Clifton Fadiman

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

—Clifton Fadiman
1904-1999, intellectual, author, and editor

Tibet: Closed!

closedImagine my surprise when the tour company sent me an email where the first sentence began with, “Tibet is closed…” My first thought was scam, but I decided to do a little research and to my relief and disbelief, Tibet is indeed closed to foreign travelers EVERY year for the months of February and March. Really. This closure isn’t advertised, nor can you find it on any official websites. In fact, if you call and talk with someone at the Tibet Tourism Bureau, they’ll tell you that Tibet has never been closed to visitors.

A little background: The closure is a result of civil unrest that occurred in March 2008 when certain sensitive anniversaries are recognized. Specifically, Tibet Uprising Day occurs on March 10th to commemorate the armed uprising that occurred in March 1959. The uprising resulted in a violent crackdown in Lhasa and the Dalai Lama fleeing to India on March 30, 1959, where he has been in exile ever since. Because of these anniversaries, the Chinese government closes Tibet and I’m sure the official reason is for public safety. However, I suspect the government is also trying to give Tibetans less of an audience by keeping out anyone with a camera. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Hello Kitty!

On one of our European trips, a portion of the time was with an organized tour. Alcoholic beverages weren’t included in our tour price. However, our tour leader was a bit of a wine connoisseur and enjoyed wine with meals. Since he was familiar with local wines and wanted to share the experience with us, he asked those who wanted to have wine with their meals to contribute $50 to a kitty that would be used during the tour to buy wine for the meals. I thought, what a great idea that could be applied to lots of group activities. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Ring My Bell

I got this idea from a backpacking trip with Sheri. We were hiking through bear country, so I had her put a bear bell on her backpack. The tinkling of the bell was supposed to announce our presence to bears in the area. (I joked that it was the dinner bell for the bears!) That night, we were sitting around our little campfire when we heard the bell sound. I turned my light towards the sound just in time to see a raccoon dragging Sheri’s pack down the path. If not for that bell, we might not have known her pack was even gone. Continue reading

Maya Angelou

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

—Maya Angelou
1928-2014, author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer

Quick Tip: Bring Clean Money

I’m not talking about “laundered” money. We’ve had this problem a number of times when exchanging currency in other countries. If there is any writing on a bill, or if it’s torn, or even if it just looks crumpled up, foreign banks and moneychangers won’t accept it. Most money exchange businesses insist on clean, crisp bills, even with smaller denominations. They will also not accept older currency, especially older $100 and $20 bills with the smaller portrait image of Ben and Andy.

So before you go overseas, inspect the money you’re bringing to make sure it will be accepted. Most cash dispensed from ATMs is acceptable. Better yet, you can go to your bank and ask for new bills.