LONELY PLANET: Travel guide’s top destinations for 2017

This time last year, renowned travel and adventure guide Lonely Planet published a list of recommendations for travellers in 2017, for top countries and regions that the adventurous globetrotter just had to check out. Lonely Planet got together with people in the know, and spoke with numerous publishers, travel authors and members of its travelling subscriber community. It then compiled their recommendations in the magazine ‘Best In Travel’, listing the ten best cities, regions and countries the energetic and fun-loving trip junkie must visit for this year. Yes, 2017 is only good for three months more, but these destinations are planning to stick around for much longer, and are perfect for your 2018 travel plans.

 

COUNTRIES:

Canada – The land of the maple leaf, ice hockey and scrummy Tim Horton’s doughnuts made the number one slot in Lonely Planet’s guide. According to the guide, Canada’s rise to the top was helped by the election of its prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose arrival in Ottawa heralded a wave of national optimism. Other factors cited included the favourable exchange rate for Canadian dollars and the festivities the country is organising to celebrate 150 years of confederation which created Canada as a single political entity.

Colombia – after decades as a no-go zone due to an ongoing civil war, Colombia recently saw the signing of peace treaties between the government and far-left jungle rebels, and finally after 50 years of conflict, things are looking up for this undiscovered South American locale. This hope and the country’s outstanding natural beauty, vibrant culture and friendly people means Colombia takes the runner-up prize.

The top 10 countries – 

  1. Canada
  2. Colombia
  3. Finland
  4. Dominica
  5. Nepal
  6. Bermuda
  7. Mongolia
  8. Oman
  9. Myanmar
  10. Ethiopia

CITIES:

In first place for the best cities to visit in 2017, is the picturesque southern French city of Bordeaux. Lonely Planeters rated Bordeaux for its fine gastronomy, and no surprises, its vineyards and wine-making. After Cape Town in South Africa in second place, Los Angeles in the US came third, for its cultural, gastronomic and commercial diversity. Neighbouring Mexico’s Merida appears in fourth position, buoyed by its nomination as American City of Culture 2017, and its food culture.

The top 10 cities – 

  1. Bordeaux, France
  2. Cape Town, South Africa
  3. Los Angeles, USA
  4. Mérida, Mexico
  5. Ohrid, Macedonia
  6. Pistoia, Italy
  7. Seoul, South Korea
  8. Lisbon, Portugal
  9. Moscow, Russia
  10. Portland, USA

REGIONS:

Latin America has done favourably well in the most rated regions by Lonely Planet. Leading the pack is the Peruvian region of Choquequirao (Apurimac Valley), which was lauded by travellers for its unique opportunities to immerse oneself in the local Inca culture. Latin America is also represented at sixth place, with Chile’s Aysén in southern Patagonia, home to breathtaking glacial waterfalls fuelled by the snow-capped mountains of the Andes. The water in Aysén is said to be so fresh and cool, it imparts a unique flavour to the local beer.

The top 10 regions – 

  1. Choquequirao, Peru
  2. Taranaki, New Zealand
  3. Azores Islands, Portugal
  4. North Wales, United Kingdom
  5. South Australia
  6. Aysén, Chile
  7. Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia
  8. Georgia Coast, USA
  9. Perak, Malaysia
  10. Ring of Skellig, Ireland

Best in Travel also showcases the top 10 value-for-money destinations globally as well as rankings of places to experience in Asia, Europe and the United States, as well exploring 2017’s newest travel trends.

You can see Lonely Planet’s recommendations at lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel

DISCLAIMER: Lonely Planet has not endorsed or commissioned this article. This feature is based on a Spanish-language article from a third party.

SOURCES:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

Tweet Hispano, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TweetHispano

“Los mejores destinos turísticos para viajar en 2017 según ‘Lonely Planet’ ” – GrandesMedios.com/Grandes Medios (26 October 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/mejores-destinos-turisticos-2017/

“Best in Travel 2017” – Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Free photo: Luggage, Holiday, Travel, Summer – Free Image on Pixabay – 1149289” – stux, Pixabay (29 December 2015) https://pixabay.com/en/luggage-holiday-travel-summer-sea-1149289/

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PUBLIC SPEAKING: Ways to overcome the jitters

There comes a point in most people’s lives where they will have to do a bit of public speaking, Whether you end up being the best man toasting the groom during a wedding, or having to do a ‘make-or-break’ presentation for your university degree, public speaking is like jury duty, it is hard to get out of. For many of us, the very thought of standing in front of people, talking and showing things, is enough to leave us in a cold sweat. Paranoid fears of messing everything up or making a verbal faux-pas and embarrassing yourself in front of a whole bunch of people paralyse you, and in a slightly ironic self-fulfilling prophecy, those jitters and fears end up making you screw up the big talk. Big time.

For many people, it is preferable to be buried alive than to get up on stage, but public speaking, such as presentations of quarterly results, speaking at conferences and of course, those cringeworthy wedding speeches, are an important part of becoming successful in both our professional and personal lives. You only have to think of great figureheads such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Malala Yousafzai to understand that many of these people get their message across because they are great orators.

 

A Peruvian non-verbal language analyst and biology expert in human behaviour and neurocommunication, Miguel Figueroa, had published a book “Rompe el miedo y habla en público”, whose English title translates as Breaking Fear and Speaking in Public, late last year, in which he advises on ways to vanquish the trauma associated with public speaking, especially for first-timers. In a special tete-a-tete with Spanish-language online magazine GrandesMedios.com, Figueroa suggests techniques you can adopt to master the fear of speaking to an audience, as well as improving your expression skills.

  1. Bare your sole.

When sitting down for interview or presenting at conferences, for example, you may notice people touching or holding their feet. That is because, in an unconscious way, we instinctively protect the soles of our feet, due to their perceived vulnerability. According to Figueroa, placing the bottom of your feet and holding your feet can help relax you and dissipate any nerves. This is due to a ‘hormonal chain reaction’ that encourages relaxing mindsets, according to Figueroa.

2. Sit down and stay down!

While it is not always possible at all public speaking occasions, taking a seat can help you feel more comfortable and less ‘exposed’. Sitting helps provide mental and physical stability and, according to Figueroa, imparts a sense of confidence and authority of the speaker in the audience’s eyes, like a monarch proclaiming to their court from the throne.

3. Go walkabout and let your feet do the talking

Figueroa advises that public speakers should move around on their feet. At first this may seem strange advice. Surely, you might be thinking, trotting around the stage is the surest sign of nervousness. But Figueroa says that it is in the way you walk. You should take measured steps, first placing your heel on the ground, then bringing the arch down, followed by the toes. By doing this, you will avoid the quick rushed steps associated with someone who is frightened out of their wits, helping you feel more in control of the situation and again, upping the confidence levels, in both your and your audience’s perception.

4. Put your feet up!

Another foot technique to help you relax. Figueroa advises that a few minutes before you go out there and wow them with your wise words, you should find somewhere a bit private where there is a table or desk and literally put your feet up. Doing this will tell our brains that we are relaxed and calm, helping quell the  flight-or-flight feelings currently whizzing through our minds. This tip is especially useful for people attending interviews or auditions, who can do this in the waiting room or lobby before they go. However, do not do this in a public area and especially not in front of your audience. I do not have to tell you that it is the height of bad manners.

5. Do a little striptease

No, we are not advising you to do a sweaty nerve-wracked Full Monty in front of your audience, but Figueroa explains that hiding your hands when speaking is not a good idea as it tells your audience that you are nervous or insecure. To maintain your look of confidence, the best thing to do if you are wearing a long-sleeved garment, is to simply roll up your sleeves, ideally to your elbow.

6. Pose like an Egyptian

The ancient Egyptians saw the pyramid as an important cornerstone in their respect for the dead. It is this humble shape that can also help you bury the feelings of awkwardness in your public speaking. Figueroa suggests placing your hands together with palms slanted towards each other, fingertips touching so that your hands make a sort of pyramid. This hand position suggests balance and intelligence, and is an ideal gesture for saying concrete things, giving messages in depth and when concluding a speech or a negotiation dialogue.

7. Stretch Armstrong

Extending out our hand and fingers, such as when you move your hands when talking, has the advantage of telling you brain that you are in tiger mode, ready to pounce and actively engage the audience. In the audience’s eyes, constant and passionate movement of the hands suggests you want to get their attention and have important mission critical things to say. It also conveys confidence and engagement. A familiar gesture used by expert public speakers is the ‘what to do?’ position.

8. Barriers up!

The last technique Figueroa suggests is to use an object that will act as a barrier and help keep fear away. By holding an object, such as a pointer or a pen, the object serves as a ‘safety placebo’ which will trick the brain into thinking that everything is safe and calm. It is a comforting crutch on a psychological level, and is something that is a legacy of our childhoods from when we would take a stuffed toy to bed before sleep to keep away the big bad monsters in the dark. The barrier can also act as a distraction from negative thoughts or worries, and can be useful for the practicalities of pointing out things to an audience in a presentation.

SOURCES:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

Trinadores, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Trinadores

“8 técnicas para superar el miedo a hablar en público” –  GrandesMedios.com/Grandes Medios (18 November 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/tecnicas-hablar-en-publico/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Speaking Out – Public speaking made easy” – Christian Heilmann, Flickr (10 February 2010)  https://www.flickr.com/photos/codepo8/4348899776

A MEAL FOR EIGHT (LEGS): How spiders catch their food

Our planet is home to around 35,000-50,000 species of spider (the estimates vary), the vast majority of which spin webs made out of silk generated inside the spider’s body. As any arachnid expert will tell you, spiders weave their silky masterpieces primarily as a means of obtaining food. With strands stronger than the equivalent thickness of steel, spider webs are covered with sticky substances that ensnare their prey, trapping flies and even birds and snakes, ready for the web’s resident to deliver its venomous coup de grâce.

When an insect flying about and minding its own business collides with a web, which is often designed to be invisible until it is too late, the impact creates vibrations that alert the spider. Spiders have extra sensitive hairs on their legs, which are attuned to pick up the slightest movement coming from the web’s fabric.

However, arachnologists have not yet figured out how exactly the spider interprets the movement signals when its equivalent of a pizza delivery happens. In 2016, a team of scientists from the American state of Oregon decided to try and solve this puzzle by creating a web of their own.

Using nylon from parachutes, the team built a web that replicated a traditional ‘spoke’ layout, popularly associated with spiders. The strands of yarn were arranged radially and were held taut by a specially constructed machine with an aluminium frame, alongside an attachment resembling a spider placed centrally, as can be seen with garden spiders and orb weavers.

 

 

The vibrations caused by insects were reproduced with the help of a subwoofer-type speaker, and the spiral of the web was emulated with elastic cords. Ross Hatton, a member of the research team at Oregon State University, told GrandesMedios.com, the source of this story, of how realistic they made the web experiment, explaining that they used two different types of nylon rope, just as spiders use two different types of silk.

The artificial spider in the middle was calibrated to pick up vibrations from the speaker, even the slightest ones. As Hatton explained: “We started with the hypothesis that if you moved one of the radial lines slightly, the arachnid perceived that one moved more than the others,

“We also speculated, that the spider would go towards the line that undergoes a variation in its movement”

In other words, Hatton and his team expected the spider in real life to gravitate towards the line of silk from which the most movement was travelling from. However the result of the experiment was quite different from the team’s original hypothesis.

Far from being a simple case of only a single strand of the web notifying that it caught dinner, the team discovered that the cobweb gave off a complex pattern of vibrations, with some sections of the web being more sensitive than others. According to Hatton, at different frequencies of sound from the speaker, different web strands and layouts did not vibrate at all. Different parts and strands of the web vibrated only at certain frequencies and remained unresponsive at others.

These different frequencies of vibration are believed to help the spider identify what type of prey had crashed into its web, and perhaps also help it distinguish between live prey and inedible objects such as leaf fragments and debris. The study, which redrew the way people thought about how arachnids predate, was presented at the American Physical Society conference recently.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Tecnología GM, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TecnologiaGM

“Cómo perciben las arañas a las víctimas que caen en su red” – GrandesMedios.com/Grandes Medios (6 April 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/asi-detectan-las-aranas-a-sus-victimas/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Spider and web” – Dwight Sipler, Flickr (23 September 2009) https://www.flickr.com/photos/62528187@N00/3948508109/in/photolist-71V8U2-9ReV6c-aqKQGv-dpdK7M-5roAqX-5roEwn-5roBTv-DV9Eq-mYCVp-6Hu2Eb-5tj1DG-9oBvU-jG4wh-8JZa3e-a9A2a9-8WDwtQ-afhCqA-8yN4WL-5vSbKd-e2eBjU-aj8tGX-6QTWyn-4VgnTS-4Vc9mt-9aCUoX-4WYuxd-6bSLvd-51ycz-4rhGUq-31bfxS-316GzT-316xNt-316yCg-31b8K7-31b9dh-31b4TG-316z6p-316wva-31bbq9-31bdXs-31b3iw-31b64m-316EZD-31b7tU-316xwZ-31b8nG-31bdvo-31bcvw-316y1V-31baXE-316w2a

AUROVILLE: A unique city

Auroville, a young city lying around 10 kilometres from the former French colony of Puducherry (Pondicherry), now an Indian union territory, is an important hub of Hindu spirituality, which draws in thousands of people from all over the world. Set deep in the forests straddling the border of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, Auroville’s buildings are laid out in a unique formation reminiscent of the stars of a galaxy. Designed by architect Roger Anger, Auroville takes its name from Sri Aurobindo, a great philosopher and was established in 1968 by The Mother, also known by her birth name Mirra Alfassa, who was a close disciple of Sri Aurobindo and who hailed from France. Auroville came about as a haven from the religious and political strife of the time, and its whole mentality is geared towards serving God and realising the inner self.

 

 

One of the main ideas that governs the city is the improvement of personal relations among people, at a time when there was much strife and rivalry, and nowadays it encourages the perfection of people collaborating together as one humanity, and the devotees of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo courageously work together to improve relations between different groups of humanity. Auroville even received recognition in this dynamism from once Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who spoke of the commune’s work in promoting harmony between different cultures and furthering understanding of how coexistence among human beings can help promote spiritual growth.

According to the Census of India 2014, only around 2,300 people live in Auroville, tiny by Indian standards. Around two-thirds originate from India, France and Germany. They are all governed by the civic cardinal rule, unique to Auroville, which states that no political, religious or spiritual organisation should use Auroville as a platform to proselytise for their faith or recruit followers. As a result, there are no political parties or political operations in Auroville, and there is also no concept of private property or money, with the land and homes held under a communal basis, via the auspices of the Auroville Foundation. Auroville also engages with intra-community activities with neighbouring villages and social outreach work.

Unlike the mayor’s office and local councils found in mainstream cities around the world, Auroville is administered by a committee elected by the locals, and residents can support or veto any measures put forward by the committee without having to deal with council red tape. In return, residents are expected to engage in daily programmes of work, for at least five hours a day, seven days a week, either on their own or collectively. When not working, many of Auroville’s inhabitants like to congregate at the Matrimandir to meditate and pray to and honour God, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondicherry.

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Tecnología GM‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TecnologiaGM
“Esta es la ciudad más extraña del mundo: Auroville” – GrandesMedios.com – Cultura/Grandes Medios (21 February 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/esta-es-la-ciudad-mas-extrana-del-mundo-auroville/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Auroville puducherry.jpg” – sillybugger/Ian.A, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (1 May 2008) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Auroville_puducherry.jpg  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.