Saturday, March 13, 2010

What makes YOU annoying?

It’s important to know what makes you annoying

During reading week, my friends and I were in the midst of playing a black jack drinking game we had just invented when near the end of the evening, one of my close friends started talking to me about our upcoming trip., and pointed out “this will be a true test to your relationship, to see whether you guys can handle each other or not.” Everyone nodded in agreement.

While I obviously agree with this, I really don’t think Alanna and I are in any sort of trouble, for two reasons.

One, Alanna and I went to Algonquin last year on a camping trip, and even though it was only for two days, the potential for one of us to want to decapitate the other was quite high, and we worked out perfectly together, besides the non-stop rain and the wet tent.

We work great as a team. I’m not a domineering man who needs to take charge of everything. If Alanna is better at something, and to be honest, she quite often is, I have no problem taking the follower or helper role. With my girly techniques and Alanna’s handy-man attitude, we’re ready to go!

My second reason is I developed a plan that is foolproof for such a long trip.

I told Alanna that it’s smart for us to write out a list for each other of everything we expect of each other for the trip. For example, I have a tendency to snap occasionally just for the hell of it, and it can be quite annoying and hard to deal with. For Alanna, she can be a too emotional at times.

As long as both of us know our faults and what we need to do to please each other, I think were ready to go!

Of course this is all just theory and speculation. I may feel differently when I wake up one morning only to find myself alone in Brasov with my money gone and a note that says “let’s see you snap at me now.”

Only time will tell…


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Never Again: From Berlin to Auschwitz

After a few days in Berlin, we plan to travel to Krakow, a city that flourished in the 12th century and has a rich history of being the ancient capital of Poland.

Destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century, Krakow was rebuilt with a near-perfect grid plan and was left virtually unscathed by World War II, an amazing feat since it is only a one-hour bus ride to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Less than 10% of Krakow's Jewish population survived the Holocaust, and the city is rife with the history of the atrocities committed at the concentration camps. Over 4,000 people were gassed and cremated every day at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and today the camps stand as a reminder to the world of the atrocities that were committed. Free for visitors, Auschwitz is now more of a museum, paying homage to those lost with displays of hair, shoes, and other belongings taken from those interned.

Traveling to Krakow is less about the city and more about the day we'll spend at Auschwitz. This is the part of the trip right now that I'm looking forward to the most. The nature of my studies have led me to study genocide and its history, and especially with the controversy surrounding the Armenian genocide right now, I think making the trip to Poland, despite it being slightly out of our way, will be beneficial for us both.

I'm told that visiting Auschwitz is a profound experience, and I expect it to be. I'm sure I won't be disappointed.
I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.
- Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going green?

How could one even fathom traveling "green"? It seems like a daunting task that is going to cost far too much money and take more energy than it's worth. However, it's been proven that this is a misconception, that although jet-setting can be detrimental to the globe, there are small things that everyone can do to make their travel footprint a little lighter.

When I think long and hard about it, maybe going green is the way to... go?

One billion people around the world travel every year, meaning everyone needs to watch out for the effects this type of global movement can have on the environments we're visiting. Increase in globalization has led to an interconnectedness unlike anything the world has experienced, but often this means a loss of respect for the impacts of unrestricted travel.

The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global; oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion in Hawaii, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, and carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming. - MSNBC
Go Green Travel Green says that traveling green is more cost-effective (good for us since we're on a students' budget). Their "15 reasons to travel green" was however, not very compelling. Reason #2 was "It's good for your children, and your children's children" - not really something high on my priority list, I have to say. Although "You'll lose weight", reason #9, was sadly more compelling.

I hate to say I'd rather go cheap than go green, but let's be honest here - the majority travel with their ecological footprint only in the back of their mind as a small voice reminding them to take a shorter shower. But I think I've resolved myself to attempting to be as environmentally friendly as I can while I'm traveling. While in South Africa, I worked alongside wildlife projects, which gave me a good sense of what I should and shouldn't be doing as a visitor abroad.

Backpacking is going to be a different story. With a wide array of places on our list to visit, we will try to take more environmentally sustainable methods of travel, like train instead of bus or plane, since USA Today reports that a flight from New York to Denver produces as much carbon dioxide per passenger as an SUV produces in a month, a train seems like a healthier solution for the planet.

With some quick Internet searches, it's easy to come up with a list of easily attainable goals for traveling, and I hope to keep the following things in mind.

Goals to travel green
- ask hostel staff not to change towels or sheets every day
- use public transportation in destination cities
- bring your own toiletries
- when hiking, always stay on marked trails
- when snorkeling, avoid touching sea life
- buy local
- carry your own reusable container for drinking
- visit a local park, waterfront, aquarium or museum
- rent a bike, sailboat, canoe or kayak to explore
- travel light