Instant Dinner Party: How to Entertain when You Don’t Have the Time

Entertaining on a Time Budget

In our society of power breakfasts, endless meetings and overfilled schedules, it seems as if no one has the time to entertain guests except for special occasions.  Don’t let the fact that you’re on a limited time budget keep you from enjoying the company of your friends and family.   With minimal planning and preparation, you can host a dinner party on a day’s notice.  Use these tips to plan a get together that will give you and your guests a welcome respite from the rat race we face everyday.

Planning – Keep it Simple
Planning your meal shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.  Get a piece of paper and write down these 3 things:

  1. Number of Guests – Include all possible guests, including significant others.  It’s always better to have too much than too little.
  2. Time Frame – You’ll want to decide what time the guests should arrive and what time dinner will be served so that you’ll know exactly how much time you have to devote to preparation.
  3. Menu – Arguably the most difficult aspect of any dinner party, remember to keep it simple.  Stick with dishes you are familiar with and that can be prepared quickly.  If you’re stuck on this step, some menu options will be provided later in this article.

Once you have this information, you can do an inventory of your kitchen and decide what you need to purchase.  Create a shopping list being sure to include any decorations and beverages along with the food you need to buy.   Organize the list so that you can move quickly through the store.  You should be able to locate everything you need at any major grocery store.

Invitations – No Need to Be Formal
If your guest list is small,  you can call each guest to issue a personal invitation.  If you’re planning on a larger group, or if you just don’t have the time, email comes in very handy.  There are several invitation based websites that can be used to great advantage when planning a dinner party.  Just fill in a few fields and you’re a click away from reaching all your guests.

Decorations – Nothing Fancy
Sticking with the theme of keeping it simple, decorations needn’t be too elaborate.  Simple candles and fresh flowers are always a great way to go.  Fresh flowers like Astromeria can be purchased very cheaply at most grocery stores.  While not necessary, having a linen tablecloth is always a nice touch and doesn’t require more than minimal ironing.

The Meal – Options and Suggestions
If you don’t know what to prepare for your meal, here are some suggestions for elegant and easy to prepare recipes that will impress your guests.

Beverages – The easiest way to handle beverages is to set up a bar/beverage area where guests can prepare their own drinks.  That way if you are putting the finishing touches on the meal, you won’t be interrupted every time a new guest arrives, you can just direct them to the bar.  Be sure to include ice and glasses with your choice of beverages in the set-up.

Appetizers– Nothing could be easier than providing appetizers like selected cheeses with crackers or a vegetable tray with dip.  If you have the time to cut your own vegetables, you can save money, but precut vegetable trays will save you time.  Pre-made spinach or artichoke dip served with a hearty bread is also a good, quick appetizer.

Salad– Pre-prepared salads come in very handy if you’re on a time budget and can be augmented with fresh vegetables of your choosing if you have the time.  To add a dash of class and yum factor, add French fried onions and cheese (feta is usually a good choice) to your salad.

Sides – The simplest and quickest side options is the basic baked potato.  To create a restaurant quality baked potato, wet the skin of the potato and dip it in sea salt.  Then wrap each potato in paper towel before microwaving it.   After cooking, firmly roll the potato before removing the towel to pull the potato away from the skin. Cut each potato once down the center and it’s ready to serve.  Rice and flavored rice packages are also make quick and delicious sides.

Soup – Many restaurants and restaurant supply companies offer delicious frozen soups that can be quickly heated up for a delicious soup course.

Entrees– There are many recipes available for meat, poultry, seafood and pasta dishes with quick preparation times.  A search of the many available recipe sites on the internet can provide you with a recipe that fits your taste.  Here is one such simple and elegant choice:

London Broil w/Garlic Au Jus

Hands-on preparation time: 20 minutes
Actual time to prepare – 2 hours

Ingredients:
1.5lbs of 1 ½” – 2” thick London broil (top round)
2 cloves of fresh garlic
1 can beef broth
1 cube beef bouillon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
¼ cup water

1)     In a small saucepan, boil the beef broth, bouillon and brown sugar for 15 minutes to reduce it.
2)     Remove the broth mixture from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes
3)     Create a marinade by adding the garlic (pressed or diced), lemon juice, and olive oil to the broth mixture
4)     Marinate the London broil for 1 hour at room temperature
5)     Retaining the marinade, broil the meat on a roasting rack for 8 minutes on each side
6)     Remove the meat from the oven and allow to sit for 8 minutes
7)     Meanwhile return the marinade to the saucepan, add water and butter and bring to a boil
8)     Carve the London Broil into thin slices on a slight angle, cover with Au Jus and serve on a platter with the remaining Au Jus on the side.

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Choosing the Right Bike for You

For the casual, recreational bicyclist, choosing the right bike can be confusing and even frustrating.  You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, but you do want to make sure you get a bike of sufficient quality and comfort that you can ride it with pleasure for more than just a year or two.  You are somewhere in between the consumer who goes into a discount store and buys the glitziest bicycle available for the wad of bills in his wallet and the bicyclist who strolls into the best bike shop in town, hails all the employees by name, spends the whole rest of the day talking components and races and leaves the store at closing, starry-eyed but empty-handed.   Here are some helpful pointers to help you choose the right bike for your body and your purposes.

Before you even go near a bike shop, do some thinking. The most obvious choice you have to make in buying a new bike is deciding what kind of bike you want.  Road bike or mountain bike may seem the question, but it’s really a little bigger a question than that. Depending on your age, health, and intended usage, you may want to consider cruiser bikes, recumbent bikes, and the increasingly popular bikes known as hybrid or commuter bikes.

You want a road bike if you are involved in road racing, certainly. If your love is riding on trails, you will definitely want a mountain bike.  If your primary love on the trails is downhill racing, you will want a specialized mountain bike.  If you have physical limitations, find bicycling painful, or just have money to burn and a yearning for something different, you should check out recumbents.  If you just use a bike for pedalling around a basically flat town a few miles a day, perhaps you’d enjoy the fun of a single speed, fat tired cruiser bike.  And very many of you will be attracted with good reason to the hybrid or commuter bicycles that give you some of the advantages of all these kinds of bikes.

These hybrid bikes give you the wide range of gears riders learned to love with the advent of mountain bikes in the eighties, combined with the lightness and grace of the road bike. They are usually ridden upright, like the cruiser bikes, but don’t carry the weight or the bulk of the shock absorbing features of mountain bikes.  Their tires are somewhere between the skinny, lightly spoked wheels of a road racer’s model and the heavy knobbies of a genuine mountain bike.  These bikes are light enough to be fast on roads and stable enough to ride off-road on gravel or good trails.  They have a sufficient range of gears to get you up steep hills without walking and respond quickly enough to meet the demands of riding in urban traffic.

Once you know the kind of bike you seek, go into a few bike shops and talk to a knowledgeable bike seller. Amateur and casual riders often make the mistake of thinking the only size consideration on a bike is the rider’s height, but no good bike shop employee will let you out of the shop without paying attention to the unique aspects of your height.  A 5’6″ rider with long arms and a short torso will need a much different bike frame symmetry than a 5’6″ rider with short arms and long legs!  The length of the top bar on the bike, the adjustability of the seat post, the height of the stem that supports the handlebars, all these factors and more matter enormously to the fit of a bicycle and consequently to the pleasure or the pain you’ll find in riding it.  Manufacturers have varying frame geometries and models have their own variations.

You cannot really buy a bike intelligently at a discount store without knowledgeable employees or policies that allow you to test ride a bike before purchase. The only way to buy intelligently from a big discount store is to identify the right bike elsewhere and then purchase the same bike from the discounter.  Whether this is really fair to the bike shop that gave you the real service is something you have to decide for yourself.  You should never buy a bike without test riding it, and if you’re buying it as a present, without making sure the recipient has the right to return it if it doesn’t suit their riding needs.

Once you have done all this, you get to consider what is really the plum of your decision making process in choosing the right bike: the way the bike looks.  Bicycles are beautiful machines.  You should love not only the way you feel on it, but the way it looks as you fly down the hill on it, a blur of shiny colors and silvers and speed.

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Can you ever be prepared for child abduction?

The message that 9 year-old Carol brought home from school was depressingly predictable.  Two younger girls had narrowly escaped abduction the day before, so could parents please take extra precautions getting children to school and bringing them home.

Although every successful abduction is one abduction too many, there are some very large numbers published that probably need to be clarified a little. There is statistical information from the UK  that shows around one tenth of all reported abductions were successful and that a quarter are what they call parental abductions which could be classified more as custody cases than kidnapping.  Although every parental abduction is a painful event for the family involved, it shouldn’t add to stranger danger in the community.

Discounting other types of abduction where there is an established relationship between the victim and the offender leaves around half of all reported abductions that can be classified as sexually motivated child abductions.  The target victim is, on average, 10 years old, male or female with fair skin.  That specification is a pretty close match for Carol and also Chris, who is two years older than his sister but equally blond and blue-eyed.

So, for what seems the tenth time this year we sit them down for a refresher discussion about strangers, reminding them to trust their instincts.  “If something feels wrong inside, it probably is wrong.”

We confirm that it’s OK to say “No” to an adult, to find a grown-up they know and trust and to tell all.

We encourage Chris to use his Taekwondo training and to kick out if he feels he is in danger and tell Carol to kick, bite and generally make a noise if she feels someone is trying to get her to do something she does not want to.

Finally we remind them that we do not have secrets in our family and if anyone tries to convince them otherwise, they are wrong.

The note from school has also reminded me to update the information cards I carry with me at all times.  Basically, for each child I have an up-to-date photograph in my wallet with the following details printed on the back:

  • Name and nicknames
  • Eye, hair and skin color
  • Height and weight
  • Identifying features (birthmarks, scars, physical characteristics)

Most abducted children are recovered or killed in the first 3 hours, so the first 15 to 30 minutes after a successful abduction are critical. If you can hand the police a photograph with all of this data immediately, they have clear information on which to make an identification.  Such clarity can be vital as parents of abductees are also very stressed at this time and are likely to be vague and disorientated, themselves.

It would be so easy to carry on believing that it will never happen to us but with the odds being about 1 in 7,000 there is more chance that my child will be abducted than me winning the national Lottery.

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Persuasiveness and Negotiation

Persuasion is a pretty basic human skill.  Small children learn how to use persuasive techniques to achieve all sorts of benefits.  They understand that parents need them to be pleasant, polite and friendly and for the small price of money, sweets or a toy they can benefit from a quiet life.  Admittedly a lot of childhood persuasion verges on blackmail “Give me a sweet or I’ll have a tantrum” but the basic building blocks are there.

Persuasive techniques in business may be a little more sophisticated but they center on the same structure:

  • what needs does the target have
  • what features does our offering contain
  • what is the overall benefit to the target

Whether you are considering the design of a web page, a mailing campaign or press advertising, the same rules apply; convince your target audience that you have listened to them and understood fully their needs.  Design your offering to ensure that it has features that satisfy their needs and have a list of these features available but most of all be clear about the overall benefit that your target audience will feel when they use your service or product.

In his advertising, Mac Davenport, an Illinois lithographic printer focuses the headline and the large print on “We deliver full color quality…fast”.  His full design to delivery service that takes the strain from the customer is detailed in the small print to demonstrate that his business provides features that meet the client’s every need from a printing facility.

Negotiation in the business world has become a science and an art form. Everything from how you prepare to what you wear has an influence on whether you will be more or less persuasive than your opposite number.  You should expect that he or she will be well prepared and ruthless in his/her intention to get the best deal for her/his company.

Your preparation for a negotiation should include:

  • Identify your goal – the real reason for the negotiation
    • Knowing the facts and having proof available
    • Agreeing (with your colleagues) your position and how much flexibility you are willing to demonstrate
    • Know which elements can be traded – e.g. faster delivery for higher cost, more features for a longer timescale, lower cost for fewer features.
    • Preparing outline contracts or agreement documents for signature

If possible, never negotiate when you are tired, always have a full stomach and an empty bladder and be comfortable.  Start and finish the meeting with a handshake and an honest, friendly smile.  Negotiations are seldom personal, they are a set-piece battle of the brains and you’ll always perform better if you keep that in mind.  If you like or dislike your opponent, you should put those feelings aside for the duration of the negotiation as they can adversely affect your performance in the “bullring”.

Auto salesman, Jake Robertson always puts on his negotiating hat to “get into” the correct frame of mind; it helps him to be resolute.

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Dealing with Conflict Resolution at Work

Everyone deals with conflict.  We learn that not everyone agrees about everything.  But when workplace disagreements occur, situations can get out of hand, causing bitterness, resentment, loss of reputation, poor morale, costly litigation, and even job termination.  Smart companies have good conflict resolution procedures in place from the start, allowing management to address problems before they escalate and become out of control.

No one likes to experience problems with others while on the job, but such occurrences seem to be a natural part of life.  As a matter of fact, there are those that thrive on making trouble in the workplace.  Most companies recognize that conflict costs both dollars and human capital and recognize the need to address problems as soon as possible.

In-House or Independent Mediator?

Different companies solve conflict in different ways.  Some businesses have a facilitator among their management staff that assumes the role of conflict mediator.  There are good and bad issues involved with using an in-house facilitator.  While it may be to the company’s advantage that this person is familiar with all parties involved, that fact may also put one or more of the persons involved at a disadvantage.

While everyone involved in solving the conflict tries to be unbiased, in-house mediators often have pre-conceived notions about one or more of the parties.  Often, hiring an independent mediator is the answer.  This mediator is armed with the tools to bring about a quick and final settlement and addresses the problem from a non-partisan viewpoint.

The Conflict Mediation Process

Time is of the essence when solving a workplace conflict.  As soon as possible, a meeting should be scheduled with all parties. The mediator should introduce everyone involved and begin by stating his understanding of the problem.

Each party should then be asked to state their individual understanding of the problem, rather like an opening statement in a court case.  This not only allows the mediator to view each party’s take on the conflict but also lets him/her to assess the emotional state of the participants.

The process usually continues with the mediator asking questions of each party, either in the group setting or in a personal interview. This helps the mediator build rapport and eventually allows him to begin to gain the confidence of those involved in the conflict.

When everyone has a clear understanding of the problem at hand, all parties will begin to look at equitable solutions.  The mediator may suggest proposals from which to begin working, and those involved can take turns modifying them until a universal agreement is achieved.  This may not be a quick process but it’s more important that the solution be reached after much thought to the best interests of all parties rather than in haste.

The Importance of Quick Resolution

There’s nothing worse for employee morale than a tense situation at work.  Even those not directly involved in the conflict may be sucked into the distress of the situation.  That can be a dangerous scenario, resulting in employee turnover, terminations, poor production, or work stoppage.  In the long run, all of this affects a company’s bottom line.

Companies should have a conflict resolution plan in place as part of their workplace policies and be sure not to wait until the first conflict arises to decide how it will be handled and who will handle it.

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Stress Management

Paul Bishop just felt plain tired.  He’d had a tough year in his job and he was really finding it difficult to keep motivated.  To cap it all he had started to make stupid mistakes at work, forgetting to check things and he always seemed to be rushing to meet deadlines.  His job satisfaction had disappeared; work had become a real burden and the constant changes in management structure left him feeling paranoid about being edged out of the company.

The symptoms that Paul was feeling are pretty well understood these days. Continual change is a feature of modern business and, although this can stimulate more interest and better productivity in some employees, it can have the opposite effect others, like Paul, making them highly stressed.

What may start as minor stress can escalate into medical problems; digestive disorders, allergies, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.  Mental disorders such as depression, phobias obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and paranoia can also result from a stressful lifestyle.

Now, more than ever, it is essential to adopt sensible stress avoidance and stress management strategies. In the UK alone it is estimated that 245,000 people became aware of symptoms of work related stress in a 12 month period resulting in 12.8 million lost working days.

There is a fine balance to be drawn, however, as we also rely on the stress from competition, deadlines, negotiations, frustrations and sorrows to add texture to our lives. Each person has an individual and sometimes very different threshold beyond which stress begins to have a negative effect on their well-being.

There are some findings that disease and illness are closely allied with unrelieved stress.  Just being aware of stress is not sufficient to eradicate it, more work is necessary to identify the causes and either change the environment in which stress occurs or change our response to the stressful environment.

A useful model to consider is one where you can divide the stimuli in your environment into three categories.

Category 1 – Things I can change

Category 2 – Things I can’t change but I can influence

Category 3 – The weather

Categories 1 and 2 are pretty self-explanatory.  For example you can decide to change your job or perhaps your boss needs to requisition a new computer for you.

The weather accounts for everything else outside Categories 1 and 2.  It’s called the weather because just like when it rains, you can’t do much about it other than work around it.   It doesn’t matter how much you worry about rain it won’t stop just for you.

When Paul used the three categories he realized that he needed to ask for help to give him more time to check his work and also to question deadlines he was given rather than accept them as gospel.  The organizational changes that were happening around him were just the weather and if he navigated himself through the weather successfully, he would avoid being surplus to requirements.

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Coping with Jet Lag

What is Jet Lag? Crossing time zones disrupts the body clock which regulates sleep, wakefulness and our productivity in general; this leads to irritability, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration, loss of appetite, and other discomforts.

Can Jet Lag be prevented? A number of strategies have been developed to prevent jet lag but the general consensus is like motion sickness, there are certain people who are more predisposed to jet lag than others.  Jet lag, like colds, cannot really be prevented but measures can be adapted to minimize the length of its effects.

The Rx Way

  • No-Jet-Lag, as its literature claims, is “a safe and effective remedy for countering jet lag, in the form of easy-to-take tablets. Its effectiveness has been proven in a scientific trial of round-the-world passengers and confirmed by long haul flight attendants in a test conducted in cooperation with their union.” It also claims to be compatible with all kinds of medication and to have no side-effects. Always consult your doctor before trying out any new medication, even if it is an over the counter drug.
  • Melatonin manipulates a certain hormone in your body; it is administered days before you travel. However, research has shown if it is taken within too early or too late before the date of travel, it makes  jet lag worse.

The Anti-Jet Lag Diet Way. The Anti-Jet-Lag Diet was developed by Dr. Charles F. Ehret of Argonne National Laboratories; he prescribes alternates days of feasting and fasting starting four days before your date of departure:

  • Feasting includes high-protein breakfasts and lunches, high-carbohydrate dinners;
  • Fasting includes days of small, low-calorie meals.

The Cliché Way

  • Exercise regularly to build stamina;
  • Eat healthy foods, like green leafy vegetables and fruits;
  • Chew gum to alleviate pressure build-up in your ears;
  • A good night’s sleep; with naps during long flights;
  • Avoid unnecessary stress; pay your bills, finish your work and do not get hung over before you travel;
  • Drink plenty of fluids during the flight, but avoid alcoholic beverages and too much caffeine;
  • Take advantage of airline sleeping aids such as blindfolds, ear plugs and neck pillows to catch a power nap;
  • If it is possible to stand during the flight, stand up, stretch and walk a little;
  • Wear comfortable clothes;
  • Shower before you leave to refresh your senses;
  • Set your watch to the time of your destination before you board the plane;
  • Eat meals at times that are as close as possible to the meal times of your destination;
  • Bring an interesting book or magazine;
  • If the person sitting next to you seems friendly, engage in small talk and make a new friend;
  • East vs. West. Some people believe that flying east or westward causes jet lag; scientists argue that such claims are more a question of personal preference and do not have any scientific basis;
  • Night vs. day flights. Another question of personal preference; and finally,
  • Have fun!
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You Know You are a Tourist When…

There shouldn’t be any shame in being a tourist; after all you help the city or the country’s economy, you have sufficient disposable income to allocate for travel and leisure, and broadening one’s horizons is never supposed to hurt anyone. Unfortunately there is a stigma attached to being a tourist; as much as the locals would like to be hospitable to tourists, their buttons are pushed by a variety of reasons – inappropriate clothing, too friendly, too rude, a traffic hazard and then there’s the issue of hygiene.

Most travelers would advice that there are significant disadvantages in easily being singled out as a tourist:

  • Tourists are more likely to be conned or mugged;
  • Tourists are more likely to be charged more for cab fare and certain commercial establishments; and
  • Tourists are easy targets for pranks, harmless and otherwise, since they do not understand the local language.

Here is a list of things that reveal whether or not you can easily be spotted by locals as a tourist; are you ready to find out if you are the typical tourist?

You Know You’re a Tourist When…

  • You wear bright colored shirts or shirts that scream “I love whatever city I am in right now”
  • You wear a baseball cap or hat that screams “I love whatever city I am in right now”
  • You insist on wearing tropical, animal, safari, large polka dots, aquarium printed tops with knee-length shorts, flip-flops and a hat
  • You have a fanny pack slung around you’re hips
  • You say ooh, ah and wow at old buildings, churches and old statues
  • You think it’s ok to jaywalk
  • You walk around with your nose buried in map or guidebook
  • Your neck is craning in unnatural angles trying to read street signs
  • You are lugging around one too many luggage; helplessly flailing your arms for a cab in an area where cabs can’t pick up passengers
  • You stop at every glass window shop to marvel at chocolate sculptures and éclairs
  • You only have 3 kinds of footwear: flip-flops, sandals and sneakers
  • You stop to take a picture of anything
  • You stop a stranger to take a picture of you with anything and anyone
  • You bump into someone in a crowded place with a dazed expression in your face and realize you’re wallet has been stolen
  • You bump into someone in a crowded place with a deer-in-the-headlights look and automatically check your pockets to see if anything is missing
  • You are taken aback that there is no tissue in the tissue dispenser of public toilets
  • You carry a backpack stuffed with Gatorade, mineral water, and crumpled sheets of what looks like a map wearing cargo anything and shades in the middle of the city
  • You carry too much change
  • You don’t have change or local currency
  • You only know how to say “Thank you”, “How much”, “Yes”, and “No” in the local language
  • You walk around with big groups
  • You travel around the city in a bus with a group
  • You walk around with your entire family, right to the nth cousins
  • You go to a city or country for the first time during tourist season
  • The first thing you look for is a McDonald’s
  • Another first thing you look for is Coke

If you found yourself nodding your head more often than not, then congratulations! You are the typical tourist! Embrace it, say it with me – Yes I am a typical tourist! Now we can start your therapy to de-touristify you.

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The 5 Commandments of Packing

Proper packing can make or break a great vacation. Packing is usually considered of lesser importance than hotel or airline reservations and is left to the last minute. What most people do not realize is that going on a vacation without properly packing is like going to war without the necessary gear; you may have the gun but you did not bring any ammo.

  1. The Perfect Luggage. The perfect luggage should have retractable rollers; the rollers help you move your heavy luggage around without asking for assistance from strangers or airport personnel, while the retractable feature gives you the option to bring out the rollers only when you need it.The luggage should also have a built-in lock to safeguard its contents; if a built-in lock is not available, ordinary locks can also be used as long as it is not too big.

    Straps, removable or otherwise, are ideal only for carry-on luggage; they make it easier for you to carry your them around but make sure it is tucked properly whenever your bag goes through the conveyor belts to prevent any unfortunate incident of your bag getting stuck  and being damaged in the process.

  2. Divide and Rule. You should always have at least 2 sets luggage, your main or checked luggage and your carry-on luggage.  Your checked luggage should contain the bulkier items such as clothes, shoes, portable dryer and so on. Your carry-on luggage should contain your more valuable items such as jewelry, electronic gadgets, money, travel documents, and identification cards; not only will your valuable items be safer, they will be more accessible should you need them.
  3. Health is Wealth. Always bring a first aid kit, especially if you’re going to an exotic destination. You never know if know if you’re going to need an anti-histamine to combat an allergic reaction from eating seafood, or if you’re favorite anti-migraine brand is even imported in the country you’re visiting in.Place you’re first-aid kit in your carry-on luggage for better access; it will also be easier to monitor the condition of temperature sensitive medication like insulin.

    To prevent suspicion and unnecessary interrogation with immigration security, bring your medication in its original packaging; and if you are carrying prescribed drugs, bring your prescription with you as well.

  4. Liquid Dreams. If you must bring your favorite shampoo, body oil or other liquid items with you when you travel, wrap them in a plastic bag first before placing them in your luggage to protect your dry items.  Avoid bringing liquids packaged in glass, repack them in plastic containers. For certain items that cannot be repacked such as perfume, place them in your carry-on luggage.Check the amount of the liquid, it should not be more than ¾ of its container; the ¼ serves as an allowance in case the luggage is crushed or there is drastic temperature change.
  5. Kodak Moments. Airport x-rays can ruin camera film so it is more practical to buy your film when you arrive in your area of destination, after you’re luggage has been x-rayed; and it is more practical to have it developed before you leave, to prevent the used film from being ruined by airport security. If you do not have one yet, get a digital camera. Digital cameras are less bulky than conventional cameras; they neither need film nor do the images have to be developed right away. Instead of film, you will need a media card which is smaller and easier to carry; once your media card is filled up you can have your pictures developed, have the images burned onto a cdr or upload it on the internet.
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Great Expectations from Solo Travel

Solo travel, as the name implies, is embarking on an adventure in the truest sense of the word; leaving behind your usual safety crutches – friends, an itinerary, and traveling confined to the weekends or filed leaves.

Solo traveling is not solitary confinement; it just means that you start your travel adventures by yourself and you make friends as you go along the way. It actually makes it easier for you to meet new people; without the usual group of friends surrounding you, locals and other travelers find it easier to approach and start a conversation with you.

The Benefits of Solo Travel

1. Your senses are heightened because there are no distractions, intensifying the traveling experience;

2. Traveling solo lessens the impact of your presence on your immediate environment; locals are more at ease going about their daily routine and you get a more genuine feel of their culture and way of life;

3. Going solo means all the decisions are made by only one person; you can act on your impulse to sample the exotic local cuisine or learn the traditional dances without second thoughts or having to compromise with anyone;

4. The locals and other travelers have an easier time approaching you when you are alone;

5. Solo travel means greater mobility; no more waiting for a table of a certain number of people before you can be seated since you can always sit at the bar; and we can board buses with only one seat left;

6. Traveling solo helps preserve relationships in a way; traveling with a group tends to strain relationships in certain instances such as who gets to use the bathroom first or who sleeps on the couch, these little things pile up and before you know it, no one is speaking to anyone anymore; and

7. Solo travel allows you to get in touch with your inner self, to mull on the meaning of your life and other philosophical queries you normally cannot indulge in; and

8. Solo travel gives you an opportunity to relax and recharge.

The Challenges of Solo Travel

1. It can get lonely; when we see other travelers with their friends or families our natural reaction is to miss our own friends and family. But we must bear in mind that we did not embark on this journey to strengthen bonds with other people; we are here for ourselves.

2. Safety is perhaps the most crucial issue for solo travelers, most especially for women solo travelers. Travelers are easy targets for undesirables; they are unfamiliar with the territory, they are most likely clueless about the local language and they usually carry around more money that the locals. Always be alert of your surroundings; it’s not like we were born yesterday or that we have never found ourselves in a “bad neighborhood,” always use common sense – do not walk alone in dark or dimly lighted streets, know where the nearest police station is, if you must ask for directions as a person in uniform, and ask other travelers for tips on how to high crime areas.

Solo traveling is not for everyone; the benefits of solo travel seem to be more on the introspective aspect of an individual, realistically its demands seem higher than traveling with a friend or a group of people. But more and more people are embarking on their own solo adventures; why you may ask? I can almost hear a veteran solo traveler replying, “Because it’s worth it.”

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