What I Learned Not Having a Phone for 8 Days

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

We recently went on a vacation to Paris. After looking into the roaming plans and their cost, we decided to leave our phones at home for the vacation.

I knew it would bug me, but I had no idea how or how I’d react.

A little background before we begin. I haven’t been without a cellphone since 2002. In high school, I was the dork with the digital organizer. I had an HTC-Dream in 2009 and remember Android 1.6 Cupcake. All that tells you I’m a little of a gadget nerd and haven’t been far from the convenience in almost a decade.

One of the first pictures I took and posted directly from my HTC-Dream to Facebook in October 2009. (604×402 pixels in size)

Like most people my age, I rarely make phone calls with my phone. Only when I have to or if I want to speak with my older relatives.

What I didn’t miss

I expected to miss the constant social connection of my phone, but it’s the part I missed the least. It was actually kind of nice to disconnect and ignore things that weren’t important.

I’m a little bit of a digital hoarder. Take for exemple that before this trip I had a mailing list subscription to TeeFury in 3 of my 5 emails.

The vacation and only being able to clean out my facebook and email once a day, sometimes less, gave me the push I needed to start cleaning out subscriptions, groups, and even a few friends.

What I have now is a quarter the amount of incoming emails and a lot less of an urge to check my phone every four seconds.

What I did miss but was glad I didn’t have

The camera on my phone is exceptional and I have a nasty habit of relying on it too much. I have a fantastic Mirrorless SLR and need to use it more often. No matter how good your phone’s camera is, at the moment, an SLR will be much better.

This forced me to reach into my bag and grab the camera instead of just pulling out my phone.

What I missed

Being able to search for random information, directions, locations, and even identify landmarks; was something I truly missed about my phone.

The ability to pull out my phone and be told what a landmark is and its history is extremely useful. Being able to ask where to find the closest café is extremely useful. Being able to find out the hours of operations for business over a holiday is useful.

I have terrible handwriting so being able to write a list for groceries on my phone is something that I love. The list is shared with my wife so if she forgets something while I’m out, she can add it to the list no problem.

Despite being French Canadian, there was a language barrier and some words I had no idea what they meant. It would have been nice to have a universal translator in my pocket for shopping.

We went to Paris with my in-laws and being able to separate without detailed plans of where and when to meet is something I greatly missed.

I also missed being able to listen to music, read, play games, and jot down ideas.

 

I still think that the roaming is excessively expensive, but I sure missed the convenience of having my phone.

Éric

News!

Hello!

I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that AJ Travel, the agency I have been with since 2015, has closed. The good news: I have joined Orleans Travel & Cruise Centre!

Image from the home page of Orleans Travel.

If you were a client with me in the past year, keep an eye open for an email from me today from my new email jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca. If you booked travel with me longer ago than a year, I no longer have your contact information, so feel free to send me an email if you’re hoping to travel.

There will be a couple small changes, mostly to paperwork and how service fees and taxes are collected (separately from the payment for the actual trip), but I’ll explain everything before it happens. I am still working from home, which is the most important part.

Please bear with me as I transfer everything over to the new agency. I’ll be up and running soon!

Are you interested in travelling? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Having a theft-free vacation

Telling people you’re planning on travelling comes with all sorts of advice and warnings. One of the most persistent and scary is the threat of theft. Being away from home and having your ID, money, clothes, and/or belongings stolen is the opposite of fun.

The best way to avoid armed robbery or other extremely traumatic experiences is to talk to your travel agent and check advisories.

For smaller thefts, it seems that Pickpockets have gotten a near mystical reputation. Hollywood would have you believe that one bump and the thief will have your underwear. Thankfully they’re not quite that good.

Pickpockets are still a big issue, especially in big cities.

What can you do?

There are a few tips and tricks for you to keep your valuables safe.

1. Don’t carry everything.

A thief can’t pickpocket something you don’t have with you.

2. Don’t flaunt it.

Try to avoid traveling with unnecessary valuables. Try not to have too much cash.

If you have to have the valuables try not to flash them around like you’re a bigshot. Try to only take out a little bit of cash and not a whole wad.

3. Hide your stuff

Wear a money belt or some other form of hidden pocket. And don’t put everything at the same place. That way, if they do get one hiding spot, you still have something.

4. Zippers!

A zippered bag or purse is much more secure than one that has just an opening. One that has a lockable zipper is even better.

5. Watch your stuff

This seems obvious, but the easiest target is one that isn’t paying attention. If your bag isn’t attached to you or something solid, it’s an easy target. Same with one shouldered bags. Wear them crossbody to avoid a quick snatchings.

Don’t put your cell or laptop on the table after you’re done with it. It should stay in your hand, your secure bag, or your pocket.

6. Avoid distractions

The number one way to lose your stuff is to be distracted. This is the oldest trick in the book. Someone gets your attention and someone else frees your stuff. Still enjoy the busker, but make sure you keep an eye on your things.

Also don’t accept things from random strangers. I mean if it’s Mardi Gras or you’re landing in Hawaii then expect something, but otherwise be wary of gifts. They could be distractions or they could come with a hidden cost.

7. Don’t go anywhere with a stranger

At the risk of sounding like your parents; don’t get into a vehicle with a random stranger or follow them to less crowded areas.

If someone needs help, call the authorities or wave down someone who works in the area.

8. Don’t risk your life

If someone is robbing you and they have a weapon, it’s best to just give them what they want. Your things are not worth your life. Be safe.

9. Wear your bag on your front

If you are worried about people slashing or getting into your bag, wear it on your front and hug it. That way you’ll know if someone comes for it.

If you carry a cell or wallet, consider wearing in the front pocket of your pants. It’s a harder target.

10. Buy an antitheft bag

If after all this you’re still worried, go ahead and buy yourself an anti-theft bag.

There are all kinds out there from $30 on Amazon to $500. They all have different features and ways of preventing theft. You can also buy a mesh cage for your current travel bag.

The most important features are a slash proof bag, locked or hidden zippers, and hidden pockets.

The three best companies that I’ve found for bags are:

Great features of both the Nomatic and Bobby are that they are also crush-proof, meaning your laptop or tablet won’t get destroyed by over-zealous baggage handlers or if you sit on them.

What about RFID blocking?

RFID means Radio-frequency identification. You may know it as Tap or Interact Flash. Your credit cards, phones, bus passes, work passes, passports, and a ton of other things work with this technology.

A lot of people have been worried about RFID theft or cloning. There’s been demonstrations and hackers have shown that it is possible.

But according to The Identity Theft Centre: “There are far better behaviors you could adopt if you want to keep your information and your funds safe[.]”

There have been no known thefts from this method and it shouldn’t be on the top of your list of worries. It’s easier to steal the card than it is the RFID information and then use it. Even if they get your RFID data that doesn’t include your three digit security code on the back or your PIN.

As for your passport, all they can get from the RFID is your name and basic information. So unless you’re pretending to be someone else, you should be fine.

If it makes you feel better, however, there is no harm.

Any other safety precautions we missed?


References

Rick Steve’s Europe: Outsmarting Pickpockets and Thieves

USA Today: Lessons from the Louvre: How to avoid pickpockets

The Savvy Backpaker: How to avoid pickpockets in Europe — Tips for outsmarting the thieves

Wirecutter: Dear Wirecutter: Are RFID-Blocking Wallets Necessary?

Slate: The Skimming Scam

Global News: Reality check: You don’t need RFID protection in your wallet


Are you interested in travelling? You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Secrets and Truths

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

A few weeks ago I promised secrets; it took a little while for everything to finalize but now the ink has dried and I can tell you.

AJ Travel Logo

First announcement is that I have joined AJ Travel as a travel agent. I’ll be selling travel with my wife and best friend which is something that makes me very happy.

If you haven’t been reading our bi-weekly Fandom Travel Blog, you really should. Jen has been doing an amazing job.

I’ll mostly be specializing in the same things as Jen but with the addition of Culinary Tourism (Food, Drink, Coffee, Tea, Wine, Etc.)

Tattoo
My new tattoo. It’s a baby dragon. Click on the image to enlarge

My second announcement is that I got a tattoo. I’ve wanted to get one for a long time and couldn’t decide on what to get. With the arrival of our baby Dragon, I decided to ask the wonderful S.M. Carrière to design one for me and hold my hand through the process.

I went to Living Colour Tattoo in downtown Ottawa and they were wonderful. The original design was beautiful but not perfect for a tattoo so the artist Patrick Drouin recommended some changes and the final product looks great.

I’m extremely happy with it and really thankful for all of S.M.’s help, encouragement, and guidance.

 

That’s the big excitement for me.

Later Days,

Éric

The January 2017 Vacation

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

When my wife was pregnant, someone recommended that we should take a vacation with the baby. It would help get the baby used to travelling, get us out of the house, and not use any vacation days. It was a great idea and I don’t regret the vacation in the least. However, some have called it THE VACATION FROM HELL.

We went with my fantastic Mother in-law and Sister in-law. The plan was to spend six days at Disney and three at Universal. We wanted to do the whole resort thing so that Jen could be more comfortable selling it as a vacation. The first five days were wonderful and exhausting. The baby slept 9-11 hours a night (and on most rides), the food was good, the transportation was okay, and the rooms were good.

IMG_20170109_180908_1
Moana said that Keladry was going to be an excellent way-finder. She thought it was cute that Keladry didn’t wake up at all!

Day six was going to be our second day at Magic Kingdom, but my poor Mother in-law was sick over the night. At first, we were all delusionally hoping it was food poisoning or an allergy attack. Her being hypoglycemic meant we were extra worried for her and after a few more revisitations-of-previous-foods, my Father in-law (still at home) told us to send her to the hospital. It’s also at this point that he decided to fly in and save us.

So my Mother in-law goes to the hospital and my Sister in-law goes with her to make sure everything is ok and keep us updated. That leaves me, the Dragon, and Jen in the hotel room wondering what to do and worrying. We did some laundry (thank you Disney resorts).

My Father in-law tells us not to waste the day and go to Magic Kingdom anyways. We went and had fun but it was always under the shadow of worry. On our way home, we learnt that my Mother in-law was coming back from the hospital and everything was fine.

My wife spoke to a manager at our resort and got us some free tickets for our trouble and reimbursement for the taxi that brought them home. (Really awesome of Disney!)

This is the point where a sane individual would start wondering what had happened. I stubbornly stuck to the food allergy story.

The next day, everyone was exhausted and we needed to checkout and move to Universal. We met in the resort’s cafeteria and hogged a section of wall for all our luggage and waited for our ride and my Father in-law who had arrived and rented a car.

We all transferred to Universal. The transfer company that drove us let us have a grocery stop. Our suites at Universal were great. At this point, to avoid the parental in-law snoring, we had my sister in-law sleep in our suite.

We spent the night chatting and relaxing. The next day we were going to Universal parks and seeing all the stuff we didn’t normally have a chance to see. We planned on leaving at 10am. Jen was sick at 9:45am.

We spent the day in the hotel, except for a short walk on my part to give everyone a rest from the baby. Here’s the thing about spending five or six days with an infant, showing them all kinds of cool stuff and hundreds of people; they get a little stir crazy if you just suddenly stop.

That night my Sister in-law failed her fortitude save to what we are now sure was a Norovirus.

The next day, I decided I wanted to get the baby a Harry Potter Hogwarts onesie and I’d walk to the parks. I was dissuaded from taking the baby (I don’t produce milk for her). I arrived at the City Walk to find out that the best merchandise is in the parks.

As a travel agent Jen had a free ticket. I had her passport and decided to try and sweet-talk my way into the parks. Apparently, a patient attitude and a sob story about a sick family will get them to let you use your wife’s ticket.

At this point I was convinced I was going to be fine. I escaped the plague people and hadn’t caught it yet. So I walked the entirety of both parks on a mission for souvenirs, onesies, and butterbeer. I took the Hogwarts Express between the parks.

IMG_20170115_184035

Feeling guilty for having had freedom, I walked back to our hotel. While I’d been gone, my Father in-law started showing symptoms. As I fell asleep that night I thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d avoided catching this plague. (sigh)

We were scheduled to fly out the next day. I got sick in the early morning after repeatedly telling everyone and fate, that I wouldn’t, but I did.

So at this point my Mother in-law is feeling crumby but recovering, same with my Sister in-Law. My father in-law is feeling like crap, and Jen is giving the baby all her antibodies and still feeling sick. I was having trouble with this whole sitting thing.

We were still ready to try and fly, but then Jen was sick again. It was decided that we’d split the group. Mother in-law and Sister in-law headed home and the rest of us stayed behind an extra day.

I vaguely remember sleeping the whole day and changing diapers. I also remember that baby decided it was a good day to start teething and screaming about it.

When we did fly out, I wasn’t sure Jen would make it all the way without being sick but she powered through. It was great to finally get home.

The entire family impressed me with their strength and patience. It’s not easy being in a room with a crying infant or someone being sick when you’re healthy.

As a last thought, I have to thank my father in-law for being there and saving us. He dropped everything at home to come help, and once there he did groceries, pharmacy runs, called to reschedule flights, extended the room, took care of everyone, took Keladry for walks, helped us get into the AC lounge, and so many other things that I’m sure I’ve forgotten or don’t know. All while getting sick, or being just as sick as the rest of us.

He’s an amazing man and his dedication, quick thinking, and ridiculously big heart make him one of the best people I know. Thank you so much.

I’d also like to say that both Disney Resorts and Universal Resorts were extremely understanding and accommodating; making a terrible situation much better.

 

So no more vacations for a little while. (At least a few months.)

Be healthy!

Éric

Dear Dragon – Your First Trip

Dear Dragon,

As I write this, you’re a day away from going on your first vacation. Tomorrow, at an insane time, we’ll get you up and bundle you and all our luggage and head to the airport. Then we’re off to Disney and Universal with your Aunt and Grannie.

You’ll grow up travelling a little bit everywhere. It’s a perk of your Mum being a travel agent. I hope you appreciate travelling. I hope you realize how lucky you are to be able to go to all the awesome places you’ll be going.

I also hope this new phase of screeching doesn’t last too long. If it does it’ll be an interesting plane ride.

It’s mostly joyful but people can get really cranky when they fly so hopefully you’ll stick to the cuter noises.

I know you won’t remember this trip, but I hope you’ll have as much fun as we will. Someday we’ll go again and I’ll love seeing your excitement. Until then, we’ll just get hundreds of adorable pictures of you at the parks.

Your excited Papa

DIY or FML?

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I have noticed something strange among people I know (or follow online). It transcends age groups, social groups, and economic groups.

There seems to be a collective “looking down the nose” towards people who don’t do it themselves.

Snobbism?

How did this come about? I’m not sure. I assume it’s the backlash to big businesses selling and doing everything (and doing it as cheap quality as possible); the same backlash that has seen a resurgence of crafts people and small businesses.

But when did, “Oh, that’s hand-made? Where’d you get it?”, turn into disdain because we didn’t make it ourselves?

Maybe it’s the hundreds of DIY shows that make it look like people who know nothing suddenly can do amazing things. Reality (show) check; they’re coached and taught by professionals.

Ego?

Because there is so much information on the internet about everything and a lot of websites that trick you into thinking you’re doing it yourself for cheaper, people assume that they can do anything.

And that might be fine for a drywall patch or a regular dessert or even setting up your television system. However, no one is perfect or good at everything. When I make a cake it tastes good and looks like something a toddler put together. I know so little about drywall that if I tried alone I’d probably just screw it up.

It’s ok to admit that you don’t know everything and can’t do everything.

Small Business and Freelance Professionals

I know why this happens and how to fix it.
I know why this happens and how to fix it.

There are certain things you might be good at and that’s wonderful, work on those and improve yourself. Maybe you have the persistence to turn it into a career.

As a Freelance Layout Artist, I have worked on my profession for years. I did my first professional book layout 17 years ago and I’ve been doing it for private and government for 10 years. I have tools, tricks, and resources that most people don’t. The same goes for your friends and family who are professionals in their trade.

Do you know the downfall of most freelancers and small businesses? It’s not that they suck at what they do or that they aren’t skilled in their craft. It’s the business part that’s hard. It forces us to stop working on our passions to become salespeople.

You’re not Bothering Us!

My wife is a travel consultant. Read her travel articles, and contact her for all your travel needs.

She and I get plenty of emails that start with or include, “Sorry for bothering you” or “I know it’s a hassle”. It’s NOT, it’s our job and we love it.

If I could lay out fiction books for the rest of my life, I probably would never retire. It’s my passion and something I enjoy greatly.

My wife relishes finding the best price for someone. My photographer friends love taking pictures. My baker friends love baking. My clothes making friends love making clothes. My graphic artist friends love art-ing. Etc. Etc. Etc.

No one starts a small business, or goes freelance, unless they love what they do.

MONEY!

It all comes down to money. Some people DIY because they can’t afford anything else… or can they?

I understand that not everyone can afford to buy coffee from JenEric Coffee. It’s a luxury item and I don’t get annoyed seeing people drink Starbucks.

I do cringe when I see friends and family booking cruises or vacations “on their own.” No one books travel “on their own”. They use online sites with catchy names. These sites charge you for the privilege of searching for your own travel. Good travel agents make their money by taking the commission from the vendor not the traveller. That means the cruise ship pays commission not you. (Airfare is different and requires a small fee but is usually cheaper than doing it yourself.) So you don’t pay for a travel agent and they can get you better deals than doing it yourself.

Every profession is different but most don’t, or shouldn’t, charge a fee for discussing what you want. And if they do charge a service fee, they are obligated to tell you so at the beginning of the conversation. We love our jobs and are more than willing to discuss things with you. I’ll talk margins, kerning, and fonts all day (and I have).

My Point

Before you waste long amounts of time, get a quote or extra information from your friends who do it for a living. You might be surprised at the amount of frustration and money you’ll save in the end.

And if you truly want to do it yourself, ask us to teach you. I’ll gladly teach you how to roast your own coffee, or work with InDesign.

Éric

Shanghai

I planned on doing my Geography assignment on Tuesday, to help give me inspiration for today’s post. The assignment is on China. However, it was not at all useful in helping to provide inspiration, as we simply had to regurgitate information provided to us in previous weeks, none of which was Fandom related.

So, I will be writing another mini post, (very mini this time, I’m afraid) on what happens in Shanghai if you don’t have a dinner companion.

This is what Shanghai restaurants do if you don't have a dinner companion. Image from 9gag.com
This is what Shanghai restaurants do if you don’t have a dinner companion. Image from 9gag.com

I want to go to a Shanghai restaurant alone now.

Let me help you plan your trip. Contact me Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel and the Ambassador service for relocation. jenniferd@ajtravel.ca

Skara Brae – Guest Travel Article by S.M. Carrière

In the Bay of Skaill on the north-west coast of the largest of Scotland’s Orkney Islands sat a large mound known then as Skerrabra.  A storm in 1850 washed part of the mound away, revealing part of village that was inhabited 5 000 years ago.  A local by the name of William Watt began an amateur excavation of the site, which was abandoned in 1868.  After another storm, in which some of the site was lost to the weather, earnest excavation and preservation began in 1925.

It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of four sites that make up “The Neolithic Heart of Orkney”.  And my goodness is this place beautiful!

Skara Brae. Image courtesy of Orkneyjar.com
Skara Brae. Image courtesy of Orkneyjar.com
The interior of a dwelling. Image courtesy of Orkneyjar.com
The interior of a dwelling. Image courtesy of Orkneyjar.com

Inhabited in the Neolithic (literally, the “new stone age”) the village, which has since been renamed Skara Brae, is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.  It is a fantastic example of the sophistication of the Stone Age inhabitants of the island of Britain, replete with stone furniture and even toilets!

Tolkien fans will be pleased to note that the dwellings of Skara Brae were dug into the ground and covered over with earth and sod.  These were the original hobbit holes!

The site is a brilliant playground for both learning and fun, boasting not only the ruins of the village which you can wander around, but also a visitor’s centre (with games!), a café and a gift shop with locally made souvenirs.

If you’re an archaeology or prehistoric anthropology nerd like I am, Skara Brae and the entire Heart of Neolithic Orkney should definitely be on your must-see destination list.

For more information on Skara Brae and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, see http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_244 and don’t forget to book with Jennifer Desmarais through AJ Travel for a trip full of magic, wonder and learning!


This article brought to you by our guest author S.M. Carrière. She is a local Ottawa speculative fiction author and prehistory of Britain enthusiast. She has a degree in Directed Interdisciplinary Studies: Ancient Cultures with a Celtic Studies concentration and is celebrating the release of her fifth book, Human, this month.

9036315

The People I’m proud of

Good Morning,

Today I’m going to gush a little.

Wife

My wife has started a new job, it’s a summer job that will go into part time while she finishes her degree but I’m very proud of her. She’s a Travel Agent with AJ Travel Canada. She’s a specialist in Fandom Travel and Special Needs Travel.

Please feel free to contact her starting in May for all your travel needs.

Fandom Travel Logo from AJTravel.ca
Fandom Travel Logo from AJTravel.ca

Brother

Another person in my life that is ridiculously talented is my brother. He’s an actor, director, screen writer.

He directed and played the joker in this fan film based off of Batman and Silence of the Lambs.

Here’s his writing and directing debut.

 

If it’s no obvious, I’m ridiculously proud of both my Wife and my Brother.

Poll

The Poll for my next serial story is still open.

Faeries Vs Robots Vs Aliens

An Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction, following a faery woman who must do one last job for her robot overlords before they let her go free. Can she stop the aliens from invading or would they be better than the robots?

Read the First Part

Only Human

A Supernatural Action/Romance, following a human girl who’s enrolled in Monster University in order to avenge her parents. Can she slay her new friends, keep up with classes, and avoid the cute demi-god that likes her?

Read the First Part

The Cosmic Cuckoos

A Science Fiction adventure, following a girl who is trying to save her friend from becoming just another clone warrior. Can a normal human girl really save her friend from the most powerful empire in the galaxy?

Read the First Part

What serial story should I continue this year?

  • Only Human (56%, 5 Votes)
  • The Cosmic Cuckoos (33%, 3 Votes)
  • Faeries Vs Robots Vs Aliens (11%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

Loading ... Loading ...

Latter days,

Éric