04 May Carry On Essentials – Don’t Get Carried Away!

We've all witnessed it: The gate agent calls Group 2. The young man (or woman) corrals their duffle bag and slings the strap diagonally across their body as the straps hold on for dear life - and subsequently make that squeaking noise that no one is able to find a solution for. Here comes the backpack - slung over the other shoulder. They're single-strappin' it like the first day of school in 1995. They don't stop there as they bend down, trying to grab their computer briefcase, as the aforementioned duffle and backpack slide from their shoulders - only to start the process over again.   We get it - you don't want the airline to lose your luggage; nor do you want to wait for you belongings at baggage claim. But remember, these are carry-ons! And regulations are pretty much the same on all airlines: one small roller bag (see airlines' specifications), one small duffle or backpack and one hand-held item (as in a small purse or table). Here's a tip to ensure that you don't lose your luggage and have room for your backpack in the overheads (best if it's a direct flight): Bring your one roller carry-on to the gate. Have the agent "gate check" your bag. They will offer to check it for free and bring it below to the luggage hold. The bag will be waiting for you upon arrival at either the gate (smaller vessels) or baggage claim...

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29 Apr Manage Your Manners

During the 5 years I lived in Japan I committed my fair share of cultural faux pas. Dressing incorrectly, saying the wrong thing, exposing my misunderstanding of basic social rules… I unwittingly checked all of these missteps off my list. However none were more memorable, or more embarrassing, than those rules I broke at the dinner table. (Never stick your chopsticks point down in your rice. Trust me on this.) Table manners are a sign of civility and good character everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, “good” and “bad” etiquette is subjective dependent on culture, which can lead to unintentionally rude behavior. There are a few tried and true rules that transcend location (chew with your mouth closed, wash your hands, don’t throw things) but the rest are tricky. We’ve compiled five of the harder ones below. Read on to become a politer you! Italy – No cappuccino after 12pm Cappuccino is a morning drink. Indeed, for many Italians it can function as their entire breakfast. Therefore, anyone ordering it after noon is instantly identifiable as a tourist. Older Italians will admonish you for ruining your appetite and upsetting your tummy. Stay on the safe side and order espresso instead. Britain – Hold your fork in your left hand For most of mainland Europe, and particularly Britain, the approved way to hold your fork and knife is in the “Continental Style.” (Does that mean Americans use the “Colonial Style?” Need to look into this…) To be correctly...

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22 Apr Run around the world

The Boston Marathon that took place this past Monday, and my ever-approaching marathon in Traverse City, Michigan (for which I’ve barely trained) has had me thinking quite a bit about running. And what do I think about it? I don’t always love it while I’m doing it, but what I do always love is this: it’s free and you can do it anywhere, even while you’re abroad. I, for myself, did the most running while I lived in France, because I had so much time and the weather was always better than in Michigan (and therefore my two biggest excuses for not running really, truly, seriously had no merit). But what better way is there to explore a new park or get lost in the streets of a new town, or even participate in a local event? It doesn’t have to be a long-distance feat, there are plenty of short events to partake in that will make for a unique experience and interaction with a new place and culture. Take a look at some international races below! Midnight Sun Run, Reykjavik, Iceland The best time to visit Iceland is without doubt during the summer, when the weather is warm and the days are long- very long. Because Iceland is situated so far north, near the summer solstice (June 21) the sun is visible for a full 24 hours, setting around midnight and rising again around 3am. You can take in the colorful sunset...

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20 Apr Don’t let the internet ruin your vacation

I recently spent a very nice day out with my friends. Mid-adventure I tweeted a selfie of myself enjoying the scenery to the internet. De rigueur, wouldn’t you say? A standard amount of likes came in, but nowhere close to my top posts. I kept checking my phone periodically, but found myself with few comments to reply to. As the day progressed I puzzled over my vague dissatisfaction, not with the experience (it was a truly lovely day), but with why I found it necessary to receive affirmation from my online followers. I was happy in the moment. The day was beautiful, the trip progressing perfectly. Why wasn’t that enough? We live in an age of hyper-connectivity. Studies have been done about the constant presence of computers and their effect on our brains (check out this Invisibilia podcast on the topic.) College students are given seminars on how their online presence can make or break a career, and children in elementary school are given tips on how to deal with cyber bullying. I’ve paid attention to the discussions, but haven’t allowed them to panic me. I keep my Facebook security settings high, and think twice before I tweet. I’ve also made a concentrated effort to not use my phone during mealtimes, but it wasn’t until the day out with my friends that it became clear I have more work to do. Specifically, I need to stop letting the Internet throw off my groove. Allow me...

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18 Apr A Dog’s Culture

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m obsessed with my dog. He is literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. A perfect combination of insane puppy energy with extremely lazy Labrador qualities. He averages a 70% success rate for retrieving sticks and toys when thrown (30% of the time he’s distracted or just plain refuses to participate in such inane activities). He loves running through herds of geese in the park and is probably the worst watch dog in the world. But he’s such a lovable galump that it’s totally forgivable. Charlie is always up for an adventure, including road trips Up North and anything that gets him into a body of water. But sometimes I wonder how he would adapt to relocating to a different country. Are dogs different in other areas of the world? Do they have culturally different attitudes, mannerisms, and decorum (as their human counterparts do)? Is dog language universal or are there dialects? Do they go through an assimilation process in order to “fit in” with the other dogs? How would daily life change for Charlie if we decided to move across the globe? French Social Structure  According to The Telegraph, there are four different types of dogs in France: “handbag dogs, hunting dogs, tied-up dogs, and dogs on the loose”. Charlie is clearly too large to be a "handbag" dog, and I like to think that I would never have a "tied-up" dog. I think he could potentially fall into...

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15 Apr Flea-Bitten: A Guide to Flea Markets in Europe

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="aligncenter" width="300"] An awesome Lion's Club Flea Market I stumbled upon in Denmark.[/caption] Caught the Shopping Bug? Whether it’s to find that one elusive dinner plate to complete a set from the 1940s, or because a modern couch just doesn’t have the same charm as an orange couch from the 1970s, there are many reasons people flock to flea markets. The air is always filled with excited chatter, music, and the mingled smells of food and dusty age. Flea markets are rarely just about buying old things - they also bring to life a sense of community and familiarity. Europe has some of the oldest and largest flea markets in the world, and stopping by at least one or two is almost a requirement for a well-rounded study abroad or travel experience. Flea markets give people an inside look into the culture, history, food, and customs of an area, all in one unique place. During your time abroad, take a day or weekend to hop on the train and get down to one of the flea markets dotted all across Europe. Even if you have no intention of buying anything, you won’t be disappointed in the rich experience you will have. Just be sure to keep an open mind and try to engage someone in conversation - people selling vintage pieces usually have amazing stories to go along with the items. Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande Held along the Naviglio Grande, this flea market...

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09 Apr Why I Applied for Dual Citizenship

Let me be the first to say that I am a proud American. I have lived here for 32 years and been though the prosperity of the Clinton administration and the subsequent disaster of the Bush administration (financially speaking). I take a rather poignant been there, done that attitude when it comes to travel and landmarks within the States. I have lived in San Francisco (twice), Washington, DC, and Tampa, FL; and I am about to relocate to the Netherlands as part of Panrimo’s plan to open a European office and continue to provide the best programs in Europe. [caption id="attachment_1704" align="alignnone" width="960"] Canal in my town of Utrecht[/caption] Before I introduce the benefits of being a dual EU/US citizen, allow me to share how I obtained my Italian citizenship (Disclaimer: This is meant for educational purposes only and not as an official authority on how to obtain citizenship. The fact that I even have to state that gives you an idea of why I am heading to Europe). Step 1: Do I qualify for Italian Citizenship? Yes. My grandfather was naturalized in the US after my father was born. Step 2: Obtain Grandfather’s Birth records from Italian Comune This was located in his birth town of Terrasini, Sicilia. Step 3: Search for Index Number of my Grandfather’s upon arrival into the USA The USCIS website allows you to look up the index number Step 4: Order Grandfather’s US Naturalization forms (certified) from USCIS Not too...

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08 Apr Up and Under – Prague’s Cellar Bars

[caption id="attachment_2309" align="aligncenter" width="225"] I loved exploring the cellar bars in Prague![/caption] Before electricity and the modern conveniences of iceboxes and refrigerators, cellars were to way to go for keeping perishable goods cool and secure during hot summers, and a great place to keep fermenting wine from spoiling. While most cellars are built intentionally with these uses in mind, the cellars of Prague arose from more preventative measures: flood aversion. Built along the Vltava River, Prague sits in a beautiful river valley, though one that’s prone to aggressive flooding. During Prague’s settlement and construction during the 9th and 10th centuries, the threat of losing the ground floor of your home to water every few months was a very prominent threat. So prominent that over the course of a few decades, the citizens of Prague raised the street levels over 4 meters, converting what used to be ground-level rooms and halls into makeshift cellars! While most cellars conjure images of self-contained units without connecting rooms or much variety, the cellars throughout Prague are interconnected and massive: remnants of the original floors plans, unintended as underground havens. So what makes the cellars of Prague even more memorable? The fact that many have been turned into quiet, cozy bars where you can duck out of the sun and into the cool, cavernous interiors. Each cellar bar in Prague offers it’s own charm, and it’d be a shame to leave Prague without having descended into at least...

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06 Apr Path Less Traveled

Avoiding the Beaten Path in Prague Prague is best described as an eclectic mix of old and new, where history can be seen and felt no matter where you are. Whether you are dancing the night away in a modern club housed in a two hundred year old building or eating traditional Czech food in a centuries-old restaurant along a winding, cobbled street, you will feel the past merging fluidly with the present. In the last few years people have begun to recognize Prague as a melting pot of culture, entertainment and beauty, which has increased the tourist traffic dramatically. For those of us who want to experience all that Prague has to offer while avoiding the crowds of people flocking to the most well-known venues, here 4 alternative experiences that can only be found in Prague.   Vyšehrad (High Castle) Though much less well-known than the Prague Castle, Vyšehrad is a favorite spot for locals because of the amazing view of the city, the popular beer garden located on the grounds, and the castle cemetery which is full of famous Czech people. At Vyšehrad you can drink like a local while looking at the graves of the more permanent locals.   Františkánská zahrada (Franciscan Garden)   Experience a peaceful oasis just off the famous (and famously busy) Wenceslas Square. The Františkánská zahrada is a small garden that was established in 1348 and which offers an ideal escape from the crowds without being completely removed from the energy of...

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01 Apr Fool Me Once

As you are undoubtedly aware, today is Easter. Okay, so it isn’t. We know you know, but it was worth a shot. Today is, in fact, April Fools' Day, and if no one has caught you off-guard with a prank or joke yet today, then we apologize for breaking your streak. At least we didn’t put cellophane over your toilet or something, right? RIGHT? April Fools’ Day is a long-held tradition that is an official holiday in exactly zero countries. Perhaps this is a testament to the enduring whimsicality and fun of a day in which you can play terrible jokes on others with no consequence? In any case, though the origins and original purpose of the holiday are debated and hard to prove, it March-es on (HaHA! Get it? March-April?? I’ll show myself out.) Many people, companies, news providers, and governments get in on the fun by concocting wild stories that are JUST believable enough. This brings much mirth, hilarity, and reinforces the paranoia of those of us who have a hard time trusting others in the first place. To further your understanding of this worldwide day of pranking, we’ve singled out three countries where April Fools Day is observed in very particular fashion. No free-styling here, if you want to fool your neighbors there is a certain way to do so. Scotland – Hunt the Gowk “Gowk” is the traditional word for a “fool” and the Scottish trick takes a village to pull off....

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