All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

To Tip or Not to Tip – That is the Question!

To tip, or not to tip?

to tip or not to tipMoney is a sensitive subject, taboo even in some places, because let’s face it, it’s quite uncomfortable, isn’t it? However, when it comes to saving money, we have to do it if it’s at all possible, especially in this day and age. Another subject regarding money which is a little uncomfortable, is tipping.

Do you tip? If you feel the level of service is substandard, do you feel pressurised into tipping regardless? It’s a difficult subject.

Not many of us have money to spare these days, so saving money is key. A good way to do this is to pre-book money saving airport extras before you leave, which will mean you don’t have to watch the pennies quite so much whilst you’re away. I recently booked airport parking with BCP, and I saved quite a bit compared with how much the train was going to cost me. I’d really recommend looking into this option, because not only was it a much less stressful journey, but the saved money really did help. Once you’ve paid for your meal or drinks, it’s difficult to know how much to tip, and if you don’t have money to burn, you might be tempted not to, but you do have to remember that these people are trying to make a living! Any savings you can make pre-holiday will make it easier for you to be able to follow etiquette without feeling rude.

How much to tip and how to do it really depends on where you’re going, and the variations are wide and too much to discuss here. Basically, you need to research what is the ‘done thing’ before you go, specific to your destination. If you’re heading to the USA, remember it’s customary to tip around 15-20% of the bill in a restaurant, and although it’s not the law that you have to tip, it’s almost seen as an “ethical law”. Basically you don’t have to, but you might feel a little uncomfortable and cringey if you don’t.

When I go away to European holiday resorts, maybe after a few beachfront bar drinks, I always leave a few Euros, lira, whatever the currency is, on top of the bill, because let’s face it, if you go back to that particular restaurant, you want good service again. People don’t forget!

As we’ve discussed, money is one of those strange subjects we don’t like to talk about, but people in resorts are trying to make a living, and often the tips are shared out amongst staff, so bear that in mind. I’m not suggesting you leave a huge tip, unless you feel they deserve it of course, but just a little is enough.

If you make your own savings prior to going on holiday, this will be easier for you, so remember to grab those bargains, such as free child places, last minute bookings, and parking spaces, and you’ll be happier about the whole tipping debate. If you are driving yourself to the airport, be sure to check out the offers at ParkBCP, as I’ve always found a great deal with them.
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To tip, or not to tip? My advice – tip, but in moderation!

Lapland – Home of Reindeer, Sami People, and Santa

No matter where you live, you don’t hear someone say “I’m taking a trip to Lapland” very often. Lapland is a region that stretches through Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. It’s not a country, though it is a definite cultural region that spans national boundaries. Only in Finland and Sweden is the area referred to as Lapland – elsewhere it carries different names. If you are thinking of a holiday in Lapland, there are plenty of options.

Photo of Lapland Reindeer courtesy of RukaKuusamo.com

Lapland is a wild, mountainous country with raging rivers, rolling mountains, and vast stretches of plain that extend well past the Arctic Circle. The climate is cold and while there are forests, other vegetation tends to be sparse. This could be the reason that not many people plan a trip to Lapland – but they should. This is the land of the midnight sun and the polar night and the displays of the Northern Lights here are unparallelled.  Huge herds of reindeer are followed by wolves and bears and birds, fish, and insects are plentiful.

Also in Lapland, are the ethnic Sami people. Cities are sparsely populated, but there are places to go and things to see.  You may want to check out our article 7 Myths About Lapland.

Photo of Lapland courtesy of Visit Finland

Kilpisjarvi is a village that is unique in the world. This is the nearest town to the place where the borders of Finland, Sweden, and Russia meet – the famed ‘Three Borders Point”. There are ample opportunities for hiking and outdoor sports in Kilpisjarvi.

Inari is where to go if you want to explore the Sami culture.This is where you find the Inari Sami Museum and Inari Lake which has more than 3300 islands in it! It’s a paradise for those who want to fish and find solitude under the midnight sun.

Of course, I haven’t mentioned the most popular reasons people take a holiday to Lapland – it’s the home of Santa Claus! Christmas is a special time in Lapland with elves, reindeer, and Santa a plenty. You can meet with Santa, take a sleigh ride, and even ride a dog sled. And if you head to Levi Fell, you will find yourself in a winter sports wonderland.

Photo of Lapland Bear Courtesy of RukaKuusamo.com

So there you have it, perhaps in the future it will be you who says you are taking a trip to Lapland.

More on Lapland from Wikitravel.

Santa Claus – Extraordinary World Traveler Vagabond

Santa Claus – He’s Not Who You Think He Is

origin of Santa ClausEarlier this year, before her 1st birthday, my daughter had the opportunity to visit the real home of Santa Claus. No, we didn’t go to the North Pole. Nor did we go to Lapland.  We didn’t visit with the elves or travel through the snow.

We were in Demre, Turkey. If you don’t believe me, you can read a little about the history of Santa on Wikipedia or you can just read on and trust me with the facts.

If anyone ever tells my daughter that Santa is a made up person, I can show her pictures of us visiting where he really lived. He was a real person. A person named Nicholas.

If you are one of those people who says Santa Claus isn’t real – you’re right because he’s long dead, but he was real. He was a real person, so if you are one of those people who say Santa Clause is a fictional or imaginary character – you are wrong.

Demre Santa ClausSanta Clause was born in the town of Patara , Turkey on the Mediterranean Coast. If you visit today you will find (much to the surprise of many) Santa shops, Christmas shops, and everything Santa you can imagine in this mostly Muslim town. At the time he was born, Turkey wasn’t yet a country and so despite being Anatolian, he was Greek. A Byzantine Christian to be precise. For those who don’t know, Istanbul was the capital of Byzantium and called Constantinople in those days.

His parents left him as a wealthy orphan and he used his inheritance to help the poor who weren’t as fortunate as he.  In particular, he was generous with children and traveled the known world distributing gifts and help to the needy.

Facts about SantaIn 325 A.D. He became the Bishop of Myra (Now Demre, Turkey) and was a part of the Council of Nicea who cobbled together the Holy Bible from a vast assortment of documents. He died December 6, 343 A.D. In fact, in many parts of Europe, December 6 is a day to give gifts and exchange presents.

Six Facts You Didn’t Know About Santa (From Natalie Sayin’s Turkish Travel Blog)

 

So, how did he become Santa Clause?

Here’s a story you won’t see in Christmas cartoons…one of the most famous stories of St. Nick’s generosity was when he gave three orphaned girls dowries so they would be able to marry and wouldn’t have to become prostitutes! It was this gift that some say led to the giving of presents on Christmas today!

Santa Claus is buried hereIn the 10th century – Myra was attacked by Italian sailors who carried away all the relics of St. Nicholas to Bari where they still sit today.  He is the patron saint of archers, sailors, and children to pawnbrokers.

After his death, he was attributed with miracles aplenty. He brought boys murdered by a butcher back to life, he kept a ship from sinking with his prayers, and he levitated one sailor from the water to save his life. Hmmm…I believe he can fly!

Clement C. Moore, an American professor of divinity, was the one who turned Saint Nicholas into Santa with his 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” The poem provided the inspiration for the first portrait of Santa Claus, drawn by newspaper cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1870.

After he died, he was made a saint and a tomb was built for him in Demre. The Church of St Nicholas was built over that tomb in the 6th Century. It is a ruin now, but still a very beautiful piece of  Anatolian Byzantine architecture. Many of the mosaics and frescoes have survived.  There is a tomb there, but the bones are in Bari.

Baba Noel Santa Claus StatueSt. Nicholas is the paton saint of Russian Orthodoxy, so it’s not surprising that on peak days (around December 6th) you can find up to 60 buses per day of tourists – mostly from Russia. The government of Turkey issued a Santa Claus stamp in 1955 and have heavily promoted ‘Noel Baba’ as a tourist draw. It’s a pretty good one if you ask me.