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Travel to waste or travel to save?


The economic crisis will inevitably affect the tourists. A good thing is that travellers is a completely different species, and with a bit of a wise planning, they can turn it into their advantage.

If you are just out of university and you are struggling to find a job while paying all your bills maybe it’s time for that break you were dreaming of since high school.

road1If you have enough money to pay your rent for the next two months, then you have enough money to spend a few more months in a cheaper country.

It is easier to organise a trip like that now, thanks to the internet. Sites like The Backpacker and the backpacking site will give you tips, ideas and guides to specific countries.

You can plan ahead your accommodation with websites like the hostel-finder and hostelword. map

It wouldn’t make much sense to travel to a country like Luxembourg or Switzerland. If you want your money to last longer, try Latin America, Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe. The British pound is still strong there and you can spend much more time in these countries than you would here, with the same amount of money.

For the practical minds, you can use this trip to gain work experience, while saving money. Either by volunteering or with part-time jobs, you can save on your accommodation and make your CV more unusual and interesting. The Prospects website offers advice but there are literally hundreds of websites with projects abroad. Be careful though, because some of them charge with ridiculous prices for their services.

Remember, when the time comes for you to find a job and settle down, it will be much harder to take a gap year or a break to travel. This period is an ideal time to do it. Leave your stuff at your parents’ house, stop spending your money on your rent and get through the economic crisis in a distant and exotic location.

When you come back, you will have more energy and experience to look for a job and let your CV stand out. Even though we can’t tell how long this crisis will last, it seems that a gap year now will give you nothing to lose.

Not to mention the places that you will see… But that’s another subject!


Author: Dimitra Rizou

all photos from microsoft clipart


November 21, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Crichton: A Background

The late author Michael Crichton was famous for his thought-provoking and sometimes controversial novels dealing with the possible affects of medicine and science.

He originally chose to study medicine at Harvard College, and graduate summa cum laude in 1964. His knowledge of medicine and science often became an important factor in his novels.


His first bestselling novel, ‘The Andromeda Strain’ was written and published in 1969 while he was still at university, though he wrote it under the pen name John Lange.

He went on to have 25 bestselling novels from 1969 until 2006, with 13 of them being made into films: the most successful of which was the 1993 blockbuster ‘Jurassic Park’.

Strange Habits

Crichton was noted for the strange habits he picked up while writing. For his first six years as an author, he tended to write under a psydoneum: either John Lange or Jeffrey Hudson.

  • Both were a comment on his height of 6 feet 9 inches – Lange meaning tall in German and Sir Jeffrey Hudson being a famous dwarf.
  • It is rumoured that at times he could write up to 10,000 words per day – although Crichton himself said that doing so was excruciating and often left him with writers block.
  • During the process of writing, he tended to eat the same meal every day, and would start writing earlier each day towards the end of the book.

He believed that it was important to make sure the information in his books was accurate, and so throughout his life he has reseached in depth topics such as Nordic myths, genetic engineering, medieval European history and airline deregulation.

Books into Film

Many of Crichton’s bestselling books have been turned into movies, beginning with ‘The Andromeda Strain’  and including ‘The Terminal Man’ in 1974, ‘Rising Sun’ in 1993 and ‘Disclosure’ in 1994.

Jurassic Park in 1993 is the most noted adaption, and grossed $914 million: currently the 11th highest grossing feature film.

It was also thought to be a landmark film, with the use of computer generated imagery. Since the film’s release, there have been two sequels, and a third is currently being developed.

Writing Passion

Crichton has said on his website that he started writing when he was very young, after he saw his father, a journalist, typing. “I was the weird kid who wrote extra assignments the teacher didn’t ask for. i just did it because I liked writing so much”.

Although he had wanted to be a writer from an early age, he “didn’t think it was likely [he] could make a living at it, so [he] went to medical school”. He continued to write while studying however, and after graduation decided to pursue it as a career.

Michael’s family have said that he “challenged our preconcieved notions about the world around us – and entertained us all while doing so…he will be profoundly missed”.

For an article on Michael Crichton’s influence on sci-fi, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , | 1 Comment

Sci-Fi Dies With Michael Crichton

The Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton passed away this week after a long battle with cancer, aged just 66.

He was famous for his futuristic novels, many of which have been made into films, as well as creating the hospital drama series ER.

Considered by some to be the leading authority in writing futuristic novels, his death is being seen as a severe loss to the sci-fi community.

His family have issued a statement saying that he “served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand”.

Jurassic Park

One of his most famous achievements surrounds his bestselling novel ‘Jurassic Park’, published in 1990 and telling the story of genetically grown dinosoars on a secret island.

The book was made into a blockbuster hit in 1993, and was quickly followed by it’s sequel ‘The Lost World’ in 1995.

Director Stephen Spielburg said of his death “Michael’s talent outscaled even his own dinosoars…there is no one in the wings that will ever take his place”.

End Of An Era For Sci-Fi

Crichton has sold over 150 million books worldwide, many of which deal with the possible affects science and medicine could have on the world.

His agent, Lynn Nesbitt said “he had a ferocious, brilliant intellect and the ability to write entertaining narratives…I can’t think of many writers who can match that”.

Comments on The Times website following the news suggested that his works were considered both thought-provoking and entertaining. John Gibbs from Manchester said “he was the only sci fi writer for me. I wonder how many others will lose their love of sci fi with his death”.

ER Drama

The author also drew on his own history as a medical student to write stories that were set in the present. In 1994 he created the medical drama ‘ER‘ , and it is now one of NBC’s longest running dramas.

Over the years it has won five Emmy awards, one Golden Globe and three Screen Actor Guild awards. It has recently been announced that it will end its run after 15 seasons in February 2009.

The executive producer of the show John Wells, has called him “an extrordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erodite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful”.

Climate Change Scandal

In 2004, Crichton’s book ‘State of Fear’ was released. It soon recieved severe critisism for its denial of the effects the human race may have on global warming.

In an interview with the BBC he defended his suggestions, saying that “they do computer simulations and conclude that this is of human origin. The difficulty that I have with that is that I simply don’t believe computer simulations”.

The book reignited the debate between human driven global warming followers, and natural global warming followers showing the influence that Crichton had by this time.

It was awarded the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Journalism Award in 2006, and Communication Director Larry Nation told the New York Times “it is fiction, but it has the absolute ring of truth”.

The author’s newest novel, which was due for release next month and published by Harper Collins, has been postponed indefinitely.

For background information on Michael Crichton, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , , | 1 Comment

Banksy: A Background

Street artist Banksy is known for being unknown, and is often called ‘the most wanted artist in the world’.

Although he has exhibited paintings and displayed drawings, he is infamous for his graffiti art around the streets of Britain and the world.

Journalists have often sought to uncover his identity, and some have claimed to have caught him in the act. However, as of yet none of the rumours have been either confirmed or denied.

The general consenus says that Banksy is from Bristol and he is a 30-something male. It was claimed by The Mail on Sunday that his name is Robert Gunningham, he went to a private school and that his parents think he is a painter and decorator.

However, Banksy said on his website that he is “unable to comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as being ‘good at drawing’ doesn’t sound like Banksy to me”.

Subversive Work

He is known for his anti establishment, anti capitalism and anti war messages, such as his portrayal of a man about to throw a grenade, holding a bunch of flowers instead; and the image of a cash machine reaching out and capturing a young girl.



Images of rats also play an important role in his work. In an interview with The Culture Show he is thought to have said it’s because “the idea that everything you paint on the street, it should be something that could actually be on the street”

Previous Art

One of the artist’s most prominent pieces can be seen on the cover for Blur’s 2003 album, Think Tank. It pictures a man and a woman  holding each other, while wearing diving helmets.

In 2006, he copied the works of famous paintings and added his own twist to them. Monet’s ‘Garden’, for example, was shown with shopping trollies and a cone floating in the water, while Andy Warhol’s painting of Marylin Munroe become a picture of Kate Moss.

One of his stunts in 2006 included replacing copies of Paris Hilton’s album across nearly 50 different music stores with ones showing his own cover art. The song title’s were changed to things such as ‘What Am I For?’ and ‘Why Am I Famous?’

Currently, Banksy has opened an exhibition in New York showing animals pursuing haman pasttimes, and food animated to look like animals. It ‘aims to question the relationship between human beings and animals’.

For an article on the street artist, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , | 1 Comment

Is Banksy’s Work Art or Vandalism?

The graffiti artist known only as Banksy has recently painted a new mural on the side of a pub in Liverpool.

According to BBC News, the pub that was on sale for around £495,000 could now double in cost to around £1 million.

Liverpool Pub

Courtesy of BBC -

The new painting depicts a rat toting a gun, and has appeared on the side of the derelict Whitehouse pub in Liverpool.

However, while the painter is heralded as an artistic mastermind by some, others see him as no more than an anarchic vandal.

Works Of Art

Banksy is most famous for his satirical graffiti murals that cover topics such as ethics, politics and culture.

His paintings have sold for thousands of pounds, with the piece ‘Space Girl and Bird’ reaching 20 times its estimated value at £288,000 in 2007.

His admirers are strong in their praise, with BT’s press office describing his work on one of their phoneboxes as “a stunning visual comment on BT’s transformation from an old fashioned telecommunications company into a modern communications services provider”.

Celebrities such as Jude Law, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are admirers of his work, and artist Damien Hirst owns several of his paintings. Speaking to The Guardian he said “I’ve always thought he was great. The streets are boring. So I think anyone like Banksy who makes it entertaining and treats people like people instead of consumers is brilliant”.

In May 2007 he won the award for ‘Art’s Greatest Living Briton’ in celebration of his work: although he did not attend in order to keep his anonimity intact.

Crime and Vandalism

There are many that see Banksy as no more than a vandal, defacing buildings and causing controversy wherever he goes.

Throughout the years, councils around the country have been faced with the debate over whether to keep or cover his work.

Westminster City Council has become the latest to make the decision to remove one of his artworks, ‘One Nation Under CCTV’.

Deputy leader Robert Davis has said “I take the view that this is graffiti and if you condone this then what is the difference between this and all the other graffiti you see sprawled across the city”.


He is echoing the view of many of the artists critics, who see his work as audacious stunts. The Times Visual Arts reporter, Mathew Collings has said that Banksy’s work is “a status symbol – the work has no value as art”.

The works themselves have always sparked controversy, with one of his more famous works in Soho depicting two Policemen kissing, and many of his works using rats as the focal point.

The artist himself is elusive, with many theories surrounding his identity but nothing confirmed for certain. Any interviews that have been given cannot be verified, however he is quoted as saying “people say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish…but that’s only if it’s done properly”.

For a background on Banksy, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , , | 1 Comment

Obama’s family celebrate in Kenya

The Evening Standard reported that Obama‘s family in Kenya have said that his historic electoral victory is a “victory for the world”.

Obama’s relatives partied through the night. Kiran Randhawa from The Evening Standard has reported that Obama’s half-brother Abongo, 51, “wept tears of joy and relief as the win was was announced and heard Barack thank his family for their help.”

Abongo viewed the live election coverage on a portable television with his relatives in their native village.

The Evening Standard reports Abongo’s brotherly pride: “I never had any doubt my brother would do this. This is a historic moment…for the entire world.”

Please see the video below for coverage of Obama’s family celebrating in Africa:


Sarah Obama is thrilled for her grandson

Barack Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, is a woman of simple means, and has always maintained that the fame and glory of her grandson would not affect her lifestyle.

The Guardian report on her uncomplicated way of living. Sarah wakes at dawn, tends her vegetables, goes to the market and then to bed.

Even on Wednesday night – election night – Sarah continued as normal with her daily routine, turning in for bed early. Other members of the family camped at her house but could not sleep for excitement.

CNN announced Obama’s victory over John McCain at 7am the following morning. This time, Sarah Obama joined in all the commotion and allowed herself to be caught in the emotion of her surrounding family.

A few hours later, she expressed her emotional sentiments to The Guardian, “I don’t know if I will die of happiness.”

When asked if she had any advice for the new president, she said: “He should work very well globally, especially for world peace.”

Joy in Kenya

Elsewhere in Kenya where people think of Obama as one of their own, The Guardian report the euphoria to have spread.

Spontaneous parties were thrown in the eastern port city of Mombasa. In Nairobi young men were marching through a slum singing: “Obama don’t sleep. The struggle is still on.”

President Mwai Kibaki declared today as a bank holiday in celebration of Obama’s victory much to the delight of the people of Kenya.

In the village near Sarah Obama’s house in Kogelo, hundreds of locals had stayed up throug the night and were danicing whilst watching the election procedures on screen. Barak Obama’s father had been raised in this village.

 Kenya is not expecting to receive help from Obama. The Guardian reported Auma Obama, the half-sister who Obama thanked in his speech, as saying: “As a family we support Barack, but have not got expectations [of him helping us in Africa].”

He is an American … if there any changes to they will be in America and the world.”

For more information on Obama’s family, you can see my background article.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Background: The Obama family

John McCain used Obama‘s background as a negative arguement towards his opponent during the campaigns, and the question ‘who is Obama?’ became topical.

In response, Obama sportingly joked that he comes from Krypton, the planet where Superman was born.

But where is Obama from? Who are his family? Obama seems to have a new step-grandmother or unknown uncle popping up all over Kenya and America.

Family is incredibly important to Obama and it is a known fact that whilst he was senate, he tried to be back at home with his wife and children from Thursday to Sunday every week.

Obama referred to his family in his election victory speech, and said that he loved his children ‘more than they could ever know’. He also made a loving dedication to his wife during the same speech:

 “And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years … the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady … Michelle Obama.”

The family behind Barack Obama

Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961. Obama and his wife have two children between them, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7. You can see a video of the Obamas below:

The President was born in Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama from Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white American from Kansas. His parents met while studying together at the University of Hawaii, and married in 1961 and divorced in 1964, when Obama was two years old.

Obama’s father only saw his son once more on a return to Kenya before dying in a motorbike accident in 1982.

Obama was mostly brought up by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died on the eve of the Presidential election.

Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

The extended family

In an interview in 2006, Obama talked about his numerous relatives, “Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s like a little mini-United Nations… I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.”

In Obama’s outer-immediate family, he has seven half-siblings from Kenya, all from his father’s side. Six of them are living. He also has a half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. Maya is his mother’s daughter.

Obama’s paternal step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, lives in a Kenyan Nyang’oma Kogelo village near his other relatives. The village is 30 miles away from Kenya’s main town, Kisumu, which is next to Lake Victoria.

Sarah Obama is a member of the Luo, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya. Many of Obama’s other paternal relations are also members of this group.

Obama’s grandmother Sarah was the third wife of Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama (1895-1979). Barack Obama has been known to call his grandmother ‘Granny Sarah’, although she is not a blood relation.

Sarah Obama speaks mostly Luo and communicates with her step-grandson with the help of an interpreter.

After Obama’s electoral victory over John McCain, Sarah Obama finally let go of her strict but simple routines and celebrated her step-grandson’s Presidency. To see my article on Sarah Obama and her relations celebrating, please see here.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton Wins F1 World Championship.

Lewis Hamilton has become the youngest Formula 1 Champion, at 23years old. His 5th place on Sunday’s final race in Brazil gave him just enough points to beat his title rival Felipe Massa.

Hamilton wins F1 championship

Hamilton wins F1 championship. Image courtesy granted by http://www.F1

Going into the race, Hamilton was at the top of the leader board and needed to come in at least 5th place to win the championship.

A sudden downpour just minutes before the start of the race caused a delay and gave the teams a difficult decision about which tyres to start the race on. The track was wet in places, giving the drivers a challenging start to the final race.

Hamilton stayed in a comfortable position throughout most of the race, reaching his much needed 5th place and holding off any competitors. With only a few laps to go, Hamilton was in 4th place, and then the rain came in.

The majority of teams took a final pit stop to change onto wet tyres, but the Toyota team took a chance and left Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli out on the track. As Hamilton went into the pits he was in 4th position and looked set to win the championship.

As Hamilton left the pits, he went back onto the track in 5th place, but with only 3 laps to go Vettel slid past him into 5th. It looked like it was all over for the young F1 star, as the final lap began with Hamilton in 6th place.

As Felipe Massa crossed the line to win the race, the Ferrari team looked set to celebrate a championship win. On the final corner, Hamilton shocked everyone by overtaking Timo Glock and clinching the much needed 5th place to win the championship.

For many Felipe Massa was the real champion, staying in first place throughout a difficult race, and only losing the title by one point. The nail biting final race was a fitting end to the F1 season.

Many race reports have commended Massa on his grace in handing over the title to young Hamilton.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to the F1 champion on Monday, saying that he was “thrilled” at Hamiltons championship win.

He said “ I think that the whole of Britain are proud of the inspirational Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team”.

In an interview with, the new champion commented on the final race, “the last two laps were the toughest two laps of my entire career because the stakes were just so high”.

On being the F1 champion, Lewis Hamilton said, “it doesn’t really sink in straight away – but then it hits you again and again: ‘Wow, you are world champion!’ It’s a cool feeling”.

For background on Lewis Hamilton visit the link.

Carrian Jones

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Carrian - Entertainment | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lewis Hamilton Background

Born in Hertfordshire in 1985, 23 year old Lewis Hamilton has just become the youngest F1 World Champion to date.

After losing last years F1 championship by just one point, Hamilton had a lot to make up for this year. In 2007 he was set to become the champion, with a 17 point lead and only two races to go, it shocked the nation when he finished in 7th place in Brazil, losing the championship to Finland’s Kimi Räikkönen.

Lewis Hamilton began his racing career in 1993 when he was just 8 years old. By the age of 10, Hamilton had won the British Karting championship, and more wins were to come. He was spotted by McLaren chairman and CEO, Ron Dennis and was signed to the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Programme. At the age of 15, Hamilton was crowned the Karting world number 1.

Hamilton in his Go Kart. Picture courtesy of

Hamilton in his Go Kart. Picture courtesy granted by

After winning the British Formula Renault, European Formula Three and GP2 championship, he became a McLaren F1 driver for the 2007 championship. During the 2007 season, Hamilton broke numerous records, including most wins in a debut season and youngest driver to lead the World Championship.

His success in his rookie year of F1 did not go unnoticed by members of the public, as he was voted runner up in the 2007 Sports personality of the year.

On 18 December 2007, Hamilton was banned from driving in France for a month after being caught speeding at 122 mph on a French motorway. His Mercedes-Benz that he was driving at the time was impounded.

Banking giant Santander, one of the world’s biggest banks, sponsors Lewis Hamilton, as well as McLaren’s other commercial partners Vodafone, Hugo Boss and TAG Heuer. Hamilton appears on a television advert for Santander, where he drives away in his McLaren F1 racing car.

Hamilton is currently dating Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer of the American girl band Pussycat Dolls, who witnessed his championship win on Sunday’s race in Brazil.

Carrian Jones

For a recent report on Sunday’s F1 Championship visit this link.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Carrian - Entertainment | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train


Ok, I’ve said enough about volunteering and exchanges. There are some of us who like to travel in the good old-fashioned way: without any plans at all in advance. jacklondon

Lucky for us, we live in Europe, where there is so much to see in such a short distance. And how to do that? Well, ever since Jack London and his days of ‘The Road’, die-hard travellers know that the ultimate way of travelling is the train.

Green Steam Train by Simon Hart

Green Steam Train by Simon Hart

Why train rules? Because you actually get to see the beautiful scenery of Europe, it’s more environmentally-friendly than planes and unlike them, it will leave you in the middle of the city. There’s more! You always meet interesting people, you don’t have to plan ahead or book and the best part, you are free to say any time, “hey, this place looks cool! Let’s get off here!”. I wanna see you saying that on a plane!

In our modern times, following Jack London’s hobo example would be pointless, since there are now schemes that cater for the wanderers and their wanderlust.

The Interrail pass was introduced in 1973 and is run jointly by all the rail services in Europe. It is a train pass that allows unlimited travel in Europe, except for some high-speed trains. Imagine a monthly travel card, from zones 1 to …the limits of Europe! If you are not a European citizen, you can take the Eurail instead.


You can either purchase a one-country pass from £25, or my favourite, the global pass from £129. This means that you can take trains towards any European destination. You also get a good discount on ferries everywhere, in case you’re a sea-wolf too. Jump from the train on the ferry from Spain to Italy to Greece, or around the Scandinavian countries. See all the places that you can go on this map. You will also have discounts on some hotels, museums, excursions, local buses, as well as other benefits.


If you buy the 22-days or the 1-month continuous pass, it means total freedom. You can literally go to the train station with your backpack and choose randomly the next destination. With all the people that you will meet on the train or the hostels, with the last minute decisions and the unpredictable timetables and more importantly, with all the trains that you will miss because of what you did the previous night, you never know where you might end up! However, if you are a control freak, you can try to plan everything in advance with the timetables, but, be warned, sticking to the plan will probably spoil all the fun!

If it’s your first time, take the advice of the veterans: the less you will pack the better. lonelypolanetBackpacks tend to get heavier by the minute. All you will really need is a good guide, like the Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring, and of course the little bible with all the timetables that some train stations offer.

Another tip: after covering the must-see capitals that you want to take off your check list, it’s time to go off the beaten track. Find summer fiestas in small villages, deserted beaches and countries that you are not quite sure where they are. You can find a lot of preparation tips on-line. Take a look at the facebook page, or the travellers’ weblog too.

So if you made up your mind, get your ticket, pack a few clothes, take a buddy with you (but choose wisely-you will spend a looot of time together!) and go to conquer Europe!

Author: Dimitra Rizou

Extra Information here.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment