Advice I Would Give A New Solo Traveler

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 Advice I Would Give A New Solo Traveler

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”  Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

I didn’t  know 13 years ago that when I got on a plane to fly to Europe alone for the first time to visit friends and family that it would be the beginning of my world travels. Looking back, I should have been wearing a sign that said ”I have no idea what I am doing.” Here are some things I have learned in that time. 

  1. Just Go.
  2. Don’t be afraid. Fear is a powerful deterrent. You aren’t exploring uncharted territories.  
  3. Plan. 
  4. Be flexible.
  5. Things will be different.
  6. Manners are universal. Use them. 
  7. You represent your country. Leave a good impression.  
  8. Learn a few words of the language of the country you are in- or at least Thank You. 
  9. Buy travel Insurance.
  10. Stay hydrated.
  11. Talk to locals.
  12. Bargain but do not over bargain.  Fifty cents to you may mean a meal for them.
  13. Don’t rely on technology.
  14. Pack light. Still working on that.  
  15. Ask for help when needed – even if it is with hand motions and charades. I can turn into Marcel Marceau if I need to be understood. 
  16. Blow your budget on that once in a lifetime experience.
  17. Eat the food. 
  18. Be adventurous. Challenge yourself.  The fried tarantula actually tasted good. 
  19. Don’t think you are super cool because you don’t do touristy stuff. Do it all. 
  20. Travel for longer to fewer places. I rarely go to more than two countries on a trip- usually one. 
  21. Learn how to squat on a toilet. You will need that. 
  22. Always know where your passport is. 
  23. Smile and say hello.-especially if you are an introvert brought up in New York City. This will change your travel experience.  
  24. Don’t be afraid to say No.
  25. Don’t be afraid to Yes. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Travel Mistakes

Travel Mistakes

“You can handle just about anything that comes at you out on the road with a believable grin, common sense and whiskey.” Bill Murray,

We, as human beings make mistakes. It is part of our DNA. Even the best travelers make mistakes. Take a deep breath and move on. Here are some of my worst travel mistakes.

Failing to triple check your flight’s date, time and departure airport. This can lead to all sorts of disasters, including missing flights (yup), long layovers and even trying to leave from the wrong airport (twice). Your airline may book your departure from a different airport than your arrival. Check on every leg of your trip. 12 AM flights for me are a disaster. You only make that mistake once.

Over packing is my biggest problem. Most airlines charge for each checked bag and some even charge for carry on luggage. If you go over the weight limit, you’ll pay a big penalty. Small planes might not even take your bag. Cost aside, schlepping heavy, overstuffed bags through crowded airports and airport security is a nightmare. I am always doing this and swearing that next time that I won’t. But I do.

Not getting travel medical insurance or trip cancellation insurance. Accidents or a sudden illness can happen anytime, to anyone, even if you’re young and healthy. Travel insurance is especially important if you’re traveling to a country like the United States where a routine medical emergency, like a broken leg, is crazy expensive. It does take a while to get your money back but eventually, you do.

Not booking enough time between flights. You only have to miss a connection once or twice to know it is something you don’t want to do again.  I never take that one-hour connection anymore. There are too many variables for me.You have to claim your baggage at the point of entry now and that always takes more time than you think. Large airports are a problem. I have missed planes in Chicago, Miami, London, and Sydney. Weather is always a problem. There is always what I like to call Hakuna Matata in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave.

Over scheduling. It is never fun to pack too many activities and too many countries into one trip. I plan a lot but I have learned to go with the flow. I feel that you do and see whatever it is that you are supposed to. Be flexible.

Keep your valuables in the safe and check that safe before you leave. Also, remember to close the safe when you leave the room.  Yes, I made that mistake in Argentina.  Yes, I have left my passport in the room in St Petersburg and my jewelry in Johannesburg. Jet lag and many days of traveling will do that to you.

Not checking Visa Requirements. I have done this twice now. Don’t expect someone else to tell you. Your travels agent or tour company may think they told you and they might have but you didn’t hear it.  It turns out that you need a visa in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Australia. I had been to Australia before and forgot that part. Many countries issue Visa on arrival. Brazil does not and it takes longer than you think to get it. Same with Myanmar.

Always grab some local currency when you arrive in a country at the airport.  Also, carry extra cash for emergencies. Everyone in the world does not take credit cards. I am a worrier so I always get some before I leave. It is easier now with cash machines but depending on where you are, they are not always so easy to find.

Not letting your bank and credit card companies know that you are out of the country.  I watched in horror in London as the cash machine took my bank card. Apparently, I had not called to let them know I was there. In Spain, my credit card was turned down all day and when I called they were surprised that I had gone without a word.

Not checking airline security rules. Airline security changes all the time. If there is a recent terrorist attack, there are more rules. Nothing is more annoying than having to throw out your carry on stuff. If you have health issues, make sure you carry prescriptions and a doctor’s note.

So the next time you book the wrong flight or screw up something know that even the best travelers have made these mistakes (more than once) and survived. I learn from them and hope I don’t make them again – but I probably will.

Fly safe,

JAZ