When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

Roman Colosseum - international travel

So you like to travel?  Have you learned the lesson of adapting to the conventions of the area in which you are visiting?  Living the old proverb “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” will change your entire travel experience.

Have you experienced real Chinese food in a small town eatery where you’re the only foreigner in the neighborhood and have to order by pointing at pictures or nearby patron plates?  Is the Thai Massage you received last week at your hometown massage spa anything like the one you experienced in a small Bangkok suburb on your Asian trip last year?  Have you ever in your life tasted a kiwi as juicy and succulent as the one picked fresh from the vine on a country farm in New Zealand?  Experiencing more of the local culture in your travels will change your life.

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.  As a young traveler, I spent some teenage years living in the Middle East.  Due to my inexperience and my family situation I spent these precious years mostly living in an American bubble.  My school was an American school.  My friends were Americans, we spoke English for the most part and only learned enough of the local language to navigate in taxis and do some limited shopping at local businesses.  I took no local language classes.  Despite this, the experience provided me exposure to a different culture and many unique opportunities.  Eventually, this formed the base of my love for travel.

The life lesson reality that hit me hard came only a year after returning from the Middle East.   By then, as a young single adult out on my own, I spent over a year living in Brazil.  Only this time, I learned the language, lived with the locals, adopted the culture, the food and avoided speaking English as much as possible.  What a difference! 

Only then did I regret my teen Middle East experience for not having learned the language and immersed myself more in the rich local environment.  Although I learned a lot, I also missed out a lot.

Ever since then my travels have taken on a different perspective.  I love to “do as the Romans do” as much as possible.  With a bit of research before traveling and a focus on finding and experiencing the local life, travel has taken on a different and memorable meaning. 

Sure, I still like to see the popular tourist sites and events.  However, most of my travel memories now come from departing from traditional tourist itineraries and exploring the local scenes.   Now I know what actual Chinese food really tastes like after wandering the streets and discovering local eateries where I am the only foreigner and have to order by pointing to pictures or plates of nearby patrons.  Italian pizza from a small Italian village pizzeria is absolutely nothing like pizza “back home.”  Riding in a cab in Athens, Greece—whoa, now there’s an eye-opening, mind-blowing voyage.  And that Thai Massage in a small Bangkok suburb is one I crave often.   

So here a few tips on experiencing more of the local culture and getting more out of your travels.  These are some of the few things I have learned that have made all the difference.

  • Ask some of the locals for suggestions on food, entertainment, sites to see and places they hang out.  Even your hotel employees have their favorite personal places that they often frequent but hardly ever reveal to guests.
  • Look for opportunities to visit smaller towns or locations different than the popular cities.  It’s in the small towns that see fewer foreign visitors where the local culture is unique and people tend to be more friendly and open.
  • Don’t be afraid to wander and get lost.  You might check with a good source first to know what areas to stay away from.  With those guidelines, just wander and enjoy the people, the sites, the food, and the experience.  I have met some of the most friendly and authentic folks this way.
  • Try a different variety of foods.  You may never be back so why not try all kinds of dishes.  You just may discover some new favorites.  And unless you discover some revolting options, you probably have been a bit limited in your culinary expeditions.
  • Research before you travel.  Learn a little about the culture, people and language. 
  • Dress conservatively, as much like the locals as possible to avoid that “I’m a tourist” image.
  • Have an open mind.  Go with the flow.  Talk to people.  Spend less time at the tourist traps and get out into the local areas. 

Basically, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Your travel experiences will forever be different. 

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9 Tips to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Woman drinking out of large cup - stay healthy while traveling

Just how do you stay healthy while traveling?  I am not talking about being ready for a fitness competition—just basic good health habits to avoid feeling run down and get the most from your travel experiences.  It is so easy to fall into bad habits while on the road.  Here are 9 tips to help keep up your energy and health.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Traveling can be stressful on your body.  Crossing time zones will just add to the stress. Getting plenty of sleep is one of the most important things you can do.  Your body needs enough rest to recover from your activities, the time changes and often diet changes you may experience.  How much sleep is enough?  Everyone is different so the best advice is to listen closely to your own body.  Error on the conservative side.  After traveling long distances, participating in long walks, tours, or activities, don’t be afraid to take some time for a good recovery nap.  This is especially important during the time that you are adjusting to your new location.

Pace Yourself

Enjoy your destination yet be careful not to over-plan your days and activities.  Don’t try and do everything all in a short period.  If there is so much to do, see and experience make sure you have planned plenty of time to take it all in without overly stressing yourself.  Consider staying longer or saving some activities for a return trip.  Slow down and spread out your itinerary.  Experience the wonders of each place without the pressure to fit everything in at a hurried pace.  Be active, see what you can but pace yourself with plenty of breaks.  Leave yourself some open time in your daily plans for the unexpected.  And rest when you need it. 

Do Some Stretching

Looking forward to a full day of activities?  Take a few minutes each morning and stretch each part of your body.  A five to ten-minute session of stretches at the start of your day—arms, shoulders, neck, back, and legs—will refresh you and provide a good start to the day.  It’s okay to miss your regular exercise routine.  After all, you are on vacation or traveling with a busy day ahead.  Just take a few minutes of stretching in the morning.  Also, practice stretching during the day while waiting in line, waiting for food, sitting before a show starts, or whenever a short opportunity exists.  Then a little stretching right before bed helps take away some of the tension and prepares you for a better night’s sleep.

Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing can be done anywhere and most any time.  Take a deep breath starting with your abdomen, followed by your rib cage and hold your breath for a count of eight.  Then let it out over the count of four and hold your breath for the count of eight before repeating the cycle.  Just five to ten cycles of breathing in this manner will help you relax and counter any stress you may be experiencing during your travels.  Traveling, or not, this is a great habit to develop and use several times each day. It will also help you stay healthy while traveling.

Walk When You Can

Get is some mild exercise by walking whenever possible.  Skip the elevator and take the stairs.  Walk past the closest public transportation station to the next one.  Get in a few extra steps throughout the day and the efforts will reward you.  Plus you will experience more of the local scene when walking rather than taking the bus, a cap or the metro.

Exercise

If you are in a place with a fitness center, use it.  You can always do a few exercises right in your room—things you do already in your daily life.  If you exercise regularly, try to fit in some exercise while on your travels to keep up your healthy habits.  Even if you did not pack exercise clothes, you can still do some in-room fitness activities such as pushups, jumping jacks, burpees, yoga, or whatever works for you.  If you head outside for a run or exercise walk be sure to speak with the locals to avoid any undesirable areas.

Eat Breakfast

Breakfast is the best way to set yourself up with energy to start the day.  Grab some healthy breakfast to fuel your body that has been fasting all night long.  It’s easy to grab some instant oatmeal and add warm water from the tap or from a coffee machine.  Fruit and cereal can be found in most hotels or in nearby retail locations.  Whatever you do, don’t skip this meal.  At least for me, it is the most important meal of the day and provides me the energy to start out right.  By keeping the body fueled appropriately you can help your body stay healthy while traveling.

Drink

Staying hydrated will make a huge difference also.  Carry water with you all the time.  There are plenty of water bottle options on the market.  Drink enough to keep your body hydrated and your health and energy levels will thank you.  Staying hydrated is the foundation of a well-functioning and healthy body.  And your mom will be proud too. 

Reduce Alcohol and Sweet Drinks

Both alcohol and sweet drinks are loaded with calories.  Keep your calorie count down by drinking water instead.  If in doubt about the local water supply be sure to find a good source of bottled water for the duration of your stay.  Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep.  Enjoy a drink or two based on your normal routine but be careful not to go overboard just because you are out of town.  You will only regret it later.

Enjoy your travels and do what you can to stay healthy while traveling by incorporating these tips into your routine.  Be wise and you will get the most out of your travels.…

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How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

pineapple with sunglasses and party hat - eat healthy while traveling

Struggling to eat healthy while traveling?  Whether you are on a short business trip or an extended vacation, eating healthy in places away from home is not an easy feat.  Normally traveling involves eating out rather than being in your own kitchen fixing your own meals.  Also, it is just difficult to find the time and energy to track down a local supermarket, collect a variety of ingredients, haul them all back to your hotel room or Airbnb accommodations, and then take time to fix your own meals. 

It is normal for my entire diet to be upended every time I travel.  Although planning ahead often helps, the best- laid plans often get sidetracked with all the activities involved in the travel.  I do like to control my budget and attempt to avoid completely turning my diet upside down.  So here are some recommendations that I have found that help me keep some normalcy during my time away from home.

Take More Snacks

Okay, I always pack my own snacks to help keep my diet on the normal track during my travels.  However, I quickly learned that I should always pack many more snacks than I think I should.  Stocking up on non-perishable snacks that are approved for airline travel is one way to keep the hunger pains away.  Things like nuts, dried fruits, jerky, and protein bars can provide a quick solution to flight hunger pains and are an easy solution to avoid any unhealthy options provided by the airline.  Also, eating a healthy snack every few hours will help settle your hunger so that when you do sit down for a full service meal you won’t be tempted to overeat.  It is a good idea to pack all your snacks into individual serving sizes.  That way, if you do end up with extra, you can save it for later in your trip.

Shop Locally

Another way to keep the hunger pains away is to visit a local supermarket or grocery store once you arrive at your destination.  This is a great way to refill your snack packs, see what the local scene offers and not have to worry about having all your snacks being TSA-approved.

Bring Your Own Food

On a special diet or just want to avoid the type of food served on airplanes?  A secret travel tip to avoid this is to simply bring your own food.  Oatmeal and soup cups are great options since they avoid the TSA liquid restrictions.  All you need is to have the flight attendant bring you some hot water and you are guaranteed to have a snack that you chose to chase away those hunger pains.  You will not have to pay those high prices for food offered by the airline either. 

Eat Breakfast

Always try to eat a good breakfast before you hit the road, regardless of your method of travel.  That way you get a good start with foods that you like rather than end up at the mercy of limited options at the airport or train station.  Plus, eating a good and nutritious breakfast will keep you awake, full of energy and attentive as you embark on your day’s activities. 

Take a Reusable Water Bottle

Bringing your own reusable water bottle is a perfect way to drink when you are thirsty rather than interrupting your travels or waiting for an airline attendant to serve you.  Staying hydrated is one way to feel good during the day.  Also, with your own reusable water bottle, you can avoid buying plastic-filled water bottles—saving on the expense and avoid producing all the extra garbage.  When flying you can empty the water bottle before entering the security area and refill it after passing through.  I have always found a place to refill my water bottle on the other side of security.  Most airports now provide filtered water filling stations, and they all have water fountains that can be used. 

Eat Your Veggies

Filling half of your plate with vegetables will provide a healthy option for food.  This tip is especially valuable at buffets where it is often tempting to pile up the greasy, fatty foods.  Be wise and watch your portions.  Filling up half your plate with veggies will still allow you to eat all the other offerings so you won’t miss out on something delicious.  At the same time, you won’t suffer from that stuffed, overeating feeling.

Cook Your Own

If you happen to end up on a place with a kitchen, you can easily do your own shopping at your destination, fill the cupboards with basic ingredients and enjoy healthy and cheap meals during your stay.  Maybe you only eat in for breakfast and lunch and enjoy a nice dinner out.  Whatever your budget allows, if you like to cook and have the facilities, this is a perfect way to eat healthy while traveling.

Plan Ahead

With a bit of planning, you will often find nearby restaurants with healthy and nutritious offerings.  It might be a health food counter, a local gym or supermarket deli, or even a fantastic full-service restaurant with healthy menu choices.  Finding these options ahead of time makes it easy to enjoy your travels and, come mealtime, stop at the preplanned location and enjoy the menu offerings you found ahead of time. 

With some advanced planning, you can make the most of snacks and meals during your travels.  Choosing to eat healthy while traveling will contribute to a much better travel experience than the alternative.   …

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Fly More Comfortably

airplane in sky - fly more comfortably

With the cramped seating arrangements in today’s airplanes, and especially in those smaller commuter planes, flying economy class can be a real pain.  It is the way to save money on your travel although the trip may be somewhat uncomfortable.  Here is a list of some of my basic tips to help make your voyage a bit more bearable so you can fly more comfortably.

Clothes

What you wear can make a big difference in your comfort during the flight.  Wearing layers is one way to be prepared since you never know whether it will be hot or cold, or even both, during the trip.  By wearing clothing in layers that can be easily removed or added on as needed you can adjust as necessary.  Soft and breathable clothes such as cotton tee-shirts or sweatshirts will help keep you comfortable.  I always avoid wearing wool or anything that is uncomfortably tight or has irritating tags.  Some of my wool clothing causes me to itch after a while—not an issue to deal with on a long flight.

Shoes

Keep it comfortable for flying and make sure they are appropriate for walking.  You will be doing a lot of walking.  Also, having footwear that can easily slip on and off makes for easier passage through the security areas.  Then, once you are in the air you can slip off the shoes since feet often swell a bit on flights.  Be sure to wear socks or have a pair of slippers handy.  This is not a time for heavy boots or high heels—keep them in your luggage if you must have them at your destination.

Ears

With inexpensive foam earplugs, you can easily block out those crying babies, noisy kids or chatty passengers.  The subdued quietness may even let you catch a nap along the way.  Since I love to travel I always carry the foam earplugs.  However, one of the best travel gadgets I have is a set of noise cancellation earphones that I use most of the time.  They cut out the jet engine noise, subdue the surrounding sounds and allow me to listen to my favorite tunes along the way.  Either way, cutting out the surrounding noise will help you fly more comfortably.

Food

A good healthy snack pays big dividends while flying.  By packing your own, you can choose the combination that works best for you.  Maybe it’s veggies, or trail mix (one of my favorites), fruit or any other item that can easily be stowed in a sealable baggie and pulled out when you need a bit of nourishment to lift your energy level.  Stay away from heavy, greasy foods that will zap your energy levels. 

Check-In

Be sure to check in early.  Check-in at home or at your hotel or office before you head to the airport to avoid time waiting in line and to get your seat assigned ahead of time.  By checking in early with some of the discount airlines you also save the extra fee they charge for airport check-in services.

Seating

All seats are not equal and we all have our individual seating preferences.  I prefer an aisle seat where it is easier to stretch out or to get up and stretch my legs during the flight without bothering other passengers.  Some like the window seat for a quiet ride or the window view.  Not too many people are happy with a middle seat although sometimes that is all that is available. 

Drink

Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  I always bring my own water bottle (empty through security, then filled up before boarding) for a plentiful water supply during the flight.  Skip the coffee and sugar which will cause a sugar crash leaving you more tired and dried out.  Also, the cabin air humidity is much lower than normal which will cause you to dry out, itch and get thirsty.  The flight attendants can provide water but it is never enough for me.  My own water bottle supply saves the day.

Pockets

The seats are small enough already.  The last thing you want are pockets filled with items that poke you in the legs as you settle in or cause you to be constantly adjusting them during the flight.  Empty those pockets into a small bag, or even into the seat pocket in front of you if you will not forget them when you land. 

Wipes

Bring individually wrapped disinfecting wipes with you.  I always fly more comfortably after wiping down all the surfaces in my seat area.  The tray table, the tray table lock, the seat belt buckle, the seat adjusting button, the armrests, even the seat pocket area, and any other surface.  These areas are touched by every passenger who has used the seat and are not disinfected by the service crews.  …

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Airfare Options – Get the Best Price

Airfare option - wing of a plane in flight

In today’s world of internet search engines and metasearch travel websites, it is usually quick and easy to search for airfares and find the cheapest airfare options.  The metasearch sites search across a vast database of different airlines and also include other helpful tools for the traveler.  You can find price maps based on destinations, calendar-based pricing, price prediction, fare alerts, and even more valuable features. 

Check Out Options

So it is a good idea before you buy your tickets to check out multiple options via these internet search engine options.  You can often be surprised to find a variety of prices and you never know where you might find the best prices for your trip.  Often there are various itinerary options to get you to your destination and each can result in different pricing. 

Favorite Sites

While there are many different search sites, some of my favorite include Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights, and Kayak

Most often I will start my search for the best fares using Skyscanner.  Once I find an apparent good price I’ll open separate search windows and check on Momondo, Google Flights, and Kayak.  The last steps include checking the airline’s official website and also checking some of the websites of budget airlines that do not provide their fares to the metasearch travel websites.  Okay, this process involves doing several searches, but you never know if there are cheaper fare alternatives unless you check various sources.  It takes only a little extra time and you may save significant dollars.  Skyscanner often results in the best fares, but not always. 

Get Alerts

In addition to searching various sites, it is a good idea to sign up for email fare alerts with those sites that offer this option.  Once you input your range of travel dates and the cities involved, the website will then send you emails alerting you of price drops. 

There are also several websites that are dedicated solely to searching for the best airfare deals across the world and they post their findings regularly.  Getting on the mailing list with these sites may result in receiving notice of some spectacular travel fare deals.  Check out the Dollar Flight Club and Scott’s Cheap Flights websites.

Also, be sure to sign up for newsletters from airlines that you frequently fly.  That way you may be alerted to some of the best airfare deals directly from the airline.  Often these come in the form of a promotion code or a special offer.  You never know when these are offered if you are not receiving their newsletters.

Be Flexible

Generally, for your best airfare options, the best time to book your travel is from four to ten weeks in advance of your travel dates.  The best pricing seems to be for travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday.  These days normally have fewer passengers so the pricing is often less than the other peak travel days. 

If you have upcoming travel plans, be sure to check out the fares available for your trip if you were to purchase tickets in January or February.  You don’t need to travel during those months but airlines often offer some of their best fares during these months for ticket purchases.  Maybe they are just trying to increase demand after the holidays when many folks are recovering from holiday spending.  Anyway, it is worth checking out, even if your travel is not until the following summer months. 

Alternative Airports

Flying into alternative airports is another way to compare prices.  Although another airport may be further away from your destination, the airfare could be significantly less and, even with increased ground transportation cost, the total amount may provide for a less expensive trip.  You just have to compare the total cost of arriving at your final destination.

These are just a few concepts to consider when you are planning to book your upcoming travel and get your best airfare options.  The money you save by taking a little extra time searching through the various options may be just enough to cover the expense of extending your stay and prolonging your trip another day or two.  Or maybe it’s enough to provide a significant start to your next vacation fund.…

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Never been traveling before? Read this

Are you one of those that never have been traveling before? Does that thinks that there is nothing to see or experience in other countries? Then you are missing out big time. 

With so many different countries, so many different cultures this is something that everyone should try doing at least once. Many reasons why this is something that you should consider and many reasons why this is something that you need to start planning right now.  After you have read this, you will realize that you have missed out by just staying in your country, your whole life.

New cultures, new food, and new friends

When you are traveling, you will be able to learn more about new cultures. Cultures that you might have read online about. Or cultures that you didn’t know existed. You will learn how to eat and enjoy new food. is that is made of different cultures.

Friends. Some people are making friends overseas that they will never make in their own country. Making friendships that will never be broken and that you can visit, no matter what. 

It isn’t as expensive as what you might think

If you think that you can’t travel, because you don’t have the money for traveling, then you should think again. This is good news. 

Traveling these days isn’t as expensive as what it was a couple of years ago. More and more people can afford to travel. It might not be to the rich countries, but there are options that you can consider. Options that will still give you the traveling experience. 

The possibilities are endless 

The possibilities are endless. You will be able to find countries that you might not know about. Find out about countries that are similar to your culture and beliefs.

The one thing that is clear is that when you are traveling, you will never run out of countries to visit. You should just make sure that the country isn’t violent and dangerous that you are planning to visit. 

If you never have traveled before, you will not know what you are missing out on. Things that you will not experience in your own country. Things that you might not be able to do, later on in life. This is something that everyone should consider, this will be an experience that you will never forget and you will see that once you have traveled once, you will always look for the next country to visit or for the next adventure.

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