When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro for my vacation and volunteer program I found it interesting to discover that I wasn't immediately given a map of the city or even a map of my section of the city (since Rio is quite large). Since I had to traverse quite a few difference neighborhoods (favelas) of Rio during my three weeks in Rio I needed to figure out another way of getting around with only a little spoken Portuguese ability and a desire to not get lost after dark.
Then I remembered this little known trick of Google Maps - it will still provide navigation to the last set of places you looked up even without wifi or a data signal. Did you know about this awesome ability? It doesn't even need to be directions to a place near where you currently are. That is the best part!
It will also allow you to zoom in on the last map you searched directions for to the detail of where the bus will stop. If you are navigating to a place you can follow the bus stops to figure out where you need to get off. It makes it super easy to get places and to know what bus to take when you have no idea even what the bus routes are.
Now here is where the but comes in. I will admit some of the issues may be a result of user error but not all of them. ;). One of the problems I have with Google Maps is that when I am trying to figure out how to get from point A to B, generally using public transportation, it will leave out the metro unless you are right on top of it. Also, there may be more than one bus that can get you there but it may not be coming at that exact time. Rather than just list all the buses that come at the closest stop it only lists the bus that comes within the next 5 minutes for example. Because of this I have missed several just as qualified buses and taken double the amount of time to get somewhere because of it. Finally, if you get beyond a certain perimeter of where you last navigation, Google Maps will no longer even show you street names.
In the end because I had to be able to get from point A to B and a map of some sort was necessary I purchased a SIM card (they were extremely expensive) so I always had data access to turn on my Google Maps and navigate myself to where I needed to go. While Google Maps did lead me astray several times it would eventually get me where I needed to, sometimes while I sweared at it all the way.
If you didn't know about the Google Maps trick I highly recommend you always having your Smartphone device with you even if you only have one direction in it or can get it to zoom into the downtown area of your foreign city it will be well worth it.
Do you have any fun navigation stories to revel my time in Rio de Janeiro?
I was recently at the WIT (Women in Travel) Summit in Chicago and a friend told me about this great new app that I must share. Some of you may already know about it but, this was the first time I had ever heard of it or used it.
The app is called Uber. I love the name but it certainly doesn’t describe its service. I guess it could relate to it being Uber easy or Uber cheap.
In essence this app is a private car service request app for most larger cities in the U.S. All you need to do is create an account, download the app and away you go. You open the app and it finds your GPS location and you are able to order a variety of car types. You can order everything from a limo type car to what they call an UberX car, which is usually a nice mid-size car like a Scion or Toyota. It then tells you how long the car will take to get to you as well as gives you a photo of the driver and the license plate of the car picking you up.
When the driver arrives, they call you, you jump in and you give them your destination and away you go. In my experience with them in Chicago they were much less expense than a taxi, even in traffic. Those that have used them in cities like Boston have said that nine times out of ten they have been cheaper than a taxi.
If you are worried about safety – Don’t be. You have to rate the driver after each trip and if a driver ever gets less than a four they can no longer drive for the service.
You also don’t have to worry about paying then and there either. You pay through your Uber account. So no need to fumble for cash or credit cards.
To me this is a must have app for big cities or anywhere you can use it. If you want to try it out, here is a $20 credit to get you started https://uber.com/invite/xkku3
Why spend extra money when you don’t have to or sit in a stinky cab!! Try it out and let me know what you think!
Women have been traveling for the entirety of human history, and yet many still view travel and travel blogging as a "man's world." But imagine, if you will, being at an event that not only challenges that perspective, but lays the groundwork to reshape it. Imagine being surrounded by 150 other female travelers, bloggers, and web entrepreneurs. Imagine connecting, networking, writing, and promoting, all in the heart of Chicago. Thanks to the inaugural Women in Travel Summit, held in Chicago’s legendary Palmer House hotel, you will have to imagine no longer!
This summit, targeted at encouraging and celebrating the accomplishments of women in travel, has something for everyone. It boasts three tracks for attendees to explore: the Traveler, the Blogger, and the Entrepreneur. The Traveler can look forward to sessions to tempt and expand her horizons, from ethically-minded volunteership to traveling on a tight budget. For the Entrepreneur, sessions on monetization and turning traveling into a profession will provide an opportunity to hone her business skills and grow her career. The Blogger’s track, targeting both text and video bloggers, grows her aptitude for editing, networking, and beating writer’s block.
But wait- there’s more! In addition to sessions targeting their particular interests, attendees are invited to multiple networking and sightseeing events throughout the weekend. An open lunch on Saturday takes attendees to see Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held in nearby Grant Park. For the early risers, early morning yoga classes will do just the trick. And for all attendees, a variety of tweet-ups, networking power hours, and evening social events facilitate blog promotion, business development, and opportunities to travel further than they ever have before.
Two keynote speakers will be featured at the summit. On Saturday, Jeannie Mark- better known as Nomadic Chick- will inspire attendees with a presentation about women in travel entrepreneurship, and on Sunday, Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman will keep attendees hungry to change the travel world for good. Readers wishing to get a taste of these two powerful authors can visit their websites. Jeannie Mark can be found at http://www.nomadicchick.com/, and Evelyn Hannon is at http://www.journeywoman.com/.
Finally, attendees can rest assured that summit attendance and budget hotel rates are within their grasp. By using the promo code available on the summit’s registration page, attendees can stay at the Palmer House at the spectacular rate of $139/night and enjoy all its comforts and amenities- including a taste of the Women in Travel Summit’s signature cocktail at the Saturday soiree.
The summit kicks off with a networking party on Friday, March 14 and continues through Sunday, March 16. Register now at http://witsummit.com! $149 for general admission, $99 for one day.
Written by Erica Laue Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Programming Team.
Mandy's Mashups is a proud sponsor of the WIT Summit!
The following is a guest blog post by Victoria Mita, Director of FundMyTravel. She describes how anyone can use social media to be able to generate funds for their study abroad adventures. It really is much easier than it sounds! Victoria offers some great tips and advice for anyone out there wondering how they are going to make their travel dreams come true!
Fortunately, the entertaining and rewarding aspects of crowd-sourced funding also happen to be the most vital ingredients to making a successful campaign pie. Don’t worry, that’s enough with the recipe metaphor, but I am going to break this down and you know, social media will be the cherry on top (right, I promise that’s the end of it.)
Pointer 1: This should never feel like asking for a hand-out. That’s no fun for anyone.
Whether you’re doing an online fundraiser to cover the costs of airfare, trying to scrounge up the remainder of a program fee, or just need a little something for visa and study materials, tapping into your online networks simply makes sense. It’s not about taking advantage of friends and family as a financial resource but it is about community building and gaining their support to reach your goals. Whether they can and want to offer support in monetary or moral form is up to them, but communicating your ambition and making it exciting is your job. Just as with any other project, you are only going to get out of it, what time, effort and activity you put into it, but as I said: that is the fun part!
· Time Investment: this sounds like a drag in written form, almost like another thing added to the to-do list or some type of personal homework assignment. Instead, consider it a break from your other work. It’s really an outlet and a space for you to be expressive. The more time you put into making little Updates, adding photos, video or even creating your own perks, the more it is going to benefit you and your longer term goals, while you’re abroad…
· Effort Investment: This is just about being consistent. If you’ve made the decision to do this and create a campaign in the first place, you might as well go all out and do it right all the way through. You can think of it as if you decided to join a sports team- Aim to make it to the championships and win. Just remember, if it does ever going slowly or your current efforts aren’t paying off, then it’s simply a matter of changing it up. (More on how in the next tip…)
Pointer 2: Never forget to say ‘Thank You,’ but offer more than your undying gratitude. Get creative!
If you’re putting in all that time and effort, be sure to make it engaging for yourself too. When you carry out a fundraising campaign in conjunction with something else that you love to do, all of your passion, determination and motivation become contagious for your page viewers because it’s genuine. If you can share the reasons you are so fired up and driven to make this goal a reality, then potential donors and other supporters are more likely to join your team and help build up that momentum, needed to keep your campaign going. SO, find a personal area of interest and loop it into the way you Update your campaign.
· Into Arts, Music, or Film?
o Write a little song for everyone who donates or shares your page themselves.
o Create a painting or drawing for donors and mail it to them from home or away.
o Make a video, make multiple videos! Even if you’re no cinematographer it’s fun.
· Into Literature, Writing, or History?
o Find/share quotes that connect with your feelings in anticipation of your trip.
o Create a reading list relevant to where you are going and share with viewers.
o Make a blog about your trip before leaving. Share links every time you Update.
o Explain the history and culture of your destination via video, blog or illustration.
· Into Service, Sports, or Cooking?
o Host a shindig around any theme of choice, and accept donations for organizing.
o Invite friends over to watch a sports game/have a board game night and ^
o Sign up for a marathon or walk/run to gain sponsorship for your campaign.
o Get some friends together to bake and sell the delicious treats for donations.
o Inform supporters you will put in community service hours for donations.
These kinds of ‘offline’ activities are just as important to bring into your online campaign experience. It makes the whole thing more meaningful to you and everyone else who gets involved. Just remember to communicate these extra efforts an ‘offline’ donation gains with your audience through Update sharing*
Pointer 3: This is MOST important for thee. Sharing can make the difference between flight and visa fee!
The biggest and most important influencer in your campaign’s success is the amount of exposure it gains. This is in large part up to you and those efforts we talked about earlier, but if you’ve kept your Updating and activity consistent, then your supporters and viewers end up doing a lot of this work with you. Allow me to explain why and how this all works out-
Dispelling the myths:
It’s obnoxious to over share.
· This could be true if you’re discussing something which is only of interest to you, but now you’re well aware that this whole experience is a relationship-building project! As long as the Update content is related to new photo, video, blog link or action you’ve taken, it is fun to see and read about. Likewise, the more activity that you have surrounding your campaign efforts, the more exciting, interesting and meaningful it will be to you, and so the same goes for your trip abroad.
· There’s nothing obnoxious about it, if you make something worth sharing. People and online audiences in particular, like to see positivity. They like to see someone who works hard, achieve their goal, and they like to be a part of the process. Making and sharing meaningful Updates on a daily basis also gives you more ownership on the whole project. It’s no longer just some online fundraising campaign. When you sort out how to communicate and relate this content to your audiences frequently and meaningfully, you’ve then developed a skill, a knowledge base and an experience that is highly valued and relevant to future employers, organizations, mentors, study abroad and admission offices within universities, the list goes on.
Facebook makes personal letters obsolete.
· This one is laughable. While many people are hip-to-the-groove with Facebook these days, it’s not safe to assume that all of the people who should see your page are on it or always checking their Facebook. In fact, a large percentage of a campaigner’s target audience may not even have Facebook- believe it or not. Even if they did, the impression made by writing a personal message to potential donors, is invaluable. They still may not all give, but they are going to be more interested to support your efforts and inform others who they think would give, than anyone you did not take the time to write a letter to. This can be done via email and go a long way, depending on your message, but nothing compares to the old fashioned snail mail. The fact that so many people communicate through the internet so often now, actually increases the value of those offline and in-person acts of thoughtfulness…
Once is enough.
· This could be true, if it meant once every hour... Honestly, I know it sounds excessive but, especially because of the way social media platforms are designed to refresh their content, you can share your campaign page two times in a single day and still have it overlooked. The best approach is to share multiple times within the week, of course with new content as often as possible, and then share out via multiple platforms, not just Facebook. Use facebook, twitter, Google+ and email. If you do not have accounts on all of these platforms, it’s something to consider. Twitter and Google+ may not be everyone’s jam right off the bat, but do trust in the long-term and bigger picture, it will only behoove you in business and future communication ventures to develop this presence.
Victoria graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a Bachelors in Education. Her first immersion experience was possible through class fundraising and took her to Lyon, France. She's had a passion for learning through travel ever since. Victoria studied abroad and later worked in Australia. She has presented English Speaking and Resume Building workshops in Macau, China and also worked at the Embassy of Australia, for the Education Team at Austrade. After her time with the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training in Adelaide, Australia, Victoria returned to the US and began work with GoAbroad.com. Now she directs FundMyTravel.com, which offers an online funding platform for meaningful travel experiences. Victoria takes immense joy in working with students to help them realize their dreams abroad.
I am currently on my yearly vacation and one of the prerequisites of my vacation is that it has to be outside of the U.S. so it makes it harder for me to have access to my email, Smartphone, computer, etc. However, one of the hardest parts for me is the first few days of social media detox that happens. Usually I still have some sort of access to wifi or internet in some capacity but, not this time so I have had to truly detox on this vacation.
Detoxing from social media is much harder than it looks. You don’t realize how truly addicted and attached you are to checking your email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. every few hours, every hour, every few minutes, etc. I even had a huge moment of panic when my homestay mother told me she didn’t have wifi or internet at all and the closest internet for me is at the university or at the center I am doing my program through. Both of which are quite a walk away and not something I can instantly access. This has literally meant I cannot be constantly connected to all my channels 24/7.
This is part of the reason I take vacations such as this is to detox from all of these things but it is not easy. I almost feel like I have to stand up and say, “Hello, my name is Mandy, and I am addicted to social media!”. At the end of the two weeks of my vacation I know the fact that I can’t instantly text someone or check my Facebook page will no longer bother me and I will wonder why it is bothering me now but for now it is a weird feeling of panic that has settled in my stomach that I am missing out on something by not being connected. Do you ever get this feeling? How do you combat it? Do you ever have to completely disconnect for an extended period to be able to reconnect later on?
The reason I do this is two-fold. One reason is that I am doing this so I prevent burnout later on. If I am constantly on these channels and never give myself a break I will burnout and will not be able to come up with fresh ideas and concepts as well as will get frustrated with the platforms and wonder why I am on them in the first place. The second reason is I think that everyone needs to be able to remember what it is like to connect with people without social media and remember how to use every day social skills that can tend to be forgotten when you are constantly on social media channels. You also remember how to look straight ahead when walking too.
This detox is a necessity for me to be able to continue to do my job as well as stay connected as a person. I have been at the point where I don’t want to connect with people and I just can’t stand another minute of connecting with people and that was because I didn’t take the time away from connecting with my everyday group of people to connect with a new and different group of people on a different level which allows me to come back and be recharged and revitalized. I know this sounds a little confusing but it really does work. It is basically stepping back and doing something different to remember why you do what you do.
So I am stepping back from my constant (almost 24/7) social media use to remind myself why I use social media and to also remind myself that I can exist without social media. Basically I don’t exist because social media does, which is an extremely important lesson to learn.
Have you done a social media detox? What were your results? Please comment on what your detox was like below!
P.S. I am really missing my GPS capable Smartphone. I only got lost three times today so I guess that is a good day!!
A dear friend and I in Toronto, Canada
This may be a bit dramatic, but I am convinced I would not survive before the existence of Internet connections and online communication. Granted, this has to do with perspective; of course, I would not realize I was missing such an awesome tool for information and keeping in touch if it had not existed yet. All I know is I am thankful to be alive in this current age because I am not much of a snail-mail girl.
These thoughts came to me recently as I have been in the Dominican Republic for the past two and a half months. I found myself missing my friends and family back home when I realized I have nothing to complain about. With such easy access to social media due to the ever-increasing availability of Wi-Fi, I am frequently in contact with people from home. All I have to do is scroll through Facebook and I am immediately filled-in on people’s lives. Instagram, however, has been my preferred medium because it’s fantastic to just browse through photos without the clutter of lots of text and ads that Facebook can have. (It also makes me feel like a professional photographer with all the fancy filters.)
The benefit of using social media while abroad is a two-way street, however, because friends and family can keep up with me as well. Instead of calling or emailing parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends, all of these important people in my life (plus random acquaintances and the occasional stalker) are updated on my life in one fell swoop as I post photos and status updates.
One of the greatest ways social media has impacted my abroad experiences, however, is by giving me an ability to maintain friendships that began abroad. My Facebook friends consist of people I met on various trips, and I am so glad to be able to maintain those friendships today. I can honestly say if it weren’t for social media, I would never be able to communicate with so many people I met abroad. Although they were in my life for a brief period, we can maintain a relationship thanks to the upgrade from snail-mail.
All these advancements in social media communication, however, do come with a few drawbacks: it can be way more impersonal when I am not contacting to loved ones directly, so I make an effort to call or email those exceptionally special people (consider yourselves lucky ;)) Also, constantly being connected to people from home can distract from your abroad experience if you are not careful. Especially if you are only spending a semester abroad, it is important to take advantage of every minute in this new and exciting place. Home will be there when you get back, and I can bet you that not much will have changed in four months. I met too many people as an undergrad who I believe missed out on their experience abroad by being on Skype for hours at a time every day with people from home. Doing this, unfortunately, makes you miss home way too much and keeps you from making great connections with friends abroad.
I encourage those of you planning on going abroad to set a certain time of day or week for social media use, and catch up with friends and family during that time slot only, so you can take full advantage of exploring your surroundings!
How have you seen social media while traveling help or harm you?
Are there any apps or websites that are particularly helpful for communicating while abroad?
-Kimberly, Mandy's Mashups Intern
Does the title strike fear into your social media addicted heart? :)
I know this concept sounds odd for someone who talks about social media but I also think that it is a necessity. I think sometimes people, myself included, have come to rely on social media so much that we cannot or will not take a step back from it and 1) appreciate why and how we use it and 2) actually talk to people in person and/or face to face.
I just read this article on how tourists can put down their iPhones or Blackberries - I can completely see that happening. I know for me that for me to fully be able to disconnect from my email, social media, etc. is to literally leave the country and not be able to access my phone or internet on a regular basis. I actually have found that I am able to relax more and take a deep breath when I am not worried about missing an email, a Facebook post, or a Twitter mention.
However, I will say, that when I come back to social media I feel like a year has passed since I was on it instead of a few weeks. Social media changes so rapidly and so much information is published every day it can be overwhelming to step by into the fray.
Have you ever completely stepped away from social media and allowed yourself to detox from the need to constantly check your Facebook status or Twitter feeds? If you have how long have you been able to hold out? A day? A week? A month? What did you feel when you did that? How did you feel when you stepped back into the social media realm?
It can be an intimidating concept to step away from all your connections and your instant access but I challenge you (or as one of my friends says "I dare you") to step away from social media from at least one week and then report back on what that experience was like and what you realized about social media when you came back to it.
I think you may surprise yourself! The challenge has been laid will you take it up?
P.S. Here is another group that has laid down a similar challenge.
This blog is all about social media. I hope to offer tips, tricks, advice and more on using social media within international education and international travel.