You don’t need a tour—just go!

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Backpacking is a commercialized form of traveling, but that’s okay

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. April 7, 2016

Recently, there have been a lot of critics against the popular youthful form of travelling known as backpacking. What people are saying is that backpacking no longer represents what it once did, when it came into prominence in the 1970s during the “hippy trail,” when hippies traveled across Asia and Europe in search of… themselves. Backpacking is now as much a part of conventional tourism as all-inclusive resorts and walking tours. It’s not an independent experience, but rather an experience composed by those who run businesses around tourism. Nevertheless, you should still try it.

Let’s be honest: no matter what we do, we cannot get the same experience as those hippies in the 70s. We cannot have Woodstock, no matter how many music festivals we go to. We cannot experience the thrill of special effects, no matter how many Star Wars movies we make. And we cannot expect the world to revert to a time when tourism was as new as virtual reality is today. All we can do is set off and have our own experiences, even if they are tailored for us.

The tourism industry is huge in countries where the hippy trail originated. Today, it supports the livelihood of millions of people in regions where earning a living is not always easy. Even though backpackers are known for their thrifty form of traveling, the locals recognize that an American dollar can go a long way in a place like Cambodia or Myanmar. So they want you to spend as much as possible. They don’t care about the genuine backpacking experience. They want you to buy. The genuine backpacking experience, to them, must sounds like the most pretentious piece of bullshit. Just go to their country and have fun.

Travelling is a great way to gain a perspective in the world. It’s a good way to learn independence and communication skills. However, I don’t believe going on a trip will change a person significantly. The old cliché of finding yourself in India or having an Eat, Pray, Love moment is something that doesn’t change who you are when you return home, even if you want it so much that it seems to exist in your mind. So to say that your backpacking experience is less because you planned everything on Expedia is a terrible way to look at travelling in general.

Backpacking sounds like a lot of fun, but it is also a rigorous and sometimes frustrating experience. There are brief moments of spirituality now and then, but those moments can occur in your apartment condo as well. So go backpacking, and don’t think about all the baggage that the travelling style carries with it. Go with the flow of the journey. If that means taking a flight instead of a bus, do it. If that means going on a tour instead of venturing alone, do it. If that means staying in a hotel for a few days instead of a hostel, do it. It’s your trip; there doesn’t have to be rules.

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Chinese creative constructions must be within constraints

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Does the world need more strange buildings?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Mar 2, 2016

When it comes to art, there is nothing more impressive than a city that sparks imagination with its façade while also facilitating practicality. There are countless unique buildings of great significance in the world that we can identify in a flash: the Pentagon, the Burj Khalifa, and the Petronas Towers, for example. These aren’t monuments like the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, these are functioning buildings where people work and live everyday. So what’s wrong with making them look interesting?

On February 21, China’s State Council announced that there would be stricter guidelines for urban planning. What does that mean? Well, in the past few decades, China has been erecting odd buildings all across the country, many without any links to cultural heritage or functionality. In another word, China was making buildings weird for the sake of being weird. Buildings shaped like pants, coins, and even a pile of debris can be found in China.

Now, I love art. I don’t always understand it, but I like the fact that it exists. I live in a city full of art instalations that serve no purpose but to take up a spot where a bench or a garbage bin could have been. But it gets people talking, so that is a positive.

However, I always question the monetary value of a piece of art. I know artists need to get paid and all that, but when the money is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets, there better be a damn good reason for the art. China, of course, is now faced with the same predicament. They want to construct interesting buildings, but when the production to make them “original” is costing more than the façades are worth, then the projects need to stop.

A building at its most basic is a box. No matter how interesting a building is, once you are inside, you are in a box. The world would be a pretty awful place if all the boxes looked the same. Take a look at suburban America, where every house is constructed from the same blueprint. That is something we must avoid at any cost… even if the cost is saving money.

Economically, keeping buildings cube-shaped makes sense. It saves room, and in a world with limited space, that’s important. But we need landmarks. Humanity is built upon landmarks; that is why we have the Great Wonders of the World. But greatness is not just about being strange or impressive, it’s backed with history.

It doesn’t matter how the world sees it, it matters for the people who walk in and out of those buildings every day. Yes, tourists will come and go. They’ll snap pictures, and they’ll share the image with people all around the world. Yet, for the people who work and live there, buildings need to be a structure of pride. We spend so many hours of our lives in buildings. Let’s create ones that aren’t just weird, let’s create ones we are proud of. And pride is worth paying a premium for.

The Freedom to Work

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How to Take Control of Your Nomadic Lifestyle
Originally published on Medium.

There has always been this negative connotation to the phrase: “Taking work home with us.” It’s as if the act of working is a burden to our lives. It’s as if our unfinished assignments are keeping us up at night. It’s as if our profession is harming those we love and ourselves.

I like to believe that while some of us work to live, many of us live to work. Our professional accomplishments are not just our livelihood; they’re a part of our identity. Sure, our jobs bleed into everything else we do, but that doesn’t mean we are shackled to the desk, or that we have to omit time with friends and families to meet deadlines — and it sure as hell doesn’t mean we have to miss an episode of our favorite television show just to send a last-minute email.

Yes, work is home with us, it’s in the car with us, it’s on the airplane with us, and it’s turning down our hotel room beds when we are at an out-of-town conference. No longer do we need an alter ego for the work we have. Ourwork follows us around because it is something we are proud of, something we want to share, and something portable that we can manage in a coffee shop in Los Angeles or a bar in London.

“Don’t think what’s the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it… think ‘what’s the most amazing way to do it?’” — Richard Branson.

Get A Life

A high school bully once told me to get a life after I finished talking about all the novels I’d read and how I wished I had more time to read more. Life? What the bully didn’t understand was that his values — video games, aggressively loud music, and misogynistic jokes — did not align with mine. Because he hated reading, he assumed I was flawed for enjoying it. How we spend our lives is up to us, not some argumentative bully.

At times, it can feel as though a job can become this bully, telling us that our camping trip is less important than the next deadline. It is and it’s not. When I use the word freedom, it does not mean doing anything whenever we want. Freedom comes when we are able to control and prioritize our work, interests, and, of course, life accordingly. Why shouldn’t we be able to have a three-day weekend if we hunker down and got the job done on Thursday? Why can’t we bring our work on the road trip when we know we can accomplish it in the hotel after the drive? Why must we drag ourselves so early into the office just to lounge around sluggishly?

For every quality worker in our area there are probably hundreds of equally talented people who are scattered around the country. Most aren’t willing to just pack up and leave their lives. Work has become mobile, but many other things aren’t. If you want to attend a prestigious school, go for it. If you want to take up a new hobby, do it. As long as you find the time to work, the sky is your limit. And don’t let bullies tell you otherwise.

“Self-employed people work where they live. Entrepreneurs live where they work.” — Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Make Time For Office Hours

I’m not your boss so I’m not going to tell you that all your work should be done remotely. I’m also not telling you to quit your job to become a travel writer — although that would be pretty cool. I’m saying that we don’t need to be centralized anymore to accomplish significant tasks.

Still nothing that matters happen in a vacuum. Good things can be done independently, but world changing, disruptive innovations are often collaborations between talented people. So take that into consideration. Although email, instant messaging, Google Drive, Skype, and other digital/telecommunication tools have connected us together, there is still nothing more important than face-to-face real time conversations.

Communication with four people in the room is hard enough, but communication with 10 people in message thread is just pure chaos. In a global survey, 67% of senior execs and managers believed that their organization was more productive when superiors communicated with employees personally. Emails, instant messaging and all the other technology slows down the decision making process. Passing the conch around might work, but when a problem needs to be solved, meet in person.

Understanding when it is appropriate to take the conversation offline is probably the most important aspect of working remotely. Sure, the work will get done through the cyber networks, but there is nothing that nurtures camaraderie and team bonding like face-to-face problem solving and celebrations.

“You think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s only some bugger with a torch bringing you more work.” — David Brent

Home Is Where Your Work Is

There are countless distractions when you are working out of the office. After all, the world is a beautiful place; it’s hard to stay focused when your desk is beside the window or when you are one click away from YouTube. So needless to say, the most important aspect of working independently is self-discipline.

Without supervision, it becomes ever more important to be entrenched in a project you are actually passionate about. If you aren’t motivated to get up in the morning, brew a cup of coffee, and sit down and actually work, perhaps home is not the right environment for it. Working at home might be convenience but sometimes good work happens in a less ideal environment. Many people who live in apartments with fitness facilities don’t actually use them. It doesn’t matter if its convenient, what matters is if you find it meaningful.

After all, what’s worst than waking up to an undesirable workload, already waiting for you at the foot of your bed?

“To get GoPro started, I moved back in with my parents and went to work seven days a week, 20 hours a day. I wrote off my personal life to make headway on it.” — Nick Woodman

Work’s A Beach

We’ve all had this romantic fantasy of bringing our work on vacation with us. We’ll be by the pool, soaking up the sun, and catching up with our assignments. Approximately 60% of US employees have worked while on vacation. While it might be worth an attempt, working and relaxing are separate entities and even though you love your job and the scenery, you can’t enjoy both at the same time.

In 2013, I had an opportunity to escape the early spring rain of Vancouver and visit Brazil. While I choose to limit my workload, I still had a few assignments stored in my carry on for me after I landed. With three weeks aboard, the job needed to get done. No excuses! So I had to treat the work time as sacredly as I would treat my flight’s boarding time.

I split up my work schedule. In the mornings while everybody was milling about getting ready for the day, I’d check my email and tackle the less stressful tasks. Then I’d disconnect completely. There is no place for work on the beach or on a scenic hike to a waterfall. In the afternoon after the excursion, I’d find a quiet spot, plug in and work a bit more while some took naps and others started pre-drinking or preparing for dinner. Truth was, I didn’t miss much while working. In fact, I made money while on vacation. It didn’t pay for everything, but it was rewarding.

“If you live for weekends or vacations, your shit is broken” — Gary Vaynerchuk

Take Control

How important is your work?

Is it more important than a text message from a friend? Is it more important than your favorite sports team making playoffs? Is it more important than your high score in Candy Crush? Probably. So treat it as such. If you can respond to your flaky friend cancelling a dinner date with you last minute, you should be able to respond to a fraudulent payment. You should be able to notify your team about a large successful transaction. You should be able to see your company’s analytics on the go and make actionable decisions on the fly.

Control, a mobile app dedicated to supporting the nomadic lifestyle of modern day entrepreneurs, artists, and business managers. The app utilizes the API of mobile payment platforms (i.e. Stripe) and enables users to track transactions, manage payments, and ultimately take full control of their company anywhere in the world.

Many of us want the freedom to live and work simultaneously; Control is a tool that flourishes on this idea. Start your 14-day trial with Control today and see where it’ll take you.

Dear refugees from Vietnam

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My advice for new immigrants

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published for the 1976-themed issue of the Other Press. January 13, 2016

A few years ago, my mother’s side of the family emigrated to Canada, France, and the United States from their home country, which had been torn apart by the Vietnam War, in the hope of starting a new life. So here I am now. What my family went through must have been tumultuous and frightening. Hopefully they can put those experiences in the past.

The following is some advice I have to give to not just my family, but to all immigrants, from all over the world, because there is so much to learn in this new world.

Language: One of the first things I would tell them is how important proficiency in English is. It’s true that Canada is a multicultural country, but only in select parts of it. The majority of Canada is still predominantly English speaking. Having a strong command in English is the first step to getting work that isn’t in a kitchen or warehouse.

Owning property: Homeless to homeowner in a few years. It can happen. This is the country of opportunity. Get a job, save up, and buy property. Invest in the suburbs surrounding the urban core, where property prices are very reasonable for families. Canada loves immigrants, and our population will surely boom, thus increasing the value over time.

Travel: I don’t believe travel is a practice you learn in your latter years. I think it is the best form of education both personally and socially. I understand that being immigrants means that at one point they were put through an arduous trip, but traveling in all forms is an opportunity for growth. My family members are citizens of Canada now, but they could be citizens of the world (even though there is much to see in Canada).

Hobbies: In developing countries, hobbies are for survival. In the developed countries, hobbies are for survival too, but in a more personal way. In this new world, my family works, comes home, watches television, goes to sleep, and repeats those steps. They don’t have hobbies per se. My mom is a practicing Buddhist, so she is a part of some communities, but she doesn’t have any personal projects—except for raising me, I guess. I believe personal projects, be they reading books, building miniatures, learning to cook, or working on puzzles, are a substantial record of accomplishments. Finding an area of interest to focus on helps create an identity, not just for other people to view you, but how you view yourself.

Refugees, like my mom, are still finding homes and creating their lives in Canada. They walk among us every day. In this country, there is so much freedom, and I wouldn’t want any new citizen to squander it by living only to pay their bills.

Immigrating meals

Image via Minghong via flickr.com

I’m ready for an international food chain in Canada

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. April 7, 2015

The world is full of interesting fast-food restaurants, all with their little unique flares and flavours. And I’m ready to taste them all. However, when you are travelling abroad you might not want to sample fast-food. It’s not exactly the glitzy, adventurous choice. Nevertheless, making a detour to see what they have on the McDonald’s menu in some foreign country is always a must.

With the news that the famous Filipino burger joint Jollibee and the US chicken hotspot Chick-fil-A are joining the Canadian market, I am thrilled. New fast-food restaurant openings are my World Cup and Olympics; they don’t happen often, and it’s not really that big of a deal, but still it makes me happy. Let’s take a moment to remember how happy we were to see Carl’s Jr.

That was a nice moment.

Now let’s take a look at some fast-food joints that I look forward to having, or would love to have in Canada—Vancouver specifically.

Jollibee (Philippines): In 2011, I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines. One image that stuck in my mind during that trip was all the signs with a big-eyed, red-faced, cartoon character. It was essentially the McDonald’s golden arches. The fact that they served spaghetti could not be ignored; I had to try it. Although the experience in the Philippines was lacklustre to say the least, the novelty stayed with me. There was a lot of charm to Jollibee that was absent in some other fast-food restaurants. For a lack of a better word, it was cute—like going to a Build-A-Bear store. It’ll be a treat to visit one in Vancouver.

In-N-Out Burger (US): It’s unlikely that we’ll be ordering from an In-N-Out Burger in Canada anytime soon. Owners of this popular American fast-food chain don’t believe in franchising and have high-quality standards, meaning none of their products are ever frozen. They cannot expand effectively without lowering standards. The fact that everything is processed and delivered locally is really what makes it so awesome. I’ll just stick with Carl’s Jr. for now.

Voodoo Doughnut (US): If you’ve ever been to Portland, you’ve probably seen the long lineup for customizable doughnuts. Purely a tourist attraction, I’m still intrigued by how a doughnut with random toppings on it would taste. Still, I’m not going to waste my trip to Portland standing in line for doughnuts. It’s just not going to happen. Nevertheless, I feel like buying a bag of Skittles and going to Tim Hortons wouldn’t have the same effect.

Bob’s (Brazil): The fact that there is a restaurant with such a generic name—which also might have inspired the popular animated series—is charming enough. In Rio de Janeiro, Bob’s is almost everywhere. It might as well be McDonald’s number one competitors there. Aside from the name, there isn’t much differentiating them from any other fast-food restaurant. We don’t need another Americanized fast-food joint, but variety is as nice as an Ovaltine milkshake.

Shake Shack (US): Why do I want to go back to New York? Because the last time I went there, Shake Shack was closed when I walked by. The world-famous burger shack—strategically placed around the city and in various states—was well-praised for its burgers and hot dogs. You’d think I’d get sick of burgers, but with so many critically acclaimed burgers in the world, I must make sure that it is in fact better than the classic Big Mac.

Don’t be a passenger your whole life

Image via Thinkstock

Why driving is a life-long skill worth having

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 16, 2015

Younger generations are no longer putting car ownership as a top priority, and because of that the attitude towards learning to drive or earning a driver’s licence is left idling. Many have even accepted that they will never own a vehicle and that public transit is just something that will be a part of their lives forever. It’s true that owning a car is a big responsibility and learning to drive is a hassle, but while the economy may place a roadblock in our plans, we cannot be ignorant towards a fundamental skill of urban society.

Being able to drive is more than simply having an alternative to walking or taking the bus, being able to drive is being fluent in the rules of the road and having a lifeline for travelling. If you don’t know how to drive you will always be a passenger—always. It doesn’t matter if you are taking a taxi, bus, or if your friends are chauffeuring you around, you are always governed by someone’s driving habits and navigation skills. In a way, you are someone’s luggage.

Having the skills to drive gives you the freedom to travel. If you decide you want to—in a split second—rent a car and visit another city, province, or country, you can. The ability to drive will take you further in life.

You become a more valuable, respectable, and dependable person when you know how to drive. Pedestrians who don’t know the difference between a turn signal lever and a windshield wiper controller have little sympathy toward drivers and behave as though they own the roads. They are blind to what drivers have to deal with on a busy street and seldom give them a benefit of the doubt.

People who have never driven also have weaker navigational skills and direction-giving abilities. Often they will tell the driver to take a turn too late or have no idea where they are because they are not travelling along a bus route. Driving enables people to understand the layout of a city better. Getting lost is not a big deal when you are in a car, unlike if you take the wrong bus.

Not everybody needs a car. In fact, if you have spent time pondering life in rush hour traffic, you would believe that fewer people should actually drive. But that does not change the fact that cars are one of the most valuable technologies of the past century. Traffic is the pulse of a city and we need to help it beat. Knowing how to drive is the ability to see how a city functions. It’s a language we should all understand.

The millennial priority shopping lists

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy

Five things you should purchase if you actually have money

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 27, 2015

Youth is wasted on the young, but money shouldn’t be. I know we might be a little strapped for cash here at the moment, but that is not going to be the case forever. We have our five-year plan and all our investments are in order. No time to worry about the future. That’s why we should take advantage of our current disposable income. The question is, what should we actually spend it on? Booze? Rent? Food? Those are all legitimate options, but here are my top five purchases to make if you are lucky enough to get a sudden influx of cash.

Plane ticket to anywhere: Any extra money I have I deposit into a saving fund dedicated to plane tickets and other traveling expenses. I’m passionate about traveling and I can’t imagine my life without the anticipation of another trip. Instead of spending money on more things around the house, I choose to go somewhere, see something new, and create worthwhile memories and experiences. There will come a day when I won’t get the opportunity to travel, but before then I want to see as many different places and experience as many different cultures as possible.

Better, healthier meals: It’s easy to get into the habit of eating poorly. Fast and unhealthy food is convenient and cheap and that is why we gravitate to it. When we receive some extra cash, why are we still making excuses not to eat healthier or fancier? Buy some vegetables or go to a restaurant that requires reservations. I enjoy fine dining as much as I enjoy McDonald’s. I have to tip more at one, and that is why I’m not a regular at Tojo’s, but I like treating myself and my friends and family to an evening of extravagance when I can.

New furniture (especially bed): Nothing symbolizes growing up like purchasing your own furniture. The day you decide to throw away your parents’ hand-me-downs and go shopping with the mission to create your own space is a monumental milestone that many people fail to commemorate. Obviously you can get by with what you have. You know, the couch from Craigslist, the table from your aunt’s garage, and the cheap, squeaky IKEA chair that pretty much grew up with you. I don’t care how sentimental you are, things get old, and you deserve new furniture that represents your taste.

New “comfy” pair of shoes: Few things in the world can guarantee to ruin your day: missed opportunities, regrettable comments or actions, and painful shoes. You might have one pair of shoes, you might have a thousand pairs, but what is important is that you have at least one comfortable pair of shoes. If you have one, then buy another one. Buy one in every style that you need. If it’s not comfortable, throw it away! Live a life where every step is enjoyable.

New technology: If you are the kind of person that says, “Yep, the Motorola flip phone from 2006 is still good for me, I don’t need smartphones,” then there may be no saving you. Technology is here to make our lives better. For it to improve we must continue using it, even as consumers. We must continue learning from it. We might not be the innovators, but we should be able to identify with the latest software and certain standards of technology usage. So buy a new desktop, buy a new tablet, and subscribe to digital media. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored.

Tired of the Bar Scene? Go to a 24-Hour Bookstore

I’ve never been much of a late night barhopping kind of guy; give me a nice book any day of the week—even weekends. And in Taipei, Taiwan, that is exactly how many people feel as well.

The Eslite Xinyi Store, a 24-hour five-story bookstore, is a haven for bookworms and night owls. People of all demographics are welcomed to sit around reading tables and simply enjoy their books in peace. No loud conversations, no heavy bass “unch-unch-unch” music, just the tranquil ambient sound of turning pages and soft classical background music.

Eslite Store. Taipei, Taiwan

In North America, books retailers such as Indigo and Barnes & Noble are still limping as they struggle to find relevancy in brick and mortar establishments. Starbucks, home décor, and other fashionable and eccentric items can now be found in bookstores as a means to sustain themselves financially.

But perhaps North American retailers can learn a lesson from their Asian counterparts. Eslite has turned their store into more than just a place for business; like a café, it’s a stylish place to hang out and chill. The all-day bookstore reported an approximate $425 million revenue in 2013, with 40% coming from book sales. In 2014, revenue is projected to increase by an estimated 8%.

Eslite has created a community where cool and intellectual people can gather, read, share ideas, and even flirt. Those in Taipei proudly compared the bookstore to New York’s SoHo.

While critics say that Eslite is in fact harming the publication industry by allowing hundreds of hours of free readings, a spokesperson for the store, Timothy Wang, claims it is the hospitable attitude of the company that enables success.

So what do you think? Would you like a bookstore open 24-hours around your neighbourhood? Will you be there at 3 a.m. reading the latest issue of Ricepaper Magazine?

Unhaggle | How to Navigate Across the Roughest Terrains in Canada

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Written and researched by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | May 13, 2014 |

The advancement of global positioning system (GPS) has changed the way we travel. But as we grow more and more dependent on technology to get our Ram trucks and us, excited travelers, to where we want to go, we should also stop and take a moment to acknowledge our navigational ineptitude.

After all, what would happen to us if the Internet fails, the satellites go down and the little blue dot we were supposed to follow halts? Getting lost is a part of the journey when it comes to Great Canadian Wilderness Adventures, but being able to find your way home is quite important as well. It’s a big country. So, when technology fails follow some of these helpful tips to get you there and back with a story to tell.

Rely on offline maps

Perhaps, it is easy to curse our devices when they fail us, but if you plan ahead, there is no reason to rely on them in dire situations at all.

Whether you are heading out of the country or into the backcountry, there is a probably already a map in existence. Have a look at it before heading out, or better off, save a readable offline version, or even better, print it out like you would if you were living in 1995 and carry it with you.

If you are heading out into an area without a gas station to ask directions, consider a topographical map, as opposed to a planimetric map, which is more commonly used in the city. Topographical maps are helpful for navigating through areas without signs, because they reference the terrain, instead of roads. It takes a while to get a hang of reading the contour lines that represent the elevation, and differentiating the colours that symbolize vegetation, bodies of water, etc., but the ability to read a map like that is more than a survival skill. It’s also a way to impress your fellow travellers. So, don’t be afraid to take some time and practice.

Find man-made landmarks or attack points

There are a few names for man-made or natural features that act as landmarks for travellers and adventurers: catch features, baselines, attack points and so on. Expert navigators know that before you head out into the backcountry, you should identify a few catch features just in case you lose your orientation. Man-made objects, such as power lines, roads, or tracks are all useful. Certain natural landmarks are useful too, including rivers or lakes.

When selecting these landmarks for navigation sakes, be sure to acknowledge the distance between yourself and the landmark. A distance of two miles (3.2 km) will work fine, while a distance of 20 miles (32 km) will do you little good. You don’t want to travel a full day to find a landmark to reorient yourself, so the closer the better.

That landmark can then become your attack point and from there you should be able to identify which direction you need to go.

Take the long way by aiming off and following handrails

Handrails can double as an attack point, but they are used in a slightly different way. Like the name suggest, travellers can follow the handrails, in a linear fashion, to guide them back to their car, campsite, summer oasis, etc.

If you know the road follows the river downstream, finding the river will surely lead you to the road. If you know your campsite is by the lake, if you head in the direction of the lake, you can use it as a handrail back to the campsite.

This technique is often known as aiming off, because you are not taking the direct route towards your target. Instead you are heading towards a handrail you can consciously follow.

Aiming off towards a handrail or a catch feature is often the smarter choice because a direct route that is not as direct as you thought can leave you much more disoriented. Be wary of short cuts.

Make checkpoints as you go

Whether you are driving, walking or skipping merrily, making checkpoints along the way will not only help you when you need directions, but it is also a great technique to familiarize yourself with the route. Consider it navigational studying. Unlike breadcrumbs, checkpoints should be clear visible features along the way that you can navigate in reverse when you leave or get lost down the road.

Fences, lakes, haunted houses can all be used as landmarks, even better if they can be located on a map. Should you need to, you can turn those checkpoints into attack points depending on your distance.

The more checkpoints you have, the better your chances of finding one that may serve you later. This method works wonderfully when travelling in a foreign city you are not familiar with. Don’t be afraid to act like a tourist and snap some pictures, they can easily be used as landmarks to show locals when you are lost.

Measure your pace

Be observant when you are driving or walking. Keeping track of your pace can be an advantage when you get lost or stuck. If you know how far you’ve travelled from one checkpoint to the next, should anything happen, you can easily calculate the time it’ll take to get there.

In your car, you can measure your pace by the speedometer. Say, you are travelling at 30km/h by an off-road trail for 15 minutes, but suddenly your car breaks down. You can then assume that you are about 7.5km away from the main road.

If you are on foot and you want to measure your pace, a common technique is to see how many paces it would take to get to 100 metres. The technique is called double pacing, and it works by having walkers count their steps as they put their foot down on one side. Practice might be needed in order to determine how far 100 metres. Consider measuring it out on a consistent terrain for 600 metres. There are a few methods used by experts to mark each 100 metres. Some use count beads, some tie knots and some transfer stones from one pocket to another.

Being able to effectively count paces in the wild will help measure the distance from where you are to where your target is, if you should get lost.

Navigational skills are not something we are all born with, especially us urban-folks with our tablets and smartphones. We must go out into our wild country, get lost in a safe fashion and practice until we know what we’re doing.

Unhaggle | 8 Fundamental Questions to Answer Before Driving Abroad

Researched and ghostwritten by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | April 30, 2014 |

international-driving-permit

When travelling in another country, driving offers a lot of freedom; you are not tied down to the unusual transit system and you don’t have to worry about haggling with the local cab drivers. You can just simply get into your heavily insured Volkswagen Passat and head off to the next part of your adventure.

Still, before you get too excited about exploring the parts unknown, make sure you address a few important aspects of driving abroad. While some countries follow the same codes as we do in North America, many other places operate by the theory of natural selection: survival of the fittest. Different terrains, different laws and different styles of driving can often stress newcomers, so ask yourself some key questions before you step behind the wheel.

Do you need an international driving permit?

Depending on the country you are visiting you might need to apply for an international driving permit before you depart. As a Canadian driver, you may find that many countries will honour your licence, but be aware that language barriers, amongst other legal reasons, may cause it to be invalid. An international driving permit is available in 10 different languages and it should accompany your native licence in addition to your passport when you rent a car abroad. Should an accident occur or if a local officer pulls you over, having an international driving permit may save you from a lot of trouble. You can learn more about this here.

Is the car a right-hand or a left-hand drive?

The classic problem that arises for globetrotting drivers is the reversal of the road pattern and the driver seat. In North America our steering wheels are on the left-hand side of the car and we drive on the right-hand side of the road. But if you are visiting Britain, Thailand, Australia or 71 other nations, you must adjust to their mirrored standard. The common mistake for drivers new to those countries occurs when they are making left-hand and right-hand turns. Because a right turn will result in the car being in the left lane and left turn in the right, many accidents happen in that moment of misremembering and relying on old habits.

Are there any dangerous road conditions to be aware about?

High mountain ranges, recent flooding and lack of maintenance may lead a lot of dangerous stretches of roads. If you are choosing to drive in Africa, the Middle East or Latin America, be cautious not only of narrow mountain passes, large pot holes, but also of bandits and local criminals impersonating law enforcements. Night-time driving through rural areas should be avoided, simply due to the nature of being in a developing country where medical response is limited and vulnerability to illegal activity is much higher than at home. Simply maintain a safe speed so you can see possible obstructions and avoid hazardous scenarios due to the lack of safety features.

Are there any tolls?

Toll roads are very common abroad; it’s a necessary means of sustaining the integrity of the road and reducing congestion. There isn’t much to them, expect that you should always be prepared to pay. Some countries have automatic tolling technology, but many still require the old-fashioned method. Don’t hesitate to ask ahead about tolling charges when you head onto a highway – being prepared will buy you some time.

Will you be driving through a restricted area?

In Europe, restricted driving areas are quite common and driving through them may result in a fine. The reason for this is often to reduce traffic and pollution. But other restrictions may also be unfamiliar to foreigners as well, including no honking zones, no driving lanes and also unmarked private properties. To avoid ending up where you don’t want to, plan out your trip and the route you intend to take beforehand.

Do the locals have bad habits?

We might criticize those bad drivers at home for signaling too early or not at all, but in other countries the lawlessness and bad habits of the local drivers is the cause of utter pandemonium. When it’s a free-for-all on the road, driving becomes quite different—and if you are brave enough to operate a vehicle on some of those dangerous roads, then you should definitely be conscious of the cultural driving habits. You can learn which countries have the worst drivers in this article.

Should you be aware of suicidal wildlife?

Jaywalking animals are a danger that many drivers should be aware of regardless of the country. When crossing national parks, nature reserves or simply far-from-urban places keep an eye out for animals that may jump out at you without warning. Hitting an animal may damage your vehicle, cause severe injuries and it may even be illegal, depending on the animal.

Are you driving across a border?

Every border is unique, but the experience is usually always unnerving. Be sure to do some research into the border in which you intend to cross. Understanding the norm will help you avoid time-consuming measures and the risk of being charged unnecessary fees. There are multiple variabilities when crossing an unfamiliar border, so it should not be something done haphazardly. Consider travel visas, materials in your possessions and the purpose of your travel. The penalty for breaking any rules upon approaching a border can be rejection of entry or imprisonment.