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Life on the road with Susan Orlean

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Susan Orlean, the New Yorker writer and book author, is on a five-month, North American zigzag to promote The Library Book, her newest bestseller. And in between speaking engagements — while she is idling in hotels or awaiting delayed flights — she is teaching herself to play the ukulele, strumming under the tutelage of YouTube videos and ukulele apps. Her repertoire already includes the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band” and “Ho Hey,” by The Lumineers. “I’m not a great relaxer,” she said over breakfast in a midtown Manhattan hotel on a late November morning, dismantling the impressive heap of pancakes that had been placed in front of her.

The Library Book weaves together the stories of the 1986 arson fire of the Los Angeles Library, the history of libraries and Orlean’s personal connection to these institutions. Reviewing the book for The New York Times, Michael Lewis wrote, “Susan Orlean has once again found rich material where no one else has bothered to look for it.” Orlean is also the author of Rin Tin Tin, a biography of the canine movie star, and The Orchid Thief.

Susan Orlean, currently in the midst of a 35-city book tour for The Library Book.
Susan Orlean, currently in the midst of a 35-city book tour for The Library Book.  (Suzanne DeChillo / The New York Times)

As Orlean travels to cities like Seattle and Dallas, she has shared on her Twitter feed (309,000 followers at last count) the highs and lows of months spent on the road. “Exit row with no one in the middle seat. In a past life I must have done something good,” she wrote one day. “Lemme tell you, book tours aren’t for sissies,” she wrote two days before.

Over an unhurried breakfast, Orlean, who, when she is not on the road, lives in Los Angeles with her husband, John Gillespie, and their son, discussed her travel strategies for doing laundry, staying calm during takeoff and the “transformational” foot rest she has discovered. This conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

You travel. Do you enjoy it?

I went through a period where I became afraid to fly. I was about to begin my Orchid Thief book tour and I thought, “I have to deal with this.” So I went to a hypnotist. The first time I flew after I had gone through hypnotherapy — as the plane was taking off, which had always been the moment I would be gripping the seat and nearly tearing it off the body of the plane — I turned to my husband and said, “I think I’m going to get a pilot’s license.” And he said to me, “What did that guy do to you?”

What do you bring with you on a fight?

Noise-canceling headphones. And this foot sling I just got, which is transformational. You attach it on your tray table and it becomes a foot rest. I can’t recommend it enough.

How do you pass the time on a flight?

Sometimes I’ll do tasks that are usually so tedious that I would never be able to do it at home. I’ll spend an hour going through my contact list and update it. There is a lot of stuff I do on planes that I don’t do anywhere else. I play this little silly game on my phone called “Bejeweled” and that I have never, ever, ever done on the Earth’s surface. Similarly, I have never eaten a Biscoff cookie except at 35,000 feet.

Checked baggage or carry-on?

My husband taught me that bag checking is the work of the devil.

How do you pack for a long trip using only a carry-on?

I have one outfit that I wear for all my public events, a backup in case anything should happen. Then I pack one pair of jeans and two tops. I hand-wash my lingerie. That’s the only challenge. If you only have one day in a particular city, stuff doesn’t have time to dry.

When you are travelling for leisure, do you like to chill on a beach and explore a city?

I’m always happy to be somewhere beautiful, but I’m always much more interested in a place where there is something cultural to do. It’s the reporter in me. I think I do what I do professionally because it’s just a reflection of the way I am in the world anyway. The way I travel for work is not that different from the way I travel for leisure.

When you are on a book tour, do you ever get to see the places you are visiting?

Yes. I had a few extra hours in Tulsa [Oklahoma] and so I got a Bird Scooter and I scooted around downtown and I discovered to my amazement that Tulsa has a beautiful collection of Art Deco buildings. I never would have imagined it, and it was really one of the highlights of my whole trip.

There was a church there called the Boston Avenue Church. I couldn’t get into it, which drove me crazy, and I’m determined to go back. It’s an absolutely stunning building, Art Deco, and it turns out if has a really interesting history. It had always been attributed to this male architect, and years and years and years later it turned out it was designed by a woman. I thought, “What a great story.”

I feel as if we are going to read about this church in a future issue of the New Yorker.

I know! It really is amazing. How many women architects were there in the 1920s? The story of how did it end up finally being attributed to her, I don’t know. Yet.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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