Monthly Archives: February 2009

On My Itinerary: Costa Rica!

I got fed up with sitting around at home today and booked us two tickets to Costa Rica for Jon’s spring break.

source: Tulane U.

source: Tulane U.

While I’m thoroughly enjoying the freedom of watching Law & Order back to back after midnight, there is only so much I can take in my little unemployed routine (errands, yoga, plan to study Russian but not get around to it, eat, look for jobs, apply for jobs, make to-do lists each day that I don’t really do) before I start to pull my hair out. It’s also difficult to research travel industry topics for my blog and not get to go  anywhere. If I was laid off in sunny L.A., or even in DC springtime, I would be a little less antsy, but alas, it is still winter here.

What comes with a lot of free time is a lot of opportunity to surf the web for great fares, so I came across a 10% discount on American Airlines (code: JRTJ3GT7SA3J) on flights between March and June that do not take place on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; it lent a better search result than kayak.com, my usual option. We’re departing out of DCA bright and early on a Monday morning and arriving into San Jose by lunch; renting a car and cruising around Costa Rica for eight days before hopping back on a noon flight on Tuesday, a week later. And because we opted for the discounted days, one of our flights was $98 per person, before taxes.

Our plan, which doesn’t really exist right now, is to hit all the main sites in our little rental car which I will probably have to drive the whole time, since Jon cannot drive a stick shift (but perhaps this is a good opportunity to learn). We have yet to buy our Lonely Planet guide, but we welcome any suggestions from our readers. Also, if the unemployment office inquires, I am dutifully looking for work, perhaps in Costa Rica.

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Update: The Best Job in the World

Quick update on The Best Job in the World: you can now view my video here (it was down before, but now it’s working again so I’m re-posting this entry). Enjoy!

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Now Boarding: Jet Blue’s Recession Special

“Discount” airliner Jet Blue (I say “discount” because I haven’t had any luck in recent years finding a good deal on there) has offered the Jet Blue Promise: if you get laid off on or after February 17 and had purchased a ticket on Jet Blue between Feb. 1 and June 1, it will refund your ticket 100% if you choose. So if you want to trade in your blue Terra chips and personal TV for a little less anxiety, just follow the link for instructions.

Of course, it involves a bit of paperwork to get the refund, including filling out an Eligibility form, notarizing it, faxing it and then mailing it by certified mail. And it does not apply to corporate or group trips, or vacation packages. Besides, why would you give up your vacation once you’re unemployed – you might as well go enjoy the free time.

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Now Boarding: The Best Job in the World

oceannomads.org

oceannomads.org

When the Unemployment office asks me if I have looked for work this week (yes) and where, I will tell them I just applied for the Best Job in the World.

I didn’t dub it the Best Job in the World, although I wouldn’t disagree with it, either. For $100,000 USD, you get flown out to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, live in a luxury condo, play around the island for six months, and blog about it for the Queensland Tourism Bureau. (Is this not the perfect job created for yours truly?)

Naturally, competition is stiff (me versus 29,500 others), and having thousands of laid-off individuals around the world doesn’t help me, either, considering I was one of those suddenly granted all this free time to, well, go to Australia for six months. All I had to do was put together a one-minute video about myself that was fun, creative, entertaining and highlighted why I was the best person in the world for the best job in the world.

Well, then it turned out I only had one day left to apply. So Jon and I ran around Washington with my tiny Flip video camera with low audio quality and shot me doing cartwheels in front of the Washington monument and other Washingtonian highlights like the White House and a drive-by of the Archives. Then I loaded all that plus several photos of me traveling and doing different activities that would illustrate just how fun and enthusiastic I would be, perhaps funner and more enthusiastic than any of the other 29,500 applicants. Then I battled with the lame Microsoft MovieMaker program that came with my computer and spend the rest of the day editing, cursing and rebooting my computer. It took about twenty minutes to finally upload the video to the site, considering the rest of the world was probably in a race to get theirs onto the site as well before the deadline.

Apparently 7,500 of the applicants are Americans; Britain came next. You can view the videos on the site too; there were several lame ones, but then there were some that were fairly entertaining, I will begrudgingly admit. Once mine is accepted, I will post the link. In eight days 50 semifinalists will be announced; then from there another 10 are selected and one more for a Wild Card in which the world votes for their favorite; then that group will be flown to Queensland for interviews before they finally choose one lucky individual.

Already my dad, sister, and mother-in-law are asking what my plans are if I get the job – as if I am going to get the job: “When does it start? What will Jon do? Then what do you do after the job is over? Will you stop getting unemployment? What about your apartment here?” However, the answers are: It starts July 1; Jon will come along until classes start again in August; I will hopefully be sought after by travel magazines and channels around the world to be their next travel correspondent (my dream job); yes, I will stop getting unemployment; Jon will be living in the apartment during that time and we will try to sublet the few months he is not. And for the biggest answer of all: of course, I will continue My Travel Hats while in Australia – I would never neglect the rest of you.

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Cool Tools: The Visa Widget

Getting into a country is one of the more complicated processes established, next to clubs and exclusive Hollywood parties. The first step to international travel is to find out if you’re even allowed to enter. Then comes the fuss and muss with paperwork, photos, cost, and the amount of time needed to wait for the visa to return. I’ve watched many an individual get turned away at the window after waiting in the long queue for not having country-worthy proof.

To avoid being one of those wandering souls humbly asking to enter those countries, Visa HQ has come out with a handy-dandy widget to clear up any questions.  For example, since my friend down in South America today was trying very hard to convince me to meet her in the Amazon, I entered  “United States Citizen” and “Brazil” and pulled up a handful of visa requirements. Without having to hunt through the embassy Web site which often times has questionable English that it’s no wonder you have to return to the embassy twice or more to obtain a visa sometimes.

WordPress does not allow me to embed javascript into the blog, so you’ll have to click here to check out the widget on the VisaHQ page. Go check out what’s required for your next trip!

 

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Getting Lost In: Anguilla (the recession special)

anguilla-christmas-2005-091You may be one of the 3.6 million unemployed Americans waving a severence check in one hand and few other responsibilities on the other (no kids, no hefty mortgage), and not sure what to do with all this uncovered free time bequeathed to you. If you’re like me, you still find yourself making mental to-do lists for work that is no longer yours to do. Instead, I find myself rather busy, actually, creating personal to-do lists a mile long, from updating several versions of my resume to reorganizing every closet in my apartment.

This calls for a vacation in which the main activity consists of nothing. Nothing is hard to do. Nothing means you perform basic life functions: sleep, eat, relax, tan and read. My favorite place to do this is on the island of Anguilla, in the British West Indies, which was until recently the best kept secret in the Caribbean.

anguilla-christmas-2005-044Anguilla is a 15-mile long island off St. Martin with one traffic light, the whitest sand beaches and the bluest ocean I have ever swam in. In recent years, high-end luxury resorts began springing up along its sandy stretches, so only the divine were allowed to visit and the collegiate spring breakers stayed away.

Flights: There are several ways to get to Anguilla. One is a direct flight to the island’s Wallblake Airport (code AXA). The other is to fly to St. Maarten/ St. Martin (airport code SXM), take a cab to the French side (about $25) and then catch the ferry ($15) to Anguilla. (The Dutch side is St. Maarten and it is not pronounced “maaaahten” as it may appear in writing). There is also now apparently a ferry that will take you directly from the airport to Anguilla for $20, but I have never seen that before. There is also puddle anguilla-christmas-2005-030jumper (WinAir) you can take from the airport in St. Maarten to Anguilla for about $100. Lastly, you can charter a boat to take you to Anguilla straight from the airport, but since this is the recession special, we’re going with the ferry for the common folk. Once in Anguilla, you can get around by renting a car or bike, but my personal favorite is by waving the thumb (yes, hitchhiking is completely safe here – everyone does it because there is no public transportation. Even if you’ve decided to start hiking towards the beach, at least five cars will stop to offer you a ride, male and female drivers).

Where to stay: If you have a friend with a house on Anguilla, stay there. That’s how my habit formed. anguilla-christmas-2005-065Later I found Lloyd’s Guest House in the middle of the valley and borrowed a bike from the owners to get around. Lloyd’s is very economical for Anguilla ($75 for a single, $105 for a double. I guess it went up since its debut in the New York Times) with its breezy white tile-and-paint rooms. My other favorite is Shoal Bay Villas on Shoal Bay East (photo, right), considered the most pristine of all the island’s beaches. Shoal Bay Villas is pricier at $335 for a one-bedroom poolside suite or $370 oceanfront studio (and you do fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves), but comes with a kitchen, and when split among four fellow layoffs, makes for a reasonable stay.

TIP: The off-season in Anguilla is mid-April to mid-December. Of course it is far more enjoyable to be on a tropical island when it is blizzarding back home, but Anguilla is still beautiful year-round. Flights escalate during the holidays, particularly between Christmas and New Year’s, but drop significantly after that. Frequent flier miles are only 35,000 on American Airlines. There’s a great way to trade in those miles earned on business travel towards a well-earned vacation.

Now  go enjoy being unemployed.

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Wanderings: My Travel Hats needs a day job!

Yes, I finally became the next statistic today to file for UNEMPLOYMENT. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be adventures abound in my unemployed days… and lots of more time to find travel deals and ideas for the rest of you (or me – what else is a severance package for??) My friend who quit her job and moved to Buenos Aires for four months is already trying to recruit me to travel south and hang out, so we’ll see. MEANWHILE, if any of you know of companies/ people looking for a web-savvy media type with an MBA and Masters in journalism, extensive background in print, Web and broadcast journalism and publishing, please point them in my direction.

In the meantime, keep checking back or subscribe to My Travel Hats for the latest in your travel plans! Especially in this sodden market, everyone needs to save a buck or two but still enjoy the world. And please don’t worry about me – I am one who is always happier with fewer assets. I will be learning to pick away at my guitar, practicing Russian, perfecting macaron making (we call them “Macarins” around here), writing my best-selling novel that you’ll all purchase and read, training for this 10 miler I signed up for by accident, going about town with my SLR camera, and searching for jobs that won’t lay me off again. See. Just as Henry Mancini says: There’s such a lot of world to see.

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