Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Where's Your Happy Place?

I found this study via Guy Kawasaki's blog article, "The World Map of Happiness".

A psychologist at the University of Leicester, Adrian White, analyzed various published studies related to happiness and satisfaction. White then created a report of "global projection of well being" and the first ever 'world map of happiness.' You can download a PDF of the map here. According to the study the 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

Other countries of interest:

23. USA
26. Australia
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan
110. South Africa
125. India
167. Russia

The least happy countries were Democratic Republic of the Congo (176), Zimbabwe (177), and Burundi (178)

I'm thinking the Nordic countries are on to something-all five are in the top 20!

World Map University of Leicester

Saturday, February 24, 2007

easyCruise in the Caribbean

I get e-mails often from people wanting to know how to travel around the Caribbean. In the past, there really hasn't been an easy and economical way to travel from island to island-until now!

I just read a New York Times article that easyCruise now has a cruising itinerary for those looking for an affordable way to travel the Caribbean islands! I thought this was new, but I just called my friend Kristina to tell her about it and she already knew from reading it in Budget Travel. How did I miss this?

Here's what the website has to say

easyCruise returns to the Caribbean with a new itinerary taking in the island paradises of St Maarten, St Barts, Anguilla, St Kitts, Nevis and Antigua. From 8th December, complete with a stylish new look, easyCruiseOne will take to the seas from as little as £98 per person per week.

Arriving at some of the Caribbean’s most exclusive islands, our new itinerary allows you to immerse yourself in a diverse mixture of cultures, stroll along numerous white sandy beaches, dive in and explore the depths of the clear blue coastal waters or simply visit the islands chic boutiques or enjoy an espresso in one of the continental-style caf├ęs.

Unlike any other cruise, on easyCruise you have freedom to explore each destination at your leisure. Sailing early each morning, easyCruise arrives in a new port by late morning so you can enjoy the day and nightlife in some of the Caribbean’s best destinations.
easyCruiseOne has a stylish new look!

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of traveling as a tourist. You know, where people jump off at port, buy overpriced yet worthless souvenirs, see a "local" on the street and think they're experiencing the culture, eat hamburgers at a restaurant that was designed just for tourists, take a few pictures and then leave again. But, from what I have heard and read, at least easyCruise passengers do seem to have a little bit more freedom and independence to experience the islands. And the best part about it is that it's cheap. I would do it. I am seriously considering it! I think that would be an awesome Spring Break! I'm sure that the cruises are mostly full, but they do have some last cruises in April, I guess before they head to the Med.

I'm sure the people in St. Barts with with their million dollar homes overlooking million dollar views of the ocean love looking down at the easyCruise ships! I wonder what kind of impact this will have on the islands-especially the exclusive ones like St. Barts.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tourist kills mugger with bare hands

I'm not posting this to scare you, but it is important to remember that there are dangers to traveling just as there are dangers at home. While stories like this should not keep people from traveling, travelers do need to keep in mind that just because you are on vacation in paradise you you are not in utopia. Crime exists everywhere. Some short reminders and tips for traveling safely:

Never go anywhere alone at night, if you must go out, go out in groups and know where you are at and where you are going.

Don't go on romantic walks along the beach at night in the Caribbean or deserted beaches anywhere.

Don't make it obvious that you are a tourist like flashing around your guidebook, camera, iPod, expensive jewelry and money.

Tell friends and family where you are going and leave names and numbers of where you are.

Don't leave valuables in your rental car-especially not the trunk!

Ask the hotel if you can keep your valuables in their office safe deposit box not your hotel room. Make sure you document all items with management.

If you know you aren't going to need it, don't take your passport with you when you go out. Think ahead as to when you may possibly need it-like going on a day trip to another country.

Anyone else have ideas?

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - An American tourist who watched as a U.S. military veteran in his 70s used his bare hands to kill an armed assailant in Costa Rica said she thought the attempted robbery was a joke — until the masked attacker held a gun to her head.

"I thought it was a skit. But then he pointed the gun at my head and grabbed me by the throat and I thought I was going to die," Clova Adams, 54, told The Associated Press by telephone Friday from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

The assault occurred during a ship stopover Wednesday in Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose, Costa Rica's capital.

Adams was with 12 American tourists who hired a driver to explore Costa Rica for a few hours. They were climbing out of the van to visit a Caribbean beach when three masked men ran toward them, she said. One held a gun to her head, while the other two pulled out knives.

Suddenly, one of the tourists, a U.S. military veteran trained in self defense, jumped out of the van and put the gunman in a headlock, according to Limon police chief Luis Hernandez.

Hernandez said the American, whom he refused to identify, struggled with the robber, breaking his collarbone and eventually killing him. Police identified the dead man as Warner Segura, 20. The other two assailants fled.

Afterward, the tourists drove Segura to a hospital, where he was declared dead. Sergio Lopez, a Red Cross auxiliary, examined Segura's body and said he died from asphyxiation.

Lopez also treated Adams for a panic attack.

"She was very nervous after the assault, but she had not been physically hurt," Lopez said.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed the account, but refused to release the name of the American who defended the group, citing his right to privacy.

Costa Rican officials interviewed the Americans, and said they wouldn't charge the U.S. tourist with any crime because he acted in self defense.

"They were in their right to defend themselves after being held up," Hernandez said. He said Segura had previous charges against him for assaults.

The cruise ship delayed its departure until the group boarded the ship, The Carnival Liberty, which was set to return Sunday to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Adams spoke freely with the AP until a man who identified himself as her fiancee said they didn't want to talk to the media. He said the group might release a joint statement later and hung up the telephone.

Officials on the ship refused to pass an AP reporter on to other members of the tourist group, and another attempt to reach Adams' room failed.

Costa Rica has struggled with growing violence and crime in recent years. University of Kansas student Shannon Martin, 23, was stabbed to death in 2001 after she left a nightclub in Golfito, 105 miles south of San Jose.

Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed in a statement that one of the ship's guests had killed the Costa Rican assailant, but refused to name those involved.

"All of the guests involved, who had booked the cruise together as a group, have opted to continue with their vacation plans. Carnival is providing full support and assistance to the guests," the statement said.

Online Travel Magazine: Escape Artist

EscapeArtist is one of my favorite online resources for expats. They now have a new travel magazine that looks to be equally interesting.

Just thought you might want to know.

Suggested Reading to Prepare for Travel

I was thinking about all the books I have read about traveling. Then I realized that you lurkers out there might be interested in some books that I have read, own and recommend. I am going to point you to amazon.com, but if you're an impulsive book buyer like me (then that makes two of us in the entire world) and it tends to get you in trouble, I suggest the library, it's a lot cheaper!

These are just nice little short tales about college kids and young adults who are travling around Europe. Not really an informational guide, but maybe a little inspirational. It's published by lonely planet, my mother ship.

Fantastic starter guide by The Rough Guide for someone planning on doing a first time trip around the world, or not even around the world, but just to a new country. Very informative with traveling tips, planning help, ideas on how to get there, how to manage when you get there and how cope with coming back home. Kind of a "how to do it all" guide.

Another master of all trades guide and a little more grown-up and comprehensive than The Rough Guide and lonely planet. Great tips on how to upgrade your flight tickets and hotel rooms.

This isn't really a travel guide but more of a life journey guide. The book is about a boy seeking his destiny and passion. Good for reading on the airplane or during layovers.

I read this book before I went to Europe for the first time mostly because it was all I could find at the time. World Stompers is more of an introductory book which can go along with your Frommer's or Lonely Planet guidebooks, but probably the only book that lists the world's top ten stoner meccas. It's entertaining and definitely written for college aged, young adults. When I read this book, I read it in my southern California surfer dude accent.

I know there are many other travel books out there, but these are the ones I actually own and recommend. Let me know if you have any other that you think should be on the list. I'm always interested in new books.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Moving to a New Country

I think that most people at some point in their life contemplate moving to a new country. But what are the odds that those who consider moving abroad actually take the plunge? Well, I don't know and right now I'm too lazy to google it.

I wonder how many people actually end up staying for a while in their new country and for how long? It's obviously difficult to adjust to living in a new country, so I consider lasting more than a year a sign that you're adjusting well. When I moved to St. Martin, I experienced considerable culture shock. I lasted a year living there and then moved back to the States, but I still visit every year. The comforts I was used to in the States were just too much to give up, even for year round warm weather and a simpler life. I guess for me, it was just too simple. I missed being able to call home without it costing $100 each time for 30 minutes. I missed Barnes and Noble. And I missed Direct Deposit. I know. Weird. Now that I don't live in St. Martin, I miss Pain Au Chocolat, swimming in the ocean and hanging out at the beach before I go to work, and Lady C and Bliss after work (popular bars to the yachtie/tourist crowd).

Every day I think of a new country I want to move to. I think about Australia about every other day, and then I remember how much a round trip tickets costs. I like being back in the States though and having the option to travel somewhere new-even though I haven't had the chance in 6 months. When I would talk to tourists who came to St. Martin they would usually say something like, "You're so lucky that you get to live here. It seems so laid back and peaceful." To which I would respond, "I am fortunate, but life is life no matter where you are. I just like life better here."

Now that I think about it, that was a pretty cheesy thing to say!! But it was true for a little while.