Happy Halloween! And Happy Stereotyping?

From the 2012 STARS campaign, led by students at Ohio University

Recently, Gadling posted a list of Halloween Costumes for Travel Lovers which I’m sure is mainly tongue-in-cheek but I found to actually be a bit judgmental.  Halloween played a very big trick on us this year with Hurricane Sandy. But that doesn’t mean your Halloween has to be a natural disaster!

When I first saw the article, I thought “Oh, this will be a cool list of common items travelers have that can be used to make creative costumes on the road!” After all, I’d pulled the same MacGyver tactics to create a last-minute Batman costume while celebrating Halloween in Prague.  Instead, what I read was basically a list of travel stereotypes, and how you cam emulate their “looks” to enhance the idea of this stereotype for yourself.

Let’s start off with the Trustafarian Backpacker.  I don’t think it’s wrong for wealthy people to travel.  They may not travel in the same way you do, but their presence in the travelsphere is not to be scoffed at.  Wealthy travelers keep many developing parts of the world in business – many of the Caribbean islands, for example, rely solely on tourism to keep a steady economy.  I  know a lot of wealthy people who act like hippies because they didn’t agree with the lifestyle they grew up with and are trying to change themselves; traveling offers them a chance to explore places away from their upbringing and make their own life decisions.  I also know a lot of poor travelers who are just as culturally insensitive as what is implied by the Gadling article.  Basically, let hippies, wanna-be hippies, and non-hippies do what they want and mind your own business.

Harajuku girl: I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be.  Harajuku isn’t really a person, it references a place (Harajuku is the area around Harajuku station in Tokyo, Japan), a sub-culture (Japanese teens congregate socially in this area on Sundays) and a style (Harajuku punk mixes a lot of genres and is one of many fashions paraded around Tokyo’s Harajuku area).  Harajuku fashion is not merely limited to exaggerated punk styles as well – Cosplay, Lolita, Kei and Decora sub-cultures are also present.  Not only that, but to dress in any of the aforementioned styles as a Halloween costume is actually offensive to many of these sub-cultures.  They don’t view their clothing as charactery or costumey.  Would you dress as an Amish person and celebrate Halloween in Lancaster, PA? Probably not.

Euro Trash Guy: Again, let’s not make fun of the man for his sense of style.  Just because you don’t dress in pointy shoes, “douchey” scarves (what determines a douchey scarf from a non-douchey scarf?) and shirts with high-thread counts (those sound heavenly, actually) doesn’t mean Euro Trash Dude wants to wear your second-hand shirt from Goodwill and cargo pants from Old Navy.  Offering Ecstasy tabs to strangers?  That sucks.  Holidaying in Ibiza?  How does that even factor into this equation?  If you don’t like the way this guy looks, don’t hang out with him!  Also, half of Europe dresses like this on a daily basis and I’m sure they wouldn’t like to be referred to as “trash” just like Americans don’t like being referred to as “obese.”

Moral of the story folks, is that Halloween is meant to be a fun day where people dress up in crazy outfits in search of sweet treats – it shouldn’t be an opportunity to visually bash people’s appearances or attitudes using Halloween as an excuse.  Some people go as far as to remind people not to stereotype on deeper cultural levels, such as the STARS campaign started by students at Ohio University.  Most Halloween costumes are innocently created, but if you think your idea might bother someone, maybe stick to one of those cheesy store-bought outfits instead.

Travel Writing Exercise: Disaster Story

I once was caught in a riot at a football game in Ghana. It was crazy!

I’m holed up at my parents’ house this week due to the lovely effects of Hurricane Sandy, who is currently wreaking havoc on my coastal, Long Island apartment.  I guess that’s what I get for living seaside!

When disaster strikes, it can be scary.  Even something as simple as a rainstorm in Thailand can turn your travel dreams into a nightmare.  This week’s travel writing exercise focuses on disaster.  Grim topic, I suppose, but disaster stories are full of drama and excitement.  They can be a great launching point for descriptive writing and building on your lead/nut graph tactics.

Write about a time during your travels where you experienced disaster.

As always, leave your story in the comments section or send me an email with it attached.  I’ll need something to do while quarantined by this storm, so send me those drafts!

Stay dry,
Katka

Travel Narrative Monday: Hurricane Sandy, Part I

My Halloween costume this year is the scariest – Hurricane Preparadness!

“Just take everything off of the floor.  It won’t be so bad.”

When natural disasters strike, you watch them on the news from the comfort of your own home.  You feel sympathetic towards the victims, you think hard about how you can help aid in the relief.  But you never think it will happen to you.  You sit on your couch, under your blanket with your hot chocolate, and think, “It’ll never happen to me.”

The sky was slate gray, the clouds slithering swiftly across the sky as I put the last box of my belongings into my car and shut the door.  Tom and I spent the day pulling out drawers, trudging upstairs with chests and mattresses, stacking our belongings haphazardly on top of one another so that nothing valuable touched the cracking, tile floor.  The couch sits on the coffee table.  The TV stand is elevated four feet above the ground on kitchen stools.  By the looks of things, you’d think we were moving out.  Or that someone had robbed us.  In reality, we’re just trying to salvage anything we can before our home of less than one year becomes damaged by tidal hurricane surges.

364 days out of the year, Freeport, Long Island is a dream come true.  We live ten minutes from the beach.  The Nautical Mile provides delicious fresh-caught seafood and convenient nightlife comparable to New York City’s outrageous clubs.  I live ten minutes away from my job.  I work ten minutes away from my graduate school.  And when I’m not working, I’m relaxing on the beautiful deck hand-built by my landlord, an ambitious young man of 26, who worked tirelessly to renovate this once-decrepit foreclosure into a tropical oasis by the sea.

But it only takes one day to destroy everything.

Taking my things off the floor was the only advice my landlord could honestly provide. When flooding is involved, damages are inevitable.  We’re expecting almost ten feet of coastal flooding to infiltrate our ground-floor apartment residing next to one of Freeport’s many canals.  Our apartment will hold some water – it happened during Hurricane Irene – but we don’t know the severity of it all.  We won’t know for a few days and even then, will we be mentally and emotionally ready?

Our AV system sat on kitchen stools

In the end, I know I will have it better than others.  I’ll lose very little, and I have people who love me and will help us regain footing during this disaster.  We may join the ranks of those ravaged by tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes from the past.  Maybe not comparable to Katrina, or the devastating tsunamis in Asia, but it will still be a large loss for many.

In the end, I have to keep remembering that it’s only things, that they can be replaced, and that this is a learning process. I firmly believe things happen for a reason.  Whatever comes from this, will change me.

I think it’s time I had a change.

#FriFotos: Gold

©KatkaTravels

This is actually one of my least favorite photos.  It’s blurry and out of focus.  I attempted to capture the way the individual bulbs spelled out the name of this great city, golden light contrasting against gold-colored architecture, only to produce this.  It was taken in a rush as we made our away across Legion’s bridge to locate a wine bar Petr said was underneath a potraviny.  Personally disappointed in the shot upon developing it, everyone who sees (what I perceive to be bad photography) only has compliments to share.

“That’s a really cool photo,” they all tell me.

I guess, I have to believe them.

What do you think?

NaNoWriMo: I’m Going To Do It!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is creeping up on us.  The idea is to write a full-fledged novel (175 pages, 50,000 words) between November 1 and November 30, 2012.  People always say they are going to do this thing, but then they never do it.  Why?  Because writing a novel is hard as f*ck.

But this year, along with allllll the other things going on in my life (full-time job, full-time grad school, freelance writing gigs, etc), I’m going to do it.  I am going to write a novel in 30 days or less.  Here’s my plan:

Set Goals: I calculated that 175 pages in 30 days is about 6 pages per day.  When you look at it like that, it’s hella easy!  When I sit down to write, my average is about 10-15 pages a day.

Set Deadlines: Despite my fantastic page turnout, my problem is I don’t have any deadlines, so the content fizzles out until I’m bored with one project and move on to the next.  A deadline of November 30 will hopefully keep me on-task.

Set the Pace: I’m super good at doing that.  I’m not a procrastinator and I like breaking things up, so the 6 page a day goal is pretty realistic timeframe for me.

So what am I going to write about?  A travel novel of course!  I’ve been trying to put together an eBook for quite some time and this would be the perfect opportunity to hammer it out and make that happen.  If not, I have another genre I’ve been tinkering with, but I won’t reveal that until I’ve met my goal…

Interestingly enough, NaNoWriMo is “all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly” (Gotham Writer’s Workshop).  Basically, I’ll be writing a draft based on diligence, not a finished product at my leisure.

Does NaNoWriMo sound like something you’d like to do?  Let’s hear your thoughts!  Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ll be taking up the challenge!  You can learn more about NaNoWriMo here.