Home for the Holidays Survival Guide

As we move closer and closer to our annual ritual of the holiday season, many of us will be visiting our families of origin. Going home to be with parents, siblings, and close relatives can be a time of great joy and family fellowship. But for some, the visit can be a paradox. Joyous feelings and family traditions can be overshadowed by anxiety, uncomfortable emotions, and memories of a difficult past. It can be awkward or even painful for those who do not perceive their families as easy or supportive.

As an adult, you may have spent time and energy healing your old wounds and releasing past disappointments. You decided to make peace with yourself and those who raised you. With the perspective of hindsight, you understood that your parents and relatives did the best that they could at the time. Overall, you feel so much stronger and in control.

Then you head home . . . In a matter of minutes you can fall right back into your old roles and patterns. It seems nothing has changed. Being out of your environment and back into theirs can trigger old emotional reactions. It may be difficult to express who you really are when in the midst of a family that never evolved past their old attitudes and behaviors. As a result, your childhood beliefs and emotions can bubble back to the surface. You may once again feel invisible, isolated, or misunderstood. Suddenly, no matter what you have achieved so far, when you go home to your family, you are still a kid on some level.

Before you head home this year, develop some personal self-support strategies to keep your spirits high. Instead of leaving things to chance, take some time, a pad of paper, and begin devising your own personal survival plans. To get you going in the right direction, consider these ten ideas.

1. Stay Connected to Yourself

Bring meaningful items with you to create a sense of connection with your inner spirit. Pack along anything that is light enough and keeps you in touch with your higher self. Perhaps it is a special rock, a favorite inspirational book, or any personal object that has meaning for you. Keep your item visible or in your pocket to help remind you of who you are and how far you have come.

2. Schedule Alone Time

Decide to give yourself plenty of private alone time. Use that time to remember what you value and find ways to connect to it. Light a candle, take a bath, open a small gift to yourself, and write in your journal about what is important to you this holiday season.

3. Take an Exercise Break

If you have a regular exercise schedule, see if you can stick with it. Too much togetherness can be smothering, so go the gym, find a yoga class, or jog around the old neighborhood. If you are not used to exercising, now might be the perfect time to begin! Consider taking a long, slow walk outside while breathing in serenity and peace. Enjoy the holiday atmosphere, take in the lights and decorations, and smile as you enjoy your very own sensual holiday experience. If you don’t like the idea of walking alone, grab the dog or the children.

4. Self-Empowerment

Think personal power – not victim. Remember that you have no control over the behavior of your relatives. Change on their part is unlikely. However, there are things you can do to change how you react. Maintain a sense of light humor throughout your visit and try to let family members be who they are. If possible let go of needing to be understood or approved of by your family. Focus on loving more rather than winning love. Look around your world, and focus on what is important to you. Find ways to expand the love you are on the inside and than share that love with whatever or whoever you choose.

5. Be Realistic

Don’t set your expectations too high. Those perfect holiday gatherings portrayed in movies generally are not representative of most families. Also, even though you may be actively involved in your own personal growth, your family may still be locked into unhealthy behaviors and perhaps even unconscious and unaware of their patterns. Learn to set differences aside. Just as you want to be accepted for who you are, decide to accept and tolerate other people’s choices and attitudes. You might even consider the possibility that they may feel insecure or unacceptable around you.

6. Breathe

Here is a 10 to 20 second suggestion: Take a deep breath, deeper than normal, and hold it in until you notice a little discomfort. At the same time, squeeze your thumb and first finger together (as if you were making the okay sign) for six or seven seconds. Then exhale slowly through your mouth, release the pressure in your fingers, and allow all your tension to drain out. Repeat these deep breaths three times to extend the relaxation. With each breath, allow your shoulders to droop, your jaw to drop and your body to relax. Breathing allows you to find center and remember who you are.

7. Watch Your Alcohol Intake

With the increased stress and pressures of family, you may be tempted to reach for alcohol to help you deal with the situation. However, whether you are feeling anger, anxiety, sadness, or frustration, alcohol may make your situation worse. After drinking, people sometimes act in ways that they would normally not act. You may be more prone to angry outbursts, cynical snide remarks, arguments, aggression, or violence. In addition, while a little alcohol may make you feel temporarily relaxed, alcohol is a depressant and often makes you feel worse than before. Be aware of how much you are actually drinking. By moderating your alcohol intake, you can take responsibility for your attitudes and behaviors when your family dynamics get out of control.

8. Personal Integrity

Chances are that during your visit someone will say something that you find offensive or hurtful. Before lashing out or withdrawing into your shell, take a breath, find the higher ground, and maintain your integrity. Instead of reacting, identify what you really want to do. This might mean laughing off the incident, walking away, standing up for yourself without being combative, or expressing your honest assessment of the situation. If you choose to be assertive, remember that people can have differing beliefs without being in conflict. Listen to what the other person said, summarize what you heard them say, and then ask if they would be willing to hear your perspective. Instead of telling them, “You are wrong,” use “I” language (i.e. “I feel strongly about this.”)

9. Stay Connected to Friends

Bring your cell phone with you. Go somewhere private and call your friends often. They are your friends because they understand you, and willingly offer love and support. Remember you are not alone in the world. When you are feeling low or lonely, now is the time to reach out and lean on your friends.

10. Connect with Spirit

No matter what your faith or beliefs, this holiday season take some time daily to simply reflect on the joy of life. Remember the value of quiet time needed to renew your own inner spirit. Focus on your spirit, faith, or beliefs, connect with those who share your beliefs, and share your feelings of love and kindness with others and yourself.

This year, give yourself a drama free holiday by planning ahead and preparing plenty of well thought out survival strategies. Develop a written plan that takes into account your goals for yourself. Knowing your priorities makes it easier to focus your choices and actions on activities that have meaning to you. Give yourself the gift of an empowered, happy holiday!

Holiday Gift Guide for the Movie Buff on Your List

So it’s that time of year. Time to buy gifts for your friends and family yet again as the world all over celebrates this corporate, commercial, money-hungry, festive and generosity-filled holiday. Some of you may already have it all taken care of by now. Others may be last-minute shoppers like myself and think that even now is just the start of the shopping season. No matter which you fall under, there’s bound to be at least a couple more on your list to check off. In this article, we’ll give you some ideas for gifts for those movie buffs you may have on your list.

1. Movies

Of course a movie buff loves movies. However, this gift selection isn’t as obvious as some of you may think. In fact, it could be one of the hardest choices for a movie fan there is. There are all types of problems that may arise here. You could pick the wrong format, the wrong medium, the wrong edition. Or you could plain and simple just pick the wrong movie. Or even more possible, buy them a movie they already own (afterall, they are movie buffs, chances are they have TONS of movies already making it even more likely to buy something they already have). Thus, that’s why I recommend staying away from this selection unless that movie fanatic in your life has actively been hinting at a certain movie lately. In which case, go for it. Movies are definitely good for us movie buffs. But again, be careful in what you buy. Or at least save the receipt and don’t be offended when that person needs to return your gift.

2. Netflix

Now for those of you wanting to get your movie buff some movies, but don’t want to go through the headache of making sure you don’t get the wrong thing, Netflix is your answer. Netflix allows that cinephile on your list access to all kinds of movies from the old to new, domestic to foreign, indie to blockbuster and so on. The great thing about this too, they get to choose which movies they want to watch, while you just pay for the subscription. Netflix Gifts come in a variety of plans and a variety of lengths. You can get your movie lover just the streaming package or you can choose a package which allows streaming, plus up to 1, 2, or 3 DVDs out at a time. These can all be bought in lengths from 1 month to 1 year. For instance, a streaming package for 6 months will run you about $48. Or you can go with 2 DVDs out at a time for 1 year for about $180. No matter what the choice, it’s sure to be a hit with the movie buff in your life. It doesn’t matter if they already have a subscription either as a Netflix Gift can simply be added to their already existing subscription and they’ll get free months of their service.

3. Fandango Card

Of course every movie buff spends ample amounts of time at the theater. So, along the lines of the Netflix thing, another option is a Fandango gift card (or a gift card from a local theater). This gives your movie buff a gift that will keep on giving over the year as they revisit the theater. Each time getting to enjoy the big screen magic on your dime. The movie buff on your list will surely love a gift like this over the months as they get to catch all the latest releases.

4. Movie Memorabilia

Your typical movie buff is obsessed with movies in probably a way you will never fully understand. As such, this means everything about movies they enjoy. Thus, another good gift for that movie lover on your list is movie memorabilia. This ranges from movie posters, to shirts, to collector’s items, to autographed items, to boxed sets, to film cells and artwork. You can even buy scripts/screenplays/props from their favorite movies online. With many online outlets that sell this type of stuff, the possibilities are endless once you know some of your movie buff’s favorite movies or actors, etc.

5. Movie-Related Books and Magazines

As I stated before, chances are the movie buff in your life loves everything movie-related. This goes for books and magazines as well. Biographies on their favorite actors or movie-related books are good unconventional ideas for the movie buff in your life. There are plenty books out there designed for these types of people. From 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die to 1000 Films to Change Your Life to The 100 Best Movies to Rent You’ve Never Heard Of to even more specific books like 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die. All would be a welcome treat for the movie buff in your life. Likewise, the movie buff in your life most assuredly likes to keep up with all things movies and get insights into the industry they so love. As such, magazine subscriptions that cater to these types are also good choices. These include print and online types. Though I will say you’ll want to go beyond the more mainstream types of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stones, etc. Instead, look into things like ‘Boxoffice Magazine’, ‘Hollywood Reporter’, ‘Premiere’, ‘Empire’ (UK), ‘MovieMaker’ or ‘Filmmaker Magazine’. Likewise, you could also get them a subscription to online industry rags like Variety.com or ProductionWeekly.com.

6. Universal Remote

As you probably know, the movie buff in your life definitely has a love for electronics. This is especially true when it comes to their home entertainment setup. All of that gear can get out of hand though when remote controls begin piling up. Introduce the Logitech Harmony. The cream of the crop when it comes to universal remotes. This line of remotes from Logitech range from about $100 to over $300. Any movie buff would be happy to get their hands on such a remote control to accent their setup.

7. Roku Box

This is a great accompanying gift for a Netflix subscription. The streaming player allows the movie lover to use any of those streaming services to stream movies directly to their TV instead of having to watch on their computer or laptop. This is great for any movie buff who would much rather watch on their big screen TV rather than their little computer monitor. The Roku box allows for Netflix instant streaming on your TV. It also allows access to such services as Hulu Plus, Amazon On Demand and more.

8. Blu-Ray Player

Chances are your movie buff already has one of these in their collection. However, for those that don’t a Blu-ray player is a great gift for the movie buff in your life. Providing for a high-definition movie viewing experience, the movie buff in your life will love the immersion of watching their favorite movies in pristine hi-def.

9. Popcorn Maker

Everybody knows: popcorn goes with movies like jelly goes with peanut butter. And for some reason, kettle popcorn just tastes better. So why not bring that theater goodness into the home of your favorite movie buff giving them the gift of snacks anytime they sit down to watch a movie at home. You can find many kettle popcorn makers for under $100. Any movie buff would find it cool to have their very own popcorn maker sitting in the corner of their room for access whenever they want to spend the evening watching movies (and trust me, they do this very often).

10. “Gaming” Chair

These provide the ultimate comfort when sitting in front of the TV for a movie. With built-in speaker systems and ultimate comfort, there are tons of stylish gaming chairs out there. Any movie buff would love one of these cool recliner/pedestal chairs to kick back and enjoy their movie-viewing experience. Not only does it just flat-out look cool and are they comfortable, but they also provide more immersion with the speakers in the headrest and subwoofers built into the chair that make you rumble along with explosions on the screen.

11. Surround Sound System

Speaking of sound, if your movie buff doesn’t already have one, a surround sound system is always a welcome addition to their home entertainment experience. Providing an immersion of sound to accompany their viewing experience, a surround sound system is an absolute must for any movie buff that is looking to make the most of the home entertainment experience. Of course, this can be a costly gift, but the movie buff in your life will definitely be grateful.

12. HDTV

Since we’re mentioning essential components, a TV definitely falls in that range. Obviously your movie buff already has one, but they’re never opposed to a new TV (or even just a secondary TV). Whether it be a smaller LCD TV to put in their room or an upgrade to a top-of-the-line brand new 3D TV, TVs are always welcome. Your movie buff would definitely love you for this. With the pushing of 3D TVs, these are a definite hot item too which most movie buffs in your life would more than happily take. Again though, this is one of the more costly gifts, so expect to pay thousands for something like that.

13. Movie Storage

You probably know this already, but the movie buff in your life probably has a very extensive collection of movies. A collection they love to proudly show off as well. Of course such a collection can often become something of a beast that needs taming. Enter the realm of media storage. This actually comes in two forms as well: physical and digital. First we’ll touch on the traditional physical form. This simply means cabinets and shelves. If the movie buff in your life doesn’t already have the shelving for their collection, or is simply running out of shelf space, then a new shelf, rack or tower would be a practical and welcome gift for your movie buff in helping to tame that ever-growing collection and bring some order to it. Of course you have the digital front as well. This is the same concept as storing all of your music on your computer. Many companies make devices specifically for media storage like this. There are even companies like Kaleidoscope and PrimeArray which create systems that serve as storage and servers. This means all movies are saved on a digital storage device. The cherry on top though is that these devices then provide a means to share all that data across a network and have access to your entire movie collection with one click of a button on your remote. Having instant access to any movie in your collection without having to get up and change out discs, etc. These however can get extremely expensive. Some even more costly than the TVs themselves. But the techphile/cinephile in your life would love it.

14. AFI Membership

Every film buff is familiar with the prestigious American Film Institute. What better way to reward their passion for films than allowing your movie buff to become part of that institute by buying them a membership to the AFI. This can range from $60-2,500. Offering cool perks like movie tickets, exclusive release schedules and magazine subscriptions, an AFI membership also grants members admission to AFI events. On top of that, your movie buff would even be able to vote alongside industry professionals for various movie awards and accolades dealt out by AFI each year. To top it off, they would even get an AFI membership card to proudly show off to friends as a sign to their dedication to films.

15. Film Festival Pass

I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Sundance. Cannes. Attending these more prestigious film festivals are like a life-long dream for the movie buff in your life probably. They’d probably give an arm or a leg to get to experience going to the prestigious Sundance festival or Cannes or the Venice Film Festival. However, these events book well in advance and can be costly. Thus, they don’t make good last-minute gift ideas. Though, I’m sure your movie buff would happily take a “rain check” on a gift if it means the promise of getting a pass to one of these festivals later on. Likewise, many bigger cities offer their own film festivals throughout the year. If you live near one of these, your movie buff would definitely love the chance to get to attend one of those as well.

So there you have it, a plethora of ideas to make sure the movie buff in your life has a happy holiday and make sure you come out on top with gift ideas for that movie buff (rather than being that relative that gives a crappy pair of knit socks for Christmas or such).

Holiday & Travel Guide For Corfu, Greece

Corfu is the second largest Ionian Island, and is off the coast of Greece. The northern area is close to the coast of Albania. The main town on the island shares the same name as the island itself, and is a good place that can be visited on Corfu. Connected with a lot of Greek Mythology, one thing that you can do on Corfu is go in search of things related to this. However, the sites that are all around the island can be traced to many different eras, and the architecture can be a lovely thing to have a look at as a break from a typical beach holiday.

Corfu Town itself is on the east of the island of Corfu, and is worth a visit so you can look at a few attractions there. The Corfu Saint Spyridon Church is dedicated to the patron saint of the island, who is said to be responsible for several major turning points in Corfu history, such as recovery from famine, and the driving out of Turkish occupation from this Greek province. The Corfu Archaeological Museum is in the town too, and shows you many of the older finds from the island. See, for example, items which have been picked up from ancient Cassiopeia.

The Corfu Fortress of Saint Mark is near the Old Harbour and was vital for protecting the town against invasions when it used to be at risk. There is a lot of detail here, as galleries and so on were formed perfectly, to make sure there was a good defense system.

Get a boat from Corfu Town and visit the islet of Vidos. This is protected now as a nature reserve and has a lot of the flora and fauna on display for you to see. This is a lovely haven away from crowds and can be a nice place to spend part of the day you may dedicate to Corfu Town.

If you wish to stay on this side of the island, then Corfu Gouvia Village can be a good spot for tourists to get a hotel in. There is good nightlife in this area, which will attract masses of people, as well as a good handful of dining places which can offer nice traditional Greek dishes, or typical English fare, to tourists, depending on where you choose to go. The taverns of the area can be lovely though. In the day, Gouvia beach is somewhere you may want to set out for. The closest beach to the village, it offers sunbathing and the typical beach holiday activities that you can expect from islands catering to tourists, as Corfu does.

If you want an excellent beach then take a one hour hydrofoil ride from the capital to Paxi Island. You will not regret it, as a day trip here will show you wildlife and beaches that are of really high standards and will make for a great day for you. Another day trip to take is the Aqualand which is near to Corfu Town. One of the best in Europe, there are many slides and activities to make it a day to remember in amongst the viewing of some of the best sites Corfu has to offer.

North and west of the island there are really nice beaches, as well as the opportunity to visit neighbouring Albania to soak up the architecture there.

Happy Holidays

School Holiday Survival Guide

The school holidays are a great time for the kids, all those weeks of fun and games, no school, getting up late……but not for their parents! Summer vacation time can be just as much like hard work as the rest of the year. Trying to keep the kids entertained for six whole weeks can seem like a daunting task, so here are ten top tips to help you survive the summer holidays.

1. A little planning goes along way. You don’t have to time everything to the minute, but a plan of the next week’s events will at least mean you make sure you have the food for the picnic on the right day.

2. Don’t over-schedule your children’s time. Remember they need to rest, relax and recuperate so that they are ready to go back to school in September.

3. If you need to buy any items of school uniform, stationary, books or sports equipment, get it done in the first two weeks. If you don’t there will be nothing left in your child’s size and you won’t have enough time to sew in the name tapes.

4. Try to balance each week’s activities – too many long, exciting days at theme parks in one week will leave everyone exhausted and the poor parents penniless. Alternate trips to big attractions with quiet days at home or free activities such as walks in the park, the countryside or go to a play area if the kids are younger.

5. Try not to sign them up to too many camps and holiday clubs. They actually want and need to spend time with you.

6. Involve the children in your routine and remember that your life has to go on. The shopping still has to be done; the laundry will not hop in the washing machine then hang itself out to dry. It is easy to spend so much time amusing the children that you end up trying to do the housework in the evening. Schedule your work as well.

7. Even lazy days at home benefit from a little planning. You may want to involve the kids in cooking or a big art and craft session, but if things finish sooner than you hoped it helps to have a surprise DVD or a new game stashed away – rent them or swap with a friend to keep it affordable.

8. Stay safe – stock up on sunscreen, insect repellent, band aids and prescription drugs.

9. Do the boring stuff like taking the kids to the dentist or the optician. So much easier than trying to book an appointment after school.

10. Late nights and long lie-ins may be a big part of the summer break, but start to get them and you back into a routine a week before they return to school. It will make it much easier for you all when the new term begins.

Good luck for the summer, and do have fun!

Backpacking – The Most Popular Holiday Activity of the Future?

The term backpacking has originally been used for a form of international low cost or budget traveling. There are many aspects that differentiate this traditional form of backpacking from other forms of tourism. In most cases is the use of public transport to travel the preferred variant to move between the different locations the traveler wants to visit. As hotels are too expensive and too private – meeting new people is another aim of the most backpackers – youth hostels are the most popular sleeping opportunities.

The length of the trip is in almost every case much longer than the time spend on traditional vacations. To see as much as possible and experience new ways of life it just needs more time than two or three weeks. The backpackers travel often “alone”. Alone means in this case, that they start without someone they know so they have to make new friends if they don’t want to stay for themselves. This makes the backpacking a experience and adventure that helps the mostly young people to learn for their lives and sometimes to find to themselves.

Last but not least the fact that gives the backpacking its name is that almost everyone uses a big backpack to carry the things they need. As a backpack is the most flexible way to transport one’s clothes, shoes and souvenirs it’s number one among these travelers. You have the possibility to make trekking tours but you can also leave your rucksack in the hostel.

Today the backpacking isn’t anymore just a way of low budget journeying but has become way more and for some people it’s already a lifestyle. It has also become way more mainstream and is a popular activity among young people who try for their first time to discover foreign places and countries by themselves.

The most important aspects of a backpacking journey are to see and discover other cultures and countries with another language than ones mother tongue and to meet new people from all over the world. Sometimes it takes willpower for the young people to start their trip alone or to talk to complete strangers, but this is a training and experience for their lives.

Especially the technical changes in the 2000s helped to popularize backpacking. Today a journey far from home doesn’t mean that you can’t stay connected with you friends. When you traveled a few years ago, the only possibility to give a sign of light to your relatives at home was a expensive call from a phone box or something similar. Today, backpackers “Skype” with their friends at home, write about their newest experiences in Facebook and use the built in webcam of their laptops or netbooks to show themselves.

The planning of the tour is also much easier today because of the internet and digital guides. You don’t need a whole route in the beginning, you just go where you like to and from there you search the internet for new ways to go. So backpacking will probably become even more popular in future, especially among young people. It won’t replace the normal beach holidays but become and for many already is a good and well known alternative.