June 2017 archive

How Malls are Trying to Remain Relevant

It doesn’t seem that long ago when shopping malls were the hub of consumer activity. As time went on, they got bigger and bigger, offering all manner of stores and allowing people to get a great deal of their shopping done in one place. You could shop, get something to eat, see a movie, and then do some more shopping on your way out.

Every city and many small towns added shopping malls, but their dominance has slipped in recent years. Online shopping has created major changes in the way that people buy their goods. It’s hard to argue with the thought of being able to sit at home in front of your computer ordering things that you would previously have driven across town (or further) to get. Amazon is the online shopping giant and if one had to put a name to the enemy of shopping mall prosperity, it’s as good as any.

So, is the demise of the mall inevitable? Not as far as mall owners are concerned. They are trying to come up with reasons and experiences that will justify getting people off their couches. These include entertainment options that allow parents and children to spend time together, as well as ways for mom and dad to have someone watch the kids so they can do some quiet, relaxed shopping together.

Instead of just a collection of fast food options at the food court, some malls are courting high end restaurants as a way of restoring the mall’s image as a respected place in the community, rather than a spot for teens to hang out.

While anchor stores are still seen as a key way of luring people in, the plan is also to provide a more diverse selection of tenants not typically found in shopping malls. These include specialized businesses that one often has to journey downtown to patronize.

Malls are also making greater use of social media as a way of engaging with customers and creating loyalty. This inspires people to make the mall the first place that comes to mind when they need something.

Online shopping may be an unstoppable juggernaut at this point, but these tactics do seem to be having an effect at slowing things down a little. Time will tell, but I can’t see malls ever dying off completely.

What Do You Do When You Win the Lottery?

Sure, we have all fantasized about it: the impulse purchase of a $5 lottery ticket at the grocery store turns out to be an action that changes your life forever. You now have all the money you need to fulfill those long-held fantasies and help out all of your friends and family.

But have you ever sat down and thought what it would be like to win…and then take the next steps? Here are some of the things that previous big winners have done:

  • Money management. Yes, you will now have a lot of money, but you have to think long and hard about what to do with it. You can’t just shove millions of dollars into a basic savings account. Should you invest? If so, how? How will you save the money? How much money can your local financial institution even hold for you and insure? Make an appointment with a financial planner…before you cash the ticket in.
  • Unwanted attention. It’s a shame that big winners are announced in the press because that guarantees they will be besieged by people, some legit and some not, asking them for a piece of that jackpot. If you are a very private person, this can be quite disturbing and stressful. Even if you aren’t, it’s still a major pain. Fortunately, some areas allow winners to remain anonymous.
  • Don’t go on a spending spree, but do pay off your debts. It can be tempting to go nuts with your newfound wealth, but you should instead set limits on how much you can spend in a day, a week, a month, and a year. One thing you should definitely put cash towards are your debts: wipe them out for good.
  • Investigate inheritance tax. Look into what the laws are in your area. Everyone wants to leave money to their friends and family, but how much will the government take? Are there ways to minimize that?
  • Continuing doing some kind of work. You may be overjoyed to quit your job, but do try to keep busy in some way once all of the dust has settled. If you don’t need income anymore, volunteering is an excellent way to give back.


Why Cruises are the Best Way to See the World

At one point in time, cruises were simply a means of island-hopping around the Caribbean. Today, cruises offer a multi-dimensional vacation for those looking to discover exotic destinations and adventure. In recent years, cruise lines have increased industry standards with extravagant new vacations. If your still not convinced, here are a few reasons why your next holiday should be a cruise!

One of the great things about cruises is that all costs are consolidated into one price. Typically, accommodations, transportation, meals – and sometimes even airfare are all bundled into one price. This helps diminish the stress of spending more on a vacation than originally planned. But, of course – there is always the option to upgrade throughout the course of your trip.

Another great thing about going on a cruise is that you only need to unpack once. Forget about lugging your luggage from airport to airport, train station to train station and unpacking at every new location. Once you’re aboard the cruise ship you can settle in and start vacationing right away.

One of the most taxing things about vacationing is the amount of travel time, especially when you have multiple destinations. Forget about travel time when cruising, you can unwind on the ship while you’re carried off to your next destination in style. Cruises take all of the stress out of traveling from place to place while on vacation, so you can see and do more!

If you are looking to explore some of the most exotic foreign destinations, then a cruise is for you! Cruises remove obstacles that can make international vacation planning complicated – without the worry of visas, customs, transportation, or language barriers. From water to land, you can follow English-speaking tour guides through some of the most exotic places. Although this may be less authentic then visiting these places on your own – it is the perfect option for someone with limited time or funds.

Finally, the greatest things about going on a cruise is the ability to see so much of the world in such a short period of time.

How to Get Over Your Fear of Flying

“If man was meant to fly, he would have wings!” You may have heard that before. Or, if you are afraid to fly, you might even have used it as an excuse. Actually, if flying is not your thing, do not feel bad. Aviophobia is quite common, so much so that there are a number of solutions available that will help you to overcome this.

If you would like to go on a trip, but are fearful of getting on that plane, here are some suggestions:

  • Educate yourself. Yes, plane crashes are terrible things and when they happen, they receive a great deal of media coverage. However, the simple fact is they don’t happen very often. An article in The Guardian listed the stats and it works out to one accident per 2.4 million flights.
  • Talk to a therapist. Your fear of flying may be part of a general anxiety issue that will fade if you can get that under control. Therapists will talk with you about the problem and offer methods that will help reduce your anxiety. This should also lead to you being more open to trying things that have intimidated you in the past. The therapist may also such widely effective techniques as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Hypnotherapy.
  • Try breathing exercises. Taking deep breaths can be very effective at lowering your blood pressure and inducing a sense of calm. Try combining this with a manta you can recite to yourself, such as “everything is fine.”
  • Sedatives. Ask your doctor if you are a good candidate for sedatives. Depending on how many times you will be flying, this may be a good temporary solution, but not one if you will be flying often. Also, do not rely on alcohol to calm you down and never mix sedatives with booze.

Have faith! As we mentioned above, this is a common phobia that many people conquer, so be sure to give one or more of these methods a try.

Did you have a fear of flying? What worked for you? What advice do you have for someone trying to overcome this? Let us know in the comments section!

Should Foreigners Forego Traveling to the United States?

Donald Trump’s presidency has been very polarizing and one of the issues receiving the most coverage is the Muslim travel ban. At first, the administration tried to camouflage the true reasons behind this proposal, but the president later flat out admitted it. Was this was an accident? Another example of Trump throwing his associates under the bus? Trump’s indisputable status as a pathological liar? Who knows at this point?

What is very clear is that the travel ban is extremely prejudicial and will likely not be effective (it doesn’t even target countries where Trump has business ties – gee, imagine that?). It is currently held up in the U.S. courts and appears to be a non-starter. Regardless, the fact that this administration considers it to be both a sensible and desirable policy is appalling. If you cannot vote in the United States, what can you do?

Foreign travel represents a huge source of income for America. In 2014 alone, almost 75 million foreigners visited the country. That is a huge number of hotel rooms, car rentals, restaurant visits, souvenir purchases, and related activities. No, you cannot help to vote Trump and his band of bigots out of office, but you can still vote with your wallet.

Quite simply, take your holiday this year somewhere else. Have you always wanted to visit Europe, but never got around to it? Book a flight to Florence instead of Florida. Skip Texas and visit Tokyo. Pass on Michigan and go to Madrid. Encourage your friends and relatives to follow suit and make their reasons known.

If you do decide to visit America in the next four years, stick to progressive states that rejected Trump: New York, California, New Mexico, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois…these are all wonderful places to visit. Don’t feel powerless in the face of Trump. Do your part to help make his presidency untenable.

Visit Chantry Island

Do you love traditional lighthouses? Lake Huron has a number of beautiful examples, but the most lovely one resides on Chantry Island, which is just off the coast of Southampton, Ontario.

The lighthouse was constructed in the mid-1800s to combat the number of ships that had run aground in the area. For almost 100 years, various lighthouse keepers and their families lived on the island and ran it manually. The size of the island varies from year to year, corresponding with the water levels.

After an automatic system was installed, fewer people visited and the keeper’s quarters fell into disrepair and collapsed. Fortunately, the building has been beautifully restored and also includes examples of traditional furniture, clothing, and bedding that the occupants would have used.

The Canadian Wildlife Service declared Chantry Island a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1957 in order to enhance the safety of the local bird population. This means that you cannot visit the island unless you are part of the official tour, which runs from the beginning of June through Labour Day each year.

For $30 per person, this boat tour of Chantry Island includes a trip up to the top of the lighthouse, a visit inside the restored keeper’s quarters, and an extensive history of the island. The volunteers running the tour are very friendly and knowledgeable, and happy to answer any questions. It is a popular attraction, so be sure to book your spot in advance.

Want to learn more? Visit the official website for more information about Chantry, its history, and how to book your spot(s) on the tour! You can also go here to get a video look at what the tour has to offer. Be sure to also allow time for a visit to Southampton, one of Northern Ontario’s loveliest towns.

Photo courtesy of chantryisland.com

World’s Coolest Treehouse Hotels

Take your love for the great outdoors to new heights with these incredible treetop hotels. With contemporary amenities like hot tubs, fireplaces and treetop pools these modern tree houses are certain to astound. Around the world, you can sleep under the stars and feel like a kid again with these one-of-a-kind treehouse hotels.

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Treehotel, Sweden

Located in the small village of Harads, Sweden (population:600), the futuristic Treehotel is comprised of five unique treetop suites. During your stay, you can enjoy dog-sledding and snowshoeing in the winter, or go fishing and kayaking in the summer.

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Treehouse Point, United States  

Just thirty minutes outside of Seattle is TreeHouse Point, an adult-only resort with incredible treehouse cabins. This is the perfect re-treat for those looking to re-connect with nature.

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Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel, Brazil 

Located in Manaus, Brazil the Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel is one of the largest treehouse escapes in the world. Suites are equipped with private balconies overlooking the jungle and stunning views of the Negro River. There’s even a treetop swimming pool!

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Chateau dans les Arbres in the Dordogne, France  

One of the most lavish treehouse escapes is the Chateau dans les Arbres in the Dordogne located in No jals-et-Cloette. These elevated castle houses are model after traditional French chateaux’s. Each house includes a terraced hot tub and a ground-level infinity pool.

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Free Spirit Spheres, Canada  

Located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia the Free Spirit Spheres are not your traditional treetop escape. Find yourself suspended 10-15 ft. above the forest floor in one of these suspended spheres, as you’re gently rocked to sleep in a floating cedar/ spruce orb dangling in an old-growth forest.