I recently took a school field trip to Japan. We are studying innovation and technology in the MSBA program at UM, so I was excited to see what was happening over there. Throughout our journey we were shuttled to various tourist attractions: Mount Aso (an active volcano), Kumamoto castle, Shibuya square in Tokyo, Senso-ji temple, and others.
One day we were going to visit a place called the Yokosuka Research Park, just a short drive from Tokyo. We were lucky enough to have a UM professor of Japanese language literature guiding us around Japan. On the way he recounted a visit to Japan earlier in his life (maybe late 1990’s) when he noticed some ‘new technology’ the Japanese had just begun using at the time. “It was a way for people to take a picture on a cellular phone and send it to another person….What an odd thing and it was hard to imagine what people would want this for. I was sure this would be a fad and would never catch on.”
BBC news reports in this article 9/18/2001 and asks readers “What would you do with a gadget like this, particularly as it costs nearly US $500?”
“Infinite uses for the teenager, not entirely sure what the rest of us would do with one though.”
“I would use the camera phone to take pictures of my best friend, my dog Benson.”
“Great for spying. The camera could be held against a keyhole, and the images immediately sent to any interested parties.”
Keep in mind myspace.com wasn’t launched until 2003, facebook.com in 2004. In this case, the innovation created the need, instead of the need creating the innovation. This is what we were thinking about as we visited the place where they basically invented the camera phone.
So what did we discover the Japanese are developing there today: the simple answer is 5G.
Here are a few quick facts about 5G:
Data rates of tens of megabits per second for tens of thousands of users
Data rates of 100 megabits per second for metropolitan areas
1 Gb per second simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors
Again, it is hard to know exactly what people will do with this, but here is their vision of the year 2020 with 5G
As college students, we talk a lot about traveling the world, experiencing different cultures, and expanding our worldview. How can we do this in a way where we can truly begin to understand a culture? To me, this means to be a traveler (ser un viajero in Spanish), not a tourist. I prefer to travel in a manner that separates me from the typical tourist and allows me the opportunities to experience the types of connections with people and place that begin to foster a deeper understanding. Here are a few tips that will help you see the true nature of a new place in short time.
Put away the travel guides.
Sorry, Rick Steves and Lonely Planet. Yes, you can find a wealth of information about any city or country in these books. Peruse them for details on must-see sights, but don’t use them to decide where to eat or sleep. You will be directed to places where you will encounter more tourists than locals, and miss the places that carry the true vibe of a city. Depending on a travel guide is like dipping your toes in the surface of the lake, compared to jumping off the dock and diving in!
Use public transportation – and your own two feet.
Taxis are expensive, but even if your budget allows, you will learn more about a place and its people on buses and in the subway. You will need to study maps and the layout of a city, the names of the streets, instead of placing your navigation in the hands of someone else. And allow free time in your schedule to wander and explore by foot, getting lost in the true sounds and smells and colors of the local culture. The best memories I have of Marrakesh are the streets that weren’t full of tourists, walking in the heat, smelling the food being cooked in the homes nearby. Or in Granada, climbing up and through the twisting streets, never knowing where one would end up.
Talk to strangers. Learn at least a few phrases of the local language.
You don’t have to proficient in another language, but knowing a few key phrases will allow to you to connect with the random person on the street who will send you to his uncle’s corner bar where you will eat the most amazing tapas, or to the quaint little café where no one speaks English but you will fall in love with the pastries and rich coffee. I have been fortunate to have made some great friends just because I was willing to ask a few friendly questions.
Let go of expectations.
You will encounter everyday things that are so different from what you are used to. Paying for the use of a toilet, the lack of wi-fi in every corner, no to-go cups for coffee, and nudity in advertising are just a few examples I encountered in Europe. Suspend your judgement and let go of the attitude that what is familiar to you is the best way. Smile, enjoy the things that force you to slow down and reflect.
Eat the local food.
Even if you do not completely understand the ingredient list, or how to pronounce it, give it a try. American food has found its way into most corners of the world, and you will have plenty of chances to have pizza and burgers when you get back home. But you will regret not giving your palate the chance to explore. When I was in Spain, I was hesitant at first to try caracoles (snails). I took a deep breath, probably closed my eyes, and hoped I would not make too gruesome of a face in front of my hosts. Surprisingly, I was delighted with the salty, earthy taste. Caracoles became one of my favorite Spanish delicacies, and I definitely cannot find them in Montana!
I plan to continue to travel to new places and gain insights into other cultures. I hope my list of favorite foods grows and expands. But most of all, I plan to continue making friends around the globe that enrich my life.
I hope you find these tips useful, and I also hope that you can travel and learn in whatever corner of the world pulls at your heart. Thanks for reading, and please share your own travel tips in the comments below!
Vickie Rectenwald studies Marketing, International Business, and the world around her. She lived in Granada, Spain for a year, and has also traveled to Morocco, France, Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii. She will try any food once and can always find something in common with the person she is speaking to. Follow her travels on Instagram @montandaluz.
Last year I made one of the best decisions of my life and decided to take (another) semester off from college and backpack around Europe for two months with my best friend. This was my first time, and hers, traveling outside of the United States. As you would imagine we were overly excited, nervous, and had no idea what to expect before we left for this crazy adventure. Although it was the best experience and trip of a lifetime, there were definitely some things I would have done differently and certain things I wish people would have told us before we left. So, I am going to share my top 6 tips/lessons I learned that I wish I would have known before traveling to Europe!
And I mean everything. Don’t be worried about gaining an extra couple pounds—you will regret not eating that authentic Italian pizza while you’re in Italy. Like who does that?! (yeah, we did that.. and it haunts me.) Even if you are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, I don’t care.. you still eat the pizza.
Another tip along the lines of eating while you’re in Europe; if you want authentic food from whatever city you’re in, don’t eat on the main strips where they have pictures of food on the menu. The rule we learned (almost near the end of our trip) is to get good authentic food, go at least two streets back from the main square. Also, you don’t tip in Europe! Most places. That would have been a very nice thing to know before we left.
2. You Have To Pay to Use the Bathroom.
Yeah, this one was a shocker that I can’t believe no one warned us about. You have to pay to use public restrooms almost everywhere you go in Europe. I mean it’s only a quarter or fifty cense.. but it just would have been nice to know. Oh and FYI, bathrooms are called water closets and you will see neon signs that say “WC” and not “Restrooms” pointing you to their whereabouts.
3. Wear Pants At St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you plan to go to the St. Peter’s Basilica when in Rome.. wear long pants or something that covers your legs. We almost weren’t allowed in because my best friend was wearing a dress and apparently you cant have leg above the knee showing. BUT, luckily she had a blanket scarf to wrap around herself.. so we got to explore. And I’m so glad we did! Also, if you do go there I would recommend everyone take the stairs to the top.. it’s worth it!
4. Slovaks Love Vodka.
I know this isn’t a stop on most people’s list, but just incase it is.. prepare your liver. My friend had relatives that lived in Slovakia that she wanted to meet for the first time, so we made a pit stop in Jaklovce, Slovakia for a few days. And what no one that had visited there before told us is… every time you meet someone new, they greet you with a shot of vodka and a mound of pastries. And let me tell you.. we met a lot of people. Even on Easter.. you obviously have to celebrate.. so, cheers! We took our first shot at 10 in the morning right after church. Even though Slovakia wasn’t the place we were most excited to go to.. we brought back some of the best memories from it. Since we stayed with her family we were immersed in their culture.. it was so cool and so eye opening. When in Europe, try to get away from the touristy type things and soak up as much of the raw culture as you can!
We were college kids traveling across Europe, so obviously we were traveling on a budget. But one of the biggest regrets we had was not splurging just that once to go hang gliding in Austria, or riding horseback through an Italian vineyard. You’re going to come back broke anyway, so spend the money on some kind of experience. And don’t wait for something better to come along or something “more worth it.” Because you won’t find it and end up at the end of you’re trip without doing any of those cool things you wanted to do.
6. Get Lost.
Looking back, I would have had more days where we didn’t have a plan and just walked around, purposely getting lost. I feel like that’s when we came across some of our best adventures and memories. It’s okay to not stick to the plan.
Overall, the trip was a great success and we made some unforgettable memories. These are just a few small tips that I wish someone would have told me before going and hope they can help someone else as they embark on their trip of a lifetime!
Last winter break I did a winter session course to New Zealand. It is even more amazing than what is portrayed in The Lord of the Ring movies. It is literally paradise on earth, you have the best of everything. There are a range of climates from mountains, beaches, rainforests and volcanoes. No one-cent and five-cent coins, which means that most prices end in a zero, or are rounded up. Crosswalks have no lights so you can basically cross the road whenever you like, though there are a few exceptions in very busy areas. It doesn’t mean that you should stop watching for cars, not everyone stops for pedestrians. Restaurant bills are not delivered to your table you will either pay beforehand or have to go up to the register to pay. In some places they don’t keep track of what you have ordered; they will just trust you to tell them what you had. There is no tipping! There are also no snakes, venomous insects, scorpions and only has one venomous spider, which is very rare up to the point it has an almost mythical status. These are just a few things that make New Zealand even better. Though you can’t forget about the amazing sites and activities. Listed below are some must do adventures on New Zealand’s South Island, in no specific order.
Queenstown is your typical tourist town, high prices and many people. Disregarding those things it is a very picturesque town on Lake Wakatipu with street performers, stores and restaurants lining the streets, a gondola and a beach. It is a great town to stay at for holidays, night life and shopping. There is also a gondola where you can get breathtaking views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown also has a mouth- watering burger joint called Ferburger. Their line is usually a half block if not a block long and their wide varieties of burgers are about the size of a young child’s face. The half-hour wait is soo worth it. To end, Queesntown is world-famous for adventure, this leads into my next topic…
Since Queenstown is the tourist destination in New Zealand they offer a wide range of extreme activities such as skydiving, jet boating and bungee/bungy jumping. If you don’t know, jet boating and bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand. And many times we do spontaneous things while on vacation, so might as well do one of these activities. Jet boating is the ultimate water sport where you power your way through narrow river canyons. You all know what bungee jumping is, and there are two iconic spots to bungee jump a hour away from Queesntown. The first is Kawarau Bridge, a 43 meter (~141 ft) jump into the river below. It is one of the most popular bungee sites, attrackting thousands of thrill seekers every year. For the more daring there is the Nevis Bungy which is New Zealand’s biggest at 134m (~440 ft) above the Nevis River. There are age, weight and medical restrictions for many of these activities. Unfortunately, I ran into this problem at the Nevis jump, I was a few pounds short for their weight limit. At least I was allowed to travel to the jumping site that is held above the river by two wires to watch.
Mount Cook is the highest mountain and longest glaciers in New Zealand. There is a lovely day hike (more like 4 hours) to a small lake at the base of the mountain. The hike is pretty flat and has several suspended bridges that are fun to bounce around on. The scenery is amazing, mountains, a river, and flora that were unlike anything I’ve seen. The flora actually somewhat reminded me or a Dr. Seuss book, there were rolling grass areas with these
spiky looking plants that shoot straight up in the air. The trail ends at the small lake which was the chalky white color with small ice blocks. There was a small rocky beach you can walk down to to get to the lake from the picnic area. I have to say, the hike to the lake was more enjoyable than the ending destination.
Kaikoura is a very cute, small town that is on the ocean and has rocky beaches. Kaikoura itself wasn’t that outstanding as a town but it too had amazing views and was home to many Maori people, the indigenous people of NZ, consisting of 3% of the population. There is a Maori tour ran by a Maori that I thought was worth doing, to learn about their history and culture. Kaikoura is also a popular spot to go whale watching and swim with the dolphins. I was fortunate enough to swim with the dolphins and it is something that I will always remember. As I have never been snorkeling I really got the full experience in this activity. Everyone had to wear a head to toe wetsuits with goggles and snorkel. Since the suits were so buoyant there was no need for life jackets. This was an activity I highly recommend. You are delivered as close as possible to a pod of dolphins. The time I went there were 30 or more dolphins swimming around you, it was awesome! If you are somewhat claustrophobic this might not be for you. Being encased in a wesuit add in being in the ocean you feel alone and closed in. Even I had a tiny anxiety attack. Also don’t worry if the dolphins move away you get back into the boat to follow them. The time I went we were on and off the boat 5 times before we headed back. And like many similar businesses if the weather is bad or no dolphins are to be found you get a refund and are able to reschedule.
Christchuch is the largest city on the South Island. In 2010-12 Christcurch experienced devistating earthquakes which forever changed the city. When I visited the destruction from the earthquakes could still be seen around the entire city. This was eye-opening to see since in Montana earthquakes are almost nonexistent. It was definitely surprising and heartbreaking to see all the damage left. But what surprised me the most was what the city did after the earthquakes. They turned a horrible natural disaster into a new beginning. All around the city there were little innovated places. One was an area of temporary trailer sized businesses, another a musical park made out of recycled material. There was an area testing out 3D printed designs to grow plant and shops made out of train cars. The street art all over the city was outstanding. I just happened to be there during the Spectrum Street Art Festival that consisted of street art, graffiti, video etc. all around the city.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman is a coastal National Park that has several beaches and has a wide variety of Flora and fur seal rookeries and little blue penguin populations. It is usually recommended to plan a whole day just for this. There is a very easy trail that stretches along the coast that leads to several different beaches, depending on how long you want to walk. If wanting to stay overnight there are a couple of lodges and campsites throughout the park. I would recommend kayaking one way and walking back the other. By kayaking you get a better view of the seal rookeries and maybe a little blue penguin. You also get a better view of the smaller islands just off the coast. I kayaked to this small, somewhat secluded beach for lunch and relaxing and then walked back. If plan to go all day take water, sunscreen and a swimsuit. The burning time this far south is 10 minutes, yikes! There are water faucets available at some areas but they are more for washing and rinsing, not drinking. The water is so beautiful and clear it would be hard to stay away, hence the swimsuit. Warning the one bathroom that was at the beach I was at was awful, it stank to high heaven. Not sure this applies to all but approach with caution!
Milford sound is within Fiordland National Park. This too is an all day trip. Even though from Queenstown it is located an hour away, straight across, due to road regulations in NZ getting there was more like a 4 hour trip. If you do a bus tour you pass through stunning landscapes including mountain ranges, glacier-carved valleys, crystal clear lakes and native rainforest. There are several things to do at Milford Sound such as, hiking, kayaking and cruises. The cruise was an ideal way to see Milford Sound. It is just over two hours, you get to see wildlife as well as the stunning waterfalls and steep mountain sides. The sights rival that of Glacier National Park, daresay, maybe even surpass those of Glacier.