Tips on traveling abroad for the first time

Traveling to a foreign country for the first time can be both exhilarating and anxiety inducing: have you considered all the required information, devices, social protocols and social etiquette? How about finances, security and insurance? Much to consider. Here are some tips on how best to navigate.


10 Things You Need to Know About Traveling Abroad for the First Time

DECEMBER 26, 2019

By Megan Grant
Parade

Remember that one time I went to Paris and brought my blowdryer so that I could look #fabulous while strolling down the Champs-Élysées, but forgot that the outlets are different and I couldn' t use it so my hair was a giant ball of frizz for eight days?

Fun times.

There are so many details we forget when traveling abroad' some minor (see: the great hair frizz of 2018) and some much more crucial. If you' re planning on boarding a plane and adventuring to a faraway place, here are 10 things you need to keep in mind about traveling abroad.

10 Things to Know About Traveling Abroad

1. Figure Out How You Can Pay for Things Beforehand
"l just swipe my card, yeah?" Maybe. But maybe not. Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle tells Parade.com, "When you' re in a different country, you may not be able to pay for things in the way that you' re used to. I normally always just tap my credit card at home, but there are quite a few countries where you still need to use your PIN, so make sure you remember it if you' re planning to use your card. There are some countries (particularly in Scandinavia) that are moving to a cashless economy, so they may have no option but to use a card."

If you plan to use a card, one more word of caution: Fees. Watch out for them. "Your bank may charge quite high fees so look into this in advance and investigate your options," Turtle advises. "You can normally find a credit card offer that will have zero international transaction fees and I would recommend signing up for one of them if you' re going to be doing a lot of travel. On the other hand, there are still a lot of countries that mainly use cash' even Japan, despite its very modern reputation' so it' s also wise to have a card that will let you make cash withdrawals without a huge fee."

Cash always works too, but again, there' s one caveat you have to be careful of, according to Turtle: "Bringing your own country' s cash and exchanging it is also a good option, although I rarely do that because you' ll always lose a bit of money on the conversion and I prefer not to travel with a lot of money on me."

2. Dress Accordingly
You may be a stranger in a completely foreign place, but try not to look like it, okay?

"One of my suggestions would be to try to blend in with the locals. You don' t want to stand out too much by looking like a tourist because not only can this be embarrassing but it can set you up as a target for pickpocketing or theft," says travel writer Reannon Muth. So, what should we do to avoid this?

"To blend in, I' d suggest wearing muted colors or dark colors and avoid wearing sneakers (especially white ones!)," she explains. "In the US, people wear sneakers all the time, but in Europe and most of the other countries I' ve visited (I' ve been to over 40), people only wear athletic shoes when they' re working out. Sneakers are usually a dead giveaway that you' re a tourist. I' d also recommend wearing clothing that' s somewhat stylish (or at the very least fits well and isn' t overly baggy or wrinkled). In the US, a sports hoodie, yoga pants, and flip flops (athletic leisurewear) is perfectly acceptable attire for wandering around town, but I' ve found that in many other countries, people aren' t as casual with their attire."

3. Invest in a Pair of Good Noise-Canceling Headphones
Flights are long. Planes are loud. You won' t be able to sleep, read, watch movies, or do anything else with the sound of jet engines numbing your ears. "Good noise-canceling headphones for the flight are a must," says international speaker Adnan Kukic. He recommends the Sony WH1000MX3.

4. Don' t Assume People Speak English
This one is tough, I know. What the heck else are you supposed to speak? Before you go to another country, though, you should brush up on the basics, at the very least. Muth explains why:

"It can be rude to just walk up to a sales clerk and start speaking English. Even if you' re in a touristy area and are 99.9% positive the person speaks English, it' s still polite to greet them in their own language and then ask them if they speak English. At a minimum, you should take the time to learn how to say " hello,' " excuse me,' " please,' and " thank you.’"

5. Check Your Phone Plan
During my frizz-filled trip to Paris, I made another startling discovery: Apparently, the phone towers in Las Vegas don' t reach to France. Who knew?

You might be able to use your phone overseas. You might also be charged an arm and a leg for it. "Most plans will charge exorbitant fees to use your phone overseas," explains Turtle, "although some do have good deals about international roaming, so it' s worth investigating whether your provider does. For most people, though, you' re not going to want to have long conversations or text message conversations on your phone while you' re away."

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives for staying in touch with people' when you have WiFi, that is. "I find it' s quite easy to avoid doing that if you just make calls with something like Skype or WhatsApp when you have WiFi at your hotel," Turtle says. "The problem is data. We have become so accustomed to using our phone to look at maps, search for public transport timetables, check opening hours, and find reviews of restaurants, that you may be lost (literally) without data on your phone. So, in this case, I recommend buying a local SIM card that has enough data for your stay."

It' s always good to err on the side of safety, though. "… you shouldn' t assume that you' ll always be able to get an internet connection while you' re traveling," continues Turtle. "Perhaps the hotel WiFi is dodgy or you can' t get a data signal on your phone. I always make sure to download maps for offline viewing on my phone and I screenshot any directions or public transport timetables that I need. I also take photos of signs at train stations or ferry ports that I might need later on. We are so used to knowing that any information we need is right at our fingertips at home, but that' s not always the case when we' re traveling so it' s better to be prepared."

6. Take a Nap ASAP
Jet lag is brutal. Your body has its own internal clock, and when it' s disrupted, weird things can happen. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can go beyond sleepiness and even affect your mood and concentration and give you, ahem, stomach issues. No thanks.

Thankfully, there' s a little trick. "As soon as you land in your abroad destination, take a nap, even if for just a few hours," advises Kukic. "It helps greatly to adjust to the different time zone."

7. Respect Mother Nature and All Her Creatures
While on an exciting trip, we understandably want to do things we' d never do at home. But there' s a reason to pause and think before you take part in typical touristy activities: It might be to the detriment of a living creature.

"Never ride an elephant (or support animal tourism)!" says Dani West, elephant advocate for Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants. "Interested in getting up close and personal with our majestic wildlife? Support and visit sanctuaries around the world … but do your research! Never ride, bathe, or pay to see them in zoos or circuses."

Have all the fun you want on your trip, but still be mindful of how your activities impact others.

8. Remember That You Might Not Be in a Service-Based Country
"… the US is unique in that we' re a " service industry country,’" Muth tells Parade.com. "In nearly every other country I' ve visited, this isn' t true. Americans' version of " good customer service' doesn' t exist. Shopkeepers may not greet you when you walk into a store and waiters might not come and refill your water glass. They aren' t being rude; that' s just the norm in their countries. You' ll often find that you' ll have to hunt down a salesperson or waiter in order to purchase something or put in an order."

Muth explains that this extends to ordering food at a restaurant. You might not get as much special attention as you would in the US: "Similarly, when you order in a restaurant, it' s customary in most countries that you don' t ask for substitutes with your meal. You order what' s on the menu and that' s it (no " dressing on the side' requests or " Can you add almond milk instead of regular milk?' ). This really isn' t done unless you have an allergy and it' s actually considered rude. It' s a quick way to earn a reputation for being a " demanding crazy American.' Obviously, you can ask for substitutes if you really need to. But I' d just try to keep it to a minimum. If you have to change the entire order to fit your tastebuds, you might be better off ordering something else."

And while we' re on the topic of food…

9. Be Prepared to Change Your Eating Habits and Meal Schedule
"Eating and drinking can be very different in another country and it' s important to be prepared for things to not be the way you would normally expect," says Turtle. "In Spain, for instance, dinner is always eaten very late so you may often not find restaurants open at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But I' ve also been caught out in smaller towns in Europe where they' ll stop serving dinner at 9 p.m. In countries like Morocco or Malaysia, you' ll rarely find alcohol served with meals for religious reasons, so don' t expect you can have a glass of wine with dinner. And in Japan, you may come across the restaurants where you have to order all your courses from a vending machine at the entrance before you sit down."

Tipping also varies from country to country and culture to culture. "In North America, it' s expected to leave a considerable tip for every meal, while most places in Europe just expect a small token of a couple of euros, while many Asian countries find a tip to be rude and you shouldn' t leave anything," adds Turtle.

10. Stay Aware of How Much Space You' re Taking Up
"Unless you grew up in a crowded city like New York, you may not be accustomed to maneuvering through cramped subway cars or crowded marketplaces, but in many other countries, space is more limited than it is in North America and locals are experts at taking up as little space as possible," says Muth.

"This also applies to your voice' talk quietly in public. Although it' ll differ depending on where in the world you' re traveling to, I find that in most of Europe and many places in Asia, people speak quietly and remain more reserved when talking to strangers," continues Muth. "This is partly cultural but also because people in, say, Tokyo, are used to moving among thousands of people every day and are conscientious about not disturbing people around them by speaking too loudly."

Traveling abroad is exhilarating and eye-opening. Just do your due diligence before you go and always be mindful of your behavior.

Parade

Read More

Looking for travel inspiration?

New year, new travel adventures. Looking for a unique destination and fresh adventure can be a challenge. You can always take a volunteer vacation which will immerse you in a community and culture completely new to you. Or you could travel to a destination you had preconceptions about only to be amazed by discovering an untapped world of wonder. Here are a few suggestions from travel writers that may pique your interest. 


See Ya There! Here Are 10 Places That Travel Influencers Recommend Visiting in 2020

DECEMBER 17, 2019
By Jessica Sager
Parade

If you made a New Year' s resolution to travel more in 2020, get packing! From stateside locales to foreign lands that haven' t gotten much tourism yet, we' ve asked the experts where the best places to travel in 2020 are' and some of these options will surprise you. Whether or not you have a passport or wanderlust beyond our own borders, we' ve got a place for you.

Here Are 10 Places That Travel Influencers Recommend Visiting in 2020:

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

The Traveling Newlyweds can' t get enough of Hilton Head Island, S.C., whether for a vacation or a staycation. It' s just a 45-minute drive from Savannah, Ga., and about two hours from Charleston, but has all the trappings of a tropical getaway' white sand beaches, warm temperatures, 12 miles of breathtaking coastline, 50 miles of scenic trails, 250 restaurants and numerous award-winning resorts. There are a ton of family-owned eateries and businesses and a lot of live music and dining by the water. It' s also largely dog-friendly!

Pakistan

Michael Gerber and Lora Pope of Explore With Lora both recommended Pakistan for upcoming adventures thanks to its amazing nature and mountains' and its lack of crowds from other tourists, unlike nearby India and Nepal. You' ll need a visa to go, but Pope says it' s worth it. "Most people think that Pakistan is an extremely dangerous country that you cannot visit, but this couldn' t be further from the truth," she said. "I spent a month there in August and it completely changed my views on the country. The hospitality in Pakistan is world-class. The locals are genuinely so happy to have you there and will go out of their way to make sure you have an amazing time."

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic is an underrated gem. Dangerous Business travel blogger Amanda Williams notes that while the Faroe Islands aren' t nearly as famous as its neighbors Iceland and Norway, its landscapes rivals both of them' without the crowds. "Getting to the Faroes is easier than many people realize (you can catch direct flights from several European cities)," Williams says, "and the infrastructure is on-par with any other destination in Scandinavia. The islands are easy to get around with a rental car, there' s tons of great hiking and the nature is pretty mind-blowing."

Newfoundland

Want to go Ireland without actually going across the pond? Try Newfoundland, Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate recommends, noting that the Canadian province boasts similar craggy cliffs, picturesque seaside villages and friendly locals with lilting accents who tell stories and welcome you as one of your own. "But the best part is that Newfoundland feels a thousand times less tourist-ed than Ireland," she says. "When traveling in Newfoundland, you' ll be welcomed warmly by everyone you meet."

In terms of specific activities and excursions, McCulley recommends seafood cooked on the beach in Twillingate, a treasure hunt for art installations during the Bonavista Biennale, and, for the adventurous, she says, "You can become an honorary Newfoundlander by getting "screeched in" in a bizarre province-wide ceremony involving alcohol and kissing a codfish."

Bonus? McCulley adds, "Newfoundland is an Instagram fan' s paradise, from the brightly painted homes of Jelly Bean Row in St. John' s to the unusual geologic makeup of Gros Morne National Park to the fishing village of Trinity that looks plucked from a storybook."

Thailand

While all of Thailand is lovely, Veronika Primm of Travel Geekery loves one particular island the most: Koh Phangan. "It' s a tiny paradise island near Koh Samui, which got famous thanks to its regular Full Moon parties," Primm told us. "The island is so much more than that, though. It' s a unique spiritual base for many, with yoga and mindfulness courses and retreats in abundance. It' s a place where Thai people still outnumber tourists. It' s lush, it' s green and has miles of gorgeous beaches." One thing to note, Primm says, is that Koh Phangan isn' t accessible by car or plane, so you' ll need a ferry to get there' but it' s well worth the trip!

Myanmar

Becca Siegel and Dan C. Gold of Half Half Travel told us that Myanmar is the hottest destination for 2020' possibly literally also' for its affordability, safety and natural beauty. "Before going there, travelers should know that some parts of Myanmar get very hot, especially the tourism hot spot of Bagan," the pair told us. "It can feel 100 degrees Fahrenheit most days between 9 and 3 p.m., so all of your sightseeing should be done at sunrise and at sunset. The middle of the day is for chilling out by a pool at your hotel!"

Boise, Idaho

You weren' t expecting that one, were you? Travel vlogger Jessica Hirsch of Cheatdayeats recommends Boise, Idaho, for 2020' especially if you' re a foodie and love carbs.

"With a focus on potatoes, they have a restaurant dedicated to friends and a large focus on sustainability and farm-to-table. There' a major emphasis on where your food comes from and they' re majority passionate about food waste," Hirsch says. "This concept also applies to their beverage scene with mile markers to inform visitors on how far the brewery is located from where you' re enjoying a drink. There are many beautiful parks and outdoor activities to work off thee food to make it a very active trip as well. Also, for a fresh air and for views of the beautiful state, we recommend the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic for a full hot-air balloon ride."

Emily Mandagie of The Mandagies agrees, adding, "Downtown Boise also has incredible locally sourced restaurants, breweries, and even its own wine country (Snake River Valley AVA). One of our favorite restaurants is Diablo & Sons Saloon, which is a tastefully wild-west themed bar with clever drinks and delicious tacos."

Japan

Because the Olympics are coming to Tokyo in 2020, so will travelers. Cat Lin of For Two Plz tells us, "The Japan Tourism Board, along with smaller regional- and city-level tourism boards, are incentivizing travelers to visit before and after the Olympic periods with cheap travel deals. Those who' ve had Japan on their bucket list, 2020 is a good year to make that dream trip happen. From a cost-saving perspective, don' t restrict yourself to just the Tokyo area. There is more to see, do, and explore when you expand your radar to nearby cities like Hakone and Nikki."

Amanda O' Brien of The Boutique Adventurer recommends Kanazawa in particular, which is about a 2.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo. "Kanazawa has all you want from areas like Kyoto without all the tourists, from samurai houses to geisha villages to dressing up in a kimono to stunning modern museum dedicated to DT Suzuki, who brought Zen Buddhism to the world," she says. "It is also home to Japan' s third most beautiful garden, Kenrokuen, and the production of gold leaf." Kanazawa is also just a 30 minute train ride from the Kaga thermal spa region and its Nadatera Temple and incredible art.

The Kii Peninsula is also a great spot, Retha Charette of The Roaming Nanny says. "It' s off the beaten path and holds all the ancient beauty one can think of about Japan' home to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage the Kii Mountains stretch out towards the horizon ending at the ocean," she told us. "Temples dot the mountainsides with plenty of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) to stay in!"

Slovenia

Slovenia has a little something for everyone' and you can brag to all your BFFs that you found it first. Foodies should hurry to explore the many culinary gems found across the 24 distinct gastronomic regions, and there is a lot to do in Slovenia all year long.

Jonathan Look, Jr., of Life Part 2 tells us, "Bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia stands on its own, but is influenced by all of these rich cultures. Alpine landscapes, charming cities and hospitable people are in abundance. The food and wine, which is largely unknown outside the region, is truly world-class. There is even a small coastline with beaches and scrumptious seafood."

Travelers will love the Festival of Kurentovanje, one of the oldest celebrations of Carnival in Europe. Featuring parades of costumed monsters and characters, Kurentovanje is recognized on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. In the summer, visitors can enjoy 14 wine regions, including the world' s oldest active grapevine (over 450 years old!) in Maribor.

Lake Bled is great for scenic paddle-boating in fall. In winter, Slovenia is decked out for the Christmas season. Postojna Cave transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with festive decorations and more than 2,100 colorful lights for its annual Christmas experience, a live performance featuring 16 biblical nativity scenes reenacted by more than 150 performers along the cave' s one-of-a-kind railway system. Additionally, avid skiers will delight at the fabulous slopes of the Julian Alps, particularly the eighteen different slopes at Kranjska Gora, a frequent host of international slalom competitions.

Alaska

Grab a coat and hit up Alaska! So many influencers sang the praises of the state: Louise Sattler loves Girdwood for its charming shops and cafes' and spectacular views of the Northern Lights.

Visitors can also enjoy Glacier Bay National Park to see the 200-year-old sheets of ice breaking away from the faces of glaciers before they melt away. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve can only be reached by plane or boat, with many air connections from Juneau, Skagway or Haines via commuter air taxi service. Visitors can take the Glacier Bay Day Boat Tour for views of snow-capped mountains, tidewater glaciers, whales, sea lions, rare birds, coastal bears, eagles and more' plus close-up views of the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers that cruise ships can' t match. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, whale watching and authentic Alaskan experiences at the local Tribal House with hand-carved Totem Poles' each one telling a "story." Glacier Bay Lodge is the only commercial overnight accommodation in the park, Glacier Bay Lodge offers 48 rustic rooms nestled among Sitka spruce trees on the shores of Bartlett Cove, with the National Park Visitors Center on the second floor lobby, or Bartlett Cove Campground, which features bear-resistant food caches, firewood and a warming hut.

Julie Leventhal recommends the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, Alaska' s first via ferrata climbing route with endless activities from helicopter-accessed fat tire mountain biking to world-class salmon fishing.

Self

Surviving Holiday Travel

Holiday travel is hectic: busy airports, overwhelmed airline staff, weather delays, high ticket prices are but a few of the challenges. Katherine Parker-Magyar writing for Forbes shares some collected wisdom from popular travel writers on how best to survive and thrive during the Christmas and holiday travel season.


15 Travel Writers Share Their Best Tips For Holiday Travel

Katherine Parker-Magyar, Contributor Travel

It’s the most wonderful (and chaotic) time of the year. As hordes of travelers descend upon airports nationwide to journey home for the holidays, the prospect of December travel strikes both excitement and anxiety in the hearts of many. We decided to consult the experts for travel advice for the upcoming season (including tips on how to make your economy ticket feel like business class.)

To that end, 15 travel writers shared their hard-earned wisdom on everything from travel rewards programs to appropriate-airport attire. (“Air travel is a horrific slog, it’s every man for himself, and you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable,” Todd Kingston Plummer offered on the latter.)

To check or not to check, that is the question. Or, one of the questions, at least. And while some writers we interviewed were vehemently against such profligate packing habits (“the cardinal sin of traveling,” according to Leila Najafi), there is something to be said for the mantra that more is more. Often, the things we’re likely to forget are those that are most obvious. (I surely am not the only one who has found myself in a foreign country sans passport… Twice.)

With that in mind, remember to stash your everyday essentials in a carry-on before boarding (preferably in a pre-packed travel case to minimize your likelihood of forgetting.) Offers Merissa Principe: “You never know when you might have to borrow your receptionist’s motorbike in the Thai jungle at 2AM to find some Advil.”

Read on for our list of the best travel tips, sourced by the ultimate industry experts, to avoid that same fate. But if you do encounter some (inevitable) mishaps: Fear not. In the words of Lesley Chen: “Boring trips don’t make for good stories anyway.”

airport

Todd Kingston Plummer (Daily Beast, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, etc.)

I’m so sick and tired of people perpetuating this myth that airplane travel should somehow be glamorous, and that you should dress up for the plane. That is unequivocally false. I don’t care if you’re taking JetBlue to the Caribbean or flying in Singapore Airlines Suites Class' air travel is a horrific slog, it’s every man for himself, and you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable. If I’m flying to the tropics, you can bet that I’ll be wearing shorts. And if you think wearing pants somehow makes you immune to all the germs floating around on airplanes, you’re living a lie. Live your truth. Wear your comfiest shorts on the plane. Never apologize.

Jillian Dara (DuJour, Hemispheres, Travel & Leisure, etc.)

I hate creating expectations, but I like to be educated on a destination before a trip, so I do a certain level of pre-trip research. Part of this is to scope out popular attractions, restaurants, and bars, but more importantly, it’s to anticipate and understand a new culture’s customs. Additionally, I try to incorporate free time into my itinerary; the best way to discover a new place is to get lost, I’m overly curious, but always respectful.

Teddy Minford (Fodor' s Travel Guide)

I used to roll my clothes, but now I only roll wrinkle-resistant fabrics and fold anything that might wrinkle' I hate ironing, and I don’t like to travel with a steamer. The amount of space saved by rolling your clothes is not worth the wrinkles! My general rule for not overpacking is that your clothes should only take up half your suitcase. The rest should be free for shoes, toiletries, and everything else. This is where packing cubes come in handy, but they’re really not necessary if you’re using a clamshell-style suitcase (like every travel writer’s best friend, the Away bag).

Gemma Price (Condé Nast Traveller, Departures, Wall Street Journal, etc.)

Ok, the thing I can’t live without is my plane pack. Flying long haul in economy every other week isn’t the most comfortable, so I have a selection of little pouches that contain everything I need for the journey. I pack Clorox sanitizing wipes for the armrests and table because they hardly ever clean those things. Plus, some medications against a dodgy tummy (loperamide, Pepto Bismol, etc.) because there’s nothing worse than getting the trots at several thousand feet… And having the cabin crew yelling at you to go back to your seat and put your seatbelt on when you just can’t.

I have a Cabeau eye mask and memory foam head pillow ' it scrunches up quite small and is super comfortable ' and some heavy-duty earplugs that shut out screaming and snoring equally well. To keep me from looking like the crypt-keeper on disembarkation, I also bring a sample pot of my favorite moisturizer (Jurlique Moisture Replenishing Day Cream), and a little bottle of Evian face spray that I swiped from a Maldives resort gym. Is it bougie? Absolutely, but it works.

Josh Laskin (Outside Magazine, The Points Guy, Travel & Leisure, etc.)

For me, I always make sure I don’t have to check a bag. It gives me one less thing to worry about ' whether or not my belongings are going to make it where I need them to ' while traveling. I always watch people pulling huge luggage bags behind them, trying to get them up and over curbs, tripping and falling in the process, and think to myself, “man, that’s really not for me.” I bought a large 65-liter backpack, which can fit as much ' if not more ' than a large suitcase, and bring it as a carry-on. It also allows me to walk around hands-free, which is a pretty liberating feeling when traveling long distances or for longer periods.

Chelsea Davis (Forbes, Insider, TravelPulse, etc.)

Some of the things that have helped me on my travels are writing out five or so common phrases that I may need to know if I’m chatting up locals and having pre-loaded webpages with important info on the sights I want to see or maps if I can’t get WiFi.

Another thing I try to do when I get to a new place is to jump on a free walking tour with a local! You get the lay of the land and, hopefully, some insider tips on what to see, do, and eat. When it comes to packing, I try to think worst-case scenario' physically. I bring meds for allergies, itch cream & bug repellent (mosquitos love me!), Advil, Neosporin just in case… you get it. And when it comes to airports, I make sure that the second I get off the plane, I make sure I know what the local time is (not just trusting my iPhone to recognize the different time zone)' especially when I have a tight connecting flight.

Leila Najafi (Eater, Thrillist, USA Today, etc.)

I never check in a suitcase. It’s the cardinal sin of traveling in my book. Time is your currency when you’re traveling, so you want to be as efficient as possible. I’ve been able to go to Europe and Australia for three weeks with just a carry-on. You learn to get good at packing a wardrobe that you can mix and match, and if I’m staying at an Airbnb, I’ll do laundry.

Ramsey Qubein (AFAR, BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, etc.)

International travel is much more comfortable when you take advantage of the perks of airline and hotel elite status like upgrades, early check-in or late checkout at hotels, and airline and hotel lounges. Even those that don’t travel as frequently can take advantage of special benefits like lounge access, priority boarding, and fee waivers through certain credit cards. It certainly takes the hassle out of constant travel, and actually, kind of makes it more fun!

Merissa Principe (CBS Local, HelloGiggles, etc.)

If you want to travel like a travel writer, you need to have the right apps! I always download the app of the airline I’m traveling with, so I can get mobile updates as well as terminal and gate information. The rewarded miles don’t hurt either! My other must-have app while traveling is Mobile Passport! When I’m arriving stateside, I always use my mobile passport app to breeze through customers. I fill out the customs form on the app while we taxi to the gate and have found that it’s saved me hours over the past few months.

I’d also recommend having a pre-packed in-flight bag that has everything you might need ready to go for your flight so you can pull it out of a backpack or carry-on before finding your seat. That way, you’ll have all the essentials, like laptop, charger, book, Chapstick, headphones, snacks, just to name a few, all in one place so that you don’t have to hassle in the aisle and boarding can continue efficiently.

Finally, if you’re traveling via carry-on, which is very travel writer-esque, roll your clothes to save room, pack easy mix-and-match layering clothes, and don’t forget to pack pharmaceutical essentials like Advil! You never know when you might have to borrow your receptionist’s motorbike in the Thai jungle at 2AM to find some!

Amanda McCoy (POPSUGAR)

For me, it’s all about surviving the long-haul flight to make sure I don’t arrive completely wiped out with sore muscles. I essentially turn that coach seat into my own little spa oasis. A gel sleeping mask, lavender essential oil, cucumber under-eye masks, and' most importantly' an inflatable footrest (which is still the best damn $20 I’ve ever spent). Even flight attendants constantly comment on how I’ve turned my economy space into a pseudo-first class seat… Just minus the champagne.

Sandra MacGregor (CNN Travel, National Geographic, NYT etc.)

Noiseless headphones, my Kindle full of books I’ve been dying to read but put off until I am on an airplane, and my Seed facial serum by Canadian luxury vegan brand VERDURA are my travel go-to’s. Oh, and a person in the seat next to me who is affable (and doesn’t snore) is a nice bonus.

Lesley Chen (Brit + Co, Parade, etc.)

 My toiletry bag has a second set of everything I use (face wash, toothpaste, floss, lotion, etc. in miniature size). So, I can just grab it and go without having to worry about if I remembered to pack my face wash from the shower or my contact case from the counter. Things I always pack: a pair of black jeans (it’s a 2-for-1 because you can go dressy or casual!), a pair of running shoes (because I know the one time I don’t bring them will be the time I actually motivate to go to the gym), and flip flops.

This is kind of a terrible tip, but this is how I avoid jet lag: When I fly to and from international trips, I force myself to stay up on the plane and watch as many movies for as long as possible, and then when I land, I power through/keep moving until nighttime. By bedtime, my body is usually so tired (and probably disoriented) that I just go to sleep, and it kind of resets itself. Also, coffee helps.

Amber Gibson (Forbes, Hemispheres, WestJet Magazine, etc.)

If you’re making a long journey and worried about jet lag, get a spa treatment the first evening you arrive. Book it for as late as you can in the evening and go to bed right after. There’s no better way to prime yourself for a good night’s sleep.

Claudia Laroye (Flight Network, The Globe and Mail, Twist Travel, etc.)

‘A gelato a day keeps the tantrums away.’ This travel tip works wonders for kids but also adults too. It keeps the ‘hangries’ at bay, incentivizes good behavior while traveling, and gives everyone a boost when spirits flag due to jet lag. And hey, it doesn’t have to be gelato, it could be cake, cookies, wine, etc. We live by this motto when we travel, and I know it works in real life as it’s saved us from more than a few meltdowns.

Kelsey Ogletree (Modern Luxury, ROBB Report, WSJ, etc.)

As tempting as another round of late-night cocktails' or hitting up just one more cool dance spot' might sound, I’m a big fan of calling it a night as soon as you (politely) can. When you really want to learn about the culture of a destination and squeeze in as much as possible when you’re staying in a place for a short time, you don’t have time to feel tired or hungover. Early to bed, early to rise, has always suited me well whenever I’m traveling for work!

Forbes

Tips on Preventing Lost Luggage

If you are taking a volunteer vacation, a family trip to Disneyland or a Mediterranean cruise, few things put a damper on events like lost luggage. Lost clothes, toiletries, medications and electronics can drastically impact plans and enjoyment. Aimee Robinson, writing for Express Newspapers shares some tips that will help your bags arrive at your destination at the same time you do.


Luggage: One simple passenger mistake makes lost luggage more likely – do you do this?

LUGGAGE going missing is a traveller' s worst nightmare, however, it seems there are some passenger mistakes that make this unfortunate scenario more likely. Are you guilty of doing this on your travels?

By AIMEE ROBINSON

Lost luggage is a nightmare for many travellers. While often this means passengers are left without their baggage for days at a time, causing chaos for holiday plans, a worst-case scenario can see their bags lost forever. It turns out that while airport and airline staff are sometimes at fault for this, there is also a chance that one simple mistake by passengers can be the reason their luggage goes missing.

The problem can arise long before passengers even get to the airport.

One travel expert revealed the small oversight, which they said is often why bags don' t make it onto the right aircraft.

On a post in Reddit, the expert explained: "Not a secret, just common sense; the reason some bags miss their flight or get misrouted is because passengers don’t remove old tags.

"It confuses handlers as well as the conveyor belt scanners. I see it happen all the time."

Bag tags are used by airline carriers to route luggage to its final destination.

A small tag is usually attached to the tag with a barcode and number, meanwhile, the passenger is given a stub with a matching barcode.

It is vital passenger' s keep this tag safe, it will come in extremely useful should the bag go missing.

Additionally, some airports still require the passenger to maintain their baggage tag stub as proof before being reunited with their luggage.

However, once a journey is completed it is advised customers strip their luggage of their used tag so as not to confuse future flights and risk losing their luggage for good.

While baggage handers are frequently told to double-check the dates on luggage tags, the fast-paced nature of the job means sometimes mistakes can be made.

In fact, the latest baggage report from SITA revealed that 22.7 million bags were lost or temporarily mislaid globally.

According to SITA, there are several common reasons why luggage goes missing such as ticketing errors, bag switches, airport or customs restrictions, failure to load the bag or security issues.

Luckily, a baggage handler also shared his top tips on how passengers can keep their luggage safe,

He said these tips are simply "common sense".

In order to ensure your bags stay together, even if they aren' t with you, the airport worker suggests making sure all of your bags are the same.

He says: "Get the same bag, same colour same everything.

"If you’re lucky they will stay together and come off the truck together, not only because the handlers will place them together because they look the same, but they stack better when they are the same size."

The baggage handlers also went on to offer a word of warning when it comes to packing.

"If your bag is over 55lbs, it’s gonna have a bad time.

"How annoyed do you get lifting your own bag into the back of the car, imagine having to do that 200 times, it gets frustrating and tiresome, and sometimes we just throw with very little care because they are too heavy to do carefully."

Other handy hacks include ensuring you have a sturdy bag-complete with a re-enforced handle and strong exterior, and filling out the attached name card that comes with many suitcases.

Of course, there are some situations when lost luggage simply can' t be helped.

An expert from Staysure, a travel insurance provider, spoke to Express.co.uk to offer advice on what to do if passengers find themselves in this situation.

Julian Kearney, CEO of Staysure, says the best thing to do is "keep hold of any airline or any other ticket that confirms your travel arrangements".

He added: "In most instances, luggage is reported missing whilst under the supervision of airlines and there is nothing that travellers can do to prevent their luggage going missing whilst in their care.

"In the unfortunate event of this happening, Staysure customers are advised to notify their airline straight away and register the loss by completing any necessary paperwork.

"This will be required in support of any claim made under their Staysure Travel Insurance Policy."

Express Newspapers

Travel safely

Safety is always paramount when considering a travel destination. There is a lot of turmoil in the world and minimizing exposure to violence, crime and public unrest – especially when travelling with children and loved ones – is very important. To help in trip planning, Lonely Planet has released its list of safe destinations.


The safest countries in the world for travel in 2020, according to a new report

The Nordic nations of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland are some of the safest countries in the world to visit, according to a new report from security specialists at International SOS.

The organisation released its 11th annual Travel Risk Map, an interactive map which predicts the safest and most dangerous places to travel in 2020, as well as the biggest issues travellers will face. Countries were ranked in different risk categories: insignificant, low, medium, high and extreme.

The Nordic nations were grouped in ‘insignificant’, along with Switzerland, Greenland and Slovenia. The US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most of Europe were rated as having a “low” level of travel risk, in addition to Argentina, Japan, China and Namibia.

According to International SOS, criteria was based on “the current threat posed to travellers by political violence, social unrest, as well as violent and petty crime.” Other factors include transportation infrastructure, industrial relations, the effectiveness of security and emergency services and susceptibility to natural disasters.

Those ranked as having a “medium” risk level include Russia, India, South Africa, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mozambique, Brazil and Indonesia.

Aerial view of Rio De Janeiro. Corcovado mountain with statue of Christ the Redeemer, urban areas of Botafogo, Flamengo and Centro, Sugarloaf mountain.

The International SOS report ranked Brazil as “medium” risk ©microgen/Getty Images

The report considers Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan to be “extreme” risk countries due to ongoing conflicts, while Mexico has a mixed rating. The states of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are considered “high” risk, while the rest of the country is deemed “moderate”. India, Egypt and Madagascar also have mixed ratings.

For the full report, see here. If you have any health or security concerns about a country you’re planning to visit, it’s always best to check your government’s travel advisory reports.

Lonely Planet

Life-changing Volunteer Vacations

For many people, family vacations create the longest lasting, happiest memories that are carried and shared for a lifetime. A family volunteer vacation has the added element of a new country, community and culture and changing personal outlooks as families give back while receiving a profound, eye-opening experience. Here is a fantastic article in a recent edition of Chesapeake Family Life


Volunteer Vacations that Give Back

November 1, 2019

Taking a family vacation can be a great way for families to relax and reconnect. But what if your family wants a more meaningful experience than the annual trip to the beach or a theme park? Enter volunteer vacations, a popular alternative to the traditional vacation that allows families to give back while also getting away.

Volunteer vacations have been on the rise for the past decade, and volunteer tourism or "voluntourism" is now an almost 200-billion dollar industry. It' s a trend that continues to grow as more families search for ways to make a concrete impact on the world around them.

"I think more people are seeking this kind of vacation because they have a personal desire to connect with a cause they support," says Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Executive Director of Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization that pairs families with volunteer vacation experiences. "We are living in such a digital world that it can be hard for kids to gain perspective on the world around them, and parents want to give their children the experience of making a difference in a direct way."

Many organizations, like Globe Aware, Discover Corps, and Together for Good, are helping plan vacations that directly impact a community in need. Globe Aware' s popular Cambodia trips have families build wheelchairs for land mine victims, while its Guatemala trips focus on a local mountain community where families help improve housing and plant vegetable gardens for single mothers.

Though many volunteer vacations focus on global experiences, travelers can also make a difference closer to home, like the trips offered by the American Hiking Society during which participants repair trails at national parks.

Volunteer vacations also take the hassle out of planning, as trips are completely planned by the organization and almost always include housing, food and real-time training. "A volunteer vacation takes the legwork out of planning and it' s a great way to vacation while doing good and working toward a common goal," says Libby Wile, Senior Director of Programs at the American Hiking Society.

While volunteer vacations are aimed at making a difference for others, the experience is just as impactful for those doing the work. "When a family experiences this type of vacation, the effects can be felt long after the trip is over," says Haley-Coleman. "It can give kids a sense of appreciation for what really matters, and it can be empowering for them to know that they' ve truly made a difference."

Read on for five volunteer vacations that offer a variety of experiences from exotic travel to far-off locales, to one-day Caribbean opportunities, to nature-based trips closer to home.

Globe Aware
For almost twenty years, Globe Aware has been connecting families with volunteer opportunities around the world. With 20 international locations, Globe Aware offers a variety of experiences for families who want to make a difference. Travel to Thailand and work with endangered elephants or help rebuild in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico. Globe Aware' s planned trips last one week and include food, accommodations, medical insurance and bilingual translators. Additionally, Globe Aware also offers customized experiences that can be added on to existing vacations.
globeaware.org

Chesapeake Family Life

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Changes to Cuba-U.S. Flight Rules

The current U.S. administration announced Oct. 25, 2019  that all flights to Cuba would be stopped to any city other than Havana. Globe Aware’s volunteer vacation programs are based in Havana and will continue to function.

Washington Post

Social media a key motivator for Gen Z Travelers

Determing the next great trip and adventure can be a challenge: finite money and time must vet seemingly infinite travel opportunities. Generation Z travelers are turning to social media to help them in their due diligence, finding the next-best-destination, trend and activity. Allie Jones in a recent article for Conde Nast Traveler examined the trends and motivators sending the newest generation of travelers around the world.


Gen Z Are Starting to Travel' And Instagram and YouTube Determine Where They Go

By ALLIE JONES
July 29, 2019

Experts differ on the exact confines of America' s newest generation, Gen Z, but for the purposes of this article, let' s say that it includes anyone born after the year 1995. That means that Gen Z' s oldest members are now in their late teens and early twenties' the time of life when, if you' re lucky, you get to start traveling on your own.

Like many of her peers, 18-year-old influencer Kayla Kosuga has documented her early travels on social media. Kosuga, a recent high-school graduate, has 550,000 subscribers on YouTube, where she' s posted videos about her "morning routine," her boyfriend, "being grounded," and other relatable aspects of teen life for the last two years. Last year, she recorded a vlog during a family trip to Washington, D.C.' the classic boring educational vacation. But this year, she informed her followers she was striking out on her own in a video titled "TRAVELING WITHOUT MY PARENTS FOR THE FIRST TIME." (She went to Beautycon, an influencer conference, in New York City.) Later, she traveled to Bali with her boyfriend and documented the trip on YouTube and Instagram, where she has 162,000 followers.

According to Jonah Stillman, a 20-year-old expert on his generation, this documentation is a crucial part of how Gen Z travels, whether they have hundreds of thousands of followers or not. "We really are the first native generation to a world with iPhones, smart tablets, smart watches, all these different things," he says. Stillman runs the consultancy GenZGuru with his father, David Stillman, a Gen Xer, and they advise companies like the NFL and Deloitte on how to reach young consumers. "Social media plays into, not only travel, but almost every aspect of life" for Gen Z, Stillman says. "Gen Z pretty much goes through every decision they make, every activity they do, every trip they take, with the lens of: how can I create a permanent moment using social media? Whether that be taking an Instagram photo, or creating a travel blog, or posting day to day updates on my Snapchat story."

Riley Taylor, a 20-year-old photographer who often shoots Gen Z travel influencers at music festivals like Coachella and popular European destinations like Venice, confirmed that social media is one of the first things he thinks about when booking a trip. He typically works with models like Eva Gutowski, 24, an influencer who parlayed teen YouTube stardom into a travel-influencing career, creating glowy, dreamlike images that, he says, are extremely popular with his peers. "One of the things I love about social media is that you can kind of see the places that other people have been to and curate the way that you would want to visit these places and what you want to do," he says. "I often use the saved section of Instagram and will save a bunch of inspiration photos for a certain place that I want to go to. That kind of helps me figure out where I want to go and what I want to do there and make sure that I take photos of."

“GEN Z PRETTY MUCH GOES THROUGH EVERY DECISION THEY MAKE WITH THE LENS OF: HOW CAN I CREATE A PERMANENT MOMENT USING SOCIAL MEDIA?”

Taylor said that Instagram is currently the most influential platform among his peers, followed closely by YouTube. There are thousands of travel influencers on these platforms who make a living visiting far-flung destinations, often at the behest of hotel, airline, and fashion brands, he adds. And many of them are just barely out of school, like Taylor' s friend Gutowski, who has 6.8 million followers on Instagram and recently posted photos from Tokyo, New York City, Death Valley, and Disneyland. (Disneyland remains a very popular Gen Z destination, perhaps because the park encourages visitors to take as many photos as possible.)

According to Stillman, influencers like Gutowski have essentially replaced old-school travel agents and formalized review sites for Gen Z travelers. "What we have seen specifically with travel, picking travel destinations is pretty much the end of the era of experts as we know it," he says. "We’re not going to big travel agencies or companies to get recommendations of where we are going. It’s really peer-to-peer reviews, and you see that in almost all aspects."

Taylor concurs. Usually he picks places to travel "by word of mouth, or if I see somebody I trust and look up to on social media [who has] been there, then that would definitely be a deciding factor," he says. He adds that social media influencers have been his primary motivation when it comes to planning trips for himself' and its clear that Instagram and YouTube have made travel feel more accessible than ever before to Taylor and his peers. "From a young age, I really did want to travel and I was always so scared and didn’t think that it would actually happen,” he says. “But from watching so many people on Instagram and YouTube and different social media platforms go to these places and see that it’s not a big deal, I was kind of able to get over my traveling fears and start traveling."

And like many of his peers, Taylor has been savvy about getting certain trips paid for. Brands like the fashion company Revolve have invited him to Coachella to take photos of other influencers, who in turn promote the festival to the general public. (Taylor himself has 128,000 followers on Instagram.) Stillman says that music festivals are a common first trip for his peers to take away from their parents. "I think that Gen Z has really brought back what maybe the traditionalists remember in their age of Woodstock' we have our modern-day versions," he says. "You see on social media that Gen Zers flock to these different events, whether it be Lollapalooza, Coachella, Country Fest, all these different things, because it’s the best of both worlds. You’re vacationing, you’re with friends, you’re in a very unique environment."

Overall, Stillman says that Gen Z travelers are price-conscious and more likely to spend money on travel and experiences than pretty much anything else. "Growing up in the midst of the 2009 recession and seeing the downfall of their parents’ money" contributes to this mindset, he says. "We are very price-conscious shoppers. Oftentimes, when you buy a premium item, or something nice, it creates buyers’ remorse. However, when you see my trip, or you buy a festival ticket or concert ticket, whatever it may be, you very rarely have remorse about a great experience with friends. You also get to create that memory on social media."

And that "memory" gets shared with many others, providing them a glimpse into influencers’ lives and allowing them to build up the confidence for their own first trips. When Kosuga posted "Traveling Without My Parents For the First Time" on YouTube, she was sharing the ups and downs of navigating everything from Beautycon to Times Square (fan encounters included). The travelogue garnered over 300,000 views' and is one of her best-performing videos to date.

Conde Nast Traveller

Volunteer Programs Helping Companies Connect Globally

Corporations of all sizes have international suppliers, manufactures, agents and customers. Learning about the countries, communities and people is important in understanding how best to manage these business relationships.Kimberly Haley-Coleman of Globe Aware has decades of experience leading groups around the world on short-term volunteer experiences and creating and managing volunteer abroad solutions for groups and companies of every size.


Managing Risk and Reward When Volunteering Abroad

Nearly every public company in the world, and an increasing number of smaller companies, have some level of international engagement linked to their core business. It’s part of the globally connected present. Industries ranging from medical, tech, import-export, energy, and finance to agriculture, production, construction, manufacturing, marketing, executive and risk management need to be alert to how geopolitical events could affect their people, product and profit.

IMG 20190507 WA0006At Stratfor, we believe success in working internationally can be developed with the application of geopolitical know-how: understanding the implications of historical, social and cultural mores, business practices, geography, politics and infrastructure of the countries where you choose to do business.

Tracking and managing those geopolitical risks can be nearly unmanageable for smaller companies, unless they have strategies and partnerships in place to complement what they can do themselves.

Kimberly Haley-Coleman has firsthand knowledge of what’s at stake. She is founder and Executive Director of Globe Aware, a non-profit company that develops short-term volunteer programs in international environments. The company’s goal is to provide an immersive volunteer experience for busy professionals who want to make a difference in a short amount of time doing projects that are actually requested by the communities they serve. Ventures in giving range across continents, from Southeast Asia to South America to Eurasia and beyond. Globe Aware works with communities on projects they identify and volunteers in both service work and learning more about the people with whom they are working. Globe Aware links volunteers with ventures and people all over the world.

I’ll say it’s sort of a mini-Peace Corps experience. While the typical Peace Corps experience is a 2 1/2 year commitment, this is a one week intensive immersion.

Globe Aware volunteers immerse themselves in service and in a community. Projects range from building schools in the Andes to building irrigation projects in Southeast Asia to teaching students in Guatemala to working at an animal rescue in Costa Rica or preserving elephant habitat in Thailand.

“I’ll say it’s sort of a mini-Peace Corps experience,” Haley-Coleman explained. “While the typical Peace Corps experience is a 2 1/2 year commitment, this is a one-week intensive immersion. It’s similar in the sense that you’re giving back to the community, side-by-side with locals, as equals, on some project that they’ve chosen, that’s important to them, that will hopefully make a really big impact in a short period of time.”

Prior to launching Globe Aware, Haley-Coleman led a distinguished career in a broad number of private sector fields tied together by a central theme: helping internationally-focused businesses succeed. As both a for-profit and non-profit leader, Haley-Coleman has a deep appreciation for the value of global awareness.

She told Stratfor that when she decided to launch her company, it became apparent on where she should focus in providing a potentially life-changing experience: awareness and mitigation of risk, and the need to understand at a deeper level the place where you are working.

First and foremost, while we’re looking for communities that have need, we also want them to be communities that are culturally expansive… It doesn’t mean we’re necessarily in the communities of the greatest need, we have been asked to have programs and places like Somalia, Darfur, Afghanistan, Syria, and in terms of risk and liability we just aren’t in a position to go into war-torn countries… We really have to watch in terms of safety where were putting our volunteers, and then the projects we work on have quite a few criteria. We’re not operating heavy equipment and machinery, we’re not high on ladders, we’re not Doctors Without Borders, so we are not handling bodily fluids and things like that.

But confounding and complicating efforts is a continually shifting menu of issues that face most developing regions. These changes can be disruptive to people and business as well as potentially dangerous. Or they can be rich in opportunity, if you are knowledgeable and poised to take advantage of change. Haley-Coleman said:

We are very actively monitoring the state department sheets that come from Canada, the U.S. and England. They do a pretty good job of any even minor possible situations, such as an expected protest or strike. Then we also monitor the CDC… alerts relating to health and things like dengue fever, Ebola, Zika. This is another thing that’s always changing. Avian influenza and H1N1, when those things came out they really impact who’s willing to go where, and who’s allowed on a plane and what is deemed safe or not. However, we also are staffed locally by people who are based there looking at that situation. Those can change too. For example, in Puerto Rico it’s not just about, “Hey is there a hurricane coming, is there a protest, is there a war?” It’s also, “Can we get the materials right now to even put roofs on houses, given how difficult it is to get donations delivered in Puerto Rico?”

The rapid pace of change from one project to the next and from one country to the next takes careful pre-planning and close attention during trips. There are always challenges to managing multiple projects across multiple continents from the home office to the field: including, sometimes, evolving in-country laws and even some level of corruption. Haley-Coleman says she enjoys navigating it all.

If materials are expected and needed at a particular location, the idea is all the materials are there before the volunteers get there. Well, there have been times when we’ve been asked for bribes to get materials there on time.

These are the kinds of things that are always changing so this is an area where it is helpful to have somebody who is notifying our volunteers of what’s going on, what to expect, how much to pay for this or for that, where to get the best value for your money in terms of bringing money into a country. Because that’s changed too, there was a time when travelers checks were the primary safe currency, and I would never tell anyone to do that now… While we have seen, in terms of bribes, where we’re more likely to encounter that, the volunteer, it might be invisible to the volunteer. For example, if materials are expected and needed at a particular location, the idea is all the materials are there before the volunteers get there. Well there have been times when we’ve been asked for bribes to get materials there on time.

Haley-Coleman loves what she does, and enjoys the challenges presented by constant change and the constant need to stay updated. But those challenges have also become central to most businesses in the digital age. The same skills needed to juggle projects and secure the safety of supplies and people are critical elements for success ' whether your business is local, national or global in scope.

Stratfor Enterprises

Volunteer travel to Lake Peten Itza, El Remate, Guatemala

A family' s tradition of sending grandchildren, once they reach the age of 16, on trips to introduce them to different cultures and people and around the world continues. Here is a travelogue entry by Zeth to Guatemala with Globe Aware. Previous grandkids selected volunteer work in the Andes mountains of Peru, with the Roma people of Romania and in a small rural village in the West African country of Ghana.

Day One: Lake Peten Itza, El Remate, Guatemala

IMG 9987Moments like yesterday are why I' m a travel junkie. The guys still asleep, I took an early walk along a small road where we' re staying. What a treat! No city noise, only the idyllic sounds of nature: tropical birds unlike we hear at home … the occasional cry of a monkey, perhaps chiding her youngster … insects buzzing … and the crunch of my footsteps along the gravel-dirt road.

After a while a small older man walked in my direction, and I offered my best "Buenos dias, senor." He offered me a mostly toothless smile and gently reached out toward me " but not his right hand, as if to shake hands, his left hand. He held onto my hand and we had this wonderful nodding and eye-to-eye exchange while he said something I couldn' t understand. Had he been an American in the U.S., I would have likely averted my eyes and pulled back thinking, "Why is he still holding onto my hand?" But he just continued to smile with old soul eyes and, as we parted, he blew me a kiss! For me travel is less about the big Eiffel Tower/Pyramids/Vatican imagery, and more these small, magical moments when we have real human contact with people we would otherwise never encounter. Blissful!

Day One was mostly orientation and a few hours of R&R. Globe Aware’s local organization is Project Ix-Canaan, founded by Canadian Anne Lossing who came to Guatemala 20+ years ago toward the end of Guatemala' s long civil war. She wanted to empower the local Mayan community to protect their own rain forests, and identified the community first needed health, education and opportunity.

Over the years she and her Guatemalan husband, a doctor, have established a medical clinic and a dental clinic (at left) which is staffed largely by visiting clinicians from the U.S. and other places. (No patients on the weekend, so it was empty.)

They also have established an after-school youth development center and a women' s center, each of which we toured today.

We also visited a school where we' ll be teaching later in the week, and Anne pointed out shards of pottery on the ground " at least hundreds but easily 1,000 or more years old " that can be found in several places in this region called Peten. The Mayans believed that vessels had a kind of spirit and they would break most of their pots during sacrifices or in burials, and also every 40 years to start a new beginning.

Self

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