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6 things you need to see in Beijing

<p>From the moment you step off the plane, Beijing is frantic. You will quickly learn that traffic lights mean nothing, lines move fast, and Beijing is a city of many layers. From the Great Wall to Peking Duck, these are the things to do in Beijing China.</p> <p><strong>1. The Great Wall of China</strong></p> <p>From Beijing, access to the Great Wall of China is easy. A tour guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive north out of the city. That first glimpse of the wall on the ridge fo the mountain is something special. In the spring, the hills are dusted pink with cherry blossoms.</p> <p>The Great Wall is divided into sections marked by watchtowers. Some sections of the wall can be quite steep. Wear sturdy shoes. You can walk easy sections of the wall or choose more challenging routes. Ask your tour guide which section the best for you would be. We found most tour guides are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.</p> <p>The best time to go is in the early morning so you beat the crowds. It is possible to snap a photo such as the one above before lunchtime, even on popular sections of the wall. Plan your trip well to ensure it doesn’t coincide with China’s public holidays. We also advise touring the Great Wall on a weekday.</p> <p>Many of the “tourist” sections of the wall have access via a chairlift. That way you don’t have to hike up or down the mountain.</p> <p>Some parts of the wall have been restored; others have been left to the ravages of time.</p> <p><strong>2. The Summer Palace</strong></p> <p>Beijing’s Summer Palace is huge. You will need at least half a day to explore here. Take good shoes.</p> <p>The man-made Kunming lake takes up about 75 per cent of the park. You can cross it by boat to save time. The famous Marble Boat is at the northern edge of the lake and the Moon Gate is best seen by boat.</p> <p>The Summer Palace has actually been destroyed twice – in 1860 by the Angle French Allied Forces and in 1900 by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers. The Qing Dynasty rebuilt the palace in 1912 as one of their final acts.</p> <p>Head to the Court area near the East Palace gate to see the buildings where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu stayed and conducted government business. The Garden of Virtue and Harmony contains a three-story theatre with a wooden stage. This is where the Beijing Opera would perform for the Empress.</p> <p><strong>3. The Forbidden City</strong></p> <p>Tour guides will tell you that you can’t prove you have been in China until you have had your photo taken outside the Forbidden City.</p> <p>The towering red walls with the gigantic painting of Chairman Mao are one of the most well-known buildings on the planet.</p> <p>The Forbidden City covers 720,000 square metres, has more than 90 palace quarters and courtyards, 980 buildings and more than 8,728 rooms. It has been home to 24 Chinese emperors until 1912, when the Republic of China was created.</p> <p><strong>4. Temple of Heaven</strong></p> <p>China’s Temple of Heaven was a place for the emperors to worship. It was built in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Ming Emperor Jiajing enlarged the building in his reign. In 1988 China opened the temple as a public park.</p> <p>A trip here won’t take too long. The temple of heaven has two encircling walls. The most magnificent buildings lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis. This park is also a local hangout. Expect to see dozens of groups of men and families sitting around and playing games. Many also bring their pet birds with them.</p> <p><strong>5. The Hutongs</strong></p> <p>Beijing’s alleyways are known as the hutongs. Inside these old laneways, you will find hotels, restaurants and homes. If you love photography – you will love the hutongs. Good tour guides can take you to the best hutong restaurants. Many even have dumpling making courses.</p> <p><strong>6. Peking Duck</strong></p> <p>While not technically a place – you can’t go to China without trying Peking Duck. Seek out a Dadong Duck for an experience like no other. You can order crispy skinned duck dishes in English. If you order the set menu, expect fairy floss on a stick for dessert.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/6-things-you-need-to-see-in-beijing-china/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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8 top tips for travel to China

<p>Between the great firewall, visas, money and the language barrier – travel to China can be a little bit daunting.</p> <p>But it is actually easier than you think – if you are prepared.</p> <p>A holiday in China offers a cultural experience like no other. You can walk on crumbling sections of the Great Wall, watch archaeologists at work digging out the Terracotta Warriors and chuckle at the antics of the pandas in Chengdu.</p> <p>Here’s our list of things you need to arrange and consider before you travel to China.</p> <p><strong>1. Visas</strong></p> <p>The thought of Chinese visas scared me so much that I put it off for months. The form looks huge. But once you get started, it’s actually incredibly easy.</p> <p>Many companies offer to do a Chinese visa for you – for a fee. But you can save that cash and do it easily yourself online. First you will need to find the Visa for China website for your capital city. <a href="https://www.visaforchina.org/SYD_EN/">The link here is for the one in Sydney</a>. You can read the step-by-step instructions or head straight to the Quick Access section. Fill in all the details in the form. Make sure you complete one for each person who will be going on the trip. Then book an appointment at your local visa for China centre.</p> <p>At that appointment comes, you will need to have print outs of your flight and accommodation details and photocopies of your passports. You will need to hand the passports over for processing.</p> <p>Don’t worry if you forget the print outs. The Visa centre has photocopiers and you can email the details to the security guard who will print out any documents you need for free.</p> <p>Take a number at the entrance to the Visa centre and wait your turn. Once at the counter, all you need to do is hand over the forms you filled in online, the passports, the photocopies and the details of all flights and hotels.</p> <p>One week later, you come back to the centre, pay the fee and collect your Visa. It really is that simple.</p> <p><strong>2. Internet</strong></p> <p>China could offer a chance to break free from social media, to unplug and take a technology break. Access to Google is limited. The Great Firewall of China really does exist. There’s NO Facebook access. No Instagram.</p> <p>But, if you can’t live without it, there is a way around the firewall. All you need is a VPN app. Install one before you go onto your phone and you will be able to access Facebook and Instagram and Google.</p> <p>We used Express VPN. Once installed on our devices it was as simple as logging into the app, choosing an internet connection in another city such as Hong Kong, LA or Tokyo and search away.</p> <p>If you don’t have a VPN, you won’t have access to Google. Try Bing.com for internet searching instead.</p> <p>Don’t even bother with Google maps in China. You are far better off downloading local maps of Beijing and other cities you plan to visit. Tales of tourists trying to find restaurants in the middle of the Forbidden City that don’t exist, simply because they are following Google maps about. It’s often wrong. Don’t use it.</p> <p><strong>3. Money</strong></p> <p>Your credit card will be fairly useless in China.</p> <p>Most Chinese locals pay for things using their phone. WeChat and AliPay are the two most common mobile payment systems. We tried to get access but failed. You need to have a Chinese bank account to make the WeChat wallet work. You could do this by asking a friend with a Chinese bank account to send you a “red packet” – a transfer of money. But you can’t keep asking them to do that all trip.</p> <p>The only other option really is cash. Before you go, find out which banks in China will accept Australian cards. Not all do. When you spot one of those banks – make it count. Avoid multiple withdrawals as much as possible so you reduce the bank fees.</p> <p><strong>4. WiFi</strong></p> <p>In most countries, it’s possible to pick up a portable Wifi device at the airport so you can reduce your use of data when out and about. But in China, that’s not your best option given the Great Firewall.</p> <p>You’re better off actually getting a Chinese Sim card and using the data on that when outside the hotel. Many companies will actually deliver Chinese sim cards to your hotel for arrival. We used one of these companies. They emailed instructions to us in both English and Mandarin. At check-in, all we had to do was show the receptionist the email and she immediately grabbed the package for us. Simple, easy, internet access. Pop the sim card in your phone and you are ready to go.</p> <p>You can set one person up as the main account holder and the other as a partner on that plan. One word of warning though – ignore every random text message in Mandarin that you are sent. If you don’t understand it – don’t click on it.</p> <p><strong>5. Trains</strong></p> <p>Think you can rock up to the station and jump on a bullet train? Think again.</p> <p>The best/fastest trains usually sell out a few days before, leaving only the option of a much longer multi-stop journey.</p> <p>If you want to avoid those extra hours – book ahead. You can go to the large train stations and seek out the English-language service window to book. Or – a really easy way – is to book online and just pick the tickets up with the email (with instructions in English and Mandarin) from the station before you travel.</p> <p>Another great tip is to download an app that plans subway travel in China – showing the connections you need to take to get somewhere in English. Some stations – like the one in the photo below, have limited English. This app will be your lifeline.</p> <p>Be prepared to put all your bags through an X-ray machine at every train station. You get used to it after a while.</p> <p><strong>6. Water and snacks</strong></p> <p>You CAN NOT drink the water in China. That means you will be carrying a lot of water each day.</p> <p>Market stalls often sell fresh fruit – grab items such as bananas and oranges whenever you see them.</p> <p>We found finding snacks was often difficult in both Beijing and Xian. Fill up on breakfast at the hotel before you head out. There are convenience stores such as Our Hours that sell snacks, but we found most of the items on offer had little nutritional value.</p> <p>Eat to your fill in restaurants.</p> <p><strong>7. Dining out</strong></p> <p>Many restaurants will have an English menu.</p> <p>If you have installed a VPN, you will be able to use Google translate to hover over menus to see what you want to eat. Then all you need to do is point when the waiter comes and tell them how many you want.</p> <p>Dumplings are always a good bet. As are noodles.</p> <p>Dandong Duck does tasty Peking Duck in Beijing. First Noodle Under the Sun in Xian is fantastic.</p> <p>Our best advice? Check Trip Advisor and see what other travellers recommend in your area. That way you can be fairly certain that it will be tasty and accommodate for your lack of Mandarin.</p> <p><strong>8. DIY? Or guide?</strong></p> <p>Unless you are prepared to speak a little Mandarin, do a LOT of pointing and use a translation app or sometimes just wing it, a guide is a good safe option.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/top-tips-for-travel-to-china-visa-vpn-trains-internet/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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5 reasons to love Sri Lanka

<p>Lately, everyone is talking about Sri Lanka – and rightly so. The island paradise is chockfull of amazing sights and experiences, all crammed into a space smaller than Tasmania. This means less time spent getting from sight to sight and more time enjoying everything the country has to offer. Plus, Sri Lanka is not swarming with tourists… yet.</p> <p>Here’s why you should visit now.</p> <p><strong>1. History</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka has eight UNESCO marvels. One of the best is the grandiose rock fortress of Sigiriya, with its exquisite frescos.</p> <p>The sacred ancient city of Kandy is home to a Buddhist temple that claims to house one of Buddha’s teeth. Sri Lanks has hundreds of other historical and cultural sights for the curious traveller, including majestic fortresses dating back to the colonial era, ancient temples and Buddhist ruins.</p> <p><strong>2. Wildlife</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka is one of the best wildlife-watching countries in South Asia. You can spot leopards, elephants, and hundreds of different types of birds. If you are lucky you can spot a Sri Lankan Sloth Bear.</p> <p>Sri Lanka has more than 20 national parks.  For the best chance of spotting wildlife, head to Yala National Park. Yala is home to 44 mammal species. The elephant herd at Yala contains 300–350 individuals. Some experts claim this park has the highest leopard densities in the world. But Indian experts may disagree.</p> <p><strong>3. Nature</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka is home to many diverse and spectacular landscapes: secluded powdery-sand beaches, tropical rainforests, grass-carpeted plains and soaring mountains that pierce the clouds. No matter what your holiday preference, you will find it here. If you like mountains, and your partner likes beaches – you can tick off both in Sri Lanka quite easily.</p> <p><strong>4. People</strong></p> <p>The locals in Sri Lanka love to welcome visitors with their wide smiles and hospitable nature. They are relaxed and laidback and genuinely happy to share their world with those who are interested in learning about it.</p> <p><strong>5. Tea</strong></p> <p>If you’re a tea connoisseur, Sri Lankan is the place to go. The British introduced tea to the island (known as Ceylon at the time) in 1824. Since then the tea-growing (and drinking) scene has burgeoned.</p> <p>Enjoy a cuppa while relaxing in a street-side cafe, join a tea-tasting appreciation class, visit a historical tea estate, learn about the history of Ceylon tea at the Ceylon Tea Museum… there are a plethora of tea experiences in Sri Lanka.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/sri-lanka-travel/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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5 healthiest countries in the world

<p>Thinking of a long holiday? These destinations have been ranked as the healthiest in the world. Bloomberg crunched the numbers from the UN, World Bank and World Health Organization, scoring 169 nations on a range of factors from life expectancy to obesity, tobacco use, air quality and access to clean water. This is the top 5.</p> <p><strong>1. Spain</strong></p> <p>With a health grade of 92.75 Spain is the healthiest nation on the planet. Last year Spain came 6th in this poll. Bloomberg notes that Spain has had “a notable decline in cardiovascular diseases and deaths from cancer over the past decade, partly as a result of effective public health policies based on screening and prevention.” It also noted that Spain’s healthcare system was funded by taxes and based on a policy of universal free access for all.</p> <p><strong>2. Italy</strong></p> <p>Italy is the second most healthy nation in the world. It scored 91.59 thanks to the diet habits of Italian people.</p> <p><strong>3. Iceland</strong></p> <p>Yet another reason to go to Iceland, apart from puffins and the Northern Lights. Iceland has a health grade of 91.44.</p> <p><strong>4. Japan</strong></p> <p>Japanese people still have the longest life-expectancy on earth. Their health rating came fourth with a grade of 91.38.</p> <p><strong>5. Switzerland</strong></p> <p>Great trains, great snow and great health. Switzerland has a health ranking of 90.93</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery above to see the top 5 healthiest countries.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/healthiest-nations/?slide=all">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

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Britain’s most famous pubs

<p>Along with red telephone boxes, double-decker buses and cups of tea – the British pub is an experience you simply must have in England.</p> <p>Whether you have a pint of ale, a tall glass of Pimms or a cider doesn’t really matter. British pubs are all about the atmosphere.</p> <p>Our list is by no means exhaustive. But it is a great place to start. These are the pubs where legends were made, crimes were plotted, famous books were finessed or where scientists celebrated breakthroughs that would change the world.</p> <p><strong>The Eagle and Child, Oxford</strong></p> <p>In the 1930s and 1940s a group of writers who called themselves “The Inklings” met at this pub regularly to discuss their works. They included J R R Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and C S Lewis, creator of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.</p> <p>Often referred to as The Bird and Baby, this pub was also used as accommodation for the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War.</p> <p><strong>The Dog and Duck, Soho</strong></p> <p>This cute English pub was a favourite of George Orwell. The famous author reportedly downed celebratory absinthe here when Animal Farm was picked for the American Book of the Month Club.</p> <p><strong>The Star Tavern, Belgravia</strong></p> <p>The Star has seen its fair share of famous patrons over the past century. But it’s the infamous ones for which this pub is best known. The grand upstairs room was supposedly where the Great Train Robbers hatched their plan to attack the Mail service in 1963.</p> <p><strong>The French House, Soho</strong></p> <p>During the Second World War, The French House was once used as a meeting place for the French Resistance, including General de Gaulle. Ironically, the first known landlord was a German, Herr Schmidt, but he was deported after the outbreak of the First World War.</p> <p><strong>The Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden</strong></p> <p>This London pub was often frequented by British author Charles Dickens.</p> <p>The laneway outside the pub was known for bare-knuckle street fighting. The upstairs room is named after another famous patron, 17th-century poet John Dryden.</p> <p><strong>The Crown Tavern, Clerkenwell</strong></p> <p>Lenin reportedly drank in this English pub before the Russian revolution took him back to his homeland. Some say he even met Stalin here for a beer and a yarn. More recently this pub was also a set in the Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench film Notes on a Scandal.</p> <p><strong>Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street, London</strong></p> <p>This old dungeon-like pub was a favourite of Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson. By now you are also probably realising that Dickens loved English pubs.</p> <p><strong>The George Inn Borough, High Street, London</strong></p> <p>This cute little pub was once a coffee house visited by Dickens. The author even mentions it in his book Little Dorrit</p> <p><strong>The Royal Standard of England, Buckinghamshire</strong></p> <p>In 1213 this pub was known as The Ship Inn and its famous patrons included Kings who used the pub as lodgings while the hunted deer in nearby Knotty Green. During the English Civil War, the Ship Inn was a mustering place for the Royalists. According to local legend, King Charles I is said to have hidden in the priest hole. As thanks King Charles II allowed the pub to change its name once he was restored to the throne.</p> <p><strong>The Eagle, Cambridge</strong></p> <p>Not every pub is famous for its association with literary figures. The Eagle at Cambridge claims Francis Crick and James Watson, among their most famous patrons. Crick and Watson were the scientists who discovered DNA.</p> <p><strong>The Anchor Bankside, London</strong></p> <p>This pub would have been where patrons of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre came before and after plays. It’s also where diarist Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London in 1666. Pepys wrote of taking refuge in “a little alehouse on bankside… and there watched the fire grow.”</p> <p><strong>The Blue Bell Inn, Lincolnshire</strong></p> <p>Take a look at the ceiling if you visit this wonderful country pub. It’s full of signatures from aircrew and ground crew who drank here during World War II.</p> <p><strong>The Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead</strong></p> <p>This north London pub was once a favourite of poets John Keats and Lord Byron.</p> <p><strong>The Flask, Highgate</strong></p> <p>Another great pub with literary associations. The Flask was a favourite of the romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats, as well as William Hogarth. It’s also said to be haunted by the ghost of a barmaid.</p> <p><strong>The Dove, Hammersmith</strong></p> <p>The Dove is one of the most popular places to watch the Oxford Versus Cambridge race. As such it has a long list of famous patrons including Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynne.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/britain-most-famous-pubs/">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

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5 reasons to love Alaska

<p>Alaska is the largest, most sparsely populated and coldest state in the United States of America.</p> <p><strong>1. The Northern Lights</strong></p> <p>Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky. The Aurora occurs when solar particles collide with the earth’s atmosphere resulting in stunning streams of green, blue and even red light swirling through the sky.</p> <p>The best time to see the Aurora is in winter, from late August through to April. It’s not as cold as you think. Average temperatures hover around -7 to -1 °C and you can expect up to six hours of sunlight per day in the southern part of the state. As long as you dress for the weather, you will be fine.</p> <p><strong>2. Wildlife</strong></p> <p>Bring your binoculars. Alaska’s large swathes of wilderness are home to some of the most incredible animals on the planet. You can watch a brown bear scoop salmon from a flowing icy river, catch a glimpse of a shy wolf or lynx and watch in awe as an American Bald Eagle soars above your head.</p> <p>Alaska has so many brown bears, you would be unlucky not to see one. Polar Bears are a different story. You will need to take an expedition to find them.</p> <p>For the best chance of seeing a polar bear head to Alaska in the Spring or Autumn. Polar Bears don’t go into hibernation like Brown Bears do, but they are scarcely seen during winter. You will find them on the coastlines toward the southern edge of the ice pack in the Far North and Western Arctic areas. As climate change alters the bear’s habitats, they have increasingly been found on land near towns like Barrow and Kotzebue. Remember polar bears are dangerous animals, that have been known to stalk humans. They should only be viewed with an experienced guide.</p> <p><strong>3. National Parks</strong></p> <p>If you love wilderness and rugged beauty, you will love Alaska. The northernmost state is also home to home to America’s highest peak, Denali with a summit elevation 6,190 m above sea level. Denali National Park is six million acres of wild land, packed with wildlife and bisected by one ribbon of road. Try hiking, fishing, canoeing or dog sledging or simply spend the day looking for wildlife.</p> <p>Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska’s inside passage is home to humpback whales and puffins. One of the largest internationally protected Biosphere Reserves in the world, Glacier Bay collects glaciers slowly drifting down from the jagged mountains above. Most visitors arrive on cruise ships as few overland roads to the region exist. The region has three spectacular hiking trails and you can stay at Glacier Bay Lodge.</p> <p>Vast, beautiful and remote, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sprawls over 19.6 million acres in Alaska’s northern corner. Here you will find tundra plains, treeless coastlines, rugged mountain peaks and glaciers. Snow usually blankets the ground from September through to May. Once spring comes, the region is flush with life. More than 160 migratory and resident bird species come to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to breed, rest or feed from April to July. The refuge holds many polar bear dens and it’s a critical calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd.</p> <p><strong>4. Culture</strong></p> <p>Totem pole carving is often found in cultures that have a close tie with nature, and Alaska is no different. The poles use material from the land the images usually represent animals, spirits or places. Totem poles in front of houses identify the clan’s history. They are also carved to depict stories, to commemorate an event or to honour a deceased loved one or chief.</p> <p>The Northwest Coast Alaska Natives are known for a special weaving technique that creates perfect circles. The small, finely woven baskets of the Unangax̂, Alutiiq, and Yup’ik peoples are highly prized by collectors.</p> <p>If you love beadwork, make sure you look for Athabascan craft. The women from this tribe have created beautiful beaded clothing, blankets, tools and jewellery for centuries. Traditionally, they used seeds, carved wooden beads, shells, and quills. Glass beads were introduced after European contact.</p> <p><strong>5. Microbreweries</strong></p> <p>Midnight Sun, Broken Tooth, Silver Gulch, 49th State – these are just a few of the Alaskan microbreweries gaining a large reputation outside of the state.</p> <p>What’s their secret?</p> <p>Untouched glacial water.</p> <p>Water is the most important ingredient in beer and Alaska has the purest water of any American state.</p> <p>It’s not just beer either. In the last few years, Alaska has seen an abundance of gin and vodka distilleries pop up across the state. It’s no wonder – juniper berries, cranberries, spruce tips and raspberries used to produce and infuse each sprit can be plucked from roadside bushes during morning hikes.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/5-reasons-to-love-alaska/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Want to improve your health? Go on a girls' getaway

<p>If you’re looking for a sign to go on a weekend getaway with your closest girlfriends, then this is it. Grab the prosecco, book those flights and get ready as science has officially confirmed that a holiday with your best friends can ensure a healthy wellbeing.</p> <p>A group of friends who bring out the best in us is something we all aim to have, and now, according to research, those closest to you can help cut down the risk of heart disease and extend our life expectancy.</p> <p>“Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking,” said <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships">Harvard researchers.</a></p> <p>For those who don’t have a group of women in their lives, the results are a little grimmer as they are more likely to deal with depression, cognitive decline and a shorter lifespan.</p> <p>One study in particular, which accumulated data from 309,000 people, showed that a lack of solid friendships increased the risk of early death by 50 per cent.</p> <p>“Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer,” the researchers said.</p> <p>Do you agree with the findings of this study? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

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6 tips for low-risk travel hacking

<p><a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international/5-clever-travel-hacks-to-try-in-australia/">“Travel hacking”</a>  is the practice of seeking to reduce or eliminate travel expenses by systematically making and acting on a plan to accumulate frequent flyer miles and points – usually with specific travel goals in mind. Often, travel hackers accomplish their goals by accumulating airline credit cards that subject them to high spending limits.</p> <p>For the undisciplined, this can be a high-risk type of behaviour. There are multiple pitfalls to overcome. For starters, it’s tempting to spend beyond your means in pursuit of miles and points. Failure to pay your balance in full can result in interest payments that exceed the value of the benefits the card offers.</p> <p>Not only that, there is usually a brief time limit imposed for collecting the sign-up bonus offered by the credit card company. Additionally, these cards usually have annual fees; experienced travel hackers typically cancel the cards before the fees come due. But if you aren’t that organised, you might forget to cancel the cards and have to pay the fees.</p> <p>These aren’t the only pitfalls associated with the usual approach to travel hacking, but they’re a few of the things that can compel people to ask, “Is travel hacking really worth it?”</p> <p>If that were the only way to engage in travel hacking, the answer for many people might well be “no”. Fortunately, this risky approach is not your only choice. It is totally possible to get started with travel hacking using methods that are far less risky. Let’s discuss 6 tips for low-risk travel hacking:</p> <p><strong>1. Use E-commerce portals for retail shopping</strong></p> <p>Some airlines offer frequent flier miles or other rewards through their branded e-commerce portals. One example is the <a href="https://www.americanairlines.com.au/i18n/aadvantage-program/miles/partners/retail-and-dining.jsp">Aadvantage Program</a> offered by American Airlines. If you want to send flowers to a friend, buy tickets to a theatrical production, or make a purchase from any of 850+ participating retailers, you can earn frequent flier miles redeemable for flights, upgrades, rental cars, hotel rooms and other travel perks. Some of the associated offers are from retailers you probably shop with anyway.</p> <p><strong>2. Dine out</strong></p> <p>Offers change frequently, but you can often find opportunities to earn frequent flyer miles or advantage points when you eat at participating restaurants. For example, if you eat at <a href="http://qantas.rockpooldininggroup.com.au/">Rockpool Dining Groups’ restaurants</a>, including Spice Temple, Rockport Bar &amp; Grill or Fratelli Fresh, you can accumulate Qantas points to redeem on a future trip. Depending on the restaurant you choose, you could receive 1-2 frequent flier miles for each dollar you spend on dinner at the restaurant.</p> <p><strong>3. Take advantage of fuel card loyalty discounts</strong></p> <p>Fuel cards offer you a convenient way to pay for your fuel purchases while you’re on the road. Whether you’re taking off on a road trip or you’re renting a car at your travel destination, you can take advantage of <a href="https://www.fuelcardcomparison.com.au/p/getting-most-out-fuel-with-fuel-card-loyalty-discounts/">fuel card loyalty discounts</a>.</p> <p>Each fuel card is different. After you sign up for a fuel card, typically you could expect to receive a few reward points for each dollar you spend at the fuel pump using your card. Depending on the fuel card, the reward points you receive might be redeemable for special deals or discounts. Be sure to read all the fine print to determine what benefits you’d receive from signing up for each fuel card you’re considering.</p> <p>As compared against airline credit cards with initial high spending requirements, most fuel cards don’t seem all that risky. Unlike credit cards, some fuel cards don’t even require any interest payments. However, fuel cards are not entirely risk free.  Be aware that some fuel cards do charge monthly fees, annual fees, transaction fees and / or late payment fees – so be aware of the terms of service before applying. Pay particular attention to what fees you’ll be required to pay. Once you’ve begun using a fuel card, be sure to keep up with paying the bills as they come due to avoid late payment penalties.</p> <p><strong>4. Ride with Uber</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.qantas.com/au/en/book-a-trip/uber.html">Uber and Qantas</a> have teamed up to offer you frequent flier miles when you take certain actions associated with their services. For example, signing up with Uber for the first time through Qantas’ portal can earn you 2,000 frequent flier miles. You can also earn points if you use the Qantas app for booking Uber rides to or from eligible Australian airports. The number of points you earn depends on your level of membership in the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program.</p> <p><strong>5. Buy a new mobile phone and try a new mobile plan</strong></p> <p>Thinking of buying a new mobile phone or switching mobile providers? <a href="https://www.vodafone.com.au/plans/qantas">Vodafone and Qantas</a> are offering up to 20,000 Qantas Points for new Vodafone accounts. To earn the points, you must participate in at least one of the eligible offers these companies are making available. You could buy a new phone plus sign up for a SIM Only Plan or a Red Plan -- or you could sign up for a new Vodafone Plus Plan. New business accounts are eligible to earn greater numbers of points. You can also receive a free membership in the Qantas Frequent Flier Membership Program if you sign up through Vodafone’s link, scoring you a savings of $89.90.</p> <p><strong>6. Pay your energy bills on time</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.redenergy.com.au/qantas/residential">Red Energy and Qantas</a>  have partnered to offer you Qantas points for paying your electricity and gas bills on time. If you have a Red Energy account, or you want to open a new one, you’ll have to link the account to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account to be eligible to earn points under this programme.</p> <p>If you’re interested in travel hacking, it can be appealing to start with these sorts of low-risk offers. The points and benefits from these types of offers might not accumulate quite as quickly as they would if you were to use airline credit cards. However, you can see there are substantial amounts of frequent flier miles and other travel perks on offer through various low-risk programmes such as these. If you want to enjoy substantial savings on a trip you plan to take, it’s definitely worth considering all of these tips and offers.</p>

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How to capture the best holiday video

<p>If you really want to capture and share your holiday memories, you should invest in a video camera. Don’t be that person trying to shoot video with an enormous tablet.</p> <p><strong>Aim for quality</strong></p> <p>A video camera allows you to zoom in on the details – you can see the grandkids tackle a slide in the playground or the tiny bits of pollen on a flower.</p> <p>Check out the zoom on this video of the Aqua Splash park. It was filmed from shore and there’s no shake. Each of the people can be seen clearly.</p> <p>You can use a video camera to take photos as well as video. You can even use it for night vision.</p> <p>We love to capture slow motion with video cameras. On a phone or tablet you often have to wait until the subject jumps into a box on the screen. But with a video camera, you can start or stop slow motion whenever you want. It’s far more flexible – and that leads to a superior quality video. This function is great for capturing waterplay, juggling or sports action.</p> <p>Want to see the opening of a long-awaited garden rose? Or capture a stunning sunset? With a video camera, you can set the capture to hyper lapse, plug in the camera and walk away. That’s not something you could do easily on a tablet.</p> <p>You can also future proof your video for generations by switching to 4K. It does create larger files, but you will know that your kids and grandkids will be able to watch it in the future.</p> <p><strong>Share your video</strong></p> <p>Good quality video is great to share. Show it to your grandkids. Take a video camera with you at times other than big events and capture those little memories that children love to look back on.</p> <p>Let the kids use it, under supervision. They will love your help and your attention.</p> <p>If the kids are a little bit older, they may even be able to help you to edit the video into little movies. This is a great activity to do together for an afternoon. It’s using “screen time” in a healthy, educational way. You can then post your videos onto Facebook, YouTube or TripAdvisor.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/how-to-capture-the-best-holiday-video/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Why you need to visit Hiroshima

<p>I’m standing in a corner of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, tears rolling down my cheeks. The woman next to me turns and smiles, a gesture of sympathy. Her eyes are wet too. In front of me are a few dozen tiny, colourful paper cranes, the work of a girl called Sadako Sasaki.</p> <p>Sadako was two-years-old when the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Despite being two-kilometres from the epicentre, Sadako lived through the fiery blast that burned the flesh off exposed skin, bubbled paint on tiles and burned the shape of shadows onto walls.  Most of her neighbours died, but Sadako didn’t seem to be injured at all. At least, not on the outside.</p> <p>A decade later Sadako began to feel dizzy. She fell down and struggle to return to her feet. Her parents took her to the Red Cross hospital where she was diagnosed with leukaemia. Sadako knew leukaemia was called the bomb disease. She knew no-one survived. In Japan, it is believed that if a sick person can fold 1000 paper cranes, they will soon get well.</p> <p>Cranes often live to at least 100 years old and are a symbol of long life. Sadako began to make tiny paper cranes folded from scraps of medical paper she found in the hospital. She folded more than 1500, hoping for a cure. She died after fighting “bomb disease” for eight months. This museum is tough. It is thought-provoking, heart-breaking and sobering. It will make you cry.</p> <p>The kids will have big questions. But it also has hope. When Barack Obama visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on May 27, 2016, he folded two paper cranes and placed them alongside a note that read:</p> <p>“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together to spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”</p> <p><strong>Is it too graphic?</strong></p> <p>If you’re trying to decide whether to enter the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, remember this is also a place that encourages peace and hope. It sparks debate, particularly now that the world seems to be changing politically again. The photography and exhibits are more graphic than the Australian War Memorial. Some will shock you. If you have any interest in military history, you need to visit this place.</p> <p>The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum traces the lead up to the bombing. You can see documents that detail how the Americans selected Hiroshima as the target for the bomb knows as “Little Boy”. You can see they wanted “maximum damage”. A large part of the museum is dedicated to the effect of that bomb on the people of Hiroshima. </p> <p>You can see the black rain stains covering an old dress. You can see photographs of the horrific burns suffered in the fire and the gashes caused by debris from the shock waves. You can see the agony and despair in people’s faces and hear video testimony of the day the bomb devastated a community. The museum also details the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings: the arms race, testing around the world including on the Marshall Islands.</p> <p>Sadly, it doesn’t mention the British nuclear tests in Australia.  The first floor ends with notes on nuclear non-proliferation treaties – that are now, in doubt. This museum brings “lest we forget” into focus. I left big questions and a sense that war is not always good versus evil, black versus white. War has grey areas and innocent victims on both sides. How do we as humans make decisions that change history forever? How do we know what is right, and what is wrong? Would we make that decision again? All these questions are up for debate in Hiroshima.</p> <p><strong>You need to see the garden</strong></p> <p>Step outside and into the Peace Park once you have been through the three levels on the museum. This is the best place to wander around and discuss what you have seen. It also brings home this city’s message of peace and non-proliferation.</p> <p>The Cenotaph, to the left of the museum, contains the names of all the victims of the bombing. Thousands more names are added every year. From the Cenotaph you can see the remains of the Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall (also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome) and its distinctive burnt-out roof. This building was one of the few to remain standing after the fierce heat of the bomb and the shockwaves that followed.</p> <p>The Japanese debated knocking the building down. But in the end, they left it there as a reminder, “lest we forget” the horror of war. Between the hall and the Cenotaph, you’ll find a touching memorial to Sadako – the Children’s Peace Monument. After Sadako died, students from 3100 schools across nine countries raised money to build this statue in her honour. Make sure you take the time to ring the bell. It is inscribed with “A Thousand Paper Cranes” on the front and “Peace on Earth and in Heaven” on the back and the ringer has a beautiful golden crane attached.</p> <p>To this day, children still send paper cranes to be placed at the statue. Many of these can be seen in protected boxes surrounding the monument. Before you leave the park, find and ring the Peace Bell. But just warning you – it can be loud.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/hiroshima-peace-museum-review/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Packing cells will change how you travel in 2019

<p>Packing cells – people either love them or think they are a huge waste of money. We’ve detailed the pros and cons of packing cells so that you can make your own mind up.</p> <p><strong>1. What are they?</strong></p> <p>Packing cells are little cubes or zippered bags of various sizes that act as removable compartments for your suitcase or backpack.</p> <p><strong>2. How do you use them?</strong></p> <p>Packing cells allow you to organise your suitcase. You sort the items you need into individual bags. Put your dirty clothes in one, underpants in another. Put your socks in one, camera gear in another. You get the point. If you’re sharing a suitcase with a travelling companion, you can put your clothes into individual packing cells – that way your clothes won’t get all mixed up.</p> <p><strong>3. What do fans say about them?</strong></p> <p>A Facebook thread on packing cells went viral this week due to the number of people commenting. Comments such as: “Best things ever – saves so much room and keeps things tidy and organised” were common. Here’s a few more comments: “They have really changed our packing. Highly recommend. No more digging through the whole bag trying to find a pair of undies.” – Alicia thoman “We use them all the time now. Each person has their own pack and then you just take it out of the case – so much easier.” – Clare Ditchburn “They are the best, love mine, make so much more room in your suitcase.” – Kathy Stringfellow</p> <p><strong>4. What do the critics say?</strong></p> <p>Critics say that packing bags are a waste of money. Some argue that the bags are just more stuff you don’t need. Why pay the money when it doesn’t really take that long to find something in your bag. Is the 20 seconds really worth the cash?</p> <p><strong>5. Tips for using them</strong></p> <p>Generally, most people we found who have used the packing bags say they love them. So how do you use them effectively?</p> <ul> <li>Use a different colour per traveller</li> <li>Make sure you buy enough of them</li> <li>Get packing bags that have a clear window or mesh to allow you to see what is in the bag. Otherwise you’re going to spend just as much time hunting for the stuff you need.</li> <li>You can make your own packing bags from laundry bags, old airline amenities bags or plastic zip-lock bags.</li> <li>Buy a selection of different sizes</li> <li>Use them for small and necessary items.</li> <li>Use one for medications</li> <li>Keep one for chargers and phones</li> <li>Have a waterproof one for wet clothes</li> <li>Have one for dirty clothes</li> <li>Where do you buy them?</li> </ul> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/packing-cells-hack/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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5 reasons to go to Thailand

<p>Thailand is a tropical paradise with some of the friendliest people in the world. With delicious cuisine, elaborate gold temples, stunning beaches punctuated by pillars of limestone – this country really is magic.</p> <p>Here are five reasons why you need to go to Thailand:</p> <p><strong>1. The food</strong></p> <p>Thai food in Thailand is one of the great pleasures in life.</p> <p>If you like Thai food in your home country, you will love it in Thailand. You can eat in up-market Thai restaurants in classic-Thai wooden houses. Or grab a delicious $1 bargain at a food court. We highly recommend a street food tour in Thailand – you won’t believe how good it is.</p> <p>Food in Thailand is not restricted to Thai cuisine. Thailand also has high-quality Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, French, Italian, Scandinavian and Indian restaurants in all the major cities and tourist spots.</p> <p><strong>2. Shopping</strong></p> <p>Forget Hong Kong, Singapore or other well-trodden shopping destinations, today’s bargains are in Bangkok.</p> <p>Shop in the multi-storey department stores and malls for international brands and top-end Thai products. Explore markets for variety and ridiculously cheap price. Buy on the street for convenience and fun. The famous Chatachak Weekend Market has more than 9000 outlets. You can spend a whole day in its exciting madness. For imported goods head to Chinatown. Head to   Pratunam for locally-made clothing and footwear.</p> <p><strong>3. Culture</strong></p> <p>Thai culture is deeply influenced by religion. Most Thais are Theraveda Buddhists. This strand of Buddhism is characterised by greater respect for elders. You will need to give up your seat on public transport if a monk enters.</p> <p>Thai Buddhists believe individuals should gain insights from their own actions, experience, knowledge and critical thinking. Their meditation is mostly silent, as opposed to chanting. Interestingly, animist and superstitious beliefs co-exist with Thai Buddhism. Thais honour Buddha statues, spirit houses, and photographs of the King.</p> <p>You can easily spend a few peaceful hours watching Thais seek guidance and protection, praying for a good future life at the temple.</p> <p><strong>4. The landscape</strong></p> <p>Wow. That is the one word you will keep saying in Thailand.</p> <p>In Bangkok, it will be because of the manmade attractions: the giant golden Buddha, the glittering temples and the incredibly twisted wires cobbled together and strung over streets. Chiang Mai will delight you with rice fields, history, hill tribes and thousand-year-old temples. In the south, expect stunning white-sand beaches and limestone  pillars topped with lush vegetation.</p> <p>Thailand has so many different landscapes that you could spend a long time exploring them all.</p> <p><strong>5. The people</strong></p> <p>The Thai people are reason enough to visit this country. They’re always smiling and helpful. Thai’s tolerate, and even like most tourists, and once you become a friend of a Thai, you’re a friend for life.</p> <p><em>Written by Len Rutledge. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/thailand-travel-inspiration/"><em>My Discoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Cheap flight hack: How to save money when booking your plane ticket

<p>A variety of factors can turn what is supposed to be a cheap weekend away into an expensive venture out. These factors include whether or not you’re travelling in peak season, who you’re flying with and whether or not you want to go up a class in the flight.</p> <p>However, according to <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.expediagroup.com/" target="_blank">Expedia Group</a>, there’s a way you can get cheaper flights and it all comes down to the day you’re booking them.</p> <p>With airfares rising and no sign of slowing down, this is the day you’re going to want to bookmark for flights.</p> <p>It’s Sunday.</p> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.expediagroup.com/" target="_blank">Expedia Group</a> narrowed down on the perfect day after analysing airline routes and prices of tickets in a joint research project with the Airline Reporting Corporation.</p> <p>On Friday, they’re at their highest.</p> <p>On Sunday, they’re at their lowest.</p> <p>However, you’re more likely to save if your first day of travel is a Friday. This is the day you want to head to the airport and fly out, with Sunday copping higher fares.</p> <p>In order to save, you book on a Sunday for a Friday flight.</p> <p>It might not be a bulletproof scenario every time, but according to Expedia’s analysis, you’re in with a good chance.</p> <p>Are you going to try this hack and see if it works? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

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5 reasons to travel on Swiss trains

<p>Efficient, excellent and easy to choof along with. Here are five reasons to take the train in Switzerland. </p> <p><strong>1. No need to drive</strong></p> <p>Switzerland’s 29,000-km transport network includes a superb rail system around the country and across the mountains. Travel on premium and panoramic trains for breathtaking Swiss lake and mountain scenery, and easy connections between cities and regions.</p> <p><strong>2. Forget tricky tickets</strong></p> <p>Select from a range of Swiss passes for effortless travel by train (also boat and bus) across Switzerland, with extras including entry to 500 museums. Trains run on Swiss precision time, a minute past the hour/half hour.</p> <p><strong>3. Climb the Alps</strong></p> <p>The Glacier Express, known as the world’s slowest express, crosses the Alps on an epic eight-hour journey over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels. The Furka Steam mountain railway trains puff along the same historic route.</p> <p><strong>4. Catch the Chocolate Train</strong></p> <p>Themed Swiss journeys include a first-class trip from Montreux to the Cailler-Nestle factory at Broc. Tip: Easy on the fondue lunch at Gruyeres before the chocolate degustation (just sayin’…)! Cheese-lovers choose the Train du Fromage.</p> <p><strong>5. Superlative Swiss service</strong></p> <p>Door-to-door luggage delivery is available between 20 destinations, so you don’t have to haul bags on and off trains as you travel. Bags can also be checked in at train stations direct to your home destination airport. </p> <p><em>Written by Alison Plumber. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/swiss-trains/">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

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You may be travelling less – and that’s a good thing

<p>In 1900, humans travelled a total of just <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fall-Carbon-Civilisation-Environmental/dp/1849964823/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1342223577&amp;sr=1-2">0.2 trillion km</a> by vehicle, nearly all by train.</p> <p>By 1950, people travelled a total of 3.3 trillion km, and by 2010, the annual total was over 40 trillion km – or over 133,000 round trips to the sun. That’s an average of nearly <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14693062.2012.735916">6,000 km per person</a> each year. About half of all travel was by car, and 12% was by air.</p> <p>But times are changing. Reductions in per capita passenger travel in key OECD countries has already begun. In <a href="http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2014/yearbook_2014.aspx">Australia</a>, per capita surface travel (road, rail and sea travel) has fallen since 2006, while in the <a href="http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/travel_monitoring/tvt.cfm">US</a>, it is still below its 2008 value.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/index.htm">Japan</a>, both total surface and air travel have been falling since 2000. A number of European countries are also experiencing <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01441647.2013.801928">“peak travel”</a>.</p> <p>This is a good thing, and efforts to further reduce travel (both passenger and freight) must be encouraged, for a variety of reasons.</p> <p><strong>Why we should reduce vehicle travel</strong></p> <p>Global transport is a major cause of both global oil depletion and climate change. Despite much talk about bio-fuels such as ethanol, oil in 2012 still supplied about <a href="http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2014.pdf">93%</a> of all transport fuels. Global transport also produced <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14693062.2012.735916waisman13">22.5%</a> of all energy-related greenhouse gases.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg3/">official</a> view is that these two problems can be overcome by a variety of technical fixes. These include use of alternative fuels and boosting vehicle energy efficiency, plus more exotic solutions such as storing carbon underground, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/great-and-desperate-measures-the-case-for-and-against-geoengineering-1593">geoengineering</a>.</p> <p>The first two are already used to some extent, but have made little impact on either transport energy use or the resulting <a href="http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2014.pdf">greenhouse gas emissions</a>. The latter two technical fixes face <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-will-never-again-have-as-much-energy-as-now-its-time-to-adapt-38228">serious problems</a> and may never be employed.</p> <p>In contrast to the current hype about the First World War, the tens of millions of road dead go unremembered. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some 1.24 million people were killed on the world’s roads in <a href="http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/en/">2010 alone</a>. Traffic deaths are now the eighth leading cause of mortality, and number one for 15-29 year-olds.</p> <p>Traffic death rates are falling in OECD countries, but generally rising elsewhere as mass car ownership spreads to other countries. For this reason, the WHO forecast traffic fatalities moving up to the fifth leading cause of death globally by <a href="http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/en/">2030</a>.</p> <p>Paradoxically, fatality rates (deaths per 100,000 people) are far higher in low-income countries, despite their low levels of vehicle ownership. The main reason? Pedestrian and cyclist deaths can be as high as two-thirds of those killed, compared with 16% in <a href="http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/en/">Australia</a>.</p> <p><a href="http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/en/">Tens of millions</a> are also injured each year on the world’s roads. Particularly in low-income countries, this can mean a double catastrophe: loss of earnings and high medical costs for the affected families.</p> <p>Air pollution also results in <a href="http://www.uncrd.or.jp/content/documents/22048EST-P7-BGP_ITDP.pdf">millions of premature deaths</a>, especially in Asian megacities, and the rapid rise in vehicular traffic is an important cause. Further, a recent <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412011000535">Chinese study</a> has found that children’s school performance was adversely affected by living in traffic-polluted areas.</p> <p><strong>What’s the alternative?</strong></p> <p>For some time in OECD countries—and even elsewhere, when we consider traffic casualties and air pollution health effects—the societal costs of extra mobility have been rising faster than the benefits obtained. We must now focus on accessibility —the ease with which people can reach various activities — rather than <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-will-never-again-have-as-much-energy-as-now-its-time-to-adapt-38228">vehicular mobility</a>.</p> <p>When access replaces mobility, we can finally start designing our cities for humans rather than cars. We’ll need to design our cities and towns to encourage an attachment to place, rather than endlessly trying to be someplace else. Excess mobility can destroy this sense of place.</p> <p>As Gertrude Stein reportedly said about her home town, Oakland, <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/339785-whenever-you-get-there-there-is-no-there-there">California</a>: “Whenever you get there, there is no there there.”</p> <p>The needed changes may be easier than we think. In 1947, our cities were strongly focused toward the inner areas. Today, with suburbanisation, jobs, retail sales, and services are much more evenly spread over the city. Per capita travel levels have risen several-fold in our cities since 1947, when potentially they could have been <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328708000931">reduced</a>.</p> <p>To hasten this process of “localisation”, we’ll have to reverse our usual urban transport priority of private car, then public transport, and non-motorised modes last. Such a reversal would bring important health benefits; physical exercise has been called the <a href="http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0262407912622143/1-s2.0-S0262407912622143-main.pdf?_tid=af34f10c-e88b-11e4-9a9d-00000aab0f26&amp;acdnat=1429664916_2c04963ed4e5dc61c9d0eb47040bbf02">“wonder drug”</a>.</p> <p>Further, <a href="http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0262407914613269/1-s2.0-S0262407914613269-main.pdf?_tid=37160000-e893-11e4-8a52-00000aacb360&amp;acdnat=1429668151_16f11fb986841a32993e6b1a60fc098d">recent research</a> has found that the rise in obesity in recent decades results from physical inactivity, not from increased calories.</p> <p>Not only will we have to rely much less on car travel, we’ll also need to drop travel speeds, partly for safety reasons. For car collisions with pedestrians at <a href="http://pid.sagepub.com/content/213/1/19.full.pdf+html">80 km per hour</a>, most do not survive the impact, but at 32 km per hour, only 5% are killed. And of course, at low speeds, collisions are far fewer anyhow.</p> <p>Non-motorised travel is superior to other modes in a number of ways: it uses no fossil fuels and produces no pollution. It is also cheap, efficient in urban land use, and needs no licence to operate.</p> <p>So what’s the drawback? Compared with cars, it’s only good for humans, not for economic growth.</p> <p><em>Written by Patrick Moriarty. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/you-may-be-travelling-less-and-thats-a-good-thing-40629">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>

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Top 4 travel hacks that will save you money

<p>Travelling can be expensive, but you don’t want to let costs and budgeting stop you from exploring the world. Believe it or not, it really is possible to journey through the corners of the earth while still being mindful of money. When taking a trip overseas, it’s the little things that can add up, so try out these travel hacks to save you money on your next trip:</p> <p><strong>1. Book in the afternoon</strong></p> <p>Prices of flights fluctuate constantly, depending on the day and the time you choose to book. So, to save money, be sure to choose an afternoon slot as morning flights are generally pricier due to business travellers.</p> <p><strong>2. Check less popular booking sites to compare prices</strong></p> <p>The internet has been a blessing in disguise. Not only is it now easier to book flights and accommodation, but you can compare prices in a matter of seconds. Try to stay away from popular, mainstream comparison websites and opt for the smaller ones instead. Chances are you’ll nab a bigger discount.</p> <p><strong>3. Choose affordable accommodation</strong></p> <p>Right, this may seem like a no brainer, but it has to be said. Yes, it’s nice to stay at a 5-star hotel with staff serving you hand and foot, but you’re also paying for those luxuries. Meaning less money for things that you actually want to do. And cheap doesn’t mean uncomfortable. There are plenty of accommodation options available that won’t break the bank but will still provide you with a nice place to stay.</p> <p><strong>4. Don’t change your currency at the airport</strong></p> <p>Let’s face it, you’re going to be incredibly under the pump in the weeks leading up to your holiday, so changing currency at the airport seems like the most convenient of options. But exchange booths at airports are known to give the worst rates, so it’s a good idea to dedicate a little bit of time and get your money exchanged beforehand. That way, you’ll have a lot more in your pocket.</p> <p>Do you have any money-saving hacks that we should know about? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

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What to pack for a cruise

<p>In the Golden Age of cruising of the 1920s and ‘30s, first-class passengers donned full-length evening gowns and tuxedos as they steamed across the Atlantic.</p> <p>Dress styles changed as cruising became more egalitarian, although five-star lines maintained strict formal dress policies to allow well-heeled passengers to parade their finery.  </p> <p>I clearly remember staring in wonder at the dazzling array of full-length, full-beaded gowns in the boutique on board stylish ship Crystal Symphony in the early 1990s. There was plenty to plunder if one needed a bejewelled outfit for the evening.</p> <p>Dress codes still exist; however, sequins and bowties are more an option than a requirement.</p> <p>I’ll go out on a limb and say that most women love to dress up; I know very few who’d sneer at the chance to put on that cocktail outfit that’s been bought and begging for an outing. Conversely, men favour the phrase: “I’m on holidays – I don’t want to wear a tie.”</p> <p>To appease all-comers, cruise lines still offer traditional ‘formal’ nights (they may have a different name such as ‘cocktail’ or ‘dress to impress’) but also permit passengers to ‘dress down’ as long as they dine in the casual eateries.</p> <p>As a rule of thumb, cruise lines have a resort/casual code for daytime and two different codes for the evening.</p> <p><strong>Onboard</strong></p> <p><strong><u>Day wear</u></strong></p> <p>For summer cruises passengers should pack swimsuits (preferably two), sarong/cover-up, shorts, t-shirts, resort dresses, jeans or light-weight pants, sandals, thongs or ballet flats and gym wear if heading to the fitness centre along with the right footwear. Others should pack flat rubber-soled shoes to avoid slipping on deck.</p> <p>Swimsuits and sarongs are not allowed in restaurants and lounges during the day time, while some cruise lines also prohibit tank tops (sleeveless T-shirts) and baseball caps. The best advice is checking the cruise line website under the Q &amp;A section.   </p> <p>Those taking expedition cruises or venturing to cooler climes should pack hiking pants, waterproof over pants, wind-cheaters, lightweight warm jackets, thermals, beanies and hiking boots.</p> <p><strong><u>Evening wear</u></strong></p> <p>Most cruise lines – be they the affordable mass-market companies or the luxury lines – have two dress codes for the evening.</p> <p>On most nights the code with be “smart casual”, although a cruise line might call it “elegant casual”, as Seabourn Line does.  </p> <p>Women can wear a good dress (something one would wear out to dinner), pantsuit or separates (top and skirt/pants). Men are required to wear a collared shirt and long trousers and sometimes jeans (depending on cruise line), while jackets and ties are optional.</p> <p>The best choices for women are non-crush, no-iron varieties. There are plenty of jersey fabric dresses and outfits available, while a scarf or two, a pashmina, or a light evening jacket never goes astray.</p> <p>The biggest change in the cruise industry has been the relaxing of the “formal” dress code. Ladies can go to town and put on that sparkling evening dress, pantsuit or dressy separates. On most lines men are required to wear a tuxedo or a dark suit with tie or bow tie; P&amp;O Cruises Australia say a tie is optional, while Celebrity Cruises allows men to wear ‘pants or designer jeans’ on their ‘evening chic’ nights. These nights are held once or twice during a seven-night cruise.</p> <p><strong><u>Theme Nights</u></strong></p> <p>Many lines have these, with the most popular being ‘white’ parties and ‘Gatsby’ nights. Cunard ships also have masquerade and Victoriana balls, while P&amp;O has a “Back to School” party.  </p> <p><strong>Shore Excursions</strong></p> <p>Pack the sunscreen, hat, water bottle, lightweight jacket/jumper, rain jacket (or umbrella) into a light day-pack or travel bag and carry local currency for drinks, lunch and tips.</p> <p>The key to stress-free packing is check the cruise line website and choose lightweight, drip-dry outfits than can be mixed and matched and glammed up with a scarf, pashmina and some bling.</p> <p><em>Written by Caroline Gladstone. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/what-to-pack-for-a-cruise/">My Discoveries</a>.</em></p>

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Learning a foreign language: What you need to know

<p>So, you’re heading off on a trip of a lifetime. Whether it’s India or Paris, knowing the native language is an important skillset to carry in your belt. Not only does it show your appreciation towards the people and the country you’re visiting, but it’s also crucial to be able to communicate with locals.</p> <p>Here’s how to learn a foreign language in no time at all:</p> <p><strong>1. Learn more than the basics</strong></p> <p>While knowing basic phrases like “bonjour” or “ciao” may be helpful, they aren’t going to cut it when you’re stuck in a tricky situation. It’s next to impossible to become fluent in a language in a matter of weeks, so keep a language book handy and don’t be afraid of sounding like an amateur. Locals can usually spot tourists and they also understand that you’re trying your best to adapt to the culture.</p> <p><strong>2. Incorporate the language into your daily life</strong></p> <p>Languages roll off your tongue easier the more you use it, so maybe try befriending someone who is from the country you’re planning to visit. This way, they can help you improve on any areas where you seem to be struggling, and you’ll have someone to have a conversation with in that language.</p> <p>Receiving feedback from native speakers is important, and they can also help provide the resources you need to improve even further. Such as foreign language media or books, which you can incorporate in your daily life.</p> <p><strong>3. Embrace your mistakes</strong></p> <p>Don’t be too hard on yourself. Learning a new language is extremely difficult, but also very rewarding. You will mispronounce things and you may not say the right word when trying to converse with others, but just know that it’s OK.</p> <p>Over half the planet speaks more than one language, and the fact that you’re taking the step to learn is something worth commending. These things take time, be patient.</p> <p><strong>4. Use Google Translate</strong></p> <p>In emergency situations use Google Translate. The handy tool can be used to communicate with locals when visiting another country and could help make your life a lot easier when trying to find directions or just needing a bit of help.</p> <p>Do you have any tips on learning a new language? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

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