Saturday, July 9, 2011

Local Art Local Food

This morning we began packing. But before we resigned ourselves to spending all of the gorgeous summer day inside we strolled around the Amherst Common.

Amherst, like many places in the Pioneer Valley has a lot going on. Saturday is the Farmers' Market May through October and so we indulged ourselves wandering around looking at all the wonderful organic vegetables and the ripe berries out on display. Local food is so important to a healthy people and healthy earth, and I like getting the chance to eat locally grown.

 I really wished that I had had my camera, silly that I always have it on hand when I'm traveling but never when I'm home. Shame on me for that their were some spectacular looking things.

Next to the farmers market was a craft fair which we browsed through. There are so many talented artists who live and work in this area, it really blows my mind. There were two that really stood out amongst the offerings.

One was Seed to Stem " Connecting humans with their roots". They were a creative and whimsical design studio that makes living sculptures by putting plants in clear blown glass terrariums filled with sand and crystals and water.  If we weren't about to move halfway around the world I would have bought a dozen. They come in all shapes and sizes and look good on old cabinets. They ermine me of something out of a magical emporium.

The other was glass artist Noah Rockland-Miller, a local kid who is making spectacular art. There are many many, perhaps too many, glass artists in the valley but his really stood out. They were blows glass but not your typical stoner-glass offerings. Instead there were perfume bottles and drawer pulls and necklaces along with pure sculpture and other jewelry. His art is highly evocative of nature with simple lines, earthy colors and much attention to detail.

Both are worth checking out, if only for the pictures. But if you are looking for a special gift, remember to love your local artists!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

13 Travel Tips from the Desk of Travel Vicarious

Look at places as though you were moving there, remember people as though you were coming back and shop like you’ll never be there again.
    Try to take in as much detail as possible. If you look at a place like it may be home you’ll start to notice more than the traditional sights and integrate more into the culture. Check out supermarkets and cafes go to hardware stores. The less touristy places are often very interesting and its amazing the neat things you can find.
    When you talk to people make and effort to remember their names and their details, you never know when you may run into somebody again. But when you shop, seize the moment. I can think of several things that I wish I had bought( A red velvet coat in London, a splendid painting in Chiang Mai). Though it seems like a pain to carry or a little more than you want to spend, chances are you will wish you had picked it up.

Take pictures even when you feel awkward
    You may feel awkward but really, it will only last a second. Especially if you are taking a picture of a thing, the awkwardness you feel is all you. Of course there are times when this rule doesn’t apply and if you ever feel like you are stepping out of line you can always ask politely if a subject minds.

Dress Comfortably: Whether its in jeans, freaky clothes or local garb don't be afraid to be comfy. Don't put on airs because you are traveling. Observe local standards and you shouldn't cause a fuss but don't try to fit in because no matter what you will look like a tourist.

Go back to the same place more than once (if its good): Showing up to the same café or restaurant can be really nice. It allows you to make a connection in anew place and the owners will probably be delighted to see a returned customer when mostly the see revolving faces.

Take public transportation and ride trains third class: Air-conditioned trains are basically the same all over the world. The reason you travel is to experience something different right? Public transport is exciting and allows you to interact with more people. One word of caution, there are certain bus routes known for killing people, be adventurous but don’t be stupid. If you feel like it’s a bad idea, listen to your gut and don’t push your luck.

Eat the street food and be wary of water: Many people miss out on the joy of street food for fear of getting sick. Here’s the thing, in a restaurant no matter how clean it looks in the dining room you can’t see the kitchen. On the street you can see where the food is prepared and how its prepared.  It’s “ clean you can see” and boiling oil kills most things. Go to popular spots where the food is hot and the lines are long.
    Never automatically trust bottled water. Especially in India its common practice to recycle the bottles fill them with tap and then superglue them back on. Inspect your bottle’s cap and smell the water before you drink it. If you have any suspicions don’t put it in your mouth. Carry a backup water purifier like chlorine tablets or if you live large one of those cool hand held UV water purifiers.

Pay more than the locals and don’t gripe about it (unless you are in Europe then go ahead): You dear traveler have money. I know you are broke and you don’t have any room in your budget and its not fair the locals only have to pay $1 and you have to pay $3 but you know what? Deal.
You by virtue of coming from a well-developed country have more money than 90% of the people you meet. Your daily budget is probably what some people make in a week, or a month. So if you have to shell out a bit more do it good naturedly. Remember to be grateful that you have had the chance to travel and that back home you would never get such a good deal.

Support local artists: I love art, so maybe I’m bias but buying a locals produced work of art is so much cooler than any other souvenir. Whether it’s a painting, a photo or a textile local art is one of the few things you really won’t find anywhere else.

Always have a meeting point in case of emergency: Just like when you were doing fire drills in elementary school. If you are traveling with other people there is always the chance you can get separated and if you don’t have cell phones that can be really scary. Designate a place, the hostel or a museum or a restaurant someplace well light, open late and welcoming where you can meet up in case you get separated. Make sure everyone knows what it is.

Learn a few words in the local language: You are probably to going to master Cantonese or Bengali or Thai in the short time you are there but knowing a few words, like “ hello” “thank you” and other niceties is always a plus. It’s polite and it shows that you aren’t just some drunken foreigner looking to cause a ruckus.  If you can pick up “ How much” and “ no” as well those are always handy when negotiating.

Keep a journal: You will forget little details Even if you think you won’t, even if you take pictures, even if you swear you will write it down later you will forget. Make a point to write things down, from observations to quotes people say. Collect business cards and brochures and write what they are. It will make your scrapbook heavier and your memories clearer if you do. No sense in traveling if you can’t tell your grandkids about it.

Get out of the cities and go to a national park, wildlife reserve or forest: Hike a mountain, go bike riding, walk through a field, go to a beach Nature is wonderful and diverting and you will be surprised by how different the earth can be in different places.

Act environmentally responsible:
Often when traveling we come against a clash of cultures, depending on where you are trash may be discarded out fo car windows or left on the street. Recycling may be unheard of. Do your best to set a high standard.  Even if others are throwing their trash by the wayside hold onto your until you find a trash can. Recycle if you can and don’t be wasteful just because you can afford to be.

Always remember that setbacks and mishaps are part f travel, they open up new chances to adventure. Stay open, stay positive and enjoy!