Do men have better travel experiences than women?
We recently published a Q&A; with Alex Boylan, star of the upcoming show Around the World for Free.
In response, the female travel writer who runs the blog Less Than a Shoestring had an interesting response. She singled out one of the stories Alex told about how in Kenya he had hitchhiked to a Maasai settlement in a rural area filled with armed men. "I think that is an amazing experience I probably would have passed on," says Hilary, who goes by the pen name PoetLoverRebelSpy. "When faced with a risky choice," she says, "women are more likely to err on the side of caution."
PoetLoverRebelSpy notes "how gendered travel can be." She thinks that many places and experiences were open to Alex because he was a young man, and not a woman traveling solo.
"This is not to imply that women couldn't do this trip or that women *shouldn't* travel anywhere these men did, or that we are somehow inherently more fragile or weak than male travelers. But at the same time, women do consider the risks of rides or offers of accommodation from strange men, traveling in areas of unrest and even being out after dark differently from their male counterparts. Further, female travelers are harrassed and targeted in ways that men on the road are not. I'm sure it's not possible to quantify the difference that this confidence and access makes, but I believe more effort should be made to note it."
What do you think?
Readers' Photos: A slide show of our fave shots
We've gotten a huge number of great photos from travelers—over 4,000 have been uploaded to date. Click here to see a slide show of our current favorites, and don't forget to upload your own photos, Travel Journals, and videos to myBudgetTravel. You'll have to register, but you'll only have to do it once, and you'll also be able to comment on and rate articles and other readers' contributions.
This weekend: Puerto Rico's annual holiday mask festival
Our online trip coaches always have inside information and tips for us. Stephen Keeling, author of the first-edition "Rough Guide to Puerto Rico," recently told us about a nifty festival happening this weekend on the island. Here it is, in his words: The Hatillo mask festival (Festival de las Máscaras) is one of Puerto Rico's most exuberant celebrations, so you are in for a real treat! Held on December 28, the festival actually commemorates King Herod's attempt to kill baby Jesus by ordering the murder of all first born sons. These days it's a big party; the men of the town wear florid masks and costumes to collect money for local churches or charities (with as many pranks as possible), there's a big parade with floats, lots of mouth-watering food and plenty of music and dancing. Given the thousands that turn up to celebrate, visiting the festival can be tricky! The best way would be stay near the town: the Parador El Buen Café is a decent three-star hotel on the main highway just outside Hatillo. Once there, the hotel should be able to help with local taxis. Failing that, you can drive to Hatillo from San Juan in around one hour, but I'd leave really early! PREVIOUSLY In time for the holidays, "Scared of Santa" photos Exclusive: New York's holiday windows as festive as ever
Dreaming of Tuscany
It's always right around this time of year when I start longing for a vacation. True, most of us are just back from at least a few days off for Christmas and New Year's, but vacations are kind of like movie popcorn to me: a taste only makes me hungry for more. So I was the perfect audience for the info I got today from a new program called Tuscany: A Journey for the Senses. I'm not crazy about the name (you can't get much more New Age-y than "journey" and "senses," and New Age-y I am not), but I love the concept: a week in Tuscany studying art, architecture, or cooking. There are four programs in all, and they last anywhere from seven to 10 days. The best part? You stay at Fatttoria La Palazzina, a villa in the Val d'Orcia region. To be honest, I don't care if my pastel paintings turn out like my nephew's kindergarten art—if I get to bask by that pool and stare out at the rolling hills every day, I'll be happy. The programs start at about $2,200 for a week, which sounds steep until you consider that it covers your room, classes, local transportation, admission to museums, and meals cooked by the villa's resident chef, Eliana Pasquini. I'm guessing she doesn't serve movie popcorn, but I'm sure I'll find something to tempt me.
NYC: Classical music for less
Perhaps feeling the recessionary pull, the New Yorker's music critic writes this week about the affordable art of concertgoing. For many of the options that Alex Ross attended, it's all in the timing. You can hear the New York Philharmonic for just $16 if you're willing to attend one of their open rehearsals—held in the morning. And Juilliard students have a running gig for Tuesdays around lunchtime at 180 Maiden Lane, an office tower near South Street Seaport. Other times it's a tradeoff in location that gives you the edge. As Alex points out, the "cheapest seats at the Metropolitan Opera are fifteen dollars, slightly more than the bleachers at Yankee Stadium." They also happen to be so nosebleedy that you can't see the stage. But if the music's the thing for you, these "family circle" seats may actually work to your advantage: up there, Ross says, "the sound has excellent balance and presence: the voices float straight up, bounce off the ceiling, and mingle cleanly with the orchestra." (Another Met Opera option are the $25 tickets set aside each week. Given out by lottery, these special deals are all for primo orchestra or grand tier seats. And if you're more interested in smaller, independent opera companies, New York has a rundown.) If you're headed to New York soon and want to catch a classical-music concert, where can you easily find out what's on? The New Yorker, New York magazine, and Time Out all have good listings, but the most thorough I've seen is the concert board kept up by the classical music station WQXR.