Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 04.01.2012

In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

Woman Travels World to Meet All 324 of Her Facebook Friends, All to Beat Anxiety


Last year at this time, Arlynn Presser made a New Year’s resolution that nearly scared her to death.

The 51-year- old romance novelist and mother of two resolved to travel around the world to meet all 324 of her Facebook friends.

It would have been a daunting mission for anyone, but even more so for Presser:  Her white-knuckled fear of leaving her Wilmette, Ill., home was intense enough to trigger debilitating panic attacks.  She had battled agoraphobia — a type of anxiety disorder that can be triggered by open spaces, leaving  home, crowds or other uncontrolled situations — since she was a teenager. First, she’d experience sweating and shortness of breath, and then severe pressure in her chest that felt like a heart attack.

“I’m not even sure what sets me off. The first anxiety attack was in a thunderstorm in a grocery store.  I had another one in a bookstore.   Your world gets smaller and smaller, because the places that become off-limits grows,”  Presser said. “At one point I was having trouble getting out of my bedroom.”

On her blog, she put it this way:

“I’m scared of travel.  I’m scared of flying.  I’m scared of just about anything outside my door.  I probably use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends in a way that may be good or might just give me a false sense of intimacy. … I will meet every one of my facebook friends this year, and I figure I’m going to be surprised.  A lot.”

She was.  Three hundred and sixty-four days later, Presser had visited 292 friends and traveled to 11 countries.  With her 23-year-old son, Joseph, she flew to Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mumbai, Rome, Austria, Germany and England. Her journey also took her throughout the United States and Mexico.   She would still get panic attacks, but her son helped her work though them.

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Resorts in Maldives fight spa ban

The Telegraph

Holiday resorts in the Maldives are challenging a ban on spas, issued by the government last week.

The archipelago’s tourism ministry ordered the closure of all spas, massage parlours and health centres, with immediate effect, after an Islamist opposition party claimed they were being used as a front for prostitution.

However, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), which represents the islands’ hotels, said it would fight for the ban to be overturned.

The association says it has filed two civil court cases in an effort to revoke the ban, and has applied for a temporary injunction.

Sim Ibrahim, head of MATI, said that tourism was crucial to the country’s economy, and warned that the move could put off overseas visitors.

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Croatian tourism official fired for calling Aussie tourists ‘drunken and crazy’

A Croatian tourism official has been fired for saying she did not want “drunken and crazy” Australian and New Zealand tourists coming to Dubrovnik.

“This summer season we’ve had an increased number of visits from young people from Australia and New Zealand and we were not delighted,” Pave Zupan Ruskovic said in an interview with local newspaper Dubrovacki List .

“It would be better if they did not come.

“When they enter the city they come drunken and crazy. And that’s absolutely not appropriate for any city and in particular for Dubrovnik.

“Dubrovnik does not need drunken Kiwi and Aussie tourists walking naked down the central street.”

She was promptly relieved of her duties as tourism minister and destination manager for Dubrovnik by the city mayor, who will not be renewing her contract because of her lack of “tourism diplomacy”.

“The personal attitudes of Pave Zupan Ruskovic… were not appropriate,” he said.

There have been several reports of Australians in trouble in Dubrovnik, especially from cliff-diving.

Last August a 20-year-old Australian woman was seriously injured when she fell from a cliff in Dubrovnik – the fifth young Australian to suffer a severe fall in southern Croatia in a year.

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Booking a Flight to Space, With Travel Insurance

New York Times

To go to outer space, Catherine Culver went to a travel agent.

Lynda Turley Garrett is a space travel agent in Saratoga, Calif., for Virgin Galactic.

The first flights of the new airlines that will take tourists past the threshold of space are poised to take off in 2012, and getting a seat on one is not all that different from booking a trip someplace on Earth. You can sign up on the Web site of, say, Virgin Galactic, the most prominent of the new space tourism companies, or go to a travel agent and put down a hefty deposit. Soon you will be able to buy travel insurance, just as you can for any other vacation.

Until now, space tourism has been limited to the ultrawealthy: just seven people have paid tens of millions of dollars each for a trip to the International Space Station aboard a Russian rocket.

But that could change this year, when Virgin Galactic intends to start offering flights just beyond the space barrier on a rocket ship it has built, featuring five minutes of weightlessness during a two-and-a-half hour jaunt. At $200,000 a seat, this will open the final frontier to far more people.

“Hopefully by next Christmas, myself, my daughter and my son will be the first people to go up into space” on a commercial craft, Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Galactic, said in a videotaped interview in November (with a touch of his signature grandiosity).

At least two other specialty airlines have jumped in as well, taking reservations (and deposits) for future space flights. Allianz, the big insurer, will introduce an insurance product in 2012, lending space tourism the trappings of the regular travel industry.

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