What does it mean to belong? Yep, that’s a very philosophical question for a Wednesday afternoon, but it’s worth asking – especially with the General Election looming.
Last night, I border-hopped from West to East Sussex for the second BelongCon event, to find out what belonging is all about: to belong in your community, in your tribe of like-minded people (something that’s big for those of us with mental health issues), in your industry, in your environment. BelongCon began as ‘Belong Conference’, with the first event held in March, but as it took shape, founder Alice Reeves realised ‘Conference’ didn’t really define her aim. It’s now become ‘Belong Conversation’, starting discussions about sharing, empathy, friendship and self-esteem, as captured by photographer Seb Lee-Delisle, above.
Last night, for the princely sum of £5 (plus free Prosecco, guys!), I joined a room full of other ambitious 20-somethings and 30-somethings to learn about the barriers blocking our creativity. The venue, Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano in Covent Garden, was the ideal backdrop to a Grazia Collective panel of talented women from across the literary board.
“Give yourself permission for the first draft to be rubbish.” Laura Jane Williams
This wasn’t an evening of airy motivation talks about releasing the novel inside us all (bleurgh), or patronising sermons on ‘how to live your best life’ (further bleurgh). It was aimed at any kind of creative woman who struggles to get their project off the ground, whether because of time constraints, work-life balance or the propensity to procrastinate.
I’ve seen couples posing for romantic photos at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and children use it as a playground, leaving sweet wrappers behind; I’ve seen bored teenagers struggling to feign interest at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In those cases it was the visitors, not the attractions, lacking emotional intelligence and leaving me speechless.
London’s Jack the Ripper Museum, in the heart of Whitechapel, has gone one step further in terms of emotional intelligence failures, by actively encouraging tourists to mock murder victims. The appalling serial killings of Victorian prostitutes are offered as the perfect subject for a selfie or two this Halloween weekend. A recent press release, publicising the museum as a Halloween attraction, suggests visitors take “a selfie with the serial killer” (or, at least, a mysterious bloke in a top hat). Fancy “a picture with Jack in Mitre Square together with the body of Catherine Eddowes”? Go ahead. It’s not like Eddowes can complain, right?
If the average adult spends 6 hours a day online, it’s hardly surprising we struggle to switch off when we’re away. All those habits of checking emails, sports scores and our Twitter feed can soon add up to take a chunk out of our holiday without us even noticing. That’s why I was intrigued by Cathay Pacific’s new #onedayoffline project. Let them explain:
At Cathay Pacific we believe in living Life Well Travelled. And we think that by going offline for just one day, travellers will experience the world from a whole new perspective.
There’s nothing more annoying for an Instagram addict than realising it’ll cost you a fortune to post that perfect holiday photo online because you’re using your phone abroad. Data charges can be a nightmare for anyone, but it’s extra frustrating for bloggers who’ve promised to provide live social media coverage during a sponsored trip (cue massive phone bill).
That’s why I was pleased to be sent this travel infographic from Three, who have just added Spain to their list of Feel at Home destinations, allowing customers to use their normal data allowance (plus calls and texts) abroad at no extra cost. Time to fill everyone’s Twitter timeline with a drip-feed of Spanish holiday antics – known affectionately as holiday spam…
On Friday I was part of a group of bloggers introduced to a new competition by Mercure Hotels, which aims to put the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory into practice. The theory, developed in 1929, says that everyone can be connected to everyone else on the planet by only six stages of communication or fewer. At the launch event we tested our social media skills with some blogger challenges, and soon realised how easily we could connect with strangers from all over the world, helped by the hashtag #6FriendsTheory.
It’s fair to say we’re in the grip of a selfie epidemic. Not only has the National Gallery’s newly relaxed photography policy potentially unleashed a tidal wave of idiots standing in front of (and deliberately obscuring) world-renowned artworks, but there’s also the queen of selfies, Kim Kardashian, taking things one step further. It’s been reported that Kim K took a mind-bending 1,200 selfies in a single day during a holiday in Thailand this summer.
Now we can admit we’re not safe from pouting posers in the shadows of a city gallery or on a sun-bleached Thai beach, perhaps it’s time we all acknowledged the growing trend of the self-absorbed holiday. You know, the one where the background is fairly immaterial, an all-inclusive resort or a luxury yacht is hungrily booked up and the tourist doesn’t actually have to tour anything. They might venture out on a very occasional excursion, but it will mainly be an exercise in creating photo opportunities (starring themselves) and trying not to engage with anyone who doesn’t speak impeccable English.
Whereas 2012 was all about home-grown Olympic pride and cities of culture in Slovenia (Maribor) and Portugal (Guimarães), 2013 was an altogether more complex and crazy year in the world of travel. I’ve picked out some of the highlights, from misguided tweets to far-flung Boris bikes…
PR was Bigger and Bolder
It’s safe to say that 2013 raised the bar in terms of travel PR stunts, with companies increasing their budgets and teaming up to create even better incentives for their competitions, aimed at bloggers or Joe Public. This was the year we saw My Destination’s BBB (Biggest Baddest Bucket List) winners crowned; we also witnessed BA’s Race The Plane challenge on Twitter, Lastminute.com’s search for a spontaneity champion, and Saga’s 50 day challenge for a 50-year-old travel writer. As for what 2014 holds, we’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m sure there will be some really creative ideas coming from competing PRs, possibly crossing into SEO as well as social media. These guys are at the top of their game right now.
When Facebook duly nudged me towards a travel competition in its ads today, I was happy to click and find out more. After all, who wouldn’t want to hop over to Stockholm, home of ice-cool fashionistas, a gorgeous archipelago of tiny islands to explore and a medieval quarter (Gamla Stan) where you can wander through tiny side-streets and discover the city’s past? As you can probably tell, it’s been sitting on my wish list for a while.
This also sounded like a cool competition because the tourist board took advantage of current technology and made it fairly effortless for people to enter, by using Instagram, or sending a photo by email if you don’t have access to the app. How inclusive, I thought – even giving non-Instagrammers the chance to win. But then I did a double take at the other conditions: they wanted entrants to take a photo from Stockholm, in order to bag a holiday there. Say what?
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.