Letting the Shadows Fall Behind in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery means reaching the light at the end of a long dark tunnel

Living in a world where illusion is sought after with passion, it is so easy to let the boundaries blur. CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, “We are making a long-term bet that virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives.”

With a myriad opportunities in this age of technology to escape the nitty gritty of daily living, people are tempted to take the easy way out and allow their fantasies full play. American cartoonist Lynda Barry said, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.”

There are things people start doing just because they like them – for recreation. Thus, recreational use of substances or gambling do not get categorized as addiction, until the person is unable to give it up even when the pleasure of the activity has disappeared. What started out as a fun activity then becomes a cruel habit which takes over the person, compelling indulgence even though it brings no pleasure, but entails terrible consequences. The activity becomes a habit and then a deeply ingrained uncontrollable addiction, without which the person is unable to function.

Substance addiction is easily understood. The compulsion for cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications and illicit drugs and the unspeakable ramifications of their uncontrolled consumption are shown time and again in movies and on TV. Harder to grasp are behavioral addictions, also known as process addictions. Even as people become addicted to sense-enslaving, isolating substances, they can also be lured by sense-enslaving, isolating behaviors.

However, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) only recognizes gambling addiction as behavioral addiction. APA lists internet gaming addiction as a condition to be studied further, but does not recognize it as an addiction. Nevertheless, the top behavioral addictions are known as food addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, love addiction, porn addiction, shopping addiction, Internet addiction, video game addiction and social media addiction.

Numbers lend strength to the total concept of addiction. For instance, 68% of the American population twenty years and older, is either overweight or obese. Director of Research for the National Institute on Media and the Family and development psychologist at the Iowa State University, Dr. Douglas Gentile, discovered through a recent research project  that 8.5% of young Americans between 8 and 18 years – amounting to around 3 million people – are addicted to video games. A University of New York study reveals that over 80% of American adults are lured into gambling annually, and that from 3 to 5 of every 100 gamblers struggle with addiction. Furthermore, about 750,000 young adults from 14 to 21 years are addicted to gambling. About 18 million Americans suffer from shopping addiction, and many have a tendency to engage in criminal conduct like shoplifting to satisfy their addiction. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong assess that 6% of the world’s population – that is about 420 million people – are addicted to the Internet. Statistics reveal that 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites and the global porn industry is valued at $4.9 billion. However, Internet porn addiction and online sex addiction have not been officially diagnosed as mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Thus, addiction is a real problem the world faces, and especially so in affluent and materialistic societies where availability and accessibility add fuel to the fire of mental instability. However, even as a prisoner can only break out of prison when he realizes he is locked up, an addict needs to understand the existing mental disorder in order to go down the road of recovery.

Societies concerned about the wellbeing of their people, try to help curtail and eradicate addiction from their midst. China, for instance, is at the forefront of trying to eradicate internet addiction, and was one of the first countries to call it a clinical disorder. The Chinese government has created 250 boot camps with the aim of helping its teenage population overcome Internet addiction. Porn addiction is widespread and extensive the world over, even though most societies prefer to ignore the problem. Pretending, unfortunately, does not make the problem go away, only aggravates it and its overarching consequences for individuals, their families and society as a whole. Thankfully, there are organizations brave enough to take the issue head on and who have identified ways to help porn addiction recovery.

Recovery from addiction will inevitably be an arduous and slow process, with tumultuous highs and lows and relapses. Ultimately, it is the will of the individual, the family and the collective commitment of entire societies that will help to reduce and eradicate different kinds of addiction. Vibrant societies need to have responsible citizens who are in control of themselves and are able to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. No country wants to be burdened with “behavioral addicts” who continually need the support of rehab or therapy to be able to distinguish right from wrong.

Yet, for addicts who achieve complete recovery, they have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and are out in the sunshine again. As former US President Richard Nixon once said, “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

Is It Feasible to Regulate the Marijuana Industry?

As more and more states around Canada and the US move to legalize both medicinal and recreational cannabis, the cannabis industry continues to grow. But this influx of growth is not without complications. The lesson we’ve learned from the states to legalise marijuana so far, is that very little has changed. None of the catastrophic predictions, surges in crime and traffic deaths, a rise in use amongst the youth, have come to pass. Likewise, none of the claims of booming economies or reduction in criminal activity have proven true either. While public support for legalization grows, and investors are showing interest, selling and supplying marijuana products is still something of a fuzzy area for business.

As part of a fledgling industry finding its feet, cannabis enterprises are faced with a host of unconventional problems, causing many experts to ask the question, is it possible to regulate the marijuana industry?

A major challenge facing the cannabis industry is the lack of consistent support from the banking sector. Especially in areas with legal marijuana, banks are increasingly coming under pressure to come up with more rigorous compliance and risk management controls. This has caused some banks to either raise costs to cover their own expenses, or drop cannabis companies entirely. Until the potential for profit begins to exceed the costs of meeting government compliance, the banking situation isn’t likely to change.

In some circles, bitcoin and crypto currency has been heralded as the solution to this problem. Using a digital currency for business transactions means marijuana businesses can accept payments from suppliers and businesses, while eliminating the need for a bank until the currency needs to be converted into dollars. With the prevalence of bit-coin based payment processing services, customers can purchase an amount of digital currency using their credit card or bank account, and then simply purchase a marijuana product with their acquired bitcoin. The idea of a specific new digital token, an appcoin or altcoin specifically for the marijuana industry has also been floated by some within the community. The goal here is to integrate blockchain technology into the needs and compliance of cannabis businesses.

Recently the government of British Colombia in Canada asked for submissions about managing the legal marijuana market within the province. IBM responded with a unique proposal, tracking cannabis with blockchain technology. In their filing, IBM made the argument that blockchain was the ideal mechanism the government could use to ‘transparently capture the history of cannabis through the entire supply chain…’

In IBM’s vision, every party within the network; growers, processors, distributors and vendors will produce their own ledger of transactions which regulators can then use to conduct spot checks. Retailers will be able to ensure compliance and customer safety by identifying the farms growing their supply, and records of the safety inspections conducted on their premises. Of course, this requires blockchain software operating within every marijuana based business in BC.

It isn’t just banking and regulatory requirements causing hiccups for the budding industry though. Real estate can prove to be another logistical headache.

The lack of federal legislation regarding legal marijuana in America means different laws exist regarding the issuing of permits to cannabis businesses from state to state, and even from city to city. Creating a nightmare for companies operating in multiple locations.

In Ohio, where the process of legalization is just beginning. Businesses are statutorily required to be 500 feet away from facilities like parks, churches schools, libraries, and day care centres. This presents more of an issue for retail operations like dispensaries than it does for cultivators and processors like seed banks. As a result, there has been a fight raging amongst businesses as they race to secure a spot in the Northeast Ohio market which is expected to make up 30% of the state’s businesses.

Californian businesses face unique challenges too. There are considerations for a full dispensary ban within LA’s Chinatown district, and rules such as a thousand-foot buffer between every retail outlet and the nearest school or child-care centre. There are also calls by some to impose a mandatory 600 feet between dispensaries. Restrictive zoning laws such as these dramatically reduce the areas where dispensaries can operate within cities. Leading to a concern about the rights of patients to easily access medical marijuana, as well as an issue of equity as small-businesses in low-income areas are effectively priced out by those operations who can afford to secure property in the north and south-eastern areas of LA.

It seems the biggest hurdle faced by the legal cannabis industry now is trying to establish feasible regulatory frameworks. The cost, time and complications currently faced by businesses in producing enough product, getting their facilities up to standardand meeting demand means that without some clear direction, the business of weed might never fully get off the ground.

The Internet and the Rise of Student Plagiarism

Thirty years ago, libraries were full of students trying to get the right book for their assignments. Now, libraries are not nearly as full as they used to be. Why? The Internet. Students now have the easy option of searching for exactly the information they need by using the Internet. All can be done from a click of a button, in the comfort of their homes. In a 2015 study conducted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Family Online Safety Institute, and myCollegeOptions, 9.65% of students in the US say they need the Internet to complete home assignments.

The internet has revolutionized the way students complete their homework. In this modern era, students are demanded to be digitally savvy, with teachers all over the world assigning tasks that require internet access. With this, comes a change in student behavior in handling school assignments. With a growing number of 40% of the world having Internet access, there is no denying that this is the way forward in education.

The internet provides almost any information you need, from tutorials, news, biographies to academic essays. Students can easily search the information they need for their assignments. Previously, they had to get through the lengthy process of going to the library, manually look for the right book (out of thousands of books), and then scan that book to find information they needed. The benefits of the Internet for students are undeniable.

However, the ease of access to information has often led to the misuse of information. Because of the almost endless amount of information from various sources, students can sometimes fall into the mistake of using information from unreliable sources. Another issue that frequently occurs due to internet use in assignments, is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the act of taking a person’s work and presenting it as your own without giving credit to the original author. With easy access to academic journals and papers, students can practically get their assignments online; thus, committing plagiarism. According to a survey conducted by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, one in three students admit to using the internet and plagiarizing for an assignment. However, the number of plagiarism committed by students is still difficult to gauge, since most plagiarized works go undetected.

The rise of essay writing services has arguably opened the door to more acts of plagiarism.

Students from ESL (English as a Second Language) schools to prestigious universities have engaged in the practice of buying essays, but many are quite oblivious to how their purchased works were produced. While there are some review sites like Omnipaper which helps differentiate the quality of such services, many still fall victim to lazy commercial essay writers who succumb to the easy acts of plagiarism.

This problem has been a sore spot for dozens of years, and the concern has only grown tenfolds since the introduction of the internet into the realm of education. It is possible that these frequent acts of plagiarism happen due to a lack of understanding of plagiarism itself and how to avoid it.

So how do we prevent students from plagiarizing? First of all, students need to understand how serious a violation plagiarism is, especially in the academic world. Students need to realize that in the latter stages of their life, plagiarism can seriously damage their reputation and career. A sense of caution needs to be established early on in their education.

Secondly, students need to be made aware of how the Internet is used for educational purposes. With the understanding of which sources are eligible and how to properly use these sources, students will be able to quickly distinguish credible information from irresponsible opinions.

Finally, the best and most important step to prevent plagiarism is to educate students on how to write a proper research paper. Though it may seem rather simple, there are several details that must be understood. One of which is how to properly cite your sources. This can play a huge factor to whether your work will be considered an act of plagiarism or not. Another good tip to help prevent plagiarism is learning how to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is an act of expressing the idea of the author using different words. This will help students to be freer in citing their sources and sticking with the flow of their paper.

An additional step to prevent plagiarism is to instill into the minds of students that using more sources, referring to them and crediting them accordingly can help you design a better and more credible paper. Students tend to think that relying too much on sources can seem like they are hiding their ideas, when, in reality, strong and reliable sources can strengthen arguments and make for a better essay.

From all the talk around plagiarism, it is clear that it is an issue impossible to tackle without the support of the whole educational system. A strong stance and movement is needed to prevent plagiarism. Otherwise, it will continue to grow and be taken lightly by students, especially in this digital age.

 

Rethinking the 8-hour Workday

Lately, Japan has been under fire for its overtime culture, which is blamed for hundreds of cases of karoshi — death by overwork — each year. Karoshi deaths can be caused by heart attacks, strokes, and also suicides. In response to his, Japan’s government has been trying to encourage firms to let employees leave early and take more vacations. This phenomenon can be seen as an extreme case owing to Japan’s decades-old work culture. For most city dwellers who are forced to get used to powering through the mandated “9 to 5” in an office, the 8-hour workday is accepted as a gold standard.

In many other countries, working overtime on ordinary work days is common and often done without any extra wages. And although taking frequent breaks is good for your productivity, focus and creativity, Human Resource Departments often do not encourage it. With extra time spent commuting to and from work, one hardly gets enough time to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or spend time with loved ones.

How the 8-hour workday came to be

The 8-hour workday wasn’t achieved simply through negotiation and peaceful protests. Workers’ unions and labor rights activists have struggled despite violent suppression – one famous example is the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, in which police opened fire on a crowd of 80,000 demonstrators after a bomb exploded in the crowd.

The 8-hour day movement or 40-hour movement had its origins during the Industrial Revolution, where mass production in large factories transformed working life. The average workweek for full-time manufacturing employees in those days was around 80-100 hours. Although New Zealand and Australia succeeded in achieving an 8-hour day for skilled workers in the 1840s and 1850s, most employees had to wait to the early and mid twentieth century for the standard to be widely achieved through the industrialized world through legislative action.

Managing energy, not time

However, how many hours we work every day isn’t as relevant to our productivity as managing our energy – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, which helps companies fuel sustainable high performance by better meeting the needs of their employees, says, “Manage your energy, not your time.” It’s time to rethink how we work and how much time we should spend in the office.

In an experiment to see what habits set their most productive employees apart, social networking company Draugiem Group used time-tracking productivity app DeskTime and found that employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours. They published their findings in the DeskTime blog: “The most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. The employees with the highest productivity ratings in fact for the most part don’t even work 8 hour days. Turns out the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a work day is not working longer, but working smarter with frequent breaks.”

On breaks, completely take yourself out of the working zone and dedicate yourself to not working. The human body isn’t built to sit in front of the computer for 8 hours straight, so take a nap or a walk, do some exercises, read a book, grab some healthy snacks, play an online casino game on the phone, or talk to colleagues. Another strategy to manage energy is to schedule meetings strategically. Meetings, which often take up a chunk of our working day, can actually serve as a mental break from mentally-intensive tasks.

The 6-hour workday movement

Research done by technology startups Filimundus and Brath in Sweden has also shown that employees are happier, have higher energy levels and are more productive with a 6-hour workday. Both companies say that the benefits of a 6-hour working week also extend to their profits and growth.

When Maria Brath, CEO of a Swedish company that specializes in SEO for Scandinavia, instituted the 6-hour workday, many were skeptical and commented that it cannot possibly be profitable. The company’s revenue continued to double each year. The changes are also happening in the Swedish public sector, with nurses at a government-run retirement home switching to a six-hour day for the same pay.

“I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time we are finding it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimindus told Fast Company.

“The biggest response that I couldn’t foresee was the energy level I felt with my colleagues. They were happy leaving the office and happy coming back the next day. They didn’t feel drained or fatigued. That has also helped the work groups to work better together now, when we see less conflicts and arguments. People are happier.”

Author and researcher Alex Pang goes as far as to say, “four hours is actually the optimal amount of time to spend per day if your work is creative in nature, or requires a notable degree of thinking and concentration… if your job requires imagination, ingenuity, and above-average mental focus, you may be better off limiting that work to four hours per day, as opposed to eight or more.”

The Micro-Sized Answer to Hong Kong’s Housing Problem

 

Hong Kong’s housing prices are already the highest in the world, with second and third places taken out by Sydney and Vancouver respectively. On a basis of median house price to household income ratio though, Hong Kong is the least affordable by far, with an average resident having to save for 18.1 years (without spending on anything else) to buy a small home. And that’s using the median, not mean, income being $50 000. In comparison, Sydney’s is 12 years and London’s is 8.5. That amount of money doesn’t buy you a big home either. With the average living space per person at just 4.6 square metres, the disparity in living conditions between Hong Kong’s rich and poor is painfully visible. But how did this come to be in a city – known for its thriving economy – and sitting on the doorstep of China (the second largest economy in the world)? In short, too much demand and too little demand.

With a government possessing more than £100 billion in fiscal reserves, you’d expect Hong Kong’s housing state to be more stable and sustainable than its current predicament. Indeed, it was a key concern of previous Chief Executive CY Leung since he began office, but he was unable to derive a solution other than to allow the construction of more apartments by the same oligarchy of Hong Kong Property developers, with Sun Hung Kai Properties leading the pack in typical fashion. The new Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has a different solution. Whereas CY Leung’s policies focussed on curbing demand to cool the city’s property market, Lam’s more familiar relationship with both Hong Kong developers and government officials has prompted expectations for more supply to be introduced. Where more public and private cooperation is needed for mutual benefit, namely in the New Territories farmlands, conversion rates are expected to be higher – with half a million apartments feasibly converted from the farmland owned by just three developers. Henderson Land Development Co., for example, owns 45 million square feet of land in the territory, currently for agricultural use. They are in negotiation with the government to convert the land for residential use.

Hong Kong’s skew toward demand overwhelming supply is explicable by its status as the world’s fourth most densely populated city, with more than seven million residents living across 1106 square kilometres. To give that scope, Sydney (in Australia’s) population density is million in 12367 square kilometres. But this area is not equally distributed, with huge living spaces curated for the upper middle to wealthy class across the area of Hong Kong Island compared to the much smaller in the Kowloon Peninsula. Financially, the incentives to live in Hong Kong are presented by its low tax rates and attractive commercial environment – being a de-facto access point to the most populous country in the world, China. Indeed, many who can afford to live in larger sized apartments are wealthy expats who are sponsored by their companies or leverage the lower tax margins to optimise their purchasing power. These can be seen primarily around Central’s bohemian district Mid-Levels, Stanley and Clear Water Bay.

Adding fuel to the effect of sky high housing prices has been enthusiasm of Chinese mainland developers, who are offered the scarcely available developable land by the Hong Kong government behind the scenes. Visible in online casino domains and offline gambling havens such as Macao, the Chinese are spend-thrifty. This land, as illustrated by the record sale of $2.17 billion for a residential plot exceeded market valuations by nearly 50%. In turn these exorbitant costs are passed on as high prices for buyers for the subsequent apartments built. Sadly, this is widely representative of a trend, driving housing prices up in all other districts. The market for super-luxury apartments costing more than HK $50 million each is dominated by mainland Chinese. In a somewhat relieving way, restrictions of capital outflow from the Chinese government has abated Chinese mainland investing interest, at least for now.

Recent government initiatives have aimed to cool the market. In November 2016, a 15 percent stamp duty was enforced on non first-home buyers to dampen the prevalence of speculation in the property market. This, in conjunction with the increased cost of the US dollar (to which the HK dollar is pegged) was predicted to curb property prices by up to 30 percent in 2017. Logically, this should, as the increasing USD value would lead to rising mortgage rates. However, (in the absence of sufficient regulation by the government) property development companies have been happy to hand out loans, which along with bank loans, have further increased pricing trajectory.

With government initiatives to increase supply whilst making housing prices more affordable, this gave way to the unintended consequence of driving demand for smaller apartments, as developers needed to meet government requirements of achieving supply targets whilst lowering prices for the average buyer. The result? Tiny shoe-box sized ‘micro’ apartments which are affordable, but few would say habitable. These truly humble abodes, accounting for 5% of the city’s newly developed housing in 2010, leaped to 27% in 2016, and are forecasted to rise to 43% in 2018. In an effort to increase home ownership prospects, Carrie Lam has promised to provide government help for people too wealthy for public housing but still without means to afford their own apartment. Whether or not these micro-apartments, sized at 15 square metres, are a sustainable way of living remains to be seen.

Is success definable?

The dream: to be rich and successful while one is still able-bodied and youthful. There must be a formula for success, especially since there are so many stories of teenagers cashing in as millionaires. How then, is it possible for others to achieve the same dream?

The first tip is usually not to earn more, but to spend less. Allocating an allowance for oneself and saving every other penny. This does not just mean ‘no lavish lifestyles’, but to live a frugal life. There are many things which constitute as a waste of money such as watching a movie at the cinemas, eating out, gambling away in a casino, down to spending change in an arcade.

Once being thrifty becomes second nature, it serves to recognize: salary alone is not enough. In 2014, Forbes released the statistics of how people make their richest list. A mere 8.6% of their income comes from wages, and the highest percentage goes to capital gains, sitting at 45.8%. However, merely starting a business is hardly enough to assure a healthy cash flow. One must be good at what they do.

However, it is now 2017, and technology has caused an upheaval in regards to how we interact with the world and therefore, generating countless possibilities when it comes to money making. Limited only by imagination and skill. Hence, it is beneficial to invest in oneself. Do not spend on anything that does not serve a higher purpose. Rather, choose instead to indulge in picking up a skill in which ones’ interest lies and then learn to be of service.

It is crucial in this digital era to know how to market oneself as a brand. Many young entrepreneurs use their skill and knowledge in wielding the latest technology to their advantage. Instead of long term investments or dabbling in real estate, they plunge into app or website building, utilizing the needs of a new market.

For those who are less inclined in technology, might find their niche in photography or blogging. There are numerous bloggers that focus on their area of expertise, such as fitness, makeup, travel or tutorials ranging from dieting to image editing. There is a whole slew topics one might specialise in. Believe it or not, there is even a youtube channel dedicated to unboxing toys with 4 million subscribers to date. Their daily revenue can be anywhere from a little more over $1,000USD to more than ten thousand.

One thing that these established entrepreneurs share is genuine interest and passion in what they do. Instead of mimicking successful businesses and hope their imitation will be as well received. It is as futile as a marketing a knockoff with expectations that exceeds the one set for the original.

Another tip is quite cliché, but as the saying goes: winners are people who do not give up. It pays to be resilient, and finishing what one has started. Regardless whether it is a new idea which has taken form, or a dying business, pushing against the current to accomplish what one set out to do is not only satisfying but might result in a good payoff.

Of course, one must also be intelligent and well informed regarding their determination. Many businesses have failed due to its extreme innovation. Back when the internet was new, there were a few pioneers whose companies never made any returns purely due being far to advanced for the market at that time. However, one might conclude that if only they had persevered, they would reap what they sowed. Much like the websites which survived during what is known as Web 1.0. Back in 1998, before the internet was truly utilized, one man had the foresight to start up a website regarding daily deals and coupons. Today, it is worth an estimated $1 billion USD. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, holding on to something which did not seem promising at that time does not support its credibility as a logical decision.

To create a startup today requires more than luck and innovation, one needs to study trends and allow creativity to take the helm. We are in an age of convergence, where celebrities are no longer elusive and a complaint could be publicized to the CEO of a company rather than the regional manager who has less power. It is not enough to be contactable, one has to be present at all times. That is one of the many tactics Huffington Post employed to gain such traction. By generating hundreds of pieces of content daily, several of them were bound to go viral.

It serves to be two steps ahead of the crowd but anything beyond that is too advanced to be welcomed. Whether riches is waiting around the corner, what makes a person successful is drive, passion and the contentment to match.

An Economic Update on the Tourism Industry

Wanderlust is perhaps inherent to human nature- a legacy of the pre-historic ages when humans were predominantly nomads. Limited technology and access to information meant that for several millennia, the ability to travel was so severely limited that those who travelled far in ancient times, like Marco Polo or Faxian, are remembered to this day.

The advent of civil aviation, combined with easy access to information through the internet have transformed the travel and tourism landscape beyond recognition over the last few decades, to the point where today, even a common man can realistically dream of travelling to remote corners of the world in his lifetime. As a result, travel and tourism has become one of the most important industries in the world, providing a livelihood to 292 million people and accounting for 10.2% of global GDP.

The travel and tourism industry has displayed remarkable resilience in the current decade, despite factors like a global economic slowdown, political instability in many countries and the rising spectre of terrorism which has left few parts of the world untouched. Despite those factors, the growth of the industry has consistently outpaced that of global GDP since 2011. This astonishing phenomenon has been due to several factors, some of which are discussed in this article.

Tourism has traditionally been of the leisure tourism variety, where individuals go on a vacation unrelated to work. It may be in the form of a weekend getaway or a much longer stay away from home. The drivers of leisure tourism are many. For instance, sports buffs may indulge in sports tourism, which was a USD 7.7 Billion industry as of 2011. Food lovers in pursuit of new culinary experiences may indulge in food tourism.

Here is an interesting fact – There were as many as 56 million tourists who visited the US last year for gambling. Since many countries have a tight lock even on casinos online, people vacationed in places that allowed them to gamble without restrictions.

Leisure tourism can also be driven by negative factors. For example, consumption of alcohol is prohibited in most Middle Eastern countries, prompting citizens and expatriates living in those countries to seek indulgence in places where consumption is permitted. Similarly, individuals may indulge in recreational drug tourism, which allows them to obtain drugs that may be prohibited in their home country.

With increasing global interconnectivity, business tourism has become a very important segment within the travel and tourism industry. As of 2016, the global spending on business tourism was estimated at USD 1.3 Trillion- higher than the GDP of most countries in the world. Despite the advent of technologies like teleconferencing or online video chatting apps like Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts, business tourism continues to thrive, with an estimated growth of 6% in 2017. With a global economic recovery underway, it is likely that this segment will experience significant growth over the next few years. The latest trend in this sector is a portmanteau called ‘bleisure’ tourism when business travellers extend their stay at their destination for leisure activities.

Medical tourism has emerged as another important segment within the travel and tourism industry in recent years. Valued at USD 10 Billion in 2015, this industry is expected to experience double-digit growth until the end of the current decade due to two factors, the significantly lower cost of medical treatment in developing countries (vis-à-vis developed countries) and the unavailability of local expertise in underdeveloped countries. Rising healthcare costs and limited insurance coverage- especially for orthopaedic surgeries- in developed countries are expected to further fuel the growth of this sector.

One of the oldest forms of tourism in the world, religious tourism remains a significant activity. The World Tourism Organisation estimated that major religious sites across the world, such as the Great Mosque of Mecca, Vatican City, Church or the Nativity, and Our Lady of Fatima attracted 300 million tourists as of 2016. Given the fact that religious belief is immune to political and economic downturns, this segment is likely to experience growth for the foreseeable future

One of the latest developments in the travel and tourism industry is the phenomenon of virtual tourism. Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible to experience a virtual tour of major tourist attractions without having to leave the comforts of home. The equipment required for a virtual tour could be as simple as an ordinary smartphone with the added option of a 3D headset. 

Counterintuitive as it may sound, virtual tourism could actually boost leisure tourism instead of supplanting it by giving would be travellers a preview of what they could experience- much the way a starter whets the appetite for the main course. While the concept is still in a nascent stage, with technological advancements it is likely that virtual tourism will grow into a full-fledged segment within the travel and tourism industry.

Several governments across the world to have formulated tourism policies to exploit the economic potential offered by the industry. The combination of higher disposable incomes, especially in developing countries, easy access to information and lower travel costs due to declining oil prices will contribute significantly to the growth of the travel and tourism industry over the next few years.

However, the industry continues to face significant challenges to growth. Apart from the factors mentioned at the beginning of this article, weakening currency exchange rates and barriers to entry in the form of visa restrictions could act as headwinds restricting the growth of the sector.

Why Millennials Are Hitting The Highway

Something is driving the generation of new adults to push the boundaries, choosing adventure over security and experiences over comfort. There are countless articles reproaching millennials and their seemingly unconventional ways. Calling them lazy, narcissistic and entitled. Directionless. Criticism disguised as insight are becoming increasingly common.

Let’s not forget that it is a tired old trope, the old mocking the young. Even as far back as the 4th century, Aristotle was quoted saying the younger generations “think they know everything, and they are always quite sure about it”. In 1985, Generation X was known as The Video Generation. Back before smartphones or Youtube were invented, today’s parents had been featured in Newsweek as the generation who are never seen without their “latest cutting edge technology”. Sound familiar?

But now, it is time to explore whether millennials are suffering psychological problems or simply living as practical and as full as they are able to in today’s age of technology.

However, it is worth noting that millennials are a lot less inclined to visit a casino than their parents were. This generation is more interested in enriching their minds than they are with striking the jackpot. Huffington Post pointed out that millennials have seen how working hard does not always guarantee a comfortable life as they were old enough when the financial crash of 2007-2008 took place. Perhaps it is during that event that had millennials re-thinking the value of money. Perhaps the time spent for an unfeeling corporation is better off spent on the individual’s needs and wants.

Based on the amount of successful vloggers or bloggers and even social media influencers that generate content for a living, it did not seem impossible to have their cake and eat it too. Without the fixed nine to five, Monday to Friday schedule, one becomes free. With less limitations, it is up to them to push and meld their lives they want to lead. And this has given way to those who travel for a living by working remotely, through the internet. These belong in another sub-category: travelpreneurs. What is it about not having a permanent home that makes it so attractive?

According to CNBC, it is about priorities. Experiences are more important than material items to the average millennial. This is largely due to how costly real estate is. Therefore the next best thing is to make the world home, rather than purchasing brick and mortar that is virtually unattainable on a low, flat pay which is what many make these days. Travel, by comparison, is more affordable and a more meaningful way to spend time and money.

As millennials have been touted as the ‘me’ generation, it is logical to assume they are focused in self-improvement such as broadening their perspectives. It is not a secret that “people who are exposed to diverse lifestyles and cultures from an early age grow up to be more tolerant, charitable and rational on average” according to an article by Forbes. The article continues to highlight how the previous generation did not have the luxury; saying that “this is a modern development” as the older generations had little choice but to work hard “relentlessly for most of their lives and put off seeing the world until their twilight years”.

To be sure, the plans have flipped and millennials want to see the world first. Another contributing factor could be the fact that when they are old and grey, they would not be able to jump off buildings or hike in nature as they would if they had seen the world in their prime. Furthermore, it is more beneficial for the young and impressionable to travel as grandparents or parents are more set in their ways and see travel as a way to escape their humdrum lives instead of an eye-opening experience.

Furthermore, millennials want authenticity. It is no longer enough to go to Rome and gawk at the colosseum. They want to immerse themselves into the culture and truly learn something. Bringing home something priceless that belongs to them alone.

Travel and work has become such an integral part of this generation of travelpreneurs that more and more are ditching their luggage and renting tuxes instead. With renting culture on the rise with the likes of AirBnb and Uber or Grab, consumers are no longer against renting clothes, especially designer wear which would be out of their budget if they were to purchase them. Based off a recent survey by Realty Mogul, the amount of respondents aged 18 to 34 said they would rather rent over buying if it meant they could continue affording small luxuries such as visiting any restaurant they desired and afford their favorite mug of coffee daily.

Even those who are less adventure inclined, and is unwilling to sacrifice stability for their dreams have taken a stab at a bleisure. A term combining ‘business’ and ‘leisure’ promotes adding extra days to an otherwise short and stressful business trip. It has been proven to increase work performance. It is undeniable that millennials are just as obsessed with travel as travel is with them. Travel agencies try their best to market their services to the largest demographic in America by creating youth-oriented packages, Instagram-worthy decor and of course, high speed wifi.

Now ask yourself, If you had the ability to make money on the go, why wouldn’t you?

Is the internet allowing negative influences to enter our youth’s lives?

The information super highway, popularly known as the internet, is one of the greatest discoveries of the last century, ranking only next to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics.

There has been an explosion in internet usage in early part of the 21st century. The internet has created new ways for individuals to communicate, meet and exchange information about their lives, with social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram becoming almost synonymous with the internet. The internet is however, must broader in its scope. It has changed the field of education and health, in the form of massive open online courseware (MOOCs) and tele-medicine respectively. The face of business has changed beyond recognition, thanks to the developments in e-Commerce, E-Business and E-Marketing. A study by Stephen Siwek of Economists Incorporate, a premier economic consulting firm in the USA, discovered that businesses directly connected with the internet created wealth of about $966 billion for the US economy in the year 2014 alone.

The dangers of a ‘wired’ world are many and often insidious, especially for young people who are naïve to the horrors of the net.

Personal Health

The time spent in front of computers can be injurious to health, contributing to obesity, undeveloped social skills and addictive behavior. Physical inactivity is probably the most obvious culprit of an internet lifestyle. The traditional emphasis on a balanced life-style, combining the mental and physical dimensions and providing for adequate rest, falls prey to the couch-potato syndrome seen in a typical consumer of the internet. In a paradoxical way, the ready convenience of the Internet for shopping, gaming, etc limits physical activity and leads to a sedentary lifestyle.

Social Disconnect

It is ironic that the internet, which was meant to connect people, has actually broken the bond of face-to-face relationships. An increasing number of youngsters are choosing virtual contacts, both for the anonymity they offer and as an escape from the real world.

Humdrum Existence

A humdrum existence, characterized by a lack of creativity, is a fall-out of the Internet age. The easy availability of information at the click of a button has numbed the need for creativity among the youth. Students no longer apply their minds and discover new approaches to the subject matter at hand, but rather confine themselves to using that which is readily available online.

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying refers to the widely prevalent practice of bullying using the Internet. This type of harassment is easier for the perpetuators than physical bullying as there are hardly any regulations and laws to control the menace. Cyber bullying can be so detrimental to mental and psychological health that victims are often driven to acute embarrassment, shame and even suicide in extreme cases.

Time Wasted and Opportunity Lost

Improper use of the internet for watching films, surfing Facebook and playing games, among other things, can be a colossal waste of time. The online betting industry is rumored to have a turnover in excess of billions of dollars, with casino online being a favorite haunt of the youth brigade. According to one study conducted by Stanford University, 12.4% of the participants often stayed online for a longer period of time than intended.

Social Neglect

Excessive use of the internet can lead to social withdrawal and even a break in relationships with near and dear ones in some cases. The tragedy of a couple in Korea is a bone-chilling reminder of this fact. The young couple was so obsessed with their virtual baby that they neglected their real baby to the extent of driving her to hunger, abandonment and eventual death.

Privacy Disrupted

Privacy is a real threat on the internet. It is very common for youngsters to shed their inhibitions in the virtual world, exchange pictures and private information even with total strangers, a behavioral trait that is unimaginable in the real world. Moreover, there is an ever-present threat of stalking and black-mailing, especially in the dark, deep net.

Internet Addiction

The Internet addiction is no less dangerous than other form of addiction. People are known to find it difficult to abstain from the internet for a continuous period of time. An interesting fact is that males are more prone to be addicted to the internet.

The starting point of internet addiction may be a desire to escape from the real world due to parental expectations, bullying, etc. Studies have found positive co-relations between the use of the internet and depression, with people addicted to the internet being more prone to depression in comparison to their normal counterparts.

Cyber Crime

The internet is not a very safe space. The proliferation of illegal websites, unethical content and fraudulent activity online are a fertile ground for criminal activities aka cyber crime. The unhindered growth in computer viruses and malwares can not only attack a computer, but also put its sensitive information at risk. Unethical hacking has become a norm and an individual computer user is often found wanting, in dealing with such formidable adversaries.

The revolutionary technology of the internet has become a defining part of our century and an integral aspect of their daily lives. The internet has no doubt spawned both positives and negative influences on the youth of today. It is our onerous responsibility to use the internet to its full potential, while simultaneously guarding against the pitfalls.

Does an Asian ethnic background make you more susceptible to gambling addiction?

From flashing casinos to poker on the phone, there’s something about gambling that makes it so attractive. Maybe it is the satisfying feeling of being lucky, that the gambler has beat the system and broken the fact that ‘the house always wins’. Maybe it is the lure of easy money that can make one dollar magically transform into $1000 pleasurably, with minimum effort. Or perhaps addiction comes with the rush that gambling offers. Regardless of the underlying reason, the overall is a narcissistic one, as explained by psychologists.

There is a strong link between narcissism and those who are likely to develop a gambling problem. It has to do with “overconfidence, heightened risk acceptance, and myopic focus on reward”. It is a pathological problem that functions similarly to that of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and displays itself in a myriad of symptoms that include but is not limited to committing crimes in order to continue gambling, being distraught when unable to gamble and fantasizing about gambling and past experiences frequently.

Each country and every culture have their own sort of vice. Horse racing in the West and virtual red packets in the East. Back in 2014, China’s WeChat app released a service entitled Hong Bao which translates to red packet or red envelope. It is a customary practice of the Chinese to give monetary gifts during weddings, birthdays and the Lunar New Year, these gifts are traditionally wrapped in red for prosperity. However, this online feature has become abused as the service allows senders to post a red envelop into a group chat and generate a random amount for each user who opens it until the total is spent.

This quickly escalated into a full blown lottery pool, with fairly simple rules: “the group member who receives the least amount of money is required to start the next round by issuing a Hong Bao envelope containing an amount equal to or greater than the amount he/she received”. The member who is allocated the highest amount naturally wins the round.

Over in Japan, gambling takes its form in a machine filled with shiny pellets, bright flashing lights and blaringly happy sounds. It is the pachinko. An estimate of 3.2 million Japanese are addicted to some form of gambling. While technically illegal, it has not stopped close to twelve thousand pachinko parlours to exist in Japan. It is excused from the criminal code due to historical and cultural value, and to discourage its association with gambling, the money is not dispensed at the parlour itself. The player has to exchange their metal pellets for a chip and go to a different building to exchange the chip for currency.

The entrepreneurial South Koreans have discovered the lucrative business of setting up gambling services in Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia as South Korea itself has a strict ban on gambling and have significantly heavier penalties than the aforementioned countries. They take bets not only from their own countrymen, but from Americans and Australians alike.

Problem gamblers are comparatively low in Great Britain, with reports of 600,000 from NHS Choices (National Health Service), UK’s biggest website on health. While it is still a substantial amount, it is significantly lower than their Eastern counterparts. However, they also have their fair share of options through legal horse races, lotteries, casinos and online betting through the likes of NetBet Casino, Slot Boss, and many more.

So are Asians more susceptible to gambling? A report published by Dr. Amritha Soburn-Maharaj, Dr. Fiona Rossen and Ms. Anita Shiu Wei Wong for The Ministry of Health of New Zealand, seems to suggest so. Entitled ‘The Impact of Gambling and Problem Gambling on Asian Families and Communities in New Zealand’, it explores how gambling could put a strain on both the Asian community in the country and the strain on the health services provided.

It is reported that Asians fall prey easily to gambling due to their “cultural beliefs and values such as superstition and luck”, the most susceptible ethnic group being the Chinese, having gambling seemingly integrated into their culture. During the Lunar New Year, houses become gambling dens filled with tables offering mahjong, poker, blackjack and various dice games.

There is an easy fix, according to Science Daily. Simple education will help curb gambling addiction when it comes to digital games. There was a study at University of Wanderloo that educated players on how games disguised losses as wins (LDWs) and players who are aware of such tactics find the whole gambling culture and experience a lot more negative than those who have not been exposed to LDWs. However, this only works on new players as experienced players already has misconceptions deeply embedded in their minds.

With early exposure and proper education on what gambling entails, the research “show a way in which we can lead slots gamblers to have a more realistic view of the gambling experience and possibly prevent problems down the road”.

The problem with the research is that it only works on slot machines; part of the Western world and far from Asian preferences. Therefore, there is reason as to why Asians are more susceptible to gambling: culture, convenience and competition.