Empowering Mayan Women in San Pedro

Empowering Mayan Women in San Pedro

Reading Time: 11 minutes

“You have to howl!” Sheri screamed up at me as I summited my first climbing route in Joshua Tree National Park. This would make a lasting impression on me for the rest of my life, to throw caution to the wind and celebrate the accomplishments we have in life, out loud and proud. I could write a book about Sheri, following her adventures of van life from San Diego to San Pedro, and making her home in Lake Atitlan. The story I want to tell you about though is one of true compassion, connecting cultures, and empowering the women in San Pedro La Laguna with Sheri’s Company – She Rides Dragons.

Sheri Keller and She Rides Dragons

Sheri is a wanderer at heart, but somehow San Pedro and the people in this town stole her heart and she chose to stay. Once there, it wasn’t long before she started making friends. One of her closest friends is Dora, Dora is a Spanish teacher and seamstress who has a smile that will light up the whole room when she allows you to see it.

After several months exploring San Pedro and the other small villages in Lake Atitlan, Sheri discovered the Mayan textiles and an idea began to form. After a lot of trial and error, and pulling her resources in San Diego, she was able to set up a clothing company called She Rides Dragons. I will explain that name a little later.

Sheri is a Yoga teacher, juggler and all-out fabulous performer that brings magic with her wherever she goes. Which fits in perfectly with the backpacking town of San Pedro. So naturally making yoga bags, and other clothing items with Mayan adorned symbols was the next step along her incredible journey.

Collaborating For A Cause

Little did I know, that after following Sheri’s journey of fulfilling her dreams – she had started to follow me as I pursued my dreams of being a travel writer, photographer, and videographer. She asked me to be a brand ambassador for her company, She Rides Dragons.

I was just starting out but flabbergasted that this woman that I had held in my mind as a goddess of adventure was asking me to collaborate with her for a cause. I, of course, agreed, right after I pulled my jaw back up off the floor and re-attached it to my face.

I received one of her clothing items, exquisitely hand-crafted and designed with more attention to detail than some of the best brands I have seen. Colors are perfectly matched, the fabric is thick, heavy, and you can almost feel the magic of Lake Atitlan flowing out of the robe.

I immediately messaged her when I received it and thanked her profusely. “Sheri I cannot believe how well made this is!” I was nearly bubbling over with excitement, she replied in her usual cool as a cat way “I know, the women here do such a great job. I hope we can continue to make these because the money is so vital for these families”. This piqued my interest, as my first love has always been humanitarian work and travel for a cause.

Sheri explained that the culture in Lake Atitlan is one of strong patriarchal pull. The men often drink, and work is often hard to find with very little pay. So she uses local women to make the fabric, weave the tassels, sew the clothing and yoga bags together, and then ships them out to the She Rides Dragons customers. The money that the women make, goes straight to their pockets and not their husbands pocket to decide what to do with the money. The women are then free to choose what they do with the money, they are personally making.

The women put a lot of their income towards the children and putting food on the table. Many of the women have to weave and sew by the light of the fires they burn near their homes as they cannot afford electricity. If a guest comes, they will feed the guest before they feed the children. The families in Lake Atitlan are not beggars, they work for what they have…sometimes to their own demise.

Sheri has a gift for observational power and has often found families in need of help. With connections all around the lake, she is constantly on the phone, in her ‘magic makers’ circle – trying to help the families and animals that need it the most. I think she tries to fix the major issues in San Pedro and Lake Atitlan because of how much love she has for this place. Her home has been a haven, an animal rescue, a place of creativity and love – and the people in the city all know her as a giving wonderful human being with boundless love and charity. It is hard for her to walk down the streets there without people coming and thanking her for one thing or another.

Yet if you point these things out to her, she will often dismiss it as ‘oh its nothing’, or ‘it isn’t as much as I want to do here’.

Meet Dora – A Seamstress and Spanish Teacher extraordinaire

Dora is more of an exception to this as she has a very nice home compared to many other women in the area. Sheri provided her a computer with a working camera, and microphone that she provides Spanish classes for those that would like to learn at $10 per hour. If you would like to take Spanish from her, send me an email (culturetrekking196@gmail.com) and I will connect you to her. I started taking lessons from her and think she is an absolutely incredible Spanish teacher, it is difficult but immersive and I’m learning quickly.

Lest I digress about Spanish lessons, Dora as a person is committed to her boys. She is so proud that she is able to provide food for her family, can afford electricity, has her own stove, and lives in a very good of San Pedro. Her greatest pride and joy though, is being able to provide a good education for her boys so they can have the best life possible. The best way to ensure survival in Lake Atitlan for the children is to provide education, otherwise, they will be forced to work in the sugar cane fields and farms on the steep slopes of the mountains of Lake Atitlan.

Dora is now trying to pass on the love, by getting her Aunt involved. Her sweet Aunt only speaks Mayan and lives high up on the mountain. The home she lived in before her current one was no better than a shanty house with a roof. While she still cannot afford electricity at this time, she was able to afford cider block floors, walls and a decent roof over her head with a real door. There is a small wood-burning stove on the balcony that she makes tortillas from every morning at 3 am to sell to the local shops so that her daughter can go to school.

There are 36 different dialects of the Mayan language that have survived in this area, and luckily Dora was able to translate from Mayan into Spanish and Sheri then translated into English for me. So trying to communicate in 4 different languages, and get the meaning across was quite comical but we made it work.

Maria, weaves all the tassles for the yoga bags by hand for Sheri. There are many different types of loom weaving that happen and the tradition is passed down over many generations. There are some loom weaving classes in the San Pedro area for tourists, but these women are the real heroes of this story.

Where Does the Fabric Come From?

The weaved fabric is very thick, and heavy – the traditional fabric is typically second-hand fabric that the women in the markets repurpose and re-embroider to make into beautiful Hopis and large portions of fabric that Sheri then uses to make her clothing items, and Yoga products.

So in order to get the best quality fabric, she takes a 30-minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan – sometimes with waves so bad that people drop on their knees and start to pray (not joking). Then it is a long hike up a hill to the fabric market where a family has been trained to know exactly how much fabric Sheri needs and the kind she likes.

Sheri sifts through the fabric, sorting, swapping, matching, inspecting for frayed ends or imperfect patterns. After about an hour or so of choosing fabric, then it is a call to her partner, John to check on fabric funds. It is difficult to get cash in San Pedro, they do have an ATM, but can be spotty at best on if it is broken or not.

After some negotiating with the women for the amount of fabric she buys, the fabric is then loaded into trash bags for transport back across the lake. I bought a few pieces myself while there, because how can you resist the Mayan symbols of Dogs and Dragons!

Grabbing a Tuk-Tuk, we headed back to the port to take a small dingy back across the lake to San Pedro.

Sewing the Clothing

We hauled the bags back up the hill in San Pedro, grabbed another Tuk-Tuk, and went to Dora’s house to deliver the fabric. Sheri instructs Dora in Spanish once we arrive on the ideas she has for each set of fabric pieces she picked out. Dora makes notes, and patterns are pulled out and set near each pile of fabric.

After a long day, and the afternoon rains coming in we finally get to rest and eat some food. We head back to Sheri’s House. Yet the day doesn’t end there for Sheri, she isn’t one that can sit still for long – despite sometimes needing to. So she gets on the phone with Dora again, to see if she can arrange for another woman who sews Hopis – the traditional shirts worn by the women in Lake Atilan to meet with us the next day for the Yoga Bags.

A Long Journey

The next day we head back to Dora’s House, to meet with another inspirational woman. She carries two massive Potato sacks full of heavy handwoven Hopi’s to the bus stop. Then she takes a four-hour bus ride to San Pedro, then another Tuk-Tuk to Doras.

Sheri then picks out the fabrics she thinks would be a perfect match for the Yoga bags. Carefully choosing symbols that she thinks would resonate with her ideal customers. After paying her for the items she chose, then Rosa takes the remaining Hopi’s to Panachanel (near San Pedro) to sell what she can. Then it is another long journey home, all to help feed her children and keep them from having to work on the farms.

Creating The Clothing Infused With Magic

There are many reports from those who visit Lake Atitlan that there is some kind of magical pull there. They have ‘odd’ dreams, and tend to live more on the wild side of life – yet the community is very conservative and Catholic.

It sounds a little odd, and I didn’t believe it at first – but waking up the morning after I arrived and seeing the incredible Lake it made me wonder if it was true. Lake Atitlan was made after a Super Volcano erupted, then imploded creating a collecting area for the lake to be born. The lake itself is 1115 feet (389 meters) deep, and 11.2 mi Γ— 5.0 mi (18 km Γ— 8 km) surface.

The Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes mountain range surrounds this lake with the highest mountain reaching an elevation of 12,588 feet (3,837 m).  The name Atitlan is a Mayan word that means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors.”

There is so much Mayan folklore and stories that the local Mayans still believe about this place of the Gods it is hard not to believe it yourself when you are there.

So not only is the clothing and yoga bags that Sheri makes selectively handcrafted, it is done so in a place and by the people that have lived in this area since 300 BC. I really hate describing a place as ‘magical’ because I feel it is often overused – but there are two places I have been so far that I can truly use this with – one is Scotland, and the other is now Lake Atitlan.

A Force For Change

There aren’t many people I have met in my life that have inspired me as much as Sheri and the women of Lake Atitlan who help her. They have a hard life, compared to the rest of the world.

I asked Sheri why she named her company ‘She Rides Dragons’ and she explained the strength of Dragons and their ties to Magic. I think it is more than that though, she is a strong, beautiful woman who is tackling the problems in San Pedro that are much bigger than what one person should handle on their own. She is helping to empower Mayan women to create change in their hearts, their homes, and provides food for the table their children eat at. The children also get to have an education, giving them a chance at a better future than poverty and starvation. If this wasn’t enough, she also rescues dogs and cats in the area – pulling resources to help treat for worms, feeds them, bathes then and raises money to help neuter them. She is known for her healing abilities, yet has seen many animals not make it because of lack of education in the community.

This isn’t about a clothing company, it is about women in Lake Atitlan trying to ride these giant problems – dragon-sized problems. These problems are unruly, difficult beasts that tend to bury most people in depression and anxiety of the acutest kind. Yet Sheri has collected a group of people, women, and literally a whole community to help fight them and she is succeeding at it – even if she doesn’t always give herself credit for doing so.

How Can You Contribute?

Take a look at She Rides Dragons, buy some of the clothing she offers. Now that you know the attention to detail, the love poured into the clothing, and the magical place these items come from – it will be an item that will hold more meaning for you than any other piece in your closet.

If there isn’t anything, in particular, you would like to buy, you can also donate to her cause. Her dream is to be able to hire 8 women, to change their lives, and so their children’s lives can change and it will balloon from there. If you would like to donate for the weaver to get electricity, send the donation via PayPal to SheRidesDragons@gmail.com – and make a note for something, in particular, you would like to donate to.

If you would like to help with funding or volunteering at an animal hospital or donate to help with education on how to care for animals and recognize diseases – email SheRidesDragons@gmail.com and she can get you in touch with the right people there.

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Where To Travel After A Breakup

Where To Travel After A Breakup

Reading Time: 10 minutes

We have all been there….either from a relationship or some other heartbreak. Sometimes you just need to get away from real life, disappear into the world and forget your problems at home. So here are my suggestions on where to travel after a bad breakup.

Where to Travel When You Get Dumped

Grand Cayman

Beautiful beaches, men with British Accents and plenty of photo opportunities to make them regret the day they left you. The snorkeling there is phenomenal and so is the Scuba Diving. Being among so many fish will make you feel a little less lonely after you get dumped. Who knows you may even meet someone!

Santorini

There are plenty of trails to explore on this Greek Island, that will help distract you from the heartbreak. The sunsets are phenomenal, and the whitewashed homes and blue topped homes give a perfect Zen-like feeling when you look out over the sweeping cliffs and ocean that stretches on for miles. Treat yourself to a luxury hotel and really make the folks at home jealous. Santorini is a definite MUST for those with a broken heart wanting the feel of a whimsical vacation.

Morocco

Morocco is more for my ladies who get dumped. There is a feeling of ‘not being enough’ or ‘not being attractive enough’ when you get dumped. This happens to us all and is completely untrue. So when you go to Morocco, no matter where it is – the men are known for staring longingly into your eyes and catering to you- hand and foot to win your favor. Some women feel that it is harassment, but if you know how to handle yourself, well….after a breakup….the attention makes you feel like Aphrodite. Which in the moment might feel a bit consoling after a breakup.

Argentina

I have one word for this place…..Tango. Going to Buenos Aires, feeling overwhelmed or broken hearted it doesn’t matter – you won’t feel that way after a night of Tango. They have Tango lessons, and men (surprisingly) outnumber women. My first night in Buenos Aires, I went to a Tango Club, La Virtua. The instructors (who taught at local universities), would not even let me sit down or catch my breath. I can’t tell you how nice it was to not feel like the last person picked for a dance. It is also very safe, where I was walking home at 1230 am, all alone, and felt completely safe.

Where to Travel When You Dump Them

Scotland

If it is a toxic relationship, an exhausting relationship it doesn’t matter ……Scotland has the cure! Scotland is my number one choice of where to travel after a breakup. If you go in April, May, or October you won’t run into a mass of tourists that you might get in Italy. Head to the Scottish Highlands on a road trip, and experience just how wild and beautiful this world can be. The little lambs running about on the Isle of Skye, or the boat ride to Staffa Island to see the Puffins will help to heal the soul and help you heal from something that was never meant to last.

Austin

A place of love for all! I highly recommend going during a music festival. It is a time when the city really comes alive. There is so much art, quirky places to eat, and outdoor activities to do in Austin. If you can’t go during a music festival, there are still plenty of unique things to do in Austin you won’t get bored. The people there are incredibly friendly, as long as you are friendly to them as well. You can be yourself, and let you of the pretense you might have felt you had to keep with your ex. The slogan, after all, in Austin is ‘Keep Austin Weird’.

Jordan

The number one question I get asked about my travels to Jordan, is it was safe for a female to travel there alone. It is safe for everyone! You have dangers in your own town that you just dismiss, but anywhere you go there are still the baseline dangers. The world is filled with humans, so this is inevitable. Jordan is a true adventurers paradise though, with Wadi Rum, Petra, and Roman Ruins to explore. You will be kept so busy exploring this country that has not yet truly hit the tourist market – it will truly feel as if you left the world behind and your problems with it. If you are still nervous about this, read Touring Jordan with tips from a local. I dated a man from Jordan, who is one of my dearest friends still – he will give a very real and honest view of the people in Jordan and mistakes many tourists make when traveling there.

New York

Bright lights, big city, and lots of people – but there is a vibe to this city that makes you feel as if the world is your apple. If you are an American or a foreign visitor, the amount of activities available here will distract even those in the deepest heartache. The thing I love the most about this city, is the diversity of activities available. No matter your interests or tastes there is something for everyone. New York is such a melting pot of people, the influence each one has on the city is felt in the diversity that exists for the tourists that come.

Where to Travel After An Abusive Relationship

Scotland

I know it has been mentioned before, but I had a personal experience with this. After suffering a traumatic event that has caused me to have PTSD for years afterward, I cannot recommend this place enough. I know how I felt when walking into a B&B in Inverness where an old couple made me eggs and soldiers (eggs and toast cut into strips). I know how I felt after climbing up to the Old Man of Stoor completely alone with the wind whipping at my face, looking out over the landscape. There are hard things that happen in all of our lives, and some of those things can break the soul. Scotland was what made me truly fall in love with travel after 12 years – this was the first Solo travel trip I took and still hold the memories I had there deep in my heart and mind.

Amsterdam

In general, there are a lot of tourists here that can make someone who has been through a traumatic event a bit jumpy. Yet, the people in Amsterdam are very much business minded and keep to themselves. It is clean, organized, and there are plenty of outdoor adventures like Keukenhoff, Zaanse Schans, and Kinderdijk. There is also the inspiring story of Ann Frank, which will help you not feel so alone in your recovery.

Costa Rica

This is one of the top destinations for solo travelers. The beaches are legendary, and with rain forests so close – it is an outdoor paradise to help you recover. Drink in the beauty of the ocean, sunsets, beaches, and then travel up to the rain forest for some bungee jumping off a bridge into the cloud forest or zip line through a rain forest.

Bali

This is a classic Eat, Love, Pray destination where the culture is so vastly different and so kind it will help restore your faith in humanity again. While there are parts that are extremely over-toured, it still holds its hidden gems and delicious foods. Nourish the body with bowls of fruit freshly picked from the tree and soak in a tub full of flowers in a luxury suite that are quite common on Bali.

Where to Travel When You Can’t Afford To Travel

Home Town Tourist

One of my favorite past-times is getting in the car, and just heading in a random direction. You can also look at the side streets or freeways that run parallel to the main highways. Take your tent and remote camping gear, and just plop yourself down in the middle of nowhere and enjoy the silence. Disconnect from technology, and just tell your closest friend where you are going. Leave your phone at home, so you aren’t tempted to text your ex – just breathe in the freedom and remind yourself how much this world still has to offer you. If you have never used TripAdvisor to give you suggestions on how to explore your home town – I highly encourage you to do so.

Road Trip with the Possee

If traveling solo isn’t the thing for you, well pack the girlfriends in the car with you! Take off on an adventure, and tell them it is going to be a weekend getaway. There is so much value in being spontaneous, especially for those prone to wanderlust – it helps you feel freedom from those feelings of loss.

Go on an Epic Hike

While I may be biased, I think nature is the closest you can get to heaven on earth. So going for a hike is a great way to escape the daily grind of life, and forget the woes of past relationships. Take an early hike near a lake, climb up to a peak and greet the sunrise.

The reason I specifically suggest this is because when people are sad, or depressed – they tend to isolate themselves. So getting out into nature, even when you don’t feel like it – is really going to help you remember how much world there is to explore and the people that didn’t make into into your future should be left in your past.

Go Camping

Challenge yourself, and get out and go camping – camping in a place you have never been before. Usually, BLM (Basic Land Management – here in the States) is free and you just have to pack in your food/water. Always keep the standards of safety when hiking or camping, and tell someone where you are going. Invite some good friends with you, eat s’mores….because everything is better with chocolate πŸ˜‰

Know That Things Will Get Better

I’m 35 and have not dated in several years, I went through bad breakups…I thought my life would be very different. I thought that by now I would be married with 7 kids (not kidding) – but life doesn’t always turn out the way we think. It took a lot of time, crying, bad choices and good choices to finally come to terms that there is a possibility that I will never be a mother. At least in the traditional sense, where I may not be able to have my own children. It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my friends who have the opportunity to have children, don’t want them.

So I wrapped up my love for all the children I may never have, and buried it because there is no use being sad and isolated during the best years of my life. Everyone has a choice, and just because it is not one that you would make – doesn’t mean it is wrong.

This is the same idea with relationships…everyone has a choice. Everyone has a choice to stay or to leave. If they aren’t ready mentally, don’t want to commit, aren’t headed in the same direction as you are – it is better to let it go. It wasn’t until I let go of the idea of having children or needing a man in my life to complete me that I found my true joy and strength. The things is, desperation never looked good on anyone – so don’t try to make it look natural….it isn’t.

Start believing that you are worthwhile and keep your dreams your dreams no matter who you decide to date/marry. Dreams and goals will always shift in our lives, but we often hold ourselves back in trivial pursuits that impede you from reaching your full potential. The real question is…..are you ready to reach your full potential or will you let your brain succumb to mediocrity because that is what you think is best.

Search For That Peace When Your Alone

I once dated a man from San Paulo Brazil, who taught me so much about how to reach my full potential. It was a toxic relationship on the whole, and there were a lot of lies. Yet after each relationship, I try to ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this?’

I will never forget what he told me, “I don’t have to constantly fill my life with things, doing things, being things because I’m at peace in the silence”. So that is my challenge to you, to find peace in the silence. The journey will be scary, you may not have the courage right now – but keep searching and I promise you will find it. It may involve sleepless nights when you don’t feel your partner next to you, or when things get hard having no one to cry to or be comforted by – but you have the capacity to evolve. Push yourself to do new things you have always wanted to do, and now have the time to. Enjoy that big bed space and sleep sideways on the bed, or just trash the one that has so many memories and buy a new one.

You have the capacity to be ok being alone, but sometimes broken hearts need a crutch just like a broken leg. So pick your flavor of vacation and don’t over think it….plan it, and ask Nike says ‘Just do it’.

Sending love and light your way, know that you aren’t the first person to feel this way. Time does blunt the pain of the wounds that might be left, but in order to heal from those wounds you have to keep moving.

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Introduction to Wilderness Medicine

Introduction to Wilderness Medicine

Reading Time: 16 minutes

In the wilderness you will have limited resources, and limited capabilities for major medical intervention. So it is important to have a basic understanding of wilderness medicine and first aid, as it could save a life. So with my medical background in trauma surgery, and the emergency room – here is an introduction to Wilderness Medicine.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this is a guide and you should receive additional training in order to feel confidant and comfortable in each scenario.

Initial Assessment:

The best thing to do is approach the patient using the Acronym: ABCDE, which stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure. The initial question before all else, is “Am I putting myself at risk by trying to save this person?”. Make sure there won’t be two injured people on the ground before you commit to completing the ABCDE steps. Please make sure that the scene is safe for you approach – don’t approach a bleeding person with a Grizzly Bear standing over them.

Make sure to wear gloves, put on your sunglasses because you may not know them- and don’t know your friends as well as you do.

For those with minimal medical knowledge, here are some questions you should ask after taking a big breath, and introducing yourself in a calm way to the injured person or suspected injured person.

Airway in Wilderness Medicine

  • Remove dirt or objects that you can see. Do not do blind sweeps with your fingers as this can lodge things further down the throat. They can have dirt, teeth, severed tounge etc… it might be bloody so be prepared (thus the gloves and sunglasses).
  • Jaw thrust – go to the head of the patient, grab their jaw (right at the angled portion) and lift it slightly forward. Do not move the neck, or tilt the head back significantly when you are doing this because they may have a major neck injury.
    • In the Emergency Room they often use an nasopharyngeal tube to keep an airway open in an emergency. You can use a camel back to cut this down measuring from ear to mouth.
    • If you don’t have a nasopharyngeal tube, then you can take your knife – cut the tube on a camel back and insert that into the nose down to the airway. Be sure to measure it properly. Using the ear to jaw measurement method.
    • If the camel back doesn’t work, you can also use TWO safety pins pinned on either side of the tongue with a shoelace threaded through them tied to the belt loop, their finger etc… I like to have four safety pins so that the paracord/string/shoelace remains in place.
      • If this wakes the patient up, then you have solved the issue of their airway, because an awake patient, can control their tongue muscles. Also, keep in mind it will feel weird grabbing a limp tounge, it might be weird and gross but it is better than that person being dead because you couldn’t leave their airway while trying to treat the bleeding broken leg that may also kill them.
  • Chin lift – you only want to do this if you are absolutely SURE that the patient has had NO head trauma.
Wilderness Medicine
Jaw Thrust with no Chin Tilt – Photo Credit Rrapid
  • Have they choked on something? Is there something blocking the airway?
  • Cricothyrotomy (The Emergency Airway): You can slit the skin right below the Adams apple and stick the knife in. You will pop (it will literally be a pop) through a couple of layers and will hear a rush of air. If you don’t feel a rush of air, then you aren’t in the right space. Don’t dig around, in a normal weight and build individual, it should only be about a 1/2 inch below the layer of skin/fat. In larger individuals you may have to go a little deeper. You can measure a stick a straw, a camel back tube or ball point pens to the side of the neck and it will give you a good idea of how deep the tube needs to go in order to get into the airway.
    • I like to keep a 14G IV Catheter with me so that I can use that to puncture into the airway. It will be large enough to help air escape, and guide you for making a larger incision in the event that you need to ventilate.
    • Keep in mind that once you put an incision in this position, medical personell will not be able to insert a viable airway tube through the mouth. So only resort to this option if the upper airway is completely blocked and the patient is deteriorating.

Breathing

Do you lay them on their back or on their side? Are you sure they are breathing? What do the breaths sound like and feel like? Breathing is really important obviously, it is generally associated with death if someone isn’t breathing and/or isn’t breathing well. There are entire campaigns in the States to help the public become more aware about how to save a life through CPR and First Aid classes. I highly recommend going if you have the chance.

So when assessing breathing, I would review the list below before each activity or vacation. Have someone be in charge and a backup person to support them. Having someone assigned to each task, and someone assigned to be the team leader in the event of an accident will help prevent confusion.

Wilderness Medicine
  • Look for the breathing, is their chest moving?
    • Is the chest moving equally? Is one rising above the other?
    • Are they using nose, neck or other muscles to help them breathe?
  • Listen for their breath by putting your ear right next to their chest.
  • Feel the breaths by placing your hands lightly on the chest. Does it feel like broken bones grinding together or does it feel like rice krispies under their skin?
    • The feeling of Rice Krispies on the chest can indicate a tension pneumothorax. This is something that cannot wait and the patient will be dead by the time someone arrives.
      • Keeping a 14G IV catheter for this situation. You go very high on the chest, right below the collar bone, pick a rib high up, and stick the needle on the TOP part of the rib. (Hold onto it because the trapped air will push the needle out- if there is no rush of air, try the other side. If the rush of air is not on the other side, then take it out).
      • Most of the time, people don’t put the needle deep enough.
    • Open Pneumothorax – this is when someone has something penetrating through their skin into their lung. This destroys the physics of the lung and how we breathe. So if there is a hole in the chest, with abnormal breathing – take a plastic baggie, take your duct tape and tape ONLY THREE Sides flat onto the chest (so that air can get OUT of one side).
      • Do not EVER remove an impaled object into the chest area, or into the leg area.
  • Basic Life Support would suggest giving breath’s (use a glove as a barrier for rescue breathing- tear off the middle finger and put your mouth in the opening to give breaths) to the patient and doing chest compressions. Contact your local hospital to get education on how to do this. In the USA the Red Cross does BLS courses in the community.

Circulation in Wilderness Medicine

First things first, if they aren’t already laying down – ask them to lie down. If you know how to take a pulse (near the thumb, or on the neck on either side of the neck right near their windpipe) see what their heart rate is. A normal adult should have a heart beat from 70-80 beats per minute.

Wilderness Medicine

Check their skin color, are they pale, cool, moist? If you answered yes, they may have an issue with their circulation or are in shock.

If you press down on their fingernails does the blood come back into the fingernail within <2 seconds? If it doesn’t, they may be losing a lot of blood, or being going into severe shock. This method is called checking capillary refill time.

If it looks like they have a lot of the symptoms described above, or you can’t feel the pulse on the wrist – you may not be able to see the bleeding that the patient is experiencing. Some of this bleeding can be internal, so raising the legs (only raise the legs that are uninjured) it can be a way to increase the blood pressure and keep blood pressure up to the brain.

If there are any areas on the surface of the body make sure to hold direct pressure for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let the pressure go and check to see if it is still bleeding until that 10-15 minutes is up. If you have quick clot, pour that on and hold pressure.

  • For Wounds/lacerations you can use crazy glue, duct tape, staples (even the small stationary staples), or the hair closure technique.
  • Hair Closure technique: If the hair is more than 1-2 inches long, you can take small pieces on either side of the wound, and twist them around each other tightly. Lay them down flat against the scalp, and put crazy glue on the knot on the top of the head.
  • If there is a lot of debri in the wound, you can use the sterile saline rinse kits they have over the counter that people use for sinus irrigation, or they also come in small disposable packs. You can also use water (with chlorine tablets dropped in) inside a bag with small holes poked in it to irrigate it out. You can use garbage bags, condoms, sandwich bags etc.. to bring enough water to clean out the wound.
    • In the Operating Room we had a saying, “The Solution to Pollution is Dilution” – and oh how true that is.
    • Just keep in mind, you don’t want to close a wound unless it is life threatening. Just clean the wound as well as you can, and then put pressure on it. If you close it completely then they have to keep the wound open for irrigation and it closes on its own leaving a massive scar. If it is a life threatening opening that won’t stop bleeding even with pressure, then there isn’t a choice but to close the wound.
Wilderness Medicine

If the bleeding is coming from the legs or arms, putting a tourniquet on the limb using a stick slid just underneath the knot (turning it slowly until the bleeding stops). Make some kind of mark on the patient to make sure that someone knows a tourniquet has been placed.

If a tourniquet is left on for more than 6 hours they are at risk of losing their limb. You are ok to release the tourniquet after 6 hours, as long as the bleeding from the limb is not life threatening. Leave it off for at least 20 minutes to 1 hour (as bleeding allows) then replace it.

If you don’t have quick clot, you can use duct tape, crazy glue (but not for lots of bleeding as it won’t stick), hair ties, staples. If someone has an epi pen for allergies- you can use that injected into the body. There are certain places they say NOT to use any kind of Epi (Fingers, Toes, Penis, Nose) – but again, if it is life threatening….then just do it).

Many medical personell don’t know how to use Epi pens if you ask them, they will likely go into their office or look up how on their phones. So it is really simple…take off the caps and THE ORANGE PART GOES INTO THE PATIENT. Don’t stick it in quickly and pull it out once you push the button on the top, as it takes 10 FULL seconds to get the epi (the medicine) into the patient.

Disability

Are they talking normally, confused (name, date, location, what they were doing), responding with a loud voice, do they respond to pain (pinch them on the wrists and behind the ear)? Are their pupils equal? Do the pupils respond to light (use your phone light)? Are they able to move both arms and both legs?

Wilderness Medicine

The reason you want to do this as the initial portion for ‘D’ is to see what type of transportation you need for this person. If their pupils aren’t reacting like they should, if they do not respond to pain stimuli, or they are confused – then there is likely something going on with their brain and they need immediate attention via a helicopter transport that would get them the medical attention necessary to save as much of their brain as possible.

Neck Injury

Always assume they have a neck injury if they have had a head injury, major injuries or broken bones, they are intoxicated, or were hit by a moving vehicle or boat. Do not believe them when they say their neck is fine, there are plenty of times in the moment of the Adrenalin rush that they won’t feel the trauma that is there.

  • In this case you want to imagine the patient as a log. everything should remain in line, and no turning, pulling pushing on the spine or neck.
  • Improvising to protect their neck – you want to prevent them from flexing their neck and turning it side to side:
    • Preventing Forward Neck Flexion
      • Aluminum Splints area a great way to splint not just a fracture, but you can thread these behind the neck, and then cut it down so it encircles it once.
      • A really bulky sweater wrapped around the neck and duct taped on also works
    • Prevent them from looking side to side with Side Rolls
      • Improvise with: Water bottles duct taped to the side of the neck to keep it in place. paddles on both sides crossed over the chest, taping sticks together and wrapping a shirt around the ends to prevent punctures, putting their shoes on either side of their neck, stuff sacks or a back pack (filled with sand, clothes) put on both sides and duct tape it together.

Exposure

What are the weather conditions like? Do you, or can you move them to a better location without causing pain or further damage?

  • For cold environments you want to try and keep them warm. Use something to block the wind.
    • You can also use a garbage bag wrapped around and underneath them (as a improvised shirt or pants) with DRY leaves or other clothing stuffed inside of it to keep the heat in.
      • Make sure whatever you stuff into the bag is DRY, no exceptions.
    • Using a sleeping bag is also a great idea (only if not wet).
    • The ground is very cold, even the dirt – so don’t forget to wrap their entire body.
      • It can be 85 degrees outside, and someone in shock will still be shivering relentlessly.
Wilderness Medicine

Were they impaled with any objects?

  • If there is an object that impaled the patient and is stuck in them — DO NOT REMOVE THIS AS IT CAN CAUSE FURTHER DAMAGE!
    • A good example of this, is when Steve Irwin was stung by stingray rebarbs, he quickly removed them and one was in his heart. When he removed it, it created an outlet for bleeding to happen around and from his heart causing his death.
  • You can wrap something around the impaled object to stabilize it until the patient can get to the operating room to have it taken out. Even doctors in the Emergency Room don’t typically mess with these things until you know for CERTAIN that an object has not severed an artery.

Invest in a Good First Aid Kit (not just ones with bandaids)

There are thousands of First Aid Kits out there, but how do you know which one if the best? Think of your situation, how much you are willing to put in the suitcase?

I was looking into getting an updated First Aid Kit, and ran across the company MyMedic. This company sells tourniquets, first aid kits that fit into your pocket, all the way up to a First Aid Kit that field Medics use in the war zone. The MyMedic First Aid Kit I chose, was one that specifically has quik clot in it.

This First Aid Kit has so many good things in it! I’m sincerely impressed with everything in here. It is so compact too, it is smaller than my makeup bag (and I don’t wear a lot) yet has everything I would want in an emergency other than an AED and a back board. They have built the outside of the bag so you won’t lose any space on your backpack with loops to hang carabiners off of.

On the back there are two button straps you could also use to hang onto your bag. You can unclip the strap that goes around the bag and use that as a neck brace with the rolled clothing or water bottles and cinch it down.

Inside it is very well organized with straps holding everything in place, just like you would find in a paramedic bag. There is benedryl, tylenol, advil, sunscreen, electrolytes, 2 pairs of gloves. Sterile bandage, triangle bandage, emergency blanket, suture kit, scissors, tweezers, sterile saline, ace wrap, tourniquet (the fancy kind), paracord, QuikClot, snap light, whistle, medical tape, bandaids, Nasopharyngeal tube, hydrogel (used for severe burns – to help slow damage to lower levels), CPR shield (so you don’t have to use a glove).

This is just to name a few of the things tightly compacted into this bag. The bag also is easy to close once you are done exploring it.

Wilderness Medicine

Another thing I do when I go camping, hiking, climbing, or any other adventuring – I always make sure everyone knows where the first aid kit is. You put it in the same spot every time you go out adventuring. If it is on your backpack, or in your backpack, you make sure that people know how to access it. If it is in your car, make sure they know where the keys are to open the car.

If I were to add a few more things to this MyMedic Pack, I would add an Epi Pen, 14G IV Catheter, strap my swiss army knife to the outside. I would also put 4 safety pins, chlorine tablets, and crazy glue.

Just like Duct Tape, Safety Pins have so many uses, so I would highly recommend always keeping a few handy:

  • Tongue Extension, making eyeglasses, removing foreign bodies from skin, cornea, abscess drainage, removing a fishhook, T-shirt arm splint, sewing needle, wound closure, unclogging camping stove jet, tick removal, fix zippers/bindings, and last but not least for all my ladies out there – they work great for separating eyelashes after putting mascara on πŸ˜‰

When Do You Evacuate Someone?

If the patient is having any of the following, you will likely need to ask for a helicopter or rescue team evacuation:

Wilderness Medicine
Photo Credit: Canada West Mountain School
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dizzy/weak/weak pulse
  • Unconscious/Confused
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Neck or Torso Pain
  • Unable to Walk
  • Visible Bone or Clear Dislocation
  • Unsure of Severity of Injury

Animal Bites and Stings in Wilderness Medicine

Know the area, animals that frequently attack – an easy way to know this is to ask a local. If you ask the concierge, the taxi driver, the ticket counter, or even your guide should know.

When I was hiking in Jamaica through the Jungle, we emerged and I felt a pinch on the skin of my foot. In the States, ticks are known to hold Lyme Disease- but my guide was able to dislodge the tick, and said that Jamaica didn’t have Lyme Disease like the States did. She was from New York, and one of the toughest ladies I have ever met. So even common pests like this, may not be dangerous in the places that you visit – they may be…just pests.

This is why it is important to just ask questions about dangers when hiking in certain areas, or animals. The animal world is always changing, and animals can be quite territorial, or hide in places you may not think of.

For example, where I live, we have to keep our dogs out of the weeds in certain places we go hiking as Rattlesnakes are quite common here. You likely wouldn’t find Rattlesnakes while hiking in Zermatt Switzerland. So get educated and be prepared.

  • Snake Bites: Move away from the snake, take off any tight clothing, do not use a tourniquet. Take a photo of the snake if possible. Call 911 to minimize having to move and increase the circulation of the poison.

Hypothermia in Wilderness Medicine

The first time I personally experienced Hypothermia was when I went camping and hiking on Mount Whitney in November. You don’t really know that you are getting cold until things start to turn blue (especially if you are exercising). Make sure to read about my whole experience there.

If you encounter someone who has Hypothermia, or if you yourself start to experience it – there are some things you can take with you. Hand warmers (the 12 hour ones are best) I would bring at least 6 for each person, or more if you are car camping. An emergency blanket, if I am backpacking or camping I will typically bring a compact Mylar blanket, and then a cloth emergency blanket over that that you can find at REI and are easy to put on your backpack.

Hyperthermia in Wilderness Medicine

Wilderness Medicinejg5409

The first time I experienced Heat exhaustion was hiking in Zion National Park in the sun when it was 112 F (44C). Ever since that time I have been easily prone to heat exhaustion (another reason I sweat like a whore in church in any kind of humidity).

It starts with a dry mouth, then you get hot and start sweating so much you can hardly keep it off your body. Then it feels like your heart is going to beat out of your chest. It feels like it takes monumental effort to take even a few steps or keep your eyes open. Then your stomach starts to cramp, and you can get nauseated. When I got to the nausea and dizzy stage, that is when I knew I had heat exhaustion for sure. Be sure to read that first hand account, and keep yourself safe in warmer climates.

Getting Travel Insurance

Sometimes the first aid kit isn’t enough, it can save a life in order to get to medical care though. When you are traveling abroad, you won’t know what hospital is a good one, or what the cost will be. This is why I highly encourage Travel Insurance.

World Nomad Travel Insurance

Not only do they help with repatriation (arrange for your body to be transported back home), they also can help with delayed or canceled flights, long term hospitalizations abroad etc..

I recommend World Nomad Insurance, because it is highly customizable. Even for coverage for my diving trip in Cabo San Lucas, for my age it was only around $69 for repatriation coverage, hospitalization, cancelled flights, delayed flights and more. For everything that they cover, I was stunned….especially since I work in the medical field and know how much headache it is to cover sports like these.

Stay Aware, and Stay Safe

There is only so much that you can prepare for on a trip. There will always be the unexpected in this life, so just prepare as much as you can – get familiar with some of these Wilderness Medicine Hacks. Some people never get hurt while they are traveling, some people are so accident prone they can regail you with stories for hours. You personally may not feel you need any of this information, but you may just possibly save someone else’s life should you prepare yourself with the right information and your own first aid kit. Be safe, don’t be sorry you didn’t prepare. The worst thing in the world to live with is the ‘What If I Would Have?’

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How to Recover from Your Vacation

How to Recover from Your Vacation

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Have you ever heard someone say, “I need a vacation from my vacation”. I hear this more and more from people who ask me how I have so much energy after traveling so much. There really isn’t a secret to it, I just know how to pace myself while traveling, listen to what my body needs, and follow a certain set of rules for when I get back no matter how tired I feel – or how heavy the post-vacation blues feels.

Leave the House Clean

There is nothing worse than coming home to a pile of laundry that you know you are just going to make worse by all your travel clothes. While it seems stressful to try and add another thing to your ‘to-do’ list before you leave – at the bare minimum do your laundry before you leave. For those of us who love watching Marie Kondo, or Mrs Hinch; I suggest making the bed, chopping those pillows, doing the dishes, and vaccuming and mopping the floors.

How to Recover from a Vacation

You will find just how refreshing it is to come home to a clean house. Trying to readjust to normal life after a vacation is almost like trying to screw your head back on straight. It is easier for me to do get my life in order and back into a routine inside a clean house.

Arrange For A Ride Before Leaving

If you don’t need a car to take you, at least make sure you know if you will need to take a Taxi, train, or bus on the way home. Think about the luggage you will have, the time of night, if the transportation methods run that late; or if you should just take that Uber home and save yourself some headache.

How to Recover from a Vacation

There are always ways to get home, just be sure to keep in mind what time you arrive back home so you don’t have to stress about it when your jet lagged and shuffling your way out to your chosen transport method in a post vacation hangover.

Good Night’s Rest

The blessed bed! There is no bed, in the whole world, that is as comfortable as my own bed, my own incredibly soft Crown Goose Bedding, my 1000 count sheets, and Zoey snuggling up next to me. This is bliss to me!

Do not under-estimate investing in your bed, it is the thing that will help you the most with the inevitable Jet-Lag. It will help you recover your scrambled brain to help you function at work, so you can save for your next trip.

I am a very light sleeper, so I have made every effort to make sure that every part, portion and piece of my bed feels like heaven. I got my tufted headboard off of Amazon, and my favorite color being blue – for it’s soft and relaxing shade contributes to a relaxed environment.

The bedding, from Crown Goose, with some of the softest material I have felt in a long time. This bedding holds up in the wash really well, so no worries when you have your puppy snuggles. I also really like how elegant it looks, almost as if I have my own hotel room at home. The fabric holds up really well when I go and chop my pillows like Mrs Hinch in the morning, with crisp clean lines, and a white that reflects the sunlight from my window. They have several colors, all which are in the comforting and relaxing shades – so be sure to check them out – I promise you won’t regret it.

The 500 thread count sheets are a must for me. I know it sounds like a bit of a Princess and the Pea at this point, but I rub my feet on the sheets to help me sleep. I also toss and turn so much I needed some sheets that would hold up. I like that they come in all shades, and really can make or break my whole bed.

The last things I would add to this section is make sure you have a darkened room at appropriate times of the day. I personally use black-out curtains, and have to have the bedroom a little cooler. Fun fact, studies show that humans sleep better when the temperature is cooler at night because our body temperature drops slightly.

Be sure to check out my tips on How To Combat Jet Lag.

Unpack Immediately

I must try and ride the wave coming off the plane on auto mode, and promptly unpack. I typically will unpack immediately and at least throw all the clothes either in the wash or the hamper. That way at least it is in its proper place ready for the madness of dealing with the laundry on your day off.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I also tend to pick out an outfit for work the next day. I typically go with some dark colors, to help my inevitable dark circles look a little brighter. I will either wear a flowy dress or skirt as well, so I don’t have to suck in the gut I tend to get from eating so much while on vacation.

Exercise vs Resting

Each body is different, and so I would say – listen to what your body needs. I typical traveler can walk anywhere from six to ten miles per day. When you add that up over the course of your trip, you pretty much walk two marathons over a week long trip!

How to Recover from a Vacation

For those coming from a desk job, to suddenly walking more than you do in a month combined – give your body the rest it needs. Give yourself plenty of water, and when your ready, keep walking at least three miles a day to keep up the stamina for your next trip. Even 20 minutes per day at least four days a week is great.

For those who run five or six miles a day, well… you just pat yourself on the back and get straight back to that gym! No pain, no gain – work off those carbs you indulged in while on vacation.

Nutrition vs easy Fast Food

I know how easy it is to drive home jet lagged and just stop by the nearest fast-food joint to do ‘one less thing’. RESIST THE URGE TO DO IT! This is part of the reason I try to meal prep something the week before I leave. Then freeze part of it so I have something healthy and nutritious to come home to.

How to Recover from a Vacation

If nothing else, grab your InstaPot throw in BBQ and some Frozen chicken and you can have a hot meal in 20 minutes. Get creative! There are plenty of recipes on Pinterest that are still good after being frozen.

Self Care

Now this is the step that is an absolute must! It is hard for me to remember to take care of myself after going on a trip, feeling jet lagged, and needing my precious self care time. A time where I can soak the sore muscles from the flight in the tub, take a hot shower with a bath bomb thrown onto the floor for an infusion of wonderful smells. I also need cuddle time with my dog and to let the silence reset me while I rock in my recliner.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I feel like a part of me gets extremely fatigued by all the camera work, video work, and general mass amounts of ‘new input’ it receives while on vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I really love to travel the way I do, but after doing it every other week for two months – this step became increasingly important to me and the health of my friendships at home.

Take an Extra Day Off Work

The older I get the more I’m allowing myself to be ok with at least an extra day off of work. My paid time off of work is EXTREMELY precious to me, but I try and schedule my flights to give me at least one full day (or nearly full day) at home on my regularly scheduled day off, or I come home early on a Saturday instead of midnight on a Sunday. The extra cost is worth it to me, to come home earlier in the day.

How to Recover from a Vacation

Arrange for Grocery Pickup/Delivery

With Walmart, Amazon, Costco, Smiths and many other large grocery chains now offering ordering your groceries online – take advantage of this! For one thing, it helps you stay on budget which will help you save for your next trip. The second part, is that you can jump in the car, drive 5-10 minutes and just pick up the few things you will need to complete the work week and still get the rest you need.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I started doing this on my last trip, and was amazed at just how incredibly put together I felt the next morning – knowing all I had to do was go to work and come home to rest.

Purge All Your Thoughts

Writing down all the impact memories that either agitated you, or inspired you along your trip will do two things. One- It will help you release some of the emotions you may have collected along the way, and also ease the worry of not remembering your incredible journey. Two- Allows your mind to take a rest of trying to input so much information, learning, and experiences.

How to Recover from a Vacation

I also keep a small journal with me, or notepad where I take notes of buildings I visit, places to remember – costs of tickets etc…. See the things I do for my Culture Trekkers? πŸ˜‰

Print Out The Photos

We live in a Digital world, and sometimes having the photos on the wall when you get that post-vacation blues can be a way to remind you of the amazing journeys you have been on.

How to Recover from a Vacation

You can make an arrangement of photos in frames, use string/cord to clip them to your wall with fairy lights. Take it a step further and make a travel book for your coffee table, or fireplace mantel that you can show friends when they come over. I think that creating something like this, along with inserting feelings/phrases like before would be

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Is Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette Dead?

Is Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette Dead?

Reading Time: 18 minutes

Is Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette Dead? The more I travel the more I’m coming across some absolutely maddening behaviors of my fellow humans. Sometimes all I can do is just stare out of shock at how some people behave. Do we all hate each other that much, or are we that afraid someone is out to make our vacation experience that miserable that we end up being downright nasty to a perfect stranger?

I know this will likely open up a backlash of comments, and people posting their opinion on this, but I feel it is a conversation that should have been started a long time ago. I plan on doing several articles on travel etiquette in different situations so be sure to stay tuned and subscribe below.

Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette

Checking In Your Bag

When you go to check your bag in, you see the incredibly long lines leading up to the counter with the stone faced airline staff giving instruction on the bags you wish to bring with you. With all the changes made to airlines and baggage size requirements and amount of baggage you bring – it is important to remain calm when they give you instructions.

Do:

  • Smile and say hello to your fellow human being.
  • Politely say, ‘oh darn my bag is over the weight limit – here is my credit card – sorry about the inconvenience’.
  • Have your identification card out ready to go, along with your passport and confirmation number if applicable.
  • Put the ticket for your luggage they give you inside your passport so that you don’t lose it, just in case your luggage ends up on the wrong plane.

Don’t:

  • Don’t yell, argue, or try to con your way out of paying the extra price for your overweight luggage. The fuel cost and having someone transport that for you is likely what is driving up the prices. Workman’s comp for the baggage boy’s bad back is your fault.
  • The airline staff get paid to help you with your travels, they don’t get paid to take your abusive language or behavior. It isn’t so hard to just be nice.
  • Don’t try to chance the weight being over, and then hold up the long line to try and rearrange your stuff into different bags. This is the type of crap that makes everyone upset.

Solution:

Get a luggage scale, and if you have to skimp out on the souvenirs, or leave a few jeans or boots behind then do it.

Get travel insurance to protect your belongings, airlines don’t always reimburse you for damages.

Pay for your extra bag, or extra weight on your luggage online before you go to the airport.

The Dreadful Security Lines

Security lines are the worst part of anyone’s travel experience. You have to stand in a line with other strangers, smell dirty feet, get padded down by strangers who don’t even speak to you. Take off all your rings, hats, scarves, coats, and basically unpack your bag for the person behind you to see if it is worth mugging you before you go to get into your taxi.

Do:

  • Be patient.
  • Do what the security personnel ask you to do, unless you want to end up in a room with people yelling at you.
  • Make sure your liquids are all gone.
  • Take out all electronic devices and put them into separate bins.
  • Take off your coat, shoes, belts, large wallets, massive metal bracelets or watches and put them in the bin.

Don’t

  • Don’t be on your phone arguing with a family member, or lover about a private issue. We don’t want to know or hear about your drama, we are going on vacation.
  • Don’t cut the line or save a spot for the 25 other friends coming with you, it is rude – and not making eye contact with the person behind you doesn’t mean we can’t see it.
  • Don’t be rude to the parents trying to keep it together while their kids try to pickpocket the phone out of the bin in front of them.
  • Don’t get mad.
  • Don’t argue with the TSA or security agents when they say you can’t take something on the plane. It isn’t their fault you skipped pass the prohibited items page when checking in online.
  • Don’t be that person who is impatient and feels they are in a bigger hurry than everyone else, so they cut in front of you because there is a 1.5 foot opening on the conveyor belt. (True story) Then get mad at the TSA agent because they ask you not to cut the line, and you say that ‘They weren’t ready’ – FOOL! YOU DIDN’T EVEN ASK ME. Then you forget to take your belt off and have to hold up the line cause YOU ain’t ready. (Ok, sorry, rant over).

Solution:

Get the TSA pre-check if you travel primarily in the United States. Get the Global Entry of you are frequent overseas traveler. These allow you to keep your shoes, belts, and computers in your suitcase. While this can vary at each airport, or if there is minimal security staff at night, it has been the best investment I have ever made. After flying for 47 hours, and having to wait in line to get through border security – I fell asleep on my feet and nearly fell over. It cuts down on so much downtime, and tedious waiting in so many different countries it is well worth the effort to do this.

Water Fountains

The airports are now catching on to people using their own water bottles to fill up before they board the plane. They also have limited airline staff from filling up water bottles outright, or giving more than a glass of anything in their single use plastic cups.

Again, while this can be maddening at times, there will always be someone you can tip at a restaurant for filling up your bottle for $1-$2 instead of trudging down the terminal to the water fountain at the end in the obscure place behind the fake tree (true story). If you do find the water fountain, be sure you watch carefully how much you are putting in the bottle. I once saw an young woman fill up her bottle to overflowing, she glanced down at the big puddle that she left on the floor and walked away. It wasn’t thirty seconds later that an elderly gentleman nearly fell in the puddle of water and could have broken a hip.

If nothing else – make sure that you put a towel, napkin, or notify someone in a store about the water spill. We are all stressed about our own lives, and we all hate touching dirty floors – but don’t put someone’s life at risk because you spilled.

Please don’t rush to get your bottle filled and cut me off in your efforts to be the first one to the fountain. This is not a race, this is water there is plenty to go around.

Do

  • Pay attention to the water level in your bottle
  • Clean up after yourself if you should spill

Don’t

  • Assume that the water on the floor is harmless to everyone, just because it is harmless to you
  • Ignore how full your bottle is becoming

Solution:

Pay attention to what your doing – it will save you a lot of time and headache. Clean up after yourself, janitors have enough of a thankless job – do’t make more work for them by being lazy. Yes you are going on vacation, but it doesn’t mean that you get to be rude.

Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette

The Business of Boarding

I remember this so vividly, I was eighteen years old – traveling to Rome Italy for my first International trip and had stopped in the JFK airport for a layover. I remember seeing frantic travelers lining up in front of the gate when they announced they would be boarding soon. The thing that immediately came to mind was ‘we are a heard of cattle’. You would think we were lining up to get food after starving for three years.

If I accidentally bumped into another passengers luggage, they would give me a dirty look, and scoot their bag closer to them. I hadn’t even realized I had done it and laughed at them because I had no idea I was that terrible of a person that I would take their bag and run out the doors of the airport cackling like the witch from Snow White when she bites the apple.

I stood their smiling, looking at the jostling, the silent vying for the front spot in the line to get on the plane so that they could get their precious cargo on first. Here we were, all within 10 inches of each other, acting like three year olds trying to kick the soccer ball but having it go nowhere.

The flight attendant called for the first class people to board, and it looked like the stores on Black Friday here in the States. People were shoving, pushing, arguing and even started yelling.

Being the big mouth that I tend to be at times, I very loudly and forcefully told everyone, “We are all going to the same damn place – just file in and be nice”. It seemed to settle people down and put it in perspective for the moment; of course I got some dirty looks from the woman with her blinged out dog and fancy bag – I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let these people ruin my first trip overseas with some ridiculous notion that getting on the plane first means you are more important than anyone else there.

So when boarding your flight, here are some things I would humbly suggest:

Do

  • Wait your turn, and sit or stand to the side so that people aren’t cofused and can get on the plane quickly.
  • Pay attention and put your phone away, so that if someone has a question you can appear approachable.
  • Offer your bag to be checked if they are offering it, and you don’t have anything important you will need during your flight.
  • Have your ticket in hand and passport if applicable to give to the hostess.
  • Realize that you are all going to the same location, you are at the gate, and won’t miss the flight.
  • Pack light so that you don’t have to worry about getting the coveted overhead bin space. The less time you have in your seat on the plane, the happier you will be- I promise.

Don’t

  • Don’t shove your way to the front, just because you paid $20 extra – there is no excuse to not be kind when they call your zone.
  • Don’t try and sneak into a zone or line you aren’t supposed to be in. This causes delays, arguments etc…. No one likes people that do this, just wait your turn – the plane hasn’t left yet. Just ask yourself, ‘Is it really worth looking like a jackass to the 150-200 people surrounding you, just to save yourself the $75 fee for checking the luggage?’
  • Don’t crowd entrance into the gangway, it is confusing for those trying to board, and again – you look like a jackass for doing it.

Solution:

Be patient, wait your turn, make room for those who are being called to board.

Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette

Find YOUR Seat, Double/Triple Check

Flying from Buenos Aires, and Santiago and to be honest, several other countries – there is a growing number of people who just sit down wherever they feel like sitting. This is not the metro, nor is it a bus where seats are a free for all. This is a structured system, so that heaven forbid – if the plane crashes – they will be able to take your body to your family based on the seat position you were in.

While several airlines are known for overbooking, or double booking seats on more than one occasion – it doesn’t hurt to double check the seat, number, and letter you are supposed to be sitting in.

We were delayed by twenty minutes on three different occasions where people were in the wrong seat. Despite hearing these individuals speak in English, they pretended they didn’t understand English – or the language of the place they were traveling to. This stopped people from boarding the plane, it agitated the airline staff (never a good idea), and delayed 150-200 other people from reaching their final destination.

There was another lady who argued with someone about the seat she was sitting in. She refused to move, because she was adamant that was her seat – and didn’t bother to double check. After the stewardess asked to see her ticket, she was shown where her real seat was and she quickly moved – completely embarrassed.

Do

  • Double check your seat assignment
  • Be kind and politely ask the person sitting in your seat if the seat assignment on your ticket is the correct one.
  • Put your bag in the overhead bin until you can figure out your seat assignment. You can always move it later.
  • Politely ask the airline staff if they can help you figure out where to sit
  • Realize that computers are not perfect, and you will get to your destination

Don’t

  • Assume that the person in your seat is doing something dishonest – it could be an honest mistake
  • Don’t get in an arguing match over whose seat is whose, and assume you are correct
  • Don’t just take any seat available, unless you ask the airline staff first.

Solution:

Double, triple and quadruple check that you are in the right seat, on the correct side, correct letter and then nicely say, ‘I think we may have been booked in the same seat – do you have your ticket? Maybe I’m looking at this wrong’. This can really help the airline staff out when people are kind to one another, instead of having to be a babysitter for adults that should be able to get along.

Sitting Next To Me, or THAT Person

We have all thought it – if you haven’t….well then you are a liar. We have all thought about how uncomfortable it would be to sit next to THAT person on the plane. It is natural for human beings to want to the best for themselves when they are going on vacation – but don’t be rude.

I was about 8 sizes smaller than I am now – just three years ago. After having several health issues come up, I ballooned up and now am one of THOSE people. People don’t make eye contact or smile at me coming down the isle of the plane anymore. They heave big sighs when they have to get up out of their seat knowing that my big bum is sitting next to them.

There was one fellow, very ungentlemanly, who was squirming away from me the entire trip. I felt so bad by the end of the flight to my vacation destination that I was nearly in tears – then just got all ghetto white girl angry and started to just stare at him when he would squirm.

Even if my foot encroached next to his silver hard case briefcase, he would lean over and scoot it ever so slightly over. Sigh, squirm, sit back, fold his arms and turn his body away from me. I thought I was just being sensitive, but when it happens the entire flight, and at the end of the flight – he said, ‘Thank God, I can finally get out of this seat’ and continues to mutter under his breath about overweight people — it shocked me. It was all I could do to not say ‘F-U you self-righteous prick’.

Here are the facts: No one LOVES the basic economy seats, we choose to be there to save money – and with that comes the cramped, packed like sheep in a small box with screaming kids or the guy with a Prostate problem that needs to pee every 30 minutes on the red eye flight to Europe.

Do

  • Get out of your seat when someone wants to get in or out.
  • Talk to your neighbor about things that make you uncomfortable or comfortable when you fly. They won’t be able to read your mind, so understand they are human too – and you just want to get through this process as quickly as possible.
  • Stretch your legs every now and then, keep yourself busy with movies, games or music.
  • Help your neighbor with drinks, share space if you have it, offer gum or even a sanitary wipe. Every kind gesture counts when traveling overseas.
  • Offer to help the Mom with the teething child behind your, or play peekaboo or make a paper airplane for the child throwing a tantrum – because they never got their ears to pop and don’t know why they are uncomfortable.

Don’t

  • Give the mom with the screaming child dirty looks – she is already mortified herself, and is trying to not scream back at the child.
  • Make snide remarks about someone to you, or squirm away every time someone nudges, brushes, or accidentally touches you. Even the smallest passengers feel cramped in those God Forsaken Basic Economy Seats.
  • Demand that you be catered to because you are big, tall, on a business trip. We all poop on the same pot, this is not survival of the richest – rich people always end up divorced or dead – don’t become a statistic. The only people who are truly vital to the in-flight experience are the pilots, an the airline staff – so get over yourself sweetheart.

Solution

Get as comfortable as you can, take a big breath, don’t worry about the person next to you touching you – IT WILL HAPPEN AT SOME POINT. Do for others what would make you happy, so that maybe we can treat each other a little bit nicer in the ever increasingly uncomfortable airline nightmare that they make it for those who don’t live our life on credit cards.

Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette

Special Treatment and Making it Known

Just in case you haven’t gotten the message enough in this article remember the line from Ever After when the evil stepsister is put to work in the material room and her mother tells her to do the work because she is noble, and her daughter responds- “YOUR JUST THE SAME AS ME- A BIG NOBODY!”

This is what I want to scream at these hoity toity people who think they are the cream of the crop and don’t make eye contact or even smile to the ‘lesser folks’ around them. I understand what it feels like to work hard, and want to feel like my efforts are paying off – but it DOES NOT mean that I have to trample over all the other humans around me to make myself feel important.

While I know this is a generalization of people who are considered to be wealthy – there is a certain level of kindness and decency ANY HUMAN can exhibit to one another – no matter what level of income they fall into.

Do

  • Be aware of the people that are around you
  • Be mindful of the fact that we are all human beings
  • Be kind to the airline staff
  • Refrain from making comments that you wouldn’t say to your Mom or loved one.

Don’t

  • Don’t think you are a God and deserve to be treated with preference, even if you were privileged enough to sit in first class for four hours.
  • Think you can but in front of an economy seat when asking a question once your off the plane, because you paid $60 extra for a more comfortable seat.
  • Make comments like ‘I can’t believe this, what terrible customer service’, ‘these other people’, ‘Let’s get in front of these other people’. You look like a complete jerk when you do this.

Soultion:

Don’t think that your actions will never haunt you….you might be sitting next to that person you were rude to on the flight there – on the flight home, or they may even be in your tour group. You never know…so be careful who you treat as inferior, they may just be your tour guide — so just be kind.

Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette

Interacting With Airline Staff

The airline staff do not get thanked that often, it is kind of like going to the dentist when you fly basic economy. No one likes to go and do it, but it is a necessary evil to make us functional human beings.

Do

  • Help them by being prepared with your garbage when they walk by.
  • Try and organize your area, and don’t argue with them when they ask you to do things. They don’t make the rules, but they get paid to make sure people are safe.
  • Don’t get mad if they block you from going to the bathroom – no matter what they do there will always be someone mad. If you are frustrated, just politely ask, ‘I don’t want to interuppt your process here, but is there another way I could _________’.
  • Put your bags in the overhead bin, and your smaller bags at your feet so that the entire plane isn’t delayed trying to check the bag that you took the spot of.

Don’t

  • Don’t get agitated with the airline staff when they tell you to sit your seat up.
  • Don’t get up to bet the first in line off the plane when it is taxing into the terminal. (true story).
  • Don’t demand a meal, and then shout at the airline staff because they ran out – (true story) – you should have ordered special meal status before boarding.
  • Don’t be a jerk, and pretend like your bags that take up the entire overhead bin space are not yours; when the stewardess is announcing to put your smaller items in the seat in front of you. Your royal ass is the only one in this section because your THAT important – follow the rules.
  • Don’t pretend like you don’t understand, when you really do. We all have access to google translate – if you don’t understand – use google translate so we can all be on our way promptly.
  • Don’t keep pushing the call light if you don’t get the answer you like (true story).

Solution

Smile at a staff member, ask if something is ok to do before doing it if you aren’t sure. Give a compliment, give a tip (IF YOU WANT). Remember that with public service, honey will always work better than vinegar when trying to get what you want.

Exiting the Plane

I never thought that this would be an issue, as the airline staff tell you repeatedly to remain seated with seatbelt fastened until the light is turned off. I don’t know why people think this doesn’t apply to them, but some people think of these safety instructions as suggestions, not law.

I once saw a older gentleman and his wife, grab their bags as we were about half way to landing and begin rushing up to the front of the plane. No one on the plane could believe that this was happening. Not only did they put several other people along the way in danger with hitting them in the heads with their bags, but the airline stewardess had to get out of her own safety harness to escort them back to their seat. Despite the stewardess and several other people asking them what they were doing, they didn’t think that the rules applied to them apparently.

Another incident was when a younger man, got up before the plane was fully docked and grabbed his bag and rushed to the front of the line. While it isn’t as bad as my first example, just know you look like a complete jerk when you do this.

Do

  • Be patient
  • Wait your turn
  • Realize everyone hates the process, and wants to get out of the cramped space just as much as you do

Don’t

  • Get out of your seat until the seat belt light has turned off
  • Don’t think that you have more of an urgent need to get off the plane than the person next to you
  • Don’t shove past other passengers, just to get closer to the door
Airport Etiquette and Flying Etiquette

Getting Your Bags from the Carousel

Once your off the plane, it is a mad rush to the baggage claim. There is some slight confusion for which carousel will produce your belongings – but you find it and then what?

There is nothing that agitates me more, than those people who when your standing a 18 inches from the carousel and someone feels the need to stand right in front of you without actually grabbing their bag. It is almost as if they feel that their bag is going to disappear if they don’t pick it up on the first pass.

For those who don’t know, no matter where you are in the world- the conveyor belts on which your bags are rotating are in a circle or loop. If you miss your bag on the first pass, you can typically ask someone down the line to grab it for you OR just walk a few more feet and get it at the next opening.

It is not necessary to crowd around the carousel and cut people off who are waiting for their bags as well. The airport and airlines don’t want your clothes or underwear crowding up their limited storage space; you will get your bag one way or another.

So here are a few pointers for etiquette at the carousel:

Do:

  • Wait your turn
  • Be patient
  • Stand about 2 feet away from the carousel so those whose bags are produced before yours have room to heave it off the conveyor belt.
  • Be aware of those who are standing around or near you, give them right of way if they were there before you.
  • Help other people out who are trying to grab their luggage (if you are physically able)

Don’t

  • Cut people off while waiting
  • Don’t ignore the person who is standing there waiting for their bag and stand directly in front of them
  • Don’t ignore people when they ask you for help grabbing their luggage (we all want to get out of the airport as quickly as possible)
  • Stack your luggage (if you have more than 3) right next to the conveyor belt, as this takes up precious real estate for other passengers to claim their luggage

Solution:

I don’t think I can say this enough….BE PATIENT, WAIT YOUR TURN! Going on a vacation is exciting, but traveling there is not so exciting. Sometimes the airport, train, taxi’s etc…. can bring out the worst in people; so be aware that your emotions and general empathy towards others will be significantly diminished when you walk through those airport doors. When claiming your bags, give space for others to claim their and be aware of your fellow passengers.

Don’t Let Bad Etiquette Ruin Your Vacation

No matter where you are in the world, there will always be that ONE person who does not behave with proper etiquette. Keep in mind that each culture is likely taught different etiquette, and what we feel may be proper or normal may not always be the case. The only thing we can truly do to control other people’s behavior is by controlling our own and setting a good example.

I know it can be frustrating when someone is blatantly rude, discourteous, or down right mean – but engaging in hostile or retaliatory behavior is only going to make your vacation worse. Don’t let their bad behavior, or poor etiquette ruin the vacation you have worked so hard to plan and save up for ruin your trip. Create memories, murmur under your breath if you have to, but let it go and just do your best.

If you have any suggestions, or think I have missed a critical airport or flying etiquette point – please feel free to leave it in the comments below.

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How To Avoid Motion Sickness, and Treat It While Traveling

How To Avoid Motion Sickness, and Treat It While Traveling

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Motion sickness is something everyone gets in their lifetime. From all my travels with friends, family and treating patients- you either get the car sickness, or you get sea sickness, or you have a crazy gag reflex and get both.

I used to be one of those people who would laugh at someone when they were sea sick. After getting motion sickness myself, in the back of a bus winding down the mountain in Jordan…..well….Karma doesn’t let me laugh anymore.

So how do you prevent motion sickness from happening? What if it starts in an obscure location, or in the middle of a cruise and you have no way to escape it for the next 14 days? Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned over the years, that have helped even the weakest of stomachs still be able to enjoy their vacation.

How Do you Know If You Are Prone to Motions Sickness?

All you need to do is a watch a YouTube video with really shaky footage, and if you start to get a lump in your throat just from watching it – well you are likely prone to motion sickness. It is the small rapid movements of the eye, or the tiny hairs in the inner most part of your ear that are responsible for helping you keep your balance that seems to be the biggest contributor to motion sickness.

A big distinction is if you just feel ill to your stomach, or if it is truly motion sickness. If you continue spinning even despite stepping away from the activity, and the if the room is spinning vs you are spinning – this may require you to see your Primary Care Physician for further examination and evaluation. Also if you get dizzy when standing up from a seated position, this can also indicate a medical issue and should not be confused with motion sickness.

Motion Sickness Treatments and Home Remedies

Sea Sickness Patches

I give these patches, called Scopolamine patches, to my patients who are prone to sea sickness. These tiny little tan patches are often worn, by patients going on a cruise and seem to help quite a bit.

You put the patch behind your ear, on the skin, about four hours before getting on a boat, or doing any other sort of activity that can cause motion sickness. Make sure the patch is directly touching skin, or the medication will not absorb. For those with beards or excessive hair, you may need to shave a small area to put the patch for best results.

This option is not appropriate for children.

Side effects:

Common: dry eyes, dry mouth, sensitivity to bright light

Less common: blurred vision, dizziness, headache, sedation

Sea Sickness Tablets

These are also called anti-histamines (First generation anti-histamines), while these can work well with kids, and adults alike – they often cause drowsiness. For those who are able, try the sea sickness patches first.

This option can be used with children, but you should check with your Pediatrician or Pharmacist on proper dosing.

For males with Prostate issues, or Females with Urinary retention issues – proceed with caution as some of the medications in this class often cause urinary retention.

Examples of First Generation Anti-Histamines:

Diphenhydramine (Benedryl or equivilant)
Hydroxyzine (Atarax)
Chlorpheniramine (Aller-Chlor)

While not widely used, this is one a Specialty Pharmacy Technician recommended to me and worked really well for both motion sickness and allergies without too much sedation. Everyone reacts differently to medications though, so be cautious and maybe try the first dose at home so you know how you react to it.

Side Effects:

Very common: sedation

Common: dry eyes, dry mouth

Less common: Urinary Retention

Woman suffering from motion sickness in a car and holding sick bag

Non-Medical Remedies:

Look To The Horizon:

Look forward at a fixed point on the horizon and avoid close visual tasks as this can de-synchronize your visual and vestibular (inner ear) movements.

Pick The Right Position On The Boat

Having a Balcony Room for the Horizon, being in the middle, top, front half of the ship also helps. The best thing to do is call the cruise company and tell them you are prone to motion sickness. Their staff doesn’t always like to clean up the mess you make, so they are more than happy to let you know what would be the best option for your budget.

Head Movements and Stabilization

Actively move, steer, tilt your head into turns, recline and stabilize your head and body. Think of this as if you are playing a video game, where you subconsciously turn with the game during a race, or when your watching a football game you subtly mimic what your favorite team is doing.

Go To Sleep

Closing your eyes, and taking a little snooze while on the road can really help with quelling the motion sickness until you get to your destination. If you are on a ship, this can be difficult.

Ginger Root:

While many medical professional say this does not work; I always tell my patients to do what works. Even if it turns out it is a placebo affect, if it works for you then continue to use it. You can use it in a tea, and the warm drink can also have a calming effect on your stomach.

Pressure Point Wrist Bands:

I’m sure you have seen the stylish grey wrist bands that people wear on cruise ships, that appear to have a white dot near on their wrist.

These are pressure point wrist bands, I know many people who have used these and swear by them. While there aren’t a whole lot of studies out there on if these are effective, it is an alternative you can try if you adverse to taking medication or are unable to take medication due to other health issues you may have.

Isopropyl Alcohol – or Rubbing Alcohol

While I have mainly seen this used in Post-operative nausea and vomiting release, I feel this does help temporarily quell an upset stomach. There are several studies out there on the utility of this for nausea, but if you are out of options than it may be worth a try.

All you have to do is take a couple of whiffs of the pungent smell. It tends to trigger a swallowing reflex and heightening of senses towards the smell instead of your nausea.

Other Transportation and How to Avoid Motion Sickness:

  • Airplanes
    • Try and sit over the wing so you are in the center of the axis point.
  • Buses
    • Sit near the front at the lowest level facing forward.
  • Trains
    • Sit on the lowest level facing forward, and don’t look directly out the window, but further in the distance and don’t try to follow objects as they pass by the window.
  • Wear Sunglasses
    • This can blunt visual input slightly which may help
  • Synchronize Movements
    • Actively synchronize the movement of the body with the movement of the motion of travel.
  • Food and Drink
    • Avoid Alcohol, eat before traveling, eat soft/bland foods, avoid dehydration, avoid noxious fumes, listen to music

The Last Resort:

I might get shot down by other medical providers for mentioning this one, but it has always helped me in the past. The problem with these is that they are prescription medications, that may require more workup before giving them to you.

The major symptom that people complain about when getting motion sickness is nausea. So there are several medications that can help with nausea itself, Phenegren or Zofran.

I am not a huge fan of Phenegran myself, as it is really sedating, and most people have a hard time being able to stay awake when they take it. It is quite effective for nausea symptoms, and if you are on a cruise ship – it might be a good option for it.

Zofran is one of my favorite Anti-nausea medications, as it is not very sedating. The only type of motion sickness symptom I get is nausea, and cannot stand the dry mouth or dizziness that comes with the other anti-motion sickness medications – so this is the best option for me personally.

There can be some drug interactions with Zofran from Amniodarone or other heart rhythm medications, Haldol or other medications used for mental health. For those who have some knowledge of how the heart functions it has a known affect on the QTc interval – so be careful when combining medications with this same side affect.

A Blissful Ending To A Bad Beginning:

Although motion sickness can destroy vacations with its terrible symptoms, it can be prevented and treated. If I had to recommend my top three ‘go to’ remedies I would say Scopolamine Patches, Pressure Point Wrist Bands, and Zofran. Make sure you are conscious of where you position yourself on each transportation mechanism for your travels, and bring a little alcohol wipe or ginger tea to help soothe the stomach. This way you can both start, enjoy, and finish your vacation just the way you imagined.

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All resources from this article were from my own experience, as well as information found on UpToDate.
How to Cope With Loneliness While Solo Traveling

How to Cope With Loneliness While Solo Traveling

Reading Time: 7 minutes

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.

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
Making friends with Omar in Cascades de Akchour in Morocco

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.

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
Young man passing out doughnuts to tourists in Austin – just to have a conversation

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.

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
This girl tied my headscarf for me, I talked to her for awhile about her life, bought one of her necklaces and she followed me around all day giving me ideas on pictures I could take. Even dusted me off. Making friends abroad isn’t hard, you just have to be open to it.

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.

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
Started taking photos of the guy taking photos of me, and even though we didn’t speak the language – it was the small human interaction of being able to put a smile on his face that put a smile on mine.

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.

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
Walking through a labyrinth of sand in at Face-rock wayside beach in Oregon – called Circles in the Sand is an activity dedicated to bringing people together to have a meditative experience. One of the best happy accidents I have come across in my travels.

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.

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
Friends I made while sailing in Seattle for the first time

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).

How to cope with loneliness while solo traveling
My first ocean dive with my buddy James, I became fast friends with him and his wife Denise – lovely people, whom I would have never met had I not taken up diving.

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 πŸ˜‰

Things to Look For When Renting a Car While Traveling

Things to Look For When Renting a Car While Traveling

Reading Time: 8 minutes

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.  

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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.

Things To Look For When Renting 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.

Things To Look For When Renting A Car

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!

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers as of 2019

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers as of 2019

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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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Loch Ness

Scotland

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Sukhothai historical park, the old town of Thailand in 800 year ago

Thailand

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Reynisfjara Beach, Halsanefhellir, Iceland.

Iceland

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.

Best Destinations for 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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Mykonos

Mykonos, Greece

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Oman

Oman

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

Tunisia

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Kepler Track, New Zealand

New Zealand

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
The Netherlands

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Costa Rica

Costa Rica

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!

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Las Vegas Red Rock National Park

Las Vegas

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.

Best Destinations for Solo Travelers
Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

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.