“You have to howl!” Sheri screamed up at me as I summited my first climbing route in Joshua Tree National Park. This would make a lasting impression on me for the rest of my life, to throw caution to the wind and celebrate the accomplishments we have in life, out loud and proud. I could write a book about Sheri, following her adventures of van life from San Diego to San Pedro, and making her home in Lake Atitlan. The story I want to tell you about though is one of true compassion, connecting cultures, and empowering the women in San Pedro La Laguna with Sheri’s Company – She Rides Dragons.
Sheri Keller and She Rides Dragons
Sheri is a wanderer at heart, but somehow San Pedro and the people in this town stole her heart and she chose to stay. Once there, it wasn’t long before she started making friends. One of her closest friends is Dora, Dora is a Spanish teacher and seamstress who has a smile that will light up the whole room when she allows you to see it.
After several months exploring San Pedro and the other small villages in Lake Atitlan, Sheri discovered the Mayan textiles and an idea began to form. After a lot of trial and error, and pulling her resources in San Diego, she was able to set up a clothing company called She Rides Dragons. I will explain that name a little later.
Sheri is a Yoga teacher, juggler and all-out fabulous performer that brings magic with her wherever she goes. Which fits in perfectly with the backpacking town of San Pedro. So naturally making yoga bags, and other clothing items with Mayan adorned symbols was the next step along her incredible journey.
Collaborating For A Cause
Little did I know, that after following Sheri’s journey of fulfilling her dreams – she had started to follow me as I pursued my dreams of being a travel writer, photographer, and videographer. She asked me to be a brand ambassador for her company, She Rides Dragons.
I was just starting out but flabbergasted that this woman that I had held in my mind as a goddess of adventure was asking me to collaborate with her for a cause. I, of course, agreed, right after I pulled my jaw back up off the floor and re-attached it to my face.
I received one of her clothing items, exquisitely hand-crafted and designed with more attention to detail than some of the best brands I have seen. Colors are perfectly matched, the fabric is thick, heavy, and you can almost feel the magic of Lake Atitlan flowing out of the robe.
I immediately messaged her when I received it and thanked her profusely. “Sheri I cannot believe how well made this is!” I was nearly bubbling over with excitement, she replied in her usual cool as a cat way “I know, the women here do such a great job. I hope we can continue to make these because the money is so vital for these families”. This piqued my interest, as my first love has always been humanitarian work and travel for a cause.
Sheri explained that the culture in Lake Atitlan is one of strong patriarchal pull. The men often drink, and work is often hard to find with very little pay. So she uses local women to make the fabric, weave the tassels, sew the clothing and yoga bags together, and then ships them out to the She Rides Dragons customers. The money that the women make, goes straight to their pockets and not their husbands pocket to decide what to do with the money. The women are then free to choose what they do with the money, they are personally making.
The women put a lot of their income towards the children and putting food on the table. Many of the women have to weave and sew by the light of the fires they burn near their homes as they cannot afford electricity. If a guest comes, they will feed the guest before they feed the children. The families in Lake Atitlan are not beggars, they work for what they have…sometimes to their own demise.
Sheri has a gift for observational power and has often found families in need of help. With connections all around the lake, she is constantly on the phone, in her ‘magic makers’ circle – trying to help the families and animals that need it the most. I think she tries to fix the major issues in San Pedro and Lake Atitlan because of how much love she has for this place. Her home has been a haven, an animal rescue, a place of creativity and love – and the people in the city all know her as a giving wonderful human being with boundless love and charity. It is hard for her to walk down the streets there without people coming and thanking her for one thing or another.
Yet if you point these things out to her, she will often dismiss it as ‘oh its nothing’, or ‘it isn’t as much as I want to do here’.
Meet Dora – A Seamstress and Spanish Teacher extraordinaire
Dora is more of an exception to this as she has a very nice home compared to many other women in the area. Sheri provided her a computer with a working camera, and microphone that she provides Spanish classes for those that would like to learn at $10 per hour. If you would like to take Spanish from her, send me an email (email@example.com) and I will connect you to her. I started taking lessons from her and think she is an absolutely incredible Spanish teacher, it is difficult but immersive and I’m learning quickly.
Lest I digress about Spanish lessons, Dora as a person is committed to her boys. She is so proud that she is able to provide food for her family, can afford electricity, has her own stove, and lives in a very good of San Pedro. Her greatest pride and joy though, is being able to provide a good education for her boys so they can have the best life possible. The best way to ensure survival in Lake Atitlan for the children is to provide education, otherwise, they will be forced to work in the sugar cane fields and farms on the steep slopes of the mountains of Lake Atitlan.
Dora is now trying to pass on the love, by getting her Aunt involved. Her sweet Aunt only speaks Mayan and lives high up on the mountain. The home she lived in before her current one was no better than a shanty house with a roof. While she still cannot afford electricity at this time, she was able to afford cider block floors, walls and a decent roof over her head with a real door. There is a small wood-burning stove on the balcony that she makes tortillas from every morning at 3 am to sell to the local shops so that her daughter can go to school.
There are 36 different dialects of the Mayan language that have survived in this area, and luckily Dora was able to translate from Mayan into Spanish and Sheri then translated into English for me. So trying to communicate in 4 different languages, and get the meaning across was quite comical but we made it work.
Maria, weaves all the tassles for the yoga bags by hand for Sheri. There are many different types of loom weaving that happen and the tradition is passed down over many generations. There are some loom weaving classes in the San Pedro area for tourists, but these women are the real heroes of this story.
Where Does the Fabric Come From?
The weaved fabric is very thick, and heavy – the traditional fabric is typically second-hand fabric that the women in the markets repurpose and re-embroider to make into beautiful Hopis and large portions of fabric that Sheri then uses to make her clothing items, and Yoga products.
So in order to get the best quality fabric, she takes a 30-minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan – sometimes with waves so bad that people drop on their knees and start to pray (not joking). Then it is a long hike up a hill to the fabric market where a family has been trained to know exactly how much fabric Sheri needs and the kind she likes.
Sheri sifts through the fabric, sorting, swapping, matching, inspecting for frayed ends or imperfect patterns. After about an hour or so of choosing fabric, then it is a call to her partner, John to check on fabric funds. It is difficult to get cash in San Pedro, they do have an ATM, but can be spotty at best on if it is broken or not.
After some negotiating with the women for the amount of fabric she buys, the fabric is then loaded into trash bags for transport back across the lake. I bought a few pieces myself while there, because how can you resist the Mayan symbols of Dogs and Dragons!
Grabbing a Tuk-Tuk, we headed back to the port to take a small dingy back across the lake to San Pedro.
Sewing the Clothing
We hauled the bags back up the hill in San Pedro, grabbed another Tuk-Tuk, and went to Dora’s house to deliver the fabric. Sheri instructs Dora in Spanish once we arrive on the ideas she has for each set of fabric pieces she picked out. Dora makes notes, and patterns are pulled out and set near each pile of fabric.
After a long day, and the afternoon rains coming in we finally get to rest and eat some food. We head back to Sheri’s House. Yet the day doesn’t end there for Sheri, she isn’t one that can sit still for long – despite sometimes needing to. So she gets on the phone with Dora again, to see if she can arrange for another woman who sews Hopis – the traditional shirts worn by the women in Lake Atilan to meet with us the next day for the Yoga Bags.
A Long Journey
The next day we head back to Dora’s House, to meet with another inspirational woman. She carries two massive Potato sacks full of heavy handwoven Hopi’s to the bus stop. Then she takes a four-hour bus ride to San Pedro, then another Tuk-Tuk to Doras.
Sheri then picks out the fabrics she thinks would be a perfect match for the Yoga bags. Carefully choosing symbols that she thinks would resonate with her ideal customers. After paying her for the items she chose, then Rosa takes the remaining Hopi’s to Panachanel (near San Pedro) to sell what she can. Then it is another long journey home, all to help feed her children and keep them from having to work on the farms.
Creating The Clothing Infused With Magic
There are many reports from those who visit Lake Atitlan that there is some kind of magical pull there. They have ‘odd’ dreams, and tend to live more on the wild side of life – yet the community is very conservative and Catholic.
It sounds a little odd, and I didn’t believe it at first – but waking up the morning after I arrived and seeing the incredible Lake it made me wonder if it was true. Lake Atitlan was made after a Super Volcano erupted, then imploded creating a collecting area for the lake to be born. The lake itself is 1115 feet (389 meters) deep, and 11.2 mi × 5.0 mi (18 km × 8 km) surface.
The Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes mountain range surrounds this lake with the highest mountain reaching an elevation of 12,588 feet (3,837 m). The name Atitlan is a Mayan word that means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors.”
There is so much Mayan folklore and stories that the local Mayans still believe about this place of the Gods it is hard not to believe it yourself when you are there.
So not only is the clothing and yoga bags that Sheri makes selectively handcrafted, it is done so in a place and by the people that have lived in this area since 300 BC. I really hate describing a place as ‘magical’ because I feel it is often overused – but there are two places I have been so far that I can truly use this with – one is Scotland, and the other is now Lake Atitlan.
A Force For Change
There aren’t many people I have met in my life that have inspired me as much as Sheri and the women of Lake Atitlan who help her. They have a hard life, compared to the rest of the world.
I asked Sheri why she named her company ‘She Rides Dragons’ and she explained the strength of Dragons and their ties to Magic. I think it is more than that though, she is a strong, beautiful woman who is tackling the problems in San Pedro that are much bigger than what one person should handle on their own. She is helping to empower Mayan women to create change in their hearts, their homes, and provides food for the table their children eat at. The children also get to have an education, giving them a chance at a better future than poverty and starvation. If this wasn’t enough, she also rescues dogs and cats in the area – pulling resources to help treat for worms, feeds them, bathes then and raises money to help neuter them. She is known for her healing abilities, yet has seen many animals not make it because of lack of education in the community.
This isn’t about a clothing company, it is about women in Lake Atitlan trying to ride these giant problems – dragon-sized problems. These problems are unruly, difficult beasts that tend to bury most people in depression and anxiety of the acutest kind. Yet Sheri has collected a group of people, women, and literally a whole community to help fight them and she is succeeding at it – even if she doesn’t always give herself credit for doing so.
How Can You Contribute?
Take a look at She Rides Dragons, buy some of the clothing she offers. Now that you know the attention to detail, the love poured into the clothing, and the magical place these items come from – it will be an item that will hold more meaning for you than any other piece in your closet.
If there isn’t anything, in particular, you would like to buy, you can also donate to her cause. Her dream is to be able to hire 8 women, to change their lives, and so their children’s lives can change and it will balloon from there. If you would like to donate for the weaver to get electricity, send the donation via PayPal to SheRidesDragons@gmail.com – and make a note for something, in particular, you would like to donate to.
If you would like to help with funding or volunteering at an animal hospital or donate to help with education on how to care for animals and recognize diseases – email SheRidesDragons@gmail.com and she can get you in touch with the right people there.
We have all been there….either from a relationship or some other heartbreak. Sometimes you just need to get away from real life, disappear into the world and forget your problems at home. So here are my suggestions on where to travel after a bad breakup.
Where to Travel When You Get Dumped
Beautiful beaches, men with British Accents and plenty of photo opportunities to make them regret the day they left you. The snorkeling there is phenomenal and so is the Scuba Diving. Being among so many fish will make you feel a little less lonely after you get dumped. Who knows you may even meet someone!
There are plenty of trails to explore on this Greek Island, that will help distract you from the heartbreak. The sunsets are phenomenal, and the whitewashed homes and blue topped homes give a perfect Zen-like feeling when you look out over the sweeping cliffs and ocean that stretches on for miles. Treat yourself to a luxury hotel and really make the folks at home jealous. Santorini is a definite MUST for those with a broken heart wanting the feel of a whimsical vacation.
Morocco is more for my ladies who get dumped. There is a feeling of ‘not being enough’ or ‘not being attractive enough’ when you get dumped. This happens to us all and is completely untrue. So when you go to Morocco, no matter where it is – the men are known for staring longingly into your eyes and catering to you- hand and foot to win your favor. Some women feel that it is harassment, but if you know how to handle yourself, well….after a breakup….the attention makes you feel like Aphrodite. Which in the moment might feel a bit consoling after a breakup.
I have one word for this place…..Tango. Going to Buenos Aires, feeling overwhelmed or broken hearted it doesn’t matter – you won’t feel that way after a night of Tango. They have Tango lessons, and men (surprisingly) outnumber women. My first night in Buenos Aires, I went to a Tango Club, La Virtua. The instructors (who taught at local universities), would not even let me sit down or catch my breath. I can’t tell you how nice it was to not feel like the last person picked for a dance. It is also very safe, where I was walking home at 1230 am, all alone, and felt completely safe.
Where to Travel When You Dump Them
If it is a toxic relationship, an exhausting relationship it doesn’t matter ……Scotland has the cure! Scotland is my number one choice of where to travel after a breakup. If you go in April, May, or October you won’t run into a mass of tourists that you might get in Italy. Head to the Scottish Highlands on a road trip, and experience just how wild and beautiful this world can be. The little lambs running about on the Isle of Skye, or the boat ride to Staffa Island to see the Puffins will help to heal the soul and help you heal from something that was never meant to last.
A place of love for all! I highly recommend going during a music festival. It is a time when the city really comes alive. There is so much art, quirky places to eat, and outdoor activities to do in Austin. If you can’t go during a music festival, there are still plenty of unique things to do in Austin you won’t get bored. The people there are incredibly friendly, as long as you are friendly to them as well. You can be yourself, and let you of the pretense you might have felt you had to keep with your ex. The slogan, after all, in Austin is ‘Keep Austin Weird’.
The number one question I get asked about my travels to Jordan, is it was safe for a female to travel there alone. It is safe for everyone! You have dangers in your own town that you just dismiss, but anywhere you go there are still the baseline dangers. The world is filled with humans, so this is inevitable. Jordan is a true adventurers paradise though, with Wadi Rum, Petra, and Roman Ruins to explore. You will be kept so busy exploring this country that has not yet truly hit the tourist market – it will truly feel as if you left the world behind and your problems with it. If you are still nervous about this, read Touring Jordan with tips from a local. I dated a man from Jordan, who is one of my dearest friends still – he will give a very real and honest view of the people in Jordan and mistakes many tourists make when traveling there.
Bright lights, big city, and lots of people – but there is a vibe to this city that makes you feel as if the world is your apple. If you are an American or a foreign visitor, the amount of activities available here will distract even those in the deepest heartache. The thing I love the most about this city, is the diversity of activities available. No matter your interests or tastes there is something for everyone. New York is such a melting pot of people, the influence each one has on the city is felt in the diversity that exists for the tourists that come.
Where to Travel After An Abusive Relationship
I know it has been mentioned before, but I had a personal experience with this. After suffering a traumatic event that has caused me to have PTSD for years afterward, I cannot recommend this place enough. I know how I felt when walking into a B&B in Inverness where an old couple made me eggs and soldiers (eggs and toast cut into strips). I know how I felt after climbing up to the Old Man of Stoor completely alone with the wind whipping at my face, looking out over the landscape. There are hard things that happen in all of our lives, and some of those things can break the soul. Scotland was what made me truly fall in love with travel after 12 years – this was the first Solo travel trip I took and still hold the memories I had there deep in my heart and mind.
In general, there are a lot of tourists here that can make someone who has been through a traumatic event a bit jumpy. Yet, the people in Amsterdam are very much business minded and keep to themselves. It is clean, organized, and there are plenty of outdoor adventures like Keukenhoff, Zaanse Schans, and Kinderdijk. There is also the inspiring story of Ann Frank, which will help you not feel so alone in your recovery.
This is one of the top destinations for solo travelers. The beaches are legendary, and with rain forests so close – it is an outdoor paradise to help you recover. Drink in the beauty of the ocean, sunsets, beaches, and then travel up to the rain forest for some bungee jumping off a bridge into the cloud forest or zip line through a rain forest.
This is a classic Eat, Love, Pray destination where the culture is so vastly different and so kind it will help restore your faith in humanity again. While there are parts that are extremely over-toured, it still holds its hidden gems and delicious foods. Nourish the body with bowls of fruit freshly picked from the tree and soak in a tub full of flowers in a luxury suite that are quite common on Bali.
Where to Travel When You Can’t Afford To Travel
Home Town Tourist
One of my favorite past-times is getting in the car, and just heading in a random direction. You can also look at the side streets or freeways that run parallel to the main highways. Take your tent and remote camping gear, and just plop yourself down in the middle of nowhere and enjoy the silence. Disconnect from technology, and just tell your closest friend where you are going. Leave your phone at home, so you aren’t tempted to text your ex – just breathe in the freedom and remind yourself how much this world still has to offer you. If you have never used TripAdvisor to give you suggestions on how to explore your home town – I highly encourage you to do so.
Road Trip with the Possee
If traveling solo isn’t the thing for you, well pack the girlfriends in the car with you! Take off on an adventure, and tell them it is going to be a weekend getaway. There is so much value in being spontaneous, especially for those prone to wanderlust – it helps you feel freedom from those feelings of loss.
Go on an Epic Hike
While I may be biased, I think nature is the closest you can get to heaven on earth. So going for a hike is a great way to escape the daily grind of life, and forget the woes of past relationships. Take an early hike near a lake, climb up to a peak and greet the sunrise.
The reason I specifically suggest this is because when people are sad, or depressed – they tend to isolate themselves. So getting out into nature, even when you don’t feel like it – is really going to help you remember how much world there is to explore and the people that didn’t make into into your future should be left in your past.
Challenge yourself, and get out and go camping – camping in a place you have never been before. Usually, BLM (Basic Land Management – here in the States) is free and you just have to pack in your food/water. Always keep the standards of safety when hiking or camping, and tell someone where you are going. Invite some good friends with you, eat s’mores….because everything is better with chocolate 😉
Know That Things Will Get Better
I’m 35 and have not dated in several years, I went through bad breakups…I thought my life would be very different. I thought that by now I would be married with 7 kids (not kidding) – but life doesn’t always turn out the way we think. It took a lot of time, crying, bad choices and good choices to finally come to terms that there is a possibility that I will never be a mother. At least in the traditional sense, where I may not be able to have my own children. It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my friends who have the opportunity to have children, don’t want them.
So I wrapped up my love for all the children I may never have, and buried it because there is no use being sad and isolated during the best years of my life. Everyone has a choice, and just because it is not one that you would make – doesn’t mean it is wrong.
This is the same idea with relationships…everyone has a choice. Everyone has a choice to stay or to leave. If they aren’t ready mentally, don’t want to commit, aren’t headed in the same direction as you are – it is better to let it go. It wasn’t until I let go of the idea of having children or needing a man in my life to complete me that I found my true joy and strength. The things is, desperation never looked good on anyone – so don’t try to make it look natural….it isn’t.
Start believing that you are worthwhile and keep your dreams your dreams no matter who you decide to date/marry. Dreams and goals will always shift in our lives, but we often hold ourselves back in trivial pursuits that impede you from reaching your full potential. The real question is…..are you ready to reach your full potential or will you let your brain succumb to mediocrity because that is what you think is best.
Search For That Peace When Your Alone
I once dated a man from San Paulo Brazil, who taught me so much about how to reach my full potential. It was a toxic relationship on the whole, and there were a lot of lies. Yet after each relationship, I try to ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this?’
I will never forget what he told me, “I don’t have to constantly fill my life with things, doing things, being things because I’m at peace in the silence”. So that is my challenge to you, to find peace in the silence. The journey will be scary, you may not have the courage right now – but keep searching and I promise you will find it. It may involve sleepless nights when you don’t feel your partner next to you, or when things get hard having no one to cry to or be comforted by – but you have the capacity to evolve. Push yourself to do new things you have always wanted to do, and now have the time to. Enjoy that big bed space and sleep sideways on the bed, or just trash the one that has so many memories and buy a new one.
You have the capacity to be ok being alone, but sometimes broken hearts need a crutch just like a broken leg. So pick your flavor of vacation and don’t over think it….plan it, and ask Nike says ‘Just do it’.
Sending love and light your way, know that you aren’t the first person to feel this way. Time does blunt the pain of the wounds that might be left, but in order to heal from those wounds you have to keep moving.
In the wilderness you will have limited resources, and limited capabilities for major medical intervention. So it is important to have a basic understanding of wilderness medicine and first aid, as it could save a life. So with my medical background in trauma surgery, and the emergency room – here is an introduction to Wilderness Medicine.
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this is a guide and you should receive additional training in order to feel confidant and comfortable in each scenario.
The best thing to do is approach the patient using the Acronym: ABCDE, which stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure. The initial question before all else, is “Am I putting myself at risk by trying to save this person?”. Make sure there won’t be two injured people on the ground before you commit to completing the ABCDE steps. Please make sure that the scene is safe for you approach – don’t approach a bleeding person with a Grizzly Bear standing over them.
Make sure to wear gloves, put on your sunglasses because you may not know them- and don’t know your friends as well as you do.
For those with minimal medical knowledge, here are some questions you should ask after taking a big breath, and introducing yourself in a calm way to the injured person or suspected injured person.
Airway in Wilderness Medicine
Remove dirt or objects that you can see. Do not do blind sweeps with your fingers as this can lodge things further down the throat. They can have dirt, teeth, severed tounge etc… it might be bloody so be prepared (thus the gloves and sunglasses).
Jaw thrust – go to the head of the patient, grab their jaw (right at the angled portion) and lift it slightly forward. Do not move the neck, or tilt the head back significantly when you are doing this because they may have a major neck injury.
In the Emergency Room they often use an nasopharyngeal tube to keep an airway open in an emergency. You can use a camel back to cut this down measuring from ear to mouth.
If you don’t have a nasopharyngeal tube, then you can take your knife – cut the tube on a camel back and insert that into the nose down to the airway. Be sure to measure it properly. Using the ear to jaw measurement method.
If the camel back doesn’t work, you can also use TWO safety pins pinned on either side of the tongue with a shoelace threaded through them tied to the belt loop, their finger etc… I like to have four safety pins so that the paracord/string/shoelace remains in place.
If this wakes the patient up, then you have solved the issue of their airway, because an awake patient, can control their tongue muscles. Also, keep in mind it will feel weird grabbing a limp tounge, it might be weird and gross but it is better than that person being dead because you couldn’t leave their airway while trying to treat the bleeding broken leg that may also kill them.
Chin lift – you only want to do this if you are absolutely SURE that the patient has had NO head trauma.
Have they choked on something? Is there something blocking the airway?
Cricothyrotomy (The Emergency Airway): You can slit the skin right below the Adams apple and stick the knife in. You will pop (it will literally be a pop) through a couple of layers and will hear a rush of air. If you don’t feel a rush of air, then you aren’t in the right space. Don’t dig around, in a normal weight and build individual, it should only be about a 1/2 inch below the layer of skin/fat. In larger individuals you may have to go a little deeper. You can measure a stick a straw, a camel back tube or ball point pens to the side of the neck and it will give you a good idea of how deep the tube needs to go in order to get into the airway.
I like to keep a 14G IV Catheter with me so that I can use that to puncture into the airway. It will be large enough to help air escape, and guide you for making a larger incision in the event that you need to ventilate.
Keep in mind that once you put an incision in this position, medical personell will not be able to insert a viable airway tube through the mouth. So only resort to this option if the upper airway is completely blocked and the patient is deteriorating.
Do you lay them on their back or on their side? Are you sure they are breathing? What do the breaths sound like and feel like? Breathing is really important obviously, it is generally associated with death if someone isn’t breathing and/or isn’t breathing well. There are entire campaigns in the States to help the public become more aware about how to save a life through CPR and First Aid classes. I highly recommend going if you have the chance.
So when assessing breathing, I would review the list below before each activity or vacation. Have someone be in charge and a backup person to support them. Having someone assigned to each task, and someone assigned to be the team leader in the event of an accident will help prevent confusion.
Look for the breathing, is their chest moving?
Is the chest moving equally? Is one rising above the other?
Are they using nose, neck or other muscles to help them breathe?
Listen for their breath by putting your ear right next to their chest.
Feel the breaths by placing your hands lightly on the chest. Does it feel like broken bones grinding together or does it feel like rice krispies under their skin?
The feeling of Rice Krispies on the chest can indicate a tension pneumothorax. This is something that cannot wait and the patient will be dead by the time someone arrives.
Keeping a 14G IV catheter for this situation. You go very high on the chest, right below the collar bone, pick a rib high up, and stick the needle on the TOP part of the rib. (Hold onto it because the trapped air will push the needle out- if there is no rush of air, try the other side. If the rush of air is not on the other side, then take it out).
Most of the time, people don’t put the needle deep enough.
Open Pneumothorax – this is when someone has something penetrating through their skin into their lung. This destroys the physics of the lung and how we breathe. So if there is a hole in the chest, with abnormal breathing – take a plastic baggie, take your duct tape and tape ONLY THREE Sides flat onto the chest (so that air can get OUT of one side).
Do not EVER remove an impaled object into the chest area, or into the leg area.
Basic Life Support would suggest giving breath’s (use a glove as a barrier for rescue breathing- tear off the middle finger and put your mouth in the opening to give breaths) to the patient and doing chest compressions. Contact your local hospital to get education on how to do this. In the USA the Red Cross does BLS courses in the community.
Circulation in Wilderness Medicine
First things first, if they aren’t already laying down – ask them to lie down. If you know how to take a pulse (near the thumb, or on the neck on either side of the neck right near their windpipe) see what their heart rate is. A normal adult should have a heart beat from 70-80 beats per minute.
Check their skin color, are they pale, cool, moist? If you answered yes, they may have an issue with their circulation or are in shock.
If you press down on their fingernails does the blood come back into the fingernail within <2 seconds? If it doesn’t, they may be losing a lot of blood, or being going into severe shock. This method is called checking capillary refill time.
If it looks like they have a lot of the symptoms described above, or you can’t feel the pulse on the wrist – you may not be able to see the bleeding that the patient is experiencing. Some of this bleeding can be internal, so raising the legs (only raise the legs that are uninjured) it can be a way to increase the blood pressure and keep blood pressure up to the brain.
If there are any areas on the surface of the body make sure to hold direct pressure for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let the pressure go and check to see if it is still bleeding until that 10-15 minutes is up. If you have quick clot, pour that on and hold pressure.
For Wounds/lacerations you can use crazy glue, duct tape, staples (even the small stationary staples), or the hair closure technique.
Hair Closure technique: If the hair is more than 1-2 inches long, you can take small pieces on either side of the wound, and twist them around each other tightly. Lay them down flat against the scalp, and put crazy glue on the knot on the top of the head.
If there is a lot of debri in the wound, you can use the sterile saline rinse kits they have over the counter that people use for sinus irrigation, or they also come in small disposable packs. You can also use water (with chlorine tablets dropped in) inside a bag with small holes poked in it to irrigate it out. You can use garbage bags, condoms, sandwich bags etc.. to bring enough water to clean out the wound.
In the Operating Room we had a saying, “The Solution to Pollution is Dilution” – and oh how true that is.
Just keep in mind, you don’t want to close a wound unless it is life threatening. Just clean the wound as well as you can, and then put pressure on it. If you close it completely then they have to keep the wound open for irrigation and it closes on its own leaving a massive scar. If it is a life threatening opening that won’t stop bleeding even with pressure, then there isn’t a choice but to close the wound.
If the bleeding is coming from the legs or arms, putting a tourniquet on the limb using a stick slid just underneath the knot (turning it slowly until the bleeding stops). Make some kind of mark on the patient to make sure that someone knows a tourniquet has been placed.
If a tourniquet is left on for more than 6 hours they are at risk of losing their limb. You are ok to release the tourniquet after 6 hours, as long as the bleeding from the limb is not life threatening. Leave it off for at least 20 minutes to 1 hour (as bleeding allows) then replace it.
If you don’t have quick clot, you can use duct tape, crazy glue (but not for lots of bleeding as it won’t stick), hair ties, staples. If someone has an epi pen for allergies- you can use that injected into the body. There are certain places they say NOT to use any kind of Epi (Fingers, Toes, Penis, Nose) – but again, if it is life threatening….then just do it).
Many medical personell don’t know how to use Epi pens if you ask them, they will likely go into their office or look up how on their phones. So it is really simple…take off the caps and THE ORANGE PART GOES INTO THE PATIENT. Don’t stick it in quickly and pull it out once you push the button on the top, as it takes 10 FULL seconds to get the epi (the medicine) into the patient.
Are they talking normally, confused (name, date, location, what they were doing), responding with a loud voice, do they respond to pain (pinch them on the wrists and behind the ear)? Are their pupils equal? Do the pupils respond to light (use your phone light)? Are they able to move both arms and both legs?
The reason you want to do this as the initial portion for ‘D’ is to see what type of transportation you need for this person. If their pupils aren’t reacting like they should, if they do not respond to pain stimuli, or they are confused – then there is likely something going on with their brain and they need immediate attention via a helicopter transport that would get them the medical attention necessary to save as much of their brain as possible.
Always assume they have a neck injury if they have had a head injury, major injuries or broken bones, they are intoxicated, or were hit by a moving vehicle or boat. Do not believe them when they say their neck is fine, there are plenty of times in the moment of the Adrenalin rush that they won’t feel the trauma that is there.
In this case you want to imagine the patient as a log. everything should remain in line, and no turning, pulling pushing on the spine or neck.
Improvising to protect their neck – you want to prevent them from flexing their neck and turning it side to side:
Preventing Forward Neck Flexion
Aluminum Splints area a great way to splint not just a fracture, but you can thread these behind the neck, and then cut it down so it encircles it once.
A really bulky sweater wrapped around the neck and duct taped on also works
Prevent them from looking side to side with Side Rolls
Improvise with: Water bottles duct taped to the side of the neck to keep it in place. paddles on both sides crossed over the chest, taping sticks together and wrapping a shirt around the ends to prevent punctures, putting their shoes on either side of their neck, stuff sacks or a back pack (filled with sand, clothes) put on both sides and duct tape it together.
What are the weather conditions like? Do you, or can you move them to a better location without causing pain or further damage?
For cold environments you want to try and keep them warm. Use something to block the wind.
You can also use a garbage bag wrapped around and underneath them (as a improvised shirt or pants) with DRY leaves or other clothing stuffed inside of it to keep the heat in.
Make sure whatever you stuff into the bag is DRY, no exceptions.
Using a sleeping bag is also a great idea (only if not wet).
The ground is very cold, even the dirt – so don’t forget to wrap their entire body.
It can be 85 degrees outside, and someone in shock will still be shivering relentlessly.
Were they impaled with any objects?
If there is an object that impaled the patient and is stuck in them — DO NOT REMOVE THIS AS IT CAN CAUSE FURTHER DAMAGE!
A good example of this, is when Steve Irwin was stung by stingray rebarbs, he quickly removed them and one was in his heart. When he removed it, it created an outlet for bleeding to happen around and from his heart causing his death.
You can wrap something around the impaled object to stabilize it until the patient can get to the operating room to have it taken out. Even doctors in the Emergency Room don’t typically mess with these things until you know for CERTAIN that an object has not severed an artery.
Invest in a Good First Aid Kit (not just ones with bandaids)
There are thousands of First Aid Kits out there, but how do you know which one if the best? Think of your situation, how much you are willing to put in the suitcase?
This First Aid Kit has so many good things in it! I’m sincerely impressed with everything in here. It is so compact too, it is smaller than my makeup bag (and I don’t wear a lot) yet has everything I would want in an emergency other than an AED and a back board. They have built the outside of the bag so you won’t lose any space on your backpack with loops to hang carabiners off of.
On the back there are two button straps you could also use to hang onto your bag. You can unclip the strap that goes around the bag and use that as a neck brace with the rolled clothing or water bottles and cinch it down.
Inside it is very well organized with straps holding everything in place, just like you would find in a paramedic bag. There is benedryl, tylenol, advil, sunscreen, electrolytes, 2 pairs of gloves. Sterile bandage, triangle bandage, emergency blanket, suture kit, scissors, tweezers, sterile saline, ace wrap, tourniquet (the fancy kind), paracord, QuikClot, snap light, whistle, medical tape, bandaids, Nasopharyngeal tube, hydrogel (used for severe burns – to help slow damage to lower levels), CPR shield (so you don’t have to use a glove).
This is just to name a few of the things tightly compacted into this bag. The bag also is easy to close once you are done exploring it.
Another thing I do when I go camping, hiking, climbing, or any other adventuring – I always make sure everyone knows where the first aid kit is. You put it in the same spot every time you go out adventuring. If it is on your backpack, or in your backpack, you make sure that people know how to access it. If it is in your car, make sure they know where the keys are to open the car.
If I were to add a few more things to this MyMedic Pack, I would add an Epi Pen, 14G IV Catheter, strap my swiss army knife to the outside. I would also put 4 safety pins, chlorine tablets, and crazy glue.
Just like Duct Tape, Safety Pins have so many uses, so I would highly recommend always keeping a few handy:
Tongue Extension, making eyeglasses, removing foreign bodies from skin, cornea, abscess drainage, removing a fishhook, T-shirt arm splint, sewing needle, wound closure, unclogging camping stove jet, tick removal, fix zippers/bindings, and last but not least for all my ladies out there – they work great for separating eyelashes after putting mascara on 😉
When Do You Evacuate Someone?
If the patient is having any of the following, you will likely need to ask for a helicopter or rescue team evacuation:
Neck or Torso Pain
Unable to Walk
Visible Bone or Clear Dislocation
Unsure of Severity of Injury
Animal Bites and Stings in Wilderness Medicine
Know the area, animals that frequently attack – an easy way to know this is to ask a local. If you ask the concierge, the taxi driver, the ticket counter, or even your guide should know.
When I was hiking in Jamaica through the Jungle, we emerged and I felt a pinch on the skin of my foot. In the States, ticks are known to hold Lyme Disease- but my guide was able to dislodge the tick, and said that Jamaica didn’t have Lyme Disease like the States did. She was from New York, and one of the toughest ladies I have ever met. So even common pests like this, may not be dangerous in the places that you visit – they may be…just pests.
This is why it is important to just ask questions about dangers when hiking in certain areas, or animals. The animal world is always changing, and animals can be quite territorial, or hide in places you may not think of.
For example, where I live, we have to keep our dogs out of the weeds in certain places we go hiking as Rattlesnakes are quite common here. You likely wouldn’t find Rattlesnakes while hiking in Zermatt Switzerland. So get educated and be prepared.
Snake Bites: Move away from the snake, take off any tight clothing, do not use a tourniquet. Take a photo of the snake if possible. Call 911 to minimize having to move and increase the circulation of the poison.
Hypothermia in Wilderness Medicine
The first time I personally experienced Hypothermia was when I went camping and hiking on Mount Whitney in November. You don’t really know that you are getting cold until things start to turn blue (especially if you are exercising). Make sure to read about my whole experience there.
If you encounter someone who has Hypothermia, or if you yourself start to experience it – there are some things you can take with you. Hand warmers (the 12 hour ones are best) I would bring at least 6 for each person, or more if you are car camping. An emergency blanket, if I am backpacking or camping I will typically bring a compact Mylar blanket, and then a cloth emergency blanket over that that you can find at REI and are easy to put on your backpack.
Hyperthermia in Wilderness Medicine
The first time I experienced Heat exhaustion was hiking in Zion National Park in the sun when it was 112 F (44C). Ever since that time I have been easily prone to heat exhaustion (another reason I sweat like a whore in church in any kind of humidity).
It starts with a dry mouth, then you get hot and start sweating so much you can hardly keep it off your body. Then it feels like your heart is going to beat out of your chest. It feels like it takes monumental effort to take even a few steps or keep your eyes open. Then your stomach starts to cramp, and you can get nauseated. When I got to the nausea and dizzy stage, that is when I knew I had heat exhaustion for sure. Be sure to read that first hand account, and keep yourself safe in warmer climates.
Getting Travel Insurance
Sometimes the first aid kit isn’t enough, it can save a life in order to get to medical care though. When you are traveling abroad, you won’t know what hospital is a good one, or what the cost will be. This is why I highly encourage Travel Insurance.
Not only do they help with repatriation (arrange for your body to be transported back home), they also can help with delayed or canceled flights, long term hospitalizations abroad etc..
I recommend World Nomad Insurance, because it is highly customizable. Even for coverage for my diving trip in Cabo San Lucas, for my age it was only around $69 for repatriation coverage, hospitalization, cancelled flights, delayed flights and more. For everything that they cover, I was stunned….especially since I work in the medical field and know how much headache it is to cover sports like these.
Stay Aware, and Stay Safe
There is only so much that you can prepare for on a trip. There will always be the unexpected in this life, so just prepare as much as you can – get familiar with some of these Wilderness Medicine Hacks. Some people never get hurt while they are traveling, some people are so accident prone they can regail you with stories for hours. You personally may not feel you need any of this information, but you may just possibly save someone else’s life should you prepare yourself with the right information and your own first aid kit. Be safe, don’t be sorry you didn’t prepare. The worst thing in the world to live with is the ‘What If I Would Have?’
Anyone who says they have never been lonely while solo traveling is lying or they just don’t need that type of human connection. It can be hard to push those internal boundaries and make those connection with people in other countries, because somehow we still have that Highschool feeling of ‘needing to fit in’. So here are a few ways that I have found help me connect with others while I’m traveling and avoid that looming loneliness that seems to haunt me personally.
Have a Plan
When you are traveling, have a plan in mind of where you would like to go – things you would like to see. While some people like to just let the wind direct their travels, having a plan gives you foresight so that you can invite other people to join you.
This hasn’t always worked for me, but it has allowed me to start a conversation with people that may not know anything about the location or activity you plan on seeing/doing.
The other part of this step, is that if you have a plan laid out – even if you can’t find a temporary travel buddy; your schedule will be full and you won’t have time to worry about being lonely.
Connect through Tours or Viz Eats
I have grown to love Airbnb experiences! The activities they have are typically done by locals, who are a lot more affordable. They know all the back alleys and shortcuts to the best places in town, and are far more relaxed about timing and sharing their knowledge. They will also know where the locals’ hangout, where the best bars or places to meet people are which is another way to get an authentic experience while at your travel destination.
VizEats is another one I am going to be trying soon. I thought this idea was so spectacular! This app lets you pick a time and date to have a traditional dinner with a local! Some of the hosts will teach you how to cook, and have other travelers willing and wanting to connect in the same group. The only downside is, the host has to approve your attendence. The first time I tried, I mentioned I had a camera and wanted to film the experience and I don’t think it was appreciated. So keep that in mind, but what an amazing experience to be able to ask how life is like, where the best places to go are, and where to get produce for the meal (and all subsequent meals). Really excited to see if I can try this for my next trip.
Sit down and Observe –
It makes others feel uncomfortable when someone is sitting at a table alone in a crowded place. Observe the space around you, imagine the lives of those you observe. Eventually someone will make eye contact and give you a empathetic smile, and that will be your ‘in’ for a conversation with them. I have made so many friends by just being confident enough to sit alone.
Sometimes we feel lonely, or sad, and want to have or feel that human connection but don’t really feel like carrying on a conversation. Just going and doing some people watching in a public space is a great way to do this. You might even have a kindred spirit sit next to you and have a leisurely conversation. The possibilities are endless if you just take the time, to take your time while traveling.
Be prepared to put your plan aside
This is something I struggle with, but have started to set aside one day of my travel to do what the locals recommend – to go to that place my tour guide recommended. When I was in Amsterdam in November for my Birthday, I was so bummed out because the weather was so terrible it was going to be difficult to walk around the city and not destroy my camera gear from the rain.
I Googled ‘things to see in the Netherlands’ and Castle De Haar popped up on my feed in one of those small picture boxes. It was about a 45 minute bus ride through the country, and walking onto the castle grounds made me feel like I was walking into a Fairytale. If I had not left enough time to explore options in Amsterdam while there, I would have never seen this fascinating place. So my tip to you, is to take your time, and be prepared to set aside your intricate plans to take one day where you can be a spontaneous explorer to the unique destinations suggested to you by Google or the locals. Trust me, you won’t be bored, and won’t regret it.
Try a new activity
I was told I was too fat to go Scuba Diving, but I have the type of personality that if someone tells me what my limitations are- I have to blow that blockade to smitherines. So I got my certification for Scuba diving, and made some wonderful friends along the way. I also found a tremendous amount of healing when I realized that diving helps people with PTSD.
When I lived in Las Vegas, I had a thought of ‘it would be fun to go rock climbing’. So I bought a harness, and some rock climbing shoes and put the sticker from my climbing shoes on my bumper. A week later, I had a note left on my car from a girl (Bree) that was looking for a chill climbing partner and we became fast friends. I ended up going to Joshua Tree with her and Sheri Keller, who I will be visiting in Guatemala in a few months to do a video about how she has created a business there that helps children be able to go to school and not have to work. Bree also arranged for me to stay with her parents in Dallas when I moved there, and set me up with another dear friend Faryn (from Get Fit with Faryn).
By just trying one activity, I have made countless friends, found personal healing, and created this beautiful network of people from across the world. So when I tell you to go out and try something new, even if it is entirely uncomfortable – the rewards of having that type of courage to do so will come back ten-fold!
No Pity Party of One Here!
I hope these examples and suggestions give you a little peace when trying to go out into the world and not be afraid of traveling solo. Yes you will feel sad when you see beautiful things and don’t have friends from home to share those things with. Yet, when you truly see that there are people all over the world who might be just as lonely as you; it opens the door of being able to reach them and create friendships that will last a lifetime. Don’t have a pity part of one, have a party with anyone you meet! When you have self-confidence, a big smile, and mischevious eyes — the language of enthusiasm and joy can bridge any gap of awkwardness or cultural barriers.
If you have any suggestions on how to combat lonliness while solo traveling please leave them in the comments below.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales and see YOU on the flip side 😉
Won’t I get lonely? What happens if I get lost? I can’t afford it. These are all common questions and concerns Solo Travelers have for me since I started Culture Trekking. While I could explain and argue these and many more, the bottom line is that you need to first choose a destination that fits your concerns. So here are, what I consider to be, the Best Destinations for Solo Travelers in 2019.
This is by far one of my favorite countries, and the one I recommend to first time solo travelers- especially female solo travelers. It introduces you in a gentle way to a different transportation system than most Americans are used to. It is a smaller airport to fly lying (Edinburgh), English is the predominant language, and everything is so close in proximity in the center of the city that it is easy to walk everywhere. Entrance fees to the major historical sites are cheap, and the entire place is steeped in ancient history with plenty of Folklore, ghost stories, and Scottish Heroes to keep you entertained.
This is a great location for those wanting to experience beaches, culture, great food, diving, and interaction with other travelers. The prices here are super cheap and you can get fairly good rates on flights because of its increasing popularity. The one drawback to this country is just how touristic it has become, the beaches are often over-crowded. On the other hand, it gives you plenty of opportunity to meet loads of internationals. If you go during the Thai-Laos New Year, you may just find yourself in the midst of a massive water-fight.
Iceland was deemed as one of the safest countries in the world. Iceland’s popularity is growing though, ever since Game of Thrones was filmed here, and the photos of the Blue Pool emerged it has become a frequented location by travelers from around the world. While winters can be harsh, the Northern Lights are quite beautiful; the summers are filled with lush landscapes and plenty of Instagram worthy moments. Flight costs are very cheap, but once you arrive, the costs of food, gas, lodging, and entrance fees can really put a dent in the budget. Still, for the outdoor enthusiasts, it is a fantastic location for all those Solo Travelers.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Yes, Cabo is always beautiful no matter what time of year you go – marine life, parties, and plenty of beach and sunsets for all. There are scams that go on here, but if you reserve your adventures and hotels beforehand you should be just fine. Try to stay at an all-inclusive resort so that you don’t have to fight for your time on the beach with everyone else. There are several hotels like this in the area. My favorite thing is to be there during whale watching season, or when the sand falls are active. Diving here is an incredible experience if you are a first time diver.
This is also a party location, but for those who like to meet people- interact with the culture and yet also have a relaxing evening with beautiful sunset views then a visit to Mykonos is where you need to go for your first Solo Trip. It is a little more difficult to get around, and get to the Island – but due to the amount of tourists wanting to visit the Islands this has greatly improved over the years. There is plenty to see and do on Mykonos – it is an outdoor paradise with views that are unparalleled.
Get an authentic taste of the middle east by visiting this beautiful country. With teal waters, contrasting red/brown surrounding sands and mountains it is hard to not relax in this beautiful country. The people here are warm, inviting, and cater to the tourists. The traditional Bedouin values and warm hospitality will leave any traveler feeling refreshed by the new experiences and send you home with an infectious travel bug. It is a perfect destination for solo travelers.
This location can be surprising for some to see on this list, but after hearing so many of my Scottish friends traveling to Tunisia – I had to include it. With the contrasting Roman mosaics to Islamic art, you will be visually enthralled by all things contained in this hidden gem of a country.
Bask on the beaches of this Mediterranean country and let the warm breeze wash over you and carry scents from nearby markets of Jasmine. Not only are there beaches, but beautifully forested coastlines, and a contrasting short mile away are the Sahara deserts. While some may caution against visiting this country, there are many Scottish Nationals who are choosing to retire here. Be cautious, but also take advantage of all this vastly under-rated country has to offer.
This is an oldie but goodie, because of how many tourists visit Rome – it is a perfect destination for solo travelers. Transportation in Italy is some of the best in Europe – making it very easy to find your way up and down the coast of this beautiful country. After seeing some of the unique places in Rome, be sure to head to the Amalfi Coast and truly feel like royalty surrounded by all things bright and beautiful.
The prices are reasonable for accommodation because of all the competition, and entrance fees are moderate but reasonable. There is plenty to see and experience even for those on a budget. It does get crowded, but this city is so friendly – especially if you like to buy dinner for others- food is life in Italy. So Eat, Pray and maybe you’ll find some Italian Lover who will want to whisk you away on an Under the Tuscan Sun Adventure.
New Zealand is an outdoor lover’s Paradise – with so many different activities along each coastline and atop the highest mountain peaks. From glo worm caves, diving, and even a hobbit town – you will come home with a new found love for traveling solo and plenty of stories to make your friends green with envy. Prices here can be a little steep, but the increased budget vs quality experience are well worth the extra effort to get there.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Learn how a city runs green with an urban biking system so complex they even have their own traffic lights for the bike lanes. There is so much nautical history, World War II history, and heroes like Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank – all these are combined beautifully against the backdrop of the canals of the Netherlands.
Traveling through Amsterdam and the whole of the Netherlands was such a soul healing experience for me, even as a solo traveler. The raw beauty, structured and efficient way these people live makes traveling through this country effortless and a perfect experience for those new to solo traveling.
For all those beach bums, that don’t want to get too stressed with the requirements of traveling, Costa Rica is a perfect destination. Many of my Solo Female Traveler friends have Costa Rica saved as a favorite getaway. It is also home to one of the last remaining Cloud Forests in the world. Soon these unique environments will be extinct due to global warming.
Even if the beach is not for you, traipsing through the jungles, bungee jumping, rappelling down waterfalls or experiencing a zip line over the jungle canopies is a must. The diving available in this area is unparalleled and also considered a UNESCO heritage dive site. Many of the locals also speak English so it is very easy to make your way around. PURA VIDA!
Hear me out on this one – as someone who lived in Las Vegas Metro area for over six years I would argue that this is a great place for Solo Travelers. It has something for everyone. Watch a few shows on the strip, I recommend the Cirque Du Soliel shows. Then head out to Red Rock National Park to get some hiking or rock climbing in with a guided tour from a local. At night go to the container park, and grab some fabulous food at Yardhouse – one of my favorite restaurants with plenty of drinks to choose from. If the container park isn’t your thing, there are plenty of unique things to do in Las Vegas you can choose from that are great experiences for Solo Travelers. The best part about Las Vegas is that once you get off the strip, most of the locals are transplants so many of them are warm, inviting, and inclusive – so it is easier to act like yourself.
This is the Italy of the South, but could you believe it is even more passionate? Pick any time of day and you will find something to do here as a Solo Traveler – from Tango Shows, to Memorial Parks, Recoleta Cemetary, and a Rose Garden full of concerts, paddle boats, feeding ducks and a poet garden you will never get bored. If you do, you can drop by the converted Opera House turned Library – find a book and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Many of the locals speak a little English and are so open and kind it won’t be hard to find and make friends quickly while there.
Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone
There are plenty of people who ask me ‘isn’t it hard traveling alone?’ I almost question myself for not feeling lonely on the majority of my trips. While there are admittedly times where I feel lonely that I don’t have someone to share the experience with. I wouldn’t trade the experiences and people I have met along the way for anything in this world.
So push those internal boundaries we all create for ourselves, and buy your first ticket for the year. Explore all the possibilities and friendships this world holds for you even as a solo travele.
Being a first time female solo traveler is a very scary thing, and can cause a lot of anxiety – yet it also will be the best thing you could do for yourself. There are so many things I wish I would have know before taking my first Solo Trip to Jordan to see Petra with a tour group; or my first true solo travel to Edinburgh when I stayed in a Hostel. So Here are a few tips for first time female solo travelers from across the globe, things they wish they would have known before traveling solo.
Have A Set Of Rules You Follow
I was so nervous to travel solo to Edinburgh, as I was recovering from my rape in Texas and was trying to push myself back out into society. I was terrified to stay in the mixed dorm, to walk around the streets of Edinburgh on my own at night. So I set a bunch of Safety Rules to Stay Safe While Traveling Solo. These are rules I ALWAYS follow, no matter who invites me to a particular occasion, or what opportunities come up. No experience is worth compromosing my safety. This doesn’t guarentee that you will always be safe, because humans will be humans – but following certain protocols will decrease the statistics for you.
Despite the risk, the contributing factors of my past, I don’t let fear get the better of me. When you push yourself past your comfort zones, have courage, the gift of traveling alone can truly change your life for the better.
Take It Easy, Don’t Rush The Experience
My first ever solo trip was when Imoved to Spain; for 6 months, I was exhausted, stressed, and/or physically sick over and over again. I couldn’t figure out why – I’d never been sick at home, besides a cold every once in a while. Turns out, I had been so excited over the fact that I was living in Europe and could travel that I wasn’t even aware of how much stress I was putting on my body by traveling instead of taking a break.
That being said, every traveler, especially first-time solo travelers, should always be aware of how their body is reacting to everything. If it’s telling you to take a break, don’t ignore it. Listen to your body and mind, and remember to take it easy. (Contributed by Jamie from CrashedCulture.com)
Be Prepared To Let It Shape Your Personality
Before I took my first solo backpacking trip, I remember myself being a very unassertive person. Even if I was self-confident, I used to think that saying “no” to someone is just wrong and I should do everything to make everyone happy but me.
And then, I felt I HAVE to take that trip (and many more!) far away from people who tell me how I should live my life. And that was the best thing I could do for myself. I was in Asia alone with my thoughts, feelings, insecurities, and dreams. No one could tell me what was wrong or right.
As a result, I became not only more assertive but also more self-conscious and independent. Today I know what I want from life and I am confident about how I want to live it, even if I have to say ‘no’ to someone. If I knew it would shape my personality so much, I would start travelling solo earlier! (Contributed by Hannatravels.com)
Don’t Hold Back, Get Outside Your Comfort Zone – Things Will Work Out
It was 2010 and I was on my semester abroad studying at the University of Reykjavik in Iceland. You might remember – that was the year the unpronounceable volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted and sent Europe’s airports to a stand still.
It was easy to get to the volcano from Reykjavik and so our university advertised the unique opportunity to book a helicopter flight to see the eruption up close. All my geology studying flatmates got excited – and me? I did not want to spend the money. It was not the only opportunity I did not seize during my time in Iceland for financial reasons. I also did not join a trip to Greenland and did not participate in the ski-doo expedition on a nearby glacier.
And as you can imagine – I still think about these missed chanced. It’s like they say – you only regret the things you didn’t do! Today, my attitude is different and whenever I am presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on my travels, I will seize it (within financial reason and without piling up debt). One of my favourite recent experiences was anexcursion to St Kilda, a World Heritage Site in Scotland. I spent a lot of money, but I will remember it for the rest of my life! (Contributed by by Kathi from WatchMeSee.com)
It Teaches You To Be Your Own Best Friend
Before embarking on my first long term solo adventure, I had always been quite uncomfortable with the thought of being on my own. I rarely spent time alone and struggled to see the beauty in my own company. My first six-month solo trip showed me how to enjoy the moment I was experiencing through my own two eyes, without the need for another person to validate the enjoyment or happiness I was feeling. It allowed me to become my own best friend and to truly appreciate my own company.
It became clear over time that there is value in experiencing travel both in the company of others, and on your own. If I had known how unique and special it would be to have those travel moments with just myself and my own internal thoughts and reflections, I never would have been so terrified of being alone. (Contributed by Caitlyn from GirlSeekingPurpose.com)
Don’t Listen To The Naysayers
Having traveled alone for over 30 years, I still can look back at my early adventures as a solo traveler in my 20’s when solo travel wasn’t widely accepted and one important thing I learnt is not to listen to naysayers. But how do you deal with negativity when this comes from your family or close friends? I have experienced this. And while at the beginning, it may sound discouraging, my tip is always to try to turn this negativity into constructive criticism. Be open to discussing it and telling how you think. By showing that you are a responsible woman and have well researched your destination, and how safe it is, it will help convey trust and confidence in those people around you. Finally, the main trigger to negative feelings towards solo female travel comes from irrational fear or excessive concern about security. So don’t overreact and instead show from the beginning how responsible you are about your choices. (Contributed by Michela from RockyTraveler.net)
Learn A Few Words In The Local Language
Have you heard people saying how rude French are to foreigners? I’ll let you in a secret: they are not! The issue is that they want visitors to embrace their culture and not for them to expect English everywhere! So, learn a few words of the local language. I can’t tell you how much of a difference just a couple of basic words make. People react so well when you at least try! This means it’ll be easier to interact with locals and make more friends along the way. Start by hello, thanks and please, and ideally “I’m sorry I don’t speak (insert language here), do you speak English?”. I guarantee you’ll get a ton of smiles, you´ll learn more about the culture of the place, and you’ll feel welcomed, no matter where you are in the world, which is especially important when you’re traveling solo. (Contributed by Coni from Experiencing the Globe)
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Alone
Even though you are traveling on your own, that definitely doesn’t mean that you will be alone the whole time. Having experienced both solo travel and couple travel, I’ve found that I meet many more people when I am traveling by myself.
Staying in hostels is a great way to make friends while traveling. Choose a hostel that has common areas or that organizes dinners or other activities, as this will create more opportunities to meet people. Offering to cook for your fellow travelers in the communal kitchen is a great way to make friends.
While hostels are great for meeting fellow travelers, Couchsurfing is a wonderful way of meeting local people. Your hosts will often be able to give you insider tips on the best bars, restaurants and little-known sights to visit too. Meetup.com is also useful for finding out about local events that you can participate in. (Contributed by Wendy from TheNomadicVegan.com)
Live Like The Locals
More and more people are seeking localised experiences, and wanting to know how a place is special not because of the landscapes, but the people. Even Airbnb has capitalised on trying to “live like a local”, but what if you want natural encounters and still want that peace of mind before you embark on your solo trip as a female?
During my first solo female travel to India, the place where it is seemingly dangerous for women, I sought out locals in unlikely places like Couchsurfing. I didn’t use the place to stay with hosts because I was not comfortable then and was still easing myself to the world of couchsurfing and solo travel, but I used it as an avenue to connect with locals for a meet-up instead.
The meet-ups turned into full-blown adventures, getting invited to their parents’ house, or into help with dealing with the country’s chaotic transportation, and all this would not have been possible without a local. Hence, whether it is Couchsurfing, Meet-Up.com or even Airbnb, just a simple connection with a local and a little curiosity will help you ease your solo travel worries.
Write Down Where You Are Staying
When you’re far from home it can be really hard to remember the name of yet another hotel, in yet another district – especially if it’s in a language you’re struggling with. If it’s in characters you can’t read or identify, you’re at even more of a disadvantage. So, always write down the name of where you’re staying in the local language or snap a photo of the characters. You can get it checked by a local when you have time and maybe even ask them to add the phrase ‘please take me to’ if you need.
This will be an absolute life saver with taxis and will cut down on frantic gesticulating with maps, or, even worse, being driven to the wrong destination and then expected to pay. So whether you’re travelling through Japan,backpacking in Icelandor anywhere in the world, never leave home without your hotel/hostel name.
Learning to Orient Yourself
There is this stereotype that women can’t read maps or navigate very well, but orienting oneself is just another skill you can learn. Being independent in navigating the world around you teaches you self-reliance, which is extra important if you intend to travel the world alone!
When I traveled together in tour groups, I would often depend on the leader to know where we are and where we’re going next. This is why to this day, I can’t visualize where I’ve been in Paris. When I traveled with other women to Helsinki, they delegated the task of orientation and route-finding to me. That’s when I started to really learn how to connect the map to the real world.
When I started traveling alone by hitchhiking, I used to do it without a map. I often relied on verbal information from local people, which was often wrong or not useful for my purposes. Eventually, I found an offline map app that helps me massively in getting around and measuring my environment. That’s how I managed to hitchhike around an area affected by mudslides on the road to Lima in Perú, while other travelers were perplexed and didn’t know what to do next.
So if this is your first time traveling solo as a female, keep these things in mind, be kind to yourself; grab onto your courage and take one step at a time. Your mind will ALWAYS want to do what is safe, and keep your protected. This is what life is, pushing past that blockade of safety, grabbing onto that courage and living our best lives.
It won’t always be sunshine and roses, there will be hiccups, there will always be worries – but when you let go of the control of needing to know what the next step will be – solo travel can be a beautiful and life-changing thing.
To all my ladies out there…. dig deep, get that girl power engine going and never let fear determine your futue.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side 😉
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.
Jet Lag is the bane of any travelers existence, with the affects stretching on for days sometimes weeks after a trip. There are a few proven (scientifically) ways to help with combating jet lag I will share with you. If you follow these suggestions, I guarantee that you will still be able to enjoy your vacation. Anytime I don’t follow my own rules with this, I end up regretting it for weeks on end.
What To Bring
Check out my packing tips post on what to bring with you on the plane. But for sleeping get a stuff sack, here is what to include in it: put your contacts/glasses, sleep aid, water bottle (filled inside the airport), eye mask, earplugs, pillow, and blanket. I like this J-pillow because my head always falls forward or to the side & when I bring the head wings (what I call them) out then it holds my head in place perfectly. Also, place a small bag at your feet so you can use it as a footrest, or if you have the room you can buy one of these footrests – but I found them to be hard to get into and out of.
Top 15 Ways of Combatting Jet Lag.
1- Avoid or Minimize Caffeine As Much As Possible
few days before your trip. If you need the energy to be able to make it through the workday prior to your trip; try Natural Energy Supplements from an Organic store or health foods store. This method alone will significantly help with combatting jet lag.
2- Choose An Overnight Flight
Overnight flights typically turn all the lights off on the plane at night which makes it easier to fall asleep. I wear my eye mask even if the lights are off because there is always one or two people that turn their reading lights on & wakes me up (#lightsleeper).
3- Choose a seat away from the bathrooms
Even with earplugs, the carts and bathroom visitors will wake you up. I also choose a window seat so I don’t inadvertently get hit by an elbow, a cart, or woken up by the person next to me to visit the restroom.
4- Bring a Treat for the Restless Children
Make sure to bring some candy, suckers, or freeze-dried fruit to give to children who wake up and start screaming. It saves the mom from embarrassment, the flight attendants stress (because of grouchy passengers) and helps everyone get back to sleep. I’m not a mom, but the few times I have done this, it works like a charm. One mom friend of mine actually suggested dried fruit, or crackers so it doesn’t give them a sugar high and make it worse. You can also have little packets of crayons or paper in your bag as well. As a passenger, you also have to remember that Benedryl for kids doesn’t always work….sometimes it has the opposite effect on the kid and then you have a crazy person.
Doing this before your flight gives you the natural relaxation of the muscles, keeps the blood pumping and staves off blood clots as well. The rule of thumb for my patients is I advise them to get up every hour to stretch their legs and do some calf raises for about 5-10 minutes.
These stockings can be found at any Walgreens, but the really good ones are the ones that you measure from your ankle to the knee and around the calf. I prefer the open toes because they seem cooler & don’t squish my toes if my legs start to swell slightly.
When you sit down the blood vessels in your groin and behind your knees get cut off resulting in fluid retention in your feet and calves. It can set you up for a blood clot as well (no matter your age), unless you plan on walking every 30 minutes — which isn’t always possible because of the risk of running into turbulence. When I sit for long periods of time even at work the compression stockings save my life. You will be amazed at how much this helps your energy level by the time you reach your destination.
This is an App to properly plan your sleeping times make sure you start this at least 2 days prior to your departure. This was developed by a psychologist in Florida.
8- Sleep When You Are Tired
Some flight attendants do suggest that you just sleep when you are tired, and try to stay awake when the sun is up. I find that this method works for me as well as just sleeping as much as possible when I’m on the plane.
9- Set Your Clock To The Destination
By setting your clock to the time of the destination it will help you keep doing your daily routine by the destination time zone. Thus circumventing hungry, tired, or other cycles.
10- Don’t Overeat or Drink Alcohol
Let’s be honest….unless you are flying some fancy airline in first class….airplane food is no better for you than hospital food. Try to stick with water and the healthier options when your flying as this will help fight off fatigue when you land. The body releases cortisol when it is stressed and can cause fatigue feelings when traveling. Eating healthy will boost your natural defenses, provide ample water to flush out the Cortisol and nutrients to help keep the energy needed to explore up as well.
11- Don’t Go Straight To Bed On Arrival
Decide on a tourist-y site with lots of people. Preferably interactive sites, this will force yourself to stimulate your mind and your legs and blood flow. I typically pick the most popular museum, then get an audio guide so I don’t have to concentrate on reading & wander through all the spaces.
12- Keep Your Routine You Have At Home
Once you have toured a little, have dinner at the typical time for your destination, go take a shower/check-in at the hotel. Watch a movie, and then fall to sleep a little bit early — or lay there until its time to sleep (whichever works). I typically don’t do much the first day I’m at my international destination. It really helps to keep the first day easy, it allows my mind to accept that I’m on vacation and that it is ok to relax and not constantly look at my to-do list.
13- Over The Counter Sleep Aids
When I am traveling back home, that’s when the JetLag is really bad. I will typically take an over the counter sleep aid (Melatonin, 5-HTP, or if you aren’t on any blood thinners then consider St John’s Wort or Valerian Root) — Don’t combine all of these sleep aids, just take the recommended dose for ONE these herbal supplements. I typically will buy my supplements from an Organic Food store and look for one that has some sort of certification on it. Typically supplements and herbs are not FDA regulated, so that means you typically don’t know what you’re going to be putting in your body. I take the sleep aid the minute I get on my longest flight (so if I have a transfer or something, I’m not too groggy).
I would not suggest getting any of these with Magnesium if you take more magnesium than your body requires it can actually cause some pretty gnarly diarrhea (a known side effect of oral Magnesium).
14- When You Get Home
Immediately unpack your suitcase, I typically will take a 30-minute nap to tide me over until my usual pre-vacation bedtime. The key here is, to sleep when you’re tired, but if it is during normal wakeful hours– limit it to 20-30min naps.
15 – What To Do When You Wake Up In The Middle of the Night
If you wake up in the middle of the night when you get home, I will look at a few social media sites, watch a YouTube Video on Classical Music or Yo-yo Ma & let that help me fall back asleep. Please realize if you do use your phone it can stimulate your frontal cortex and make you feel more awake, but for me, reading always puts me to sleep no matter what it is. So whatever typically makes you feel sleepy, do that and then try going back to bed….warm milk and Turkey also works if I’m desperate.
Happy Travels — Happy Tales — and good luck sleeping 😉