by cristina lanz azcarate
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Are you looking for great ideas? Part 1

Every time I travel I seem to collect ideas which are so good that i wish they could be implemented everywhere. Unfortunately, many are beyond my area of expertise and I would not know who to share them with.

It is because of this that i have decided to use the blog to “put them out there” in the hope that someone gets hold of them and does something about them. Here is a random selection or the so called Part 1

1, Rotating train seats:

In Japan, the seats of most trains can be adjusted to the direction in which the train is going . If implemented in Europe, it would end the eternal discussion of whether it better or worst to face forward or to face backwards.

What is even better is that if you travel as a group, this arrangement gives you the possibility of creating little clusters and share the length of the journey with your companions. This, i am convinced that would make the experience more enjoyable and increase the appeal of train journeys.

2. Train food offer to match local food

In Japan, again, as you travel through the regions on the Shinkansen , you can still enjoy local delicacies from the comfort of your seat . This is thanks to the fact that the on-board food offer reflects the localities, and the food and drinks trolley brings along the train similar bento boxes to those you could purchase if you chose to step outside the train in a particular region.

This is a fantastic way to enhance the journey experience and it makes more likely that people will choose to purchase the food on offer.

3. Designated smoking areas in streets:

In order to avoid smokers burning or blowing smoke in the face of others as they walk , cities in Japan have designated areas where people stop and have a cigarette .

This means that as a pedestrian, you don’t have to inhale smoker, get ash on your eye or a burnt cardigan and as a smoker, you can make a pause and “enjoy” your habit.

4. Cooking oil collection points:

In the Basque Country where I come from, the recycling banks have cooking oil collection points where you are allowed to dispose of any oil that has already been used too many times.

As a migraine sufferer who cannot have any deep fried food, it is not a major concern , but sometimes, when i cook for others, i wish i could dispose of the oil in a more adequate manner than the sink or soaking paper towels in.

5. Hand held fans and tissues:

Both very useful and both regularly distributed in Japanese streets with advertisement printed on them .

If TFL , for instance, printed and provided those to underground visitors , they could generate some income from advertisement , and make everyone’s life more comfortable specially in the summer.

6. Centralised lockers on train stations:

During a recent trip to Cologne, we came across a fantastic system which seemed to operate in a similar manner to the underground cell car parkings which are now more common in the uk. Essentially, a shoot opening at ground level in various locations allows you to store your luggage (as many as you can fit in the space) and stores it under a code. On collection, you do not need to find the same shoot as the number will make sure that your luggage follows you where ever you are at within the station.

(One improvement i would add is for better instructions to be provided in order to let people know that they only charge you in advance for the first two hours and you may pay a top up on collection if two hours are exceeded.)

7. Sponsored lockers on train stations:

In order to offset some of the costs for the above system, or even to provide lockers on areas where there are none, another great idea : sponsored lockers.

They provide a service , get an steady income from the users and allow for companies to advertise across the surface of the doors. When this is done in blocks of lockers, a single add can run across those and the result can be very considerate.

8. The JR pass:

This is a Japanese Railways pass that allows foreign visitors (or nationals living abroad) to travel, pretty much in any type of train (there are two bullet train exceptions) for as long as the ticket is valid (1,2,3 weeks). Since the JR. Pass was created, many other variations have emerged: three day passes to travel on a particular area of the country, 5 day passes (including wiffi) … Etc.

This is a great way to encourage foreign tourism into areas where people may not otherwise adventure into, and its benefits extend beyond the railway companies to the wider community.

British companies could follow suit to bring more people to heritage sites.

9. Hotel laundry:

When you are not a heavy weight lifter (like me) and you like to travel light, you need to have a strategy for your cloths… In Europe , hotels have offered traditionally the dry cleaning services, but this is not practical if you are on the go. In Japan , where workers constantly travel for work , you can actually do your own laundry in a little room whilst checking your emails and having a cup of coffee (or beer).

I noticed , in a recent trip to holland, that some hotels are picking up the trend and I am glad, because as time is scarcer, travelling has changed and people pack more things in the few days that they can take off.

10. Socks in the convenient store:

And when i say socks, i mean good quality Muji ( or other) socks and other basics to be available in corner shops.

We all know the feeling: you arrive to a city thinking is going to be warm and it is not ; but it is too late for you to go to the shops . You have a meeting in the morning and you cannot go anywhere because the shops open too late.

You forgot the umbrella and it is raining so much that you get wet top to bottom but you have no spares, or even, if you want to buy an umbrella you have to pay fifteen pounds for something that you know is not worth that much.

The convenience store is a life saviour for anyone working late and although i find the culture of going on a midnight trip to the “convini” a bit strange , the truth is that they are rather useful.

Photography by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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