Bangkok (ANN) - You have decided that it is time to go on travelling with a partner after years of backpacking solo. And you don't mind being with someone this time because travelling as a couple could be double the fun. However, if you decide to travel with another person, whether with a friend or a partner, expect that it's not going to be as smooth as you think.
Many seasoned travellers say if you want to know your partner more, you have to leave your comfort zone and travel as a couple. Travelling can change people. They shed off their skin and show their colours. It's the ultimate test if your relationship is made of rock. I've heard a lot of stories of couples breaking up or friendships getting awry after their travel because they found out they can't even agree on simple things. Travelling has made them realised that they cannot be together, at least on an island.
It's always been a hard decision for couple to travel together especially when one or both are used to a solo flight. It is even harder when one or both of the couple have not travelled outside their home. I've heard of horror stories about honeymooners instantly wanting to get a divorce because their 'coupling' (couple travelling) didn't go as planned. They realised getting married was a mistake because they had so much differences--from food choices to idea of fun--and thought they should have taken the honeymoon first before the marriage to get to know each other better. Seriously, this is not fun. Take the story of a young American couple who went to the lovely islands of Thailand for their honeymoon. The woman was a control freak and the man wanted an easy-going island life. At the end, the man decided to stay behind for an extended holiday in Koh Pangan (for the monthly full moon party) while the wife went back to the US by herself.
But there are also good stories coming out from 'coupling'. Many couples have attested that their relationship became stronger because of the unusual bond they had while travelling. They discovered new things about each other and complimented each other's shortcomings. A British couple who were too bored in their London flat decided to go to Bali, Indonesia to recharge and get a much needed vacation. Together they discovered they both enjoyed biking around the winding roads of Ubud and amidst rice paddies. They enrolled together in meditation classes and found renewed love in Bali.
A successful 'coupling' depends on the couple. But these tips could sweeten the deal:
Whether going solo or as a couple, planning is crucial. You need to agree on a destination that appeals to both. Thailand and Indonesia appeal to couples because of diverse interests these destinations offer.
Your budget should also be taken into consideration. When you're married, it's probably easier to discuss the budget but for dating couples, it can pose a problem. Both should agree on money allocation on how you are going to split costs. Going to Asia might be more economical than, say, Latin America. It pays to have a good research about your destination, the weather and places to see. It's also worthwhile to check out language barriers. Language is not much of a problem in most of Asia. Even if English is not widely spoken in many countries, it is easy to find someone who speaks the language.
In any relationship, compromise is the best solution to any problem. You have to remember that it isn't solo travelling anymore. While you really want to ride the back of an elephant in Thailand while your partner has a fear of the mammal, you just have to compromise. You could agree to let the other ride the elephant while you stay behind your hotel enjoying yourself in the pool. But the best way to avoid fighting is to plan the things you both want to do and the places you want to visit.
Who's in charge
Always remember that it's 'coupling'. While one is a natural leader who takes all the decisions what kind transportation to use, where to go and where to sleep, the other should not just blindly follow. If only one makes the decision, the other partner gets annoyed and feels underappreciated. As a rule of thumb, men are generally better in reading maps so better leave this task to the man. But you can take turns in deciding what to do next and allow the partner to choose. One good tip I got from a couple is dividing the tasks and focus on them. For this American couple, communicating, finding ATM machines and doing most of the driving are left with the husband while keeping track of the itinerary (hotel information, places to see, restaurants) and navigation are the wife's responsibilities.
Don't fret over small stuff. An argument over who gets more luggage space is one of these. Better have separate luggages which contain only the most essential. The key is always pack light so you have more space for souvenirs. If you are going to Southeast Asia during the dry months and summer, you practically don't need much. Clothes are also cheap to buy so it's better to get some of the clothes you need in your destination.
There are annoying things that your partner will do during the trip that you don't see back home. You have to exert extra patience in dealing with one's quirkiness unless you want to end up fighting.
Relaxed mind, positive attitude
There will be unexpected events that will happen during your travel such as flight cancellations due to volcanic eruption or flooding in your paradise island. Having a positive attitude coupled with a sense of humour will make things bearable for both of you. If one of you gets impatient for waiting hours at the airport, one should remain calm. If you can make fun out of the dire situation, the better. It means you can weather all storms in your relationship. Travelling should be a wonderful and enriching experience.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
For most people, travel is about seeing new places, experiencing new things and meeting new people. Apart from the fact that travel can take time and cost money, there is also a small matter of what to take with you when you set out on your next expedition.
I believe that travelers can improve their overall experience by simply learning what to do without, and only taking those things which are essential for a safe and healthy trip.
Here's a list of the top 10 things to take on the road:
1. Money belt – This is the single most useful travel accessory that I’ve ever come across in all my travels. A small, robust pouch is all you need to hide your passport, credit card and large money bills in an easily concealed format that fits snugly around your waist at all times. No more worries about not having enough money on you, being able to show your ID, or having your valuables nicked from your back pocket while you’re sloughed over a bar or in the back of a bumpy taxi to who knows where.
2. Day wallet – It’s already pretty obvious that the most important part of travel is to always have your most valuable possessions – ie. currency and identification – completely secure at all times. Item number two on this list is complementary to the money belt – a simple day wallet of the kind that holds a few notes and a bunch of loose change, preferably attachable to your person by some sort of chain or hiking clip.
3. Toiletries bag – This item could be a top ten list in its own right, since it should contain everything from your toothbrush to spare contraceptives, all in generous quantities. Bring a collection of pills, tablets, ointments, etc, to deal with a plethora of ailments such as diarrhoea, muscle cramps, menstruation, bites, allergies, or hangovers.
4. Combination lock and wire – This is an indispensable little gadget and especially useful when combined with an accompanying security wire or chain. This way, you can not only lock your belongings in a hostel locker, but you can also secure your stuff in a place where no lockers are to be found; for example, to a metal bed-frame or towel rack.
5. Laminated passport copy – This item may seem like a surprise to some, but it can be astoundingly useful. A crisp, laminated copy of your main passport page is a great way to satisfy all those who might want to see your details during your travels. Ideally, the laminated passport copy includes a copy of the entry stamp for your current country on the back.
6. Compass – Yeah, I know, nobody wants to look like a complete geek, wandering around with a compass and map in their hands. Buy one anyway. Not all cities in the world come equipped with clear street maps with dots on them saying “You Are Here”.
7. Alarm clock – Some travellers may take a mobile phone or iPod with them which has an alarm included. For the rest, it’s probably a good idea to take one of these.
8. Zip-lock bags / Tupperware – This is one of the rare things that I organize before embarking on my travels. I keep my small laptop in a sturdy, water-proof Tupperware container and most of my other things in thick zip-lock freezer bags. That way it doesn’t matter what type of weather conditions I encounter (not to mention the ever-present problem of sweating); my stuff will always be dry. In fact, on any given day, I would be able to throw my entire pack into the next available swimming pool and not worry in the slightest that anything of value would get soaked. Try it yourself and see what happens.
9. Water bottle – This is an important weapon in the keep-your-stomach-happy arsenal. I always find that if you look after your stomach, then the rest of your body will look after you. When you’re on the road, don’t eat too much junk, always have plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a constant supply of clean water.
10. Flashlight – God knows, there are enough idiots on the road that feel that it’s perfectly appropriate to barge into a crowded hostel dorm at three in the morning, turn on all the lights and make a huge, drunken fuss as they try to find their stuff, but you don’t have to be one of them. Flashlights come in all shapes and sizes, and generally speaking, the smaller and lighter (no pun intended) the better.
Remember: when travelling long distances, “you are what you carry”.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The Consumers Association of Penang calls upon Malaysians to abstain from consuming 3-in-1 beverages. These drinks and cereal preparations are cheap and convenient but are laden with excessive sugar which brings with it many hidden dangers to our health.
Malaysians are reported to be among the highest consumers of sugar in South East Asia. In the 1970s, Malaysians consumed about 17 teaspoons of sugar a day. This figure went up to about 21 teaspoons a day in the 1980s. Now, Malaysians are reported to be consuming an average of 24 teaspoons of sugar per day. This is because sugar is present in almost every kind of processed food as well as being an accompaniment to beverages at food outlets and at home.
In addition to these 24 teaspoons, beverage manufacturers have now found another way to increase our daily sugar intake. They insidiously inject extra sugar into our diets by marketing 3-in-1 beverages such as coffee, tea, chocolate, malted drinks and cereal admixtures combined with creamer and substantial amounts of sugar. These beverages are cheap, easily available, convenient to consume and are targeted at people who lead busy lifestyles. They typically contain up to 4.4 teaspoons of sugar or about 80 kcal (kilo calories) each!
The glucose in the sugar gives the consumer a ‘sugar rush’ that they think will help by providing more energy at work or at school. By consuming something that is high in sugar content, and at the same time subconsciously believing that sugar is the real source of energy, many feel as though they actually have more energy. This is however, untrue and is only a placebo effect.
The truth is that we get all the energy that we need from our food sources. According to the Malaysian Dietary Guideline published by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 1999, in order for us to obtain all our daily caloric requirements from food, all we need to do is eat a balanced diet from a wide variety of foods and eat in moderation. This is sufficient to provide us with our average daily energy requirement of between 1500 to 2500 kcal.
In fact, according to the Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNIs) for Malaysians by the National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition of MOH, as much as 70% of our energy requirement is obtained from food based carbohydrates alone (of which sugar is a form of) and the rest from fats and proteins. As such, there is absolutely no reason for us to ingest added sugar in any form for our energy needs.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) cautions that not more than 10% of our energy needs should come from sugar. If an adult were to live a fairly inactive lifestyle as most Malaysians are known to do, his daily caloric requirement would suffice at only 1500 kcal. If 10% of this energy were to come from added sugar, it would mean consuming 8 teaspoons of sugar or 150 kcal.
As reported, Malaysians are already consuming 24 teaspoons of sugar equivalent to 432 kcal. This is an increase of almost 300% over the WHO recommendation! In addition to this, a sachet of just one 3-in-1 chocolate drink containing 80 kcal would boost sugar intake by a further 512 kcal or approximately 340% over the WHO recommendation.
Unfortunately, many Malaysians do not stop at consuming just 1 sachet of these beverages in a day. We habitually consume far more added sugar and calories from these and other sugar-infused drinks in a misguided attempt to boost our energy levels. With 24 teaspoons of sugar already in the bloodstreams of most Malaysians, an additional 3 sachets of 3-in-1 beverages a day in excess of WHO’s cautioned 150 kcal would increase our sugar intake to 37 teaspoons or 670 kcal – exceeding the WHO safety threshold warning by almost 450%!
For those whose bodies are unable to regulate glucose, irreversible diabetes can result. This sugar if left unexpended as energy can be metabolised by the liver and returned to the bloodstream as fat. For those who absorb these additional and unnecessary calories from the sugar and creamer which is also laden with calories and saturated fats, and who live sedentary lifestyles, obesity and cardio-vascular diseases are a real risk. Sugar also feeds cancer cells and is linked to more than 60 other diseases. It destroys the body in many ways – eroding health, planting disease and ultimately shortening our lives. In short, sugar kills!
Sugar is an unnecessary and dangerous pleasure drug. At a time when Malaysians make up the fourth highest number of diabetics in Asia, it is imperative that we desist from consuming sugar-laden 3-in-1 beverages as a start to living sugar-free lives. It would mean the beginning of healthy and productive Malaysian lives free from the addiction to sugar.