Christmas shopping usually involves trying to buy people things they will like. Unless you’re an asshole and buy people things you like. But in most cases we try to think of their hobbies and go from there.
My parents are the worst to shop for. They like golfing, but I don’t know anything about it or what they would need. I can’t buy them golf vouchers since they are already part of a club so it takes me a while to think up some good golf gift ideas.
Travelers are also hard to shop for. If you’re like me, the last think you want is more stuff. If you want to buy a Christmas present for a digital nomad, make it something useful.
I’ve made a list of things that I think would come in handy for glob trotters, many of the items are things I would like from Santa.
It’s hard to get travellers gear as they already have their own travel packs and picking out camera gear for someone can be a daunting task, but there are some cool little things you can get them.
Quick dry underwear or towel. You heard me – depending on where travellers are, doing laundry isn’t always so convenient. We often end up washing our underwear in the sink and quick dry underwear helps avoid packing wet or damp items. A light weight, quick dry towel also comes in handy, because most people don’t like mold. True story.
A money belt or clothing with hidden zippers is a great way for your travel love to hide their money. This will also minimize the chances of them calling you asking for a money transfer because they’ve had all their money stolen. It’s almost like buying yourself a Christmas present!
There are so many awesome things to choose from in gadgets, just keep quality and size in mind. Cheaper isn’t always better, sometimes cheaper means crappier.
If you do happen to know your traveller’s camera, get them a new sweet lens or compact tripod. For myself specifically, I would love a pocket size camcorder or small under water camera.
For readers, there is the Kindle and I think every traveller should have an ipod touch or equivalent for awesome apps and quick internet access.
Books, Music, Movies
I know gift certificates aren’t the most personal gift, but an itunes gift certificate is a great way for travellers to watch movies and download music on the road.
Most travellers have a Kindle or other reading gadget and won’t want to carry another book with them. Reading is for losers anyways… just kidding, you’re best bet is to get them a Kindle gift certificate and if they don’t, maybe think about getting them a guide book or language dictionary for their next destination.
Alas, sometimes it’s just nice to give your beloved traveller some beer money, even if you have to send it as a Christmas gift via Paypal. I never turn down free beer! *Ahem, hint hint, mom!*
There was no way I was going to London without going inside Westminster Abbey. The nerd in me (which makes up a rather large part) longed to see the memorials to monarchs of old, gaze upon the place where more recent royals had their most important public moments take place and count off how many of the authors in Poet’s Corner I had read works by. I mean, I’ve got to put my English degree to some use, right?
But sweet Lady Jane was it expensive!
Entry to the Abbey for an adult is a hefty £16, which, depending on the exchange rate is about $25 Canadian/U.S. That… seems a bit high, doesn’t it? It doesn’t stop there though.
The Tower of London, where you can see the Crown Jewels and all matter of medieval London from daily life to the torture chamber, is £19.80 per adult. Sure, you can save some money by booking ahead online but it will only bring it down to slightly more than the Abbey. St. Paul’s Cathedral, a symbol of the resiliency of the British people and an architectural marvel, comes in at £14.50 per adult.
Making a day of the events listed comes in at £50.30 for each adult in attendance. If you are on any sort of a budget, you may find this unacceptable and you wouldn’t be alone. There are some ways to cut down the expenses of this expensive destination and I will share them with you!
1. Buy a Membership – This generally works if you’re seeing multiple spots and intend on revisiting, but it can save you a few dozen pounds that can be better spent in the pub! An especially good idea for those living in London who want to spread out their time. I would recommend renting one of the apartments in London over staying in a hotel or hostel if you do plan to live there for a bit, as you will save money on accommodation and have the ability to cook your own meals.
2. Get the London Pass – This handy pass has an initial cost of about $80 Canadian, but when you consider the above costs $80, it is worth getting. The London Pass is essential for anyone who wants to cram in as many famous things as they can in a few days, is available for multiple days, includes transportation, some line-jumping and more!
3. Don’t Visit All of Them – If you have little interest in these sights, spend your time in London soaking up the atmosphere and walking around. It costs nothing to walk by most of the famous attractions and you’ll still have a great time.
Maybe the standard of living is higher in London; maybe the London climate makes the buildings more susceptible to damage; maybe all the extra guards in London bring up the cost. Whatever it is, you can bet that costs like these are what keep certain people away from London as a tourist destination and is a terrible shame. Like anywhere, you can make the most of your trip if you plan out a budget for your, London accommodation, food and sites.
London can be intimidating because of how expensive it can be, but it all depends on your tastes. If you enjoy English culture and history, then you would be foolish to not attend as many of these places as you can, regardless of their cost.
When travelling abroad there are a few general things you should know about the people you meet, particularly if they are from the non-Mexican part of North America. This can be explained using the entirely accurate and not at all offensive practice of stereotyping.
It can be said that behind every falsehood rests a grain of truth but there is no truth in saying everyone of a nationality possess a fixed set of characteristics. You can blame the media, you can blame it on a few bad experiences or you can blame it on hearsay and ignorance, but stereotypes are all around us. So let’s look at a few between the two countries that share the world’s longest undefended border because while some groups may be okay with being confused, like Chinese and Japanese or Aussies and Kiwis, don’t mix up these two nations!*
*Which in itself is a generalization. And a joke. I’m joking. Please don’t get angry.
1. Americans are Fat
Yes, we’ve all read the statistics about the horrendous obesity rate in the U.S.A. but come on… not everyone is fat. Just watch American movies or television – many are anorexic too!
2. Canadians are Hockey Players
Oh you better believe Canadians love hockey. Did you know over half of all NHL players are Canadian? (If you don’t know what the NHL is, you’re probably asking ‘does he mean field or ice hockey? Ugh) But not everyone plays or cares about hockey. Case in point: me.
3. Americans Like to Fight; Canadians Don’t
If you consider the 3+ wars America has going on, you would think that is all they do. Keep in mind America is also the home to countless hippies and peaceful protestors of war and violence as is Canada. If you base it on averages, you’re likely to find Canadians more in favor of peaceful means than Americans, but again, averages don’t apply to all. Ever watched hockey? Fighting is a part of the game!
4. Americans are Ignorant
This could be said about almost any country – particularly when referring to young people – but take a look at the geography of North America. It’s huge and a long way from the rest of the world. So maybe you can forgive Canadians and Americans for not being as worldly as other citizens, but don’t you dare forgive Americans for the Canadia cracks or not being able to find Canada on a map. Some call Canada the apartment over top a fantastic party. Well I guess you have lots of time to party when you don’t have any jobs. Too soon? And no, you can’t come upstairs to score.
5. Canadians Are Bilingual
Ha! Yeah… this is not true. While the official languages of Canada are French and English but most can only speak one or the other – mostly English. It’s shameful, I know. Maybe just don’t tell the rest of the world – it makes us look sophisticated.
6. Americans Are Boors; Canadians Are Polite
Did you know I’ve never been verbally accosted while in Canada? It’s true. Except that it’s not. All of the biggest jerks I know are Canadian and I know many kind hearted Americans. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you tell someone their countrymen are assholes they are unlikely to respond favorably to you. Maybe you are the asshole? Oh yeah, and nothing goes to a Canadian’s head like telling them they’re polite. Thank you, you are too kind.
Margyle and Hogga do not 100% agree on this topic, click here to read Hogga’s view.
I’m always amazed when I meet up with other globetrotters and find out just how boring they are, yet they think being abroad makes them interesting. These are the people who can list off the numerous places they have been to but have not learned a thing; if their personality were a meal it would be tofu laced oatmeal and you would not want seconds.
The truth of the matter is some people abuse travelling the same way they abuse other hobbies – they think simply by going somewhere they are travellers. While working in Tokyo, I had a roommate who had been there an entire year prior to my arrival and had spent the majority of his time, not working, in his room watching movies. As English teachers, our work was neither taxing nor time consuming, so what was his excuse for not getting out there and seeing something crazy?
“I just never got around to it”
I would like to say he was the only example of blandness in the sojourning world, but we all know that’s a lie. I knew a girl, while studying in Australia, that could drain the energy out of you simply by looking at her “I’m smiling but there is nothing going on upstairs” face. She barely saw any of the country during our time off, instead blowing so much of her money on $100 cab rides to the clubs multiple times a week that she needed to get a job second semester just to cover her losses. If you’re living somewhere abroad like apartments in Berlin don’t you want to explore the area?
Finally, there is the acquaintance of mine that takes the cake. Coming from a rather privileged upbringing, this chap was able to amass a travel resume that would make a diplomat look like a xenophobe, yet he took the Pokemon “Gotta catch ‘em all!” approach to it. He is one of those who believes simply having your passport stamped in a country means you have been there because that’s what some travel group considers adequate. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a prize for seeing it all, but in typical trust fund form, he had a competition with his sister going and was giddy to have beaten her to Thailand and getting the leg up on her.
All of these people have travelled a great deal but they haven’t seen a thing. The beauty of getting out there in the world is opening yourself up to the unknown, experiencing something different and having it affect you personally. There are people who have never left their hometown and are more worldly than the most seasoned of jet setters because they go into each new day and new idea with a willingness to soak it all in.
If you have any inclination that you may be a boring individual (most do not), an exciting hobby like travelling will not make you interesting unless you can find a way to let it affect you without becoming obnoxious. Especially if you live abroad in Berlin apartments or teaching English in Asia, use your free time to adventure out of your apartment! Telling everyone how awesome you are because of your adventures isn’t a good place to start, but listening sure is. Maybe you’ll get some insight into what to do or not to do by bearing witness to the gaffes of others.
Margyle and Hogga do not 100% agree on this topic, click here to read Hogga’s view.
There are certain aspects of trips that, if they were removed, would be greatly appreciated by every traveller out there. Now before you think I refer to those practices and traditions native to particular locales, which would sound like this: “Why do goobers in other countries need to do stupid and different things? Why can’t we all just be the same and do what I do?” let me assure you it is not. That being said, that is generally how I deal with differences that anger and confuse me, but that is a topic for a later day.
No, what I speak of are those glorified crossing guards known as customs agents, particularly in airports. I mean seriously, do you think waiting behind a line for an hour to be asked a series of mundane questions, stared at intensely, videotaped, finger printed and then disdainfully disregarded is the best way to welcome people to your country let alone protect against undesirables? I’m already on the ground – isn’t it a little late for that?
I was on my way home to Canada after spending a year in Tokyo teaching English. I had just departed a trans Pacific flight to Chicago where I would get a transfer to Toronto with a 1.5 hour layover. I thought I could probably make my flight but all that was thwarted when I rounded a corner and entered the queue for customs.
On the left side was the entry for American citizens; the right was for all us foreign devils. Now tell me if this makes sense – the American side had twice as many officers as the foreign side and half as many passengers. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for a flight originating from a non-English speaking country to have more people on the foreign side since it may take more time to get around the language barrier? No, of course not. The result was I was still halfway through the line an hour into waiting while the American side was empty and the agents were talking amongst themselves.
When I finally got to the front after waiting for 2.5 hours, I thought to myself ‘This better be worth it’. After all, I had witnessed those in front of me getting pictures taken, looking to the left, then to the right, standing on one leg while touching their nose with alternating index fingers and reciting the alphabet backwards to prove their worth to enter the U.S.A.
The agent beckoned me to come before him with a singular hand gesture. I placed my passport before him. With a ragged sigh that seemed to evacuate all hope from his being, he scanned my sacred document and flipped to the first page. Apathetically, he asked ‘Where are you coming from?’ I replied ‘Tokyo’. He then set down my passport and, without even looking up at my visage, replied with all the sincerity his profession and lot in life afforded him: ‘Have a nice day’.
That was it?
I had a friend coming home on the same flight but was a U.S. citizen and they were asked ‘Where are you coming from?’ and ‘How long were you there?’ before being wished a nice day. In other words, a Canadian is less of a threat to American security than an American citizen is.
The nerd in me used to enjoy customs for the stamps, but a lot of countries are just scanning them these days, bringing customs down yet another peg. How many times have you been through an airport and thought ‘Man, I wish I could be a customs agent – they are such, enthusiastic individuals who really take pride in their work!’ Never. Nobody has ever said that. They hate their lives and quite often you as a result.
There have been good experiences with customs, mostly those in New Zealand and Japan, but by far and away it is an inconvenience I wish I could avoid. I know why it is done. I know it serves a purpose and a slight hassle for some travellers to protect others from harm is warranted.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it.