Follow the Locals


Having a toot-my-own-horn moment here:

A few months ago, I submitted a few travel tips to Travel + Leisure/CNN iReport’s “100 Ways to Travel Better” special, one of which ended up being featured in the December 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure magazine. The tip was based on my first night in Hong Kong, where I had arrived solo for a few days of exploring. I had landed in HK late on a Wednesday night in early March 2013 and, after getting on the MTR train and dropping my bag off at my hotel in Causeway Bay, I wandered over to Jardine’s Bazaar at the recommendation of the hotel concierge to see about some food. It was nearing midnight and yet a ton of people were out and about, going from one place to the next at a rapid pace typical of Hong Kongers. With no idea where to go or what to eat, I walked from restaurant to restaurant until I spotted a place filled with locals. I had always been taught to “follow the locals” when it comes to dining in a different country since they know where good food can be found. It turns out I was right; I ended up at an excellent noodle shop where I indulged in some delicious shu mai dumplings with noodles. It was my first dining experience in Hong Kong and one of my most enjoyable, so much so that I ended up there again on my last night in HK. So, there’s my tip: follow the crowd to the best restaurants. I promise you won’t regret it.

Travel and the “Career Break”

Tausha Cowan

A few weeks ago, I attended a meet up held by Meet, Plan, Go in conjunction with AFAR. The topic of discussion: taking a “career break” to travel the world. The concept is interesting—leaving your job and life behind to experience different countries and cultures for an extended period of time. While I’m not at the point in my life where I envision myself doing this (note: I consider my career break to be when I moved to London to get my master’s degree and traveled to various countries in Europe and North Africa), it was fascinating and enlightening to meet people who had taken a career break. There were also many attendees who had not taken a break but were just as passionate about travel, incorporating it into their lives in whatever way possible.

More recently, a study came out from the Center for Economic and Policy Research that showed the United States is the only highly developed nation that does not require employers to offer paid vacation time. In Australia, businesses are required to provide employees with 35 days off. Yes, that’s right: 35 days! In several countries in Europe: 31. America: A big ole 0.

In today’s global and hyper-connected world, this strikes me as a missed opportunity for the U.S. and a big reason why the idea of a “career break” can sound so alluring. We are an overworked nation; that cannot be denied. More than that, we are a nation that is not nearly knowledgeable enough about the world. Travel is one of the ways to become more knowledgeable. As the saying goes, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” With each trip I take, I am increasingly convinced of its truth.

Several months ago, I traveled to a few countries in Asia (where I ate a lot), and on one of my flights, I ended up in conversation with the passenger next to me. At first I was more determined to sleep than speak with this person, but I soon found myself showing her pictures of my travels and hearing about her adventures roaming around Chiang Mai, Thailand via motorcycle (clearly she was the gutsier one). We also discovered a shared background in journalism—her, a newspaper journalist in Dongguan in southern China, and me, a multimedia and communications professional in New York City. I learned about what it’s like being a journalist in China (not the easiest, as one can imagine) and, in turn, she learned about working in media in New York and some of the ways in which the business environment is changing. It was, and continues to be, one of those conversations and experiences you can’t quite create when you don’t go anywhere.

As careers evolve and businesses adapt to the changing environment, global perspective is key. Thus, it is almost mind boggling to realize that not only do Americans barely travel and take vacation compared to the rest of the world, but also the vacation policies of many businesses do not encourage it. Why not change your policy, encourage employees to take time off and travel, whether domestically or internationally, and see what new perspective they bring back? I have a feeling the long term impact would more than pay off.