Police in riot gear.
There is political turmoil almost everywhere nowadays — while the Gulf countries currently have Syria on the boil, Pakistan, India and China constantly seem to be skirting around the issue of border incursions. Europe too sees regular ethnic clashes, and they are becoming prevalent in almost every country these days. The causes for such unrest are plenty, and they range from racial wars to unbalanced social hierarchy to demand for freedom, religious extremism and more. On one side, a nation may be welcoming tourists while on the other; it may be fending off a war.

In the midst of it all, the desire to travel to different countries has not waned. The average tourist would still like to visit a country even if there may be some trouble going on there. As a traveler, the onus is on you to check for political unrest before you travel to ensure you do not walk into trouble in a foreign nation.

Here are some things you can do:

Understand basic linguistic patterns of the country: When there are multiple such distinctions, it is often difficult to keep tensions down between different communities. Check local news sources online for any trouble that may be building up to epic proportions and which could spiral out of control when you are there. Put together a news pattern to check for anything that could blow up.

It’s not always about the brochures: While the brochures may sell you a wonderful holiday, they do not tell you the current economic situation of the country or clue you in on the possibility that protests could erupt in a big way. With economies taking a beating currently, follow the news to see if there is a chance of your being caught in the midst of an internal riot or protest. If nothing, it can help you avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Making use of travel advisories: Now this is something that many people are unaware of. These are basically warnings issued by the government to people who plan to visit any country. These alerts can be on bad weather, health based concerns, possibility of war, local violence that can escalate and anything that can pose a danger to citizens. While you may be given this information if you are traveling locally, on the international sector, the onus is on you to find out about the safety of heading to a particular nation.

Travel advisories can warn you of something short term — a natural disaster, a volcano erupting, epidemics and the like. Then there are the ones meant for long term — when a war has been waging on for a while, and it is overall dangerous to head there.
What you can do is check with the local airlines and their web page for updated travel advisories. Local governments will also be able to provide you with updates and changes in situations. This is generally done at the time of booking your tickets. Should the information not be given, you can easily ask for it. Also, check the advisory page to find out if all is well.

If you are headed for troubled areas, then a few things can help you be prepared even before you land there. For starters, travel light. This will help you get through massive security checks if they are suddenly brought into play or if you need to move fast. Find out beforehand what can and cannot get you into trouble in terms of what you carry into a country. Try to be inconspicuous in a nation you know may be on the brink of trouble. It is safer to blend into the crowd than stand out like a sore thumb. Keep an eye on the advisories even after you get there. This can help you get out in time if needed.

Travel agent working the phone.
In the past, people went to a travel agent in order to make plans for a long awaited vacation or last minute getaway. Today, the number of travel agents continues to decline. There are many reasons for this industry trend. Here are a few things that have influenced the decrease of travel agents.

Poor Economic Times

When the economy is in a bind, the average person has little money to spend on luxury items. This means that fewer people are taking vacations. The past decade has been so bad that the term “staycation” was created. This was a funny way of explaining how people stay home during time off of work instead of going to a special destination. The main purpose is to save money. When people do not have a need to make travel plans, there is a lower demand for travel agents.

Lower Commissions

A common bonus that was given to a travel agent was a commission from an airline. Over the last decade or two, these commissions were drastically lowered. Today, there is a complete halt of commissions on domestic flights. This means that airlines have lowered their dependence on travel agents. This led to a great deal of travel agency shutdowns. For example, between the years of 2000 and 2005, the travel agent industry saw a closure of over one third of its businesses.

Threat Of Terrorism

Ever since September 11, 2001, many people have become extremely afraid to travel, especially outside of the United States. When the Twin Towers in New York were destroyed, so was a great deal of the travel industry. Fear is one of the strongest, intangible things to get past. As long as fear looms over air travel, most professional travel agencies will see a larger decline in business.

Online Travel Planning

The largest and most obvious reason why the number of travel agents is decreasing is because of online travel planning websites. It all began with the founding of Travelocity. This was a spinoff of American Airlines. Similarly, Expedia was created by Microsoft. These companies began offering the average person the ability to make travel plans without outside help. Priceline.com was next. This website coined the phrase “name your own price”, which greatly attracted customers who are looking for a good deal. Today, these types of websites make guarantees to beat the lowest price found on any destination. There is little incentive to use a travel agent.

Booking travel online is very popular because it is convenient. Without leaving home, a person can plan an entire trip including airfare, hotel, and car. It is often cheaper to use these sites, and they allow a person to customize a trip to meet individual needs. Using the Internet will let a traveler make informed decisions after doing research about various places. It allows a person to compare various price options as well.

It is a fact that there are fewer travel agents than ever before. Budgets are tight, people are afraid to travel, and more people are using online resources to book trips. Despite the downturn, there will always be people who prefer to talk to a real person before making travel arrangements. The industry is also branching out to other specialized services. As the economy begins to recover, the travel industry should see a resurgence that will help travel agents charge a comeback.

STD test samples for analysis. Photo provided courtesy of saferstdtesting.com.

People save year round for the ultimate vacation. Vacations are a time for people to relax and let loose with intentions of socializing and meeting new people. However, don’t ruin your vacation by picking up an STD due to lost inhibitions from drinking or peer pressure from traveling friends. Many people travel to foreign countries with at least 20% returning with contracted STD’s. Even without drugs or alcohol, travelers lose their inhibitions because of the partying atmosphere and decide to have unprotected sex without a second thought. STD’s can be transferred through anal, oral, and vaginal sex. Some people are not aware that STD’s can be transmitted through oral or anal sex. Abstaining from sex completely is the best way to avoid an STD while on vacation. However, some travelers partake in drinking or using recreational drugs that can lead to unprotected sex resulting in an STD. There are various ways to assist with avoiding an STD while on vacation that can help when a tourist is found in a sexual encounter with an unknown individual.

A quick and useful defense against STD’s on vacation is to obtain a Hepatitis A and a Hepatitis B vaccine prior to travel. Included with the Hepatitis vaccines is the possibility of obtaining the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine. Any traveler should consult with a physician to explain vacation plans. This will provide a better understanding of what vaccinations will be needed for added safety. A consultation with a physician should be done well in advance of vacation to set up any necessary vaccines. There are even weeks necessary to administer one vaccine at a time. Several medical facilities also offer free latex commons that should be taken to use in the USA or traveling to a foreign country for vacation. Condoms from another country may not be as full-proof or have as much quality as condoms from the USA including safety guidelines that the USA requires of condom manufacturers. Therefore, condoms should be brought from the USA when traveling outside the country to further prevent an STD on vacation.

One of the greatest precautions is to completely avoid any type of prostitution or commercial sex workers at any vacation location. Avoid sexual activity with prostitutes at all times even if the practice is legalized in any particular country. Commercial sex workers often use alcohol or recreational drugs. The workers will often coax clients into using any substance to enhance the experience, which can lead to unprotected and dangerous sexual activity. This leads to professional prostitutes to not use a condom causing a greater chance in obtaining an STD. Vacationers should avoid multiple partners at any destination. Monogamy is a serious commitment and finding an outside partner on vacation will put any spouse at risk for the same STD once the travelers return home.

Again, the easiest way to avoid an STD on vacation is to practice abstinence. There are many safeguards that can be used to prevent an STD. Most precautions are inexpensive or free from medical clinics or other venues. Above all, vacationers should consult with a physician to identify the location of travel to recommend the necessary vaccines prior to leaving. Limiting drinks or recreational drugs are an absolute must to avoid being put in a compromising sexual position. Finally, use a designated sober friend each night to overlook the group to ensure the safety of others to avoid anyone being coaxed into a sexual encounter with strangers that might have an STD.

Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors Blog.

Elon Musk, the legend behind SpaceX, Tesla, and Paypal, recently unveiled plans for his latest project, the Hyperloop. It is a solar powered tube system that will transport passengers twice as fast as they would by flying. Will Hyperloop revolutionize the travel industry? Let’s find out below.

What Is It?

The Hyperloop will look like something out of a futuristic movie. Aluminum pods holding passengers are placed inside large steel tubes that are held up by columns every 50-100 yards. The pods are large enough to transport both people and cars. Since it is powered by solar energy, it also won’t be using any depleting fuels.

Why Now?

Currently California is considering a 70 billion dollar project to link San Francisco and Los Angeles. According to Musk, the train system is too impractical, slow, and expensive. Hyperloop would only cost 6 billion to build, making it a fraction of the cost. It will also work much faster and be a more environmentally friendly than building a high speed rail line.

The Hyperloop will be elevated, which will reduce the massive land issues that California’s rail system is facing. The tubes would theoretically trace the I-5 route, the direct (albeit dreary) freeway that already connects San Francisco and Los Angeles. This way, farmers and other property owners would not have their land blocked with train lines. Instead they still be able to access their land beneath the columns.

Safety and Economics

Even if the Hyperloop incorporates a more expensive system to hold larger pods, the price would only go up to 10 billion USD. This would make it 1/10th of the price of a railway system, which will make tickets much cheaper. In regards to safety, there is an emergency braking system and pods would be spaced 5 miles apart, providing plenty of space for them to slow down or be redirected if there is a problem.

Although the pods will be traveling at speeds topping 1000kph, the ride will be quite comfortable. There are no sudden movements or turbulence, so the ride will be far more pleasant than a plane or subway ride. Unless you look at the speedometer, you will have no idea that you are traveling faster than a jetliner.

The Hyperloop is made for large cities with high amounts of traffic and located less than 2000 kilometers apart. For below 2000 kilometers, it would have a significant price and speed advantage over airplanes, which require a long time to land and take off. According to Musk, it will make sense to first start linking cities like Boston to New York, D.C. to New York, and San Francisco to Los Angeles. Over 2000 kilometer the tube become more prohibitive, making airplanes a better choice.

Will It Actually Happen?

Musk provided the public with plans for the Hyperloop, making no intellectual claim to his plan and stating that anyone with the right resources can change the plans and create the Hyperloop on their own terms. Musk stated that he already had too much on his plate with SpaceX and Tesla to oversee a massive project like Hyperloop, although he is interesting in investing some of his wealth into the project. However, he recently said that he would only be able to oversee the initial stages and then hand the responsibility to someone else.

Currently the Hyperloop only has a 50% chance of being implemented. The fact that California is rethinking its high speed rail program is to its advantage, especially since Hyperloop is a far cheaper alternative. However, it is also a completely new concept that may put off more conservative investors and politicians. Not only does there need to be financial backing, such a massive project would also have to go through painstaking votes and bureaucratic procedures.

Another problem is that Musk is not fully supporting the project himself. A project this revolutionary needs an equally revolutionary entrepreneur who can see it through. Hopefully, either Musk will get behind Hyperloop or he will find another suitable leader.

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