How to Communicate When Traveling in a Foreign Country

How to Communicate When Traveling in a Foreign Country

One of the most intimidating parts of traveling can be the language barrier. Especially if you don’t know how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country. Everything seems bigger, more urgent, and the confusion that ensues can snowball to the point that you are lost and crying in the middle of the train station being consoled by policemen who don’t understand. Not that I would know how that feels….ahem….moving on.

After a couple of decades of travel, I have put together a guide on how I have learned how to better communicate when traveling. Now I’m the one consoling and helping families, crying women, and even making locals laugh.

How to Communicate Over Wifi

While for some this can be costly, there are a lot of options for finding free Wifi in restaurants/shops, etc. I typically like to book a hotel/hostel that specifically has good wifi, so I can research questions in the local language I may need to ask before I leave.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

What I Personally Use to Over Come the Language Barrier:

If you can afford a little portable Wifi device though, this will – by far – be the best investment on your trip. Personally, I use my phone, with AT&T as my carrier – they have an ‘International Passport’ option, where for $10 a day I can use my normal data, Wifi, minutes, and text messaging.

If you are going for longer than 7 days, then I recommend signing up for something a little more affordable like Tep Wireless. This pocket-sized device can be used in over 100 countries, is easily recharged (via MicroUSB Cable), you can pick the plan you want from 1GB/day for $5.95 per day all the way up to 5GB/day at $11.95/day. They also have a customer support chat available 24/7. The best part is that you can rent the Teppy Pocket, and don’t have to fork out $200 to buy it upfront.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Other Options:

Some other options you could consider if you are traveling for more than 8 days that are slightly more expensive but still relatively affordable; especially if you are a frequent international traveler.

  • Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L WiFi Hotspot (around $199 for device)
    • Verizon charges $80 per month for “unlimited” data, which includes 15 GB of 4G LTE. The battery lasts about 24 hours, is removable so you can just change it as needed. It can connect up to 16 devices at a time.
  • Skyroam Solis (Around $149 for device)
    • This one works in over 100 countries and data costs around $9 per day with a secure 4G LTE with download speeds of 500MB. It has a 16-hour battery life and can be connected to 5 devices.
  • Netgear Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot ($199 for the device itself)
    • This device is more for AT&T users. It can connect up to 20 devices, has 2.4-5 GHZ Wifi. The battery lasts around 24 hours and can be used with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. What I really like about this one is that you can use an ethernet cord with it as well. It has a full-sized USB port, so you can share files between devices to the internet much quicker (ie/uploading videos etc..).
  • Coolpad SURF Mobile Hotspot (about $72 for the device)
    • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n connectivity to up to 15 devices by utilizing T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network. So you are limited in certain countries, I would check the coverage map to ensure the device will work. It also only provides about 5 hours of use, and there is no signal strength display.
  • Huaawei E5770s Mobile Hotspot – ANY PROVIDER
    • This supports about 10 different devices, can be used with any service provider because it comes unlocked. It provides 4G LTE globally.
how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Use Social Media To Communicate While Traveling

Now you have several options for WiFi while traveling, you can utilize things like Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype, WhatsApp to talk to friends at home without using your minutes or texting. Make sure you put your phone on airplane mode and then turn on the WiFi – so you don’t incur hidden fees on your telephone plan.

I think WhatsApp is one of the biggest apps used by those around the world. I used it to communicate with friends in Morocco and to coordinate my driver when going to Lake Atitlan (A very remote area) in Guatemala. So be sure to download that before you go. It does require you to give people your real telephone number, but also has a ‘block’ function if things get uncomfortable via messaging.

How To Communicate When Traveling, and Stay CALM

Whenever I start getting nervous, especially when meeting new people – I have a mantra, “We all poop on the same pot”. For some reason, it puts a smile on my face, breaks the ice inside my head and then I can proceed. If this doesn’t work, then I try my other techniques.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Make it a Game

Making it a game is the best way, for me personally, to remain calm when trying to communicate. I’m prone to anxiety, given my history, so tapping into my creative genius and making it a game is the best way for me to stay calm.

I will typically bring a pad of paper with me and if I don’t know how to pronounce the words, then I draw pictures. Most of the time, showing a picture does the trick. What if you can’t draw though?

There are cards or pre-made quick point cards that people use to communicate things they want. We use these cards all the time when we have a patient on a ventilator. There are certain human functions and needs that are very common and widely recognized. On one side of the card, there can be phrases or even an alphabet; while on the other side, there are photos of what the person needs/wants. So browse on Pinterest for quick point communication cards and I’m sure you will find exactly what you are looking for.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Be Polite

If you say the wrong thing, and they giggle – don’t be offended. For example, there are some languages like Portuguese, where ‘pickup’ can also mean ‘kill’ in a different country. So, anyone, this could be funny, or scary – and could elicit a giggle no matter what country it happened in. So take it in stride, make fun of yourself and thank them for being patient with you.

If they are not patient with you, I still thank them and politely tell them I will ask someone else, and sorry to bother them. I always try to remember that just because I am on vacation, with loads of time, the people I ask for help are taking time our of their day/vacation to help you. I have had people completely ignore me & I still offer a smile and wish them good-day. I have other locals, who walk with me from place to place, stand in line with me and get me on the right train – taking more than 45 minutes out of their day to help.

There are times you won’t be able to find help though. For my fellow Americans, DO NOT GET ANGRY NO ONE SPEAKS ENGLISH!!! There is nothing that will drive away help more, than standing at the hotel, restaurant or ticket line like an American putting their hands on their hips and loudly exclaiming, “Well this is just ridiculous, doesn’t anyone here speak English?” – no one will want to help you if you do. Saying things like this is what gives Americans a bad reputation as being, loud, rude, and snooty. Don’t be like them, please….

Don’t Be Embarrassed

There are so many other things that you could be embarrassed about – like when you think you need to fart, but it is actually a shart. If you don’t know what a shart is, consider yourself blessed – if you’re curious, use urban dictionary to look it up.

The point is, everyone expects you to not be fluent – so if you don’t get the words exactly right, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, laugh at yourself, know how to say sorry in their language. If you get too flustered, or your brain is fried from all the touring or the red-eye – revert to the Kwikpoint card (explained below) or drawing a picture.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Research Common Phrases

The number one thing to remember when beginning to learn a language is to not use big words or long phrases. Start small and use flashcards to memorize them so you aren’t fumbling and it comes second nature. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce something, Google and YouTube are going to work wonders for you. Here are a few phrases you will likely need to know when traveling, shopping, eating, meeting people, and if you run into an emergency.

  • How long (duration)?
  • What time does it leave?
  • How far?
  • I lost my…
  • I am going to…
  • I came from…
  • I leave on…
  • Where is…
  • Airport
  • Bus / train station
  • I am allergic to…
  • Where is a doctor?
  • Where is the pharmacy
  • Tampons / sanitary pads
  • Can I drink the tap water?
  • Bed bugs – or other words for dangerous bugs common to the area
  • Air conditioner/fan
  • I lost my key
  • Where is the bathroom?
  • Do I pay here, or can I have the bill?
  • Do you take credit cards or cash?
  • How much?
  • Too expensive
  • I’m not interested / No, thank you
  • Do you have change?
  • Can I try?
  • Hello, my name is…
  • Do you speak English?
  • Sorry
  • Slowly, please
  • I don’t understand
  • Goodbye!
  • Thank you and Thank You so much
  • Can I help you?
  • Where is the Embassy?

Use your Resources To Communicate While Traveling

We live in a world full of technology, and advanced communication devices. So it is so much easier to get past the language barrier than ever before. Here are a few resources I personally use to communicate in a different country.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Google Translate

My number one resource is Google Translate that I use on my phone, with the AT&T passport. The reason I like this so much is that you can do a voice to text with it. It also has a conversational function on it, where you can easily switch back and forth between languages and have them just speak into your phone. They check the text to make sure it is what they mean to say, edit what needs to be edited, and then you go back and forth.

This became very useful when I was trying to figure out what the safest way to get my friend to the airport was. It was in Santiago, I speak enough Spanish to get around, but when it comes to safety – you need details. So I was able to use Google translate, to understand how and who would take my friend to the airport. If you use Uber in the city, and the police catch you – you can get a $1000 fine. There were also reports of an unregistered Uber driver pick you up, and then take you to an obscure place in town – where they then rob you. S

I was also warned that I shouldn’t have bought the strawberries from the street vendors, because there was a big problem with diarrhea with travelers there. Apparently, turtles had invaded some of the water sources, and put Salmonella in the water systems – the locals were used to it, but travelers coming in – it was creating a big problem.

Kwikpoint

If you want something super affordable, can’t speak the language, and don’t draw pictures very well – then I would suggest a Kwikpoint card. This would be the bare minimum that I would take with you in order to communicate. You can get cards with small colorful photos on them, in specific groupings that visually can be easily recognized and understood throughout the world. If they don’t have it in their country, they will likely find someone who can explain it to you – or they can use their own phone/computer to use google translate to tell you.

how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country

Find A Common Ground

Let them know you are sorry you don’t speak their language but are trying to make things as easy as possible to have a good trip. This really breaks the ice and lets them know that you don’t think you are better than they are.

There are WAY too many times that I have heard people say, “Doesn’t anyone around here speaks English?” when traveling in a foreign country. This is absurd, and wouldn’t hold up in the USA if someone came and demanded someone spoke Spanish or French. So get off your high horse, realize it isn’t the USA – and so you should at least ATTEMPT to speak the primary language of the country you are visiting.

You have to remember you a VISITOR, not a foreign dignitary or some royalty that should be cow-towed to because you are an American. So check yourself, before you wreck yourself.

Now You Know How To Communicate In A Foreign Country

While you may not be fluent in the language of the country you will visit, now you have the resources to help put your mind at ease about the language barrier. Just don’t give up, be polite, stay calm and realize we are all humans. Invest in a good Kwikpoint card, Wifi, and make sure you can access Google Translate and I promise you will have no trouble navigating the world despite your language limitations.

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Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Choosing accommodation for your travel has gotten more complicated over the years. Often leaving folks confused and worried they will make the wrong decision. Especially with reports of travelers being attacked, personal items stolen, and even the rare occasion of someone being killed. So I put together a guide on things to look for when choosing accommodation for your travels.

From beginning to end, this will be the ultimate guide on getting started when choosing your adventure accommodation and staying safe when you do. Be sure to check out my other articles on Safety while solo traveling as well. It will give a more detailed view of tips on how to stay safe, as well as what to do if you feel you landed in an unsafe situation. So let’s dive in on choosing your perfect accommodation!

Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Your Destination – When Choosing Accommodation

  • Is it a third world country or a first world country?
    • When your choosing accommodations, look at what the place is made of. Maybe it is a wood/grass hut on the beach with opportunities for perfect pictures, but no hot shower – or the toilet is shared and across the village. Make sure you take note of what is included in the room before you book it. There are so many wannabe YouTubers out there – that you can get a general idea from videos on the area and accommodation. Even the poorest countries have a phone and Facebook so asking for a few photos or to confirm certain amenities is in your best interest.
  • Is it a remote small village or a bustling city?
    • If it is a remote village will you have a way to get there? Is that factored into your budget? If it is in a bustling city, how easy is it to find your way there and how costly. Is traffic going to be an issue? If it is then the taxi rates are going to be sky-high unless you can get them to agree on a set price before you get into the vehicle.
  • What type of activities are you going to be participating in?
    • If you are going to be visiting Macchu Picchu you will want to stay up near the entrance to get there before the crowds. Conversely, if you are only there for a short period of time, is it worth it to hotel/hostel jump from place to place? What if you are scuba diving out in Fort Lauderdale and it would be easier to get to the shop by staying on Singer Island rather than paying for a taxi multiple days to get back and forth. Are there activities at night and places to eat close to your accommodation. When you are fighting Jet Lag, you can often awake in the middle of the night with hunger pains that can have you chewing the arm of your travel companion off or eating the bar of soap.
  • Is the country conservative or are their citizens heavily restricted with rules?
    • When I was traveling with a Moroccan friend near southern Morocco, they are still ruled by strict social guidelines. So we had to pretend that he was my brother-in-law in order to be able to rent an apartment. Otherwise, they would have required to see a marriage document prior to renting the apartment. Several of them actually refused when they saw that he had a white American Female in the car. Given their point of view, I can see why several people refused (just in case he was kidnapping me – even though it wasn’t the case). Each place I stayed at also wanted a copy of my passport – which has ALL my personal information on it. So would you be comfortable letting them copy that information? Some places may refuse to rent to you if you are not comfortable giving that information. So these are just some things to think about, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
  • Are your comforts of home important to you?
    • It is important to remember that not every destination is going to have an air conditioner you can blast, fireplace you can light up, or even traditional heating. They may not even have a working toilet, or maybe you can sit on the toilet, shower, and brush your teeth all at the same time. We stayed in an apartment in Italy once as a family, where the smell of the sewer was so strong that we could barely shower. So be sure to read reviews and amenities of a location before going, so you can be well informed on what you will have to compromise and if you are willing to do that.
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Time of Arrival or Departure – When Choosing Accommodation

  • Do you arrive at night or during the day?
    • I typically look for the best deal on Booking.com when I’m attempting to rent a place. I really like the filters you can choose from, and you can easily decide if a hotel/hostel/B&B is right for you all on the same platform.
    • As the years of travel have come and gone, I have gotten a lot more detailed in my approach when renting an Airbnb, Booking.com place. Sometimes it is the best deal because it is a remote part of the city that isn’t safe to lug my big suitcase and a backpack full of camera gear. So it is definitely something to consider. Another thing to consider is how accessible it is to catch a taxi, the cost of an Uber or Lyft to and from the transportation stations (airport, train, bus). There was one morning in Poland I counted on being able to catch a taxi to the train station and found that in Poland – in the center of Warsaw – no one is awake before 8 am. So I had to get access back into the building I had just deposited my room keys into, so I could get Wifi to call an Uber.
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Your Budget When Choosing Accommodation

  • Does your budget include a fancy place to stay?
    • If this is going to be a relaxing vacation with lots of beach time, then maybe spending a little more on an all-inclusive resort would be worthwhile. If you are going to be out looking at historic sites in the center of the city, maybe it would be worthwhile to spend a little more of the budget to stay closer to those sites. If you are just looking to spend as little as possible, because you will be backpacking from one place to the next anyway, then maybe a hostel is your best bet.
  • Do you want to spend your vacation budget on your accommodation or on seeing the city?
    • The biggest beef I have with spending money on accommodation is that it takes away from my ability to spend money on tours, food and really experiencing the culture. So I tend to personally go for a cheaper (but comfortable) accommodation and then have loads left for tours and activities.
  • What type of vacation is this for you? Will you spend more time in a hotel (Honeymoon) or more time seeing the sites (on a group tour, or with a bunch of friends)?
    • If your vacation is going to be a romantic getaway, then I would tell you to spend a little more to have a cozy bed with a view and easy access to come back to the hotel frequently. If you will be in a tour group, they typically include the cost of the hotel, or I would get a hotel that will be close to the majority of your meeting spots.
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Your Desire for Convenience When Choosing Accommodation

  • Does the destination have Taxies or Ubers?
    • Believe it or not, not every country/city has Taxies or Ubers. There are equivalents available in some countries (see my growing Worldwide Airport Transportation List) but sometimes it is just good old fashioned walking, horse and carriage or a Tuk Tuk. In certain cities in South America, if you are caught by the police taking an Uber/Lyft (like in Santiago) then you can get a $1000 fine. So I would definitely consider how you will get around the city, and to and from the airport when choosing accommodation.
  • Is there public transport? Is transportation able to handle your luggage?
    • Once you figure out your mode of transportation to and from the airport, also consider if they will be able to handle the amount of luggage you are planning on bringing. I can tell you right now, a Tuk Tuk will not be able to handle two people with their luggage. When I was in San Pedro La Laguna, near Lake Atitlan – the roads are too narrow for cars in most places, often get flooded in the rainy season. The Tuk Tuks there couldn’t hold 3 curvy women at once, so I had to squat and pray I didn’t break my ankle because my leg was hanging out of the Tuk Tuk.
    • If you are being picked up in a shared ride, or transfer service (often found on the airline websites when you book your flight) – they may have luggage restrictions to two per passenger or less.
    • If it is a shared Uber/Lyft or Taxi – you will have to be considerate of other passengers who may not be as prepared as you are – or pack as light as you do.
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Your Travel Companions – Questions to Ask Before Booking

  • Do your travel companions have physical limitations? ie/ Wheelchair, bad knees, chronic pain
    • Americans are very lucky (and some countries in Europe), in that most everything is accessible to those with disabilities. Even in Scotland, there are things I took for granted in America that they do not have there due to the way the city has grown and morphed over the years. Working in the medical field it was eerie to me to not see elderly on the street – or those in wheelchairs or on crutches – there are seldom elevators unless specifically stated; Hostels, Airbnb, and B&Bs do not typically have elevators.
    • If you travel with Chronic pain and are stuck on an hour train ride in between the cars because you didn’t realize you had to reserve a seat and not just purchase a ticket – this could result in major pain that could result in a ruined vacation. So be aware of who you travel with, and have frank conversations about tolerance levels and ability to treat pain while vacationing.
    • What about those with bad joints, or those with heart or lung issues. Can they go up stairs, do they have elevators, what is the air pollution in the city like vs in the country? These are all things to consider and ask both the accommodation and your travel companions about. When I was in Edinburgh, and even in Marrakesh – I was grateful I had my inhaler because I have reactive asthma attacks. I get extremely fatigued, and a sore throat when the air quality is bad. Going up to high elevations quickly, like in Zermatt on the Little Matterhorn, at 15,000 feet – I nearly ended up in the hospital with an oxygen level of 85% because I discovered I was extremely prone to altitude sickness.
  • Do your travel companions travel light, or over pack with lots of bags?
    • Again, everything is a little bigger in America vs other countries. If you show up in Japan or China with 2 large bags and a big backpack – you may as well just buy an additional hotel room. Everything is small and jam-packed unless you know what you are getting into and can afford the larger hotel rooms.
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Your Activities When Choosing Your Accommodation

  • Are you going to have a car?
    • If you are going to have a car, is there parking available at your accommodation? If there isn’t, then you have to look at costs for parking – and if you are good enough at parallel parking. In Morocco, if you decide to drive there, the parking spaces are very very tightly packed. There are certain meanings when you flash your brights or turn on your hazard lights. They even have parking assistants that you have to tip at least a dollar every time they help you, otherwise, you can get punched (saw a legit street brawl between a parking attendant and a local – lots of blood). In Edinburgh, there are no parking areas, unless you want to pay $45-$85 a night at a very limited parking center in the city. In the center of Boston, the parking at any location can be upwards of $60 a night (minimum). So be sure you check on parking availability if you choose to rent a car, otherwise, it can eat your budget rather quickly.
  • Is accommodation close to affordable public transportation?
    • If there are no parking areas, is the accommodation close enough to (and safe enough) utilize public transportation? In Guatemala, it would have been cheaper to take the 5-hour bus ride to Lake Atitlan sure. Yet hiring a private ride for $60 for the 3-hour car ride through mountain passes where falling rocks, flooded roads is much safer and more reliable at 2 am.

Your Eating Habits When Choosing Accommodation

  • Is breakfast important to you?
    • If you like to sleep in but love your breakfast, then I would make sure you click on the filter option where breakfast is included in the cost, or there is a continental breakfast available. I could eat breakfast food all day everyday if I could. Dinner I just eat Almonds or a protein bar – but in Europe, Lunch and Dinner are some of the most important meals.
  • Check Local Holidays/Religious Events
    • This is something I discovered after dating several Muslim men, when they described their countries during Ramadan. A local religious holiday that lasts a month, where stores, and local eateries often close during the day for religious reasons. If you don’t know about Ramadan, I put together a basic guide on Ramadan, and when and why they celebrate. For the purposes of this article though, you need to know that stores will open after sunset/evening prayer, and close in the AM after morning prayer. If you are ok eating all night, and sleeping during the day, there are some special dishes that come out during Ramadan, and are only made during Ramadan that would be worthwhile to check out for all my foodies.
  • Do you like to eat out?
    • Are there places nearby that you can eat? If there are places that you can eat near your accommodation, is it the type of food you can eat? Do you have any particular dietary restrictions? If so, then looking at different neighborhoods where those are more likely to be available and have more variety. If you are Vegan, Vegetarian, or have any particular allergy to certain foods – then I would recommend using Pinterest to plan out your eating excursions before you go.
  • Do you cook your own meals when vacationing?
    • If you do have severe dietary restrictions, or like to eat a little healthier while traveling – then choosing an accommodation near a supermarket may be worthwhile. Try your hand at local cuisine, or even eat with locals through EatWith.com where you can schedule a meal with a local and other travelers, take a food tour, or even learn how to cook like a local.
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Will Your Personality Fit Your Accommodation

  • Are you a quiet hermit type? Are you outgoing and lazie faire? Are you refined and love that luxury life?
    • If you don’t like chaos, or can’t sleep through drunk people coming in and out at all hours of the night – then a Hostel is not for you. Do you like to be social, but still want your privacy and a relaxed environment? Then a Bed and Breakfast may be for you. Do you love luxurious surroundings, and value your sleep above all? Then a higher-end luxury hotel might be the best choice.
  • Do you like to live like a local?
Things to Look For When Choosing Accommodation

Safety Concerns To Be Aware Of

  • When staying in any location, it is important to know if you have the only key to the house, apartment, or room.
    • If you don’t, then I would suggest to my Solo Female Travelers that you demand this, or just look for another accommodation. If it is a Bed and Breakfast type home, where other people will be staying, this is fine, but you still want to ensure that you will be safe while you are sleeping – and there is lockbox for your passport.
  • Will you be alone or with other people?
    • If you will be alone in a dangerous neighborhood, then I would suggest getting a hotel closer to the city – and make sure there is good lighting on the street. Using Google maps street view is a good way to take a look at the neighborhood you will be going.
    • If you will be staying with other people, such as in a hostel, do they have lockers you can use? If so, are there locks you can rent, or do you need to bring your own lock?
  • Is the community gated/barb wire fencing?
    • When I was staying in Guatemala City, there were a lot of reports online that theft and muggings were common with tourists. Arriving late at night from San Pedro made me a bit nervous, as I didn’t properly scope out my accommodation. Driving into the complex though, provided a lot of ease of mind when I saw that there was a security guard, cement fencing with barbed wire on the top, and good lighting in the streets. So it really depends on the safety level of the country you are going to, how cautious you need to be, and how much research you need to do prior to finalizing your booking.
    • There are certain countries where tourists have to stay inside a compound for safety reasons. So for my adrenaline junkies out there, make sure that you understand the risks. If there is a safety advisory by your state/country department for that particular country – and you decide to go anyway; it could limit their ability and willingness to help you if you decide to ignore those warnings.
  • Do they have safety measures for fire hazards, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes?
    • If you are staying in a wooden bungalow in the Maldives, and a hurricane blows through while you’re there – because the prices were cheaper in the rainy season – do they provide, or have a safe spot or emergency evacuation plan/supplies to aid their guests? This is something that happened to a friend when in Jamaica, and they had to fend for themselves until the communities were stabilized. Luckily they were in a hotel, not a bungalow, and had some granola bars to tide them over while electricity was restored in the kitchens.
  • Getting Travel Insurance is a great way to ease the mind.
    • I typically will use World Nomads as my Travel Insurance for medical evacuation or any emergency needs/delays/cancellations. Something you will have to ensure with medical, natural disaster, or political unrest evacuations – is that the fine writing often says ‘will evacuate you to the nearest USA location or airport’. Well that doesn’t help you much if you are vacationing in South America, and they send you to a hospital in Atlanta – but your house is in Oregon. Medical Transport on a ventilator from one area of the USA to another is done by helicopter with a specialized team and starts at $15,000 depending on the team needed and flight time. So if you are from the USA, or are purchasing the insurance through your own country – I highly suggest you read the fine print on this particular portion.
  • Will you need to get vaccines prior to going?
    • If you are a US Citizen, there are certain vaccines that are mandatory if you visit a country where a disease is prevalent.
    • Some of the vaccines can be out of stock or on back order – so it could take months until you receive it. Be sure to check with your local health department on these specialty vaccines.
    • Getting the vaccines within a certain time period PRIOR to your departure is imperative. Your immune system needs time to work, and what if you have a bad reaction? The earlier you can do it the better is what I highly suggest.
  • Are there animals or insects that could come in while sleeping? Do they carry diseases? Does the accommodation have mechanisms to prevent this?
    • If you are terrified of snakes or creepy crawlies coming into your room at night – then any tropical environment, even Australia may not be for you, unless you stay in a place where this can’t happen.
    • If you are in Africa, having a mosquito net is essential as many parasitic diseases including Malaria are transmitted there.
    • If you are staying in a grass hut in South American, there is a bug called the Kissing Bug (bites near nose/eyes/mouth at night), that transmits a parasite that can live in you for decades before showing up as a major heart issue.
    • In hostels, there is a growing issue with Bed Bugs. I was attacked by Bed Bugs in a Hostel in Prague a few years ago. I had 32 bites all up and down my arms, legs, chest and even a few on my face. Little did I know that I was allergic to the bites, and ended up swelling at each bite, felt like I was hit by a bus for the entire time I was backpacking through Europe.
    • It isn’t just hostels though, Bed Bug reports in New York City were up by 40% in 2018. If you bring those little bastards home with you, guess what….it can cost anywhere from $1600 to $5200 to get rid of them. Often it results in you having to replace furniture, beds, clothes and other items that they squeeze into and lay hundreds of eggs. So consider yourself warned, research how to spot bed bugs, and make a rule that you put your bags outside the room until your inspection is complete. It only took once, to learn this very painful and difficult lesson.
  • Are there restrictions on staying with those of the opposite sex?
    • I touched on this previously when I was traveling with a local in Morocco. But I bring it up again here because some countries do not allow you to stay with the opposite sex unless you are married or have the same last name. So just inquire, before you book if you are concerned.
  • Is the destination friendly to the LGBTQI community? Would you be allowed to stay in the same room as your partner?
    • This one, unfortunately, is still not accepted worldwide. While the courageous individuals who are traveling to the more close-minded countries, and are helping to try to educate on this particular point – I would advise you to research this extensively. While I don’t really feel it is necessary to call out specific countries, I wanted to put this in this guide – because it can pose a security risk to members of the LGBTQI community.
    • A good resource for those in the LGBTQI community that want to travel is ‘Dopes On The Road‘ – this website will give you Safety Tips to Consider, questions to ask, and how to plan a honeymoon as a LGBT.
  • What about racial discrimination?
    • While I am a white American female, I do have plenty of inspirational women of color that I highly admire and look up to. One such person is, Glo, from the Blog Abroad – who is very frank, honest and open about facing discrimination while traveling and how she handles it. Another great resource for what it is like to travel like a black man is Erik Prince from Minority Nomad. His goal is to be the first black man to travel to every country and would be a great resource because so far (as of August 2019) he has visited 90 countries. Because of my own ethnicity, I think it is a subject that I regrettably have been ignorant of for my readers. So to those who are concerned about this, hearing it from a white woman isn’t going to ease your mind – so look up Glo and Erik – you won’t regret it.

Information Overload?

I know these are a lot of questions to process and take in, so it may feel like information overload. This is why I broke it down into bullet points because once you choose your destination, know your budget, and limitations or preferences of the people you travel with – it will be easy to skip over some of the questions.

I tried to include every question I ask when approaching a booking, or choosing an accommodation (traveling with my dog is a whole other article that I didn’t address). So if you are trying to book something luxurious, then you will have a guide – if you are finding accommodation in a busy city or a remote village in Africa then you will have a resource to remind you of how to best approach it and make the most informed decision possible.

Would you include any tips/tricks or advice to those who are just starting out booking their own accommodation?

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Empowering Mayan Women in San Pedro

Empowering Mayan Women in San Pedro

“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, 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 drawing on 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 would ask 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, a full-length ritual robe, 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 it.

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 power. The men often drink, and work is often hard to find, with very little pay. For this reason, she specifically buys the fabric for her company from local women and hires local women as seamstresses to make the clothing and bags, weave the ‘tehido’ that become the tassels on those bags, and as translators to assist with different Mayan languages, of which there are many. Some of the Mayan women Sheri works with speak little or no Spanish and having a translator has been crucial in learning about the different textiles, peoples, and towns around Guatemala. The money that the women make goes straight into their pockets, not their husbands, and they decide how it gets spent.

The women put a lot of their income toward their 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 detriment.

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 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 was born and raised in San Pedro La Laguna. She is Sheri’s friend, a seamstress for She Rides Dragons and so much more. Sheri and Dora met at a Spanish school in San Pedro where Dora taught Spanish. It wasn’t until months later that Sheri discovered Dora was also a seamstress and the two of them began working together on She Rides Dragons.

Dora 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 part of San Pedro. She is able to do much of this because of her work with She Rides Dragons, where she receives pay directly for her work.

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 cornfields and coffee farms on the steep slopes of the mountains and volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan.

Dora is now trying to pass on the love, by getting her Aunt involved. Her sweet Aunt Maria 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 cinder 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 3 different languages, and get the meaning across was quite comical but we made it work.

Maria, weaves all the tassels 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 fabric for She Rides Dragons comes from all over Guatemala. Fortunately for Sheri, there are fabric markets that offer up incredible inventories so that she doesn’t have to travel to each town when she wants that town’s specific style of weaving or embroidery. There are also traveling saleswomen who visit San Pedro La Laguna. These women make their living by selling second-hand fabrics that their hometowns. The fabric markets, as well, mostly offer second-hand fabrics with a much smaller inventory of new fabrics. When the Mayan fabrics and clothing, huipils (blouses) and Cortes (dresses), are new they are so colorful and bright that you have shield your eyes from their glare when the sunlight touches them.

In order to get the best quality fabric, Sheri 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) – to another town called Panajachel (Pa-na-ha-chel). Then it is a long hike up a hill to the fabric market. The market takes place twice a week at the fire station. Sheri has been coming here for four years and has developed a familiar relationship with one of the families that sell fabrics such that when she arrives they know exactly how much fabric Sheri needs, the kind she likes, and it is already, awaiting her inspection.

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 large 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 dock to take a launcha (boat) 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 sells huipils – the traditional blouses worn by the Mayan women in Guatemala – to meet with us the next day.

A Long Journey

The next day we head back to Dora’s House to meet with another inspirational woman, Rosa. It is a long journey for Rosa to meet with Sheri. She comes from a small town called Chajul (Cha-hool) that is about twelves hours away by bus. This is how Rosa makes her living, traveling around Guatemala and selling fabrics from her hometown of Chajul. The fabrics are gorgeous and coveted by many women all over Guatemala for their soft feel and durability. Sheri met Rosa 3 years ago when Rosa was traveling though San Pedro and selling fabrics at the Sunday market in San Pedro. Since that time they have developed a beautiful working relationship and Sheri is one of Rosa’s best customers, which is why she is willing to travel all the way from her home to see us.

Rosa arrives at Dora’s house with two large bags full of fabric, Cortes, and huipils. After greetings, how-are-yous, and some water to drink, Sheri, Dora, and Rosa begin looking through the bags. Sheri 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, Rosa takes the remaining fabrics and clothing to Panajachel to sell what she can at the fabric market. 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 local 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 caldera for the lake to be born. The lake itself is 1115 feet (389 meters) deep, and 11.2 mi × 5.0 mi (18 km × 8 km) surface.

The Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes mountain range surrounds this lake with the highest mountain, Atitlan Volcano, 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 are two other volcanoes that are also part of this range, Toliman volcano, and San Pedro Volcano.

There is so much Mayan folklore and stories that the local Mayans still believe about this place it is hard not to believe it yourself when you are there. The local mythology considers Lake Atitlan to be the birthplace of all creation.

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 – pooling 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 Maria 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.

Also, if you are interested in learning Spanish, Dora is an excellent Spanish teacher and does online classes starting at $10 an hour. Please contact 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.

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Where To Stay in San Pedro

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Where To Travel After A Breakup

Where To Travel After A Breakup

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 😉

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

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 😉

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

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? 😉

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?

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

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

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 😉