and explore here, from mountains and glaciers to deep coastal fjords and waterfalls. Norway is dedicated to preserving its amazing landscape, with many green initiatives working towards responsible tourism.

Photograph courtesy of Mikita Karasiou for Unsplash

If you are looking for inspiring, eco-friendly destinations to explore and gain a greater appreciation for the world’s precious environment, New Zealand, Samoa, Iceland, Costa Rica, and Norway are just a handful of choices. Sustainable tourism by visitors who respect the environment is especially important, as the revenue generated through tourism will help to fund more eco-friendly initiatives in these countries for the future.

Author Bio

Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand ,who is passionate about travel and adventure. She enjoys taking impromptu hikes with friends or driving along New Zealand’s most scenic routes. However, most days you’ll find Harper planning her next travel adventure – with Norway next on her list. See more of her work here.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Travel Vlog: Waikiki Edition

I promised, and I delivered!

It’s been a long, long time (four months to be exact) since I published my last vlog. As much fun as it was to try something new with my 2017 Travel Recap, I missed the good old templates that I had grown so fond of. There’s nothing like editing together cuts of saturated fruit and off-focus flowers 🍉🌺 (I’m being completely sarcastic. My boyfriend doesn’t stop complaining about my obsession with fruit and flowers)

For all of you in the southern hemisphere, a balmy Waikiki travel vlog might be just what you need as you embark on the odyssey into winter. Or, it might really not be. Either way, here is two minutes of footage taken during three trips over ten years in the aloha state. Enjoy.

You might have already seen my Postcards from Waikiki blog post that was published last Friday. If not, here are some aesthetic highlights.

While you’re here, be a 🌟 and give my video a thumbs up on YouTube (or better still – subscribe!) and offer some feedback so that I can improve on my content. It’s all about getting better and better.

If you’re peckish for some more travel vlogs, why not give my Madrid, Cairo, or South of France videos a go?

My next travel destination might not be as tropical as Hawaii, but it’s sure to be just as exciting. I’ll keep the ‘deats under wraps for now, but I’ll give you a ‘lil hint… ☕😏

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Postcards from Waikiki

Aloha ohana! 🌺 I am finally returning after my spontaneous month-long hiatus with some stellar new content, and it feels oh so good to be back. Over the past month or so, I have completed a round-world trip, which is something I can now tick off my (admittedly nonexistent) bucket list. I left from England, spent a few days in Spain, checked into the motherland (New Zealand), caught some waves in Hawaii, and then circled back to England again. I’ve got to say, I had presumed a 360° journey would be painful fight-wise (I passed through nine different airports), but I hit the jackpot on high-quality airlines and all but empty planes. There’s nothing like having the whole row of seats to yourself in economy class on a long-haul flight.

To give you a little taste of what I’ve been up to lately, I’m going to kick off with another instalment of the postcard series: the Waikiki edition. This was my third time traveling to Hawaii, which meant that – as an old hand – my experience was a little less touristic and more of an exercise in visiting all of my favourite haunts. I spent the week surfing, drinking watermelon juice, and roaming the streets of Honolulu’s most iconic neighbourhood in an exasperated search of vegetarian food (seriously, it’s an issue how few options there are. This is 2018, people!).

My time in Waikiki has inspired a few posts that I am really looking forward to sharing with you. As always, keep your eyes peeled towards the bottom of my post for my Waikiki travel vlog, which was published on the Ginger Passports’ YouTube channel….

The view from our hotel room

It’s not a Ginger Passports blog post without at least one photo of fruit or vege 🍉

Although they are native to India, you will find the glorious banyan tree all over the island

Sunbathing (or burning, in my case) ☀

Feeling aesthetic

And for your viewing pleasure…

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’re the first to know when new content comes out 📽

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter!

Continue Reading

8 Cultural Tips You Need to Know Before Traveling to Dubai

Dubai – the City of Gold – has long been included in most people’s lists of places to go before they die. The most liberated city in the Arab region never fails to show the world that there is no such thing as impossible. It is home to many of the world’s top man-made wonders, after all.

If you are one of the many travelers who still have Dubai to check off on your list of places to visit, there is no doubt that you will marvel at this city when you do come. There is an abundance of adventurous activities here. Furthermore, if you want to treat yourself to a luxurious getaway, there is no shortage of luxurious hotels and resorts in Dubai ready to enthral you in every possible way.

Suffice it to say, Dubai is ready for you.

But are you ready for it?

This desert city, while committed to growth and progress, is still very much rooted in its Arab culture. Are you aware of Dubai’s customs? If not, then you better learn so you can avoid getting into trouble with the locals and the law.

There are activities and behaviours you may think to be neutral in other countries that could actually be deemed scandalous – even criminal – in Dubai. Listed below are eight important points for you to learn about the city’s local culture and customs.

Drinking alcohol is no casual activity here

You may find restaurants in Dubai that advertise their happy hour, but you can’t just head on over and freely order a drink.  Residents need to present an alcohol license to be sold any alcoholic beverage.

You can, however, enjoy a beer or glass of wine as a traveler without an alcohol license – but only if you purchase it at a licensed hotel, bar or restaurant, and stay within its premises the whole time. Also, it’s imperative to note that you must not consume excessive amounts of alcohol because exhibiting drunken behavior is not tolerated in Dubai.

Loud and wild parties are no-nos

Dubai may have a flourishing social scene, but local culture dictates great consideration for others despite the frivolity of an event. Loud music and dancing are frowned upon, and may even land you in jail for being a disturbance to others.

Public displays of affection are considered indecent

You may be spending your getaway at a romantic ocean view hotel, but keep the affection for your spouse (yes, it has to be someone you’re married to) in the bedroom.

Kissing, hugging or cuddling, and holding hands in public are all considered lascivious acts. Many have landed in jail simply because they didn’t know Dubai remains that conservative when it comes to physical affection.

Cussing is always an offence

There is no tolerance for vulgar language in Dubai, be it said or in written form (like on a shirt or a post on social media). Observe local culture sensitivities about ‘defamatory language’, because failure to do so can easily land you in jail.

A lot of visitors and expats learned this lesson the hard way, so if you’re coming to the City of Gold for the first time and you’re used to cussing like a sailor, do your best to hold your tongue. Even if it’s just a casual expression for you, and is not directed toward anybody, you still run the risk of spending a night in jail.

Modest dressing is the norm

Desert weather is super-hot, but remember to stay covered to avoid generating unwanted attention and getting fined. That means no to clothing that shows too much leg, arms, and chest, for both men and women.

Dubai is the most tolerant city in all of the Middle East, but it still holds strict rules of propriety. Visitors of the city should avoid breaking these rules.

There exist strict photography laws

The UAE has strict photography laws, which protect its conservative locals, as well as sacred sites and buildings of power.  Keep an eye out for signs indicating that picture-taking is not allowed.

Moreover, if you wish to take snapshots of the locals – especially women – get their consent first (which is a little tricky to do because casually chatting up women can be considered a form of harassment). In Dubai and the rest of the UAE, it is deemed rude and intrusive to just suddenly take pictures of people around you. Failure to uphold these photography laws can lead to an arrest or hefty fines.

Use your right hand for doing most things

The left hand is considered the dirty hand in Muslim cultures. Avoid using it when meeting people for the first time, opening doors, and most importantly, when eating.

Don’t eat in public during Ramadan

Show respect for the Muslims who fast during Ramadan. You do not have to fast along with them, however, avoid eating where you can be seen during this time to demonstrate social sensitivity as the Muslim majority of Dubai’s population.

Article 313 of the Penal Code actually considers it a criminal offense for anyone (irrespective of faith) to consume food or drinks in public at daytime during Ramadan. Violation of this law can lead to a month-long imprisonment or a fine of Dhs 2,000.

Knowing these important points will keep you from committing social mistakes that could ruin your time in Dubai. Keep your trip classy, and observe, respect, and learn from the local culture, especially if the customs are different to what you are used to. With these things in mind, your Dubai experience is sure to be spectacular.

Author Bio

Thomas Grundner is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for JA Resorts & Hotels. He has more than 20 years of expertise in the hospitality and leisure industry – across international markets including Germany, Egypt and Spain. Grundner oversees all sales, marketing and revenue efforts as the company continues to build on its key growth and development strategies and further cultivates its unique blend of ‘Heartfelt Hospitality’ and ‘Casual Luxury’.

Photographs courtesy of Unsplash

If you’re interested in learning more about social customs in different cultures, be sure to spare a moment for my experience in Egypt’s conservative climate. Open Season: Being a Ginger in Egypt is waiting for you…

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● Youtube

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Postcards from Oxford

Oscar Wilde once said that Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and (that) nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.

He wasn’t wrong.

When I arrived in the City of Dreaming Spires only three months ago, it was impossible to turn a blind eye to its reputation. I had been well-informed that it was the most beautiful town in England, and the fact that I would be living (quite literally) on the doorstep of the world’s oldest English-speaking university that has educated the likes of Stephen Hawking, Aldous Huxley, and Emma Watson (shout out to the Harry Potter generation) didn’t alleviate the suspense.

All of five minutes after I stepped off the train, I decided that the suspense had been worth it.

I plan to write a lot of blog posts detailing my Oxford experience, but for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a ‘lil appetiser of what’s to come. Oxford is a fantastical place that you really have to see with your own two eyes, but for now, see what it’s like through my lens…

There is quite possibly nothing more transcendent that Oxford under snowfall

Enchanted by New College (deceptive in the fact that is actually one of the oldest colleges at the University of Oxford)

Learning a thing or two at the renowned Museum of Natural History

“Oxford lends sweetness to labour and dignity to leisure.”

Henry James

Exploring Hogwarts at one of Harry Potter’s film locations at New College

Taking in the views from the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin

December blues… Oxford the ghost town

Christ Church College, where they filmed the Great Hall scenes in Harry Potter 😍

The romantic Bridge of Sighs

Another fine specimen from the Museum of Natural History

Idyllic, cobblestoned streets containing gems like this

The iconic Radcliffe Camera basking (for once) in the sun

For more of my postcards series, feast your eyes on Postcards from Madrid, Postcards from Angkor Wat, and the oldie but a goodie, Postcards from Ha Long Bay. Furthermore, stay tuned for the Oxford travel vlog that will be airing soon! In the meantime, keep up to date with latest on the Ginger Passports’ YouTube Channel (and show some love!)

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● YoutubeLinkedIn

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter!

Continue Reading

Contrived Perfection: Why You Won’t Find Me On Instagram

In January 2015, I signed up to a little app called Instagram.

I remember vividly the joys of waking up in the morning, grabbing my phone from the bedside table, and scrolling down my feed to see what had happened in the Insta-sphere overnight. I would schedule when to upload my pictures with an almost neurotic zest, and the photo editing app VSCO became like second nature to me. Even in the days before the Ginger Passports, I followed an impressive selection of travel bloggers; some of my favourites were Lauren Bullen of @gypsea_lust, and the curated @dametraveler. I would be lying if I said that the jaw-dropping photography I saw through this platform didn’t in part inspire me to create my own travel blog.

Cut to late 2016.

“Why don’t you give that bloody thing a break for once?” asked my boyfriend as I was checking my phone for the umpteenth time to see who had liked my latest gram. It took me a moment to mentally pull away from the screen and engage with what he was saying.

He wasn’t exaggerating. I unwittingly seized any opportunity to disconnect from my immediate responsibilities and immerse myself in the app – a disconnection that is somewhat ironic, coming from a social application designed to facilitate connection. I didn’t pay him much heed at the time, but it wasn’t long before I began to really consider my participation in such a community. It wasn’t until it reached the point where I scrapped a potential trip to Portugal because I couldn’t find transport to a particular Insta-worthy location that I deleted the app in cold blood. My hard-earned followers and hours of arduous planning and aesthetic calculation circled down the drain.

Deleting Instagram was the best decision of my online life.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. It took a wee while for me to adjust back to life in the slow lane. For several weeks after, I still couldn’t meet a friend for coffee without being distracted by which filter my chai latte would look best under. I remember panicking when I booked my flight to Madrid because my ticket said I was seated on the aisle, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to post epic views from out the window. It took me a decent five minutes before it dawned on me that I no longer had to bother with any of that stuff. But at the end of the day – and one and a half years later – I can sincerely say that I do not regret my decision to leave that community.

It seems that I’m not the only one harvesting bones to pick with the social media giant. Time magazine published an article in 2017 called ‘Why Instagram is the Worst Social Media For Mental Health‘, and I couldn’t agree with their findings more. Studies show that the psychological distress fostered by the app can lead to debilitating anxiety and depression. An individual in the article commented that, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough, as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’.”

This is where I segue into why I am denouncing Instagram. The main problem I have with it is that it paints an unrealistic portrait of life. In the context of travel bloggers, this means a feed saturated with photos of ‘contrived perfection’, to quote former internet celebrity Essena O’Neill. Success on Instagram for travel influencers has been reduced to a formula: devastatingly beautiful model + turned away from the camera + isolated location + heavy editing = triumph. Anything outside of this formula is far less likely to garner such a positive response.

If you’re unconvinced, just take a look at the grams below. These are some gorgeous snaps taken by Jessica Stein of Tuula Vintage, Nicola Easterby of Polkadot Passport, Brooke Saward of World of Wanderlust, and Kiersten Rich of the Blonde Abroad. They also happen to meet the criteria stated above.

These photographs do not represent the the reality of travel blogging, nor of these travel bloggers’ lives. But when all anyone sees is the final product, you can’t blame them for thinking that. You can’t blame anyone constantly inundated with this sort of media not to question their own life, and by extension, their own self-worth. In a social culture that thrives off conspicuous consumerism, how we present our lives can become a reflection of their value. Digital manipulation and selective presentation can be dangerous.

I want to make it very clear that I do not for one moment think that these Instagrammers have their success handed to them on a silver platter. Nor do I for one moment think that their work is shallow or meaningless. People simply don’t understand the hard work that goes into ‘making it’ in this industry. I follow all of the blogs and read all of the content produced by these women, and I cannot even begin to imagine the sheer amount of time, effort and money that goes into these pieces. I don’t just follow these women, I look up to these women – just not for the pretty pictures you’ll find on the ‘gram. If you want to further understand why, take a moment to read about Jessica’s experience raising a newborn daughter diagnosed with a rare chromosome disorder, Brooke’s take on sacrifice and personal values, Nicola’s advice on how we can stop letting animals be abused for tourism, and Kiersten’s guide on how you can volunteer abroad.

I am not here to drag these women down; I am here to offer a critique as to how Instagram removes pictures from their context, and purveys an exclusive, one-dimensional, one-size-fits-all view of traveling.

“I joined Instagram relatively recently, mainly to look at travel photos of places and people around the world… but was disappointed (by) how many of the photos seemed to follow a particular format. A thin, blonde, white girl stands in a floaty dress, her back to the viewer, in a seemingly preordained beautiful location. Off camera, a queue of other ‘influencers’ wait patiently to get the perfect shot.”

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett for the Guardian

Columnist and author Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is onto something. As she continues to write in her article on how Instagram is sucking the life and soul out of travel, “when most travel photographs on Instagram begin to look like fashion editorials, you have to wonder whether anyone is learning anything.” Call me old-fashioned, but I like to think that travel should be an opportunity first and foremost to educate yourself on life beyond your front gate. Only a privileged few even get the chance, so why would you waste it on somebody else’s aesthetic taste?

The psychology behind Instagram proves to be particularly interesting. An article by Wolf Millionaire outlined several cognitive mechanisms by which we might understand the addiction of this app. According to the article, Instagram activates the reward centres in our brains; by sharing our goings-on with our followers – and subsequently receiving positive feedback in the form of likes and comments – we are reinforcing the activity. The reciprocity effect comes into effect here, whereby we exploit the habit of returning favours to people who have helped us in some way. In the context of Instagram, this means that when we like someone’s picture, we eagerly anticipate that person liking one of ours back.

But that is not to say that all of these cognitive mechanisms are ultimately beneficial. Relative deprivation refers to the psychological phenomenon whereby we compare our lives to other people’s. This is an occurrence which wreaks havoc on our mental health when we forget that what we see on Instagram is the cherry pickings of people’s lives. For every envy-inducing photo of a stunning travel blogger posing beneath the Eiffel Tower, there are a dozen others where people kept walking into shot, the wind was blowing her hair into her face, or a cloud wasn’t cooperating (trust me, I’ve been there). This relative deprivation is possibly the biggest influence regarding why I decided to call it quits on Instagram; I didn’t even know I was committing it until I went cold turkey and realised that suddenly my life didn’t seem so drab anymore.

Recently, Instagram have also changed their presentation algorithms from a chronological system to one that favours the big guns in the industry over the underdogs.  As Sara Melotti of Behind the Quest wrote, “What once used to be about content and originality is now reduced to some meaningless algorithm dynamics and who has the time and the cash to trick this system wins the game”. Some might argue that there is nothing wrong or unethical about this – after all, that’s just the nature of business. But does this mean we should continue to support this? Or should we protest against the implications? This raises another provocative question: whose responsibility is it to make a change? Should Instagram really bear the moral burden, or is it up to its users?

 

I am fully aware that Instagram is not just one of, but perhaps the most valuable tool by which to grow your brand. It is essentially a platform that has enjoyed a front row seat in the shift from traditional forms of advertising to something that blurs the lines between marketing and reality. If I decided to bite the bullet and create another Instagram account, I can almost guarantee that my follow count for the Ginger Passports would grow exponentially. I would probably gain more access to sponsorships and other resources that I could convert into the means to travel without breaking the bank and making other financial sacrifices. Nearly eighteen months on from when I launched this blog, I probably still wouldn’t be bending over backwards to try and secure business partnerships. Life would probably be a hell of a lot easier.

But life also isn’t lived under a filter.

As of the time of writing, my advertising is pretty humble. I rely on organic growth and the conviction that meaningful, thought-provoking content will convince readers to come back time and time again rather than closing the tab for good. I focus on creating content for my blog rather than social media so that I have the luxury and accommodation to actually communicate my thoughts and go beyond the aesthetic. I have made a conscious decision not to make myself a feature of this blog, but rather to showcase places and other people who I believe can make a bigger and better impact. At the end of the day, I am a writer.

Instagram is an incredible platform that holds the potential to introduce the world to unknown talent and artistry. However, it is also a tool that is used and abused. Sometimes I think that it’s sad how such a masterful invention is coupled with such harmful, negative side effects. Imagine the relationship we would have with Instagram if we all understood the implications and actively worked against them. But in practice, this would never happen, and so I am investing in what I personally believe to be a much better alternative: platforms that encourage discussion above all else.

Maybe abstaining from Instagram is going to be the downfall of my blog. Maybe abstaining from Instagram is the only thing holding me back. But I’ve made my bed, and – considering that it is something I wholeheartedly believe in – I guess I’d better lie in it.

There’s no filter for that.

If you’re hungry for another opinion piece, feast your eyes on Why I Hate the Word Wanderlust. It’s still one of my favourites to date.

Photographs courtesy of Unsplash

Let’s Get Social!

Facebook ● Twitter ● YoutubeLinkedIn

And don’t forget to subscribe to our behind-the-scenes email newsletter!

 

Continue Reading