What have I learned traveling through 100+ countries? I traveled alone around the world for two years at the age of twenty-nine, wandered the globe with my husband, daughters and girlfriends. Here are lessons I’ve learned along the path of traveling the world.
A new friend applying make-up in Myanmar
Freshman year in college I began dreaming of leaving Ohio to study in Europe. I was awarded an alumni scholarship and moved to Luxembourg to live with a family, study and travel for a year. From London to St. Petersburg, and Crete to Paris, I fell in love with Europe.
- I learned to ask people of authority for help. I didn’t even know financial aid was available until I started needling around. I learned to live on a very tight budget and travel on the cheap.
- Bar Tips – Buddy System and Date Rape Drug. I learned it’s better to have two sets of eyes to watch for bad situations. Don’t leave without your buddy. Get smart about Rophynol, “the date rape drug”, which is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. If a
guy buys you a drink, don’t accept it unless you see the bartender pour it. Carry your drink around with you. Don’t leave your glass unattended to go dance or to the toilet.
- Don’t Act Afraid. If you are, people can sense it and you can be a target for unwanted attention. Walk with purpose; chin up, aware of your surroundings. Know when to adopt the “don’t mess with me” attitude.
- Give and Take. Give warnings to other women travelers and ask local people (preferably women) and fellow travelers for advice: Is it safe to ride public buses? Is this neighborhood safe after dark? etc.
- Dress Down. It can be very difficult to know what is considered offensive or
suggestive in segregated societies. You may not know if the local men view you as a sex symbol or immoral. So take your cures from the local women. Blend in. Dress appropriately. Ask other Western women who have experience in this culture for their advice. Clothing that is fashionable and appropriate at home may project a provocative image in another culture. Leave the revealing clothing behind.
- Are you interested or ready for romance on the road? Carry condoms if you even think you may never use them – a friend might need them. Take more birth control pills, cramp medicine and deodorant than you think you’ll ever need.
Taking the big risk of leaving my job to travel for two years.
After living in Paris for four years after college, I settled in San Francisco and began a career. I was 29 and stuck in a successful but unsatisfying job in high tech, working for Honeywell in San Francisco when I realized I was living in a velvet coffin. I had a nice life, nice things and plenty of money.
I was bored and dissatisfied with my life. I knew I had to do something to get perspective on my life. But how? Then I remembered my childhood dream of traveling around the world, spurred by a box of National Geographic magazines in my parent’s attic in Ohio.
I quit my job, put my car, clothing and career in storage and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. I took a sleeping pill on the flight because I was terrified of traveling alone. I had never eaten in a restaurant or gone to a movie alone. While some thought (and told me) I was nuts, I traveled “single and solo” for two years around the world. It was during my travels that she discovered the “gutsy woman” within myself and had the time of my life.
- I learned to listen to my inner voice. Don’t let other people project their fear on you. Carry condoms if you even think you might need them. Take more birth control pills, cramp medicine and deodorant than you think you’ll ever need.
- Pack Your Common Sense. Follow your instincts. Ask yourself if you would do this/walk there/go to a stranger’s apartment/ take this risk at home? Listen to your inner voice.
Traveling in Asia and Africa in my 20′s and 30′s..
- Avoid Over-packing. You’ll carry your backpack everywhere; on and off trains, through city streets and into hostels. You can wear the same clothes over and over.
- Beware of Decoys and Distractions. If someone comes up and starts flirting with you check out who else is with the person. His friend behind you may slash your purse and run off. If someone bumps into you. Check your wallet right away. No problem if you’re wearing your money belt!
- Ask For Help. If you feel unsafe, talk to someone, preferably a woman with a man or baby. Duck into a shop and tell the owner that you’re a tourist and someone is making you uncomfortable.
- Leave the Bling at Home. Wearing jewelry will make you a target for thieves.
Marybeth in the Canadian Rockies
My daughter and I bike 3,115 miles across across the United States
Cross-Country Bike Trip. Age 50+
When my 22-year-old daughter asked me to join her in a great adventure and challenge, I hesitated and voiced all my objections and fears. How would we finance it? Could we get in shape to ride 3,000+ miles? Am I too old? Will we go with a group? Should we buy maps and go by ourselves? Should we ask someone to drive a camper for us? JC threw down the gauntlet, “Mom, I know you’ll find a way if you really want to.” Two months later we had landed a major corporation as a sponsor and invited JC’s best friend to drive the Recreational Vehicle. We contacted the National Osteoporosis Foundation and offered to dedicate our ride to their cause. Why? I am afflicted with osteoporosis, as are my sisters and mother. So we launched a website and blog for donations of a dollar for each mile we biked. Our goal was to ride across the country and increase awareness of women’s bone health. We accomplished the ride, we remained friends, no one was hurt, and perhaps our greatest achievement was raising $52,000 for a worthwhile cause.
- I learned that great satisfaction comes by giving back. Find the “cause” that excites you and give your time, money, your skills.