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About four years ago a friend of mine guided me into a couple of chat rooms. The subject of the rooms had to do with sports. It was very strange how the other members of the community knew when you logged in or logged out. Sometimes the members would see that you were there but not participating in the "conversation". They would try to bring you into the conversation or come right out and ask you what you were there for. The conversations can go quite quickly so I had a hard time keeping up sometimes. They were friendly, though, and would just ask again if a person did not answer in enough time. I have not been in a chat room since. It seems easier when you already know another person in the room. I actually think it is kind of creepy. I will not know who these people are. Do I want them to know my log on name? What if they are weirdoes and look up my personal information on the internet? Do they even have this capability?
It is pretty obvious that I do not know much about the internet. I do know how to E-Mail someone. I do not have a problem going to a web site if I know the address. If I am searching for something I actually get very frustrated, because it takes so much time if you do not know what you are doing. One link leads to another, then another, then another and then you forget where you started.
The community I am most curious about is the chat room community. I am going to plung right in and face my fears. Will I feel comfortable to participate in the conversations? Will the people in the chat room be talking about something that interests me? Will I be able to keep up? I assume it will be difficult. My topic is "Traveling with Children". I have no idea if there are even any chat rooms out there about this subject. I read an article in the travel section of the Los Angeles Times every other week about traveling with children, so there must be some sort of audience out there. I assume there must be resources on this subject because traveling is so popular.
The internet seems like it would be a useful tool for research and if I find the chat rooms I imagine it will be very helpful.
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I belong to the internet service CompuServe. I think it is reasonable to start my search there. I click on the search icon and I get choices. Do I want to search CompuServe or the internet? I thought CompuServe was the internet. I click on CompuServe and type in "travel with kids" in the search box. It comes up with four items, but also lists other directory web sites. So I go there and click on it. Ten directories show up. I get to the bottom and it asks if I want ten more. I click on them. When I get to the bottom it asks me if I want ten more. I wonder how long this will go on. I now wonder if I should narrow my topic just a little. It is showing me topics from affordable cruises with your child to how to travel with your child when they have leukemia. I am curious to see how long this will go on for so I keep clicking. I am at around 216 entries when I think this is ridiculous. I go back to the beginning (the first ten) to see if it states how many entries were found in my search. It said nothing. I then click on a link that says "Other Search Engines". Up pops a selection of about 20 engines. I had no idea. I had heard of AOL, CompuServe, Netscape and Yahoo. I click on Netscape, because that is what we use at school. I then type "travel with kids" in the little search box and come up with the first 10 of 45 entries. Hurray! It narrowed down my search for me. But at the bottom I am still given a choice of more search engines: AltaVista, AskJeeves, Excite, GoTo, HotBot, LookSmart, and Lycos. I have not heard of any of these. I am starting to understand how people can spend days on their computer. I have already been on mine for two hours. My next task is to go through my list of 45 sites and see if any of them have chat rooms.
The first site I went to was called "Family Travel." It states that I can find family travel bargains, road trip car games for kids, and child care while on vacation (but then why travel with the kids). I click on "community". From there I go to "More For Your Dollar". There is only a message board. I click on the message that said "Good Travel Web Sites". That is useless because it just brought me back to community, but this time a community advertising birth control. I scroll down a little bit and find a site for single divorced moms. This catches my interest so I click on discussion. Again, only a message board. I can see how someone may get distracted while on the internet.
The second site I try is "Race Family Motorsports" since the guy I am dating likes racing. This site is referring to motorsports, one big happy family, and not motorsports for families. I go to my third site. This one is "Chicktrip". This site is travel for women with kids and their friends. Here I somehow come across a listing for "Testicle Festivals" all over the country, referring of course to the cooking of cow testicles and the many ways you can prepare them. I click on "Taking the Kids" (not to the "Testicle Festival") and discover again that there are no chat rooms. I am starting to wonder if I will find any chat rooms for traveling with kids.
My fourth site is "Traveling Internationally with Your Kids". This site gives advice on international travel or just traveling long distances with your child. But unfortunately no chat rooms. I might change my community to message boards. My fifth site I click on is "Cool Breeze UK Web Guide". This seemed more like a store, but the site did have a message board. My sixth site is "YMCA Summer Camp". They only have a spot asking for feedback from me. I told them they need to open up a chat room. At my seventh site I finally see a glimmer of hope. A link says "CHAT". (I am in "Mom-to-Mom expert advice at ClubMom: family travel"). I click on CHAT and am taken to a message board.
My eighth site I go to is "Parent Soup". This site takes me inside "ivillage.com". Here again I see the icon that says CHAT. I click on it. But before it lets me chat I have to join ivillage.com. I suppose I will receive lots of e-mail from them now. At last a real chat room on travel. I decided to read the dos and don'ts of chatting. It of course says that chats are not private so do not discuss any personal information or give out your name, address, and telephone number. I am not that crazy. I am finally in and clicked on travel. But of course there are no discussions on travel at this time. I did get a schedule. Nothing before this paper is due so I will not be able to say much. Thursday at 6pm I can log on with a travel expert. Every Friday at 6pm there is a discussion on Disney travel. And on Sunday at 5pm there is something called "Budget Travel U.S.A." So Thursday, I will make an attempt at my first chat in a chat room about traveling with kids.
I try logging on to the chat room on Thursday to chat with a travel expert. For some reason they are not chatting tonight. I am getting pretty frustrated. I decide to leave a message on the travel message board. There are several messages up regarding traveling with the kids. The designated "best" vacation to have with the kids is a trip to Disneyworld. I post a message stating that the man I am dating does not like Disneyland and did anyone have a second choice for best destination with the kids. I also post a message to a person who lives in the Bahamas. I also leave a message for him or her asking what sort of educational/fun activities are available to children traveling to the Bahamas. .
I am discovering all sorts of information on traveling with children. The best site I find so far is Travel with Kids. This site has everything! If you are traveling by car, train or plane to Canada, a dude ranch or the Caribbean with kids or teens, this site has something to tell you. There are several choices of lodging, too. There is the choice of camping, bed and breakfasts, dude ranches, motels, hotels or condos. I am interested in budget travel so I clicked on camping. I discover that most National Parks have a Junior Ranger program. In this program a child from the ages of 6-12 may earn certificates, buttons, or patches. They do this by participating in walks, patio talks and other programs. Depending on the park you are staying in there are educational programs such as "Super Spiders", "Petroglyph Party" or "Rocking". Children also learn about the particular park history. For example, in Zion National Park, children learn about Zion's early pioneer period, which include square dancing, butter making, and storytelling. There is a daily schedule and also a schedule for special events. One program that sounds interesting is the National Park Passport program. In this program you receive a stamp every time you visit a National Park recreation area. Children can learn about geography while collecting stamps as they go to each destination in the passport. The stamps look similar to the stamps one receives in international passports when traveling internationally. Travel with Kids did have a chat room. Unfortunately, every time I log on there is no one using it.
A second site that I find particularly interesting is the Hostel International site. I am looking for an inexpensive way to travel to Oregon by car with my daughter. I do not want to drive an extremely long distance at one time, so I plan on stopping a lot. With so many stops I do not want to stay in hotels because of the expense. I have stayed in a hostel before and am curious to how many are available along my route to Oregon. My first stop would be somewhere around San Francisco. Three options were available to me, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Point Montara Lighthouse or Point Reyes National Seashore. All options are only around $13.00 a person. I want to chat with members to see which option they would recommend to a mom traveling with her daughter. Chat rooms are not available.
Another interest I have is visiting the Grand Canyon. I start my search with a search engine and type in "camping". A-Z Camping Destinations proves to be successful when I type in Grand Canyon. I am curious about the link "The Grand Canyon Railroad" because I just came back from a train trip to San Luis Obispo. There are vacation train packages available to take the train into the Grand Canyon and stay overnight. The packages are reasonable considering they include two adults and two children under the age of 16. I do receive the information I want, but there are no communities available. In fact, there is not even any links to go to.
Rand McNally - On the Road: Taking the Kids, is also a great site. In Indianapolis you can see what it is like to live life on a prairie. There is a candlelight tour of how Americans got ready for the holidays. I am interested in the New Years Eve party in Boston. A party is thrown all day. It says that during the day there will be face painters, laser shows, parades, and ice sculptures. At night there will be two fireworks spectaculars. One is offered for kids who are unable to stay up until midnight. I like this because often I cannot make it until midnight. Actually, I would like to go to something like this in the Los Angeles area. Who needs to travel to Boston?
It is time to go to a chat room on Disney travel. I log on to "ivillage.com". I go to Chat and then click on Travel. The Disney Chat is listed so I click on Chat now. The window to chat in is so small, I try to change it (maximize it) and I am unsuccessful. I will see if anyone is in the room. Some sort of conversation is taking place. They are talking about how cold it is there and I think they have just recently met, because someone says that they remember meeting the other at the park. A total of four people are there: Jaymomof2, Daisylous, Pamm somebody, and the fourth I do not remember. I sit and read the conversation for awhile. There are so many abbreviations: lol, 3yo, omg. After watching a few minutes and using the abbreviations in context I figure out that they are laugh out loud, 3 year old, and oh my god. Then someone (I cannot remember who) asks me if I am planning a trip to Disney. This wakes me up because I had forgotten that the other people are aware that I am there. My heart starts thumping and I try to type, but my fingers are not that fast. I type this really long sentence and then change my mind. Who is going to want to read this? I finally type "no, but I have a ? - Do any of you have spouses who do not like Disney?" They are not that helpful. One is not married and not dating, the other is married to a man who also loves Disney. They offer a few suggestions, but none I am satisfied with. I exit the room and am kind of relieved when I am out of there. I do not like it. I get brave and enter another, unrelated chat room because I fled the Disney chat so fast without answering that I am too embarrassed to go back. I think I am going to be brave and participate, but again just decide to leave. I really do not like it. It is just too weird for me. I am not going back unless I know someone.
I decide to check my message boards. I left the messages on November 26th. Today it is December 4th. No one has answered my questions. I am not sure if anyone has even read them because I was the last person to have asked or posted a question.
I have come to the conclusion that on-line communities are just about as hit or miss as any other means of research. I can go to the regular library and they may or may not have the information I am looking for. The librarians may or may not be able to order it or have it transferred from another branch. If it is transferred then this is time consuming. On-line communities are similar. I may or may not have my question answered. If I post it on a board then it may or may not be answered. If I go into a chat another person may or may not be able to help me. However, I do find the internet useful for obtaining information. I located all sorts of interesting information on travel just from looking for chat rooms and message boards.
I was correct when I remembered it had been strange four years ago how a chat room member could tell if you were in the room. It is virtually impossible to go to a room and not be asked a question. I was also correct when I said they were polite. The members of the Disney chat room probably knew that I was a beginner, by how much I wanted to type out and how slow it took me to answer. But how fierce could a group in the Disney chat room be? I was also correct when I assumed this task would be difficult for me. I would not exactly say I faced my fears. I did not feel comfortable in the chat room at all.
I had assumed that finding chat rooms on travel would be easy. It was not as easy as I had imagined. The sites I chose to go to either did not have chat rooms or some turned out to be just message boards. I also imagined that if I posted a message on a board that it would be answered in a timely fashion. I guess I was wrong. If people are not reading the boards, then questions will not get answered.
The information I obtained through the internet was very helpful. I have some very good sites to go to in the future if I have any question what so ever regarding travel. A couple of days ago my daughter got carsick and I asked my mom about it. She did not know what to do. As I was searching for travel on the web, there was an article regarding traveling with kids who get carsick. Great!
I was also correct in how time consuming finding information on the web is. Going to the library is just as time consuming as the internet at first. If a person does not know exactly where to go, for example they have to search for something, it takes just as long. I was also very easily distracted in the internet. If something flashed on the screen that I was interest in, I went to go check it out. It is a useful tool in getting information, but I have to remember to stay focused and on track. Sometimes I would go through so many links that I forgot where I started. I would have to click on the back button until I retrieved it again. I also need to remember where I post messages. It actually took me a while to remember where on earth (or where on the internet) I posted my two messages.
I feel I have a much better understanding of how the internet works now. This paper has in a way "forced" me to cover all areas of the internet and I feel I can actually follow what someone else is talking about when the internet is discussed. I will definitely use the internet again to get information on travel. I do not think I will use be apart of a community, though, unless I am completely desperate.
"Community." Family Travel. http://women.com/travel/family (23 Nov. 2000)
"CART." Race Family Motorsports. http://www.racefamily.com/ (23 Nov. 2000)
"Taking the Kids." Chicktrip. http://www.chicktrip.com/ (23 Nov. 2000)
"Tips." Traveling Internationally with Your Kids. http://www.travelwithyourkids.com/ (23 Nov. 2000)
"Directories." Cool Breeze UK Web Guide. http://www.coolbreeze.co.uk/ (23 Nov. 2000)
"Recreation and Sports." YMCA Summer Camp. http://www.ymca.ca (23 Nov. 2000)
"Family Travel." Mom-to-Mom expert advice at ClubMom. http://www.clubmom.com/areas/learn/index.jhtml (23 Nov. 2000)
"Parent Soup." Family. http://www.parentsoup.com/fathersday/sahd.html (23 Nov. 2000)
"Disney Travel." Chat. http://www.ivillage.com (26 Nov. 2000)
"Travel Expert Advice." Chat. http://www.ivillage.com (26 Nov. 2000)
"Budget Travel U.S.A." Chat. http://www.ivillage.com (26 Nov. 2000)
"Family." Travel with Kids. http://travelwithkids.about.com/ (26 Nov. 2000)
"Junior Ranger." National Parks. http://nationalparks.gov
(04 Dec. 2000) "California." Hostel International. http://hostelinternational.com (04 Dec. 2000)
"The Grand Canyon." A-Z Camping Destinations. http://travelwithkids.com (04 Dec. 2000)
"On the Road: Taking the Kids." Rand Mcnally - On the Road. http://randmcnally.com (04 Dec. 2000)