By Georgiana Kendall
I have two passions: my lakeside farm in one of the poorest counties in the United States and to experience the rich diversity of our world.
1.Research the country before you go.
Learn about what immunizations required or suggested, language, culture, customs, taboos, history, necessary visas, country’s current relationship with USA. Speak with people who have traveled to your destination, if possible.
2. Travel lightly.
Put out all the clothes you would like to take and then pack 1/3 of it. My suggestion is not to pack much more than the following: 5 pair underwear, 2 bras (sports), hiking boots, flip flops, dress sandals/shoes, sarong, 1 bathing suit, 2 pant/shorts, 3 t-shirts, 1 medium sweater, 3 socks, dress/skirt, minimum jewelry, travel sized shampoo, conditioner, soap, diarrhea pills, ibuprofen, first aid kit, Neosporin, aloe gel/cream, body lotion, sunscreen, sewing kit, watch with alarm.
3. Choose the right clothing.
Respect the culture of the country(ies) you plan to visit which may include covering your shoulders, head, legs, etc. Please do not wear revealing or body hugging clothing because anything you can do to diminish attention toward yourself is a good thing. As a foreigner, single woman, you already draw a great deal of attention. Wear a wedding ring or at least bring one with you. Why? Just a precaution from unwanted attention. It cannot hurt and it may help. Nothing expensive, just a band is perfect. You have a choice whether or not to wear this but believe me, it can be very handy in male dominated foreign countries.
4. Memorize your passport number.
If you are attacked and the perpetrators take all of your IDs and money, it is helpful to walk into your embassy and rattle off your number. Make copies of your passport, credit card, debit card, driver’s license, immunization record. Make 3 copies. Leave one copy with family at home with a copy of your flight itinerary and tentative ground travel plans, make one copy of everything and put in a zip lock bag at the bottom of your pack with a $50.00 bill and give one copy of everything to your travel companion. As a solo traveler you may pair up with someone to travel legs of your journey so have copy #3 handy.
5. Think about the money.
Figure out how much money you need per day and take ¼ to ½ of that in cash. Take a credit card and a debit card (get a pin number before you go and make sure cards work with pin access ahead of time) Let your credit card company know what countries you are planning to visit and dates. Set up a separate checking account with funds for your trip just in case your account is compromised. Find out what size bills they will cash abroad, 50s or 20s, take a wad of 1s sometimes, very handy! Never use an ATM machine that is not attached to a bank or that is located in an open area. Always use your ATM card at a bank while it is open and with security. PLAN AHEAD. Many banks are not open on the weekend or after 3pm.
6. Always put safety and security first.
Carry your passport, cash and valuables in a soft pouch not in a wallet in your back pocket. I suggest carrying inside of a bra (sports bras are best). Keep small amounts of currency of the country you are visiting in an easily accessible location. Keep small coins in a change purse. Keep small amount of cash/change accessible and separate from the rest in case you are robbed or mugged you have something to hand over with money in it!
7. Gather Literature.
Take a guide book, language book,a journal and a novel you have always wanted to read.
8. Keep a journal
Record details/stories of the people you meet, weather, sights, prices etc. What you were thinking and dreaming about for your future or at the time. They are such fun to revisit.
9. Remember the little things.
Take 5 ziplock bags and one plastic bag for laundry, treasures, as a travel bag, to keep wet things separate, and a few small ones too perhaps. 3 pens and a small book for notes about places to visit, eat, labels, handy wipes, tape, glue stick, large black marker, Swiss army knife, frizbee, camera, batteries, hat, sunglasses, mace (pick up in country of origin to be safe), water bottle, cutlery set, roll of toilet paper, calculator. Iphone is a great small computer PLUS a camera. Toiletry items: hotel soaps, shampoo, conditioner, plus regular toothbrushes, toothpaste, and DENTAL FLOSS are great gifts to give. Why …dental care in developing countries is usually to yank an aching tooth.
10. Share HOME.
Small photo album of your home, parents, kids, pets, snow, blueberries, ocean, wildlife, flora and fauna, hobbies, etc. to share with people you meet especially if there is a language barrier. This is a great ice breaker! Postcards and trinkets of your home to give away: magnets and small pins of potatoes, blueberries, American flags, etc., trial sized shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. make great giveaways. Pencils, sharpeners, erasers, crayons, cards, pens are all lightweight and appreciated.Business cards or personal cards you have made about yourself with your contact information.
11. Never give MONEY OR CANDY as gifts.
Sugar rots teeth and small amounts of money is not sustainable. Support people by giving food, clothing, sponsoring the schooling for their children, giving out toothbrushes, supporting a local NGO (non-governmental organization), etc.
12. Ask permission before you take someone’s photograph.
If they say no, respect that. If people agree I often take photos of people and ask for their mailing address. Then I make copies of the photos and laminate them. Almost all hot and especially tropical and/or coastal areas do not keep photos well. They peel and deteriorate within a few years.
13. Learn to speak the indigenous language of the country.
Please, thank you, nice to meet you, what is your name, may I have a, how much does this cost, where is the bathroom, train, bus, museum, etc. People will appreciate your interest in their language even if you only learn a few key phrases.
14. Enjoy all the culture has to offer.
Take time to play board and physical games, and experience national foods, art, music, dance, traditional dress, + markets (my favorite).
15. Understand politics in USA.
Foreigners are in touch with politics in their own country and feel Americans are ignorant about the rest of the world and their own government. They are often curious about our views of our president and system(s) and ask fascinating questions.
16. Use locals as guides as much as possible.
Sometimes you can make an exchange with items such as clothing or shoes. Pay people what they ask for if it sounds reasonable. Do not dicker over small amounts of money. A small amount of money just a few dollars for you could mean a meal for someone.
17. Sleep, eat, hire guides and shop at places that are owned by the people of that country.
Support them using their local currency more than your credit cards as much as possible. It helps keep the currency circulating at a local level.
Georgiana Kendall is a founding member of The Curiosity Library. She is a 5th generation steward on her family’s 45-acre farmstead. Kendall Farm Cottages offers a destination lakeside retreat for writers, artists and nature lovers on the Bold Coast of way Downeast, Maine. Georgiana served as a school and community resource volunteer in the U. S. Peace Corps in South Africa. She has backpacked independently to fifty countries on a limited budget. She has a cat named Seamus and two ducks named Garlic & Dill. You can learn more about Georgie and her work HERE.