Category Archives: Cultural Insights

Why Mallorca isn’t my favorite place in Spain

Diversity doesn’t necessarily mean tolerance. I spent a week with friends on this big Island in the Balearic sea. Mallorca is a mix of ethnicities and they aren’t all treated the same. Natives speak Mallorquí.  So even if you are Spanish, but from another part of the Peninsula you will always be treated as a foreigner, unless you learn the native language. During summer months when Mallorca swells with tourists prices double. This makes it very hard for locals who earn lower wages than northern Europeans to afford rising prices. Northern Europeans can also more easily afford exclusive properties driving up real estate prices. Spaniards complain about finding places to rent because property owners would rather have holiday homes that bring in more money

What really bothers me, however is the treatment and exploitation of refugees, and by extension all persons of color. I have a friend from Nevada who lives here teaching English. Her ancestry is Caribean. Because she is darker skinned many people treat her like a refugee, which is quite poorly. Many of the Nigerian women are coerced into prostitution. So if my friend goes out at night alone even dressed extremely conservatively she will have Spanish men pulling over in their cars offering to pay her for sex. This makes me really angry for my friend, but even angrier at the treatment of African refugees. It makes me sick to see others exploit vulnerable people who need the most help. It’s not like refugees want to leave behind their homes and families. Their dark skin makes it difficult for them to blend into Spain’s paler population thus making them even more visible targets.


My friend has trouble finding extra work as an English Tudor because people don’t want to learn English from someone who is of her color. Meanwhile many whites teachers have an abundance of  students.
I am not sure if this is the situation all over Spain. It makes me feel queasy inside to know I am receiving better treatment than others. For that reason I can’t see myself coming back to Mallorca anytime in the foreseeable future.

I wish I could travel the world

      That statement probably sounds weird coming from a travel blogger. I live a privileged life. My circumstances are such that I have been able to build a life where I can travel to different exotic locations.

Recently I was reading the comments section of another blog. Some douche bag called the contributor an ‘entitled white women’ because of her solo adventure to South Africa. South Africa lays claim to alarmingly high rape statistics. Fortunately, her trip was without incident. Thanks a good part to her forethought and planning. The man in the comments section thought she was being an ‘entitled white women’ because she wanted to travel the world without fear of assault or rape.
I had to pause and really think about his comment, ‘Entitled white women’. Shouldn’t all humans be entitled to their own bodies? When men go out are they afraid of being assaulted? How often do men worry about their safety? How many times a day do they double-check their surroundings? So why should women have to worry?
As a solo traveler I constantly think about safety. It involves a lot of planning on my part. I avoid traveling at night. I search for safe neighborhoods when I book lodging. I try to venture out and about when others are on the street. The big question is ‘Why should women be afraid? Why is being safe considered an entitlement and not a god given right?
So many articles write about women taking safety precautions, but I have to ask ‘what is wrong with you men?’ Not all men obviously. I am not a radical feminist. I have no issues with open-minded, respectful men. My issue is with entitled men. What makes you think you can take or touch what doesn’t belong to you? What makes you think you have the right to harass us? A few minutes of pleasure for you leaves us with a lifetime of scars.
There are many places I want to visit in the world. Morocco, India, and Thailand to name a few. Countries known for the mistreatment and exploitation of women.  I am sure I will get to them one day. Many of my male friends visit without a second thought. Isn’t that entitlement? Unless I want harassment a lot of searching goes into finding travel mates to go with. Is that entitled?
I am aware that as a white American I have certain privileges handed to me that people from other nationalities or races have to work very hard to get. All I am asking is for men to acknowledge the privilege extended to them as well. More emphasis needs placement on how men treat women and not how women should protect themselves. Men need to aquire an awareness of how their actions affects us. Ask yourself; Does it really so disrupt your life to let us live our lives unscathed?

Traveling is a way of life

I’ve been traveling and dreaming of traveling for as long as I can remember. Its a big part of my life. My priorities reflect my transient soul. My brain can’t comprehend the stereotypical American dream and how the average American spends their money and lives their life.
In this consumer driven society I’m incredibly cheap. I don’t eat out. I don’t go out for drinks. I don’t pay for a lot of activities. Mostly I spend my time engaging in free things like hiking, camping, & water sports.
For years eveything I owned could fit into 2 duffle bags. I owned a few nice things, but streamlined my wardrobe &
seasonal activities so things wouldn’t interfere with living my life.
So many of my friends pay for storage units because they can’t part with their purchases. A simple life has allowed me to save money, so I can travel and experience new things instead of wasting money protecting items I don’t use.
I keep my life mobile, but that doesn’t mean I’m in a permanent state of movement. I’m a huge advocate of slow travel. I like to live in an area for 3 or 4 years then move on. It’s an amazing experience to be completely immersed in a new culture. Its nice to try and learn something new. Be someone new. Meet new people. Learn a new language. Try new foods. I can work and have some satiability in my life while still taking shorter trips.

When I tell people I like to travel, most people don’t realize how much of my life revolves around that passion. I’m frequently told ‘everyone would love to travel if they had the money”. Traveling it’s not about the amount money you have though. It’s about your priorities in life, and how you use the money you have available to you. Here are three simple ways to cut corners if you really want to travel more.

Eat out for lunch, not dinner

Dinner menus normally run a lot higher than lunch menus. If I’m going to eat out I try and get a big lunch and take the leftovers home with me. Some people think the extra five dollars or so added to the dinner price tag doesn’t make much of a difference. However, when you consider the bus ticket between Malaga and Granada Spain that I just bought cost $5, eating out for lunch just saved me enough for one more day of travel.

Don’t buy drinks out

This doesn’t mean I don’t drink alcohol, but I try and avoid drinking out. The tab adds up too fast. Most of the time I order water at restaurants. Yes, waitresses hate me. If I go out to have drinks with friends, I will order one drink. Its so much cheaper to have friends over for a pitcher of margaritas than to buy one out.

Make your own coffee

I make my coffee at home. I have a Nespresso maker, a French press, and an espresso maker, among other things. I love coffee and have the ingredients to make it any way I want it, from home. My first job was as a barista. Buying coffee out is a huge waste of money. An Americano, the cheapest espresso drink costs between $2-4 easy. Sugar loaded, flavored frappes can cost as much as $8. If you buy coffee out 3 times a week and spend $3 dollars each time that’s almost $500 you have spent by the end of the year. That’s a nice weekend getaway you could have saved up for right there.

How do you save money for travel? Think my ideas are too stingy? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

What it is like to travel as a Jehovah’s Witness

I’m proud to be a Jehovah’s Witness. I was raised with strong principles and morals by loving parents who tried very hard to always take care of and protect me. I know in this modern world religion is a taboo subject. I myself feel a certain twinge at the overly dramatic way some religious persons present their beliefs. The purpose of this blog however, is to help people understand and be more aware of the way others live. So I will open up about my life so you can understand my beliefs better. Here is what it’s like for me to travel as a Jehovah’s Witnesses.

There are over 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, which I admit is a small number compared to other mainstream religions. What sets us apart from other religions is that while being imperfect people we try very hard to live by Bible principles. You can’t be a Jehovah’s Witnesses if you are a liar, or a cheat, or a thief, among other things. So while some people find following God’s commands overly restrictive, I view it as a protection.
I can travel anywhere in the world, walk into any Kingdom Hall (that’s what we call places of worship) and instantly feel safe and at home. If you don’t believe me you should try it. The local congregation in your area will welcome you too. We are a true united family of brothers and sisters.
When I want to travel somewhere I usually start by asking any number of my friends if they have contacts in the area I want to visit. If they do, then I can email that person and be invited into their home.
I know when I go there I can trust them. They aren’t going to be a drug addicts or creepy perverts or raging alcoholics because all of those things go against bible principles. I can also be pretty sure the house will be clean and my new friends hospitable, since both are bible principles as well. It’s comforting to know I will be safe and looked after and my belongs in no danger of disappearing. I’ve made more lifelong friends this way than I can count.
So while I still stay in resorts, and hotels, and hostels, and camp, and backpack I’ve never expieranced the horror stories I’ve heard from other travelers because I know if there is ever an emergency I can head to the closest Kingdom Hall and have an instant family.

For more questions or comments please feel free to reply below or go to JW.ORG (no affiliation) the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses for bible based publications’ and videos available in hundreds of languages.

What I learned from a year in Hawaii

 

Halawa, Molokai
Halawa, Molokai

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from traveling is to be adaptable. It’s important to learn about new cultures and to respect local customs even if they are different from your own. This may mean a restriction of certain freedoms but in the long run the education is worth the sacrifice. For me this has always meant dressing modestly where society dictates or refraining from consuming alcohol in public. Each culture has amazing jewels we can glean. The result is that for the most part I have been able to adapt to a wide variety of cultures.

There have been numerous new stories in recent months of racism and unfair treatment of people of color on the mainland. Unless we learn to start accepting new cultures and learn to tolerate difference these problems will continue to persist. This semester I had to write a paper on white privelage. This is what I learnt from a year spent in Hawaii.

Kihei
Art in the park, Kihei

Racism: It’s the tingle on the back of your neck

On September 6, 2015, Fay Wells a small black woman called a locksmith to help her into her Santa Monica apartment after she had forgotten her keys. Living in a predominately Caucasian area her white neighbor assuming she was breaking into the place called the police. According to Wells, 19 officers responded. Guns drawn and in the company of guard dogs the officers, who failed to identify themselves, illegally searched her apartment, refused to answer her questions, or accept proof of residence. After the house was “cleared” Wells requested the names and badge numbers of the officers involved many of whom boldly turned around ignoring her requests. When she tried to discuss the gravity of the situation with her neighbor he swore at her and walked away.

The recent interactions between the police and people of color led Wells to believe her life was in jeopardy. One wrong move and she could have been shot. The trauma has caused Wells lingering sleeplessness, and paranoia. Her house no longer feels safe. She feels she can no longer approach the police for help if she needs it. Wells states that she is heartbroken “that a careless assessment of me, based on skin color, could endanger my life” (Wells, The Washington Post)

“White privilege” a common term used in academic circles, the average American person may have never heard the two words strung together, let alone understand their significance. According to Peggy Mcintosh, the author of White Privilege: The Invisible Knapsack privilege can be compared to an “invisible knapsack” filled with special provisions and blank checks. While most people link racism with oppression, few willingly acknowledge the advantages of white privilege.

Whites are taught to think they are average, and ideal. They are indoctrinated that being equal is to allow others to be more like themselves. Many people deny that this conditioned oblivion creates an air of unconscious oppressiveness to people of other races (Mcintosh).

Ariel view of West Maui
Ariel view of West Maui

What is white privilege? It’s being able to go into any store without being suspected of a crime or treated like a criminal. It’s being able to walk down the street without someone clutching their handbag tighter to their side. White privilege is the ability to get a job based on your qualifications without anyone implying that an affirmative action policy was involved in the decision (Mcintosh).

Most Americans are raised to think of people as individuals. Many whites claim to live in a colorblind society (Hammon). As a predominately white society we deny the problem exists. Before moving to Hawaii I thought some of my friends of color were overly sensitive to racial overtones. Racism in Hawaii is very real. Locals have faced years of oppression from wealthy landowners. A strong military presence floods the islands with unwanted brawlers and an exclusive tourist community with entitled guests has left many locals with negative feelings toward “mainlanders.” Haole originally a Hawaiian word for foreigner now almost exclusively applies to Caucasians. “Haole go home” is viewed by some as the white equivalent of the N* word.

Working as both a travel writer and special education teacher who is fluent in American Sign Language, I have traveled all over the world. I lived in Central America for over four years, two of which were teaching in a remote jungle village. Being the only white person in a community of color is nothing new for me. Sometimes the differences were completely forgotten. As a white person living in Hawaii I am never allowed to forget. I have never “felt” racism until I moved to Hawaii. Locals would refuse to rent to me saying “You just aren’t quite what we are looking for,” or “I’m not sure you are a good fit for the area,” all insinuated with racial undertones.

Forget about going to the store after a business meeting. If you are white and dressed up you will get what the locals call “stink eye”. Rude behaviors for no reason other than they think you are an entitled tourist. Even on your best behavior they will still treat you like dirt.

Island Art Party, Kihei
Island Art Party, Kihei

Once you have fought your way into island life it’s “easy” to make friends. There are areas for locals and areas for tourists. If you are fortunate enough to find someone who will rent to you in a local area it’s relatively safe once you’ve met the neighbors. My friends all warned me however, about going to local places by myself. They tell me someone local needs to go with me so I don’t have trouble. More than once in the short year I’ve lived here I’ve felt the tingles running down the back of my neck like warning bells.

It has opened my eyes to what my friends of color have to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe they are sensitive, but as my friend says the tingles on the back of your neck happen for a reason. Hate crimes, police shootings, and constant scrutiny– the pressure erodes one’s health leading to higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure among people of color. I find myself being overly sensitive, analyzing every sentence. Why did they say that? What was meant by that comment?

According to U.S. census figures Hawaii has the highest racial minority population of any state with 75 of the population counted as non-white and only 25 percent of the population counted as white (Hawaii Is Diverse, But Far From A Racial Paradise). This unusual demographic means affirmative action policies and strong local solidarity ensure representation in all strata of government and education. This is a refreshing change for many people of color. Unable to catch a break some lower class, local born, whites can struggle in this environment. In spite of this complaint about “reverse racism” the wealthiest homes in the most exclusive areas are still predominantly white. In Hawaii there is a strong link between socioeconomic status and white privilege. The affirmative action policies implemented by the state have sadly proved to be just a life raft amongst the rapidly rising living costs.

Papohaku, Molokai
Papohaku, Molokai

One of the biggest changes I noticed about Hawaii was the lack of representation of whites in the media. Commercials and local stations almost exclusively model people of color primarily of Asian or Pacific Island descent. At first this struck me as a refreshing change to the mainland. However as time has passed it feels increasingly like a reminder that I don’t belong here and that I will forever remain a foreigner born thousands of miles away. Before moving to Hawaii I had barely noticed that the majority of American cinema casts Caucasians for roles despite the great diversity that lies within our country. Since 1939 only 12 persons of color have won Academy Awards (African American Oscar Winners & Nominees). This lack of representation negatively affects one’s self-esteem. It’s as if someone was saying “you don’t belong here” every time you turn on your television. I had never felt what it was like to see a complete lack of representation of your culture before moving to Hawaii. It’s like you don’t exist or at least that you don’t matter.

The general demographic of the United States can be broken down into whites making up 78.1 percent of the population, Hispanics comprise 16.7 percent, blacks make up 13.1 percent, Asian and Pacific Islanders complete the pie at 5.2 percent. Despite being 13 percent of the population or roughly 39 million people only 13 African Americans have ever been CEO of a fortune 500 company (MacKinnon p.306).

Traditional management degrees indoctrinate the importance of promoting self-interest over the thoughts of others. This effectively silences the voices of different races, gender, and classes (Simpson). The majority of the “power holders” in America are white males. Strong ties connect big business, government, and the media, to white privilege. The trickle-down effect from our current education system leads to a white culture and a predominantly white way of thinking. This creates an oppressed, underrepresented minority group who need help to change current conditions.

Papohaku, Molokai
Papohaku, Molokai

When affirmative action policies went into effect in the early 1960’s many whites began to play the victim. Claiming that whites have to pay more in order to get the same education that minorities receive as “special” treatment. This ignores the fact that many whites occupy a distinctly superior place in America (Hammon). White Americans enjoy greater earnings over the course of their lifetime and are given more chances to enroll in higher education. They have longer life expectancies with better access to health care when needed than many people of color do.

Being confronted with evidence of privilege is a negative experience for many, often evoking self-protective reactions (Phillips). Most white families fight to improve their life and hate to acknowledge they had a head start over people of color. Some whites even claim to have faced more discrimination than blacks (Phillips).

When confronted with privilege many whites are likely to claim personal hardship as a shield reluctant to admit to personal privilege. This way whites can perceive their personal lives as being more difficult than the lives of people of color. “However whites’ non racial hardships are irrelevant to racial privilege. White privilege shields it victims from the worst possible consequences. For instance joblessness is less likely to result in homelessness, crimes are less likely to result in jail time, and illness is less likely to result in death,” Phillips.

As a white American I often feel uncomfortable calling myself white. Just voicing the word feels like I’m exerting some sort of privilege. Growing up in the predominately caucasian Midwest I never thought of race until I moved away. It’s hard to understand white privilege when it’s all around you. We somehow think of ourselves as neutral but being white does not render us race less. We need to admit and embrace our own culture. People should be more comfortable identifying themselves with their culture. If we acknowledge our whiteness then suddenly we are part of the racist equation not separate from it.

We need to know what racism feels like so that we can identify with others. We need to talk about racism openly and without shame. We need to understand how people of color feel every day of their lives. This means that we need to diversify our news sources. We need to read and watch videos from different perspectives. Our children deserve to know about racial justice. We need to train our youth to explore different aspects of identity so they can grow up in a more racially tolerant world (Bruce). Only then may we be willing to give up a little bit of our privilege so they can feel as neutral and ideal as we already do.

Garden of the gods, Lanai
Garden of the gods, Lanai

Works Cited

“African American Oscar Winners & Nominees.” uticapubliclibrary.org. Trainor,
n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.uticapubliclibrary.org/rescources/literature-and-film-guides/african-american-oscar-winners-and-nominees-acting/>.

Bruce, Allie Jane. “On being White”, Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, vol. 13, no. 3, pp.3-6

Hammon, Brett. “Playing the Race Card: White Americans’ Sense of Victimization In Response to Affirmative Action.” Texas Hispanic Journal Of Law & Policy 19. (2013):95. LexisNexis Academic: Law Reviews. Web. 5 Dec. 2015

“Hawaii Is Diverse, But Far From A Racial Paradise.” npr.org. NPR, 21 Nov. 2009.
Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120431126>.

MacKinnon, Barbara, and Andrew Fiala. Ethics Theory and Contemporary Issues.
Stamford: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

Mcintosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: The Invisible Knapsack.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing. Boston: Bedford, 1990. Print.

Simpson, Ruth. “Masculinity And Management Education: Feminizing The MBA.” Academy Of Management Learning & Education 5.2 (2006): 182-193. Business Source Elite. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Phillips,Taylor L., and Brian S. Lowery. “The Hard-Knock Life? Whites Claim Hardships In Response To Racial Inequality.” Journal Of Science Direct. Web. 5 Dec. 2015

Wells, Fay. “My white neighbor thought I was breaking into my own apartment. Nineteen cops showed up.” The Washington Post. Post Everything, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/11/18/my-white-neighbor-thought-i-was-breaking-into-my-own-apartment-nineteen-cops-showed-up/?postshare=9491447881213148&tid=ss_mail>.

 

Why Visiting Bristish Colombia is a Must

Bushart Gardens, BC
Bushart Gardens, BC

The People.

Yes, I know it sounds cliche, but Canada has exceptionally polite citizens. You can engage almost anyone who speaks English in polite conversation. British Columbia has the friendliest customs agents (WA State Border Patrol Excluded) they were fast, efficient, even apologetic. I remember once flying back into the USA I thought I had accidentally broken the law and was gonna get arrested just because one customs officer was having a bad day.

Maui is wonderful and for the most part the aloha runs free, but being a haole on the “valley isle” comes with a certain amount of “stink eye” as my friends call it. Vancouver on the other hand is extremely ethnically diverse. Everywhere you walk your ears are bombarded with different accents and dialects. It fosters an air of acceptance and anonymity. I hate feeling like I stick out. My only complaint is a complement of sorts, for a big city everyone stares and talks to you. I had one homeless man tell me I had a million dollar smile. On another occasion a Jamaican Jazz player stopped mid song to tell me I was gorgeous and deserved a rich white man. It took me a while to adjust to this, but if you embrace it, everyone has fantastic ideas for where to stay, what to see, and where to eat.

Canada’s amazing tourist bureau runs specials in late October that include low fares and cheap hotels. I’m an extremely cautious traveler. The best part about solo female travel to Vancouver is that you feel safe, it fosters such a relaxing environment, I felt free to wander around its many parks and downtown areas, pumpkin spice latte in hand. I would highly recommend it for anyone needing a few days to get away. The “solitude” was the much needed recharge that I was seeking.

Grouse Mountain, BC
Grouse Mountain, BC

 

5 Reasons European’s Dislike American’s

Americans are often regarded as Europe’s red neck cousin. Have you ever wondered culturally what we do that’s so offensive. Below is a short list of explanations of how we earned that endearing reputation.

5 Reasons Europeans Dislike Americans

Manners 

American culture is rooted in a me first attitude. We are raised with a desire to be unique or set apart from everyone else. It’s the basis of generations of hard working, reach for the stars individuals. The down side is we tend to think the world revolves our self. As a result many Americans are seen as dressing overly casual. We lounge around with horrific posture. And we treat complete strangers in an overly familiar, informal manner.

Our Society Is Insular

The U.S.A has a land mass of over 3.5 million square miles and population of over 300 million. Put simply we are huge and their are tons of us. We produce our own music, literature, and movies. The media has helped homogenize us into a united way of thought. Many Americans have never left the U.S, learned a second language, or been immersed in new cultures. The media features little in way of international news. Our school systems put impetus on American, not world history. So when traveling abroad many Americans lacks knowledge of world events or cultural phenomenon outside our own. This has more to do with our society as a whole than an individual.

Languages Differences

It’s amazing how different languages and accents produce a variety speech patterns and decimals. In general American speak much louder than necessary. We listen to everything too loud as well. It’s not uncommon to spot solitary European travelers wandering about, quiet and unobtrusive. Americans on the other hand, usually travel in jovial groups. We occupy restaurants and public places laughing and conversing in uncommonly high decibels. Being American I find nothing wrong with this behavior. It’s fun. Many Europeans, however, consider this behavior extremely rude. We impeded others speech and project our private conversations on them. They don’t want to want to know the trivial things we discuss or see our idiot selfies.

The Service Industry

In Europe everyone stands on equal footing. Both patron and sales clerks. In America we expect exceptional care from anyone in the service industry. This requires a slight adjustment in ones expectations of service when visiting cafes or shops in Europe.

Local Cultures

“Do you speak English?” Many Americans make a poor attempt at understanding the culture they are inmersed in or speaking the local language. They often assume others will accommodate them and that someone must speak English. This is an easy problem to rectify. It takes very little effort to write down a few phrases on a piece of paper. In less than 15 minutes on the Internet one can produce an invaluable list of do’s and don’ts as well as innumerable cultural insights.
For example many Americans will engage in conversations with complete strangers, often divulging a great deal of personal information about them self. Europeans on the other hand are raised to live private lives. They are often viewed by Americans as aloof and smug because they will avoid eye contact with strangers or initiating contact with persons whom they are unacquainted with.

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