Take Fabulous Pictures at Purikura Photoland in Sydney

Get creative with self-portraits and full-length photos at the Purikura Photoland

on the second floor of the old mall at Sydney’s Haymarket. The self-operating photo booths come from Japan where they were developed in the late 1990s.

Japanese Style Photo Booths

Purikura is an abbreviation of Purinton Kurabu or Print Club in Japanese. The selfie photo booth is the rage in Japan, part of the kawaii or “cute”  pop-culture. Its popularity has spread to Australia and other English-speaking countries. These booths are popular with teenage girls and others in Japan. Young women can take glamour shots with different hairstyles and makeup in this photo booth.

The photo booth allows you to edit your photo with different backgrounds and lighting. More than one person can appear in the photos. There is usually room for three people in a booth.

There are several types of machines to give you a different look. This is a great way to take photos with smooth skin and wide, bright eyes. You can take a photo wearing a new outfit or even a costume. You select the background you want for your editing.

Customize Your Prints

Once the photos are completed, you are directed to an editing station where the real fun begins. You can use a stylus on a touch screen along with digital stickers to put your picture into any situation. You can add stars, sparklers, dots, and other backgrounds. This is where you can add writing in bubbles or captions. You can make yourself look “otherworldly” with the editing. The finished edited photos can be printed out on stickers and cut up to give to friends.

The process is not difficult and it is a great way to entertain yourself and children. You insert payment to start the photo process on cue and you have three minutes to be photographed in different poses. You can take as many photos as you would like on different machines that offer various looks. The Purikura machines are located in an arcade with other games and machines. But they are the most popular!

Planning a Trip is Half the Adventure

Even thinking about a trip excites our minds and bodies alike: the sense of wonder and adventure allowing us to escape, however briefly, whatever we are dealing with or wherever we are. 

A (Very) Brief History of Travel

From nomadic tribes in Africa that led to the population of our planet, to the creation of more ambitious exploration tools such as the wheel, vessels, planes, and even space ships, we have been on the move for as long as we could think and walk.

You can say that our very need to explore our surroundings is responsible for the way the world looks today. Technology is at the heart of our need to discover new frontiers, both physically and beyond.  

Traveling Today

Outside of philosophical wanderings, travel today is a multi-trillion dollar industry, responsible for nearly 320 million jobs worldwide, according to The World Travel and Tourism Council. And we have yet to bring space travel to the masses!

Planning a Trip Today

More than ever before, we have an incomparable number of tools (most of them free) available to us today. Whether it is guidebooks or online traveler forums, we can have detailed accounts of virtually any destination in the world before setting a foot outside our bed. Below is a somewhat chronological way to get your next adventure started:

  • Resources such as Lonely Planet, or Kayak are great places to get started.  All you need is a computer (or a library) and an internet connection to begin!
  • Once you have selected a location and have a rough idea of an itinerary (the Lonely Planet phase), you can book your tickets (the Kayak phase) and start looking at accommodations.
  • Whether it is a traditional hotel (where a tool such as Booking.com can be useful), or a local apartment (where Airbnb comes into play), the sky is the limit.
  • Finally, you may consider booking local buses where appropriate, or perhaps a car rental; others prefer to leave themselves open for the flexibility.
  • It’s always also good to check with your insurance to evaluate your coverage abroad or supplement with travel insurance.

Even if all you can manage today is a daydream, the internet is full of exciting accounts of travels the world over; perhaps you can use the motivation to start saving or planning the time off. Sometimes all we need is just to get started — and who knows, maybe one day you can join the thousands of digital nomads out there!

Got a Kayak? Kayaking is Closer than You Think!

If you own a kayak that is easy to transport, you can take it anywhere you visit, even in a city.

Also, you can always rent a kayak to enjoy this sport that is easy to learn. Kayaks can be paddled on all bodies of water from rivers and lakes to coastal waters.

Many cities throughout the world have lakes that are perfect for flatwater kayaking. In fact, whitewater kayaks are found on rushing rivers in many areas near cities.

Types of Kayaks

Kayaks are enclosed canoes although there are other differences between the two. A person operating a canoe uses a single-blade paddle while kayakers use a double-bladed paddle. Both types of vessels are long and narrow.

There are several types of kayaks:

  • Sit-on-the-top open kayak
  • Touring kayaks
  • Enclosed recreational kayak
  • Sea kayaks
  • Whitewater kayaks
  • Peddling kayaks

The kayaks are made from fiberglass and other modern materials. Many traditional kayaks are made from wood. There are also inflatable models that you can take with you as luggage. Most kayaks generally take only one person, although two-person kayaks are popular for flat water and touring.

The open sit-on-the-top kayaks may be a little wider than other styles. This vessel is easy to get into and it is great in warm weather. This is the kayak that can be carried on top of a car and is ideal for warm days on calm lakes and rivers. Kayakers, who must always wear a life jacket, paddle along lakes, rivers, and protected bays.

Recreational kayaks have a closed cockpit, but the opening is large enough for one paddler and a small child. These kayaks are usually 10 feet long and they can be transported on a car-top with a special rack. They track well, meaning they’re easy to paddle in a straight line. The open cockpit can be covered with a special skirt to keep it dry and warm in cooler weather.

Touring kayaks that can also be sea kayaks are usually 12 feet or longer. They are narrower and may have rudders and foot pedals to help them turn. They may be tandem models with cockpits for two people. These kayaks are fast and often used for long trips on open water. 

Some kayaks have foot pedals and rudders for people who prefer to use their feet rather than their arms. 

Whitewater kayaks are for running rapids. Longer “old school” boats are popular on rivers. Many outfitters offer guided river rafting trips for experienced kayakers on rivers near cities. They supply the vessels, life jackets, helmets, and a professional guide to lead kayakers through the rapids on a wild and wet ride.

Kayak History

The concept of the kayak began in the far north by native Inuit and Aleut people who built these vessels with wood frames covered in seal skins. The vessels were warm and watertight. They enabled individuals to fish and travel by water when there was little or no ice. The interior was roomy and it could hold fish and tackle. Designs varied in different regions.

Kayak races became an Olympic sport in 1936. The racecourse was 1000 meters and 10,000 meters over flat water for single and double kayakers. Whitewater kayaking and slalom courses were added to the Olympics in 1972.

Professional kayakers are usually whitewater experts such as Emily Jackson, daughter of Olympic kayaker Eric Jackson. She is a World Freestyle Champion who grew up on rivers and calls Rock Island, Tennessee home.

Health Benefits

Travelers visiting cities can take a break and kayak on local lakes and rivers. Kayaks can be rented everywhere from Alaska to Florida, in Canada, the Caribbean, Pacific, and Europe.

This is a nice way to enjoy the local waters, especially in warm weather. Also, paddling through the water is a good exercise that benefits the cardiovascular system and your muscles. It’s the perfect way to relax!

Learn about the local waterfowl and aquatic plants as you glide over the water of an unfamiliar lake during your travels. This is an easy and fun activity for older children and adults of all ages.

Make Indoor Rock Climbing Your Next Adventure

Rock climbing can take many forms.

Some daredevils attempt solo free climbs on dangerous cliffs, there are outdoor climbers who love exploring new challenging routes, and then there are those who prefer a more controlled environment for climbing.

For the last group (and for outdoor climbers to train in inclement weather), there’s indoor rock climbing.

What is Indoor Rock Climbing?

Indoor rock climbing takes place in a climbing gym, or sometimes a small section of a regular gym.

Climbing gyms vary in size and scope, but most have a few things in common: a combination of taller climbing walls meant to be climbed with ropes (called top-roping) and shorter walls that can be climbed with no equipment (called bouldering).

When you visit a climbing gym, you choose which kind of activity you want, get trained if you need it, and then enjoy climbing at your own skill level.

A History of Indoor Rock Climbing

In the 1960s, several different climbers in England began constructing climbing walls to provide better winter training for outdoor climbers. Many outdoor climbers dismissed the idea of climbing in a gym until they started to see the gains indoor climbers were making.

In 1987, the first climbing gym in the U.S. opened in Seattle. Since then, climbing gyms have skyrocketed in popularity, so much so that indoor climbing will be included as an Olympic sport in the 2020 games.

What Do I Need to Enjoy Indoor Rock Climbing?

It depends whether you want to try bouldering or roped climbing. For both activities, you’ll need climbing shoes (which can be rented at most climbing gyms). Also, a bag of chalk to keep your hands dry and grippy is a good idea, but not absolutely required (you can often rent these, too).

Do wear comfortable athletic clothing, but avoid anything too loose-fitting–the last thing you want when climbing is to have your shirt fall over your eyes or get caught on a hold.

For roped climbing, you’ll also need an appropriately-sized harness and a locking carabiner. Once again, you should be able to rent these at your indoor climbing gym.

How Can I Get Started?

Most cities have at least one climbing gym, and in areas with lots of avid outdoor climbers, even small towns will have a gym for those climbers to train over the winter.

Search for your closest local gym or one in the city you’re visiting, and get in touch with them to find out how to climb there. Different gyms will have different membership options and requirements, and most will have a guest pass option for visitors.

You’ll need to sign some documents before climbing, and some gyms require a basic climbing class for beginners.

Indoor Climbing Across America

Some of the best climbing gyms in the U.S. include:

Brooklyn Boulders: With locations in Brooklyn, Queens, Boston, and Chicago, this gym is known as one that made climbing “cool”. 

SenderOne: The two California locations of this iconic gym are famous for their quality routes.

Vertical World: America’s first climbing gym, in Seattle, is still going strong.

The Front: This Salt Lake City gym has a reputation for attracting some of the area’s best climbers while still retaining a welcoming feel for climbers at all levels.

There are too many great gyms to include here, but this list from Climbing Magazine is a good start if you’re looking for a gym.

Safety

Like any sport, indoor climbing has some risk involved. Falling is obviously a concern, but it can be prevented with the right gear and training.

Now, injuries due to a lack of fitness or preparation are more common. You can do your best to avoid injury by stretching before climbing, warming up with easier routes, and knowing your own limits.

Climbing is exhilarating, and it’s easy to want to keep going when you’re really too tired. Take a break, hydrate, and then see if you feel up to another climb.

Hot Air Balloon Rides

Hot air balloons are one of the most unique and exciting aerial activities.

There are more opportunities to experience this amazing mode of transportation than you may realize. 

Hot Air Balloon History

The National Balloon Museum notes that the Montgolfier brothers were responsible for the first manned hot air balloon flight in 1783. Jacques Alexander Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert created a gas-powered balloon in the same year that ran on hydrogen. We’ve come a long way since that first flight involving silk and paper. Over the years hot air ballooning has gained tremendous popularity, first as an actual mode of transportation and then as a novelty experience. In the 20th century, gas balloons were used for research purposes as well by NASA and other meteorological organizations. 

Taking a Ride

Hot air balloons operate with a pilot that controls the amount of hot air in the balloon. Because the air inside the balloon is lighter than the air outside, that is what creates the lift. Rides are available for people interested in the thrill of flying all over the world. Cloud 9 Living is an example of an online site that can connect you to a flying opportunity near you. When you go, there’s nothing that can accurately describe the thrill of lifting off the ground in a seemingly weightless state. Don’t feel helpless, because your pilot knows exactly how to safely take you back down when the time comes. 

Wild Looking Balloons

Because the balloon itself can be made into virtually any shape (all that matters is that the air inside is lighter than the air outside,) there are some pretty cool balloons used for novelty and even commercial purposes. This balloon of the Abbey of Saint Gall is an absolutely amazing sight! Watching the filling process of hot air balloons is also quite interesting. This YouTube video showing the preparation, take-off, and flight of a balloon in Tucson, Arizona shows how interesting the whole experience is to watch. So if you’re interested in giving it a go, find a balloon operator and see how life looks as a soaring eagle! 

Outdoor Movies: Enjoy a Movie in the Park!

Outdoor movies have a rich history in the United States.

Whether you are going to a drive-in movie or a community park, the outdoor movie is a wonderful experience for all.

History of Outdoor Movies

The original concept of watching outdoor movies comes from “open-air” cinema. According to The Airscreen Company, the oldest and longest-running open-air cinema is “Sun Pictures,” operating since 1916 in Australia.

Open-air cinemas during the silent film era involved a piano player providing a live soundtrack outside while people watched the film projected on the screen. These fun, “get out of the house” kind of events evolved into what became drive-in movie theaters.

Since the 1930s, drive-in movies allowed people to enjoy a movie from inside their parked car. Today, most drive-in movie theaters have closed, but there are still a number of places still thriving.

In fact, Claire Trageser with Travel and Leisure listed Wellfleet Drive-In Theater on Cape Cod as one of the drive-ins that are still very popular for those that want to experience the outdoor movie concept!

Movies in the Park

Outdoor movie in the park events has become popular as local community events, especially during the summer months. Lakeland PBS posted this YouTube video, identifying one of their local outdoor movie events.

These events bring people out from all walks of life. They’re usually community-oriented and offered free to the public.

In fact, when you attend, you’ll see families in lawn chairs and blankets, kids playing on nearby playgrounds, people laughing and just enjoying time with family, friends, and neighbors.

These events have become more common all over the country because of how much people enjoy them!

Successful Movies in the Park Events

Some of the most successful places that have incorporated a “Movie in the Park” night have made it accessible to all citizens. Showing popular movies that appeal to families and/or mass audiences is also important.

Little Rock, Arkansas has incorporated a very successful outdoor movie series in their River Market District. They offer free admission to their events, allow people to bring their own food, and they also provide security through the Little Rock Police Department.

Events like this have been very successful at bringing people together and creating unity for the community. 

Popular Penitentiaries: A Guide to Prison Tours

Popularized on the big screen and in novels throughout the ages, Alcatraz prison in the San Francisco Bay Area is still a popular tourist attraction.

Known as The Rock, even though Clint Eastwood and his gang were able to Escape From Alcatraz on film, the characters they are based on in real life are MIA and presumed drowned in the chilly, sometimes shark-infested waters surrounding the penitentiary. 

Visiting a prison–whether it’s no longer housing inmates or still locking up criminals–provides a fascinating look at “life on the inside.” There are a number of these venues available to curious tourists. Here are four penitentiaries worthy of a tour and trip down felony lane.

1. Devil’s Island

Another isolated institution, Devil’s Island was immortalized in books and films as home to Henri “Papillon” Charriere. Convicted of murder in 1913, the alleged safe-cracker, pimp, and petty thief escaped the penitentiary after 13 years of captivity.  Located six nautical miles of the coast of French Guiana, the tropical environment was considered torture for inmates trapped on the island.

2. Folsom Prison

Another jailhouse immortalized for posterity, Johnny Cash put this penitentiary on the map when he released Folsom Prison Blues and later performed the song live for inmates in 1968. While tourists aren’t allowed behind bars, visitors to this famous penitentiary will uncover the bloody history of this facility at the Folsom Prison Museum. Opened in 2011 on the outskirts of Sacramento, attendees will view a hangman’s noose, Gatling gun, and the old obligatory ball-and-chain.

3. Hoa Lo Prison aka The Hanoi Hilton

The Hoa Lo Prison was given the ironic nickname of The Hanoi Hilton when it was “home” to hundreds of inmates during the Vietnam War. Often housing up to 2,000 prisoners in a space meant for 600 people, the shackles used to lock up residents are still on display. Although horror stories include torturous interrogations and horrific, well-documented accounts by POWs, the museum mostly concentrates on Vietnamese revolutionaries, some of whom were executed at the prison.

4. The Tower of London

Few venues offer visitors views of a royal palace, historic fortress and home of an infamous prison all in one location. The Tower of London was originally built by William the Conquer to assert his power and protect the city from attack. Later used as a prison primarily in the 16th and 17th centuries, it later inspired the chilling phrase of being “sent to the Tower.”