Sleep can be elusive for many people throughout the world. It tends to be even more elusive when you are traveling, due to being in a new environment. I see this in my elderly patients all the time who are admitted to the hospital. A new environment can disturb your sleep patterns due to noise, ambient light, bed width or firmness even in the best of circumstances. Yet there are a few over the counter sleep aids that I commonly recommend to patient’s and that I frequently use during my travels. I would highly recommend trialing these at home first and checking with your primary care provider before trailing any of the recommended sleep aids below.
While this is a supplement, it is commonly used as a sleep aid by many. It tends to work in those individuals who may have too much ambient light in their room. This chemical is released in the brain at night, when in complete darkness. There was a study that was looking at Night Shift workers and their release of melatonin, and if it was somehow related to having an increased propensity to breast cancer.
This is also an over-the-counter supplement utilized to help both sleep and mood. Emotional distress or high levels of cortisol released when traveling can disturb sleep and this supplement can help calm the body and aid in more restful sleep. 5-HTP is made from L-tryptophan, a substance absorbed from our food; after being absorbed it is converted into 5-HTP which helps regulate the serotonin cycles within our bodies. Seratonin is a chemical that helps with mood regulation and in turn sleep patterns.
3: Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs
This may be tailored to the individual, but having a sleep mask to block out ambient light, and earplugs to block out noise can greatly improve the quality of sleep an individual could get on a plane, in a hotel, or other accommodation.
I recently purchased this sleep mask that had eye pockets that are velcro adjustable. The eye pockets are elevated from the strap so your eyelashes don’t brush against the cloth. This particular velcro doesn’t catch my hair in it and pull it all out either, which makes it really nice when you wake up and don’t have to pull out half of your hair to take it off. I really like the adjust-ability that this eye mask has; each eye pocket can be taken off put either closer together or farther apart depending on the width between your eyes. While on my Red Eye flight to Florida I used this eye mask, and just felt as if I was tucking my eyes in under a warm blanket. It almost felt like I was getting ready for a spa treatment 20,000 feet in the air.
The only things I would say about this eye mask is that if you are a side sleeper it presses on the side of the face and can become a little uncomfortable when you try it for the first time. The other part, which could be good or bad for you is that it does get warm if you pull the strap too tight. I have a warmer body temperature at baseline, so I adjusted the strap accordingly and had a little more airflow coming to my face. Although, on my red-eye flight it was very nice to have the extra warmth on my face because the plane tends to get quite cold when it reaches cruising altitude.
Now I can’t travel anywhere without using this sleep mask. This sleep mask seems to meet all my needs, and exceed them with the adjustability with the eye width, complete light blocking ability, and won’t make me bald from the Velcro catching my hair. So should you need a sleep mask, may I humbly suggest purchasing this one.
4: Checking Hormone Levels
While this isn’t an over the counter supplement per se, it is imperative that if you have changes in your sleep patterns to see your Primary Care Physician. Low Progesterone levels in Pre-menopausal women can lead to anxiety. Hypo or HyperThyroidism can affect mood and in turn sleep as well. Low Testosterone can make you overly fatigued, causing you to feel you need to take more naps and then interrupt the circadian rhythms your body has. Lack of sleep can also affect your mood, appetite, and even your hormones.
ginger tea with mint and lemon
5: Herbal Tea
There are a plethora of teas out there that are both natural and soothing. Having a warm beverage with these calming herbs can help you sleep better at night. I personally use Sleepy Time Tea, Yogi’s Breathe Tea, and Peppermint Tea.
6: Turkey Dinner and Warm Milk
For those Omnivores out there, Turkey has a substance called Tryptophan – which as I mentioned before (see above) can help with your sleep cycle and sense of well being. The same thing can be said of warm milk. While I’m not personally a fan of warm milk alone, a good cup of hot cocoa for those who are not diabetic could be an option for a non-pill form sleep aid.
7: Warm Foot Bath or Shower
Changing temperatures from cool to hot has a natural effect of relaxation on the body. A study on Taiwanese individuals showed that increasing the blood flow through a warm (40 degrees Celcius) foot bath one hour before bed helped improve the skin’s blood flow through the entire body and in turn resulted in a better night sleep for individuals.
8: Keep Your Routine
The bedtime rituals that you have at home are imperative when traveling. If you tend to read a book, do yoga, or do a crossword puzzle before bed then try and do what your particular ritual is, right before bed. It helps let your brain know that you are in a safe place, that things are normal. It tends to relax me to keep my nightly ritual as I call it. I get ready for bed in the same sequence every night, and in the same way.
9: Avoid TV or Phone Use About 1 Hour Before You Sleep
Blue light blocking devices are becoming more popular with research indicating that the blue light can stimulate certain areas of your brain that stimulate wakefulness. Using a salt lamp, installing blue light blocking filters, or traveling with Amber Colored glasses can help with minimizing the blue light effect.
Exercise while traveling to help improve your quality of sleep. While most people argue that, ‘I’m on vacation, I don’t want to exercise’. I promise that you will enjoy your vacation more if you have a proper night’s rest – especially with Jet Lag. We all know the health benefits of exercise for mental health, and physical health, but did you know it can help regulate insulin levels as well? It is a natural way to help improve blood flow, relax those aching muscles after a long flight or ride and will allow you to enter REM sleep more readily while traveling.
11: Don’t Eat A Large Meal At Least 2 Hours Before Bed
Eating a large meal right before bed can decrease your quality of sleep especially while traveling. It can deter blood flow from the brain, from the skin, and goes to where you’re telling the body it is needed…..the stomach. It can also exacerbate issues like GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease which can disturb sleep.
12: Essential Oils
While there is a huge debate in the medical community on the utility and use of essential oils; I always tell my patients that if they feel it works then keep using it. I find that with my Asthma, having Eucyluptus essential oils with me helps my breathing at night (even if it is a sugar pill effect), it calms me and I tend to sleep easier. Lavender has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for sleep maladies and calming emotions. Popping in a tiny two-ounce bottle of essential oils to rub on my pillow at night helps to create an environment that smells like my home.
13: Check with Your Doctor
If you still have trouble sleeping, frequently wake at night, have high blood pressure, or sleep better with several pillows propping you up or have to sleep in a chair – I would recommend going to your Primary Care Doctor and getting a sleep study as these could be signs of medical conditions that require intervention. The key to sleeping well while your traveling is to create an environment that feels like home, make sure you exercise, get a balanced diet, and then supplement with a sleep aid when you can.
14: Play an Audible Book
This is one that is a personal preference but essentially functions in the same way that white noise does. It helps me to sleep by giving me something familiar to listen to when I’m not used to the new environment. I turn on an audible audiobook, and then close my eyes, letting the imagination of the authors slowly lull me into an imaginative sleep.
15: Write Down Everything On Your Mind
As human beings, we try to do so many things while the sun is up. Even stretch the night out as long as we can to finish just ‘one more project’. It becomes harder and harder for our minds to just relax and unwind.
I’m sure you have experienced it, where you are on vacation, and yet you can’t seem to let go of the stress of work. You find yourself sitting on a beach chair, with the ocean waves crashing beautifully into the shore with a vibrant sunset; yet you feel a little anxiety really letting yourself ENJOY the moment. If you have never experience this, then you have found that state of Zen that 90% of the world hasn’t.
For the rest of us who have experienced this, may I suggest bringing a little notebook with you. Write down your worries, your to-do lists, people you want to call when you get home, projects you want to check on when you get home. It helps to purge the thoughts, worries, and to-do lists and helps you enjoy the moment more. I would even venture to suggest that you turn your phone off. This is the only time that you can really disconnect from the daily grind, so take advantage of it.
Bonus: Avoid Caffeine After Noon, and the latest research to support this.
Avoid Caffeine afternoon is a tip I give my patients all the time. It is commonly known to have an effect on mental alertness. Did you know that it also has a direct effect on the stress hormone cortisol, the neurotransmitter dopamine and can induce a catecholamine response that elevates blood pressure?
At a baseline, cortisol helps regulate your sleep cycle, helps consolidate your memory during sleep, affects the function of your kidneys and regulates your energy balances. If you continue to consume caffeine past the time when your natural peak of cortisol happens, it can disturb your sleep cycle by directly altering your diurnal cycle or sleep patterns.
Some may say that they have developed a ‘tolerance’ to caffeine consumption, but research says otherwise. While you may develop a tolerance to be able to go to sleep even if consuming caffeine after noon; research shows that the effect of caffeine on blood pressure never diminishes. A friend of mine had a stroke at the age of 27, he was fit, healthy, and worked in construction. After consuming two red bulls, and a cup of coffee, and didn’t consume much water on a hot day in Nevada. He ended up having a stroke and now has deficits he will live with for the rest of his life.
Having elevated blood pressure, a spike in your stress hormones and neurological function right before you are headed to bed – doesn’t exactly make for a restful night of sleep. So skip the caffeinated beverages and swap it for your non-caffeinated herbal teas I mentioned before.
Goodnight, Sleep Tight
With all of these tips, and the tips I offered previously on How To Combat Jet Lag; I am confident that you will have a good night sleep, or at the very least see an improvement in the quality of your sleep.
If you have any additional tips on how to get a good night sleep or would like to share your night-time routine with the community – please leave a comment below. Happy travels Culture Trekkers.
Different people have different tolerance levels to risk, some are more comfortable than others with risk. Then there are those that can walk into a room full of tigers with a steak and not fear, while others see dragons waiting around every corner.
I feel that there are some companies that take advantage of fear, and utilize it to lure customers into using theirover priced services. While there are other situations where that fear may be warranted and proper precautions should be taken. It was overly present on the cruise I was just on through South America, and it made my blood boil that people were not more aware that it was happening. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to become educated.
Traveling solo can be a scary thing for females, but there are a few tried and true methods that I do on a regular basis. I also outline the steps I took when confronted with a scary situation that could have escalated to something more dire very quickly had I not taken these steps.
Please feel free to add your own tips and tricks or standard precautions for safety below. I would like this to become a good resource for our community.
Standard Precautions While Traveling Solo:
1- Don’t Drink Alcohol While Traveling Solo
We all know how Alcohol blunts the self-preservation side of ourselves, weather it be socially, emotionally or even physically. So why would you drink outside of your hotel/hostel while traveling solo? You could lose a lot more than just your memory of that night. I won’t get into the gritty details of all the things that could happen when doing this, but just don’t drink if you are traveling solo.
If you really like to have a glass to wind down, then do as many other solo travelers do. BRING IT BACK TO YOUR ACCOMMODATION! All you need to do is ask a local where they would suggest getting your preferred beverage, and bring it back to the hotel/hostel. Unless you have a trusted friend who is willing to trade off on the not so sober nights with you, just don’t drink….please…..trust me….it’s not worth the risk. Any frequent solo female traveler (and even some male solo travelers) that would say the same thing.
2- Minimize What You Carry With You
One of the first things that was suggested to me when visiting Santiago, was to minimize what I was carrying with me. The gentleman at Gen Hotel, said to not carry backpacks around in the major parts of the city as it is really easy for someone taller than me (I’m 5’4″ or 162.6 cm) to grab the bottom, pull it over my head, throw me off balance and run off with my valuables. I realized after years of travel how much I had been setting myself up for something like that.
He also suggested to not bring my phone or camera with me…..which is what I use to help bring this content to the Culture Trekking Community….that wasn’t an option.
The point is, look at what your carrying, think like the criminal – try to think of ways someone could rob you and prepare for it. If you want to bring something with you, then make a conscious decision to risk losing it. So if the worst scenario comes to pass, then at least you can console yourself in knowing it was a risk you were willing to take and won’t feel so violated knowing it was a possibility.
3- Keep a Copy of Your Passport and License
Keep a copy in the safe with your passport, keep a copy at home, give a copy to someone trusted, and keep a copy when your going around the city. If the hotel or accommodation doesn’t have a safe or doesn’t seem totally secure, then carry the passport with you in a bag or a place that it won’t easily be stolen from you.
That is your ticket home, don’t risk it, it isn’t worth the headache it would cause by not having it.
4- Give a copy of your hotels/itinerary/cards to a trusted loved one at home
It isn’t just a copy of your passport that you should give to a loved one or trusted friend at home, but also a copy of your major credit cards. I know some will consider this a risk in and of itself. Let me try and explain why I do this though; let’s say you are in an underdeveloped country and are having a hard time looking up the phone numbers to call the card companies. What if you are in the middle of no where, with just a satellite phone? You can call your friend at home, and ask them to call all credit card companies, and the social security numbers to help protect you; or at the very least give you the correct numbers so that you can call.
5- Take a Walk in Daylight to Get a Feel of the City
There is a certain vibe to every city that I visit. Some I feel more dangerous than others. I look at where locals congregate, how busy the area is, if there are a lot of homeless people, a lot of beggars, people talking on the phones or looking quiet. I also look to see if there are street patrols in the area. If you spot a cop, you are usually in a safe part of town. If there are no cops, and loads of people approaching you asking you to ‘come on the tour’, ‘I have special price’, or ‘do you need money exchanged’ – then I typically don’t consider that area safe.
Being able to ‘read the vibe of a city’ is something that comes with practice, but I gave you a few tips above that will help you see what I’m talking about on your next trip. If your gut tells you to be paranoid, or you feel nervous about the city AT ALL then make a rule you are back in your sleeping accommodation before dark. If not, just take a reputable taxi or uber to and from your desired destination or to the train station. Your concierge, or host should be able to direct you in how to look for reputable transport.
6- Don’t Set Your Bag Down
It doesn’t matter if you have a small purse, a large backpack, or a stroller. Don’t stop in the middle of a crowded street and set your bag down or take it off your shoulders. This opens it up for anyone that passes by to reach down and grab your items and run off to get lost in the crowd.
Make sure that if you are trying to get into your bag, even in a store that you take your bag to a corner, an alleyway that is still in view of the street but not directly in the line of the crowds and THEN pull out your money. Think of trying to light a match in the wind, that is how you should guard the visual on your money.
Not only does practicing this make it safe from people grabbing your bag and taking off; it also protects where you put the majority of your money back so people watching the tourists don’t know which pocket to target when attempting to pick-pocket you.
7- Learn Some of the Basic Words While Traveling
This has helped me more times than I can count in many different situations. I try and learn the following phrases:
What is your name?
How much does this cost? Can you put it in my phone?
Can you point me to where I’m going?
Do you take Credit Card or Cash?
Where is the Bathroom?
Can I have this?
Do you have water? (or other beverage of choice)
Where do I find? Can you Draw it on a map how to get there?
If I don’t have the phrase already in my phone notes, then I will pull out Google Translate and use a little data to get messages across. I also keep a pad of paper on me, and try to draw a picture of what I’m looking for (stick figures are fine if you can’t draw well).
8- Look Up What the Destinations You Want to Visit in the Local Language.
This is something I learned when visiting South America. While I do speak Spanish, it was difficult for me to know the EXACT spelling of the museum, destination, or eatery that was recommended in THEIR language. If you punch in the wrong name in the search bar in your navigator, it might lead you to the wrong place or cost an expensive trip to the wrong location.
9- Carry a Fake Wallet or a Belt Wallet
I use a fake wallet more than I use anything else. For the ladies, a good tip I use is by carrying the larger bills in my menstrual cycle pads. I think even just writing ‘menstrual’ I lost about half the male readers. There is just something about talking about that stuff that really turns guys into flibbity gibbities when you mention anything about it. Can you imagine if one saw a pad? Doesn’t matter the country your in, that is a taboo thing. There is also an unspoken rule with females that you just don’t mess with that stuff unless someone asks for it in the stall next to you. Bottom-line, it is a GREAT hiding place. You can also use cardboard tampons as hiding places.
The fake wallet is for bartering in the markets, I will put scope out the shops, and if I see something I like – I put the price I’m willing to pay for it in the fake wallet in an alley. Then I return to the shop and negotiate the appropriate price, unless it is far too expensive.
10- Stand Away From The Crowd
Street scams are on the rise, from the vendors claiming to give you a good rate on cash exchange. To people advertising good housing for a deposit. Or the unexpected street performance, with the accomplice in the back checking out your unguarded back pockets or purses. It is worth the effort to do a two minute search on ‘Scams in ______’.
One instance my parents had while traveling was when my Mom forgot to put her hidden purse inside the front of her shirt. While at a cross-walk in Europe, she was waiting to cross the street with my Father. There were several other people around and a girl with a newspaper kept bumping into her. She thought it was just the way that people did things in this particular area of the world. As they were crossing the street she heard yelling, and a man with his wife ripping the shirt up over the head of one of the girls. There was a lot of cash and passports that fell out. My Mom looked down to find her purse empty, her passport gone, along with the cash that she so recently had ‘safely hidden away’. She admitted that she had been tired, and felt safe enough in this particular destination that she didn’t think she needed to take such precautions anymore.
The man who caught the two female thieves, came up to my parents and gave them back their passports. If they would have lost those passports, they would have been stuck in that city with no backup and ruining their vacation at the US Embassy trying to find a way back home. (Getting a Passport re-instated, even if temporary can be costly, time consuming and puts people in dire conditions more often than you would think).
Moral of the story, avoid crowds, leave the passport in the safe in the hotel. Don’t get comfortable and make a mistake that could cost you more than you can afford.
11- Carry Your Back Pack in Front
This is a tip a Moroccan local taught me, to always carry your backpack in front of you with your arms tightly around it in the crowded markets or in front of street performers.
If you are seated at a restaurant, don’t hang your purse off the edge of a seat/table. Keep it at your feet or string your foot through one of the loops. Who cares if you look paranoid! It is better to be safe than sorry, as I always say.
12- Get Appropriate Vaccines and Carry Medication for Common Ailments
I took a course in college in Tropical Medicine and Parisitology. There are flies that can bite you and cause itching so bad you have to be sedated. Other larva that can burrow into the nether regions and cause infertility if you aren’t careful. Parasites that cause blindness, Malaria, burrow in your lungs etc.. Tropical diseases that will have diarrhea so bad you have to lie in a bed with a hole in it; will cause major heart disease when you are older, burrow into your brain or muscles and many other really fascinating but debilitating diseases.
Vaccines have a lot of controversy around them due to a study that was falsified and is no longer recognized as fact by the medical community. So be careful in refusing to get these vaccines for Typhoid, Yellow Fever, or the medication for Malaria. Be sure you visit the Center for Disease Control, or other government organization within your country to find out what is recommended for you. Each country has their own recommendations based off the diseases that their citizens have already been vaccinated for, or are known to be susceptible to based on their geographical location or ethnicity.
A good rule of thumb I make for myself when eating in other countries is that if I can’t peel it, cook it, or it isn’t fresh meat and the bathrooms aren’t clean. I choose to not eat there and keep a granola bar in my purse if my stomach starts to eat itself in hunger.
13- Carry a Back-up Charger for Your Phone, Don’t Keep it in Your Back Pocket
I NEVER keep my phone in my back pocket while traveling. I rely on the navigation in my phone so much when traveling I would be a sitting duck if I didn’t have it with me. This is why I keep it attached to my stabilizer, or I keep it in a deep pocket somewhere in a bag or in my bra (ladies will know what I mean).
Carrying a backup charger is essential for me when traveling, because of how much I use my phone for video, navigation, taking voice memos, and posting IG stories when I find a good Wifi to let people know I’m safe at home. It also helps me create a digital footprint, so should I go missing, or have something happen to me- someone will always know where the last place I was.
For those with high profile Instagram or Facebook accounts, you may want to create a private one that just updates family. The reason is, because I have had some of my friends say that they had people start to follow them on their vacation and make them nervous. So just keep that in mind.
14- Blend in With Your Outfits
Don’t wear an ‘I’m from Harvard’ in Europe, don’t wear a Rolex with a Gucci bag in South America. Didn’t everyone learn from when Kim Kardashian was robbed from flashing her bling around online? It is the same idea when you are traveling. If you go around in bright red or yellow flowy dresses, or leave your camera out on a tripod unattended…you are screaming to everyone there ‘ROB ME’! Be smart, or agree to the risks beforehand and take precautions.
Traveling Solo can be hard to take those enviable photos, and I am working on an article for the community on how to take those photos safely. Just ask another tourist to take the photo (if you can spot them, then the locals can spot them as well). If they are snapping selfies, rest assured they probably are tourists as well. You have to pick the oriental tourists though, they are MASTERS when it comes to taking the good photos (well the girls are anyway). I had one lady I asked take my photo and it turned into a full on photo shoot! Some people just really love helping others, and making your memory as good as you would have done it yourself. Asking other tourists is a good way to meet people you can collab with on touring the city with as well, and get discounts.
15- Be Vigilant and Defensive When It Comes To Crossing Streets in Developing Countries
Some 25,000 foreign tourists died in road accidents in 2009, don’t become a statistic. Stay at the back of the crowd crossing the street, always wait an extra 3 seconds to make sure no cars are running the red light. Follow the locals, observe how traffic patterns are functioning. Again, get travel insurance…it will save you should tragedy strike.
16- RESPECT Your Surroundings
Victoria Falls death, Bell tower death, agitating animals for photos, touching wildlife while diving.
How many times as a kid did you see the sign, “Don’t feed the bears” or any other animals. In Utah there is a constant reminder from the friendly Smoky the Bear encouraging kids from young age, ‘Only YOU can prevent forest fires’. Yet there are still those people that have not grown up, and try to push the boundaries with the thought that, ‘I’ll be fine, I’m not like them, I know what I’m doing’. Even I have fell prey to this during the wild flower festival in Alta Utah. While there were no ropes per se, there were clear paths. I decided to stray into a pretty wild flower patch to take some photos. I was then approached by the park ranger educating me on how I was ruining the experience for future generations. Apparently when you walk on the dirt where the wild flowers are, the ground gets packed down, preventing the wildflowers from growing. He said that it can take up to a decade for the natural (not artificial) growth of the wild flowers to come back because they need the certain type of soil to grow in.
So just because you think it is ok to cross that line, veer off the path, carve the name in the tree, hang off that rope or balcony, get closer to the edge for the best picture doesn’t always mean that it is the safest, nor the right thing to do.
What to Do in an Uncomfortable Situation or in an Emergency
1- Know the Telephone Numbers for an Emergency Personell
This is something I forget to do all the time before visiting a country. What if something did happen though? What if you were hit by a car and couldn’t get up? What if your friend falls down a ravine while hiking, or off a waterfall onto a rocky outcrop and you couldn’t get to them? Who would you call? How would you tell the services that you needed help?
This is where knowing the numbers for Police, Ambulance, and Rescue teams comes into play. Whatever activity you plan on doing, at least know the number to call for an Ambulance.
With terrorist attacks, accidents, and those Culture Trekkers who love adventure like I do….it is vital for not just you, but for those you leave at home that care about you that you know these numbers.
2- Know How to Ask for Help and How to Describe Your Location
This conicides with number one. If you are in a new country, are not completely fluent in the language – I suggest knowing at least the basics of how not just to call for help, but describe what is going on.
Know how to say, ‘I’m hurt and need help. I don’t speak the language. I’m located here. Do you speak English, German, Spanish, French or whatever your native language is. You might be bilingual, I don’t know, but the brain is hardwired to forget the language that you may not be fluent in during a crisis situation.
3- Learn How to Say ‘Stop’ Your Making Me Uncomfortable, and How to Say NO.
I had a man on a train get very close and personal with me in a very uncomfortable way. I tried to shove him off and look for help from fellow passengers, but because I didn’t speak the language – he was able to play it off that we were a couple just having an argument.
This is why learning how to say STOP, your making me uncomfortable in whatever language the country your visiting speaks is vital. Also being able to ask the fellow passengers, ‘Can you point me to the direction of help, to make this person stop harassing me would be’.
4- Go to a Museum
Sometimes even asking for help, or saying ‘STOP’ to the harasser will not dissuade them from following you. If this is the case, or you meet someone on the street, or someone is following you and your gut tells you it might be dangerous….LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS!! It is better to be safe than sorry.
The man mentioned in item three, changed his plans, tried to follow me through the city. Attempted to pull me into an alley, and I knew that twisting my hand towards his thumb forcefully would break his grasp. I continued to twist, turn, cross streets to distract him; it was very early in the morning and there was no one on the streets I could ask for help.
I decided to go into a museum, and that is when he became desperate. He grabbed my coat, asked me to not go, I twisted, and ran the rest of the way into the building. Talking to the Musuem guard/police, I asked them to keep an eye out for this person (who I snapped a photo of, just in case something happened). They made sure the coast was clear, and I took a different route on a main road to the next destination.
It put me on edge for the rest of the trip, but now know that entering a place where artifacts, art, or any other major tourist attraction is — will always have guards somewhere that you can ask to help you. They would probably welcome the distraction and help.
I know this mostly applies to females, as men would likely just punch him til he left them alone. Females who choose to travel solo, it is always good to have a plan, so if your instincts are screaming at you to run or be afraid – I can’t stress it enough….listen to them.
5- Get Travel Insurance
I have never considered getting travel insurance in the past, until this last year when I attended a travel conference. This is when I was able to sit down with Allianz Travel, and World Nomads Travel Insurance and ask them what they cover versus my Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Insurance I have.
So I called Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and with my medical background, having worked in both the Intensive Care Unit and in the Operating Room – I know what worst case scenarios look like and how much that can cost.
For the most part, BCBS covers most of what they would cover for an ‘out-of-network’ provider, should I need to have a visit to the Emergency Room, or end up in the hospital for whatever reason.
What they don’t cover is repatriation, or bringing your body back, should you suffer a deadly accident (or get caught up in a disease outbreak like they had in Africa). The problem with them not covering this, is that your family or loved ones will not get closure. You don’t know what that country will do with your body, and the cost of repatriation (at least in the United States) can be upwards of $10,000 dollars due to the special requirements for transporting back into a country are.
If your saying, ‘well I will be dead, so who cares’; here is the other thing that Travel Insurance covers though: stolen cameras, computers, emergency evacuations, cancelled trips, delayed baggage, delayed flights, dental emergencies, search and rescue should you have an accident with diving (which I’m doing more of now) and over 200 other adventure activities that you don’t even think of when visiting a foreign country.
Now I don’t travel without it, it is better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Many of my fellow travel savvy friends use World Nomad Insurance, as it seems to have the best coverage for the price, but you can also look at Allianz Travel Insurance and compare the two. Pick the one that will fit both your budget and what you plan to do.
6- Call the Embassy
If you are feeling extremely threatened and fear for your safety due to riots or unstable local situations, get incarcerated by a ‘dirty cop’ or for doing something stupid, lose or have your passport stolen. These are all examples of situations that you would need to call the Embassy for your country for. Be sure you know where they are located, and the best way to get there should the local situation become unstable.
As Always…Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and I’ll See YOU on the Flip Side.
Hello Matt! I almost feel wrong saying Matt, I have always known you from your Superstar Blogging Course as Nomadic Matt. I have learned a lot from your courses, and have read a lot about you and your work, but my readers may or may not know you. Would you mind giving a brief background for them on how you got started in blogging, and how long you have been doing it?
Matt: Thanks for having me, Janiel! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nomadic Matt. For the past decade, I’ve been traveling the world and blogging about budget travel at nomadicmatt.com. My goal is to help make travel accessible by showing people how to travel cheaper, better, and longer. I started blogging back in 2008 as a way to showcase my writing. I wanted to be a travel writer, and I figured creating my own website would be a good way to highlight my abilities.
While that didn’t exactly work out, my website became popular in its own right, and I actually write my own budget travel guides these days. So, while things didn’t work out as I planned, they definitely still worked out! In addition to running a blog, I also manage a media school, a charity, an online community of 20,000 travelers from around the world, and the world’s biggest travel conference. Oh, and I somehow still find time to travel too!
Let’s get into the meat of what I wanted to ask you about, how to find meaning behind the destination. In one of your articles, you suggested Viz eats, where you can go and eat with locals. How else do you connect with locals in a country or city that you may or may not speak the language? What would you suggest for those who are introverted vs extroverted?
Matt: We’re living in the golden age of budget travel, with cheap flights and the sharing economy giving us an infinite amount of choice when it comes to travel experiences. If you don’t speak the language in the destination you’re visiting, there are still plenty of websites and apps you can use to have unique, local experiences. Some of my favorites are:
Couchsurfing.com: where you can meet with or stay with locals.
Meetup.com: a great platform for finding people who share similar interests.
Vayable.com: a website that offers unique tours and travel experiences.
Blablacar.com: a rideshare program where you can share a ride with locals.
By embracing these non-traditional platforms you’ll be able to have an experience that is unique and centered around local interactions. The best thing about these platforms is that you can enjoy them even if you’re an introvert. You’ll need to push your limits a little bit, but both introverts and extroverts will be able to take advantage of the sharing economy. You’ve just got to be willing to take the plunge!
When you make the effort to connect with the locals, do you find that you remember these trips more than others, or are these the trips that hold more meaning for you?
Matt: Not only does connecting with locals make the trips more memorable, but it adds depth to your travels as well. You’ll find out new tidbits about the culture, discover hidden restaurants or attractions, and see the destination from a more nuanced perspective. At the end of the day, it’s the people you meet that really make your travels the incredible experiences that they are. But it doesn’t always have to be locals — meeting other travelers can be just as insightful and rewarding. So always be willing to meet new people when you’re traveling. You never know just what opportunities will come your way because of it!
Do you have any volunteering groups, organizations that you know of that could make travel more meaningful? I’m thinking of those who want to give back, have skills, but in some areas may not be as welcome as others. For example, I work in the medical field and when I asked a friend in Jordan if they needed medical aid for the refugee camps. The response was, ‘We can help ourselves, these are people not some animals in a barn that you can come take photos with to feel better about yourself’. So I would ask you, in your professional opinion, what is the best way to volunteer for a few days, weeks or years? Do you have any organizations you would recommend?
Matt: Volunteering abroad can be tricky, as you want to make sure you’re working with a group or agency that is helping make real change as opposed to just offering tourists a chance for a photo op. There are plenty of travel scams out there that offer shady “volunteer” experiences to tourists that actually do more harm than good. So when it comes to volunteering, research is vital. I would also encourage people to look for opportunities that last weeks (or more) instead of days. Volunteering anywhere for just a couple of days, I would say, isn’t really going to make a huge difference; that’s the kind of experience that is there to just make travelers feel better. If you want to make a lasting difference somewhere, spend a few weeks volunteering. That will give you time to fully learn your role and make a lasting contribution.
I know you have your own non-profit you have started. Can you tell me a little bit about that and what made you want to pursue establishing FLYTE?
Matt: The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) is a non-profit that helps high school students in underserved communities travel abroad with their classmates. Every year, we send a group of students abroad to a country of their choosing. So far, we’ve sent students to Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Many of these students have never left the USA, so these trips open the world to them and show them just how transformative travel can be. As travelers ourselves, we’re all aware of the amazing and eye-opening experiences that travel can offer. These experiences are a privilege not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, so I wanted to create a project that enables everyone to see the world with their own eyes with the hope that these experiences will encourage them to travel more in their personal life. The more we travel, the more cultural bridges we build and the more understanding we create. And I think the world needs a lot more of those two things these days!
Being a person who has traveled so extensively, having books, websites, non-profit program, and now Travel Conferences. Do you ever find yourself feeling isolated or lonely? If so, who is the go-to person that helps you out of that feeling? If not, what do you do to combat this loneliness or are you just too busy to think about it?
Matt: I’ve always been more introverted than extroverted, so I actually enjoy those rare moments when I’m alone. It gives me time to catch up on things like reading and writing and gives me more mental space and freedom to relax. While I love meeting new people, both at home and abroad, I also value my personal time so whenever I feel the need to connect I’ll make sure to reach out to my friends and make plans. Whether it’s dinner, drinks, or going to see some music, I think having a community is what helps keeps me sane when I need a break from work.
As an entrepreneur, there is always more work to be done so I could easily spend my days and nights hunched over my laptop. Having friends I can escape to not only gives me a reason to take a break from work but it gives me time to refresh and recover, and it gives my brain a chance to digest everything that I’m working on. So, while I am always comfortable being alone, I think it’s important to have people you can turn to whenever you feel the need to connect.
I always feel like laughter is the best medicine, there is nothing like endorphins coursing through the veins. So my last question is this…what is the funniest travel story you have?
Matt: I think the best stories are always funny in hindsight, though at the time they might not seem so funny. The best example of this from my travels happened when I was backpacking around Spain. I awoke to the noise of one of my dorm roommates banging on the door as he had locked himself out.
I reluctantly rolled out of bed to let him in before plopping back down into my bunk. But then I noticed something: a terrible smell. The smell, it turns out, was coming from my hand. It was shit. I immediately got up and rushed to the bathroom to find shit all over my hands, as well as the doorknob and trailing back to the bed of the backpacker who I just let in. He had shit himself. I confronted him about it, but he tried to say it wasn’t him…even though the evidence clearly proved otherwise. Later that day I checked out and went to a hotel. I figured some privacy was worth the extra cost — especially if it meant no one shitting in my room!
Well Mr. Nomadic Matt, it has been a real pleasure getting to know you on a more human level. I appreciate you taking your time out of your schedule to do this. I wanted to also say thank you, from the bottom of my heart for always being upfront, open and honest about all of your work, courses, and conferences; and thank you for being open and honest about your answers today. If anyone had questions, where can they reach you or your team?
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.
Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:
Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
Provides access for physically challenged people
Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.
Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:
The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.
It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!
Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?
Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.
Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.
Supporting Companies with good causes:
Save the Baby Turtles!
A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!
Soul Flower Clothing Company
As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:
Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”
To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:
The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment. I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist
Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.
You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!
Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:
Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:
Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.
The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.
Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:
Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.
Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.
Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:
Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.
It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.
With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.
Small changes can make a big difference:
Wear environmentally friendly products:
Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:
This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.
A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:
Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org
Straws:The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).
Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more:Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.
Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).
IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW 🙂
A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.
Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.
How To Tour Responsibly:
We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.
Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.
Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site. Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.
How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?
What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?
No matter if you are traveling with children, alone, or just with your furry friend – Road Trips can either be Hell on Earth; or a vacation in and of themselves. So after driving all over the Western United States for most of my life, here are a few Travel Hacks for Road Trips I highly recommend following when planning your own Road Trip at home or abroad.
This is a fantastic app for your road trip, and can also be accessed online to help plan your vacation on the road. I first found and utilized this when taking a Road Trip from Dallas Texas to Nauvoo Illinois. I was going to be traveling through a bunch of open fields. After planning out my route I explored all the spots along the road that had a good rating and found this gem in the middle of nowhere! It is in the Spinach Capital of the United States. A statue of the spinach-eating machine himself has his own little garden and fountain. This also happens to be across from the Police Station, so you have ample entertainment for all!
This app and website are a fantastic way to make those 12 hour drives a little more bearable on the road. From a medical standpoint, it also gives you an excuse to get out of the car every few hours to walk around. People who sit and travel long distances can have swollen legs and blood clots at times as well if they do not walk around sufficiently.
How to stay awake while driving
Get enough rest the night before
Doing this will help you be more alert on the road and less prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
IF YOU ARE TIRED AND START TO LOSE CONCENTRATION THAT IS THE FIRST SIGN YOU ARE AT RISK FOR FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.
Pull into a gas station and take a power nap.
I have done this a few times in the past, where I pull into a busy gas station and take a 15-20 min nap. This always helps me feel more refreshed.
Avoid sugary foods or high carbohydrate content as your snack.
When you eat high carbohydrate and high sugar content foods, it starts a vicious cycle of fatigue. Why? Well, you eat that doughnut or candy, your body sees it as too much sugar, so it releases insulin and then drops your blood sugar again. Then you become very sleepy or hungry again, starting the cycle over. I try to avoid sugary foods whenever driving for this reason.
When I get warm I tend to fall asleep much easier. It is more comfortable to be warm, but I would rather have cold toes and arms before risking crashing my car and killing someone else.
This is my favorite way to stay awake. Imagine this like the old radios back in the day that would tell the cowboy stories to the children. The children would be so enthralled by the battles and day to day explanations because they didn’t have TV, this was their entertainment.
Audiobooks typically have quality actors and actresses that are able to do multiple accents, voices, and inflections to keep the listener engaged. Yes, some of the audiobooks are entirely too boring and drab to listen to on the road, but there are many that are not.
I personally have signed up for Amazon’s Audible Book subscription for $14.95 per month. I am an affiliate with them, but I have never been more grateful for the positive entertainment value it provides and now listen to them on the way to and from work all the time.
This is something my flatmate is really into. She has several Podcasts that she listens to on a daily basis to and from work. I think this could also work for road trips as well, you may just need to download the podcasts to your mobile device prior to starting your trip.
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
If all else fails, just start swigging Caffeine. Think of all those boring meetings from work you have survived on the sweet nectar of the Gods.
Travel with a friend:
Switching off while driving is really important while on the long road trips and stretches of the road.
Stretches and Facial exercises:
This is an odd one, but I start stretching my legs, toes, fingers, neck, back arms etc…. It keeps your heart rate slightly more elevated than at baseline, thus increasing blood flow to your brain and keeping you refreshed.
Facial exercises also help to keep me awake at the wheel. I open and close my mouth as hard as a can, wiggle my jaw side to side, see how many animal sounds I can make with my tongue etc….
Check road conditions and weather conditions
With the age of the internet came the ability to check your road conditions prior to starting your journey. There have been several instances that I wish I would have, and others where I didn’t and wish I would have.
There was one instance where I didn’t want to leave my parents house to drive back to Las Vegas and did not look at road conditions. I ended up leaving the house when it first started to snow, and by the time I hit Cedar City Utah, I was in a complete blizzard. Traveling at 25 mph on the freeway because of road conditions, and was nearly hit by a snow plow.
Organizing the car
This is paramount for safety while driving. The less distracted you are on the road, the better off and safer you will be.
I will put all the luggage in the very back of the car, the cooler in the middle of the back seat where it is easy for your friend to reach if needed. If you are traveling alone, set up your ‘snack bag’ where you can easily reach it.
Make sure you have Sunglasses to help with Glare.
If you are driving at night, turn down the dashboard lights. This will help your eyes not feel as tired from trying to adjust to the brightness of the dashboard vs the road.
Have your music or audible book playing before you put the car in drive.
Garbage bag, paper towels, and Kleenex should also be nearby where you don’t have to bend over, reach, or stretch to access them.
Check Your Car for Maintenance
Before you pack anything in the car, make sure your spare tire is filled up and in good condition.
Have a small gas can handy, just in case you miss an exit and the next gas station or turn around isn’t for another 50 miles and you are on empty.
Make sure you check your tire pressure after everything is loaded and in the car.
Change your oil, cabin filter, and engine filter before you go. This will help with gas mileage in your car.
Have your local mechanic esure all fluids are topped off, and the washer fluid is the appropriate one for the area you are traveling to.
I once was driving from Las Vegas to Utah in the snow and went to use my windshield wiper fluid and it froze on my windshield. I had to do an ACE Ventura head out the window to drive to the next town to get it fixed. They had to thaw out the windshield wiper lines with a hairdryer and vinegar, then unplug them. This really cut into my total driving time and was a major stressor. So mention to your mechanic if you find you will be driving to different climates and what they suggest for those areas.
Plan for Gas Stops
Don’t push the car to the point the gas light comes on! I always make a rule for myself that should I take a long road trip where I have never been before I never let the tank get down past 1/4 tank. Even a 1/4 tank is pushing it for me, I typically will fill up at 1/2 tank because I know I will be able to drive for several hours to the next gas station.
Get On The Road Again
Road trips can be a fantastic way to make bonds with friends, and see new destinations. It is important to plan, stay safe and stay awake on the road. There are over 100,000 car accidents per year from people falling asleep at the wheel in the United States. Make sure you know your own limits on when you need a break, even if it is just a mental break. There are plenty of unique things you can see on the road, not every place has to be Instagram worthy. The best adventures will always be the locations that make you feel more fulfilled and productive in your daily life, spark your creativity or help you create a more meaningful connection.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales & See You On The Flip Side.
The first time I backpacked through Europe as a US Citizen, I was entirely overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t the only foreign visitor who was confused, there were so many people who had questions about how this complex interconnecting system worked. So for those first timers out there, here are my Top 15 Tips for Travel by Train in Europe.
Just because you have a Eurail pass, doesn’t mean you have a reserved seat. So be sure to buy that extra ticket in order to reserve a seat. Also, make sure you are there at least 30 minutes early so you don’t miss your train. Especially if you are traveling across country lines. Only buy tickets from reputable places, there are a lot of scams in Europe around travel. Educate yourself on how to avoid scams in Europe.
2- Check Your Platform And Car Number
Get on the right train from the right platform. Look at the train names above the numbered platforms. Then make sure that the car you enter is the exact car you need to take. The cars separate at different stops and you don’t want to be left behind unknowingly.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ASK!!!! Ask someone after you get on the train if you must. They will close the doors when the conductor blows the whistle. The trains in Europe wait for no one.
3- Anticipate The Need To Run
Once seated, look at your ticket……look at the next platform you need to go to. Look at when your train arrives and when the next departs. You may need to run across the station to platform 12b from platform 1a in 15 minutes. There is always going to be someone slow in front of you, so take the stairs.
4- Scan Your Ticket To Get In And Out
Keep your ticket in hand! You need it to scan in and scan out of each of the train stations. The ticket must be current, or you can get a fine. If you have a Eurail Pass, you can just scan the code on the outside of the ticket to get through the gates. The Eurail tickets sometimes have their own gates. Try to go with the gate not everyone is going through (if you can’t understand the Language).
5- Check The Type Of Train You Get On
Make sure you are getting on the right type of train. If you get on the wrong train you can still get fined. It may be going to the right place, but if you get on the faster train or get on an inter-city train instead, you can get fined. B
6- Bring Your Own Supplies
Bring your own water, your phone charger, and a Travel Pillow— especially if you have a sleeper train — small backpacks are the best…..just minimize by packing like the news told you the city was going to be bombed and you had 15 minutes before you had to be evacuated. That will get you everything you need in one bag. Yes, you will probably smell……bring Febreeze…..trust me…..there are people who smell worse on the trains.7 – Take Your Trash With You
7- Take Your Trash With You
Take your trash with you when you exit the train. There are small little garbage cans underneath the tables or right under the window on most trains. These fill up very quickly, as well as the ones in the bathrooms, so take your rubbish with you when you get off.
8- Sit In Seats With No Reservations
Don’t sit in a seat with a paper at the top or an electronic name above the seat…..You will lose your seat. I had this experience once, and that is all it took for me to learn to not do this. Was very unpleasant to be laughed out of your seat by a group of teenage boys. Then I stood in the café car for two hours till the next stop, the train was so full you couldn’t find a seat even between the cars.
9- Treat The Train Like You Would Your Living Room
Don’t put your feet up on the seats, or let your luggage take a seat near you. Put your bags on top and your coat on the hooks. MOVE if there are people looking for a place to sit. You wouldn’t want to sit on a spot where someone’s muddy shoes have just been, ruining your outfit. Take your shoes off first at least before you do this. They don’t exactly clean these seats regularly.
10 – Be The First In Line, In the Right Spot On The Platform
Be the first in line to get on the train…..the seats run out very quickly. Don’t be rude and shove people aside, but if you have the chance, stay close to the train. I also would gauge where the train door would stop ultimately by the train next to us. You stand right where the train opposite would stop, and you get to be the first one onto the train! Worked like a charm every time. Most people just stand at the platform thinking if they are near the front they will get a seat, this is not true. If you are at the front of the platform, right where the doors are going to stop, THEN you will get a seat.
11- Pack Light
Please don’t bring 500 pieces of luggage that require you to ask for help onto and off the train. If you cannot easily get up and down 4 very tall 18-inch steps with both luggage pieces in hand…..people will get mad. The longer you take to board the train the less likely the people behind you will be able to find a seat.
12- Sitting In Between Cars Is Uncomfortable
If you are just going one stop, you can sit in-between the cars. If you try and do this for the entire trip….you will have to get up and move every time someone opens the car doors……very annoying.
13- Sit In The Cafe If All Else Fails
There are seats in the back at the café car that you can order food and sit or stand there. I wouldn’t recommend this, as it gets crowded very very quick. No one can eat for 6 hours straight…..you would go broke.
14 – Limit Your Bathroom Use When Possible
Don’t try to use the bathrooms unless it is an emergency. If you do try and use them— bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper in your purse. The few I did have to use were so gross I was gagging. One had a floor so sticky and stinky that I had to breathe through my mouth. A coin-operated train station in Amsterdam was another bad experience. This particular bathroom had no toilet paper (luckily I had Kleenex in my bag), the sink had a powerful water flow and you could literally see the poop near the walls of the sink.
I am a pretty laid back person when it comes to expecting things to always be perfect (if you do expect it, your trip will be horrible); but this particular restroom was the most disgusting one I have used in the ENTIRE world. Who would have thought that a train station in the Netherlands would be that gross…..they are usually a very clean people.
I will say this though, there are some trains (typically the newer ones) that have decent bathrooms with air-fresheners and everything. They give hefty fines to people who are caught using first class bathrooms without a ticket.
15 – Getting A First Class Ticket Can Be Worth It
If you get a sleeper car for an overnight train trip, get one in first class with one other person if you must. I’m telling you….. it is amazing, and I actually slept…..everything is so clean and really just like a hotel room. You even get breakfast. Second class sleeper trains are adequate but don’t expect to have it be perfect.
My experience with the Second class sleeper was with 4 people in it, and nowhere to put your things because the ladies on the bottom bunks took up all the space. On top of that, you are usually at the end of the train which is a lot more bouncy and less restful. The Air conditioner broke and it was so incredibly hot woke up drenched in sweat. The gentleman in charge of our car and cabin just apologized, said they tried to fix it, and there were no other rooms for us to go
Make Train Travel in Europe Easier
Now all these things may make you not want to take the train at all. These 15 tips, were constructed from the worst parts of my experience. These tips and tricks will help your experience better. There are many many more wonderful parts of train travel, that can end up being a really great experience. My luck on trains is not the greatest. Apart from the one time I got a first class cabin all to myself. Being in first class was sooooo worth the money! To be in a cool, quiet, restful place with an attendant who really cared.
So don’t let this article deter you from train travel, it really is a great way to get around. I hope these things have helped and will allow at least those in the Culture Trekking Community to travel with ease, by learning from my mistakes.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See You on the Flip Side.
How many times has your Mom told you that you need to be careful? Well in this case she is right, Hiking in any terrain can be hazardous if you don’t have at least a basic knowledge of safety tips for hiking. Here are my own top 15 safety tips for hiking that I personally utilize when I go out on an adventure.
Tell Someone Where You Plan To Hike
Tell someone where you intend to go with a map of stops you plan to make and where you plan to park. Leave some dirty laundry for the dogs to sniff should you get lost. I know this sounds really silly, but living so close to the Wasatch Front Mountains in Utah, we hear about people being lost, falling off trails all the time. Despite avalanche warnings, the high river swells, and inclement weather – there is always the ONE person who doesn’t listen or thinks it does not apply to them.
Wear Bright Colors When Hiking
Wear bright colors so you can easily be spotted, for winter avoid light colors as it can blend in with the snow. Summertime wear a reflective vest. If you haven’t seen the movie 127 hours, you should. It takes place in Utah, and the guy made all the wrong choices when it came to safety. The only thing he had going for him was to cut off his arm after being pinned in a crevice.
Stay On the Trail and Set A ‘Turn Back Time’
Stay on the trail and set a time limit for your final destination or turn back spot. Even if you don’t make it to the final destination it is better to be safe rather than sorry! I get lost incredibly easy due to my inability to tell if I’m headed North or South etc… I always stay on a known trail that has a name and try to stick to the well worn or trampled trail as I know I will always be able to turn around and go back.
Bring Water and/or a Water Filtration System With You
Bring a Lifestraw or a camelback with the water you will need, a snack and an emergency blanket should you find yourself lost overnight. A flashlight can also serve as a beacon should a helicopter be flying overhead at night. I like to bring flashlights that are manually charged in addition to my headlamp. This way if your batteries on your headlamp were to go out, you could still manually charge the handheld flashlight.
Bring a First Aid Kit
Bring a small first aid kit complete with Band-Aids and a sling. The classic triangle sling or even a bandana can be used to create a tourniquet. This will account for the more serious injuries and small cuts or blisters. Band-Aids for the blisters and minor cuts, a snake venom kit should you be hiking in the bush or the desert. Check local hospitals if snake bites are common and where the nearest facility is with anti-venom. I know that in Utah, we have to be careful in the summertime when the snakes are more active. Do not bring your pets on trails that warn of snakes on the trail as this can make them more defensive and likely to attack. I also like to bring along my trusty Swiss Army Pocket Knife…..I always say, “You can never go wrong with a bandana, pocket knife, and duct tape”.
Wear Sun Protection
Wear Sunscreen, especially at higher elevations as Sunburns are often more likely to happen. I have seen skin cancer cases that have left my patients disfigured and debilitated, some even that have progressed to melanoma. So do yourself and your loved ones a favor, wear at least an SPF rating of 30 with a hat. If you have a bald head, don’t forget to cover that up & put sunscreen on your ears, neck, and chest. Wear sunglasses that have full coverage of UV rays.
Heat Stroke And Dehydration Precautions
Know what Heat Stroke and Dehydration look like, and what the best way to treat it in the wilderness is. Check weather patterns and never start a hike that looks like there will be lightening, when you are on the side of the mountain, you may as well put a target on your back that says, ‘hit here first’.
Wear Supportive Shoes
Wear shoes that are supportive and slightly above the ankle joint. I have seen so many broken ankles over the years, and not from just missing the curb. You can be hiking along, hit a rock in just the wrong way. Your balance can be thrown off, you try and catch yourself, and *SNAP*, 4-6 months on crutches. Depending on where you break your bone will determine if you need to have surgical intervention. So be careful people, as much as I like doing ORIF’s of the Ankle, it is miserable for the one getting it done to them.
Wear Proper Clothing
Moisture-wicking clothing and cotton clothing that is UV resistant. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see light through your clothing, so can the sun. Even in the Summer months, a fleece sweater stuffed in the bottom of your rucksack is a good rule of thumb. If someone was to sustain a bad fall and go into shock, having an extra layer around can save someone’s life.
Use Common Sense
Don’t take people up on dares of ‘Who can climb that shale 80% grade to the top of the mountain the fastest and not fall off the sheer cliff’. I feel this is more common sense than an actual safety tip. However, my six years in the operating room taught me one thing, common sense is not so common.
Have a Contingency Plan for if You Get Lost
If your situation is really dire, start making signs pointing to where you are with twigs or rocks along the trail. This way if someone is coming to look for you they have a way to track you down.
Remember that the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. This can give you a little more direction.
If you find a river or a water source, it will typically lead to civilization. This is my personal observation because of how most of the towns we know today are centered around a water source. It may be difficult to follow the water source directly, but following the sound of the stream or river to the collection pools/lakes is also a good idea. This will also provide a large open area for people to more easily spot you.
Know Your Limitations
Know your physical limitations! When hiking with other people, I have had to teach myself to listen to my body and what it is telling me. Only the best hikers and climbers in the world can make it to the top. You have to listen to your body, pace yourself and enjoy the hike, you don’t have to sprint up the trail! STOP when you feel like you have run out of half of your energy stores.
Pack a Snack
Keep plenty of water and energy supplying snacks in your bag. Your body needs nourishment, not junk food. I always keep dried fruit in my bag along with some carrots. These do not need to be refrigerated, don’t get smashed in my bag and are lightweight. If you feel yourself start to get tired (I’m not talking muscle burn) snack on the energy supplies you brought. I always know when I need a snack because I suddenly feel like I need to lay down under the nearest tree and take a nap.
Make sure to check yourself and your dogs for ticks and any creatures that may want to hitch a ride home with you.
So there you have it! These are my Top 15 Safety Tips for Hiking. If all else fails, just remember that panicking never helped anyone. My Grandma always tells me that, “worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth all the time, but never really going anywhere”. Most of all, have fun and enjoy nature, but please don’t try to conquer it. Mother nature is both a beast and a beauty, she will always win and bites hard with a sure finality if you try and challenge her.
Do you have any tips on how to hike without GPS?
What about if your GPS fails in the middle of a hike?
Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!
Happy Travels, Happy Trails, and see you on the Flip Side 😉
Disclaimer: Please consult your Primary Care Physician before attempting any strenuous activity. Train properly for each trail you are attempting to hike. Check AllTrails.com for GPS coordinates, difficulty level for each trail and the conditions of the trail. If you are hiking in a national park, check with the local ranger station on trail conditions or warnings for the area.
Visiting any foreign country there are always nerves and certain anxieties that come from entering the unknown. I have condensed my Travel Hacks in Prague article for you to give a quick and dirty of what you should take into consideration when visiting this beautiful city.
Currency Travel Hacks
Money exchange on the street is NEVER a good idea. There are several scams where people ask if you need to exchange money and give you an insane deal on the exchange rate. When you go to buy something in the shops, the money is often fake.
Even Money Exchange places that have actual shops are scamming people.
commission charges are anywhere from 26-42%
Chequepoint: charges 42% commision!!! What?!?!?! So basically they want half the money you saved for your trip – they have been there for 30 years, right in the middle of the main town square
Money Exchange is not the greatest at the ATM’s but its better than the city center with an actual bank.
When you use an ATM overseas make sure you select: “without conversion” and you will get a better rate.
If you are ever asked if you would like to pay in the local currency vs your own currency (at least for USD) make sure you pick local currency. You get a better rate and as long as its a debit card you don’t get charged for a foreign transaction fee (at least this is the case with my particular bank, but make sure to check with your bank on this prior to leaving).
Don’t change your money at Interchange! – They charge 5% commission and conveniently located in the center of town right where most of the tourists are.
Change money in a legitimate bank in Prague Center itself (you will know its legit when you see about 7 people waiting in line to exchange money that are speaking Czech)
You can pay with your credit card or debit card at most places – if your card doesn’t have a chip, well, it’s really going to throw the Europeans off & some of their readers don’t work anymore so be prepared with backup cash when necessary.
You can pay for anything with Euros if you want, they accept either Czech Krowns or Euros (wish I would have known this before getting currency for each country I was visiting).
Airport Travel Hacks
Terminal 1 is for flights going out of the EU
Between Terminal 1 & Terminal 2 (in the corner) there is great little grocery place for you called Bill’s Supermarket. Find someone who speaks English and they can direct you there, which many Czech locals do speak English you will find and are very friendly despite the calm outside demeanor.
Check-in/Check-out process for going home:
They don’t open luggage drop off until about 3 hours before your flight and will ask you a series of questions prior to returning home (some are a little odd, but just go with it– they are stone-faced serious about this)
Don’t use the check luggage kiosks – they charge $20 but at the ticket counter they cost $0
You then step to Border control and passport processing which is pretty painless
The actual security checkpoints where they scan your luggage are at each of the gates and only open up the security luggage processing about 1 hr before your flight so you are typically sitting in chairs waiting for the sign to pop up with your gate to open to those passengers. If you think you can sneak in, well think again – I watched as they turned people away again and again.
There is a restaurant in Terminal one with a great view, but I was too tired to look for it. So next time you’re there, go find it and let us know here what your review of it was 🙂
Prague Public Transport Travel Hacks
To get to the Town center from the Airport, buy a ticket at the Yellow Kiosk for 32 CZK, Then go to the second platform outside the doors
119 goes to the Green Metro
100 goes to the Yellow Metro
When you take a taxi, agree on the price beforehand. Do not utilize the taxi’s in the city center, they are often costly.
Uber also operates in this city – uber is great and only costs about $12-$13 USD (265-565 CZK). If it’s high tide for rides, then just take the bus if your luggage isn’t going to be too bothersome to cart around with you. (#packlightpeople)
Within the City, there are trams that you can take, but make sure you have a ticket before getting on the bus, and some change in case you need to buy one.
Finding Toliets in the Center of Prague
There are toilets at either end of the main square in the restaurants. These will cost you about 2 CZK – which really is pennies in USD so just go ahead and pay it. There are a limited number of bathrooms for the public. Most of the restaurants will allow you to use their water closets if you have a meal with them. Just make sure to ask your waiter for a little ticket to let you get into the toilet for free.
Some toilets are hidden from plain view. Look for the big green and white WC sign and you will be able to find one. The famous woman and man sign you see for the toilets in the US are not universally used in Prague. You will need to retrain your brain to look for something different if you grew up here.
If you find yourself dreaming of visiting the Hollywood of Europe, be sure to review these Travel Hacks in Prague. Take cash with you, don’t exchange money in the city center. Make sure you have a few Euro (in exact change) should you find you need to use the water closet. Hope this helps, and you have a wonderful time in this beautiful city. If you have any travel hacks you would suggest while visiting this city, please list them below.
Before traveling I typically try and ‘train for the trip’, if it is climbing at high altitudes, or walking a half marathon; it is important to prepare your body for the amount of walking and activities you are going to be doing. It is hard to get the motivation to do so before you go on your trip, but using Fitness apps can help with that. Here are a few fitness apps that I have found extremely useful in getting me and keeping me on track.
This has always been my ‘go to’ app when I realize that my eating habits are getting out of control. You can track water, food, calories, workouts, steps and Macro percentages. This gives you a well rounded view of what you are actually putting into your amazing machine we call the human body. Take care of it now so you don’t lose your entire life savings trying to maintain it later (or at least that is what I keep telling myself and my patients).
Make bets against yourself! This was one of the more intriguing Fitness Apps I found. You make a wager against yourself of what you would like to achieve with your weight loss goal. Then you get started with weight, time constraint, and make your bet. If you meet your goal, you get your money back AND THEY MATCH YOU & pay you via PayPal! If you lose, well….. then say bye bye to that money.
Money is always a great motivator for me — get paid to lose weight right?! Sounds almost too good to be true.
Just like HealthyWage, but the stakes are even higher, some payouts going as high as $1000 — so if you have that lofty goal that you know you can reach, well then…. this one could be a huge moneymaker for you
I always like to join the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot for the Food Bank here for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Its a way to remember what the holiday is really for to me at least. This app lets you do the same thing! The app will pay you 10 cents for every mile you walk and all the proceeds will go to the charity of your choice! Charities that are the most popular seem to be The Wounded Warrior Project and Habitat for Humanity.
So this one sounds super interesting to me! I’m a total Zombie fan (think World War Z not Walking Dead). This app simulates a real zombie attack and gives you tasks and things you have to do that are active to protect your campout and your life. Such a fun little game, especially for those of us who love Halloween time 🙂
When my workout mix starts to get boring, my workouts start dragging as well. So this little gem provides beats to sync with your workout that you can plan beforehand, then it will match a song and beat per minute (bpm) to the intensity of the workout that you are doing. So many fun apps to try!
Under Armor Map My Ride/Walk/Hike/Run
If you are planning to hike up Kilimanjaro, Walk the streets of Scotland, or Trek across the Sahara desert — you may want to gauge how far you are going before you leave to help prepare you physically for your trip.
These Fitness Apps allow you to track in real time… how far you ride, bike, hike, or walk. You can save your walks, follow others paths of where they walked/hiked. I use this App all the time to help plan my biking route to make sure I get enough time, elevation, and distance in.
Yoga Wake up:
I have it on my vision board that I want to get better at doing Yoga, so this one is on my list as well. You set you alarm on this one to the time you typically get up in the morning. It provides you with a 10 minute yoga flow to get that blood flowing and start the day off with an excellent sun salutation. I mean 10 minutes guys, that’s how much time you spend Facebook or Instagram stalking before you finally peel yourself out of bed right?
I’m a people pleaser, but this one would be nice to have the reminders of what my goals are for my health. This will send you daily reminders and motivational clips to keep your fitness goals for your upcoming vacation body going.
This is the Amazon store for those who like clean eating and organic eating. It does have a yearly fee though of $59.95 (BUMMER)– but you simply add each item to your cart, it finds the best deals around you and has it shipped to your door, ultimately saving you quite a bit of money (and your gut from all those GMO products).
Want to have a personal nutritionist at your fingertips? Try this one (yes there is a fee darn it) but for $14.95 per month to have someone analyze my meals for me and help me make those changes I need to make to get rid of this belly of mine, well, it seems worth it to try it out right?
As a Health Care Professional, I would highly recommend this to all those of you who may suffer from Diabetes. Your doctor asks you for a log of your blood sugars anyway, so why not just pop this handy app into your mobile device. You input your food, and it tells you how it will effect your blood sugar levels. You can also keep track of your blood sugar levels as well and it will help you construct a definitive plan to help you remain feeling at your best.
All Trails – Hiking and Running
This is a wonderful App that I use all the time here in Utah. It has the best recommendations on Hiking length, difficulty, trail conditions, and so much more. If you are preparing for a hike while on your trip, or are going to a mountainous area but live in a town that is flat. I definitely recommend this app to prepare you for your unique circumstances while traveling.
If you aren’t the technically savvy kind, then I would suggest Tosca Reno’s “Eat Clean Diet Cookbook” — I recommend this to all my Diabetic patients because it is from a Nutritionist that thoroughly explains what bad carbs vs good carbs are, clean meat vs meat that can literally clog the arteries over time. I like it because it provided me with a base of which I can make better food choices in the recipes that I choose; a ‘this instead of that’ approach instead of a ‘just don’t eat that or this, and this has too much of that in it – so don’t eat that either’ approach. Now that you have the tools, let’s get out there and start getting healthy for our next trip. One of these days I actually will take that dream trip and climb to the Everest Base Camp or hike up Mount Kilimanjaro; and when I do, I hope that my only physical limitation is that I don’t have wings 😉 Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the flip side.
Would you add any other Fitness Apps to this list?