Whether it’s the legal and formal stuff or the fun and quirky things – everyone should read this compilation before setting foot in Germany.I’m listing relevant figures and important rules and regulations as well as sometimes unpredicted peculiarities and fun facts to know before you go so that no unexpected surprise will impair your experience.
Yes, of course, you can just grab some suitcase, throw a hodgepodge of clothes, shoes, and cosmetics in and you’re good to go – provided you stay within your airline’s weight limit.
|I’d found this umbrella at the Hida Folk Village in Takayama – but it was just a prop that could be used for pictures.|
However, if you do a little planning when putting together your itinerary for Japan and while packing, your trip will be much more enjoyable – take it from me as I just came back from a road trip around Honshu island.
I really don’t know why everyone emphasizes how different Japan is. Because – different from what? Like everything else in life, different is very relative.
|Follow the leader. And follow the rules. And….oh, when in Japan, just follow.|
When I got to Sri Lanka beginning of this year, on my first train ride I was sitting in front of a lovely old gentleman who was wearing a sarong – yes, that’s basically a wrap skirt – and eating rice with curry sauce with his fingers from a sheet of newspaper.
Let me tell you, that was pretty different from what you see on trains in many other parts of this world.
So why didn’t anybody whisper full of intimidation Oh, you’re going to Sri Lanka. Well, that must be so different.?
Japan is being pretty hyped in this sense. I think it’s because foreigners are expected to adapt to the customs and rules right away.
Nobody would expect a European traveller to put on a wrap skirt and eat curry sauce with his fingers from a newspaper sheet.
Yes, good behavior varies from region to region, manners differ, rules and regulations are divers.
In any case, in Japan, you are expected to do it the Japanese way.
That’s why I wrote down how to behave in Japan – or not.
(Re-edited and update December 2019)
For years, I was keen to fit all my stuff into a carry-on when going on shorter trips around Europe. First, only my cheapie-cheap flights did not include checking in luggage. But lately, more and more regular airlines charge extra for checking your bags.
|Does this picture look familiar to you?
Wearing my favorite travel dress at the Singapore Art Museum, becoming one with the art.
(Photo: Mimi Green)
However, money is not the only valid reason for minimizing your baggage: It’s so much easier to travel light. Having only a small carry-on with you is so much more comfortable and manageable on buses’n’trains.
My motto: Travelling light – yet in style.
In this post, I let you take a peek on my packing list.
(Last Update July 2018)
When I’ve started my blog a bit over a year ago, it was mainly because I got asked so often about my solo travelling that I decided to share my experience not only with my friends but with everyone who might get inspired, informed, and benefit from it.
|This picture was just too congruent to illustrate solo travel – you do not always walk alone!|
Since then, I’ve been reading so many posts on solo travel, on how to do it, on where to go, on what to consider.
Over the past decades travelling solo, I’ve never noticed that hitting the road solo is such a complicated process with so many aspects to consider.
I picked a destination, I packed my bag, and off I went.
What a daredevil I seemed to be.
The other day, someone even contacted me since they want to ‘raise awareness’ for solo travel.
Raising awareness for solo travel – wow.
Has it really come to that? Is solo travel a disease? Are there awareness walks (which would nicely match with the cause ‘travelling’)?
Are you given sea blue awareness ribbons to stick to the lapel of your explorer vest?
Or is it just a disability, so you better travel to countries accessible for the impaired?
To me, solo travel was nothing more than buying a ticket for one.
First of all, I think I need to demystify travelling solo.
Actually, I mainly travel solo because
- not many of my friends travel as much and as often as I do
- I don’t feel like coordinating travel dates with others
- I don’t feel like compromising on a country
- I don’t feel much like compromising at all,
especially since after decades of solo travel I’ve developed sort of an ‘it’s my way or the highway’ attitude when planning the trip – or even a single day.
So there are no philosophic reasons like ‘I want to break free’, ‘I want to feel my inner self’ – no, it basically comes down to technicalities why for me it’s more convenient to go bye:myself. And yes, over the years I got the hang of it for various reasons that I state below in the PROs-section.
Talking ’bout technicalities: That fact that you are travelling solo is nothing but a technicality.
The country you are going to will be the same whether you are by yourself or in a large group. So places won’t be more or less dangerous and the weather won’t be better or worse.
Another person – unless it’s an expat or someone who already has been to the place of your choice – will not be necessarily of any help:
Instead of one lost fool not knowing where to go, you’ll be two lost fools looking for directions.
|Not all signs are as clear as this one on the Via Appia.|
You think that’s better? According to my observations, travelling couples – lovers or friends alike – get approached, hassled, pestered much more often. Obviously, a couple of victims is more profitable than a single victim.
So yes, this post should neither encourage you nor hold you back from travelling solo. Thank God, people are different and have different needs and totally different preferences and that’s great and makes the world a colorful place.
Honestly, I don’t think that there is a particular place where to begin travelling solo. I’m positive that you can travel to any country solo. It might be a bit more complicated for women e. g. in Islamic countries, but even that is totally makeable.
|People were more reserved on the Malaysian east coast which is much more Islamic than the west.|
The only thing that I personally would consider is the risk of getting sick which definitely is higher in certain places than in others – due to the climate and hygiene. And I find being sick bye:yourself in a foreign country can be pretty nerve wrecking. I’ll tell you about it in the CONs-section.
Other than that, I believe that there is nothing else to consider that you don’t have to think of as a family- or group-traveller, too.
|Sal, one of the islands of the Cape Verde atoll. One of the best beaches in the world – and I was as sick as a dog. A very sick dog, that is.|
So all I intend with this post is to prepare you for what you will probably face when travelling solo. I will neither convince you nor hold you back.
I don’t believe in missionary.
I had my first real solo travel experience in 1992 to the United States. Before that, I’ve been bye:myself to England, France, and Jamaica, but that was different insofar that I either stayed with a host family, with friends or have been there before in the company of friends. In1992, the trip to the US was just me alone going for the first time to a country I’d never been before.
I travelled the so-called “Deep South” resp. “Bible Belt” by Greyhound from Charleston, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and it was quite an experience. It was long before internet and smartphones, and when you were on your own, you were on your own. Anyway, after four very interesting weeks, I came back really inspired and bursting with confidence.
Initiation to a life of travelling bye:myself.
Then the same year I got pregnant (which had nothing to do with that initiation, though) and my travelling changed. Not only because I now had a baby in tow, but because I began to work as a freelancer and switched from vacationing to temporarily moving to places.
Before my daughter started elementary school we stayed every year for a couple of months in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
|Punta Gorda in Belize: Placing the toddler in front of a group of people allows you to take pictures in a more discreet way; and it’s nice to have a pic of your child, too.|
Besides the baby, I was bye:myself. Sounds tough? Actually, it wasn’t. Because the fact that you’re bye:yourself does not mean that you’re alone. You meet people and you have the chance to maybe show a different side of your personality.
You make new friends who might have a totally different perception of you than your buddies back home. Because you are different. You are exposed to distinct situations that evoke sides of your personality that usually lie fallow.
|Meeting a jolly bunch from Scotland and Italy on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Usually, I’m not the kind of person that drinks whatever this was out of a blue plastic bucket.|
After having travelled for almost twenty years together with my daughter, she eventually started to travel bye:herself and with her friends.
Since I don’t have a steady partner to be automatically my travel companion, I had to look for some friend to travel with me. And agree on the destination. And on the route. And on the activities. And coordinate time and length of the trip – and agree on the budget. Phew! That sounds exhausting.
Travelling bye:yourself is like living bye:yourself: You can do whatever you want and whenever you want to do it. You develop habits and – yes, quirks. Eventually, you realize that you wouldn’t want it any other way; and maybe that you hardly could have it any other way.
Just like living a single life has its pros and cons, travelling bye:yourself does, too. Here I’m weighing some pros and cons. If you choose to follow my example, you might find yourself travelling with the best companion ever: yourself.
P like PROs
This does in no way mean that I’m pretending to be someone else – on the contrary, finally, I have the chance to be absolutely myself with a clean slate.
This is of course much easier without someone in tow who constantly reminds me that usually, I’m like this or like that.
Actually, by bidding bye to one side of myself, at the same time, I say hello to another.
You can stay at stores, museums or on a park bench as long as you please.
You can talk to people or spend your day in silence.
When I was in Florence bye:myself, I visited eight (!) exhibitions in one day with a lunch break of only a couple of minutes; and I was happy and satisfied, it was just perfect for me.
|The only place in Florence that can slow me down – luring me with incredible food.|
Most other people wouldn’t call this a break or vacation.
Most other people would call this boot camp.
But I can spend my days exactly the way I like.
In a way, I can relate to that, especially when it comes to resting and dining:
When I’m resting between let’s say two exhibitions, it takes a couple of minutes.
I sit down, drink my coffee or water – and off I go.
What else do you want me to do there? Stare at the wall? Stare at other people?
Then I rather stare at more paintings.
So that’s not very relaxing, I give you that.
But as always there’s an upside: I’m getting far more things done resp. I get to see and experience much more in a day because I’m not distracted. There’s not another person who needs to go to the bathroom, who is thirsty, who’s tired and needs to sit for a while, who sees something in a shop window and needs to check it out.
There’s me, and I’m on a mission. My mission is to make the most of my day by seeing as much as possible.
Oh, and another thing: thanks to – yes, for some people a no-no – social media, I am sharing. I’m sharing with far more people than just one travel companion, I’m sharing with dozens of friends all over the world; who do not mess up my schedule by going to the bathroom.
|Cruising around the mansion that used to belong to Pablo Escobar, a lovely Colombian family shared their Aguardiente from a tetra pack and some laughs with me.|
Many people are curious why I’m travelling bye:myself and how it works out for me. And often they find me interesting and my company pleasing so they suggest doing something together; and I can choose to go for dinner and a drink with them or have a snack watching local TV in bed – bye:myself.
You have all the cute little toiletries for yourself and four towels instead of two.
|Double bed – for me alone. Just like the complimentary port wine and the petit fours on the tray. Actually, I don’t get why the lovely people at this hotel in Portugal left two glasses with it – what a waste.|
Everything is just for YOU, you don’t need to share a thing. You can be noisy, you can leave the light on as long as you please and when you’re tired there’s nobody there who wants to keep watching TV or needs the night light for reading.
The room is your oyster – and yours alone!
C like CONs
Even if you enjoy travelling bye:yourself – and being alone in general, for that matter – there comes a moment when you feel like hanging out with other people, chatting over a drink, sharing your travel stories and experience.
In a moment like this, you cannot just turn your head to the right and there is your travel companion.
You have to go out and approach people – and yes, they might reject you because they want a romantic drink in the sunset; without you.
But that is also because I’m prepared and willing being bye:myself when travelling bye:myself.
If you’re not ready for this, from time to time this might become a toughie.
Actually social media such as facebook can be an instant cure for this: share your day with your friends back home. With every comment and like you will feel less alone.
Going on an organized day trip can be a great way of meeting other people since you get involved quite naturally – free walking tours that are available in most big cities are perfect; but please don’t forget to tip your guide.
And – being discreet is crucial. If you throw yourself on people and seem desperate, you will most certainly chase them away.
|Walking tour in Curitiba: I guess this is not how you are picturing solo travel?!|
Then from my experience, it’s much easier to get involved with openminded and friendly people in smaller and – yes: cheaper – guesthouses than in luxury five-star hotels. It’s probably even not the people’s attitude, it’s just that the whole atmosphere is more reserved and not encouraging to mingle.
And this is the situation where I feel like depending on others.
While sightseeing, going to a museum or hanging out on the beach can be fun with or without other people’s company, having a special meal and a couple of drinks is always more enjoyable with others; and you depend on finding other travellers who want to share this with you.
When people travelling together go out for dinner, they take their time to order, They have a glass of wine, they talk, have another glass of wine, then they eat, talk some more, more wine (ok, now I’m making these good people a bunch of winos – so ok, forget the last glasses of wine, actually they’re having coffee after their meal).
When I go to dinner, I order, I eat, I drink, I pay, I leave. 20 minutes. And even if I linger over a second glass of wine – 30 minutes.
While exhibitions demand focus, dining requires idleness.
Only in Europe, the price for a single room differs from a double room. Everywhere else you pay for the room, no matter if you stay there bye:yourself or if you share it with another guest.
You cannot share taxi fares, fees for drivers etc. Unless you find another traveller – or even a couple or a small group – that is willing to share these costs with you.
But your expenses are not automatically divided by two; and that sucks. Period.
The only time I felt really abandoned on a trip was when I got sick in Africa and had to get up and get me something to drink and go to the doctor – all bye:myself.
I felt like vanishing from mother earth, I thought I would die bye:myself on an African island and nobody would ever know about it.
Yes, I was a little dramatizing the situation, but that was for exactly this reason:
I was alone!
I was bye:myself!
It’s really annoying when you have nobody you can boss around to get you something to drink and get your drugs from the pharmacy and take every shit from you because you feel lousy.
Solution: Stop pitying yourself and get over it; or stay healthy.
I personally don’t like selfies unless they are meant ironically (or artsy like my Biennale-Project).
So I still ask people to take my picture in front of Buddha sometimes.
And sometimes I try to take a decent selfie with him.
And often I simply don’t have a picture of myself with Buddha.
|Me and Buddha in Ayutthaya.|
So now you can weigh some of the CONs against the PROs.
If you think, travelling bye:yourself might be worth a try, go for it.
Maybe you can start with a weekend trip to another city and check out whether this could be an option for a longer travel, too.
It certainly will be a journey.
I’d be very happy if you’d share your perspective and experience on single travel with me in the comment section below.
If you have any question, I’d be pleased hearing from you!
One of the main reasons I started to blog was informing and helping others. I’ve been travelling for many years now and therefore had to face difficult situations and resolve minor and major problems. What really helps my travels going smoothly is my passion – yes: passion! – for planning and organizing.
While my first trips were still organized with the help of books, brochures, info material from tourist boards, and a generous share of luck, in the times of this new thing called internet that everybody is talking about, it became much easier – but also much less exciting.
I didn’t know anybody who was excitedly looking forward to a stopover in Paris – notably at Charles de Gaulle airport.
|Soyez bienvenus at the – free! – transfer lounge of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
It’s not only comfy and cozy, it’s most of all hyper classy!
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)
Well, this changed dramatically, and I’m here to show you what you are missing out on when you choose not to stop there.
An unlimited urge to travel versus a pretty limited amount of money – how do you manage? I do it by travelling on a budget; and saving starts with the means of transportation – namely flights.
I have no intention to advertise for them, but it’s a fact that the national Dutch airline KLM has often the best deals, whether flying to Asia or to South America.
While I find that their service, at least in economy, is quite average, I’m always looking forward to my connection at Schiphol airport. It’s big, it’s entertaining and most importantly it’s quite comfortable: Many ‘themed’ waiting areas, furnished with all sort of large, soft seats and loungers – perfect to relax between flights.
|I do not want to find myself in a situation where evacuation is necessary, but I wouldn’t mind someone chauffeuring me around a little bit on this chair while I’m waiting for my connecting flight at Schiphol airport.|
Like most airlines, KLM is part of an alliance, here it’s SkyTeam, and so is Air France, so that often I have to fly one way with KLM and the other with their French buddies. Which is fine when it comes to the flight itself – there Air France even takes the cake….metaphorically – and literally trades it for delicious food and very friendly service; a real treat for their customers.
When it came to the always obligatory stopover in Paris at the Charles de Gaulle airport, it was a different story: Terrible! Long, confusing corridors, hardly any store or restaurant or inspiration of any kind. Just dull and draining. I’ve never heard of anybody looking forward to a stopover at CDG.
This said, do I have to explain why I was pretty depressed facing my flight home from Rio de Janeiro, not only coming from from plus 40° C (over 100° Fahrenheit) and heading for minus 5° (sadly 23° Fahrenheit) – facing a stopover of over seven (yes, seven; as in….seven) hours at one of world’s most depressing airports?
Seven hours – in Paris too short to go downtown, especially after a 12 hours flight, and far too long not to get into a really bad mood.
But as I was dragging my feet as well as my hand luggage from the plane towards the next gate where I intended to sit for seven hours on a metal woven chair, embossing its design into my but, I spotted a sign: “instant Paris – free transfer lounge”. Free transfer lounge? At CDG? What could that possibly be – a complimentary cushion on the metal woven seating surface?
Grumpy and pessimistic, I followed the signs.
|Remembering how my poor child had to sleep on uncomfortable metal seats, having only her plush penguin for a pillow. Well, at least in Paris, this misery is over.|
I came to a large, white reception. To its left a gorgeous red sofa. Behind the counter a young man in a black suit looking at me in friendly anticipation. He was polite enough to ignore my traveller appearance of torn jeans and a hoodie stained from the French menu they served on the flight from Rio. And he was friendly enough to assure me that all the services in this area were completely free of charge.
Bienvenus à Paris
|Whether Bauhaus or haunted castle style – every passenger waiting for the
connecting flights finds a quiet corner to relax, read or work.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)
I kept on dragging – feet and luggage – along a couloir, the hallway, which leads from the polished shiny white counter. To the left and the right are two different kinds of very comfy looking fauteuils – a Bauhaus-ish square kind with a middle grey cover.
To make up for the minimalist charm of these seats, the other kind looks a bit inspired by the Addams family: pseudo-baroque curvy shells in red and black. Not my taste, but definitely very comfortable; plus the round shape certainly provides enough privacy to read or work undisturbed.
So does the whole arrangement, by the way: The furniture is positioned in a way that everybody is able to keep to himself if he so chooses.
|If you don’t have your device with you, next to the hotel entrance is a large table
where you can use their pads for free – against the backdrop of the Eiffel tower.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)
Approximately halfway between the counter with the polite and friendly young man and a hotel entrance, the hallway opens to a sitting area with a food counter where they sell sandwiches, pastries and hot and cold drinks to be enjoyed in a very pleasant seating area.
I will not go so far as to praise their cafeteria: It’s still the same (whereby hopefully ‘same’ only in the sense of identical) pretty dry sandwich made of a forearm long piece of baguette with a paper thin slice of ham, garnished with a tired lettuce leaf – 8 €uro = are you kidding me?! To get this pretty dry stuff down, you need to order some sort of drink with it. Like for instance a large coffee – which everywhere else would be a small or at most medium coffee – for 5 €uro = seriously?!
I forgive them. I had the pleasure to enjoy my totally overprized breakfast at the spotless eating area next to the counter, listening to very soothing, slightly jazzy versions of different songs from the charts. I don’t know whether it was due to the early hour or to this quite relaxing atmosphere that everybody was very quiet, even speaking into mobile phones pretty piano.
Only in front of the hotel entrance was a Chinese guest yelling into his phone, otherwise: silenzio!
In front of the hotel? Yap, if all the comfort they are offering for free is not good enough for you, you can check in at the Yotel at the end of the corridor. This hotel counts with many amenities and you can book yourself in already for a minimum of four hours.
If you just want to refresh yourself, you can access their shower area for 20 €uro.
While the walls in the hallway are mainly decorated with large scale mirrors – giving it, especially in combination with the pompous rococo-ish chairs, an air of Versaille – the lounge next to the seating area is decorated with pictures of Parisian icons. There is even a miniature wooden Eiffel Tower.
Next to the very comfy lounge, the smallest guest can play and build in their own little space – and learn to love flying with mummy and daddy.
|Since you cannot go to see the icons, instant Paris! lounge brings the icons to you – like the Arc de Triomphe – or the inevitable Eiffel tower.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)
At this point I was already so impressed that I forgot about all the horrible hours I had spent at this airport in the past. They’ve made up for it big time. It couldn’t get any better!
It couldn’t? Well, walking further down the hallway, I stood corrected: Entering their library!
Their library is a real library with real books – and everything else that characterizes a library: Dim lights, silence, comfortable armchairs….and two of the most beautiful and most commodious sofas I’ve ever seen. Or sit on. Or laid on.
|Can a sofa become a home? This light golden beauty can!
It’s not only one of the most beautiful sofas I’ve ever placed my behind on, it’s also incredibly comfortable.
(Photo: Gwen Le Bras / Aéroports de Paris SA)
These things are long. I am about 5″10 and as I laid down, there was still room for another person to sit (which of course no other person did!).
These things are wide. I am about…I don’t put it in numbers, but I’m big, and as I laid down, there was still room to move freely without falling down.
What can I say, guys? After I had spent a couple of hours at their library, I hated travelling on. I wanted to stay longer! I wanted to move in!
You know what? I think next time I buy a ticket via Paris, I might just skip the rest of the trip altogether and stay at CDG – it might be the best vacation in Paris ever.
Considering that at least in Germany babbel.com is advertising a lot, to my surprise I don’t know anybody actually learning with this online tool.
|A pictogram might be the last resort when you are unfamiliar with a language; but to get to know a country and its people, you should rather use words – their words.|
Anybody but me that is. And I will tell you why I love using it.
Just coming back from a very hard language course that I took on the occasion of my education leave, I’d like to encourage you to get a basic knowledge of the language spoken in the country you are travelling – and be it only a couple of words.
|Agree, agreed: Learning Portuguese about one mile from the beach of Copacabana might be a bit more entertaining than learning it a home in front of your computer – but it’s way more expensive, too.|
Coming back from a country where not too many people speak some basic English, I’d like to sort of urge you to get a basic knowledge of…you got the drill.
No kidding, nobody will ever learn a language using babbel. Learn in the sense of I speak it, I read it, I understand native speakers.
Depending on which language you are dealing with on babbel, you hardly learn any grammar, you get to listen to very few whole sentences, you’re hardly ever engaged in any form of conversation: practically every key to having command of a language is missing.
|Depending on the language you are practicing, there are some basic dialogues. Before they abolished the individual vocable database, you were able to keep this additional vocabulary there, too. Let’s hope they re-install this great feature soon.|
When I told my Portuguese teacher in Rio de Janeiro that I was practicing my basic knowledge of the language on babbel, she only rolled her eyes. Well, she is an excellent teacher with very high standards.
But – and this but does not only have a capital B because it’s at the beginning of this sentence, this but is a but with a capital B because there’s the other side of babbel: it’s a great tool for you savvy traveller who wants to say thank you and please and good morning and pleased to meet you and bread and water like the local people do! And for this basic knowledge of a language, babbel is just great because it has exactly what you need.
|Instant friendship (and a blurry picture): A simple “selamat malam” (= good evening) impressed these lovely ladies from Jakarta, vacationing in Kuala Lumpur, so much that they insisted on lots of information – and a couple of pictures.|
It starts with a really basic vocabulary such as good morning, good night, thanks etc. You are practicing these with pictures on little tiles; makes you feel like a toddler learning to speak.
But since the system is based on your brain relating to these pictures and thus visualizing the word and its meaning as well as on lots of repetitions, it actually works and makes remembering really easy.
|Using these little pictures makes it easy to grasp. But take it from me: Every time someone asks you “A quelle heure?”, you’ll see these colorful clocks before your inner eye.|
But exactly this effect is at the same time an obstacle: Try to remember the stupid word without the picture – you’ll feel like having a hole in your brain; you know exactly what it is…but what is it again?
Anyway, I will not discourage you, when you learn only a handful of words and expressions, it works really well.
So before you try it out here are some information: Surprise – you need to set up an account. There is a free trial of the first lesson and this might even be all you need. But watch it: If you happen to have a thing for languages, you get hooked pretty fast. For a trip to Bali, I started with the free Indonesian lesson – and got immediately addicted and wanted more and more.
You can choose how long you want to learn, the monthly costs are between 4,95 € if you subscribe for a year and 9,95 € for only one month. With the paid version you have access to all themes – some are really useful being designed for travel and meeting the people.
I practiced Indonesian maybe about one month and learned really a lot.
But actually everything beyond the standard pleasantries was pretty useless and like I explained above, out of context (and without the corresponding pictures) you remember only a part of what you have practiced; you have practiced, you didn’t learn.
However, the useful pleasantries are absolutely worth it, people in Bali and in Malaysia and Singapore were amazed that I was able to say a couple of words.
Babbel offers 14 languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Turkish, and Indonesian.
You can choose whether you want to repeat the words over a microphone or only klick on tiles resp. type the words.
Besides Portuguese, I’ve practiced Indonesian and Turkish, and the choice was surprisingly different: Turkish offers a much wider range of lessons including much more grammar and even short dialogues while Indonesian is basically a long list of vocabulary and a couple of sentences.
Unfortunately, they abolished my favorite feature where you were able to add your own vocabulary to your personal database. I hope they will re-install it since it was so helpful and fun.
But anyway, even as it is now, it’s a great and easy tool, and if on your next trip you want to impress and get right into people’s hearts, give it a try, it’s so much fun. Try it out right now!
And remember: The best way to actually learn (!) a language is to….travel!
If you have any questions regarding travellers’ communication, I’d be very happy hearing from you.
How about you, do you learn some local vocabulary when travelling?
How do you do it, what are your sources?
(Updated May 2019)
Although I’m not a Digital Nomad and do jiggle my many trips and travels around a day job, I did my share of travel planning and organizing, believe me.
After countless trips – long and short – I was really surprised when I read the other day a lady asking on Social Media for help where to begin planning her trip.
So I was analyzing and structuring what I’ve been doing without much overthinking for years and I put it in words and in chronological chapters so that everyone who is a newbie to travel planning can design the trip of their lifetime without the help of any of these big, costly companies.
And once you’ve done it for one destination, it will be a piece of cake doing it for the next one. And the next. And the next. Because, actually, life is long enough for more than just the one trip of a lifetime.
The concept and structure can be adapted to a shorter trip or even a weekend.
|Nobody will argue this; only that it’s also good for the body and the mind.
(Photo: Element5 Digital from Pexels)
If you are travelling more than a month, you might not need to get that organized beforehand since getting stuck in a place or ‘losing’ a couple of days won’t affect you so much.
If you have only a quite limited amount of time and you want to see as much as you can without racing mindlessly, the following approach will certainly help you make the best of it.
I’ve sketched in the following four steps how I do it and how it works best for me.
I leave it to you to copy my strategy step by step or just get some inspiration or new ideas. Anyway, there is an extra-chapter at the end supplying you with a safety-net – just in case….
All I want is to encourage you by this thorough planning to try travelling by yourself – if I can do it, there’s no reason you can’t – and I’m glad to assist!
Chapter I: Choosing a Destination
Chapter II: Composing an Itinerary
Chapter III: Checking Schedules and Determine Length of Stops
Chapter IV: Booking
Choosing a Destination
I guess that everybody has a bucket list of places to be visited before…kicking the bucket. If you will be travelling by yourself – and possibly for the first time, there are places more recommendable than others.
|Yes, planet earth is a big place – so where to go?
(Photo: slon_dot_pics from Pexels)
|Waiting at the bus station in Ica for the night bus to Arequipa.|
Composing an Itinerary
A assume that you don’t want to spend your entire vacation at a beachfront hotel. To do this, the only advice you need from me is to stock up on sunscreen.
|At this stage, you can either sketch a rough route or actually determine spots and lengths of your stays – both ways have their advantages and disadvantages.
(Photo: Photo rawpixel.com from Pexels)
According to your interest, you can skip or add stops or travel the suggested route in the opposite direction. But a book will be only the basis of your planning, you should cross check and double check your itinerary and the stops on the internet. Here you can also inquire how long it takes to go from one place to the another.
Don’t even think about calculating your travels based on distances in miles resp. kilometers: going from Hamburg to Berlin takes 90 minutes by a rapid train. The same distance by bus in a Latin American country will take like 6 hours. So the best way is to look for the bus and train schedules online and verify how long it actually takes to go from A to B.
|Example of planning the South part of a Peru-trip,…|
|Research and planning – whether online or in books – is part of the fun.|
Checking Schedules and Determine Length of Stops
Checking schedules doesn’t mean only checking domestic flights, trains, and busses. Checking schedules should include also Public Holidays in the region you’re travelling in order to get stuck or pay too much (e. g. Semana Santa, the “Holy Week” before Easter, it’s the peak holiday season in Latin America. Don’t even think about not booking beforehand or you won’t get tickets and end up at the most expensive accommodations).
|While I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to packing – since I can buy basically everything at my final destination in case I forget anything – I’m very thorough with my documents.
(Photo: Photo rawpixel.com from Pexels)
|Example for the planning of a city tour: Starting at the Parque de las Leyendas, visiting the Larco Museum, and ending the day at the Museo de Antropologia y Arqueologia – easily walkable, even in the summer heat.|
My early booking – and early packing for that matter – are legendary. All my friends make me look like a fool laughing at me booking flights and accommodations and sometimes bus and train tickets months ahead. And in the end, they are all jealous when I get the best seats for the best prices.
|At some places, it will cost you a fortune if you don’t make a reservation long before you go. Other rates can better be negotiated on the spot.
(Photo: Element5 Digital from Pexels)
Unfortunately, there is no such thing like the best site, and blogs that claim their recommendation to have the best deals might be right: the best deals for them for advertising. So if you want the best deal, there is no way around checking all the different sites plus the airline’s pages.
|Here’s another example – this time from Kuala Lumpur. You see that when the public transportation system is more ‘regulated’, you can get a very precise routing door to door.|
I love the Internet and every wonder that comes with it – I’m writing a Blog, after all!
Solo Travel with a Safety Net
Maybe it’s your first trip by yourself and you feel a teeny bit insecure. Or you want to make sure to get in touch with other travellers. Or you are simply a bit lazy and want to leave the planning to others. Well, you still don’t need to go on an All Inclusive hotel vacation. There are agencies organizing either the entire route or a part of it for you. It works like the Hop On Hop Off system you know from cities: You buy a pass and you can join the tour on certain days at certain stops. Sometimes there are even some day trips and tours included.
|Staying at a hostel, you’ll quickly find other solo travellers – if you feel like having company.
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The biggest one covering every continent is www.bambaexperience.com. In Asia, you have www.straytravel.asia, and www.greentoadbus.com drives you through South America. You can travel in Europe by www.busabout.com, Australia by www.greyhound.com.au, and in the United States, www.amtrak.com offers travel passes.
|Going by Greyhound is neither as fast nor as elegant as this canine logo symbolizes; but it’s a decent, acceptable option.|
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Hand luggage – I’m a big fan, huge supporter and passionate user. Where possible, I even try to travel exclusively with hand luggage, not only because the cheap airlines charge almost the same amount you’ve paid for the ticket for checking luggage. No, it’s simply much more comfortable and so much faster; although since they established the security regulations regarding liquids, it has become a bit tricky. And once I got almost arrested at a French airport for carrying cheese.
|Globetrotting the easy way.|
But mostly it’s really much more handy, and the longest I ‘survived’ on hand luggage were two weeks in Italy in summer; and I did not stink…
But also when you travel farther and longer and do check in a backpack or suitcase of whatever size, do yourself a favor and take in addition a sensibly packed piece of hand luggage, it will make the start of your trip so much more comfortable.
Expect the Unexpected – survive some days on hand luggage
Lesson Learned – pack like going away for a weekend
Have a Good Flight – prepare for comfort
Make Yourself at Home – enjoy your flight
Omnia Mea Mecum Porto – keep your valuables close to you
Expect the Unexpected
In 2003, out of 1,000 suitcases 13 got lost. By 2015 the figure has decreased to 6.5 – and in addition 95 per cent of these strays show up within 48 hours. All this is good news for you statisticians and of course for the airlines since the costs of about 3 billion USD for tracing, special deliverance and restitution will decrease accordingly. But if you are one of the 6.5 unfortunate ones, it’s of scant comfort that the other 993.5 passengers roll happily their luggage towards customs while you are filling out forms at ‘lost and found’.
So 95 per cent of the 6.5 (this is 6.175 people) are fortunate enough to have their luggage delivered to their doorstep eventually.
That’s basically good news, but there are still two issues: 1. You cannot be absolutely sure that you aren’t the remaining 0.325 one until you hug your lost s…uitcase; and you are facing many uncomfortable hours if you’re not prepared and put all your important belongings in your checked baggage.
Don’t do that.
I went from Hamburg to Miami, wearing baggy jeans, long-sleeved T-Shirt, big sneakers, warm hoodie: perfect for a comfy flight, kind of a sauna-suite for Miami. On arrival at Miami, my suitcase was missing. Well, to be precise: it wasn’t missing, it was delayed; however, I did miss it. Also because I had nothing but the sauna-suite (that I’ve had been wearing for about 18 hours by then) and a handbag with my documents, phone and a book.
|Strappy sandals, light dress – I had all that…in my suitcase that arrived 24 hours later.|
Lufthansa handed me not only a little necessaire including the…necessary for the first night, but also a traveller cheque worth 100 USD (I spare you the story how to cash a traveller cheque in the current millennium) so that after a long flight I spent the rest of the day in my sauna-suite shopping for things that I didn’t want and actually didn’t need. I’m not the true-born shopping queen, anyway, all the less when I have to shop; for stuff that I don’t want and don’t need. Wearing a sauna-suite. And I would have preferred to keep the hundred bucks for something else.
But I’ve learned my lesson and since then I pack my hand luggage as if I’m going away for the weekend – of course varying according to the climate on arrival. So if I’m travelling to a hot, beach destination, I pack
- light clothes like a dress, a blouse and skirt, a T-shirt and shorts or the like for two days
- PJs or an extra T-shirt for the night (in case you don’t like to sleep naked)
- underwear for two days
- sandals and/or flip flops
- sun protection (remember to take a container of 100 ml/3.4 ounces max.)
|Pack your sun gear. It’s annoying if you have to spend money on things you do not need, but still have to buy while waiting.|
It’s more important to be prepared for arriving at a hot place than a cold one. I assume that when you’re travelling to a cold place, you are already wearing your big sweater and warm jacket. So in this case you just need to pack two extra T-shirts and extra underwear.
Did you make reservation at a nice restaurant or do you have tickets for a concert, a theater play or the like during the first days? Then you should put your
- evening wardrobe and your
- dressing shoes
in the hand luggage, too. If your first stop is nowhere next to a beach, you won’t need the beachtowel, but still might want the swimwear if your accommodation happens to have a pool.
Not only for the first day when you are still eagerly waiting for your luggage, hoping that you are not the 0.325 person, you’ll appreciate to have your vanity bag on you, hence it belongs in your hand luggage, since during the flight or at layovers you will enjoy a cat lick with some wet wipes, rehydrate your skin with some deep nourishing cream, brush your hair and your teeth – preferably with separate utensils.
Usually facial cream as well as tooth paste come in containers smaller than 100 ml/3.4 oz, so actually there’s no need to buy the much more expensive travel sizes.
If you’re not extremely picky, it won’t be necessary to take your hair- and body-shampoo in your hand luggage since almost every hotel and even hostels supply you with it.
So here is what you need to put in a transparent bag with a zipper (e. g. zip lock sandwich bag – maximum size 1 liter/33.81 oz):
- facial cream*
- tooth paste*
- tooth brush
- wet wipes (also for your face)
- deodorant* (preferably a roll-on product in a plastic container since they are lighter and do not break)
- hair brush (preferably foldable)
- small soap (bar – just in case)
- sun protection* (already stated above, but since it’s crucial…)
*in this list only these four items are liquids
These are just the necessary basics, you can complete this list according to your personal habits and necessities. Mind you also cosmetics like foundation, lipstick and even mascara are considered liquids so they have to go into your zip lock bag.
Have a Good Flight
The other day I read on another blog the great advice to wear something comfortable on a long flight. Do you really need me to tell you not to wear your tightest jeans, a delicate blouse and stilettos? Do you?!
I think for a flight up to four hours you can wear whatever you please. It’s the longer flights that require some better planning in order to arrive at your final destination in good shape.
You’ll probably need one pair of long pants on your trip, anyway, so you should wear them on the flight. I find some cool, not to thick sweat pants the best option: they are soft, warm and comfy and you have the widest range to chose from. Many styles are so sassy that they will make you look rather like a fashionista than a hobo.
I like to wear a long sleeved T-shirt on the flight – the only long sleeved shirt I’m taking with me when travelling to the tropics. Hence, I absolutely need a hoodie: here too – soft, warm, comfy, yet stylish. And I love to pull the hood really deep over my face and practically disappear in my sweater. My hoodie is my castle.
I often fly to tropical destinations during cold seasons so that I need warm clothes for the way to the airport and possible at a layover destination – and then again only weeks later. Therefore a foldable jacket is the best option (packed in its own bag, it also makes a soft pillow).
Crucial tip for the ladies: wear a really comfortable bra on a long flight, anything else will kill you. I like to wear sport bras or bustiers – not only on the flight, but during the whole trip. They are much more comfortable and even if the straps show under tank tops or dresses, they don’t look necessarily like underwear.
I assume that you’ll wear comfortable shoes like sneakers or hiking boots on the flight anyway, since they are too big and heavy for the luggage.
But also think of socks – preferably compression stockings and in addition a pair of big, soft socks. If you don’t like to walk around in them on the plane – especially when going to the bathroom – a pair of disposable slippers (those you get at hotels) are more comfortable than taking your shoes on and off all the while.
I tend to get very cold on flights: often I have to get up really early, I’m all excited, they turn the air condition high – I’m freezing. So in addition to the long sleeved T-shirt and the hoodie and the jacket I like to have a big scarf on me that I can wrap around my shoulders or my neck or use as a light blanket.
If you pick one made of a light cotton material, it also serves the purpose of a beach blanket, a sarong, a seat cover…come on, just pick a cotton one.
Make Yourself at Home
Whether you like it or not (I do), you are stuck for hours in this big metal thing, only now and then allowed to move – just relax and make the best of it. By the way, that’s the reason why I like it: I’m forced to sit still and relax – that’s like buddhist therapy.
However, you can still
To make sleeping on the plane – and during jet lag – easier, you can take Melatonin. I don’t know if it’s for everybody, but I know that it helps me a lot getting a good night rest. Usually I’m taking one pill on the flight and then for three or four days to fight jet lag. Although in the US you can buy them at every supermarket, they should not be popped like candy.
I never ever travel without ear plugs – the old fashion wax kind that hermetically shuts your ears against any noise, but I don’t really need a sleeping mask since I’m crawling into my hoodie. Hence I know that many people appreciate it.
And of course you should have an inflatable pillow to rest your neck whether sitting or laying down. By the way, I sleep best with my head and upper body resting on the table. Since I’m tall, it’s not working with the table right in front of my seat, but the table next to me is fine. (No, of course I’m not doing that when someone is sitting in that seat, what are you thinking!?!)
Can’t sleep on a plane? Poor you. Hope you’re at least travelling with an airline that supplies you with great entertainment like e. g. Emirates or British Airways. On TAP, the national Portuguese airline, there was Mr. Bean on – for everybody. Mr. Bean – since he doesn’t need to be translated… So if you happen to travel with an airline whose only entertainment program is dumb (and this on so many levels) Mr. Bean, you better make sure to have your own entertainment, be it a book – paper or on a device, music, your favorite series downloaded on your tablet or even phone. If you read or watch something on your phone, chances are your eyes are getting uncomfortably dry, particularly in the dry atmosphere on the plane. So you should have eye drops on you (drops=liquid, hence put them in your zip lock ‘vanity’) and instead of contact lenses you should wear reading glasses. Make sure to store them thoroughly in an adequate case – my experience is that after one hour of flight every seat on the plane is a mess with papers, candy wrappers, blankets and extra blankets and spare pillows flying around so you risk to find your glasses in this mess by hearing the cracking noise once you sit on them.
Talking ’bout candy wrappers: I like to eat on the plane (actually I like to eat anywhere and any time; but especially on a plane) – only exception here was again TAP where they just slapped a little trough down on the table – no explanations, and of course no questions about preferences or allergies asked. But maybe you like snacking between meals or you forgot to order your special diet. In this case it’s good to have some snacks on hand.
|Thank you, KLM, this is so true! Especially if your neighbour is ME.|
I personally don’t need snacks, but I need vitamins. Usually my diet is so good and healthy that I don’t take any supplements. But over the past years when I kept getting colds and rashes because my immune system went down from the stress of travelling, I took up the habit to pop vitamin capsules daily from about one week before leaving over the entire trip; and it’s getting better.
Omnia Mea Mecum Porto
“All that is mine I carry with me” – Bias of Priene, who according to Cicero said these words, was a pretty smart cookie. And although you don’t need to carry everything that is yours with you, you sure should follow his lead when it comes to valuables. And by valuables I don’t mean only jewelry (if you take any with you at all; however, it shouldn’t be of commercial value) cash and credit cards, your passport and your vaccination certificate*. No, in addition you should put all documents needed in your hand luggage, all necessary drugs you need to take (even on the first days at your destination – just in case you are 6 of 1000 passengers…). If you have a guide book, it might come handy to have it on you from day one. Important addresses and directions, booking confirmations etc. – even if you have them on your phone, it doesn’t hurt to have them printed out, too. Then you should have a copies of all your documents, especially your passport and vaccination certificate, in your check in baggage (careful with sensible info like your credit card numbers) and in your carry on luggage – and another copy left at home with your family (also numbers of all your credit cards (no PINs!) together with your banks’ emergency numbers).
|This is not a safe way to carry your credit cards.|
Of course all your electronic devices such as your phone, tablet, laptop, camera etc. belong all this time with you, i. e. in your hand luggage. Don’t forget the charging cable(s) and it might be a good idea to carry an additional powerbank (fully charged); often it’s easier to obtain Wifi than power.
Even in these digital times you might have to fill out immigration forms or customs declarations, so it’s always good to have one or two ballpoint pens on you. To write something down quickly, larger sticky notes are very handy for multi purpose, I always have a small block on me.
You’ll probably have a little cash on you, anyway, but I always make sure to have at least 10 US$ in small bills to tip people. Although the €uro got really well accepted around the world, the disadvantage is that small amounts are in coins; so US Dollars it is.
* If you are uncertain which vaccination you need, check my WORLD’S MOST COMPLETE TRAVEL INFORMATION where you find this info no matter from where to where you are travelling as well as all other relevant information.
I think that I wrote all the necessary down. But if you happen to have further questions – or maybe an additional suggestion! – I’d be very happy hearing from you.
To get in touch, please follow me here or on any other social media and send me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
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