Anyone who says they have never been lonely while solo traveling is lying or they just don’t need that type of human connection. It can be hard to push those internal boundaries and make those connection with people in other countries, because somehow we still have that Highschool feeling of ‘needing to fit in’. So here are a few ways that I have found help me connect with others while I’m traveling and avoid that looming loneliness that seems to haunt me personally.
Have a Plan
When you are traveling, have a plan in mind of where you would like to go – things you would like to see. While some people like to just let the wind direct their travels, having a plan gives you foresight so that you can invite other people to join you.
This hasn’t always worked for me, but it has allowed me to start a conversation with people that may not know anything about the location or activity you plan on seeing/doing.
The other part of this step, is that if you have a plan laid out – even if you can’t find a temporary travel buddy; your schedule will be full and you won’t have time to worry about being lonely.
Connect through Tours or Viz Eats
I have grown to love Airbnb experiences! The activities they have are typically done by locals, who are a lot more affordable. They know all the back alleys and shortcuts to the best places in town, and are far more relaxed about timing and sharing their knowledge. They will also know where the locals’ hangout, where the best bars or places to meet people are which is another way to get an authentic experience while at your travel destination.
VizEats is another one I am going to be trying soon. I thought this idea was so spectacular! This app lets you pick a time and date to have a traditional dinner with a local! Some of the hosts will teach you how to cook, and have other travelers willing and wanting to connect in the same group. The only downside is, the host has to approve your attendence. The first time I tried, I mentioned I had a camera and wanted to film the experience and I don’t think it was appreciated. So keep that in mind, but what an amazing experience to be able to ask how life is like, where the best places to go are, and where to get produce for the meal (and all subsequent meals). Really excited to see if I can try this for my next trip.
Sit down and Observe –
It makes others feel uncomfortable when someone is sitting at a table alone in a crowded place. Observe the space around you, imagine the lives of those you observe. Eventually someone will make eye contact and give you a empathetic smile, and that will be your ‘in’ for a conversation with them. I have made so many friends by just being confident enough to sit alone.
Sometimes we feel lonely, or sad, and want to have or feel that human connection but don’t really feel like carrying on a conversation. Just going and doing some people watching in a public space is a great way to do this. You might even have a kindred spirit sit next to you and have a leisurely conversation. The possibilities are endless if you just take the time, to take your time while traveling.
Be prepared to put your plan aside
This is something I struggle with, but have started to set aside one day of my travel to do what the locals recommend – to go to that place my tour guide recommended. When I was in Amsterdam in November for my Birthday, I was so bummed out because the weather was so terrible it was going to be difficult to walk around the city and not destroy my camera gear from the rain.
I Googled ‘things to see in the Netherlands’ and Castle De Haar popped up on my feed in one of those small picture boxes. It was about a 45 minute bus ride through the country, and walking onto the castle grounds made me feel like I was walking into a Fairytale. If I had not left enough time to explore options in Amsterdam while there, I would have never seen this fascinating place. So my tip to you, is to take your time, and be prepared to set aside your intricate plans to take one day where you can be a spontaneous explorer to the unique destinations suggested to you by Google or the locals. Trust me, you won’t be bored, and won’t regret it.
Try a new activity
I was told I was too fat to go Scuba Diving, but I have the type of personality that if someone tells me what my limitations are- I have to blow that blockade to smitherines. So I got my certification for Scuba diving, and made some wonderful friends along the way. I also found a tremendous amount of healing when I realized that diving helps people with PTSD.
When I lived in Las Vegas, I had a thought of ‘it would be fun to go rock climbing’. So I bought a harness, and some rock climbing shoes and put the sticker from my climbing shoes on my bumper. A week later, I had a note left on my car from a girl (Bree) that was looking for a chill climbing partner and we became fast friends. I ended up going to Joshua Tree with her and Sheri Keller, who I will be visiting in Guatemala in a few months to do a video about how she has created a business there that helps children be able to go to school and not have to work. Bree also arranged for me to stay with her parents in Dallas when I moved there, and set me up with another dear friend Faryn (from Get Fit with Faryn).
By just trying one activity, I have made countless friends, found personal healing, and created this beautiful network of people from across the world. So when I tell you to go out and try something new, even if it is entirely uncomfortable – the rewards of having that type of courage to do so will come back ten-fold!
No Pity Party of One Here!
I hope these examples and suggestions give you a little peace when trying to go out into the world and not be afraid of traveling solo. Yes you will feel sad when you see beautiful things and don’t have friends from home to share those things with. Yet, when you truly see that there are people all over the world who might be just as lonely as you; it opens the door of being able to reach them and create friendships that will last a lifetime. Don’t have a pity part of one, have a party with anyone you meet! When you have self-confidence, a big smile, and mischevious eyes — the language of enthusiasm and joy can bridge any gap of awkwardness or cultural barriers.
If you have any suggestions on how to combat lonliness while solo traveling please leave them in the comments below.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales and see YOU on the flip side 😉
Driving in another country can be a scary thing when you are doing it for the first time, but when you are responsible for any damage that might happen while in that country…..makes it even more scary. My first time driving internationally was when I went to Scotland on my first Solo Trip. So here are a few things to look for when renting a car either at home or abroad.
Renting the Right Car for Your Skill Set
Stick vs Manual —- Large vs Small — Car vs Motorbike. These are all questions to consider when renting a car. In European countries, many of their cars are stick shift, and personally I do not know how to drive one well without grinding the gears to oblivion. In many North American countries, they opt for the manual transmission – so you need to look at which car is right for you and the availability of that particular brand of transmission in the country you will be visiting. For example, renting my car in Scotland – they only had four manual cars available for the company I chose. I had to rent the car several months in advance, because there was a festival going on the week I was there and happened to get the last manual transmission left.
It may be a simple question – but a large vs small car for where you are traveling can make a huge difference. If you typically drive a compact car, and have 6 friends coming with you on your trip that requires a large suburban/van – your going to have a difficult time adjusting to the maneuverability and inability to see the surrounding cars/area when turning, backing up etc…
There are some countries and even cities where having a motorbike vs a car is more practicle to get around traffic and find parking. If you aren’t conifdent in your motorbike skills though, get a car to have the added protection. They are called donor cycles for a reason my friends, especially in the USA it is hard for cars to see motorbikes on our huge roads- not like in Europe.
Look at Mileage Limitations
This was very important for me when I was in Scotland, as I was planning a road trip up to Culloden, near inverness, then to Dunrobin Castle, and up to John O’Groats and back down the NC500 to Edinburgh. It was a lot of driving time, and also a lot of miles on the car. It was important to find a car company that allowed unlimited miles. Some companies charged you after going over a certain amount of miles, which would have turned out to be an even bigger bill when I returned the car. So save yourself the extra bill and make sure your rental car has unlimited miles on it.
Look at Gas requirements
Most companies require you to return your rental car with a full tank of gas. They will offer to have you fill up the car at their station, but this is just another way to put some extra change in their pockets. Be sure to fill up your car before you bring it back.
The next question I would ask is, how common are gas stations between the locations you are traveling. Here in the United States, you can drive for several hours without seeing a single gas station (or sometimes a town). If you are in a snowstorm, or a hot and humid environment – the extreme weather can be life threatening. So be sure to notate how far each gas station is. When I go on road trips, I always make sure to have a quarter tank of gas as my emergency gas supply – that way, it gives me a few hours to find the nearest gas station.
Do They Require a Credit Card or a Deposit?
When I first went to rent a car on my own, it was such an exhilarating feeling— I felt I was finally an ADULT! They asked for a Credit Card, and I proudly told them I did not own one but had a Debit Card. With the straight (I call it a Bitch Lady) face, she told me there would need to be a temporary $400 with drawl from my account. WTH! Being young and dumb at the time, I quickly realized this would leave me with very little spending money or food money on my vacation. Luckily my friend was with me and had a credit card she put on file and no deposit was required.
Even though they didn’t charge her for the rental car, I felt completely mortified that I had to rely on someone else for this simple thing. So to all those rental car newbies, this is your fair warning.
What are the extra fees they tack on?
The extra fees they tack onto the car rental can be quite absurd. They can charge you for extra mileage, a tank that isn’t quite full, picking up and dropping off at different locations. There are even extra fees for picking up your car at the airport vs within the town.
The initial price of your car rental may beat the competitors, but they will make up for it when you go to pick up your vehicle at their desk. This is why I like to call the company and ask them, or email them and have them state what the fees I should expect to see on my bill upon check out. Then I can print out what they said, and show it to the desk if they try to charge me for something that was not mentioned beforehand.
The fact is, they are able to get you with those hidden fees when your standing at their desk, in a foreign country or state – all other cars are rented/leased and you have no choice but to proceed with your rental car.
If you do want to take the risk with the seemingly cheaper options, a good rule of thumb is to add about $300 to any rental car fee. This will cover any additional fees or deposits that they require.
Shop Around For Rental Car Insurance
Not all healthcare is created equal, and neither are rental car insurances. Getting the insurance from the rental car company might seem like a good, and convenient option at the time – but it is likely going to cost you your life savings. When we rented a car in Scotland, they tacked on another $400 to our bill for insurance purposes. The thing is, I got home, called my insurance company at home and they covered rental car insurance internationally….. this was very frustrating for me.
I also found out later, that because so many rental car companies require a credit card; the credit card companies have started offering rental car insurance as well.
Take a video or photo of any Damage on the car prior to leaving the Rental Company
This is imperative, because I have heard horror stories of rental companies claiming damage to the car that present before it left the lot and my friends were stuck with the bill. My suggestion would be to take a video, or photo of the person who checked you out; along with any photo/video or damages present inside or outside the car.
Take a photo of the miles driven before and after, and ensure the correct mileage is written down before leaving the lot. That way they can’t tell you that you drove more miles that you actually drove, and will avoid the extra fee.
What Are the Restrictions For the Car?
It is a good rule of thumb to not go off roading with your rental car, unless it explicitly says you are allowed to do so. If you are in Hawaii on the Road to Hana and a portion of the road is not paved – you go a little too far over the edge and the car slides off the road. What about wanting to have a beach party, or drive onto a grassy area because there is no parking. Your car gets stuck, an axle breaks or any other number of horrible situations – most car rental insurances will not cover any damage to the vehicles in these particular situations.
Be careful where you drive your car, and take a careful look at your itinerary and what the rental insurance covers. There is nothing worse than having to pay out of pocket, especially in foreign currency for damages to a car.
Can you cross the border with their rental car?
If you are planning a road trip across Europe, and want to go to more of the off the beaten path places – is the car rental company able to accept the car in a different country? The answer I have typically encountered is a resounding no.
While there are buses, trains, and other quick transit for your backpacking needs through Europe – some countries do not have as reliable of transporation. So be sure to know the rules when crossing borders. A cheaper option might be to hire a guide, like I did in Morocco – where we were able to go to places the large buses just can’t go- and take his car off road.
Will it fit you and your luggage?
While the compact cars are fabulous on the budget, the car you rent may not be the best one for you and your luggage – especially in Europe. So make sure you know exactly what type of car your will be driving, and if it will fit your required luggage.
Bring your own extras
While it is convinvient to just utilize what the Rental company has as far as the ‘extras’ there are a few other things I would suggest bringing with you. Firstly bring your own music. There is only so far you can travel away from a large city until you lose music. Most cars are equipped with usb ports, and even third world countries have radio where you can plug in some of those old school transmitters for your phone. Next, I would bring your own gps. MOST of the time your phone can be a good guide, but when I was in Scotland it was nice to have two options because sometimes you lose signal in between mountians or in the really rural communities and need the satellite gps as backup.
Even at home I forget to bring sunglasses, when your driving in a new country (or even on the ‘wrong side’ of the road) it is stressful! So bring sunglasses to protect from the deadly glare. Some friends of mine have suggested getting an electronic toll pass rental. This is not just true for the toll roads, but also having one for trams and buses – many in Europe are electronic & very easy to recharge rather than getting cash from an ATM that can have a service fee to buy multiple tickets.
Find your perfect Vacation Vehicle
Europa Car is the one that I tend to use, while it is associated with an Affiliate link – and they have some hidden fees. They really were kind to me both of the instances I rented a car from them in Scotland.
There are a lot of little tidbits in this article, but after experiencing what it is like to rent a car at home and abroad I feel these guidelines have helped keep me safe and save money.
If you have any tips on what to look for when renting a car, feel free to add them in the comment section below. Happy Travels Friends!
Won’t I get lonely? What happens if I get lost? I can’t afford it. These are all common questions and concerns Solo Travelers have for me since I started Culture Trekking. While I could explain and argue these and many more, the bottom line is that you need to first choose a destination that fits your concerns. So here are, what I consider to be, the Best Destinations for Solo Travelers in 2019.
This is by far one of my favorite countries, and the one I recommend to first time solo travelers- especially female solo travelers. It introduces you in a gentle way to a different transportation system than most Americans are used to. It is a smaller airport to fly lying (Edinburgh), English is the predominant language, and everything is so close in proximity in the center of the city that it is easy to walk everywhere. Entrance fees to the major historical sites are cheap, and the entire place is steeped in ancient history with plenty of Folklore, ghost stories, and Scottish Heroes to keep you entertained.
This is a great location for those wanting to experience beaches, culture, great food, diving, and interaction with other travelers. The prices here are super cheap and you can get fairly good rates on flights because of its increasing popularity. The one drawback to this country is just how touristic it has become, the beaches are often over-crowded. On the other hand, it gives you plenty of opportunity to meet loads of internationals. If you go during the Thai-Laos New Year, you may just find yourself in the midst of a massive water-fight.
Iceland was deemed as one of the safest countries in the world. Iceland’s popularity is growing though, ever since Game of Thrones was filmed here, and the photos of the Blue Pool emerged it has become a frequented location by travelers from around the world. While winters can be harsh, the Northern Lights are quite beautiful; the summers are filled with lush landscapes and plenty of Instagram worthy moments. Flight costs are very cheap, but once you arrive, the costs of food, gas, lodging, and entrance fees can really put a dent in the budget. Still, for the outdoor enthusiasts, it is a fantastic location for all those Solo Travelers.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Yes, Cabo is always beautiful no matter what time of year you go – marine life, parties, and plenty of beach and sunsets for all. There are scams that go on here, but if you reserve your adventures and hotels beforehand you should be just fine. Try to stay at an all-inclusive resort so that you don’t have to fight for your time on the beach with everyone else. There are several hotels like this in the area. My favorite thing is to be there during whale watching season, or when the sand falls are active. Diving here is an incredible experience if you are a first time diver.
This is also a party location, but for those who like to meet people- interact with the culture and yet also have a relaxing evening with beautiful sunset views then a visit to Mykonos is where you need to go for your first Solo Trip. It is a little more difficult to get around, and get to the Island – but due to the amount of tourists wanting to visit the Islands this has greatly improved over the years. There is plenty to see and do on Mykonos – it is an outdoor paradise with views that are unparalleled.
Get an authentic taste of the middle east by visiting this beautiful country. With teal waters, contrasting red/brown surrounding sands and mountains it is hard to not relax in this beautiful country. The people here are warm, inviting, and cater to the tourists. The traditional Bedouin values and warm hospitality will leave any traveler feeling refreshed by the new experiences and send you home with an infectious travel bug. It is a perfect destination for solo travelers.
This location can be surprising for some to see on this list, but after hearing so many of my Scottish friends traveling to Tunisia – I had to include it. With the contrasting Roman mosaics to Islamic art, you will be visually enthralled by all things contained in this hidden gem of a country.
Bask on the beaches of this Mediterranean country and let the warm breeze wash over you and carry scents from nearby markets of Jasmine. Not only are there beaches, but beautifully forested coastlines, and a contrasting short mile away are the Sahara deserts. While some may caution against visiting this country, there are many Scottish Nationals who are choosing to retire here. Be cautious, but also take advantage of all this vastly under-rated country has to offer.
This is an oldie but goodie, because of how many tourists visit Rome – it is a perfect destination for solo travelers. Transportation in Italy is some of the best in Europe – making it very easy to find your way up and down the coast of this beautiful country. After seeing some of the unique places in Rome, be sure to head to the Amalfi Coast and truly feel like royalty surrounded by all things bright and beautiful.
The prices are reasonable for accommodation because of all the competition, and entrance fees are moderate but reasonable. There is plenty to see and experience even for those on a budget. It does get crowded, but this city is so friendly – especially if you like to buy dinner for others- food is life in Italy. So Eat, Pray and maybe you’ll find some Italian Lover who will want to whisk you away on an Under the Tuscan Sun Adventure.
New Zealand is an outdoor lover’s Paradise – with so many different activities along each coastline and atop the highest mountain peaks. From glo worm caves, diving, and even a hobbit town – you will come home with a new found love for traveling solo and plenty of stories to make your friends green with envy. Prices here can be a little steep, but the increased budget vs quality experience are well worth the extra effort to get there.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Learn how a city runs green with an urban biking system so complex they even have their own traffic lights for the bike lanes. There is so much nautical history, World War II history, and heroes like Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank – all these are combined beautifully against the backdrop of the canals of the Netherlands.
Traveling through Amsterdam and the whole of the Netherlands was such a soul healing experience for me, even as a solo traveler. The raw beauty, structured and efficient way these people live makes traveling through this country effortless and a perfect experience for those new to solo traveling.
For all those beach bums, that don’t want to get too stressed with the requirements of traveling, Costa Rica is a perfect destination. Many of my Solo Female Traveler friends have Costa Rica saved as a favorite getaway. It is also home to one of the last remaining Cloud Forests in the world. Soon these unique environments will be extinct due to global warming.
Even if the beach is not for you, traipsing through the jungles, bungee jumping, rappelling down waterfalls or experiencing a zip line over the jungle canopies is a must. The diving available in this area is unparalleled and also considered a UNESCO heritage dive site. Many of the locals also speak English so it is very easy to make your way around. PURA VIDA!
Hear me out on this one – as someone who lived in Las Vegas Metro area for over six years I would argue that this is a great place for Solo Travelers. It has something for everyone. Watch a few shows on the strip, I recommend the Cirque Du Soliel shows. Then head out to Red Rock National Park to get some hiking or rock climbing in with a guided tour from a local. At night go to the container park, and grab some fabulous food at Yardhouse – one of my favorite restaurants with plenty of drinks to choose from. If the container park isn’t your thing, there are plenty of unique things to do in Las Vegas you can choose from that are great experiences for Solo Travelers. The best part about Las Vegas is that once you get off the strip, most of the locals are transplants so many of them are warm, inviting, and inclusive – so it is easier to act like yourself.
This is the Italy of the South, but could you believe it is even more passionate? Pick any time of day and you will find something to do here as a Solo Traveler – from Tango Shows, to Memorial Parks, Recoleta Cemetary, and a Rose Garden full of concerts, paddle boats, feeding ducks and a poet garden you will never get bored. If you do, you can drop by the converted Opera House turned Library – find a book and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Many of the locals speak a little English and are so open and kind it won’t be hard to find and make friends quickly while there.
Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone
There are plenty of people who ask me ‘isn’t it hard traveling alone?’ I almost question myself for not feeling lonely on the majority of my trips. While there are admittedly times where I feel lonely that I don’t have someone to share the experience with. I wouldn’t trade the experiences and people I have met along the way for anything in this world.
So push those internal boundaries we all create for ourselves, and buy your first ticket for the year. Explore all the possibilities and friendships this world holds for you even as a solo travele.
Being a first time female solo traveler is a very scary thing, and can cause a lot of anxiety – yet it also will be the best thing you could do for yourself. There are so many things I wish I would have know before taking my first Solo Trip to Jordan to see Petra with a tour group; or my first true solo travel to Edinburgh when I stayed in a Hostel. So Here are a few tips for first time female solo travelers from across the globe, things they wish they would have known before traveling solo.
Have A Set Of Rules You Follow
I was so nervous to travel solo to Edinburgh, as I was recovering from my rape in Texas and was trying to push myself back out into society. I was terrified to stay in the mixed dorm, to walk around the streets of Edinburgh on my own at night. So I set a bunch of Safety Rules to Stay Safe While Traveling Solo. These are rules I ALWAYS follow, no matter who invites me to a particular occasion, or what opportunities come up. No experience is worth compromosing my safety. This doesn’t guarentee that you will always be safe, because humans will be humans – but following certain protocols will decrease the statistics for you.
Despite the risk, the contributing factors of my past, I don’t let fear get the better of me. When you push yourself past your comfort zones, have courage, the gift of traveling alone can truly change your life for the better.
Take It Easy, Don’t Rush The Experience
My first ever solo trip was when Imoved to Spain; for 6 months, I was exhausted, stressed, and/or physically sick over and over again. I couldn’t figure out why – I’d never been sick at home, besides a cold every once in a while. Turns out, I had been so excited over the fact that I was living in Europe and could travel that I wasn’t even aware of how much stress I was putting on my body by traveling instead of taking a break.
That being said, every traveler, especially first-time solo travelers, should always be aware of how their body is reacting to everything. If it’s telling you to take a break, don’t ignore it. Listen to your body and mind, and remember to take it easy. (Contributed by Jamie from CrashedCulture.com)
Be Prepared To Let It Shape Your Personality
Before I took my first solo backpacking trip, I remember myself being a very unassertive person. Even if I was self-confident, I used to think that saying “no” to someone is just wrong and I should do everything to make everyone happy but me.
And then, I felt I HAVE to take that trip (and many more!) far away from people who tell me how I should live my life. And that was the best thing I could do for myself. I was in Asia alone with my thoughts, feelings, insecurities, and dreams. No one could tell me what was wrong or right.
As a result, I became not only more assertive but also more self-conscious and independent. Today I know what I want from life and I am confident about how I want to live it, even if I have to say ‘no’ to someone. If I knew it would shape my personality so much, I would start travelling solo earlier! (Contributed by Hannatravels.com)
Don’t Hold Back, Get Outside Your Comfort Zone – Things Will Work Out
It was 2010 and I was on my semester abroad studying at the University of Reykjavik in Iceland. You might remember – that was the year the unpronounceable volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted and sent Europe’s airports to a stand still.
It was easy to get to the volcano from Reykjavik and so our university advertised the unique opportunity to book a helicopter flight to see the eruption up close. All my geology studying flatmates got excited – and me? I did not want to spend the money. It was not the only opportunity I did not seize during my time in Iceland for financial reasons. I also did not join a trip to Greenland and did not participate in the ski-doo expedition on a nearby glacier.
And as you can imagine – I still think about these missed chanced. It’s like they say – you only regret the things you didn’t do! Today, my attitude is different and whenever I am presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on my travels, I will seize it (within financial reason and without piling up debt). One of my favourite recent experiences was anexcursion to St Kilda, a World Heritage Site in Scotland. I spent a lot of money, but I will remember it for the rest of my life! (Contributed by by Kathi from WatchMeSee.com)
It Teaches You To Be Your Own Best Friend
Before embarking on my first long term solo adventure, I had always been quite uncomfortable with the thought of being on my own. I rarely spent time alone and struggled to see the beauty in my own company. My first six-month solo trip showed me how to enjoy the moment I was experiencing through my own two eyes, without the need for another person to validate the enjoyment or happiness I was feeling. It allowed me to become my own best friend and to truly appreciate my own company.
It became clear over time that there is value in experiencing travel both in the company of others, and on your own. If I had known how unique and special it would be to have those travel moments with just myself and my own internal thoughts and reflections, I never would have been so terrified of being alone. (Contributed by Caitlyn from GirlSeekingPurpose.com)
Don’t Listen To The Naysayers
Having traveled alone for over 30 years, I still can look back at my early adventures as a solo traveler in my 20’s when solo travel wasn’t widely accepted and one important thing I learnt is not to listen to naysayers. But how do you deal with negativity when this comes from your family or close friends? I have experienced this. And while at the beginning, it may sound discouraging, my tip is always to try to turn this negativity into constructive criticism. Be open to discussing it and telling how you think. By showing that you are a responsible woman and have well researched your destination, and how safe it is, it will help convey trust and confidence in those people around you. Finally, the main trigger to negative feelings towards solo female travel comes from irrational fear or excessive concern about security. So don’t overreact and instead show from the beginning how responsible you are about your choices. (Contributed by Michela from RockyTraveler.net)
Learn A Few Words In The Local Language
Have you heard people saying how rude French are to foreigners? I’ll let you in a secret: they are not! The issue is that they want visitors to embrace their culture and not for them to expect English everywhere! So, learn a few words of the local language. I can’t tell you how much of a difference just a couple of basic words make. People react so well when you at least try! This means it’ll be easier to interact with locals and make more friends along the way. Start by hello, thanks and please, and ideally “I’m sorry I don’t speak (insert language here), do you speak English?”. I guarantee you’ll get a ton of smiles, you´ll learn more about the culture of the place, and you’ll feel welcomed, no matter where you are in the world, which is especially important when you’re traveling solo. (Contributed by Coni from Experiencing the Globe)
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Alone
Even though you are traveling on your own, that definitely doesn’t mean that you will be alone the whole time. Having experienced both solo travel and couple travel, I’ve found that I meet many more people when I am traveling by myself.
Staying in hostels is a great way to make friends while traveling. Choose a hostel that has common areas or that organizes dinners or other activities, as this will create more opportunities to meet people. Offering to cook for your fellow travelers in the communal kitchen is a great way to make friends.
While hostels are great for meeting fellow travelers, Couchsurfing is a wonderful way of meeting local people. Your hosts will often be able to give you insider tips on the best bars, restaurants and little-known sights to visit too. Meetup.com is also useful for finding out about local events that you can participate in. (Contributed by Wendy from TheNomadicVegan.com)
Live Like The Locals
More and more people are seeking localised experiences, and wanting to know how a place is special not because of the landscapes, but the people. Even Airbnb has capitalised on trying to “live like a local”, but what if you want natural encounters and still want that peace of mind before you embark on your solo trip as a female?
During my first solo female travel to India, the place where it is seemingly dangerous for women, I sought out locals in unlikely places like Couchsurfing. I didn’t use the place to stay with hosts because I was not comfortable then and was still easing myself to the world of couchsurfing and solo travel, but I used it as an avenue to connect with locals for a meet-up instead.
The meet-ups turned into full-blown adventures, getting invited to their parents’ house, or into help with dealing with the country’s chaotic transportation, and all this would not have been possible without a local. Hence, whether it is Couchsurfing, Meet-Up.com or even Airbnb, just a simple connection with a local and a little curiosity will help you ease your solo travel worries.
So if this is your first time traveling solo as a female, keep these things in mind, be kind to yourself; grab onto your courage and take one step at a time. Your mind will ALWAYS want to do what is safe, and keep your protected. This is what life is, pushing past that blockade of safety, grabbing onto that courage and living our best lives.
It won’t always be sunshine and roses, there will be hiccups, there will always be worries – but when you let go of the control of needing to know what the next step will be – solo travel can be a beautiful and life-changing thing.
To all my ladies out there…. dig deep, get that girl power engine going and never let fear determine your futue.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side 😉
It was my friends first time booking a flight overseas, and I tried to tell her that flying with the more expensive flights that didn’t have as many stops was better than flying the cheapest option. We were headed to Scotland, and she got a great deal on a flight; but ended up spending more money than I did on my flight with Delta. So here are a few hazards to choosing cheap flights that I have found in my two decades of travel.
No Changes, or Additional Help
What if your flight is cancelled due to weather? Will they help your rebook your flight or just give a refund? There are so many tickets that say ‘non-refundable’ but will they give those who paid more priority over those who paid the economy price when rebooking your ticket?
If there is an issue with the plane, mechanics or weather and you bought your ticket through a third party vendor (ie/ Orbitz, or Expedia) the airline is not obligated to help you rebook and you would have to arrange for a different flight with that third party – eventually costing you more.
If you look closely, especially on Spirit, Allegiant, American Airlines, and United Airlines they make you sign a waiver before you finalize your booking.
If you get stuck on the tarmac, you are entitled to food and water within two hours of a delay. If you are bumped involuntarily from your flight you are owed food vouchers; additionally, if the flight is delayed by more than 2 hours you can get reimbursed up to $1,350.
If you book economy flights, it isn’t exactly guaranteed that you are allotted any of these types of compensations. If you volunteer to get bumped to a different flight or volunteer to be put on standby or on another flight you lose all rights to compensation
For example, if your flight is overbooked, which airlines do all the time (and isn’t exactly illegal) – you can get booted from your flight. If not enough people volunteer to take a different flight, then they can legally start kicking people off the flight. They start by kicking people off the back part of the plane, then move their way up systematically based off the people who paid the least amount of money.
There is an upside to those who have been kicked off the plane involuntarily. Those who are “involuntarily denied boarding” of an aircraft on domestic flights (even if they’re already on the plane) are entitled to 200% of their one-way fare in compensation (no more than $675) in cash. When the delay is more than one hour but less than two, according to federal regulation. If the delay is more than two hours, they are entitled to 400% of the one-way fare (but no more than $1,350) in cash.
Frequent Flier Miles
Your Frequent Flier Miles will also take a hit. For example, if you buy a ticket within your country, a basic economy seat might give you 1,811 frequent flier miles to your account. If you buy a premium economy you will get 2,600 miles.
When you go to book your flight, if you are wanting to build up your miles – make sure you check and make sure your getting the most for what you pay.
Many airlines are now only giving you the option of the area beneath your feet to store your one personal item. Even with packing cubes and suction bags, you can only physically fit so much into one space and bag.
If you are allowed to check a bag, it may cost $60 per direction (for most airlines). They can also charge you for the weight of your bag, or decrease the amount of weight that you are allowed to have per checked bag.
A friend of mine flew with a budget airline, that she paid to have her bag checked; the bag was crushed and some things inside destroyed. When she approached the budget airline, they told her that because she had a basic economy seat baggage replacement was not in the budget. Paying more for a bigger airline like Delta (not sponsored to say this) my roommates bag was broken, and they immediately replaced it with an equal bag to what she had before.
So you see, sometimes it is better to pay for the more expensive tickets because of the protection it provides not just for your trip but for what your bringing to or from your destination.
If you don’t like to pay the $8-$80 extra fee to pick a seat other than the middle seat, I’m afraid your going to get stuck in a place you don’t want to sit. I don’t mind paying a little extra myself for a window seat, so I have something to wedge my pillow up against when I sleep. It is also great to be able to take photos of the city as your leaving or as your flying in.
If you are traveling with your family, your children might be at the front of the plane, and you might end up in the back of the plane. On long flights, this might make life extremely difficult for you and your children, so is it TRULY worth the savings?
Leg Room and Seat Assignment
With the Basic Economy, you will be getting those seats that are the least desirable. You will also have to reserve your seat right as soon as they open up the option for choosing your seat– racing your fellow passengers, and hoping for the best internet connection.
For those flights that are 8-10 hours long, I know we would all hate to be stuck in the dreaded middle seat all the way home. For shorter flights the middle seat may not be the worst choice. Your option of having more leg room with the coveted exit row seat will not be an option.
The issue with the more budget friendly airlines, is that they truly aren’t as budget friendly as they seem when you finally reach your destination. In the case of Breanna, my roommate, she bought her flight from Salt Lake City to where the airline was flying out of…Los Angeles. Her flight was delayed in Salt Lake City, which would have caused her to miss her non-refundable budget ticket flight in Los Angeles. This would have cost her another $600 to buy another ticket to Scotland (her final destination).
She was able to get on another flight to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles she had another connecting flight to Iceland. There she would have a 19 hour layover – arriving at 11pm when everything was closed; then leaving at 1pm the next day. There are not many places to stay near the airport in Iceland, so she had to catch a ride into town which was a 30-45 minute ride. Was so jetlagged from all the flying up to this point – she slept through the morning until her ride came to get her to take her back to the airport. Her Airbnb was another expense for her in addition to transportation to and from the airport.
What about staying at the airport? Well unless you have a departing plane ticket, they do not allow you to buy food in the airport. I do not know why, but this is what she reported. In some airports there are also rules that if your flight does not leave within three hours of arriving at the airport – you must collect your bags and belongings and leave the terminal area. Once you leave the terminal area into the public space – there are typically very few places that you can sit or sleep that aren’t cold tile floors.
So when you book your ticket, look at your layover times- if you will be required to check out of that airport, if you are required to change airports between layovers, and if the airline actually flies out of your local airport or if it would require more layover time in another city.
Frontier charges a $25 carry-on baggage fee, which you don’t see until you get to check out. At this point, they want you to just wear what you plan on wearing on your vacation to the airport, on the crowded flight, and if you can’t shove your overly-layered self into the small seats…. well there is a charge for that too.
Norwegian Air Tickets don’t include meals or overhead bin use in its economy class fare prices. So you will need to buy the expensive airport food, and shove everything you brought with you at your feet. This doesn’t seem too bad, but still leaves the wallet a little more sparse (and every cent counts when your on a budget).
I recently returned from Florida to Utah, and Delta was charging $2 for earphones as I had broken mine. I had cash on me, and they only accepted credit cards, so I ended up playing some games and sleeping for the 4.5 hours home.
What is next?
It is hard to imagine that booking a flight could be more complicated and frankly discriminatory. I wonder what will be next? Will they start to charge us for bringing bottled water onto the plane? On my way home from Buenos Aires, they searched my carry on bags again to make sure I wasn’t bringing any water home on the plane. I was so dehydrated from the hot day touring the city I was dizzy.
Will they charge for how much we weigh? There are some fears with obesity passengers that they will require each person upon check-in or when dropping off their bags to sit in a test seat to ensure they fit. Then charge for another seat along with all the other hidden fees. While Canada Air views obesity as a medical disability and doesn’t charge for an additional seat, most airlines require you to purchase an extra seat or only offer a 25% discount for that additional seat.
What about charging for every time we use the bathroom? Will they require us to insert a quarter like some of the subway systems in Europe every time we wish to use the loo?
While flying is becoming more affordable on the surface, I wonder how affordable it will be for the majority of us in the future. Looks like flying will only be for the rich in the future if the consumers don’t start asking questions about these things.
What to Ask Before Booking Your Flight
For any airline, if you are booking with that airline for the first time be sure to ask these things:
1- Ask about what conditions are excluded in trip protection
2- Does your economy fare include or exclude flight changes
3- What compensation is allotted if voluntarily change vs changes are forced on you for over-booking or double-booking. (ie…because my friend volunteered to change her flight, she forfeited any compenstation, was placed on standby for the following flights and kept getting bumped off the list so she ended up missing her vacation completely).
4- If you are a larger individual, what are the rules for needing to buy an extra seat (ie… if over 2″ into the passengers seat next to you, you may be required to buy an additional seat).
5- For In-Flight fees, do they accept cash or card, and if they accept card- what major credit cards do they accept.
6- Do they have pillows, blankets, eye mask, ear phones, ear plugs provided or do you have to bring your own.
**Most airlines charge for Wifi depending on if you use your mobile or your computer. **
In the End Are Cheap Flights Really Worth It?
In the end, it depends on what is the most important thing to you. Are you willing to pack extremely light? Are you ok being in the middle seat, or have minimal leg room and be at the back near the bathrooms? Can you afford to buy another flight if yours is cancelled?
You can take the risk, or you can pay a little extra for the peace of mind. To me, starting a vacation off in a peaceful and relaxed way – knowing that I can count on the airline to help me should something happen to me, my luggage, my flight or the trip is worth the extra cost.
Airlines and Their Hidden Fees, A Resource:
Here is the research I collected to help you book your flight and be informed. This is not all inclusive, but should give you a general idea of the airline hidden fees for either economy or budget fares and what you would get with seat width, carry-on, overhead bin space, meals/beverages, and leg room. Each airline reported here will vary depending on the type of plane it is, and if it is transatlantic vs national air travel.
With a Saver ticket you are allowed a Carry-on, Overhead Bin, pre-flight you can order a meal. Seat width ranges from 30-31 with leg room being 17-18 inches. Aer Lingus charges and rules on food and drink, there are charges on meals and snacks if economy and it is a short trip – a complimentry meal is provided for transatlantic flights.
Seat width ranges from 31-36 inches, with leg room being a standard 17.2 – Be sure to check out their Baggage Allowance before your trip. Food and basic drinks are free, specialty drinks can be charged for depending on the length of the flight. Types of snacks and beverages also depend on the flight but are free.
Seat width from 31-35, with leg room being 17-18 inches. Air Canada Baggage Fees and allowances. A pillow and blanket kit and earphones available for a nominal fee. Meals are available in Economy Class on most flights of 90 minutes or more when you travel on Air Canada There is a fee for the food, except for when there is a stop into a Canadian city on the way to your international destination and then it is complimentry.
Seat width 31-32 inches, with leg room being 17-18 inches. Larger width seats have an additional charge, different rows will have extra charges, and baggage allowance has additional charges. The measurements of your bag, and the weight of your bag can also be charged for. So be sure to check Air China’s baggage allowance before traveling with them. Tea, coffee and soft drinks are free on most flights, the same goes for their meals – but you are given two choices over the intercom. The frequency of meals is based on how long your flights are.
Seat width is 31-34 inches in width, with leg room at a standard 17 inches. There are different seat options for more leg room, position in the plane, and additional seat within the same row…all come at an extra cost. Meals can be purchased, some flights meals are provided. The flights can had options added to them Al La Carte. It doesn’t appear they charge extra for baggage at this time.
Can Charge $6 to $8 snacks and meals. No charge for soft drinks. Seat selection charges are n/a. Different flight booking fees: free if 60 days+ before flight, $125 if less than 60 days, $25 same-day for any flight changes. They will charge $100 to travel with pets.
This is considered a budget airline, they can charge $10 to $35 if checked online, and $35 to $75 at the airport for your carry-on luggage. Fees can be $1 to $13 for all snacks and meals, $2 to $7 for drinks, including alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Seat selection can range from $0 to $75. If you would like to board first that will be another $4 to $12 for priority boarding. With any flight changes that is another $50 to $75 per segment. If you travel with your pet then it is $100 per segment.
Seat width ranges from 31-37 inches, with leg room being a 16.6- 18.1 inch range. Baggage fees, do apply – but they also have other hidden fees you see on this same page for same-day flight changes, customers that require extra space, charges for voluntarily changing your tickets etc… So be sure to browse all their hidden fees. Fees can be $3+ for snacks and meals, $4 to $99 for preferred seats. For priority boarding fees can range from $9 to $40. It is free to book online, but they will charge $25 over the phone, $35 in person for booking. They can charge you $75 to $200 for any flight changes, plus $50 fee if ticket was bought from an outside agency (such as an online booking website other than American Airlines) for any flight changes. If you travel with pets, it will be $125 fee.
Seat width is 31 inches, with leg room being 17.5-18.1 inches. There are different options while flying with British Airways that depend on your seat, baggage, and length of flight that could add extra fees. For short flight hauls they charge $5 for snacks and for soda it is around $2.50; if you are traveling on longer flights or in a different cabin, check out the British Airway menu charges.
Carry-on luggage is free for the majority of their flights, but there are basic restrictions on size and a 35lb weight limit. If you would like to pick your seat there is a $9 to $180 seat selection. If you would like to board first, and ensure you have enough overhead cabin space that will be $10. For booking your flight it is free to book online, $25 over the phone, $35 in person for booking. If there are flight changes then it is $150 to $50, with a $50 same-day changes. For earphones, earplugs, facemasks for domestic flights there is a fee. Flying with pets in cabin (domestic flights): $100 each way, international is $125 per segment. If they travel as cargo (domestic): $178 to $669 depending on weight, each way
Per Emirates website: “We make every effort to show all fees and taxes during online booking, but additional fees and taxes may be charged on ticket issuance or at the airport if levied by the country of departure”. Popular flight times can be charged more. They have free WiFi on all flights and can even make phone calls in-flight, complimentary drinks with alcoholic beverages costing more. If you are traveling with kids, they even have toys available for your kids to play with and get special attention from the staff. No extra charges for carry-on luggage.
There are four different options for Economy Fares and three different options for Buisness Fares. Each fare has it’s own restrictions, guidelines and discounts so be sure to review the Ethiad Fare Choices before booking.
Seat width is 31-37 inches, with leg room a standard 18 inches. There are different levels of seating assignment you can choose at extra charges for those needing more leg room, or those who like to be near the front of the plane. Most flights you can have a carry-on and a personal item. For intercontinental flights, you are allowed one piece of checked luggage. As an Economy Class passenger, you’ll receive a generous and tasty hot meal. We also serve an appetizing snack before landing on many of our flights. You can also purchase delicious in-flight snacks at any time. See snack list
Your going to be charged a lot of hidden fees when flying with Frontier. With $3 to $7 for any snacks and meals; $5 to $15 for preferred seats, and $15 to $100 for extra leg room. It is free to book online, or over the phone. For in person booking, you will be charged $75 to $125, and $25 to $100 same-day for any flight changes. While one personal item per passenger is allowed for free, Frontier charges a fee for all carry-on luggage. Carry on bags must not exceed 10″ x 16″ x 24″ in size and 35lbs in weight. Bags exceeding this size must be checked at the gate at a cost of $60. If you are traveling with a pet, expect to pay $75 to $125 per segment.
Seat width is 32-33 inches, with leg room being 17-19 inches depending on the plane. Change fees for passengers in Economy range from $75 to $275, depending on fare conditions, and fare difference may apply, based on availability, when changing flight itineraries. Economy Light, there are no checked bags allowed; while Economy standard allows a size restricted bag. They will require you to measure out your luggage before boarding the plane, unlike most other airlines.
Maximum dimensions of carry-on luggage: 115 cm/45 in (length + width + height)
Maximum weight of carry-on luggage: 10 kg/22 lb
Flights within Europe/Weight Concept: (Europe to Iceland and return) Economy Class passengers are entitled to one checked bag, weighing no more than 23 kg/50 lbs, total of the 3 dimensions (length + width + height) does not exceed 158 cm/62 in.
Transatlantic Flights/Piece Concept: (Europe to the USA and return) one checked bag, weighing no more than 23 kg/50 lbs, total of the 3 dimensions (length + width + height) does not exceed 158 cm/62 in.
For excess pieces of baggage each weighing 1 lb/1 kg to 50 lbs/23 kgs, each piece one-way fee will be charged:
Flights within Europe: $46 each piece, each way
Flights between Iceland and the USA/Canada: $120 each piece, each way
Flights between Europe and the USA/Canada: $132 each piece, each way
Seat Width is 17.8 to 18.25 inches, leg room is 32-33 inches. Carry-on luggage is free. Free snacks, paid meals on short flights, meals provided on long-haul flights. Extra legroom will be $10 to $99. If you are booking your trip it is free to book online, $25 over the phone, $35 in person, and $75 to $150 for any flight changes the day of the flight (including re-routing/missed flights). If you would like to travel with your pet it is $100.
Seat Width 17.4-17.9, Leg room . For those with wider girth or ‘passengers of size’ KLM requires that the arm rests be able to move up and down effortlessly and “if you have not booked a second adjacent seat and no second seat is available in the same travel class on your flight, you may not be allowed to travel if your size does not permit you to sit properly in a single seat.” A 25% discount can be offered for a 2nd seat on the flight if purchased beforehand.
Snacks and beverages offered complimentary and vary depending on length and final destination for your flight. For most intercontinental flights you are allowed 1 item of check-in baggage, each max. 23 kg (50.5 lbs), max. 158 cm (62 inches) l + w + h. If you are flying within the US and Canada then KLM Light tickets: 1 piece of hand baggage is allowed. If you would like to bring more baggage you can purchase the extra baggage online with a discount during your booking or in My Trip . For those with Standard and Flex tickets: 1 piece of hand baggage and 1 piece of check-in baggage is allowed. For excess baggage the cost ranges on if you notify them before your flight online or in person, it also depends on where your traveling. So for the 1st piece of luggage it can cost anywhere from $35 to $120 per segment. For the second piece of luggage it can cost you $45 to $300 depending on the weight. Flying with pets can be anywhere from $45 to $120 depending on the flight. This seems pretty standard for most of the larger airlines.
The seat width of most flights is 17.3 inches, leg room averages 32 inches. Extra charges are incurred for seat selection, early boarding, and extra legroom range based on location within the plane, and popularity of flight. A meal and snack is provided if more than 4.5 or 7 hours respectively. For other meal requests or those flights within South America food is available for purchase. For booking through their website there are no charges, but booking over the phone or in person there is a $20-$45 charge.
Seat width for economy class is 17 inches, for economy premium the seat width is 18 inches. For leg room the economy class is 31-32 inches, with economy premium being 38 inches. coffee, tea, soft drinks are offered on most flights and depending on the length of the flight you can get one or two meals that is included in the price. Lufthansa has just updated their carry-on policy for the three different economy fares for Lufthansa (light, classic and flex) – each come with different weight and size restrictions so I suggest you check your ticket and their current policies.
Seat width is 17.3-18 inches, leg room is 31-36 inches. For charges on extra baggage, it will be calculated based on distance flown from point of departure to the final destination in one single itinerary. Rates will be charged on per kg basis (over and above the permitted free baggage allowance of the cabin class). The Economy Class on their airlines seems to offer a little more than most in the way of entertainment. On shorter flights the standard beverages are available, and meals for purchase. On longer flights, they feature local flavors of Malaysia and special meals are available for purchase, you can also upgrade your meal as well.
Seat width varies from plane to plane with 17.2-17.9 inches for seat width, and leg room measuring 31 inches in the economy section. Short flights get a drink and snack with options available for purchase. For longer flights you get a 3-course meal, but if you have a flex or low-fare ticket you are required to pre-order your food. For Lowfare tickets you get one carry-on bag, and a $70 charge for any changes (including name). They also have the LowFare+ and the Flex which are considered the higher-end economy, check out Norweign’s ticket types and what it includes.
Carry-on luggage can be charged for $25 to $30 if you’re a member of the Fare Club, and $35 to $40 for nonmembers if checked online ($50 and $100, respectively, if checked at the gate). It is $1 to $10 for snacks, $1 to $15 for drinks, including alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. If you would like to choose your seat it is $1 to $50, and $12 to $199 for extra legroom. For booking your flight Spirit charges $10 per segment all methods, plus $15 convenience fee – for booking online. If you would like to book over the phone it is $10, and in person the booking fee is $16.99. If you change your flight itinerary it is $115 online, $125 over the phone for any flight booking or changes. To travel with Pets it is $100 per segment.
Seat width ranges from 17.1 to 17.8 inches, leg room ranges from 31-32 inches. There are free snacks and drinks. If you want priority boarding it is $40. It is free to book online, over the phone or in person. To make changes to your flight it is technically free, but will receive difference or refund in future credits. Southwest Airlines (WN) allows 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee-free. They allow two checked pieces of luggage for free provided that they do not exceed 50lbs. To travel with pets it is $95.
Carry-on Luggage is free with the Economy Seat, but Basic Economy ticket and brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge. If you’re traveling on a Basic Economy ticket for a trans-Atlantic flight, you have to check any bags beyond your personal item and full-sized carry-on bag. The charge for the first checked bag is $60, the second checked bag is $100 and third checked bag is $200. Free snacks, paid meals are typically provided for intercontinental flights. Basick soft drinks, tea, coffee and snacks are available for destinations within the USA. If you would like a preferred seat it can range from $9 to $299. It is free to book online, $25 over the phone, $35 in person $200, $50 same-day for any flight changes. It is $125 to travel with Pets.
All passengers flying in our Economy or Premium cabins can take one piece of hand baggage per person weighing up to 10kg (or 22lb). Economy class passengers, you can enjoy the Welcome Cocktail, followed by a meal service and then a coffee/tea and dessert service. Afternoon tea or breakfast is usually a deli-style box that is served to passengers just before landing. If you would like a preferred seat it can range from $29 to $129. For flight changes, it is free to book in person or online, $20 over the phone $75 to $150$25 to $50 same-day for any flight changes. To travel with pets it is $100.
Seat width in Economy is 17 inches, 30-31 inches of leg room, with extra-legroom “XL” seats in rows 1, 12 and 13. The WOW Basic only includes one personal item, that might cost $200 for a one-way ticket, but then if you get the WOW Plus then it includes $271 one-way, includes one personal item, one carry-on bag, one checked bag, and cancellation protection. In the end, just buying the WOW Plus will save you more, than going with the basic and adding in the other items most other flights offer. A carryon will cost you $51, a checked piece of luggage costs $71, and cancellation protection costs $26, with an XXL seat you pay another $61.
Seat width is 17.5 inches, with leg room measuring 31-32 inches. There are multiple hidden fees and exclusions with Basic Economy vs Economy Premium on West Jet, be sure to look at the comparison chart of their different fares and seats for fees, baggage, and trip protection options.
Sleep can be elusive for many people throughout the world. It tends to be even more elusive when you are traveling, due to being in a new environment. I see this in my elderly patients all the time who are admitted to the hospital. A new environment can disturb your sleep patterns due to noise, ambient light, bed width or firmness even in the best of circumstances. Yet there are a few over the counter sleep aids that I commonly recommend to patient’s and that I frequently use during my travels. I would highly recommend trialing these at home first and checking with your primary care provider before trailing any of the recommended sleep aids below.
While this is a supplement, it is commonly used as a sleep aid by many. It tends to work in those individuals who may have too much ambient light in their room. This chemical is released in the brain at night, when in complete darkness. There was a study that was looking at Night Shift workers and their release of melatonin, and if it was somehow related to having an increased propensity to breast cancer.
This is also an over-the-counter supplement utilized to help both sleep and mood. Emotional distress or high levels of cortisol released when traveling can disturb sleep and this supplement can help calm the body and aid in more restful sleep. 5-HTP is made from L-tryptophan, a substance absorbed from our food; after being absorbed it is converted into 5-HTP which helps regulate the serotonin cycles within our bodies. Seratonin is a chemical that helps with mood regulation and in turn sleep patterns.
3: Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs
This may be tailored to the individual, but having a sleep mask to block out ambient light, and earplugs to block out noise can greatly improve the quality of sleep an individual could get on a plane, in a hotel, or other accommodation.
I recently purchased this sleep mask that had eye pockets that are velcro adjustable. The eye pockets are elevated from the strap so your eyelashes don’t brush against the cloth. This particular velcro doesn’t catch my hair in it and pull it all out either, which makes it really nice when you wake up and don’t have to pull out half of your hair to take it off. I really like the adjust-ability that this eye mask has; each eye pocket can be taken off put either closer together or farther apart depending on the width between your eyes. While on my Red Eye flight to Florida I used this eye mask, and just felt as if I was tucking my eyes in under a warm blanket. It almost felt like I was getting ready for a spa treatment 20,000 feet in the air.
The only things I would say about this eye mask is that if you are a side sleeper it presses on the side of the face and can become a little uncomfortable when you try it for the first time. The other part, which could be good or bad for you is that it does get warm if you pull the strap too tight. I have a warmer body temperature at baseline, so I adjusted the strap accordingly and had a little more airflow coming to my face. Although, on my red-eye flight it was very nice to have the extra warmth on my face because the plane tends to get quite cold when it reaches cruising altitude.
Now I can’t travel anywhere without using this sleep mask. This sleep mask seems to meet all my needs, and exceed them with the adjustability with the eye width, complete light blocking ability, and won’t make me bald from the Velcro catching my hair. So should you need a sleep mask, may I humbly suggest purchasing this one.
4: Checking Hormone Levels
While this isn’t an over the counter supplement per se, it is imperative that if you have changes in your sleep patterns to see your Primary Care Physician. Low Progesterone levels in Pre-menopausal women can lead to anxiety. Hypo or HyperThyroidism can affect mood and in turn sleep as well. Low Testosterone can make you overly fatigued, causing you to feel you need to take more naps and then interrupt the circadian rhythms your body has. Lack of sleep can also affect your mood, appetite, and even your hormones.
ginger tea with mint and lemon
5: Herbal Tea
There are a plethora of teas out there that are both natural and soothing. Having a warm beverage with these calming herbs can help you sleep better at night. I personally use Sleepy Time Tea, Yogi’s Breathe Tea, and Peppermint Tea.
6: Turkey Dinner and Warm Milk
For those Omnivores out there, Turkey has a substance called Tryptophan – which as I mentioned before (see above) can help with your sleep cycle and sense of well being. The same thing can be said of warm milk. While I’m not personally a fan of warm milk alone, a good cup of hot cocoa for those who are not diabetic could be an option for a non-pill form sleep aid.
7: Warm Foot Bath or Shower
Changing temperatures from cool to hot has a natural effect of relaxation on the body. A study on Taiwanese individuals showed that increasing the blood flow through a warm (40 degrees Celcius) foot bath one hour before bed helped improve the skin’s blood flow through the entire body and in turn resulted in a better night sleep for individuals.
8: Keep Your Routine
The bedtime rituals that you have at home are imperative when traveling. If you tend to read a book, do yoga, or do a crossword puzzle before bed then try and do what your particular ritual is, right before bed. It helps let your brain know that you are in a safe place, that things are normal. It tends to relax me to keep my nightly ritual as I call it. I get ready for bed in the same sequence every night, and in the same way.
9: Avoid TV or Phone Use About 1 Hour Before You Sleep
Blue light blocking devices are becoming more popular with research indicating that the blue light can stimulate certain areas of your brain that stimulate wakefulness. Using a salt lamp, installing blue light blocking filters, or traveling with Amber Colored glasses can help with minimizing the blue light effect.
Exercise while traveling to help improve your quality of sleep. While most people argue that, ‘I’m on vacation, I don’t want to exercise’. I promise that you will enjoy your vacation more if you have a proper night’s rest – especially with Jet Lag. We all know the health benefits of exercise for mental health, and physical health, but did you know it can help regulate insulin levels as well? It is a natural way to help improve blood flow, relax those aching muscles after a long flight or ride and will allow you to enter REM sleep more readily while traveling.
11: Don’t Eat A Large Meal At Least 2 Hours Before Bed
Eating a large meal right before bed can decrease your quality of sleep especially while traveling. It can deter blood flow from the brain, from the skin, and goes to where you’re telling the body it is needed…..the stomach. It can also exacerbate issues like GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease which can disturb sleep.
12: Essential Oils
While there is a huge debate in the medical community on the utility and use of essential oils; I always tell my patients that if they feel it works then keep using it. I find that with my Asthma, having Eucyluptus essential oils with me helps my breathing at night (even if it is a sugar pill effect), it calms me and I tend to sleep easier. Lavender has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for sleep maladies and calming emotions. Popping in a tiny two-ounce bottle of essential oils to rub on my pillow at night helps to create an environment that smells like my home.
13: Check with Your Doctor
If you still have trouble sleeping, frequently wake at night, have high blood pressure, or sleep better with several pillows propping you up or have to sleep in a chair – I would recommend going to your Primary Care Doctor and getting a sleep study as these could be signs of medical conditions that require intervention. The key to sleeping well while your traveling is to create an environment that feels like home, make sure you exercise, get a balanced diet, and then supplement with a sleep aid when you can.
14: Play an Audible Book
This is one that is a personal preference but essentially functions in the same way that white noise does. It helps me to sleep by giving me something familiar to listen to when I’m not used to the new environment. I turn on an audible audiobook, and then close my eyes, letting the imagination of the authors slowly lull me into an imaginative sleep.
15: Write Down Everything On Your Mind
As human beings, we try to do so many things while the sun is up. Even stretch the night out as long as we can to finish just ‘one more project’. It becomes harder and harder for our minds to just relax and unwind.
I’m sure you have experienced it, where you are on vacation, and yet you can’t seem to let go of the stress of work. You find yourself sitting on a beach chair, with the ocean waves crashing beautifully into the shore with a vibrant sunset; yet you feel a little anxiety really letting yourself ENJOY the moment. If you have never experience this, then you have found that state of Zen that 90% of the world hasn’t.
For the rest of us who have experienced this, may I suggest bringing a little notebook with you. Write down your worries, your to-do lists, people you want to call when you get home, projects you want to check on when you get home. It helps to purge the thoughts, worries, and to-do lists and helps you enjoy the moment more. I would even venture to suggest that you turn your phone off. This is the only time that you can really disconnect from the daily grind, so take advantage of it.
Bonus: Avoid Caffeine After Noon, and the latest research to support this.
Avoid Caffeine afternoon is a tip I give my patients all the time. It is commonly known to have an effect on mental alertness. Did you know that it also has a direct effect on the stress hormone cortisol, the neurotransmitter dopamine and can induce a catecholamine response that elevates blood pressure?
At a baseline, cortisol helps regulate your sleep cycle, helps consolidate your memory during sleep, affects the function of your kidneys and regulates your energy balances. If you continue to consume caffeine past the time when your natural peak of cortisol happens, it can disturb your sleep cycle by directly altering your diurnal cycle or sleep patterns.
Some may say that they have developed a ‘tolerance’ to caffeine consumption, but research says otherwise. While you may develop a tolerance to be able to go to sleep even if consuming caffeine after noon; research shows that the effect of caffeine on blood pressure never diminishes. A friend of mine had a stroke at the age of 27, he was fit, healthy, and worked in construction. After consuming two red bulls, and a cup of coffee, and didn’t consume much water on a hot day in Nevada. He ended up having a stroke and now has deficits he will live with for the rest of his life.
Having elevated blood pressure, a spike in your stress hormones and neurological function right before you are headed to bed – doesn’t exactly make for a restful night of sleep. So skip the caffeinated beverages and swap it for your non-caffeinated herbal teas I mentioned before.
Goodnight, Sleep Tight
With all of these tips, and the tips I offered previously on How To Combat Jet Lag; I am confident that you will have a good night sleep, or at the very least see an improvement in the quality of your sleep.
If you have any additional tips on how to get a good night sleep or would like to share your night-time routine with the community – please leave a comment below. Happy travels Culture Trekkers.
Different people have different tolerance levels to risk, some are more comfortable than others with risk. Then there are those that can walk into a room full of tigers with a steak and not fear, while others see dragons waiting around every corner.
I feel that there are some companies that take advantage of fear, and utilize it to lure customers into using theirover priced services. While there are other situations where that fear may be warranted and proper precautions should be taken. It was overly present on the cruise I was just on through South America, and it made my blood boil that people were not more aware that it was happening. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to become educated.
Traveling solo can be a scary thing for females, but there are a few tried and true methods that I do on a regular basis. I also outline the steps I took when confronted with a scary situation that could have escalated to something more dire very quickly had I not taken these steps.
Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks or standard precautions for safety below. I would like this to become a good resource for our community.
Standard Precautions While Traveling Solo:
1- Don’t Drink Alcohol While Traveling Solo
We all know how Alcohol blunts the self-preservation side of ourselves, weather it be socially, emotionally or even physically. So why would you drink outside of your hotel/hostel while traveling solo? You could lose a lot more than just your memory of that night. I won’t get into the gritty details of all the things that could happen when doing this, but just don’t drink if you are traveling solo.
If you really like to have a glass to wind down, then do as many other solo travelers do. BRING IT BACK TO YOUR ACCOMMODATION! All you need to do is ask a local where they would suggest getting your preferred beverage, and bring it back to the hotel/hostel. Unless you have a trusted friend who is willing to trade off on the not so sober nights with you, just don’t drink….please…..trust me….it’s not worth the risk. Any frequent solo female traveler (and even some male solo travelers) that would say the same thing.
2- Minimize What You Carry With You
One of the first things that was suggested to me when visiting Santiago, was to minimize what I was carrying with me. The gentleman at Gen Hotel, said to not carry backpacks around in the major parts of the city as it is really easy for someone taller than me (I’m 5’4″ or 162.6 cm) to grab the bottom, pull it over my head, throw me off balance and run off with my valuables. I realized after years of travel how much I had been setting myself up for something like that.
He also suggested to not bring my phone or camera with me…..which is what I use to help bring this content to the Culture Trekking Community….that wasn’t an option.
The point is, look at what your carrying, think like the criminal – try to think of ways someone could rob you and prepare for it. If you want to bring something with you, then make a conscious decision to risk losing it. So if the worst scenario comes to pass, then at least you can console yourself in knowing it was a risk you were willing to take and won’t feel so violated knowing it was a possibility.
3- Keep a Copy of Your Passport and License
Keep a copy in the safe with your passport, keep a copy at home, give a copy to someone trusted, and keep a copy when your going around the city. If the hotel or accommodation doesn’t have a safe or doesn’t seem totally secure, then carry the passport with you in a bag or a place that it won’t easily be stolen from you.
That is your ticket home, don’t risk it, it isn’t worth the headache it would cause by not having it.
4- Give a copy of your hotels/itinerary/cards to a trusted loved one at home
It isn’t just a copy of your passport that you should give to a loved one or trusted friend at home, but also a copy of your major credit cards. I know some will consider this a risk in and of itself. Let me try and explain why I do this though; let’s say you are in an underdeveloped country and are having a hard time looking up the phone numbers to call the card companies. What if you are in the middle of no where, with just a satellite phone? You can call your friend at home, and ask them to call all credit card companies, and the social security numbers to help protect you; or at the very least give you the correct numbers so that you can call.
5- Take a Walk in Daylight to Get a Feel of the City
There is a certain vibe to every city that I visit. Some I feel more dangerous than others. I look at where locals congregate, how busy the area is, if there are a lot of homeless people, a lot of beggars, people talking on the phones or looking quiet. I also look to see if there are street patrols in the area. If you spot a cop, you are usually in a safe part of town. If there are no cops, and loads of people approaching you asking you to ‘come on the tour’, ‘I have special price’, or ‘do you need money exchanged’ – then I typically don’t consider that area safe.
Being able to ‘read the vibe of a city’ is something that comes with practice, but I gave you a few tips above that will help you see what I’m talking about on your next trip. If your gut tells you to be paranoid, or you feel nervous about the city AT ALL then make a rule you are back in your sleeping accommodation before dark. If not, just take a reputable taxi or uber to and from your desired destination or to the train station. Your concierge, or host should be able to direct you in how to look for reputable transport.
6- Don’t Set Your Bag Down
It doesn’t matter if you have a small purse, a large backpack, or a stroller. Don’t stop in the middle of a crowded street and set your bag down or take it off your shoulders. This opens it up for anyone that passes by to reach down and grab your items and run off to get lost in the crowd.
Make sure that if you are trying to get into your bag, even in a store that you take your bag to a corner, an alleyway that is still in view of the street but not directly in the line of the crowds and THEN pull out your money. Think of trying to light a match in the wind, that is how you should guard the visual on your money.
Not only does practicing this make it safe from people grabbing your bag and taking off; it also protects where you put the majority of your money back so people watching the tourists don’t know which pocket to target when attempting to pick-pocket you.
7- Learn Some of the Basic Words While Traveling
This has helped me more times than I can count in many different situations. I try and learn the following phrases:
What is your name?
How much does this cost? Can you put it in my phone?
Can you point me to where I’m going?
Do you take Credit Card or Cash?
Where is the Bathroom?
Can I have this?
Do you have water? (or other beverage of choice)
Where do I find? Can you Draw it on a map how to get there?
If I don’t have the phrase already in my phone notes, then I will pull out Google Translate and use a little data to get messages across. I also keep a pad of paper on me, and try to draw a picture of what I’m looking for (stick figures are fine if you can’t draw well).
8- Look Up What the Destinations You Want to Visit in the Local Language.
This is something I learned when visiting South America. While I do speak Spanish, it was difficult for me to know the EXACT spelling of the museum, destination, or eatery that was recommended in THEIR language. If you punch in the wrong name in the search bar in your navigator, it might lead you to the wrong place or cost an expensive trip to the wrong location.
9- Carry a Fake Wallet or a Belt Wallet
I use a fake wallet more than I use anything else. For the ladies, a good tip I use is by carrying the larger bills in my menstrual cycle pads. I think even just writing ‘menstrual’ I lost about half the male readers. There is just something about talking about that stuff that really turns guys into flibbity gibbities when you mention anything about it. Can you imagine if one saw a pad? Doesn’t matter the country your in, that is a taboo thing. There is also an unspoken rule with females that you just don’t mess with that stuff unless someone asks for it in the stall next to you. Bottom-line, it is a GREAT hiding place. You can also use cardboard tampons as hiding places.
The fake wallet is for bartering in the markets, I will put scope out the shops, and if I see something I like – I put the price I’m willing to pay for it in the fake wallet in an alley. Then I return to the shop and negotiate the appropriate price, unless it is far too expensive.
10- Stand Away From The Crowd
Street scams are on the rise, from the vendors claiming to give you a good rate on cash exchange. To people advertising good housing for a deposit. Or the unexpected street performance, with the accomplice in the back checking out your unguarded back pockets or purses. It is worth the effort to do a two minute search on ‘Scams in ______’.
One instance my parents had while traveling was when my Mom forgot to put her hidden purse inside the front of her shirt. While at a cross-walk in Europe, she was waiting to cross the street with my Father. There were several other people around and a girl with a newspaper kept bumping into her. She thought it was just the way that people did things in this particular area of the world. As they were crossing the street she heard yelling, and a man with his wife ripping the shirt up over the head of one of the girls. There was a lot of cash and passports that fell out. My Mom looked down to find her purse empty, her passport gone, along with the cash that she so recently had ‘safely hidden away’. She admitted that she had been tired, and felt safe enough in this particular destination that she didn’t think she needed to take such precautions anymore.
The man who caught the two female thieves, came up to my parents and gave them back their passports. If they would have lost those passports, they would have been stuck in that city with no backup and ruining their vacation at the US Embassy trying to find a way back home. (Getting a Passport re-instated, even if temporary can be costly, time consuming and puts people in dire conditions more often than you would think).
Moral of the story, avoid crowds, leave the passport in the safe in the hotel. Don’t get comfortable and make a mistake that could cost you more than you can afford.
11- Carry Your Back Pack in Front
This is a tip a Moroccan local taught me, to always carry your backpack in front of you with your arms tightly around it in the crowded markets or in front of street performers.
If you are seated at a restaurant, don’t hang your purse off the edge of a seat/table. Keep it at your feet or string your foot through one of the loops. Who cares if you look paranoid! It is better to be safe than sorry, as I always say.
12- Get Appropriate Vaccines and Carry Medication for Common Ailments
I took a course in college in Tropical Medicine and Parisitology. There are flies that can bite you and cause itching so bad you have to be sedated. Other larva that can burrow into the nether regions and cause infertility if you aren’t careful. Parasites that cause blindness, Malaria, burrow in your lungs etc.. Tropical diseases that will have diarrhea so bad you have to lie in a bed with a hole in it; will cause major heart disease when you are older, burrow into your brain or muscles and many other really fascinating but debilitating diseases.
Vaccines have a lot of controversy around them due to a study that was falsified and is no longer recognized as fact by the medical community. So be careful in refusing to get these vaccines for Typhoid, Yellow Fever, or the medication for Malaria. Be sure you visit the Center for Disease Control, or other government organization within your country to find out what is recommended for you. Each country has their own recommendations based off the diseases that their citizens have already been vaccinated for, or are known to be susceptible to based on their geographical location or ethnicity.
A good rule of thumb I make for myself when eating in other countries is that if I can’t peel it, cook it, or it isn’t fresh meat and the bathrooms aren’t clean. I choose to not eat there and keep a granola bar in my purse if my stomach starts to eat itself in hunger.
13- Carry a Back-up Charger for Your Phone, Don’t Keep it in Your Back Pocket
I NEVER keep my phone in my back pocket while traveling. I rely on the navigation in my phone so much when traveling I would be a sitting duck if I didn’t have it with me. This is why I keep it attached to my stabilizer, or I keep it in a deep pocket somewhere in a bag or in my bra (ladies will know what I mean).
Carrying a backup charger is essential for me when traveling, because of how much I use my phone for video, navigation, taking voice memos, and posting IG stories when I find a good Wifi to let people know I’m safe at home. It also helps me create a digital footprint, so should I go missing, or have something happen to me- someone will always know where the last place I was.
For those with high profile Instagram or Facebook accounts, you may want to create a private one that just updates family. The reason is, because I have had some of my friends say that they had people start to follow them on their vacation and make them nervous. So just keep that in mind.
14- Blend in With Your Outfits
Don’t wear an ‘I’m from Harvard’ in Europe, don’t wear a Rolex with a Gucci bag in South America. Didn’t everyone learn from when Kim Kardashian was robbed from flashing her bling around online? It is the same idea when you are traveling. If you go around in bright red or yellow flowy dresses, or leave your camera out on a tripod unattended…you are screaming to everyone there ‘ROB ME’! Be smart, or agree to the risks beforehand and take precautions.
Traveling Solo can be hard to take those enviable photos, and I am working on an article for the community on how to take those photos safely. Just ask another tourist to take the photo (if you can spot them, then the locals can spot them as well). If they are snapping selfies, rest assured they probably are tourists as well. You have to pick the oriental tourists though, they are MASTERS when it comes to taking the good photos (well the girls are anyway). I had one lady I asked take my photo and it turned into a full on photo shoot! Some people just really love helping others, and making your memory as good as you would have done it yourself. Asking other tourists is a good way to meet people you can collab with on touring the city with as well, and get discounts.
15- Be Vigilant and Defensive When It Comes To Crossing Streets in Developing Countries
Some 25,000 foreign tourists died in road accidents in 2009, don’t become a statistic. Stay at the back of the crowd crossing the street, always wait an extra 3 seconds to make sure no cars are running the red light. Follow the locals, observe how traffic patterns are functioning. Again, get travel insurance…it will save you should tragedy strike.
16- RESPECT Your Surroundings
Victoria Falls death, Bell tower death, agitating animals for photos, touching wildlife while diving.
How many times as a kid did you see the sign, “Don’t feed the bears” or any other animals. In Utah there is a constant reminder from the friendly Smoky the Bear encouraging kids from young age, ‘Only YOU can prevent forest fires’. Yet there are still those people that have not grown up, and try to push the boundaries with the thought that, ‘I’ll be fine, I’m not like them, I know what I’m doing’. Even I have fell prey to this during the wild flower festival in Alta Utah. While there were no ropes per se, there were clear paths. I decided to stray into a pretty wild flower patch to take some photos. I was then approached by the park ranger educating me on how I was ruining the experience for future generations. Apparently when you walk on the dirt where the wild flowers are, the ground gets packed down, preventing the wildflowers from growing. He said that it can take up to a decade for the natural (not artificial) growth of the wild flowers to come back because they need the certain type of soil to grow in.
So just because you think it is ok to cross that line, veer off the path, carve the name in the tree, hang off that rope or balcony, get closer to the edge for the best picture doesn’t always mean that it is the safest, nor the right thing to do.
What to Do in an Uncomfortable Situation or in an Emergency
1- Know the Telephone Numbers for an Emergency Personell
This is something I forget to do all the time before visiting a country. What if something did happen though? What if you were hit by a car and couldn’t get up? What if your friend falls down a ravine while hiking, or off a waterfall onto a rocky outcrop and you couldn’t get to them? Who would you call? How would you tell the services that you needed help?
This is where knowing the numbers for Police, Ambulance, and Rescue teams comes into play. Whatever activity you plan on doing, at least know the number to call for an Ambulance.
With terrorist attacks, accidents, and those Culture Trekkers who love adventure like I do….it is vital for not just you, but for those you leave at home that care about you that you know these numbers.
2- Know How to Ask for Help and How to Describe Your Location
This conicides with number one. If you are in a new country, are not completely fluent in the language – I suggest knowing at least the basics of how not just to call for help, but describe what is going on.
Know how to say, ‘I’m hurt and need help. I don’t speak the language. I’m located here. Do you speak English, German, Spanish, French or whatever your native language is. You might be bilingual, I don’t know, but the brain is hardwired to forget the language that you may not be fluent in during a crisis situation.
3- Learn How to Say ‘Stop’ Your Making Me Uncomfortable, and How to Say NO.
I had a man on a train get very close and personal with me in a very uncomfortable way. I tried to shove him off and look for help from fellow passengers, but because I didn’t speak the language – he was able to play it off that we were a couple just having an argument.
This is why learning how to say STOP, your making me uncomfortable in whatever language the country your visiting speaks is vital. Also being able to ask the fellow passengers, ‘Can you point me to the direction of help, to make this person stop harassing me would be’.
4- Go to a Museum
Sometimes even asking for help, or saying ‘STOP’ to the harasser will not dissuade them from following you. If this is the case, or you meet someone on the street, or someone is following you and your gut tells you it might be dangerous….LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS!! It is better to be safe than sorry.
The man mentioned in item three, changed his plans, tried to follow me through the city. Attempted to pull me into an alley, and I knew that twisting my hand towards his thumb forcefully would break his grasp. I continued to twist, turn, cross streets to distract him; it was very early in the morning and there was no one on the streets I could ask for help.
I decided to go into a museum, and that is when he became desperate. He grabbed my coat, asked me to not go, I twisted, and ran the rest of the way into the building. Talking to the Musuem guard/police, I asked them to keep an eye out for this person (who I snapped a photo of, just in case something happened). They made sure the coast was clear, and I took a different route on a main road to the next destination.
It put me on edge for the rest of the trip, but now know that entering a place where artifacts, art, or any other major tourist attraction is — will always have guards somewhere that you can ask to help you. They would probably welcome the distraction and help.
I know this mostly applies to females, as men would likely just punch him til he left them alone. Females who choose to travel solo, it is always good to have a plan, so if your instincts are screaming at you to run or be afraid – I can’t stress it enough….listen to them.
5- Get Travel Insurance
I have never considered getting travel insurance in the past, until this last year when I attended a travel conference. This is when I was able to sit down with Allianz Travel, and World Nomads Travel Insurance and ask them what they cover versus my Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Insurance I have.
So I called Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and with my medical background, having worked in both the Intensive Care Unit and in the Operating Room – I know what worst case scenarios look like and how much that can cost.
For the most part, BCBS covers most of what they would cover for an ‘out-of-network’ provider, should I need to have a visit to the Emergency Room, or end up in the hospital for whatever reason.
What they don’t cover is repatriation, or bringing your body back, should you suffer a deadly accident (or get caught up in a disease outbreak like they had in Africa). The problem with them not covering this, is that your family or loved ones will not get closure. You don’t know what that country will do with your body, and the cost of repatriation (at least in the United States) can be upwards of $10,000 dollars due to the special requirements for transporting back into a country are.
If your saying, ‘well I will be dead, so who cares’; here is the other thing that Travel Insurance covers though: stolen cameras, computers, emergency evacuations, cancelled trips, delayed baggage, delayed flights, dental emergencies, search and rescue should you have an accident with diving (which I’m doing more of now) and over 200 other adventure activities that you don’t even think of when visiting a foreign country.
Now I don’t travel without it, it is better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Many of my fellow travel savvy friends use World Nomad Insurance, as it seems to have the best coverage for the price, but you can also look at Allianz Travel Insurance and compare the two. Pick the one that will fit both your budget and what you plan to do.
6- Call the Embassy
If you are feeling extremely threatened and fear for your safety due to riots or unstable local situations, get incarcerated by a ‘dirty cop’ or for doing something stupid, lose or have your passport stolen. These are all examples of situations that you would need to call the Embassy for your country for. Be sure you know where they are located, and the best way to get there should the local situation become unstable.
As Always…Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and I’ll See YOU on the Flip Side.
Hello Matt! I almost feel wrong saying Matt, I have always known you from your Superstar Blogging Course as Nomadic Matt. I am truly honored to be able to interview you and want to thank you for this opportunity. I have learned a lot from your courses, and have read a lot about you and your work, but my readers may or may not know you. Would you mind giving a brief background for them on how you got started in blogging, and how long you have been doing it?
Matt: Thanks for having me, Janiel! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nomadic Matt. For the past decade, I’ve been traveling the world and blogging about budget travel at nomadicmatt.com. My goal is to help make travel accessible by showing people how to travel cheaper, better, and longer. I started blogging back in 2008 as a way to showcase my writing. I wanted to be a travel writer, and I figured creating my own website would be a good way to highlight my abilities. While that didn’t exactly work out, my website became popular in its own right, and I actually write my own budget travel guides these days. So, while things didn’t work out as I planned, they definitely still worked out! In addition to running a blog, I also manage a media school, a charity, an online community of 20,000 travelers from around the world, and the world’s biggest travel conference. Oh, and I somehow still find time to travel too!
Let’s get into the meat of what I wanted to ask you about, how to find meaning behind the destination. In one of your articles, you suggested Viz eats, where you can go and eat with locals. How else do you connect with locals in a country or city that you may or may not speak the language? What would you suggest for those who are introverted vs extroverted?
Matt: We’re living in the golden age of budget travel, with cheap flights and the sharing economy giving us an infinite amount of choice when it comes to travel experiences. If you don’t speak the language in the destination you’re visiting, there are still plenty of websites and apps you can use to have unique, local experiences. Some of my favorites are:
Couchsurfing.com: where you can meet with or stay with locals.
Meetup.com: a great platform for finding people who share similar interests.
Vayable.com: a website that offers unique tours and travel experiences.
Blablacar.com: a rideshare program where you can share a ride with locals.
By embracing these non-traditional platforms you’ll be able to have an experience that is unique and centered around local interactions. The best thing about these platforms is that you can enjoy them even if you’re an introvert. You’ll need to push your limits a little bit, but both introverts and extroverts will be able to take advantage of the sharing economy. You’ve just got to be willing to take the plunge!
When you make the effort to connect with the locals, do you find that you remember these trips more than others, or are these the trips that hold more meaning for you?
Matt: Not only does connecting with locals make the trips more memorable, but it adds depth to your travels as well. You’ll find out new tidbits about the culture, discover hidden restaurants or attractions, and see the destination from a more nuanced perspective. At the end of the day, it’s the people you meet that really make your travels the incredible experiences that they are. But it doesn’t always have to be locals — meeting other travelers can be just as insightful and rewarding. So always be willing to meet new people when you’re traveling. You never know just what opportunities will come your way because of it!
Do you have any volunteering groups, organizations that you know of that could make travel more meaningful? I’m thinking of those who want to give back, have skills, but in some areas may not be as welcome as others. For example, I work in the medical field and when I asked a friend in Jordan if they needed medical aid for the refugee camps. The response was, ‘We can help ourselves, these are people not some animals in a barn that you can come take photos with to feel better about yourself’. So I would ask you, in your professional opinion, what is the best way to volunteer for a few days, weeks or years? Do you have any organizations you would recommend?
Matt: Volunteering abroad can be tricky, as you want to make sure you’re working with a group or agency that is helping make real change as opposed to just offering tourists a chance for a photo op. There are plenty of travel scams out there that offer shady “volunteer” experiences to tourists that actually do more harm than good. So when it comes to volunteering, research is vital. I would also encourage people to look for opportunities that last weeks (or more) instead of days. Volunteering anywhere for just a couple of days, I would say, isn’t really going to make a huge difference; that’s the kind of experience that is there to just make travelers feel better. If you want to make a lasting difference somewhere, spend a few weeks volunteering. That will give you time to fully learn your role and make a lasting contribution.
I know you have your own non-profit you have started. Can you tell me a little bit about that and what made you want to pursue establishing FLYTE?
Matt: The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) is a non-profit that helps high school students in underserved communities travel abroad with their classmates. Every year, we send a group of students abroad to a country of their choosing. So far, we’ve sent students to Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Many of these students have never left the USA, so these trips open the world to them and show them just how transformative travel can be. As travelers ourselves, we’re all aware of the amazing and eye-opening experiences that travel can offer. These experiences are a privilege not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, so I wanted to create a project that enables everyone to see the world with their own eyes with the hope that these experiences will encourage them to travel more in their personal life. The more we travel, the more cultural bridges we build and the more understanding we create. And I think the world needs a lot more of those two things these days!
Being a person who has traveled so extensively, having books, websites, non-profit program, and now Travel Conferences. Do you ever find yourself feeling isolated or lonely? If so, who is the go-to person that helps you out of that feeling? If not, what do you do to combat this loneliness or are you just too busy to think about it?
Matt: I’ve always been more introverted than extroverted, so I actually enjoy those rare moments when I’m alone. It gives me time to catch up on things like reading and writing and gives me more mental space and freedom to relax. While I love meeting new people, both at home and abroad, I also value my personal time so whenever I feel the need to connect I’ll make sure to reach out to my friends and make plans. Whether it’s dinner, drinks, or going to see some music, I think having a community is what helps keeps me sane when I need a break from work. As an entrepreneur, there is always more work to be done so I could easily spend my days and nights hunched over my laptop. Having friends I can escape to not only gives me a reason to take a break from work but it gives me time to refresh and recover, and it gives my brain a chance to digest everything that I’m working on. So, while I am always comfortable being alone, I think it’s important to have people you can turn to whenever you feel the need to connect.
I always feel like laughter is the best medicine, there is nothing like endorphins coursing through the veins. So my last question is this…what is the funniest travel story you have?
Matt: I think the best stories are always funny in hindsight, though at the time they might not seem so funny. The best example of this from my travels happened when I was backpacking around Spain. I awoke to the noise of one of my dorm roommates banging on the door as he had locked himself out. I reluctantly rolled out of bed to let him in before plopping back down into my bunk. But then I noticed something: a terrible smell. The smell, it turns out, was coming from my hand. It was shit. I immediately got up and rushed to the bathroom to find shit all over my hands, as well as the doorknob and trailing back to the bed of the backpacker who I just let in. He had shit himself. I confronted him about it, but he tried to say it wasn’t him…even though the evidence clearly proved otherwise. Later that day I checked out and went to a hotel. I figured some privacy was worth the extra cost — especially if it meant no one shitting in my room!
Well Mr. Nomadic Matt, it has been a real pleasure getting to know you on a more human level. I appreciate you taking your time out of your schedule to do this. I wanted to also say thank you, from the bottom of my heart for always being upfront, open and honest about all of your work, courses, and conferences; and thank you for being open and honest about your answers today. If anyone had questions, where can they reach you or your team?
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.
Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:
Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
Provides access for physically challenged people
Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.
Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:
The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.
It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!
Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?
Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.
Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.
Supporting Companies with good causes:
Save the Baby Turtles!
A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!
Soul Flower Clothing Company
As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:
Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”
To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:
The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment. I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist
Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.
You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!
Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:
Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:
Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.
The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.
Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:
Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.
Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.
Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:
Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.
It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.
With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.
Small changes can make a big difference:
Wear environmentally friendly products:
Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:
This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.
A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:
Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org
Straws:The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).
Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more:Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.
Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).
IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW 🙂
A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.
Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.
How To Tour Responsibly:
We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.
Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.
Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site. Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.
How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?
What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?