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Do’s and Don’ts

Do's and Don'ts, Travel Tips

Why I travel alone

September 1, 2015 • By

When describing my wanderlust, I am often asked why I travel alone by friends, colleagues and even relatives. It’s not something I intentionally set out to do when I started my solo travel adventures nearly 11 years ago; it occurred more out of a desire to travel and a lack of people interested in doing the same.  Now that I am on day four of a nine day trip with my mother, I think it’s a swell time to give this topic further attention.

Fantasy Aisle

After a day poolside enjoying the marina and a gelato with my mom

Occasionally, I’ve traveled with friends and, together, we have tackled cities across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America.  I enjoyed these bonding experiences and the moments shared eating, drinking, laughing and sightseeing.  It was most fortunate that I was not alone in Peru as I fell ill with a parasite and altitude sickness, or when I succumbed to “Delhi belly” in Jaipur. Sharing Oktoberfest in Munich with companions is absolutely as amusing as one would think after several pitchers of beer and oompah music. Climbing Machu Picchu, wine tasting in Mendoza and Stellenbosh, shopping in Bali and dancing until 4 am in Istanbul with friends are some of my most treasured memories from my travels, and I appreciate those dear souls who contributed to the joy of the journey.

Fantasy Aisle

Pam and me in Munich 2013 – just a wee pint

Amongst all the treasured memories, travel with friends also has its share of ups and downs. A trip to Montreal turned disastrous when a friend insisted on saving her money and eating at McDonald’s, something I wish she shared prior to me selecting the city’s cool restaurants to try.  A girl’s trip to Paris placed four women, ages 30+, in one hotel room with a queen size bed and a shower down the hall–a catastrophic fact the planner failed to mention until I arrived after a seven-hour flight.  I ended up eating alone and booking myself into a more adequate hotel across town.  Lastly, I booked a post-college European trip with girls from school who preferred partying and sleeping to visiting churches and museums. The group split apart and I traveled to Spain and Germany independently.

A bad travel experience can not only ruin the trip, but can also terminate the friendship. It’s more common than you would think because you are spending excessive time with a person day in and day out who may not possess the same enthusiasm for hiking or biking and eating or relaxing, or whatever preferences you may desire.  You must be clear about your intentions from the beginning for the trip to go smoothly.

I prefer to travel alone because I’m cognizant of my strengths and weaknesses. I’m single, live alone and I’m fiercely independent.  In other words, I am not always accommodating to others.  It’s nice to wake up when I want, traipse through cities at record speeds or meander with no plan, sleep when I want, exercise if I must and spend money on emerald rings or Indian rugs if I feel like it.

I prefer personal guides to tour buses, trains to cars, shopping to sunbathing and lots and lots of activity where I am learning history, sampling local culture and meeting kindred spirits.  People assume solo travelers are lonely, but I prefer it because I can assimilate easier, talk to locals and force myself to do all the things I am too afraid to try at home.  It’s the best, my version of serenity.

However, I really do enjoy traveling with my dear friends Pam and Jill, and I am blessed they still sign up for my shenanigans from time to time.

Where are we going next, ladies? Wimbledon and Paris are calling!

Fantasy Aisle

Jill and me at our dinner at Sortie in Istanbul where we danced until 4 AM

Top 10 Considerations for Traveling with a Friend (or Alone)

1.) You must both agree and be excited about the planned destination.  If you like the beach, don’t go skiing.

2.) Discuss your aspirations for the trip.  This includes a budget and planned activities.  Your budget may allow for only one meal a day or one museum and a lunch to go. Share that information with your travel partner(s).

3.) Admit your quirks, faults or needs in advance of departure, preferably before booking flights and hotels.  Would you prefer your own room?  Are you afraid of heights?

4.) Discuss payment in advance of trip.  When I travel with friends, we keep accurate records on spreadsheets and match with credit card bills to ensure the conversion rate matches.  It usually works out that we break even or close to it at the end of the trip.

5.) Plan a reasonable schedule of time together and time apart.  Ask yourself and your friend, “Do you need ‘me’ time?”

6.) If you are sharing accommodations, confirm with your travel mate sleeping patterns, safety needs and also whether or not you expect or will permit new found friends in your room at any time of the day.

7.) Plan any balloon rides, hikes or group activities together in advance.  This way you can both have something to look forward to at some point during the trip.

8.) Strategize who carries cameras, electronics, toiletries etc. so you can share and not be lugging around multiple items.  It saves space in your luggage and your sanity.

9.) Be open and honest and agree to disagree.  There will absolutely be a few hiccups in the road.

10.) Have fun and share your experience with others.

Asia, Culture, Destinations, Do's and Don'ts, Travel Tips

Do’s and Don’ts of Myanmar

December 15, 2014 • By

I had to share….A book of Do’s and Don’ts in each of my hotels so far.

The Do’s and Don’ts for Tourists (so you can visit Myanmar responsibly)

The Myanmar people are friendly, helpful and polite.

Respect the Myanmar people and their unique traditions. (Visitors are not asked to abandon their ways, they are asked to adapt to the Myanmar environment)

Don’t’ take any photos that may make people feel embarrassed. (That means no tourists should take photos of women showering)

Do Smile. (A smile will lighten up everyone’s day)

Don’t point with your foot. (The feet convey messages and this would be disrespectful)

Wear decent clothes when visiting religious sites.  (Cover your shoulders and knees and take off your shoes AND socks when entering pagoda areas) (there is a picture of a woman in a bathing suit and a man in fishing tanks for this one)

Do tuck away your feet.  (When you sit, your legs should not be stretched out and your feet should never face the Buddha)

Don’t touch anyone on the head. (The head is the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered aggressive)

Learn the basic words in Myanmar language. (I learned thank you 🙂 )

Women travelers are safe in Myanmar. (But it is recommended women dress decently–no hoochie here and so far so good)

Don’t kiss in public. (Displaying any public affection is frowned upon in Myanmar)

Don’t disturb people praying or meditating. (Visitors should avoid loud talk and should take care not to touch people meditating)

Calling with your finger up means calling for a challenge. (Fingers down are ok).  (I wondered why everyone was hailing a cab waving at the ground)

Visitors may experience electricity outages. (Yes that happens)

Don’t touch the robe of a monk. (Monks are revered. One should never touch them even if a warm is crawling on them) (I really just wanted to know if he was wearing underwear)

Spread your wealth, use your money wisely. (Tourists should purchase non-precious items at the local market. Licensed stores will give certificates that guarantee the authenticity of items. I have one. I bought Longyi’s early and often)

Myanmar is a cultural destination. (Visitors are encouraged to learn about Myanmar traditional festivals and ceremonies and now how the government is corrupt and people are poor)

Using drugs is illegal in Myanmar. (The use of drugs is against the law, and will destroy your life)

Help protect Myanmar wildlife by refusing to purchase wildlife products.

To maintain Myanmar’s unique heritage, do not buy antiques. Buy arts and crafts instead.

Practice safe sex.(Prostitution is illegal in Myanmar – and so is premarital sex)