Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 08.06.2012

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

How Facebook killed the holiday postcard

The humble postcard is dying as modern day travellers choose to share photos of their holidays on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter instead.

While 40 years ago a third of people sent a postcard home, only about 3 per cent make the effort now, a survey in the UK has found.

Instead, they prefer to send a text message or take a photo on their iPhone and post it on the internet, the Daily Mail reports.

The study, by market research group Mintel, was part of a Jubilee investigation into changing British consumer tastes.

Analyst Alexandra Richmond said young people may never have experienced the joy of receiving a postcard in the age of social media and many others may have forgotten the sensory experience a writing set gives the sender.

“We’re travelling more and were also more connected than ever before,” she said.

“Technological advancement means Brits now regularly send a text or digital photograph from their mobiles to friends and relatives or even send emails to inform friends of their holiday experiences, further indicating that electronic communications have taken over.”

Miss Richmond also said it was easier to tweet a picture, update our Facebook status or send a text to make people back home envious, enabling real-time holiday updates rather than waiting a few weeks for a `wish you were here’ postcard.

“Health, convenience and travel have all had a major impact on consumer habits over the past 40 years,” she said.

The research also found that postcards are not alone in losing their stamp of approval, with the number of people buying writing sets having declined from 18 per cent in 1972 to just 5 per cent today.

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Travel to make a difference

The Guardian

A Travelling Fellowship grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust had a profound impact on Chris Gabbett – and allowed him to bring back knowledge and best practice from overseas.

If I’m completely honest, it was the looming reality of redundancy that steeled my resolve to apply for a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. I had worked for the National Strategies since January 2007, and as one of the youngest members of the field force I was nowhere near as “philosophical” about being unemployed/irrelevant as some of my colleagues.

I had been working in the Narrowing the Gaps team as a senior adviser, and had a burning conviction to continue the essence of that work. I felt – I still feel – that there is a necessary role for professionals to identify and disseminate effective practice and that the closure of successful teams like Narrowing the Gap was premature.

So, as the closing date for applications drew nearer, I penned an application and engaged referees. My specific plans related to an analysis of the Productive Pedagogies initiative and how this had supported learners from contextually deprived backgrounds. I had proposed to visit Queensland, Australia and Norway.

In hindsight, it was a transformative moment. I was shortlisted for interview, and in January 2011 I braved a cold Westminster morning for a gentle but focussed interrogation of my proposed fellowship. When the letter confirming my Fellowship arrived the following month I was both daunted and excited – but the most compelling feeling was one of affirmation – that the work on behalf of students from poorer backgrounds was still considered important.

I lived in Australia until I was 26 so arriving in Brisbane was more of a homecoming than an intrepid adventure. What was much more unique was being ushered into parliament buildings and through schools like a visiting dignitary – and the associated animation of the meetings where principals were delighted to know that their ideas, visions and strategies were about to find an international audience. It was very humbling to sit down at night to blog and reflect on my role as a learner – and to think about how the varied ideas could be replicated in the UK context.

Whereas my two weeks in Australia had been solo; my three weeks in Norway were not so. My wife was seven months pregnant with our second child, my eldest was nearly four. I couldn’t leave them for such a long period so we reached into our savings to enable them to join me.

We duly loaded up our long-suffering (but remarkably durable) Toyota Yaris and set off for Harwich… then Ebsjerg… then Skagen… then Stavanger… then Hagland, Norway. This is something you will not read on the WCMT website; but if you get a chance to take your family with you – DO IT!

I personally will have amazing memories of educationalists I met – but my wife and I still collectively reflect on the wonderful journeys we had in Norway. If the family that plays together stays together – then we are intertwined and enmeshed.

Of course, in between being offered the Fellowship and departing, the attacks in Oslo occurred. We thought carefully about whether proceeding was a good idea. A number of localities cancelled meetings with me in the week after the bombings – although, much more encouragingly, most reaffirmed how important it was that we speak. Annette Skalde, the government official who was brokering many of the discussions, stressed that it was ideology that was being attacked, and that my visit was affirmation that the ideology of inclusion, diversity and acceptance was worth defending.

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Virgin Atlantic admits leaking stars’ flight details to paparazzi

The Independent

Virgin Atlantic has confirmed that an employee passed private details of celebrities’ flight details to a paparazzi picture agency. The Information Commissioner is investigating.

The actors Daniel Radcliffe and Sienna Miller, the children of Madonna, and Princess Beatrice are among almost 70 figures whose flight information was leaked to London-based agency Big Pictures.

Yesterday the airline confirmed that the matter was now being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“Following the allegations in the press in April, we voluntarily contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office and have fully assisted with their enquiries,” a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said.

“Our internal investigation found no evidence that this was anything other than an isolated incident relating to a single member of staff who is no longer with the business. We continue to treat the security of customer information extremely seriously and apologise to the passengers affected.”

A relatively junior member of staff at the airline resigned in the wake of the accusation but is understood to deny the claims.

Other celebrities whose flight details may have been passed to Big Pictures include the Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole, his former wife, the singer Cheryl Cole, Tottenham footballer Jermain Defoe, actresses Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow, and singers Robbie Williams and Nicole Scherzinger.

When the allegations came to light, Virgin Atlantic launched an investigation into alleged leaks of flight details from 2010.

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10 great places for museum mysteries

USA Today

If you consider museums dusty collections of artifacts, think again. Even the smallest collections hold tantalizing secrets and intrigue, says Don Wildman , host of the Travel Channel show Mysteries at the Museum. “People see museums as boring places, but that’s not the case,” he says. He shares some favorite behind-the-scenes stories withLarry Bleiberg  for USA TODAY.

Fake heads of Alcatraz

San Francisco

Plenty of visitors make the trip across San Francisco Bayto see this notorious federal prison. But a half-century ago, three men made history by escaping the island fortress. They bought time by creating fake heads to fool guards during the bed check. But did the men survive? “Fifty years later, we really can’t tell what happened,” Wildman says.

Keely Motor

West Palm Beach, Fla.

In the late 1800s, when electricity seemed like magic, a Philadelphia inventor claimed to have created a motor powered by energy drawn from water and air. “He hoodwinked a whole bunch of bankers (into believing) that he had the secret to the universe,” Wildman says. Information on the machine is displayed at the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum, a private collection open by appointment. 954-253-3529;

Einstein’s brain


You can see the greatest mind of the 20th century at the Mutter Museum, which specializes in medical history and curiosities. There, amid pictures of Siamese twins and a preserved colon, are slides of Albert Einstein’s brain. Hours after Einstein’s death, a Princeton pathologist decided to preserve the gray matter, Wildman says. The doctor kept the slides for decades, which only recently made their way to Philadelphia. 215-563-3737;

Hollow nickel


Newspapers and Cold War espionage meet in an unexpected artifact at the Newseum, a Washington journalism museum. Soviet spies once passed along microfilm inside hollowed-out coins. Somehow, one found its way into the pocket change of a newspaper delivery person. “It’s spooky international espionage, but it all comes down to one thing: a paper boy,” Wildman says. 888-639-7386;

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