PlanningTravelling Alone

Often people are shocked when they hear that I love to travel alone. Some state that they would be afraid to do this while others imply that they just don’t think they would enjoy the trip without having people accompany them.

Well, there are several advantages to going solo:

1. Planning is much easier. You just think about where you would like to visit and start researching your options. You can open an email with flight offers and book whatever grabs your attention at the time without having to consult or compromise.
2. Travelling is more flexible. If you miss a plane or decide to get sidetracked you can coordinate things based on one schedule only – your own. You don’t have to worry about anxiety or commitments of others in your party. In fact, you could even choose to give up your seat on an overbooked flight and receive hundreds of dollars from the airline for doing so.
3. Opportunities abound. It is a lot easier to purchase one ticket to a popular event that two. Several times I have impulsively arrived at a box office and found that the concert was sold out – except for one great ticket – MINE! Would you believe twenty-third row center for Natalie Cole in Seattle?
4. Relationships develop. Frequently I am invited to join interesting people at their table for a meal when they realize that I am on my own. I have made amazing friendships and enjoyed great conversations on trips that wouldn’t have occurred if I had been with other people.
5. Culture can be experienced first-hand. There is always time to visit with hotel or restaurant staff, discover local adventures or learn about the language and customs from a shop keeper because no one is waiting for you or wanting to do something else.
6. Plans can be altered. You can sleep in, order lunch in mid-afternoon or take an impulsive detour without upsetting anyone else’s itinerary.
7. You set the pace. I have learned to walk slowly and rest often – a situation that does not match that of many other people. Last month, in Ronks, Pennsylvania, for example, I chose to take advantage of an outdoor Amish-made rocking chair so I could just rock and people-watch for two hours. I loved it but know that not everyone would have felt the same way!
8. You spend less money. At least I do because I know that I am the one who will have to haul my luggage around from place to place. And I don’t want to pay an extra transportation fee if it weighs in att over fifty pounds.
9. I also eat better when I am alone because I am not in restaurants three times a day trying to finish everything on the plate. In fact, I eat only one restaurant meal a day, ask for a take-out container and then supplement my left-overs with fruit, vegetables or snacks that I have purchased throughout the day.
10. Finally, and with tongue in cheek I enjoy the fact that there isn’t anyone to correct my stories!

You don’t have to be afraid to travel on your own if you are wise. Just use your common sense, ask hotel personnel for advice about safe areas and keep your eyes open. With just a little practice, you will find that travelling on your own can be a wonderful experience!

Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and décor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

Protect Yourself Against, and Mitigate Damages From, Identity Theft

We’ve all heard of it. But we all think that we’re invincible to it. Identity Theft!

What is it? It refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

If your identity is stolen, do you have a plan in place to mitigate the damages? If not, you should at least bookmark this, just in case you need it in the future.

Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
• full name
• date of birth
• Social Insurance Numbers
• full address
• mother’s maiden name
• username and password for online services
• driver’s license number
• personal identification numbers (PIN)
• credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
• bank account numbers
• signature
• passport number

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft, and there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and help bring the thief to justice.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now to protect yourself:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the ‘For’ line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won’t have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SIN printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. When you travel abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Insurance number, credit cards, etc…

If your identity does get stolen, what kind of things can you expect to have happen?

Here are just some of what they can do:
1. Access your bank accounts
2. Open new bank accounts
3. Transfer bank balances
4. Apply for loans, credit cards
5. Make purchases
6. Buy cell phone packages
7. Credit line approved by retail stores
8. Access your driving record, and change your information online

If you are a victim, here’s some critical information to act on immediately:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. This is why we photocopy them (see above). Call your local bank/financial institution as well.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the nationwide credit reporting companies immediately. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your name and credit report. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers for two national credit bureaus:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
2.) TransUnion Canada: 1-877-525-3823
3. Order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Have you even been a victim of identify theft? Tell us your story and maybe others can learn from what you did, or didn’t do.

Future of an IT Career

Based on who you ask, a career in IT is both bright and risky. The information technology industry is going through dramatic changes because of the consumer technology, social media, recession and cloud computing, just to name a few. These changes in the corporate world and IT industry are impacting the availability of IT jobs, required skills and salaries. Read on to find out more about it.

If you ask IT professionals, especially those who consider their profession in the IT industry as a dead end will say that the IT departments are facing a non-stop cycle of downsizing. Others things that are adding to the concerns of professionals are offshoring, and the use of the high-tech labors in the form of H-1B visa holders. This is the reason some people think that the pursuing a career in the IT sector is somewhat risky.

Aside from this, the existing professionals in the industry are also fed up with the fact that they are not appreciated for the time and effort they invest in order to get their routine work done. They have been finding it hard to maintain a balance between work and life, not to mention the fact that they are not getting the salary increments they expect.

Other the other side, some professionals are optimistic and they say things in favor of the IT industry. They agree that the industry professionals have a lot of problems to face, such as globalization, offshoring, technological changes and so on. But they still believe that it is the best time to be an IT professional. They are of the opinion that jobs in this industry and the jobs in the near future will be so lucrative that the job holders will be considered well-rounded employees. And they will be better prepared to handle other business tasks. This is because technology is making its way into all types of businesses, and there will be need for IT pros in every business.

Why pursue a career in IT

Although the problem of layoffs and outsourcing is there, the IT sectors still have some jobs that are more stable. Some employers are of the opinion that this trend is leaving towards long tenures. Moreover, large companies want their IT pros to work for them for long term because the knowledge of the IT architecture that the employees have will be hard to replace.

The importance of architecture is on the rise, and companies know the value of highly tenured employees. These companies look for ways in order to attract talented people and want to keep them for a long term. And when they hire someone, they want to make the part of their company.

If you want to pursue IT career, you should be flexible enough to adopt changes. This is way to stay ahead of the completion and achieve your goals. Keep in mind that you won’t be jobless if you are hardworking and talented. No matter what career you choose, you will be successful.