The hazard isn’t where you might suspect it is. Mingling in the airport with hordes of travelers—grabbing empty bins in security, touching hand rails on escalators, ordering food at counters, and sitting near the gates—is far riskier than breathing air near someone you hear sneezing or coughing a few rows away.
Airplanes have been designed to pump fresh, filtered air through the cabin ever since the days when smoking was allowed on board. (Otherwise all those planes would have been worse than the smokiest dive bar.) Commercial jets pull in half their cabin air from the high-altitude environment, where it is cold and sterile, while the rest of it is cabin air recirculated through HEPA filters.
Air exchanges occur 10 to 15 times an hour, and the air flows laterally across the row, not from the front of the plane to the rear. Because of the way the air loops, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigates potential infectious transmission on a plane, public health officers generally contact passengers in a zone just two rows in front of and behind the sick passenger.
But the pilgrims still come, in larger and larger numbers. If not explicitly the divine, what are they seeking? There are definite worldly benefits to pilgrimage. Almost everyone loses weight, for example (although not like I did — starting my Camino on the heels of a bout of stomach flu and thus in a radically fasted state, I lost 10 pounds in a week). Some treat it like a physical-endurance challenge, such as the shredded and tanned couple we met in Santiago de Compostela who had completed the entire 500-mile walk, starting in France, in just 24 days.
Some seek relief from emotional torment, and there is evidence they can find it: A study published in the journal Psychological Medicine reported that those who went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, (another major Catholic pilgrimage destination) experienced a significant decrease in anxiety and depression, sustained for at least 10 months after the pilgrims had returned.
Located in Tottori, Japan’s least-populated prefecture, Hot Air Ramen (formally named Tanreitori Ramen Hot Air) is the brainchild of Katsumi Yoshida, a mechanic and car salesman turned cook. In 2012, Yoshida, an amateur noodle enthusiast, added a tiny kitchen in an alcove of his small used-car dealership, placed some tables in the waiting room and began offering ramen to customers.
In 2015, he scaled down his auto shop and officially opened Hot Air Ramen to the public, so named for the famous hot springs in the area. And then last year, something rather unexpected happened: Hot Air Ramen was designated as a “Bib Gourmand” eatery (which designates a place that serves “exceptional good food at moderate prices”) in the Michelin Guide Kyoto – Osaka + Tottori 2019 edition.
The province says it’s cancelling the existing “inefficient” program because of the $2.8-million cost of administering $9 million in emergency medical coverage abroad each year. OHIP’s reimbursements also tended to offset only a fraction of the actual expenses.
Without private insurance, travellers can face “catastrophically large bills” for medical care, warns Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen, who “strongly encourages” people to purchase adequate coverage.
In a span of seven years, he paddled a series of 15-foot kayaks more than 30,000 miles from the Danube River in Europe to the tropical shores of far northern Australia. Even better, when he first set out, he was “merely” planning to paddle to Cyprus for work, with no intention of traveling by kayak to the other side of the world. But the paddling proved irresistible and Speck did not stop once he reached Cyprus.
Speck was 25 years old when he set out on his incredible journey. He was an unemployed electrician living in Hamburg. Work was scarce and prospects were dim after the 1929 stock market crash ripped through Germany, so Speck decided to seek work in the copper mines of Cyprus. With no other means to get there, and as a proud member of a kayaking club since his youth, Speck decided to paddle his way to, hopefully, a job.
In May, 1932, Speck shoved off from banks of the Danube in a collapsible and very much not seaworthy 15-foot kayak, and began paddling south. He arrived in the Balkans several weeks later and, lulled to boredom by the languid waters of the Danube, Speck made for the Vardar River, where soon fierce rapids dashed his boat nearly to splinters. While awaiting repairs, winter set in and the Vardar froze over, locking Speck in place for months.
My adventure in Patagonia has been an incredible one, primarily for the vast landscapes and diversity of the region’s scenery with glimpses of every season within a period of just 13 days.
Guided by a National Geographic Expeditions Leader my time there was spent hiking, filming and shooting the time-lapses now used to create to this short film which has been graced by a stunning instrumental from musical geniuses. Please allow me four minutes of your time and turn your sound on.
As President Bashar al-Assad tightens his grip on the remains of the opposition in the north-west, a handful of tour companies and travel bloggers catering to English-language customers have started running bespoke trips to the country to “mingle with locals while also passing destroyed villages”, visit archeological sites “shrouded in a coat of destruction” and “experience the famous cosmopolitan nightlife that has returned to the centre of Damascus”.
Attempts to reopen Syria for tourism have been met with fierce criticism from some Syrians, however.
Bakri al-Obeid ran a small tourism company in Damascus before Syria’s uprising began in 2011. He left his hometown of Aleppo when the city fell three years ago and now lives in Idlib, which is pounded daily by Syrian and Russian airstrikes.
“What the tourism companies are doing now has just one goal: normalisation with the regime. They are doing this to show the world that Syria is safe and fine and the war is over,” he said.
“[These trips] whitewash the regime and let the world forget the atrocities committed against Syrians. It’s really depressing and painful to see tourists coming to your country from overseas when your house is confiscated by the regime and you can never go back home.”
In 1982, at the age of 23, halfway through her architecture studies, Elspeth Beard left her family and friends in London and set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW R60/6. She returned 2 years later to become the first British woman to ride around the world.
‘I first rode a motorbike when I was sixteen; a friend was taking his Husqvarna down to Salisbury Plain and asked me along. I can’t say I was instantly hooked but in 1979 I bought a second hand 1974 BMW R60/6 with about 30,000 miles on the clock. It gave me an immense sense of freedom and over the next couple of years I gradually travelled further afield. My first trip was a tour of Scotland, then Ireland, finally progressing to a two-month trip around Europe in the summer of 1980.
‘The following summer I persuaded my brother, who had been picking apples in New Zealand, to meet me in Los Angeles where we bought an old BMW R75/5 and rode together across to Detroit. All these trips gradually built up my confidence, so when I got back, I bought a Haynes manual and set about stripping down parts of the engine to get my bike ready for a bigger trip across the globe. It was already eight years old and had done 45,000 miles so I replaced all the cables, bought a new battery, changed all the oils and put new tires on. I also took the cylinder heads off to fit an extra base gasket in order to lower the compression. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I had been told by a friendly mechanic at the BMW shop that this would be a good idea!
‘Travel helps us to understand other cultures and not just rely on what the media tells us. It’s easy to be afraid of things you don’t understand – that’s why it’s really important that people go and find out for themselves. Those two years on the road completely changed my life and made me the person I am today. They gave me the confidence to take on anything life throws at me without any fear. The truth is, you will always be able to come up with reasons why the time isn’t right. Put aside your fears and just go.’
Sweden has been named the most LGBT-friendly country in the world for travellers according to new research into gay rights in 150 countries.
The LGBTQ+ Danger Index was created by ranking the 150 most-visited countries using eight factors, including legalised same-sex marriage, worker protection and whether, based on Gallup poll findings, it is a good place to live.
Canada ranked second-safest, followed by Norway, Portugal and Belgium. The UK is sixth safest on the list, but the US does not make the top 20. The researchers, American couple Asher and Lyric Fergusson, who blog about staying safe while travelling, said one reason the US is only at number 24 is because gay rights vary from state to state.
The Trans America Trail is a roughly 8,000 km / 5,000 mile vechicular route that crosses the United States using a minimum of paved roads. It is meant to be for leisure, travelled by dual-sport motorcycles, off-road vehicle, or touring bicycle.
He has sold thousands of self-made paper maps and road charts containing his idiosyncratic directions. Some people travel Correro’s trail for a weekend; others traverse all sixty-two hundred miles of boonies, from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Port Orford, Oregon, crossing fourteen states.
In the course of the summer—the best season for dirt roads—Correro estimates that there might be as many as six hundred riders on the TransAmerica Trail. There’s no way to know for sure. He does know that people ride it using motorcycles, bicycles, four-by-fours, Land Rovers, dirt buggies, pickup trucks, Pinzgauer military vehicles, and horses. One person did it in a Volkswagen Jetta for fun; another couple rode it coast to coast for their honeymoon, with the bride in a motorcycle sidecar. One cross-country rider was just eight years old. The oldest may be Correro, who is eighty. He likes to say that he has ridden every single inch of it, and that is true, but also an understatement, because he has ridden parts of it countless times. Though he has given up his motorcycle for a Chevy Tahoe, he still checks the trail to make sure that its roads are passable, that its bridges haven’t been condemned. He modifies his maps, charting new routes.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety. With that said, the vast majority of people are good. Recognize the fear mongers. Be properly informed. Be aware of your surroundings. Be respectful — you are a guest in their country. Don’t attract unnecessary attention — you probably already stand out enough.
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