A Travellerspoint blog

July 2009

Meet the Editors

Working behind the scenes of Travel Unravelled is a group of members who have volunteered their time and expertise to edit the blog and ensure typos are kept to minimum, formatting is slick and post frequency is regular. Let me introduce you to our esteemed group of editorial talent:

Keeping The Temple Clean. Photo by Mavr8k

Keeping The Temple Clean. Photo by Mavr8k

Greg Wesson

Greg Wesson started travelling later in life, only making his first trip outside of North America, where he grew up, at the age of 31. Since then, however, he has been making up for lost time, having visited almost 30 countries in the past eight years. Greg has tried many different styles of travel, from independent backpacking to package trips, from 3rd class trains to business-class flights, from business trips to pleasure travel. The primary lesson Greg has learned is that, no matter how much effort you put into the planning, it very rarely goes exactly to plan. Luckily he has a lost puppy-ish quality that compells locals and other travellers to take pity and help Greg out of the jams he finds himself in. Most recently, Greg moved to the United Kingdom where he is trying his hand at being an immigrant. As might be expected, it isn’t going exactly to plan, but no matter. Greg is still having quite a fun adventure learning to live abroad. You can follow him more closely on his own blog at Greg Wesson's Esoteric Globe

Derek Logan

Derek Logan's first solo trip was across the city of Toronto when he was eight. The excitement of not knowing where he was going or how to get back awakened a lifelong interest in getting a little further down the road. He took a hide tanning for that little stunt, but it was worth it. He has been travelling ever since. He's visited over 40 countries and has lived in Honduras and Colombia for lengthy periods. He spent years on a travelling carnival, even more years in the Canadian movie industry, and has been a hot dog vendor, cook, department store Santa, rock promoter, and countergirl (seriously, that's what it said on his cheque!). He is currently living and working in Santiago, Chile

Tina Wayland

Tina's first trip was to retirement-capital St. Petersburg, Florida, when she was 4. Although she can't remember much (except for a bathing suit full of sand and a giant lobster), the travel bug bit and she's been trying to pack trips in ever since. A honeymoon to South Africa and Mozambique with 15 other travellers and on a big, red bus has been the highlight to date! Tina works as a copywriter for a Montreal ad agency, and is about to take a year off to look after little Bump--a TPer in the making, if all those restless kicks are anything to go by.

Brendan Harding

Brendan Harding is an Irish writer of travel-related literature--both fiction and non-fiction. In his other life, he works as a freelance graphic artist, which is taking more of a back seat to his writing with each passing month (and complaining loudly to the driver as it does so). He is currently working on his first novel, which is set in rural Kenya and is a cross between a travelogue and a ‘strange tale’.
His short stories have won awards for him (but little money) over the years, as has his travel writing. He has broadcast about his travels in the Kenyan bush on Irish National radio Lyric FM. This daily broadcast--in the form of an observational diary--dealt with the work of a team of opticians who travelled from Ireland to conduct eye-screening in the remoteness of the Ukambani in the country’s semi-arid and drought-afflicted Eastern province. Travel, anticipation of travel and thoughts of travel are his passion.

Posted by Peter 18:56 Comments (3)

How to Travel With Confidence

...Or at least look like you know what you are doing

Greetings Fellow Travelers, and welcome to the latest edition of Travel Unravelled.

Do you find traveling a daunting experience? Does it all seem like too much to handle? Do you lack the confidence and know-how to just get out there and see what this great big world is all about? Well dear readers, this blog entry will attempt to alleviate those fears and help you prepare to become a traveler who knows no boundaries.

Roads from Marrakech, Morroco.  Photo by Utrecht

Roads from Marrakech, Morroco. Photo by Utrecht

What is it about travel that scares us the most? For most people, it is the fear of the unknown… but hey, isn’t that what all fear is based on, the unknown? But you can, if you just put in a little effort and forethought, gain the confidence to go wherever you want (barring war zones…I don’t recommend those) and find how rewarding it is to learn about different cultures and peoples. The world is an amazing place full of wonders you won’t see at home, and people are remarkably similar throughout every corner of the globe (yes, I know we live on an oblate spheroid, and technically there are no corners, but you get the point).

STEP ONE

Knowing the country and its customs makes travel a much more rewarding experience.

So how does one gain the confidence to embark on a voyage to the unknown? This is a multi-step process that begins with research. The hardest part is deciding where you want to go. Once that hill has been climbed, the rest is simple. Got a computer and internet access? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Start here (sorry, shameless Travellerspoint plug). On TP, you can find virtually anything you want to know about the part of the world you’ve chosen to visit. In addition, almost every country in the world has its own website. Handy, no? Any search engine will take you there; simply type in your destination. Read all about what that country has to offer, from culture to scenery to general travel precautions. Knowledge, as they say, is power, and once you know a little about your intended locale, you are no longer in the realm of the “unknown”, and fear begins to wane. Read as much as you possibly can about where you’re going. Knowing the country and its customs makes travel a much more rewarding experience.

STEP TWO

Now that you have empowered yourself (with some basic knowledge), it’s time to start planning. How will you get there? How long will you stay (no, you shouldn’t say “until my money runs out or they throw me out” – trust me). Where will I stay? What do I want to see? How many souvenirs should I bring back? Where can I exchange my money for local currency? Do I need vaccinations? How do I send Isadora and Beerman a postcard? Is there chocolate there? Do they have beer (personal favorite)? These are all questions you should be asking yourself during your preparations. Future blog entries will discuss these and many other issues so stay tuned!! Be prepared, just ask the Boy Scouts!!

STEP THREE

Once you have all of these questions answered, it’s time to start thinking about personal safety. Good and evil co-exist in the world, regardless of where you travel. So, think safety!! There are numerous ways to protect your money from thieves and pickpockets. For starters, don’t carry all your credit cards and cash in your bag or backpack. Spread it around in different pockets so no one pocket is obviously bulging with cash. Loose or baggy pockets make it too easy for pickpockets. If you are in large crowds of people during festivals or parades, be aware of your personal space and always be mindful of people casually bumping into you. Try to avoid areas or neighborhoods that seem a bit dodgy – you’ll usually know them when you see them.

Most hotels or hostels have safes where you can keep valuables. Most bus and train stations and airports have pay lockers where you can keep some personal belongings – though it is better generally to not keep valuables in them – excess baggage only.

Of the utmost importance, walk and act like you belong wherever you happen to be. Hold your head up. If a street vendor approaches you with some trinkets, be polite, and if you’re not interested in the wares, simply holding your hand up and waving it while saying “no” and walking away usually works. If you decide to purchase from a street vendor, don’t pull out a large wad of cash. It’s alright to turn slightly away while reaching for you cash, pulling out the necessary amount and paying for the item. Always be polite, even with the pushiest of street vendors. Walking away will usually let them know you’re not interested. If they get overly aggressive, look them in the eyes and sternly say no and continue walking away. People are just people, we’re all the same basically. Most countries do not want their street vendors to be overly aggressive with tourists because bad experiences lead to fewer tourists – bad for the economy. If there happens to be a local Constable or police officer nearby, you can always get their attention and point out the offending vendor; generally, they will respond favorably and come to your rescue.

The staff at virtually every hotel or hostel in the world can be an excellent source of information on what areas to avoid. They live there after all so who would know better.

Fruit seller and Monk, India.  Photo by Ardy

Fruit seller and Monk, India. Photo by Ardy

STEP FOOD

Food in different countries can be quite daunting for many people. Street food in many countries is a challenge. Much is quite safe, while some will cause intestinal problems that will shorten your holiday. A good rule of thumb: if it looks wholly unsanitary for your tastes, don’t eat it.

I know many people will argue this point with me, and I have never had a bad experience with street food, even with some that looks like it had been plucked from the local sewer. But as a general rule, use your own sensibilities. It is entirely up to the individual.

Restaurants can pose an entirely different challenge. You’re not in your mother’s kitchen, so don’t expect everything to taste like it does at home. That’s why you’re there, to try new things and new experiences. Mind you, I’d think twice about ordering the jellied ox testicles, but that’s just me. Even if you don’t speak the language, the server can usually describe what the menu item is with hand gestures. This though is where it is handy if you’ve done your research ahead of time – knowing what the local foodstuffs are before you order them will save both yours and the severs time.

So, to summarize:

    • Pick a destination(s) and RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.
    • Plan your travels – it keeps surprises to a minimum.
    • Be aware of your valuables at all times – don’t stress, just be aware.
    • Walk like you belong there.
    • It helps enormously if you know a little of the local language, even if it’s just “may I have a beer please” – locals almost always appreciate your efforts at speaking their language.
    • Don’t order the jellied ox testicles.

By following these tips, hopefully the experience will seem less daunting. Most of all, get out there and give it a try. Go on that trip and practice, and soon you will become a confident traveler in no time.

Do you have some tips and tricks for your fellow travelers. Then join us in educating travelers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, maybe some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and if you fit the bill they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by beerman 15:22 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (11)

Welcome to Travel Unravelled

Welcome to Travel Unravelled, a new blog designed to help you hone your travelling skills. Read on as seasoned travellers from all corners of the globe share the tricks and techniques they've picked up through years of experience.

Bazaar vendor, Iran. Photo by kavanadb

Bazaar vendor, Iran. Photo by kavanadb

We want to learn from your experience. The hard earned lessons from your greatest mistakes and successes on the road.

Sure, you know how to book a flight, check-in to a hotel and take a photo, but do you know how to respond when you are flooded by touts at the airport when you arrive?

Do you know how to tell the scammers from the helpful locals?

Do you know how to get the best deals on flights?

How to navigate around a city when all the maps are in a different language?

How to take travel photos that not just your mum would be interested in?

If you answered no to any of those questions, this is the blog for you. If you do know all the answers, this is also the blog for you. We need you as a writer! That's right, this blog is not just for you, it will be written by you too. Travellers writing for travellers.

We want to learn from your experiences. The hard earned lessons from your greatest mistakes and successes on the road.

If you are light on experiences but keen on learning, then go ahead and subscribe to Travel Unravelled. A steady stream of travellers' know-how will be making its way on to these pages over the coming weeks, months and years. Think of all the stuff-ups you can avoid by hearing about them here first!

A Travellerspoint Foundation Blog

This blog is a Travellerspoint Foundation project, which means that any revenue the blog gets from advertising will support the Foundation. In addition, Travellerspoint will be making a $5 donation to the Foundation for every blog entry that is published. Foundation funds are used to make micro-loans through Kiva to entrepreneurs in developing countries. As a result, your sharing of knowledge will not only benefit travellers reading this blog, but also will help development in some remote communities around the world. It's a worthy caused wrapped in a worthy cause.

Join Us

So please, join us on this journey. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, maybe some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and if you fit the bill they will welcome you to the team.

With that, let the unravelling begin.

Posted by Peter 17:55 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (3)

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