By Jody Hanson
No matter if you are a first-time traveler or a seasoned pro well on her way to joining the Travelers’ Century Club (http://travelerscenturyclub.org/), there are a few things that will make your trip easier.
Before You Go
Get your shots. Find a travel clinic or a competent GP — preferably one who has traveled and can speak from experience — and set up a schedule for your International Certificate of Vaccination. Make sure you get vaccination for yellow fever as well as hepatitis A and B if appropriate. Check the latest debate about malaria — whether or not to take prophylactics — and decide if you will carry the medicine with you or ask the locals what they use when you arrive.
Scan passport, birth certificate, tickets, international driving permit, International Certificate of Vaccination (every page), and reservations to a Gmail account. This “insurance” means that if anything untoward happens you can download the documents from an internet café anywhere in the world.
When You Pack
With a bit of determination you can reduce your load, spare yourself back strain, and waltz past the people at the luggage carousel.
Travel with a carry-on and large computer/handbag only. Dragging a suitcase or lumbering along with a backpack means you are taking far more than you need. Lighten up and reduce your load to two outfits: one to wear and one to wash. Also take along an outfit you can wear when you are invited out. You can buy clothes overseas, so if you get an invitation to a gala event, shop at a designer store or pick up an outfit from the used clothes market, depending on your budget.
If you are traveling on the cheap, take along a laundry bag that contains detergent, rubber gloves, a portable clothesline and a dual voltage travel iron. If you are staying in a five-star hotel, use the laundry service.
Sort things into bags. This will help you keep your carry-on organized. Get a good multi-compartment bag for cosmetics and personal items, another for a basic first-aid kit, and a drawstring one for shoes and dirty laundry.
Once You are There
Send rather than carry. If you want to buy souvenirs, trinkets, and must-have carvings while you are on the road, post them rather than trying to cram them into your bag. Cotton bags — think of flour sacks — can be made up in any market and are ideal to ship goods home. Send them by sea mail as it is cheaper and attracts less attention from would-be thieves and customs. Trips to post offices in some countries can be adventures, so take along your sense of humor.
Embrace the unexpected. If you want to plan your trip down to the last detail and know exactly where you are going to be and what you are going to be doing on any given day, take an organized tour.
Eat with the locals. If a place is full of people who look just like you, keep going until you find one inhabited by those who don’t. Try the street food, but avoid things like salads that aren’t cooked. Start small and work your way up when it comes to adapting to food in a new country. The more you build up your immune system, the stronger it gets. Dysentery and other minor ailments are part of the rich tapestry of travel.
Head for the markets. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, the smells and the interactions of the buyers and sellers are a good insight into the culture of the country. Slow down and become absorbed in the market life.
Check out home stays. The option of staying with local people who rent out a room or two means that you are helping them meet their living expenses. In exchange, you are meeting “real” people who can offer you invaluable advice.
When You Get Back
Record your travels on a world map. Buy a Peter’s Projection map — http://www.mapsbookstravelguides.com.au/world_peters_projection_map_hema_laminated — and keep track of where you’ve been. Or opt for an online interactive map — http://edit.freemap.jp/en/trial_version/edit/world — that you can print, send to friends, or load on Facebook. Use dotted lines for flying and solid ones for overland travel. Start a list — place, year — of the countries you visit and attach it on the bottom of the map. You can always add more information, such as the Wonders of the World you visited or the major train trips you took.
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