Archive | Perspectives


Boston Bombings | RIP MIT Campus Police Officer – Sean Collier

Posted on 25 April 2013 by Danica

12 years after 9/11, the Boston Bombings have me  wondering again what more I could have done to help those injured from a terrorist attack.  You see, I was in World Trade Center when 9/11 happened (after the first plane hit the Tower to be exact), and that day would forever change my life.  I remember walking on Manhattan’s FDR drive for hours trying to escape from the devastation downtown, seeing the 2nd Tower fall, and how happiness and smiles were stolen from us for a long time after the event.

I felt the same level of helplessness when I heard about the Boston bombings.  I spent the happiest days of my life at MIT and in Boston, in fact, I met my husband there. It’s painful to see people and places you love suffer.  And just like 9/11 when I wanted to drive straight back to Ground Zero to help those who were suffering, I wanted to be in Boston, even in the mist of gunfire and chaos to be with the Bostonians, to be in pain with them.


I heart MIT Police

My experience with the MIT police goes way back, many years ago, to when I was invited to a pre-rush event to check out the school before applying.  Given how nerdy I was, I decided to study at the MIT Library after all the pre-rush social events were over.   Then I fell asleep.  When I woke up, I found myself locked inside the closed Library in the dark pre-dawn hours.  My savior?  The MIT Campus Police.  I called them from a phone inside the Library, and moments later, an MIT campus police officer showed up.   I was afraid I was going to get a lecture from an annoyed campus cop for sleeping in the library.  However, the officer was very friendly to me and was just concerned about my well-being and safety.  He got me out of the library, and escorted me to where I was staying until he was sure that I was safe.

I was fortunate enough to be accepted at MIT, and over the next four years, campus police continued to be there for me.  The police officers were there to comfort my friends and me when a friend of ours committed suicide on campus; they were there to escort me home when I studied on campus until the wee hours of the night.

I always felt protected by the MIT campus police and I love them.

There is no reason why an MIT police officer should be murdered this way.  No reason.

Travel to Understand

After 9/11, my husband and I decided to travel the world.  One of the main reasons for that is to broaden our understanding of the other cultures and their way of living.

I remember how nervous I was being in a Muslim country for the first time in my life.  I remember how uncomfortable it felt to be inside a madrasa (Koran school).   “Surely, all Muslims hate us.”  “All the Muslims want to kill us.”  Those were the thoughts that ran through my head when I was there.

But now I know how ridiculous those thoughts were.  Just like not all Americans hate Muslims, not all Muslims hate Americans.  I felt welcomed when I visited Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco (and I have to admit, the prayer calls were soothing), and I felt safe when I was inside the madrasa.

A few words

To the Americans, please do not blame the Muslims for the Boston bombings.  It’s not the Muslims who did this.  It’s the crazy people who don’t understand Americans, never seek to understand, and are too lazy to find out themselves, because it’s so much easier to just follow what someone else told you to think rather than thinking on your own.

To the Muslims, please understand we hold no bad will towards your faith.   We don’t want to harm you.

To the citizens of the world, please be tolerant of all our differences.  If you don’t understand, seek first to understand before you judge.  And the way to understand is to experience it yourself firsthand.  Don’t solely rely on your religious leaders to tell you what to think.  They are not God; they are just the messengers of God, and as they are humans, they can be wrong too!  Seek out the answers on your own.  There is no easier way.

Travel.  Travel with an open heart and mind.  You will be surprised how many times you were mistaken about the other cultures.

Rest in Peace Officer Sean Collier

And finally, to Officer Sean Collier, we never crossed paths and I wish we had.  You should know that you were part of a community that is as diverse as the rest of world, a community that values equality and justice and opportunity for all.  Your life meant something to the MIT community and to me.  You will never be forgotten and thank you for your service!


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Trip to Tibet – Why Tibet Must Be On Your Travel List

Posted on 09 July 2012 by onthegroundtravel

Trip to Tibet - Potala Palace


We’ll be highlighting our trip to Tibet this month.

The Controversy of Encouraging a Trip to Tibet

Before we start, we want to address a legitimate question raised by @Tibetans, one of our Twitter followers: “How can you promote Tourism to occupied Tibet where Tibetan are suffering under Chinese brutality?”

Whether the accusation above is true or not, we want to start answering this question by first clarifying why we travel and most important of all and why we believe everyone should get out of their comfort zone and travel to understand the world around them.


If All You Want is a Picture, Stay Home Instead

Sometimes, travelers get a bad rap.

They go to a new place, pack the top tourist sites in the morning hours, snap a bunch of pictures, get back on the bus and go to the next place.  To them, traveling is like a social proof that they have “seen” the country and they have all the pictures to prove that too.

That is NOT why one should travel.  Honestly, if the only objective you have to travel is to snap pictures in front of the  “Eiffel Towers” of the world, then there are tons of photo software you can leverage to do that.  Don’t waste thousands of dollars to go there.

An Example of Power and Danger of the Media: a Victim or Murder Suspect

To travel (as opposed to vacationing), in our opinion, is only worth the money if the journey enhances your perspective of the world in some way.

If there is one thing we confirmed from our decades of traveling around the world is this:

Do not trust any media or anyone to tell you what is happening on the ground elsewhere.

Why?  Because every article is influenced by the viewpoints and opinions of the author.  Every word on the article has implied meanings that can sway how you think about a situation.

For example take the case of a recent story about George Zimmerman who was accused of murdering a black teen.   Was he the “victim of media persecution” or a “a murderer”?

Depending on which of the labels you saw the media assign to him the most, you would have formed an opinion about who Zimmerman is, regardless of the real truth.   You’ll begin to believe one side of the story based on the ‘facts’ the media reported.  It would not be until a verdict in a competent judicial court (and sometimes even after that) that you will start to understand the real course of events.  Unfortunately not all events go through the rigor of due process in a justice system thus leaving you to form an opinion on the information you get from whoever reports it.

And that is the danger (and power) of media.

Trip to Tibet - Ganden Monastery

Our Right to Informed Opinion of Tibet

Now, going back to why we promote taking a trip to Tibet.

We strongly believe everyone should go there to see and determine for themselves the condition of Tibetans under the Chinese rule.  If we didn’t believe in that, who are we to criticize those who blindly follow what state-controlled and supposedly free-speech media outlets say about any situation at all.   Everyone has the right to see and make that decision for themselves.

We Encourage You to Visit Tibet!

If you have the opportunity, you should visit this amazing land and its people!   It was an eye opening and intriguing visit for us.  If you are planning a trip to Tibet, have a look at our Tibet itinerary that we will share on our next post.  Hope it helps you out!

We know this is a very passionate topic for some.  What’s your view on taking a trip to Tibet?

Trip to Tibet - Barkhor Circuit

Interested in Tibet?  Then check out our other stories:


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Hotel Black Light Cleaning Challenge

Posted on 19 June 2012 by Danica

Round the World Travel Hotel


Is this a challenge by Best Western?


We recently reported that Best Western will be piloting a program where its housekeepers will be equipped with black light to clean hotel rooms.  While we remain doubtful that this will work, we figure using this new gadget to clean rooms can’t hurt right?

In fact, on some levels, we take this as a cleaning challenge launched by Best Western against us, the normal travelers, that we will no longer be able to spot a dirty room moving forward.

Why?  Well, because up until Best Western brought up the point about dirty rooms, it never even cross our minds that its rooms may be dirty.  (And honestly, even if it did, we would rather not think about it…)

Now that Best Western made it front and center that they are committed to a completely clean room, we decided to put a plan together where we can test whether it’s working or not.

Black Light Purchase | Hotel Housekeeping Challenge

Meeting the Challenge Heads On – 1st Step


First step of this plan is to purchase a black light.  Now, we always thought black light is only used to shine on white clothes at a party, or a crime scene to detect finger prints, or worse yet, (hold your breath) blood stains.  The horror!  So we are a bit worried about what we may find with this new tool.  We will update you once we use it in a Best Western hotel room.

In the meantime, we started doing some research on a reliable black light to purchase.  Naturally, we headed straight to Amazon, since it practically sells everything under the sun.  We identified the top 3 choices below.

We used the following criteria:

  • Portable
  • Have at least 50 customer reviews
  • Ranked at least 4 stars by the customers
  • Does not cost us an arm and a leg!

So we came down to these 3 choices (in descending order of price):

We are still not sure which of the three to buy yet.  Do you have experience with any of these flashlights?

Have you used black lights for cleaning before?  Which one did you use?  Share your experience below, and help us meet this challenge.  We’d love to hear from you!

Check out our original report on Best Western using black light for housekeeping.


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photo by: illum

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Hotel Housekeeping to Use Black Light for Cleaning. Too Much or Not Enough?

Posted on 07 June 2012 by Danica

Round the World Travel Hotel


We traveled around the world, and have stayed at more than our fair share of hostels and low to midscale hotels.  Through it all, aside from one instance that we would rather forget, we never felt the need to pull out our own bed sheets and towels anywhere.  We always thought there is something to be said about letting (or training) your own body’s immune system to take care of most germs .  If the locals can do it, why can’t we?  After all, this is not too different from purposely enduring the minor headaches and resisting from ingesting a dose of Tylenol right away, right?  According to CNN, apparently, we are in the minority on this issue.

According to this article, a recent study conducted by Best Western International indicated a lack of confidence in cleanliness among midscale hotels.  As a result, the hotel chain is rolling out a “I Care Clean” program where housekeepers will be equipped with black-light to detect trouble areas.

I am doubtful that this will work, but remain optimistic that at least the new program can’t hurt.  Why?  I don’t think the cleanliness issue stemmed from housekeepers not knowing what and where to clean, I suspect the issue is they are overloaded with the number of rooms they need to clean within a short period of time, and are stuck between doing a fantastic job at each room and be late on schedule, or doing an okay job and be on time.  I think proper training and ensuring a reasonable workload for the housekeepers will be more useful, unless we, as the travelers, are equipped with a black light and can refuse a room if we deem the room to be unfit for the night?!  Now, that’s a novel concept.

What do you think?  Do you think the new Best Western program will help boost confidence?  And do you bring your own linens to the hotels?  Would love to hear from your experience!


Update: We are people of action.  So, rather than wondering, we decided to put the black light concept to test.  Check out our Hotel Black Light Cleaning Challenge.


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Dolce and Gabbana Photo Fiasco

Posted on 08 January 2012 by onthegroundtravel

Once in a while, we find companies put themselves in these unfortunate circumstances that arouse public anger against them, when all the bad press could have dissipated quickly if only the companies had been quick to react.

Today, Dolce & Gabbana is in hot water for allegedly stopping photographers from taking pictures of its storefront from the side-walk.  First of all, as travelers, I am sure many of us have encountered situations where a store or business is not comfortable with you taking pictures of its interior.  But being stopped for taking pictures of the store front?  That’s really a first.  If anything, we all know the side-walk is a public area, and everyone should be allowed to take pictures there.

No Photo

Now, Hong Kong people are so infuriated about the situation because to add insult to injury, it was alleged that the security guards at D&G told the photographers that only mainland tourists who are visiting from China are allowed to take pictures!  Really?  Someone really has the gut to tell Hong Kong people that they have less rights than visitors in their own town?  Doing so is not only discriminatory, but given the current environment, is completely culturally insensitive.

One can argue that this is an isolated incident, and that the action of the security guards in question does not represent the official D&G stand.   This could very much be true, but if that’s the case, the most effective way to deal with the public’s discontent is for D&G to come out with a public statement stating such.  Even an offer of some sort of promise to beef up its diversity training  would ease public anger and all the bad press will go away quickly.

In time of crisis, keeping quiet is the worst of all strategies.   Photographs are said to be worth a thousand words.  Preventing photos from being taken in public places are worth just as many words.   Don’t mess with photographers!

For the full story check out the articles from the South China Morning Post and the Telegraph.


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