Women on the Road NEWS #48

I'm in a festive spirit! I pretty much missed Christmas due to an unscheduled two-week detour in a Washing hospital so now I'm in a partying mood.

In honor of that festive spirit I'm sharing my own list of favorite festivals with you - and I've attended every one of these (except for one). It is an utterly biased list, I admit it, but we all have our pet events and maybe I can surprise you and you'll discover one you didn't know.

I'm rushing around madly because a few months from now I'll be publishing my first ebook! It will be brought to you by Indie Travel Media, the same people who just released the must-read book on "Travel Safety" (see the ad below). One thing though - anyone had told me how much work was involved I might have thought twice about it but I'm starting to look forward to it now!

Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #48

My Top Festivals of the World (a highly biased list)

Las Fallas de Valencia, Spain: 15-19 March
Spain's most famous festivals are the running of the bulls in Pamplona (San Fermin) and the whackier Tomatina - though getting pelted with tomatoes just doesn't do it for me. I remember the Fallas from my childhood in Spain, a chaotic fire-filled celebration with a strong mystical twist. Held in honor of St Joseph, the Fallas are all about burning down huge wood and cardboard statues. Stay away if flames and fireworks don't appeal to you!

Songkran Water Festival, Thailand: 13-15 April
Let go of your inhibitions, arm yourself with a bucket, a hose, a water pistol - and get outside! Held in the Thai New Year, the hottest season, Songkran is all about water and it will cool you off. The water is symbolic: it's designed to cleanse your mind, body and spirit. These days the fun has taken over and everyone is expected to take part. If you're planning to visit Thailand during the festival, be forewarned. You'll get wet, wet, wet.

La Pourcailhade (French Pig Festival): Second Sunday in August
If you're a roast pork fan the Pourcailhade has got to be one of the odder food festivals, even for France, itself home to many strange culinary events. Of course you'd better like pork because you'll find everything from piglet races to sausage eating contests to the highlight of them all: France's national pig squeak imitation contest, which will send you squealing all the way through the medieval village of Trie Sur Baïse in the Pyrenees of Southwestern France.

Quebec Winter Carnival: in the middle of winter
When I was little (I lived in Canada for a couple of years as a child) the highlight of the carnival were amazing ice sculptures. Since then it's expanded into one big party, from parades to barrel jumping contests to amusement rides. There's something exhilarating about weaving around gigantic ice constructions in sub-zero temperatures. I love this festival - but I'd also like to see the Harbin Ice Festival in China and the Sapporo Festival in Japan, both of which I hear are also amazing.

Meskel Festival, Ethiopia: 27-28 September
If you've ever tried to cross Meskel Square in Addis Ababa on even a light traffic day you'll understand how extraordinary the sight of thousands of celebrants dancing around a giant fire must be. They're celebrating a 17-century-old Christian Orthodox tradition in which Roman Emperor Constantine's mother sought the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Today, the fires lit across the country symbolize this search. Bring your own torch and join in the festivities!

International Hot Air Balloon Festival, Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland: January
This small Swiss village is picturesque at the best of times, but it really comes into its own when you look up at the sky filled with bright colorful balloons as far as you can see. I'm fortunate to live a couple of hours' drive away and this is a sight I try not to miss (although this year the rain and fog kept most balloons on the ground). There are plenty of others worldwide - notably Albuquerque, Reno, Canberra, Philippines and so many more - but there's something about all those snowy Alps as a backdrop...

Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland: July
Nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva (also a couple of hours' drive away) is the world-class Montreux Jazz Festival - only it's not just about jazz anymore and features musicians ranging from Sting to Santana to Seal and Status Quo. You can reserve your tickets online as of April or take your chances at the festival - if you don't mind standing in line. Just beware: if you're thinking of staying near the festival in a hotel, book way way ahead of time, even if you head off to hilly Lausanne nearby or Geneva a bit further down the lake, both just a train ride away (night trains are provided during the festival).

New Year's Eve in Rio! 31 December, of course
Forget Times Square - Copacabana Beach is the place to be when midnight strikes: fireworks on barges just off Copacabana Beach, plenty of music (Brazlian and beyond), and more than two million people gathered for one big party. Even when I backpack I like to spend the occasional night in a good hotel - the best view for the changing of the year is from one of the lively hotels right along the beach. Or is it from one of the passenger ships anchored along the bay? Splash out on something white for good luck, and when the new year comes around jump into the sea (it's the height of summer) and make a wish. Brazilians say it will come true.

Midsummer Celebrations, Rattvik, Sweden: around 23 June
Welcome to the last festival on the list - and the only one I haven't been to myself. I'd like to: there's something appealing about an ancient pagan fertility festival designed to attract a bountiful harvest. Taking place right after the summer solstice midsummer is celebrated throughout Scandinavia but two friends from the region insist the best place to spend this special day is Rättvik, NW of Stockholm. Watch the huge maypole painstakingly hoisted inch by inch (you'll have to exercise a bit of patience to watch this video) and take part in the dancing around it, revel in the traditional music and costumes, not to mention the non-stop partying. Sounds worth the visit!

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Great books to help you travel

Travel Safety - by Craig Bidois and Craig Martin

Do you ever worry about how to protect yourself when you travel? Do you think of your money and your baggage - and how to keep them safe? I certainly do - in fact a majority of the questions submitted to Women on the Road deal in some way with safety. Travel Safety, just released a few days ago, walks you through every imaginable danger and tells you how to avoid them (and how to cope with them if you can't). It's just what you need to set your mind at ease before you go.

The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide

If you're getting ready to travel solo for the first time but don't quite know how to go about it, this feisty, congenial and smart e-book that will tell you everything you need to know to get out the door and on the road. Find out how to save for your trip, break the news to your loved ones, take care of those last-minute jitters, and even how to deal with coming home. It's short, light and to the point - no padding like so many other e-books.

Video 101: Tips and Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling

This continues to be a best-selling classic (written by my friend and fellow travel writer Lisa Lubin) if you want to learn basic video from a three-time Emmy award winner. You won't find anything else like it: short, no fluff, just the facts:figure out your story, make it human, plan your video ahead of time, use interviews, write for pictures and edit it all together... it's all in the book. So are some priceless checklists to make sure you don't forget a thing.

Travel News from across the Web

Travel and Leisure's Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012
Top Budget Travel Destinations of 2012
Top 10 Indie Travel Destinations of 2012
10 Minute Trip Planning
The 7 Wonders of Winter
Advice for Aspiring Long-Term Travelers

How to Buy a Train Ticket in China
How to Travel the Trans-Siberian

For food lovers...

Must-Try Foods in Taiwan
Condiments from Around the World
Lisa Lubin's Favorite NYC Restaurants
A Guide to Tasty Turkish Street Food

...and lovers of other arts

Top Travel Literature Titles of 2011
World Hum's Best Travel Reading of 2011
Top 10 Women Travel Novels
Old and New Architecture from Around the World
The 13 Shakespeare Suicides: Stratford-upon-Avon

Destination Travel

Travel Like a Local in Ecuador
Visiting Mecca and Medina for Hajj or Umrah
6 Reasons Toronto is Cooler Than You Think
5 Favorite Things in Riga
5 Boomer Travel Tips for Visiting Paris
Riding the Chicken Buses of Guatemala
The Beauty and Challenges of the Untouched Tourist Trail: Wayanad

If You're Visual

Dogsledding in Swedish Lapland
Video: Two Weeks in Tasmania
Machu Picchu
Picture Perfect Portraits: Children of the World

And finally...

Travel Technology: When More is Less

Cause of the Month

Child Slavery

There are many kinds of child slaves: sexual slaves, with children sold into sexual bondage or prostitution, sweatshop workers, with children sometimes kept in inhuman conditions, beggars (I have already written about child street beggars), domestic servants, miners, fisheries...

They may face physical danger in mines or factories or armies, exploitation through sex or domestic slavery, or verbal or psychological abuse.

Where there's poverty there will unfortunately be families willing to sell children - sometimes with the hope of giving them a better life, often to repay a debt, and also to alleviate their own poverty and that of the rest of their family.

These children most often lose their childhoods and opportunities for education and a future, working instead in conditions few adults could imagine and becoming part of a vicious cycle of poverty. Because they don't go to school, they won't learn the skills they need to climb out of poverty. They too, as grownups, will be unskilled and may turn to their own children to help bring in money to feed the family.

Can we eliminate child slavery in our lifetime?

To find out more about child slavery:
Stop Child Slavery
Child Slaves in South Asia
Anti-Slavery Society
Global Angels
Child Rights International Network
Former Child Slaves, Child Soldiers Recover from Liberia's War
Nor For Sale Campaign
Slavery: A 21st Century Evil - Haiti
Chocolate: Chocolate's Child Slaves (CNN), Child Slavery in Chocolate and The Child Slavery Behind Your Chocolate.

Next Month in Women on the Road NEWS?

What you need to know about visa planning for extended travel

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