Uncategorized /

Crystal ship, Art in Ostend

Last weekend I went to visit an outdoor art exhibition called The Crystal Ship. Place to be was the coastal city of Ostend, Belgium.

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The concept was that international and national artists create gigantic murals and art installations, spread all over the city. The art festival featured artists like Jaz, Roa and Isaac Cordal. Belgian’s national radio Studio Brussel created a lot of buzz for this event, so quite some people showed up, although I’m guessing the first sun rays of the year had something to do with that too.

While it’s an absolutely great idea, the organization lacked experience. Although a small plan was available to take with you along your walk and the murals were numbered, things could have been a bit more planned. For instance murals 7, 14 and 19 were next to each other. Moreover the map failed to provide a recommended route. Some were also way too far from the city centre if you were on foot, as was the case for most people.

We ended up seeing only a few murals and spent the rest of the day soaking up the sun on the beach. On the bright side, even the two-week arts festival is over, the murals will remain visible for 2 more years, until the next edition where they plan to add several more!

Advantages of (& how to plan) a road trip

So you’re planning a road trip & wondering if it’s your thing ay? A couple of months ago I did a 2 week roadtrip through Sweden and Norway so you’ve come to the right place for tips & tricks. But first, let’s start with the advantages of going on a road trip shall we:

  1. You determine where you go & how much time you spend. You’re not restricted to a certain area, cause after all, you’ve got your car with you! Wanna go see some obscure Stavkirke in Norway? Go for it. Wanna plan an entire day for shopping? Knock yourself out. You really get to choose what you do & that to me is a great advantage.
  2. Get to know your fellow roadtrippers better. Spending a lot of time on the road is a great way to really intensify your bond with whoever you’re going with.
  3. Driving across the landscape and through small towns gives you a unique perspective. You can cruise around in your car & truly experience the little nooks & crannies of the country you’re visiting.
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Now lets get to the planning part. I know this might seem tedious but a good planning really does make all the difference:

  1. Buy a map of your destination. You’re GPS is a shady bitch, don’t trust her. Roads are always changing so it happened numerous times to us that had we followed the GPS instructions to turn left, we would have ended up smack dab in the middle of permafrost. Don’t land in the permafrost, it ain’t as frosty as you think. A map also allows you to be a bit more flexible if some road is busted open for some obscure road works. We would highly recommend following that country road, it leads to amazing scenery & interesting little villages.
  2. Make a rough plan of what you want to visit. Freedom is great, but endless dwelling without really knowing where you going not so much. Find the things you really want to see and try to plan your trip around that.
  3. Airbnb is your bae. If you’re anything like us (meaning poor-ish) you’re looking to stick to your budget. Airbnb is a great way to do that. You also have the benefit of being able to stay in very remote areas & you also meet the most interesting people. Perhaps they have some time off and can come along to show you a hidden treasure of their country, of maybe they take you out for dinner with a few of their friends!
  4. Be realistic about how much time you’re going to spend in your car. Don’t plan more than 6 hours of driving a day. More than that will take a toll & that would seriously diminish your traveling pleasure. It would also be helpful if the people you’re traveling with can also drive, that way you can rotate & cover more distance.
  5. Super practical tip: get your insurance in order before you leave. Your car insurance should normally be fine, but if you’re traveling in Europe it might be interesting to look into the European health insurance card. Aside from that it might be a good idea to write down a few numbers you can call in case of emergency.

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So here goes. I’m sure there are lots of other tips I can’t come up with right now. What would you recommend before going on a road trip?

Travel tips & tricks /

Airhint helps booking low-cost flights

If you’re planning to book a flight with Ryanair, Vueling or EasyJet, think twice!

And I don’t mean you should avoid those airlines, on the contrary! If you’re considering flying cheap, you’re goddamn right. But when’s the best time to book flights with low-cost airlines? A number of factors make the prices fluctuate a lot, more than is the case with conventional airlines.

Use Airhint to find out when’s the best time. Just give in the date and destination on their website and it tells you if now’s a good time to buy, or if maybe you should wait a few days. It also says how confident the website is in its prediction.

In the example below, I did a quick search for a flight from Budapest to Brussels Charleroi on June 24. As you can see there’s a good chance the price will drop somewhere between now and June, as the price they are offering now is the maximum price.

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This helpful tool lets you check the outbound flight and return flight separately. In fact, for the return flight of your trip, today might be the best time to book, while for the outbound flight, it’s advised to wait. There’s no problem in booking flights separately since low-cost airlines don’t charge extra for one-way tickets.

Airhint helps you be the ultimate cheapskate! Happy traveling!

Travel tips & tricks /

Tips for booking cheap flights

Travel is never free, but it can be incredibly cheap! Here are a few tips that can save you a lot of money:

  1. Be flexible, in a number of ways.
    • Find out when’s the high, low and shoulder season of your desired location. Flights prices vary accordingly.
    • Find out when are the cheapest flights days of the week. Often, flying on a Tuesday will be cheaper than on a Monday or Friday. If you don’t follow the normal workweek / weekend schedule, this can save you a lot of money.
    • If you’re flexible, you can also search for last minutes and promotions. Best example is Ryanair, which is not always cheap, flights can be 6 euros one way, but they mights as well be 70 euros. If it doesn’t matter if you have to go in April or November instead of August, then I’d say go for it!
  2. If you’re not flexible but have a certain date in mind, I recommend you use Flight Aggregator sites, which do the search for you. Make sure you use multiple of them, because they do not all display the same price. If you find the cheapest rates, don’t forget to double check on the website of the airline itself. My favorites are:
  3. If you don’t mind, fly low-cost airlines. Within Europe I prefer Ryanair, with fares as low as 5 euros, but also WizzAir, Vueling and TuiFly. For transatlantic flights check out TuiFly, Wow Air and Norwegian!

 

 

(Pic source: airportcheck.nl)

Travel tips & tricks /

Do you really need to save ‘miles’?

When I searched the internet for travel tips, all I came across where articles that advise you to use a credit card that saves travel points. But I’m based in Belgium, and in Europe airline credit cards are far less commonly used than in the United States. In my opinion, for European travelers an airline credit card is handy but not a must. I’ll tell you why.

If you fly a lot, it can be wise to sign up for the membership program of your airline or airline alliance. Each time you fly, you gain miles. Even more, there are airline credit cards that let you collect miles while shopping. At some point, you’ll be able to turn your precious points into a free flight. But the other times when you aren’t flying for free, your flights will not be the cheapest you can get. If you’re like me, it’s the destination that counts. That’s why I prefer to fly low cost airlines, like Ryanair, Jetairfly, Easyjet or WizzAir.

I fancy going to Budapest? 25 euros for a return flight. Prague with my girl? No problem, I’ll go ahead and book the outbound flight for 15 euros, and I’ll wait a bit until there’s a cheaper time to book the return flight. Berlin? 10 dollars per flight. Heck, that’s cheaper than a domestic train ticket around here! For citytrips like these, hand luggage is sufficient so you don’t have to pay extra luggage fees. With other airlines, luggage fee is often included in the more expensive price for the flight, even if you don’t make use of it. European flights are rarely longer than 2 hours, the limited service is not too hard to endure.

If you’re traveling long distance, which for me personally – and I assume for a lot of you also – happens less often than short distance, I recommend booking way in advance. Flights from Europe to the United States are relatively cheap the moment they become available and the price does not tend to decrease a lot over time. Use flight aggregator sites like Skyscanner to find the cheapest one available for you.

(pic source: bizjournals.com)

Geen categorie /

Opinion: changes in Instagram feed

Today I stumbled upon the following article in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/technology/instagram-feed.html?_r=0

It’s about possible changes in the old trusty Instagram feed (oh no!). Apparently the co-founders had this luminous idea that your feed has to be ‘personalized’ with the help of algorithms, a feature that ruined Facebook since 2009 and made Twitter dead. According to them, “people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed. What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.” 

They do have a tiny point, if you’re following people from all over the world, chances are they’ll post something while you’re asleep. But for most users, a 5 minute scroll in the morning will be greatly sufficient to catch up. So actually, you don’t miss any posts. And even so, who cares if you miss a post here and there? You don’t read every article in the newspaper, do you?

The feed will become algorithm-based, so the app will decide for you what you’ll get to see. As Vickie Mulkerin says in the article: “I want to judge what’s important, not have some algorithm tell me what it thinks is important.” And I stand by her. The thing with algorithms is, it doesn’t work. It does not properly reflect what users want to see. Of course, in practice, only the most popular posts will appear. A distant friend who only posts from time to time will not be popular enough to show up in my feed. There goes keeping up with him.

How will new Instagram users ever gain followers? After Twitter mad their hashtag-search no longer chronological but based on popularity, I tried this for myself. Literally no one ever saw my tweets. Same thing will happen on Instagram. I have a comfortable amount of around 10.000 followers on Instagram. You could argue the algorithm will decide my posts are fairly worth watching. But will my posts indeed pop up? What about those accounts that unoriginally gather travel pics from all over the internet? They have hundreds of thousands of followers. Sure they’ll push me and others away. In my opinion an enormous amount of accounts will be stuck in oblivion.

Coming back to the quote from the Instagram co-founders: “people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed. What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.” 

But what it should be about is “giving the chance to see 100% of the posts”.

Do you think this is a positive evolution of the Instagram feed? Feel free to comment 🙂

Uncategorized /

I saw the radio

This weekend I went to see a live radio show, with complimentary breakfast, who can say no to that! My girlfriend had won 2 tickets so off we went.

Bar du matin, a program on Belgium’s Radio 1, is a radio show hosted on a different location each week. This time, my hometown Kortrijk and its Budafabriek were the chosen place. A new exhibition called Water.War takes place, which raises the issue of water polution. It’s a mix of artwork and scientific explanations. While everyone was enjoying his croissants, the host invited guests who took part in the exhibition.

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The show was accompanied by live music from local band Ansatz der Maschine, who are known for their melancholic sound. You might wanna check them out to see if you’re into it!

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Uncategorized /

Russian masters

I went to see the opera!

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It had been a long time since I’d set foot inside an opera building. Oh wait, not really, but it had been a while since I saw a performance! This particular one was an ode to the Russian Masters. A flawless symphonic orchestra conducted by maestro Dmitri Jurowski played pieces by Glinka, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. The first two were accompanied by an incredible Russian bass Alexey Tikhomirov. This wasn’t the regular opera, Tikhomirov basically stood in front of the symphonic orchestra but managed to lay a lot of emotion in the piece. He had the entire audience on the tip of their chair the whole time.

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Alexey Thikomirov (source: vk.com)

It a cool experience and I think if you have the chance to see an opera, symphonic orchestra or something similar, you should do it! Even though me and my girlfriend are not that into the genre, we still had an amazing night.

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The building itself is quite amazing as well. And to think this place is not far from my hometown. It made me realize you have to appreciate what your own country has to offer. If I were to come across this venue on one of my trips, I’d be sure to take the guided tour. But at home, I’ve walked past this building many times without paying attention to it.

Shame on me.

Geen categorie /

Hi!

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Hi!

I’m Ben and I go places. But that’s not enough to get to know me properly, right?

I’m a 26 year old guy based in Belgium. A couple of years ago it hit me: life is short and you got to enjoy it. One thing that gives me great pleasure, is the beauty and diversity of various destinations. I have a job like anyone else, but try to travel as much as possible, whether it is with my girlfriend, family, friends or solo. Since I love telling about the places I visited, I hope to share my travel tips & tricks with you!

But hey, don’t forget the beauty of home. Belgium is a beautiful country and is often overlooked. For visitors who are not from around, maybe this site might help to persuade you to pay this hidden treasure a visit!

Feel free to contact me, I love to chat!

Ben

Editorials, News /

Choosing the right business cards

Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual. They are shared during formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card typically includes the giver’s name, company or business affiliation and contact information such as street addresses, telephone number, fax number, e-mail addresses and website.