Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Today is Your Quit Day! project

Both of my grandparents, who meant the world to me, passed away from smoking-related diseases. They started this addiction at a time when people really didn’t know or understand just how bad smoking was for you. Now we have that knowledge and there is no reason for people or their families to go through the same things that my family and I went through as my grandparents’ health deteriorated.

And so this project was born in July 2009. The goal of the Today is Your Quit Day project is to inspire and support smokers to quit smoking. For good. I want to make an impact on the world around me. I’m committed to a smoke-free world for children who don’t have a choice when their parents smoke, and for adults who do have a choice but don’t know how to act on it.

We are currently working with yoga studios to create events in which people can come toss their cigarettes and try a yoga class for free. Yoga is one of the best destressors that I have found, and this is a great way to share that with others.

For more info., check out the website,
www.yourquitday.com, (which could really use some fixing up if anyone is good with website development), follow us on twitter @yourquitday, or look us up on Facebook!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Evil Side of Travel - Vaccinations!

I am laying on the couch, not feeling like moving at all. My body aches and I can barely lift my arms to grab the remote. The flu? Not quite. VACCINATIONS! Two in each arm, actually.

When I signed up to go volunteer in Cambodia, the last thing on my mind was vaccinations, so heed my warning – they can be expensive and they can put you down and out!

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating (but just a little). Either way, vaccinations are a necessity for anyone traveling to another country, especially one that may have diseases that aren’t usually found in your home country, such as typhoid or yellow fever.

The first thing you need to do is go to the Center for Disease Control website. Here you will be able to find information about recent outbreaks of diseases in different countries, as well as specific vaccination information for the country/countries you may be visiting.

After that, I would suggest finding a travel clinic 4-6 weeks before you leave. Getting vaccinated at a clinic is much cheaper than going to your regular doctor. In most cases, health insurance doesn’t cover travel vaccinations, so if it’s going to be out of pocket, most people want to minimize the expense. Between the cost of the nurse consultation, and then the cost of each shot, the total can add up very quickly! Be sure to take your travel itinerary and immunization record with you to avoid getting a vaccination you may already have.

Even with the recommended vaccinations, take the basic safety precautions – wear bug spray to keep the disease-carrying mosquitoes at bay, make sure everything is cooked or washed thoroughly, and drink bottled water or boil your water before drinking. If only tap water is available, water that is uncomfortably hot to touch is probably okay, just let it cool off before you drink it! You can also buy a water purifier in the camping section of a sporting goods store, or use a 2% tincture of iodine solution (5 drops per quart or liter for clear water, 10 drops per quart or liter for cloudy water). These tips are also important to keep in mind considering that vaccinations aren’t available for some diseases, such as dengue fever or malaria. With malaria, it is suggested to take anti-malaria medication before your trip. There are different kinds of anti-malaria medication for different areas of the world, so be sure to check the CDC website or talk to your doctor to find out which type you need.

Even the most spontaneous of travelers or the biggest needle-phobe should make time to get vaccinations. You can’t get out and experience much from a hospital bed!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Avoid Being Hassled by Vendors, Taxis, and Street Children

1. Tuk-tuks/taxis

- Tell them you’re almost there (doesn’t matter where “there” is)

- If they offer to take you somewhere, say you’ve already been there, or you’re going there on another day

- Shake your head no and keep walking

- DO NOT wave, contrary to what you might think, they are not just being friendly, they will think you want a ride

2. Bargaining/Shopping

- Say you’re looking for something obscure that you know they don’t have

- Be on a mission (or at least look like it)

- Never stop to look at a map or to look confused

- Be with a tour guide or pretend to be with a tour guide that you need to keep up with

- Don’t linger for too long

- Do your research so you don’t get scammed about what time temples open
Quick story... I heard about the scammers in Thailand who say "there is a special event and the palace is closed until 3 p.m. today, let me take you on a ride around town (aka to shops that give them a cut of the purchases) and I'll bring you back at 3". Knowing this, when a tuk-tuk driver said this to me, I said "No, it's open, I checked online" and kept walking. He didn't say anything back. Successfully avoided being scammed!

3. Kids

- No eye contact (hard to do, but essential)

- No communication except no or no thank you (also hard to do, but also essential)