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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Over 100 people were literally caught with their pants down as part of the fifth annual No Pants SkyTrain Ride in Vancouver on Sunday.

    Larry Piche with Vancouver Improv Anywhere, a flash mob company that organizes the ride every year, said that the 2014 event drew its highest numbers yet, though he didn't specify how many attended. Last year's event drew hundreds.

    Asked why he would organize such an activity, his answer was simple: "I think that people are looking for a reason to drop their pants."

    Check out images from this year's No Pants ride. Story continues after the slideshow:

    The event originates with New York's Improv Anywhere, which held the first No Pants Subway Ride in 2002. It has since expanded to cities including Shanghai, Istanbul and Adelaide, Australia.

    Participants packed an Expo Line train at Commercial-Broadway station at the start of the ride at around 4 p.m. The doors closed and they immediately set about removing their pants and stuffing them in some bags.

    The action drew a mixed response from riders. Some looked at the participants with derision, while others laughed, and still others kept their gazes firmly focused outside the train.

    Riders disembarked for photo-ops at Stadium SkyTrain station, then again at Waterfront where they switched to the Canada Line.

    New Westminster's Jamie Minnie wore a Robin costume for her first pantless Skytrain ride after only finding out about it yesterday.

    "I've always wanted to do Improv (Anywhere) but this is the first time I actually knew the date," she told The Huffington Post B.C.

    "It's really cool that they're doing it in Vancouver."

    Michael Duncan, who went pantless in his third outing, said the event is retaining its shock value but that it doesn't surprise commuters the way it used to.

    "It's become so big that it's more like a party on a SkyTrain rather than, I happened to take my pants off and no one really knows what's going on," he said.

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    Gorgeous hikes are as ubiquitous and as varied as rainbows in Hawaii. Everyone has their favorites for sunset or sunrise, for adrenaline vs. tranquility, for a workout vs. a stroll, but there's only one hike that provides a little bit of everything: views, adrenaline, secrecy, tranquility ... even illegality.

    The Haiku stairs on Oahu -- also known as the Stairway to Heaven -- is the one hike to rule them all.

    Amidst the lush Koolau mountain range, the 3,922 steps lead up to the stunning Puu Keahiakahoe summit. The stairway was originally wooden and was installed during World War II so the military could access a radio station antennae 2,000 feet up the mountain. In the 1950s, the stairs were replaced with steel steps that led to a newly established Coast Guard navigation station.

    The navigation station has been closed since the 1980s and the hike is also off-limits now; a security guard sits at its entrance for most of the day and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply -- which has jurisdiction over the hike -- requires that anyone who goes up it sign waivers and present a $1 million liability insurance policy.

    But that hasn't stopped elusive hikers and ambitious Instagrammers.

    Some of the hike's scariest moments are early on, when you're forced to climb a ladder vertically up a steep mountain face. Soon thereafter, however, the stairway takes you above the noisy highway below, and meanders its way along the ridgeline, balancing between terrifying and exhilarating. Thankfully, several viewing points throughout remind you to look up and around at the green mountains above you, the glistening water below you, and the sharp sunlight bouncing off the clouds all around you.

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    Hostels are the best part of studying abroad. ...and the worst part. ...and the most insanely, ridiculously funny part.

    Heed our advice, young children, and know before you go.

    1. “Twenty-two bed dorms” are, in fact, dorms with twenty-two beds. If you never lived in a sorority, now’s your chance.

    2. Sometimes, hostels are located in sketchier areas than they advertised.

    3. In hostels, a bed with clean sheets feels like hitting the jackpot.

    4. There will be an all-you-can-eat spaghetti night in the kitchen, probably on a Tuesday. And you should definitely be there.

    5. Pretty much every hostel on Earth is run by Australians. The reason remains unclear.

    6. Normally, “a short walk from the Eiffel Tower” actually means, “a short walk AND a short metro ride AND a short hike across rugged terrain from the Eiffel Tower.”

    7. Bacterium grows in communal showers. Like, the bad kind of bacterium.

    8. And you'll probably pay two dollars to borrow a towel after the bacterium shower.

    9. Just because a room is a “six-person” doesn’t mean it was actually built to fit six people.

    10. Hostels give out free maps! Ask the cute dude at the desk to annotate one for you… and then ask him to write his number in the corner.

    11. There is no, like, age or gender roommate matching system in hostels. There's an 82% chance that a middle-aged German wrestler will sleep on the top bunk of your bed.

    12. “Free breakfast buffet" actually means dry cereal, coffee, and jars on jars of Nutella. …but we’re not complaining.

    13. The hostel lobby is kind of like a recruiting fair: If you bond with someone, they might decide to travel with you to your next destination. Then another person will follow them, then another person will follow them, and BAM! Travel posse, assembled!

    14. Some hostels have bars inside them. While getting drunk here is not recommended, it is FUN.

    15. Lots of times, there is free WiFi in hostels! A major plus.

    16. Yes, the guy at the front desk will make out with you if you come to the hostel beer pong party.

    17. Sometimes hostels are in cahoots with nightclubs or tour companies or bike rental shops, and these places will hook you up with crazy discounts.

    18. You won’t meet any locals on hostel pub crawls. But you probably didn’t care about that anyway.

    19. Some hostels accept only cash.

    20. There are hostels with free unlimited baguettes and croissants downstairs. Stay in those ones.

    21. You might have to pay to store your luggage in a tiny room while you explore the city.

    22. Sometimes there are these cages under the bed, and you have to buy locks so you can hide your stuff in there so people won’t steal it. It’s either do that, or battle constant paranoia while you're away from the room.

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    In just a few weeks, football fans will descend upon New York and New Jersey for Super Bowl XLVIII. With last minute plans being made, prices are climbing at nearby hotels.

    TripAdvisor released the results of its Super Bowl TripIndex Thursday, which breaks down costs for 10 popular lodging spots near MetLife Stadium for the Feb. 1-2 weekend.

    "The TripIndex for the 'Big Game' examines the likely expenses travelers will incur – including the average cost of a one-night hotel stay, public transit to and from the game, an order of chicken wings and two bottles of domestic beer," a TripAdvisor press release states.

    The findings aren't too surprising -- being far from the stadium gets you a good deal, unless you're trying to stay in Manhattan. But the prices are still pretty staggering, especially when you add in the cost of a Super Bowl ticket.

    And if you're still waiting to see if your team makes it through the playoffs, don't fear -- there's still plenty of hotel availability at the moment according to TripAdvisor. Just don't wait too long.

    Check out TripAdvisor's findings in the table below.

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    The signs said it all: "25, 50 and 75% off," "Closing Out Sale" and "Going Out of Business Sale."
    At any other time, such signs would have me rubbing my credit cards together in glee, but this was not just any other time. These signs dominated the interior landscape of Waikiki's iconic International Market Place, just weeks before its permanent closure Dec. 31. And knowing this would be the last time I'd walk those hallowed grounds, I nostalgically regretted past decisions to never purchase a shell from the long-standing kiosk at the entrance, where I would be guaranteed a pearl with every purchase.

    As a regular visitor to Waikiki, I had witnessed the popular landmark suffer from neglect in recent years, deteriorating from shabby chic to simply shabby. But it was still my go-to location to purchase souvenir t-shirts (five for $20) for the family back home or incredibly colorful aloha wear for my toddler grandson, whom I'm convinced will never wear another Hawaiian shirt after age five. But sadly the market closed with a heartfelt ceremony New Year's Eve I witnessed online, which included the sounds of the ukulele and hypnotic sway of hula dancers paying final tribute. The market was one of the last affordable places to shop along Kalakaua Avenue, now dubbed "Luxury Row," by savvy marketers and tour guides pitching the area to wealthy tourists, and by scornful locals who no longer recognize the strip they once frequented.

    The market was going to be the centerpiece for a story dedicated to visiting Waikiki on a budget, after all, there's likely not a budget-minded traveller across the globe who hasn't darkened the doors of Fatty's Chinese Kitchen for inexpensive, but delicious eats. Sadly Fatty's closed along with the market.

    The idea for a budget-minded vacation started with an invitation from Allegiant Air to check out its Bellingham to Honolulu flight, celebrating its one-year anniversary. Considering flights at the time were $108 each way, I decided to make budget travel a key component of at least one of the travel stories I planned to write about this trip. By the time we got around to booking my partner's flight, the cost had risen, but we still only paid $148 one way and $178 return for a grand total of $334, less than half what the best flights we could find out of YVR were at the time. Allegiant offers a basic cost for a flight, but then charges for luggage. In our case one pre-booked checked bag cost an extra $70.

    The budget trick is to pre-book carry-on and checked baggage because if you don't, the cost doubles at the airport. The cost to pre-book a carry-on bag is between $10 and $35 per segment. Passengers are allowed to carry on one personal item, such as a purse or computer case, for free.

    I also researched inexpensive hotels and found an absolute gem in VIVE Hotel Waikiki, described as a new "lifestyle boutique hotel" on Kuhio Avenue. When we stayed the last week of October, rooms started at $150 a night, a steal for a hotel less than a five-minute walk from the beach, which also includes a surprisingly great continental breakfast offering up fresh island fruit, cereal, a wide selection of pastries and preserves, juice, steaming hot coffee and an array of newspapers to choose from. Breakfast can be very pricey in Waikiki so this inclusion definitely adds to the value. Adjacent to the dining area is a small lending library from which guests can borrow at their leisure. VIVE Waikiki has a very urban, upscale feel to it created by the modern, Asian-inspired decor of the lobby and other common areas. While VIVE has no pool and guest rooms have no lanais, but the hotel does offer the free use of chairs, towels and boogie boards for use at the beach, of which we had a view from our room. The hotel also happens to be directly kitty-corner to one of our favorite locations for cheap eats, Me's BBQ, where you can get some of the best Korean food in Waikiki -- and rent a moped from the adjoining kiosk. We've been a fan of Me's for some time, but while the food might be cheap, there is a strict protocol for ordering -- think the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame. Waikiki is also famous for its inexpensive happy hours and one of the best we've found is at Sarento's, a revolving restaurant at the top of the Ilikai Hotel, where fresh oysters are $3 each, ice cold beer from the Maui Brewing Company is $5 a glass and, if you ask the bartender, he'll fill you in on the Speakeasy Special of the day. There's also Moose's Waikiki, which offers $1, $2 and $3 drinks on Tuesdays, as well as the Seaside Bar and Grill famous for its cheap breakfasts. Tip: Lunch is not cheap at the Seaside.

    It's not easy, but with cheap flights out of Bellingham and a little research, budget-minded Canadians can still enjoy a tropical vacation to Waikiki Beach. And remember, the beach is a great equalizer where the rich and not-so rich can rub shoulders and where no one knows you paid $8 for lunch instead of $80.

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    Whether you’re young, or just young-at-heart, the magic of Disneyland appeals to the child in all of us. But each of us gets something different from the experience -- some have an adventurous side that longs for the thrill of the scariest ride, some have a girly side that wants nothing more than to meet the dazzling princesses of the park, some have an indulgent side that loves the wide array of food and shopping options throughout the park. But no matter how many times you’ve been to the Happiest Place On Earth, we’re willing to bet that there are a few hidden secrets and undercover gems that you didn’t notice. We’ve got a few surprising facts about Disneyland that may astonish you and tap into a new Disney side on your next trip to the park.

    The case of the hidden Mickeys

    The iconic round-eared shape of Mickey Mouse’s face is easy to spot at Disneyland, but you might be surprised to discover that you’re only noticing a handful of the Mickeys throughout the park. Hidden Mickeys are cleverly disguised everywhere; from traffic signs to decorations to fire alarms, Mickeys can be found anywhere and everywhere -- so tap into your curious side and keep your eyes peeled. In fact, there are so many Mickeys hidden in the intricate details of the park that nobody knows exactly how many exist.

    Trading Disney pins

    Let your social side reign and become part of the pin collecting tradition at Disneyland. Cast members throughout the parks carry a collection of fun and vibrant pins on them, so don’t be afraid to walk up to one and ask if you can swap them for one in your personal collection. Find your favourite pins and take them home for a cool souvenir.

    Enjoy fine dining

    Theme parks are synonymous with junk food, but visitors to Disneyland can indulge their exclusive side by visiting one of the many fine restaurants in the park. Blue Bayou, Napa Rose, Steakhouse 55 and Wine Country Trattoria all offer the chance to sit down and enjoy a fine meal. A word of caution: Some restaurants -- Blue Bayou especially -- are so popular that you may need a reservation so plan ahead.

    Take a trip through time

    Give in to your nostalgic side by visiting Main Street USA, which was modelled after the year 1910. What’s that in the air? The scent of vanilla is pumped into Main Street to remind you of freshly-baked goods. Afterwards, head over to Tomorrowland, which was designed to look like the year 1986. Not coincidentally, these two years were the same years that the elusive Halley’s Comet made an appearance in our solar system; that’s a little factoid that’s sure to please your nerdy side.

    Rock the boat

    Channel your inner captain side by asking to become take the steering wheel of the Mark Twain Riverboat. You can take the boat on a short cruise, beep the horn to your heart’s delight and earn a certificate in recognition of a job well done at the end.

    Ride the spinny teacup

    Let your playful side loose by nabbing the purple teacup on the Mad Hatter’s teacup ride; rumour has it that it’s the spinniest of them all. But to be safe, you might want to wait until after your lunch settles to test this out.

    Pay your respects

    After a day full of fun memories, be sure to pay homage to Disney’s founding father, Walt Disney, and express your thankful side by visiting two sites that commemorate his work in creating the Disney empire. The Griffin Park Bench on Main Street is the actual bench that Mr. Disney was sitting on when he came up with the idea for the amusement park while watching his young daughters play. Not far from that spot is the Main Street Fire House, where the Disney family kept an apartment on the second floor. To this day, the light in the apartment has never gone out to ensure that Mr. Disney’s presence is always felt in the park.

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    Gray seals are giving birth to their young right now at an island located 19 miles off the coast of northern Maine -- and one wildlife camera is capturing the phenomenon. The Gray Seal Pupping Cam -- located at the Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge -- is lending scientists insight into behavioral patterns of gray seals.

    “This cam will help us to do the near impossible -- observe the gray seal pupping process in the wild over a 60 day period of time from our phones, tablets and laptops,” NOAA scientist Dr. Stephanie Wood said in a press release. “It will also open the door to people around the world who want to watch nature unfold.” Scientists will also get a look into the lives of bald eagles, since they flock to the cold, harsh Atlantic island to feed on the seals' nutrient-rich placentas and embryonic sacs during the winter months.

    The HD camera -- established by the National Audubon Society and's Pearls of the Planet project -- streams live from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and offers live chats with Dr. Wood about gray seals. When it's offline, viewers can check out previously recorded clips or other Explore's animal cameras. Because this camera operates under a partnership with the Audubon Seabird Restoration Program -- also known as Project Puffin -- viewers can also watch Atlantic puffins, common terns and Arctic terns on the island from May-to-August each year.

    The 300-pound gray seal females give birth to one pup each year during December and January on this 65-acre sanctuary -- the second largest gray seal colony in the United States. The pups weigh about 35 pounds at birth, but fatten quickly from their mother's milk, according to NOAA. Gray seals eat about four-to-six percent of their body weight each day in fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus.

    They were once rare along New England waters due to extensive hunting, but the population has rebounded since the Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted in 1972. Threats today include entanglement in fishing gear, chemical and plastic pollution and illegal hunting, according to Explore. The Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge is closed to the public.

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    Some people document their study abroads with detailed travel scrapbooks or with a wealth of photos on Instagram or Tumblr.

    Others dance.

    Dartmouth College student Jake Gaba filmed himself dancing all over China while he was in the country to study Mandarin over the fall 2013 semester.

    From Beijing to Chengdu, the hutongs to Hong Kong, Gaba danced his way across China during the 100 days of his stay. Wherever he went, his moves and brightly colored shorts attracted significant attention.

    "In some locations I had 100+ people gathered around my camera taking pictures and videos on their phones," Gaba wrote in the video's description.

    The resulting video is a fantastic tribute to a no doubt incredible trip. Kudos to Gaba for pulling it off -- we're not sure we would be brave enough to "dance like nobody's watching" when actually everyone is!

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    All eyes may be on Sochi, Russia for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games but adventure-seekers tired of the Olympics can still find plenty of amazing spectacles.

    They just need to look down. Like, deep down. And probably don a diving suit.

    cave of crystals

    What you're looking at is the Orda Cave, located in Russia's Urals regions, some 2,430 km northeast of the Olympic host city.

    In total, the cave spans 5.1 km long, with 4.8km of it stretching underground. If caves had their own Olympic category, the Orda Cave would probably own the podium. It's the longest underwater gypsum cave in the world and one of the longest underwater caves period.

    As for the gypsum factor, it's what makes exploring the Orda Cave so unique. The mineral comes in the form of transparent crystals which allows for phenomenal photography, with some divers reporting roughly 45 meters of visibility.

    cave of crystals

    The gypsum is also what makes the vibrant hues of blue found in the rock formations, as these 2011 photos from Victor Lyagushkin, an underwater photographer and journalist, illustrate.

    cave of crystals

    Lyagushkin is part of the Orda Cave Awareness Project, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the cave's fragility. Even something as minuscule as air bubbles can damage the cave's roof, forcing Lyagushkin and his team to funnel air bubbles to the mouth of the cave where they can be safely released.

    crystal caves

    cave of crystals

    cave of crystals

    Exploring Orda Cave is no easy feat. The water temperatures range from - 3 C to -20 C according to the International Business Times, provided that adventurer-seekers can find the entrance in the first place.

    Fortunately, Lyagushkin has published a book documenting photos of the cave along with diving techniques and the knowledge needed to explore the area. And for the armchair tourists in your life, there's even an online panorama of the cave for those who prefer to stay dry.

    crystal caves

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    OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Peyton Manning can't quit shouting about Nebraska's largest city.

    The Denver Broncos quarterback used the word "Omaha" loudly and often during Sunday's NFL playoff win over the San Diego Chargers. Its meaning, if there is one, is known only to the Broncos. It provided unexpected publicity for the city of 427,000, which is perhaps best known as the home of billionaire Warren Buffett. Omaha was a trending topic on Twitter during the game. By one count, Manning uttered "Omaha" 44 times.

    Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce president and CEO David Brown says he wants to explore the possibility of hiring Manning to shoot a promotional ad for Omaha, though the quarterback's fee might be prohibitive.

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    During July 2013 I hitch-hiked around Ireland, recording people's voices and visions for the country, on what I called the 'hitching for hope' listening tour. I dreamed up the idea as a way of informing my speech at the MacGill Summer School about citizen's views on democracy at what is a critical time in Ireland's history.

    On the trip I met people from all walks of life, including barristers and businessmen, unemployed and homeless people, islanders on Inishbofin, farmers in Connemara, Orangemen in Derry, community activists in Moyross, and monks in Glenstal.


    Here are a few things I discovered along the way.

    1. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith

    Several people said I was mad to go hitching. On top of this I had my own doubts. I am in debt. I didn't have a plan, money, or equipment. I thought maybe I should just stay at home, be sensible, find some paid work to cover my rent, spend time with my fiancée, and cop myself on. Still, the idea kept calling to me - so I said 'what the hell' and jumped into the unknown.

    As soon as I did, doors started to open. Not just car doors, but offers of money, food, places to stay, media interviews, and no shortage of people willing to share their hopes, dreams and stories of love and loss. Letting go of my fears and worries of what other people thought, and trusting in the unknown, gave me the adventure of a lifetime and a new hope for the future.

    2. Hitching is alive

    My average waiting time was about five minutes and I'd regularly get picked up within a minute of sticking my thumb out. The longest I had to wait was 40 minutes. Eighty per cent of lifts were from men; there's no doubt that the hitching world isn't something that's equally accessible to women for safety reasons. I got picked up by people from all walks of life including a butcher, a fish monger, a priest, an ex-priest, a beekeeper, a businesswoman, tourists, a social worker, and a software engineer. All were mad to chat. You can hear some of the in-car audio interviews on my website.


    3. There is another Ireland

    Sometimes you can end up thinking we're the most miserable, depressed, oppressed and hopeless nation on earth. We're not. Ireland might not be well reflected by our leaders or institutions and the effects of unemployment, emigration and austerity are not to be ignored, but everywhere I went I witnessed kindness, generosity, creativity and signs of hope, courage and possibility. Within communities people are working hard, volunteering, campaigning, supporting charities, innovating, and doing their best to embody the values of a different Ireland. Despite everything we've faced, there remains a great spirit among the people.

    4. People are angry

    But while I encountered no shortage of smiles and welcomes, there is no doubt that people are angry about the continuing abuses of church, State and corporate power. There is a sense that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us, and in many cases this is feeding anger, depression, despair and cynicism. There is an appetite for revolution, reform, and renewal and a sense that we have to find new ways of coming together and getting organized.

    5. People are thinking about values

    While global, national and personal crises can be traumatic and painful, they can also be times for reflection and an opportunity for radical change. Many people I talked to mentioned the need to get back to basics. They spoke about the need to get away from individualism and cultivate community spirit, to cut down on all the noise and clutter and find simpler ways of living while connecting with friends, family, neighbours and nature.

    6. We have other ideas

    All over the country people are innovating and coming up with new ideas for job creation, political reform, and the transformation of things like health, education, energy, food, and agriculture. People don't believe the government message that there is no alternative to austerity and they have different visions for how we can run this country and make it a world leader in science and technology, participative democracy, and in green food, farming and energy production.

    7. We're tough

    Talking to historians and older people on the trip helped give me a sense of the turbulent times this country has been through. Older Irish people have witnessed mass poverty, emigration and the era of the industrial schools. One historian talked about the mass killings of the Cromwellian era when thousands of Irish people were murdered. He said that we are at the end of one cycle of history and the beginning of another and that we are a tough and resilient people. The challenge now is to take the lessons from history and to learn from them.


    8. This is a paradise island

    Chatting to tourists helped give me perspective on how they see the country (clean, green, spacious, safe, peaceful, and friendly) as did visiting some of our world class scenic and historic sites. Fair enough, the weather is bad a lot of the time but it's worth considering the pollution, climate chaos, overpopulation, poverty or violence that so many other countries have to contend with. Overall, and notwithstanding the obvious suffering, we have it relatively good.

    9. It's important to listen

    I called my trip a listening tour as I think there's often too much talking and not enough listening, not just at a political level but in our day to day lives. My work with young people has taught me that listening to people can be therapeutic and empowering. Listening to different perspectives without reacting or debating also helps you see another view on things. Listening requires focus, attention, and awareness. Listening to yourself is equally important; to your gut instinct, intuition, inner voice, or whatever you want to call it.

    10. It's up to us

    If we wait for the government to solve our problems then we will be waiting a long time. Ultimately the responsibility of transforming Ireland and transforming our lives is up to us all. We have the power to decide what we do with our time, our thoughts, our money and our votes. Many of us have serious life challenges to contend with but there is always room for manoeuvre in how we perceive situations, and how we approach each day. It is up to each of us to help build the world we want to create.


    More information on the hitching for hope trip

    - Facebook | Photos | Audio | Video |

    Ruairí McKiernan is a social justice campaigner, freelance community worker, and Presidential appointee to Ireland's Council of State. His website is and he is on twitter @ruairimckiernan and on Facebook

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  • 01/13/14--13:13: Running With the Bulls
  • After a hard day at work, I love meeting friends at the local Mexican restaurant for a beer and spicy dinner. During a chips and salsa evening one hot July, I noticed a new poster near the bar. It featured a crowd of people running through the streets of Pamplona, Spain ahead of a herd of supercharged bulls. When I got home, I read about the annual Pamplona event and was immediately convinced that running with the bulls was part of my destiny. I wanted to be part of a tradition that began more than 500 years ago, born of a simple logistical need to get the bulls to the marketplace.

    The modern bull run starts with the launch of fireworks rocket, indicating that the bulls are about to be released from their pen. A second rocket means that the bulls are loose. The bulls, agitated by the pyrotechnics, charge down a cordoned off street toward a bullring, about 1,000 yards down the road, where they'll be corralled for the main bullfighting events later that afternoon. A third rocket is an "all-clear" signal, meaning that the bulls are in lockdown and secured.

    The goal for the human runners is to stay ahead of the bulls and arrive at the bullring area without getting trampled, then scale a five-foot fence without getting gored. It takes the bulls four or five minutes to get to the bullring, so you just need to be a little faster to survive.

    The following July, I arrived in Pamplona a few days before the event and practiced the run. My times were good, and I was ready mentally, physically, and emotionally. Most important, I knew I was properly dressed for the occasion. The runners traditionally wear white paints and a white shirt, with a red scarf around their waists. Some wear red bandanas around their necks, and the gutsiest wear a bright-red shirt. I wanted my run to be a class act, especially if I might be caught on television. So before leaving the States, I swung by Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, and purchased a well-coordinated ensemble that included designer white beach trousers, a red leather belt, a limited edition white silk shirt, and a pair of handcrafted red and white leather running shoes. When I looked in the full-length mirror, I saw a guy who was tanned, buffed, impeccably dressed, and ready for some death-defying action.

    The night before the event, the locals shared some tricks of the trade and warned me that the people running ahead of me were the greatest danger. If they trip and I fell over them, the bulls would use me for a doormat. I wasn't put at ease by the fact that none of the fifteen documented deaths related to the event resulted from the bull's hoofs -- in each case the horns were the culprits.

    My newfound information kept me tossing all night. At the crack of dawn, I initiated a critical visual checklist in front of the full-length mirror on the closet door:

    Shirt, pressed and buttoned. Check. Red leather belt, cinched to my waist -- looking athletic and trim. Check. White beach trousers, pressed and spotless, perfectly creased. Check. Leather shoes, laced. Check.

    My bull running clothes were flawless. All that remained was a head check. I looked back at the mirror. Every hair in place. Check. Teeth brushed and white. Check.

    I was now ready to engage the herd. When the first rocket exploded at around 8:00 a.m., I took off like a bullet. Within moments, I was suddenly part of a human wave. My emotions ranged from pure thrill to sheer fear. Mostly, I was driven by the primordial instinct to survive. It was fight or flight, and I left the fight to the matadors, who were part of the next act. A few people in front of me fell, and I jumped over them as if they were hurdles on a track.

    As I threw myself over the fence at the bullring, I felt someone grab my shirt to assist in his own climb to safety. I was totally winded and in a euphoric state, but I now felt angry. Yes, I was still alive, and I would go down in history as another brave soul helped keep the Pamplona tradition alive. But the nerve of this panicky coward who ripped my silk bull-runner shirt! I'd never find another one like it, and even if I did, it still wouldn't be the original. I'd planned on wearing my victory shirt to barbecues and beach parties at home: "What a great shirt, Bob. Where'd you get it?" And then I'd tell my heroic tale in its full glory.

    Worse, my red and white leather running shoes were ruined; caked in mud and scuffed from toe to heel. I cursed aloud, " No shirt, no shoes, no proof -- who's going to believe me when I talk about this death-defying adventure? If I wore the remnants of my outfit they'd assume I'd gone to a mud wrestling competition and then rode a mechanical bull."

    In the midst of my mental tantrum, I looked over at the culprit who ripped my shirt, to give him an angry glance. What did I see? A bare-chested guy in his sixties laughing and smiling gleefully, loving the moment he'd just experienced. The light bulb went on: I just experienced a triumphant moment of beauty, and rather than celebrate it, I was choosing to get angry about trivial things.

    I think back about that bull running experience and my misplaced priorities when I catch myself getting upset about foolish things these days. If I have my health, wonderful relationships, happiness and success, have I not already sailed over the arena wall? The rest is just bull.

    The Myth I Believed
    When feeling upset, it's normal to act distressed

    The Reality I Discovered
    Feeling upset sometimes may be unavoidable, but acting distressed is always optional

    Adapted from And Then I Met Margaret, by Rob White

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    EDMONTON - An Alberta soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder says she's disappointed Air Canada wouldn't allow her dog on board a plane as a service animal.

    Sgt. Shirley Jew says the airline told her PTSD isn't recognized as a disability that requires a service dog.

    She says staff told her she'd have to travel with her dog as a pet — for a $50 fee.

    Instead, Jew rebooked her Edmonton to Toronto flight with WestJet, which didn't have a problem with the dog and let it on free of charge.

    Air Canada has apologized in a statement, calling the matter a misunderstanding.

    It says it allows trained service animals for customers with disabilities, if they are confirmed by a doctor's note.

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    Winter is the slowest time of year for B-Boys Construction, so what did the Creston, B.C. company do to keep workers busy and spirits high?

    Make castles. Out of ice.

    "We had some time and just thought we'd be creative," co-owner James Blackmore told The Huffington Post B.C. this week.

    Last year the company built an ice castle on Blackmore's property. It was such a hit among friends and family that B-Boys — which Blackmore owns with his brother Zane — decided to do it again this winter.

    "It was such an attraction," Blackmore said. "Everyone liked it so much and got pictures around it, so we built another one just before Christmas."

    But this year, they didn't just build one, they built three.

    Story continues below slideshow

    And these aren't tiny little centres for ants either. Each castle is 10 to 11 feet tall on a square of nine feet by nine feet, said Blackmore. It takes six to eight crew members about six hours to build.

    While one castle was once again located at Blackmore's home this year, two others were erected throughout Creston: one at the local Home Hardware, and the other in front of the Creston Ramada hotel.

    The high level of community interest has prompted the company to consider selling their ice castles for special events like weddings.

    "We thought, 'Well, they're so unique,'" Blackmore said. "[So we figured] we'd see if maybe we can market some of these things."

    Would you like an ice castle at your next event?

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    We've all heard the story-worthy dream before -- ditch the small, quaint town for the big, bustling city and live the glamorous life. But when monthly rent costs you $4,250 and public transportation for the month comes in at about $215, is the glamorous life still really worth it? If you still say yes, one of these cities might be the home for you.

    According to a team at Expatistan, which calculated a "cost of living index" (see below for more) for hundreds of global cities, these wallet-busting metros are the most expensive based on their current costs of housing, clothes, transportation, medicine and food.

    And while they do have their perks, ranging from affordable health care to gorgeous landmarks like Central Park, they'll certainly cost you a pretty penny along the way.

    According to their website, "Expatistan is a cost of living calculator that allows you to compare the cost of living between cities around the world. The comparisons allow you to get a better understanding of the cost of living of any city before you move there. To calculate each cities' Cost of Living Index value, we start by assigning a value of 100 to a central reference city (that happens to be Prague). Once the reference point has been stablished, the Price Index value of every other city in the database is calculated by comparing their cost of living to the cost of living in Prague. Therefore, if a city has a Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34 percent more expensive than living in Prague."

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    It's a given that one-size-fits-all vacations don’t exist. One traveller's relaxing sun destination is another’s recipe for supreme boredom. A family's cottage retreat might seem like purgatory for someone who only wants to ride roller coasters at Universal Studios Orlando. So, what’s the right holiday for you?

    Well, the art of travel remains just that -- an art, not a science. So for all the reviews, research and recommendations out there, sometimes a consultation with the heavens above can provide an solution. Sure, there are the nay-sayers who'd believe astrology is just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but what harm can having another destination on your bucket list possibly have?

    So take a moment to consult with the stars to find your 2014 travel horoscope and see where your zodiac sign will take you this year. If you've asked, here's what the stars said:

    2014 Travel Horoscopes: What Your Zodiac Personality Says About How You Travel

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    It's not too early to start planning your family's summer vacation, and if you are looking for a little inspiration, I've got you covered.

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    Yum! The pizzeria near your hotel left a tempting flyer under your door. Sounds good, right? But did you know that the flyer could be a travel scam -- and you're about to hand over your credit or debit card info to an identity thief? Photo Courtesy of Courtesy Del Marcos Hotel. Article by Ray Pagliarulo, contributor to Budget Travel.

    Remember the days when a fanny pack and a "game face" could protect you from getting your money stolen? We don't either! Vacationers have always been targets for smart, enterprising crooks, and the farther you get from home, the easier it is to fall for popular vacation scams like the dropped baby, the fake fight, and the I-need-five-euros-to-replace-my-lost-train-ticket. But these days, you are at risk for more than just some lost bills. Watch out for these scams from around the world that can put your personal safety -- and even your very identity -- at risk.

    Click here for four scams you should watch out for in Paris!


    Here's a scam so bad even Mickey Mouse took a stand. Guests in hotels around Disney World have been finding pizza delivery menus conveniently slipped under their doors, but place an order -- and make the mistake of giving your credit card number -- and you'll really pay. The phone number isn't connected to a pizza parlor but to identity thieves. Disney World supported a law designed to crack down on the people handing out the fliers, but Orlando police say the problem persists.

    Solution: If you're craving a slice, get a recommendation from the hotel.


    In Vietnam, open-ended bus tickets are the best way to travel at your own pace between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and the Sinh Tourist line is widely considered the best. So widely considered, in fact, its many impostors call themselves Sinh Tourist, too. Because of Vietnam's lax intellectual property laws, it's difficult to know which Sinh is the real deal. Take the wrong carrier, and you'll get iffy service or, worse, an unexpected overnight stop at an overpriced hotel in cahoots with the bus line. "In summary," said Stuart McDonald of, a travel advice site that covers Southeast Asia, "it is a snake pit!"

    Solution: Always use the bus company's official website:

    New York City

    New Yorkers are famously pushy, but Times Square's so-called CD Bullies take the stereotype to a whole new low. A guy on the corner barks, "Check out my music!" and hands you what seems to be a free copy of his CD. He's so nice, he'll even offer to autograph it. But once the disc is in your hands, the aspiring rapper -- suddenly surrounded by friends -- refuses to take it back. You need to pay $10 or so to stop them from menacing you.

    Solution: If the rapper won't take the CD, gently place it on the ground and walk away.

    Las Vegas

    You go to Vegas to gamble, but you don't want to risk your luggage, too. Sin City's cab drivers are notoriously sketchy; one common scam involves a cabbie who insists on unloading your bags at your hotel or the airport. He says he's in a rush, slams the trunk, and speeds away. Only later do you notice that one of your bags is missing. "When you're coming to Vegas, you gotta be on your A-game with your stuff," says Sergeant Jerry MacDonald of the Las Vegas PD. "Trust me when I tell you, they'll snatch your luggage up faster than you can blink an eye."

    Solution: Note the driver's name, cab number, and company when you get in; that way, if anything should happen, you have recourse.

    United States

    Some criminals who want your money are brazen enough to come right out and ask. An increasingly common scam involves hotel guests who receive a phone call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to work at the front desk. There's been a problem with your credit card, they say. Could you read the number back one more time? The scammers are banking you'll do something while half-asleep that you never should -- give out credit card info by phone.

    Solution: Hang up and call the front desk directly to make sure the request is legit.


    The pyramids around Cairo are one of the world's best photo ops, and some tourists up the ante by posing on the back of a camel. Often, there are trainers standing by to coax the eight-foot-tall, 1,500-pound animals to lie down passively in preparation for riding. Once you've paid your $15 and mounted the beast, though, some touts will insist that you pay again to disembark and hold you hostage on the hump until you do.

    Solution: "Never just get on a random guy's camel," says Kara Lucchesi of STA Travel. It's safer to stick to rides arranged via an established tour company.

    Click here to see four more travel scams you should watch out for!

    More From Budget Travel:

    10 Best Budget Destinations for 2014
    10 Stupidest Things Americans Do Overseas
    40 More Passport Stamps Worth Bragging About
    13 Travel Products You'll Need This Winter
    11 Bucket List Adventures You Can Actually Afford

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    In today's globalized world, you can basically find any food you want, anywhere you want. You no longer have to travel to France for perfect macarons or Korea for a bowl of bibimbap. You can order everything from tamales to dosas from food carts across the U.S., and you can find Swedish filmjölk at Whole Foods.

    Certain foods, however, are still hard to track down outside of their home base. Whether they get lost in translation, are illegal in certain places, or simply haven't caught on yet, these foods are not as easy to find as your soup dumplings, bahn mi or ramen. You might be thankful some of these foods haven't traveled far. For others, you may just be inspired to plan a trip.

    Which foods do you wish were easier to find? Which ones are you happy to observe from afar?

    Sapodilla: The sapodilla is a fruit native to Central America that has since spread to the Caribbean, the Philippines and to India, where it is cultivated along the coasts. The small fruit has tough brown skin and soft flesh that is so sweet it can taste like brown sugar or caramel.


    Escamoles: Ant larve found in Mexico, escamoles are said to be a delicacy, and are sometimes called "insect cavier." Apparently they taste a bit like cottage cheese.


    Lundi: It's true -- in Iceland, they eat the adorable seabird known as the Atlantic puffin. The puffin meat, called Lundi, is often smoked and will sometimes be broiled.


    Milt: Found in Japan and regarded as a delicacy there, milt is fish sperm. It typically comes from cod, anglerfish or monkfish, and might be steamed, pan-fried or deep fried.


    Torta Fritta: This savory, Italian fried dough from the Emilia-Romagna region goes really well with salami. While variations of fried dough appear all over the world, this particular version from Italy is unfortunately difficult to find.

    torta fritta

    Nyponsoppa: This sweet, rose hip soup is popular in Sweden. It is served either warm or chilled, and it's common to mix small pieces of hard bread into it.


    Durian -- With its notoriously funky smell and spiky skin, the Southeast Asian durian isn't the most inviting fruit. While it may be well-known for its pungency, however, some people say it tastes like caramel. Those who do like it may have a tough time finding it, unless they know where to look.


    Balut: A hard boiled egg containing a partially formed duck fetus, balut is considered a common Filipino street food. It can be a little off-putting to some, and isn't widely seen outside of the Philippines. (Except for the time that one man ate 27 of them in five minutes.)


    Quandong An Australian fruit also known as a desert peach, a quandong is a well-known "bushfood." With its tart flavor, the quandong is likened to an apricot or rhubarb and is often used to make jams or chutneys.


    Drunken Shrimp: This Chinese dish is alive -- the shrimp are literally still living when you eat them, and yeah, it's hard to find this dish in the U.S. If you manage to find it, make sure to eat the shrimp quickly, lest one jump off the table.

    drunken shrimp

    Stroopwafels: These Dutch cookies consist of a thin layer of caramel-like syrup sandwiched between two waffle wafers. Thanks to the Good Batch Bakery in Brooklyn, New Yorkers have been able to score these delicious cookies more easily in recent years. They're still too difficult to find, however. We want them everywhere, always, please.


    Century Eggs: Chinese in origin, at least according to legend, century eggs are preserved duck eggs. While they are also know as thousand-year eggs and millennium eggs, century eggs are only preserved for a few weeks or years. The final product is a strong-smelling egg with a gelatinous texture and dark color.

    century eggs

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    Let's face it; traveling and navigating crowded airports is stressful -- especially during family vacations, holidays or when the weather becomes problematic. Unless you're traveling on your own private jet on your time table, the "getting there" is almost never without problems, in and of itself, at times it's anything but relaxing or fun.

    Here are some of my most effective insider tips to help you travel smarter and keep your stress to a minimum.

    1. Extra Time.

    Boring, but important. One of the most useful tips I can give you is easy, and doesn't cost a dime. If possible, arrive at the airport early. An accident, traffic jam or a long line at security can throw off your "perfectly-timed" schedule and create added stress. With a cushion of time on your side, you will be more relaxed and able to deal with flights that are delayed, canceled, or mechanicals, and you will be there to get a resolution way before all the others who come rushing to the gate "on time."

    2. Trusted Traveler Program.

    Long security lines can frustrate the best of us. Fortunately the TSA has expanded their program with TSAPre which will save you time in the security line outbound (and inbound on international flights with Global Entry). Benefits include designated TSA Pre security lines that are shorter and have less wait times. You no longer have to totally "disrobe," meaning you don't have to take off your jacket or "light outerwear," and you can keep your belt and shoes ON. Plus, your 3-1-1 (3.4 fluid oz or less), toiletries and computer can stay in your bag! You have to apply for the program, and then register your Trusted Traveler information with your airline. TSAPre will be printed on your (airline) ticket and poof! Get ready for an improved airport experience.

    3. Airport Lounges.

    If you have a bit of time, go to the Crown Room or Executive Lounge, or VIP area to await your flight. If you're not a member, you can get a day pass, and it will be worth it -- less noise, less crowding, free snacks and beverages, complimentary reading material (papers and magazines), and private areas to make phone calls or do work. You can also download the GateGuru app on your smartphone to find out where the closest lounge (and more) is located.

    4. Pack Something (That INSTANTLY Makes You) Happy.

    For a quick mood switch, have something on hand that will distract you and block out what's going on around you, especially if it's annoying. Recently I received several angry texts from my friend who had just boarded the airplane bound for NYC. After getting settled, she was horrified when her seat mate kept "flipping" her long flowing hair in my friend's face! It's not easy to share space. So bring a good book; watch a movie on your laptop or iPad; listen to your favorite music on your iPod. Bring earphones. Always bring earplugs so that you can enjoy your book or take a nap -- personally, I never travel without them.

    5. Breath.

    For years I thought that this was slightly annoying advice until I learned what actually happens (in your body) when you breath deeply a few times. Perform a little calming Zen on yourself and focus on things that make you feel good, such as what you're going to do when you arrive at your destination. The more you think about the annoyances or frustrations of the airport or flight, the more likely it is that you'll pick up on every little thing that's annoying, like the "hair flipping," meal, or beverage cart bumping into your seat, or the baby crying ten rows behind you. Really -- it works.

    Bon Voyage!

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