Blogs > Millennial Traveler

New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Application Deadline Approaches for U.S. High School Students Seeking YES Abroad Scholarships

New York, NY, December 23, 2014—The application deadline for the 2015-2016 Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad scholarship program is January 7, 2015. The program provides full scholarships to American high school students to experience overseas communities and cultures, preparing students to collaborate on today’s global challenges such as human rights, community development, workforce development, climate change, and global health.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the YES Abroad program enables students to study for one academic year in countries that may include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey. The merit-based scholarship covers domestic and international travel; applicable visa fees; medical benefits; room and board; tuition at the local high school; orientations; and fees for educational and cultural activities.

Participants in the program fully immerse themselves into the culture of their host family while attending local high school. Erica, a current scholarship recipient from Wisconsin, who was named the October 2014 American Abroad of the Month by the State Department, said: “My time in South Africa has given me a chance to learn from daily life in my host school, while focusing my attention outward to my host family and community.  Every day I am both a student and teacher to my peers, and I have learned so much not just about what it means to be Zulu, Xhosa, or Afrikaans, but also what it means to be an American. I have found that it is in the informal conversations between classes and sport where I have learned and shared the most.
A 2012 participant, Hannah, who studied in Malaysia for one year, stated that “the YES Abroad program opened my eyes. I learned about a new culture and shared my own. I now have two homes, two families and countless friends from around the world.”

Interested students should visit to learn more the program and to apply. Contact the YES Abroad program or 800-237-4636 x2151 if you have questions about the program or application process.

International Center to Initiate a Capital Region Immigration Oral History Project

Albany - Being initiated in 2015 by the International Center, the Capital Region Immigration Oral History Project will collect and preserve the firsthand interviews of Capital Region immigrants. ICCR will rely on staff, interns and trained community volunteers to conduct interviews to gather first-hand stories about immigrant experiences. First-person narratives, regardless of how long ago, are enlightening and provide insight into individual immigrant stories. In addition to audio- and video-recorded interviews, a sampling of individuals interviewed will be photographed and included in a proposed upcoming pictorial exhibit. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing your first-hand immigrant experience please contact the International Center at (518) 708-7608 or

Sonic Drive-In To Open Eight Capital District Locations, First Site Opening in Latham Spring 2015

SONIC Drive-In announced a new agreement for franchise development of eight new drive-ins in the Albany, N.Y., area over the next seven years, with the first restaurant opening in Latham this spring.
Fast Eats, LLC, led by an experienced service industry team, is already fast at work on their first
location in Latham with expected opening in the spring of 2015. Within seven years, Fast Eats
expects to open eight drive-in locations in the New York Capital District, including Albany, Latham, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Amsterdam and the surrounding
“The upstate New York market has been abuzz with SONIC news in the last year; they see the
great commercials and hear the news about SONIC coming to other upstate New York
communities and they can’t wait for an opportunity to try the food and drinks themselves. We
are happy to be able to finally provide this service to our Albany neighbors with our new Fast
Eats franchisees,” said Bob Franke, senior vice president of franchise sales and international development for Sonic. “From the drive-in experience and skating Carhops to unique
menu items like Real Ice Cream Shakes and premium Chicken Sandwiches, there’s simply
nothing like SONIC in this market – or anywhere for that matter.”

SONIC has recently opened drive-ins in upstate New York markets including Watertown,
Rochester and Middletown, with other SONIC drive-ins coming soon to Buffalo and Syracuse.
With this transaction, SONIC has agreements in place in all four major markets in upstate New
York for franchisees to develop 27 new drive-ins in the region. In addition to all of this growth,
the brand is still offering franchise development opportunities in Binghamton, Ithaca, Utica,
Rockland and Westchester Counties.
“Through a combination of word-of-mouth and increased national advertising, we’ve cultivated
strong demand for the SONIC experience nationwide, and we see tremendous opportunity to
expand in the Northeast, in particular,” said Franke. “Public response to our growth in upstate New York has been phenomenal, with drive-ins opening in Watertown and Rochester to lines around the
block. We look forward to working with the Fast Eats team to continue to drive success in a
market that’s been clamoring for SONIC for years.”
As SONIC expands into new markets like the Northeast, it is adapting to colder climates to fit
the needs of its guests year-round.
Like many of the newly planned upstate New York drive-ins, the new Albany drive-ins will feature indoor dining areas, allowing guests to experience SONIC in multiple ways – either in their cars or seated at a table inside. The dining area is designed for year-round use, making SONIC a great destination any month of the year.
Beyond the indoor dining building format, SONIC offers franchisees flexibility with multiple
drive-in formats, including: the traditional drive-in model with 14 to 29 dining stalls and a drive thru;
conversions, renovating existing restaurant buildings to create unique drive-ins; and the
mall/airport model, offering customizable footprints to fit a variety of indoor spaces. Always a
drive-in at heart, SONIC is ready to work with franchisees to find a building solution to match
their needs and the needs of their guests.
Even with all of the SONIC growth news in upstate New York, there are still additional
opportunities for new franchisees in multiple markets in the area. Individuals interested in
pursuing a SONIC franchise are encouraged to visit for more information.
Many franchise opportunities are still available, officials said.

BBC: Gay, Bisexual Blood Donation Ban Loosens

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended that gay and bisexual men no longer be banned for life from donating blood. The new policy, however, would still ban men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months, according to media reports including the BBC.

Here's the BBC's story on the topic:

Gay and bisexual men should no longer be banned from donating blood in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended.
The ban has been in place since the HIV/Aids epidemic in the mid-1980s.
Men who have had sex with other men in the previous 12 months will still be banned, the FDA said in a statement.
The move brings the US into line with other countries such as the UK, Australia and Spain, which have also lifted outright bans in recent years.
New guidelines will be drafted in early 2015 and then a consultation period will follow.
Currently the ban excludes men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977.
Campaigners have long argued the ban discriminates against gay and bisexual men and reinforces negative stereotypes.
And due to advances in HIV testing, the American Medical Association and other groups say the lifetime ban is no longer supported by science.
Blood donation around the world:
  • UK (excluding Northern Ireland), Japan and Australia have a one-year ban on men who have had sex with another man
  • Canada has a five-year ban
  • no ban in Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Spain, but some of those countries have tougher screening questions
"Over the past several years, in collaboration with other government agencies, the FDA has carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence relevant to its blood donor deferral policy," the statement said.
It added: "The agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact."
The 12-month deferral period is because it takes on average two to four weeks to pick up an HIV infection when testing blood and a couple of months to detect Hepatitis B.
But some activists are unhappy there are still any restrictions.
"While this proposed change is certainly historic, it would still mean that countless gay and bisexual men will be turned away from blood banks simply because of who they are," said the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Men and women of any sexual orientation are not permitted to give blood for one year after having sex with someone with HIV, with a prostitute or with an intravenous drug user.

Southwest Announces New Service in Cities from Coast to Coast for Summer 2015

For the Capital Region, starting in June, Southwest will offer a nonstop flight from Albany to Denver.

Here's the full release:

DALLAS—Dec. 17, 2014—Southwest Airlines® (NYSE: LUV) extended its flight schedule for
travel through Aug. 7, 2015, adding new, nonstop service in cities across the United States. Southwest
Leaders and Employees gathered at events across the country to tout the new nonstop flights which
take off starting in June. Customers can now book flights and start making their travel plans for travel
throughout June and July 2015, by visiting
The carrier is offering special pricing (see complete fare rules below) for purchase today through Dec. 22, 2014, on new nonstop routes for travel June 7-Aug. 6, 2015.

New nonstop service begins June 7, 2015, between:
Indianapolis and Los Angeles (LAX) Once daily as low as $139 one-way
Los Angeles (LAX) and Portland, Ore. Twice daily as low as $69 one-way
Oakland and Nashville Once daily as low as $149 one-way
Oakland and New Orleans Once daily as low as $149 one-way
New nonstop service begins June 28, 2015, between:
Austin and Orange County/Santa Ana Once daily as low as $119 one-way
Austin and St. Louis Once daily as low as $89 one-way
Indianapolis and Boston Logan Twice daily as low as $89 one-way

Southwest Airlines also began selling seats on daily service between Orange County/Santa Ana and
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and seasonal, Saturday-only service between Baltimore/Washington (BWI)
and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos, Mexico, beginning June 7, 2015 through August 7, 2015. Both
routes subject to government approval.

At the Southwest Airlines Rink at Skyline Park in downtown Denver, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and other Denver leaders gathered with Southwest to answer media questions about additional frequencies being added to a dozen of the 56 cities Southwest serves with nonstop itineraries from Denver International Airport and the local hiring that will be needed to support its growing operation.

“Our June and July schedule is the biggest in our history with as many as 3,800 flights a day,” said
Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s Vice President of Network Planning & Performance. “What we’re
announcing today is an additional investment in many of our long-time communities. We’re connecting our Customers to what’s important to them-- more seats at our low fares, our great Customer Service and policies, and better schedules through nonstop options.”

Community leaders were involved in similar gatherings of Southwest Airlines Employees and Leaders in Austin and Nashville, where Southwest service has grown through the years to offer dozens of nonstop markets supported by hundreds of locally-based Employees. Leaders in Indianapolis look forward to growing on their current base of 12 nonstop destinations served by 129 Indy-based Employees.

The flight schedule extension for early Summer 2015 also brings additional seasonal flights effective
June 7, 2015 (unless otherwise noted), including nonstop service between:

Albany and Denver Once on Saturdays
Albuquerque and Orlando Once Daily Service
Austin and Portland, OR Once Daily Service*
Austin and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos, Mexico Once Daily Service
Atlanta and Seattle/Tacoma Once Daily Service
Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Portland, OR Once Daily Service
Boise and Chicago (Midway) Once Daily Service
Chicago (Midway) and Portland, Maine Once on Saturdays
Houston (Hobby) and Portland, OR Once Daily Service
Houston (Hobby) and Salt Lake City Once on Saturdays
Houston (Hobby) and Seattle/Tacoma Twice Daily Service
Kansas City and Seattle/Tacoma Once Daily Service
Los Angeles (LAX) and Omaha Once Daily Service3
Las Vegas and Manchester Once on Saturdays
Nashville and Seattle/Tacoma Once Daily Service
Norfolk/Virginia Beach and Tampa Bay Once on Saturdays
Seattle/Tacoma and St. Louis Once Daily Service
Spokane and Chicago (Midway) Once Daily Service
*effective June 28, 2015

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Ticket Forward Charity Helps People with Constraints Travel

A Canadian man, who was looking for a woman with the same name as his ex-girlfriend to go on a trip around the world, has used the international attention to form a philanthropy that will help people with medical, financial, or other constraints travel.

The newly-found organization is called A Ticket Forward.

Jordan Axani, 28, of Toronto put a post on Reddit about a month ago which garnered nearly 500 comments on there and a lot of media attention.

(Axani with his ex-girlfriend, via Instagram)

Well, he found another Canadian with the same name as his ex - Elizabeth Gallagher, in this case, a 23-year-old Nova Scotia student. And they leave for their trip on Sunday from New York City.

(23-year-old Elizabeth Gallagher, who will join on this trip)

But, on top of this, Axani has joined with about 10 people to spearhead the new charity which will help those who would like to go on a transformative trip.

So, do you have any health problems, money issues, or other "tangible constraints" as their Website describes? If so, just share your story, and you could get a once-in-a-lifetime journey. After looking at the criteria, you can email with answers to: Who are you; What's your story? What's your dream destination? What has prevented you from visiting your dream destination?

Axani and Gallagher's itinerary, by the way, looks like a lot of fun:

Dec. 21: NYC to Milan
Dec. 28: Prague to Paris
Dec. 29: Paris to Bangkok
Jan. 7: Bangkok to New Delhi
Jan. 8: New Delhi to Toronto

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Travel to Cuba

Travel to now much more possible than it was just a few years ago - or even a few decades ago - thanks to a recent policy change announcement by U.S. Pres. Obama.

I had actually started looking into what it would take to enter the country and it was such a hassle - even with my press credentials, which made it slightly easier. But now...I can finally check off #35 (Havana, Cuba) on this 100 Places To See Before You Die travel list.

And I can't wait.

Pop Up Ramen Noodles in Troy

A noodle business popped up in downtown Troy for the Victorian Stroll and it's back again tonight (Thursday, Dec. 18).

Tavern Noodle will offer a small but delicious menu starting at 5 pm. at their Broadway location, adjacent to the Juice Bar.

Jon and I went during the Stroll and it was a great, unique, diverse addition to the offerings of the event. I got the Miso Soup with Ramen and Jon got the Pork Soup with Ramen. He also got the pickled beats and I got an amazing thing that I now want every day called celery root buns - which were fluffy, soft, and had an addictive sauce.

While future Pop Up Noodle events may occur at the 217 Broadway site, the long-term plan is to open the location as Peck's Arcade in early January.

Lake Placid Winter 2015 Event Season Schedule

Below is a rundown of the events on Olympic Regional Development Authority's (ORDA) winter 2015 events’ calendar for your planning purposes. Dates and schedules are subject to change.

Jan 2-3, 2015 – New Year’s College Hockey Classic. Division III men’s ice hockey powers Hobart, Middlebury, Southern Maine and St. Michaels will square off at 4 and 7 p.m. both nights. The Classic opens with Hobart facing Southern Maine, followed by Middlebury skating against St. Michaels. On Jan. 3, St. Michaels and Southern Maine will face each other at 4 p.m. The 7 p.m. game pits Middlebury versus Hobart. All games will be played in the famed Herb Brooks Arena 1980 Rink. (Credential request form attached)

Jan. 29-31 – FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup.  The world’s best freestyle skiers return to Lake Placid and Wilmington to compete in the FIS freestyle World Cup.  Action will take place at the Olympic Jumping Complex and Whiteface Mountain.  The jumping complex will host the men and women’s aerials competitions, where athletes twist and soar as high as 60 feet in the air before landing, while Whiteface will be the site of the moguls’ competitions. (Credential request form attached)

March 1 – Lake Placid Loppet and Kort Loppet.  Nordic skiers will converge on the cross-country ski trails at Mt. van Hoevenberg to compete in the 32nd Lake Placid Loppet. Inclement weather claimed last winter’s event.  Open to classical and freestyle skiers, the Loppet is a 50k race (31-miles) through the 1980 Olympic ski trails.  The vertical climb is just under 3,700 feet.

The 25k Kort Loppet, also open for classical and freestyle skiers, features a vertical climb of 1,850 feet.  The Lake Placid Loppet is part of the American Ski Marathon Series.
March 11-14 – NCAA Division I Ski Championships. The NCAA Division I Ski Championships return to Lake Placid for the first time in 32 years. Lake Placid, Wilmington, St. Lawrence University, the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) will join to play host to the event.

Whiteface Mountain played host to the event in 1980 and 1982 when the championship was only for men’s skiing.
Today the championships feature men and women’s cross country skiing, men and women’s slalom and giant slalom for both men and women.

March 20-21 – ECAC Men’s Hockey Championship Tournament. The ECAC Hockey championships for a second straight postseason. The winner of this tournament receives an automatic bid to play in the NCAA championship tournament.  Last season, Union skated away with the crown en route to the school’s first-ever national championship title. The ECAC Men’s Hockey championship tournament will be played on the famed Herb Brooks Arena 1980 Rink.

Other events this fall and winter include New Year’s Ski JumpDec. 29Stars on Ice Skating ShowDec. 30North American Cup Bobsled RacingJan. 12-18Eastern Synchronized Skating ChampionshipsJan. 22-2434th Annual Empire State Winter GamesFeb. 5-8Nor-Am Freestyle Skiing (Moguls & Aerials),Feb. 9-16Harlem Globetrotter Basketball World Tour, Feb. 16;FIS Cup Ski JumpingFeb. 17

For more information on ORDA’s Olympic venues and events,

-- ORDA --
Established in 1982, the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) was created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. ORDA operates Whiteface, Belleayre and Gore Mountain ski areas; the Olympic Sports Complex at Mt. Van Hoevenberg; the Olympic speedskating oval, Olympic jumping complex and Olympic arena. As host to international and national championships, the Authority has brought millions of athletes, spectator and participants to the region, resulting in significant economic development. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UnPlug for Charity Week 3

This was a weird week for my "Unplug" quest since I actually used social media twice this week for work - once to message a person for a quote and then for Live Tweeting/Facebooking of Wednesday's casino decision in NYS.

What I have realized thus far is that I can survive without social media (and social media can survive without me), but it is nearly impossible to be a journalist without social media.

I've also made some other observations, as in past weeks:

1) I am noticing more flashbacks and that I'm having a better overall memory. This isn't saying much - my memory has always been bad - but I've been able to remember more without my print and digital calendars lately.

2) With that in mind, I had a flashback of when I was a kid and used to pretend I lost my voice to get attention. I'm starting to wonder if that's how people perceive this effort - as a further cry for attention. Though I am raising money for charity in the process. And, if you really think about it, most things on social media/online are for attention.

3) I don't miss obligatory weather posts. Ya know how whenever it snows, or rains a lot, or it's freezing or extremely warm, you *have* to write a hopefully-funny post about it? Well, I don't have to.

4) I miss posting proud moments.

5) Writing Christmas Cards is a tad harder without referring to Facebook for proper spellings.

6) Likewise, networking and friend-working is harder without my usual follow-up friend request after meeting someone.

7) It's kinda hard to go off and on and off and on social media. It's easier to do two weeks straight without social media than it is to only go on once per week.

Well, I really appreciate the support with this so far. Feel free to continue to check in here and donate to my two GoFundMe sites: and

Monday, December 15, 2014

Italian Cookie Making in Colonie with the International Center of the Capital Region

As I continue my social media sabbatical, I've been trying to do a few new-to-me things. This week, that included baking Italian cookies with my dad.

(my 70-year-old Sicilian dad making "wands")

As part of a $25 International Center of the Capital Region workshop, we learned how to make and got old recipes for five traditional Italian cookies that are particularly prevalent around the holidays. We made ricotta genettes, walnut balls, amaretti cookies, biscotti, and fried cookies called "wands".

(sadly, I didn't make these)

The class also included some Italian cooking/baking trivia and a couple of prizes.

We saw baking demonstrations, helped with the recipes, and all walked away with a lot of delicious cookies. On top of this, we met some fun people and I got to spend some quality time with my dad, who is 100 percent Sicilian.

I definitely recommend checking out the ICCR's programs.

Buon Natale!

UPDATE: Sydney, Australia Hostage Situation

The hostage situation that took place over about 16 hours, starting during the morning commute rush, appears to be over in Sydney, according to the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets.

A gunman had been holding hostages in a cafe. Police say three are dead, including the gunman, according to the AP and Fox News.

Friday, December 12, 2014

ICCR Looking for Local Japanese-Inspired Artwork for Upcoming International Celebration

Albany – The International Center of the Capital Region, in collaboration the Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, will be holding an evening celebration on Thursday, April 23rdhighlighting the history, art, food and music of Japan as the first part of a four-part International Passport Celebration series. 

To add to the evening, ICCR is seeking local artists interested in displaying/exhibiting and possibly selling their Japanese-inspired (Japonism) artwork. Such mediums as wood-block prints, watercolors, landscapes, photography, sculptures, fabrics, clothing and jewelry would be ideal.

If interested in discussing further please email

Egyptian Exchange Program for Young Adults

There's an Egyptian/American Fellows exchange available that the International Center of the Capital Region sent over. And I wanted to share. The info is below.

I don't qualify for this since I have been to Egypt (luckily before all this crazy-ness), but I recommend a visit to that country. It is probably very different than you'd expect.

It's a country of world-renown history, museums, and archaeology. But, along with this, I found very friendly people in each of the cities we visited - Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. Along with friendly people, however, there were also some who definitely tried and did take advantage of tourists but it is, after all, a third world country and the economy has never been very strong and the politics have usually been very corrupt.

We experienced households that varied from one or two rooms (where beds were also used as couches) to people who had huge mansions. People, for the most part, were extremely nice and hospitable and curious about us (sometimes we said we were Americans and sometimes we said we were Canadians) no matter the socio-economic situation.

But, as with any similar country, you just have to be smart and go in with your eyes open.

(Egyptian flag)

Here's the fellows info:

Build greater transnational understanding of the challenges shared by US and Egyptian societies through art, traditions, politics, economy, religion and more through the Gabr Fellows Program. 2014 participants, both American and Egyptian, traveled and lived together during a four week program, spending two weeks in Egypt and two weeks in the United States. The program offers the opportunity to participate in Action Projects, which help to build bridges and enhance the understanding of each other's diverse cultures, societies and aspirations. Ultimately, Gabr Fellows are creating the legacy of the Gabr Fellowship and developing an international cohort dedicated to pursuing cooperative, collective solutions to their region's most pressing issues. 

Application information can be found here. Interested applicants should be between 24 and 35 years of age. American, English and Irish applicants should not have traveled previously to Egypt. Egyptian and Bahraini applicants should not have traveled to the United States, Great Britain or Ireland.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Two Data Sites: NYS Campus Crime Stats and Traffic Data Viewer

I found myself exploring these new sites this week: a New York State College Campus Crime Stats site and a New York State Traffic Data Viewer.

The college stats site I found while looking at the Governor's page, specifically looking for new information regarding the Regional Economic Development awards announcements Thursday. But this is pretty interesting, too.

Of course, I looked up my alma mater and then friends' colleges and local colleges. I can't help but think the data is not exactly comprehensive. (ie - only 19 burglaries and 7 forcible sex offenses on the UAlbany campus in 2011? For a college with more than 17,000 students, even if many live off campus, that still seems a bit low.)

(logo from NYS site)

I have a feeling the origins of the site may be connected with the recent Rolling Stones article which gave a look at sexual assaults on college campuses, focusing on the University of Virginia. The article was also not exactly comprehensive but it was an interesting read and brought up some good points. I know when I was a college student, I always heard of sexual assaults but I also heard they were almost never reported.

While it's great that there's a site for the reported cases, I have a feeling we're still only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

And the Traffic Data Viewer is just really cool. A lot of the data doesn't seem quite up to date (some of the referenced reports are from 2006 or 2011) but it gives a good overview of traffic on NYS roads.

For example, according to a 2006 report, I-90 in the Capital Region between Exit 2 and Exit 3 saw about 50,000 cars per day. I bet with the NanoCollege that's increased a bit, too.

And parts of 787 Northbound between Troy and Albany, according to a 2011 report, saw nearly 45,000 cars daily.

So, if you get bored and want to peruse some interesting data, give these two sites a look-see.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

UnPlug for Charity Week 2: At least Social Media Isn't Ruining TV Shows for Me

It's another week without social media - sort of.

I did go on for approximately a 24-hour period from midday Monday (my birthday) to midday Tuesday (or National Danielle Was Hungover Day - for short), as promised since my Plug Back In For Charity donation page raised $100.

Before going into observations from another week without social media, I'll talk a bit about what it was like to go back on for a day: it was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be (I was picturing about 250 unread FB updates/notifications in my head). I was a bit anxious the night before - though that might have just been because I knew I was about to ingest about 200 ounces of alcohol in my system. Um, who wouldn't be a bit anxious?

As always, I loved being able to interact with people, especially on Twitter and Facebook. That is definitely what I miss most. In fact, I used so much social media in just the first few hours my phone died and wasn't resurrected again til about 9 p.m. that night - which made meeting up in the everyone-has-a-smartphone-on-them-but-I-don't-have-numbers-memorized age a bit hard on my bday. But hindsight is 420? 20/20? Dateline? Something like that.....

I'll be blogging about my bday escapades later. For now, I'll give some more thoughts on being social media free - do I miss it? can I still work without it? pros/cons?

Week 2:

1) Without social media, it makes it a lot easier to not have TV show plots spoiled before watching an episode. The mid-season finale of Walking Dead was about a week ago. While the ending was ruined for my boyfriend (actually due to a FB post from one of the actors), I had no idea. I liked that. I appreciated that. And I still haven't watched the finale of Sons of Anarchy. So...don't ruin it for me :)

2) There has definitely been a noticeable decrease in hits on my news stories and blogs - which definitely sucks, for my work (less hits=less ad $) and for me (absolutely zero hits on a blog for almost a week is just kinda sad). So, if anyone has any pointers for promoting information sans social media, I am alllll ears.

3) That brings me to the fact that I have been checking out sites like reddit more. And a lot of local blogs. This is on top of the news sites I mentioned in my Week 1 update. I guess this way of gathering news may seem old school, insufficient and complicated - but, overall, I dig getting things from the source as opposed to scrolling for hours (yes, hours) on FB. At one point, actually, my boyfriend thought I cheated and checked Facebook when I gave him a fact that had recently been discussed regarding Lord of the Rings. That fact being that Stuart Townsend was initially cast as Aragorn but was replaced by (fellow SLU alum) Viggo Mortensen just days into filming. The reason I knew that fact was because I had watched "Queen of the Damned" late last week, also with Townsend, and wanted to know more about his career since I had never seen him in anything else. So I Imdb-ed the shit out of him - and found that piece of trivia.
Long story short, I'm finding *new* ways of collecting useless info.

4) I've noticed a few instances now where I've been the only person not on the phone checking updates. I expected this. It's fine. In fact, it seems to be getting a little better. A little.

5) Planning my birthday stuff was not difficult but it was not easy either. As opposed to writing one event and inviting a bunch of people, I wrote dozens of text messages to more than 60 people. And phone died that night. So, I'm not going to tell you how many ended up attending events because that, too, could also be perceived as sad. But, for the record, I had a blast.

6) I continue to have to think of new tactics for work. Today, for example, I probably could have gotten some information from my usual Cohoes FB contacts about the pedestrian who sadly died in an accident Wednesday morning. But, instead, I reached out to main city/police officials and got very little info because the investigation is ongoing. So, my work is more "official" but I dunno. I guess you can be the judge of that.

7) I am sleeping better! I am exercising! And I am doing the dishes, damn it! There are a lot of positives that are coming from this. And, to be perfectly honest, I'm enjoying the hiatus. There's less distractions. Less stimuli. And, did I mention, more sleep? :)

You can still donate to Camp Little Notch and the Pawling Statue Project via my two sites:
UnPlug for Charity -
Plug Back In for Charity -

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Week One of UnPlugged for Charity

It's been a week since I've "unplugged". And, I do have a few observations thus far.

1) Yes, it's been hard but more so because social media is not letting me unplug.

The night before I started, I made sure to turn all social media notifications off on my iPhone. And yet, the next midday, I got a Facebook message notification. It was then that I noticed the small font in the FB Messenger App notification settings which stated that the notifications would be turned off for (only) eight hours. Well, that wasn't going to work so I uninstalled the app - and, honestly, I'm not sure if I'll be re-installing it.

Along with this, I've noticed that it is very hard to get information for small, local businesses these days without Facebook. Many businesses use their FB page as their main website - which makes sense. So, many times when reading blogs, I would click on links to get more information on the business and it would direct me to Facebook. And I would immediately close the page.

For anyone who might have seen me pop up in FB messenger over the past week, this might be the reason.

2) As far as work, it has not really interrupted my work flow at all. I'm still getting a lot of tips via phone calls and emails. Today (Tuesday) was the first day that someone gave me a tip and referred me to photos on Facebook. I mean, I'm able to follow up on the information without seeing the photos but that probably would have helped.

I did, however, forget that some information I needed for a feature was given to me only via Facebook so I did have a mad, panicked, last-minute visit into my FB messages close to the midnight deadline I gave myself on Thanksgiving Eve.

3) I do feel less informed, generally. But I'm still deciding if that's a bad thing.
There are dozens of international, national, and local pieces that I likely know nothing about. Friends and tipsters have kept me quasi-informed on these fronts - and I appreciate that.
I'm finding myself checking BBC and other media outlets' websites more than I did before.
So, I'm still informed just not *as* informed.
And, if Kim Kardashian blew up the internet again, I probably wouldn't know about it. Again...still deciding if this is a bad thing. Leaning towards no.

4) Using phone numbers/texting as opposed to Facebook messages and status updates is working pretty well, so far. I've sent a few funny texts to people who requested them. Sometimes I get the feeling I might be texting people too much. I'm hoping that'll get better as I get more used to not doing daily status updates as I normally would on FB.
I have also found in multiple cases that people are not very good at giving out their phone numbers. At least two people gave me the wrong number (not intentionally, I can assure you) and one person gave me a six digit phone number. I don't really find this annoying, I actually find it really amusing.

5) Event organizing without Facebook has been interesting but not impossible. In fact, in some senses, it's nicer because instead of waiting for people to RSVP "Yes", "No" or "Maybe", by texting - I've gotten a good sense right away of who can attend. That's nice.
But, I kid you not, I've sent text invites to about 60 people over the past few days. That's a lot of texts for me. I've also been pleasantly surprised about my phone not blowing up regarding my birthday party coming up. That, also, is nice.

6) While I'm not using any social media, I still have a strong impulse to share information. Now, instead of putting stuff out there with one broad stroke, I'm able to really think about who would appreciate certain articles or videos and directly send them links.
This actually resulted in an hour long texting conversation with an old friend who I had not talked with in years.
But there are some things that I want to share but have no idea who, individually, would want to see it. I do miss social media for sharing things like that. And sharing, in general.

7) Overall, I have had to make some adjustments and I've had to be a bit creative about contacting people in some instances.
For example, I didn't have a friend's phone number to text/call her so I reached out to a mutual friend who also did not have her number. I ended up using and eventually found her email in my gmail. I was *this close* to using a real phone book.
And it's been very nice that some people have reached out via email to stay in touch during this social media hiatus.
I miss sharing random thoughts and links on FB but, honestly, I'm sleeping better now and I find I have a lot more time in the day.

(I'm planning to make this with some of that extra time. Be Jealous.)

Can't wait to see what Week Two will bring. Though, I am thinking about cheating on my birthday and paying the $25 so I can share the funness I have planned that day with my social media Friends.

In the meantime, check out and if you want to make a charity donation as I continue this endeavor. C'mon.....if you donate to 5Ks (which last, at most, like 45 minutes), I think a 35 day social media purge should count as a charitable, donation-worthy event.