Use Technology to your advantage…Take a virtual tour

virtual 1

The last few days have been excruciatingly difficult for each one of us. With the entire world in a state of lock down and restricted movements, with governments telling us to stay at home and to only go outside for food, health reasons , and maintain social distancing, the one thing we shouldn’t neglect to do is look after our mental health .

Since many of our regular social activities are no longer available to us, let us look at things from a broader perspective.

Let’s follow a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual.

Let’s be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone.

Create new daily routines that prioritise looking after yourself.  Read, watch movies, try new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet.

With all travel ceasing, a good way to indulge in your wanderlust is to make full use of technology and take a virtual trip to anywhere you like, without spending a dime and leaving your room.

If you’re seeking a bit of adventure, check out Google Maps’ virtual treks.

You can hop from climbing El Capitan in Yosemite to journeying around Petra in Jordan to braving the icy terrain and looking for polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba in just a matter of minutes.

So go ahead and enjoy this virtual vacation.

The only remaining question: Will you watch from your bed or your couch?

 

Stay safe.

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth is Healing. ALLOW IT!

planet-earth

This pandemic we are in the midst of is not just a disease , it’s a wake-up call for all the other issues as well ,such as climate change, environment degradation, population explosion,  shrinking resources,  declining in animal species, rain forests, marine life, fresh water and many more which we have been pushing under the carpet for decades.

So it’s hardly shocking today how a pandemic can threaten seemingly unbreakable social norms and habits and bring us down to our knees.

The fact is we all love to be in control. We fancy ourselves to be captains of our destiny, and masters of our fate.

The reality is that today, more than ever before this sense of control is an illusion, a bubble that the Corona virus has popped. We are gripped by fear and we are bloody well panicking.

It’s so easy for us to lose perspective in the midst of the madness of our daily lives and our projects, works, wish lists, homes and holidays. We struggle to distinguish the important from the urgent.

So this crisis is showing us what’s really important in our lives and what’s not. It’s helping us to distinguish between what’s meaningful and what’s meaningless.

This is not the first time we are faced with a pandemic this size. There have been plagues earlier too. And millions died even then. But back then our predecessors were not inundated by the ferocity of media reports and information didn’t spread as quickly as the disease so people were not aware of what was killing them.

In short this global pandemic and crisis is again a grim reminder of how weak and frail we are, as human beings. It’s a reminder that diseases have no “made in” stamp and is free to travel without any border control.

In the eyes of the world, we may be different; but in the eyes of the virus, we’re just the same-weak and without answers.

We have a very narrow vision when it comes to visualizing our future. All we can see is the ‘now’.

What we are unable to see is how much damage to the environment we have already caused in our greed to wanting more, being more, doing more. We have destroyed the environment faster than it can recover.

Of course the environment has the capacity to heal itself in many ways. The rate of recovery depends on the type of damage being done. Endangered Species can recover in a few decades; Ozone, in a century; Old growth forests in several centuries; the cooling of radioactive waste, maybe hundreds of thousands of years.

But here is a critical point: the environment cannot recover while we are still increasing the damage to it.

We had to learn the hard way that establishing a sustainable planet is imperative. Either we establish it ourselves, or nature will do it for us – and we can be sure that nature will not be as kind to ourselves as we are. And Mother Nature has now taken things in her own hands after being treated so unkindly for so long.

Nature is neither sentimental nor nostalgic. But it is more resilient, resourceful and creative than we appreciate.

And unfortunately we forget that nature did pretty well for the three billion years before we turned up, and it could do pretty well again if we learned to interfere less.

Mother Earth, when left to her own devices, has the instinct to heal and in fact, heals herself.  If only we let it.

-Madhavi

 

 

OS-Los Angeles Times;UN Press Release;thegospelcoalition

 

 

Lean on to the good stuff & Look at the bright side.

covid

Foreseers and Scientists have been cautioning us for decades about how abusing the planet will affect us. People from Australia to California, Puerto Rico, and everywhere that flood and fire has broken out, have learned how the climate change will eventually lead to doomsday.  They warned us that planets do get sick too over a few decades, not a few weeks –although slightly slower than populations do.

And, I think, now covid-19 is a reminder that although we seem to think we have a great deal of control over most things that thought literally just flies out of the window, when you realize that you don’t actually. Things can go very, very wrong, and very, very quickly.

Nobody expected the novel Corona virus to flare up this way. What started off in a “wet market” in Wuhan, is killing many people, and shutting millions more inside, with fear as their main companion.

The main thing about a pandemic like this is that it doesn’t discriminate. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you’re vulnerable. While some of us may fare better because of our age or health, the germs themselves are impartial. This means, we are all in the same boat, for better or worse.

And so is the universality of suffering. The virus is an extraordinary event, and the horror it unleashes is extraordinary, too. But suffering is anything but extraordinary. All of us are hostages to forces over which we have no control.

This is not our first test as a species and it won’t be our last. A pandemic like this simply forces us to think about our responsibilities to the people around us. The simplest and probably the most important thing you can do to control the spread of this virus is to take precautions like social distancing. That’s the only way to flatten the epidemic curve, and by doing so will literally save lives.

The cost of this pandemic will be not just financial. What comes next is unclear. And the pain will not be distributed equally. Many people will lose income due to work stoppages or potential lockdowns.

Kids from low-income families will miss meals if schools are cancelled; parents  will miss work if they have to stay home to take care of them; Students in universities are already having nightmares about their future; If companies start laying off workers or give pay cuts the economics of running a household  will become burdensome to so many families.

And the list goes on and on.

But let us not buy into the hysteria of a virus fear. Let us stay strong. We live on a planet where viruses and bacteria are everywhere. Let’s face it fearlessly.

And if we’re fated to go through this passage, we may as well learn something from it.

We are being reminded to keeping loved ones close and that our health is the ultimate abundance. And even though we may feel alone we are actually together in this.

We are being reminded that it is better to live a life with minimum needs and not burden ourselves, our homes, our countries and more importantly our planet, with any more than is absolutely necessary for our survival.

It is teaching us that our villages, towns, cities need not be over-populated, over constructed and over burdened.

It is teaching us to respect the food chain in our ecosystem.

Maybe it is the year of truth, a year of change, a year of the new world. Maybe our planet and the entire human race is going through evolution and changes at the energy levels.

Maybe this disaster is giving us an opportunity to heal and rebuild the planet itself from scratch.

Let us heal our own karma, by putting aside greed, and only thinking of one self. Let us focus on the wellness and well being of each individual, each plant, each species, and each life-form on this planet.

Let us raise our positive vibes together. Let our energy, our vision, our words, and our thoughts, shape how we want our tomorrow to be.

This might also be the moment when we decide to fully embrace the idea that what happens elsewhere matters that there’s no real way to shut out the rest of the planet. That’s true for the virus, which seems to have seeped through most of the world’s borders in a matter of days.

In order for substantive progress to take place humanity needs to operate from a point of solidarity, empathy, equity, and moral clarity.

And also, what we need to understand is the meaning of the Native American proverb, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

So let’s take care of each other, our planet and its resources and understand that each sunrise offers us a wonderful new opportunity to make the world a better place for you and me.

-Madhavi

 

 

OS:The Guardian

Niksen-the Dutch art of doing nothing

niksen

It’s always amusing when a single word from a foreign language kick starts an entire lifestyle trend, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes all a person needs is a little bit of inspiration, or a spark of encouragement, to make changes they’ve been craving all along.

Do you remember hygge, the Danish concept of coziness that captivated people’s imaginations?

Or lagom, the Swedish idea of living in moderation and friluftslivb  the concept of open-air living?

And more recently one heard of dostadning, a.k.a. Swedish Death Cleaning, or the act of slowly and steadily decluttering one’s home as the years go by.

And now another word is making its way into wellness headlines, and this time hailing from the Netherlands.

The word is ‘NIKSEN‘ and it “literally means to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use.

Why is it so valuable, you may ask? Well, for one, it stands in stark contrast to the way in which most people live these days, rushing around from dawn till dusk with an unending to-do list.

The duties never end. We do this, despite knowing how unhealthy it is, depriving us of downtime, of sleep, of time to think, of time spent with family and engaging in hobbies.

Whereas mindfulness is about being present in the moment, niksen is more about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action.

Practicing niksen could be as simple as just hanging around, looking at your surroundings, simply sitting in a chair looking out of the window, or listening to music —as long as it’s without purpose, and not done in order to achieve something or be productive.

Studies have shown that niksen offers emotional perks — like reducing anxiety — to physical advantages — like curtailing the aging process and strengthening the body’s ability to fight off a common cold.

Another benefit of niksen is that it can help people come up with new ideas, when we do nothing; our brain is still processing information and can use the available processing power to solve pending problems, which in turn can boost one’s creativity.

For many, doing nothing isn’t as simple as it sounds. In fact, it can be somewhat challenging to sit still and stare out a window when one is used to doing something at all times.

But then one has to dare to be idle. It is all about allowing life to run its course, and to free us from obligations for just a moment. We need to train our minds to wander in a way that’s imaginative and creative. Some “gateway” practices to niksen could be taking a walk in nature, gardening, and reducing tech tine or just meditate.

Niksen gives a name to a concept I already embrace at home. I adore lazy weekends with my family, when there is nothing on the docket and nowhere to be. My favorite evenings are the unscheduled ones, when I can lie on the couch and read a novel. I suppose one might call that productive, but to me its pure idleness and I love it.

Niksen is the antidote to stress and burnouts.

Niksen is giving you permission to hibernate without an intention.

Niksen is taking time off to embracing life’s pauses.

 

-M

 

OS:PC-Treehugger

The planet is dying. Are you going to save her ?

6-climatechange

The numbers are grim. Humans have significantly altered three-quarters of the earth’s land area, and leaving more than half a million species without enough habitats to survive.

Our forests are flattened. We’ve destroyed a third of the planet’s forest cover.

Our oceans are running dry. Our development of coastlines, drilling of sea beds, and plastic pollution make the seas inhospitable to healthy marine life populations.

Climate change, Industrial pollution, Epidemics, the list is endless.

virus

And most of this is caused due to human interference with nature. Oceans have more plastic than fish; hills have more rubbish strewn by us than what it can sustain.

We need to understand the role nature plays in our life. We do not exist independently of nature. We need pollinators to grow fruits and vegetables, freshwater streams and wetlands to supply and filter drinking water, fertile soils to meet our agricultural demands, forests to provide medicines, and oceans to provide food.

So what is the tipping point before the earth around us totally collapses?

How more of the blame game are we going to be playing, before the planet totally caves in and disintegrates?

How much more collateral damage are we going to allow in the name of progress?

What are we leaving behind for the future generations to come?

Is rapid technological progress and human activity that continue to add heat trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, driving the Earth to the edge?

pollution

Every day, new evidence of our unsustainable impact on the environment is emerging. We are seeing the effects of climate change from the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between.

The UN estimates that, in the last 10 years, climate-related disasters have caused $1.4 trillion of damage worldwide. The unprecedented loss of biodiversity we are seeing today is an existential threat to human life and economic development. If the biodiversity index were considered akin to the stock market, our planet would be heading for a spectacular crash.

No human technology can fully replace “nature’s technology”, which is perfected over hundreds of millions of years in sustaining life on Earth.

We can’t have a prosperous future on a depleted planet. If we continue to produce, consume and power our lives the way we do right now, forests, oceans and weather systems will be overwhelmed and collapse.

Bottom line: We can fix this.

planet-earth 

We have the power to stop the projected ecological catastrophe, but it will require a paradigm shift—a radical reorganizing of our technological, economic, social, and economic systems.  We will have to say a Good-bye to extractive industries, like mining, biomass, and fossil fuels, and say hello to recycling, renewables, and reusables.

We must curb our consumption rates across the board, (ditching our plastic habits is just the beginning). And trade-offs—less meat for more vegetables, more public transit for less pollution.

And we must, above all, make the planet’s natural systems a leading priority in our collective fights for a better world. Anything less won’t cut it.

The moot question however is- are we willing?

 -M

 

 

PC:CC0 Public domain;WashingtonPost;Economictimes

HOW TO? Travel Tips and tricks

bleisure

How to get more comfortable airline seats:

  1. Typically “low cost” carriers have some seats with extra legroom. Book those if you want some space.
  2. Look for the good seats in economy. The exit row and bulkhead seats typically have more room than a standard seat, if you can afford them. The worst seats are the ones in the rear of the aircraft, which don’t recline.
  3. “Premium” seats cost extra, however sometimes you can get an upgrade at the gate if you are lucky.

airline seat

How to find quiet when you travel:

  1. Book where there’s less noise. The front of the aircraft is less noisy and tends to have a quieter kind of passenger (read: business travellers). On a train, look for the quiet cars. 2. Block it. Noise cancelling headsets or ear plugs are a good idea to filter out unwanted noise.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to get much quiet if you’re in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or in London during the summer break, when every attraction has serpentine queues of students and adults alike.

 What you need to know about minimum connection times:

  1. Minimum connection times are initially set by a group of airlines or by an airport operating committee. The times are built into the airline reservation systems, and are specific to airports or flights.
  2. Times can change if a terminal is under construction or an airport train closes for repairs. It’s always a good idea to check your airline’s airport-specific page for any changes.
  3. They are not a guarantee that your connecting flight won’t leave without you. They are only guidelines that are meant to get you to your destination as quickly as possible

How to write an airline consumer complaint:

  1. Be precise. Include details such as your confirmation code, flight number and travel date.
  2. Explain precisely what you want. Don’t leave the airline guessing. Are you asking them to refund your checked bag fee? Or claiming a delayed baggage allowance?

 Three things airlines won’t tell you about vouchers:

  1. Most carriers will not offer cash for a delayed /cancelled flight. Instead it will try to offer to rebook the flight or give you a voucher.
  2. You may be unable to redeem the voucher on the blackout dates. Read the fine print on the voucher before you agree to it. If you don’t like the terms, ask for a better deal, or a refund.

hotel 3

How to book a hotel the smart way:

  1. Start with a thorough search. Check an Online travel agency like Expedia or Booking.com or call your travel agent. Check the rate against the price your preferred hotel would charge if you book direct.
  2. Review the restrictions. Hotels can impose restrictions for booking through their site, like making their rooms non-refundable, so read the conditions closely before deciding where to go. You might be better off working with a big agency that has negotiated better terms.
  3. Check the incentives. Ask yourself if you really need the points or the upgrade.

 How to spot a fake review:

  1. Check the reviewer’s record. Fake reviews are often posted by accounts with little or no additional review history.
  2. Do check out the photos of the property either through the hotel itself or through people who have stayed on the property.
  3. If you see a one-star or a five-star rating or a lot of superlatives in the description, chances are you’re looking at a fake.

 What you need to know about an apartment hotel:

  1. Amenities. Most apartment hotels have kitchenettes, but they may not have an oven, in-room laundry facilities or separate living room area. Check the property descriptions carefully.
  2. Services. While some of them offer room service, many clean their rooms only weekly.
  3. Policies. Most properties generally don’t charge mandatory “resort” fees. But it’s important to pay attention to their cancellation policies, which can vary.

hotel room 2

How to get a hotel room upgrade:

  1. A special event. Honeymoons rank high on the list. Hotels will try to make your special occasion more memorable if you ask.
  2. A special circumstance. If you’re thinking of coming back to the hotel and bringing a big group with you, mention it. If you’re planning to return again in a month or a year, say something. Anything that sets you apart as a more valued customer can sway a hotel to upgrade you.
  3. A special need. Some of the larger rooms are more disability-friendly. If you need extra room to accommodate a wheelchair, or walker, the only room that might fit you is a suite. Don’t be shy about asking.

car rental

Tips for getting a vehicle when they run out of rental cars:

  1. Confirm your reservation: Contact your car rental agency a day before you arrive. Always bring your reservation confirmation to show the rate you paid. Make a printout, just in case the battery on your phone dies.
  2. Arrive on time: Check in as close as possible to the time indicated on your reservation.

How to get a refund from a travel company:

  1. Patience. Give the company at least a week to respond to your refund request and two credit card billing cycles to pay you.
  2. Persistence. Don’t let months pass by without letting the company know that your money is still missing. If necessary, set a calendar reminder so that you don’t forget.
  3. Politeness. Angry demands for a refund and threats to take a company to court almost always backfire. The company may refer your case to its legal department, where it could linger for weeks or months. Be nice!

 How to select the right travel app for your next trip:

  1. Download from a trusted source. That would be iTunes or Google Play. 2. Read the stars – and the reviews. The best travel apps should have at least four stars. Pay attention to the reviews, more so if you need the app for a specific purpose, like translating a particular language.
  2. Test for any flaws, such as consumption of too much data or battery life or even if is accessible anywhere in the world, before you take it on the road.

bag

How to pack select the right kind of clothes:

  1. Does it match your trip? You definitely won’t need that jacket for your beach vacation, but you surely could use a light windcheater in case it rains. Bug repellents, sunscreens, lip balms, should be the staples if you’re going on an African safari. Simplify your choices of clothes, carrying the essentials rather than over packing the suitcase.

 How to avoid getting robbed on vacation:

  1. Don’t leave your valuables, passports, laptops, ipads, cameras, cash etc in your hotel room open to view. Lock them up in the safe or the suitcase in case you are not using them.
  2. Don’t flash your jewelry, cash etc

How to not look like a tourist (even if you are one):

  1. No maps! Don’t walk around with a giant map in your hands. Instead, keep the map on your phone – and stay cool.
  2. Slow down. Tourists try to do everything in a day. If you stop running, you won’t stand out.

tourist

 

 

 

PC:Getty images;Shutterstock

 

 

Elite Economy class

Boeing_dreamliner_

The landscape of air travel in the country has changed and evolved over the past few years with a lot more people opting to fly rather than use the train especially in the domestic Indian sectors.

Even though there are concerns around the overall slump in the aviation sector, there has been a growth in the number of flyers. With more routes becoming available, and as economy class fares become more passenger-friendly, airlines have invested a lot into improving their product. This is the reason why the demand for a premium seat is becoming increasingly popular.

singapore-airlines-premium-economy-800

The trend started in the early 1990s when Taiwanese EVA Air introduced an extra class above economy, followed by Virgin Atlantic in 1992. The class made its real debut around 2007 when airlines like Qantas and Air New Zealand started offering it. The success has lead to a handful of Asian carriers launching the product like JAL, ANA, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

Airlines saw Premium Economy also known as the elite Economy Class ,as an opportunity to target travellers who don’t want to pay the price for a business class seat, but don’t mind forking out a wee bit more for a few extra ‘luxuries’ when flying.

Typically long haul Business Class products offer fully flat beds, and a guaranteed aisle access.  This leaves a space on the plane for Premium Economy.

Most premium economy seats have a deeper recline that gives you more comfort in-flight and a better sleep.

china airlines

Along with that in Premium Economy you’ll be able to take advantage of Business Class perks, such as priority check-ins, and access to airport lounges. Passengers are willing to splurge and at the same time enjoy the worth of every penny invested in air travel.

Some facts

  1. A Premium Economy fare is generally 65% less expensive than a business class fare. You will not have the same level of service or comfort but you will be assured a more comfortable and relaxing journey.
  2. A typical Premium Economy fare includes around 5-7 inches of extra legroom, wider seats, and more space to recline.
  3. You may also have a separate food menu and enhanced entertainment.

The winners of the the Skytrax World Airline Awards for the best Premium Economy airline seats for 2019 are

  1. Virgin Atlantic
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Qantas Airways
  4. China Airlines
  5. Singapore Airlines
  6. Japan Airlines
  7. Aeroflot
  8. Lufthansa
  9. Azerbaijan Airlines
  10. Air France

american-airlines-premium-economy-3-680x365_c

Generally speaking, airlines price tickets based on supply and demand, so there’s no set formula to determine what price you can expect to pay for a Premium Economy class seat. Sometimes it could also be double the cost of an economy ticket

That being said, premium economy can be of good value when flying compared to economy, the question is, how much are you willing to pay for that privilege? It also depends on your personal situation. If you’re a tall person, that extra legroom could make a huge difference in your comfort. Now, if you’re traveling for business, it might be company policy that business class is not allowed, so premium economy would make an excellent alternative.

check in

Most airlines will try their best to get people to pay for the premium seats before they offer them up for free. However, it’s quite common for premium economy seats to be offered at a discount when you’re at the gate. In this case, it would be on a first come, first serve basis.

With a marginal price increase over the cost of an economy class seat and for a fraction of the cost of a business-class ticket, premium economy seat offer a significant upgrade for travellers.

Have you ever travelled Premium economy? Do share your experience via the comments. Thank you .

 

 

PC: Skyscanner;Traveller AU;China Airlines;Singapore Airlines;Phillipine Airlines;Always Mag;