Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Getting Locked Out Of A Hotel Room

I've forgotten my room key before. There was also one time I went out and my husband used the dead bolt to shut the door and went out on the balcony. He did not hear me knocking at the door or the front desk calling the phone in the room to let me in. I had to go outside to the pool area and yell up until he heard/saw me.

Anyway, nothing as embarrassing as this guy who decided to put his food tray out while naked and got locked out. His naughty bits are blurred out. Watch the security cameras as they follow him from his room, into the elevator and finally to the front desk:
Naked Guy Gets Locked Out Of Hotel Room

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What's This City Like?

I've often come up with colourful descriptions of cities for those who haven't been so they can get an idea of what it's like. I love to land in a new place and feel the vibe: What are the people like? What is the energy in the city? Are people laid back or rushing around? Are they stylish or don't care about appearances?
There's a lot you can take in based on just how people are conducting themselves.

I realize this might end up being a controversial post, but hopefully you'll also get a laugh.

This is how I describe some places I've been:

Las Vegas:  It's like a really weird acid trip or bad dream. It's kind of like someone picked up a piece of NYC and stuck it in the desert, then replaced all the cool people with dazed, drunk and glossy-eyed people.

Montreal: (this one came from Kelly Edwards) It's like Chicago and NYC had a baby and Europe is the auntie. (I agree!)

Marrakesh: It's like NYC on speed.

NYC: Artsy, electric, eccentric, fast.

Paris: Paris embodies love - love of life, architecture, food, style, everything.

Tokyo: Organized crowds with class and refinement.

Beijing: Pollution and chaos with amazing food.

I could add more, but I'm curious to see what you think or what you'd like to add to the list.
I'll update it if we get some really good ones.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Culture Shame

welcome to Japan Narita Airport by solowomantraveler.ca

I arrived in Japan from China much later than expected since I missed my original flight. I was tired from what had become a long day and the first thing I noticed as I walked away from the plane was how quiet everything was. Despite hundreds of people walking through the terminal, it was extremely quiet. I stepped onto an escalator and unlike China, it did not start talking to me, telling how and where to stand. Instead there were just arrows indicating which was the standing side and which was the walking side. Silent, but clear directions.

The only noise I heard next was a sole woman bowing and saying something in Japanese that I can only assume was, "Welcome to Japan." She could have been saying, "everyone stay quiet" though and I wouldn't know the difference. But it was nice, welcoming...and I wondered how much she was paid to stand there all night bowing at arriving flights.

I also noticed how clean everything was, but not too out of the ordinary since Frankfurt airport is extremely shiny and I wasn't surprised to see a bright clean airport.

Still in a bit of a daze, my friend met me and we boarded the Narita Express train to Tokyo Station. The train seat had a little hook to hang your jacket and a little cup holder. The leg space was more than ample. I had never been on such a well-thought out train. It seemed so civilized. There was even a little ledge on the window to rest your arm and fall asleep comfortably.

We got to our hotel and the bathroom amenities included a razor with shaving cream and disposable toothbrushes. They even provided pyjamas. They thought of everything - in fact, I could have arrived at the hotel with nothing and would have been comfortable. This sort of thing was standard everywhere I went in Japan. I wondered what the Japanese must think when they come to North America and check into a hotel. "Where is my toothbrush? Where are my pyjamas? What will I do?!"

 My friend and I went out for a walk to the nearest mini mart to get some snacks. The streets were spotless and the roads smooth. Everything seemed to have a place and a purpose. There were specified ways to do everything, from simple payment transactions, to how to board a train. I loved it. Once you knew what to do, it was easy.

I experienced something upon arrival in Japan that I had never experienced before. It was not culture shock. It was a mix of awe and maybe envy. It can only be described as culture shame.

We (North Americans) are so loud and aggressive. We don't take the time to do simple things. We go where we want, when we want, however we want and it causes chaos. We don't really respect other people. When a Japanese person comes here, I can only imagine they think us to be wild barbarians and I found myself embarrassed by my birthplace.

I usually return home grateful for all I have, but this time I was humbled in a different way. I saw so many ways my society could improve and just ashamed of how things are.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

#CrazyBad Beijing Air Experienced First Hand

Now I don't like to speak ill of places I visit. Obviously, we're all going to like some places more than others. There were many things I liked about Beijing and Tianjin - the food was awesome, the people were nice, the Engrish was hilarious, the architecture was cool, the speed trains and subways were comfortable, the drivers were badass and I felt very safe.

But one thing that didn't feel so safe was the now infamous #crazybad air. It was bad in Tianjin as well, but worse in Beijing, I think. Hard to say because ALL my pictures came out with a nasty smog haze cloud in them, and it had nothing to do with my photography skills or my camera.
That's just not right!

If it did that to my pics, I can only imagine it took a year off my lung's useful lifespan!

I'm saying this, not because I didn't like those cities or those people, and not to discourage people to visit, but because before I experienced it, I simply could not fathom that it could be THAT BAD.

Look, Montreal has smoggy days in the summer now and then and they tell people to stay inside. I've seen it. I've had problems breathing in it even.
I've visited NYC and I've seen their smog. But you know what? NYC ain't got nothing on Beijing! I didn't want to believe it was possible, but it is. My brain didn't have the capacity to understand the badness. I brought masks, yes, I was prepared, but I didn't wear them because I was STILL in denial while there.

I now regret not wearing masks outside because I ended up with a smoker's cough for the time I was there. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

china crazybad air pollution by www.solowomantraveler.ca
Both of these pics are from Tianjin...on a bright sunny day! lol

china crazybad pollution haze by www.solowomantraveler.ca
While trying not to choke on the air, don't fall asleep at the wheel

Friday, April 19, 2013

All That You Can Leave Behind

u2 all that you can't leave behind
These guys have all their bags
If you know me, you'll know I'm a HUGE U2 fan. I have all their albums - some even in vinyl and cassette format. Oh yes!

No surprise that on the way out the door to my most recent trip to China and Japan, I was thinking about leaving my family behind and humming, "Walk On" by U2.

The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind

You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen

Leave it behind
You've got to leave it behind

Except that, I'm not a person who usually leaves things behind anywhere. I'm not the type to lose stuff. Ok, well there was that one time I left my passport on a restaurant table in Heathrow airport, but um, let's not talk about that right now. So aside from that, I had a good track record for keeping it together. All that failed with this trip.

I left sort of cocky. Oh yeah, this is old hat! I've traveled so much before, this was nothing. I wasn't even nervous.

Everything was pretty good until I left my iPad charger at the hotel in Beijing. I'm pretty sure I left it plugged into the wall. I'm happy I wasn't so out of it that I left my iPad, so it could have been worse, but still! Grrrr.

Then I got to the  Beijing airport and missed my flight. Oh yes! That's a pretty BIG error. So I did what any reasonable adult would do in my situation - I went into a bathroom and cried a bit. lol
Eventually, I found internet access and booked a new flight using Travelocity.

At the same time, I also realized I had lost my departure card for China. Right. I had successfully hung onto it ALL week and somehow lost it on my last day!  Luckily, they provide extras when leaving - I wasn't sure how strict China was about things like this. The back of the card says not to lose it!

Next day, I was in Tokyo and it was raining so I bought an umbrella. I later left that umbrella in a taxi cab.

I swear, there was some sort of strange lost-items karma that was attacking me for getting through childhood and half of adulthood without so much as a lost mitten. I mean for real, I never lost anything!  I can proudly boast at having gotten my own child to the age of three without losing one tiny item of clothing also. This is how on the ball I am!

Oh man. So this trip was all about making me humble or something and leaving everything behind. At least I didn't lose myself :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

In Beijing

Internet is spotty and I'm trying to update from my iPad mini, so it's not the best interface, but I'm here, in Beijing! Off to the Great Wall today and hopefully some pictures up soon!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Even though my Asia trip is more immediate and for some reason @TBEX stopped following me on Twitter (what gives? lol), I still have every intention of going. So here's my fancy new badge:

I'm also looking for peeps to share a room with me at the Canadiana Hostel. Let me know!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Travel Quote of the Day

When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from those who have never left home.

This times 1000!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Drink With A Stranger

I recently had a drink with a stranger...from the comfort of my own home, in front of my iPad mini screen. Actually, I didn't get a chance to grab anything since I'd actually forgotten about our date and scrambled to get on Skype in time. Oops!
Luckily, Phil waited for me and we had a great chat.

Contact him if you want to have a drink with him, too. He's a pretty cool dude.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Married Women Do It. Do You?

I read this great post by another married solo woman traveler (and I think she's even a Qu├ębecoise native also!). There must be something in the water here.

In the comments of that article, someone questioned, "what's the point of being married if you're going to be independent?"

What's the point of anything? LOL

Why wouldn't I suddenly want or need my autonomy? Why would I want to lose myself? Why would I want my husband to dictate where or when I leave the house? Why would I want to be with a man who doesn't allow me to live out my dreams or support me in that? Why would I want to be with a man who has no desire or ambition to follow his own dreams?

Why are women going along with this idea that they must stop desiring anything for themselves the minute they get married?

Men go off alone every day. They travel alone all the time. Why is it acceptable for them and not us?

To add another element, I have a kid. I didn't lose myself in motherhood anymore than I lost myself to marriage. So not only do I leave my husband when I travel (and he's a grown man, he can take care of himself!), I choose to leave my child also.

I choose to teach  my son that women can be strong. I choose to teach my son that woman can live their dreams. I choose to teach my son that women can be independent. I choose to teach my son that even though someone he loves may leave him now and then, she will come back refreshed and with new ideas and things to teach him. I choose to be a role model to teach him to trust himself. To inspire him to explore the world on his own and discover new things about himself.
I cannot always be with him and at some point I will have to be left standing at the airport, watching him go off on his own, tears in my eyes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Woman, Three Currencies and 10 Days

uh, I *think* I made a reservation for this place: http://9hours.jp/
Not sure because the site was all in Japanese and didn't ask for a credit card, as far as I can tell. I don't know what the hell is going on half the time. Not sure if I booked a hotel or if I'm trying to sleep in an Apple Store.

It's only $10 more than the hostel (which is all booked now!) and I feel that I need the capsule experience in order to truly appreciate Japan.

I decided to skip the breakfast rate after reading this description:

the bread chunks with coffee and drip authentic, "and Motchiri" "plump" 
original used ♪ Please Come savor toast ○ ○ contents breakfast -drink (all eight species. blended coffee, and orange juice) , green salad (you can choose from a type. 3 pizza toast, tuna onion toast, bacon and eggs toast) Toast

They have toast I take it? And I can drink all eight species!

I have all nights booked now except for one because I haven't decided if I will spend it in Tokyo or Kyoto. It will depend on a mix of Dfly and how much I like Tokyo after one night. I am presuming we can wing this and not end up sleeping in a subway.

So now my trip goes like this:

Montreal-Toronto-Beijing-Tianjin-Great Wall-Beijing-Tokyo-Kyoto-Kurama-Kyoto-Osaka-Seoul-Narita-Toronto-Montreal
10 days of insanity and adventure!

I got my visa pic taken at the CAA and spent way too much time and money there. I bought 2 pairs of those high-tech undies. I know, undies don't take up a lot of space, but any little bit helps these days. I just can't and won't do the 30lbs backpack mistake again. It's minimal all the way now! I think maybe 3 shirts, 1 jacket, 2 pants and maybe a change of shoes. I bought a fancy hanging toiletries bag also. My fancy high-tech travel towel fits in it, so that's all that really matters. I checked and can get all my liquids in those stupid TSA baggies, so all should be good. I might go back and buy a special anti-theft over-the-shoulder bag.

Still looking for a door stop alarm and inflatable hangers at a reasonable price.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Immersion Water Heaters Are Not Just for Tea and Coffee

Here's what it looks like:

If you've never seen one before, either you weren't raised by an army dad, like I was, or I'm showing my age. Oh dear! You don't see them much anymore, but can still buy them from Amazon here.I'm hoping with this post, they're come back in style because when it comes to travel, they are handy little gadgets!

Why do I like them so much? Well, they're fast, first of all. If you need a cup of hot water in a jiffy, they do the job faster than a kettle. While I've seen some adorable little travel kettles and most hotel rooms have a coffee maker in them, sometimes you don't want to even touch the coffee maker in the room without gloves and bleach. This thing is compact and easy to travel with, so why bother with anything else?

Also, believe it or not, but you can boil an egg or pasta using an electric immersion water heater (you'll also need to a ceramic mug or bowl to do the job - don't use a styrofoam cup!) Think of anything that can be boiled - tea, coffee, hot dogs, stew, soups, porridge - there are tons of cheap and easy meals that can be made in the comfort of your hotel/hostel room while travelling. This will save you tons of money.

If you need more cooking tips or just want a laugh, check out my first on-screen performance as The Real Iron Chef:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Money and Time

money and time time and money solowomantraveler
Nothing like planning travel with other people to make me appreciate why I usually go alone. With the exception of my hubby, who is easy to travel with as long as he has a bottle of Dramamine and special ear plugs, I just lack patience for waiting on other people. Timing is always an issue. Money and time - the big travel killers or enablers. It's rare to get everyone on board at the same time with that special mix of money and time.

I've been trying to maximize my time with my friends, while maximizing my time in each country and I think one thing will have to give. Which means time in each country will end up taking precedence over the friends. Sorry dudes! Luckily, these aren't guys with giant egos. I think they both understand I'm there to get certain things accomplished and that's it.

But really, I can only humanly do so much. Dfly has already been to Korea, so I will likely go alone. However, he may come with me to Kyoto and then stay there longer, which is a great idea. I am looking forward to the idea of a 3-hour train ride with him - catching up and shooting the shit. (For those who don't know, Dfly and I traveled to Yemen and Paris together, so we have experience with this)

I guess distance and 13-hour time differences don't help when it comes to planning either, but we are messaging, emailing, Skyping, Facetiming....I laugh because not all of that existed when Pt left for China over 10 years ago. Phone calls were the most amazing thing (I actually got a special long-distance plan to include China).

Even with me offering to pay for certain things, time still remains an issue. At the same time, it's because of these friends that I'm venturing out there in the first place. I see it as a once in a lifetime trip - the stars will probably never align quite the same way again to give me two amazing friends in two amazing countries, who can both speak a bit of the language there. Not everything will be perfect, but it will still be worth it!