Highlighted Articles

Highlighted article: What blogging steals from travel

March 16, 2012

After checking out the article on the Matador website, it made me wonder a bit about traveling and our traveling routines (and habits).

Are we traveling just to take pictures, the “best pictures ever”? One friend told me one time, “I don’t take pictures when I travel. I would rather enjoy the moment instead.”

Are we traveling just to take a “cool” photo that I am going to post on Facebook to “show-off” all my friends?

And like the author of the Matador article, is he just traveling to write a blog entry?

What are the rules of traveling then?  What are the things you “must do” and what are the things you are doing that are not on that list and that possibly take away from the things on that list?

Some people say that one “must do” on the list is to eat the local food.  Others say that you “must” interact with the locals as much as you can (see the video highlight of Rick Steves on our blog).  I have friends who are over 40 and still make it a point to stay at hostels so that they can “rough” it and thus being more “in tune” to the host country more and being able to interact with the other travelers there that also want to be more “in tune.”  That is a “must do” for them.

Some people just travel to see and be on the beach.  Relaxing every day at the hotel possibly at an all inclusive resort.  Are those people getting out of traveling like they “should” or are their separate trips abroad that are just for relaxing and “getting away”?

And then there is the Amazing Race show.  Who doesn’t like the Amazing Race show?  It is like all our dreams coming true (with regards to traveling and exploring the world).  But time and time again I meet people who say that sure these teams are traveling the world, but they aren’t really interacting with the host country people and culture at all.  The teams are not in the cities long enough to really see what the culture is all about.  They are not able to be “present” to fully take in where they are and what they are experiencing.  I am not for sure I agree.  I really feel like there is definitely something the teams are getting out of their traveling.  It may not be the same experience as if you are traveling somewhere for 3 weeks and having a home stay at a local family’s house, but sure it is another form a traveling that could possibly be just as rewarding.

“I went to Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower. I wasn’t too impressed.”  If you are working at an international school in Europe, you might have said to your other international school teacher friends, “After traveling to many cities in Europe, they are all starting to look the same.”  Some times traveling naturally gets to this point.  Not that you stay at this point and never go back, but I think when you travel as much as international school teachers do, it is bound to happen at some point.  Because when you travel too much, sometimes the “routines” that you experience when traveling have a similar feeling to each other.  Check into the hotel.  Go into the famous church there.  Look at the Eiffel Tower.  Eat out at restaurants every night.  Go to the Starbucks!  It just might just start all appearing to be the same trip.

I used to have a blog.  It was about all my trips.  I started it originally about my experiences living abroad after moving to my first international school, but my interest in it soon waned as I found myself being less and less “excited” about my day to day experiences living in the host country.  The blog turned into a travel blog basically as I ended up posting entries about my travels. I remember thinking…well I have to edit all my photos.  And then after editing, I have to write insightful things about those photos and publish them (the best ones) on my blog.  My friends and family actually really liked my blog.  They loved reading my entries and looking at my photos.  My aunt even printed out all the blog entries that were on the blog and put them into an album.  She gave the album of my blog entries to my mother as a present!

BUT….I had to stop.  I really started to dread it.  Did I take it out on my traveling and stop enjoying my trips to the fullest?  Probably not that much, but it might have affected my travels.  I can’t image actually writing the blog every day of your trip (like how the Matador author might be doing) and then having the pressure to write insightful entries and publish an entry each day for a blog.  For sure that might take away a bit from his traveling experience and being “present” on his trip.

I think that every one travels for their own reasons.  Somebody’s reasons for traveling might not be exactly the same as the next person’s reasons.  Most people in the “real world” aren’t actually able to travel as much as we do (international school educators) and surely we shouldn’t take that fact for granted.  Maybe a good idea is to make one or two traveling goals before you embark on your trip.  “I’m going to try and interact more with the host country people.”  “I am going to travel more of the local cuisine when I choose which restaurants that I eat at.”

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Lebanon (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

March 4, 2012

Traveling Around: Lebanon

Can you relate?

• Enjoying the gentle breeze of the Mediterranean Sea.
• Taking in the sunlight and warmth while escaping the winter coldness of Northern Europe.
• Being amazed of the history of Beirut, with its 1000s of years of oppression.
• Going on a day tour with small group of people from all over the world: Venezuela, U.K., Romania, Lebanon, USA, and UAE.  Great conversations.
• Checking out very old art (e.g. mosaics) and being in awe of the detail and history of each piece.
• Driving through the mountains and enjoying the excellent views of banana tree groves, the sea and just nature in general.
• Noticing the different ways that the Lebanese culture make bread designs. There was a popular purse-shaped bread on all the streets in Beirut.
• Observing the Lebanese men walking around in their underwear instead of wearing a Speedo or another kind of bathing suit.
• Being surprised to hear shouts from the military officers (with large guns) when I tried to take pictures nearby them.
• Taking in the history of the buildings in downtown Beirut; the newly constructed ones, the renovated ones, and the old ones that still have signs of war wreckage on them.
• Walking around the antique district and finally deciding to purchase some old tiles to put around my flat. I think I haggled well!
• Getting into a taxi car with a man who only spoke Lebanese Arabic and being taken for an extra long ride in the wrong direction.
• Walking around and exploring Jounieh, getting into neighborhoods where there weren’t any stores around and observing how the people live.
• Checking out all the Lebanese grocery stores to see which products that they had
• Eating at very good and tasty restaurants; getting treated very well with many restaurants giving me a complimentary dish/appetizer.
• Going to a felafel stand and trying to figure out the system to buy one without knowing the correct lingo and procedure to use.
• Experiencing rain, sleet, snow, hail, fog, sun, clouds, etc. all in the span on 1 hour while walking around the top of a nearby mountain.

Currently we have five international schools listed in Lebanon on International School Community. They are:

American Community School at Beirut (16 Comments)

International College Beirut (0 Comments)

Beirut International School (0 Comments)

Wellspring Learning Community (7 Comments)

Adma International School (0 Comments)

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give 6 free months of premium membership!

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Video Highlight

Video Highlight – Rick Steves: The Value of Travel (TEDxRainier)

January 18, 2012

After spending 4 months a year for the last 30 years living out of a suitcase, Rick Steves reflects on the value of thoughtful travel. Sharing lessons learned from Iran to El Salvador and from India to Denmark, Steves tells why spending all that time and money away from home has broadened his perspective, enriched his life, and made it clear to him, as he says in his talk, “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.”

Having only watched a few of Rick Steves travel videos, I wasn’t for sure about listening to his speech.  He does really explain very clearly and to the point his views on traveling and the value of it.

His speech inspired me to always make sure to find a way to interact with the locals somehow.  Am I really taking advantage of the time I am in a taxi cab going from one place in the city to another?  What could I do more to create an environment to initial a conversation in an authentic way?  I guess most of the instances when you get to talk with a local aren’t situations that are exactly planned.

How can you interact with the locals though in such a short time?  The great moments you might share with the locals might only be brief encounters, but they can be, in deed, lasting ones.  One can almost retell each individual encounter with a local when revisiting old photos they had taken from a trip.

What part of travel have you put value on?  Do you value other parts of traveling more than others?  Are international teachers more likely to have the necessary skills to interact with the locals or place that experience high on our list?

One of the reasons that I because a teacher was so that I could work with people that are different than me.  I learn so much from talk with the students from countries different than me.  I learn so much from what the parents share with me as well.

Our quest continues then in our attempt to understand the people in our world a little bit better, and I guess that means that more traveling is in order for our next vacation time….ahhh the life of an international teacher!

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Prague, Czech Republic

October 30, 2011

Traveling Around: Prague, Czech Republic

Can you relate?

• Not realizing that the 2nd language on the local product packages was Slovak until the last day of the trip.
• Being swarmed and surrounded by hundreds of tourists.  Thank goodness their numbers decreased after the weekend was over.
• Going to high-end restaurants for almost every meal, pretending that is how we normally go out to eat in our host country.
• Being actually quite impressed with the country’s churches, both outside and inside.
• Going to Bohemia Bagel every morning for breakfast.  Those bagels are pretty close to how they taste in NYC!
• Taking a short trip to Kutna Hora to see the “Bone Church.” Then deciding to walk to the center of the town (about 2-3 kms) not realizing the local bus could have taken us there much faster!
• Exploring local grocery stores to check out their products, hoping they have some things that cost much cheaper than what is available in our host country.
• Having a sunny, beautiful day every day of the trip, but then finally getting a cloudy, rainy day on the last morning during the taxi ride back to the airport.
• Getting a Thai massage after a day of walking around because the price of an hour massage is about 1/2 the price in our host country.
• Bring impressed by the buildings in Prague and how much of the design features being influenced by the Art Nouveau period.
• Seeing so many walking tour group everywhere.  The tour guide holding their attention-getting flag and talking through their head microphone/speaker.
• Feeling like we were truly in the Renaissance period seeing costumed trumpeters in a castle playing a tune at the top of every hour it seemed.
• Tried to go to the National Museum and the National Theatre to find they were both closed to the public.
• Finding a lady behind a little table selling opera tickets, taking a risk and buying tickets from her and then actually having a great time at the opera show.
• Bring very underwhelmed at the city’s botanical garden.  Maybe it was because we went there during the off-season.
• Seeing many marionettes and puppets around the city, including a Michael Jackson one resembling Pinocchio.

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give 6 free months of premium membership!

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