Advice for Camping: Test Everything.

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I love my Queen. Potrero War, California. May 2017.

So as I have mentioned before, I went camping this weekend and, while it was a lot of fun, so much went wrong in a fabulously, messy way. I’ve written a lot about how important it is to go over all your details before you set out on a trip just to avoid any unpleasantness down the road.

Well, easier said than done, apparently.

This was our first time using a period tent since a friend of our just bought an extra one off of another friend. We weren’t sure if we were going to use it as a sleeping tent or as a cooking tent but this time around the former was planned.

Packing was so easy. Without a tent, I could change things up. We used wardrobe bags (like the kind you might store your winter clothes in when they aren’t in use) instead of suitcases which laid out nicely in the bed of the truck and, since we are now using Coleman cots instead of smaller ground mats, we still had plenty of weight to hold down the driving tarp.

Well, when things settled and our tent arrived (about two hours after we did), we went around making camp. Between five of us, we had three tents of different designs and a Dragon Wing to set up. We had everything set up except our tent  before starting in, and that is where things went to hell.

The body of the tent itself is a single unit: a canvas roof and sides sewn together opening at each corner with pole holes at the top. Then there are poles; 6 sides and a double, stacked center pole twice as thick as the others. The poles are on a system that are held vertical by pulled ropes and steaks.

This is where two errors in planning popped up. First, as we uncoiled ropes we discovered two were frayed to the point where they no longer helped hold the tent upright. This was quickly remedied by borrowed rope but unveiled the larger issue: our number two, tent was hanging about a foot of the ground. That’s right, our poles were about a foot too long.

I ended up digging pole holes which cut down our gap, but after a short frustration meltdown, I said F-it and finished setting things up (this is also were I started digging holes). Luckily, our cots (once the holes were dug) were a few inches above the bottom of the fabric.  All in all it wasn’t too bad.

Cut to late that night, when getting into bed, I heard a small rip. It was dark and I wasn’t too concerned, so I went straight to sleep. In the morning when I work up, I noticed issue number three: my Coleman air mattress that goes with my cot was eating me, ie it was deflating and quick. My sister is quite a bit heavier than I am and her mattress was still exceedingly full so I knew it was an issue with my bed, not just basic air mattress things.

Then I got out of bed and looked down; issue number four: I was covered in feathers. I didn’t investigate further. I just saw the feathers, said nope, and went about my morning. Then I told my friends and one wanted to come look. On the second inspection, it looked even more like I had slaughtered a chicken in my bed (or at least plucked). Turns out I had ripped a hole in my down-comforter along two seams and that one square was linked to two others. Once again, I put the bed back and lived with it through the weekend – though I did run one more square out before the weekend was out.

Some of these we could have planned for – checking on the air mattresses before every trip and setting up new tents before getting to camp even if it is from someone you trust (apparently we did get the wrong poles and at least the cot part was comfortable without the mattress part) – and others we really couldn’t have – how could I have known about the blanket? However, as I have said time and again, you have to choose on trips like these how you are going to react.

We rolled with every punch life handed us and our weekend was so much better for it. We laughed and I am sure we’ll keep laughing through to the next one. Until next week,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Advice for Camping: Test Everything.

Airport Guests: Behave Yourselves!

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Boston, Massachusetts. August 2016.

So, if you are following along from last weeks discussion/advice on carry-on bags and air travel, you will remember that my final point was to simply Be Kind. In my advice, I also mentioned that I was going to talk about bad behavior and some of the truly horrendous things I’ve seen in my last few travels and how to avoid being these people who make life more difficult for everyone.

I have two quick points to start us off:

Firstly, I was never going to write this post, because, let’s be honest, we’ve all seen people misbehaving in airports and all immediately think ‘but I’d never do that!’, however, it’s easier to fall into bad behavior in a stressful situation (ie, traveling) than one would think. Then seeing certain situations – as will be detailed below – I felt the need to ask: when did we all forget how to travel well?

And, secondly, it may seem weird to address this to ‘Airport Guests’, after all, it’s not like you are staying at the airport like you might a hotel room or any other lodging, however, in both of these cases, you are technically a customer. Most of the time, we find that people behave better when they think of themselves as a guest – a person who may be served while there but who is generally expected t0 do their part and respect their host – rather than a simple customer – a person who is spending money in exchange for goods and services.

Therefore, if you are traveling, think of yourselves as a guests, with those travel employees not as your servers but as your hosts who are more than happy to help you out, but who also have every right not to do your bidding just because you demand it. (In this, I am in no way saying that anyone who works as a server deserves less respect; this actually works for all kinds of service oriented jobs!)

Anyway, while a lot of boorish behavior I have seen deals with luggage, I want to highlight two whoops moments (one seen and one experienced and neither really luggage related) to see what to do and not to do in the high stress world of travel: where everything can/will go a bit topsy-turvy.

Bad:

Coming home from Boston, my family landed in LAX which is the main LA thoroughfare, meaning it is a relatively large airport (but nothing like JFK or Heathrow!) but, in all my experiences, it is very well signed so that if you are paying attention, you shouldn’t end up too turned about.

Well, unless you were like the two early twenty-somethings we saw arguing with the two female security agents guarding the exit rout leading to the baggage claim – for those who are unclear, this is the hallway that is an exit only from the terminals which has no official security (metal detectors and ticket checks) and therefore cannot be used as an entry point to the terminals for any reason (which is why there are signs which specifically state the this is an exit point only and to check your baggage!).

This pair of young women were roughly explaining – one in anger and one through near tears – that they had been on the other side of the checkpoint but had gotten turned around while trying to transfer between flights, the next of which was set to board in half an hour. While one of the girls continued to be very combative (and very fond of interrupting), one of the guards explained that they could not verify that they had come through and, since it seemed like they had walked in through the outer doors before approaching the station, they would have to go though security (again) to reenter the terminal area.

The belligerent one began yelling (or at least something very reminiscent of it)n- hence why I can tell you so much about a conversation I heard in passing – about how they wouldn’t make their flight if they had to reenter security and how this was frankly (and I am censoring) total B.S. because they were not outside – they had just come down because they got lost trying to transfer.

After double checking their time to get to the plane, the guard very calmly (I was keeping track at this point and it all happened quickly) told them to head up to security and to tell the person sorting  out the line what had happened and the time constraint, and they would do their best to get both girls to their plane as quickly as possible.

While the crying girl went into panic mode, the other got more belligerent but, finally, after another minute or so of arguing fruitlessly, and frankly wasting precious time they did not seem to have, the angrier one dragged her panicked and now sobbing counterpart off toward the exit and the security above, however, not before loudly exclaiming “I can’t believe these absolute *C-U-Next-Tuesdays!” (*again, this is censored).

Yep. So why was this so bad?

First, there are certain parts of airports that are exit only’s just as there are no public access areas – it’s part of security. These exits do not have bag scanners or metal detectors but pairs or single guards who are in charge of keeping the peace, keeping the flow of traffic moving, and making sure it all goes in one direction: out. Therefore, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter the reason, you cannot enter at these points no matter how self-important you may think you are or what your situation may be. This really goes double if you are the ones that got turned around and didn’t follow the signs.

Second, you are yelling at a person who is one of the front-line defense of national security. You may know that you are not dangerous or carrying anything dangerous, and frankly, in this situation, the guards were not worried about these two girls being a danger. However, by yelling and causing this scene, these girls did distract them from their jobs which, again, is a matter of national security.

Thirdly, speaking to anybody the way this girl was is highly inappropriate and I do not just mean the language used. More critical to you traveling, however, most airports have posted warnings about physically and/or verbally abusing airport employees and the consequences of breaking these rules can be severe – forget missing your flight, you may end up on, at the very least, that airports no fly list if you behave badly enough.

Finally, I was shocked they were helped at all. As they say, ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ If they had been calmer and listened, these girls could have been up at security at least 5 minutes quicker and a lot less panicked. Who knows what other help could have been offered as well, but instead they acted out. We all know that traveling can be frustrating but no one deserves to have it taken out on them personally for doing their job, especially when they are helping you and your fellow travelers the best the can (even if it many not feel like it to you). So again: Be Kind.

The better way:

My sister and I had a huge diversion on of our early transfer flights through New York when we flew off to our graduation trip around the UK – big enough that we sprinted alongside an elderly Japanese couple who were traveling like we were so we wouldn’t miss our flight (this was with a two hour scheduled gap so that wasn’t a planning issue, but a weather fluke). By the time we got to the gate, they had just started boarding so we were not worried. However, we didn’t seem to have all our information in order because when we got to our boarding, we couldn’t get on the plane.

We were panicked.

We headed to the counter, which was a bit understaffed, but a lovely British gentleman got to us eventually and helped sort us out – unbeknownst to us, because of the way we had checked-in in LA and the delays, we were supposed to check in with the desk and let them know that we had made it and let them re-print the tickets for the last legs of your journey. To this day I do not know why this was in all the details, but that’s what happened.

There was confusion and panic and the verge of tears, but no anger and no language and we were helped and headed on our way.

Unfortunately, because of that hiccup – or at least we assume because of that flight mishap – when we landed in Dublin to catch the bus to Galway, our luggage wasn’t there to greet us.

Again came the panic.

I had planned 4 days – one of our longest stays in any city – in Galway to get used to the time zone and settle in but the woman working at the lost luggage center couldn’t guarantee that the bags would get to us in time for our next stop. She was very nice and gave us – two very panicked, very tired, and very young travelers – all the information we would need to check in with the airline to see where our bags might be and where we could change our locations if they hadn’t managed to get to us in those four days.

Still on the brink of tears and mildly panicked but ready to start an adventure we set out, once again without a rude word or tone, which also meant we got a free meal voucher that my shoe string budget truly appreciated. And, maybe with karma on our side, with a bit of high-jinks along the way, the bags reached us the afternoon before we were set to leave Galway.


Now, in no way am I trying to say our panic was on the same level as the two girls in story one, nor am I trying to call them out as nasty, rude people (I make no judgment about them personally, just their actions and words) – what I am trying to do is show that things go wrong when you travel both by your own choices and just dumb luck, but that doesn’t give you any kind of right to take it out on anyone else.

So please, travel well, make good choices, and always, always, always, try to be kind out there.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Airport Guests: Behave Yourselves!

When you miss the boat….

… Throw your own damn party!

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The view from “missed the boat”. Westminster, London, England. May, 2015.

Since beginning this blog, this isn’t the first time I’ve written—and experienced—things just not going right in my travels. In fact, this seems to be a running theme and I’m not sure whether to blame my planning, time keeping skills, or just dumb luck, but all in all, it’s never something I regret. While this time, I was lucky enough not to be traveling very far—staying within half an hour of my London flat—but no matter if you’re planning a close staycation or a trip around the world, things not going to plan can completely kill your night, right?

Well, only if you let it.

To start, my best friend upon hearing most the details dubbed this worthy for a TV episode or romantic comedy—if I were romantically inclined—so, hopefully, you’ll be entertained, if nothing else.

Basically, the plan for last Saturday night was to have an end of exam celebration with fellow members of my master’s program (as well as a few related majors) which included a three and a half hour boat ride down the Thames with everyone “dressed to impress” to relax before we all fall into the hermit-hood which is dissertation writing.

Where things went wrong in my long day of dress hunting—not my dress!—and party prep, came down to communication and execution—or a lack of both.

A few days prior, I’d been talking to my friend (we’ll call him Cal) about the party and, since we live in the same building, I was going to join the group of people he was headed over with. Unfortunately, Cal and I couldn’t seem to get our phones to message each other over whatsapp or regular messaging (an issue that has since been sorted—it’s all about the country area codes!). Still, no worries, Cal had my flat number and would run up and get me before they left (Can you feel the foreboding? bum, bum, bum!).

It wasn’t until the day of that I realized we never talked about what time we were going to be leaving (issue two in the plan destined to go wrong!), so I got ready super early and waited…

And played guitar and waited….

And then I waited a little bit more…

And then I double checked the time and sprinted down the stairs—not an easy feet in my heels!—because I was very, very late.

What took place over the next fifteen-twentyish minutes I wish I had on film—CCTV across London is sure to have it and it must be priceless.

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My fancy “dress”. London, England. May, 2015.

If you noticed the skirt I’m wearing in the picture, you don’t have to be a fashion expect to know that a slight breeze will give you an authentic Marilyn Monroe moment—Ladies, always wear shorts, please!

Now, imagine that, except I was literally sprinting through the tube station and across Westminster Bridge—Big Ben’s Clock Tower and Westminster creating a picturesque backdrop behind me—trying to keep my skirts down with my purse and high heels (I changed to flats on the tube) clutched in my hands as I dodged camera wielding tourists and fellow London commuters alike.

With five minutes to spare and frantically texting my other friend—we’ll call her Nat—who was stuck in traffic and nowhere close enough to make the boat, I tried to locate the correct pier which none of the local kiosk keepers seemed to be able to help me with, only to have the clock run out.

We missed the boat.

But soon enough, Nat met me down by the river and we started to plan the spontaneous fancy dress night to totally kick the butt of the missed boat party.

Tulle and Bowling shoes. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.
Tulle and Bowling shoes. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.

While we decided what to do, we walked along the Thames chatting and getting smiles from strange passerbys—seriously, how often do you see girls in storybook princess garb just strolling down the street?—before the idea of doing something totally mundane and yet totally epic because of our overdressed attire.

Apparently, fancy dress bowling was on both of our bucket lists!

In what would be a video montage if this were filmed, we ran from bowling alley to bowling alley—Londoners really love their bowling!—before we ended up at Bloomsbury Bowling (thanks to the lovely and very helpful ladies at All Star Lanes!) with a ten o’clock reservation and an hour long break to partake in some fabulous pumpkin pizza (a serious yes!) before getting our shoes and continuing our epic party.

With amazing speed bowling skills—three games in an hour—inter-played with videos, selfies and musical throwbacks which just had to be danced to—some serious Usher induced, middle school nostalgia—it’s hard to imagine a boat party making my night any better.

Pumpkin Pizza, FTW. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.
Pumpkin Pizza, FTW. Bloomsbury Bowling, London, England. May, 2015.

I ended the night meeting my other friends at a local club where the after party was being held and danced away the next few hours. This started off with a ‘Dirty Dancing-esque, big lift moment”—as one bystander dubbed it—which was actually me giving up on going around the crowd and walking across a bench to join said friends, in all my big tulle glory, and into the very helpful hand-down of Cal, who was extremely mollified that he’d forgotten to get me earlier.

I ended up feeling worse than he did though as I couldn’t contain my laughter as he, completely apologetic and puppy-eyed, tried to explain his crazy night and why her forgotten me. But I told him that everything turned out better for missing the actual event; no hard, no foul.

To sum up the point of this comedy of errors, I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sometimes things go wrong. When it does, you can either roll over and let it ruin your night/trip, or you can roll with it and make the night even more epic that it was meant to be.

For me, it’s all about the fancy dress bowling—plus if you’ve watched Gilmore Girls, Paris Geller has already highlighted the many frustrations and disasters which come from young people trapped on a boat with alcohol…. Enough said.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. The fashion version of this post will be up Friday on Silk Sheets and Grilled Cheese if anybody is interested in getting this fancy dress look!

When you miss the boat….

EMBRACING THE EXPERIENCE pt2: The Bad and The Ugly.

But not letting them stop you.

The scene of the crime…almost (the phone picture was better). Gare du Nord, Paris, France. February, 2015.

So, last time around we talked about a lot of new and really positive experiences I had on my first ever solo adventure which came about by embracing experiences and opportunities where they came.

The trip, however, was not all sun-shiny moments (as is bound to happen on every trip), but knowing how to bounce back from those issues is a huge learning experience not just in terms of travel but facing challenges in your day to day life as well.

Where to begin….

I guess my real first brush with trouble occurred when on the (very early!) morning of my third day out as I tried to move from Paris to Lyon. If you remember, I booked my train tickets via a third party site (voyages) and I am not kidding, it was horrible.

I had gone over my plan checking, double checking, triple checking (you get the idea) all the numbers I would need to get the tickets, the location the directions said I would leave from, and everything written down nice and neatly on the notepad app on my phone—I was prepared.

Then the night before I discovered I was leaving so early that the metro wouldn’t be running yet. Great. I set my alarm super early, packed up what I could and had my clothes out for the morning and my essentials set before going to bed—I had it covered.

The next morning, I walked to the station and headed in with just over the half an hour they recommended to be safe only to discover there were no Euroline machines to pick up my tickets at. And, at the time in the morning I was there, the train stations information desks weren’t open and neither was the voyages question/help line. I was on my own and I had no idea what I was going to do.

After a long (and repetitive due to language barriers!) conversation with a shop owner, I discovered that despite all the information I had received, Eurolines did not use the station I was at. I never found out where they connect, but by the time I found out, my train would have been gone anyway.

So what did I do? Feeling like I was going to cry out of frustration, I got out my card and booked myself a new round-trip ticket to Lyon. I wasn’t going to let an issue like that screw me out of my trip, after all. However, remember to write to the company if issues like this arrive—you can usually get your money back or something if you can show that it was a failure on their part, or, at the very least, you may make them change something in their system which can help future travelers not have the same issues you did!

But, as the title indicates, that was simply the BAD and now we move onto the UGLY:

On my last day in Paris—it always seems to be Paris, doesn’t it?—The ugly reared its head in terms of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’:

I was good Samaritan-ed and my phone was pick-pocketed.

Yep, the oldest trick. I was exiting the Gare du Nord train station (a photo spot for the above—a Chuck and Blair location shot from the series Gossip Girl – also maybe my trouble is more train stations than just Paris.) where a woman was struggling with a box in the turnstile to the metro. I put my phone in my pocket for five seconds to help out and when my hand was in my pocket again, my phone was not.

Train stations are notorious for this and the thieves are professionals you will not catch. It sounds mean, but don’t help people out unless things are buried under layers of clothes that no one can get to and even then, play it safe.

I quickly traveled back to the hostel where my bags were and video chatted with my dad. We got most things sorted (including a good cry), and his main point, and one to focus on, is: this is just stuff and stuff can be replaced.

What stunk, however, was that I had pictures from that morning and the day before that were on the phone and hadn’t been loaded to any other storage space (some were on my other camera but, do to battery power and charging issues, those were limited).

A few things you can do in these situations are have a way to contact someone to help (even if this just means crying), have copies of numbers you haven’t memorized but are those close emergency contacts, have a way to remotely wipe the phone of any personal information (make the phone a useless brick), and give yourself the moment to be freaked out and cry if you need to—it’s not being unreasonable.

However, once you do that, you have a choice to make.

For me, I could have sat around the hostel on my computer for my remaining five or so hours I had in the city, or I could pick myself up, go out and explore, and make the most of the time left rather than let one thing and stupid people ruin what was mostly a very good trip.

In the end, I used the last hours to sprint from one destination to another, capturing (as close as I could) pictures from the places I’d visited and lost along with the phone with my steadily dying camera (that thing was a real trouper!).

This stress was compounded by some travel stress (a two hour delay do to ferry docking issues and no phone to contact anyone or make plans for the rest on my day!) But I would still consider this a great trip. After all, you learn a whole lot when things get bad—sometimes these lessons are about who you are as a person and what’s important and other times it teaches out to make better choices.

There’s always a silver lining to be found and a challenge to be faced, so make the best out of bad situations instead of letting them hold you back and get out there without worrying about the worst that can happen. Take care of yourself, be smart and keep rolling with the punches—accept nothing less!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

EMBRACING THE EXPERIENCE pt2: The Bad and The Ugly.

Held in Customs.

The long wait to avoid…

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 Walk along the river. River Thames, London, England. December 2014.

Well, dear readers, I am happy to announce, after two months of being without a phone (the kind that doesn’t cost you for everything you do and existed before cellphones could “flip”), my phone will be back in my possession by tomorrow afternoon. To say I’m excited is a major understatement.

What I’ve learned from this whole fiasco is something I talked about in my packing adventures back in September: shipping will rob you blind.

If you remember, I talked about my debate between bringing an extra suitcase which weighed just under the maximum limit (50 pounds) and shipping a few boxes so I wouldn’t be burdened carrying the extra suitcase while moving into my new flat. The extra bag cost me between 50 and 85 dollars, but I had everything I needed the moment I arrived. My mother was able to bring my guitar over for free as an extra by checking it at the gate for safekeeping when she visited.

Continuing from the phone fiasco, my phone—along with a few other items from home, since we’re shipping around Christmas—in a box around the size of a pair of boots’ ended up costing just shy of 285-300 dollars in shipping and customs fees alone. How, you might ask? Well, with about 60 dollars to get my phone home, about 150 dollars to ship and cover everything, and another 75 dollars give or take to get the box out of customs (and their surprising extra fees), everything just starts to add up (and we’re not counting the various cost of replacement items from a music player, watch, and camera I had bought to replace all the things my phone used to do).

So, what to do if you are away from home long enough to need something shipped to you?

In my case, I should have started by getting some insurance in London for the things I would definitely need replaced if something happened to them – that way I could have replace the phone right away. Or, if you haven’t done that, contact your insurance and see if there’s a way to replace what you need wherever you are and get reimburse for what you plan covers. Either of these will save you money and get you the replacement faster than dealing with shipping.

Even if whatever you need can’t be dealt with through insurance, you should compare the cost of buying replacements where you’re staying to the cost of sending whatever it is you had at home. Do your research but count on things going wrong and round up any possible costs in terms of shipping—everyone I know has had trouble with it this year, so it’s not just bad luck.

When it comes to people wanting to ship you things (like presents for the holidays or birthdays, or other gift-giving events) avoid having your packages travel internationally. If someone is going to visit, have them pack it (it’s a great excuse—ask my mom and the guitar which I know have in my room!).

If no one’s planning a trip out, think about giving your account information—such as amazon—to the person sending you the gift. If you are somewhere long term—which I hope you are if you are having things sent to you and not just send things out—you are most likely going to set up a local account. That’s the account you give them and they’ll be able to input their payment method and purchase an item to ship that is already in your area—no international travel necessary. Just make sure not to open those email reminders if it’s a surprise and delete their payment info later so you don’t accidentally use their card later! This is how my mom got me my Christmas presents this year and it was super quick and easy.

If shipping like this isn’t an option either, remember money and a card is simple and easily shipped, and it is always appreciated.

Besides monetary issues, shipping also comes with some serious time issues, especially when moving internationally.

Like I said, I’ve been without my phone for two months now (half the time I have lived here!) but most (well more like just over half) of that time, the trouble was getting things done back home, not shipping issues. My parents shipped my parcel out on December 19th from Southern California and it’s scheduled to be dropped off at my London flat tomorrow, January 14th. Yep that’s almost a whole month.

My customs payment was also handled through a third party which was convenient because, at least, I could pay online and I didn’t have to go and find the post office/ customs office that was holding my parcel as other friends did. However, here’s where to take note: when you pay your ridiculous customs fee so your items can be released, if you are given the option to deliver the next day, say yes. As it turns out, despite you paying for your property to be released, if you do not state that you want your package delivered, your package will go into holding until you directly request its release. On top of this, you will only discover this extra hoop when you get tired of waiting and track your package online. While you get an email receipt for paying your fee, there is no other indication that there is more to do.

On the upside, the girl on the phone was very nice and got my package released promptly; A very small silver lining but it’s there none the less.

Anyway, my advice, if something has to travel internationally, and it’s not accompanied by a friendly face that will be staying with you for a bit as well, avoid shipping it.

Well, until, next time, travel well.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Held in Customs.

Guy Fawkes Day and the Cellphone Debacle…

And the week had been going so well.

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Guy Fawkes Fireworks. Picture Credit to my friend, Anna. Southwark Park, London, England. November 2014.

This post was meant to talk exclusively about Guy Fawkes Day and what we did featuring slow motion footage of the fireworks and fire dancers (I discovered the slow motion ability on my iphone), however, that footage was lost when said phone decided it wanted to take a swim this week. In that light, this week will have a split focus.

Let’s start with the more enjoyable half first.

Guy Fawkes Day, for those who don’t know, is a day and/or night of revelry on November 5th that commemorates the foiled attempt of a group of conspirators to blow up Parliament in 1605 (though in a more modern context, some have subverted the meaning to celebrate those who tried to fight the authority). This boils down to a night of bonfires (though these have been outlawed in many areas) and firework shows which can be found all over London and beyond the whole week around the 5th (the real night of celebration is the 5th obviously).

I went to one of the free shows with a group of friends at Southwark Park. Coming from London Bridge was crazy. It’s about a half an hour walk, depending on your speed, which ended up being the best option. However, not knowing this, we took the tube and ended up smashed in with more people than any of those cars should carry (and yes, cars, not carriages if BBC’s Sherlock is to be believed!). So packed in like sardines, we made our way to the park about an hour before the festivities began.

The park was packed with people, booths of food, carnival rides, and fire dancers/performers on stages throughout the park. The food smelled great but, with the length of the lines, we opted to eat later and watched the fire performers who equally thrilled and freaked out my friend and I as they performed stunts that would have had anyone else lit on fire rather that playing with it.

Once the fireworks began, we were amazed. They were perfectly choreographed with the music and, halfway behind the crowd, we still felt directly under the explosions. Anna, who supplied this week’s picture, is a fellow American who agreed that the show, while short, rivaled (if not surpassed) any display found in America on the Fourth of July. The timing of every firework to the chosen music was better than I had ever seen. I don’t know the difference in laws for distance from fireworks at home and here, but it was amazing how close we felt. The only drawback I could see was how quickly it ended. There was never a stop like you’d see in the US between songs (appearing more like scenes), but our shows tend to go on longer or have a pause before we give everything we have to light up the sky for a finale. There was nothing like that here, but it was beautiful.

Once it’s over (again, much more quickly than I expected), you’ll find that despite the warning that exiting right away and all at once will be slow and all together not recommended, that’s exactly what happens. We did not heed the warning, but my advice is to wait. The food booths, rides, and fire dancers are all around and able to be used/ watched after the fireworks end, and if you try to go directly after the show’s finished, you end up packed in a crowd trying to leave the park. It took us half an hour at the least just to exit the park. Then if you’re trying to take the tube back home, you have to remember that many of those people you were just cramped in with are also going to be fighting for a space in the same car as you are to get back home.

Seriously, it’s better to take in the festivities a bit longer until the crowd dies down and then head out.

Like I said, we didn’t wait to leave the park, but we did choose not to endure the tube. Instead, we walked home, which isn’t a bad walk if you are used to walking around the city. Plus, walking down one of the smaller roads as you navigate away from the crowds, we did get to glimpse crowd gathered around an illicit bonfire, making it feel much more like the holiday I’d expected (with a tradition that one doesn’t experience just going to a place like Disneyland or Fourth of July in America).

All in all, it was a great night.

Then, I did something stupid: I dropped my phone in a toilet.

For anyone who has ever done this, it is not too bad if you are in a place where you can take care of the problem right away. But, of course, I wasn’t. I was at school between classes with no way to take the phone apart to dry it out and no access to rice to begin pulling out any moisture right away. I wasn’t even able to get the screen to where I could tell if it was powered down or not.

With all these factors, my phone is fried (I tried to salvage it with rice for 24 hours but it was much too late).

But this is why my family invests in an insurance provider that covers everything including water damage! I mailed my phone home to the US (which is way too expensive for us student types, by the way!), ordered a cheap music player, dug out the old UK phone my friend/boss gave me before I moved out here (this thing is pre-flip phone, just to give you an idea of what I’m working with. If you lose your only phone and are waiting or insurance to get it fixed or replace it, these are cheap emergency pay by month phones you can pick up for your basic phone and texting needs!), and am about to head out to buy a watch and alarm clock.

Because that’s what we don’t think about until we’ve somehow misplaced/lost/destroyed things like our high-tech phones. That phone was my camera, my truly portable computer (both of these features I won’t be replacing before I get my phone back), my alarm clock, my watch, my phone, my map and navigation system, my portable notebook and password keeper, and my music system. That’s a lot to lose in one trip to the bathroom.

But c’est la vie, right? Replace what you can that you can not only afford, but that will still be useful once you do have your new replacement phone and just roll with the punches. For now, I’ll be going old school and doing a whole lot of planning before I leave the house without a quick searching (cellphone) safety net!

Well, I’ve got to go run errands and get ready for a nerdy night of Doctor Who, which I might tell you about next week, but until then,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Guy Fawkes Day and the Cellphone Debacle…

Travel horror stories…

This time I’d really love to know yours!

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The Garden. Kensington Palace, London, England. October, 2014.

In honor of All Hallows’ Eve week, we’ll be looking at some travel horror stories and maybe things to do to avoid them.

Part of the reason for this week’s post is my sister. In the past few weeks, she traveled out to visit me in London, before heading back home, only to leave – days later – for a friend’s wedding in North Carolina.

The basic story goes: after being invited to the wedding, Ki booked the cheapest flight she could find online – she went with an airline called “Spirit”. She took the cheapest options available which meant she had a quick layover in Chicago, coming and going. On the way home, Ki’s flight into Chicago was delayed, meaning she missed her second flight which was set to take off 30 minutes after her other flight landed – needless to say that wasn’t going to happen. Then, Ki was stuck in a ‘strange’ city without plans and a connecting flight set for the next morning (6 am).

So a breakdown:

Trouble 1: She booked a flight on an airline she didn’t know anything about (except for prices).

Trouble 2: She didn’t consider the weather when planning the time between connecting flights.

Trouble 3: She got stuck in an unexpected city on her own dime.

When one looks at these factors, it’s easy to see where things went wrong and planning was only he tip of the iceberg.

When booking a flight anywhere, you have to do your research. While you want to look for cheap flights that let you get where you need as cheaply as you can, you need to look at the reviews (with a grain of salt of course – people only review when anything was really bad or really good, and usually the former wins out) and what you get for that investment.

It’s better to look for deals with airlines you are familiar with as these will be less surprises – you’ll be a little more familiar with what’s normal and can leverage your history a little if trouble occurs. It’s even better if it is one whose policies you know (ie. missed flights, lost luggage, ect.) just in case something goes wrong, you’re covered.

Next, when you are booking a flight, don’t just take the cheapest layover because it’s cheap, especially in an area where weather tends to be an issue – Chicago is not called the ‘Windy City’ because of the occasional breeze! Never schedule a layover where you may have to sprint from one terminal to the next, and always check the weather forecasts when available to know if you’re going to have to make different arrangements.

If that should happen, you have two options (that is if your delay – like Ki’s – is longer that the few hours you’re supposed to be at the airport before your flight): 1. Complain and complain loud enough that maybe someone will listen to you (it’s not too likely but who knows); or 2. Make the most of your stop. See what arrangement can be made through your insurance (which you should always purchase) and the airline for staying overnight (if need be), or if there are places nearby that will store your luggage. If you can manage it, take advantage of your misfortune and explore where you have ended up. Go get food and think of all the spontaneous travel possibilities! Silver linings and all that.

Basically, plan well, research well, and roll with the punches.

While this ‘horror story’ isn’t too bad (mostly poor planning), it is one horror of a headache you don’t want, or need, on your vacation.

In an earlier post, I talked about other debacles like lost luggage and 4 days in Ireland with only one outfit per person, and Colin’s very drunken night in Dublin (quickly followed by his day in jail). There are all kinds of trouble, and travel troubles come in all shapes and sizes.

So what was yours?

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Travel horror stories…